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Americans Trust Their Banks More Than Their Government During Pandemic


Written by Lauren Perez | Published on 5/15/2020

 

During a pandemic, there’s enough to worry about without the added pressure of wondering whether your bank and government will do right by you. While many Americans are feeling even more loyal to their banks during the COVID-19 crisis, the same can’t be said for the American government. 

In our latest survey, DepositAccounts took a look into Americans’ loyalty to their bank and to the U.S. government in the time of the coronavirus pandemic. We also investigated whether banks are reciprocating their consumers’ feelings through coronavirus relief assistance

Key findings

  • Americans trust banks to do right by consumers during the coronavirus pandemic more than they trust the government to do the same. Of survey respondents, 40% said they trust their bank “a lot,” while just 27% expressed the same level of confidence in the government. 

  • Half of respondents said they’re more likely to stick with their bank because of its response to the COVID-19 crisis. 
    • Millennials and Gen Xers are most likely to feel more loyal to their bank because of the coronavirus pandemic.
    • Only 8% of respondents indicated that they are more likely to switch to another bank due to their current bank’s response to the pandemic. 
  • Gen Z is more skeptical of their banks than any other age group. Nearly 30% of Gen Z respondents said they don’t trust their bank to do the right thing during the COVID-19 crisis, compared to 18% of millennials, 11% of Gen X, 14% of baby boomers and 8% of the silent generation.
    • Notably, 17% of Gen Zers plan to switch to another bank because of their current bank’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, versus 12% of millennials, 7% of Gen X, just under 2% of baby boomers and 1% of the silent generation.
  • Most consumers are optimistic that their bank will survive the pandemic. Specifically, 61% are “extremely” confident and 29% are “somewhat” confident in their bank’s survival.
    • Older Americans are generally more confident than younger age groups. Higher earners also have greater confidence in their banks’ survival than lower-income individuals.
  • Meanwhile, more than 1 in 4 consumers aren’t that confident that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is providing relief and stimulating communities.
    • Women are much less confident in the government rescue package than men — about 58% of women are either “very” or “somewhat” confident in the CARES Act, compared to 74% of men. 
    • Gen X is the generation with the most confidence in the CARES Act, with 75% of Gen X respondents expressing some level of confidence in the relief package. Millennials were the next most confident at 70%, while about half of the other generation groups expressed any confidence in the CARES Act. 
  • Overall, Republicans trust the government to do right by consumers, compared to only about half of Democrats and Independents. 
    • The largest group that did not trust the government at all identified themselves as “Other” when asked for their political affiliation, meaning they did not identify as part of the Republican, Democratic or Independent parties.

Banks and COVID-19 relief

On the whole, Americans largely seem to trust their banks in this time of crisis. Of respondents, 78% indicated that they trust their bank to treat their customers well. Meanwhile, 50% of respondents feel more loyal to their banks because of their response to the pandemic. Still, 38% feel indifferent toward their bank, and 8% are switching banks due to their bank’s response to the pandemic, or likely lack thereof.

Gap in aid at traditional banks vs. credit unions and online banks

For the most part, consumers who bank with traditional institutions seem to trust them more than those who bank with credit unions and online-only banks. However, a whopping 49% of our respondents indicated that their bank has not offered any form of assistance to them during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Of this group, 54% have a relationship with a traditional bank. 

It seems like brick-and-mortar banks are offering less in terms of coronavirus relief than credit unions, community banks and online banks, or putting the burden on customers to reach out. For example, Truist does not offer any specific aid related to its deposit accounts. Other big banks like Chase and PNC Bank suggest that customers “may be eligible” for help, and simply suggest that customers contact the bank.

Meanwhile, online-only Ally Bank is providing all customers with waived overdraft excessive transaction fees; free expedited checks and debit cards; and fewer limitations on mobile deposit. Digital Federal Credit Union also offers robust aid to all customers, including unlimited ATM fee reimbursements and waived overdraft and nonsufficient (NSF) funds fees. 

To learn what your bank is offering in terms of assistance, review the list we’ve compiled of bank and credit union COVID-19 relief options

Income-level divides when it comes to bank help and trust

Lower-income individuals are seeing less help from their banks. Of respondents who make less than $25,000, 65% have not been offered any form of assistance during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, that number is cut in half for folks who make $100,000 or more. 

Individuals with lower incomes are already less likely to benefit from higher deposit interest rates, which are often reserved for big balances — especially at traditional banks. Lower-income folks also are more likely to pay bank account fees, from monthly service fees to overdraft fees.

Yet only 19% of our respondents have received help from their bank to reduce or eliminate certain fees. Only six of the 26 largest banks and credit unions have made waiving overdraft or NSF fees a relief option, and just five are waiving ATM fees. Of those that charge monthly fees, only two banks have committed to waiving those fees. 

Perhaps then it's no surprise that those with lower incomes trust their bank less than those with higher incomes. On average, 32% of individuals with an annual household income below $75,000 trust their bank a lot to do right by their customers. Meanwhile, that percentage jumps to 46% for those with an annual household income of $75,000 to $99,999 and to 55% for those who make over $100,000. 

Lower earners are also less trusting of the government’s response and the CARES Act. On average, about 29% of those who make less than $75,000 have any trust in the government to do right by consumers, and about 31% are confident that the coronavirus rescue package is providing economic relief and stimulus. Meanwhile, 37% of folks who make more than $75,000 trust the government to do right by its constituents and are confident in the coronavirus relief bill.

Your money is safe in the bank

On the whole, consumers are confident about keeping cash in the bank despite economic uncertainty. The survey found that 58% “strongly” agreed their cash is safe in the bank, and 34% “somewhat” agreed. Only 5% of consumers disagreed that their money is safe in the bank right now, while the remaining 3% weren’t sure. 

Older Americans generally feel better about leaving their cash in the bank. Only an average of 3% of Gen X, baby boomers and the silent generation disagreed that their cash is safe in the bank right now, compared to about 12% of Gen Z and 6% of millennials. Those dealing with an online-only bank are more likely to feel their money is unsafe, although it’s still only 7% of those respondents compared to an average of 5% of those who feel that way at other banking institutions.

Luckily, all your money is currently fully insured as long as you use a bank insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or a credit union insured by the National Credit Union Association (NCUA). While your deposits are typically covered up to $250,000 per account and ownership type and institution, the CARES Act provides for unlimited deposit insurance through Dec. 31, 2020. So should your bank or credit union fail, you won’t lose a cent.

You should still be vigilant about who and where you give your personal and banking information. Unfortunately, many scammers are taking advantage of this uncertain time and posing as banks and other financial institutions to gain access to people’s accounts. Do not share your personal or banking information. It’s best to contact your bank if you are unsure about any requests and to report any suspicious communication.

Methodology

DepositAccounts commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 2,008 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. We defined the generations as follows:

  • Gen Z is defined as ages 18 to 22
  • Millennials as ages 23 to 38
  • Gen X as ages 39 to 53
  • Baby boomers as ages 54 to 73
  • Silent generation as ages 74 and over 

The survey was fielded April 28-May 1, 2020. 

Comments
Retired FED
  |     |   Comment #1
Fascinating. Reminds me of the time when working in DC being asked by a congressional staff aide. Him: Are Government securities insured? Me: No. Him: Are bank deposits federally insured? Me: Up to $100 thousand (at the time.) Him: Then bank deposits are safer! (Hangs up.)

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