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Musical bank branches cause confusion

By Marcie Geffner ·
Monday, June 28, 2010
Posted: 4 pm ET

Online and mobile banking may cut into the foot traffic of a typical neighborhood bank branch. But branches are still important to customers who haven’t adopted those new technologies or who need to maintain a safe-deposit box, purchase a money order, apply for a loan or deposit checks, currency or coins, among other services.

Our reliance on branches and our natural perception, as unrealistic as it is, that branches are the place where our money is kept makes the shuffling of locations that seem to open, rebrand and close in the proverbial blink of a eye quite disconcerting.

One retail branch in my neighborhood was converted through three different brands, complete with full signage, in less than a year. The middle brand -- I won’t say which bank had this distinction -- flashed in and out of the storefront so quickly I’m not sure whether it ever actually opened for business. And this game of musical branches didn’t happen in a dead mall with a dearth of foot traffic, but rather a bustling retail area at a freeway-access intersection with plenty of parking.

The final bank to sit in the chair is the one where I have an account, so that’s an added convenience for me, even though another branch is even closer to my home. But I have to wonder about the customers, however few they may have been, who opened a new account at that middle brand on the assumption that that bank now had a branch in that location. Were they notified that the branch had closed and their accounts were transferred? Or did they just turn up to conduct business and discover the branch was gone?

The takeaway for banking customers is that it’s smart to know where your bank is located in your community -- and these days, that means knowing where more than one branch is. Bankrate's bank rating search function can help you research the safety and soundness of banks and credit unions in your neighborhood.

Has your bank opened, closed, consolidated or moved your branch?

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