What's the Big Deal about Online Banks? Pt. 2

Part 2 – At Your Fingertips, All the Time

When was the last time you thought you might quickly pop into your local bank branch to deposit a check, move money between accounts, or research a new product? Were you able to accomplish everything, including your drive to and from the branch, in a timely manner? If so, kudos to you. If not, according to one recent study, you’re probably not alone.

The study, released by Financial Management Solutions, Inc. in 2014, tracked 265,000 consumer interactions with their banks (including all types of service and sales exchanges). The results revealed a couple of rather interesting trends. The first trend pertains to average wait times in the lobby – namely, that they are lengthening. A similar study 2 years earlier showed the average lobby wait time to be 4 minutes and 46 seconds. The latest study, however, shows an average wait time of 5 minutes and 8 seconds with the longest wait times reaching nearly 7 minutes. That is an increase in average wait time of nearly 8 percent.

Secondly, the same report revealed a similar trend in service times for those same customers. Previously, the average service time was 20 minutes and 49 seconds. The 2014 study disclosed an increased time of 21 minutes and 50 seconds, which is nearly a 5 percent increase in average service time.

All things considered, these two times represent an increase of a mere minute and 23 seconds extra, which does not seem substantial in the grand scheme of things. It does, however, represent a trend in the wrong direction. It also becomes a more foreboding and meaningful number when it is applied to every visit to the bank for a customer who handles the majority of his banking in person. Nearly 27 minutes per transaction adds up very quickly indeed, and it doesn’t include the time to get ready and drive to and from the branch.

Juxtapose that against online banks, one of whose most obvious upsides is that lobby wait and service times (and the associated drive time) are non-factors. These online banks offer access exclusively through the web, mobile apps, and 24/7 customer service on your phone, typically with no lines and no waiting. Indeed, your only wait time is while the pertinent pages load on your browser. This convenience clearly stands in rather stark contrast with the prolonged brick-and-mortar interactions, if you were to try to accomplish these same tasks in person at a branch.

Need to see your transaction history or a summary of account balances? Simply log in to your account. Need to deposit a check? There’s no reason to wait in the drive-thru line. Simply take a picture on your mobile device, and the money’s in the bank. Need to open a new account, transfer money between accounts, set up recurring bill pay, send a wire transfer, manage your CDs, or arrange automatic deposit? Not one of these tasks requires you to visit a branch. In fact, with most any online bank, the majority of these tasks can be completed on your smartphone. With full access and control of your accounts at your fingertips any given moment, online banks are making baking simpler, easier, and more accessible. Add that to our previous discussion of the savings and extra earnings you can expect using online banks, and the "big deal" about online banks becomes even clearer.

1 Beef up your savings with higher cd, checking, and savings account rates.
2 Simplify your banking experience with industry-leading tools & features.
3 Reduce or eliminate those pesky account fees that sap your savings.
4 Enjoy the convenience of 24/7 availability and top-notch customer service.