Financial Service Firms That Treat You Like a Star
Kiplinger's Personal Finance|December 2020
As a personal finance publication, we spend a lot of time evaluating the numbers when we recommend financial institutions and their products. We spotlight banks that offer high-interest rates and low fees on checking and savings accounts, and we note credit card issuers that provide ample cash back or points on everyday spending. When you’re in the market for a mortgage, we encourage you to shop for a low-interest rate, and we advise you to regularly compare premiums on home and auto insurance policies. // But many would argue that exceptional customer service is just as important as low fees or competitive interest rates. An insurance company is worth its weight in gold if its agents are responsive and fair when you’re dealing with a damaged car or home. A mortgage lender that helps pave the way to a smooth close on a home purchase can save you a lot of headaches. And banks and credit card issuers with strong customer service teams can quickly put a lid on fraudulent activity or other problems with your accounts.
LISA GERSTNER

That’s why we’re introducing our rankings of large companies with the best customer service in four categories: banking, credit cards, mortgages, and home and auto insurance. We started with 10 large companies in each of those categories, then crunched a lot of numbers to determine the champions. We conducted a national survey of current customers to gauge their experiences with the companies and identified the top five based on the results. For each of those businesses, we considered consumer complaints made about the institutions to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). We also evaluated the companies’ responses (or lack thereof) when we contacted them to pose questions as a potential new customer, and we reviewed their mobile apps to get a sense of their digital prowess.

Then we pulled it all together to give each company a score and award medals to the overall first, second, and third place winners in each category. We’ve also chosen the companies with the best digital capabilities in each category, based on customers’ ratings of their digital services in our survey as well as our own reviews of their mobile apps. And we delved deeper into our customer satisfaction survey to see which firms stand out for high net-worth customers as well as those in certain age groups. (For more details on how we made our selections, see the box on page 70.)

BANKS

GOLD: Capital One

SILVER: TD Bank

BRONZE: Chase

Best Digital Tools: Capital One

Whether you have a checking account, savings account, certificate of deposit, or line of credit with a bank, you want its customer service department to come through when you need help. For example, if you suspect that a criminal has unauthorized access to your bank account—which can cause serious and urgent complications, especially if funds you need for everyday expenses disappear— quick and decisive action is a must. Banks with great service should readily assist with any other issues or questions that you have, too—say, arranging transfers or resolving difficulties with deposits or withdrawals.

Capital One, which has increasingly shifted its focus to its online banking segment in recent years, clinches first place in our bank ranking. It was a top scorer in our customer service survey, and it far outperformed many of the other finalists when we phoned the company to pose questions as a potential new banking customer. Some other banks had no apparent contact numbers for new customers or directed callers to visit their website or a branch to open an account. Capital One, however, had friendly, knowledgeable agents available both times we called.

Survey respondents scored Capital One’s digital capabilities more highly than those of other banks, and that, combined with our own review of its mobile app, pushes Capital One to the top in our digital category, too. The app is clean and uncomplicated, and it provides features and details important to bank customers. You can view recent account balances, transactions, and statements; deposit checks; transfer money; receive an instant notification when your debit card is used for purchase; find a nearby branch or ATM; lock your debit card so that no one can use it to make purchases in the event you lose it or suspect fraud (you can later unlock it), and find contact information to call Capital One’s customer service line.

On the downside, the volume of consumer complaints to the CFPB about Capital One’s banking services were high relative to the bank’s share of the market. Problems with managing an account (such as difficulties with making deposits and withdrawals, using an ATM or debit card, or accessing an account) and closing an account composed the majority of complaints. And we would have liked to see more options for ways to contact the company within the app.

TD Bank, which has branches in 15 eastern states and Washington, D.C., takes second place. It performed well in our survey, and it was one of a handful of banks for which we were able to get a customer service representative on the phone at least once when we called with a few questions as a potential new customer. Its mobile app can be a bit difficult to navigate—for example, from some screens, you have to go to the menu and then hit the home link to get back to the opening screen—but it has a clean interface and packs in plenty of features for bank customers, who can check their balances and recent transactions, deposit checks, set account activity alerts, lock and unlock their debit card and more. If you need customer service help, you can try using a virtual assistant through the app, call a customer service line—with live agents available at all hours— or connect through social media. Complaints to the CFPB about TD mostly involved trouble with managing an account (including difficulties with making deposits and withdrawals or using an ATM or debit card) and problems opening an account.

Chase, our third­place winner, is a big bank with branches spread across 38 states and Washington, D.C. Chase was a high scorer in our survey, and it had one of the lowest complaint levels compared with its share of the market among our bank finalists. As with many other banks, problems with deposits and withdrawals and using an ATM or debit card were major causes of complaints. We docked some points from Chase because we were unable to reach a representative on the phone when we wanted to ask questions as a potential new customer.

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