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I currently have Renter's Insurance, Motorcycle Insurance, and Auto Insurance (two cars) with AAA. I had been a member of AAA roadside assistance for several years, but never considered buying auto insurance from them as I simply expected it to be more expensive than competitors. One day I was in the local branch taking care of some DMV paperwork (the ability to do so, instead of standing in line at DMV, is SUCH a good perk of being a AAA member). After I finished my business, the woman behind the counter asked me if I'd like an auto insurance quote. I didn't have anything better to do, so I sat down with an agent. I was blown away by how much cash I was going to save by switching my insurance over from Mercury to AAA. I ended up keeping the same level of coverage on my car, lowering my deductible, adding a motorcycle and renter's policy, and still reducing my annual insurance cost by about $600. Crazy. The salesperson was low pressure and easy to work with. I haven't had to file any claims with AAA, but they have a stellar reputation, and I have a relative in the insurance business who says AAA almost always pays out on claims. Customer service has been great. Phone reps are always friendly. I often prefer to deal with a real person when buying something like this, however, and the multitude of AAA offices available in my area make this an easy possibility. The one downside to using AAA services is that their web services don't meet up with competitor offerings (i.e. Geico's fantastic website). I also can't really recommend AAA travel, since their pricing doesn't seem competitive with what an internet savvy person could find on their own, and their foreign currency exchange rates are abysmal. However, the convenience of using AAA offices instead of waiting at DMV and the low prices for insurance policies will keep me as their customer for the time being. Pros: (Surprisingly) low insurance quotes, good customer service, use AAA offices instead of DMV. Cons: The website could use improvement and more features.
I didn't own my first car until I was 21, due to not needing one. When I finally purchased my first car during my enlistment in Hawaii, I chose to get insurance with GEICO because that's what everybody else was doing. For those who don't know, GEICO stands for Government Employee Insurance Company. For people in the military, GEICO is a no-brainer choice when it comes to car insurance because of their massive discounts to service members. GEICO turned out to be a good choice, and I was a GEICO customer for about six years. There were many things I loved about GEICO and few things I didn't. They provide top-notch customer service and telephone support, and their online interface is easy to use. I did have one major accident while I was with GEICO, in which I totalled my 98 Ford Ranger. It was my fault. GEICO didn't give me any hassle at all. They paid me the market value of my totalled truck, minus my deductible, and covered the cost of my rental car for a month while I looked for a new car. My rates did go up after the accident, but that was to be expected. After my discharge from the military, my service member discounts no longer applied. This, combined with the rate increase due to my at-fault accident, made GEICO's prices less competitive with other carriers offerings. For a while, I was willing to pay slightly more just so I could keep GEICO's excellent customer service, but eventually my financial situation necessitated I shop around for a cheaper price. I ended up switching to Mercury for a while, and after being sick of their shoddy customer service and responsiveness, eventually ended up with an Auto Club combined policy for Auto, Motorcycle, and Renter's. I still hold GEICO in a very high regard, and may end up giving them my business again eventually. I loved how easy it was to make changes to my policy, file claims, and dealing with their agents was never unpleasant. As far as I'm concerned, GEICO is doing it right. I just wish they were a little cheaper. Pros: Great service, easy to file claims, discounts for service members, good online features, very little hassle Cons: Slightly more expensive than other carriers (for me at least)
When I was trying to decide where to keep my savings, I narrowed it down to an American Express high-yield savings account or an ING high-yield savings account. What ultimately decided for me was ING's slightly higher interest rate and the fact that they've been in the savings account business alot longer than AMEX has. I've been keeping my savings account with ING for about a year now, and they have kept me very happy so far. I've used a number of online banking services, and ING's interface is by far the most intuitive and easy to use. Their high-yield savings account has one of the best interest rates available in the current market, and I've always felt I knew exactly what to expect from them. One of the nice perks this bank offers is occasional promotions where you'll get a small bonus. I got a $50 bonus for opening my savings account here, and a $10 bonus for using their online bill pay system. If I refer a friend or family member, I have no doubt they'll make good on their promise to give me a referral bonus as well. This savings account has been exactly what I wanted, a fire-and-forget savings account where I can deposit part of my paycheck twice a month. ING doesn't send me spam emails or pester me with new offers constantly. They've never charged me a single fee, and always pay interest on time. I feel like my money is very secure with ING and plan to keep my savings there long-term. Pros: Easy online interface, no minimum balance (on checking OR savings), bonuses, high interest rates, EVERYTHING done online, easy transfers to and from other banks, great bill pay service Cons: No physical branches, although this should not be a problem for the computer/internet savvy.
This bank is just bad. I initially signed up for Bank of the Sierra because they were offering an incredible rate on an interest-bearing checking account. In 2009, they were advertising a very aggressive 4.29% interest. There were a number of stipulations that needed to be met to qualify to receive the interest rate monthly, and I was able to meet them, so I signed up. That's when the trouble began. My 4% interest rate only last a few months. Shortly after moving almost all of my direct deposit, bill pay info, and savings over to this bank, they dropped the interest rate on my checking account to 2.09%. Still not bad, but disappointing considering I was looking forward to getting 4.29%. This bank is based in Kern Valley, CA. Now, it's not their fault that they don't have any SoCal locations, but I hoped that they'd make up for physical availability through an easy online banking interface and great customer service over the phone. Nope. Calling them was like trying to get in touch with the ex girlfriend who still has that DVD you really don't want to buy another copy of. Every time I called, I felt like I was going to end up leaving a voice mail on an answering machine in somebody's garage somewhere. Bankers who answered the phone (rare) were unprofessional and lacked even very basic knowledge of their job, or how banking works. Aside from customer service issues, I had a number of other bad experiences with this bank, including unfair, unexpected fees. The final touch was when I wrote them a letter asking them to close my accounts, in a last ditch effort to squeeze money out of me, they assessed an "early closure fee" and then sent me a bill for it, since I had already transferred my money to an account with another bank. Don't be enticed by their "high" interest rates. They aren't worth the hassle
I cannot sing enough praises of NFCU. I signed up for an NFCU account when I was in the Marine Corps, and have carried an auto loan, a credit card, a checking account, and a savings account with them. Their loans are top notch. The lowest interest rates you'll find anywhere, fantastic customer service, instant approval process over the phone, and just generally very good will and desire to serve their customers. Even though I was planning to go with dealer financing when I bought my most recent car, I went ahead and got approved for a low-interest rate auto loan with NFCU. Then, when I went to the dealer to buy the car, I had another bargaining chip in my pocket. My credit card is also great. It has a competitive interest rate, no-hassle cash back program, and many extra benefits that other credit cards don't offer. For instance, if you rent a car with your NFCU credit card, they cover you with a rental auto insurance policy so you don't have to pay the extra fees for the rental company's coverage (which are usually extremely expensive). NFCU is no longer my primary bank, and there is ONLY one reason for this. That reason is that their nearest physical branch location is a 60 mile drive from where I live. Their branches tend to be near military installations, for obvious reasons. Otherwise, I would have continued banking with them full time even after discharge from the military. I still hold accounts with NFCU and use their credit card regularly. In ten years, I have not had a single service issue with this bank. Pros: Great interest rates, fantastic customer service, easy-to-use online banking, military friendly Cons: Physical branch locations are few and far between
I've been banking with Wells Fargo for many years, and they've been great. I regularly use a wide variety of their services to include direct deposit, online banking, online bill pay, and even getting cashier's checks from local branches to make payments occasionally. My problems with Wells Fargo have been very minimal and I can't really complain about anything other than their abysmal interest rates for savings account. Because interest rates are so low, I keep most of my savings with an online bank that has higher rates. This method isn't shocking to anybody that's financially savvy, though. What I like about Wells Fargo is how good they are about problem resolution and customer service. Any time there has been any type of issue at all, no matter how minor, I know that I'll get a friendly, results-oriented response from Wells Fargo when I call. Here's a great example. A few weeks ago someone wrote me a bad check. WF charged me a small fee for the check bouncing. I was broke at the time. I literally had less than $10 in my checking account and could not afford to pay even a $12 fee if I wanted to eat that day. So I called WF and explained the situation, and they waived half of the fee. I was eventually able to collect the rest from the party who had written the bad check in the first place, so it all worked out. Wells Fargo has always been more than satisfactory. I wish their savings interest rates were higher, but I can't do much about that for the time being. As a bank, I recommend them. Pros: Excellent customer service, good online services, military friendly Cons: Low interest rates on savings