Where to Open a Bank Account for the Best Customer Service
Your bank is an essential tool for handling your finances. Almost any bank or credit union can open checking and savings accounts, but a bank’s customer service is crucial—service issues and fees can drain your time as well as your bank account.
Several publications and research firms conduct studies that rank banks from best to worst. We’ve analyzed those ranking systems and compiled a list of banks with the best customer experience. Most studies only highlight the nation’s largest banks, but that might not be what you want. For a broader view, we’ll look at:
- Big banks
- Online banks
- Small banks and credit unions
The lines between different types of banks are blurring. For example, big banks have online-only options, while small credit unions provide a full range of services and extended customer service hours. The result––you have more choice than ever, and one institution can provide both high-tech and high-touch service.
Chase Bank: Megabank Leader in Customer Service
Chase Bank is the largest bank in the U.S. when it comes to assets, and the bank scored the highest of any big bank in a recent Consumer Reports survey. What’s more, Chase tied with PNC for “lowest problem incidence” in the J.D. Power 2017 National Bank Satisfaction Study. Mistakes happen everywhere, but apparently, they’re less frequent at Chase.
The Chase Total Checking account offers free checking for customers who set up automatic deposits of at least $500 per month into their accounts. That includes ACH and other deposits, so you don’t necessarily need an employer with direct deposit. Other features include free online bill payment and check deposits with your mobile phone.
Other megabanks: Chase has good coverage in most populated areas, but other banks might be a better fit. PNC also scores well in satisfaction surveys and has a strong presence in the eastern U.S. Bank of America and Wells Fargo are also contenders. However, B of A gets just average scores, and Wells Fargo has been in the headlines for misbehaving in recent years.
Ally Bank: Top Online Bank for Customer Service
Online-only accounts might do everything you need. It’s increasingly rare to need in-person services from a bank—but it’s still wise to have options locally. Online banks typically pay the highest rates on savings accounts, they keep fees low, and they use technology that self-sufficient individuals crave.
Ally Bank does well on the Consumer Reports study, and it has a well-established place in the online banking world. You earn a competitive rate without any minimum balance requirement, and there are no monthly maintenance fees. Like similar competitors, Ally also offers an online checking account that pays interest and is excellent for paying bills. Ally’s certificates of deposit (CD) options include liquid CDs that allow you to pull funds out before maturity.
Other online banks: Ally isn’t the only online bank with great customer service. Consumer Reports also identifies Schwab Bank and USAA as options with “easy-to-use online transactions and useful websites.” USAA isn’t strictly an online bank and is limited to military members and their families, but customers seem to love the service at USAA.
Small Banks and Credit Unions
You don’t need a national brand for excellent banking services. Small financial institutions can provide everything you need along with great customer service.
Include local banks and credit unions when you’re shopping for a new bank. Consumer Reports found that 96 percent of credit union members are “highly satisfied,” compared to 80 percent of customers at the three largest megabanks. That rating “is driven by good customer service.”
At small institutions, you’re more than just a number. You’re a community member, and you might even work with the same people every time you contact your bank. With friendly, familiar, and skilled customer service, it’s hard not to be satisfied.
A small institution doesn’t necessarily have limited capabilities. For example, credit union members nationwide can use over 5,400 shared branching locations to walk into a branch and complete basic banking transactions in person or at an ATM. Only Wells Fargo and Chase have more branch locations available.
What’s more, some small institutions are leading the way with technology that enhances customer service. Coastal Credit Union began using video tellers in 2005, so members can work with a live teller seven days per week from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Samantha Paxson, chief experience officer for CO-OP Financial Services notes that there is essentially “no gap in what banks can provide compared to credit unions anymore.”