A little while ago, I noted the interest rates offered by EverBank and decided to open the Yield Pledge Money Market Account to take advantage of the generous “bonus” interest offered in the first three months of holding an account. The account opening process, beginning on July 8th and two weeks later on July 23rd, was more of a chore than I planned, but there is an explanation for most of my dissatisfaction.
Initial online banking application
The beginning of the process was much like that for any other bank. I visited EverBank.com and proceeded to apply for my account online. The first step was to choose the account type. Everbank offers a number of products, including a money market account, a checking account, certificates of deposit, credit cards, and investment accounts. I like starting small, so I chose the aforementioned Yield Pledge Money Market Account, noting the $1,500 minimum deposit required to open the account. (Many online banks do not have any minimum deposit requirement.)
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After choosing the account, I provided my personal information. EverBank asked for the same information I usually see on other banking applications including Social Security Number and my mother’s maiden name as security measure. I was also asked to provide an additional security code and hint.
Everbank asked for my employer’s name and phone number, though they offered alternative responses such as self-employed, retired, homemaker, and student. I could not choose both self-employed and name an employer, so I named the company I work for during the day. Questions about employers are occasionally asked on banking applications, so this did not raise any concerns.
The next step required a credit check. Applicants can choose whether to allow an instant credit check during the application process or to delay this part of the process. I was anxious to begin banking quickly, so I authorized a real-time credit check. In order to further validate my identity, a number of questions were generated based on the information on my credit report and I answered all to satisfy EverBank’s requirements. Though I am starting to forget old addresses, employers, and loan issuers, I succeeded in answering the questions correctly. This is a common method for proving identity.
Having satisfied all of EverBank’s curiosity, or so I believed, I was offered with the options for funding my account. My initial $1,500 could be deposited with a written check or by bank wire. There were no ACH or EFT options provided to me. This would be explained to me later, but at the time of application, I was disappointed.
With modern online bank accounts, I expect technology to provide me with instant options. I expected the entire account opening process might take three business days at most, with the bulk of that time spent waiting to verify an external account for transfers.
I chose the check option, and wrote a check from my personal account. Note that I wrote the check for $1,500, the amount listed as the account minimum. If my average balance were to fall beneath this amount during any month, I would be charged a fee. I know this because EverBank required me to agree that I read about their rates and fees before continuing. Keep this in mind for later.
EverBank asked me whether I’d like to print the application or received an application in the mail within five to seven days with my information pre-filled. Again, this was too much paperwork for what is supposedly an online bank account.
Filing the application and troubleshooting
On July 12, four days after beginning the process, I received the pre-filled application in the mail. I signed and dated the documents, included my check for $1,500, and mailed the package back to the bank. I received no further communication for more than a week, when on July 20 I received an email to let me know that my application was received and my account had been opened, but I would not be able to access my account until I received a second package from the bank in the mail to welcome me as a customer.
After receiving this email, I expressed my disappointment with the account opening process here on Consumerism Commentary. This article attracted the attention of the bank, and on July 21, the same day I posted the article, I received an email from the Vice President of EverBank in charge of “acquisition marketing” at EverBank. He was concerned with the delay I was experiencing and he said he would look into my application to determine if there was a problem.
The next day, we spoke on the phone. This was Wednesday this week. He explained that my credit report showed that there is a business registered at my mailing address. Although there was a typo in the name of the business, there is certainly a registered business here, representing this blog and other internet development work. As I signed up for a personal account and there was a business associated with my address, that produced a red flag.
Due to the fact that my address is “mixed-use,” I was not able to take advantage of the ACH initial funding option or electronic signatures. According to the VP, most new account holders will not have to go through the lengthy process that I experienced.
I would be interested to hear from those who have had a smoother experience opening and funding their account. I do have to wonder whether I received attention from the bank that other customers without popular personal finance blogs might not receive. This story is not yet over, however.
Accessing the money market account
I received the welcome packet last night and used the information provided to access my new money market account online. Once logged in and viewing my balance, I immediately double-checked the fee schedule to ensure I would never be charged fees for maintaining this account. To my surprise, the minimum average daily balance for the Yield Pledge Money Market Account was now $5,000 instead of $1,500!
The welcome packet I received contained a schedule of fees that does not match the schedule online, which I linked to above and will link to again. At the time I am writing this — because anything can change — the PDF linked here lists $1,500 as the minimum average daily balance required to avoid a $4.95 monthly fee. The document I received in the mail lists $5,000 as the minimum average daily balance required to avoid an $8.95 monthly fee.
I hope that the mailed schedule of fees (with the higher minimum balance and the higher monthly fee) is older than and has been superseded by the schedule I see online. Here is visual proof of this discrepancy.
Does anyone else see the problem here? I’m preparing this article, like I do many for Consumerism Commentary, in the middle of the night. It’s unlikely that customer service is available to settle the dispute between documented fees, but I will update this article once I receive an explanation. Note: I have included an explanation at the bottom of this article.
Linking an external account for transfers
Anxious to ensure I was avoiding a fee for using an account in a banking environment in which it is so easy to find fee-free money market accounts, I immediately began configuring a linked external bank account to transfer $3,500 more into my EverBank money market account, which was looking decreasingly like a good account to maintain. I chose to set up a link between EverBank and ING Direct.
There were two options to create this link. I could either enter my ING Direct login information or wait for EverBank to deposit two small dollar amounts into the ING Direct account which I could then verify later. I chose the instant option, but ING Direct did not accept my login information as I entered through EverBank. I think this is related to ING Direct’s security policy that restricts other applications, like Mint and Quicken Online, from linking to ING Direct. (You can hear ING Direct’s chief operating officer Jim Kelly explain this on this coming Sunday’s Consumerism Commentary Podcast).
I resorted to linking the account via the slower deposit verification method, and it will be a few days before I can complete the process of adding to my balance.
Conclusion, thus far
I decided not to wait for the final transfer before writing this review. While I understand that it is possible that having a business registered at my address will raise warning signs to the bank I realize that EverBank’s anti-fraud policies have been successful for the company, the process has been inconvenient overall.
If you have experiences with EverBank, whether positive or otherwise, please feel free to share.
Update: Explanation of the minimum balance and fee discrepancy
On July 8 when I first accessed EverBank.com and began my application for the Yield Pledge Money Market Account, I was re-routed to a back-up or redundant server, and that server had not been updated with the latest fee schedule. With my luck, I managed to access the redundant server when I activated my online access as well. Perhaps this is due to my tendency to work late at night when redundant servers are more likely to be active while the main production servers undergo maintenance.
It was actually this post that brought the issue to the attention of the server administrators at EverBank. At 1:00 pm on July 24, the back-up server was updated to link to the new fee schedule, which includes the minimum $5,000 average daily balance and the $8.95 account fee.