Big banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo suck. They hit you with high fees for overdrafting, require minimum balances, and add insult to injury by giving you 0.00000001% interest while they loan your money out to other people at way higher rates. Oftentimes they charge you account ‘maintenance’ fees for the privilege of giving them a practically interest-free loan.
Wells Fargo intentionally defrauded millions of people by opening fake accounts and charging customers fees on those accounts. These guys are not operating with your best interests at heart. You need to cut them off.
As financial guru Ramit Sethi says, if they haven’t screwed you yet, they will soon!
“But I’ve had that account since I was a kid!”
Do you still play with dolls and action figures? Fuggouddahere with that excuse! You’re an adult. You need a bank that treats you with respect and serves your best financial interests.
I’m aware of only two banks that have the features you need to achieve financial independence. I use and highly recommend Capital One 360, but Ally Bank is another option and has many of the same features that makes Capital One so compelling:
- Online banking that you can link to other bank accounts for easy transfers
- Ability to automate your savings via multiple sub-savings accounts (create as many accounts as you want and nickname them for clarity; I have 10+ to manage both my individual savings goals + joint accounts with my wife)
- free set up, no minimum balances or maintenance fees, and no fees for all the normal services
- A network of fee-free ATMs (including some with the ability to deposit cash)
- A good app
- app-based check deposit up to high limits ($50,000 per week on Capital One currently)
- paper checks if you want ’em ($7 for 50, but they’ll even automatically mail a physical check each month to a low-tech person like your landlord for free)
- online bill pay via 3rd party service Zelle (you just need the recipient’s email, which makes sending money easy. You can of course just link your Venmo or Paypal account, which I also do)
- and a high interest rate on savings (and something on checking too!)
- You can even designate beneficiaries on your account at Capital One, which I appreciate as a Big Financial Geek. One less thing to go through probate when you die…
What about the lack of physical branches?
Capital One has no physical branches (I assume Ally doesn’t either), which is one drawback, but I only miss that on the blue moon occasions where I need to get something notarized for an investment account or estate planning document. Lack of physical branches is why these banks can keep their costs low and pass on the savings to you in all the ways I mentioned above.
I love being able to do everything online, from my phone, or from an ATM near me.
I have a Chase credit card which allows me to go into a Chase bank branch and get something notarized, or get a signature medallion guarantee which I need about once every 5 years to transfer some financial account. If you can keep your crappy physical bank account for free, do so as a backup if you ever need it. I’ve let all mine lapse and have never looked back.
One cool thing that Capital One DOES have are these coffee shops that offer some free money-related services. (I can’t vouch for them yet since I haven’t seen any.) The cafés also have people that can help you set up an online account if you need the help. No ‘tellers’ or ability to deposit money or do any actual banking though, FYI.
Is online banking safe?
Yes. Welcome to the 21st century.
What should I do next and how do I make the switch?
Open up your Capital One accounts for free right now (do at least the checking + one savings.) There’s absolutely no risk or cost and it will only take you 10 minutes. If you use my affiliate link in this post and deposit $250, I believe they’ll give you $25*, which is awesome. You don’t even have to transfer money yet, only a penny or something like that from your old bank. Start using them whenever you get around to it (the sooner you switch the better, though!) If you hate it, just switch back. There’s no risk, just a little time on your end to redirect bills & direct deposit.
If you’re not ready to make the full switch, just using Capital One for savings acccounts, and keep your old bank’s checking for now, linking it to Capital One. When you’re ready to rip the band-aid off and commit, switch everything over to your Capital One checking, including all your bills paid straight from your bank (including rent or mortgage and utilities and insurance payments), credit card auto-pays, and direct deposit.
Keep a half-month’s worth or so of expenses in both your old bank and your new one when you switch in case you forgot about any bills still hitting your old account.
* I think I get $10 or $20 or something if you do that, full disclosure, but I would recommend them just as hard if I didn’t, since I’ve been using Capital One banking for 10+ years since they were ING, and love them.
What do I do with my old bank?
If you can keep it for free, do so just in case. If it costs you money or you have to keep a minimum balance, wait one month after you switch to make sure you’ve switched all your stuff to your new bank, and you are happy using it, then close your old one to stop paying those fees.
Make sure to transfer all of the money out your old account even if you keep the account— after a month to make sure no bills are still hitting it– so that your Big Bank can’t take it later if they change their fees policy.
(They will someday once they realize they’re not making any money off you. Bank of America did this to my ‘free’ checking account I had kept open years after I’d switched to Capital One, so I promptly closed that account when they stole most of the $20 I had foolishly left sitting in it…)
Do all big banks suck? What about credit unions?
Yes, all traditional big banks suck. This includes TD Bank, Chase, etc. Credit unions treat their customers better and have better fee structures, but they just haven’t kept up with technological advances and only have a tiny fraction of features for fully-functional financial freedom for folks like us.
In short, credit unions don’t meet the bar either. Ditch yours.
So, what are you waiting for? At least take 10 minutes now to set up your Capital One accounts for free (there’s no risk!) to lower the barrier to start using them later.
If you’re feeling energized, read my post, after you set up your new accounts, on how to use Capital One savings accounts + your employer’s direct deposit to automate your savings goals and fix your spending.
Using your online banking infrastructure to fix your spending & automate your saving is the most critical step on the path to financial freedom.
P.S. If you know of any other banks that off all the features I mentioned above, please list them here in the comments! They must offer automatic transfers & multiple sub-savings accounts to ‘qualify’, not to mention be nearly 100% fee-free.