All banks are not created equal. Some bend over backward to help their customers, some are impersonal and hard to deal with, and some are downright predatory. Fortunately, there are records of the complaints consumers make against banks, and they can help steer us toward banks that are more customer-friendly.
Here are the results of a recent look at major banks and which ones received the fewest (and most) complaints.
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The banks with the most and least complaints
You may be familiar with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was created in 2010 by President Obama after being proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (before she was a senator). Its mission is to advocate for consumer rights and push for consumer-friendly legislation.
The agency's future is uncertain these days, with some in Washington in favor of eliminating it entirely, but for now it is still the repository of myriad consumer complaints about financial institutions. The complaints varied widely and related to a broad range of banking products and services, such as checking and savings accounts, student loans, virtual currencies, credit cards, credit reporting, mortgages, money transfers, vehicle loans, and much more.
The folks at LendEDU recently studied more than 200,000 complaints from 2017 in the CFPB's Consumer Complaint Database and ranked 57 national and regional banks by how many complaints they had received.
Here are the 13 that had no complaints:
That's the "nice" list. So which banks are on the "naughty" list? The table below lists the top 10 offenders. They're ranked by complaints per $1 billion of deposits, because the biggest banks naturally receive the highest volume of complaints, even if the majority of their customers are happy.
One thing you might notice is that the banks without complaints tend to be smaller ones. The largest one with no complaint is smaller than all but one of the top 10 offenders. The banks with the most complaints include many of the biggest banks in the U.S., such as Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. Note, however, that all three of those did improve their standing on the list between 2016 and 2017. The largest offender, TCF Financial, had nearly twice the number of complaints per $1 billion in deposits as the No. 2 bank, SunTrust. It's the smallest bank by far on the list, making it clear that a small size doesn't guarantee customer satisfaction.
What to do
You needn't close out your bank account if it's on the baddie list, but you should pay attention to the service you're getting. If you're not happy with your bank, switching to a different one is worth considering. Consider smaller local banks, as well as credit unions.
Here are some things to look for when seeking the best bank or credit union for your needs:
- Low fees or no fees. Banks make billions by charging you fees, many of which, including overdraft and ATM fees, can be avoided. Some banks charge monthly account "maintenance" fees, which you can avoid by direct-depositing a certain number of checks per month or by maintaining a certain minimum account balance.
- Generous interest rates. We're in an environment of ultra-low interest rates, but that seems to be changing. So compare rates of any banks your considering and favor ones with higher rates. If interest rates are meaningfully higher in a few years, you'll benefit. Credit unions tend to have higher rates than for-profit banks, and online-only banks (ones with no brick-and-mortar locations) also often have higher rates, as they don't have branches to staff and maintain.
- Access to a broad network of free-to-use ATMs. If you use ATMs a lot, you don't want to be charged for the privilege of accessing your money just because you're not near one of your bank's branches.
- Mobile and/or Web banking. These days, many of us do a lot of our banking online, including paying bills and even depositing checks. If that's a valuable feature for you, make sure any bank you're considering has robust online services.
It's a good idea to review your bank's offerings and compare them with other banks, even if you're not annoyed with your bank. You never know -- you may be even happier with another bank.
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