Why Do Banks Still have Branches?

There’s no doubt that online banking is popular. Research by Canstar Blue tells us that overall a huge number of Australians – 90% of those surveyed by Canstar Blue – bank online. Unsurprisingly, those aged over 18 and under 50 years old have embraced the concept, with those surveyed reporting a very high rate of banking online. The 18-24 year olds have a 97% usage rate, trickling down to 91% for those in the 40-49 year age group.

Consumers in their fifties are not disgraced either – 89% of them access online banking services, as do 86% of sixty year olds. It?s to be expected that those in their seventies and over are infrequent users of online banking but with a score of 76%, they may well be the quiet achievers in this survey.

Bank branches are still important

Despite urban myth, branches are far from dead. There has been a little reshuffling and readjusting going on but branch numbers are not falling dramatically as a result of most customers banking online.

Every year on behalf of the government, APRA collects data on the numbers of branches banks, building societies and credit unions operate around the country. APRA reports that as at June 2014, we had a total of 633 branches nationwide, a decrease of 52, or just 1%, from June 2013.

Unpacking that figure, we have:

  • 5,483 bank branches – 18 more than the previous year.
  • 244 building society branches – unchanged.
  • 604 credit union branches – 70 less, although a large proportion of this decrease was driven by a credit union converting to a bank over the period.
State Branches

June 2014


June 2013

New South Wales 2,055 2,081 -26
Victoria 1,466 1,463 -3
Queensland 1,354 1,379 -25
Western Australia 628 633 -5
South Australia 508 507 +1
Tasmania 150 149 +1
ACT 100 102 -2
Northern Territory 71 70 +1
Total 633 6384

Source: APRA

Banks are a service industry and they provide access to numerous channels to keep customers happy. We still need branches for things like:

  • Personalised help with complex transactions
  • Sorting out problems
  • Organising petty cash for a retail operation
  • Depositing a large amount of cash
  • Depositing cash takings or child?s piggy bank money through an automatic coin-counting machine
  • Picking up foreign currency
  • Organising a cheque or money order
  • Opening a trust account
  • Accessing wealth management and insurance products


One curiosity that lingers to this day is the need for those renting a house or apartment to obtain a cheque or money order to cover bond requirements. This must be posted to the Residential Tenancy Authority in their particular state. While you can download the accompanying bond form from the net, you must then make a visit to your bank branch to arrange a cheque or money order. With an estimated 30% of us renting our homes, that?s potentially a lot of trips to bank branches, particularly for those who move around frequently, such as young people.

Jumpi8ng online onto your bank?s website? Why not us the handy app that your financial institution no doubt has to check where the nearest branch is!

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