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CD Complaints: How Do Banks Rank?

hand holding a magnifying glassSince the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began taking banking complaints two years ago, more than 1,700 savers have griped about their experience with certificates of deposit.

So we decided to take a look at the complaints in the bureau’s public database to see which banks and credit unions consumers have had the most problems with.

Just as we found when we looked at this data more than a year ago, the big banks accounted for many of the complaints. But – as the chart on this page shows – community and regional banks, online banks and credit unions of all sizes have drawn savers’ ire.

It is unsurprising to see names like Wells Fargo and Bank of America at the top of the list. The amount of CD money these banks have on deposit dwarfs that of smaller banks.

Wells, for example, has about $85 billion in CD money on deposit. There’s bound to be a complaint or two along the way.

So it’s probably unfair to judge based on the number of complaints alone. But perhaps inclusion (or exclusion) from this list can be added to the criteria you use when deciding whether to open a CD at a particular institution.

We notice, for example, that a number of banks that regularly appear on our CD Rates Leaderboard have no complaints at all.

So what are people complaining about anyway?

A huge majority of the complaints fall under the category of “Account opening, closing or management.” The bureau says this category addresses “issues such as confusing marketing, denial, fees, statements and joint accounts.”

Unfortunately, we don’t get any more detail about the complaints, so this database isn’t nearly as useful as it could be.

For example, the basic description of the complaint doesn’t give enough information for most of us to be able to form an opinion as to whether a particular bank had an isolated issue or if there’s a systematic problem.

But we could get a lot more information in the future. That’s a good thing.

The CFPB this week proposed a new policy that would let consumers share a written narrative when they file a complaint. That narrative would be included in the public database. This feature would be available for all the financial products and services the bureau includes in its database, not just CDs.

“Publishing consumer narratives would provide important context to the complaint, help the public to detect specific trends in the market, aid consumer decision-making and drive improved consumer service,” the bureau said in announcing the initiative.

If you can learn through the narrative that Bank X has repeatedly screwed up the renewal of a certificate of deposit account, that makes you a more informed customer. And it may make you less likely to renew a CD at Bank X (or open one to begin with) as a result.

The bureau says it will remove personal information to minimize the likelihood the person complaining can be identified. Companies would be allowed to write a response as well.

The bureau says it has the support of consumer and privacy groups. Business groups “nearly uniformly” don’t want the narratives, according to the CFPB, which says something itself.

“By publicly voicing their complaint, consumers can stand up for themselves and others who have experienced the same problem,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a press release. “There is power in their stories, and that power can be put in service to strengthen the foundation for consumers, responsible providers and our economy as a whole.”

The bureau is currently accepting comments on its proposed policy.

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