One word of warning

A nasty experience, that I would like everybody to avoid if you can: A few months ago, my bank (NetBank) was acquired by a – by then to me – unknown bank called ING Direct. Having gone through this cycle a couple of time, I did not think a lot of it and trusted that this acquisition process would go as smoothly as the many I have experienced before. Boy, was I wrong.

During the acquisition process, we had our grand family vacation, and shortly after I had a couple of trips to California scheduled. During the vacation, my father-in-law passed away, and we had to arrange for travel and some fund transfers to Germany. The travel was quickly arranged, only the – otherwise perfectly simple – international wire transfer was suddenly impossible with this new bank. Over the course of a few weeks (during which I was not able to sit down at home and sort things out), the quality of service degraded steadily from good (prior to the acquisition), through horrible (prior to the complete conversion) to street robber courtesy (after the conversion to ING Direct).

Here is an example: with NetBank, I had a checking account and a money market account. Simple, nothing fancy. After the ING conversion, I ended up with two savings accounts, no ATM cards, and no checks. Transferring money from either of my “Orange” accounts to an external checking account was – essentially – impossible. Now, ING offers account linking of their savings accounts to an external checking account. I tried that, and it turned out that they had an incorrect social security number registered for both accounts. Ouch! After this was resolved (another 5 ING banking business days, i.e. 12 calendar days pass), they presented me with an online quiz about prior credits (the one you have to fill out to get your credit report online). Fine, unfortunately the credits/data presented had nothing to do with me, so they blocked the option to link accounts online.

And so on, and so on. Bottomline is that ING Direct and their representatives I talked to never even pretended that they were appreciating my business. In that category, they get big kudos for being honest. Everything else, including the online login, which could easily be inadvertently misused to get information about other customers, was an outright disaster.

So here is my verdict: even though they offer pretty decent interest, you will pay for this by having to deal with a customer service department that is only rivaled by United Healthcare for customer non-appreciation. Stay away.

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