Looking for a new bank? Ask if it offers free checking. Look at the interest rates on savings accounts. Check for hidden fees. Make sure it has conveniently located ATMs.
Here's another measure: How often do clients complain about the bank?
Not just your friend popping off about having to wait too long to deposit his loose change. Formal complaints, the kind where someone took the time to navigate government bureaucracy.
Many of us do a lot of thinking about filing formal grievances. But we don't follow through. We move on, after the initial burst of indignation gives way. These folks were so ticked off they weren't deterred.
Last year, consumers filed 42,946 complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau against 73 of the country's big banks, according to the research team at LendEDU, which runs a marketplace for student and personal loans. The complaints referenced everything from customer service to debt collection to overdraft fees to credit cards.
Some banks have a lot more customers than others. To even the playing field, the LendEDU team created a rate: complaints per $1 billion in deposits.
"We wanted to help people make an important decision about where to bank," said Mike Brown, the research analyst at LendEDU who wrote the report.
So which banks have some explaining to do? Several with local ties were near the top of the list.
Fifth Third Bank was third worst, with more than seven complaints per $1 billion in deposits. SunTrust Bank was close behind in fourth. U.S. Bankcorp, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and PNC Financial all made the worst 10.
The No. 1 spot went to TCF National Bank, which, thankfully for us, does most of its business in Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan. TCF was worst the year before, too. No wonder, really. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued the bank in 2017 for what it described as "tricking customers into costly overdraft services." That sounds like something worth complaining about.
There weren't many banks with local ties that scored well, though some of our banks were too small to make the list. Two, however, got perfect scores.
LendEDU could not find any complaints against Florida Community Bank, based in Weston with a few local branches. Same for Hancock Whitney Bank, which is based in Mississippi but has several branches in our area.
Despite being bigger than more than half the banks on the list, Hancock Whitney had zero complaints for the second year in a row.
"It's impressive," Brown said. "Zero complaints really says something about a bank's clients and its level of service."
Contact Graham Brink at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @GrahamBrink.
Banks with the most Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaints* (2018):
1. TCF Financial Corp. (TCF National Bank)
2. Citizens Financial Group Inc.
3. Fifth Third Bancorp
4. SunTrust Banks Inc.
5. Comerica Incorporated
6. U.S. Bancorp
7. Citigroup Inc.
8. Wells Fargo & Co.
9. Bank of America
10. PNC Financial Services Group
* Complaints per $1 billion in deposits.
Source: LendEDU, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau