This summer saw the biggest boom in home foreclosures since the Great Depression. Residential real estate markets across the country are in turmoil, with many homeowners facing the possibility of losing their homes to foreclosure. With this mass of foreclosed homes, financial institutions are being tested by the number of foreclosures they are responsible for. Banks are working hard to make good choices with the money of hard-working Americans. In order to serve their customers, financial institutions are conducting consumer research surveys.
Consumer groups have been gathering opinions from American consumers for years, but in the past few years, their focus has broadened to include financial institutions. The most over 72,000 consumers surveyed this summer provided their opinions on 158 different financial institutions, which include 70 traditional banks, 24 non-traditional banks, and nine solely online banks. They weighed in on several key factors, like customer service, wait time to see a representative, how convenient it is to use their site and debit card, and how well the bank’s mobile app and website works. Overall, financial institutions received positive feedback from consumers, who expressed satisfaction with branch management and professional staff.
One area that showed a difference in consumers’ opinion was credit unions and savings institutions. Both groups responded negatively to the idea of opening new accounts at traditional banks. However, savings clubs and credit unions seemed more open to the idea of offering new account customers alternative methods of banking. For example, one credit union manager noted that their members would be fine with opening a checking and savings account with an Internet bank.
Another factor that varied among different types of financial institutions was the interest rates offered to customers. Bank accounts are rated according to their “teaser” APRs, or introductory interest rate plans. Customers can also look into interest rate caps and teaser rates. This means that they can lock in the best interest rate after visiting the bank. Consumers should look for information on what the APRs and teaser rates are for any particular bank account they’re interested in.
Most financial institutions offer online banking, but some do not. Online customers should take time to compare the different features and benefits of different online banks. Many offer free, no-charge ATM online use, as well as online bill pay, investments, and savings. The best financial institutions out there also have branch service in every state of the country, so consumers can conduct business anywhere in the country they choose. They also offer direct deposit, direct access to a banking teller and customer service representatives who can answer any questions.
Consumers should also take a look at business operations and how those financial institutions work to ensure customer privacy. Banks should provide clear and detailed information on all deposit methods, which include credit cards, debit cards, electronic check deposits, wire transfers, etc. The best financial institutions work hard to keep their depositors and business customers’ information secure, confidential, and up-to-date at all times. Banks that make their customers sign non-disclosure agreements may be better options for small business owners looking to increase their available funding.
Businesses may also need to think about deposit accounts for their employees. Some financial institutions only offer limited employee deposit accounts, while others allow all employees to have accounts at all financial institutions. Employees will need to consider how easy it will be for them to get access to their own accounts and if the business will allow employees to withdraw funds from their accounts when needed. Some business operations may offer employee credit cards that can be used for everyday purchases or payroll. If a financial institution only offers one type of employee credit card, it may not be the best option for most business owners.
Most financial institutions offer a variety of deposit options, but some may specialize in certain investment products, such as certificates of deposit (CD), money market deposit accounts (MMDA), commercial paper CD’s, treasury bills, commodity investments, foreign currency deposits, bank transfers, and more. It is important to compare all deposit products offered by various financial institutions and select those that are best suited for a specific business or individual financial customer. Financial institutions are usually very reliable when it comes to conducting business, but there are always risks involved with any investment or financial services. Therefore, it is essential for anyone who is considering a financial institution for their investment needs to carefully consider all of their options and select the best one for their particular situation.