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10 Most Complained-About Banks

In a little more than two years, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has heard from 33,000 people who have had big enough problems with their bank accounts that they sought government intervention.

We recently wrote about the problems savers have had with certificates of deposit.

But CD complaints actually make up a small portion of the banking issues consumers raise. Those issues are chronicled in a database the federal agency hosts online for public inspection.

So today we’re looking at the 14,000 banking complaints logged in the last year.

Checking accounts receive the bulk of the scorn, accounting for nearly three-quarters of the complaints since July 2013. CD problems, on the other hand, make up less than 5% of the banking issues reported to the bureau.

Complaints by banking product

Consumers said they’ve had trouble using a debit or ATM card, sending or receiving payments, problems caused by low funds (overdraft fees) and issues with deposits and withdrawals, according to a bureau report issued earlier this month.

Nearly half of all complaints, however, were broadly about account management, the report Consumer Response: A Snapshot of Complaints Received concluded:

“The most common type of bank account and service complaint relates to opening, closing, or managing the account. These complaints address issues such as account maintenance fees, legal processing fees for judgments and levies, changes in account terms, confusing marketing, early withdrawal penalties for certificates of deposit, and involuntary account closures.”

As you might expect, the largest banks in the country received the bulk of the complaints. But some regional powerhouses also piled up hundreds of complaints each.

As we mentioned in the story on CD complaints, it’s probably unfair to judge based on the number of complaints alone. Bigger institutions are dealing in bigger volumes – of customers, of money, of complaints.

So our chart below of the 10 most complained-about banks contains a second column showing where the institution rates in the top 50 largest U.S. banks by total assets, according to SNL Financial.

If the largest bank doesn’t lead in complaints, should it be looked upon more favorably? Should a smaller bank that has a comparatively large number of complaints be looked upon more negatively?

Perhaps you can use this as one measure in making a decision on where to put your money.

10 banks consumers complain about most

Bank # of complaints Size ranking
Wells Fargo 2,509 4
Bank of America 2,381 2
JPMorgan Chase 1,619 1
U.S. Bancorp 704 6
TD Bank 599 11
PNC Bank 588 7
Citibank 477 3
Capital One 415 8
SunTrust Bank 391 13
Regions 344 21

There were a couple notable big banks that didn’t rank among the top 10 in complaints:

Bank of New York Mellon is the fifth-largest bank but received the 35th-most complaints in the last year. BNY Mellon is primarily a financial services firm, which may be why it has logged so few banking complaints.

And HSBC is the ninth-largest bank but ranks 15th in terms of complaints. This British bank and financial services firm with U.S. headquarters in McLean, Va., has about 240 branches in 10 East Coast states and California.

One final note: The above list hasn’t changed much since we last looked at complaints in March 2013. Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase were ranked 1, 2 and 3 back then, too.

In fact, the only bank that appears on this list now that wasn’t on the list last year is Regions, based in Birmingham, Ala., with branches in 16 Southern and Midwestern states.

RBS Citizens, which made last year’s list, fell to No. 11 this year. Citizens is a British-owned bank with U.S. headquarters in Providence, R.I. It operates branches in 13 East Coast and Midwestern states.

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