As one of many new fintech alternatives to traditional savings accounts, Beam's high APY and easy-to-use daily bonus system yield a strong interest rate. However, more consistent rates at competitors detract from Beam's current value as an online savings option.
What is Beam?
Beam is a fintech startup that's promising a digital deposit account with much higher interest rates than savings accounts at typical banks. According to the company's homepage, the Beam account will earn up to 4% APY depending on whether you fulfill certain daily activity requirements on the Beam mobile app.
According to Beam CEO Yinan Du, the company is able to provide these high rates by achieving higher cost efficiency compared to existing online banks. Du further explained that Beam also generates revenue by providing software services to traditional banking institutions. However, we've observed that Beam's base APY has dropped since its beta days, even as other major online banks maintain higher and more consistent deposit rates.
Beam Account Features—and Bugs
Beam offers a fee-free online savings account that you manage via app, covered by FDIC insurance like any regular account. While Beam's advantages are great in theory, we encountered several bugs in the beta that hampered our ability to interact with Beam features.
What Beam Promises
- Up to 4% APY, depending on daily app usage
- No monthly fees or minimum balances
- $15,000 maximum balance
Because the Beam account is a demand deposit account, users can make as many withdrawals as they need—unlike typical savings accounts, which allow no more than six withdrawals per month. The interest rate ranges between 2% and 4% APY, with users able to increase their interest rate by logging into the Beam app and spending daily tokens known as "billies".
Boosting Your APY with Beam
When we activated a Beam beta account and logged into the app, we found that the APY was initially set at 2%. The Beam app also starts new users with three "billies", or tokens—named for Beam's mascot—that can be spent with the press of a button to increase the interest rate for a day. We were able to use all three of our billies to achieve a rate of over 5% APY—but only for the first day.
Each day at 6:00 PM, you receive one free billie, which must be used before it disappears one hour later. The APY bonus from using each billie will vary: we saw daily boosts anywhere from 0.12% to over 1.00%. You also earn three billies for every friend you can recruit to the Beam mailing list; your friend also earns 10 billies.
Regardless of whether you decide to use billies, the minimum 0.04% on the Beam account guarantees it still earns interest. Besides Beam, the highest savings rates we've seen are taking a dip thanks to the current market, but are more consistent and don't require you to work for your APY.
Bugs Encountered in Beta
Beam's beta drew a hefty waiting list, but users should be aware that we encountered more than one bug during several months of testing. These issues included intermittent lag in loading screens and miscalculated interest credits. While contacting Beam support always produced a swift and helpful response, the nature of these problems raises questions about the reliability of the app.
Our first sign of trouble came in checking the history of interest credit to the account. Beam compounds interest on your balance daily, but on one occasion we noticed that credit was actually missing entirely for one day in our transaction log. While this was quickly corrected once we reached out, this issue may be cause for pause since it involved earned interest- the core purpose of a savings account.
Another issue arose when the app logged us out on its own. When we tried to log in using the email address we originally provided, we inadvertently entered that email with different capitalization. Repeated failure to log in revealed that the app's login credentials are case-sensitive, a bug which Beam support promised to patch. These problems leave a lot of work for Beam to do before it can compete with the reliability provided by larger competitors.
When is Beam Available?
Beam is available for both Android and iOS devices. You can enter your email address on the Beam homepage, which will also ask for your phone number for verification and to send you a link to download the app. You can also download the app directly in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. After you download in the app store of your choice, you will need to provide your phone number in the app to get started.
Beam Account Requirements
Based on our experience with installing the Beam app, here's the information you'll need to provide:
- Verified email address
- Birth date—must be 18 or older
- Social security number
- Valid U.S. drivers license, passport, or ID—photo upload
- Valid U.S. address
- Mobile device model—must be text-capable
- Name of current bank—must be supported by Beam
Most of these requirements are typical of any FDIC-insured bank, but Beam adds a few requirements to make sure that you're capable of accessing its online services. You must have a phone that can receive text messages, and you must have a current bank account that supports linking to Beam. Most major institutions are already compatible with Beam.