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Three Cornerstone CUs Make Top 15 of Consumer Reports
Wednesday, December 16, 2015 6:55 AM

Credit Unions Overall Top Banks in Customer Satisfaction

In its January 2016 issue, took an in-depth look at financial institutions and the people who use them. Its article "Choose the Best Bank for You" rated banks and credit unions based on reader scores, which reflect overall satisfaction with the banking experience of 49,188 Consumer Reports subscribers who answered the 2014 Banking Survey and provided 70,920 banks and credit-union ratings.

A reader score of 100 meant that all respondents were completely satisfied, while a score of 80 meant very satisfied, on average, and 60 fairly well satisfied. The categories cited for comparison in the survey were customer service, bank communication, consumer complaints, and fees.

Three Cornerstone-affiliated credit unions were among the highest rated across the country.

  • Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union came in at number one with a whopping reader score of 95.
  • Coming in at the 10th highest rating was Security Service Federal Credit Union with another very high score of 93.
  • At 15th position, EECU came in with an equally high reader score of 93.

The survey cited the pros and cons by type of financial institution: credit unions, primarily online banks, smaller community/traditional banks, and mega banks.

Among the pros for credit unions, the survey noted, "Credit unions are among the highest-rated services we've ever evaluated, with 93 percent of their customers highly satisfied, on average, vs. 69 percent for the four biggest national banks. That satisfaction is driven by good customer service, not surprising when you consider that credit unions are owned and managed by their members."

The survey also noted that "unlike profit-making banks, credit unions are tax exempt. Members usually have access to free checking, slightly higher interest rates on certificates of deposit, and significantly lower rates for credit card and auto loans. About 80 percent of credit unions offer free checking vs. only about half of conventional banks, according to Moebs Services, a bank research firm in Lake Forest, Illinois."

In comparing fees, the report noted that, on average, credit union members pay annually only $71 per year for checking, while bank customers pay $183, according to a study of all transactions and fees in more than 16,000 banks and credit union accounts.

Among the cons, the survey said, "The average credit union has only three branches; some larger ones have many more. But the members of 3,500 credit unions can access account information and cash through systems such as the CO-OP network of 30,000 fee-free ATMs. And members of certain credit unions can also use a network of 5,000 branches nationwide that have tellers. Internet banking is another option, but credit unions tend to trail banks in their digital offerings."

The report went on to say, "Another inconvenience: Membership eligibility is limited because credit unions are often linked to an employer or a group. But community-based credit unions have more relaxed rules, and almost anyone is potentially eligible to join a credit union somewhere."

The survey found more than 60 smaller banks and credit unions that provide compelling alternatives for customers dissatisfied by or uninterested in big banks.

The four mega banks ranked as some of the lowest in the survey. Chase received a score of 81, Wells Fargo and Citibank 78, and Bank of America received a 75. The 45 smaller traditional banks received scores ranging from 91 to 66; and the eight primarily online banks were rated from USAA's 95 to E-Trade Bank's 84.

By comparison, the 45 credit unions ranked from Randolph-Brooks' top-rated 95 to an East Coast credit union's score of 86. The credit union industry's lowest scoring CU in the survey beat the highest scores of the mega banks and most of the smaller traditional banks as well.