When friends short on cash dash out of a restaurant in a frantic search for an in-network ATM, or stress about ordering checks for fear of getting slapped with an outrageous fee from the bank, I seriously question why. Why put up with that kind of nickel and diming when alternative banking options exist?
A few years ago I got a notice from my bank detailing the latest updates and changes to accounts. While I’m generally guilty of carelessly passing over these fine print notices without much consideration, one thing in this particular notice struck me. The bank was instituting a monthly maintenance fee on checking accounts. I marched my way to my bank and closed my account.
While I didn’t care to pay for access to my own money, I also wasn’t too fond of the idea of stashing cash under my mattress. So I took to the Internet to do some research and found a solution that has kept me more than satisfied to this day.
In my quest for a better way to manage and store my money, I quickly learned that online banking was the best option for my needs- primarily due to increased accessibility, reduced fees, and better interest rates.
Because online banks have fewer overhead fees- no branch locations to rent or maintain, no tellers to pay, etc.- they can offer perks notably absent at brick-and-mortar giants, like Bank of America. As long as I could find a bank that was FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) insured, I knew my money would be well-protected- regardless of whether I was banking in person or online.
Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account
Though Charles Schwab is better known for its brokerage services, the perks of their basic bank accounts immediately drew me in. In particular, the Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account with…
- No monthly service fees.
- No account minimum or minimum opening deposit.
- 0.10% APY variable interest rate on any balance. A huge improvement over the 0.01% rate you get from traditional banks like Bank of America.
- Unlimited fee rebates from any ATM worldwide. This perk has been a lifesaver, not only at home when I need to get my hands on some fast cash, but also whenever I travel. I have withdrawn money everywhere from Argentina to Ukraine without incurring any fees thanks to my Schwab checking account. It’s like every ATM in the world is “your” ATM. Schwab simply refunds me for any fees charged by an ATM terminal.
- Free bill pay. I have my Schwab checking account linked to various institutions so that I can easily pay bills online with the quick click of a button. Again, this kind of flexibility and ease is why I'm all about the online banking.
- Real overdraft protection. By opting into Charles Schwab overdraft protection, you'll have real protection and won't be charged to transfer your own money out of savings to cover an overdraft fee. Beware, if you don't opt-in there is a $25 fee per incident with a $100 cap per day.
- Access to Schwab mobile deposit. As a freelancer who travels often, I love the flexibility of being able to deposit my paychecks from wherever I am with a few taps of my phone. Schwab also provides envelopes with prepaid postage for those who prefer to mail in their checks for deposit.
- Free Visa platinum debit card. No fees for original or replacement debit cards when delivered by regular U.S. mail. Includes travel and emergency services assistance, price protection, and warranty manager.
- Free standard checks. No fees on checks delivered by standard U.S. mail.
- FDIC insurance up to $250,000.
- A linked Schwab One brokerage account with no fees or minimums.
Opening an Account
To enjoy all the perks of Schwab’s High Yield Investor Checking account you must open a Schwab One Individual Brokerage account, which can be done quite simply through the Schwab.com website. Once you’ve applied and been approved, you are free to transfer money free of charge between accounts.
I’m not sure why the checking account is only accessible in this round about way, but I’ve encountered no problems transferring everything from my brokerage account to my checking account after opening both and letting the brokerage balance sit at zero for the past several years.
In addition to the remarkable accessibility and freedom from fees that Schwab checking offers, their 24-hour customer service and support is truly excellent. Every time I call I’m able to speak with a knowledgeable human being in a matter of minutes. I’d be hard pressed to say the same about other customer service experiences.
However, because Schwab checking is an online feature there is no traditional in-person service, which might be difficult for anyone frequently dealing in cash. While the 270 plus Schwab brokerage branches across the United States may be able to assist in some banking matters, they don’t offer all the same services as traditional brick and mortar banks.
At the end of the day, that small trade off is well worth the savings and convenience I get from using Charles Schwab’s High Interest Investor Checking Account.
Goldman Sachs Bank USA High-yield 12 Month CD
Synchrony Bank 12 Month CD
Synchrony Bank High Yield Savings
Barclays Online Savings Account
* All banks listed are a Member FDIC.