Banking In The 21st Century : The 411 On Online Savings Accounts
When it comes to embracing technology and the digital world, I am probably the farthest from "millennial" you could get. In the last two years, I can count the number of online purchases that I've made on one hand. Brick and mortar retailers, you're welcome for keeping the industry alive. My cell phone is so ancient that I can't even make a phone call without needing it plugged into a power source. And, when it comes to keeping my life and social events organized, I still use a paper planner that is so large and heavy that, I'm pretty sure, it's given me chronic back pain. Despite all of the changes in technology that I actively try to avoid, the one change that I have welcomed with open arms is online banking.
Take Willpower Out Of The Equation
For the longest time, I made diligent efforts to save, only to find that I had $0 to my name at the end of every month. I always started out the month with the best of intentions, only to walk by a pair of jeans that I just couldn't live without or get sucked into a spa membership that I couldn't say no to. Somehow, I would always find myself back at square one. By having both my checking and my savings accounts at the same bank, I made it way to easy to slip up on my savings goals. Not only can you transfer money between accounts instantaneously, most banks will automatically transfer money for you, without you having any idea that you were overdrawn.
Any transfer requests made from an online savings account take 72 hours to process. This has been a HUGE game changer for me, as it prevents me from making any "spur of the moment" decisions and experiencing buyers' remorse. In the three years since opening my online account, I haven't made a single transfer request that wasn't absolutely necessary, ie an actual emergency. When I opened my account, I had set a pretty lofty savings goal of six months of expenses which, as of this year, I have finally hit!! I owe it all to my decision to open an online savings account.
When it comes to your money and reaching your financial goals, you absolutely cannot rely on willpower to make it happen. If both your savings and checking accounts are at the same institution, you are making it exponentially harder for yourself to save. An online account makes saving simple and doesn't depend on your ability to say no to your friend's offer of 50 yard line Seahawks tickets that you know you can't afford.
You Deserve More
I will be the first to admit that saving money is hard work. Watching your friends' vacations via Insta stories while you sit at home watching your tenth episode of Say Yes To The Dress is really not that fun. If you're going to make the conscious, and difficult, decision to save, you need to make it worth your while. Even if you've been able to have some success saving at a brick and mortar institution, the returns you earn are laughable. The average interest rate at a "big bank" (think Chase or Bank of America) is 0.06%. At that kind of interest rate, you have to save $1,667 to even get paid ONE DOLLAR!
Even if you've made the smarter decision to use a savings account offered by a credit union, the interest rates are only slightly more competitive. The average credit union interest rate is 0.10%, which means that for every ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS of your hard-earned savings, you get just $1 in return.
Online savings accounts, on the other hand, offer astronomically higher interest rates. The higher interest rates are, primarily, a result of not having any brick and mortar locations to maintain and pay for and, consequently, far fewer employee salaries to pay. They can pass on these savings directly to their customers, you! For example, Ally, the online bank that I use currently offers a 1.2% interest rate. 1.2% may not seem huge, but it is TWENTY times higher than the standard “big bank” interest rate and TWELVE times higher than the more generous credit union interest rates. Seems like a no brainer to me.
"I'm Still Not Sold..."
The primary argument that I've heard from friends around online savings accounts is that they're wary of providing their financial information over the internet. When you stop and think about your day-to-day financial decisions, this seems a little crazy. Have you ever ordered something online? Have you ever paid a bill online? Have you ever paid someone using Venmo? Have you ever used your bank's mobile app? If you answered yes to any of these, and I'm certain you answered yes to more, you are already providing all of your personal information online. A savings account shouldn't make you feel any differently. In addition, all online banks, at least all that I know of, are FDIC insured. This means that the government backs all of your deposits should anything crazy happen. Think The Great Depression.
If you aren't ready to jump in with both feet, please be sure that you take the following three steps to achieve your savings goals:
Automate, automate, automate. Enroll in your company's direct deposit and ensure that a set amount is automatically deposited to your savings account every pay period. I advocate a minimum of 20%, but every little bit counts.
Disable overdraft protection. Most banks automatically enroll you in overdraft protection which is especially dangerous if your savings and checking accounts are at the same institution.
Move your savings account to a credit union. While 0.10% is hardly anything to write home about, it is still an improvement from the standard big bank rate. In addition, credit unions often offer far lower fees on other services and activities, such as check printing, transfer requests and ATM withdrawals.
Accounts I Love
If you ARE ready to take the next step toward achieving your savings goals, below is a list of online banks that I recommend.
Ally – This is the bank that I have used for the last few years and am obsessed with.
As always, please don't hesitate to share any questions or comments! Let me know which account you love below! Happy Saving!