Choosing a Bank: Where are the Epinions?

Traditional bank ranking systems, like those endorsed by the FDIC, are of limited use. We are sure services like Bankrate use a variety of unbiased metrics to determine the security and stability of the institution, the liquidity of the bank’s assets, the oh we just ate a whole ham while they were talking and then fell asleep.

There is a service out there that should be giving us what we want, though: Epinions. They have 201 banks in their Personal Finance Index, rated from one to five.

Two problems.

First, we are privy to the inner workings of the second-highest rated bank on the list, UMB National Bank of America, and can safely say that they hold between thumb and forefinger a china cup of Satan’s scalding spunk. But even without our scrying, why would we trust something as important as our money with a bank that has only been reviewed three times?

Here is our point, if we have one: If we don’t start seeing more real people talking about the experiences they have at their banks, how are we supposed to pick one? For us, knowing which bank branch has the friendliest tellers and the easiest web banking is much more critical than knowing how many months we have before our savings are lost to their inevitable corruption.

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  1. blather says:

    Best Line Ever: “…they hold between thumb and forefinger a china cup of Satan’s scalding spunk.”

  2. ducksauce says:

    Aren’t all banks horrible? Maybe most reviewers feel it useless to discern the subtleties of how their bank’s horriblness is different from the horribleness of every other bank.

    Just put your money in SPAM cans. Nobody will ever dare to look for it there.

  3. Nougat says:

    Bank of America has some shady online banking. They frequently have pending transactions disappear for a day, giving you an inaccurate available balance, then come back the next day posted to surprise rape you with overdraft fees for anything you spent in excess of your real available balance, but less than your inaccurate balance from the day before. You can be fine if you have plenty of money in your account and don’t skirt financial disaster like me, or if you check your balance every day religiously, possibly going so far as to record your transactions in a spread sheet, which kind of defeats the purpose of an online ledger anyway. In conclusion, Bank of America’s online banking is only safe for people not in danger of overdrafting.

  4. Okayplayer says:

    I’ve always listened to friends advice in terms of their experiences with thier banks… For me when I moved back to NYC, it was Commerece all the way… ATM Fee Rembursement (with over $2500 deposit) is amazing let alone the free pens and lolli-pops. And who doesn’t like tossing coins into the penny arcade. So for me, it’s about the banks interaction with the customer… If they’ve done my friend right in the past, I’m usually game to give them a go.

  5. Nick Denton says:

    Problem is that each bank has its flaws. Chase has good direct deposit facilities, which let you transfer money directly into an individual’s account, without additional fees. But you have to set up the transaction two days in advance, which seems stupid. And Chase’s online interface keeps booting us off. Also, Chase drives me crazy with their special offers on savings accounts, which is another topic.

    Paypal has a great online interface, and competitive interest rates on any balance. But there’s no way to deposit checks, and all significiant transfers end up costing money.

    I love Fidelity Investments for stock trading, and mutual fund positions. But there are only three branches in New York, and you have to pay for ATM withdrawals. Unless you use a WaMu ATM machine, and those are few and far between.

    ING Direct and CapitalOne give great rates on deposits, but nothing else.

    I’ve heard good things about E*Trade Bank, and it has a good network of ATMs. But poor integration with E*Trade stock trading, last time I looked, and you have to remember to keep envelopes around for depositing checks. And then you have to remember to post them. I always forget.

  6. Nick Denton says:

    Oh, actually, there are a few good banks that cover all the bases. But they’re in countries like the UK, Sweden and Estonia. It takes a foreigner to realize the incompetence of US financial services.

  7. PsycheSolace says:

    It’ll all be okay man. If you don’t like the banks, (and who does?) screw em over by using overseas banking. Or, if you don’t move around a lot it’s a good idea to find a local full service credit union. Still backed by FDIC, but not as many dumb restrictions. You technically “own” shares of the Union, so you get higher returns, good deals on loans, etc. Something to think about.

  8. Mike Panic says:

    I currently use ING Direct for savings, you can’t beat the intrest rate and if you can live with semi-liquid availability of funds, its great. Currently they pay 3.75% intrest with no minimum balance. My checking account happens to be with the same bank my work uses, so direct deposits are usually available within an hour or less.

    Other perks to my local bank – they have branches in a large chain of grocery stores and are open on Sundays.