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Why We Bank At Commercial Banks

By Mark Riddix

Do you still do your banking at commercial banks despite lower fees and better services at credit unions and online banks? You are not alone. I have been thinking a lot recently about why so many of us bank at commercial banks. I know that I often complain about the charges by my banking institution, Bank of America. While I have switched the majority of my business to my credit union since there are some clear reasons why credit unions are better than banks, for some reason I still keep my Bank of America account open. I was trying to figure out why so many people like myself continue to hold an account at a big bank. 

Here are a few of the reasons why I believe so many of us bank at commercial banks:


One of the primary reasons that we bank at commercial banks is laziness. We are creatures of habit. We have banked at commercial banks for so long that we don’t want to take a few minutes and open an account at another financial institution. Even if it means it would save us money! It’s just easier to do nothing and stay at your current bank. Bill payments and automated transactions are scheduled at our current banks and we don’t want to take the time to set up the same transactions at a new bank. And even if we do, sometimes we’re too lazy to close our old accounts.


Commercial bank branches and ATM’s are everywhere. You can find a Bank of America ATM machine just about anywhere that you go. There is probably one down the street from your home or near your job at work. Credit unions and online banks have much fewer locations than major retail banks like Bank of America, Wachovia, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. You will, however, pay for this convenience with much higher banking fees. Big banks will nickel and dime you to death with monthly fees, overdraft fees, and transaction fees.


Major bank customers are often dissatisfied with their bank’s services but the majority of bank customers remain with their banking institution. According to Javelin Strategy, only 11% of bank customers switch change banks each year. Why do so many disgruntled customers stay with their bank? Bank customers often fear that setting up a new account will result in a missed payment and subject them to late fees. There is a widespread fear of losing access to financial products such as bank credit cards and home equity lines of credit. Customers who qualify for these services at commercial banks will find that they can get the same services at local banks and credit unions at lower rates.

Wow Factor

Big banks always have the latest products. They have the nicest branches, newest ATM’s, and the latest technological advances. They have products like mobile apps that make banking from your iPhone, Blackberry or Android very easy. Mobile banking apps make it easy for account holders to check their balances, transfer between accounts, and view recent account activity from their phone. These apps are helpful for managing your money.

Those are just a few of the reasons that I think we remain customers of the big banks. Now that we know the reasons, maybe we can break our big banking addiction! All it takes is some good planning and a determined attitude to successfully switch your accounts. What are some of the reasons that you still bank at a commercial banking institution? Do you like being a big bank customer?

(Photo credit: epicharmus)

Mark Riddix
Mark Riddix is the founder and president of an independent investment advisory firm that provides personalized investing and asset management consulting. Mark has written financial columns for Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area newspapers and is the author of the book, Your Financial Playbook.

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  • http://www.startwelllivewell.com Meghan

    I’m interested in reading the replies. =)

  • Amber

    For me, I stay with WF because my student loan is consolidated through them. I got a discount for letting them take the payment automatically from my account (that’s the only bill I let do that) and after 3 years of on time payments, they reduced my interest even more. With all the requirements to keep my checking account free, it’s just easier to leave it there until such time as my loan is paid in full. And I’m lazy. :)

  • Pingback: Credit Unions vs. Banks – Differences, Pros & Cons » Teach Me Credit()

  • lane

    Busy…..just didn’t want to find the time. That was until- my local bank kept raising the minimum balance to not incurre a fee. I mentioned that this was going to cause me to look around at other options–the manager laughed at me. So I laughed all the way to the credit union….found out that on my CHECKING account i would get a better interest rate than the local bank. YUP moving all my money to the CU.

  • samuel


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