9 Reasons Why You Still Want a Bank With Branches

Online banking has become increasingly common and popular among consumers of all ages.

According to the Federal Reserve, about half of adults in the United States used a mobile app to access their bank accounts in the past year, and that number continues to rise. 

Online banks offer a lot of value and convenience.

You can manage your finances right from a website or an app, all from the comfort of your own couch.

With your bank information accessible right from your smartphone, physical bank branches might seem unnecessary or even outdated. 

But before you transition to banking exclusively online, you should know there are occasions when bank branch services can come in handy.

Here are nine times when visiting a bank in person is essential:

1. You want access to a safe deposit box

Keeping important documents or valuables around your house is risky. So, if a thief breaks in or your home is damaged by a storm or fire, you could lose those essentials.

That’s why a safe deposit box can be a much better location for those items than your home.  

A safe deposit box is a locked metal container in a physical branch of your local bank, behind vault doors. In return for an annual fee, you can store your valuables in the safe deposit box, protecting them from theft or damage.

Why it's so secure:

Safe deposit boxes are locked with two keys -- one that is held by you and one that is held by the bank. And, you need to sign in with a bank teller before you can access your box. 

Safe deposit boxes are often more affordable than buying a safe for your home that you bolt to the floor.

Depending on the size, the cost of a safe deposit box can be quite low -- you may pay as little as $15 per year.

And, if something were to happen to you, your loved ones would be able to go to a secure, central location to get necessary documents.

2. You need to make a cash deposit

Whether you sold a couch on Craigslist or received cash as a birthday gift, dealing with paper bills can be cumbersome.

Keeping a large amount of cash in a drawer at home is risky; you could lose it or it could be stolen.

Depositing it into your bank account is safer, and you can use it to pay your bills or even invest it so your money grows over time.

The reality is:

While most online banks allow you to deposit checks through an app, depositing cash into your account is more complicated. 

Some banks permit you to deposit cash through a partner ATM, but that option is limited and you may not be able to find an eligible ATM near you.

Instead, you’ll have to deposit your cash by visiting a physical branch and completing the transaction through a bank teller or through the bank’s lobby ATM.

Banks have no limits on how much cash you can deposit in person, but there are reporting rules that apply for cash deposits of $10,000 or more.

3. You need to make a large cash withdrawal

If you need to make a large purchase — such as buying a car from a private party — the seller will likely request that you pay in cash. If that’s the case, you’ll have to visit a bank in person. That’s because most banks have limits on how much money you can withdrawal from an ATM in a single day. 

For example, Capital One 360 Checking customers can only take out $1,000 per day from the ATM. If you need more money than that, you’d have to spread out your withdrawals over several days. When you’re making a big purchase, timing is important, and taking multiple days to make withdrawals may not be an option. 

If you visit a bank branch in person, you can withdrawal the full amount you need, without having to complete several transactions. You can get the money right away, so you can pay the seller immediately. 

4. You need a notary

If you’re buying a home, making a sworn declaration, or are signing a rental agreement, you’ll need to get that document notarized.

Now:

You could visit a private notary’s office, but they can be expensive. 

If you have a document that needs a notary’s stamp, most banks offer notary services in their branches.

If you’re a customer, you may not have to pay any fee at all, making it a quick and convenient option.

5. You want to exchange currency

While you can usually exchange currency at the airport, you’ll likely have to pay costly fees.

Travelex is one of the most common exchange currency companies, with over 200 locations in the United States. But if you place an order for currency through Travelex, you could pay far more than the current exchange rate, costing you money. 

A cheaper option could be to visit your local bank or credit union. You can exchange foreign currency for U.S. dollars at most full-service locations. 

For example, Wells Fargo allows you to exchange currency from over 100 countries. And, when you return, Wells Fargo will buy back all unused currency at any branch location in the United States. 

6. You need a medallion signature guarantee

If you want to sell stocks or bonds that you hold in a physical certificate form, the process is more involved than just selling stocks online or even getting a document notarized.

Instead, you’ll need to get a medallion signature guarantee (MSG): a stamp that certifies your securities as authentic

medallion signature guarantee is verification that you are who you say you are, that you have ownership of the securities you want to sell or transfer, and that the guarantor institution is responsible if the signature is fraudulent. 

You can’t get an MSG online or over the phone.

Instead, you generally have to make an appointment and visit a bank in person.

You’ll have to show identification, such as a driver’s license, and documentation that proves you own the stocks or bonds you want to sell.

7. You need a cashier’s check 

If you’re making a large purchase or putting down a deposit on an apartment, you may be required to pay with a cashier’s check

With a personal check, money is pulled from your own bank account. If you don’t have enough money in the bank, the transaction can’t go through, and the check will bounce. 

Cashier’s checks work very differently.

With a cashier’s check, the money is withdrawn from the bank itself rather than your personal account, guaranteeing that the check is valid and that the seller gets their money. 

To get a cashier’s check, you have to visit a bank in person and request one from the bank teller. 

8. You want to cash in your coins

If you have a jar of coins stashed away, you can turn them into cash.

While you could go to a coin exchange kiosk at the local grocery store, they often charge hefty fees, eating away at your money.

For example, CoinStar charges an 11.99% service fee. If you cashed in $100 worth of coins, that means you’d only actually get $88.01 in cash; the rest would go toward paying Coinstar’s fee. 

Instead, consider exchanging your coins for cash at a regular bank. Not all banks offer coin-counting machines, but there are some that still do. And, all will accept rolled coins as long as they’re in coin wrappers. 

9. You have a major problem

If you have a major problem — such as a case of identity theft or a fraudulent check written in your name — you may not be able to easily resolve it online or even over the phone.

You may get better results by going to a branch in person and working with a bank representative. 

Look:

While technology has come a long way, it’s hard to replace the value of face-to-face interaction.

If your issue is complicated or requires you to show documentation or proof, you’ll get faster results by visiting a branch.

Conclusion

If you do the majority of your banking online, you may not feel like a bank account with a physical branch is important.

But these are some key occasions when having a local branch can be helpful, especially in an emergency.

If you've already run into such occasions, it's worth considering an account with a bank in the neighborhood. As long as you're able to waive any monthly fees, it's a good idea to keep this account alongside your online bank accounts.

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