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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: 3.5 / 5.0

3.5 stars out of 5

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at Associated Bank
Associated Bank is a Midwest-based bank with a nice checking sign-up bonus and free nationwide ATM access. Like larger competitors, its savings rates are low and overdraft fees high.

The bottom line

  • $150 sign-up checking bonus for new customers (expires Dec. 31, 2017)
  • Free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide
  • Low savings rates except on 30-month certificates of deposit
  • Small physical network: All of the bank’s 213 branches are in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Standard web features and high overdraft fees

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

Our ratings

Our Ratings
Checking account3.5 stars out of 5
Savings account2.5 stars out of 5
Certificates of deposit (CDs)2.5 stars out of 5
Customer experience3.5 stars out of 5
Overdraft fees2.0 stars out of 5
Overall3.5 stars out of 5

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

Checking accounts

3.5 stars out of 5
3.5 / 5.0

Associated checking customers get a solid perk: free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide. The bank offers this by partnering with MoneyPass, a surcharge-free ATM network. Illinois residents also get access to the STARsf ATM network.

New bank customers may qualify for a $150 sign-up bonus by Dec. 31, 2017, when they open a Brewers Checking account. This is a program on top of an Associated Checking or Elite Checking account that offers sports-themed benefits such as discounts on some Milwaukee Brewers games. You get the bonus if you open this account with at least $100 and, within the first 45 days of opening the account, use the bank’s online bill pay three times or receive a direct deposit of $300 or more.

Aside from the perks, the standard checking is a straightforward account. You can get the $11 monthly fee waived in several ways: get at least $500 in direct deposits a month, maintain a $1,000 minimum daily balance or keep $2,500 among all Associated accounts. You also can dodge the fee if you’re under 24 years old and sign up for electronic statements.

ProsCons
  • $150 sign-up bonus for new customers (expires Dec. 31, 2017)
  • 25,000 free ATMs (plus additional 55,000 STARsf and Allpoint ATMs for Illinois customers)
  • Minimum opening deposit is $100

  • Earns no interest
Account reviewed for rating: Associated Checking

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best checking accounts

Savings accounts

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

You can open an Associated Savings account with just $25 and get two out-of-network ATM fees waived per month, but that’s the extent of its virtues. Getting the $5 monthly fee waived isn’t onerous; just maintain a $300 daily balance or set up a recurring monthly transfer of $25 or more. But if you don’t get the fee waived, you’ll more than wipe out any interest you get from this account’s 0.05% savings rate.

ProsCons
  • Low opening deposit of $25
  • Two free ATM withdrawals per month at non-Associated ATMs
  • $5 monthly fee — waived with a $300 daily balance or a recurring monthly transfer of at least $25 (or if you're under 18)
  • Low savings rate of 0.05%
Account reviewed for rating: Associated Savings

Certificates of deposit

2.5 stars out of 5
2.5 / 5.0

Associated’s shining star for savings is a 30-month CD with an annual percentage yield of 1%. All other standard CDs come with disappointing rates such as 0.10% or, for five-year terms, 0.35% at best. Higher, or “preferred,” rates are available for customers who have a qualifying Associated checking account, meaning the bank determines which are eligible. Regardless of the term, the minimum daily balance for standard CDs is $1,000.

A few CD specials have rates as high as 1.65%, which is on par with some of the best online bank CD rates, but you’ll need to satisfy higher minimum initial deposit requirements and have a qualifying Associated checking account.

ProsCons
  • 30-month CD (or 2.5-year CD) earns 1% APY
  • Various terms available
  • Low rates on standard CDs, mostly 0.10%; 4-year CDs have 0.15% APY and 5-year CDs 0.35% unless you can qualify for preferred rates
Account reviewed for rating: Standard fixed-rate CDs

Customer experience

3.5 stars out of 5
3.5 / 5.0

Associated has branches in only three states, and for those who prefer online banking, the experience isn’t top of the line. The bank features some savings calculators but no in-depth budgeting tools or automatic savings programs. Associated’s mobile app comes with standard services, including online bill pay and check deposit abilities, but it gets only 2 stars for its current iOS app and 3.5 stars in the Google Play app store.

Overdraft fees

2.0 stars out of 5
2.0 / 5.0

The bank’s overdraft fees are on par with bigger banks. If your checking account falls below zero, you’ll get hit with a $35 overdraft or nonsufficient funds fee, up to four times the same day. And if you keep an account overdrawn for more than five days in a row, you’ll face an additional fee of $7 for every day the account remains negative.

To avoid the fees, you can opt into overdraft protection transfers that send money from a linked savings or credit account to checking when your balance drops below zero. Each transfer costs $10, though.

If you’re in the neighborhood

Associated+Bank
Learn more
at Associated Bank
Unless you live in the Upper Midwest, Associated Bank probably isn’t on your radar. And that sounds about right. You won’t find innovative budgeting tools or impressive savings rates for the most part. But if you want free access to a nationwide ATM network or the 30-month CD rate, Associated might suit you just fine.

If you’re looking for a high-yield savings account, consider turning to credit unions or online-only banks, which generally offer better checking options, too.

Tony Armstrong is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: tony@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @tonystrongarm. NerdWallet writer Spencer Tierney contributed to this report.

Updated April 5, 2017.


Ratings methodology

NerdWallet’s overall ratings for banks and credit unions are weighted averages of several categories: checking, savings, certificates of deposit or credit union share certificates, customer experience and overdraft fees.

Factors we consider, depending on the category, include rates and fees, ATM and branch access, account features and limits, user-facing technology, customer service and innovation.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.