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How do people go about getting a feel for the soft features of financial service providers?

My biggest criterion in purchasing financial services, such as bank accounts or investment accounts, aside from the actually quality of the financial product itself, is the quality of the service provided to control my use of the product.

For example, online banking applications can vary a great deal, and often have features that aren't very useful. Bank Of America will allow me to download my transaction history, but they make me do it 1 month at a time, and as PDFs. It isn't as though it says this on any piece of BOA marketing literature, but it is something a smart, computer literate consumer will notice. Does anyone know of good sites to let us pool our various noticings?

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It is always a good idea if you are worried about customer service and hidden gotchas to visit http://getsatisfaction.com - they operate as an independent complaint board for many companies.

http://getsatisfaction.com/bankofamerica for example alerts you to many problems with using BofA.

In addition, googling for common complaint terms is a great idea. It's easy to learn why bank of america sucks and to see that not too many people think bank of america rocks.

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Excellent question. I'm not aware of one.

I was going to say "go visit some personal finance blogs" but then I remembered that I write on one, and that I often get a commission if I talk about online accounts, so unless something is really bad I'm not going to post on it because I want to make money, not chase it away.

This isn't to say that I'm biased by commissions, but among a bunch of online banks paying pretty much the same (crappy) interest rate and giving pretty much the same (often not crappy) service, I'm going to give air time to the ones that pay the best commissions. That, and some of the affiliate programs would kick me out if I trashed them on my blog.

This also would taint any site, blog or not, that does not explicitly say that they do not have affiliate relationships with the banks they review.

I suppose if you read enough blogs you can figure out the bad ones by their absence, but that takes a lot of time. Seems like you'd do all right by doing a "--bank name-- sucks" Google search to dig up the dirt.

That, or call up / e-mail / post on their forum any questions you have about their services before sending them your money. If they're up front, they'll answer you.

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