Join the Revolution: Fee-Free Bank Accounts & Feature/Benefit Comparison

I got my first bank account at around age 12 because I was making some money buying and reselling items on Craigslist and thus needed an account for safe-keeping. I thoroughly enjoyed the benefits of having my money so easily accessible in the online world, yet many things about the whole system bothered me. I distinctly remember one situation where I’d run out of money but they still processed an online order AND charged me an overdraft fee. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t just not let the transaction go through. Even as a kid, I knew that practice was wrong. Today, I understand more about banking and the economy, and still adamantly believe that bank fees are yet another way to make everyday life harder for those surviving on low incomes, and as such should be stopped.

Luckily, fee-free banks have recently started popping up left and right. These banks do not have physical storefront locations, are mostly run online, and offer most if not all of the features you’d enjoy with a ‘regular’ bank. With the influx of FDIC insured no-fee mobile banks within the past few years, many friends I’ve spoken to about this found it quite overwhelming, trying to decide. In hopes to lessen the confusion and assist more people make the change to no fee banks, I have compiled a list of fee-free online banks along with their features so that you can make a more educated decision sans headaches.

The Banks:

Chime

Varo

Simple

Empower

Qapital


 

Chime, the most well-known ‘millennial bank’, is accessible from both their website and mobile app.

They run on a network of 38,000+ free ATMs through Moneypass and Visa Plus, and do not charge fees when you use an out-of-network ATM (though they cannot guarantee that the owners of the ATM won’t).

Chime allows employees who set up their direct deposit with Chime to receive their paycheck up to 2 days earlier than they would normally.

Savings APY: 0.01%

Fee-free ATMs: 38,000+ through Moneypass and Visa Plus

Features –

Get your paycheck up to 2 days early

Deposit checks directly from your smartphone (after you receive one direct deposit)

Automate your savings

Link external accounts

Cash deposit @ Green Dot locations

Send paper checks free

FDIC insured

NO FEES

 

Varo is one of Chime’s close contenders, and is, in my opinion, quite likely to bypass them in the near future.

Varo is only accessible from their mobile app, though there’s no saying they won’t add desktop support in the future. With an ATM network of 55,000+ fee free ATMs with Allpoint, there’s likely to be at least one easily accessible to you.

Savings APY: 2.12%

Fee-free ATMs: 55,000+ through Allpoint

Features –

Get your paycheck up to 2 days early

Deposit checks directly from your smartphone

Cash deposit @ Green Dot locations

Automate your savings

Link external accounts

Send paper checks free

FDIC insured

NO FEES

 

Simple is yet another fee-less bank, and sticks more to the tune of Chime in that it is accessible from both their website and mobile app.

When you bank with Simple, you will receive fee-free access to their Allpoint network of 40,000+ ATMs.

Savings APY: 2.02%

Fee-free ATMs: 40,000 with Allpoint

Features –

NO ‘get paid early’ feature

NO cash deposit feature except for when an ATM supports it

Deposit checks directly from your smartphone

Automate your savings

Link external accounts

Send paper checks free

FDIC insured

NO FEES

 

Empower is unique even in this category of banks in that it offers users cash back on their checking account.

Still quite new and the website/app are both quite clunky. May need some time to iron itself out.

Savings APY: 2.15%-4.30% (you earn more when you refer new users)

Checking cash back: up to 2%

Fee-free ATMs: 25,000 (+1 out of network reimbursement per month)

Features –

NO ‘get paid early’ feature

NO cash deposit feature except for when an ATM supports it

NO ‘send paper checks’

NO check deposit

Automate your savings

Link external accounts

FDIC insured

NO FEES

 

Qapital started out as an app that automates and stores savings for different purposes, but has now expanded to include checking.

For example, if I were saving up to go to the beach and also wanted a new phone, I could have two separate mini-accounts for each goal where I’d set up ‘rules’ for my automated savings and store the savings.

Savings APY: .01%

No ATM network yet

Features –

NO ‘get paid early’ feature

NO cash deposit feature except for when an ATM supports it

NO ‘send paper checks’

NO check deposit

Automate your savings

Link external accounts

FDIC insured

MOSTLY NO FEES (you can upgrade your account for a monthly fee for added benefits)


 

I have personally used each of these companies. After using Simple for the interest rate, then Chime for the ‘get paid early’ feature, I found Varo, which is what I am currently using. However, each account has different benefits, and it is solely up to the individual to decide which account is best for them and their situation. But hey, no fees!

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