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CNN Money’s 8 Least-Evil Banks

This article was written by in Banking. 24 comments.


Out of the eight “least-evil” banks, as ranked by a staff reporter for CNN Money, I am a customer of two. Everyone who makes financial transactions of a regular basis or handles money in any form should have a checking and savings account at a solid bank that doesn’t attempt to charge its customers exorbitant fees. Although free banking is slowly becoming extinct and there is a good chance that choices for free accounts will become more limited in the next few years, you can still find a good banking institution to work with now, even if that might be a credit union.

Here are CNN Money’s picks, with some of my thoughts.

Ally Bank - Online Savings, Pretty Rate1. Ally Bank. Last year, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine declared Ally Bank as the the institution offering the best savings account. I’ve had accounts at this bank since May 2009, and I have not yet come across a problem. Ally was originally GMAC Bank, but the parent company, General Motors, undertook a major rebranding campaign that put Ally Bank in the spotlight. Open a High Yield Savings Account at Ally Bank.

2. ING Direct. There is nothing I can say about ING Direct that hasn’t been said. It is the gold standard of online savings banks. I’ve had accounts here for almost a decade, and my accounts include the Orange Savings Account, Electric Orange Checking with free bill-pay, and Business Savings. When I had a paycheck for direct deposit, the Electric Orange Checking served as the gateway to my savings. Now, most of my income is delivered directly to my business savings account at ING Direct. (Ed. note: ING Direct became Capital One 360 in 2013.)

I have limited experience with the remaining six accounts listed by CNN Money. If you have any thoughts on the evilness of these banks, let us know by writing about them in the comments below. For the rest of CNN Money’s picks, continue reading this article.

3. USAA. CNN likes USAA’s free checking account and notes that the account isn’t just for military families anymore. I’ve heard countless positive reviews from readers about USAA, I will likely join later this year to share a more in-depth review.

4. Capital One. I know Capital One mainly as a credit card issuer, but the parent company merged with North Fork Bank, taking over those branches in New Jersey and New York. Again, CNN Money points out the free checking account makes this bank worthwhile. The article warns that the bank charges a $2 fee for using other banks’ ATMs — when the bank that owns that ATM will also likely charge a fee. If you have a convenient branch, however, this might be a good option to consider.

5. Alliant Credit Union. In our upcoming podcast interview with Liz Weston, we discuss credit unions and their advantages over banks. Although this credit union is based in Illinois, anyone can join. There are plenty of fee-free ATMs that communicate with this account throughout the country. If you live in Illinois or are satisfied with the lack of a local branch, CNN recommends this credit union.

6. PNC. PNC has many branches in the area where I live, and many of my friends have accounts here. Like the others listed, PNC offers free checking. If you need to use another bank’s ATM with your PNC account, the bank will reimburse any fees you pay the ATM’s owner, as long as you maintain a minimum balance of $2,000 in your account. That might turn some customers away, but I wish this feature of ATM fee reimbursement were more popular.

7. The Incredible Bank. This is the first I’ve heard of this Internet-only bank. It offers a higher interest rate than most other online banks, but I am wary of banks that show up out of nowhere, offering a rate that other banks can’t touch, in order to attract a flood of customers. Every time I’ve seen this happen, the bank has, after a while, dropped its rates to a more reasonable level, and have usually become non-competitive with other, more established banks. Incredible Bank doesn’t really come out of nowhere; it is the online branch of River Valley Bank. It’s been common lately for traditional brick-and-mortar banks to develop online branches whose branding is significantly different than the parent company’s.

8. Charles Schwab Bank. If you open an investing account at Charles Schwab, you will also have access to a free checking account. This is an interest-bearing account linked to your brokerage account to make buying stocks and other investments easy. Like PNC, Schwab will reimburse the fees other banks charge you for using ATMs.

I have my favorite online banks. What are yours? Do you have any experiences with the above?

CNN Money
Evil photo: scragz

Updated May 23, 2013 and originally published January 26, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Money Beagle

I’ve got accounts with both Ally and ING. No wonder I’m so happy all the time *LOL*

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avatar MR ♦295 (Nickel)

I’ll have to look into one of those banks (I’m tired of ATM fees from my small local bank)!

I’ve had an account at Charles Schwab since my teenager days. So most likely, I’ll start with them or Ally.

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avatar Bobka ♦13 (Newbie)

USAA is a very user friendly bank. One feature that I really like allows you to scan and transmit your checks for deposit from home. Also, their ATM fee refund policy is very generous. I’m glad to see them on the list.

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avatar Kyle

I love ING. I’ve had a savings account there for years. Ally has good rates, but I don’t like them because they treat their affiliates like crap.

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avatar moneymatters ♦357 (Nickel)

I’ve got accounts with ING and Ally both, and have been pretty happy with both of them. After getting charged a bunch of fees at my bricks and mortar local bank, I’m also thinking about opening an account with Perkstreet Financial soon for a rewards checking. I’ve heard good things about them.

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avatar Raymond Sawyer ♦120 (Cent)

I have online accounts with EmigrantDirect (ED) and ING. I love them both but ED is my go to account. They typically have better rates although this fluctuates all the time with ING. If possable (if you live near one) I have an account with Banco Popular. Where I curentely have an Investors Checking account that earns just about 1%. This is a great rate for a bank that is just down the street incase you need money now.

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avatar skylog ♦368 (Nickel)

well, i am in for only one. i have been nothing but pleased with ING for the past 7 years. no problems. no complaints. i am in a PNC “zone,” but i have never gone with them. i have many friends who are pleased with their accounts there, but i have never had a reason to make the move. i am happy with another bank in the area.

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avatar Holly

Reminds me of the commercial of the rocker recording his track: “I really love my bank!”

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avatar tbork84 ♦1,867 (Half-Dollar)

Through the multitude of bank mergers that occurred in the last decade I ended up with Bank of America for a short while. After that I was more than happy to switch to ING.

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avatar Will @ HackingTheBank.com ♦258 (Nickel)

Ally is currently the only bank on the list that I use. I’d love to see one for B&M banks only. Always on the prowl for a good one in that department.

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avatar Robert @ The College Investor

I have used USAA for over 10 years, and their products and services keep getting better. I love no ATM fees, and I really love Deposit at Home, where you can deposit your checks using the scanner on your computer (or even your iPhone!).

What I dislike: they don’t pay very high yields on their savings accounts (even the ones they call “Performance”) and they are extremely risk adverse in lending, and as such, their rates for everything (auto, mortgage, etc.) aren’t very competitive.

I would do everything with them if it weren’t for those last few things.

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avatar cubiclegeoff ♦896 (Dime)

Depends on the loan rates. They offered me a lower rate than a car dealer (the brand I was looking at has no 0% offers unfortunately), and USAA’s was lower. And their mortgage stuff isn’t bad. But some of their rates, especially in regard to savings interest and fees for mutual funds and brokerage accounts aren’t very good.

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avatar eric ♦1,549 (Half-Dollar)

I once chased around banks but the headache wasn’t worth it. Now I’ve stuck to ING and am pretty satisfied. Now if only they had remote check depositing…….

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avatar TakeitEZ ♦549 (Dime)

I had an Ally savings account for a while and they were great. But they would not allow me to open an interest checking account due to my credit. I shopped around and found Flagstar Direct which allowed me to open both an interest checking and saving account with good competitive rates. I can’t wait until my direct deposit is switched to them from Bank of America so I can finally close my account with BoA.

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avatar tigernicole86 ♦55 (Newbie)

For the most part, I’ve heard great things about the majority of the banks on this list and I even have accounts with some of them. But I’ve heard not so great things about PNC(Previously National City haha!) from those who had accounts with National City. Basically they took the things that were no cost for them to implement and then raised the limits on certain things to make it worth them reimbursing those ATM fees.

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avatar cubiclegeoff ♦896 (Dime)

I use USAA because of ease and great customer service. Didn’t know they opened up beyond the military though, but it could make sense considering I’ve been seeing their commercials on tv, which is odd.

One thing I don’t like about ING is that their mortgages do not include any fixed rate. I think that’s odd.

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avatar Mandi Block

When is the Liz Weston podcast on credit unions?

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,550 (Platinum)

That episode is scheduled for February 6. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it!

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avatar Yana ♦218 (Cent)

ING and Schwab have been great for me.

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avatar Matt

I’ve been banking with USAA for over 10 years and they are awesome. The story doesn’t mention it, but they also provide a rebate each month based on the debit/credit card use. The rebate I get each month is usually more than the interest.

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avatar 4hendricks ♦248 (Cent)
avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

I have been with ING for a couple of years and really like it thus far. My fiance has been with USAA for years and years and has nothing but good things to say about it. Their “Deposit at Home” service is outstanding and their rates on auto insurance are hard to beat.

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avatar Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey

Interesting list. I’ve been an ING and Ally Bank customer for some time now. It’s curious to see the smaller name banks on here as well. I’ve never heard of The Incredible Bank of Alliant Credit Union before.

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avatar Johnny

LOL>.. “least evil…….. Capital One…..”

What a joke.

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