Bank Branch Closures: A Big Concern for American Communities


In a recent development, Fifth Third Bank, headquartered in Cincinnati, has announced the closure of 19 branches across seven states. This move is part of a growing trend among banks to shutter physical locations, raising concerns about the accessibility of financial services, particularly in lower-income communities.

The bank’s filings indicate that eight of the closures will be in Ohio, four in Michigan, and two each in Kentucky and North Carolina. Illinois, Georgia, and Indiana will each lose one branch. This decision comes as part of a broader trend, with a total of 42 branches closing under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) between October 15 and 21.

Citizens Bank is also following suit, filing to close seven branches in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. This comes on top of six locations it had applied to close the previous week. However, Citizens Bank also plans to open three new branches – two in Florida and one in Boston, Massachusetts.

PNC Bank, too, has joined the trend, filing to close three branches located in Alabama, Illinois, and Texas. These closures are part of a larger pattern, with data from S&P Global Market Intelligence showing that a total of 1,144 national and regional banks were closed between January 1 and July 31 across 49 states.

These closures have sparked concern among Americans, with a majority expressing worry about the widespread closure of brick-and-mortar locations. According to a recent poll, 51 percent of Americans are ‘very concerned’ or ‘somewhat concerned’ about the impact of these closures, which disproportionately affect poorer households.

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition reports that a third of the locations that closed between 2017 and 2021 occurred in areas that were predominately lower-income and majority-minority. The accelerating closures run the risk of creating ‘banking deserts’ – communities without access to a bank or credit union within 10 miles. This leaves residents increasingly vulnerable to high-fee lending options such as payday loans.

While banks are required to notify the OCC of branch closures, the regulator does not have the power to object to these decisions. This lack of regulatory oversight raises questions about the future of banking accessibility in America, particularly for lower-income communities.

As the cost of living continues to rise, it is crucial that all Americans have access to basic financial services. The recent wave of bank branch closures underscores the need for a comprehensive solution to this growing issue.