Bank branches have been closing at a staggering rate over recent years. According to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), the top 100 U.S. metros by population have lost nearly 1,300 branches since 2018 alone. MagnifyMoney took a deep dive into the FDIC data to see which cities have been hardest hit by bank branch losses.
Our study revealed that the big metros like New York City and Chicago lost the greatest number of branches, but smaller metros were hit the hardest when you look at the losses as a percentage of total bank branches in each area. Our study uncovered a few outliers, and also identified several metro areas that actually gained bank branches since 2018.
New York City saw the steepest decline in branches, losing a whopping 379 bank locations in the past year. Itâ€™s worth noting, though, that the New York City figure is a modest 6.9% of its overall number of bank branches, underscoring the massive fleet of locations that are still open in the city.
When it comes to losing bank branches, Chicago comes in second place, with a loss of 74 bank branches in the past year. Like New York, though, that makes up just a small slice (2.7%) of the cityâ€™s total count of bank branches. Third was Washington D.C., which shed 57 branches or 3.7% of bank branches in the city in 2019.
The data paints a different picture when you look at the percentage of total bank branches major metro areas lost in 2019. When a city doesnâ€™t have tons of bank branches to begin with, losing a small number can make a big difference.
This was certainly the case for the top-100 U.S. metro that lost the biggest percentage of bank branches in 2019: Spokane, Wash. Our study found that Spokane lost 10 branches, an 8.3% decline. Melbourne, Fla. took second place, with nine branches closed, or 8% of the cityâ€™s total branches. In third place was Boise, Idaho., which said goodbye to 13 branches, or 7.4% of the cityâ€™s total.
Our studyâ€™s findings underscore that while bigger cities might lose the most branches, smaller cities may feel a deeper impact from these losses. Take the top cities with the smallest number of bank branches per 100,000 households. El Paso, Texas ranked last by this measure, with just 32.6 bank branches per 100,000 households, followed by Bakersfield, Calif. with 33 branches per 100,000 households.
Surprisingly, not all cities saw a decline in bank branches, and a handful actually gained bank locations. Those that bucked the trend were typically smaller metros, concentrated in the Midwest.
The city that gained the most bank branches in 2019 was Toledo, Ohio, with 24 branches added. Springfield, Mass. comes second with an increase of 17 branches, followed by Des Moines, Iowa with an added 11 branches.
Interestingly, a 2018 report from the Wall Street Journal highlighted a similar trend, noting that while big banks are shrinking their physical footprint, smaller banks are ramping up their brick-and-mortar presence in an effort to drive growth and to show commitment to their local communities.
When looking at the number of branches per 100,000 households, there are a few cities that also seem to be brimming with banks. Jackson, Miss., for example, has an impressive 106.5 bank branches per 100,000 households, followed by Bridgeport, Conn., with 101.7 branches per 100,000 households.
The FDIC has extensively documented the trend of bank branches closing across the nation over the past decade. Banking is nowhere near obsolete, though, so whatâ€™s causing the sudden shuttering of so many bank branches?
A big contributing factor could be the rise of fintech competitors. In recent years, thereâ€™s been a flood of companies leveraging technology, allowing their customers to get their banking done from anywhere, obviating the need to visit a branch.
Not only are these companies providing customers with more convenience than brick-and-mortars, but many are becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to traditional banking because of features like higher APYs and no fees. Since fintech companies are able to save on the overhead costs that come with operating brick-and-mortar locations, theyâ€™re able to offer perks that other banks simply canâ€™t afford.
Additionally, big banks that have large brick-and-mortar networks are beginning to shift their focus to their digital offerings, and some have cited that as to why theyâ€™re cutting back on the number of physical branches.
Another reason for the closing of bank branches could be attributed to the uptick in bank mergers, which often leads to the consolidation and closing of branches. In 2015, banking industry M&A activity reached a 17-year high, and FDIC data has found that from 2012 to 2017, merging banks reported 2.8% fewer offices than the 1.4% rate of non-merging banks.
If your local bank branch announces that itâ€™s closing up shop, donâ€™t panic. Instead, consider the next closest location and the bankâ€™s ATM availability, and decide whether youâ€™re willing to travel a bit farther to get your banking business done.
Donâ€™t forget to explore what digital services your bank offers, too. Many alternatives have features that allow you to make deposits and transfers right from your phone, making the case for not needing a physical branch right near you that much stronger.
If you do decide to close your account and move to a bank that has a physical branch near you, be sure to follow the necessary steps. Actions to take before you part ways with your current bank include carefully selecting a new account, transferring your money to your new account â€“ although itâ€™s recommended to leave a little bit to cover any pending transactions that have yet to process â€“ and rerouting your automatic bill payments and direct deposits.
MagnifyMoney examined data gathered by the FDIC from itâ€™s roughly 6,000 insured commercial banks and other financial institutions to determine where bank branches are currently operating, and how that has changed since 2018.
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