Big Four Banks Named Among Worst US Companies

Readers Cite Banks For Poor Customer Service, Fees

Automatic withdrawal device machine in subway. Colorful ATM machine.
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Bank marketing departments work overtime to earn spots on top ten lists to impress clients, but this probably isn't what they had in mind. The Consumerist, a consumer advocacy website, announced readers named not one, but all of the Big Four banks in the annual "Worst Company in America" (WCIA) playoffs. Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, and Chase-- also referred to as the Big Four-- all ended up with the dubious honor of making the cut. 

There are other lists of best and worst banks as well -- and those lists are helpful both for consumers wondering where to bank and for potential employees wondering where to work.

WCIA Tournament: Customers Not Happy With Banks

Each year, the Consumerist's readers choose companies via written nomination (2014 was the last year of the contest); the 32 corporations with the most votes earn the right to compete in the tournament. Never remiss when it comes to proper etiquette, the Consumerist's editors also send handwritten notes to notify CEO's when their company ends up on the list. The final tally of reader nominations resulted in banking and credit companies taking up 6 of the 32 available slots. That's over 25% of the list dominated by one sector, including all the Big Four banks. Ouch.

How the Contest Works:

  • The WCIA battle begins with 32 contenders who fight it out round by round for the top slot.
  • The contest is designed as a parody of NCAA March Madness-style office pools, complete with printable playoff bracket.  
  • Each round pits two companies against another. Readers vote in response to a single question - "Which Company is Worse?". The worst company of each round goes on to play the next, down to the "Final Four" and so on and so forth.
  • Eventually, the worst of the worst (as per Consumerist's voters, at least) is left standing and crowned the Worst Company in America.
  • In the banking sector, Bank of America and Chase, in particular, seem to inspire readers, as each beat out CitiBank and Wells Fargo (respectively) to move on to the next round.

The overall tone of the tournament leans more towards snarky humor than seriousness. But there's no denying the high level of consumer dissatisfaction companies must have acquired in order to be nominated in the first place.

With ongoing customer service issues plaguing the banking industry, hopefully, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Chase all use this as a chance to improve client relations. This is one list they should all want to stay off of. 

Other Sources and Alternatives to Bad Banks

The Consumerist no longer lists the worst banks in America – so how are you supposed to get up-to-date information? There are several other ways to find out which banks to steer clear of.

If you’re a consumer, you’ll want to find a bank that makes you happy. Most information sources don’t have the same snark as the WCIA awards, so you’ll probably do better by looking for banks that people love – as opposed to banks that people hate.

Ask your friends and family where they bank, and ask for specifics about what they like or don’t like. Most people don’t put much thought into their banking relationship, and you’ll get the most valuable information from people who have something specific to say about their bank. Given that information, compare your needs against the offerings at those banks, and pick the bank that fits best.

Pay close attention to fees, which were one of the primary drivers for winning the "Worst" title. The charges that hit your account are partly due to your behavior (such as bouncing checks), but they're also determined by bank policy. You simply don't need to pay high fees.

Remember to include credit unions in your search. These institutions are generally smaller and owned by customers, but they still offer most of the same products and services you can get from a big bank. They often have a community focus instead of a global presence.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, check the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) complaint database. This can help you identify the banks that cause the most people to take action and complain.

Finally, get organized before you switch banks. It's essential to have a plan that prevents you from missing payments, running out of money, and racking up fees while you move your business to another bank. 

Working for Banks

This information is also helpful if you’re looking for a job at a bank. Depending on your career path, you might find that the employees are happiest at the same banks that make customers happy. Especially if you’re in a customer-facing role, that’s not a surprise (you’ll have more positive interactions with the public). A toxic environment can often affect everybody – not just certain divisions – so choose wisely. If you’re going to spend time building a career and working your way up the ladder, you want to be sure your long-term prospects are something you can live with.

Some career-specific sites host information about working conditions at certain banks. For example, and show reviews from bank employees. However, keep in mind that not every employee shows up to submit a review – it’s usually employees on the extremes (those who are especially happy or unhappy).