Need a new bank. Suck it Wells Fargo.
August 17, 2011 11:39 AM   Subscribe

It's time for a new bank due to new charges by my current bank. I'm thinking online banking might be a winner for me. I'd like to hear about your experiences with online banking, and who is currently the best to go with. Complete with Snowflake inside!

So I've got Wells Fargo currently, and while I have no particular hate towards them, they have decided that they want to start charging $3/month to use a debit card as a "test" program for four states starting in October. Their fees also seem high in general and interest is non-existent. I'm already under the assumption that "test program" is code for "permanent." As a result, they are losing my business. I've seen ads come in from ING Direct as I already have a Sharebuilder account, and I'm thinking that online might be best for me. I have done only one transaction inside a bank in four years of having the account.

My wants when it comes to a bank are (in order):

- No minimums.
- Very low or no fees. I don't want to pay for transfers, ATMs, Debit Cards, Checking, Direct Deposit, etc.
- Easy access. Android App would be sweet.
- Plenty of free ATMs.
- Good interest rates for Savings and/or checking.
- Decent customer service. Bonus points for North American based customer service.
- Compatible with a trading service. I use Sharebuilder now mostly for putting cash into no-load, no-fee mutual funds. I'm not impressed with it, but it is easy to work with. I'd like to do more stock trading and would like to pay less than $10/trade that I do now. I know ING and Sharebuilder will connect for easy transfers, but do they give discounts?
- Ability to start an IRA

I'm in Portland, OR, if there are any brick and mortar banks that match my needs. So MeFis, who do you love?

And thanks!
posted by Mister Fabulous to Work & Money (33 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How much do you have in your Sharebuilder? If it's at least $25,000, move it to Wells Fargo and stay with them. You get 100 free trades a year per brokerage account, and all fees waived on a PMA checking account.

Otherwise, check out Schwab. Their trades are $8.95 each (or $0 if you are trading their ETFs). Their checking account reimburses your ATM fees and the interest rate on their savings is about as good as you're going to find. Their customer service is second to none. You can make deposits by mail, or keep a free checking account at some local bank and transfer from there to Schwab.
posted by kindall at 11:52 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you considered credit unions? Seriously, I love my credit union, and they seem to think I'm ok. Bonus points for a credit union like mine that serves fussy engineers. They get the math right. :)
posted by answergrape at 11:54 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is only a partial answer, but for what it's worth, I can directly pay both my BoA mortgage and my AmEx bill (plus a lot of other bills, I imagine) directly from my ING Savings account (not checking) with no bill pay or transfer fees. The account itself was free to set up, all done online, and the interest rate is 1% right now. The only downside is that it takes a few days for transfers from external accounts to be available for withdrawal. Now I only use my Visa debit card/checking account for things that won't accept AmEx (and probably write about a check a year).
posted by amy lecteur at 11:55 AM on August 17, 2011

I had a Wachovia account that went to Wells Fargo a while back and yeah, I feel you on the Wells Fargo sucks front.

I've used Citibank for the last 7 years and have yet to have a problem with them. (For a while there, I had concurrent accounts with Citi/Wachovia if you're trying to figure out the math.) I don't know about the trading service/IRA options, but they have been great for me as far as customer service goes. If I've ever had a problem I've been able to call, speak to a real live person (who speaks English extremely well) immediately, and get the problem resolved in a matter of minutes. I pay all my bills with their built-in online checking and have never had a problem. I even send checks to private addresses (rent, personal debts) online. I have not encountered problems when using my card/the online system abroad.

Transfers (into your account) from a non-Citi account are free. Transfers to other Citi accounts (whether yours or someone else's) are free. Transfers between your own accounts are free. Bill pay is free. Online checking (where they mail a physical check for you) is free. Direct deposit is free. Lots of Citi ATMs where I am, which are free. Checking is free. Debit card is free. Savings account is free. (I do have a minimum, but it is low, and I was able to get it lowered no problem. For free.)

I'm no superbanker, but I've been very happy with them. Much happier than my friends with Bank of America, that's for sure.
posted by phunniemee at 11:57 AM on August 17, 2011

2nd the credit unions. When I had a credit union, I was the happiest with it. Unfortunately a lot of the service areas of credit unions are small; this was ultimately why I switched to a formal bank.

If you qualify for USAA (I don't), I've heard nothing but good things about them -- you can do everything online, including scan-to-deposit checks, and every ATM in the country is free. You have to be in the military or have an immediate family member who is or was. I wish I qualified.

I too want to switch banks... I'm happy with my current bank, but since I moved, the closest branch and ATMs are too far away (they charge non-bank ATM fees, in spite of their advertising to the contrary), and they don't offer scan-to-deposit checks. (They do offer bank-by-mail, but I don't like sending endorsed checks through the mail.) I'm only keeping the account as I currently have a loan with them where I'm getting 1/4% off the interest rate for having an account with the bank; when that loan is paid off, I'm out.

I can't recommend anything for you since I'm not on the West Coast. All I can say is stay far away from Bank of America.
posted by tckma at 12:03 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a Charles Schwab checking account and love it! It links to your Schwab brokerage account if you have one.

Free bill pay, free transfers, no fees, great customer service, and they refund all ATM fees! So you can use any atm you want, and they'll give you back the $2-3 bucks the atm will charge you. Plus, they have an Android deposit application, so you can take pictures of checks with your phone, and it'll deposit them into your account.

I love my checking account! Seriously!
posted by Arbac at 12:04 PM on August 17, 2011

Best answer: I recently started using Schwab and have been nothing but impressed -- while it may seem like there is a minimum fee to open an account, there really isn't. You have to open a brokerage account (no minimum) and a checking account. However, it sounds like you want the brokerage account anyway. Their fee to trade stocks is $8.95, but it is free to trade their ETFs.

They reimburse you for ANY atm -- and by ANY atm, I mean I tried using my Schwab card in the seediest of ATMs when I first got it, and they reimbursed it every time. Including a particularly shady ATM with a $10 fee. If you call their customer service number, Charles Schwab picks up the phone -- no, not really, but someone actually answers at almost any time. And I have called and asked some pretty dumb questions about trading stocks.

However, the best part is, they recently added the ability to deposit checks from their iPhone app -- so now you don't even have to fret the scarcity of physical locations if you have an iPhone.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 12:05 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

PNC doesn't appear to have locations by you, but for what it's worth, I love them. I pay no fees, I earn interest, I can deposit checks through an app, online bill pay and check writing, wonderful customer service, we've had mortgages and second mortgages and investments with them, and I think they're great. You could pair them with ING for additional accounts and access to cash, even with their lack of locations, maybe.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:06 PM on August 17, 2011

Have kids at dentist so can't add details but the USAA federal savings bank meets all your requirements. Check it out.
posted by pearlybob at 12:06 PM on August 17, 2011

I've been using Ally Bank for about a year now, and I've been extremely happy with them.

- No minimums.
No minimums for their checking or savings accounts.

- Very low or no fees. I don't want to pay for transfers, ATMs, Debit Cards, Checking, Direct Deposit, etc.
Haven't had one fee. They charge for transfers from savings after 6 in one month. I've never used more than 2.

- Easy access. Android App would be sweet.
No apps, sadly, and their general mobile site is useless, although you can use their regular web site from the phone.

- Plenty of free ATMs.
All ATMs are free, because they reimburse you for all ATM fees at the end of the month.

- Good interest rates for Savings and/or checking.
As good as I think you can get: 1% savings, .5% checking right now, although they were higher when i got the account.

- Decent customer service. Bonus points for North American based customer service.
I've never been on hold. Their site actually says how long the hold time will be, which is sweet. Granted, I've only had to call a couple of times.

- Compatible with a trading service. I use Sharebuilder now mostly for putting cash into no-load, no-fee mutual funds. I'm not impressed with it, but it is easy to work with. I'd like to do more stock trading and would like to pay less than $10/trade that I do now. I know ING and Sharebuilder will connect for easy transfers, but do they give discounts?

This I'm not sure about. I've had easy transfers to eTrade, but I've never gotten a discount.

- Ability to start an IRA
They don't have it, but they claim to be working on it.
posted by General Malaise at 12:12 PM on August 17, 2011

Response by poster: How much do you have in your Sharebuilder?

Under $3K, building it up sloooooowly.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:12 PM on August 17, 2011

Another vote for Ally. Never having to pay an ATM fee is saving me a lot of money.
posted by the jam at 12:16 PM on August 17, 2011

Credit union! I used to be with Schwab (which was pretty great) but I like my credit union even better. I pay no fees for anything and they reimburse all ATM fees within 2 days (Schwab does it at the end of the month). They are also super friendly (I can call someone in my zip code until 11pm!) and I can make deposits online or at pretty much any deposit taking ATM.

Also, they didn't have anything to do with the financial crisis and they use their profits to do things like send local firefighters kids to college. I don't really understand why everyone doesn't switch to a local credit union - dump the banks!
posted by bradbane at 12:22 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

usaa recently opened banking to anyone, not just military. It's great, fits all your criteria.
posted by skewed at 12:22 PM on August 17, 2011

If you're open to credit unions, I'm with Unitus here in Portland and I love them. I don't have a smartphone so I can't speak to their Android app availability, but they meet pretty much all your other criteria perfectly.
posted by pdb at 12:30 PM on August 17, 2011

To build off what skewed mentioned about USAA, a couple of years ago they started letting Just Anyone (ie, random civilians) into their checking and, I think, possibly low/no-interest savings accounts. I've become a huge fan; the customer service has been top-notch, I can use any random ATM for free, and - thanks to their focus on the military - they're orders of magnitude better about international travel than any other bank I've dealt with.

As for the desire to have a decent interest rate for savings... well, to be honest, if you find that anywhere, let me know. Right now the difference between mediocre and great is that you get 1.25% instead of 1.0%; the days of ING at 5% and HSBC at 5.5% are long over, at least until the Fed jacks rates up a lot, which in this economy is damn unlikely.

I also don't know about USAA's Sharebuilder-friendliness, since all my own investment is through my 401k.

My own solution, with criteria very similar to yours, was checking at USAA, savings at ING (where I don't see it and therefore don't think of it as "real money I could spend"), and a big grin on my face.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:45 PM on August 17, 2011

Here is another vote for USAA.
posted by apricot at 12:49 PM on August 17, 2011

you can do everything online, including scan-to-deposit checks, and every ATM in the country is free

USAA Free Checking Account: "USAA does not charge a fee for the first 10 ATM withdrawals and refunds up to $15 in other banks' ATM usage fees each month."
posted by kirkaracha at 1:04 PM on August 17, 2011

I use ING Direct for my savings and shared checking with my fiance. Love them.
posted by teragram at 1:39 PM on August 17, 2011

Another lover of ING here. No hassles, easy transfers, interest on your checking account. That said, I may check out Schwab and USAA based on what I'm seeing here.
posted by bluejayway at 1:47 PM on August 17, 2011

Schwab FTW!

Schwab is really just inexpressibly great. I would gladly pay BofA-level fees for a Schwab level of service -- or more pragmatically Schwab-level fees for a BofA level of service -- but NO! With Schwab, I get treated like Warren Buffet, for free, which is miraculous and incomprehensible to me. Every time I think about Schwab, I am filled with wonder.

I don't think you understand this: If you call their customer service number, Charles Schwab picks up the phone -- no, not really, but someone actually answers at almost any time.

Not, "Please enter your 300 digit account number" "Sorry, I didn't get that." "Please press 1 for thing you don't want, 2 for other thing you don't want, or star to end this call" "Did you know we are also on the web at w-w-w-dot..." but AN ACTUAL HUMAN PERSON who simply ANSWERS THE PHONE? They answer the phone. A person. Ya rly!

Interest-bearing checking with free checks and no minimum. No fee for overdraft transfer from your savings acct (which has a better rate than ING). Free bill-pay to any person or company in the US. If they are a company, access to the actual bill from within bill-pay. Even the routing number is easy to memorize!

posted by pH Indicating Socks at 1:59 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Love ING Direct. However... Capital One just bought them, so we'll see how much they screw it up. For now, I still recommend them.

Haven't seen a fee yet. Literally. Wait, I take that back, they just introduced the option to get physical checks for their checking account, and it cost $5 for a book of checks (just the one book not like 5,000 checks or whatever). I think it's still free for them to mail a check on your behalf. They do not charge an ATM fee, but if you use one not in their network it costs whatever that other ATM charges - the AllPoint network ATMs are usually in WaWas and places like that, not hard to find.

I have never needed customer service. Knock on wood.

If you want to deposit checks, right now I think you have to mail them in - an improvement is coming soon, probably scanning or app'ing them in, I don't know yet.

Periodically they have bonus offers - like $150 last year to get the checking account and use the debit card like 5 times in 45 days. I'd wait for one of those if you don't mind waiting a bit.
posted by mrs. taters at 1:59 PM on August 17, 2011

ING was recently bought out by Capital One - so you know, it could start to suck someday soon.

I have everything at Wachovia, now Wells Fargo. I haven't had any problems with them, although Wells Fargo BillPay sucks compared to Wachovia. However, my out of state employer banks there and does not do direct deposit, so I am stuck. Any other bank will hold my paychecks for at least a week. They are available immediately at Wells Fargo.
posted by COD at 2:01 PM on August 17, 2011

I'm waiting for BankSimple. It might not meet all of your needs, but other folks here might be interested in it!
posted by barnone at 2:05 PM on August 17, 2011

My credit union experience has been fairly miserable. They're great at giving loans (low interest!) and online bill pay, but absolutely suck when it comes to pretty much everything else. Service is uniformly miserable, not because they aren't nice people, but because poor service is actually built in to their business.

Examples (all ATM related):
1) Lost your card? Up to 3 weeks to get a new one, and it may or may not work when you try to use it (my brand new card was actually confiscated at a gas station because the credit union inexplicably reported it stolen).

2) Need to make a deposit on the weekends? The ATMs at the branch don't allow deposits once it runs out of deposit envelopes. So that fact that I have a stash of them in my car is irrelevant.

3) Heading to Europe and want to follow Rick Steves' advice and use your ATM? "You can tell us your itinerary, but our fraud department is a separate entity so your card may be cut off anyway."

4) Need foreign currency? Hahahaha!

5) Need a low-fee ATM transaction? Visit one of our 4 branches that are nowhere near your house, because those are the only ATMs we don't charge a fee for.

In short, there's something to be said for using a real bank. Were I not the laziest person on earth, I'd have dumped my credit union years ago.
posted by coolguymichael at 2:20 PM on August 17, 2011

USAA. True, the ATM is only reimbursed up to 10 trips/15 bucks a month, but for everything else you get, and the level of service, it is totally worth it.
posted by oflinkey at 3:31 PM on August 17, 2011

I've been happy with Ally. Great customer service, and they reimburse ATM fees -- even in foreign countries. They do charge a 1% transaction fee for foreign ATM withdrawals, but that's low compared to other banks.
posted by Xere at 4:00 PM on August 17, 2011

Nthing ING. No problems, no fees, no hassles. It's worth checking out.
posted by allnamesaretaken at 4:57 PM on August 17, 2011

I've had a fantastic experience with HSBC Advance (formerly called HSBC Direct). Interest rates were much higher when I opened my accounts, but that's the economy's fault, not HSBC's.

- No minimums.
Yep, as long as you have at least $1 to open the account.

- Very low or no fees.
No fees that I've encountered yet. Higher interest rates than conventional banks on savings, plus interest on your payment account too. (You don't get a checkbook--you have to BillPay everything, but in 2011, who uses checks any more? Not me, at least. BillPay has never once been a problem for me, and they guarantee a check will arrive no more than 5 days from payment date.)

- Easy access. Android App would be sweet.
I've never bothered to look to see if there's an app, but I have definitely used their website in my phone's browser.

- Plenty of free ATMs.
ATM fees refunded at the end of each month. No more looking for your bank's ATMs! Just use the closest one. $4 fee? Who cares?

- Good interest rates for Savings and/or checking.
Lower than it once was, but interest on both that are competitive with all the other online banks. In my experience, pretty much all online banks have interest rates in the same league as each other. Occasionally one will drastically increase rates to get a bunch of customers, but then sweep the rug under your feet and drop down to the same rate as all the other banks. Don't go chasing that extra 0.1% because it always fluctuates among banks, in my observations.

- Decent customer service. Bonus points for North American based customer service.
I have called a couple times and always quickly gotten a native English speaker. I usually just email because they typically get back to me within a few hours anyway.

- Compatible with a trading service.
I don't do much trading (see my comment above about the economy) but you can move money around like a champ (see below).

- Ability to start an IRA
They probably have this service, but personally, I would look more into dedicated services like Vanguard than just some random bank for an IRA.

Bonuses that you didn't ask for include:
* HSBC is the second largest bank in the world, despite having minimal presence in America, they are a legit bank and not some sketchy internet startup (not that I'm accusing other banks here of being sketchy, just that if you haven't heard of HSBC, don't shy away).

* Free bank to bank transfers between any accounts. The accounts don't even have to be at HSBC, I don't think. You can just use the tool to blast your money around all sorts of accounts.

* Access to HSBC EasyView, which is basically the same thing as except EasyView has been around much longer than Mint, has a slightly less sleek interface, doesn't constantly try to sell you financial products, and most importantly, doesn't rename your transactions as something else. I lovvvve EasyView.
posted by wondercow at 5:28 PM on August 17, 2011

I opened an ING Direct checking account just a bit ago. Loving it so far. PLUS you get one of those super modern debit cards with the numbers on the back so all the shop clerks oooh and ahhh over it, which makes me feel very special.

Their customer service is truly amazing. Seriously. I've called them several times now and it's always a brief "this call may be recorded" message and then an actual human picks right up! They've been extremely friendly and helpful. I don't think I've ever experienced better telephone customer service.

Though now I'm scared about the Capital One thing.
posted by imalaowai at 6:46 PM on August 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all. I wound up going with Schwab, mainly because of free ATMs, no minimums, sweet app, and opened a Schwab Broker account (cheaper trading fees, hell yeah!).
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:01 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

"PLUS you get one of those super modern debit cards with the numbers on the back"

What is this?
posted by pollex at 10:31 AM on August 18, 2011

This was the first google image result, pollex. The amusing part is that it's sent out affixed to a piece of paper that says "Yep, the Card's real. Peel it off and check out the back." I assume we're seeing these now because taking physical imprints of cards at the point of sale has been completely phased out. More room for branding on the front.
posted by nobody at 10:07 AM on August 19, 2011

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