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How Banks Rate for Customer Service (From CHECKBOOK, Spring/Summer 2014)
Go to Ratings of 39 Bay Area Banks

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You might need to open an account. Or set up a savings account for your kid. Or get a certified check. Or get a new ATM card. Or get help retrieving your new ATM card from the machine that swallowed it. Or discuss obtaining a line of credit. Or figure out why your records don’t jibe with your bank’s. ATMs and online banking have largely eliminated the need to visit banks in person, but when you do need help from a human you want a bank that offers efficient, gracious, knowledgeable service. 

While many area consumers are highly dissatisfied with their banks, the news is not all bad: We’ve also found that you can still obtain high-quality service at some banks. Our Ratings Tables show the results from our surveys of area consumers (primarily CHECKBOOK and Consumer Reports subscribers) who were asked to rate banks and credit unions they have used “inferior,” “adequate,” or “superior” on the following aspects of customer service: “knowledge of staff”; “speed of service”; “pleasantness of staff”; “convenience of hours”; “reasonableness of fee policies”; “clarity of written communications”; and “overall service.” For each of these aspects of service, our Ratings Tables report the percent of customers who rated each institution “superior” (as opposed to “adequate” or “inferior”). We have reported results for all banks and credit unions for which we received at least 10 ratings. (For more information on our research methods, click here.) 

As you can see, at the time of our last full, published article, we found huge bank-to-bank differences in service quality. For example, for “knowledge of staff,” USAA Federal Savings Bank, First Republic Bank, Boston Private Bank & Trust, and Bank of Marin were all rated “superior” by more than 80 percent of their surveyed customers. On the other hand, Chase and Bank of America each received “superior” ratings for this aspect of service from fewer than 40 percent of its surveyed customers. 

You’ll notice that none of the area’s largest banks rates tops for service, and also that several small banks and credit unions got relatively high ratings. But not all small banks and not all credit unions scored so well: For example, Bank of Alameda was rated “superior” overall by only 38 percent of its surveyed customers. 

Even among the area’s largest banks, there is substantial bank-to-bank variation. For example, Bank of the West was rated “superior” for “overall service” by 68 percent of its surveyed customers, compared to 57 percent for US Bank, 45 percent for Citibank, 44 percent for Wells Fargo, and 35 percent for both Bank of America and Chase. 

Many banks received their lowest scores for “reasonableness of fee policies.” With banks relying increasingly on special fees to boost profits, before opening a new account carefully review the bank’s fees—and consider taking your business elsewhere if your current bank begins imposing unreasonable fees. 

Our Ratings Tables also report our count of the number of branches each bank has in the Bay Area, and in which parts of the area the branches are located. Keep in mind that locations open and close frequently. Also be aware that at many credit unions, customers can use “shared branches” to make deposits and withdrawals, transfer funds, etc. When we made our counts of branch locations for each bank, we did not take into account shared branch arrangements. 


Go to Ratings of 39 Bay Area Banks Back to top