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The Worst Banks in America

Written by Nickel - 28 Comments

The Worst Banks in AmericaDo you like your bank? A lot of people don’t. In fact, according to the JD Power & Associates Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, average customer satisfaction with retail banks has dropped for the fourth straight year in 2010. Would bad service make you want to find a better bank? Interestingly, only 34% of retail bank customers say that they will “definitely not switch” banks during the next 12 months.

These rankings were based on a number of factors, including account activities, account information, the bank facility, fees, problem resolution, and product offerings. It seems that the most common reasons that people switch banks are poor customer service and high fees.

Because they broke their data down regionally, it’s difficult to pull together overall rankings. However, by poking around in each region, some trends quickly becomes apparent. For example, the following three banks are consistently ranked amongst the worst:

  • Chase/WaMu
  • Bank of America
  • Citibank

Hmmm… We actually have a relationship with all three of these banks. We do all of our local banking with Bank of America (though we keep the bulk of our cash in an online savings account), and we have credit cards with the other two — a Chase Freedom, and a Citi Platinum Select MasterCard.

The top banks in each region, on the other hand, were generally smaller regional banks. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of many of them. There’s probably a lesson here…

If you’re looking for a better banking experience, you might want to avoid the big boys and find a local bank that focuses on service. Then again, we’ve never had a bad experience with any of the “worst” banks listed above, despite having used all of them for years.

What about you? Where do you bank, and have you been happy with your experiences? If not, are you unhappy enough that you’d consider moving to another bank?

Source: JD Power & Associates

Published on May 24th, 2010
Modified on December 5th, 2013 - 28 Comments
Filed under: Banking

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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28 Responses to “The Worst Banks in America”

  1. 1
    Stacey Says:

    We loved, loved, loved our small regional bank… until it was bought out by First Niagra. Now the cashiers are slow (not their fault, they’re working with a bulky, time-consuming system), the lines are long, and it takes 2 business days for a check to clear. Their interest rates went from the best in the area to the worst… about 1.5% to 0.15%.

    I pulled out all but $1,000 into Ally and now use our local bank only to cash checks and route money to our online savings. It’s a shame that we’re losing our smalltown banks!

  2. 2
    John Says:

    I just opened an account at a local bank. I had been using the same bank that my parents used for the past 15 years. They were pretty good and offered free checking, as well as holding a couple of auto loans. I switched because my new bank was offering Reward Checking at 4% interest and now my bank is 25 miles away instead of 85 miles. I also have a small savings account at a bank right in my hometown in case I need to cash checks and such.

    All of my banking experieces have been good with local banks. I have not really used any of the large national banks.

  3. 3
    Dan Says:

    In the end, I wonder how much this really matters. How much difference is there between banks? My regional bank offers ATM reimbursements for non-bank ATM usage. Other than outright free checking, those reimbursements are the best “service” that a bank could offer. (Re: Interest rates, well, I just park the extra stuff at a “high yield” bank somewhere.)

  4. 4
    Joe Says:

    We switched from BOA to a local credit union earlier this year. Better rates and better service.
    We’re getting 2.2% on savings and .5% on checking.

    https://www.firstfinancial.org/

    Check out your local credit unions!

  5. 5
    Steph Says:

    I didn’t mind wamu but have has nothing but problems with chase.

  6. 6
    Tyler Says:

    Growing up, I used the local bank (two branches – one in a town of 500, the other in a town of 300), and am extremely glad I switched to Wells Fargo when I went to college in 2003. I can’t tell you what the interest rates were on the savings, but I don’t believe they offered ATM/debit cards on accounts until 2005 or so, and have openly said, “We don’t plan on ever doing any online services.”

  7. 7
    jim Says:

    Our main bank is Chase (after they bought Wamu). I don’t really like them based on some past experiences. They haven’t annoyed me for the past 1-2 years though since the merger.

    I have a credit card and a mortgage with Citibank for many years. Never had any problems and I’m happy with them.

    Basically in my experience its only a matter of time till a bank does something stupid or annoying that makes me want to switch. I haven’t had better luck with credit unions either.

  8. 8
    Jacob Perkins Says:

    I was getting minimum balance fees from BofA, when I noticed they had a no-fee checking account available online. I called them to switch, and they said I had to close my existing account and then signup online to get the no-fee option. So I closed my account, and left it at that. All my banking is online now.

  9. 9
    Caro Says:

    I liked WaMu when I first signed up with them. Near the end of wamu and continuing on through the Chase takeover, I have had more and more bad experiences. I’ve been shifting my money away from them towards a local credit union that we’ve been with for a while. Their customer service is better and while they are less slick, I have had nothing but great experiences with their branches. I will likely keep my Chase accounts, but will be pulling most of my money from them over the next year or so.

  10. 10
    Single Guy Money Says:

    I was a customer of the big mega banks for years but I finally switched my business to my local credit union. I’ve been happy every since and I’ve never paid a fee. The customer service is awesome and they have a great online banking platform and envelope free ATM’s.

  11. 11
    sophomore Says:

    One interesting issue in this type of research is say versus do. Some research firms even have a label for interesting consumer activity – the liar’s box. Think of the flier that threatens to “never fly this airline again” then purchases the next ticket on the cheapest flight with the same airline. Loud bank customers are no different.

    Why do you think the mega national banks are the mega national banks?

    If you really want to understand the competitive landscape, look at Net New Assets (customer money in minus customer money out). One customer account is a rounding error at any mega bank branch.

  12. 12
    Vic Says:

    I switched from my local credit union to BoFA, no regrets.

  13. 13
    Paul Says:

    I have a credit card with Bank of America and I’m paying off a closed account with Citi. Both of them have had excellent customer service in the credit card department. Both of them were willing to work with me when I got behind on payments about three years ago (although I had to close my acct with Citi, they didn’t ding my credit).

    I have heard enough horror stories about BoA with thier checking accounts that I wouldn’t keep a lot of money there. I do business bank with them, but check holds are common in the business world and credit unions aren’t going to be cashing/clearing $50k checks on a regular basis.

    I do my regular home banking with a credit union.

    Chase is the scum of the earth. I will never in my entire life bank with them again. No credit cards, lines of credit et. I even read store cards to find out who the underwriter is (sorry office depot) and I won’t use Chase.

  14. 14
    Joe Says:

    @Paul – Why do you hate Chase so much, if you don’t mind me asking?

    I actually have a credit card with them (Amazon CC) and I haven’t had one problem with them, yet, but I also haven’t had much interaction since I always pay my bills on time. The only thing that really annoyed me was activating my card. I was on the damn phone for 20 minutes while some ass tried to sell me everything they had available. To think “no” was a universal word, huh? It wasn’t with Chase.

  15. 15
    Stussie Says:

    The majors are fine when it comes to credit cards because that is what they do best however the actual retail banking with checking/savings accts they provide the worst customer service in my opinion. I have had nthing but problems and nickel and diming form citi, chase and Bofa. I use their credit cards but my funds are at other banks that provide better customer service and no fees.

  16. 16
    KenB Says:

    Not because of banking experience, but because of their TV ads promoting teasing and belittling small children, I will never use Ally bank. As a senior citizen, I’ve learned that there are more important things than the last dollar. As a grandparent, I’ve learned to cherish and nurture small children. Any business that tries to capitalize on and ridicule the innocence of children will never get my business.

  17. 17
    Eugene Scott Says:

    I have had a great experiance with Citi bank.I only closed with them to go to a small bank one block from my home.The people there are so friendly and helpful.This small bank is my family.
    I tried B of A three times only to be ripped off each time.I opened my first B of A account in 1939 with my penny savings bank.They had only recently changed their name from The Bank of Italy.
    Citi was good but to far from my home.
    B of A never again.
    E Scott

  18. 18
    louis Says:

    There is only 1 best bank, and that is USAA. For all the others, just try to accept their existence,like the Iraq war, Afghanistan, the oil spill,the Gaza strip mess, the recession, the extra charge for airline baggage,the $9.99 s/h charges for the actual $2 or so cost, etc….It’s all part of life, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Just roll with the punches, and avoid going from bad to worse. You’ll live longer. Where do you think that I read this OUT of Stamps sign on a vending machine? Right, in a post office. And how about the time when, in a bank, I asked the teller for change of a $5 bill, and the answer was “Sorry, we carry no money”.

  19. 19
    Bobi Says:

    We had been very happy and loyal customers of National City until they were purchased by PNC last year. Since that time we have had nothing but problems. Through no fault of our local branch – we just love everyone there, which is the ONLY reason we stayed on after the purchase. Recently we were charged $4,533.00 for property ins that we already had! It was taken out of our escrow!! After multiple phone calls, faxes (the entire master policy, and declaration page) they stated we had not supplied them with adequate coverage confirmation even though we gave them everything asked for!! We believe it is just a scam and the ins company is in on it with them. We are taking steps to close ALL of our accounts with them even though it will probably cost us several thousand $$ to refinance with another (not so local) bank.

  20. 20
    Aaron Says:

    RULE NUMBER ONE: Never pay for a checking account. Find one that is free.

    RULE NUMBER TWO: Never agree to actions ensuring a so-called “free” checking account. See below example.

    BAD BANKS: 5/3 Third Bank is a joke – they require you to make monthly purchases through your debit card in order to qualify for free checking. I literally feel like a monkey jumping through hoops for these clowns. I can’t even get out without paying the crooks a $50 fee. Thus, I’m stuck – DON’T DO IT!

    GOOD BANKS: I have been happy with my Free Wachovia Checking Account. Also, I have been very happy with Delta Credit Union, in Georgia – excellent service.

  21. 21
    Anonymous Says:

    Been recently scammed by Wells Fargo in Booger County, Tx. A real bad bank that WF. We closed an old account and the bastards opened it back up and drove somebody’s bad debt into our account and then reported us to ChexSystems (another bad WF supported scam machine).

  22. 22
    Jason Says:

    Every bank, even the big ones, has a way to have a checking account and avoid fees. Yes, this usually means you have to maintain a minimum balance of some kind, but, unless you are someone living paycheck to paycheck constantly having less than $1000 cash on hand, this shouldn’t be that big of a problem. The small banks still have fees, just maybe not as many as the big banks. Very few banks really have zero fees and 100% free checking – in the least, they will usually charge you to use other bank’s ATMs. Plus, if you use a small bank, you are more likely to on occasion be without your bank’s ATM close by and be forced to pay ATM fees from another bank’s ATMs. Sure, you can go to an internet bank like Ally, but then you don’t actually have a branch to visit on the rare occasion that you need to.

    My strategy – keep most of my cash in an online savings account (Capital One currently), and keep a checking account at Wells Fargo, one of the big banks that has the most ATMs in my area. As long as I keep $1500 or have direct deposit of my paycheck into that account, and use WF ATMs, which is incredibly easy to do given how many they have in my area, I pay no fees ever. I guess you could call this jumping through hoops, but it really isn’t that difficult.

  23. 23
    Chris Shaw Says:

    HSCB would be my vote for the following reasons:
    1. Two mistakes in three months.
    A. I lost my checks, they closed the account and order new checks fromthe closed account (this editor won’t let me separate from and the). My other bank put my account on hold until I explained the closed account check.
    B. I also lost my debit card. They ordered a new one and cancelled it before it reached me. That means 4 weeks without a debit card. My regular bank in KANSAS even has an expedited service.

    2. The correction of these mistakes (which has not been resolved) has taken hours and therefore hundreds of dollars in my time. From
    A. driving down to the branch two times (45 minute trips)
    B. Calling into the branch to talk explain the issue to three people,
    i. have them not refund the returned check fee from another bank ($19)
    ii. Didn’t refund my monthly fee ($18)
    iii. Would refund the check fee ($22) but only if I didn’t close the account while I was in the bank that day. I would have to wait supposedly one day for the $22 to be refunded, then call back in. I wouldn’t risk this nor waste more time so I closed the a total calling into the out-sourced.
    C. Calling into their system.
    i. Clearly they don’t want to talk to me or I wouldn’t be hung up on by pressing 0 repeatedly.
    ii. I don’t know my call in pin so I have to put in my SS# so they don’t hang up on me, then repeat the process of not knowing my call in pin 4-5 times before I have the option to talk to an operator.
    iii. The operator then has to have everything explained to them in order to tell me they can’t give me the direct number to the branch, nor the manager (both of which the manager gave me)
    iv. the operator gets an attitude when I explain that other operators said that they could email the branch manager when they say they could not.
    v. being put on hold for extended periods of time.
    vi. the indians I talked to don’t seem to understand that I am trying to correct a mistake their bank made, instead blaming me for not giving them all the options for how they can put me in touch with someone.

    My word of advice about HSBC: ENJOY!

  24. 24
    Madz Says:

    Bank of America is the WORST BANK ever! I am so happy that I moved my accounts to a local credit union. BofA\\\’s expertise is to rip your money off from your pocket through their fees… fees.. fees…

  25. 25
    michael Says:

    Wells Fargo isn’t to great either. We moved back to the U.S. after living in Canada for 6 yrs and whoa what a contrast!!! The banks in the U.S. are arrogant and not very customer service oriented and basically stupid. I could go on and on about our experience with Wells Fargo, which included the bank manager but I won’t bore you. All I can say is that they were all dumber than a box of rocks. Oh well. Its the States, the whole place is in shambles so I guess it’s to be expected.

  26. 26
    lynn Says:

    The worst bank service is chase and although not a bank i feel that tthe loan department of solana beach’s san diego credit union runs a close second

  27. 27
    Tim Says:

    We banked with WAMU for years and we liked them very much until Chase took over customer service was good but they nickel and dime you to death and have two wait two days for my check to be cleared : I can understand personal checks but govt checks?

  28. 28
    Frank Says:

    I bank at three banks, but Regions is by far the worst in almost every way. Even the large accounts (private client) rep. cannot use their online bill pay. Just to setup Verizon, there were at least 8-10 tabs with a few to dozens of locations under each, and in no order – not by zip, state or other – just random listings. I kept an account there just to pay my mortgage, but when I go online (seldom) to check my balance; if it has been too long between, I have to call “customer service” to get reestablished. That has its own long list of frustrations. I gave them 16 months to fix their online banking (I was told early on that they were fixing it). It still is the same mess, so I will be closing my account on Monday. Very frustrating. Both Wells and Chase have much better systems, as I am sure almost everyone must.

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