GE Capital Bank: a (reluctantly) glowing review
By Peter Andrew
Pushing 20 years ago, I bought a new television on credit through one of GE's numerous financial arms. One month, I somehow transgressed, and the whole account was passed to a collection agency. I judged that a massive overreaction to such a minor misdemeanor, and promised myself not only that I'd never buy an aircraft engine from the group, but also that I'd one day exact revenge.
So I was very happy when my editor asked me to review GE Capital Bank's savings accounts and CDs. A hatchet job would be a great opportunity to fulfill my promise, even if it was in the form of a dish served very, very cold. Sadly for me, I can't find a single bad thing to say about the bank.
About GE Capital Bank
The first thing to know about GE Capital Bank (GECB) is that it's not GE Capital Retail Bank (GECRB). They're both owned by GE Capital Corp., and ultimately by General Electric, a.k.a. GE, but besides that they're entirely separate. That's an important point, because GECRB isn't universally popular (in spite of having an A+ Better Business Bureau rating), and its name is so similar to its sister company's that online complaints about it are often attributed to the so-far blameless GECB. Bear that in mind if you're conducting your own research through an online search engine.
I say "so-far blameless" because GECB was only launched, at least in its current form, in June 2013, and really hasn't had time to build its own reputation. Based in Utah, it's a state-chartered industrial bank, which means that although it accepts deposits for savings accounts and CDs from consumers, its lending -- sometimes in the form of leases -- is exclusively to commercial customers, including small and medium-sized businesses. It's principally an online bank, although questions and some transactions can be handled by its call center.
Neither the bank's currently short life nor its lending policies need concern you, providing you deposit sums within the limits imposed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ($250,000 per investor per bank at the time of writing), as it holds FDIC certificate number 33778.
Highly competitive rates
There's no point in quoting in this review the interest rates that the bank is paying at the time of writing, because there's such a high chance they're going to have changed by the time you read this. But they are currently highly competitive, especially as there are no transaction fees or minimum balance requirements. Indeed, in Nov. 2013, GECB appeared on MONEY Magazine's list of best banks for that year, in the savings account category.
This isn't surprising for such a recently formed bank. Its management is likely focused on building market share, and is probably willing to forgo some profit in order to attract savers.
If I'm right about that focus on building market share, then the bank's customer service should also be good. In addition to wanting to attract and keep valuable customers through creating satisfaction and loyalty, IT systems are likely to be new (and thus especially secure), and customer service agents recently trained. Those wishing to get in touch with the company can send an online message, as well use a toll-free call center, which is open Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. CT.
Not surprisingly, GECB itself says it considers customer service a major focus ("Our customers are our number one priority, and that's why we're committed to providing industry-leading customer service with respect and a great attitude," says its website).
Ease of use
From a saver's point of view, GECB is essentially an online bank. However, you can also access your account by phone 24/7 using an automated system, as well as speak to live agents during regular call center hours. You can complete withdrawals yourself through the website if you've already linked your GECB savings account to another account. Alternatively, you can have a call center agent arrange a wire transfer.
The online sign-up process seems very straightforward, and should pose few problems, even for most technophobes. Just have your Social Security number ready -- and type it in carefully.
Go for it! You have all the advantages of a new bank that's building its customer base by offering some of the best rates available -- along with good customer service and modern, secure, easy-to-use IT systems. As importantly, it's part of a huge and long-established financial services provider, and its deposits are insured by the FDIC. What's not to like?
But, GE, don't think this glowing review means I've forgiven you. I've waited nearly 20 years for revenge. I can wait another 20 if I have to.
Peter Andrew has over 25 years of experience writing about marketing, advertising and management. He regularly covers consumer credit card topics for IndexCreditCards.com and other personal finance publications including Fox Business, TheStreet and MSN Money. He also writes frequently about mortgages and auto loans. Peter has spent extended periods living overseas, in the UK, France and Africa. He lives with his partner of 20+ years, and wastes too much of his time on cryptic crosswords.