7 Reasons to Use a Brick-and-Mortar Bank
by The Ascent Staff | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Oct. 16, 2019
Brick-and-mortar banks aren't down for the count. When you're on the ropes, one of these services might save the day.
Home workstations, Amazon Prime, and online banking have many of us feeling like we never need to leave the house. But if you're willing to get your dose of vitamin D and rack up a few Fitbit steps, you might find a walk to your neighborhood bank worth your time.
1. Cash in large amounts
If you've never needed a large amount of cash, you may not know that ATM cards often have daily withdrawal limits. That's great news if your card is stolen, but not so great if you need a lot of cash now. Show your ID to a teller, and voilà -- you could be holding five figures' worth of cash.
2. Notary public services
A notary public (or simply a "notary") is someone who certifies the signatures on an official document after verifying the identity of the signers. This verification requires that the signers be present. Vehicle titles, loan documents, and power of attorney forms are examples of records that may require notary services. Many banks have a notary public who can perform these duties.
3. Safe deposit boxes
While you may not be planning to hoard untraceable cash, you may have some prized possessions that you don't want hanging around the house, where they could fall victim to fire or theft. Items of high monetary or sentimental value could find a home in a safe deposit box at your local bank.
4. Coins to cash
At the store, having exact change never thrills the people in line behind you. Paying with coins gets you the same amount of empathy you might get by sitting at a green light at an urban intersection. So what do you do with the loose change that you were too afraid to use at the store? Many banks have coin-exchange machines where you can exchange coins for cash (and a little more respect from other shoppers at the store).
5. Cashier's check
There are some situations in which a debit card or personal check won't do -- and you may not always have a paper check on hand regardless. Down payments for big-ticket items like houses and cars often require a cashier's check, which, unlike a personal check, guarantees that you can pay the amount written on it. You can easily pick up a cashier's check while you're at the bank cashing in your coins. And while you may be able to order a cashier's check online, it will likely take at least a day to arrive.
6. Case-specific customer service
New online services are convenient once you know how to use them. Apps are fantastic once the bugs are worked out. Doing it yourself is great when you know what you're doing. When none of the above apply, it's nice to have a little help.
Many banks' customer support lines make you navigate an automated maze of menus, where you sometimes hit a dead end and have to start over. And once you're finally directed to an agent, you may discover that they're "currently experiencing high call volume, and all representatives are currently assisting other customers."
At your bank's local branch, you may have to stand in line for a few minutes, but it will be much easier to explain your problem to a live person. There are no guarantees, but you might be able to plead a better case for overdraft fee removal in person. A customer relations representative might be willing to pull out a few more stops for a customer they know than they would for an anonymous voice on the phone.
7. Machines make mistakes, too
Mobile deposits are unbelievably convenient, and most of the time they go off without a hitch. However, if you happen to receive a check that didn't print well, then making that remote deposit can be quite a hassle. You can't always count on a phone representative to exhaust every possible option. At least if you're in a branch location and need to escalate an issue, there are plenty of other employees for you to speak to without having to call back and wander through a second phone maze.
If you don't need any special services, online banking makes sense. Not only is it very convenient, but the interest rates are often superior. In some cases the maintenance fees are lower, and the services offered can be accessed quickly. For example, many bank apps allow you to immediately disable your debit card if you discover it's missing.
Since online banking clearly has its benefits, many banks with physical locations use a hybrid system of mobile, online, and in-person banking to serve their customers. If you depend solely on a bank's online functions, you may not realize the benefits of going inside a local branch. So don't write off a trip to the bank just yet. There's still a world of service out there that comes with a personal touch.
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