The 8 Least-Evil Banks as Determined by CNNMoney

CNNMoney has put together a list of the 8 least-evil banks.

What do they mean by least-evil?

Since legislation passed not long ago to reign in bank fees and unfair practices, more and more free banking is disappearing and many banks have been implementing all sorts of fees to make up for lost revenue from the new laws.  Some banks offer ways to avoid their fees but you have to jump through hoops to figure out how to qualify.

Why is this important? Bank fees can drain your account!  You can easily find yourself paying a good amount of money in bank fees every month.  According to a Wall Street Journal article (The New Bank Fees: How to Fight Back, June 19, 2010), the average fee for falling below the minimum balance on an interest-bearing account is $12.55 while the average overdraft fee was $29.58.  Add to that the fact that banks will be looking to either limit debit card transactions or add fees to the transactions and you can see how it’s getting expensive to bank!

So CNNMoney found eight banks with no ATM fees, high-yield accounts, and free checking (a couple of which appear in my favorite free online checking accounts).

Here are CNNMoney’s 8 least-evil banks:

Ally Bank

You can use any ATM for free as Ally reimburses any fees you may incur.  There are also no monthly maintenance fees or minimum balances.  In fact you can open an account with $0.  Their accounts also offer up higher interest than most other banks so you can maximize your savings and your checking.  To deposit money you need to either mail in checks (provided by Ally) or make a transfer from another bank account.

See more about Ally Online Savings and Ally Online Checking.

ING Direct

ING’s Electric Orange checking has no ATM fees when you use one from their network.  They will mail out paper checks for you, offer up bill-pay, and you can make person-to-person to any person so long as you have their account number.  ING also offer up high-yield checking and savings accounts.

I’ve made it no secret that I love my ING accounts.  I have savings, checking, and use their online brokerage – ShareBuilder.  I’ve had an account with ING since 2003.

USAA

This bank started out as a bank for military families but now is open to all.  They offer checking with no minimum balance, no monthly maintenance fees, and free paper checks.  For customers with military connections, you can make remote deposits via computer or cell phone.

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Personally, I’ve heard only good things about USAA.  I’m not an account holder but anyone I’ve seen mention them raves about their products.

Take a look at USAA checking.

Capital One

Capital One is a “brick and mortar” bank, meaning they operate from physical store locations (the prior selections have been online banks).  This is nice if you want a place where you can deal with a teller face-to-face.  Their checking accounts are generally free of monthly maintenance fees and minimum balance requirements (exceptions after a year for those in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland).  CNN Money notes that a downside is they only offer free ATM use in their network which is relatively small (roughly 2,000 ATM’s).

Alliant Credit Union

Located in Illinois, Alliant Credit Union is one of the largest credit unions in the U.S. and is open to everyone.  They offer checking with no monthly maintenance fee or minimum balance requirement.  they offer options for high-yield checking and have over 80,000 ATM’s to use free of charge within their network.

Though I can’t speak personally about this credit union, I’ve heard many great things about using a credit union for your banking.

PNC

PNC offers checking without monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements.  ATM fees are free in their network of over 6,000 ATM’s.  If you maintain a $2,000 balance then PNC will reimburse out-of-network ATM fees.

The Incredible Bank

No, this isn’t a bank out of a Pixar movie.  Incredible Bank aims to have higher interest rates than other online banks.  Their checking is free unless you need a paper statement.  ATM’s are free or reimbursed when you are charged from other networks.  To deposit money you need to mail in checks or transfer money from another bank account.

Charles Schwab

This brokerage offers a free online checking account to those who open a brokerage account.  There’s no monthly maintenance fee, no minimum balance requirement, and no currency exchange fee for ATM’s overseas (nice to have if you travel out of the country often).  They also allow you to use any ATM with no fees charged and will reimburse you for other network fees.

CNNMoney also mention Fidelity’s checking account, also available to those with a brokerage account with Fidelity. (They snuck in a ninth bank).

Personally, I’m surprised PerkStreet Financial isn’t listed.  They also offer free checking, have free paper checks, and offer a cash rewards debit card which is very rare and none of the other banks listed offer on a regular basis (I’ve seen ING’s Electric Orange checking with promotional cash back rewards a few times but not as a standard).

What do you think of these choices?  Do you bank at any of these banks? Do you have a favorite not on this list?

The 8 least evil banks – CNNMoney.com

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Published or updated December 16, 2013.

Comments

  1. My bank’s not on there … but I don’t think it’s evil. :) Actually, I kind of like my bank.

  2. Funny to see Ally on the list–it was previously the GMAC bank from General Motors. Apparently they’ve got their stuff together, but they’ll always have a bad stigma in my mind.

    • Yes, Ally is the former GMAC. I think they have been working hard to shed the stigma. Haven’t used them yet but they seem to understand what people want in an online bank.

  3. Craig.
    I do not have accounts at any of these banks, although I have considered ally bank before. The “raise your rate” cd seems like it would be a good thing to get involved with if you were looking to set up a cd ladder

    • Their “raise your rate” is a nice feature, especially considering that rates seem to have nowhere to go but up.

  4. I would add your credit union to this list. Generally they are low cost and support their members.

  5. I bank at a few places, neither of which are on the list. I can say that credit unions can often offer really good services that are just more customer friendly than many banks. Maybe as a class they should get some honorary status:)

    Anyway, this is an interesting list – thanks for sharing. I certainly hadn’t heard of The Incredible Bank, and am curious to check it out. What an attention-catching name! Interesting branding choice, but hey, as I said it gets attention. Besides, high interest is a good thing.

    • Yes, I’ve heard that about credit unions as well.

      Watch out for banks that come on the scene with high rates. Not that anything is wrong, but I’d like to see lasting high rates before I jumped ship. Still, if they mean what they say they could be an interesting option.

  6. I have USAA and love it. You were wrong about Perk Street being the only one offering rewards on debit cards. USAA offers either cash or point rewards standard. It’s the customers choice which of those they want. I have never ever had a single complaint with USAA. I’ve also never given them any money in fees. It is truly a free account.

    • That’s great info on USAA Kate! Thanks.

    • USAA stopped their debit card cash back rewards program in Sep. 2011. A new federal law capped the amount of money a financial institution with assets over $10 billion could get from debit card transactions. The cash back was only .5% anyway. I use a credit card for cash back because they have better offers, and I think they offer better consumer protection in many aspects. Still, if you want a cash back debit card, look into the Paypal business debit card. It can draft from any checking account you want.

      The no minimums, no monthly fees, free checks, and atm refunds up to $15/month still make USAA a top bank. I just wish they had better interest rates. I use Ally for that.

  7. Love the concept and name of the list.

    No surprise – I see that the two banks I’m leaving (I’m in the process of moving personal and business accounts to a local credit union) due to the adoption of monthly maintenance fees aren’t on the list – Chase and BBVA Compass.

  8. Hi: Just a heads up, Alliant Credit Union is not open to everyone, per my conversation with them. They have a list on their website of who can join, but, if you make a $10 donation to the Orphan Foundation of America (link on Alliant’s site), it makes you eligible to join Alliant.

    • Good info Hersh. I’ve seen that with some credit unions. Many are open to all but you have to be a member of something or make a donation somewhere. PenFed does this. You can make a RedCross donation to join.

      Still, a $10 donation to join a credit union to get free checking is a nice trade-off considering what many banks charge in fees. And the money looks to be going to good use as well.

    • To join Alliant Credit Union, you are also eligible if you work for or have Kaiser Insurance, or if you belong to any local or national PTA (you can join any local one for $5), or you can join the Military Family and Friends Association… get details on Alliant’s site. These are all tax-deductible charitable donations too.

  9. I am a member of USAA and I honestly cannot say enought great things about them. The biggest being that their customer service rocks! My calls are answered quickly, people sound cheerful, rates are good, and they make things like insurance and buying a car, calling in a claim a snap. A friend is also a member of USAA and her house flooded and mold was discovered and USAA had someone out there in a day and the whole problem was resolved within three days! Amazing! LOVE USAA!

  10. We recently had to switch over to PNC because our bank was bought out and we have had no problems with them. In fact, we actually like them better than our last bank. We paid off our car loan and with our old bank it would have been a 10% fee for paying off early, but PNC doesn’t charge a fee for paying off car loans early so we saved some moeny there.

  11. I have accounts at both Ally Bank and Alliant Credit Union. Ally’s interest rates have dropped significantly from their hayday. Apparently they were catching a lot of slack from the other big banks and caved to the pressure. Ally is great for external transfers, they only take two business days from start to finish – many other banks take much longer. So I still use Ally to move my money around when I need to. Alliant still has some of the most competitive rates, but they finally dropped recently too. I’ve found the highest rates out there are now with American Express FSB at 1.30% APY for Savings.

    • Forgot to add very important!!!!

      Alliant Credit Union does a hard inquiry on your credit when you open a checking or savings account – even if you’re not applying for credit. Good to know.

      Neither Ally Bank nor AmExp FSB do that.

    • If I recall, the flack Ally got was that GM (or was it GMAC) was receiving bailout money and other banks didn’t see it as fair that they used it to back their higher interest rates.

      Thanks for the credit check info.

  12. I’ve been an Ally customer for approximately 4 months.

    During that period, my place of employment has attempted to direct deposit my paychecks into Ally, but the deposits were rejected. I then tried to e-check deposit my paychecks….which Ally held for 12 days EACH time before depositing. In the mean time, I had checked and double checked and triple checked that the account information that was being used was correct. Each time I called Ally I was subjected to yammerings about account numbers that I’ve confirmed and hold times I find excessive, given the fact that it’s a salary check for the same amount every two weeks. But, I figured it would all be fine when the direct deposit issue was fixed.

    After five attempts, my accounting department said “Good news, your deposit has been accepted!” and I was so happy. But on deposit day, my money wasn’t in my account. My pay stub said “This is not a check” and Ally said “We don’t know where your money is…but it may take us 24 to 48 (business) hours to research it” On a Friday that means I won’t hear from Ally until Tuesday, and if they DO find it, I’m sure they’ll come up with a reason to hold it for another 12 days.

    The worst part…while speaking with a customer service supervisor (almost as useless as a customer service representative, but with a more authoritative sounding title) she indicated that there was no way to further expedite my resolution, as it was a newly opened issue. WTF? I’ve been calling over and over for months about the same issue. Maybe it’s a bit different than the last eight calls, but it still boils down to the same. little. nugget. My direct deposit isn’t being deposited and Ally won’t give me my money.

    The fee-less accounts, the interest, the convenience, the friendly customer service, the e-check deposit…it all sounds fantastic, but BEWARE. You’ll continuously call with the same issues. You’ll wait weeks for access to your own money and there is no direct line to the resolution center…leaving you at the mercy of friendly, but relatively helpless customer service reps (and supervisors).

    I’ll be posting this review on every available site for each waking hour that my funds remain missing in some Ally limbo. At the earliest availability I’ll be removing my money and marching it straight toward the teller of a better bank…if there is such a thing.

    Wish me luck.

  13. Craig, I banked with wachovia since 1980 when I moved back to North Carolina, in 2007 I opened up a business right as wallstreet collapsed , because of that I had to close my newly opened business and file for chapter 7 protection which I was granted. Meanwhile dear Wachovia informed me that they were starting foreclosure process on my house, they sent me notices monthly during the 9 month process asking me to call a wachovia number help line for assistance in my banking needs in reference to the foreclosure. I called the number several times and each time I was told “This number is NOT in service” I went to my local wachovia office and was told “you can’t call and negotiate a foreclosure, its not allowed” Then why did you include an official phone number in your notices you mailed me ??? The final insult happened when Wells Fargo Bank bought them out during the final 3 weeks of the foreclosure procedure and they too refused to communicate by phone, US Mail or in person, in reference to refinance/negotiate….Since then I am now financially sound and banking with a local credit union as I no longer trust or respect any bank.. Bank of America and Wells Fargo/Wachovia are the worst..check out the complaints against them on line it will scare the pants off you

  14. If Money magazine swears by these banks then It sounds good to me.

    Had an account with both TD Bank and Sovereign when they originally was called Commerce and Independence banks, started out very good relationship until they both sold out and became greedy money lusting theives.

    Won’t go there ever again.

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