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Ally Bank Review

In mid-May, GMAC Bank changed its name to Ally Bank [3]. With General Motors in the news every day for something negative, it’s hard to do business when everyone thinks you’re about to go out of business. The funny thing about it all is that GMAC Bank’s parent company, GMAC Financial, hasn’t been a part of General Motors for several years. When you have financial companies in distress and auto companies in distress, a bank that people think is inextricably linked to auto company is in some deep trouble.

So, they changed their name.

But are they a good bank to do business with? Let’s find out.

History Lesson on GMAC

If you are confused with all the acronyms and relationships between businesses, you aren’t a lone. I was very confused. GMAC stand for General Motors Acceptance Corporation and was once a wholly owned financial services arm of General Motors, the auto manufacturer. The financial services company provided financing to GM dealers, among other things. In 2006, General Motors sold a majority stake in GMAC to Cerberus Capital Management, thus providing some separation in the GM and GMAC relationship. Last year, GMAC was converted to a bank holding company to give them access to TARP funds.

GMAC Bank is a subsidiary of GMAC Financial Services, which offers a whole host of other financial products. This year, in May, GMAC Bank changed their name to Ally Bank.

Whew! Hopefully that all makes sense, but the end result is that Ally Bank/GMAC Bank is part of GMAC Financial Services, which is separate from General Motors itself and has been since 2006.

Rates are out of date. Compare today’s high yield savings account rates [4].

FDIC Insured

First things first, always confirm that the bank is FDIC insured. I would never bank at a non FDIC/NCUA insured financial institution and neither should you. Ally Bank is FDIC insured under FDIC certificate #57803 [5] and have been since August 2004. The FDIC certificate still lists gmacbank.com as their primary internet web address but that will redirect you to the Ally Bank homepage. If you’re curious, their headquarters is at 6985 Union Park Center, Midvale, UT 84047.

Bankrate Safe & Sound rating: I don’t put a tremendous amount of credence in bank ratings because I believe FDIC insurance trumps everything, but they are valuable to read so you know what you’re getting into. Since the reports are quarterly, the most recent one is from December 2008, which is arguably a little dated. Back then, they still had a three star rating (out of five) and their predictive indicator was positive. You can read the memo for GMAC Bank here [6]. I didn’t find a more recent report.

Online Savings Account

Let’s get to the reason why you and I care about Ally Bank in the first place, their deposit products. Ally Bank’s high interest rate on their high yield savings account is pretty good, enough to snag one of the top spots on my table of high yield savings account rates [7] (Everbank is listed higher with an asterisk because they offer a promo rate for three months). The minimum to open is a comedic $0 (they will close your account if you don’t fund it, but I’d read that to say “no minimums”) and there are no monthly fees.

One thing I do like seeing is the explicit listing of a limit of six withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle. This limit is true on all savings accounts because there is a six transfer/withdrawal limit mandated by federal regulations [8]. So many people, myself included, run into this problem with online accounts and it’s mostly out of ignorance. It’s nice to see them inform people about it.

No Penalty Certificate of Deposit

They’ve been heavily promoting the fact that they have no tricks, with no fees, no minimums, and all sorts of other anti-gimmick messages. It’s a great angle, especially during a time when banks are trying to earn as much revenue as possible, but a lot of other banks have very low minimums and don’t have any maintenance fees. In that respect, they’re not that much different. However, they do have one unique product – a no-penalty CD.

The no penalty CD lets you withdraw your money without paying a penalty, which is usually several months worth of interest. On CDs shorter than 12 months, the standard penalty is three months worth of interest. On CDs greater than 12 months, the standard penalty is six months worth of interest. For the no penalty CD, the penalty is in fact $0. The difference is in the interest rate.

In May 2009, they offered a 9-month No Penalty CD at 2.50% APY and a 9-month regular CD at 2.60% APY rate, a difference of 0.10% APY (the rates have since changed). That translates into $0.75 on ever $1,000 deposited over the 9 month period. Seventy five cents doesn’t look like a lot, but to be fair you need to compare it with the interest you would’ve earned at 2.60%. When you calculate the difference as a percentage of the total interest earned, it’s not a significant price to pay at 3.86%. You lose a little under percent to gain the flexibility to cancel, it doesn’t seem too bad and would be a fair price if you think interest rates are rising.

The only downside with the no penalty CD is that the only term they offer is 9 months.


It’s FDIC insured, they have great rates compared to their peers, and they seem to be in sound financial shape. I don’t have an account with them but I’ve heard good things about people who opened GMAC Bank accounts because of their great rates. I don’t see anything that would stop me from banking with them.

Do you have a GMAC Bank/Ally Bank account? What do you think of them?