ING Direct Review

Click here to start saving with ING DIRECT!Several years ago, ING Direct made a name for themselves when they introduced the Orange Savings Account. At the time, the concept of an online savings account was as foreign as its owners, Dutch-owned ING Group, and many folks wondered if the offer was a scam. At the time, I know my credit union’s savings account APY was sub-1% and here ING was offering 2.60%! It was unheard of!

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2007 J.D. Power Satisfaction Ratings in Finance

J.D. Power & Associates puts out annual customer satisfaction surveys in all types of industries from automobiles to finance to insurance to travel (and many more in between). When they published their annual scores for finance companies late last year, I wanted to write about it to see how some of the companies I work with performed against their peers.

Author’s Aside/Note: I know it’s a little late but this one had been sitting in the hopper and I felt that I should post it anyway.

The Finance category itself is broken up into retail banking, mortgage related, and credit card groups. At the time I first wrote this, I didn’t think the mortgage ratings were that interesting so I skipped over it. I chose to focus on the two services I used more – retail banking and credit cards. While I don’t discuss the mortgage ratings, go check out how well Countrywide Home Loans did (hint: not well). 🙂

Retail Banking

The Retail Banking scores were rated based on geographic region:

  • Mid Atlantic: Commerce Bank (Bancorp)
  • Midwest: Commerce Bank (Bancshares)
  • Southeast: Bancorpsouth Bank
  • Southwest: Wachovia Bank
  • West: Bank Of The West

If you happen to have a Commerce Bank nearby and are a current customer (and you have kids), they’re running a summer reading program where kids can earn $10 for reading ten books.

Online savings account darlings WaMu and HSBC made appearances on the list as well (I looked primarily at the Mid Atlantic listing because that’s where I live, I suspect the scores are similar for the same banks). WaMu scored four points in overall satisfaction (with the highest score of 5 points under the Fees category) and HSBC scored three points. This past weekend we went to a wedding in Williamsport, PA, home of the Little League World Series, and saw scores of Sovereign Bank branches. Sovereign Bank scored a mere two points overall (and across the board). It was also funny to see M&T Bank’s whole name written out, Manufacturers & Traders Bank; I use them for my business banking and they’ve kept me very “satisfied.”

Credit Cards

In the Credit Card Satisfaction category, American Express edged out Discover for the highest rating in overall satisfaction and received the JD Power & Associates award. I personally use the American Express Costco TrueEarnings card because because I shop often at Costco and because it gives me 3% cash back on gasoline purchases (we also use a Discover Open Road card but that card caps rewards). My wife used to like their AMEX Blue card but it was recently replaced with the Citi CashReturns card because of the unlimited 1% cashback (and it once offered a 5% cashback on everything for the first three months).

The three companies that led up the rear with two points (out of five) were Capital One, Bank of America, and HSBC. I’ve never had a credit card from any of those companies. It’s interesting that when you arrange them by Overall Satisfaction (by clicking the sort arrows), HSBC appears below Bank of America. Bank of America has 2 points in all five categories while HSBC has three points for Rewards Program yet still appears below BoA. There must be some granularity within those points not captured somewhere.


Finally, the investment broker category was the last of the categories I was interested in and it was broken into Full Service Investment Firm Ratings and Online Investment Firm Ratings. Raymond James took home the award in the Full Service Category and Scottrade (barely edging out Vanguard) took top honors in the Online Investment Firm Ratings.

I thought it was interesting that the only other “discount” online broker that made the list (TradeKing, Zecco, and many others didn’t make the list) was E*Trade Financial and they scored only two points.

With it being August, the 2008 ratings should be coming out soon in a few months. It’ll be interesting to see how much shifting around occurs with some of these scores.


High Yield Savings Accounts at 20 Largest Banks

Despite what I wrote in Beware False Indicators of Bank Health, there is a certain amount of comfort in having a physical bank location to go to. A few years ago, a physical brick and mortar bank meant that you weren’t ever going to get close to a high yield saving account’s interest rates. However, several national brand name banks have begun offering high yield online savings accounts in order to compete for your deposits.

I used the list of the 20 largest banks, according to FDIC information current as of May 2008, and only found five banks that offered high yield savings accounts. I was surprised not to see Washington Mutual (3.75% APY) on the list of the largest 20 banks.

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WaMu Online Savings Account Rate Increase: 3.75% APY

WaMu was acquired by JPMorgan Chase in 2008 and this rate is no longer available. For the latest on bank rates, check out the best high yield savings account rates page.

I just received an email that Washington Mutual will be raising the interest rate on their online savings account from 3.30% APY to 3.75% APY. This beats the rates found at FNBO Direct and HSBC Direct. It’s also a sign that interest rates are headed up. (FYI, FNBO’s top rate isn’t a “promotional offer” and has no set expiration date, HSBC Direct’s rate is a promotional offer and is set to expire in September)

With inflation heading upwards, the rate was 1.0% in June 2008, it’s getting more and more likely that interest rates will also move upward to counter. The Fed doesn’t like high inflation rates and will counter with increasing the funds rate, which will in turn increase bank’s interest rates. Whether or not that’s good for your pocketbook in the long run remains to be seen, there are simply too many factors pulling at one another, but a higher bank interest rate is better than a lower bank interest rate.

Update: For some reason I thought FNBO and HSBC were at 4.50% and mis-typed 3.50%, they’re not, they’re at 3.50% and now they lag WaMu.


HSBC Direct 3.50% Rate Extension: Sept. 15th

HSBC DirectHSBC Direct recently sent out an email to account holders notifying them that the 3.50% APY promotional rate was being extended an additional month to September 15th. The email is a bit silly, it’s obvious that customers like higher rates for longer periods, but the rate is good. 3.50% APY is among the best in the nation and one of the largest from a reputable, brand-name bank.

Is it worth it to transfer funds from one bank to another for this rate? Probably not, but opening a new account doesn’t cost you anything (no minimums, no fees) so you could always put new savings into this bank. I have several of these high yield accounts and when I’m looking to save, I simply transfer from my checking account to the bank with the highest rate. This leaves me with several online bank accounts and goes a little against the simplifying my personal finances concept, getting the best yield is worth a little extra headache.

Dear JIM,

Customers like you have told us how much they love our big fat rate. And as far as our customers are concerned, we can’t give them too much of a good thing. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

* You’ll keep earning 3.50% APY* on all balances in your Online Savings Account.
* That’s 9x the national savings average.±
* Deposit more now to take full advantage of our great rate extension.

Now’s the time to watch your savings grow. So deposit more today.

Deposit more now Sincerely,
Kevin Martin
Executive Vice President,
Head of HSBC Direct U.S.

 Personal Finance 

Fully Fund Your Emergency Fund Now

EmergencyThe New York Times recently released a great series about consumer debt called The Debt Trap. One common thread in several of the videos is the devastating effect “emergencies” can have on your personal finances. A medical emergency, a job loss or cutback in hours, all of these emergencies were weathered, in the short term, with credit cards. In the long term, the credit cards charged high interest rates, piled on fees, and made it extremely difficult to recover. It’s like telling someone to pause for five minutes in the middle of a foot race so that you can strap on a 100 pound rucksack. You might catch up, but probably not.

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Best Online Banks: It’s Not Just About Rates

Hand Painted Piggy BankA few years ago, the only high yield online savings account available was ING Direct. Their rates blew people’s minds. Until then, the only way to get that type of interest rate on an essentially 100% risk-free asset was to lock it up in a 60-month CD. Even today, check out the rates for CDs of your local bank and you’ll be hard pressed to find one under 60 months that comes close to beating the rates of high yield online savings accounts.

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 Banking, Personal Finance 

E*Trade Rate Increase: 3.30% APY

E*Trade just sent out an email notifying us that the interest rate will be increasing from 3.15% APY to 3.30% APY, effective tomorrow, July 2nd. This takes their interest rate from 6x the national average to 8x the national average. This is a better rate than both ING Direct ($25 sign-up referral bonus) and Emigrant Direct but less than the 3.50% APY available from HSBC Direct, but that rate is only guaranteed through September 15th.

There’s no mention of how long this rate will be active but E*Trade is on an upward rate trend, as are other banks, and there’s no indication this is a promotional offer.

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