Best Online Banks for 2021
Each year we have more online banks offering more perks that could save you more money. So what are the best online banks this year?
This question gets more complex when you consider most traditional banks now have an online banking option — complete with mobile check deposits and a smartphone app.
But for this post, I’m talking about online-only banks. By that, I mean financial institutions that offer their banking services exclusively online; banks with no actual physical locations anywhere in the nation.
In other words, they’re the non-traditional banks that provide their services only from the comfort of your smartphone app or favorite web browser.
Because online banks don’t pay for a brick-and-mortar presence, they often charge lower banking fees and offer better interest rates on deposit accounts compared with traditional banks.
Best Online Banks for 2021
Here are the 9 best online-only banks:
- 🏆 CIT Bank: Overall Best Online-Only Bank
- Axos Bank: Best for Savings and Checking Interest
- Lili: Best Bank for Freelancers
- Betterment Bank: Best Online Bank for Robo Investors
- Aspiration: Best Cashback Online Account
- Discover Bank: Best National Online Bank
- Chime: Best for Millennials
- Radius Bank: Best for Early Deposit Feature
- Huntington Bank: Best MidWestern Bank
- Ally Bank: Best for Customer Service
1. CIT Bank
CIT stands for Commercial Investment Trust – which was the name this company initially used. CIT Bank is owned by CIT Group – a financial holding company that has been around since 1908 and has nothing to do with Citi Bank despite the similar name.
CIT Bank offers two kinds of online banking – commercial and consumer banking.
Its commercial segment offers commercial financing, equipment financing, real estate financing, factoring, and even railcar financing.
CIT’s consumer banking segment offers all the basics — checking accounts, high yield savings accounts, money market accounts and certificates of deposit.
- Banking Products: interest-earning Checking accounts, high yield savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit, loans and mortgages.
- Rates: up to 0.45% APY on high-yield savings accounts ($100 minimum), 0.50% APY on money market accounts ($100 minimum); up to 0.50% on certificates of deposit ($1,000 minimum); up to 0.25% APY for eChecking ($100 minimum)
- Fees: No monthly fees
- Mobile App: Check your account balance and transaction history, transfer money between CIT accounts, deposit checks to checking, savings, and MMA accounts
- ATMs: No dedicated network; get up to $30 in other banks’ ATM fees reimbursed; CIT does not charge ATM fees to use other banks’ ATMs.
- Learn More: Read our full CIT Bank Review.
2. Axos Bank
Axos Bank offers five options for checking accounts, including some that pay interest on your balance — an unusual product for online banks.
Axos also limits fees on its leading checking accounts, the Essential and Rewards checking, charging no insufficient funds or overdraft fees. The accounts simply reject further transactions unless you connect an overdraft line of credit or savings account.
Speaking of savings accounts, Axos’ high yield savings option pays 0.61% APY. As with all banks, market forces have driven down this rate, but it’s still a higher interest rate than you’d get at a brick-and-mortar bank.
CD rates are about average, and all Axos’s CD’s have minimum balance requirements of $1,000.
Summary of Axos Bank:
- Banking Products: 5 choices for checking accounts, high-yield savings account, CDs, mortgage and auto loans, personal loans.
- Rates: Online savings account – 0.61% APY on all balance tiers; interest checking account (Rewards) – up to 1.25% APY; CDs – 0.40% APY on all terms.
- Fees: Fee-free options for overdraft or insufficient funds on two leading checking accounts; no monthly maintenance fees for any account; $10 fee for returned deposits; $5 to receive paper statements.
- Mobile Banking App: 7 stars on App store; 3.9 on Google Play
- ATMs: No ATM network; however, Axos offers ATM Reimbursement.
- Other Features: Business banking for your side hustle; $20 bonus available when you refer a friend; special checking accounts for teens and retirees.
- Learn More: Read our Axos Bank Review
Freelancing is tough enough without having to worry about minimum balance requirements or monthly banking fees. As the preferred banking option for freelancers, small business owners, and independent contractors, Lili has you covered.
Lili is a fintech company that provides online banking accounts to entrepreneurs and freelancers through its mobile app. The company recently raised $80 million in funding, making it an up-and-comer in the finance world. With flexible mobile banking, free ATM access, tax and accounting tools, a referral program, and no annual fees for their standard account, Lili is both affordable and accessible.
Lili also offers a Pro version which includes an Emergency Savings Account with 1% APY along with access to even more tools and perks.
Right now, you can earn a $50 bonus when you open a Lili Pro account and spend at least $1,000 with your debit card within 60 days.
Summary of Lili:
- ATM Fees: Fee-free withdrawals at over 32,000 MoneyPass ATMs across the United States
- Rates: Emergency savings account – 1.00% APY for Lili Pro users
- Fees: No minimum balance requirements or monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees, returned item fees, fund transfer fees, or inactive account fees; $25 fee for deposited check returns; $5 card replacements; and $20 for express mail.
- Mobile Banking App: 9 stars on App store; 4.5 on Google Play
- Other Features: Lili has a referral program where you can earn $50 for signing up a friend. They have to open an account and register at least $250 in debit puchases on their Lili card.
- Learn More: Read our Lili Review
4. Betterment Bank
One of the leading robo-advisors now has a full-service checking account — Betterment Checking.
As you might expect from a bank launched recently, you’ll get streamlined mobile-first online banking that models elegance and simplicity. Even Betterment Checking’s debit card looks minimalistic.
One of my favorite aspects of Betterment Checking is seamless transfers between Betterment Checking and Betterment, the robo-advisor.
However, if you’re the type of account holder who dips into overdraft once in a while, be careful: Betterment won’t charge overdraft fees but the bank can pull from your other accounts — including your investments — to compensate for your overdraft.
Accounts left overdrawn for more than 30 days will be closed.
This simple approach defines the bank’s functionality, too.
Summary of Betterment Checking:
- ATM Fees: The bank reimburses all ATM fees worldwide with no questions asked or action required.
- Minimum Balance: No minimum balance is required.
- Monthly Fees: No minimum balance fee and ATM fees are reimbursed.
- Overdraft Fees: None, though this doesn’t mean you can leave an account overdrawn.
- International Transactions: Betterment will even reimburse you for Visa’s 1% fee on international transactions.
- Learn More: Read our full Betterment Review
4. Aspiration Spend & Save™
People who align their financial choices with their environmental principles will like Aspiration. They have earned B Corp status for their sustainability efforts.
But what does this mean to account holders? For one thing, you’ll get incentives — 1% cash back on debit card purchases — for supporting eco-friendly retailers. All other debit card transactions earn 0.5% cash back.
The Aspiration Spend & Save™ Account charges no fees — monthly, overdraft, or ATM — and even pays a nice 1.00% APY on your checking account balance.
Summary of Aspiration Spend & Save™:
- No minimum balance required
- $10 minimum deposit to open
- No physical branches or cash deposits
- Limited investing and retirement accounts available
- Simple sync with mobile pay apps
- Aspiration gives 10% of revenue to environmental causes.
Imagine you could cash in as much as $30 a month just for using your debit card. Sound too good to be true? It is true with Discover Bank.
Most people are familiar with Discover as a credit card company – but it does a lot more than that.
Offering straightforward account options and generous cashback, Discover is definitely one of the best online banks out there. Whether you’re after a savings account, a checking account, a money market account – you’ll find that, and more.
Plus, if you need a student loan, Discover also offers one of the best private student loans for 2021 – so it could become a bank you use for most of your financial needs.
Summary of Discover Bank:
- Banking Products: Online savings account, money market account, cashback rewards checking account, CDs, and trust accounts
- Rates: Online savings account – 0.50% APY; money market account – up to 0.50% APY; rewards checking account – 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit purchases; certificates of deposit – up to 0.95% APY (See all discover cd rates, updated daily)
- Fees: No maintenance fees (other fees may apply)
- Mobile App: 8 on the App store; 4.7 on Google Play
- ATMs: Over 60,000 no-fee ATMs nationwide; could be charged a fee by out-of-network ATMs
- Other Features: Offers a variety of other products with generous rewards (like credit cards), as well as private student loans, personal loans, home equity loans, and more
- Learn More: Read our Discover Bank Review
6. Chime Bank
If you’re after no-hassle banking, Chime may just be what you’re looking for. It’s quick and easy to use with a solid app that allows you to manage all your accounts in one place – and there are no hidden (or visible) fees.
Opening a bank account with Chime gets you a Chime Visa Debit Card, a Spending Account, as well as a Savings Account (optional). The current APY for Chime’s Savings account is an ultra-competitive 0.50%.
Chime has made banking about as simple as it’ll ever be.
Summary of Chime Bank:
- Banking Products: Online bank account (a Spending account with an optional Savings Account)
- Rates: Savings Account – 0.50% APY
- Fees: No monthly fees, no overdraft fees (SpotMe feature that allows you to overdraw up to $100 with no fees – if you qualify), no card replacement fees (other fees may apply)
- Mobile App: 7 on the App store; 4.6 stars on Google Play
- ATMs: Large ATM network – access over 38,000 no-fee MoneyPass and Visa Plus Alliance ATMs; out-of-network ATM transactions will cost you $2.50 (no reimbursement).
- Other Features: Automatic saving features; get you paycheck early via Chime’s Early Direct Deposit feature.
- Learn More: Read our Chime Review
7. Radius Bank
Radius Bank offers some solid rates on checking and savings accounts as well as certificates of deposit.
You can also get 1% cashback on your debit card purchases as well as up to 0.15% annual percentage yield on your checking balance.
However, do bear in mind that to enjoy these high rates, you will need to satisfy account balances, which are quite high.
Summary of Radius Bank:
- Banking Products: Checking accounts, high-yield savings accounts, money market, CDs
- Rates: Rewards Checking – 1.00% cashback on debit card purchases, 0.10% APY (balances of $2,500- $99,999.99), 0.15% APY (balances of $100,000 or more); Superhero Checking – 0.05% APY (on balances of $2,500 and more); high-yield savings account rates –0.25% APY (on balances of $25,000 and up), 0.15% APY (on balances of $2,500–$24,999.99); look up the full list of Radius Bank’s CD rates here
- Fees: No monthly service fees (other fees may apply); the Essential Checking account charges a $9 monthly fee.
- Mobile App: 4 stars on the App Store, 4.4 on Google Play
- ATMs: Free ATM access worldwide (unlimited rebates for fees charged by other banks)
- Other Features: For some accounts, Radius will match your interest and donate it to March of Dimes; Early Direct Deposit feature available; offer an Essential Account, designed for those with poor banking record which you can use to improve your credit record. Radius Bank also ups its cash back to 1.5% for special promotions.
- Learn More: Read our Radius Bank Review
8. Huntington Bank
Unless you live or travel in Midwestern states such as Illinois, Michigan, or Ohio, you probably haven’t heard about Huntington Bank. The bank has a growing presence in the Heartland, but it’s also becoming a solid option for customers everywhere online.
First-and-foremost, Huntington is a traditional bank, so it doesn’t quite fit in on this list. But I’m including it for two reasons:
- Because of its 24-hour grace period on overdraft charges.
- Because Huntington’s savings rate can compete with an online high-yield savings account.
Ideally, you would always keep your checking account up to date and never need a grace period. But anyone who has experienced out-of-control overdraft fees will appreciate this feature.
Essentially, you’ll get a heads-up before the fees start rolling in, the downside:
If you don’t or can’t get the account under control, Huntington will assess some heftier-than-average fees: $37.50 per transaction up to four times a day.
Huntington’s checking accounts offer solid no-fee options for millennials, both in checking and savings accounts. You won’t have to maintain a minimum balance to avoid checking account fees which also helps Huntington stand out.
If you’d like a traditional bank with strong online tools — and you’d like to earn a decent rate of interest on your Money Market savings account — give Huntington Bank a close look.
Summary of Huntington Bank:
- Banking Products: Checking, Savings, Certificates of Deposit, Insurance, Investments, Loans, Budgeting Tools.
- Rates: Competitive with online banks for Money Market savings; no return on checking account balances; CDs have nice introductory rates.
- Fees: No fees for checking account, $3 out-of-network ATM fee, $37.50 overdraft fee (after 24-hour grace period), $25 extended overdraft charged every five business days account is below $0.
- Mobile App: Solid, especially for a traditional bank. Google Play users give it 4.2 stars; iPhone users rate the app 4.8 stars.
- ATMs: 1,800 in Midwest; $3 fee to use other banks’ ATMs.
- Other: Available as a traditional brick-and-mortar bank in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky.
9. Ally Bank
Ally Bank is another attractive option for the tech-savvy account holder – no wonder it ended up in our “best banks for millennials” list. You get low fees, high-interest rates – as well as a selection of different types of accounts (checking, savings, CD, money market, and IRAs).
Ally also offers plenty of credit cards, loans, and investments to choose from – meaning it could also handle many more of your financial needs.
Summary of Ally Bank:
- Banking Products: Online savings, interest checking, money market and a range of CD accounts (as well as IRA and trust accounts)
- Rates: Online savings account – 0.80% APY on all balance tiers; interest checking account – up to 0.25% APY; money market accounts – 0.50% APY on all balance tiers; high-yield CD – up to 1.00% APY (no minimum account balance); 11-month no penalty CD – 0.75% APY
- Fees: No monthly account maintenance fees; but there are fees for excessive transactions (savings account), outgoing domestic wires, and other transactions
- Mobile App: 8 stars on App store; 4.3 on Google Play
- ATMs: Access to over 43,000 ATMs for checking or money market accounts, fees reimbursed (up to $10 per statement cycle for fees
- Other Features: Offers stock trades and ETFs and a range of loans, as well as financial tips, tools, and banking advice
- Learn More: Read our Ally Bank Review
Other Online Banks to Consider
I didn’t include these on my list because they resemble the banks I did include. But these banks are also class acts you might want to consider:
- CapitalOne 360: Another great all-around option for online banking that may have topped this list if it hadn’t been disqualified by its brick-and-mortar presence in NYC, DC and a few other locales.
- Vio Bank: The online-only arm of MidFirst Bank
- Barclays Bank: A high yield savings account specialist. In fact, that’s all they do in the United States.
- American Express: Yep, the credit card company has a nice banking option for high yield savings.
- Synchrony Bank: A relative newcomer in the online banking space.
- Charles Schwab: This iconic brokerage house has a nice online bank account for savers and high yield investors.
- Goldman Sachs: The investment banking giant can pay you a generous rate on your online savings.
- TIAA Bank: This bank does it all online — kind of like Ally Bank or CIT Bank.
Pros and Cons
As with everything, there are pros and cons to online banking:
- Low or No Monthly Fees
- Better Interest Rates Compared to the National Average
- No face to face interaction
- Not all online banks have full banking services
- Depositing cash takes more time
Summary: Best Online Banks
|CIT||Checking, Savings, MMAs, CDs, Home Loans and Mortgages|
|Axos||Checking, Savings, MMAs, CDs, Loans and Mortgages|
|Discover||Checking, Credit Cards, Savings, MMAs, CDs, and Loans|
|Chime||Checking, Credit Cards, Savings|
|Radius||Checking, Savings, MMAs, CDs, Loans, Mortgages and Insurance|
|Huntington||Checking, Savings, MMAs, CDs, Loans, Mortgages and Insurance|
|Ally||Checking, Savings, MMAs, CDs, Loans and Mortgages|
Are Online Banks Safe?
Quick answer, yes. Just make sure the bank you’re considering is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC).
The FDIC insures your account up to $250,000. The bottom of the bank’s website should include an FDIC logo if the bank is a member. Credit unions will often show membership in NCUA, an equivalent organization for credit unions.
Choosing The Best Online Bank For Your Needs
We all have different personal finance lives which means we need different banking services. You may value a free checking account over getting a high annual percentage yield on 6-month CDs. You may care more about ATM fees than mobile app ratings.
Some customers need an online bank to manage their everyday spending. Others just want a place to park their money so it can grow faster than it would at their local branch of a national bank.
Before you pick an online bank make sure you read the fine print — all the fine print. Taking a good look at the bank’s website and making sure you’re aware of all potential fees is a must. Often you have to dig deep and find a pdf to learn about a bank’s full schedule of fees.
While most online banks don’t charge monthly fees – there could be other fees. Foreign transaction fees, wire transfer fees, and even fees to replace your lost ATM card could surprise you later.
So make sure you know what they are in case the bank charges a fee for a common banking task for you. Free access won’t be free if you get dinged every month by these other fees.
Additionally, make sure you choose a bank that offers solid interest earnings – but make sure you know what the required account balances and opening deposits to earn the advertised interest rate. There’s no point in choosing an online bank that gives you excellent APY if you can’t qualify for it.
Finally, make sure your money is protected – choosing a financial institution that is FDIC insured will give you peace of mind, so always check whether the bank you’re considering is federally insured.