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Customer anger at bank fees fading?

By Claes Bell · Bankrate.com
Friday, April 19, 2013
Posted: 11 am ET

A new study released Thursday by J.D. Power and Associates seems to show that more than a year after bank transfer day, the day when consumers were supposed to switch to more consumer-friendly banks, Americans' frustration with larger banks is beginning to fade.

J.D. Power grades consumer satisfaction on a 1,000-point scale. Overall, large banks increased their score from 743 in 2012 to 759 in 2013. While that's still lower than customer satisfaction with midsize banks, which also increased to 785 out of 1,000, the gap has narrowed somewhat.

The improved performance of large banks in the study may be due in part to diminished anger over bank fees. Last year, consumer satisfaction with bank fees dropped to 609, following the outpouring of consumer anger over Bank of America's attempt to charge a fee for using debit cards. A year later, it's up 14 points, or a little more than 2 percent.

"Sentiment around the big banks is not as negative. We ask questions around their brand image, and those are going up," says Jim Miller, senior director of banking at J.D. Power and Associates. "I think the big banks are doing a better job listening to their customers and improving their service levels."

Customers may also be feeling less anger over bank fees because they're getting better at avoiding them in the first place. A third of customers say they understand "completely" how their bank charges fees, up 7 percentage points over 2012. The number of customers who say they don't understand their banks' fees at all has also shown improvement, falling from 15 percent last year to 11 percent this year.

Beyond bank fees, big banks seem to have improved on service as well. In recent years, customers at the nation's largest banks have reported problems or complaints at a substantially higher rate than the industry average of 18 percent, but that's changing, Miller says.

"The percentage of customers that have a complaint or problem went down significantly at the big banks, especially at Citi, Bank of America and Chase," Miller says. "Now, the biggest banks have a problem incidence rate right about the industry average."

J.D. Power also found that bank customers are overall more likely to make a transaction via ATM, online banking or mobile banking than in years past. In fact, 17 percent of bank customers now say they use mobile banking, up from just 11 percent in 2012.

What do you think, big-bank customers, has your customer experience improved lately? How do you prefer to bank these days?

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1 Comment
David Krein
November 20, 2013 at 12:17 pm

The reason that the complaints are going down is that nothing gets done as a result of complaints about the fees. The documents that are issued by the bank about the new fees are long and written so as to be ignored because the banks do not really want an educated consumer. CitiBank issued statements last year that appeared to require a tie between credit cards and bank accounts online. All the linking of these accounts did was make it harder to manage all accounts online through a product such as Quicken. I had to separate credit cards and bank accounts to get that to work and, as my wife and I each have a separate card, I had to create two credit card IDs to manage those even though it was possible to link them in the past. Most credit cards and banks seem to take site lessons form the the team that built ACA. BMO Harris Bank fees continue to escalate for no reason,no additional benefit to the customer and, most often, poorly documented as to expectation. From an internet access perspective, Discover is surprisingly good but they will probably mess that up soon.