It used to be part of everyone's existence, like going to the grocery store once a week. You'd stand in a teller's line and hope everyone in front of you had uncomplicated transactions. Then you'd hand over your cash and the teller would stamp your passbook to record your deposit. It all felt very solid and respectable, even sort of fun knowing you were adding to your savings.
When we moved to rural Washington, the nearest branch for the big bank where I had my accounts was 70 miles away, so I opened an account at the local bank too. It was an entirely new experience for me, going to the bank in our little town. I'm certain that the tellers were on a first-name basis with all their customers, and it didn't take long for us to fit in and enjoy the social interaction at the branch too. In fact, we still have the branch manager's mobile number on our cell phones.
Now that we live in the big city again, it's actually been five months since I stepped foot in a bank. The last time was in March, and I only went because I needed to give the bank my new address — for my safe deposit box that is housed in another city. Apparently client information for safe deposit boxes at my bank is still handled the old-fashioned way. Otherwise, I could say I almost never go into a branch.
In this environment, I much prefer to conduct my banking online — day or night, from my computer. When I went in March, I actually thought I'd have to take off work to conduct my business; so I checked online for the location and hours to plan my visit. I was surprised to find that they were open even though it was 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday. (Definitely not the bankers' hours I remember.) I decided I would just go to the bank on my way to the grocery store that day so I didn't have to take time off from work.
We talk a lot about the convenience of online banking at Get Rich Slowly. And I get that not everyone has a computer. (Heck, not everyone has a bank account!) But I have to admit to being surprised that there were actually people at the branch. I mean, it's not like I had to fight for a parking space — and the customers were outnumbered four to one — but that's not where we go for social interaction in the big city, so were they all dealing with their safe deposit boxes? I think not.
It's obvious that some of us still need to visit a branch every so often. But when I live in a large metropolitan area, there's virtually no reason for me to visit a branch when I can transact all my business and even open a new account online. I think, overall, that we're moving away from needing brick-and-mortar institutions, but I also think we're sort of just at one point along a continuum.
If you look back at how other banking products like automated teller machines (ATMs) and debit cards were introduced to the public, there was a tipping point beyond which you could say, yep, this is the new norm. Where do you think we are with online banking? Is it now the norm? How long has it been since you went to the bank? Is there another way to measure the tipping point?