On the downside, it added three clarifications to your Deposit Agreement which are a little worrisome. One states that "We reserve the right to suspend or close accounts for any reason, without prior notification."
I'm actually a little more worried about the fee reductions than the new deposit agreement changes. I prefer banks offer higher rates rather than perks like unlimited ATM fee refunds and free checks. I wonder if Ally Bank hopes these changes will allow them to compete with other banks that offer higher rates. It was reported in November that the FDIC is asking Ally Bank to keep its deposit rates under the nation's top 5 as measured by Bankrate. This is due to the capital assistance that GMAC is receiving from the government.
I've typed out the full list of account changes below.
CD Bonus for Renewals
If you have a CD maturing at Ally Bank, you may want to contact them and ask if they can offer a higher rate. You may be able to receive a loyalty bonus that could be 0.50% over their currently posted rates.
A reader emailed me that when he called to instruct Ally Bank to not renew his 12-month CD, they offered him this loyalty bonus with an additional 0.50% on the rate.
I haven't seen other banks offer this much of a renewal bonus. Since these are not posted rates, I bet the FDIC won't notice.
Another nice CD feature that Ally Bank has recently added is the Ten Day Best Rate Guarantee. Here's how Ally describes this guarantee:
When you fund your CD within ten days of opening or renewing your Ally account, you automatically get the best rate we offer during that time period.
This feature is especially important now that Ally Bank is no longer limiting their rate changes for Fridays. Ally Bank used to only change rates on Friday. When they changed rates on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I thought this was just due to the holiday. However, they cut rates last Tuesday on their money market and savings account. So it looks like the rates may now be changed on any day.
No-Penalty CD Issue
The no-penalty CD used to be a great deal, but the rate has fallen. One issue that readers have reported about this no-penalty CD is that it's not easy to close. One reader commented on November 2nd:
Warning: Their process for closing a CD is slow and error-prone.
The highly-touted 24x365 phone center can't do the closure themselves - the agent requests the closure from another department (only open 9-5 on business days) that takes a couple of business days to actually initiate the outbound ACH transfer. (ACH transfers usually take two days to complete after they have been initiated - that is not the issue here.)
I did confirm with an Ally CSR that a special department takes care of the closures. However, the CSR claimed to be able to send requests to that department. Here's what the CSR stated in a chat session:
Only our Bank Operations Department actually carries out the request, however any advocate can submit the request to them for you.
And here's what the CSR said about the time it'll take to receive the funds:
The standard turn around time for an ACH transfer is 3-5 business days. The account will close and the funds will be sent out to your external bank immediately, but it could take 3-5 business days for the money to be fully available in your external bank.
So it appears things may have improved since the reader left his comments. Ally Bank has made improvements to closing the no-penalty CD. Previously, the ACH transfer to receive the funds was not an option. If you have recently closed this no-penalty CD, please leave a comment about how it went.
Excerpts of Ally Bank's Letter
The changes which are summarized below will be effective January 16, 2010:
1. We have reduced or eliminated the following charges:
a. You will no longer have to pay any ATM fees on your Ally account. Currently, we refund up to $6 in ATM charges per statement, but after January 16, we will refund all ATM fees.
b. When we advance money to you to cover your checks, debits and other transactions when your balance is not sufficient, the cost will be $9 maximum per day regardless of the number of times you overdraw your account each day. Plus, if your account is overdrawn by less than $15, you will not be charged.
c. If you use Ally standard personal checks, the order will be free. However, we do ask that you only order 200 checks at a time.
d. Official Check issuance fees are decreasing from $10 to $0.
e. Statement copies are now free and are available online.
f. The charge for outgoing international wires is decreasing from $45 to $20.
2. We have also added some clarifications to your Deposit Agreement:
a. For your protection and security, when making ACH transfers between your Ally account and accounts held at other financial institutions, you must be an owner of both accounts.
b. We reserve the right to suspend or close accounts for any reason, without prior notification.
c. Unfortunately, we cannot accept cash or foreign currency deposits, including foreign currency checks or wires.