The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Millennials aren’t abandoning brick-and-mortar banks

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When's the last time you visited your local bank? A survey released today found that one in five Americans hadn't visited their bank at all in the past year. But perhaps more surprising, fully 50 percent of Americans had been to their local branch at least once in the past 30 days.

Back in 2012, the American Banking Association found that 39 percent of Americans chose online banking as their preferred means of managing their accounts, more than twice the share who favored visiting their local branch (18 percent). Statistics like this one, coupled with the rise of online banking and virtual tellers, have led many to start ringing the death knell for the traditional neighborhood bank branch. What's the point of taking your paycheck to a teller when you can simply snap a photo of it on your phone?

But today's Bankrate survey suggests these claims of death have been greatly exaggerated. It also sheds some light on who is and isn't going to the bank. Perhaps predictably, Millennials are the age group least likely to have visited a bank branch in the past week, at 19 percent. But Millennials aren't abandoning banks completely, they're simply going less often - 23 percent visited a bank in the last month, and another third went some time in the last year.

Banks' efforts to reach younger customers have come in for some ridicule lately. JP Morgan had to abandon an attempted Twitter chat last year after trolls hijacked the hashtag to lob withering criticism at the company. A recent report by the Carlisle and Gallagher consulting group found that a whopping 87 percent of Americans found banks' use of social media "annoying, boring or unhelpful."

All this suggests that banks might best focus less on the social media shenanigans, and more on providing the core services their customers need. Americans aren't ready to give up on brick-and-mortar banking just yet.

The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from March 6-9, 2014, among 1,003 U.S. adults.