NEW YORK — Bank of America retail customers are the least satisfied among clients of the biggest U.S. lenders and the most likely to defect to competitors, according to a Harris Interactive poll.
Nine percent of people with Bank of America accounts were "not at all likely" to continue to use the Charlotte, N.C., lender, the survey shows. That is triple the rate of JPMorgan Chase customers and 50 percent more than Wells Fargo.
Bank of America angered some customers when it announced plans to charge $5 a month for debit card use. The bank dropped the fee this week after Chase and Wells Fargo abandoned the tactic. Other new fees, including those for checking accounts, may push clients to credit unions, said Carol Gstalder, an executive vice president at Harris Interactive.
"Our data says that banks absolutely should be worried," Gstalder said. "People know banks are looking for new ways to make up the revenue gap. This may be the start of a tipping point where, long term, we may see numbers of people making a move."
The results highlight challenges that lenders, especially Bank of America, face in retaining customers. Ten percent of the firm's clients surveyed were "not at all satisfied," compared with 2 percent for JPMorgan and 7 percent for Wells Fargo. When asked how lenders are "valuing you as a customer," 42 percent rated Bank of America as "fair" or "poor," compared with 30 percent for both JPMorgan and Wells Fargo.
Nonprofit credit unions, which are owned by members, had the best scores in the Harris survey, with no respondents saying they were highly dissatisfied. More than 70 percent of credit union users were highly satisfied, compared with 27 percent for Bank of America, 31 percent for JPMorgan and 34 percent for Wells Fargo.
"With the credit unions, you're feeling part of a broader membership," Gstalder said.
Traffic on a website run by the National Association of Federal Credit Unions surged about 350 percent last month and some of its members tripled new accounts in the third quarter, said Anthony Demangone, the organization's chief operating officer.
'"It's not a surprise," Demangone said. "People are starting to see that this model has very strong points that are pro-consumer."