Pros & Cons of Online and Mobile Banking

By Janet Siroto · June 06, 2024 · 5 minute read

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Pros & Cons of Online and Mobile Banking

Online and mobile banking are growing in popularity, thanks to how they can make transactions faster, easier, and more secure. Indeed, the number of Americans who are going all in on managing their finances this way continues to grow. Recent research shows that about 27% of Americans use online-only banks.

Whether you are among that crowd or are using your traditional bank’s website or app, online and mobile banking have many advantages. And as with most financial services, there are also downsides to consider. Here, take a closer look at this important facet of your personal finances, so you can decide which banking style suits you best.

What Is Online Banking?

There are two aspects of online banking. Most traditional retail banks offer digital banking as well as the ability to conduct business at a branch. Their mobile and online banking options can allow you to conduct your banking without going to a branch. You might, say, use your smartphone to transfer funds to another bank account or do a mobile check deposit.

But often, the term “online banking” is used to refer to online-only banking vs. traditional banking, meaning you manage your personal finances completely online. Since online banks typically have no physical locations and therefore lower overhead, they can usually offer consumers a higher annual percentage yield (APY) on deposit accounts and other perks.

💡 Quick Tip: Make money easy. Open a bank account online so you can manage bills, deposits, transfers — all from one convenient app.

Pros of Online Banking

To better understand online banking, consider these upsides:

Higher Interest Rates and Lower Fees

As mentioned, online-only banks tend to offer a higher interest rate on savings accounts and possibly checking accounts, too. Currently, the national interest rate on savings accounts is 0.46%. At some online-only banks, however, you can find an APY of 4.60%, or 10 times higher.

In addition, these banks may offer lower or no fees. Stashing your cash in one of these banks can be a way to avoid bank fees, such as account maintenance charges and the like.

Recommended: APY vs. Interest Rate: What’s the Difference?

No Minimum Balance

Many traditional banks still require you to maintain a minimum balance or else be charged a monthly fee. In terms of how much money you need to open an account online and keep it in good standing, you may be in for a pleasant surprise. A number of digital financial institutions allow a balance of just a few dollars, and you still won’t be hit with charges on your statement.

Convenience

Online banks are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which means you can take care of transactions after normal bank hours. You can manage your money whenever and wherever.

ATM Access

Most online banks are part of an online network of ATMs, such as MoneyPass or Allpoint. What’s more, there is generally no fee for using these ATMs. If the financial institution doesn’t partner with an ATM network, they will typically offer to refund ATM fees up to a certain number of withdrawals.

Enhanced Online Experience

As digital innovators, online-only banks may provide a better user experience when online or in the app. Expect to get the latest tools and access to a wealth of features such as round-up savings programs or a dashboard that helps you track your earnings, spending, and savings.

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Cons of Online Banking

There are, however, some potential downsides to managing money this way. Consider these potential issues with online banking:

No In-Person Assistance

While most online banks provide a customer service line or chat function, they generally do not offer personal bankers. This means that there is no one available face-to-face to help you with your banking needs, such as setting up accounts, applying for loans, and getting a document notarized. If you are a person who wants and appreciates this kind of personal connection, you may not be well-suited to digital banking.

Limited Services

There may be some services that you aren’t able to enjoy with an online-only bank. It may or may not offer credit cards, car loans, and mortgages; you may not be able to deposit cash easily, as you can at a brick-and-mortar bank branch. Every online bank is different, so do your research to see what services they offer.

Limited ATM Access

Although many online banks will have a network of tens of thousands of ATMs that customers can access, others may offer less robust options vs. traditional retail banks. It’s worthwhile to see exactly where a digital bank has allied ATMs near your usual haunts, like your home and office, before signing up.

Is Online Banking Safe?

People may worry about whether online banking is safe. The truth is, traditional banks are no more or less secure than online-only banks, and vice-versa. All are at a very minimal risk of a hack. Also, any bank that is insured by the FDIC guarantees the same amount of protection in the highly unlikely case of a bank failing: $250,000 per depositor, per ownership, per insured institution. That’s true regardless of whether the bank is online or not. Digital banks generally tend to offer similar fraud protection programs as brick-and-mortar banks.

Recommended: What Do You Need to Open a Bank Account Online?

The Takeaway

Whether you call it online banking, mobile banking, or digital banking, keeping your funds with an online-only bank can offer many rewards. You’re likely to earn a higher interest rate and pay fewer fees, for instance. But those who like banking in person at a branch may choose to stick with a traditional bank. Think carefully about what suits your financial style and needs best.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


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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 recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit 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, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, 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 https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


*Awards or rankings from NerdWallet are not indicative of future success or results. This award and its ratings are independently determined and awarded by their respective publications.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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