Reader Wonders About ING Direct

Tanja’s got a problem: as she rapidly hurtles forward through time and space towards retirement, the dread madness of financial responsibility has begun to engorge her brain.

Her company doesn’t offer a 401K; she doesn’t think she can afford an IRA. So when ING wrote her, offering a high yield savings account, she was interested. They offered her no fees, no minimum balances, 24/7 access to her cash and three times the interest rate she’s currently getting.

But the air has a whiff of too-good-to-be-true about it. “We’re back again to ‘Who are these people and do I want to trust them with my money?’” she writes. “Then I thought of you guys. If anyone would know the skinny on whether this is a reputable bank with which one would feel comfortable entrusting their money, it would be The Consumerist.”

We had to disillusion you, but we don’t know anything about making money, Tanja. That’s why we blog for a living. Still, we can say that another Tonya loves them. Our commenters loved them too.

In addition, MyMoneyBlog seems to like them quite a bit, and they note that ING’s interest rate continues to go up on a regular basis. The commenters there are quite happy with the service too.

On the other hand, it seems that the guys over at FatWallet think that ING Direct has really fallen behind in competitive interest rates.

And the last thing we can do to help you, of course, is simply ask for feedback from our far smarter and savvier readers than royal ‘we’. So consider it done.

Do you guys like ING Direct? Can you help a hot middle-aged mama like Tanja out?

PS: Tanja completed her email with the line: “Help me, Ben Popken, you’re my only hope.” Apparently not, since the ‘other guy’ put this together for you.

Comments

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  1. thesilentnight says:

    I’ve been using ING for roughly a year and a half. Before that I resisted on some advice of a friend who felt she wasn’t getting the promised interest rate. I was skepitcal but at the time it was tough to argue with an interest rate that was well over what I was making in my checking account at that time. Because there are no banking locations I was nervous but I don’t worry anymore. Every banking account should be insured and direct deposit helps. You’ll need a checking account outside of ING since they don’t offer that so look for a bank that is farily forgiving with little or no balance required and higher checking interest rates. Oh, and the interest rate at ING goes up pretty much every month. It may not be the highest for internet banking but usually local banks don’t even come close. Setting up the account isn’t painful. Of course you have to provide the obligatory personal information. They deposit two small amounts in your checking account and then you login and tell them the amounts. This verifies your account and then you are good to go. Customer service has always been pleasant, especially when you forgt your account number, etc.. Oh, if you’re thinking about opening the account make sure you get someone with an account to refer you. If you deposite enough money initially (I think $200 or more) you’ll get $25 and they’ll get $10. Not bad considering most local bank accounts would take a year to earn as much in interest.

  2. robyns says:

    That’s funny, Ben Popkin is my only hope, too!

  3. My wife and I have been using ING for the past 6 months or so and so far so good. The interest rate is higher than any bank would ever give a schmuck like me and it’s super easy to move funds around. And yes, the interest rate has risen steadily since we opened the account…if only my stocks did so well…Anyway, it’s an FDIC insured bank so you have nothing to worry about…that is unless you are putting more than $100k in the account, in which case you have too much money and I’d be happy to take some of that off your hands…

    Opening the account should have been painless, but I made a mistake on the account number (gave them the savings instead of the checking…only one number off) and it was impossible to fix the problem over the phone or on the internet for some reason. I had to write a check for $1 from the checking account and snail mail it in to ING. Once that debacle was over it has been smooth sailing ever since. Hold times on their CS lines have never been more than 5 minutes for me, and usually I’m connected to a person immediately.

    I would also mention that ING has a great mortgage refinance program as well. They only offer ARMs, but the closing costs are nil.

  4. Ben Popken says:

    Bill writes:

    “I’ve used ING Direct for roughly 3 years and love it. The rates are competitive, although as you noted some other banks are offering higher yield accounts. However, their customer service line has bene helpful the two times I’ve needed to talk to them, they use an opt-in model for other solicitations, and they provide two versions of their privacy policy – the legalese and the English translation.

    Overall I highly recommend them because they are a joy to do business with, unlike my previous Internet bank, which decided we wouldn’t have access to our money for 3 weeks while they upgraded their software or something like that.

    Also, if she knows someone who is already a customer, she can get a $25 bonus if she signs up via referral and makes a deposit of $250 (the referrer gets $10).

    And finally, if you change Ben Popken to “Obi-Wan Kenobi”, it might jigger a memory or two.

    Keep up the good work!”

  5. Ben Popken says:

    Mike writes:

    “I’m not an invited commenter, yet, but had a couple of thoughts on ING Direct.

    I was starting the process of opening an ING Direct account last week as a matter of fact, and had a question about joint accounts that I didn’t see answered on their website. I called their 800 number and was rather surprised to be connected directly to a real human being without having to surf through any annoying menus (other then the standard ‘this message will be recorded bit’). The CSR I spoke with was great – answered all my questions and pre-registered some of my information so when I went to the website, most of my info was already there and opening the account couldn’t have been any easier.

    So far, so very good.”

  6. KevinQ says:

    My experience pretty much matches that of most of the other commenters here. Good interest rate (ING was recommended to my by my investment advisor), easy to use.

    But once you’ve got a good chunk in there, you’re probably going to want to look at other investment options. A standard savings account (even one with an interest rate like this) probably won’t get you enough to retire on.

    K

  7. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    I joined ING direct about 2 months after a friend had recommended it to me. I couldn’t be happier with that account or their service. It’s really top notch. In 2 months my interest rate has gone up from 3.99% to 4.35%. It’s close to the rate of most CDs.

    Their website is awesome, everytime you log in they ask you for your password, pin number and a random security question like “what is your zip code”, “what are the last 4 digits of your SSN”, ect.
    They also provide a keypad for entering your pin number via the mouse. This seems incedental at first, but if you realize that most information stealing spyware relies on keylogging, you can see that entering your pin through mouse clicks makes it much harder to log. Even if someone was recording your keystrokes, the PIN keypad and random security questions make it much harder for them to get your account information.

    If you are wondering what the catch is with ING, and why they offer such a good interest rate, it’s because money you deposit isn’t immediatly available for withdrawl. You have to wait a week I think, before you can withdraw that deposit. This only goes for recent deposits. For example if I deposited $200 3 weeks ago and $500 yesterday. The most I could take out this weekend would be $200. I’d have to wait another week before I could access the most recent $500 deposit.

    This buisiness model lets ING accuratley predict how much money they’ll have week to week giving them much better knowledge of what they have to invest. Thus they can reward you with higher interest rates. It’s really a win win situation.

  8. Jay says:

    Quick note about ING’s interest rates: FatWallet is right that they’re no longer competitive. Online-only savings accounts are available from HSBC at 5.05% and Citibank at 5.0%, both of which are much higher than ING’s current 4.35%. Both have no minimum deposit, no minimum balance, and HSBC has no other account requirements (Citibank makes you open up a checking account). So while ING is certainly a reputable bank, I’d stay away from them right now if for no other reason than you can get an identical account with higher interest rates from HSBC.

  9. gte910h says:

    ING is great. Occascionally they raise the rate your money is stored
    at. Takes a couple days to get it out, but a little non-ing savings is
    really all you need to get you by. Put any other non-invested money in
    the ING account.

    btw, make sure you just go directly to their website, don’t go from a
    link in an email unless you knew you’d be getting the referral from a
    friend of yours: The email may not REALLY be from them, with all the
    phishing going about today.

    I don’t believe you need an invite, then again, that’s how I joined. If
    you do need a referral, I’ll be happy to invite any consumerists who’s
    like that.

    –Michael

  10. Mauvaise says:

    I’d like to personally thank the “other guy” for posting this for me.
    You rock my socks off! Or you would if I wore socks, but it’s going to
    be 113 today and socks …well, I digress.

    I appreciate the links, comments, and additional information. I feel
    much better about giving strangers on the internet (so to speak) access
    to my money. I was right – you guys are the best.


    Tanja

  11. Myron says:

    I’ve used ING Direct for a savings account for at least 3 years now and I highly recommend them.

    Back to the original problem, I don’t understand why the poster can’t afford an IRA. I think they are pretty cheap to open at Vanguard etc. As nice as the savings rate is at ING, for long term, retirement investing you would do better with an equity index mutual fund. You should be able to get 8-10% long term.

    Put short term savings/emergency funds in ING Direct and open an IRA at Vanguard for you retirement savings.

  12. GrantGannon says:

    ING is perfect for an emergency fund, but not for long term investing. The return you get on this account or any other online savings account is half of what you can expect to earn in a solid portfolio of mutual funds.

    As for the interest rates, yes ING isn’t the best but I am going to stick with them anyway. The ease of transfer is simple and I don’t feel like going through the process of setting up another account elsewhere.

    I don’t plan on keeping more than 3-6 months of living expenses in my account once it gets to that point. The amount of interest gained in a 4.35% account vs. one that makes 5.05% is marginal.

    Everything else is headed to a Vanguard mutual fund after that I reach my desired emergency fund level.

  13. Gari N. Corp says:

    In response to Jay above, I’d just like to note that HSBC’s customer service is abysmal, although a lot of their terribleness is housed at their retail locations. Their phone people are just…meh.

    I have to say that since I’m thinking of closing down my HSBC accounts and moving my checking to a joint account, ING sounds like a pretty good place for a rainy day fund.

  14. etinterrapax says:

    We love our ING savings account too. I actually had to talk my husband into it, as I recall–his savings account from before we were married was paying a whopping 0.45%! Last year when we bought a house, we also got an Orange mortgage, and they were a pleasure to deal with throughout the process. They quoted us a very good rate initially, and called us about once a week after that to tell us they were reducing it. And the closing costs were a tenth of what I know other people to be paying.

    HSBC may have a slighly higher savings rate, but they’re on my shit list right now because they wouldn’t honor my (very reasonable) request for a lower credit card interest rate. So they’ve lost their opportunity with me for the time being.

  15. ModerateSnark says:

    If Ben Popken is Obi-Wan, than John Brownlee must be his padawan… Oh, oh…

    No, wait. Brownlee can’t possibly be that much younger than Popken… So he’s not Darth… Hmmm… Lesssee, heeerree… Not a gay robot… Not a Queen… Mace Windu would be a pretty good choice, though maybe too old and not very, well, Irish… Let’s see, a foreign influence from far, far away who helps young Ben… Oh, no. Brownlee CAN’T be Jar Jar Binks, can he? No! I’ve got it! Brownlee is THE FORCE itself! Hooray for Brownlee!

  16. RandomHookup says:

    ING is great if for nothing else than the referral fees they pay you to sign up and get your friends signed up.

  17. Ben Popken says:

    Chris writes:

    “Have to say I use and like Emmigrantdirect.com. They have a 5% return on their savings account and you can get CDs for 5.35% right now. You choose the maturity date (6mos to 10yrs).

    Just my 2 cents.”

  18. Mauvaise says:

    To Myron & Grant,

    I suppose it’s not so much that I can’t “afford” it, but I know very
    little about IRAs, except that I believe (I could be wrong) that they
    have a risk where you can actually lose money. I don’t have enough
    saved that I feel I can take that risk as even the thought of losing a
    couple hundred makes me wince.

    I am not intending ING to be a long term investment, I just don’t have
    “expendable” cash to use for long term investing, nor do I have the
    slightest idea how to start once I have enough cash (based on the 3-6
    months living expenses in an emergency fund ING account).

  19. Myron says:

    Mauvaise,

    Investing can be intimidating and there is a lot of jargon that gets thrown around. To better understand your options and create a plan, I recommend you buy a personal finance book such as “The Wall Street Journal Complete Personal Finance Guidebook.” Also, you can probably find helpful information about IRAs and retirement investing at the Fidelity and Vanguard websites.

    While you figure out a retirement strategy, go ahead and open an ING account. It has zero risk and a reasonable return.

    While learning about investing keep in mind a simple rule: If it sounds to good to be true it probably is. Stick with boring investments and beware gurus and friends who brag about how much they made in real estate, gold, tulips, etc.

  20. Ishmael says:

    I’d say Brownlee is more like Yoda, and Ben would fit the role of Luke. A patient teacher and a scrappy young man who occasionally needs a thwack with a stick. Give it time, Ben. You’ll get the hot redhead in the end.

    Tanja, I recommend iwillteachyoutoberich.com for investment advice. You have to be willing to do some legwork, but Ramit gives some solid ideas.

    ING seems to really have their business together. They used to handle the 401(k) for my company, and it was easy as cake to deal with them. We’re with Citistreet now, and it’s more like banging your head on a brick wall, but what do you do?

  21. thwarted says:

    ING rules. Their interest rate is always going up and their website is fairly easy to use (as long as you don’t lose your customer number or PIN).

    It does take a few days to transfer money from ING to your checking, but that’s my only complaint.

  22. ModerateSnark says:

    Ishmael– I don’t think Brownlee has been in Ireland quite long enough to talk as funny as Yoda, but you might be onto something. Ben’s gotta be Obi though. “Only hope,” “Old Ben,” “Young Ben.” Now if he can just get his Oozinator to emit a semi-solid yard-long glowing gooey shaft, he’ll have an ooze saber.

  23. dyanflores says:

    I can’t offer any insight about their banking services, but the ING physical location in New York is one of the only places you can get Peet’s coffee in the city.

  24. RandomHookup says:

    Mauvaise–

    IRAs are much more flexible than people think. You can do an IRA or a small mutual fund account. Many times you don’t have to put the whole amount allowed ($3k for most investors, I think) Can you lose money? Sure, except for guaranteed returns (CDs, savings accounts) that’s always the case. Talk to someone in a neighborhood bank to get a feel for what your options are. You need to know more before you can make a decision.

  25. GrantGannon says:

    Mauvaise

    There is going to be risk involved in any form of investing. If you are looking towards retirement and it’s more than 10 years away I would suggest the following course of action.

    1. 401K – If your company matches, invest up to the maximum you can that they will match. It’s a 100% return from the offset.

    2. After you maxed a 401K do a Roth IRA. Pay your taxes now, not later. You can contribute up to $4000 this year and next.

    3. Once you’ve done the max Roth contribution I would stick to mutual funds (Vanguard is a good place to start).

    Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to get an ETrade account and pick stocks, you’re better hitting up a casino or the powerball.

    Mutual Funds, and the stock market as a whole, have shown consistent gains for the entire existence of the stock market over the LONG TERM. Fretting over your retirement investments on a day-to-day, month-to-month, or even year-to-year basis will get you no where.

    You’ve got to commit to an investment plan and stick with it.

    All of this can be done on your own, over the Internet. No good reason to go to a personal financial advisor and all their pesky fees.

  26. dyanflores says:

    Are you able to easily transfer money from your ING savings account to a checking account with another bank?

  27. officedrone4 says:

    Emigrant Direct all the way.

  28. Billifer says:

    I’ve been an ING customer for several years now and have honestly zero complaints — no small feat for any financial institution, as I’ve bitched at or about Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Union Bank of California, San Diego County Credit Union, Fifth Third Bank, Citibank, and the list goes on and on and on. But ING Direct? No complaints ever.

    Linking my ING account to my primary checking account is easy (fill out and fax a form) but whenever you close a checking account and need to unlink an account, that can be slightly difficult and potentially require a phone call to customer service — but they’re very helpful and friendly, and answer very quickly.

    I’ve even got my ING account linked to my PayPal for transfers. I haven’t actually tried making a transfer, so I don’t know how well it’ll work but it’s theoretically possible since it does have an ATA (routing) and account number.

    They pay a hell of a lot better interest than any savings account, and the refer-a-friend bonuses are nice.

    Transfers from my ING account to my checking account at my credit union usually complete within 24-48 hours. I’m surprised it’s so fast, actually.

    ING’s security features are also very nice. The login procedure requires three pieces of information: customer number (not account number; you can have joint customers on an account), a randomly-selected piece of personal info (e.g., first 4 digits of SSN, last 3 digits of ZIP code), and a series of 4 letters that are generated from your 4-digit PIN. Other than a smart cart or one-time password system, I can’t think of a more secure system.

    I give them a 9.8 out of 10.

  29. Ben Popken says:

    Matt writes:

    “I’ve used ING for 3 years now, and I’ve found them to have better website security than any other bank I’ve ever used. Your money’s totally safe behind multiple passwords, a smart use of cookies, and a clever keystroke-defeating PIN pad that always changes. Also, not once have I seen the site go down, not even for maintenance. I don’t think it’s ever even been slow. I wish more banks were as on top of internet customer service as ING.”

  30. jackyl says:

    I had an account with ING for two years but I quit doing business with them, because they cheated me out of interest, then would not make restitution. I’m not the only one who had problems with ING. Check out the comments under “ING Electric Orange…” at bankaholic.com.