Today, nearly all banks offer online banking. For many, the feature isn’t particularly well-developed. But in the past decade banks specializing in online banking have become more popular with each year.
The banks that are specializing in online, even providing their services on an online-only basis, are leading the pack into the future. Since there’s a real chance banks will eventually eliminate physical branches, it’s best to become comfortable with the all-online format now.
We’ve reviewed multiple banks in coming up with our list of the best online banks in the country. But the bank we feel comes out on top is Ally Bank. It’s an all-online bank – with no brick-and-mortar branch locations anywhere – but it offers full-service banking. That includes checking, savings, CDs, and auto loans. And if you want to invest where you bank, you can do it through Ally Invest.
The most important factor in choosing the best online bank is to find the one with the best features and services for you. For example, if you’re young, you may need to look for a bank that has no minimum initial deposit requirement, and charges no monthly fees. If you’re better established, you may be more interested in a bank that pays above-average interest on checking and savings. If you travel, an online bank with a large no-fee ATM network can save you a lot of money.
The Most Important Factors When Choosing an Online Bank
Working with an all-online bank is something of a learning experience if you’ve never done it before. For starters, you won’t have a local branch to go into with transactions and questions. It involves a large amount of self-directed activity, which is why you’ll need to work with an online bank that provides the tools and benefits that will allow you to bank independently.
In coming up with this list, we used the following criteria to determine the best online banks in the country:
- Number and type of accounts offered: This should include checking at a minimum, but also high-interest savings and even CDs.
- Secondary services: These can include related products, like auto loans, credit cards, business banking, investments, and financial management. Each of the banks listed below specialize in at least one of these categories.
- ATM network: ATM access is important with any bank, but it’s especially important with online banks, precisely because they have no local branches.
- Minimum initial deposit requirements: Any bank is more consumer-friendly when it has either a low minimum initial deposit requirement, or better yet, none at all.
- Low fees: Because they don’t have a network of bank branches to maintain, online banks typically charge lower fees than banks with branches. If you’re going to give up the branch advantage, you should be compensated in the form of lower banking fees.
- High interest: Same situation here. Absent the branch network, online banks generally pay much higher interest rates than traditional brick-and-mortar banks. Many online banks pay interest on deposit accounts that 20 times or more what traditional banks pay.
In compiling our list of the best online banks in the country, we specifically looked for banks that meet the above criteria.
Our Picks for The Best Online Banks
It can be difficult to declare one bank as the overall best online bank in the country. But there are many excellent online banks that specialize in very specific niches. We’ve included five of what we believe to be the best online banks in the country, and below is a list of what we believe each is best for:
- Best for consumers who don’t qualify for traditional bank accounts
- Best for younger consumers and business banking
- Best for personal finance management
- Best for online banking with physical bank branches
Ally Bank Review
Ally Bank has grown to become one of the most popular online banks there is. What makes it almost unique among online banks is that it offers virtually full-service banking. Ally Bank offers checking and savings accounts, as well as certificates of deposit. And as the successor company to General Motors Acceptance Corporation, Ally Bank provides some of the most innovative auto financing programs in the industry, including leasing of used vehicles.
It’s no wonder the Bank appears on both our Best Online Savings Accounts and Best Online Checking Accounts lists! And if that’s not enough, you can also hold your investments where you bank. Ally Invest is part of the Ally Family, and provides commission-free trades on stocks, options, and exchange traded funds. But they also provide a robo-advisor option, if you prefer low-cost professional investment management of your portfolio.
Why it made the list
- Ally Interest Checking offers fee-free banking, with some of the highest interest rates being paid on checking accounts. The account is currently paying 0.50% APY on all balances
- You’ll have access to more than 43,000 fee-free in-network ATM machines. Up to $10 reimbursed on out-of-network ATM fees per statement cycle.
- No minimum opening deposit required.
- Ally Bank Online Savings Account currently pays 1.10% APY on all account balances.
- Ally Bank CDs earn among the highest interest rates in the industry, with rates up to 1.15% APY.
- Commission-free trading with Ally Invest.
What holds it back
- Though it’s not unusual for online banks, there’s no ability to deposit cash into your account.
- You’ll be charged a fee of $10 for every outgoing transfer from your savings account after the first six.
Chime is an online, mobile only bank. It’s specifically designed for those who cannot get a traditional bank account due to either poor credit history or a negative banking experience in the past. For example, if you’ve ever closed out a checking account with a negative balance – and not paid off that balance – the bank will report the overage to what is known as ChexSystems. It’s something of a credit repository for banks, providing them with your experience in previous banking relationships.
Chime can help you if you’re in this situation, because they don’t run a check through ChexSystems, nor do they run a credit report. You can open an account regardless of your past history.
When you open an account with Chime, you’ll have a Spending Account – which is your checking account – a savings account, and a debit card. The combination will enable you to fully participate in a banking relationship, even if you aren’t qualified to open a traditional account with another bank.
Why it made the list
- Chime does not check your credit or the ChexSystem for account eligibility, making it the perfect choice if you’ve been unable to open a bank account due to either poor credit or a previous negative banking relationship.
- “Roundups” on debit card transactions enable you to save money passively.
- No minimum initial deposit or balance requirement, you can open an account with no money at all.
- No monthly maintenance fees, and no overdraft fees.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- Available to consumers nationwide.
- Access 38,000 no-fee in-network ATM machines.
What holds it back
- Difficult to make cash deposits into your account.
- Chime pays interest on your account that’s no better than the national average.
- Chime charges a fee of $2.50 when you use out-of-network ATM machines.
- Limited customer service.
Radius Bank Review
Radius Bank is one of the new wave of fintech banks operating almost entirely online. I say almost, because they do have a handful of branches in the Boston area where the bank’s based. Radius Bank has designed its banking services specifically for younger users, who are mainly concerned with better managing their spending and even earning spending related rewards.
Radius Bank offers business and personal checking accounts, high-yield savings, and certificates of deposit. Credit cards are made available through partnerships with third-party sources, and the bank does not provide personal loans.
Why it made the list
- A minimum opening balance of just $100 is required, with no minimum balance required thereafter.
- There are no monthly fees on Radius Bank Rewards Checking Accounts.
- The Rewards Checking Account pays interest and unlimited 1% cash back on purchases.
- Offers its Essential Checking Account as a second chance checking account for anyone who may not be able to get a traditional bank account based on a previous less-than-satisfactory banking experience.
- Offers its Tailored Checking Account for small businesses, including freelancers and gig workers.
- Offers commercial banking, which includes business lending, cash management, merchant services, ePayment solutions, payroll services, sweep accounts, and four different checking accounts. The bank does participate in SBA lending and the Paycheck Protection Program.
- Participates in an ATM network with more than 325,000 outlets.
- Unlimited rebates for ATM fees charged by other banks.
- Offers a Refer-a-friend program paying both you and the person you refer $50 if they open a Rewards Checking Account.
What holds it back
- Radius Bank has a fairly limited product menu as banks go, since it’s tailored toward the upstart market.
- Interest rates on deposit products, while better than the national average, are not among the highest in the industry.
- No interest is paid on account balances below $2,500.
- Radius Bank doesn’t make personal loans, and credit cards are offered through partner service providers.
Empower Finance Review
Empower Finance isn’t an online bank, but a financial app available with your smartphone, that will enable you to track your finances, reduce your expenses, and find ways to save money in your pocket. It can even help you track your credit usage. You can think of it as something like a mobile app version of Personal Capital.
However, it does provide an interest-bearing checking account and debit card through NBKC Bank, currently paying 0.25% APY on all balances and no account minimums. You’ll also receive three monthly ATM fee reimbursements. Even better, there are no overdraft fees, and foreign transaction fees just 1%.
Meanwhile, the app aggregates all your financial accounts in one place. That includes bank accounts, loans, credit cards, and retirement accounts, including employer-sponsored plans like your 401(k). It will categorize your spending to help you track exactly where your money’s going using custom reports.
The Spending Tracker tool acts as a built-in budgeting system. It allows you to set limits on spending categories and get better control of exactly where your money goes. You can set the tracker to provide you with alerts anytime you’re going over budget in any spending category. It will also alert you about upcoming bills. An Automated Savings Deposit tool can transfer money into your savings account, but it does it with a twist. You can set a periodic savings goal, and Empower will analyze your cash flow, automatically saving money when you have extra funds.
But what may be most interesting about the Empower Finance app is the Empower Assistant Tool. It will analyze your accounts for potential savings, and where necessary, negotiate your bills. That may include switching to a less expensive cable and Internet plan, or even mobile phone plan. The tool can also cancel unwanted subscriptions.
Oh, and one more feature: you’ll have access to a Human Coach. That will provide personalized coaching for any financial challenge you’re facing.
Why it made the list
- Financial app that enables you to both manage and improve your finances.
- The app is free to use for the first 30 days.
- Provides tools to save money,negotiate bills and save you additional money.
- The Credit Tracker will help you keep track of how much you’re spending on credit. That can be a valuable tool if you want to lower your credit utilization ratio to improve your credit score.
- Interest-bearing checking account currently paying 0.25% APY on all balances, with no minimum balance requirements.
- Automated savings transfers.
- Access to a Human Coach to help you with financial questions.
What holds it back
- Empower Finance is mostly a financial app, but it comes with a checking account (no savings or other banking services).
- After the 30-day free trial period, there is a $6 monthly fee to use the app.
Capital One Review
Capital One is another top online bank, also making both our Best Online Savings Accounts and Best Online Checking Accounts lists. But Capital One is unique to other online banks on this list, in that they actually have physical bank branches in many locations. In fact, they have over 750 in total. In addition to offering top-of-the-line checking, savings, and CDs, Capital One also has one of the most popular lineups of credit cards in the industry.
At the core of Capital One banking are the Capital One 360 accounts. They’re available in both checking and savings.
360 Checking comes with no fees and no account minimums. You’ll also have access to more than 40,000 fee-free ATM machines across the country. And the account is currently paying 0.10% APY on all account balances.
360 Performance Savings similarly has no account minimums and no monthly fees. They’re currently paying 1.00% APY on all account balances.
Why it made the list
- Capital One has no minimum deposit requirements and charges no fees on their primary checking and savings accounts.
- The bank has more than 750 branch locations, in addition to operating as an all-online bank.
- Customer service is available 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
- The Bank pays interest rates well above average on its checking and savings accounts.
- Access to more than 40,000 fee-free ATM machines across the country.
- Capital One provides some of the most attractive credit card offers in the industry.
What holds it back
- While Capital One pays interest rates well above industry averages, they’re not the highest available.
- Though they have branches available, the network isn’t as comprehensive as many of the large regional and national banks.
What You Need to Know About Online Banking
To take best advantage of the many benefits provided by online banks, like high interest rates and low or no fees, you’ll need to be prepared for the following:
No bank branches: Online banking will work best for you if you rarely or never go into a bank branch. If the opposite is true, you should maintain an account with a bank that has branches.
You need to be at least somewhat Internet savvy: You must be comfortable working on an online platform. You’ll need to be able to navigate a website and run transactions, like online bill payments and transfers, with little or no help from the bank.
You’ll need a smartphone and a good Internet connection: Access to your account will depend on one or the other, preferably both. If you live in an area where the Internet connection and Wi-Fi are limited or weak, online banking may not work for you.
Determine the level of customer service you need: To keep expenses to a minimum, online banks not only work without branches, but often with limited personnel. If you need frequent access to customer service, work with an online bank that has 24/7 customer service.
Online banks are often highly specialized: One bank may specialize in no-fee checking, while another may pay very high interest on savings. It’s possible you’ll need relationships with more than one online bank to take advantage of all they have to offer.
The ATM network is even more important: Since you won’t have the benefit of physical bank branches, you’ll need reliable access to an extensive no-fee ATM network. The no-fee factor will be even more important if you frequently make cash withdrawals.
Most online banks are not suitable to business banking: Online banking is evolving quickly. But only a handful of online banks offer business banking. Radius Bank is one that does and that’s one of the reasons we included it on our list of the best online banks in the country.
Before choosing an online bank, carefully evaluate your banking preferences and routines, and choose the bank that will work best for you.
Summary: The Best Online Banks in the Country
|Bank||Best For…||Accounts Offered||Interest Paid On…||No Fees On…||ATM Network|
|Ally Bank||Full service banking and best all-around||Checking, savings, CDs, investing||Checking, savings, CDs||Checking and savings||43,000+|
|Chime||Consumers who don’t qualify for traditional bank accounts||Checking and savings||N/A||Checking and savings||38,000+|
|Radius Bank||Younger consumers and business banking||Checking, savings, CDs, business accounts||Savings and CDs, plus 1% cash back on purchases through checking||Checking and savings||325,000+|
|Empower Financial||Personal finance management||Checking account||Checking account||Checking account||Out-of-network only|
|Capital One||Online banking with physical bank branches||Checking, savings, CDs||Checking, savings, CDs||Checking and savings||40,000+|