Chase, Citi, BoA and Wells Fargo are in my book the "conventional" retail banks. In 2018, they offer close-to-zero interests in most of their accounts and only offer managed investment accounts.

In contrast, on-line bankings, brokerage firms (e.g. Fidelity, Schwab), credit unions offer MUCH better interests for opening accounts with them. Many of those accounts also allow account owners to do no management-fee investment.

I don't see any added value in putting my money with conventional retail banks. What am I missing about the conventional retail banks?

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    Well, conventional banks have the advantage that they spy on you and are more aggressive about blocking "suspicious" transactions. That is very useful for making sure you get your account blocked when you are on vacation. Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 14:09
  • You don't. I've done all my US banking with a credit union for something like 30 years now.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 17:02
  • BChen, one answer is that even the "high" rates at the alternatives are a joke. So why not use a full-service, name, bank.
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 3:14

3 Answers 3


Each bank has its own pros and cons, and it's up to individuals to choose what's best for them.

For example, I keep Chase in my pocket because:

A) They are everywhere. Wife needs washing money while traveling in San Francisco? Chase down the road. Need a cashiers check to purchase a car? There's a Chase within a few miles of the dealer.

B) They have great customer service. Whether it be the personal banker, cashiers, or online support (e.g. fraud) it's always pleasant. Should something go wrong, the office is right next to my work so I can resolve it in person.

C) Thier credit cards are quite good, in particular, the Chase Freedom Unlimited + Chase Sapphire Reserve combo suits our needs very well.

None of these things are necessary but might help explain why some people chose to pick a big bank for some of their financial needs.


To be more explicit about a point that @jamesqf brought up: you do not need to have all (or any) of your services with any specific financial provider! Like many industries, shopping around can be a good idea!

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    To sum it up: brick and mortar branches can be quite useful.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 16:47
  • @RonJohn more accurately, 'brick and motor branches can be quite useful... AND sometimes brick and motor business can be competitive regardless'.
    – NPSF3000
    Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 16:56
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    Re C, you don't need a savings/checking account with a bank to get a credit card. I have two with Chase, a number with other banks.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 17:05
  • @jamesqf agreed I do not intend to suggest otherwise. I read the question as general 'why do I need to have accounts' not any specific account type.
    – NPSF3000
    Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 17:16

The main draw seems to be a physical location you can go to interact with someone. Many people still choose a traditional retail bank for that reason alone, but there are some benefits. Maybe you need a cashiers check right now, want to withdraw more than your daily ATM limit in cash, get something notarized, or want a safe deposit box.

Additionally, many bank managers still have the option to override NSF/OD decisions and can make exceptions to some rules, having a banker that knows you can be beneficial when things go a little sideways or run outside of the normal transactions. In my view, there's little chance these benefits could outweigh the costs for the majority of people. They have to pay more people and keep the lights on, so the accounts will invariably cost more than their lower overhead online counterparts.

Personally, I keep an account with a local credit union, but have gone there maybe once in the last two years for standard banking tasks. I do prefer getting my mortgages from a credit union, and they require membership (having a savings account) for that. Otherwise, I get much better rates online (CapitalOne 360) and see no good argument for using a traditional retail bank.

Edit: Added "getting something notarized" as @BobBaerker mentioned, I did that once at my local credit union too.

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    I have used a local branch of a conventional retail bank for 25+ years. I have my safe deposit box there and a free checking account with no more than $1,000 in it for cash as needed. It's linked to several online high interest money market accounts - if you can call almost 2% "high". It has a convenient drive up window and once in a blue moon I use their notary. Other than that, everything is elsewhere because as you noted, they all pay ka-ka. Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 18:36
  • @BobBaerker Ooh I forgot about having something notarized, we did that once, edited.
    – Hart CO
    Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 19:26


I have accounts with a credit union, an investment brokerage, and one of these conventional commercial banks. Guess which one has a branch location closest to me? It's the same one that has ATMs near my home, office, family, and in-laws, as well as locations I often travel for work and vacation. They pay (pretty much) nothing in interest, but I can get cash (if needed) pretty much anywhere I may actually be without a fee. The smaller institutions have a far more limited branch and ATM presence, and a slightly less limited presence of no-fee agreement locations.

Bottom line: use these big commercial banks for convenient access to spending money. For saving or investing, look elsewhere.

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    Many online banks allow you to use local ATMs for free. Not only do that not charge a fee, but they pay the fee (up to a point) charged by the ATM operator. That equates to having a lot more options for ATMs (but only ATMs) than the big banks.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 22:58

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