As one of many new fintech alternatives to traditional savings accounts, Beam's high base APY and easy-to-use daily bonus system yield a strong interest rate. However, rising rates at competitors and a number of bugs in the current beta version of the app detract from Beam's 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 blog, the Beam account will earn 2% 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 of 2% has remained the same even as major financial institutions have steadily raised their deposit rates to similar levels.
Users of the Beam account will be able to make withdrawals and transfers through the app, while their actual deposits will be held by Evolve Bank & Trust, a small regional bank in Arkansas. Beam's partnership with Evolve means that Beam users will be covered by FDIC deposit insurance, just like customers at any major U.S. bank. This is an arrangement we've seen with other successful banking startups, most notably Simple Bank.
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
- 2%–4% APY, depending on daily app usage
- No monthly fees or minimum balances
- $15,000 maximum balance in Private Beta
- Free 24-hour transfers in and out of account
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 waitlist using your unique referral URL, provided in the app.
Regardless of whether you decide to use billies, the minimum 2% on the Beam account keeps it competitive with other online bank account options for now. Besides Beam, the highest savings rates we've seen are steadily catching up in APY, especially as interest rates rise in general.
Bugs Encountered in Beta
Beam's beta has drawn a hefty waiting list, but users should be aware that we've encountered more than one bug during several months of testing. These issues have 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, the fact that this error involved interest—the core purpose of a savings account—makes it a must-fix issue for the company as it prepares for a full launch.
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 Will Beam Be Available?
Currently, Beam is activating Private Beta accounts for both Android and iOS users from its waitlist on a rolling basis. For the initial rollout, Du stated that individuals would be able to keep a maximum deposit of $15,000 per Beam account. Once the public beta begins later this year, Beam plans to increase the limit to $50,000.
For now, anyone can join the Beam waitlist by submitting an email address on the company's website. At the time this article was last updated, over 115,000 people were registered.
The company's referral system allows you to improve your position on the waitlist by referring other people to sign up for Beam—although you may want to save your referrals until you have an account and can earn billies to boost your rate.
In addition, the company responded to high user interest by establishing a second program for trial accounts, which becomes available when you refer at least one friend who joins the waitlist and verifies their email address. This is a quicker way to try the app out as you wait in line for the private beta.
Trial accounts will only allow deposits of up to $400, but Beam plans to offer higher limits when it launches its public beta at some point. This article will be updated as the company releases more details and features.
Beam Account Requirements
Based on our experience with installing the Beam app, here's the information you'll need to provide once you receive an invite:
- 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.