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Ally Bank: Axis & Ally – When Online Banking Goes Terribly Wrong

When you open an account at an online bank, you’d expect it to be fully functional like a brick and mortar. You also expect it to have a twist of online savviness, convenience and speed. At least that was my interpretation when I read the website of Ally Bank.

A former roommate suggested Ally for its high APY savings. At that time Ally Bank’s APY on it savings accounts was 1.80%. I transferred all my money and small business profits from my military credit union to Ally Bank. What I should have done was check for a review of Ally Bank from others first. Little did I know I had just enlisted myself for the biggest banking nightmare of my life. I still haven’t woken up from it. If I could’ve talked to my future self at that moment, she would have been screaming  “Don’t do it!”.  

Red Flags: Too Many Careless Mistakes

Before I get into my story, have you ever heard the song God is Trying to Tell You Something? Well, I think He was because there were warning signs of  impending doom from the very beginning. I get it, mistakes happen, but there were far too many avoidable ones for a bank.

My very first phone call to Ally customer service was to open a checking account.  The rep assured me they could open the account over the phone, but he hung up during the application. I got a different rep when I called back and she gave me a different story. She said it couldn’t be opened immediately; I did the application anyway. I called back a few weeks later when I hadn’t heard anything about the account. The rep informed me there were no records of me applying for a checking account. After being hung up on, intentionally or not, my application being lost and being provided misinformation all in one call, I no longer trusted their customer service. I had no confidence that they’d get something so simple right a third time, so I opened the checking account online myself instead. 

I received a call from their back office a few days later. The rep told me I was going to receive my checks and debit card in a few days. Weeks passed.  I heard nothing about my debit card, so I called them back. The rep condescendingly says, “Well did you make a deposit”? And I told her, “No”. Why would I? Who puts money in an online account with no way to access it? The back office rep should have told me that I wasn’t going to receive the debit card until I funded the checking account. He should have not said that I was going to receive it in a few days. This gave the impression that no further action from me was needed. So I transferred over $1 and the card did come a few days later.

After only one month, I was already feeling some kind of way about Ally Bank. Right from the start our relationship was headed south. However, it was the increased APY of 1.85% that caused me to just try to ignore the foolishness and press on. But wait, there’s more!

Ally’s failing didn’t stop with their customer service either. Most banks have one app to receive card spending alerts. Not Ally Bank. You have to download their separate app called Card Controls. My debit card wasn’t showing in the app, so I contacted customer service. They created a ticket to the tech team to look into it. It has now been two months. I’ve still heard no word about my issue being worked on or fixed or if anyone even cares. It seemed to me that not only were there were customer service problems, but also technical support problems. 

Their debit card activation system is broke as well. I called from my number on file and the system kept saying that it couldn’t validate me right now. It took about thirty minutes of six attempts and callbacks for it to finally validate and activate the card. 

A few weeks later, I created two UGMA accounts for my two teenage nieces. They sent me signature cards to open the accounts. I sent them back through their website as instructed before the deadline. They lost one of the cards and put a 24% tax penalty on the account. Furious, I contacted them and a few days later I received an email stating they would lift the penalty; I thought all was in the clear. Think again. I was beginning to realize that at Ally, being terrible comes in twos and threes. I got a phone call from Ally a week later stating I still hadn’t sent it in! Unbelieving what I was hearing, I explained what happened. The rep apologized for the error. It seems apparent that Ally’s right hand doesn’t know what its left hand is doing.

Ally Bank’s website and app crash and burn regularly. One night I was setting up transfers but they weren’t showing  as completed. I did them again and still, they weren’t showing. Fearing that the transfers bugged, I contacted Ally customer service, but they said there were no pending transfers. She also said they were in maintenance and to try again later. The next morning, the transfers did appear, but they were duplicated from all my attempts. Had I not went back and checked, I could have overdrawn my account by thousands. Ally Bank shouldn’t be allowing customers to log into their accounts during maintenance and those already in should be booted.

I’ve Finally Had Enough

And now the horror story. A week ago from writing this, I was setting up my Zelle contacts list for Christmas. I added my contacts and sent a transaction to one contact to make sure it was working. It sent successfully. Then I sent another for just $1 to be double-sure it would work. I got a message that my Zelle access was restricted and to call customer service. So much for an “online” bank where it seems I can’t complete anything without being forced to call. I thought to myself WHAT NOW!

For god knows how long, I was put on hold and transferred to someone in their “back office”. A different rep came on the line but she was mumbling, so I could barely hear her.  Maybe she was practicing to become a mumble rapper, I don’t know. She claimed there were suspicious logins from Jordan on my account and that it may be compromised. 

The back office rep wouldn’t tell me anything further about these mysterious logins. I was never given a chance to confirm them. I asked her how long had the logins been going on and her response was, “I don’t know”. Seriously? That’s your professional answer?

She kept being all cloak and dagger about everything. She asked me who I gave my login to and if I use a VPN, but she wouldn’t answer any of my questions. I’ve only ever given my login info to US financial institutions and I don’t use a VPN. I felt like I was being interrogated. Rather than asking me constructive questions such as the date and times they occurred, she preferred to jump to conclusions. I felt ridiculous and she looked ridiculous. The Ally circus never stops. I didn’t get the impression from her incessant mumbling or the tone of her voice that she was confident in what she was seeing on her screen anyway.

Perhaps she was just phishing for information to give the illusion she did some work that day. I could just imagine her at her desk, “investigating” me by Googling me. It wouldn’t be surprising if she was doing that to find out if I knew anyone in Jordan. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see her trying to tie me in with Osama bin Laden, Space Force Isis, Pinky and the Brain or Aladdin.  Although I’m not Arab, I do have an Arab last name. So, there’s also the possibility that she’s just a Deplorable, saw my last name and decided she was going to make America great again that day.  Sounds wild, but hey, you never know. 

Frankly, I don’t believe my account was ever compromised at all. I think she was just seeing false-positives caused from me connecting to public wifis. This is the most likely reason because it was a payday Friday, and New York City is a big place. I wandered around the city for 14 hours running errands and doing some streetography before ended my night with a party in Central Park. That’s a whole 14 hours of connecting to random public wifis in subways, pizza shops and other fringe venues with questionable wifis; they can have their routers configured any way they want – even for Jordan.

It was a fun-filled day. The next day Ally Bank squashed that vibe like a 16-wheeler barreling through a flock of ducklings. 

Another possibility was the rep was just misinterpreting whatever was on her screen. The back office Ally rep put me on hold and came back. I thought to myself, here it comes, Ally is about to ruin my Christmas.  She said she was locking my account to be investigated. I couldn’t believe all this drama was triggered from sending $1 over Zelle. As I said before, Ally’s being terrible comes in twos and threes.  I have only been with Ally three months. Already I was sick of them and done. I just want to close the account and take my money to another bank that knows what its doing.

Ally Locks the Account & Freezes My Money

It’s 2018, What major bank still blocks someone’s access to their own money due to suspicious logins?

Suspicious logins also happened a few years ago with my military credit union. They didn’t go to the far extreme and lock the account though. They only had me change my password, send me all new debit cards and gave me new bank account numbers. No interruption in my access to my money or account locks required. My cards still worked and all resolved in a matter of minutes on one phone call. I went on about my life unimpeded. And this was a military bank which I am assuming has far stricter security standards. But oh no, not Ally. Ally’s systems are archaic and function like it’s 1982. They operate like a blast from the past and want to drag you by your fingernails with them. 

She said I would receive a call back in two business days; mind you, this was  Saturday, December 8th when this happened. I had just gotten paid. With Christmas just two weeks away, I had planned on going gift shopping in the city. Now I had to cancel all my plans. Furthermore, I became agitated that Ally was going to keep my money locked too close to Christmas and I wouldn’t be able to buy anyone gifts at all. Now, Ally Bank isn’t affecting just me with their bad decision, but also my family. 

I understood they were locking my online access. However, they locked my debit cards too. This is absolutely absurd! The problem was someone was trying to log into my bank account, my debit cards have nothing to do with it.

What if it was an emergency and I needed my money urgently? Ally doesn’t care because playing games is clearly more important than their customers’ emergencies or money. Whether they unlocked my account or not, I didn’t care anymore. I no longer wanted Ally’s business. They could do whatever they want with the account, but I’m never trusting them with my money again. I just wanted my paycheck from the account and to get as far away from this ghetto bank as fast as possible. As far as I’m concerned, Ally Bank is dead to me. 

The next day, Ally lost a customer and an advocate. I opened a high-yield savings with Ally’s competitor, American Express. They have the same 2% APY as Ally and redirected my payroll deposits back to my military credit union. So now I had to sit and wait two business days for Ally to call me and fix this mess.

Back Office Reneges On Call Backs

The two-business day call back from the “back office” rep never happened.

When it was one hour before they closed, I knew they weren’t going to call. I called them myself and sat on hold for nearly 20 minutes; maybe longer. My brain glazed over, so I couldn’t really tell you how long it was. When the back office rep picked up, I could already hear the annoyance in her voice. Our conversation was more like a bull fight. She cut me off and talked over me, so there was no new information and nothing accomplished. Not accomplishing things seems like the only thing Ally can accomplish. There hasn’t been not one problem that I’ve contacted them for that I haven’t had to babysit them through to make sure it got done. I didn’t babysit them through the Card Control app issue, so that never got done.

Then the rep tried to make the other rep who broke their promise to call me, look like a “hero”. She said it wasn’t the $1 Zelle transfer that caused her to lock the account, it was that it’s their security policy to check accounts with Zelle holds. It was then that the rep discovered the logins. If that’s the case, then why didn’t the first transfer put the account on lock? If I had not made the second transfer, I guess the logins in question wouldn’t have been found, right? Additionally, you’re a bank. You should have the best security in the country, so it shouldn’t take several days to find the problem.

Her excuse as to why the rep didn’t call me back was because she wasn’t in today, as if that reason was ok. For a bank, it is never ok to not call a customer back on the day you said you were going to. It’s not ok at all. You do not get a green light for that. 

As a new customer with a small business who’s evaluating you for the first time, and trying to decide if I want to stay with your bank for the long haul or not, that tells me your customers’ time and money are none of your concern, and that they’d be handled as Ally sees fit. Not what I want to see. This only made me more furious because she probably knew she wasn’t coming in that day anyway.  And even if she didn’t, Ally should have made sure her cases were covered or at least a follow-up if not by her, then by another rep; not just leave the customer in the dark for them to figure it out on their own.

On the other hand, she could also be lying and the rep handling my case could be sitting right there listening. Ally’s reps have lied to me before, so what’s stopping them from lying again. More Ally monkey business. Archaic. Unprofessional. Mouth breathers. Here are people in a time-sensitive situation and Ally finds it convenient to renege on call backs. They can easily investigate the logins while still allowing me to have access to my money. After all, I’m not the one in Jordan. 

I asked her about my locked paycheck in the account. She stuttered and said she couldn’t reveal anything because it was under investigation.  She said they’d let me know what they’re going to do with my account tomorrow.

To add insult to injury,  she also said the rep had another seven business days to call me back! Nice, they even gave themselves an extension; surprise, we’ve gone from 2 to 7 business days!  This is new information.  The other two reps I spoke to all said “I’m sorry, the back office is supposed to call you back in two business days.” Furthermore, it was the back office rep herself who said she’d call back in two business days.

I took her remark about “what they’re going to do with the account” as a threat that they were going to close it. At this point, I didn’t care because this bridge is already burnt. They can play Monopoly with the account for all I care. I just want my paycheck that they have no right to sit on while they twiddle their thumbs. I want no ties with a bank that’s run like this.  Respect for the customer’s time and money are not priorities here. 

Naturally, I went all in on her “seven business days” comment. She tried to double-down that it could take “up to” 7 business days. Then, she tried to assure me that the rep will call me back first thing tomorrow morning. She didn’t call me in the two, so I wasn’t expecting her to call me tomorrow either.

She even told me that she’d “Sit beside her” during the call. What is that supposed to mean or do? What bank says that? It was an awkward and weird remark because it sounded like something a telemarketer would say. Did she want to listen in hopes of catching me being rude with the rep? Of course I’m going to be angry, she unnecessarily infuriated a customer!  Let me take away all your money and we’ll see how you feel.

Somehow I don’t picture Wells Fargo or Chase employees telling their customers that “they will sit beside their reps” so they can make sure they do their job. Doing your job is a given; an employee shouldn’t need babysitting. That’s why you were hired. I eventually just sat quiet and let her “banksplain”  because it was their closing time, so I knew she was just bullshitting to get me off the phone. The call ended and I waited for the back office rep and her babysitter to call “tomorrow”. 

“Tomorrow” arrived. The two back office reps did not. 

It is now Sunday. My account has been locked for more than a week. Still no word from Ally Bank. Not a peep. The two reps are probably breathing a sigh of relief that I haven’t called back, but they have no idea the fire and fury they’ve unleashed. And this is currently where my horrid experience with Ally Bank stands with $1,165 of my money frozen. No word, no update, no follow-up from anyone. They’re ghosts. 

Ally Bank’s Weak “Security System” Runs on Hamster Wheels

If someone in Jordan was really trying to log into my account, then why didn’t Ally notify me? I have security alerts on and I received no such notification. Ally has called me for everything else, so why not to verify the logins? And why lock my account and freeze my funds instead of just having me change my password? That would have been the easiest and most logical solution, that’s why passwords were designed to be changed. They can “investigate” the login attempts on their own dime. Additionally, why did it take me calling in for something else for this back office rep to just randomly swoop in and find it? That is not good security. That is a system of gerbils running on a hamster wheel. The wheel is fine until it breaks.

They may be an online bank, but they are not modern. The fact that someone has attempted to log into my account from another country, and there were no alarms is unsettling. There were no alarm bells whatsoever on my end via the app or an email, nor did it seem obvious to Ally either. This tells me their security isn’t preemptive and can be easily breached or that the suspicious logins never happened. Take for instance this Ally customer whose bank info was stolen and Ally allowed an $18,000 purchase to go through on his account even though the funds weren’t there. 

Please show me any reputable bank that would give a green light on this.

It seems that rather than improving their security systems, they try to cut corners. They cut corners by shutting down the account for as long as they see fit and having some under-trained person manually check the account. This person probably already has a long queue of other accounts to check, so your ticket goes to the back of the line and “they’ll get to it when they get to it”. This shows no respect or ethics for the customer’s access to their money while they conduct their witch-hunt. Them ignoring my technical problems and taking unnecessarily long to investigate this so-called “compromise” of my account, tells me they have no respect for the customer. They don’t have a system in place to allow seamless use of the account when problems arise. 

Ally Bank may be a bank on paper, but in the background, they function more like PayPal. If your answer is no to if you’d trust PayPal with your savings, then you probably shouldn’t put it in the hands of Ally Bank either.  

Emotional Distress

This “bank” has caused me more grief and anxiety than this mystery Jordanian, who I doubt even exists. That possibility vexes me even more because that means this is all happening for nothing. 

For the last week, all that’s been embroiling in my mind is that it’s less than 2 weeks before Christmas and I’m not able to buy anyone gifts. I don’t have access to any of my money that I worked very hard for. I still have to order and ship my gifts. Luckily the day before, an acquaintance surprised me by buying my Amtrak ticket for me. Clearly a miracle because getting home for Christmas would have been a problem too. However, I’ll be traveling with no money in my pocket.  All I have is $50 in pocket money, that I had no intentions on spending before all this happened.

My money is dwindling and I’m just trying to make it hold me over until next payday in another week. I only eat once a day to make the money stretch out. This is bad because not eating makes my stomach hurt. I wanted to buy my family gifts in Manhattan and now that’s not going to happen. My next payday won’t come until after I’ve already left to see my family for the holidays. I also have a doctor’s appointment next week but since Ally Bank has frozen my money, I won’t have the money for the copay. 

Sticking With the Tried & True Banks

I’ve since gone back to main-banking with my military credit union and opened a high-yield savings account with American Express. I didn’t think to check Ally Bank review sites before opening an account because I assumed that professionalism was a given when going to any bank. Lesson learned. I had no idea that three months later my review of All Bank would be a bad one. Looking back, I feel that if I had done my due diligence of looking for any review of the reputation of Ally Bank before jumping head first, I could have saved myself all this grief to begin with.  

I’m fully aware being in the business of money, Ally Bank and any financial institution is going to get a lot of bad reviews, and a good experience is rarely reported. However, from Nerdwallet to Credit Karma and from Consumer Affairs to the BBB, and then just random discussion boards where angry customers from far and wide have chimed in, Ally Bank has the same unusual complaints for a bank. It’s the same mistakes over and over again, locking accounts, holding money, losing forms, dragging their feet, not sending debit cards, not paying car payoffs, etc. Ally Bank’s customer service rating doesn’t even break 2.5 stars anywhere on the internet. However, I’m sure the reps are just following Ally’s processes so the problem is more so with Ally and not the reps themselves.

A completely valid point I saw from one bad review was from an Ally Bank customer whose had them for years. They said Ally just sucks as a main bank because their system and customer service aren’t good. Because of that, it is only good for the savings account. I guess I would be a good bank too if I wasn’t getting calls from customers who needed assistance for every day needs. This is completely believable.  Despite all the products they do have, perhaps Ally just isn’t ready for the big time of main-banking yet. Because this is definitely not an experience that I would ever have with my credit union. It would have been handled much differently which would not have ended with my money frozen nor not returning promised phone calls. 

You know, it’s a bank. You expect the staff to have their T’s crossed and I’s dotted because they’re managing other peoples’ and businesses’ money. I expect this kind of behavior from some place like Netspend or Greendot; not a bank. Just like you wouldn’t expect to go to a fine arts museum and see the curators making the same careless mistakes, you don’t expect to go to a bank and see the employees consistently making the same careless mistakes and locking customers’ accounts just because they have a button for it.

Freezing peoples’ money for any amount of time, especially over a week, for suspicious logins is extreme, and is an end that doesn’t justify the means. Since having access to money could mean a life or death situation, locking a person out of their money should never be a bank decision. Locking a bank account  should require a court order because it should only be done if there is proof of illegal activity. Banks should not be able to decide if a customer can have access to their money.  Especially one with archaic polices and careless employees like Ally Bank. Their reps do not have good judgement. They act now and think later, which is exactly why I’m in the situation I’m in now.

Stay Away From Ally Bank

As a warning to others out there considering them, and looking for a personal Ally Bank review, I don’t care how high their APY on their high-yield savings are, I cannot in good conscience recommend Ally Bank to you or anyone; go somewhere else. Their reps answer the phone and sound nice, but from my experience, Ally Bank hasn’t been good at all which is what led me to write this  review. I’m sure there are others who’ve had wonderful experiences with Ally, however, I haven’t had any, so I can’t give you a good review of them if nothing good happened. 

If anyone asks me about them, I will point them to my story and offer them alternatives because their customer service is in the gutter, their systems appear to be out-dated and there are far better high-yield online savings banks than Ally now. They aren’t the only ones in the game anymore and they no longer have the highest APY savings anyway. Now that they have more competitors, the more they keep screwing over their customers, the faster they’re going to make themselves just another grease stain in the road of internet evolution and go the way of AOL, Netscape and the dancing baby.

I’ve had three months to test out Ally Bank to share my review and my conclusion is they’re not a reliable bank and I no longer want anything to do with them even if they unlock the account. The moment they do, I’m just going to withdraw my money, close the account and never look back, not even with a rear-view mirror. Knowing Ally, they’re probably trying to close the account as I write this. I’m already looking for the “It was a business decision to close the account” letter to come in the mail and that’s cool as long as a check for $1,165 is included. In fact, it would be great if that happened because it would be killing two birds with one stone and I can avoid having to call to deal with their annoying customer service and back office reps again. 

My terrible experience with Ally would never happen with my credit union and out of the four years I’ve been a member, they’ve never dropped the ball on anything. Ever. I never have to call in fear that someone is going to screw up and I don’t feel like I have to babysit them. I feel confident my credit union will get the job done. Unlike Ally Bank, where it felt like I was always walking on eggshells in fear that something was going to break, poor customer service with my credit union just doesn’t happen. I’ve only been with Ally Bank three months and they’ve done everything wrong. And although I have a love-hate relationship with Bank of America, I can’t imagine them doing something like this either.

I have no interest in wasting more of my time calling the customer service number for my call to be taken by glorified note takers and sherm heads, or waiting on hold to get in touch with the elusive back orifice because clearly it’s a circus back there. 

Can You Afford the Risk of Dealing With Ally Bank?

If this can happen to me, then this can happen to anyone. I don’t think joining Ally Bank just for their high-yield savings, like I did, is worth it. It’s not worth the risk of their abysmal customer service and system to screw up your account just at that crucial moment when you need to withdraw your money. They couldn’t even handle $1.

Ally Bank has shown me not only how bad a bank can be, but that they want to micromanage your account and will inconvenience you. They will lock your money up while their ill-trained employees try to figure out what they should be doing at your expense.  There’s a high risk that on any transaction you try to do, that Ally will not drop just one ball, but all the balls and they might just decide to lose their grip when you try to buy a new car, pay your college tuition, open a small business shop, buy your first home, your daughter’s bat mitzvah party, your retirement money or just that once in a lifetime opportunity – maybe even that time-sensitive, life-threatening surgery. Is it worth it? If your answer is no, then go bank somewhere else. If you still trust Ally with your money, you’ve been warned. 

It has now been nine days and counting. My account is still locked and my money is still frozen. This is unacceptable actions from a bank, so I am certainly going to escalate it. I wrote my Ally Bank review and story to be shared with others to warn them that if this can happen to me, then this can happen to you as well. With the extension Ally gave themselves after failing to meet their first deadline, they have until December 18th to call me back. I’m not counting on it. 

Ally Bank’s slogan is “Do it right”, but as a new customer, all I’ve ever seen Ally do, is do it wrong.🦉

Had a good or bad experience with Ally Bank? Share it in the comments below.

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