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In a world where most paychecks are direct deposited overnight and you can pay back a friend for the dinner check instantly with an app, bank branches can seem like the financial equivalent of a neighborhood Blockbuster Video.
Banks have responded to declining foot traffic by trimming their branch networks. An analysis of Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data shows a 6.3% reduction in bank branches between 2009 and 2015.
But don't consign the branch to obsolescence quite yet. A recent Bankrate poll showed that 45% of Americans had visited a bank branch within a month of our survey. That's because, despite all the advances in bank technology, there are some tasks that bank customers still prefer to do in a branch. Here are the biggest.
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1. Dealing with serious account problems
Most of the time, checking and savings accounts operate silently in the background, routing direct deposits and funding debit card purchases without a hitch. But every once in a while, account holders face a panic-inducing problem such as a blown ATM deposit or a clerical error that leaves them wanting to speak to a human, says Sam Maule, emerging payments practice lead at Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group.
"There comes a point in time, especially with bigger issues, when you want to be face to face; you want that assurance," Maule says.
Research has shown that even as the percentage of bank customers who prefer the branch for mundane tasks like withdrawing cash has dropped, the percentage of customers who prefer resolving account issues in person has remained relatively stable, Maule says.
That comes despite the fact that banks have ramped up their capabilities when it comes to resolving issues remotely, particularly through social media channels like Twitter.
"We have all of that digital footprint, yet we still crave the social interaction," Maule says.
2. Opening new accounts
Many banks offer the ability to open bank accounts online, and some even allow users to do so on mobile. Even so, just 23% of new checking accounts are opened online, according to a November 2015 report by Aite Group, a financial industry research and consulting firm.
Why? It turns out trying to open an account online can be really frustrating, says David Albertazzi, senior analyst of retail banking and payments at Aite.