Do You Still Need a Physical Bank Branch?
When was the last time you spoke to a teller at your local bank? Actually stood there in person at that little window—or even pulled up outside at the drive-through – and deposited or cashed a check, or asked a question about your account?
If you just closed your eyes to think about it—or if the answer still eludes you — you may be ready to move on to a bank without branches. It’s a growing club.
Though plenty of bank branches still sit on city and suburban street corners, consumers are relying less and less on in-person transactions. According to a 2018 Citibank survey , almost half of consumers – including nearly two-thirds of millennials —have increased their mobile banking usage in the last year.
Eight out of 10 are now using mobile banking nine days a month, on average, while nearly a third use mobile banking 10 or more times per month. The same survey found that mobile banking apps are among the most-used by Americans, ranking behind only social media and weather apps.
If you’ve been doing the bulk of your banking with your phone or tablet, and have been asking yourself if it’s necessary to still have a physical bank branch in your life, here are some factors to consider:
Both brick-and-mortar and online (or direct) financial institutions claim their main appeal is convenience. And they’re both right. For example, a local business owner who deals in cash transactions will naturally want a bank that can provide them with change or take cash deposits.
And a person who likes the social part of visiting a physical bank – the idea that everybody there knows them and may be watching out for them – may not want to give up the face time. But a worker who has his paycheck directly deposited into their account may prefer the ease of an app like the one offered by SoFi Money™, which allows them to quickly check his balance, make deposits simply by taking a photo with his phone and transfer funds to anyone they want whenever they want. There’s no waiting in line or worrying about getting there just as the doors are closing.
A common concern is that online banks aren’t as secure as traditional banks—and ongoing cyber threats can make even the most tech-savvy consumers a bit nervous. But securing your account information—and your money—is critical no matter where or how you bank, because almost all institutions are now storing your data digitally.
So the thing to check on is the level (or, better yet, levels) of security you’re getting, and online financial institutions typically offer fraud protection. As for your money, the funds you deposit are FDIC-insured at both physical and online banks.
This might surprise you, but customer satisfaction surveys, including the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study , tend to give direct banks a higher overall score than branch-based retail banks.
When users get comfortable with the technology, they love the convenience of the mobile experience and the range of available services. No, you can’t get in line for your favorite teller or drop in and ask the manager in person about getting a loan if there’s no branch. But you can get help any time you need it through an app or a 24-hour customer service phone number.
Both types of banks make it possible to use pretty much any ATM in the world. The difference is what you might pay for the access.
Most traditional banks charge you a fee if you use an ATM that’s outside their network. Online banks usually don’t. With a SoFi Money account, for example, you can use any ATM in the world that takes Mastercard® and the fees can be reimbursed.
You’ll probably find online banking is a friendlier place to be in general if you aren’t a fan of fees. Besides ATM fees and overdraft fees, traditional banks tend to charge “maintenance” or “service” fees unless you keep a minimum balance in your checking account or make a required number of debit card transactions each month. Banks with no branches have fewer overhead costs, and that usually results in low or no fees.
Rising interest rates are drawing savers back to the products that pay them the most for using their funds. But while brick-and-mortar banks attempt to snare savers with certificates of deposit, online operations generally are offering more competitive rates on their savings accounts.
Some people love change. Some don’t. If you deal with technology on a regular basis (we’re talking about using a smartphone here, not necessarily writing code), you probably can adapt pretty quickly to using a mobile banking app.
If not – if you’re still writing checks at the grocery store and use password as your password – you may not want to jump feet first into mobile banking. But you might choose to open a secondary account online, so you can take advantage of the benefits and get used to this new way of doing business.
Let your money grow faster in an online account with higher interest and, if you think you’ll miss the in-person experience, keep some stashed in your traditional bank branch.
If you like your local bank branch and the people who work there, you may have opened other accounts there. The idea of a one-stop shop—where you can get a car loan or mortgage, or open a retirement account—is appealing to some customers.
But you can do the same thing with a nontraditional cash management account option like SoFi Money.
With the growth in digital technology and increasing acceptance of online and mobile banking, access to banking products and transactions is no longer tied to a physical location. No matter what drives your decision-making – comfort, cost or convenience – you can get it all at a financial institution like SoFi.
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SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . Neither SoFi nor its affiliates are a bank.