Is an Online-Only Bank Right For You? What To Consider When Opening an Account

When it comes to banking, the institution you use is everything; it’s easy to think every bank or credit union is exactly the same, but each one has different offerings that you should examine carefully. Finding the right match between your financial needs and the benefits of a particular bank is essential, as it will determine how easily you can reach your financial goals.

In the past ten years, online-only banks have exploded in popularity, and it’s not hard to see why: their lean operations means that they can provide lower interest rates and less fees than traditional brick-and-mortar banks. Given that they’re built entirely online, their mobile apps are often better built than those for more long-standing banks, which are still catching up to the digital world. Whether you’re getting a bank account for the very first time, or you’re opening multiple accounts to help you reach your savings goals, an online-only bank might be the right fit for you; let’s consider why.

Whether brick-and-mortar or online, only work with a bank that is FDIC insured

Any bank that you use should be insured with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, as this is the best protection you have against losing all your hard-earned cash. This government corporation, formed during the Great Depression after bank runs decimated trust in the banking industry, will insure up to $250,000 in your bank account. In other words, if the bank goes under and you have $50,000 in your account, you’ll be paid back that much from the government.

You shouldn’t keep any large amount of money in an account that is not FDIC insured, such as apps like PayPal or Venmo. If you use these apps regularly, you may benefit from using an online bank that is connected to cash transfer apps like Zelle; you can keep your money in an insured bank account but still benefit from the convenience of moving money freely.

If you rarely need to visit a bank branch, you might benefit from the lower fees and convenience of an online bank

Some people enjoy doing their banking in person, whether that’s taking cash out of an ATM or going into their local branch to deposit a check; others might find it necessary, such as if they are often paid in cash. If these circumstances apply to you, then using a local credit union or bank may be your best option, but if you typically do all your banking online anyway, you might find it more convenient to open an online bank account with a digital bank.

The reason is because, since they don’t have to maintain physical locations, online-only bank accounts can pass the savings onto you through reduced fees and higher interest rates on savings accounts. They may also have other perks, such as early paydays and more cashback options, that a more traditional bank can’t provide. Better yet, their mobile apps are often more better designed, and they may be more responsive, as all their customer service is already online.

If this appeals to you, and you don’t mind the lack of a physical branch to visit, then an online-only bank may be a great choice for you.

Be sure to check that there are free ATMs for use near you

However, there’s one big downside to some digital banks: because they don’t have their own branches, they also don’t have their own dedicated ATMs. This can be a major problem if you often need to withdraw or deposit cash and you choose an online-only bank that doesn’t have agreements with other banks.

Before you sign up for a new account with a digital bank, double-check that they have free ATMs available to you; some will have almost none, while others will have even more ATMs than a brick-and-mortar bank. It might not seem important to you if you don’t use them very often, but you may find yourself needing cash in a pinch, only to be frustrated when you have to pay exorbitant fees to access your own money. Many digital banks will have an ATM locator that you can access right from the app, which will greatly reduce the hassle should you need one.

Online-only banks are incredibly useful, and they will only grow more popular in the coming years

As more people become familiar with online banking, they’ll seek to take advantage of the lower fees and better accessibility of digital banks; particularly, many will note that online banks can often provide higher interest rates on savings accounts and faster transactions when using cash apps like Zelle. If these benefits sound amazing to you, consider researching some of the digital banks currently operating in your area and decide which one has all the services that you need. Depending on how you bank, a company like Varo may be exactly what you’ve been looking for all this time.