Online banking offers a level of convenience and flexibility that traditional banks struggle to match. If you’re tired of the games traditional banks make you play to avoid fees or earn more than a few pennies in interest, it’s time to consider the world of online banking. We’ve chosen three online-only banking products that we feel deliver the best value to customers.
Why should you use an online bank?
Online banking has been steadily gaining popularity over the past decade. The concept of online banking is simple – these banks operate primarily on the internet, eliminating the need for physical branches. This lean business model allows them to offer a wide range of products, including checking, savings, CDs, and money market accounts. Some even offer mortgage products.
The absence of overhead costs associated with physical branches translates into savings for customers. Without the need to maintain and staff branches, online banks can pass these savings onto their customers in the form of lower fees and higher annual percentage yields (APYs). This is a significant advantage over traditional banks, which often charge high fees and offer lower interest rates.
Our picks for best online banks
After evaluating numerous online banks based on various factors such as ease of use, fees, APYs, and customer service, we’ve narrowed down our top three recommendations:
- Chime®: Chime® has made a name for itself in the online banking sector with its user-friendly mobile app and fee-free overdraft with SpotMe®. It also offers an automatic savings program that currently pays a 2.00% APY¹, making it a great choice for those who want to grow their savings effortlessly.
- Current: Current stands out with its no monthly service charges and a 4% APY on balances up to $6,000. It also boasts a nationwide network of ATMs, providing its customers with easy access to their money wherever they are.
- Axos Bank Rewards Checking: Axos Bank offers a free checking account with no monthly minimum or overdraft fees. You can earn up to 1.25% APY on money in your checking account, and it provides unlimited ATM withdrawals via reimbursement, making it a convenient and lucrative option for many customers.
Chime® is a financial technology company that provides fee-free mobile banking services. Founded in 2013, Chime® has quickly become a leading player in the online banking industry. It offers a range of services, including spending accounts, savings accounts, and a Visa debit card.
- Fee-Free Overdraft with SpotMe®: Chime’s SpotMe® feature allows eligible members to overdraw up to 20 but can be increased up to $200 based on account history and activity.
- Automatic Savings Program: Chime’s automatic savings program helps you save money every time you spend. The program rounds up your transactions to the nearest dollar and transfers the round-up from your spending account to your savings account. It also offers a 2.00% APY¹ on your savings, which is significantly higher than the national average.
- No Hidden Fees: Chime prides itself on its transparency. It doesn’t charge monthly fees, overdraft fees, or foreign transaction fees. It also offers fee-free access to a network of over 38,000 ATMs.
- Early Direct Deposit: If you set up direct deposit with Chime, you can receive your paycheck up to two days earlier than with many traditional banks. This feature can be a lifesaver when you’re living paycheck to paycheck.
- Mobile App: Chime’s mobile app is user-friendly and intuitive, making it easy to manage your money on the go. You can check your balance, view transactions, find ATMs, and more.
» MORE: Read our full Chime review
Current is a mobile banking app that offers premium banking services without the premium price tag. It provides a fully digital banking experience, with features designed to help you save time and money.
- No Monthly Service Charges: Current doesn’t charge any monthly service fees, making it a cost-effective choice for many customers.
- High APY: Current offers a 4% APY on balances up to $6,000, which is one of the highest rates in the industry.
- Nationwide Network of ATMs: Current provides its customers with access to a nationwide network of ATMs, ensuring that you can access your money whenever and wherever you need it.
- Instant Gas Hold Refunds: One unique feature of Current is its instant gas hold refunds. When you pay at the pump, some gas stations place a hold on your card, which can take a few days to be released. With Current, you get an instant refund for these holds, so your money is never tied up.
- Early Direct Deposit: Like Chime, Current also offers early direct deposit. You can receive your paycheck up to two days earlier than with traditional banks.
Axos Bank Rewards Checking
Axos Bank is an online bank that offers a range of banking services, including checking accounts, savings accounts, CDs, and loans. Its Axos Bank Rewards Checking account is particularly noteworthy, offering a high APY and a host of other benefits.
The Axos Bank Rewards Checking account is a solid checking account that offers a competitive APY on a tiered earning system that starts off with direct deposit.
Plus, there's no fees, no minimum balance, unlimited ATM fee reimbursements and an attractive welcome bonus for new checking account holders.
- Up to 3.30% APY*
- Lucrative welcome bonus
- No monthly maintenance fee
- Unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursements
- Multiple rate requirements to earn max APY
- No physical branches
- No Monthly Minimum or Overdraft Fees: Axos Bank’s Rewards Checking account doesn’t require a minimum balance, and it doesn’t charge overdraft fees. This makes it a great option for customers who want a hassle-free banking experience.
- High APY: You can earn up to 1.25% APY on your money with Axos Bank’s Rewards Checking account. This is significantly higher than the national average for checking accounts.
- Unlimited ATM Withdrawals: Axos Bank offers unlimited ATM withdrawals via reimbursement, meaning you can use any ATM anywhere in the world and Axos Bank will reimburse you for any fees charged.
- Early Direct Deposit: Axos Bank also offers early direct deposit, allowing you to receive your paycheck up to two days earlier than with traditional banks.
Specialty banking products
If you’re looking for specific banking products, we’ve compiled lists of the top banks in those areas. These banks focus on all-around banking products and services, but you might have a specific need for a savings account, CD, or mortgage. Here are our top picks in each category:
- Best Free Checking Accounts: These accounts offer the basic features of a checking account without the monthly maintenance fees that many traditional banks charge.
- Best High Yield Savings Accounts: These accounts offer higher interest rates than regular savings accounts, allowing your money to grow faster.
- Best Money Market Accounts: Money market accounts combine the features of a checking and savings account, offering high interest rates and check-writing privileges.
- Best Certificates Of Deposit (CDs): CDs are time-bound savings accounts that offer higher interest rates in return for keeping your money locked in for a specific period.
- Best Banks To Refinance Your Student Loans: These banks offer competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms for student loan refinancing.
- Best Personal Loans: These banks offer personal loans with competitive interest rates and flexible repayment terms.
Pros and cons of online banks
While online banks offer numerous advantages, there are also a few challenges to consider:
- High Rates: Online banks typically offer bank account and CD rates of 0.5% or higher, significantly more than most traditional banks.
- Low Fees: The reduced overhead costs allow online banks to charge low or no fees.
- User-Friendly: Most online banks have intuitive mobile apps and user-friendly interfaces, making online banking a breeze even for the less tech-savvy.
- Depositing Cash: Customers who frequently deposit paper checks or cash may find it inconvenient. However, this can be circumvented by depositing funds in a traditional bank and then transferring them to your online bank.
- Limited Product Offerings: If you’re looking for home loans, personal loans, or brokerage accounts, the choices may be limited.
- No Personal Interaction: While this isn’t a problem for most, some people may miss the personal interaction offered by traditional banks.
Choosing the right online bank can make a significant difference in your financial life. By offering high APYs, low fees, and a host of other benefits, online banks provide a compelling alternative to traditional banks. Whether you’re looking for a checking account, a savings account, or a CD, there’s an online bank out there that can meet your needs. We hope this guide has provided you with the information you need to make an informed decision. Happy banking!