The bank you choose makes just as much of an impact on you as the car you drive, the phone you use, or the insurance you depend on. The banking industry may seem different on the surface, but the reality is that many customers make the decision of what bank to choose based on factors other than just financial health or even interest rates. 26 percent of consumers would never choose a bank without reading at least one user review, according to a study by Kelton Research and Bazaarvoice. And an overwhelming 83 percent of consumers say it would be important to read user-generated content before making a decision about banking or other financial services.
With the average consumer checking over 10 sources before making a commitment, reviews of banks are critical to converting a prospective customer into a card-carrying bank member. Complexsearch.com has evaluated 10 traditional and online banks, comparing ratings with customer reviews. Here’s our findings and our perspective on how potential customers might view the information they find online.
Chase Bank, otherwise known as JPMorgan Chase & Co., is the largest American bank by assets. Chase is a major player in the world of wealth and asset management and has well over 5,000 branches. Known for their innovative technology and mobile applications, Chase even allows customers to take a picture of checks and deposit them by phone. Things like this definitely provide a “cool” factor which is rare with big banks. While it’s easy to find great reviews for Chase, it is even easier to find terrible reviews. With an overall grade of poor, customers complain online about everything from service and underwriting to unfair charges and reduced credit limits. Looking at online reviews may provide more confusion than clarity for many potential customers. Word of mouth referrals from friends and family may be a deciding factor for those that choose Chase.
Ally Bank is an online bank that gets great ratings for financial health, interest rates, fees, and features. We’ve reviewed Ally before on Complexsearch and it always gets great marks. Looking at customer reviews on multiple sites, they ranged from five star reviews highlighting great interest rates and first class customer service, down to furious customers complaining about a lack of follow up from Ally for a variety of issues. Given the high volume of reviews for Ally, they average out with a grade of fair. Comparing these reviews side by side, our bet is that most customers will be willing to give Ally a try and assume the bad reviews are isolated incidents.
Fifth Third Bank, a state-chartered bank based in Cincinnati, Ohio, has over 1,300 branches. The bank gets high marks for good financial health, but the good news ends there. They are considered middle of the road for interest rates and fees, however customer reviews are generally poor. We’ve given Fifth Third Bank credit before for being one of the top performing banks in the nation. This may be overshadowed by the customer reviews, which generally highlight terrible service and a total lack of flexibility when addressing customer problems. We know Fifth Third is going through a rebrand as the “curious bank” and has placed renewed interest in social media and community management. We’ll be interested to see if this makes a difference in their reputation.
Charles Schwab Bank is an online bank and subsidiary of the Charles Schwab Corporation. As we’ve mentioned before on Complexsearch, Schwab Bank is easily recognizable and many PGA Tour players are being sponsored by the financial institution. They offer unique advice to each client and their main purpose is to help them understand their investment and financial options, which differentiates them from other banks. Overall ratings are good for bank health, fees, and other features, however their website is very minimalist compared to the robust features of their competitors. The aggregate of customer reviews gives Schwab Bank a grade of good, but this is comprised of mostly five star or one star reviews. Prospective customers will either find comfort in the droves of happy customers reporting excellent customer service and the best banking experience ever or move on due to the reviews claiming deceit and bait and switch tactics. It is unusual to see a bank with reviews that are in such opposition.
PNC Bank has received plenty of recognition from the media. They have consistently been recognized by BusinessWeek magazine as one of the 50 top-performing companies. Fortune magazine calls PNC Bank one of the “most admired companies” and they were also named one of the “Top 100 Places to Work in Information Technology” by Computer World magazine. With over 3,000 branches, they get good ratings for accessibility and financial health. PNC Bank receives a poor grade, however, when it comes to customer reviews. Prospective customers have to factor in that many reviewers may be former National City Bank customers who haven’t been thrilled with the migration…this seems to be a common theme. They also received consistently bad marks from customers on everything from service to accuracy to unfair fees. All in all, we can’t see how any prospective customer wouldn’t have doubts about PNC after reading the reviews currently available online.
First Internet Bank is the first state-chartered (they’re based in Indiana), FDIC-insured institution to operate solely via the Internet with customers in all 50 states. Established in 1998, First IB has good financial health and a decent website, but they receive only fair marks for rates and fees. In fact, their overall grade of fair is definitely impacted by what some reviewers deem to be excessive fees and then a total lack of flexibility when handling customer issues and complaints. In addition to issues with fees, several customers share issues with their mortgage and refinance processes. Much like Chase Bank above, First IB seems to be another bank where you either love them or hate them. Reviews that are so hot and cold make it difficult for customers to feel confident in their choice.
Bank of America is one of the world’s largest financial institutions, with nearly 6,000 locations. Don’t let the name fool you, they have a strong international presence (30 countries) as well as their dominance in the US. Anyone looking at starting to bank with BofA should do their homework. The bank’s overall health is considered fair, which includes moderate to low JD Power and Bankrate ratings. Bank of America has received volumes of bad press for their mortgage practices and excessive fees and their aggregate grade for customer reviews is poor. This includes hundreds of reviews with titles like “Lousy,” “Worst Experience of My Life,” and “Sucks.” Enough said.
E*TRADE may be best known for online investing, but they also offer other financial services such as online banking. The bank’s financial health is considered fair, with a lower than average credit rating and Bankrate rating. Their website is snappier than many competitors and portrays E*TRADE as a straight-forward, honest, and low-fee online banking option. The customer reviews, however, paint a different picture with an overall grade of poor. Reviewers complain about inept customer service and account freezes for no reason. One reviewer even said they looked at reviews online before choosing E*TRADE and ignored them, only to regret that decision almost immediately.
Citibank is part of one of the world’s largest financial services corporations with over 200 million customers in over 100 countries. The bank gets good marks for financial health, accessibility, and mobile bank services. The customer reviews, on the other hand, receive an overall grade of poor, with numerous reviews complaining of domestic and international fees, horrible customer service, and misuse of personal information. Many customers have seen a change in their experience over the past few years, including increased credit interest rates for no reason and sudden fees. For better or worse, “worst” is a word frequently found in Citibank reviews.
Bank of Internet USA is an online bank with great ratings for everything from financial health to fees and interest rates. Their website is simple and their products and services are easy to evaluate. The overall grade for their customer reviews is fair, but there are many positive and genuine reviews that should comfort weary customers who have waded through so many poor reviews from other banks. There were some complaints about bad customer service and isolated incidents with technical issues. All in all, we suspect most prospective customers will overlook the negative reviews and give BoI a try.
While it might seem easy to dismiss the importance of customer reviews, we recommend that you don’t. Given that 83 percent of consumers think it is important to read reviews before making a decision about banking or financial services, there is a good chance that a bank’s prospective customers will be seeing the same reviews we’ve found online. Banks need to monitor reviews and continue to impress upon employees that everyone has the ability to create a positive or negative customer experience–and that could very well end up online as a review.