Free ATMs Biggest Motivator for Millennials to Switch FIs: Study
The single biggest reason millennials move their checking accounts to other financial institutions is to get access to free ATMs, according to new data from marketing research company Phoenix Synergistics.
The survey of 1,000 people, conducted in July and August of 2016, found that 46% of millennials who moved their checking accounts to other institutions in the last two years said they did so for the surcharge-free ATMs. Other fees were also a factor: 44% of millennial account movers said free checking prompted a switch to a different financial institution. Life-changing events such as relocation or getting married spurred a switch for 35%.
Phoenix Synergistics also found that millennials are less likely than other generations to have checking accounts in the first place — 74% of millennials have checking accounts today, compared to 84% for Gen Xers and 92% for baby boomers. However, millennials that do have checking accounts may be looking for better offers more often: 13% have moved or switched their main checking account in the past two years, compared to just 8% for Gen X and 6% for baby boomers.
“In absolute terms, shifting of main checking relationships has been narrow,” Phoenix Synergistics CEO William McCracken said. “It is, however, of some concern that this has been somewhat more prevalent among millennial households.”
The demand for free ATMs could be a boon to credit unions that can connect with millennials effectively, however.
“Surcharge-free ATMs are one of the best possible ways to build strong member relationships, as well as one of the key features that can persuade nonmembers to join credit unions – not just millennials, but consumers of all ages,” CO-OP Financial Services Senior Product Manager Terry Pierce said.
CO-OP Financial Services runs a network of about 30,000 surcharge-free credit union ATMs.
Free ATMs, fees and life changes aren’t the only common reasons millennials move their checking accounts. The survey revealed that 30% of millennials who moved their checking accounts said they did so because they wanted better customer service; 27% said they moved financial institutions to get a checking account with a rewards program. About a quarter said they moved their checking accounts to get a higher interest rate, wanted other special services that came with the new account or because they had unresolved problems with their existing financial institution.
Highlighting the growing threat that fintech companies pose to financial institutions, the survey also found that millennials are much more likely to open an account with alternative financial providers — 70% use nontraditional providers such as PayPal, Amazon, Walmart, Google, Apple and others, compared to 39% of Gen Xers and 21% of baby boomers.
“Traditional providers should take this threat very seriously and begin addressing it in terms of pricing and promoting relationship benefits to their millennial customer base. Otherwise, financial provider share could be dramatically altered in the near future,” McCracken said.
Does this all mean millennials are smarter than Gen Xers or baby boomers about their money?
“Not necessarily, Phoenix Synergistics COO and Director of Research Genie Driskill told CU Times. “They just have more options available to them and are willing to consider going elsewhere.”