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Places That Lost the Most Bank Branches

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Not only are banks shuttering many of their branches across America, but they’re also declining to build more branches to accommodate population growth in others.

In a new study by MagnifyMoney, we found that there were 7% fewer bank branches in 2017 than there were a decade earlier in America’s 100 biggest metros.  At the same time, the population of those metros grew an average of 11%, so the number of branches per capita actually dropped an average of 16%.

For the analysis, we looked at a combination of data, including a record of active bank branches from the U.S. Federal Reserve and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.

Even in some fast-growing places, we found banks are shuttering brick-and-mortar locations at a pretty good clip.  It’s a lot easier to not build new branches than it is to close existing ones, so it seems likely that failure to keep pace with a growing population fits nicely into a strategy of reducing branches for a growing customer base.

There are several reasons for this trend, but here are the big ones.

Merging banks means less need to compete through branch access

The word “synergy” is a popular one for the Mergers & Acquisitions crowd, and the banking world has been pretty gung-ho about mergers over the last few years. Indeed, the FDIC reports that the number of individual banking companies that conduct their business with branches dropped an astounding 25% between 2006 and 2016, thanks to 2,447 mergers among commercial banks and 349 among savings banks.  The newly consolidated banks don’t need branches that cover the same areas, and they may find that the reduced competition means they don’t need to fight for customers with more storefronts.

Branch access isn’t as important to banking customers as it used to be

A 2015 survey by the consulting firm Accenture reported that only 19% of customers say they would close their accounts if they lost their local branches, a significant drop from 2013, when 48% said they would close their accounts due to the inconvenience.

Friday afternoon teller lines to deposit paychecks and get the week’s cash have gone the way of rotary phones, but even the need for ATMs has been steadily declining thanks to easier card-over-cash use, online access and mobile banking apps that have improved exponentially over the last couple of years.  Users don’t even have to set foot in a bank to deposit the occasional physical check, thanks to smartphone scans, and friends can pay each other back with independent apps.

People are becoming more comfortable with accessing their money by digital means only, and they’re often getting better returns on, and cheaper access to, their money with savings account rates at online banks often much higher than those at traditional banks.

While many people find walking into a bank and talking to a professional behind a large desk a reassuring way to deal with the uncertainty and anxiety around buying financial products and services, more and more people prefer to gather as much information as they can across multiple banks, lenders and other businesses in the financial products space.

One exception to the trend

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. recently announced that it will use part of its recent tax-cut windfall to build new branches, but at first glance, this appears to be a push into new markets, not a revitalization of existing ones.

Places that lost the most branches

1 – Lakeland, Fla.

Banks are shutting more branches in this in central Florida community than in any of the others we reviewed — a loss of 23% over 10 years.  Thanks to a healthy population increase of 19%, Lakeland-Winter Haven lost even more branches on a per capita basis: 35%.  That brings them down to 17 branches per 100,000 residents, which is considerably lower than the average 25 per 100,000 residents we found for the 100 cities we reviewed. Interestingly, Winter Haven is home to CenterState Bank, which has been on a buying spree to become the state’s biggest community bank. They closed 100 of their branches between 2009 and 2017 (just under half of what they had and acquired), which they say resulted in a per-branch deposit increase of 185%. They show no sign of slowing down this approach.

2 – Buffalo, N.Y.

Buffalo lost one out of five bank branches in the last decade.  This was marginally offset on per capita basis by the slight population loss (less than half a percent).  This may be in part because Buffalo’s hometown bank company, M&T, has closed branches as they gobble up banks in other communities, but they’re certainly not alone.  For example, KeyBank shut down several branches after purchasing local First Niagara.

3 – Baltimore

Some 19% of Baltimore’s bank branches closed their doors in the last ten years, although that still leaves them with slightly higher than average 27 branches per 100,000 people.  That’s especially surprising, given that the population increased by 8%, leading to a per capita loss of 25% (16% is the average for the 100 cities we examined).  Baltimore started the decade with almost 36 banks per 100,000, significantly higher than the 2007 average of 30.  While many banks closed branches, Santander shuttered every one of its Maryland branches in 2015, many of which they had thanks to the 2009 acquisition of Sovereign Bank.

4 – Stockton, Calif.

Stockton started with fewer bank branches on a per capita basis than most other big cities (18 versus an average of 30 for every 100,000 residents), but that didn’t stop them from closing their doors at a rate of 18% over the last ten years.  This combined with a population bump of 9% over the same period, to create a per capita loss of 28%.  If the city’s guaranteed basic income experiment works out, banks may take another look at the struggling community.

5 – Melbourne, Fla.

Palm Bay and Melbourne sit due east of Winter Haven, and while CenterState doesn’t appear to have a stake in this community, plenty of other community banks are consolidating in central Florida.  Melbourne has changed at a similar rate to Stockton: 18% fewer branches, 8% more people, leaving 24% fewer branches per capita, but that still leaves them with 20 branches per 100,000 people.

Places that saw an increase in branches

1 – El Paso, Texas

El Paso has 11% more branches now than it did 10 years ago, but that may be because they were so underserved to begin with.  To put this in perspective, the metro of 838,000 has 90 bank branches, which comes out to just under 11 branches per 100,000 people.  The average among the 100 biggest cities is 25 branches per 100,000 people, even after the drawdown.  The addition of nine new branches hasn’t kept up with the population increase of 14%, leading to an overall drop in branches per person of over 2%.  It looks like banks may continue to open branches, with a revitalization effort underway for Western Heritage Bank (in part, at least, through acquisition) and El Paso’s downtown.  Meanwhile, El Paso’s biggest credit union, GECU, is trying a strategy of more, but smaller, branches.

2 – Raleigh, N.C.

Like other many other southern cities, Research Triangle has seen a population explosion of 32% in the last decade. The addition of 24 branches (9%) doesn’t cover the distance, which means the number of branches per capita actually dropped by a substantial 17%.

3 – Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City is something of an anomaly, in that they added more branches to their already higher than average (per capita) number (33 per 100,000 residents in 2007).  That may be a function of the sheer land mass – the metropolitan statistical area comprised over 5,500 square miles.  They’ve added 18 branches over the last ten years, an increase of over 5%, but in a familiar story, that increase didn’t keep up with the 17% population increase.

Methodology:

Because the borders of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (“MSAs”) changed at the 2010 census, sometimes dramatically, we constructed the data to the current definition of MSAs using the crosswalk provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. We used the county-to-MSA crosswalk because that was the smallest geographic population designation reported by the U.S. Census for the 2006 American Community Survey.  In the event that a particular county was not reported for both time frames, that county was excluded from the analysis.

Loss of branches data were reported by the U.S. Federal Reserve and were matched at the constituted MSA level to 2016 (most recent available) and 2007 populations from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.  The results were limited to the 100 largest constituted MSAs, by population.

Statistics regarding the number of individual institutions was derived from “Statistics At A Glance,” as of Sept. 30, 2017 table and Table CB03 from the FDIC.

For the sake of clarity, we used the first city name and state name listed in the metropolitan statistical area designation, which we understand to be the most populated component (e.g., “St. Louis” for “St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington, MO-IL”), except where a secondary city was deemed more familiar (e.g., “Fort Myers, Fla.” for “Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL”).

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Kali McFadden
Kali McFadden |

Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at [email protected]

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10 Great Free Checking Accounts

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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The humble checking account may not offer rewards, cash back or many of the other perks offered by ritzy credit cards, but it remains the cornerstone of your financial life. Nobody likes paying monthly maintenance fees, so why not pick a free checking account that does away with them altogether?

Below, we’ve selected nine of the best free checking accounts by scouring our database for products meeting the following criteria:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • A low initial deposit amount (between $0-$50) needed to open the account
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • Minimal third-party ATM fees
  • Available nationwide

Account Name

Minimum needed to open

APY

Consumers Credit Union (IL) Free Rewards Checking$05.09% (applies to balances up to $10,000)
TAB Bank Free Kasasa Cash Checking$04.00% (applies to balances up to $50,000)
Orion FCU Premium Checking$25 deposit in Primary Share Account4.00% (applies to balances up to $30,000)
One American Bank Kasasa Cash Account$503.50%(applies to balances up to $10,000)
Evansville Teachers FCU Vertical Checking$30 ($25 if you're already a member of this credit union)3.00% (applies to balances up to $20,000)
Simple Account$02.02%
SoFi Money$01.80%
Empower Checking$01.65%
Discover Cashback Credit$0None, but customers receive 1% cash back each month on certain spending with a limit of $3,000
Ally Bank Interest Checking$00.60%

10 bests free checking accounts of October 2019

Consumers Credit Union (IL) Free Rewards Checking

The Consumers Credit Union provides an online-only Free Rewards Checking account to anyone in the nation who becomes a member. You can qualify for membership with a one-time $5 payment to Consumers Cooperative Association. Perks of the account, which charges no monthly maintenance fees and requires no minimum balance, include unlimited third-party ATM fee refunds.

However you do have to meet some requirements in order to get all of the benefits of the account (including the high APY). The APY for this account is divided into three tiers, with the lowest earning 3.09%, the middle 4.09% and the highest tier 5.09%. The requirements for each of these tiers are:

To earn 3.09%

  • Receive eStatements
  • Make at least 12 debit card purchases a month
  • Post direct deposits or ACH payments of at least $500 each month

To earn 4.09%

  • Meet all the requirements of the previous tier
  • Have a Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card and spend at least $500 a month on it

To earn 5.09%

  • Meet all the requirements of the previous tier
  • Spend at least $1,000 a month on your Consumers Credit Union Visa credit card

Keep in mind these high APYs only apply to balances up to $10,000. The portion of any balance between $10,000.01 and $25,000 earn 0.20% APY, and balances greater than $25,000 earn an APY of 0.10%.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Consumers Credit Union (IL)’s secure website

NCUA Insured

TAB Bank Free Kasasa Cash Checking

Headquartered in Ogden, Utah, TAB Bank offers a great rate on its Free Kasasa Cash Checking account. Developed by the Kasasa Corporation, a Texas-based financial services and marketing organization, Kasasa accounts help smaller banks compete against larger rivals by providing higher rates.

TAB’s account charges no fees for using third-party ATMs, and reimburses up to $15 in third-party ATM fees per month. There are no fees and no minimum balance requirement for this account, but to earn 4.00% APY reward rate, every month you must:

  • Deposit at least one ACH payment or direct deposit, or make one bill pay transaction
  • Make at least 15 signature-based debit card purchases

If you don’t qualify in any given month, your balance earns 0.05% APY, and third-party ATM fees are not refunded. You can earn the reward rate APY on balances up to $50,000, which is well above the other maximum balances on this roundup. Balances greater than $50,000 earn an APY of 0.25%.

LEARN MORE Secured

on TAB Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Orion Federal Credit Union Premium Checking

Orion Federal Credit Union has served the community in Memphis, Tenn. since 1957 — and now it offers its outstanding Premium Checking product online to anyone who becomes a member. This involves opening a Primary Share Account savings account with a $25 deposit, and donating $10 to one of five local charities.

This account charges no fees for using third-party ATMs, and reimburses fees charged to you by owners of third-party ATMs, making it free to access your cash from anywhere. To earn the 4.00% APY interest rate, and also get ATM fee reimbursements and waive the $5 monthly fee for the account, you must:

  • Deposit at least $500 a month in the account, either by direct deposit or other mobile electronic deposit
  • Perform at least eight signature-based debit card transactions

Orion lets you earn their high APY on balances up to $30,000. Balances greater than $30,000 earn an APY of 0.05%.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Orion Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

One American Bank Kasasa Cash Account

This small community bank, based in Sioux Falls, SD, offers a nationally available Kasasa Cash checking account that earns a decent 3.50% APY on balances up to $10,000. You need a minimum of $50 to open the account, but after that all you need to do to earn the very competitive APY of 3.50% is:

  • Make at least 12 debit card purchase transactions a month of at least $5.00 each
  • Receive electronic bank statements, account notices and disclosures
  • Log in to online banking at least one time a month

If you meet these qualifications, One American Bank also refunds up $25 in third-party ATM funds per month.

LEARN MORE Secured

on One American Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union Vertical Checking

Don’t let the name of this credit union fool you—anyone can become a member if they open a $5 savings account, which then allows you to open a Vertical Checking account with a minimum balance of $25.

This free checking account doesn’t charge a monthly service fee or require you to maintain a minimum balance, and in return gives you an APY of as high as 3.00% on balances up to $20,000, provided you fulfill the below requirements:

  • Make at least 15 debit purchases each month
  • Make at least one direct deposit into the account each month
  • Login to your mobile or online banking at least once each month
  • Opt in to receive eStatements
  • In addition to the high APY, meeting these requirements entitles you to $15 a month for reimbursing third-party ATM fees.

In addition to the high APY, meeting these requirements entitles you to $15 a month for reimbursing third-party ATM fees.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Simple Account

Another online-only account, Simple is owned and backed by regional bank BBVA Compass and offers customers a checking account that’s intertwined with the app’s Protected Goals savings account, and additional budgeting tools. Simple doesn’t charge any fees, meaning users enjoy:

  • No monthly maintenance fee
  • No minimum balance needed
  • No account closing fee
  • No stop payment fees
  • No debit card replacement fee
  • No ATM fee if using Simple’s network, but users can be charged a fee by other banks if using a non-network ATM

One fee you do have to pay is a foreign transaction fee when using your Simple card internationally, which can be up to 1% of the transaction.

As a cash management product, the Simple Account automatically comes with a savings account feature. While the checking balance in a Simple Account earns a token 0.01% APY, Simple’s Protected Goals savings balances earn an APY of 2.02%.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Simple’s secure website

SoFi Money

SoFi may be better known for its personal loan products, but its SoFi Money cash management account offers a great free checking experience. This account earns a decent 1.80% APY with fees and no minimum balance requirements. SoFi charges no ATM fees of its own, and it will reimburse you for any third-party ATM fees you are charged anywhere in the world. If you need physical checks, you can request them from SoFI.

SoFi partners with multiple banks to hold your money in FDIC-insured accounts. This means that SoFi Money accounts are FDIC insured on balances up to $1.5 million in total, well above the standard $250,000 FDIC insurance level available with conventional accounts.

LEARN MORE Secured

on SoFi’s secure website

Empower Checking Account

This online-only checking account is backed by Evolve Bank and Trust, an FDIC-protected bank that ensures the money you place in your Empower account stays safe. Empower requires no minimum deposit or balance, doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee, and each month will waive the third-party fees you incur from a single use of an out-of-network ATM.

In addition to the 1.65% APY, Empower gives you cashback rewards of 1% on up to $1,000 of debit purchases each month. However, this account can only be managed through its app so users will have to be comfortable with banking via mobile device.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Empower’s secure website

Member FDIC

Discover Cashback Debit

You might be more likely to think of credit cards when it comes to this brand, but Discover also functions as an FDIC-insured, online only bank that offers a suite of personal banking products including one of the best free checking accounts currently on the market. The Discover Cashback Debit account features a smorgasboard of perks and goodies for customers, including:

  • No monthly maintenance fees, minimum balance to open or minimum daily balance
  • A nationwide network of more than 60,000 ATMs customers can use fee-free
  • Free replacement debit cards
  • Free online bill pay

Living up to its name, the Cashback Debit account grants 1% cash back each month on qualifying spending up to $3,000. What kind of spending counts? Just about everything, with the exception of ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders, loan payments or account funding, and peer-to-peer transactions. In addition, some purchases made over a third-party app or service (such as Venmo) may not qualify.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Ally Bank Interest Checking Account

The Ally Bank Interest Checking Account may not offer a high APY (unless you can maintain at least a $15,000 balance), but the free online banking, bill pay, and checks — both standard and cashier — along with no monthly maintenance fee, required minimum balance or minimum deposit to open make it a great option for customers looking for a free checking account.

While no minimum balance is required to earn 0.10% APY, customers can earn 0.60% if they maintain a daily balance of at least $15,000. Customers can use any of the 55,000 ATMs in the Allpoint® network for free, and Ally will reimburse up to $10 of non-network ATM fees each billing cycle. Other fees to watch out for include:

  • $15 stop payment fee
  • $25 per-day maximum overdraft fee
  • $20 outgoing domestic wire fee

LEARN MORE Secured

on Ally Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

James Ellis
James Ellis |

James Ellis is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email James here

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Cheap Home Remedies That Can Help You Battle Flu Season

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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Pumpkin spice lattes, cozy scarves and a long-awaited chance to dust off your favorite pair of boots. No doubt about it, there’s a whole lot to love about fall.

But it’s got its drawbacks, too. Specifically, fall heralds the start of flu season — a nebulous time of year which exact dates vary, but generally begins to pick up in October and its effects can last as late as May.

Although the word is still out on how bad this year’s bout of influenza will be, if recent history has anything to say, we could be in for it. The New York Times reported the 2017-2018 flu season was the worst in nearly a decade, killing almost 80,000 people and hospitalizing thousands more across all age groups.

Of course, even if the flu doesn’t kill you, it can definitely make you feel like crud — and even affect your earnings. You’ll likely miss at least a few days at work, and there’s no telling how your medical bills could pile up if you experience flu-related complications. Pneumonia, for example, cost patients over $400 on average for outpatient treatment per a 2018 study by BMC Health Services Research, and over $10,000 for those who required hospitalization.

When almost a third of American households have less than $1,000 in savings, those prices mean an avoidable illness could become a financial catastrophe.

Prevention, then, seems the best medicine. But how can you go about it as cheaply as possible?

Dirt-cheap ways to ward off illness

Unfortunately, once you have the flu, there’s not much you can do about it except wait. Although prescription antiviral drugs can help shorten your illness, they’re most helpful if you start taking them as soon as possible.

So instead, give yourself an ounce of prevention in the following affordable ways.

Get a flu shot.

It may seem like a pain to get a flu shot each and every year, but it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent illness, said Dr. Adrian Cotton, medical chief at Loma Linda University Health in California.

And even though the flu shot isn’t 100% effective, any efficacy is better than nothing.

“It’s worth doing,” Cotton said, especially since the risk factor is so close to zero.

And these days, the flu vaccine is pretty easy to access, so it’s hard to find an excuse. The vaccine is covered under most insurance plans, and many grocery stores and pharmacies offer them, sometimes even incentivizing the deal with in-store discounts.

Wash your hands — and everything else.

Flu is a communicable disease, which means it spreads from person to person. And while you sometimes can’t avoid exposure (if, for instance, your kids come home sick from school), you can go a long way toward limiting your chances by paying close attention to your hygiene.

Along with frequently washing your hands, be sure to avoid touching your face, Cotton advised, especially if you’ve interacted with sick individuals. And make it a point to clean frequently-touched surfaces in your household like doorknobs with a disinfectant solution, including bleach or peroxide.

Live a healthy lifestyle.

While there’s no particular combination of supplements that will make you invulnerable to the flu, maintaining general good health can go a long way in bulking up your immune system. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a good start, and superfoods don’t have to break the bank either.

How to ease symptoms if you’re already sick

Already sick? It’s tempting to run to the drug store and pick up every over-the-counter “cure” you can find.

But when it comes to easing your symptoms, it turns out the most affordable options are also the best ones.

Stay hydrated — and don’t worry, water’s fine.

Maintaining your fluid levels becomes critically important when you’re sick, and especially when you’re running a fever. But fortunately, you don’t need anything special to get the job done, Cotton said; water will keep you hydrated just fine.

The exception to the rule: if you’re feeling so unwell you don’t feel like eating or drinking, a product like Pedialyte or Gatorade could help you replace electrolytes. Otherwise, you’d be able to replenish them through your normal meals. (And hey, not all traditions are useless: classic chicken soup contains vitamin-packed veggies and protein, and that warm liquid will soothe a sore throat.)

Rest.

Lying in bed costs absolutely nothing, and it’s an imperative step toward helping your body fight off the flu. And while a pain reliever like ibuprofen can help take the edge off your symptoms, sleep can also do wonders to help you get better more quickly.

Ditch the miracle cures … unless they work for you.

“There’s never been any trials that show that any over-the-counter, herbal remedy actually works for influenza,” said Cotton, though you can certainly find anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

Thus, shelling out for fancy supplements is probably a waste of money, unless you’re convinced we’re totally wrong in this regard.

That’s because the placebo effect could make you feel better even if there’s no physical, causal effect between the “cure” and your abated symptoms.

So if you’re absolutely certain you feel better when you take echinacea or soak in Epsom salts, go ahead, as long as they’re not dangerous or prohibitively expensive.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, flu season is a bit of a crapshoot. You can take as many precautions as you want, but sometimes, you just get unlucky.

If that reality makes you curmudgeonly, that might actually be a mark in your favor — because aside from the steps listed above, one of the best things you can do to avoid exposure is to stay away from people.

Hey, it could be worse; at least sitting at home and binging your favorite fall TV shows is pretty darn close to free.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jamie Cattanach
Jamie Cattanach |

Jamie Cattanach is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jamie here