August 20, 2013

Bank of America to close drive-through teller lanes

Bank of America is ending drive-through teller service at some of its branches across the country, including in 3 in Columbia, saying demand for the lanes is too low.

In the latest move to scale back its branches, Bank of America is ending drive-up teller service at some locations, including in the Columbia area.

The reason? Too few people are using the drive-through lanes, the bank says.

The move comes as the Charlotte-based lender is in cost-cutting mode, closing branches nationwide and shrinking its number of automated teller machines.

The nation’s second-largest bank by assets has closed or is closing drive-up lanes at three branches in the Columbia area, including one in Five Points, one in Irmo’s Murray Landing and one near the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. More could be affected. A Bank of America spokeswoman did not have a complete list late Tuesday afternoon.

The strategy also impacts Bank of America branches across the country, from Atlanta to Detroit to Houston.

Miami-based banking consultant Ken Thomas said it’s an unusual move for Bank of America, which typically closes an entire branch, rather than just eliminating the drive-through teller service.

Thomas said it’s more expensive to operate a branch’s lobby, which employs more people than the drive-through teller service. “You sometimes see the opposite, where they’ll close the lobby and keep the drive-in open,” he said.

But the bank says there’s not enough demand to justify continuing the service.

In a statement, Bank of America spokeswoman Nicole Nastacie said drive-up teller service is being discontinued at branches where use of the service is low. But customers will continue to have 24-hour access to drive-up ATMs at the impacted branches, she said.

“Decisions on drive-up teller service will continue to be made based on location and volume,” she said.

Nastacie said the tellers who worked the drive-up lanes will not lose their jobs. She added that installing ATMs in those lanes is “a possibility.”

The banking industry has been going through a revolution, driven by the rise of online and mobile technology. Customers can get their banking done on their computers and smartphones, eliminating the need to go to a branch. And newer ATMs allow customers to deposit checks and cash without envelopes.

As Bank of America eliminates the service at some branches, it’s also rolling out ATMs, unveiled this year, that allow customers to interact with a teller via a real-time video feed. Those tellers are stationed in call centers in Delaware and Florida. The ATMs are called Teller Assist and allow access to tellers outside of normal banking hours, including Sundays.

Drive-up lane closings in Columbia area

Bank of America is closing drive-up teller lanes at several branches in the Columbia area, saying demand for the service is not high enough. The following branches already have closed lanes or will by Sept. 9:

2111 Devine St., Columbia

2324 Airport Blvd., West Columbia

104 Regency Drive, Columbia (Murray Landing)

SOURCE: Bank of America

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