Banking with an online-only financial institution can offer a lot of perks, like higher interest rates on deposit accounts, lower (or no) monthly fees, and even features like fee-free overdraft protection. But not every online bank is equal.
When you’re evaluating an online bank for a checking and savings account, it’s important to consider the features of the bank’s online platform and mobile app. Depending on your preferences, you may prioritize some features of mobile banking — like peer-to-peer transfers and mobile check deposit — over others.
Here, you’ll learn about some of the most important attributes to look for when investigating the features of online and mobile banking. This list can help you make the best choice for your own particular financial services needs.
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The Benefits of Having a Good Banking Website and Mobile App
There are many pros of online and mobile banking, typically including a higher annual percentage yield (APY) on your savings, low or no monthly fees, easy ATM access, and sometimes no minimum balance requirement.
But a good online-only bank should also include features on its website platform and mobile app that offer security and convenience. Finding an online bank account with a safe, easy-to-use platform and app can add so much convenience into your everyday life. You’ve just got to know which features to look for.
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12 Must-Have Features of Online and Mobile Banking
So what are the top features of online banking to consider when looking for a new bank account? We’ve rounded up 12 must-have online bank features that you may want to prioritize:
1. Highly Rated Mobile App
Unless you spend a lot of time at a desk, you may be doing more of your banking on the go with your smartphone. That means you’ll likely want to find a bank that is renowned for its mobile app.
When shopping for a new bank account, it’s a good idea to compare interest rates and fees, but you can also head to the Apple App Store and Google Play to see how other consumers have rated the bank’s mobile app.
If a bank’s mobile app has consistently negative reviews, that could be a red flag.
2. Safety and Security Features
You may wonder, Is mobile banking safe? It’s worth making sure certain security features are in place. Just like traditional brick-and-mortar banks, online-only banks should offer FDIC insurance on your funds.
Whether you’re visiting an online or traditional bank’s website, you can always verify that it’s legitimate using the FDIC’s database, BankFind .
But beyond insuring the money in your account, a bank should also offer online and mobile banking safety features, like:
• Two-factor authentication, multi-factor authentication, or biometric authentication (like thumbprint or face ID)
• Fraud alerts via text, email, and mobile app
• Debit card freezes
• Credit score monitoring
• Automatic logout
Tip: Not sure what security features a bank has? You may be able to find a breakdown of all the security features a bank offers on its website.
3. Account Alerts
Fraud alerts aren’t the only valuable alerts you may want to prioritize when selecting an online bank. Such financial institutions typically offer a wide array of online banking alerts — sent via email, text, or even push notification — about different kinds of bank activity.
Banks may send alerts for:
• Low balances
• Direct deposits
• Unusual activity on your account
• New log-ins
• Large purchases
• Username and password changes
These and other alerts can make managing your finances easy — and get your attention if something goes wrong.
4. Account Activity, Balances, and Statements
Before the advent of online banking, many people tracked their bank activity using a physical register in their checkbook. They could then compare this against a paper statement they’d receive in the mail each month.
But now, you can eliminate all this manual work. Online banking typically features tools that allow consumers to log in to their account online or via the mobile app at any time to check recent activity, access e-statements, and review balances.
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5. Self-Service Options
If you’re interested in managing your account without having to talk to a live bank teller, you may want to find a bank that offers self-service options.
For example, with many online accounts, you can do a lot of things on your own online or in the app, including:
• Setting up direct deposit
• Setting up bill pay
• Resetting your debit card PIN
Being able to do these things without calling customer service or visiting a physical branch can add convenience and flexibility to everyday life.
6. Early Direct Deposit
Speaking of direct deposit, some online banks offer early access to your paycheck when you set up qualifying direct deposits. If you want to access your paycheck up to two days early, consider prioritizing a bank account with this unique online banking feature.
7. Mobile Check Deposit
Direct deposit isn’t the only deposit feature to consider. If you occasionally receive paper checks from friends, family, or even customers for your small business, you’ll need a way to deposit the checks without going to a physical branch.
Many online banks allow you to deposit a check wherever you may be, by using your mobile phone. Among the benefits of mobile check deposit: the ability to snap a photo of your endorsed check to deposit via the smartphone app. You can even do it from the couch.
8. Easy Transfers
Transferring money is an important part of the banking experience. When you open a new account, for instance, you may want to transfer money from one bank to another. You might also need to transfer funds between two accounts at the same bank.
If you anticipate regular transfers, it may be smart to prioritize a bank account that lets you initiate transfers easily online or in the mobile app. This can save you the hassle of visiting a physical branch or calling a bank teller to initiate a transfer.
Sometimes, you may want to transfer money to friends and family using your mobile device. This is called a peer-to-peer transfer (or person-to-person transfer, or P2P). Some mobile banking apps have their own P2P platforms, others may offer Zelle transfers in app, and others may simply allow you to connect your bank account, debit card, or credit card to popular P2P transfer apps like Venmo and Cash App.
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9. ATM Finder
Because online-only banks don’t have any physical branches for consumers to visit, they generally offer an extensive network of ATMs that make it easy to withdraw cash on the go. If you regularly take out or deposit cash at an ATM, it’s a good idea to prioritize a bank with a large ATM network.
But you should also consider how easy it is to find nearby ATMs. Some mobile bank apps, for example, have ATM finders that can help you navigate to the closest fee-free ATM near you. This can be a real plus when you want to quickly get a check deposited.
10. Automatic Savings Tools
An online banking feature to consider is one that can help you build your savings account faster. You can usually opt into these automated savings features online or in the mobile app. Check for rounding-up functions and other ways to grow your wealth, little by little.
11. Online Bill Pay
One of the best features of online banking is how online bill pay works, though not every financial institution may offer this. If you occasionally forget to pay a bill, you may benefit from a bank that lets you set up this feature and want to make sure it’s available.
Paying your bills on time is a significant contributing factor to a solid credit score, so it’s worth your attention.
Recommended: Pros and Cons of Automatic Bill Payment
12. Great Customer Support
When you choose an online-only bank, you won’t be able to walk into a local branch and chat with a bank teller when you need help. Instead, you’ll connect with virtual assistants and live agents via chat (in-app or online), email, and phone.
If you think you may need help from time to time, it’s a good idea to review a bank’s customer service hours and read reviews of customer service interactions. An online bank with a stellar reputation for customer service could enhance your overall banking experience.
For many, the appeal of online bank accounts continues to be the high APYs, low fees, and extensive ATM networks. But the unique features of online banking — like mobile check deposit, account alerts, peer-to-peer transfers, and online bill pay — make an even more compelling case for switching to online banking.
When you open an online bank account with SoFi, you’ll enjoy a hyper competitive APY and no account fees, which can help your money grow that much faster. Plus you’ll be able to spend and save in one convenient place with our Checking and Savings account.
What are the features and benefits of online banking?
Online banks are known for offering high APYs on savings accounts, no monthly fees or minimum balance on checking accounts, and even cutting-edge features like fee-free overdraft, early paycheck access, mobile check deposit, and automatic savings tools. Each online bank account will vary, but it’s a good idea to prioritize one that offers these and other key features — and has a highly rated mobile app.
Is mobile banking safe?
For the most part, mobile banking is safe. Like a traditional bank account, an online bank account should be insured by the FDIC. Furthermore, a good online bank should offer a wide range of safety and security features, like multi-factor authentication, instant transaction alerts, and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption to protect accounts and your personal information.
What are the pros and cons of online banks?
Because they have lower overhead costs, online-only banks can typically offer consumers higher interest rates, lower fees, and a superior mobile banking experience. They may have compelling features like automatic savings tools, fee-free overdraft, extensive ATM networks, and mobile check deposit.
However, these banks do not have in-person banking, may not always offer live assistance, and might have a more limited roster of banking services. Depending on the online bank, some consumers may find it more challenging to deposit cash.
Photo credit: iStock/Ridofranz
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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.
SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.
SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.
SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.
Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.
Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet..
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