Umpqua Bank promises a 'people first' customer experience, but it's actually better online than in person

woman using bank machine

martin-dm/Getty Images

  • Bank customers want an easy online banking experience, good customer service, and low fees. Umpqua Bank, out of Oregon, promises all three.
  • Its apps and website are solid and easy to use, but customers complain that bank branches are inefficient and employees aren't providing the promised "people first" experience.
  • Overall, Umpqua Bank is worth checking out if you're looking for a free checking account that's easy to access online, but it might not be the right bank for everyone.
  • Learn more about Umpqua Bank's checking accounts »

When it comes to banks, customers typically have one of two complaints: My bank is convenient but has poor customer service, or my local bank has great customer service but doesn't offer enough services/isn't convenient to use online.

That isn't just anecdotal either. In a survey of 3,000 individuals with bank accounts, Credio found that access to mobile and online tools is the number one reason for customer satisfaction (at 31%), and customer support is the second, at 29%. In other words, good customer service and modern online conveniences combine for 60% of total bank satisfaction.

High fees are one of the biggest pain points for bank customers - FICO says they're the number one reason millennials are two to three times more likely to switch banks than previous generations.

The result? Some banks have started to wise up and adapt. To be competitive, you have to offer easy online and mobile tools and great customer service - at a low price. That's why Umpqua Bank caught our attention.

It's a river in Oregon. It's also a 'people first' bank.

Hailing from near the South Umpqua River in Canyonville, Oregon, Umpqua Bank has staked its reputation on customer service, claiming associates will never forget your name and take your personal financial goals into account.

It also promises "easy access and mobile tools," and touts its strength in pairing "financial expertise with a passion for getting to know you as an individual."

Practically speaking, it offers three different tiers of checking accounts designed to limit your monthly maintenance fees based on your desired account balance.

Fees

Umpqua offers three tiers of checking accounts, Embark, Access, and Attain. Each is priced based on minimum balance requirements, so you can avoid paying maintenance fees by choosing the right account for your needs.

  • Embark Checking. The lowest tier has a $0 minimum balance (though you'll need at least $25 to open an account) and offers $10 in ATM fee rebates when carrying a balance of $2,500 or more. Paper statements are $3 a month for individuals under age 62; the account is $0 if you go paperless. Embark comes with one savings account.
  • Access Checking. The next tier has either a monthly maintenance fee of $5, or a $0 fee if you make 10 debit card transactions or more per month, a direct deposit of $500 or more once a month, or a mobile deposit of $250 a month. Four ATM fee rebates a month are also included, as well as three savings or money market accounts. Paper statement fees apply.
  • Attain Checking. The highest tier requires either a $15,000 minimum daily balance, or a $25,000 total balance to avoid the monthly $20 fee. It offers complimentary incoming wire transfers and no international processing fees, and it comes with five savings or money market accounts. No statement fee.

The tiers are great at granting flexibility to customers. However, it begs the question: Why are fees even needed in the first place? It wasn't long ago people were freaking out about Bank of America eliminating its free checking account.

That being said, Umpqua's low fees and fee waivers make it very competitive in a landscape that sees many checking basic accounts charge $5 to $12 in monthly fees, or have average balance requirements of $1,500 or more. For individuals who have a low balance and want free checking, Umpqua's offerings are affordable.

On the flipside, Umpqua does have a host of other fees for basic services. Cashing checks, check collection, and cashier's checks all come with a price tag.

Plus, while Umpqua does provide ATM fee rebates, it still charges customers a $2.50 fee for withdrawing from a non-Umpqua ATM. For those confused, many banks - including Umpqua - charge a fee for using a non-bank ATM, which is separate from the fee charged by the operator of the ATM (the one you agree to on the screen).

Mobile and online tools

Umpqua's apps are on point. Its mobile banking app has 4.3 stars on iTunes, and has features like Touch ID, transferring money, paying bills, and depositing checks.

It has other apps, too, such as Umpqua Go-To, which allows you to text your questions to a human financial expert, and Umpqua Pay, which allows you to freeze your debit card from your phone.

Umpqua also has text banking, which allows you to check your balance or transfer between accounts via text messages.

Online banking is fairly easy with Umpqua - the company actively encourages users to bank online by charging for paper statements. Its online portal is serviceable - no bells and whistles, but very simple and solid.

Customer service

Based on online reviews, Umpqua gets mixed feedback on customer service. If we are to take online customer reviews at face value, it seems Umpqua is only good if not average in customer service.

Granted, people who post online reviews might have their own biases, but the complaints appear to be the same: Umpqua has gotten more corporate in recent years, and its customer service line has been hard to access and not always helpful. It also appears to be very slow at processing physical paperwork.

Reviews do suggest that Umpqua Go-To has been very well received, and both the associates as well as the developers have been responsive to feedback. Of all the reviews, the ones related to Umpqua's virtual products were the strongest.

Verdict

Umpqua Bank is great if you're looking for a no-frills bank where you can have a free checking account for a very low balance. It's modern and provides great mobile and online tools, and is easy to navigate.

However, Umpqua has its shortcomings, including additional fees for basic services, a low interest rate on savings accounts, and an apparent under delivery on its promise of exceptional customer service.

Open a free checking account with Umpqua Bank today »

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

{{}}
Add Comment()
Comments ()
X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.