How do you choose which bank fits your personal needs? While many people have had great interactions with their bank of choice, there are still others who swear that dealing with their financial institution is like pulling teeth.
One of the most important things to identify when choosing a bank is what exactly you need from them. Is it low rates and fees you are looking for? Or perhaps top-of-the-line customer service? Maybe you don’t ever want to step foot in a branch in which case you wonder which online bank is best for you?
We’ve taken a look at the latest results in surveys and statistics for some of the nation’s largest banking institutions, and made it easy for you to choose which bank is best for you and which ones you may want to stay away from. We’ve broken these down by category as well, so you can be sure whatever you choose meets your personal needs.
Best and worst banks in customer service
This bank, which works primarily with military personnel and their families, makes the top spot for overall customer service. USAA (@USAA) offers a full range of financial products and services including checking and savings accounts, credit cards, life insurance, and auto or renters insurance. Anyone can open a free USAA checking account. There are no monthly service fees, checks are free, and you get free unlimited fund transfers to any bank. USAA rebates $15 a month in ATM fees charged to your account by other banks for using their machines. There is also a mobile deposit option which allows you to deposit a check into your account by simply taking a photo of it. On top of all these great services they offer, USAA is well known for having the best customer service representatives, according to their account holders.
★★★ Citizens Bank
Citizens Bank (@CitizensBank) is one of few banks that offer customer service representatives who are available to help 24/7, as well as online through instant messaging Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. They also have traditional branch offices that you can go to if you prefer speaking with someone in person, and their offices are open 7 days a week for an average of 65 hours, nearly 40% more hours than the average American bank branch. This customer service availability put Citizens Bank at the top of CNN Money’s list for banks with the best customer service, as well as scoring very high with a recent American Banker Reputation Institute survey.
★★ US Bank
US Bank (@usbank) is 4th largest in the U.S. in terms of the number of branches available to serve their customers. They offer easy options to have your monthly fees waived, and beat out most other large banks in terms of other fees such as using non-US Bank ATMs. It is also one of the first banks to offer a mobile app that allows you to deposit checks remotely by simply taking a photo. According to CNN Money, US Bank also ranked #1 in terms of employee professionalism and competence in a recent survey.
★ Bank of America
Once again Bank of America (@bankofamerica) made the top of the list for the 2013 MSN Money Customer Service Hall of Shame, keeping the unfortunate title for its third year in a row. According to a recent survey by American Banker, Bank of America has the worst reputation among consumers, far worse than any other bank the publication looked at. It also has the most complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with nearly 20,000 in just one year.
Best and worst banks in online banking
★★★★ Ally Bank
This on-line only bank beats out the rest of the competition hands down for the second year in a row. Since there is no overhead of maintaining physical branch offices, on-line banks like Ally Bank (@AllyBank) are able to pass those savings along to their customers. Ally offers the highest interest rate for savings accounts at 0.84%, regardless of what your balance is, and also offers interest on their checking accounts as well. To top it all off, there are no maintenance fees whatsoever on their accounts, and not only do they not charge for other banks ATMs, they will actually reimburse you for any fees those banks may charge when you use their machine.
★★ Citi Bank
In addition to offering some comparable online banking options, Citi Bank (@Citi) also markets insurance products, credit cards, and investment options. Their online services division is among the best available to consumers, currently helping about 15 million users. On the downside, they do require a minimum balance of $1,500 in basic savings or one direct deposit AND one bill payment each month to avoid the monthly maintenance fee.
★ Wells Fargo
Ironically enough, in February of this year Wells Fargo (@WellsFargo) was named the world’s most valuable bank brand for the second year in a row, yet its reputation for making its millions of customers screaming mad, continues to dominate the headlines. Thousands of customers every year file complaints against this bank for hidden charges and undisclosed fees, making many people feel like they have been ripped off or scammed.
Best and worst banks in loans
★★★★ US Bank
Ranked amongst the highest in the industry for home mortgage loans and refinancing, US Bank (@usbank) provides a good deal of useful information on their website which explains the different options you have as a consumer. They also provide mortgage and refinance calculators to help you choose between their fixed rate, adjustable rate and jumbo rate refinancing options, all of which are very competitive compared to other lenders. If you are not in the market for a home loan, US Bank also offers auto loans, boat or RV loans, student loans or personal loans as well.
★★★ JP Morgan Chase
Chase (@Chase) was the largest lender last year, approving a total of 2770 loans with a total value of over $143,000,000. They recently ranked in the top 5 of JD Power & Associates customer satisfaction survey. There are several special offers available for existing Chase customers on their standard auto loan rates. You can receive a 0.25% discount to your auto loan rate if you have a Chase checking account and an additional 0.25% off if you enroll in automatic payments. Online payment calculators help manage loan payments and overall online experience is easy and convenient.
★★ Flagstar Bank
Flagstar (@flagstar) is feeling a big punch lately with its stocks down 76% over the past 12 months alone. Flagstar is also amongst the lowest ranked banks in the JD Power & Associates customer satisfaction survey, and is on the Forbes list of the worst banks in the country. One thing it does have going for itself though is that it offers a wide variety of different products and services to its customers, thus earning itself a score of 9.75 out of 10 on the Top Ten Reviews website.
★ Bank of America
Amongst the lowest ranked banks in yet another nationwide survey, the JD Power & Associates customer satisfaction survey. Bank of America (@bankofamerica) was also recently involved in a class action lawsuit which alleged that the banking giant systematically delayed and denied mortgage modifications to collect additional payments and fees from struggling homeowners, causing many people to lose their homes.
Read more about personal loans in our reviews section.
Best and worst banks for students
★★★★ US Bank
Recently named the best national bank for basic student checking accounts by Money Magazine, US Bank (@usbank) offers student checking with no account maintenance fees. This is a great perk for college kids who don’t always keep a close eye on their checkbooks. They also offer many great mobile banking options including remote check deposit, making it easier than ever to cash that check from mom and dad. U.S. Bank also has 3,080 branches in 25 states, making it easy to access from just about anywhere across the U.S.
Citibank (@Citi) close runner-up in the recent GoBankingRates survey of best banks for college students in 2014. This is due mostly because of its wide accessibly, student-friendly bank accounts and helpful online and mobile tools. The Citibank Student account is absolutely free for students enrolled in college. It also offers free access to non-Citibank ATM’s, keeping in mind that the students may be away from their normal branch while away at school.
★★ TD Bank
TD Bank (@TDBank_US) offers the TD Student Checking Account that is free to open and has no monthly maintenance fee or minimum daily balance requirement. The one major drawback to this account is the high overdraft fee of $35 per item paid by the bank, so be sure to either opt out of their overdraft protection or link a savings account to your account to avoid these fees.
The “student” checking account that Chase (@Chase) offers is really no different than their regular checking account options, other than a slightly lower monthly fee. They offer two different types of student accounts – one for college students and one for high school students. The high school student account must have a parent or guardian co-sign, and they must also have their own Chase account.
Best and worst banks for fees and charges
★★★★ Ally Bank
Ally goes the extra mile when it comes to common fees and charges. For starters, you can use any ATM for free. Not only does Ally not charge you to use an ATM, they also reimburse whatever the other bank’s charges are without any limits. You also get free transfers to and from accounts at other banks, and there’s no minimum account balance required to avoid monthly fees.
★★★ PNC Financial
PNC Financial (@PNC News) is truly making efforts to keep costs down for their customers. Their monthly maintenance fee is only $7.00 which is far less than most others who charge monthly maintenance fees. But they also give you the opportunity to have that fee waived if you maintain a balance of $500 in the account each month. PNC is also at the top of their game with keeping other fees down as well, such as overdraft charges, account maintenance fees, and foreign ATM Fees.
★★ Capital One
Capital One’s (@CapitalOne) tiered accounts provide options for avoiding some fees. They also reimburse up to $15/month of other banks’ ATM fees, charge no foreign transaction fee, and offer free checks.
★ Wells Fargo
Ranked far below the top 5 average, Wells Fargo (@WellsFargo) joins Bank of America at the bottom of the list for customer ratings with regards to the fees associated with their accounts. This banking giant charges almost double the national average for everyday banking fees such as wire transfers, monthly maintenance charges, overdrafts, and others.
Learn more about the 15 ridiculous ways banks are ripping you off.
Jennifer Leonhardi was born and raised on Catalina Island, giving her a unique small town perspective and focus on community. With a degree in Sociology, she now primarily enjoys writing, largely based on her own experiences, on topics such as financial assistance programs, issues concerning the home and family, and socioeconomic trends.