The 8 Best Online Banks of 2019
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Your bank account is the core of your personal finances, so it is important to pick the best bank for your needs. The banking industry has dramatically evolved thanks to the internet, and these days many consumers choose an online bank over a brick-and-mortar. If you're looking for an online bank, it's important to consider the advantages and disadvantages.
The biggest benefit of an online bank is the cost. While many traditional banks charge monthly fees if you don’t meet certain criteria, that is not the norm in online banks. In fact, many help you avoid fees altogether, including those horrible overdraft fees that can add up fast. Secondly, they also offer mobile platforms where you can look up your balance and transactions, pay bills, deposit checks, transfer funds, and more.
As for cons, a few to consider are the fact that you can't deposit cash. Restaurant servers, valet parkers, and other cash and tip based workers can’t really count on an online bank as their only bank. There's also no in-person customer service, so if you need help figuring something out, you’ll be on the phone or online chatting with a customer support representative. All that said, read on to find out more about the best online banks and see which fits you best.
The best overall online bank is Ally. Ally Bank brings together low fees, high interest rates, and great customer service. Ally offers checking, savings, money market, CD, and IRA accounts, plus the larger Ally family includes credit cards, auto loans, home loans, and investments. It is a full-service personal finance company that can handle many of your banking and other money needs.
Ally's checking account offers interest, has no monthly fees, includes free use of any Allpoint ATM, and gives you up to $10 per statement period in fee rebates from other bank’s ATMs in the United States.
Online and mobile banking include free transfers to accounts at other banks, mobile check deposit, fast and free transfers to friends and family with Zelle, and 24/7 phone customer service. Looking at the website, you can see the wait time to talk to a human. As of this writing (and many other visits to the Ally website), that wait time is 0 minutes.
At Ally Bank, you can do just about everything but deposit cash. There are some fees for less common activities like returned deposits, overdrafts, and overnight bill pay, but most people won’t pay any fees for normal monthly activity in any Ally account.
Best for Those in Big Cities: Capital One
Capital One Bank is a very close runner-up, and may just be the online bank for you if you live in a large city like Los Angeles, New York, or Dallas — all home to Capital One branches and cafes. These locations do give you a few options for in-person banking, but the primary Capital One banking experience is still online.
Capital One is a full-service finance company with bank accounts, credit cards, auto loans, and an investment platform. Unlike most online banks, Capital One also offers business bank accounts — arguably the best online checking and savings options for a small business.
The 360 Checking account is a top rated checking account nationwide, and similarly, its 360 Savings offers great interest rates and low fees. Capital One offers free Capital One and Allpoint ATMs, but no reimbursement on other bank ATMs. It does make up for that with flexible overdraft options, though, including an option to reject overdrafts and charge no fees if you accidentally swipe your card when you don’t have the cash to pay for it.
Best for Frequent Travelers: Charles Schwab Bank
Charles Schwab is one of the biggest and best discount brokerage firms in the country, but it’s bank accounts are another compelling reason to look to Schwab for your money needs. The only downside of Schwab’s excellent Investor Checking account is that you have to first open a Schwab brokerage account if you want one.
Schwab’s Investor Checking is a great account for anyone who frequently travels. This account offers unlimited reimbursements of other bank ATM fees including international ATM fees, which means you can use it to get fee-free cash anywhere in the world.
It also has every feature you would expect from an online bank, including transfers to accounts at other banks, remote check deposits, and an industry-leading mobile app. Interest rates are not amazing, but they are way better than the average brick-and-mortar bank. Overall, it’s a great account.
You can learn more by reading our full review of Charles Schwab Bank.
Best for Budgeting: Simple
Simple is a newer bank, a startup founded in 2009 and acquired by BBVA in 2014. This bank does not look like many other banks, and that’s a good thing. It offers a great online checking product, built in budgeting, and no fees.
Simple does not charge any fees for anything at all outside of using your debit card outside of the United States, and that is a pass-through fee charged by Visa, not Simple itself. So you can say that Simple is really a no-fee bank and a one-of-a-kind bank in that regard.
The real power of Simple is its online budgeting tools. Simple helps you manage your money by providing online tools that allow you to plan and save for goals. Because your budget is built in, you don’t have any excuse to make bad money decisions.
Also, check out our full review of Simple.
Best Old School Option: Axos Bank
The internet may not be a physical place you can go to, but that didn’t stop Axos Bank from planting a flag and claiming its online status way back in 1999. Bank of Internet is the oldest online-only bank in the United States.
Axos Bank offers a rewards checking account with up to 1.25% interest, low-fee loans, and even online business banking. Axos Bank has competitive rates for savings and CDs as well, along with low fees across the board.
Axos Bank was a pioneer in running a bank without a physical branch. They started the model of low overhead and passing on the savings to customers. If you want to bank online, Axos Bank will treat you right. Just make sure to read the terms for any new account, as some do have minimum balance requirements to avoid a monthly fee.
Best for Rewards Checking: Discover Bank
Most people know Discover as a credit card company, but it also runs a popular online bank. Discover Bank offers a range of online banking products including checking, savings, CDs, money markets, and IRAs. But the most exciting account at Discover is Discover Cashback Checking.
This account has no monthly fees and offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 per month in debit card purchases. That is up to $360 per year in rewards. Just keep in mind the one big downside of this account: the debit card is Discover branded and is not as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard.
But aside from that, there is little to complain about with this account. IT is low-fee, includes access to 60,000 fee-free ATMs, and even gives you your checks and check reorders for free.
Best for College Students: Chime
If you want an online bank account that makes everything easy, look to Chime. Chime charges almost no fees, and digital natives will feel right at home with its easy-to-use mobile app. Chime only offers a checking account, but it is a great account.
One fun feature is an ability to get access to your direct deposited paycheck early. While most payroll runs on Friday, the payment information is likely sent out to your bank at least a few days before. Chime gives access to your cash up to two days faster than other banks.
Chime also offers no overdraft fees, no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements, and no foreign transaction fees. They don’t offer ATM reimbursements, but do give you free access to 30,000+ MoneyPass ATMs and won’t charge you any fees itself for using an out-of-network ATM.
Want to learn more? Check out our full review of Chime.
Best for High Balance Checking Accounts: TIAA Bank
Florida-based TIAA Bank offers a “Yield Pledge Checking” account that is unique among bank accounts. It promises to always offer interest rates in the top five percent of all checking accounts in the bank and thrift industry.
The account requires a $5,000 opening balance. While the account does not charge a monthly fee, you have to keep that $5,000 balance to qualify for free unlimited ATM reimbursements. The account offers a first-year guarantee of 1.21% APY on balances up to $250,000, and tiered interest rates range from 0.30% to 0.71% after the first year depending on your balance.
This account charges very few fees, but there are a few for uncommon activity including a replacement debit card. But overall, it is a low fee, high interest account that you may want to consider if you keep $5,000+ in your checking account at all times.