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How to find the right online bank for you

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Are you tired of high fees and poor customer service from your traditional bank? If so, it might be time to consider switching to an online bank. Online banks offer a number of advantages over traditional banks, including lower fees, better customer service and more innovative products. But with so many online banks to choose from, how do you find the right one for you?

Here are a few tips for finding the right online bank for you.

1. Decide what type of account you need

Not all online banks offer the same products. Some banks focus on savings accounts, while others provide a full gamut of checking and savings accounts, mortgages and other products. 

Decide what types of accounts you need so you can easily sort through your options later on. For instance, if you want to keep your checking, savings and investment account under one roof, that’ll instantly eliminate a bunch of institutions that don’t offer investment accounts. 

2. Make your wish list of must-have features

Next up, make a wish list of all the features you want your new online bank to have.

Some features will be non-negotiable—like FDIC insurance and low fees. But some less obvious features you may want to add to your wish list include:

  • Industry-leading APYs
  • Free overdraft protection or cash advances
  • Early paydays
  • Lots of free ATMs
  • ATMs that accept cash deposits
  • No foreign transaction fees (for when you travel internationally)
  • Automated savings tools (like debit card round-ups)
  • Tools for budgeting, investing or paying off debt
  • Multiple types of accounts (so you can manage everything under one roof)

Once you know what's important to you, it'll be easier to find a bank that ticks all your boxes.

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The next step is to make a list of online banks you think might be a good fit. A good place to start is by googling a list of the best online banks. This will give you an overview of the leading contenders and help you narrow down your options.

Some popular online banks include: 

For instance, if keeping everything under one roof is important to you and you already have a Discover credit card or student loan, you may want to open your checking and savings account with them too. 

If you’re struggling to get your finances in order and want an online bank that offers free overdraft protection, savings tools and early paydays, Chime might be a better fit. 

Let the features you outlined in Steps 1 and 2 be your guide as you research. That way you end up with an online bank that fits your needs. 

4. Consider the customer service

One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional banks is poor customer service. Online banks often have better customer service, often with 24/7 phone support and chat capabilities. 

So once you’ve narrowed down your list of top online banks, check out customer service next. Because when crap hits the fan and you have an account issue, you’ll want someone to be there to pick up the phone (or answer a chat).

Trustpilot and Reddit are two good places to look for honest feedback. 

Want to go the extra mile? Call customer service yourself to see how long you’re on hold and how helpful they really are. After all, there's nothing like first-hand experience to confirm if an online bank is right for you.

5. Check that mobile app

Person using mobile app for banking

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Every online bank is going to have a mobile app. So the question is, is it a good one? 

To find out, look at ratings in the app store and read customer reviews for whichever online bank you’re considering. If people are having issues with the app or if it’s constantly crashing, that’s a red flag. 

Also take a look at how often the bank updates its app — you want to make sure they’re regularly rolling out new features and fixing bugs. 

6. Dig into the fine print

At this point, you’re so close to finding the right online bank for you! But before you take the final plunge, do one more round of research to really dig into the details.

Here’s why: You'll be hard-pressed to find any bank that's truly 100% free. And some may have quirky limitations that dampen your banking experience. 

So before you open an account, read over the disclosure or fee schedule (this is usually a PDF you can find on the bank’s website). Specifically, you'll want to review:

  • Buried fees: Even if it’s just wire transfers and replacement debit cards, there’s a good chance an online bank charges customers for something. That’s why reading over the fee schedule is important. Even if their website screams “no fees,” the fee schedule will reveal any buried ones you need to know about.
  • Deposit and withdrawal methods (and limits!): Make note of all the ways you can deposit money into your account and take money out. Also, note any ACH transfer limits that apply. For instance, Bank A might let you transfer up to $10,000 a day while Bank B might cap you at $2,500. Depending on your situation, you might need a bank with looser limits.

7. Open an account

Once you've decided on an online bank, it's time to open an account. This usually takes just a few minutes and can be done entirely online. Just go to the bank’s website and click the button or link inviting you to open an account. This will reroute you to the application page. 

TIP: You’ll typically need your name, address, Social Security number, and government-issued photo ID to open a bank account online. 

Once your account is set up, take some time to get familiar with the features and how everything works. Testing things out for yourself is the best way to see if an online bank is truly the right fit for you. 

And if it's not? No worries. You can always close your account and move on to another bank. With so many great options out there, you're sure to find one that's perfect for you.

Bottom line

There are a lot of great online banks out there, so it's important to do your research to find one that's right for you. Be sure to read customer reviews, dig into the details and test things out for yourself before you take the plunge. 

Cassidy Horton
Personal finance writer

Cassidy Horton is a finance writer who specializes in insurance and banking. She has an MBA and a bachelor's degree in public relations, as well as hundreds of articles published online by Forbes Advisor, The Balance, Finder.com, Money Under 30, and more. Outside of work, she enjoys reading and hiking.