NEW YORK, Oct. 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- With the increasing prevalence of online-only banks and the option of completing most transactions via the Internet at any institution, Americans have more choices than ever before when it comes to selecting a financial institution and deciding how to conduct their monetary transactions. But just how much trust do Americans have in these institutions? Half of American adults (50%) say their trust in banks has declined over the past few years, though they are not alone as trust in other financial institutions, including Wall Street and mortgage lenders, show declines as well (57% for each). However, only 18% of Americans say the same about credit unions. Nearly half (49%) state their trust in credit unions has remained consistent over the past few years.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,537 U.S. adults surveyed online between August 13 and 18, 2014. Full results of the study, including data tables, can be found here.
Influencing trust in financial institutions
Many factors have a great deal of influence on the trust Americans have for financial institutions. Personal experience tops this list, with 66% of Americans stating this factor has a great deal of influence on their level of trust. The quality of products and services, quality of customer care, and amount charged in fees all tie for next most influential, with 56% saying each of these have a great deal of influence.
- Personal experience is particularly important for older generations. Matures, Baby Boomers, and Gen X'ers are all more likely than Millennials to say this factor has a great deal of influence on their trust (75%, 71%, & 69% vs. 56%, respectively).
At the bottom of this list, only one-fourth of Americans consider an institution's role in the community (24%) to be greatly influential, with even fewer greatly influenced by what they've read about them on social media (12%).
- While still small percentages, both Millennials and Gen X'ers are more likely to state social media has a great deal of influence on their level of trust (15% & 14%, respectively), compared with only 9% of Baby Boomers and 7% of Matures.
Location, location, location
Survey results suggest a financial institution's sphere of influence might inversely relate to Americans' trust in it, with a narrower area of influence correlating to a higher amount of trust. Local credit unions and local/community banks are the most trusted institutions, with over three-quarters of Americans having some or a great deal of trust in them (77% & 76%, respectively). Local branches of regional banks come in third, with 70% having at least some trust in them.
- Local credit unions are more trusted by Matures and Baby Boomers (85% & 83%, respectively), than by Gen X'ers and Millennials (76% & 69%, respectively). The same is true for local branches of regional banks (77% Matures & 74% Baby Boomers vs. 68% Gen X'ers & 66% Millennials).
Big national banks rank second to last, having the trust of only 50% of Americans. Meanwhile, 42% state they have no trust at all or very little trust in these institutions. However, a slightly larger percent (61%) trust local branches of these banks.
Online-only banks are seen as the least trustworthy, with only 39% of Americans having at least some trust and 47% having no or very little trust in them.
- Younger generations (42% of both Millennials & Gen X'ers) are more likely to trust online-only banks, compared with just 30% of Matures.
- There is also a regional divide. Those in the East and West are more likely to trust these institutions, compared with adults in both the Midwest and South (46% East, 44% West vs. 36% Midwest, 33% South).
So who do Americans choose?
Despite big national banks being among the least trustworthy institutions, they retain the highest percentage of customers, with 45% of Americans stating they are a customer of one of these institutions.
- Not surprisingly, those who are customers of a national bank are more likely to have at least some trust in these institutions, compared with those who are customers of a local/community bank, a local credit union, or a regional bank (63% vs. 46%, 44% & 52%, respectively).
- Those in the West are more likely than those in other regions to be a customer of a big national bank (61% West vs. 43% South, 36% Midwest & 42% East).
- Americans living in a rural location are less likely to be customers of big national banks, compared to those living in other locales (30% rural vs. 49% suburban & 52% urban).
One-third of Americans (33%) are customers of a local credit union, with older generations more likely than Millennials to utilize them (39% Matures, 38% Baby Boomers, 33% Gen X'ers, & 26% Millennials). One-in-ten Americans state they are customers of an online-only bank.
Preferred transaction methods
How Americans choose to conduct their financial transactions is largely dependent on the transaction type. When making a check or cash deposit, an in-person experience with a bank teller is the preferred method (49% & 54%, respectively). ATMs are favored by 58% of adults for cash withdrawals. An online experience through an automated portal is preferred by 56% of Americans when making a transfer between accounts.
Interestingly, most Americans prefer to phone it in when it comes to the rest of the financial transactions tested. For requesting a credit line increase, disputing a charge, cancelling a check, requesting a new card, and reporting a lost or stolen card, speaking on the phone with a live person is the preferred method by the highest percentage of Americans (20%, 36%, 29%, 28%, & 46%, respectively).
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This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between August 13 and 18, 2014 among 2,537 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.
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The Harris Poll® #99, October 30, 2014
By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll
About The Harris Poll®
Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, visit the Harris Poll News Room.
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