Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Money

5 Great Online-Only Banking Options

With online banking and mobile apps for managing your accounts, how often do you actually step into your bank to handle transactions anymore? Direct deposit, remote check capture (the feature that allows you to deposit a check by taking a picture of it with your phone), and online bill pay have largely eliminated the need for you to do your banking with a live person.

Enter a new crop of accounts—and even whole banks—that are foregoing their in-person services and instead focusing on innovative online-only features. Want to make the switch to a more tech-savvy financial institution? Whether you’re looking for excellent interest rates at no monthly charge, a sleek app that simplifies your transactions, or a full set of mobile tools that show you where you’re spending each penny, there’s an online-only option for you.

Best For Simplicity: GoBank

One of the newer players in banking, Green Dot’s GoBank is mobile-only and proud of it. “It’s not a mobile app that was bolted onto an online version of a brick-and-mortar bank,” explained Green Dot founder and CEO Steve Streit at the company’s recent launch. Rather, the bank was created from scratch, optimized to be exclusively mobile and targeted at those who are tired of waiting for their current financial institutions to catch up with the tech world.

Within the app, you can open accounts, order debit cards, and pay your bills. Best of all, the app has a transparent fee schedule—you decide how much you want to pay each month between $0 and $9. The voluntary monthly fee shows the creators are pretty sure you’re going to love their app and find it worth your money.

If you’re looking to simplify the money you have coming in and out of your account, GoBank makes sense. (Looking to earn high interest rates or establish your savings? Not so much.)

Best For Great Interest Rates: Ally

Named “Best Online Bank” by Money Magazine in 2012, Ally’s a good choice if you keep higher balances in your accounts and are looking for online savings options that earn strong interest rates. With no maintenance or ATM fees (Ally even reimburses other banks’ ATM fees), Ally offers better interest rates on its checking accounts than many banks do on their savings accounts. The bank recently added mobile check deposits to its app, making the service even more convenient.

Best For the Occasional In-Person Transaction: USAA

While some of USAA’s products and services are only available to members of the military and their families, its investment products, most checking and savings products, and credit cards are available to civilians, too. Bank accounts include nice perks at no extra cost, such as free checking and savings, free checks and online bill pay, unlimited transfers to any U.S. bank, and more.

If you want to do the majority of your banking online, but want to have the option of occasionally doing transactions in person, with USAA you can make deposits at select UPS Store locations. If ATM access is enough for you, the bank will refund other banks’ fees. The big drawback is that mobile deposit options are only available to those who meet certain eligibility requirements based on your account history with the bank and whether you are eligible for its auto or property insurance.

Best For No Minimum Balance: Charles Schwab Bank

For online checking accounts, Charles Schwab’s High Yield Investor Checking gets some of the best reviews—and with good reason. The account requires no minimum balance (rare for a checking account that earns interest) and charges no monthly service fee, at a time when many large banks are discontinuing their free checking accounts. Plus, you get fee rebates from any ATM worldwide, in addition to having access to online and mobile bill pay and mobile deposit, plus free checks for those who don’t want to do everything by debit card.

Best For Managing Your Money: PNC’s Virtual Wallet

Okay, PNC isn’t online-only, but the bank’s Virtual Wallet online and mobile banking interface is one of the best I’ve seen from a brick-and-mortar institution. It gives you three ways to group your money: everyday spending and bills, short-term savings, and long-term growth. The Money Bar feature gives you a visual of the money you’ve got going out, the savings you’ve stashed, and what you’ve got left to spend, which helps you to adjust your priorities accordingly. Additional analytics in the tool encourage good budgeting habits and savings.

My favorite feature, the calendar described as “a digital assistant that simplifies your banking needs,” shows you everything from your spending habits to bill payment reminders. It will even let you know when your balance might fall below zero, based on the payments you’ve scheduled, so you know when you need to closely watch your spending. And apps for your Apple and Android phones and tablets let you take control of your money wherever you are.

How do you decide where to do your banking? Which features matter most to you? 

Photo of online banking courtesy of Shutterstock.