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Best banks for online banking

The best online banks help you stay on top of your financial goals.

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Online banking is a quick, easy and convenient way to manage your everyday finances. But how do you find an online bank that works for your needs? Explore our guide to online banking and uncover the best online banks of 2020.

6 best online banks

BankBest for…Recommended accountMore info
SynchronySavingsSynchrony High Yield SavingsGo to site
DiscoverMinimal feesDiscover Online Savings AccountGo to site
Capital OneChecking accountsCapital One 360 CheckingRead review
TIAA BankSmall businessesTIAA Bank Small Business CheckingRead review
Marcus by Goldman SachsHigh interest ratesMarcus by Goldman Sachs Online SavingsRead review
AllyOnline banking overallAlly Bank Interest CheckingRead review

A closer look at the top online banks

Synchrony

Best for savings

Synchrony is an online-only bank offering competitive interest rates and unique perks like identity theft resolution services and travel discounts.

Discover

Best for minimal fees

Discover is the biggest online-only bank in the country. We’ve crowned it best online bank for minimal fees for one good reason — customers never pay fees for monthly maintenance, insufficient funds, expedited check or debit card deliveries, stop payment orders and more.

Capital One

Best for checking accounts

Capital One has a saving suite of online banking tools that allow you to pay bills online, make peer-to-peer transfers, mobile deposit checks, manage transactions and set up an Automatic Savings Plan for all your financial goals.

TIAA Bank

Best for small businesses

TIAA Bank has a wide range of business bank accounts for commercial, nonprofit and small business use. The online banking platform goes way beyond simple cash management by giving you the tools and resources you need to stay organized.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Best for high interest rates

Marcus by Goldman Sachs is the online-only banking arm of Goldman Sachs. Its online banking platform emphasizes security and simplicity. Plus, all accounts have consistently high APYs and minimal fees.

Ally

Best overall

Ally‘s online banking shines as best overall thanks to its 24/7 customer service, low fees and competitive APYs. You’ll find a wide range of products here, including checking, savings and CDs.

How to choose the best online bank for you

When shopping around for the best online bank account, weigh factors like:

  • The website. Is it easy to navigate the bank’s website? Look out for speed, accuracy and convenience. After all, you’ll spend a good bit of your time managing your account online.
  • Range of products. Most people want to keep all their bank accounts under one roof so they’re easier to manage. If that’s you, explore the bank’s complete product line to see if there are multiple accounts that suit your needs.
  • Security and protection. Your bank should publish its security measures online, letting you know how it protects your sensitive information from hackers and phishing. Review this information to make sure your funds are guaranteed against cybercrime.
  • Range of features. The top banks allow you to check your balances, pay off bills and sign up for autopay, among other perks.
  • Financial literacy tools. Many banks offer general information and tools that can help you manage your finances, maximize your savings and budget for the future.
  • Customer service. A good online banking platform should offer phone support or live chat during business hours. Some even offer it 24/7.

Alternatives to online banks

If you’re thinking online banks aren’t for you, here are some alternatives to explore:

  • Prepaid cards. Prepaid cards work like debit cards, allowing you to make purchases and withdraw cash at an ATM. But unlike debit cards, you can’t overdraft with prepaid cards, making them a good option if you need to build good spending habits.
  • Digital banks. Unlike online banks, digital banks utilize new technology to create innovative banking solutions. A digital bank account can sync with your budget, analyze your spending habits and help you save automatically.
  • Mobile banking. Want to do all your banking without ever having to log in to your computer? There are several banks that have feature-rich mobile apps that help you manage your finances from anywhere in the world.

How does online banking work?

Online banking lets you manage your finances and transact your business through a bank’s website or mobile app. Instead of visiting your nearest branch, you can sign in to your online account to pay your bills, make a deposit or transfer, check your balance and more.

It usually takes less than 10 minutes to apply for online banking. The credentials you use to log in to your online banking account typically won’t be the same as your bank details for security purposes.

The Big Four brands its online banking according to platform:

Financial institutionOnline bankingMobile banking
Bank of AmericaBank of America Online BankingBank of America Mobile Banking
ChaseChase Online BankingChase Mobile
CitibankCiti Online BankingCiti Mobile
Wells FargoWells Fargo OnlineWells Fargo Mobile

The right online banking platform allows you to:

  • Transfer money by email, social media, text message, mobile banking and more.
  • Check your account balance and access your transaction history.
  • Find the nearest ATM in your bank’s network.
  • Research products and services to buy or upgrade.
  • Use currency converters, home loan repayment calculators, stock trading calculators and other tools.
  • Manage investments and trade stocks.
  • Pay for goods and services with a mobile wallet.
  • Deposit checks and pay bills.

How to open an online bank account

Opening a bank account online is becoming the new norm — and it’s easier than ever. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Once you’ve chosen the best online bank for you, follow the prompts on the provider’s website to start the application process. You’ll usually see buttons that say “Apply Now” or “Open Online.”
  2. Enter your personal information, including your Social Security number and government-issued photo ID number.
  3. Fund your account by making your initial deposit.

Once you’ve opened your account, you can set up a username and password through the bank’s website. Then, you can log in to monitor your balances, move money across accounts and set up features like autopay.

How do I register for online banking?

To sign up for online banking, you’ll need to visit your bank’s website or a branch with:

  • Your debit card or bank account number.
  • Your Social Security or tax ID.
  • Your phone number or email address.

How do I register for mobile and tablet banking?

After you’ve set up online banking on your desktop, download your bank’s app and follow the directions. If your phone allows it, you might be able to connect your debit or credit card to Apple Pay, Google Pay or other digital wallets.

Should I choose an account based on its online banking system?

If you live your life through your smartphone, mobile banking could be the deal breaker between competing bank accounts. Some banks offer more advanced online banking capabilities than others, like mobile check deposits and statements that integrate with your existing accounting software.

Remember to compare fees and features on mobile banking apps. You may find that more expensive bank accounts offer more helpful online banking services.

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How do I access money in an online bank account?

While most online bank accounts don’t accept cash deposits, there are still several ways to access your money:

  • ATMs. Most online banks have nationwide ATM networks and offer ATM reimbursements when withdraw cash from an out-of-network ATM.
  • Direct deposits. Receive your paycheck or government benefits directly into your online bank account.
  • Mobile check deposits. Most mobile apps let you e-deposit checks with a few clicks of a button.
  • Cash back at retailers. If your account comes with a debit card, you can request cash back when you check out at a grocery store or major retailer.
  • Transfers. Move money to another bank account or initiate a wire transfer or peer-to-peer transfer.

What are the pros and cons of online banking?

Online banks have several pros and cons compared to traditional banks:

Pros

  • Lower fees. Online banks have lower overhead than traditional banks, so they’re able to pass those savings onto you in the form of lower fees .
  • Higher interest rates. APYs from online banks can top 1% or higher while most APYs from traditional banks hover around the national average, which is 0.06%.
  • Easy to set up. It takes a few minutes to apply for an online account, compared to traditional banks that may require you to visit a branch.
  • Larger ATM networks. Online banks typically have large ATM networks spread across the nation. Some even offer ATM rebates for when you need to use an out-of-network machine.

Cons

  • Not all online banks are equal. Some online banks offer more sophisticated services through their mobile banking platforms, while others allow the basics only.
  • At mercy of technology glitches. Although uncommon, a blip in service can prevent you from accessing your money until the problem’s resolved.
  • No branch access. Unlike traditional banks, you can’t visit your local branch to deposit cash when you need to. However, some online banks accept cash deposits at ATMs.
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Is online banking safe?

Online banking isn’t 100% risk-free, but most banks use industry-standard security measures to keep your information safe. Before you bank online, make sure the financial institution you choose is FDIC or NCUA-insured. That way you get your money back if the bank fails. Next, read through the bank’s security policy to see which measures it has in place to protect your account.

How to protect your account

With the rise of the Internet, banks have kept up with comprehensive security and encryption to protect your personal and financial information. Still, you can take measures to keep your online banking safe from financial predators.

  • Find a secure network. Avoid public Wi-Fi or hot spots when accessing your account. Hackers are known to intercept account info and passwords on these unsecured networks.
  • Choose a strong password. Use a unique mix of lower- and uppercase letters, symbols and numbers that you’ll remember. And don’t share your log in details with anybody else.
  • Review your statements. By regularly reviewing your transactions, you’ll more easily spot unauthorized charges or unnecessary fees.

What’s the difference between digital and online banks?

Many people use the terms “digital bank” and “online bank” interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. Online banks closely mimic traditional banks and are often built with the same infrastructure. But digital banks use new technology to create out-of-the-box banking solutions to help you better manage your money.

Compare online banks

Use the table to compare and sort online bank accounts by APY, minimum balance, features and more.

Name Product Minimum deposit to open ATMs Out-of-network ATM fee
Aspiration Spend & Save Account
$10
55,000 free in-network ATMs
$0
Deposits are fossil fuel-free. A spend and save combo account with unlimited cash back rewards and deposits insured by the FDIC.
Chase Total Checking
$0
Access to 16,000 ATMs and nearly 4,900 branches nationwide
$2.50
Get a $200 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking account and set up direct deposit within 60 days of opening your account. Chase's simplest checking account is easy to use and gives you access to 16,000 ATMs and nearly 4,900 branches. Available online nationwide except in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
BBVA Online Checking
$25
No ATM fees nationwide at more than 64,000 AllPoint, participating 7-Eleven and BBVA USA ATMs
$3
A full-service account with convenient, surcharge-free access to two massive ATM networks, plus a $200 signup bonus when you meet deposit requirements
Chime Spending account
$0
38,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide
$2.50
Get rid of fees with this mobile-first bank offering consumer-friendly accounts. Chime can also help you save easily and access your paycheck faster.
N26
N26
$0
Fee-free ATM withdrawals at Allpoint ATMs
$0
A digital bank account with no hidden fees, no minimum account balance and no maintenance charges.
Axos Bank Rewards Checking
$50
ATM fees reimbursed at any ATM nationwide
$0
Earn up to 1.25% APY while enjoying a suite of digital tools for smarter money management.
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Bottom line

Online banking can streamline your ability to manage your finances without stepping foot in a bank. But the features and benefits you’ll find online depend on the bank or other financial institution you choose to do business with. As always, compare several accounts at different banks to find one that has the online banking features you need.

Frequently asked questions

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