Consumer complaints stack up at TCF Bank

While a quarter of University students hold accounts with TCF Bank, not all are pleased with their banking experiences, according to a national study.

A Sept. 17 report published by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group disclosed that TCF Bank customers are most likely to complain to the feds.

According to the study, which was submitted to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 24.9 complaints have been made for every $1 billion of deposits TCF Bank holds , which is the highest rate of complaint for all banks included in the study. TCF is followed by Sovereign Bank, which has 9.1 complaints and Capital One Bank, which has 6.5 complaints per $1 billion. Most of the complaints in the study deal with checking account issues.

“Unlike most other banks of comparable size or larger, we derive almost all of our deposits from consumer accounts, making apples-to-apples comparisons among banks difficult,” said Geoff Thomas, TCF Bank spokesman. “However, we have always placed the highest priority on properly managing and addressing all complaints from our customers.”

University spokesman Tom Hardy said 25 percent of Urbana campus students hold accounts with TCF Bank. The University agreed to an exclusive banking partnership, excluding faculty, with TCF Bank in 2007 on the Urbana and Chicago campuses, said Peter Newman, senior assistant vice president of Treasury Operations. The contract ends in February 2015. The bank was awarded the contract for factors including free checking accounts for students, provisions for campus bank locations and ATMs as well as prior experience with campus bank partnerships, Newman said in an email.

Thomas said TCF has a formal process for promptly responding to all customer complaints, including reviewing each customer’s individual situation and taking corrective action when warranted. He said the bank uses complaint activity to perform ongoing reviews of products and customer service, making changes where necessary. The study shows that TCF Bank responded to more than half of the complaints with offers of money.

Students have the option of linking their i-cards to their TCF Bank checking accounts to use as an ATM or debit card. Hardy said this is convenient for students’ financial services. The bank, headquartered in Wayzata, Minn., also provides a donation to the University scholarship fund and maintains nine ATM on campus. However, students are not required to have an account with TCF, Newman said.

Of the 25 percent of students on campus who hold TCF checking accounts, student viewpoints vary. “I use TCF Bank because my dad told me to sign up for it during registration, and they gave me a free hoodie,” said Harry Belden, freshman in FAA. “I’ve only used it a couple of times, and I’ve yet to have any troubles. A lot of people on campus use it, and it’s helpful for me.”

Diana Economou, freshman in FAA, also enrolled in TCF Bank during registration. However, Economou has faced problems with the bank as she struggled with overdraft fees.

“They fee you a lot more than the other bank that I use, which is something I’m not happy about,” she said. “I went to talk to them at the bookstore, but they said there was nothing they could do.”

While TCF Bank supports the efforts of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to improve the banking experience for customers, Thomas said he believes the study fails to honor the mission of the bureau by improperly characterizing the consumer complaint landscape. He said the bureau fails to differentiate between banks that primarily hold consumer and commercial deposit accounts, where consumer accounts are more likely to generate complaints.

“The PIRG study leaves consumers with the impression that TCF has an inflated rate of complaints, when in actuality, TCF has more accounts per $1 billion of deposits than nearly any other bank in the study,” Thomas said.

Other colleges with exclusive banking partnerships include University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, Northern Illinois University and St. Cloud State University.

Megan can be reached at