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Wells Fargo is only the fifth-worst bank in America

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Although Wells Fargo (WFC) and its CEO John Stumpf are in the news for egregious practices that involved surreptitiously opening unwanted accounts to boost consumer fees, the bank is merely fifth in a just-released survey of the nation’s worst banks for consumers.

Culling through more than five years of data on regulatory fines, more than 600,000 consumer complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and how the complaints were resolved, consumer finance research site ranked the nation’s 50 largest banks on their consumer unfriendliness. The result: Bank of America (BAC) is the bottom of the barrel, scoring poorly in every category.

The North Carolina-based institution not only paid billions in penalties for bad practices involving its bank, credit card, mortgage and brokerage arms, it scored 34th out of 50 in its responsiveness to consumer complaints, said Value Penguin analyst Robert Harrow. That caused BofA to jump to the top of the worst list, ahead of Barclays (BCS), which actually had more penalties and complaints per assets.

Wells Fargo fined over fake accounts

“Barclays was much better at handling complaints,” said Harrow. “We looked at not only whether the bank responded, but how they responded. Did they just correct the issue, or did they provide monetary relief?”

HSBC (HSBC), EverBank (EVER) and Wells Fargo ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in overall consumer unfriendliness. However, these overall rankings obscure how they ended up with those positions.

To make sure that big banks didn’t get treated unfairly by generating more complaints simply because they had more customers, ValuePenguin’s rankings were based on complaints and fines relative to each bank’s total assets. By that standard, the nation’s most complained about bank is Synchrony (SYF), which generated a whopping 10,665 complaints overall.

Barclays ranked second in complaints by assets. Discover (DFS​), Capital One (COF​) and Santander (SAN​) ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively. The most penalized banks were Barclays, Rabobank, Bank of America, HSBC and First Tennessee, in that order. The banks that were least responsive to consumer complaints were CIT Bank (CIT​), Whitney Bank, E*Trade (ETFC​), HSBC and People’s United (PBCT​). While BofA made the five worst only in the area of regulatory penalties, it was just outside of the top five for complaints.

ValuePenguin’s Harrow said he wouldn’t necessarily dump his bank if it made this worst-banks listing. But he thinks the research should serve as a cautionary tale.

“A lot of banks engage in dubious practices, and that’s something that consumers should keep in mind at all times,” he said. “Read your statements. Check them for errors, and complain if something isn’t right.”

If the bank fails to respond adequately, complain to the CFPB​, he suggested. The agency is charged with making sure consumers get an even shake in the financial world, and it follows up if banks fail to respond to complaints lodged on its site.