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Can someone please tell me the benefits of BankSimple over all the other online banks or your local credit union? I'm afraid I don't get it.



In some ways, they're over-reaching. Sure, people hate the banks right now and it seems like a cash-cow industry that one could really disrupt. However, banking has a lot of competitors including not-for-profit ones in the form of credit unions. It will be very difficult to offer higher rates, better service, etc. than a non-profit credit union while one is trying to make a profit.

However, if I were BankSimple and you said what you and I have said to me, I'd respond that banks are crap at IT. I'd say that we (BankSimple) are basically a better IT department for your bank. We're going to create a banking technology stack that you'll enjoy using while getting you better rates than the large banks (BofA, Chase, etc.) offer you and better terms (like ATM refunds). We're going to do this by using wholesale banking offers from FDIC-insured institutions.

Will it work? Maybe. I'm skeptical. Refunding ATM fees and better terms are going to eat into margins a lot. The wholesale bank is going to take their margin. That doesn't leave much for good rates. Plus, some banks are starting to get good at IT. Wells Fargo and Bank of America have deposit-scanning ATMs. Chase has an iPhone app that lets you scan checks. When it comes to terms, I already have a bank that offers me 0.55% checking and 1.25% savings with ATM refunds.

It isn't an easy road for them, but what they're trying to do is create a better technology package for users. That might mean making a card that can do both credit and debit in one card - I've wanted that. That might mean NFC payments faster than banks will support them. That might mean better Mint.com-like tools than Mint. That might be the plainer, easier to understand language they're pushing.

And, even if they don't completely succeed with a retail venture, they might end up with a great OEM package for banks and credit unions to outsource their web and mobile technology stack to. Most small banks do outsource their interfaces and BankSimple might be creating the best OEM package for small banks (if/when their retail ventures fail) inadvertently in the process. I've seen plenty of banks with horrid web interfaces and very few allow for check scanning on either desktop or mobile. BankSimple could do well in the OEM market even if it fails to convince consumers of its retail ambitions.

/just to clarify, I'm not affiliated with BankSimple, it was just a pleasant way of phrasing that paragraph.


In reading your second paragraph I did a bit of a double-take. You started to summarize almost exactly what Josh wrote to me in an email back when I contacted them with some questions. My point was that while I like the idea of a bank driven by new minds, ultimately I can't think of anything that they will give me that my current bank (Ally, if it's important) isn't giving me right now.

So much of the banking decision for me is based on how well the bank gets out of my way, low fees, and high interest rate. My current bank manages the last two perfectly well, has excellent customer service, and the few issues I have with the web presence are minor.

Josh mentioned that they won't be targeting the absolute rate chasers, but that they will be providing an experience that changes everything (my words, not his). I'm skeptical, but I've been surprised by plenty of other startups. I'm sure there's innovation to be had in the banking industry, I just don't know how much of a draw that innovation will end up being.

Unfortunately every time I look at their site I don't see much that I don't get out of my current bank and my email conversation with Josh was heavy on the criticism of my current bank but light on exactly WHAT they are doing wrong. So for now I'll have to ride the hype with everyone else and just see what comes out.


It will be very difficult to offer higher rates, better service, etc. than a non-profit credit union

Credit unions generally have disproportionally high overhead due to their size, and their rates are not great lately because of the corporate CU collapse. CUs face 38 basis points of assessments for the next two years to pay for the corporate bailouts.


I am one of those people who asked for a Bank Simple invite. At the time I had an account at a bricks-and-mortar bank. Since then I have switched to ING Direct and in some ways I am a harder sell. But I will say this: UI does matter. It's not just about the fee structure. However it will have to be an awesome UI (by which I mean the money management layer available to the customer) to get me to switch again


Chase has an iPhone app that lets you scan checks.

Only for small amounts. If the check is for a large amount (over $750? I'm not sure exactly what the limit is), the app will refuse to let you scan it in and tell you to go to a branch instead.


I imagine they also have a bank-by-mail option, which (I find) is useful if you don't go near your branch normally anyway and don't care about a few days delay in your deposits.

True, it'd be nicer to scan in the check (and not have the mail delay) but it's not a huge pain point for me to drop the envelope in the mail; so I haven't been to my bank's branch in 5 years.


It's $1000. I've found that this is an issue with rent checks pretty regularly.


Right, there are already good alternatives to consumer-hostile banks, such as the fantastic Charles Schwab.

I always recommend them to people because they pay my banking fees, are insured, ethical/reputable, pioneered the discount brokerage, and have great 24/7 customer service. They've helped me out of numerous jams over the years.


> Right, there are already good alternatives to consumer-hostile banks, such as the fantastic Charles Schwab.

Do you mean Charles Schwab is the "good alternative" or the "consumer-hostile bank"?


It's no longer offered, but I have a credit card from Schwab that gives me a flat 2% cashback every month on every purchase, no opt-ins every month, no tiers, no limits. The cash gets ACHd into my checking account. The card has 0% foreign exchange fees, free concierge service, 90 day price-drop match guarantee, doubles every manufacturers warranty up to 5 years (aside from things like cars), and has $0 annual fee.

And the Schwab checking account isn't half bad either.


As another owner of this card, I have to note that Schwab is no longer "subsidizing" this card, and has completely been disassociated from it. I believe the reason was that they weren't making any money off of it, but my memory is a bit foggy now.

It is now serviced by FIA Services, no longer available to new customers, and of course terms and conditions are subject to change. So far, nothing has changed, but still, the point is that this card was and is an anomaly.


The card doesn't stand alone, though. The point is there are tertiary banks that are more consumer friendly. Schwab, yes, and for them the credit crisis put their 2% card on the chopping block. But another tertiary bank, Fidelity, still offers the card that's always been like the Sister Card for the Schwab Visa: The Fidelity Amex is also an FIA card that is nearly identical in terms. It's reward structure involves tiers but it's very clearly a 2% card. And it has a 1% FETF.

Aside from that, it's identical.

And it doesn't change the fact that Schwab put together the terms of this card (certainly with the help of FIA) and that a more traditionally mainstream bank has not.

I also have the British Airways Chase card that literally has netted me a free Biz Class ticket to Europe. Very generous. But that's a signing bonus. If I were to keep this card as my daily-driver for a couple years Chase would make a lot more money off me than Schwab ever would've off the card that's now the "FIA Cash Rewards Visa"


The first one. I hoped the comma and "fantastic" would make it clearer. ;)


I am another fairly happy charles schwab customer, but their UI/UX is absolutely awful. I've used ING Direct, Wells Fargo, a local credit union, Chase, ING Direct, and FIA Card Services, and the only one that had a decent UI was Wells Fargo. With more and more banking happening online, it seems clear that there's some opportunity for a bank that understands online and understands UI to make a big play.


Meh. I agree the website could use some improvement, but it works and has been reliable in my experience. Its heaviness is less important to me than the customer-hostile policies of the average bank. I'm only on it a few mins a week anyway, I get my balance and history quickly and leave.


I totally agree with you, except that since I use mint, the only time I'm on there is when I suspect mint is out of date, or to mess with my bill pay stuff, so maybe 2 or 3 times a month. I was envisioning a bank that offered the perks of somewhere like Schwab or ING, but with better UI/UX.


Agreed. usaa.com already addresses all of these pain points.


USAA is also available only to members of the military and their families (they've been getting more lax over the years, though).


That is apparently no longer the case. The only major services non-military are ineligible for are auto and property insurance.

Eligibility description here: https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/why_choose_usaa_eligibility_...


But from what I can tell, the smartphone deposit feature requires that you be eligible for the auto and property insurance.


You are correct. It's just the insurance that's restricted to military. They are the best bank you'll ever use IMO.


Navy FCU and Pentagon FCU are also great (and open to anyone for a charity donation of around $25). I notice a trend!


They list all the advantages here: https://banksimple.com/#vision

In short, no surprise fee's and simple online banking (with extensive mobile support).


Obviously different banks have different issues but Chase (third largest US by deposits) already does everything in that vision. I really don't get Bank Simple. Integrating planning in a way that looks like Mint is nice, but Mint brings in your other accounts - and if they are trying to out Mint Mint, that is a pretty tall challenge. I can't speak for other banks but I don't see anything special here.

- The plain simple language bullet admits that of course there will always be legalese

- Real support. I've never had trouble at any hour getting a human being on the phone, empowered to deal with my issues. Facetiming or Skyping with my bank? I really don't see the point.

- Mobile from the ground up - Chase has great mobile apps that allow you to deposit checks by taking a photo. I believe other banks do as well and it seems like this will probably be pretty standard going forward.

- No fees. In four years I've been hit with a surprise fee once. It has been resolved.

"We provide access to the largest fee-free nationwide ATM network and our mobile app will locate an ATM closest to your current location." Not sure what that network is but is it more ATMs than Chase or BofA or Wells Fargo have?


largest fee-free nationwide ATM network

That's gotta be Allpoint. They run nearly all of the non-bank ATMs (Think: 7/11, pharmacies, gas stations). ING Direct has the same deal: http://app.ingdirect.com/atmlocate/index.html

That's actually a significantly worse deal than the banks and credit unions that refund ATM fees (to a point) so you can use literally any ATM on any network.


Agreed, I have an online savings account from HSBC and they even refunded a $5 ATM fee from a Vegas casino. I just make sure to carry that ATM card with me for the cases where I need money and can't get to my bank's ATMs, and this or the Ing product don't add anything to that.


I have an ING Direct account, and I've never been terribly happy with the allpoint ATM's. They tend to .. not look trustworthy. When you've got an awful looking ATM tucked away in a corner somewhere, I really don't want to give it all my account info.


1) their intent is to do for banking what mint did for financial information. mint wasn't the first site to do what it did, it just did it very well and sold itself well. banksimple isn't looking to solve the backend of banking, their sales pitch is a good user experience and customer support structure.

2) just because you don't have those problems doesn't mean that others don't. in the past 4 years, i've probably hit upon each of those problems. perhaps they aren't enough of a pain point for me to switch away from my bank, but they're valid points nonetheless.

3) their ATM network is the largest because its any ATM (i believe, based on what i've read). use their card in any ATM and they waive all fees. this exists in some other cards already, though usually in a limited capacity (my HSBC card waives the first 3 ATM transaction fees iirc)


The fact that it's a tech startup? Seriously, any startup that aims to disrupt our stagnant banking industry has my support.


https://banksimple.com/faq/ gives their USP




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