How Can Banks Win Your Business?

Take a moment and think about your bank or credit union.

  • What do you like most about it?
  • What do you hate about it?
  • Why did you choose it in the first place?
  • Finally, what would another bank or credit union have to do to get you to switch?

This week, I was checking out a Filene Research Institute study by industry expert Ron Rubin that explained what financial institutions can do to win the business of the under-30 set. By 2020, our generation will represent of 40% of our country’s workers, and banks need our earnings to survive. The report shows, for example, that we manage our money and choose our financial institutions differently than previous generations.

We’re more likely to bank online. 22% of consumers under 30 use an online bank as our primary banking institution.

We either foolishly loyal…or just lazy. Although painful fees and uncompetitive interest rates turn us off, these factors are unlikely by themselves to get us to switch.

Word of mouth really matters. “Online banks enjoy the highest rate of recommendations compared with other types of institutions. Not surprisingly, more than half of the under-30 set indicate that the reputation of their online bank was a key motivator in opening the account, and over 40% say a recommendation from a friend or family member played a role in their decision.”

Rubin goes on to make recommendations to banks and credit unions looking to win younger customers. He suggests, for example, that banks take $1 million or so they would use to build a new branch and instead invest in their website and online services like remove deposit capture.

I think he’s on the right track. If a bank wants to win my business, I’d tell them to:

  • Make your Website beautiful and simple to use.
  • Make your Website do absolutely everything short of dispense cash: Deposit checks, apply for accounts, log and resolve errors, etc.
  • Pay me an interest rate that isn’t a slap in the face.

Some online banks like ING and FNBO are on the right track. Of course what I’d really love is if a neighborhood credit union could offer the same. But I want to know what you think—what do you want to see in a bank that could convince you to switch?

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


  1. When a bank will give me cash rewards on my debt card, a good rate on my savings, and lots of free ATMs, I might switch.

  2. I use Bank of America for my primary bank, and meet the criteria for both my savings and checking account there to be fee-free. But I only keep a small amount in savings there as backup for my checking…I use ING as my main savings account. I have no complaints about them either. If you are responsible with your money and aware of the terms of your account there is no real reason to think about your bank much at all.

    • David Weliver says:

      Thanks for sharing, Honey. Sounds like a lot of people I know…BofA and ING ;)

      Knowing how BofA charges to use other banks ATMs (in addition to that ATM’s fee), and little fees for some other things, I’m surprised I don’t hear more complaints, but then again, I’ve never had a checking account with them…

      • Given how many ATMs they have (there are at least 3 walking distance from my work and one at the grocery store half a mile from my house) I have never had a problem accessing cash (though I only withdraw about $20-40 each paycheck anyway). It was actually harder to find an ATM I could use to withdraw the money from ING when I did that once.

  3. Maybe I’m old-school, but customer service is still incredibly important to me. That and the fee structure. For those reasons I still stay true to my credit union. (a fairly large Credit Union with $2 billion in assetts and over 200,000 members) I use a combination of that and ING and I find both of those institutions are very competitive in both fee structure AND more importantly provide superb customer service. Also, using a fairly large credit union means they have the resources for a brand new website, rewards for debit card use, and can go toe-to-toe with most major banks.