It can seem at times as if everyone complains about their bank. The late fees. The paltry interest. The terrible customer service.
But there’s a difference between general grumbling and real problems—and the latter are when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is assigned to step in. The agency runs a database that logs official consumer complaints, after which the CFPB typically contacts the financial institutions and tracks whether the company responded.
Those complaints can add up. In 2017, consumers filed 42,094 gripes against 49 large banks, according to research from LendEDU, a company that runs a marketplace for student loans and refinancing. To rank the banks, LendEDU weighted CFPB complaints against a bank's deposit account holdings.
The worst offender? When it comes to CPFB complaints specifically tied to banking activity or services (as opposed to, say, a credit card), Minnesota-based TCF Bank remains sits at the top of the list, LendEDU found. It's worth noting that the CFPB actually sued TCF last January, claiming the bank tricked customers into signing up for expensive (and often unnecessary) overdraft protection program.
LendEDU also looked at all of the complaints lodged against banks—including disputes over credit card, mortgage and wealth management services. When factoring in that larger set, TCF was still the most complained about bank, followed by SunTrust Bank and Citizens Bank.
TCF—which has branches across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Colorado, Arizona, and South Dakota—said Wednesday it disagreed with the methodology of the LendEDU study, and that the analysis does not factor in the types of transaction accounts and the mix of retail versus commercial accounts between the different financial institutions.
"We take all customer feedback seriously and work with each customer to resolve their concerns in a way that meets their needs and takes into account their unique circumstances," a spokesman said, adding that when you look at TCF’s number of complaints relative to its total number of consumer accounts, the complaint rate is "extremely low." (LendEDU, for its part, says it uses total bank deposits as a weighting factor because the mix of consumer accounts is not readily available across the industry.)
Among those banks without any complaints was Montana-based Glacier Bank, which Money named as one of its 2017 Best Banks. Centennial Bank and Bank of Hope—largest Korean-American bank in the U.S.—were the two biggest banks (by total deposits) analyzed by LendEDU that received no complaints.
Complaints related to a bank account or service made up about 10% of the total submissions the CFPB received in 2016, according to the agency's own most recent report on consumer complaint data. About one in four of the consumers who filed complaints in 2016 about a bank account or service received compensation from the institution, the CFPB says, while about 76% of people received at least an explanation regarding the issue they called out.
While the CFPB does not verify all the facts alleged in these complaints, the agency says it does take steps to confirm a commercial relationship between the consumer and the company.