Consumers Say Credit Unions Offer Better Rates Than Banks

For a second year, credit union members feel that they receive better service and more competitive interest rates than consumers who have accounts or personal loans through retail banks. ACSI’s annual study on financial services shows banks down 2.6% for customer satisfaction to score 76 on a 100-point scale. Meanwhile, credit unions—with membership now surpassing 100 million—are second best among all ACSI industries with a high benchmark of 85.

ACSI’s findings coincide with record-high fees for checking accounts, but banks are actually collecting fewer fees than ever before. Consumers are becoming more adept at avoiding extra charges, but another strategy may be avoiding the big banks altogether. While the structure of credit unions allows for fewer fees, CUs still provide superior service in nearly every area, from transaction speed to Web banking.

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Indeed, consumers looking for free checking are much more likely to find it at a credit union. For interest rate competitiveness, customers put CUs ahead of banks by a wide margin of 13 points. The only areas where banks outpace credit unions are number and location of ATMs and branches. While this is not surprising given the more localized nature of credit unions, this may be an area that the industry could focus on improving, especially as membership continues to swell.

The Washington Post: Why Customers Are Less and Less Happy With Their Banks »

Denver Business Journal: Rising Fees Hurt Banks’ Image, but Consumers Happy With Credit Unions »

Albuquerque Business First: Study Finds Credit Unions First in Customer Satisfaction »

Credit Union Journal: CUs Still Enjoy High Customer Satisfaction: But Have Levels Peaked? »

Health Insurance and Airlines: Close Partners for Dissatisfaction

Few industries have offered less satisfaction to consumers over time than commercial airlines, but now health insurers find their policyholders nearly as disgruntled as air travelers in the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s annual study on Finance and Insurance industries. While subscription TV and Internet service providers earn the very lowest ratings among 43 industries in the Index, health insurers share a berth close to both airlines and social media among ACSI’s bottom five.

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Among the three insurance categories in the study, health shows the biggest decline in policyholder satisfaction, down 4.1% to 70—the industry’s lowest ACSI score since 2005. The satisfaction history of health insurance, however, reveals a record of lower performance than other insurance types. Claims processes are more complex, but also more frequently used, which means there are more opportunities for things to go wrong. High premiums, along with deductibles and co-pays, may feel as hard on the wallets of consumers as shrinking legroom is on passengers’ knees.

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But the adverse effect of higher cost on satisfaction this year stems primarily from employer-provided group policies, which are by far the industry’s largest segment. Satisfaction with group policies tumbles 7% to a very low benchmark of 67 whereas individual policies are unchanged at 74. If the industry were evaluated on group policies alone, customer satisfaction would dip below airlines.

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Nearly every aspect of the customer experience for health insurance policyholders has deteriorated over the past year—several by 5% or more. Consumers are much less pleased with prescription drug coverage, as well as coverage of standard procedures. They find it more difficult to submit claims and are frustrated when dealing with call centers. While bright spots are access to primary and specialty care, the industry falls well short of the customer experience offered by other insurance types.

Download ACSI Finance and Insurance Report 2014 »

CBS MoneyWatch: Americans Put Health Insurers on the Hate List »

PropertyCasualty360: Report: Consumers Reasonably Satisfied With P&C Insurance;
Health, Not So Much »