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Online Banking Spikes in Pandemic, With 91% of Americans Banking Virtually in July

Written by Lauren Perez | Published on 8/27/2020


Five months after most of the United States entered a pandemic-related lockdown, consumers and businesses alike are still adjusting to the new normal. Most banks have modified their services, hours and availability to adhere to pandemic rules and guidelines. In turn, customers have had to change up their banking habits.

In fact, a new DepositAccounts survey found that most consumers are visiting their bank branches much less lately, and turning instead to mobile banking apps or websites. “It’s clear that the pandemic has forced both the young and old into remote banking as branch access has been restricted in many areas,” said Ken Tumin, founder of DepositAccounts. 

But while remote banking is certainly physically safer and more convenient, it also brings a new set of worries for consumers.

In this article we will cover:

Key findings

  • Over the last 30 days, 91% of Americans banked virtually, completing at least one banking activity online or on a mobile app. These activities ranged from checking account balances and depositing checks to sending money to peers.

  • While baby boomers (81%) and members of the silent generation (86%) have adapted to remote banking, perhaps unsurprisingly, they’ve done so to a lesser extent than younger generations.
  • Just over four in 10 consumers said they’re using their bank’s mobile app more often than they did prior to the pandemic.
    • Across generations, this change was most noticeable in Gen X, with 57% now using their bank’s mobile app more often. 
    • Americans with higher household incomes use a mobile app to do their banking more often than those who earn less. 
  • Over half — 52% — of consumers are visiting physical banks less often amid the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, 36% have made no change to the frequency of their physical bank visits during the pandemic, and about 7% are visiting their bank branches much more often.
    • The silent generation and millennials had higher rates of respondents visiting physical branches much less often, as did baby boomers. 
    • Additionally, about half of respondents (49%) said they would be happy never going to a physical bank branch ever again, while just under 10% strongly disagreed with that sentiment. Baby boomers and the silent generation were more likely to disagree.

Consumers turn to mobile apps to bank in a pandemic

With Americans staying indoors in an effort to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, many are turning to remote banking. When asked how often they use their bank’s mobile app, 37% of respondents said more than once per week, which was the most common response. An additional 20% said they log in once during the week.

Tumin notes that while remote banking may diverge from many consumers’ usual habits, it offers the ability to manage your bank account without any of the health risks currently associated with visiting a branch. “That’s especially important to baby boomers and the silent generation, who are more at risk from COVID-19,” he said.

With increased app and online usage, 61% of consumers have auto-saved their password on their bank’s website or mobile app, a feature that makes it easier and faster to get to your accounts. Younger bankers are more likely to store their login information than older bankers, with 80% of Gen Z saving their banking passwords compared with just 30% of baby boomers. 

Mobile banking apps aren’t the only financial apps that consumers are using either, our survey found. On average, Americans have about three finance-related mobile apps on their smartphones. Millennials have the most financial apps, with just under four (3.9) apps on average. Men are also heavy financial app users, averaging 3.6 finance-related mobile apps.

While many respondents are satisfied with their bank’s mobile app, other consumers want additional features. Most commonly, respondents would like to be able to pay for goods or services using their bank’s app, with 19% putting that on their wishlist.

Online banking raises security concerns for some consumers

With the spike in remote banking, 38% of consumers are concerned about data security. Specifically, 18% are worried about their bank accessing their browsing data, and 13% fear making a tech mistake while banking either through a mobile app or website.

Despite these worries, the second-most common response from consumers was that they don’t have any concerns about remote banking. Across generations, the silent generation was the most unbothered, with 45% not having any anxieties about remote banking. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Gen Z seemed the most concerned, with 80% noting some sort of worry related to mobile or online banking.

While a fair concern, the risk of a data breach exists at any bank regardless of your use of online or mobile banking. “Instead of avoiding online or mobile banking, it’s better to take steps to be safe when you’re using mobile banking and to understand consumer protections for bank accounts,” Tumin suggested. 


DepositAccounts commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,010 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. We defined generations as the following ages in 2020:

  • Gen Z as ages 18 to 23
  • Millennials as ages 24 to 39
  • Gen X as ages 40 to 54
  • Baby boomers as ages 55 to 74
  • Silent generation as ages 75 and older

The survey was fielded July 24-26, 2020.

Previous Comments
  |     |   Comment #1
As a member of the "silent" generation I have never used an app or made a telephone call on a mobile phone. Yet I do 100% of my banking online using old fashioned desktop computers, of which I own perhaps ten with three of them being used daily. I like conducting my banking business on a screen large enough so as not to be classifiable as a child's toy.

Mobile telephones are instruments of enslavement requiring substantial monthly payments be made for the privilege of others being able to invade your privacy, regardless time or place. I would not dream of using one of those toys, with money on the line, to access even the least important of my bank accounts.
  |     |   Comment #2
Does your online banking require multi-factor authentication (MFA)? Not having a mobile phone limits which banks you can do online business with as most that require MFA only give the option of receiving a text with the one-time authorization code, at least in my experience, YMMV. Some give alternative means of getting the code (a phone call, which could be to a land line, an e-mail which you can read off your desktop computer, or a program that you can install on your desktop).

And if your bank doesn't have MFA (which I suggest people use even when its optional), well that leaves your account a bit more vulnerable to hackers as they only need to get your account and password to gain access to your bank account. whereas with MFA they can't get in without also having access to your MFA (phone, email, etc).

BTW, I'm right with you in not using mobile apps to bank. All my online banking is done from the PC with my phone only involved for MFA.
  |     |   Comment #4
I have in the vicinity of thirty bank accounts at a wide variety of financial institutions all across our great country. Never have an MFA dilemma. As you point out, land line telephones or email can be used. You do not need text . . . at least I don't. Most often I receive my MFA codes via email on my computer, quickly and easily, no need to consult another device or pay a separate bill at month's end.
  |     |   Comment #6
A partial MFA work-around for those who either don't have a text-capable cell phone, OR who choose not to give out that number for MFA purposes, is that a (still free) Google voice number can receive texts. The owner of that Google Voice number immediately sees the texted one-time code from the bank if he's logged into his Google Voice webpage (via desktop, laptop, etc.), and can then input it as requested by the bank's online application to satisfy the MFA.

The reverse scenario is where the only MFA option the bank offers is instead to issue the one-time code during their online application, then require you to text it back to them at a phone number they provide. A Google Voice number may also work for that, but since I haven't tried it I can't be sure.

I'm also not a fan of doing financial transactions on cell phones, aside from emergencies.
  |     |   Comment #7
Thank you, 111. I make all my long distance calls using Google, because it is free to do so. But I did not know their facility could do text. That is good information.
  |     |   Comment #3
The mobile world IS here! Traveling the world mobile access has been priceless! Soon "internet" as we know it (like the demise of cable tv) won't be limited by a wire into your home but, via a cell tower anywhere! For typically just $15~25 a month (All taxes and fees included), I have unlimited access to the worlds information, banking et all. I can send payments to another person, pay my bills, read my mail, talk to anyone, anywhere. I control my homes heating/cooling system, my vehicles functions as well all from a smart phone. At half the price of a so called "landline" which doesn't even have a copper wire anymore. I haven't paid for television (via an antenna) nor steaming either as I can stream my phone to a large screen device in HD! My last "home phone" was disconnected in 1999! My "toy" is fast, simple, safe and extremely convenient. I've stopped  a felony in progress, called EMS services, etc all in seconds by having such a "toy" You can be too!
  |     |   Comment #5
I do access the internet via a wire into my home. But there is another option where I live. My neighbor achieves internet access using a small dish pointed at an antenna located on a mountain top about seven miles distant. We both have line of sight to that mountain top. I'm sticking with the wire for now because the service has been just fine. And my landline telephone connection does remain a copper wire, by the way. I'm unaware of any plans for change.

As for doing my banking on a seven inch, or smaller, screen: fuggetaboutid. That is not happening.
  |     |   Comment #9
@QED: There are actually a few other options you can use for free or low cost. All you need is a old used android phone or tablet and google voice/Magic Jack app and probably a few others that allow for texting over wifi. I have a galaxy note I use for my cell phone because it has the largest screen size for a phone almost like a small tablet. I have also used a 7" and 12" android capable tablets for the larger screen size. Don't use Apple as they become obsolete in a short period of time which is a waste of money IMO. You don't need to store any user names or passwords on your mobile device just go to the settings and tell it not to remember anything/use Chrome incogenito or similar browser.

None of these options requires a cell phone/wireless bill although my MagicJack costs me $2/mo.(I buy service in 5 year blocks to keep the cost low) I needed some type of option to receive texts and banking codes in this manner. At some FI's you can't get around the multi-factor authentication (MFA) text code and they are pushy about it. I have needed this code for opening bank accounts, fintech's love this method, credit unions, and doing balance transfers. I like you hate using a cell phone for any banking but at least I figured out this inexpensive method.
  |     |   Comment #8
I have only been using the mobile banking app for making deposits(since covid) My local Bank of America checking in their infinite wisdom decided to eliminate all of their drive-thru banking windows pre-corona. The major issue I'm having now is how to deposit large checks from maturing CD's. The banking apps have a severe limitation on the dollar amount you can deposit. I'm thinking about using the ATM deposit function now which is something I would never usually do. I don't think ATM's have a dollar limit/cap for depositing checks.
  |     |   Comment #10
I have a checking account at Chase down the block from my house. Years ago the teller there suggested I use the ATMS for deposits. 24/7 access, no deposit slips and you can get on your receipt images of the checks deposited less the account and routing info. You can receipts emailed but they won't give you check images. The tellers use the same scan technology that the ATMs use but the tellers can not give receipts with the check images. I use mobile deposit for checks now; it it is very convenient for checks up to 25k. Over 25k I do at the ATM which has no limits.

All mobile and ATM deposits at Chase are verified by back office people too.
  |     |   Comment #11
Thanks Rickny I wasn't sure about the ATM limit for deposits since I would usually just go inside for large deposits.
  |     |   Comment #12
D1 I can only speak for Chase on the limits.

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