Simple Bank Review

FT Contributor  | 

Simple Bank takes a different approach to banking. The Portland, Oregon tech startup came about in 2009 to bring banking back to the basics. The online-only bank provides checking and savings accounts you can manage through the mobile banking app — with a twist.

Simple gives you a “safe to spend” amount after the app accounts for your income, expenses, scheduled bills, and savings goals. Wondering if you can afford something? The Simple banking app has done the math for you, all without any checking account fees or overdraft charges.

Your money is safe with Simple Bank. Although there are no physical branches, your money is held by BBVA USA, Simple’s partner bank. Your funds are FDIC insured, meaning the federal government will cover the money you keep in your checking and savings accounts for up to $250,000.

Who Is Simple Bank Good For?

When choosing the right bank, there are factors you should consider. If you have a good understanding of budgets and personal finance in general, Simple Bank’s focus on basic budgeting may not be of much help to you.

Simple is an online-only bank. If you prefer to have access to a local branch office to make cash deposits, have a safety deposit box, or order cashier’s checks on the spot, you may want to consider other banks. Simple Bank’s unique approach is best for:

  • Banking customers comfortable with mobile banking;
  • Young adults;
  • College students;
  • People having trouble with overspending;
  • Individuals with savings goals;
  • Account-holders who are tired of paying overdraft fees.

Simple Bank Requirements

Simple Bank wants to make effortless banking accessible to everyone. There are just three requirements to open a bank account:

  • You must be 18 years of age or older;
  • You must provide your verifiable Social Security number;
  • You’ll need a device to download and use the mobile banking app.

Goals-Based Checking Account

The bank’s biggest draw is its Goals-Based feature. Once you open a checking account and download the mobile app, the Goals-Based feature helps you budget part of your available funds towards your target. All you need to do is add a goal, name it, decide how much you want to save and how often, and enter a completion date.

The app will do the rest by calculating how much money you have left after covering your scheduled bills and expenses. You’ll notice the funds automatically move from your checking account to your Goal account, in small increments each day. Some reasons you may want to use this feature are:

  • To create an emergency savings fund;
  • To save for a car or down payment on a house;
  • To pay down debt from a credit card or student loan;
  • To save for your wedding or vacation;
  • To grow your Christmas fund.

Simple Checking Account

Simple checking accounts are free. You won’t even be charged any overdraft fees. To pay your bills and cover your expenses, you’ll receive a Simple Visa debit card and access to the mobile banking app to set up transfers to pay bills. To deposit funds, you can set up direct deposit with your employer or use the mobile check deposit feature. You can also order paper checks for $5 if you’d rather pay bills the traditional way.

Simple Protected Goals Account

The money you sock away every month towards your goal is pulled from your checking account and placed in a separate Protected Goal account. Simple Bank does this to keep you from spending your savings funds by accident. The Protected Goals account is essentially a high-yield savings product. You’ll earn 1.75% annual percentage yield (APY) on your deposits.

Other Simple Bank Financial Features

Here are other Simple banking features you may want to know about:

ATMs

If you need to withdraw some cash, you’ll have access to over 40,000 free ATMs through the Allpoint network. You may also withdraw funds for free at participating merchants using the cashback option when you pay.

Automatic Transfers

Simple doesn’t have an online bill pay feature. The alternative is setting up automatic transfers to make payments by using your debit card number or scheduling a draft from your checking account.

Fees

It may be hard to believe, but Simple Bank literally charges no fees. The company announced in 2015 it was getting rid of its fee schedule. There are exceptions, based on what other parties charge Simple. You’ll pay to use an ATM outside of the network, use your debit card internationally (1%), or order checks ($5).

Interest Rates

The Protected Goals account earns a 1.75% APY interest rate, regardless of the balance. Simple Bank is working on adding certificates of deposit (CDs) to their savings lineup.

Mobile App

The Simple mobile app is the heart of your banking. You’ll be able to make deposits, schedule bills and payments, manage your debit card, and get help on your spending through the Safe-to-Spend feature.

Safe-To-Spend

The Safe-to-Spend feature works with your current balance, upcoming bills, and savings goals to tell you how much money you have left to spend.

The Limitations of Simple Bank

Simple Bank delivers on its name, but for some consumers, the accounts are limited. Here are some of the bank’s limitations:

  • Only one type of checking and savings account;
  • No physical branches;
  • No credit cards available;
  • No online bill pay;
  • No CDs available yet.

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