50% of Americans Are Cheating — on Their Bank

Most Americans have multiple bank accounts, survey finds.

When it comes to banking, do you prefer to be loyal or play the field? In other words, do you keep all of your money at just one bank or spread across accounts at several banks? Either way, there are pros and cons.

To find out whether having multiple bank accounts is commonplace or rare, GOBankingRates surveyed more than 2,000 people across the U.S. We asked them how many banks they currently have an active checking, savings, CD or money market account with.

Click through to find out how many bank accounts you can have at one bank.

Then, we explored why people have multiple accounts by asking, “What is the primary reason you have active bank accounts at multiple banks?” Respondents could choose from the following answers:

– Different services/products offered
– Flexibility/convenience
– Lower fees
– Want finances separated/spread out
– Have high account balances

The survey found that many Americans aren’t loyal to just one bank. Keep reading to discover the reasons why they prefer having multiple bank accounts.

Half of Americans Use More Than One Bank

There’s an even split between Americans who are loyal to their banks and those who spread their money across accounts in multiple banks. The survey found that 50 percent of Americans have an account at just one bank, while the other half have accounts at multiple banks.

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Half of Americans Are Cheating on Their Bank

Among those with accounts at more than one bank, the most common number of financial institutions they have active accounts with is two, with 28 percent choosing this response. The next most common response is three.

However, Americans with multiple accounts are more likely to have accounts at five or more banks than at four. The survey found that 7 percent have accounts at five or more banks versus 4 percent with accounts at four.

Younger Millennials and Women Are More Loyal to Their Banks

Young millennials ages 18 to 24 are more likely than other generations to keep their money in just one bank rather than spread out at several institutions. About 58 percent of this age group said they have accounts at just one bank, followed by 52 percent of those ages 25 to 34 and 55 to 64.

Women are also more likely to be loyal to their banks, with 53 percent saying that they have accounts with just one bank compared with 47 percent of men. And just 4 percent of women said they have accounts at five or more banks versus 8 percent of men.

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Another GOBankingRates survey found that young millennials and women were more likely than their counterparts to have $0 in a savings account. This might explain why they’re less likely to have multiple bank accounts if they’re not putting money into savings accounts.

Older Gen Xers ages 45 to 54, on the other hand, are least likely to be loyal to their financial institution. A full 55 percent answered that they have accounts at more than one bank. In fact, nearly 9 percent said they have accounts with five or more banks — the highest percentage of any age group.

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Why Do Americans Use Multiple Banks?

The survey found that the most common reason people have accounts at multiple banks is flexibility and convenience, with 31 percent choosing this answer. The second most common reason given was to take advantage of the different services and products offered at other financial institutions.

Reasons Why Americans Have Multiple Banks

After convenience and product offerings, lower fees were the third most common reason respondents gave for having accounts at multiple banks — followed closely by wanting to have their finances spread out. Having high account balances was the least common reason given for having multiple bank accounts.

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The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insures up to $250,000 per account per owner. So, people with balances that exceed those limits may spread their money across more than one bank to insure that everything is protected by the FDIC.

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Millennials Are Looking for Lower Fees

Millennials appear to be more influenced by fees than other generations when choosing banks. In fact, lower fees were the most common reason younger millennials ages 18 to 24 gave for having accounts at more than one bank.

However, if you’re trying to avoid bank fees, you need to be careful about opening multiple accounts. Many banks charge a monthly maintenance fee on accounts. Even if the fees are low, they can add up if you have more than one account and don’t maintain a minimum balance to avoid the fees.

The top reason older millennials ages 25 to 35 and all other age groups gave for having accounts at more than one bank was flexibility and convenience. Baby boomers ages 55 to 64 had the highest percentage of respondents — 35 percent — who chose this reason. They also are more likely than other generations to answer that they have multiple bank accounts so they can spread out and separate their finances.

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Younger Gen Xers ages 35 to 44 are more likely than other age groups to name different products and services offered as the primary reason they have accounts at more than one bank. Surprisingly, millennials are more likely than other generations to say they have multiple bank accounts because they have high account balances.

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How Many Banks Should I Use?

Most large banks will let you have more than one account, GOBankingRates found. So you might be wondering, “How many bank accounts should I have?”

There’s no one-size-fits-all bank account, and there really isn’t a specific number of accounts you should have. It really depends on what works best for you. But there are several things you should keep in mind.

For example, one of the pros of having multiple bank accounts is that you can keep personal and business finances separate if you are a small business owner. Even if you don’t own a business, having multiple accounts can help you save for different goals. Some financial experts even recommend naming your savings accounts based on how the money will be used to provide motivation to save.

A big drawback to having multiple accounts can be fees. There are banks that offer free checking with no minimum balance requirements. But they likely have other fees — such as insufficient funds fees — if you write a check that bounces or overdraft fee if you opt to let the bank cover withdrawals or purchases when you don’t have enough money in your account. If you have multiple accounts, you’ll have more balances to keep tabs on so you don’t end up overdrawn.

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About the Author

Cameron Huddleston

Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, MSN, USA Today and many more print and online publications. She also is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances. U.S. News & World Report named her one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named her one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, WTOP in Washington, D.C., KGO in San Francisco and other personal finance radio shows nationwide. She also has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch and more. She has an MA in economic journalism from American University and BA in journalism and Russian studies from Washington & Lee University.

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