Many brick and mortar banks in St. Louis area closing, leaving residents with concerns

Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 9:50 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - “We are temporarily closed;” those are signs plastered across banks around the St. Louis region. It’s forcing people to forgo in-person banking and do business through ATMs.

Some St. Louis customers said it’s concerning to them. They’re having to travel further, or some may not have a ride at all, others said they’re having to pay fees to do simple tasks like cashing a paycheck.

“I tried it this weekend, and it came back and told me no locations in North County were able to provide me the necessary service that I wanted,” Curtis Cook said.

Cook’s been banking with Bank of America for years. He’s a North County native and said when the pandemic hit, he started noticing some changes.

“Some of the branches haven’t been open. Some of the locations, they have given us the opportunity to email them to get into lockboxes, but otherwise, the physical branch isn’t open,” Cook said.

It’s a problem that’s happening everywhere. We checked across the metro area, and several Bank of America locations are closed. The only option is an ATM or to drive several miles.

“If I physically need cash, if I need to have something notarized, if I need something that needs to be processed like one or two savings bonds I need to cash in, I have to do that with a physical person. So, in those types of situations, it’s hard to go to,” Cook explained.

Last month, Bloomberg reported 166 Bank of America branch closures. They’re not the only ones. JPMorgan Chase closed 129 branches. Wells Fargo reduced their in-person services by 267 locations. Their reasoning is cost-cutting measures and COVID-19. However, it seems like a lot of the public wasn’t aware of the ongoing changes.

“I would like for the banks to get to the point where they’re able to open up. If nothing else, just an office that provides basic services. The locations they do have open, rotate the staff so that you’re able to use just once a month to get stuff done,” Cook recommended.

Diane Wagner, a Bank of America Spokesperson, tells News 4 a lot of their closures are stemming from COVID.

“Our temporary financial center closures have occurred in areas where we’re seeing fewer visits, or our staffing is not sufficient for a center to remain open. When a center closes, we work to reopen it as soon as possible. Clients can use onsite ATMs, our mobile banking app and online banking for many of their banking needs. They can also chat with a specialist via video conferencing at one of our designated Advanced Centers or schedule an appointment at a financial location that is open.”

Some customers said they need better communication because a lot of this information is new to them.

“Even with locations that are closed, if they can better communicate on their web page because nobody wants to call customer service, and since you want to do everything through the internet, some of that information just wasn’t as valuable as it should’ve been,” Cook said.

We asked Bank of America how many branches they’ve either permanently or temporarily closed in our region. We also asked how short-staffed they are in our region and across the country. Wagner didn’t answer any questions regarding closure or employee numbers.