Simple Bank Review: Good App-Based Checking and Budgeting

Simple Bank Review: Good App-Based Checking and Budgeting

Simple provides banking services in a very different way than a brick-and-mortar bank, but if you're willing to adapt, it can be a very low-cost banking option with a very high savings rate.

Good for

  • Online app tracks debit spending and savings goals
  • Competitive 2.02% APY on savings balance
  • No monthly fee or minimum to open
  • Free access to 55,000 ATMs worldwide in Allpoint network

Bad for

  • No physical bank branch locations
  • No loans, credit or investment accounts available
  • Unable to accept cash deposits into account

Editor's Rating

4.5/5.0

Simple is an online-only bank that replaces brick-and-mortar service with a Visa debit Card, mobile banking app and web interface. Simple focuses on delivering a banking experience that's both streamlined and comprehensive, resulting in a system that integrates budgeting and goal-setting tools into your daily interactions with the account. Most recently, Simple has also added a 2.02% APY savings rate in the form of a new Protected Goals account.

Review: Should You Join Simple?

Simple Account
Simple Account

If you're willing to give up brick-and-mortar bank branches in exchange for a mobile banking app, Simple can be a very low-cost bank account with great utility and a strong savings rate. Instead of operating branch offices, Simple partners with BBVA Compass, an FDIC-insured bank that holds all user accounts on Simple's behalf. Simple then provides access to those accounts through its mobile app and website, along with Visa debit cards for purchases and ATM withdrawals.

Good For...Bad For...
  • Free and comprehensive online checking
  • No fees for ATMs, ACH transfers or overdrafts
  • App for tracking spending and setting savings goals
  • Strong APY on Protected Savings account
  • No physical bank locations
  • No cash deposits
  • No loans, credit or investment accounts

While Simple is a great foundation for basic banking and budgeting, it doesn't offer other financial products like mortgages, loans or investment accounts. This means users with more complex finances may find it easier to keep their checking accounts at a larger bank with a more comprehensive package of services. Unlike other institutions, the Simple checking account doesn't provide any premium incentives for high balances, such as boosted interest. You may want to check here if you prefer checking options that earn high interest.

Finally, it pays to note that Simple is a new kind of company that's quite different from standard banks. This means it's still prone to big changes in the way it operates. Recently, Simple's original partnership with The Bancorp Bank gave way to a new arrangement with BBVA Compass, the US arm of Simple's parent company BBVA. While some might worry that Simple's short history means more potential for bank errors or delayed transfers, our own experience with the account hasn't turned up any issues so far.

Simple Account Features

The first thing many people look for in a good bank account is low fees. Simple gets off to a good start here, with no fees charged for monthly maintenance, ATM usage, overdrafts or ACH transfers. Essentially, the only time you'll pay Simple for a bank service is when you use your debit card in another country, which will cost 1% of the total transaction. Among traditional banks, few places come as close as Simple does to providing a truly "free" checking account.

Through Simple's app and website, you can view balance and transaction history, deposit checks remotely and send money to other people. Direct deposit is also possible, and the bank lets you connect any outside checking or savings accounts for free transfers. The bank also allows free cash withdrawals through the Allpoint network of ATMs, which comprises some 55,000 machines across the world. In short, Simple provides every feature you'd expect of a standard checking account—except for physical banks and in-person service.

Finally, Simple accounts also come with features you'd expect to see in third-party financial apps like Mint or You Need a Budget. Its Goal setting option lets you define an amount and end date to save for a particular expense, while Safe-to-Spend shows you how much you can afford to spend after accounting for upcoming bills and savings goals. Most banks don't offer such detailed control over your banking, so Simple is a good choice if you prefer to have one app to manage all your finances instead of using one app for your banking and another for your budgeting.

Simple Account – Key Figures

  • APY: 2.02% on Protected Goals account
  • Minimum to Open: $0
  • Monthly Fees: $0
  • ATM Fees: $0
  • Daily ATM Limit: $500

How Does Simple Compare to Other Banks?

Simple's marketing presents the company as a non-traditional alternative to typical banks, so we compared it with the largest brick-and-mortar brands as well as other online-only competitors.

Simple vs. Chase

People who rely on branch services and require additional bank services may have an easier experience banking with Chase. Its nationwide network of branches provide millions of customers with bank accounts, credit cards and loans. Simple only provides checking account services. Of course, this also depends on whether or not you live close to Chase's service locations, which tend to be concentrated around major cities.

map of Chase branches in the US, by county

Among mainstream banks, Chase has a very strong online interface, and it actually doesn't fall far behind Simple in terms of mobile functions —especially if you're managing credit card balances at Chase. However, Simple's checking account fees charges almost nothing in fees compared to Chase Total Checking, so if you're willing to deal with transferring funds between banks once in a while, Simple is a superior checking account option.

Simple vs. Bank of America

Bank of America Core Checking
Bank of America Core Checking

Like Chase, Bank of America offers customers a huge network of branches and ATMs almost anywhere in the country, with a much more diverse set of banking products than Simple can provide. The difference between Simple and Bank of America is almost the same as the comparison between Chase and Simple: comprehensive fee-based bank services versus no-cost online checking.

map of Bank of America branches in the US, by county

Simple vs. Capital One

Capital One 360 Checking
Capital One 360 Checking

Although Capital One is another large bank with hundreds of branch locations, it comes much closer to providing checking services in the way Simple does. Capital One 360 Checking is an interest-bearing checking account you can access through the bank's website. It earns 0.20% - 1.00% APY, a much higher rate than Simple's 2.02% APY for checking balances.

map of Capital One branches in the US, by county

Combined with the savings accounts and other bank products Capital One provides, it may be a more convenient alternative, at least until Simple decides to expand the range of its own products to include a better interest-earning option or credit cards.

Simple vs. Ally Bank

Ally Interest Checking
Ally Interest Checking

We've included Ally Bank here as a representative of the online alternatives to Simple. Ally provides checking, savings and many additional services that smaller online banks like Simple often skip over. It provides a highly competitive 1.90% APY on savings and up to 0.60% APY on Ally Interest Checking, making it a much better choice to boost your rates than Simple. However, Ally's apps and online interface fall a little short of Simple's functionality. You'll need to supplement your experience in that area with a third-party app like Mint if you want to replicate the integrated financial experience you'd get at Simple.

Comments and Questions

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