Personal Finance

Is Your Bank the Target of Consumer Complaints?

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Big banks aren’t winning many fans these days. In fact, in a little more than a year they racked up close to 19,000 consumer complaints with the nation’s consumer watchdog agency.

Everything from problems with opening and closing accounts to excessive account fees drew the ire of consumers, and the most unhappy customers banked with Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, based on complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau between March 2012 and July 2013.

Those are the findings in the report, “Big Banks, Big Complaints. CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database Gets Real Results for Consumers,” by the nonprofit U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

More than 90 percent of complaints filed with the CFPB stemmed from 25 banks, with the three big boys far outpacing the rest.

The top 25, and number of complaints filed against them, were:

  1. Wells Fargo, 3,453.
  2. Bank of America, 3,135.
  3. JPMorgan Chase, 2,032.
  4. PNC Bank, 880.
  5. U.S. Bancorp, 776.
  6. TD Bank, 772.
  7. Capital One, 671.
  8. RBS Citizens, 622.
  9. Citibank, 544.
  10. SunTrust Bank, 540.
  11.  Regions, 463.
  12.  Sovereign Bank, 442.
  13.  Fifth Third Bank, 374.
  14. TCF National Bank, 346.
  15.  BB&T Financial, 328.
  16. HSBC, 316.
  17. M&T Bank, 227.
  18. USAA Savings, 197.
  19.  KeyBank NA, 196.
  20.  BBVA Compass, 190.
  21.  Huntington National Bank, 172.
  22.  Ally Bank, 156.
  23.  First Niagara Bank, 122.
  24. Comerica, 116.
  25. Bank of the West, 110.

While it may not be surprising that the biggest banks drew the biggest numbers of complaints, the report also broke the number of complaints down by the size of the bank, rating the top 10 banks for complaints per billions of dollars in deposits.

Everyone else paled in comparison with TCF National Bank, which drew almost 25 complaints per billion dollars of deposits. Sovereign Bank came in a distant second, with about nine complaints per billion dollars in deposits.

The top banks, per billion dollars of deposits, were: 

  1. TCF National Bank, 24.9.
  2. Sovereign Bank, 9.1.
  3. Capital One, 6.5.
  4. RBS Citizens, 6.1.
  5. GE Capital Retail, 5.7.
  6. Regions, 4.8.
  7. TD Bank, 4.8.
  8. First Niagara Bank, 4.3.
  9. PNC Bank, 4.3.
  10. Fifth Third Bank, 4.3. 

Main Complaints 

Checking accounts drew the lion’s share of complaints, accounting for almost 80 percent of those filed with the CFPB. Savings accounts and certificates of deposit lagged far behind.

Consumers were most displeased with opening, closing and managing their accounts, which accounted for 41 percent of complaints to the CFPB.

Deposits and withdrawals, such as availability of deposits and unauthorized transactions, racked up 28 percent of the complaints.

Low funds, such as overdraft fees, late fees and bounced checks, accounted for 17 percent of complaints.

It Pays to Complain

If you think it doesn’t pay to complain, more than one-quarter of complaints were resolved with the consumers receiving financial relief. The median amount of compensation was $110.

More than 60 percent of cases were closed with an explanation, and 5 percent resulted in non-monetary relief, such as the bank requesting that a credit bureau change a credit report.

The remaining cases were closed with no explanation, received an untimely response or are still in progress.

How to Complain

If you think you’ve been treated unfairly by your bank, you can file a complaint with the CFPB at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint and try to seek resolution.

Once your complaint has been filed and the CFPB determines it’s legitimate, it’s sent to the bank.

The bank then responds both to you and to the CFPB, and you have a chance to provide your own response. The CFPB then determines whether to investigate further.

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