While reviewing Sallie Mae Bank’s online savings account, I realized how little the actual company behind the web interface mattered to me. I know, I know, the importance of choosing the place to store the majority of my liquid savings is critical. But when every company’s offering is just done through “software”, which for the most part, is the same, what other features could tip the scale?
So I did some thinking, and came up with a list. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these criteria is what could make a difference, and may help you decide next time you are thinking about adding or changing a high yield savings account.
- Yield – This is obvious, but it deserves another mention. Having the highest yield, after all, is perhaps the most important criteria for many of us. Some might say that the trend is more important, but now that I think about it, I disagree. With the speed and convenience of transferring money around, it’s too easy to just move your money to the account with the higher rate. If you are a rate chaser, all you have to do is find the few banks who always offers some of the highest yield and just interlink them so you can transfer money back and forth. When the rates change, just switch. Easy and simple enough.
- Customer Service – How I’m treated is beginning to become an important factor for me, and it’s not just because I want to be respected as a customer either. Every company will have problems, and when it happens to affect me, I want someone who is not only able, but willing to help me figure out a solution. To get a sense of this, contact customer service and look for signs that the person on the other side:
- is courteous and calm
- is thinking about my specific situation, instead of always trying to read off of a predetermined script.
- is available when I need them (hours of service, response time etc)
- Handling of Privacy Notices – Like it or not, financial institutions either share, or more likely, sell your information to other companies. Some, like Ally Bank, are more upfront about this practice and send you letters so you can opt out. Others never seem to tell you, but you know they do it when you start receiving junk mail even though you haven’t said yes to any mailing. You can read through the privacy notices in your welcome package, but that’s usually too late, as you already became their customer. If this is important to you, give the customer reps a call before you sign up. This way, you can kill two birds with one stone because you will get a gauge of their service level too.
- Past History – Bigger banks, while not always the best at offering personal care for every customer, has the advantage of having lots of customers. This translates to lots of reviews and opinions you can look up online to get a sense of how the services are before you sign up. The added bonus is that not only can you figure out how the current features are, you can also find out how it’s been in the past. Sometimes, you can even get a sense of how they’ve handled customer complaints, and how they’ve changed their offerings to reflect customer suggestions. Keep in mind that negative reviews usually causes people to voice their concerns, so don’t be alarmed if every bank seems to have more negatives than positives.
I’ve heard of people not wanting to do business with a company because of the CEO’s political views, the company’s advertising campaign, or even whether the company is foreign owned or not. While I personally don’t put much emphasis on these types of details into my decision-making process, I don’t think it’s wrong to base your decision on such matters either.
It’s your own money, and you should do whatever you personally believe is right. This is another personal choice, after all.