Best Online Bank: Savings and Checking Accounts
Published 11/7/09 (Modified 3/11/13)
Reviews Of The Top Online Banking Options For High Interest Rates
If you're searching for a list of the best online banks to deposit your savings in, then you've arrived at the right place. One of the most common, if not the most often asked question I get as a personal finance blogger, is which bank I would recommend to those looking to get the best interest rate of return for their money.
While some of us plow our personal savings into home mortgage payments or invest them into stocks, most of us invariably keep a certain stash into more accessible bank accounts for emergency fund purposes. Others like myself use high interest savings accounts to save up money for specific targeted purposes - in my case, I'm saving up for my future down payment for a house. So, if you're keeping money in a bank account anyway, why not try to get the highest interest rate possible? To address this need - below, I've compiled a list of what I believe to be the best online banks available today - banks that offer the best deals for high interest savings and high yield savings accounts. Many of the recommended firms are also very competitive in the area of certificate of deposits (CD's) and checking account rates as well.
Unfortunately, with interest rates at historical lows across the board given the current ongoing economic climate, the term "high yield savings account" is more of a comparative delineation than a descriptively absolute one. Just a few years ago during the glory days, one could easily rake in a hefty 5% to 6% APY rate with popular online savings accounts and high yield CD rates. But those days are long gone and today, the top online banks only offer anywhere from 2% to 3% tops. But despite the overall lower rates at the present time, the yields found at these Internet based banks still greatly exceed the nearly zero percent interest rates found at most local brick and mortar banking institutions. Think the best bank accounts are found at places like Citibank, Bank of America, Chase Bank, or Wells Fargo? Think again. The APY rates offered by Internet based online banks almost always greatly exceed the paltry interest rate offerings of the brand name banks, while offering the same FDIC insurance limit guarantees and transactional security protections that are equal to, if not better than that offered by the big boys.
Benefits Of Online Savings Accounts: Impressive Rates With FDIC Insurance
Because of much lower overhead costs, online banks generally pay much better rates on savings accounts, checking accounts, and CD's. Online bank accounts are also much less likely to have minimum balance requirements than ordinary retail banks. They also offer many conveniences and advantages over accounts at traditional neighborhood banks and credit unions. So long as the customer has access to an Internet connection, online bank account transactions can be performed, balances can be checked, and funds can be transferred in and out anywhere and anytime. The ability to keep 24 hour tabs on your account funds, pull up account history data on demand, and eliminate the need to conduct transactions in cumbersome paper form are some of the clear advantages of web based banking. To compete with the traditional big name banks, a large majority of online banks have eliminated their monthly fees and account minimums, and now offer a wealth of free financial services that include free bill pay, free budgeting tools, free fund transfers, and free out of network ATM usage.
Below is comprehensive review of what I've found to be the top online banks for high interest checking and high yield savings accounts. Each offer, except for the first one - provides for full FDIC insurance limit protection for account holders - guaranteeing the safety and security of account funds from unexpected loss.
List Of The Best Online Bank Accounts For Savings, Checking, and CD Rates
1. Lending Club - While not an online bank in the traditional sense – it lacks some of the protections afforded to traditional savings accounts by FDIC insurance – Lending Club offers a comparable peer-to-peer lending (P2P) program that matches prospective consumer lenders with prospective borrowers. These agreements generally come with a variety of disclosure safeguards, which are designed to ensure a low default rate. For those seeking a higher-yielding alternative to online banks, Lending Club is worth a look. If you wish to know more, please see my review of Lending Club where I explore in-depth how the online program works and evaluate whether it is truly a legitimate way to earn a higher APY rate on your savings.
2. Everbank - I highly recommend Everbank if you're looking for a top tier online bank that offers great rates for savings accounts and checking. EverBank's product offerings are diverse and includes features like money market accounts, CD's, credit cards, and even currency investments options. You may not be as familiar with Ever Bank as you might be with a few of the other banking names on this short list, but they've been around for some time. Since the beginning, EverBank has always earned awards and praise for its banking features and online services. Money Magazine rates EverBank as one of its "Best Of Breed Online Banks", Kiplinger's Personal Finance ranks the firm's Everbank FreeNet checking account very highly, and even Forbes Magazine has ranked the bank among the "Best of the Web" for numerous years.
Everbank's most popular account feature - the highly regarded Yield Pledge Money Market Account - requires a minimum initial deposit of $1,500 and starts out at an extremely high introductory rate that overwhelming tops most high yield savings rates in the market. After a 3 month introductory period, the rate automatically adjusts to a slightly lower rate, but one that is still competitively higher than that offered by other online banks. Thereafter, there is no monthly fee so long as a balance of $5,000 is maintained. For more details and commentary, see my Everbank review.
3. Ally Bank - Formerly known as GMAC Bank, the new Ally Bank markets itself as a new age approach to online banking - one that offers transparency and a reformed way of doing business with its flexible array of unlimited sub accounts, daily interest compounding, no minimum deposits, no monthly fees, no minimum balances, and no sneaky disclaimers. I personally have deposited quite a bit of cash with Ally Bank and have found their online banking services to be very straight forward and reliably clean cut. Ally's banking rates are very high and there are no confusing tiered interest rates to contend with. What you see is basically what you get - with the usual assortment of high yield savings accounts, money markets, and high yield CD's. However, what's uniquely appealing about Ally Bank is its offering of no-penalty CD deposits that allow account holders to avoid paying any fees to transfer money out prior to the CD maturity date. For more info about Ally's banking features, please read my Ally Bank review.
4. E-trade Bank - Known more for its online brokerage arm, ETrade is what I call a one stop shopping all-in-one banking/discount brokerage firm. They offer pretty much the full package in the way of banking and brokerage services - including checking accounts, mortgage services, CD's, Roth IRAs, and investment guidance. Best of all, Etrade does not impose any minimum balance requirements to open a new account. Those that want the ability to instantly transfer money back and forth freely between their banking and broker accounts will find Etrade to be extremely appealing as the company seamlessly integrates the two services into one. If you want to know more, see my Etrade bank review and my Etrade broker review for my opinionated take.
5. FNBO Direct Bank - FNBO Direct is the online banking division of the First National Bank of Omaha - a bank with a great reputation that has largely escaped the credit crisis that has plagued most of the other banks in some shape or another. FNBO Direct offers competitive rates for its account holders and imposes no fees or minimum balance requirements. Fund transfers are quick and links to other bank accounts are easy to set up via a series of test trial deposits. ATM card options are available for those that wish to access their account funds from traditional live automated tellers. The bank's high yield savings account was one the first to start offering super high rates during the heyday of Internet based banks, and continues to be one of the most popular choices for its consistently high interest rate offerings. As with all of the recommended banks on this list, FNBO offers full FDIC insurance limit coverage for account deposits. Please check out my FNBO Direct review if you wish to learn more about the online bank.
6. Capital One Direct Bank - While probably much more famous for its lineup of "What's In Your Wallet" Capital One credit cards and its popular build-your-own credit card Card Lab feature, Capital One provides its savings account customers with pretty competitive rates through its online direct banking program. With Capital One Direct Banking, members get access to Smart Savings, certificate of deposits, and even business savings and CD accounts. There are low account minimum requirements and no sneaky service fees. Linking your Capital One savings account to existing external bank accounts for quick and easy transfers is very easy to do.
7. ING Direct Bank - As the grand daddy of them all, ING Direct has been around the longest since its emergence during the early dot com era of 2000. Since then, ING Direct has solidified itself as one of the best online banks with some measure of streamlined improvements to its online interface over the years. While the firm's bank rates have fluttered around of late, its yields are still competitive and exceed the rates offered by most neighborhood banks. Overall, ING Direct banking products are easy to open, easy to use, and ideally suited for those new to online banking. One thing that most reviewers of financial products generally agree on - is how simple and straight forward ING products are to manage. ING offers a wide array of banking and investment products with its seamless union of ING Direct savings, checking, and investing features via ING ShareBuilder. The firm's very popular Orange Savings Account offers a competitive interest rate with no monthly fees and no account balance minimums. Its Electric Orange Checking account also enjoys similar praise and positive reviews from the online critics. Another greatly appreciated feature of the bank is also the ability to utilize ING Direct referrals to refer friends and family members, allowing them to enjoy special first time member bonuses as new account sign ups.
8. Dollar Savings Direct - As a newly acquired online bank by much larger parent Emigrant Bank, Dollar Savings Direct continues the tradition of offering great high yield savings rates for its flagship product. New savings accounts are easy to open hassle free with no account maintenance requirements, no maintenance fees, and no hidden charges. New accounts do require an initial minimum deposit of $1,000, however thereafter, there is no stated obligation that account holders must actually maintain that balance. If you are an aggressive bank rate chaser like myself and desire the safety and security of full FDIC insurance coverage for your liquid cash assets with the added benefit of high rates, you should definitely click through and check out what Dollar Savings Direct Bank has to offer. For more details, take a look at my Dollar Savings Direct review.
Searching For Other Alternative Sources Of High Interest Rates
Generally if you want the perfect mix of cash liquidity, account accessibility, and competitively high interest rate yields for your bank account funds - you ought to stock with high yield savings accounts. But if you're willing to exchange a little bit of liquidity and lock up your monetary funds for anywhere between periods as short as a month to periods of 5 years or longer, you might be able to get a better interest rate yield via certificates of deposit. Check out my list of the best CD rates for what some of the top online banks are offering in that department.
Speaking of rates, those of you who are disappointed with the pitifully low interest rates on checking account funds might be surprised to know that there are high yield reward checking accounts out there that offer extremely high interest rates on checking balances. The rates offered are frequently the same or even better than the best online savings accounts and top level CD rates. The catch with these high interest reward checking accounts is that they often have stringent maximum balance limits and frequently require account holders to execute a certain number of debit card transactions a month to qualify. But if you're up to the task, they may be able to provide you an impressively excellent rate of return for your money.