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What’s More Important: High Interest or Customer Service?

This article was written by in Banking. 19 comments.


Consumerism Commentary visitor Diane asked about the bank that is currently topping the list of high-yield savings accounts, OneUnited, which is currently offering 5.30% APY.

I wonder about that Unity Gold E-Savings at OneUnited at the top of the list. That is 1% better than Emigrant where I am now, which translates into $500/year. Have you heard anything about it? If I understand the website correctly they only credit the account quarterly. Anyone have any dealings with it?

I have no experience with OneUnited, so if anyone else does, please feel free to leave a comment. I’ve read that people have had poor experiences with customer support and ACH transfers are often delayed beyond the standard 3-day period. The account requires a $1,000 minimum initial deposit and interest is only earned when the balance is above $1,000. They do credit your interest quarterly, so you could end up losing a substantial amount of interest if you close at the “wrong time,” like right before the interested is credited.

How important is that? Are you willing to deal with poor customer service in order to receive one of the highest rates?

Published or updated January 29, 2008. 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, also known as Flexo, 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 him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar singlemomindebt

I went with ING despite the somewhat lower interest rate simply because of the high reviews for excellent customer service. When you’re talking about putting your money somewhere that is “out of reach” so to say (I can’t walk into the bank branch and yell at someone, haha), then I would rather go with a lower interest rate in the name of stress free financing/investing. With one of the others, I may have gotten a bit more interest, but the additional worry about something potentially going wrong wouldn’t have been worth it to me. I’m new to this whole online savings account deal (I know, behind the times), and worrying is my thing…no point in adding to it unnecessarily!

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avatar donna jean

“How important is that? Are you willing to deal with poor customer service in order to receive one of the highest rates?”

Customer service and ease of access and use is very important. I’m happy to be a loyal ING customer, even when the past year has flashed several higher rate offers at me because of their outstanding customer service when I’ve needed to reach them and because their site is so straight forward and easy to use.

I’m not a rate chaser — I want to earn a decent return, but I also want to feel good when I have to deal with the bank to get t my money. Having found what I want, it’d take a pretty serious better offer, backed up with very positive customer service reviews to make the switch.

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avatar don

I’ve been thinking about moving out of ING to get a higher rate, but that whole customer service thing is keeping me there for now. Although my local bank, Wachovia, now has a new savings account, Way2Save. 5% the first year and 2% the next two years with bonus of 5% of what you saved the first year (up to $300) and 2% each of the next two years. I am thinking about switching there if I find out that the 5% is locked in for 12 months. Plus a bonus …

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avatar vh

Nope. I don’t put up with poor customer service. Given two similar stores with identical products, I will pay more for good customer service. Given two similar stores with identical products both of which have bad customer service, I will do without the product.

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avatar juggler314

I ended up sticking with ING even after threatening to leave on more than one occassion (even going so far as writing to the CEO – although who knows who really reads that mail). The whole credit crunch and them tightening the belt on the lines of credit really pissed me off. I know it’s not the smartest thing, but for me, mentally, I’d rather overdraw my checking account for a few days between paycheck deposits than move money in and out of my “regular” savings subaccount, this way I don’t have to keep track of what I owe myself. I have better credit (by far) now than when I opened the account, yet still they slashed the line down to $25 from $1000, there’s been much discussion on this on various lists and many people were upset about it. Also they did this with no notice, many people had scheduled transactions rejected because of this.

Nonetheless I’m still a customer for the same reason Flexo uses it, the instant creation of essentially unlimited sub accounts is great, I keep track of many little debts that way. I have moved most of my emergency funds elsewhere where I earn higher interest though (cash funds that I just want to put away).

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avatar Rev

I am the same as most people above just with a different bank. I am stayed with GMAC because their customer service has been top notch. One of their call centers is in the south though and those southern accents can be tough :) But they have resolved everything quickly and painlessly for me.

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avatar Ryan

Depends on how much cash I have. An extra 1% of 1000000 would mean a lot, but 1% of 1000 wouldn’t.

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avatar ChristianPF

I left Emmigrant and moved to ING just for the reason that Emmigrant (at least my experience) was very difficult to deal with and ING has been great over the phone over the last few years… I am willing to lose the 1% or so in interest for the ease of use…

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avatar Mrs. Micah

Ryan makes a great point–at certain savings levels, the difference means more money than at others.

I think that if I wasn’t having to deal with the bank often, if they didn’t have fees and that kind of thing, I might put up with mediocre customer service. If I only call them twice a year, it’s not that bad. But at this point I’m not a call them twice a year person, so it really helps that ING and Wachovia CSRs have been great at helping me get things straightened out.

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avatar Brian

I usually err on the side of better customer service, although my requirements change based on what type of service they’re providing. I’m willing to shop at Nordstroms and pay more than at Macy’s because of the friendlier customer service reps and the better return policy. I invest with Fidelity, despite there being cheaper cut-rate online places, because I know that when I inevitably need help, I can pick up the phone and be talking with someone professional and knowledgeable within a couple minutes.

One of my lifelong credos is to vote with your wallet. I have friends that b**** and moan about “how crappy Starbucks coffee is”, but continue to spend $4 there a couple days a week. I currently use eTrade for high-yield savings but if I ever have a bad customer service experience I will definitely move my money somewhere else.

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avatar diane

Thanks to all for addressing this. As some have suggested it does depend on how much is in the account and also on how I plan to use this account. If it is just a holding account for occasional withdrawals customer service might not be as important as important as an account that is constantly used.
I wonder if any of your readers do actually have an account with this bank.

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avatar Lazy Man and Money

I always go with high interest. Customer Service is something that I very use with these accounts. I use the higher interest rate every day.

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avatar NoDebtPlan

I’m all for high interest, but I want service trumps it (unless the interest amount is significantly different). Thus, I’m sticking with ING for now.

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avatar Tom

This is a tough question and I think it really depends on the interest rate. If we’re talking 3.50% and 5.00% with bad service. I might consider the 5.00% because when I think of my money market account, I rarely have to contact customer support. Although it’s nice, it’s not completely a necessity for me.

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avatar Single Ma

In my opinion, customer service trumps every time. Of course, I want to earn the highest rate of return, but I have a low tolerance for BS. Furthermore, as long as there is competition, there is no one bank that can survive on customer service OR higher APY alone. There will always be a happy median.

With that said, I love ING and despise OneUnited. You can read about my (and others) disappointing experience here and here. I don’t care if their APY was 25%, I still wouldn’t give them MY business.

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avatar Ryan

Single Ma,

Let’s not get carried away. You’d be stupid not to take a guaranteed 25%. Investing only $1000 per month would yeild 1 Million dollars in less than 14 years.

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avatar Allison

I had joined FNBO during the spring of last year, when they had their 6% fixed APY going through September. After the rate changed, I noticed that customer service was getting worse. The couple of times I called about some online transactions, I was promised calls back with answers but never received them. In October/November, I moved. It totally wasn’t worth it.

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avatar Single Ma

@ Ryan – And you’d be stupid chasing a rate with a bank that won’t let you access your own money. I didn’t say I wouldn’t invest in a guaranteed 25% investment at all – keep in mind, we’re being hypothetical here so it’s really a moot point – but I said I wouldn’t put MY money in OneUnited even if their APY was 25%. This is based on MY experience with them in the past, so even a higher rate wouldn’t entice me. If you’re so inclined, then to each his own – but trust me, I’m FAR from stupid.

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avatar Esther

Aside from ING, I’ve also had a great customer service/banking experience with Schwab’s “investor checking.” I was impressed that their “banking concierge” (ha) called 2 weeks after I opened the account to find out if I needed any help or had any questions. Didn’t even try to sell me anything. Schwab’s unlimited credits for ATM fees also help :)

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