Why Bank Branches Still Matter

5 Things your Internet Bank Can't Offer

Bank Building
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Online banks have changed the way we bank (for the better), and some people live entirely without a brick-and-mortar bank account. They earn more money, pay less in fees, and enjoy the convenience of banking from their computer or mobile device.

However, you might not want to ditch the bank (or credit union) branch just yet. Although they may seem old-fashioned, they offer several valuable services that you only miss when you can’t have them.

Does this mean you should close your internet-only accounts? No way. If you don’t have an online savings account (not to mention checking) you’re missing out.

Instant Cashier’s Checks and Money Orders

Need to make a purchase, but a card (or personal check) just won’t do? For some transactions – like home purchases and certain types of deposits – you’ll need “cleared” funds. That usually means you’ll need to bring a cashier’s check, wire money, or provide a money order to whoever you’re paying.

Some online banks offer cashier’s checks – but you don’t get same-day service. You’ll need to order the check online and then wait a few days for the mail (or pay a modest fee for overnight service).

In some cases, you won’t even know exactly how much the check should be for until a day or two before your transaction. It’s nice to have the flexibility to change things without tying up your funds (have you ever tried to cancel a cashier’s check via mail?).

If you’re on the hunt to rent that perfect apartment or making last-minute negotiations on a home purchase, instant access is a must.

Unlimited Cash Withdrawals

You probably don’t often need a large amount of cash – but when you do, it’s nice to have the option. Suppose you want to buy a used car on short notice.

It won’t be easy to get everything you need from the ATM. There are ways to get large amounts of cash from online bank accounts, but it takes a bit of legwork.

If you’ve got an account with a brick-and-mortar bank or credit union, getting cash is as easy as filling out a withdrawal slip at the branch. As a bonus, you can also get cash back into your account quickly and easily – so you don’t need to keep unsafe (or tempting) stashes of cash around any longer than necessary.

Safe Deposit Boxes

Got small valuables and no good place to keep them? Concerned about what would happen to your files if your house catches fire?

A safe deposit box is a great place to store important documents and small valuables. Instead of reinventing the wheel and creating an ultra-secure (fireproof, theft-resistant, water-resistant) location in your house, let the experts handle it. Banks will store your items at a very low cost, and you just need to get to the branch during banking hours to retrieve your items.

There are plenty of documents that you might have, but rarely need: birth certificates, Social Security Cards, copies or originals of certain agreements, and more. If they’re just an accident waiting to happen, why not put them in a facility that can do a good job of keeping them safe?

The only drawback of safe deposit boxes is that you might need something when the bank is closed. To avoid problems, don’t put anything in there that you might need on short notice, such as passports and medical care directives.

A Place for your Coins

What are you supposed to do with all of those coins that end up in your coin jar? Those coins are money, so it’s worth putting them into a form that’s easy to use – whether you spend the money or use it for savings.

If you only have online bank accounts, shipping your coins isn’t feasible (and it’s probably not even allowed). You could pay to have it counted at a machine in the grocery store, but plenty of banks and credit unions still accept coin deposits without taking a chunk of your savings. They might even let you bring in a jumbled jar and do all of the sorting and counting for you.

Notary Services

Some agreements need to be notarized. That means a Notary Public needs to verify your identity and watch you sign the document. This ensures that it was really you who signed the document, and that you did so willingly (among other things).

By definition, an online bank can’t really offer this in-person service. But many banks and credit unions do – often for free (at least one or two signatures might be free, but you’ll pay a fee if you’ve got a pile of papers).

As with many services at brick-and-mortar branches, getting a document notarized isn’t something you need every day. But it is extremely important on those occasions when you do need it. Alternatively, you could find a local (or mobile) Notary Public to handle any one-off signatures.

Face to Face Meetings

We live in a virtual world, and many tasks are easier to accomplish online. Going to handle a simple transaction in-person is tedious and often a major inconvenience.

That said, there are times when it’s nice to sit down with somebody face to face. Communication over the phone or internet isn’t always clear, and sometimes it’s just better (and faster) to talk and point at things than to type out questions and answers.