Thankfully, I've only had good experiences with this bank so far. (Knock on wood, after reading some of the other reviews.) When I've called, a CSR usually answers directly (w/o navigating a phone system). They've all been pleasant and helpful.
I obtained a Rewards Ckg a year ago and just found out about Rewards Savings (2% if Rewards Ckg qualifications are met, since they're linked.) When I called about applying online again, I learned it's not necessary. Just log in to my account, hit "Services" on the left menu, then "Bank Mail" on its drop-down, then the "New" button (bottom right under mail box.)
I wrote requesting Rewards Savings, and it was executed a few hours later. Same day. I just need to fund it with "new money" (external source via ach or check mailed, etc.) They're mailing the info packet, but I can fund anytime.
After reading some of others' difficulty with this bank, maybe my initial app went more smoothly because I live in-state? Maybe the bank had a tougher time processing out-of-state apps? (Moot now that they're no longer accepting out-of-state.) My qualifying record isn't perfect, but the mistake was ultimately a misunderstanding on my end. Chalk it up to learning curve on both sides, since this was my first rewards checking. All in all, I'm pleased so far.
Btw or fyi - for those not familiar with CA, this bank is located in Central CA, which is rural/suburban. Very community oriented v. large urban or major market institutions. It's not L.A. or S.F., even tho' many community-based banks within those big cities can be basic in how they operate.
With everyone chasing rates, it seems the sudden national demand overwhelmed many of these community banks, who weren't yet that experienced, both personally and technically, in handling the range of situations and attitudes in such volume. I've noticed evolving differences between banks that are local, national, national-turned-local, and local-turned-national. Then again, the economy these last few years put all of us on a learning curve.
Which is why I've appreciated all the info and insight from BG/DA, since it's facilitated for me, anyway, dealing more effectively with various banks. My patience seems tied to my expectations.
So far so good!
I set up a rewards account towards the end of 2009 and I really don't have anything negative to say about the bank. It's a great interest rate contingent on if you meet the requirements. However, it's not for everyone. And of course, everyone's overall experience can be different for whatever reasons......
So, I agree with some of the other posters. It's the best bang you can get for an interest rate almost anywhere!
So to piggy-back off of the last reviewer:
I've found the site easy to maneuver through
Customer service has alwasy been helpful
The rate has dropped from 4.51 to 4.09; however it's still above average
No problems with billpay!
No problems with setting up the account
The e-statement was a little bit confusing at first (so don't assume you are automatically enrolled) but a quick call to customer service cleared that up!
Do not use this Bank for Rewards checking! They have too many requirements and unusual cycles that it's not easy to get your monthly dividends! I was also misled by as simple as not clicking on "Activate e-statement" (after signing up meticulously first) thus didn't get paid for my monthly interest. I've had 3 Rewards Checking prior to Bank of the Sierra and by far they are the most complicated. We relied on the monthly interest as my spouse lost his job but they are not symphatetic. MUST AVOID!!!
I opened an account and provided documents as requested. I hadn't heard anything from the bank for a few months until I received a letter stating my account had been closed and a cashiers check had been issued and they needed to know if I had received the cashiers check. I had not received the cashiers check and when I called to inquire as to why my account had been closed and why a cashiers check had been sent. They informed me that they supposedly hadn't received a particular document and therefore closed my account charging me the $15.00 early closure fee. On top of it I am required to complete an affidavit which I have to have notarized, another $10.00, therefore it cost me $25.00 to ever put any money in an account with this bank! What a joke!!! I explained that I never wanted the account closed in the first place and that I had received absolutely no communication from them and they said that the account was already closed and there was nothing I could do.
BEWARE! Do not bank with these people and if you choose to bank with them I suggest calling them weekly to be sure they don't just decide to close your account without notifiying you!
This bank is one of the most disloyal banks. they provide no means to check balances on a BUSINESS ACCOUNT. They have provided what the call a "courtesy service" which means even if there is no money in your account they will allow you to have as much as you want as long as you pay astronomical fees. And by the time you realize something is wrong you have been charged ridiculous fees. They like to put through all large items and charge you for all small items being returned such as a $5 debit purchase which now has turned into $27 plus $6 a day and then.they seem not to care about hurting the working families of America.
What's funny about commenters such as "Michael P." is that they complain about having to "jump through hoops" in order to use the rewards checking account, or the bank somehow "lies" to its customers. Obviously there would have to be hoops to jump through, otherwise they would not be able to offer 4.09% APY. I have had zero difficulties in applying for the account, and even less of a problem setting up the requirements for the account (e-statements, 1 direct deposit/month, 1 bill pay/month, and 12 debit card transactions/month).
If you choose not to do business with a bank simply because they make you jump through hoops (which exist with every rewards checking account) can easily put their money in a 1 year CD making 1.3% APY instead... us BotS customers on the other hand will continue to enjoy the extra $90-$100 per month benefit while having a 4.09% liquid account, which is virtually unheard of in this environment.
And yes, the bank may decide to drop their rates further in the future, but that's not hardly different from what all banks have been doing the last year. If the rate drops below the top tier, simply pull your money out then, and move it to a more generous bank. Simple as that. That's smart rate-chasing.
Everyone of course in entitled to their own opninion but it sounds to me like the persons who have negative things to say and state that the bank makes them jump through hoops to get the higher interest just want the money handed to them. The qualifications are clearly stated on the website for all to see and also given to you when the account is opened in your disclosures. It is your choice whether you choose to read this or not. Nothing in this world is free so just meet the qualifications and you get the interest, it's quite simple. Kuddos to the person who commented that he has not had a problem..why has he not problems? because he met his qualifications! So just suck it up and accept the fact that you didn't do what you were supposed to do to get the higher rate..
This bank had a very competitive rates when I joined. Unfortunately I had several instances where I did not receive interest at the higher rate because one of my transactions wasn't processed by their system until after the statement period, or I did not access their online statements frequently enough.
The end of our banking relationship came when I needed to access check images, and I could only see the last two months. When I asked them to send me the images by either email, fax, or mail (whichever most convenient), they wanted $6 per check. Not worth it.
They set me up with an account, I went through all the hoops arranging direct deposit, got the debit cards in the mail, then I get a letter saying that my funding account was "non-transactional". They cancelled the account. There was plenty of money to cover the funding deposit so I called to see if I had made a mistake with the routing or account number. The person on the phone said she could not help me and the only way would be to start from scratch. She said I could communicate via e-mail to the on-line department. I sent an e-mail. No reply. When I called again, another person called transferred me to the on-line department, where I waited on hold a while and then decided to take my business elsewhere. These people are obviously in over their heads.
Bank of the Sierra lies about their free rewards checking account. They require their customers to jump through hoops to earn the high yeild interest and do not offer telephone support to online banking customers. Their website is difficult to navigate and they will not work with online banking customers when support is needed. If there is a financial problem with your account, do not expect help from anyone at this bank! Bank of the Sierra has provided me with the worst online banking experience of my life!
What is it about this bank that it keeps asking me the same account info that I have provided several times since I opened my account a few months ago? Do the employees actually work there or they just pretend to work there??
Just my luck. Opened an account here one month ago, and they go and drop my interest rate by 1% almost right away! Very very annoying!
Other than that, my experience thus far has been positive. And 3.09% is still better than almost anywhere else. But be warned, Bank of the Sierra, if you jerk me around too much, my money will be out of there faster than you can blink. Don't play fast and loose with good willed customers who have entrusted their money with you.