LEARN MORE Simple’s secure website
Like most things in the world of “adulting,” managing your finances isn’t always as simple as it should be. This is where online bank Simple stepped in seven years ago, providing customers with a mobile bank account rolled into a budgeting app.
Acquired by Spanish bank BBVA in 2014, Simple was founded in Portland, Ore. in 2009 and launched commercial operations three years later. The money in a Simple account is held by BBVA Compass, the American subsidiary of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A., and FDIC-insured up to $250,000.
Though Simple offers only one type of bank account — consumer checking — it promises a simple way to save and budget while offering features found at bigger banks, such as photo check deposit, plus additional features, including Goals, Expenses, and Safe-to-Spend(R). In an effort to attract new banking customers, Simple is offering a 2.02% APY return on balances of $2,000 or greater in a Protected Goals Account. Otherwise, the APY is the normal 0.01%.
We’ll review Simple’s bank account, its pros and cons and what else you need to know to determine if it’s a good fit for you.
Simple Checking Account + Protected Goals Account*
on Simple’s secure website
What is Simple?
The Simple bank account is a checking account that incorporates budgeting tools into a consumer’s everyday banking.
Simple banking is provided through both desktop and mobile applications, although you will need to download the app to deposit checks using a photo. The free mobile app is available for Android and iOS-powered devices. You can complete all other necessary banking tasks on both platforms.
|The Simple account|
Minimum deposit amount to open
Annual percentage yield
0.01% ($0 - $2,000)
Monthly service fee
ACH transfer fee
Out of network ATM fee
Simple Visa debit
Simple customers are issued a Simple Visa debit card for daily purchases and to use at more than 40,000 ATMs in the Allpoint network. In-network ATMs won’t charge you a fee, and are easily found using the ATM finder both online and in the app. Simple doesn’t charge you a fee for using an out-of-network ATM, but you may be charged by other banks and ATM owners.
Simple’s Safe-to-Spend(R) feature helps you resist the temptation to spend every dollar in your bank account when those funds should be reserved for more important and urgent things. The budgeting algorithm sets aside funds for spending categories in your budget and your savings goals. The app subtracts the amount of money you’ve set aside from your total account balance so you can easily see how much money you have left to spend — your safe-to-spend number.
The Simple bank account makes it easy to set aside money for long- and short-term goals. The feature also serves as a digital envelope budgeting system for your monthly budgeting needs.
A warning to chronic overspenders: Although the amount set aside for goals is subtracted from your total balance so you know what’s safe to spend, the goal money is kept in the same account as the rest of your funds, so you can spend the money if you really need to. We will address how to use goals to save and budget in the following section.
Simple provides spending reports to give you more insight on how you’re spending your money. You can use the graphs and breakdowns Simple creates to analyze trends in your spending. With that information, you can evaluate whether or not your budget is meeting your needs or if you need to make adjustments in your spending habits. You can also add hashtags, notes and images to each transaction.
You will need to go online to view reports as the feature isn’t yet available in the Simple app.
You can set up separate savings goals and an emergency fund within the Protected Goals account. Unlike the money for your short-term goals, money in the “protected” account is separate from your main Simple bank account. If you need to use your money, you can make unlimited transfers from a Protected Goals account to your regular Simple checking account. That means there’s no need to worry about hitting the six withdrawals per month limit most other savings accounts have under Regulation D, and the common fees associated with making excessive withdrawals.
If you are looking for a high-yield account, the Simple bank account may be the one for you. Right now, you can earn up to 2.02% APY if you maintain a balance of $2,000 or more in the entire Protected Goals Account. If you choose to set up an Emergency Fund or Savings Goal under the Protected Goals Account and the amount combined is $2,000 or more, you’ll still qualify for the 2.02% APY. If you don’t, a Protected Goals account with Simple earns 0.01% APY, which is lower than the national average yield on checking accounts. So if you’re looking to earn a return on your savings and can’t make maintain a balance of $2,000 or more, you may want to look elsewhere.
Although they may lack the bells and whistles Simple incorporates, there are many alternative high-yield checking accounts that earn a much higher yield on your money with no minimum deposit. You can also compare rates and terms on the best savings options currently available here that also have higher rates than this account.
Simple offers joint accounts it calls Simple Shared accounts. The Simple Shared account is a separate Simple bank account that you co-own with someone else. The joint Simple Shared account allows pairs to plan budgets and complete savings goals together. Couples can even save for an emergency under the Shared account. Emergency Funds are now available for Simple Shared accounts.
Both co-owners of a Simple Shared account must have individual Simple accounts, too, and they have to keep the individual accounts open in order to have a shared account. Your individual accounts stay private.
Simple Instant is a peer-to-peer payments system exclusive to Simple users. It’s the quickest way to send money to other Simple account holders instantly, for free. After you add the Simple user to your Instant contacts, you can send money to them using an email address or phone number.
Simple bank accounts work with most third-party p2p payment services like Venmo and Square Cash, too, so you can still send money to your friends who don’t use Simple, although you may be required to pay for instant transfers.
Where Simple falls short
A 1% fee for foreign transactions
Simple doesn’t charge you any fees for making foreign transactions, but Visa does. Each time you swipe your Simple card overseas, you may be required to pay a 1% International Service Assessment fee to Visa. That fee may not be a deal breaker for some frequent travelers, but it’s a bummer to pay any more than you have to, ever.
Additionally. there is a $1,000 daily spending limit for international transactions, but you can have that temporarily raised to $6,000 if you let Simple know you’ll be traveling.
Simple users are not issued checkbooks to write paper checks. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to send a personal check or pay a bill, you can use Simple’s free bill pay service to have Simple send a check on your behalf. The bill pay feature is found online and in the app. You may also request a treasurer’s check — similar to a cashier’s check — from Simple.
Simple mobile app
When you don’t know exactly how much you have to spend on the things you want but don’t need, you’re either constantly running out of time, money or both. When you’re running around living your life most of the time, keeping track of your money can become a chore.
The Simple mobile app incorporates features that help you keep track of how much money you have left to work with for the month while on the go. You can even get instant push notifications that will send you spending updates in real-time.
Features that stand out
The goals feature is what sets the Simple app and account apart from other mobile-first fintech startups and online banks, which we will get into in detail below.
Using Goals to save money
When you create a goal in Simple — after naming it and adding an optional memo — you’ll set the amount and date by which you would like to complete it. You can fund the goal in two ways: (1) set aside money right away, or (2) elect to save over time.
When you save over time, an algorithm will calculate how much money to move over incrementally from your safe-to-spend amount to the savings goal so it’s fully funded by your preset completion date. You can move money each day, or set a custom funding schedule so the app only moves money on predetermined days.
Using Expenses to budget
You can use the Simple Expenses feature to mimic old-fashioned envelope budgeting. Envelope budgeting is a method in which you set aside cash in physical envelopes for each budgeting category. You set aside what you think you’d need to cover categories like gas, groceries or shopping for a period and if you run out of money for that category, you stop buying in that area. Simple offers a digital version.
You would create an expense and name them for each spending category in your budget for the month and determine how much to set aside for purchases made from that category. Here’s an example budget from Simple:
Ideally, you would fund the expense immediately and not over time. That’s what Simple really focuses on doing. It’s a “set it and forget it” mentality. This feature runs off of “Funding Schedules”. So, once you create an expense through this feature, Simple will recreate the expense for you so that it’s paid off again the next month. You can set this up by creating an Expense and choosing the category you want the Expense to automatically come out of. You only need to set this up once. After you’ve set up all of your expenses, the funds will be automatically debited from the appropriate Expense each month.
What if I overspend?
As mentioned earlier, you can intentionally or accidentally spend money set aside for your goals if you go over your safe-to-spend amount. Of course, dipping into your goal money may cut into your progress. If you fall behind on saving or need to edit a goal, you can always edit the target date and/or amount, or delete the goal. On the flip side, if you complete a goal and want to save more money, you can choose to automatically save more over time.
Other features that deserve an honorable mention:
- You can deposit checks — This is the only feature exclusive to the app and may be in found in the “Move Money” tab. Simple recommends submitting the deposit before 5 p.m. EST, as it allows the bank to process the deposit on the same day. However, if you submit the deposit after 5 p.m. EST, the deposit won’t be processed until the next business day. Keep in mind that “processing” is not the same as “funding”. For example, if you make a Photo Check Deposit before 5 p.m. EST on a Monday, the deposit will be processed the same day, but won’t be posted to your account until Tuesday at 3 a.m. EST. If you make the deposit after 5 p.m. EST on a Monday, the funds won’t post to your account until Wednesday at 3 a.m. EST.
The limit on how much money you can deposit using a photo check will depend on factors such as how long you’ve been with Simple and the number of checks you’ve recently deposited, so it varies by individual user. You can find out your current check limit under “Deposit a Check.” If the check is too large, you can deposit it by mail.
- You can block and unblock your debit card — Blocking your card is useful if you lose your card or think it’s been stolen. Go to your profile and select “Your Simple Cards” then block the Simple Visa card. If you see any unauthorized transactions made on your account, you may be covered by Visa’s Zero Liability policy if you report it in time.
How to open a Simple Bank account
Opening a Simple bank account is a quick and easy process (see how I didn’t use the word “simple” there? I saved you from a very punny sentence). Signing up takes all of about five minutes. Simple requires applicants to be U.S. citizens and 18 years or older with a Social Security number.
The company also recommends you have access to a device that can run its mobile app. The device will need to be running on either Apple iOS 10.0 or higher or Android 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher.
You can open an account online or on the Simple mobile app. The application requires you to create a username and password for your Simple bank account, and indicate how you plan to use the account. Then, it asks for personally identifying information like your name and Social Security number.
Who could benefit from the Simple bank account?
The Simple bank account would be most beneficial to individuals and household budgeteers who want to be able to manage their budgeting and bank account in one place, in real time.
Most household money managers are well aware how much their bills will come up to each month and what their short- and long-term monetary goals are. However, it’s naturally difficult to keep the numbers you’re juggling on the top of your head when you are busy and often on the go. Other budgeting apps may keep you organized, but you have to make an effort to keep them on track with your actual spending.
Simple makes keeping up with bills and savings goals effortless.
Simple’s safe-to-spend feature allows even the busiest among us to easily keep track of how much money you actually have available to spend freely. You can use Simple from virtually anywhere, desktop or on your phone, so there are no excuses. Just checking your bank account balance and seeing the difference between the total balance and your safe-to-spend will remind you of your budget and savings goals.
With Simple, you can create and automatically contribute to an emergency fund account, one separate from your other financial goals, so that it actually gets done this time around. The amount you want to save in your Emergency Fund is based on how much money you want to save in a certain period of time. Based on those two things, Simple will put together a daily contribution amount.
Simple’s Goals system can help you stay organized, compartmentalize your budget and keep your financial priorities straight. If you don’t immediately fund a goal, the app has your back. It calculates and makes small transfers to get you closer to your goal for you.
Simple is one of many fintech companies that have recently released a mobile-first or mobile-only banking option. Next, we take a look at how Simple compares with its peers: the Aspiration Summit account, Chime, Beam and Finn by Chase. Rates are as of the date of publication.
APY on Checking
Up to 2.02% APY
APY on Savings
The Aspiration Summit account is the mobile-only banking option for those trying to be a bit more socially conscious. Aspiration’s standout feature is its Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM), which measures your social impact based on where you spend your money.
You get a personal AIM score, calculated based on the businesses you choose to support, which also each get an AIM score. For businesses, the AIM score is split in two: a “people score” based on factors like employee pay and access to health care, and a “planet score” based on things like the company’s greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition to knowing how the money you spend affects the world around you, you can feel confident knowing Aspiration donates $0.10 of every dollar it makes to financially-focused charities.
Like the Simple bank account, the Aspiration Summit account is a checking account. While the Simple bank account earns up to 2.02% APY, the Aspiration Summit account earns a slightly lower 2.00% APY on all balances. But, Aspiration doesn’t give you the opportunity to open a separate account to set aside savings like Simple does. Aspiration also doesn’t provide any budgeting and goal-setting features on its account, while Simple does. Aspiration requires a $10 minimum deposit to open an account, but no minimum balance to maintain the account.
Aspiration charges is a $25 overdraft fee and a $5 daily fee for each day your balance remains negative. Meanwhile, Simple charges no fees but won’t allow a transaction if it will overdraft your Simple bank account. Like Simple, Aspiration doesn’t charge its users a fee to access ATMs anywhere in the world but goes a step further by fully reimbursing you (on the 10th of each month) if you’re charged a fee by an out-of-network ATM. If you’re traveling overseas, you’ll be charged a fee equal to 1.1% of the transaction using the Aspiration Mastercard debit card.
APY on Checking
Up to 2.02% APY
APY on Savings
Chims is a fee-free, mobile-first banking option that features automated savings, but doesn’t come with the analytics and goal-setting features that Simple has.
With Chime, you can automatically save 10% of each paycheck in a savings account and, if you’re enrolled in direct deposit, you can get access to your paycheck up to two days earlier than the money would become available with most other standard checking accounts. Once enrolled in Chime’s automatic savings program, Chime will automatically round up each purchase made with your Chime Visa Debit Card to the nearest dollar and save the difference in your savings account.
If you ever need to split a bill, Chime does the math for you and lets you send a text to a friend with a link to pay you back using Venmo, or Chime’s in-app peer to peer payments feature (Pay Friends) if the friend is a Chime Member. Money sent between two Chime members is received instantly. Simple doesn’t do the math for you, but you can send money instantly to other Simple users using its built-in p2p system, Simple Instant.
Chime offers both a checking account and a designated savings account, unlike Simple, which offers a checking account and the option to save emergency funds in a “protected goals” account.
If your savings are in a Chime savings account, you won’t be granted more than a 0.01% yield on your funds. On the other hand, if you place your savings in Simple’s Protected Goals Account, you earn up to 2.02% APY on balances of $2,000 or more. Neither Chime nor Simple charge overdraft fees. While Simple doesn’t charge you for using out-of-network ATMs, Chime charges $2.50. You can find more than 38,000 in-network ATMs using the ATM map in the Chime app.
APY on Checking
Up to 2.02% APY
APY on Savings
2.00% APY; up to 4.00% APY
Beam is a fee-free, mobile-only high-interest deposit account. You can earn a much higher yield on your savings than you would with Simple. Beam accounts promise a minimum 2.00% APY compared with Simple’s 0.01% APY. Beam also gives its customers the opportunity to claim rewards that can earn them up to 4.00% APY on their funds daily. Beam calls its rewards “billies” and they can be earned by engaging with the app and doing things like referring a friend to Beam. The “billies” are awarded daily between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time. Neither service requires a minimum balance to earn interest on funds.
Beam doesn’t issue users a debit card or give users ATM access like Simple does. Beam is intended for use alongside a primary checking account as a supplementary bank account, while Simple is intended to be used as a primary checking account. If you want to use your money in a Beam account, you must first transfer it out to a primary checking account, which can take up to two days. Beam also doesn’t have any special saving or budgeting features and doesn’t show you spending analytics like Simple does.
As of this writing, Beam is not yet available for widespread use, but Simple is. Beam is still in a “private beta” stage, so it can only accommodate a limited number of customers. If you want to use Beam, you’ll have to sign up on the waiting list, which currently has more than 126,000 names.
|Simple||Finn by Chase|
APY on Checking
Up to 2.02% APY
APY on Savings
0.01% APY; up to 0.04% APY
Finn by Chase is a free mobile-first banking option from Chase Bank. Finn by Chase offers checking and savings accounts, and you are required to have both types. For comparison, Simple only offers a checking account. Simple and Finn by Chase users earn the same 0.01% APY on balances below $10,000. For balances that are $10,000-$25,000, Finn users earn 3%, then 0.04% APY on higher amounts. Simple doesn’t offer increased interest on larger balances. Finn does not offer joint accounts, but Simple does.
Both banks issue users Visa debit cards for daily purchases and to use at the ATM. Finn charges $2.50 if you use an out-of-network ATM, while Simple doesn’t charge a fee at all. Finn says its users have access to more than 29,000 in-network ATMs while Simple advertises more than 38,000 in-network ATMs.
The banks both show users’ spending analytics and offer automatic saving features but differ in how their features work.
Finn lets users rate each transaction as a “want” or “need” and how it makes the user feel. Users can choose happy, sad or indifferent faces. Finn also provides users analytics via charts and graphs that summarize their spending habits.
Finally, Simple lets you send money instantly to other users using Simple Instant, but Finn by Chase lets you send money to anyone in the Zelle network, even if they are with a different bank, instantly for free. Both services let users send money with third-party platforms like Venmo, Google Wallet and PayPal.
The bottom line
The Simple bank account is a solid one-stop shop for hassle-free banking and budgeting. Simple, the company, doesn’t charge any fees, but BBVA Compass may charge fees. Make sure you to read the Simple Deposit Account Agreement. Fortunately, it won’t cost you to use their budgeting and analytics system if budgeting and saving is what you’re really after. Additionally, the 2.02% APY on balances of $2,000 or more is a huge perk if you can meet and maintain that balance requirement.