Before buying a pair of movie tickets, picking a pizza restaurant, choosing a TV or booking a hotel room, people will first go online to see what others are saying. They want to hear the buzz, good or bad. That goes for financial institutions, too. Consumers will scour scores of bank reviews to find the best savings rates, CDs, mortgages, credit cards and a host of other financial products and services before ever opening an account.
“We live in the age of reviews,” said Claire Tak, editor of MyBankTracker. “Customers want to know about negative or positive experiences so they can make informed decisions.”
As it turns out, bank reviewers are a particularly passionate bunch. They share their praise or rage in a largely unfiltered, unvarnished style that holds a lot of weight with readers. Whatever comes out, it is often offers great insight and perspective that can’t be found in any slickly produced bank brochure.
You too will be well served by reading a number of bank reviews before deciding on a bank to help you manage, save and invest your money.
Here are the leading areas of conversation currently dominating bank reviews. Ask yourself if what they’re talking about could also help you. All reviewers quoted posted their comments on MyBankTracker.
Naturally, you want to do business with an establishment that has a good overall reputation. Bank reviews will certainly give you keen insight on this important measurement.
“I have been with Woodforest for a total of 5 years and I love this bank,” robinsonjm21 posted on MyBankTracker.
Yet Britanny S. posted, “I would not recommend this bank to anyone… Not even [to] someone I hated.”
Tip: Read enough reviews about a particular bank until you feel you have a pretty good handle on its standing one way or the other. You certainly can’t base your decision about a bank after reading one or two reviews.
Customer service, of course, is a key aspect that will figure greatly in a bank’s reputation. Gauging a bank’s ability to provide great customer service before, during and after purchasing and using their goods and service should largely factor in the bank you ultimately choose and how long you continue your relationship.
Customer service comprises many components, which reviewers take aim at:
– Management and staff
Reviewers will often direct their customer service reviews toward management and staff. In her review of TD Bank, Pamelajo posted, “I’d love to send a compliment to the folks at this branch. From the manager, to the assistant manager, to tellers, every time I have walked into this branch, I have been greeted warmly and assisted efficiently. It really is a pleasure to bank here.”
However, Sandhu didn’t feel he was treated well by Bank of America, as he voiced in his complaint. “I walked to the merchant window without knowing that it closes at 4 p.m. Mr. Alex told me get into the regular line very rudely as I had made a very big mistake. I hope he will learn to talk to customers better.”
Tip: Again, read enough reviews until you can find patterns of behavior. Was the customer service received by reviewers isolated incidents in your judgment or do you think they were typical of bigger, more chronic service problems?
– Products and services
Products and services are supposed to deliver value and meet or exceed customers’ expectations. When they deliver, customers say little or offer faint praise. But when they fail to deliver, many customers will bark loudly. That’s just human nature.
Readthefineprint experienced credit card woes with Wells Fargo. He posted, “Be careful of the credit card you get from Wells Fargo. I have good credit, may not be the best, but after my promotion rate period was over, Wells Fargo awarded me a 25.99% interest rate. And the best part, they do not have to provide an explanation for their interest rate decision.”
Meanwhile, gold7422 was unhappy with Chase, and the reviewer wasn’t even a customer yet. He had heard that Chase offered mile rewards on its debit card. “I just called and that is not true,” he posted. “That is false advertising! I am glad I called and asked before I switched my accounts over to them!”
Tip: Banks have shortcomings, just like people. Banks like Wells Fargo offer more than 80 different products and services, so it might be unrealistic for them to be perfect all the time with every one of them. Try to narrow your review search to just those products or services that you plan to use. Ask yourself how does the bank perform on the products and services you use and care about most.
– Response times
How long you have to wait at the bank drive-through or stand in line at the branch, or hang on the telephone to speak to a customer service representative is certainly another critical aspect of customer service. At least, reviewers think so:
“Your customer service number is a joke. What makes the people in charge of this system think a person will hold for eight minutes in order to ask a question of someone in a specific branch of your organization? I don’t mind so much pushing buttons ordered by a machine if there is a hope of being connected to a person when I push the appropriate button, but your system is ridiculous!” So said, momheckler in his review of Regions Bank.
Tip: Whether you bank online, deal with the drive-through or stand in line, read what others have to say about wait times. It’s a frequent topic on MyBankTracker. If you find your current bank or the bank you plan to open an account with is part of the slow-service conversation, you should start looking for a new bank.
Customers hate to get the runaround, but some critics believe that’s exactly what banks specialize in. When tonibrian123 felt that MB Financial Bank was passing the buck — he told MyBankTracker about it: “If you have a problem or a complaint, they refuse to transfer you to anyone in charge and pass you off from lead to lead. They will not release the name of anyone in charge, or give you the email address for anyone in charge. If you have an issue, you can email or mail in your complaint to a generic department. When it comes to my mortgage, I want to be able to speak to someone with authority if I have an issue and I want to be able to trust them.”
Tip: Despite the automated world we live in, when you need to speak to someone in authority, you deserve that courtesy. Preferably, the person in authority will give his or her name freely. If your bank can’t pass this simple test, you need to move on. If you find too many reviews about a bank acting more like the CIA, giving you information on a need-to-know basis, take your business elsewhere.
Bank customers hate fees as much as drivers hate speeding or parking tickets. When they break or bend the rules, especially if it was an accident or an oversight — and not some long abusive pattern of behavior — they like to know their bank might show a little compassion and discretion and waive the fee, especially if they are long-time customers. Barring that, they want to at least know their bank will listen to their story.
Many bank customers rack up the biggest fees when they overdraw their accounts. The average fee runs about $35. If you constantly overdraw your account, you should sign up for overdraft protection; it will cost you a certain amount each month for this service, but not nearly the amount that Curbe27gamilcom was complaining about after First Tennessee Bank slapped him with several overdraft fees:
“After getting over $250 in overdraft charges in one day because of multiple $2 and $3 charges that added up to just under $18, the bank manager’s answer was to repeat, ‘Our policy is to only refund $70 per year for overdraft charges’ and ‘I will be happy to close your account if you like.’ This was a very insulting way to be treated.
“I make $400 a week and FTB had no problem and saw no unfairness in a policy that takes a week’s pay out of my account for $18 in charges. Disgusting! As I met with the manager, she didn’t have much of anything to say other than to repeat the policy and offer to close the account. It was like talking to a wall.”
Tip: No bank relationship should make you feel as if you’re “talking to a wall.” Nearly every bank will penalize you for breaking its rules, but it would be nice to know that your bank has the ability to occasionally set aside your fee or work out some kind of plan so the problem doesn’t occur again. If you read lots of other reviews complaining about an institution’s close-mindedness, close your mind to doing business with them also.
With online banks, you can’t, of course, walk into your local branch and demand satisfaction. But that doesn’t mean an online bank can’t resolve your dispute.
CkinCali banks with Ally Bank, an online-only bank, and wrote about the superior service he received when he overdrew his account: “I bounced two deposits due to insufficient funds, and Ally didn’t charge me a dime for my error. Wells Fargo on the other hand, charged $25 each time.”
When Ally Bank does charge customers for overdrawing their accounts, its fee is only $9, not the $35, on average, that traditional banks charge.
Online banks seem to draw a lot more praise than criticism. Again, the evidence is in the reviews:
“I just opened a checking account and found it very easy to manage,” Db97p posted about his Ally checking account.
“Simple is simply the best banking experience ever,” Sneaker said about Simple Bank. “The app is indispensable, the service and support is priceless. I’m also hesitant to share because I don’t want it to be ruined in some way by others. It’s rare and amazing and I want it stay that way.”
It’s not all puppy dogs and rose gardens for online banks, however. Kevsterrrr certainly wasn’t pleased with his online experience when he impugned Synchrony bank for sinking his credit score: “Synchrony canceled my gap credit account even though I had a zero balance and a perfect credit history. The closing of this account dropped my credit score 65 points. They are a horrible company, and I would advise people to stay away.”
Tip: From judging reviewers’ comments, there’s no question online banks are winning new converts every day with their highly competitive rates, often lower fees, 24/7 access, etc. As welcome as many of these benefits are, however, they still be not enough if you’re someone who prefers or requires high-touch, in-branch service that many traditional branches provide. In your reviews of online banks, also look for comments about ease of use and how computer-savvy you have to be to take full advantage of online banking.
Online bank reviews have a lot to say about convenience. Of course, different users will interpret convenience differently, each according to their needs.
For heavy ATM users, Bank of America continues to draw high marks from reviewers.
Bank of America user Judi posted, “I like the convenience of ATMs everywhere and have found the people working in the bank to be pleasant and helpful.”
Similarly, mandylance posted, “The ATM is also my favorite thing about this bank. I rarely ever have to go into the bank, the ATM can do everything.”
Online banks don’t have to be on every street corner like a Chase or a Bank of America to satisfy its growing customer base.
Betty L certainly didn’t feel as if Ally’s lack of a physical presence inconvenienced her in any way: “I just started with Ally and they are epic. I cannot believe the amazing customer service. If you think banking online is scary and inconvenient, then let all fears go. They provide prepaid postage envelopes to send checks, reimbursements on ATM fees, and 24-hour customer service that has virtually no wait time. It is fast, convenient and supports my needs. I will never have to add ‘stop at the bank’ on my to-do list because it is all online. My bank will go with me wherever I go.”
Tip: In a way, the battle for banking supremacy comes down to convenience. That’s why they used to build branches on every street corner, and it seems that Chase still does. Whichever bank was closest to your home got your business. But that paradigm is ever-changing as more and more bank customers become digitally savvy. For online bankers, geography is less important than service.
Reviewers on both sides of the fence, traditional vs. online, love bragging about the convenience their bank provides, but, ultimately, convenience comes down to personal preference for the way you live and like to bank. If you feel your bank could be doing more to make your life easier, then consider a change. But if you believe it’s providing everything you need, there’s no need to change. That said, it never hurts to know what the competition is up to, and that’s exactly the information that bank reviews provide.
Why bank reviews matter
If you order a bad pizza and it doesn’t sit well with you, you can take a couple of Tums or Rolaids, and your indigestion will likely pass. If you see a movie, and you hate it, you’ll be out a few bucks, but your poor choice shouldn’t endanger your financial future.
But if you choose a bank that mistreats you and doesn’t respect you, keeps you waiting, charges unconscionable fees, and takes no accountability for its actions, then you have a big problem. It could wreak havoc with your bill paying, your credit, your mortgage, your cash flow, your savings and retirement — even your future job prospects.
There is an antidote. Bank reviews can provide you with an inexhaustible supply of feedback. If approached and filtered correctly, they can help you make an intelligent decision about the financial institutions or institutions you want to bank with.
The time spent reviewing isn’t exactly drudgery. You’ll get a kick out of what people have to say. Many reviewers can be quite creative. If you’re new to bank reviews, start out as a generalist, and read the reviews of several banks. Once you get a feel for a few banks, try to narrow your focus on the banks that seem to best offer what you’re looking for.
Most of all, you might be surprised by the raw emotion that banks evoke in people. People care very much about their money, and you should too. When you find a bank that is equally passionate about meeting your service expectations, you will have found a home, and might even write about your experience, as DGH72 did in his Bank of Internet USA review:
“Bank of Internet has been such a positive experience for me. I have my checking account with them and it has been so easy! I pay ALL of my bills from this account (for free). I use their FinanceWorks to track my expenses and bills. The free features like money transfers, deposits, and ATM reimbursements make this account so easy and free to use. My last bank made lots of promises. Bank of Internet delivers!!”
What do you think of your bank? Leave a review with MyBankTracker. Or if you’re shopping around for a new bank, start here to read what others have to say about the best traditional banks and online banks.
Peter is a staff writer at MyBankTracker.com who covers banking, personal finance, investing and homeownership.