You Still Need A Brick & Mortar Bank

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In the last ten years I’ve watched the online banking marketplace explode in terms of options. Ten years ago there was only one online bank – ING Direct. Today, you have dozens of them with more opening their doors each quarter. Their appeal is obvious, higher interest rates, and the allure of a high yield savings accounts is continuously balanced against the possibility that their website could go down.

It’s not uncommon for a financial institution’s website to go unavailable. In the last few years, we’ve seen several banks have periodic outages (most notably when the Emigrant Direct’s website was inaccessible for several days back in 2008) for inexplicable reasons (at least, with reasons they haven’t explained to the public). You wanted to chalk it up to the frugal necessities of the online bank, but just recently we saw that Bank of America’s website was unavailable for several hours. It wasn’t some small community bank with a crappy website… it was Bank of America, one of the largest financial institutions in our nation.

(Incidentally, here are some tips to prepare for an online bank website outage)

The lesson I took from this was that while online banking has experienced a boon in the last decade or so, you still need a brick and mortar bank. With the rise of online checking accounts, many people considering dropping their brick & mortar accounts in favor of a higher yielding checking account. While I think it’s a great product, who wouldn’t want to earn more interest, you still need to protect yourself because websites go down.

{ 25 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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25 Responses to “You Still Need A Brick & Mortar Bank”

  1. cubiclegeoff says:

    Although a website could go down, you would probably still have access to your money, so it wouldn’t be a big deal. The network in a brick and mortar bank could go down also, causing the same hassles. So I say you don’t need a brick and mortar bank at all. I haven’t used one in 7 or so years and haven’t had an issue.

  2. Ryan says:

    I’m sorry but I still don’t see the need for a mortar and bricks bank. Websites get attacked all the time, that doesn’t mean my money has vanished because the site has some downtime. Even with the website down I can still write checks, use my debit cards and look at old statements have saved. Don’t really see why I have to pay 8.95 a month in maintence fees so I can walk into a bank of america.

  3. Mike says:

    My brick and mortar bank is right next to my supermarket and also offers a free checking account. No minimum balance either. They also have a free coin counter.

  4. govenar says:

    I use a brick and mortar bank to get rolls of quarters for laundry (but maybe you don’t need to have an account at the bank for that?). Also for redeeming savings bonds.

  5. krantcents says:

    I totally agree! Maybe I am approaching it from a conservative point of view, but I will never be sorry for being conservative with my money.

  6. zapeta says:

    I’ve got a brick and mortar bank account, but the local branch closed so its almost the same as an online bank. If I really needed to visit a branch it’d be a two hour drive. So far, no problems so no reason to get another bank here.

  7. Laura says:

    You could have a second bank if that makes you feel better, but I don’t see why it has to be brick and mortar.

  8. Come on Sparky says:

    Really? You think because a single website has a glitch you need to have a brick and mortar bank?

    Come on sparky – work with me – how about having a few online banks, since they give better interest on your money and have little or no minimum balances.

    The only reason to have a B&M Bank is to have a safe deposit box.

    Sometimes I wonder if you get paid for these blog entries….:(

  9. skylog says:

    i need a brick and mortar as my workplace (around 400 employees) does not direct deposit. yep, you read that right. it drives me insane.

    that said, i love my brick and mortar. it is two doors down from my workplace and about 4 blocks from my front door. i am on a friendly basis with nearly all of the 10 or so people who work in my office and socialize with several of them outside of the bank.

    i use them for a few services and some other random requests, and they are always happy to help me.

    that said, if i had direct deposit, while i would not “need” the brick and mortar as much, i would probably still use it, as i enjoy the ability to have direct access to some services.

  10. I’ll be moving soon, and I realize how limited I am because my bank will not be anywhere near my new location. I will have to open a new account with some other chain because it’s just too much of a hassle to be so far away! There are some things that just can’t be done from a long distance.

  11. elloo says:

    I have both a B&M and an online account. Why? Because if for some emergency I have to get my hands on a large chunk of cash really quick (no, not for bail), it’s faster and I can get a larger amount from a teller at a B&M than doing an ATM withdrawal from my online account. ATM’s have a dollar limit per day.

    • NewPerspective says:


      My own thoughts are below (in the next post), but I’m curious… What reason would you have for needing a significant amount of cash that quickly? And what if you needed it on a Sunday? Or after the bank closed? With my work schedule, there would scarcely be a time when a bank would be open that I could go to. LOL

      And sorry, not trying to pick on you, just genuinely curious as to how others look at this.

      • Shirley says:

        I can imagine an emergency (car needs towing a long way, emergency room wants payment up front) where payment was needed immediately, but usually a check will be acceptable if a credit card is not. Another reason for keeping a B&M account with paper checks.

  12. NewPerspective says:

    I’m sorry, but this article really caused me to chuckle. While “online” banks have come to fruition in the last few years, I actually haven’t had a local bank since 1992! Being in the military, I grew accustom to banking by mail in the 90’s, and it was a pleasant switch to online banking within the last decade.

    Currently, I have all my investment and bank accounts online and have never experienced a significant outage. Even if a bank were down for 2 or 3 days (which has never happened), what really is the impact?

    Other than helping my dad with some accounts, I haven’t stepped foot in a B&M bank in almost 20 years and wouldn’t want to waste the time and hassle doing so! 🙂

  13. Bogey says:

    It is also important to have a relationship with a local banker for higher end lending needs. Car loans and mortgages are easy to get anywhere, but it takes a solid relationship for business lending needs, or higher end consumer loans.

    I am looking to finance some investment properties soon. A locally based brick and mortar bank is by far the best route to get something like this done. Not just a branch of a big bank, like Chase of B of A, but a bank that is locally owned, and has maybe only one or two branches. In this case, it is much easier to go directly to decision makers to get deals done.

  14. Shirley says:

    I have a checking account at my local credit union that is linked to my online Electric Orange account. That way I have the option of paper checks (though seldom needed) and can easily transfer money between the two.

  15. Steven says:

    You should always have an easy to access backup account, no matter if your primary bank is B&M or online, in case that account gets frozen.

    And having another account in the same institution doesn’t count, because they are both linked to your SSN (or something else) and both will be frozen together.

  16. eric says:

    I just need one to deposit checks and cash. It’s easier than mailing in the stuff. I seriously wish ING would get remote check deposits though.

    • Strebkr says:

      If they had an app like Chase does for the iPhone, that would be awesome. I would probably be able to seriously consider cutting the cord on B&M banks.

    • Irenee says:

      That is one HUGE reason I’m still holding out on online banking. When I need to deposit my checks, I need it in my account now, not later.

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