The site of a future Chase Bank branch in East Boston is shown in this file photo. Photo by James Sanna | Banker & Tradesman staff.

Even as more families used online banking in 2019, most also continued to visit bank branches, according to a recent Federal Reserve survey.

Nearly 80 percent of families who used online banking in 2019 also visited the branch holding their checking account, according to the Fed’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances. Released every three years, the survey analyzes household wealth and income, along with savings, credit use and other financial outcomes.

Most of the survey responses were collected toward the end of 2019, before the pandemic started.

Banks and credit unions have reported during the pandemic the accelerated use of online and mobile banking tools. Even before COVID-19 drove more customers to the internet, the use of online banking had increased since the previous Fed consumer survey in 2016, with nearly 80 percent of families now banking online.

The use of paper checks declined in 2019 as well, with more than 30 percent of families responding that they did not write a paper check last year.

At least in 2019, online banking did not mean customers had stopped visiting branches, with 79 percent of families visiting the branch holding their checking account and 67 percent visiting branches where they have savings accounts.

“Online banking appears to be an imperfect substitute for at least some physical financial services, including visiting a local bank branch,” the Fed said in its report on the survey.

For families not using online banking in 2019, 85 percent visited their checking branch and 81 percent visited their savings branch.

Of the families interviewed in 2019, 98.2 percent had some type of transaction account, including checking, savings, money market and call accounts, as well as pre-paid debit cards. The median value of these accounts was $5,300 in 2019, an 11 percent increase over 2016.

Most families did not have a certificate of deposit in 2019, though the families holding a CD increased from 6.5 percent in 2016 to 7.7 percent in 2019.

Over the past two decades, the internet has become the most common resource for families looking for information on borrowing. In 2001, 21.8 percent of families used the internet to shop for loan options, compared to 55.5 percent in 2019. Family, friends and business professionals have also become more popular resources for families, with 53.7 percent using business professionals as a resource in 2019 and 49.2 getting information from family and friends. Business professionals were the most common source in 2019 for information about investments, at 56.5 percent compared to 45.2 percent using the internet.

Advertisements and media, which 41.8 percent of families used for information on borrowing in 2001, were resources for only 25 percent of families in 2019.

“Families reported less reliance on other forms of advertisements and media for information on borrowing or investing, also continuing a long-run trend and balancing out increased internet use,” the Fed said. “The use of friends, relatives, associates, and business professionals as sources has trended upward since 2001 for both borrowing and investing information, although it was roughly stable from 2016 to 2019.”

Most families, however, did not shop for loan or investment products in 2019. Only 6.5 percent reported shopping for credit, while 5.9 percent said they shopped for investment products.

The Survey of Consumer Finances also found that income for the typical U.S. family rose 5 percent, adjusted for inflation, from 2016 to 2019 to $58,600. That was weaker than the 9 percent income gain the typical family received from 2013 through 2016.

While the report shows increases in income and wealth for lower-income and Black families, many economists worry that the pandemic has reversed those gains. Job losses this year have been concentrated among lower-income workers in the restaurant, hotel, retail and travel industries. Those workers are disproportionately non-white.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Fed Survey Shows Branches Still Popular with Families Pre-Pandemic

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 2 min