After my initial research into Ally, I decided to try it first hand and open a Savings Account. Here are my experiences... [Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement, do your own due diligence and research]
My account opening experience was relatively smooth. The only inconvenient requirement was to mail a non-void initial deposit cheque with my home address pre-printed on it. The account itself can be easily opened online, however all transfers will be marked as pending until initial deposit cheque is processed. Fortunately, the original deposit could be as little as $1.
Ally has a pretty neat way of linking external accounts. After you supply the transit and account number of the external account, Ally will deposit a small amount under $1 into your external account for verification. Free money! Once you know the amount you can complete the verification process by entering it on Ally's web site. After that accounts will be linked and you can start moving money around.
Once my account was officially activated and other bank accounts linked, transferring funds back and forth was a breathe. In fact transfers happen quite fast, most showed up in other banks on the next business day or the day after (some banks and PayPal takes five business days to process EFTs).
The online interface is very slick and "Web 2.0"-ish, especially when compared to horribly outdated 90s looking sites of most credit unions.
While it was not completely bug free experience it was significantly better than one I had with ICICI. The only actual bug I found was in text formatting of Ally Secure Emails. For some reason carriage returns in rep's responses to me were replaced with characters like these "_$C(13)_". Not unreadable but quite annoying.
So in general, things are pretty good, 2% interest rate makes it really good. However, I felt that a couple of things were lacking.
My main dislike is the lack of transaction download options. It is possible to download transaction history in CSV format, Microsoft Money and... that's it. For those uninformed, Microsoft Monet is no longer developed or even available for sale. Quicken, the most popular bookkeeping software in Canada, is not supported. At this point the only option you have is to upgrade to Quicken 2010, which supports conversion from M$ Money, or enter your transactions by hand.
Another thing is the lack of ability to change how linked accounts are named/displayed. For example if you linked two bank accounts from CIBC to Ally, they'll be displayed as:
- CANADIAN IMPERIAL BA XXXXXX0001
- CANADIAN IMPERIAL BA XXXXXX0002
Not very descriptive. You'd have to remember which one is the Savings and which one is Chequing. You could, however, change the "nickname" of your Ally account, so hopefully the missing feature will be added soon.
All and all, I'm quite impressed so far, perhaps I'll open an Ally TFSA account too.