I have worked for several large banks in my lifetime, and frankly, I have always wondered why people go to the bank. Since the early 1990’s, most people have had many options to save, get, borrow, or invest their money without setting foot inside a brick-and-mortar bank.
Some of those options include ATM’s for quick cash and deposits. Online banking for virtually everything else you need including investments, loans, and opening/closing accounts. Telephone banking with toll-free numbers which allow banking for all the same needs and wants. Direct deposits for your paychecks and social security benefits. And now, there are smartphone apps that enable you to do it all, even taking a photo of your checks and depositing them from wherever you may be at the moment.
So why do we go to the bank?
Looking back through history, we see that banks were always the biggest and best buildings in town. Built from the best stone or brick and virtually the safest place in town to be, it was also the safest place to keep your money. Every town and city had a bank right in the center. What has happened through all of our history is that people have learned that story and continued that same thought process despite the fact that most of us don’t travel to the center of town much anymore, and we have all the options to get the same kind of security, protection, and services from as simple a place as our own home.
Compounding that, we now have a bombardment of advertising on every form of media to let us know about banks and their services, so much so that there now seems to be a bank branch on every corner. In fact, there is a branch on most corners and sometimes those branches seem like old friends. The name recognition of banks today, like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase for example, are known nationally and their banking networks make us feel more secure. Some of us seem to need a person-to-person connection and make a trip to the bank for that reason, but you can find all you need and more through other means.
So now we come to 2015. Couldn’t you avoid that trip to your neighborhood bank? Avoid standing in line and waiting for a teller or “platform person” to handle opening your account, taking out a loan, or making a deposit? The answer is a resounding yes, and everything you do to save a few minutes of time and still obtain what you need is something you should do without question.
Here’s just some of what you can do with all the available options today to save your time, if you have access to a telephone and a computer, and I’m guessing you do if you’re reading this right now!
1. Open an account of any kind online
Savings, checking, ATM/debit cards, credit cards, loans, and mortgages all can be done in the same or less time from home than at a bank, and you won’t need to drag any home files and records around to do so. You can even track all your accounts online and forgo the monthly statements and cancelled checks that they used to send before going paperless. You can also reconcile your statement online. Some banks will even offer you incentives to go paperless and you can still see all of your info online or print copies of your cancelled checks for free if you need to do so. Opening investment accounts and retirement accounts can be done the same way.
2. Consolidate much of your business to a particular bank you like
By doing so, you can avoid many of the typical fees that get assessed. Bank balances are used to give priority status to your accounts and when they are combined amongst several types they will almost always eliminate your monthly fees and provide you with bonus perks like extra discounts on loans and higher interest rates on savings (as sad as they might be right now).
3. Use your bank’s online bill pay and transfers to handle your expenses every month
You can set up a particular day each month, or pick a date that is variable, but in any event, you can be assured that it will be paid directly and on time and you will save on your checks, envelopes, and stamps. We save about $10/month by using bill pay.
4. Take advantage of online-only banks
Brick-and-mortar banks don’t always have the best rates, but you can use an online-only bank which takes advantage of lower operating costs to boost your interest.
If you have any fears about using electronic services from your bank, let me assure you that there are no real worries here at all. Yes, I know that there is hacking and fraud today in our world, but there’s no more danger in using these bank services than there is in using your credit card at the supermarket or department store. Even if you make the trip to the bank, they will have your information stored in their computers and it could potentially be tampered with and stolen, so you are in no more danger using services this way than if you trudge there in person.
If you’re worried about “bank errors”, let me just say this: in my personal and professional life, I have never experienced a true bank error. It has always come from the customer who either misuses a product or misunderstands the situation. Checking accounts can be screwed up, for example, when you don’t allow proper time for checks to clear or when you don’t consider your ATM transactions. Direct deposits are so safe, the ones from the US government have never been late in their entire history. Of course it’s possible for a bank error to occur, but they are so rare you shouldn’t spend your time worrying about them.
I’m certain that the neighborhood bank will be around for a long time to come. And yes, I will admit that there have been a few times that I have had to drive up to a bank ATM to withdraw some cash or deposit a check that exceeded the mobile deposit limit. Guilty as charged. But seriously, I don’t go often and certainly not for any routine transactions that I can do from home or elsewhere. I can even bank on a holiday or on a Sunday without any difficulty at all.
So do you still go to the bank? Why?