Brick & mortar no more? 3 in 4 say physical banks quickly becoming obsolete

CHARLOTTE, N. C. — Do you still take the time to visit your local bank branch? Just like so many other aspects of our everyday lives, smartphones and similar technology have revolutionized modern banking through the development of convenient apps. Nowadays, most people deposit checks, keep an eye on their balances, and pay bills within a matter of seconds online. If you still enjoy visiting a physical bank and talking with a real person about your banking needs, savor the experience while you still can. A recent survey of 936 Americans with a bank account finds that roughly three in four believe physical bank branches are quickly becoming “a thing of the past.”

The survey, commissioned by MagnifyMoney encompassed Americans of a variety of ages, including Generation Z (under the age of 22), Millennials (ages 22-38), Generation X (39-53), Baby Boomers (54-73), and The Silent Generation (74+). Perhaps predictably, Millennial and Gen Z respondents were most likely to state that physical banks are unnecessary in today’s day and age. That being said, even two-thirds of Baby Boomers said the same, perhaps surprisingly.

More than one in 10 respondents said they hadn’t even set foot in a physical bank over the past year, and 15% haven’t visited a branch in six months. Generation Z respondents were the least likely to have visited a bank over the past 12 months. Another 29% of all respondents said they usually only take a trip to their branch a few times annually.

As if there was any doubt, the survey also makes it clear that banking apps have changed how nearly all Americans handle their finances. In all, roughly eight in 10 respondents (and 87% of surveyed Millennials!) said they take care of all their banking needs online or via a mobile app. Many, though, still see value in physical banks. Nearly 50% of respondents said they prefer talking to someone in-person if they need assistance. Another 34% like to get in touch on the phone, and 17% usually use online chat.

Credit union account holders visit physical bank locations even less frequently than more traditional account holders. Credit union account holders are also more likely to use online services.

Despite the fact that many apps allow users to make deposits electronically, many respondents still prefer physically doing the deed in person at their local branch. Making a deposit was the most cited reason (39%) why respondents still occasionally visit a bank, and withdrawing cash (32%) was the second most popular reason.

In recent years, banks that are completely online with no physical locations have started popping up. Regarding this new breed of banks, 21% of Gen Z respondents and 18% of Millennial respondents have their primary account at such a bank. Meanwhile, only 8% of Baby Boomers do the majority of their money management strictly with online financial institutions.

These types of banks offer both benefits and potential drawbacks. Many online-only firms offer very attractive APYs featuring no monthly fees. However, at the same time, if one of these online institutions were to experience a service outage, their customers would be left in the dark about their accounts and have no physical locations to visit for more information.

So, while physical banks still hold some value, the trend is clear. As the decades pass, brick and mortar locations are only going to become more and more superfluous.

The survey was conducted by Qualtrics.

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