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Associated Bank Review: Checking, Savings and CDs

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Associated Bank Review: Checking, Savings and CDs

Associated Bank
NerdWallet’s rating: 3.0 / 5.0

3.0 stars out of 5

Associated+Bank
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at Associated Bank
Associated’s main flaws are those typically seen at national banks: steep fees and low rates. But with a limited branch network and few add-on programs or tools, it lacks many of the benefits its larger competitors are able to offer to help offset those drawbacks.

The bank’s checking accounts are solid, and they even come with a generous sign-up bonus. But those are among the few bright spots customers will encounter at Associated.

Associated may be right for you if:

  • You live in Illinois, Minnesota or Wisconsin, where all of the bank’s 234 branches are located.
  • You want a straightforward checking or savings account and can meet one of the requirements to avoid the monthly service fees.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best bank account bonuses and promotions

Our ratings

Checking accounts4.0 stars out of 5
Savings & money market accounts2.5 stars out of 5
Certificates of deposit (CDs)2.5 stars out of 5
Customer experience3.0 stars out of 5
Other fees3.0 stars out of 5
Overall3.0 stars out of 5

Read on for more details about Associated’s checking and savings accounts, CDs, customer experience and fees.

Checking accounts

4.0 stars out of 5
4.0 / 5.0

Associated has two checking options: a standard account and Elite Checking, which bears interest, comes with free checks and doesn’t charge fees at non-Associated ATMs. However, customers will only be able to avoid its $25 monthly fee by keeping their accounts well padded.

ProsCons
  • The $11 monthly service fee on the basic checking account is fairly easy to waive; options include:
    • Maintain a $1,000 minimum daily balance.
    • Keep $2,500 in combined balances (including deposits and investments).
    • Receive direct deposits totaling at least $500 per statement period.
    • You're under 24 and enroll in eStatements.
  • 20,000 free Associated ATMs.
  • Elite Checking customers get free access to non-Associated ATMs.
  • $150 opening bonus if you either set up direct deposit or use online bill pay.
  • The $25 monthly service fee on the Elite Checking account is harder to avoid; you must keep at least $10,000 in combined balances across Associated checking and savings accounts and investments.
  • Baseline annual percentage yield on Elite Checking account is a low 0.05%, and the rate only climbs as high as 0.15%.
  • Basic checking account customers face a $2.50 fee for using non-Associated ATMs.
  • Minimum opening deposit requirement of $100 on both accounts.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best checking accounts

Savings and money market accounts

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

Associated offers a standard savings option, a kids’ savings account and a money market account. Rates are low across the board, but fees are relatively easy to avoid.

ProsCons
  • Customers can avoid the $5 monthly fee on the basic savings account by:
    • Maintaining a daily balance of at least $300.
    • Scheduling a recurring monthly transfer of at least $25 from another account or via direct deposit.
    • Being under the age of 18.
  • ATM access across all accounts, and the money market account comes with checks.
  • The kids' savings account requires a low minimum deposit of $10 and has no monthly fees.

  • The money market account requires an initial deposit of $1,000, and if balances fall below that amount, customers face a monthly fee of $16.
  • Low rate of 0.05% APY on the basic savings account.
  • Money market account rates vary from 0.05% to 0.15%, with larger balances earning the higher APY.

Certificates of deposit

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

Associated’s standard CDs come with rates that top out at a disappointing 0.60%. However, the bank offers a few CD specials with rates as high as 1.50%. That’s not far off from what some of the best online banks and credit unions offer. The only downside is that these CDs require a much higher minimum initial deposit. The bank also has add-on and mini-jumbo CDs, but rates are so low that customers would be better off avoiding them.

ProsCons
  • Solid selection of 10 standard and five special term lengths.
  • Special 61-month CD earns 1.50% APY.
  • Minimum initial deposit requirement of $1,000 on standard CDs, $5,000 on special CDs.
  • Low rates on standard CDs, ranging from 0.10% to 0.60% APY.

Customer experience

3.0 stars out of 5
3.0 / 5.0

With branches clustered in three states, Associated is very much a regional bank. It does, however, offer 20,000 surcharge-free ATMs, so customers shouldn’t have a hard time finding a nearby cash machine.

The bank doesn’t offer much in the way of extras, and while that will suit some customers just fine, it may frustrate others who want services such as budgeting tools and an automatic savings program. Associated’s mobile app comes with standard features like online bill pay and check deposit, but it receives mixed customer reviews on the various app stores.

Other fees

3.0 stars out of 5
3.0 / 5.0

Associated charges a $35 overdraft fee, which customers can incur up to four times per day. An account that is overdrawn for more than five consecutive days incurs an additional fee of $7 for every day that the account remains in the red. Elite Checking account holders can enroll in free overdraft protection transfers, while basic checking account holders will have to pay $10 for each transfer. There’s a 3% ATM and debit card foreign transaction fee.

Next steps

Associated+Bank
Learn more
at Associated Bank
Unless you live in the Upper Midwest, Associated probably isn’t on your radar. And that wouldn’t be a tragedy. Associated hasn’t done much to separate itself from the pack, nor does it offer especially inventive tools or products that could compensate for its mediocre rates.

If you live near a branch and are simply looking for a place to stash your income, Associated should do fine. But for a high-yield savings account, consider turning to a credit union or an online-only bank, which, incidentally, generally also offer great checking options.

Tony Armstrong is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: tony@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @tonystrongarm.

Updated June 24, 2016.


RATINGS METHODOLOGY

For banks and credit unions, NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of each subcategory: checking accounts, savings and money market accounts, CDs, customer experience and other fees. Factors we consider, depending on the subcategory, include rates and fees, ATM and branch access, account features and limits, user-facing tech and customer service. Several Nerds contribute to each financial institution’s ratings to ensure consistency and accuracy.

What the ratings mean:
5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best
4.5 stars out of 5 — Very good; only minor caveats for most customers
4 stars out of 5 — Good; issues that might make a difference to some customers
3.5 stars out of 5 — Fair; make sure strengths and weaknesses are a good match for you
3 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution
2.5 stars out of 5 (or below) — Best to avoid