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For the love of banks?

By Claes Bell ·
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

In covering banking for Bankrate, I spend a lot of time thinking about what people don't like from their bank -- excessive fees, poor service, security problems -- but less time on what they do.

An interesting survey out this week commissioned by Ally Bank explored just that question. In honor of Valentine's Day, pollsters asked a random sample of Americans what they loved most in a bank. Here are the results:

  • 24 percent loved tight security.
  • 22 percent loved 24/7 live customer service.
  • 20 percent loved a large network of branches.
  • 17 percent loved competitive interest rates.
  • 9 percent loved a bank's interest being compounded daily.
  • 8 percent couldn't think of anything they loved in a bank.

One thing I would have expected to see on this survey was low fees. I'm not sure whether that just wasn't an option or whether people just don't care about it, but I know it's pretty important to me. If I start getting dinged for excessive fees, I either take it up with my bank and get satisfaction, or I move on. Maybe this will become more important to people as more banks drop free checking accounts, but I'm surprised it flew under the radar on this one.

I was also pretty surprised that security ranked first on the list. Maybe I'm just the trusting sort, but as a consumer, I've never given that much thought to a bank's security. That's not because it's not important to me, but I guess I've just always assumed that most banks insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. would have pretty good security.

But maybe it's just a function of my demographic; in the Ally survey, only 17 percent of those aged 18 to 34 put security as their number one priority in a bank. On the other hand, a whopping 31 percent of those aged 45 to 54 ranked security first. Some other interesting demographic tidbits:

  • Age: Americans 45 and older appreciate security most, while those in the 35 to 44-year-old age bracket identified most with 24/7 live customer service.
  • Income: 26 percent of respondents making more than $100,000 per year love competitive interest rates most, while 24/7 live customer service tops the list for those making $35,000 or less per year.
  • Household size: Those with three or more people in their house said they loved the 24/7 customer service banking feature best (27 percent), compared to those with two or one (16 and 22 percent, respectively).

So what do you look for in a (banking) partner? Is security the top priority for you, or is it something else?

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Erica R.
February 11, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I know I did, but maybe it's because I use online banking ahead of everything else. I do want to make sure that who I use offers good online protection, and has safegaurds in place to keep my money as safe as possible. Soundness of the bank should be somewhat secondary as long as the funds are FDIC insured. Even if the bank fails, my funds are backed by the FDIC and I won't lose anything.

February 11, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I'm glad Claes clarified further down in the article. When I read "tight security", I thought of Internet security of their online banking and how well they protect our information (like lost laptops and such). The regulatory-type view of "security" as the "soundness" of the bank hadn't even crossed my mind. Any others read it that way at first?

Marcie Geffner
February 10, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Interesting. It looks like no one statistically significant mentioned "loving" their bank's website, online banking or mobile banking. Maybe technology just isn't warm and fuzzy like security or a live person.