Today I canceled my account with these guys. I really wanted to like their service. It’s NetFlix for audiobooks – you keep a queue of audiobooks, they send you the topmost book, keep it as long as you want, and then send it back postage-free and they send you the next one. This worked out great for me. My commute is 35 minutes each way, giving me plenty of time to listen to books. Unfortunately, audiobooks typically cost $30-$40 new. And unlike paper books, I have no desire to keep an audiobook once I’ve finished it – if I want to refer back to it again I want the paper version.
So $14.95 a month for all the audiobooks I could listen to seemed like the perfect solution. And I really did like the service – when it worked. Unfortunately I had a lot of issues. Books showing up late or not at all; books showing up incomplete. “Yong company growing pains” I thought, and gave them the benefit of the doubt. But today they told me my credit card had been declined. I checked with my bank, and the card was fine. They even went over their records, and found no records of SimplyAudioBooks even making the request this month. And this is a card I’ve been using regularly as recently as yesterday , with no problems. But when I called SimplyAudioBooks, the guy insisted it was the bank’s fault, there was nothing they could do about it. He didn’t even offer to talk to the bank, and had no explanation for why the card worked fine everywhere else. This was the last straw. I told him to cancel my account.
It’s strange, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned them on here before. There are some services that work so well you don’t even think to talk about them.
Way back almost ten years ago, I found myself somewhat unsure about where I wanted to be, geographically. Various opportunities and ideas had presented themselves in different parts of the country, and I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up. At the time I was doing all my banking with a local bank chain. I realized that this was going to be an inconvenience or worse if I was going to be moving around a lot, so I set myself to find a new bank.
Being a geeky sort, I decided to look into banks with some kind of online banking service. In 1998 a few big-name banks had already started to offer online banking services. I started reading reviews. For every bank I looked into, I found accounts from disgruntled customers about mistakes and bad customer service.
All but one. There was this one upstart bank with the unlikely name of “First Internet Bank of Indiana”, which seemed to have nothing but rave reviews. I couldn’t find anything negative about them at all. Intrigued, I decided to give them a shot.
I’ve been a happy customer ever since. FirstIB is, or at least was, a unique bank. Unlike other banks they have no brick-and-mortar branches. They are a strictly Internet-only bank, as their name implies. All transactions are carried out through their website or over the telephone.
What makes them so great? Well, for one thing, because their website IS their branch, it isn’t an afterthought as it is with some banks. Where other banks only update their online account registers periodically, one of the promises FirstIB makes is that transactions show up on the online register as soon as they process them. Typically if I pay for something with my debit card I can see it on the website a minute later. Which means that as much as possible, I can get an accurate picture of my available balance at any moment, day or night. I can’t believe I used to have to go to my old bank and ask them for a piece of paper with my current balance scribbled on it if I wanted to check it in between statements.
They also give me free online bill payment, which I use for all of my bills.
Since they have no “home” ATMs, and ATMs usually charge a fee for withdrawals from banks other thank the bank which owns the ATM, FirstIB reimburses up to $6 worth of ATM fees a month. By judiciously spacing out my ATM transactions and taking advantage of cash-back at grocery stores, I rarely lose any money to ATM fees.
But what really stands out about them is their customer service. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about bank customer service. I have a few of my own, from dealing with my old bank. But the service I’ve received from FirstIB has been nothing short of exceptional. Every single time I have called or emailed them the person I’ve spoken to has been friendly, helpful, informative and has done whatever it took to get the issue resolved. In particular they’ve been terrific about resolving disputes with bill payees claiming they haven’t been paid; typically I just have to fill out their little form and forget about it, and they contact the payee and work everything out.
I think Customer Service is the most important measure of a company, and by that measure FirstIB shines. They’ve given me almost ten years of great service, and I think they deserve a plug. If you’re not happy with your current bank, check ’em out.