Consumers considering changing banks may want to check out a new web tool set up by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL). The Shopper's Guide to Better Banking, released on Monday, allows consumers to rank their existing or prospective bank by answering questions about their checking account practices, credit card terms and cash advances.
“Consumers can’t make good choices without good information,” Kathleen Day, spokeswoman for the Center for Responsible Lending, told MainStreet. “The tool was designed to offer guidance on how to select a bank that best fits your needs.”
Day explains that prior to the financial crisis consumers were subject to the whims of big banks who felt no pressure to make their offerings more competitive.
“Banks would shrug off customer complaints and say ‘well, if you don’t like it, you can take your money elsewhere,” she says. “The problem is all banks were offering identical products.”
Now, as a result of The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 and financial reforms, there are some differences between these institutions. Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) for example, chose not to charge fees incurred through overdraft protection after other banks, such as CitiBank, stopped doing so.
The tool enables consumers to more readily identify these disparities by asking a series of questions concerning the fine print of a bank’s terms and conditions. Users give the bank a negative rating (red flag) or positive one (green flag) for each feature, and then rate their bank's overall performance at the end.