ABA: National Survey Shows that Bank Customers Turn to Mobile Apps More Than Any Other Channel to Manage Their Accounts

COVID-19 accelerated move toward digital banking channels

Consumers are conducting their banking via mobile apps more often than any other method, according to a new survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the American Bankers Association. The national survey found bank customers preferred mobile apps both prior to and following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to COVID-19, 33% of bank customers used apps on phones or other mobile devices as their top option for managing their bank account, while 24% used online banking via laptop or PC the most and 21% (1 in 5 customers) most frequently conducted their transactions in person at a bank branch. During the pandemic, the frequency of digital channel use increased even further (44% mobile app, 26% online) while branch banking fell to 10%.

“Digital banking was on the rise long before COVID-19, but the growth in mobile app use accelerated as the pandemic made in-person banking more challenging,” said Rob Morgan, ABA’s senior vice president of innovation strategy. “Today’s banking apps are extremely sophisticated, and this survey shows that many consumers who try them quickly make mobile their banking method of choice.”

A breakdown of age demographics shows different preferences among different generations. More than half of Generation Z, Millennials and Generation X now use mobile banking apps most often, and a plurality of all three groups also used that method the most immediately prior to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the survey found that Baby Boomers most often utilize online banking (34% pre-pandemic, 38% amid pandemic). Visiting a bank branch was the second most-used method for Baby Boomers prior to the pandemic (28%), but fell to the third spot (17%) below mobile apps (29%) following the arrival of COVID-19. Branch visits have fallen by at least 8 percentage points among all generations during the pandemic. [See infographic for a full breakdown of top banking preferences by age].

ABA also released an accompanying infographic highlighting the survey results. The data released today is the latest in a series of results gauging U.S. consumers’ preferences and opinions regarding banks and their services. ABA recently released survey data revealing that Americans are highly satisfied with their bank and trust banks most to keep their information safe. The full results for today’s survey questions are as follows:

When asked “Prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., which method did you use most often to manage your bank account(s)?” consumers responded as follows:

  • Mobile (apps on smartphone or tablet) – 33%
  • Internet/Online (Laptop or PC) – 24%
  • Branches – 21%
  • ATM – 11%
  • Telephone (calls to your bank) – 6%
  • Mail – 2%
  • Don’t Know/no opinion – 3%

Pre-pandemic age breakdown:

  • Gen Z (1997-2012)
    • Mobile       — 48%
    • ATM           — 14%
    • Branches   — 14%
    • Online        — 11%
    • Telephone  — 7%
    • Mail            — 1%
  • Millennials (1981-1996)
    • Mobile        — 45%
    • ATM           — 16%
    • Branches   — 13%
    • Online        — 13%
    • Telephone  — 5%
    • Mail            — 3%
  • Gen X (1965-1980)
    • Mobile        — 36%
    • Online        — 23%
    • Branches   — 20%
    • ATM           — 9%
    • Telephone  — 7%
    • Mail             — 2%
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
    • Online        — 34%
    • Branches   — 28%
    • Mobile        — 20%
    • ATM           — 7%
    • Telephone  — 6%
    • Mail            — 2%

When asked “And since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., which method have you used most often to manage your bank account(s)?” consumers responded as follows:

  • Mobile (apps on smartphone or tablet) – 44%
  • Internet/Online (Laptop or PC) – 26%
  • Branches – 10%
  • ATM – 8%
  • Telephone (calls to your bank) – 7%
  • Mail – 3%
  • Don’t know/no opinion – 3%

Amid-pandemic age breakdown:

  • Gen Z (1997-2012)
    • Mobile        — 56%
    • Online        — 14%
    • ATM           — 10%
    • Telephone  — 7%
    • Mail            — 4%
    • Branches   — 4%
  • Millennials (1981-1996)
    • Mobile        — 55%
    • Online        — 15%
    • ATM           — 9%
    • Telephone  — 8%
    • Branches   — 5%
    • Mail           — 4%
  • Gen X (1965-1980)
    • Mobile        — 51%
    • Online        — 21%
    • Branches   — 10%
    • ATM           — 8%
    • Telephone  — 4%
    • Mail            — 3%
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
    • Online         — 38%
    • Mobile         — 29%
    • Branches    — 17%
    • Telephone  — 7%
    • ATM            — 6%
    • Mail             — 2%

About the Survey

This poll was conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the American Bankers Association from October 1-3, 2021, among a national sample of 2,201 adults. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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