What do you think about your bank?

Ramit Sethi · June 16th, 2010

Occasionally, we do large-scale “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” surveys and analyze the data. In the past, we’ve analyzed what people wish they’d saved for, what people spend on Valentine’s Day, if people spent less because of a recession, and the differences between men and women when it comes to money.

Today, I’m running another survey. This time, I want to know: What do you think of your bank or credit union?

It will take you about 5 minutes. We’ll slice and dice the data and present it here shortly. Thanks for your help.

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  1. You don’t have citibank on your list of banks at the beginning. That surprises me.

    Your last question “Do you want to get the iwtytbr newsletter” should have a third choice “Already signed up, thanks!”

  2. Stefan H

    Ehm, there’s something wrong with the survey. I went from page one to two to ten and then I was done? 🙂

  3. Jourdan

    Love my local credit union! Sometimes their website and services feel a bit dated, but they communicate really well, have low fees, lots of ATMs, and are always willing to work with you.

  4. James Weinert

    I love USAA and will recommend them ad nauseum

    • Chase Thompson

      USAA does have a great product. They really seem take care of their customers.

    • Clark Bailey

      I want to marry USAA.

      Amazing customer service. Deposits with my phone, no hidden fees. I haven’t been to an actual bank in long time.

  5. David @ The Frugality Game


    I’m using Wells Fargo, and I’m perfectly happy with them because:
    – My accounts are free.
    – Online and ATMs are easy to use, so I almost never need a branch.
    – There are locations around the country (since I move on occasion).

    I’ve heard various opinions of their customer service, but they meet my needs without any fees.

    Looking forward to the other results.

  6. I’ve got a pretty good package with Wellsfargo as well. I meticulously went through my statements not long ago, and found no hidden fees in my accounts.

    I also use USAA, which is fantastic. I do plan on getting an online bank in the not-so-distant future when interest rates recover a bit. Last I looked they were a sliver better than USAA’s best rates for savings, not enough to justify moving everything over.

  7. Whoa, no Fidelity love?
    They have a checking account now.. and they’ve had bill pay for a while.

  8. I use wachovia (read: walk all over ya), or so people tell me. So far, I haven’t had many problems with them and they have waved my overdraft fees when they happened. WIll be interesting to see how the integration goes with Wells Fargo. They do charge a nasty international fee on foreign withdrawals so be careful though…

  9. My favorite thing about my bank (chase) is the number of branch/atm locations. I’ve never been more than a few blocks away from an ATM.

    Also, I have never been charged any fees, and I use a different (online) back for my savings account, so I don’t care about earning any interest in my checking account, since there’s never much money in there anyways, and I’d probably make less than $1 a month with any interest or checking rewards program.

  10. Big Cajun Man

    TD is fine, on line banking system is OK, ATM machines are fine, integrated with TD Waterhouse so that is cool too. They are open to negotiations for pricing of banking services as well, which is good too.

  11. Big Dave

    I use ING Direct and love them. I direct deposit there and pay bills. Then I have a local CU as a back up for when I need to deposit checks.

  12. I had Bank of America (BoA) since college. Every time they added a new fee i would cringe but put up with it because moving banks was SUCH a painful painful process. Then USAA (i had their insurance).came out with an iPhone app to deposit checks. NOW it is worth the pain of moving.

    I cannot say enough wonderful, glowing, gag-worthy things about USAA! *sigh* happy happy HAPPY USAA banking customer!

  13. Fenriq

    Big fan of USAA as well. In fifteen years of membership they have not screwed me once. When I was with Wells Fargo, they’d screw me over virtually every single month. The only drawback to USAA is not having a local branch which is why I also keep an account at Chase (opened it when it was WaMu).

    • chantell

      Why do you need a local bank? You can deposit money from home or with a mobile phone, and you can call the bank for anything that you need that a local branch does. I love that I don’t have to stand in line at a branch, I can just pick up the phone from any where in the world for assistances.

  14. I can’t believe no one in the comments has raved about Schwab yet. They are absolutely the best bank around for a checking account. No hidden fees, great customer service, and best of all, you can use any ATM you want anywhere wand they will refund the fees to your account, at no cost to you. Also, no foreign currency charges, which makes it a breeze to travel using just your debit card.

  15. I like BECU but I am interested in trying out the bank that Ramit suggests. It sounds like fun. This online banking stuff is actually really neat.

  16. Stefan H

    Heh, I’m a Swede and, well, banking seems to be… different in the USA to say the least. I doubt there’s one single bank here that doesn’t have a proper internet bank, almost no-one goes to a bank office unless it’s about setting up a mortgage or something like that. And you can always use any banks ATM, at no extra cost, regardless of what bank you use. And we don’t use checks. They exist, but virtually no-one uses them. Haven’t seen one since I was a kid.

    OTOH, you guys have, which I’d really like to be able to use. We have absolutely nothing like it here. Some of the banks are, well, striving to deliver a similar service (but within just their own internet bank), but it seems it takes forever for them to get there.

  17. I think it’s great that I can do every bit of my banking without ever walking into a branch or picking up a phone. Online banking plus direct deposit = heaven.

    @Stefan, I’ve always wondered this since I know that non-Americans do not typically use checks. Let’s say that you buy a used TV from a private person that you found on an online classifieds site… how do you pay that person when you go to pick up the TV?

    • Stefan H

      @Ryan usually by cash. sometimes by transferring money to the sellers account.

      And oh, all well-known (and some not so well-known) banks provide a “mobile” web version of their internet bank as well, where you can check your accounts, transfer money between them etc. And plenty of the banks also provide Android and/or iPhone apps.

  18. Thanks for including credit unions in the survey, and for the mention in your book. I’m a member/owner of two credit unions and I have an ING account (my only account w/ a bank). I am a HUGE believer in the not-for-profit, cooperative, one-member-one-vote credit union movement.

  19. Bryson Holland

    I couldn’t convey enough good things about USAA in your survey. I want to more personally inform you and your readers about how great they are.

    iPhone apps for depositing checks, full ATM charge refunds the next day (regardless of amount – a $12 ATM charge on a $20 withdrawl from a Vegas casino even got refunded within 24 hours), immediate availability of transferred/deposited funds (the only time there are holds is when the other bank involved initiates one – I’m looking at you, Bank of America!), absolutely incredible customer service. To top it all off they’ve got awesome great products and great coverage. And they’ve got a great online banking system!

    I can not express to you adequately the hate I have for Bank of America. I’ve had them since I was 15 (so ten years now – and I’ll have them until I pay off the credit card I ran up as a dumb teenager) and until I joined the Marines and got my USAA account 4 years ago I didn’t realize how god-awful they are. Their customer service reps are incompetent. Their products are all riddled with fees. Their branches are completely useless for handling errors with your accounts (any time I’ve had issues, I’ve been referred to their 800 number). Their online banking system is antiquated, slow, buggy, confusing, hard to use, and ugly. Their understanding of the laws surrounding my military deployments and what they can and can’t charge me for is awful. You would think that in 9 years they’d figure out how to handle somebody in the military. I can’t say enough bad things about Bank of America.

    Of the 21 comments when I started responding, 6 have been about USAA being great. Mine will make 7/22. almost a full third of your comments reiterating what we all already told you in your survey! I think that says more about them as a bank than what you’ll get from your survey.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Bryson, all that about USAA is great. And I agree with your hatred of BOA.

      But I was fascinated by your $12-fee-on-a-$20-Vegas-withdrawal story. The only place they have such fees is strip clubs. Can you elaborate??

    • chantell

      I think he meant to say the following: The Las Vegas atm charged him a $12 fee after he withdrew $20. USAA refunded him the $12 the next day. I know this to be true because it happen to me when I was in Vegas. USAA refunds all ATM fees upto $15 every month. Who wants to worry about fees when you are in Vegas!

  20. Melissa

    Until just recently I got great service from Huntington. They were growing steadily but still acted like a little bank or credit union. It was fun while it lasted, but it turns out they changed management and shifted their mode of business recently and their service level really reflects a new level of aggression for profit and expansion instead of worrying about keeping you as a customer. Never really had any problems with my account until I was checking my balance online and spotted a $31 overdraft fee. The problem is I never actually overdrew- I had a deposit post way ahead of time so that everything cleared. I spent 45 minutes trying everything I knew to get them to waive the fee (something that used to be a cinch, all I’d have to do is ask twice). Scripts got them to take $8 off, talking to a supervisor and just flat out insisting the fee be waived got me nowhere. The sup I talked to insisted that it’s been Huntington’s policy, “since forever,” that they’ll apply a rebate to your first overdraft fee of the year, but they don’t do any waivers. He then goes on to tell me that they overdraft on pending transactions, which I’ve never even heard of before, let alone had to deal with. Even after explaining to this brickhead that I’ve had overdrafts waived before, and have been a customer for almost six years now without having this kind of issue, he still acted like I must be delirious and going on about some /other/ bank.

    I have one of those simple, no fee accounts with a relatively low balance and rarely accrue any fees, so I guess they figure I’m not making them enough money to justify helping out anymore. I still like the staff in the local branches, but now I really loathe having to talk to their customer service on the phone. For that reason I’m conflicted about leaving, but I’m doing research into other banks and credit unions and plan to switch. Won’t be recommending them to anyone, either.

    • Steve Hevel

      Melissa – I’m sorry to hear of your recent frustration with Huntington. We value you as a customer and appreciate your feedback. I would welcome the opportunity to work with you to try to resolve your issues, regain your trust and retain you as a valued Huntington customer. I hope to hear from you.

      Thanks, Steven Hevel

  21. @Ryan
    Cheques are pretty rare here in Australia, too. If I was buying a television, I would use EFTPOS. This is a system where I swipe my ATM card at the store, enter my PIN and the money comes directly out of my savings account to the store. Everyone uses it here for just about everything.
    Surely you have something similar in USA? I’d love to know.

  22. Bryson Holland

    Ramit: The casinos change up their ATM charges on occasion, usually when large conventions come to town. It was two years ago, SHOT Show (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trades) was the particular convention so all the hotel/casinos were full of gun guys. I guessed that whoever the owner of that casino was didn’t like guns, and he decided he didn’t like us for liking them. I live here in Vegas and I’d not seen them that high before or since, including when SHOT was back in Vegas at the beginning of this year.

  23. Matt T

    I have to share love for my credit union, DCU. I get reimbursed for ATM fees (though not as well or quickly as USAA, incredible story about the Vegas ATM). I also get my Equifax credit score from them monthly for no charge. Helpful customer service, haven’t paid fees of any kind. The only drawback is staggeringly low (0.1%) savings rate. Hence the bulk of my savings is with Ally (set up with multiple sub-accounts ING-style), who I also love dearly.

  24. another usaa satisfied customer- i have all my investments & insurance & a good amount of cc debt all with them, very nice customer service reps, i know they’re not out to get me like all the other banks :^)
    but i use hsbc for day-to-day checking and online savings- they have a great website, good savings rates, and a branch near my place. i can’t go 100% mobile banking yet, as my iphone doesn’t have ATM functionality 🙂 the twenties won’t come out, no matter how hard i shake it.

  25. RJ Weiss

    I have used ING Direct for about five years now. I know the interest rates are not as great as they used to be, but I like their interface, customer service. Plus, I’m too lazy to actually switch.

    I do bank locally though. I have one month’s of expenses in a local bank and I use it for the check book. Once in a blue moon I will have to write a check.

  26. victor sarmiento

    USAA all the way baby, Great Online Banking, Free anywhere ATM (up to 15 dollar per month), the customer services is second to none, home deposit,…….. my car insurance is good as well, although Geico beat it by $20 bucks but is not enough for me to leave them. My USAA credit card is 7.5% apr after they raised it from 5.5%apr….. I can’t complain at all, and to top it all they did not need a bail out from the gov!!

  27. I’m surprised Wells Fargo isn’t getting more love on this site (since this site is high on automation and MPT). Their PMA account is quite nice for those who manage their own portfolios. Why I like it:

    – 100 commission free trades a year if you link your checking with their brokerage service. If you buy mutual funds, many of the online brokerages charge up to $50 / trade. I buy shares once monthly and do portfolio rebalances quarterly, so this is quite helpful (their brokerage does not provide special tools, but trades are executed swiftly and accurately)

    – Transfer between checking/savings/brokerage is very simple. Interest rates are pretty blah, but I run an Ally CD ladder for my emergency funds (all other savings are considered “long-term” and immediately get invested)

    – Never received a hidden fee / charge in 2+ years of being with them. I get all of my ATM fees refunded, regardless of what ATM I use. Since there’s no WF in NYC, this is helpful. I also seem to be getting international ATM fees refunded, but I think there’s some sort of minimum required for that

    – Their site is pretty average, but clear…I use to compile data / analyze spend and keep track of things on my mobile device, so this is less important to me (though WF, like everyone else, has a decent mobile app for swapping money between accounts, etc)

    I’ve spoken to a number of bankers at WF and they’ve all been really friendly and helpful. I also have small checking accounts with Chase and BoA, so I definitely know what bad looks like! In any case, if WF keeps it up, I don’t see myself switching!

  28. I deeply loathe BoA. Used to bank with a credit union until I moved to the States. Looking to switch to a new bank that won’t screw me at every turn. Some replies here give me hope that such banks still exist. Will be looking into USAA and some others. 🙂

  29. Following your advice, Ramit, the more you automated, the less it matters what bank you are with. Having a checking account that pays interest would be nice, but I’m never going to leave enough money in there to make it worthwhile anyway.

    There are many choices these days and it’s not hard to make sure you get everything for free (the basics, anyway). There are ways to make your most convenient bank work for you (and that’s part of the plan anyway, right?).

    I would ATM fees are the one obstacle that I don’t know how to get around without giving up convenience (except planning/always being prepared to have cash on you – but it’s tough).

  30. USAA is the best. I just relocated last year. Although I had my insurance with USAA, I did not initially open up a savings/checking account with them as I thought that being able to visit a bank would be better. It’s not. I enrolled with M&T, am a dissatisfied customer & will be closing my account with them soon. Added fees (if you use their debt card at a grocery store an extre .50 fee is added). Customer service is lacking. Going to their bank is not pleasant. More than once they’ve had side-bar conversations with other tellers in the middle of my transaction. The less money you have, the more fees they charge; however, in January, my CD’s from my former bank if Florida matured, so I closed that account, and put quite a large sum in my savings in M&T. I then received a VIP call from the bank re: investing, etc. I told them I”m going to be leaving them come summer as I’m not satified.

  31. Pam Lee

    I use more than one bank for different reasons:
    – Wells Fargo checking, savings, and brokerage for everyday convenience
    – HSBC Online Savings for interest rate and bank-to-bank transfers (free money movement between institutions)
    – First Republic ATM Rebate Checking for no ATM fees (non-bank ATM fees reimbursed) and no foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad

    I just completed the survey for Wells Fargo. Should I complete another for the other two banks?

  32. purplegirl247

    Do you still have to be a member of the military to enjoy USAA’s fabulousness? They sound great, but not “I’m willing to join the Armed Forces to get an account” great, y’know?

  33. Love love love ING Direct. Awesome features, no fees, better interest than any ordinary bank, as many savings accounts as I want, electronic automated bill pay… I could go on. I have a linked account at a small local bank, where I deposit my 2-3 checks a month – reimbursement checks, gifts, rebates etc – and keep a little cash in case I have to write a check, which I do maybe 3x a year – for example, paying a friend back for a shared hotel room, I would rather hand her a paper check than make her wait for an electronic one to be mailed. It’s a personal thing; all my normal bills are paid electronically online, since they don’t care about paper checks and are more problematic if they lose them. I love my small local bank too – people at my branch RECOGNIZE ME OMG!!! but since you asked about primary checking, that’s what you got. 🙂

  34. Tiffany

    I recently started banking with Chase, about three months ago, and it’s been the worst baking experience that i’ve ever experienced. Checking fees, debit fees, and not being able to access my money al ofl time is the worst!

  35. I love banking at PNC but that is mainly because I like the tellers there and they had no problems accepting large $1 gold coin deposits from me =)

    Currently also use ING Direct for a savings account because of their much better interest rate than what I could get at a traditional bank. Plus it is really easy to make sub-accounts for different savings goals.

  36. jgonzales

    purplegirl247, you don’t have to be a member of the military to join USAA (anymore) but you do have to be related to someone. My mom was able to join because her dad had an account and she’s been raving about them to me. This blog is the third or fourth time this week that I’ve been told I should switch to USAA. My only problem is that my husband’s company is very small and doesn’t offer direct deposit, so I have to have a local bank to deposit his payroll checks if we want access to the money quickly (every online bank I’ve seen puts a 4-6 business day hold on deposits, either because you have to mail them to a central location or processing if you can deposit into a general ATM).

    Personally we have Chase and I hate them. We signed up with WaMu which we loved. Every time I have another Chase headache, I consider changing, but it seems way to complicated and we need a local bank anyway.

  37. Bryson Holland

    You don’t need to do any of that with USAA to get your money deposited. They have an iPhone app that you can simply take a picture of your check with, or if you don’t have an iPhone you can scan it and send them the picture, the money is available immediately.

  38. Sherwin

    Hi Ramit,

    I’m currently reading your book and the high interest rate of online bank accounts fascinates me. However, it seems like no bank now days offer the “is it true that the good old days of 3-6% interest rates for online banking is now over due to the recession?

  39. Niluka Weerasinghe

    I rarely got to the bank to withdraw money. collecting by ATM machine is very easy method.
    I don’t thing about interest. finishing work quickly is my policy.


  40. Rob O'Keefe

    I am in the process of switching banks today as we speak..

    USAA offers .1% interest with a 1,000 minimum..

    Charles Schwab is offering .5% with no minimum..

    Since both banks are offering the same deal otherwise (free ATM reimb, free online banking, no service fees) I am going with Schwab because of the higher interest.

    Hope this helps anyone else considering switching banks

  41. re: usaa membership- it’s all relative, baby 😉 my dad is a member, his whole family has access to membership. i’m getting married next year and asked usaa if my fiancee will be able to join when we tie the knot, the answer was yes. so you don’t have to join the military for usaa, you can also marry into it!

  42. mari k.

    sad I missed the survey. curious about what the answers were.

    I was wondering if anyone on this discussion happens to know whether there are any debit/ATM cards that do not charge or reimburses for foreign transaction fees. I know about Capital One credit cards, but how about debit?


    • Pam Lee

      @mari k I mentioned above that I use First Republic ATM Rebate Checking for no ATM fees (non-bank ATM fees reimbursed) and no foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad. The minimum balance is $3500 or there will be a monthly service charge, though. Let us know if you find something better.

  43. Financial bondage

    banks are greedy. credit unions are better

  44. I was splitting my funds between USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union.
    Then, I got deployed to Iraq.
    USAA cut my credit card interest to 4%, then waived it entirely when I came back with a medal.

    Navy Federal kept the rate as it was, and called my wife 4 times in one day because she had forgotten to transfer a payment. She made her payment with the first caller, then got 3-8 calls a day for the next week while they applied the payment to the wrong account, reversed it, and applied it to the correct one.

    Needless to say, while Navy Fed was absolutely within their rights,they didn’t exactly endear themselves to me and I was back in the states a day before I switched everything to USAA.It’s not a perfect place by any means, but they do the basics, don’t cause any unreasonable hassle, and as noted were great about understanding deployment. I’d have to have some real evidence of something better to go anywhere else.

  45. Joe L.

    Gonna join the USAA love parade. Low car insurance rates, ATM fee refunds, iPhone deposits, amazing customer service. 1) refunded $300 of unauthorized payments when I lost my debit card at a Minneapolis bar within 24 hours. 2) Used a supposed “free trial” USAA Credit Monitoring Service through Experian when I was purchasing a new car (just to keep tabs on any credit checks). Naturally, Experian charged me a fee despite me canceling early (which they made extremely difficult to find information on how to do so). Experian refused to reimburse me. Called USAA and said I was disappointed they put their name on a product that shady. They apologized and promptly put the amount back in my checking account.

    Only weak link that has applied to me so far was their savings accounts (but I wouldn’t want my checking and savings that easily transferable anyway).

  46. I have just been reading all of the positive comments about USAA, and still feel the need to reiterate how AWESOME they are. They:

    -refund ATM fees
    -gave me a $25,000 loan at under 2% as a 21 yr old
    -dropped my credit card to 4% and COMPLETELY reimburse any foreign transaction fees while I am overseas for TWO years
    -took care of almost $4,000 in fradulent charges in a foreign country within 24 hours after a 5 minute phone call – they noticed the activity before I did and called me to resolve it!

    On top of all of this they have the ABSOLUTE best customer service of literally any big company I have ever dealt with. Anytime I need to call a USAA rep, I get off the phone amazed at how helpful and friendly they are. I use them for checking, savings, investing, insurance, everything….I can’t say enough good things!