Happy woman at home with bank card and laptop

Credit card companies offering deposit services to their customers are seeing an inflow of cash as people seek places other than small and regional banks to store their money.

American Express customers put 33 percent more money into their depository accounts during this year’s first quarter compared to a year earlier. Discover’s deposits increased by a record 18 percent, year on year. Capital One’s cash inflows rose 12 percent.

Synchrony Financial, which is the institution behind many store-specific credit cards, took in 12 percent more cash in deposits.

During the same quarter, the total deposits at Wells Fargo fell 7 percent and were down 8 percent at Bank of America.

Apple’s new Apple Card bagged nearly $1 billion in deposits during its opening week last month. The card offers a savings account through Goldman Sachs that pays an annual yield of 4.15 percent, more than 10 times the national average, according to Apple.

In contrast, Wells Fargo Bank was paying 0.15 percent annually on accounts holding a minimum of $25.

The shift was spurred by depositors’ search for yields higher than the fractions of pennies on the dollar that banks have been offering and was accelerated by the mid-March banking scare when Signature and Silicon Valley simultaneously collapsed.

“People are feeling more comfortable going to online-only banks to chase higher returns,” Matt Schultz, a credit analyst at Lending Tree, said to Yahoo Finance.

Traditional banks have been slower to raise the interest rates they offer depositors, while money market funds and online banks have been more nimble in lifting their rates. Customers have noticed.

“It really does take something significant to get people to change their banks,” Schultz added. “We don’t do that easily. It needs to be a significantly better return, better service, a credit card offer, and right now we’re seeing that.” 

“So many people are living on a tight budget,” he said. “If you can double the return you’re getting on your savings, it may not change your life but it may expand your financial margin for error a bit.”

TREND FORECAST: To hold onto deposits, should the Fed raise interest rates on June 14th, banks will pay higher interest. 

At the same time, they are tightening lending criteria and waiting to see if regulators will force them to hold more cash in reserve. Either will hammer their margins.

To keep deposits and remain solvent, banks will have to offer better interest rates and persuade their shareholders to accept smaller dividends and less growth in their stock values.

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