Americans to big banks: We forgive you

Despite paying record fines and charging high fees, financial institutions are no longer hated.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 10, 2013 3:37PM
Bank sign © John Foxx, Stockbyte, Getty ImagesBy Catey Hill, MarketWatch

Despite the reams of bad press big banks have received for their sometimes questionable antics, a surprising number of Americans say they actually quite like their banks.


Customer satisfaction with banks is now at a six-year high, according to a study released Tuesday by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. The satisfaction rating rose 1.3% compared with last year, hitting 78 out of 100 (100 is the highest). 


JPMorgan Chase (JPM) tops the list of big banks in terms of customer satisfaction, scoring 76 out of 100, a 3% climb from last year. Citigroup (C) scored a 74 (up 6% from last year), Wells Fargo (WFC) 72 (up 1% from last year) and Bank of America (BAC) a 69 (up 5% from last year; it is the only big bank that hasn’t yet gotten its customer service score up to pre-recession levels). In fact, overall customer satisfaction with banks is now higher than the average across industries.


What’s surprising about this climb in customer satisfaction is that it comes amid a flurry of bad press. Just this year, JPMorgan Chase made headlines when it agreed to pay a $13 billion fine (a record high) to settle allegations that it made misrepresentations over its mortgage backed securities that helped exacerbate the financial crisis -- and yet it retained the top spot among big banks on this list. 


ACSI managing director David VanAmburg says that headlines like these don’t have much of an effect on consumers because they don’t impact their day-to-day banking experience in visible ways. Instead, he says, what’s primarily driving the uptick in customer service satisfaction at banks is their generally easy-to-use websites. 


“More and more banks are creating good websites, and more consumers are using them,” says VanAmburg. And that, he says, is spilling over into the brick-and-mortar locales too, as fewer consumers have to wait in line and deal with customer service reps to do their basic banking.


At the same time, banks have been steadily raising their fees: Checking account fees hit a record high in 2013, according to a survey from Bankrate.com, with banks charging an average of $5.54 in monthly checking account fees and an average of $4.13 to make a withdrawal at an out-of-network ATM. 


But that also doesn’t seem to be angering consumers too much: “There are ways to get around them,” says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. Of the 473 checking accounts that Bankrate surveyed, 97% were either free or could become free if account holders met certain criteria, like signing up for direct deposit to get the monthly fee waived. Furthermore, though bank fees did tick up in 2013, these increases were slight compared with those in previous years, says McBride.


To be sure, credit unions and smaller banks still beat the behemoths in terms of customer satisfaction. Smaller banks score an 83 out of 100, up 5% from last year; credit unions score an 85 out of 100, up 3.7% this year. And despite big banks getting some love from their customers, those small bank and credit union scores should worry the big banks: Credit union membership hit a record high in 2011 and 2012 and is on track to exceed those numbers this year as well.


So what exactly do consumers like about banks? More than nine in 10 say that the staff at their bank is courteous and helpful, 88% say their financial transactions are completed quickly and 85% report that they are satisfied with the website experience. 


On the flip side, consumers tend to be less satisfied with the competitiveness of the interest rates their bank offers (the average savings account now offers just 0.45% on average, according to Bankrate.com), the helpfulness of bank call centers and the number and location of their bank’s ATMs.


More from MarketWatch


256Comments
Dec 10, 2013 3:53PM
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Their customers might 'like' them.  Don't confuse customer satisfaction with overall opinions of the banks.  Most people hate them.  Who got bigger & stronger with taxpayer help by starting this fiasco through their own greed?

The banks.

Dec 10, 2013 4:10PM
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What absolute manipulation of unrelated data. The title is so far from the truth. Do writers of this bunk have any clue to what 'comparative facts' and deductive reasoning are? 

Give us a break. 
Dec 10, 2013 4:24PM
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What garbage.   Citi is charging $25 for a book of 30 checks .. my credit union charges nothing  ... who is going to win?  
Dec 10, 2013 5:48PM
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I have no problem continuing my hate for Banks
Dec 10, 2013 5:24PM
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In God We trust. Not banks,not wall street not politicians and certainly NOT the Federal Reserve..which is privately owned by the way…what a crock.
Dec 10, 2013 5:23PM
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I have removed my money and all financial transactions from the big banks. I intend to stay away from them from now on. I have no credit cads, I have no revolving charges, I have no need for them or their greed and deception.
Dec 10, 2013 5:51PM
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Americans to big banks: We forgive you. 
Are you kidding me Catey Hill, what a bunch of crap. Instead of hanging out on wall st. try main st. I`m sure the story would be a little different. 
They are NOT forgiven and we will not forget.
Dec 10, 2013 5:21PM
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In days of old (1970 + ), as a small business man you could apply to your local bank for a 30 day note.  If the manager knew you, you could leave the branch with a small sum of cash to make your payroll or pay a supplier.  Sometimes you could take the loan application home with you to be brought to the bank on the next business day.  If you could not repay within the 30 days my bank transformed the note, for a $25 fee, to 5 year amortized loan with no prepayment penalty.  They made it easy for start up mom & pop businesses to get a foothold.


As a senior, last year I needed $2300 for an auto repair.  I had the money in a savings account I did not want to deplete so I asked for a simple passbook loan.  That is where you USED to be able to borrow against your own account as security at a low rate.  As you paid back the loan the bank USED to release the portion of the principal for your use.  I took the money with that understanding for five years.  When I got my first loan statement, which I had to ask for, I noticed that my savings available cash balance had not increased. Naturally I went to see the manager. It was explained to me that they withdrew the cash from my savings and secured the loan with a CD in their name. Had I known that I would have withdrawn the cash and paid my repair bill. Not only that but the banks USED to pay interest on the secured amount, even though it was not available. Not any more. I now have 2.5 years before the loan is paid or I pay a penalty for closing a CD.


I DO NOT LIKE BANKS !!! I guess I do not qualify as a happy bank customer !!!

Dec 10, 2013 5:39PM
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Does that mean they can screw the people and ruin them  again and it's ok.  horse droppings They should all be in tha slammer and we should get all our money back plus interest.
Dec 10, 2013 5:33PM
Dec 10, 2013 5:44PM
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I have no idea who this person polled to determine Americans aren't mad at banks anymore, but I for one will never, ever step into another bank again.  I have my credit union that I'm pleased as hell with.  They don't charge me extra for any service, they are big enough to handle any transaction, and as soon as my house is paid off (another two years) I say adios to those money grubbing, fee happy a**wipes for good.  Mad?  Me?  But I am damn sure I will never forgive them for what they did and are doing.  Just a thought, want to know why gas prices are so high?  How about your friendly financial institutions are speculating on gas prices, continuing to drive them up.  And just because it's illegal, don't bet on Barry doing anything about it anytime soon. 
Dec 10, 2013 5:39PM
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I notice a tone of discontentment !!!


I am right there with you.

Dec 10, 2013 5:48PM
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Too many of the "Greed is Good" on Wall Street have forgiven, but the people that lost their homes have NOT. With the billions JPMorgan have paid and yet no ne went to jail is a disgrace.... And yet NO ONE on Wall Street has called them out ..... to bury your head in the sand is to be complicit in the acts themselves ...but no one seems to remember such events in Germany during the '40s..... This is the new American  Holocaust.
Dec 10, 2013 5:51PM
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Bullsh*t!! People have to use banks, because of the way companies and businesses operate. Has nothing to do with "forgiving" and/or not hating banks. Dumba** media puppet.
Dec 10, 2013 4:23PM
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Banks are much like Guberment.  They extract a percentage from all commerce. They need to be treated with suspicion and sometimes disdain like a rational person would most Politicians. You gotta get off this kick everyone in America is a fool.  Seems the foxes are the only ones willing to think like foxes which doesn't bode well for America in general.  Critical thinking is being blurred by taxation as well as hidden profit.  I think if most folks actually had to pay the taxes or interest much would change.  People don't actually see the tax taken out of their check or interest paid through their mortgage payment so they don't really see it as real.  If they had to write the check and actually feel the money going out much would change.
Dec 10, 2013 5:41PM
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"financial institutions are no longer hated."

Ok,  maybe hated is a strong word.

But I can guarantee you they are disliked.

Dec 10, 2013 4:35PM
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Just read another article on MSN that described surveys that people are getting angry about awful customer service where there is often no resolution to very simple problems, like spending more on repairs at certified repair centers than they paid initially for the item.
Dec 10, 2013 3:45PM
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OH Really ??? Just ask our buddy Vineyard, he speaks for most of us...DBOAD.
Dec 10, 2013 5:51PM
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Americans absolutely hate banks, period. They haven't forgotten them playing loosey goosey with their money, their investments, their mortgages, THEIR FINANCIAL SECURITY. And for the total stooge author who penned this renewed love affair with the exact same rightwing slime ball banking execs who almost sank our entire into the depths of a truly catastrophic depression, you are a complete pawn of these nefarious entities. What a bogus article. Gross.
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