The FDIC recently updated its annual Summary of Deposits, which tallies the number of banks and branches in the U.S., along with the amount of money they have on deposit. These figures, along with the FDIC's running total of bank closures, reveals some noteworthy -- and contradictory -- trends for bank customers.
The good news is that the banking industry continues to become more stable. The bad news is that consumers may be paying a price for that stability, in more ways than one.
Changes in banking
Here are some of the key trends indicated by the FDIC data:
- Failures continue to slow. Considering that it is still just a few short years after of the financial crisis, when the banking system seemed on the verge of collapse, perhaps the most important trend in banking is that the system continues to stabilize. Just 12 banks failed in the first half of 2014, 25 percent fewer than went under in the first half of 2013.
- Despite fewer failures, banks are disappearing. While fewer banks have been failing, the total number of banks is declining at a rapid rate. As of June 30, 2014, there were 281 fewer banks than there had been a year earlier. Even though there were not many failures, these numbers reflect a continuing trend of mergers and acquisitions in the industry. This consolidation is a response to the new, tougher financial environment for banks, which means that customers can likely look forward to further rising fees on their checking accounts.
- Branches are becoming more scarce. The total number of bank branches declined by 1,614 in the space of a year. This also reflects the industry's challenging financial realities, meaning that in addition to higher costs, customers can also look forward to less service in some areas.
- Deposits continue to grow. Even with reductions in the number of banks and branches over the past year, deposits increased by a net total of $679 billion. Despite low interest rates, rising fees and service reductions, banks are having no trouble attracting deposits. That is bad news for depositors with savings accounts -- with money continuing to flood in the door, banks have little incentive to raise interest rates to attract deposits.
- It is still a highly fragmented industry. The number of banks may be on the decline, but there are still more than 6,500 banks in the U.S. In addition, the proliferation of online accounts has broken down geographic barriers to make more options available in some areas. So, as a way of coping with rising fees and falling savings account rates, remember that there are many choices out there. Consumers who shop around can neutralize some of the negative trends in banking.
Ultimately, stability is what matters most to bank depositors, and the U.S. banking system continues to demonstrate its ability to deliver that precious attribute. Unfortunately, between low interest rates, rising fees and dwindling service, that system is providing little more than security to customers today.
This article originally appeared on money-rates.com.
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