Making the Switch to an Online Bank: Ally Bank Review
Update: See my update on why you should use Ally to hold all your cash in 5 year CD’s and get the highest rates possible. It should make sense for 99% of all people to follow this strategy and feel free to contact me with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you still bank at one of the big brick and mortar national chains, your interest rate is probably just as pitiful as mine. My local bank, Union Bank of California, gives me a 0.01% interest rate on my checking account and ranges from 0.01%, for up to $2,500, all the way up to a whopping 0.35% if I hold $100,000 or more in my savings account.
Now I know interest rates are low these days, but 0.01% seems like a slap in the face. Luckily, I also bank online with Ally. I opened a checking and savings account with them a couple years ago, and I get a moderate 0.75%(for over 15k) APR and 0.84% APR, respectively. There are some great benefits that online banks can offer due to their reduced operating costs.
Online banks operate similarly to giant online product retailers like Amazon. Both industries are able to offer steep pricing advantages because they have almost no physical presence. Here’s a look at some of Ally’s CD and Savings rates as of today(3.27.2012):
12 Month High Yield CD: 1.02%
5 year High Yield CD: 1.74%
Online Savings: 0.84%
Online Checking: 0.4% for less than 15k, 0.75% if greater than 15k
As you can see, their rates are pretty competitive with other online banks and are vastly superior to any of the nationwide big banks. I use Ally CD’s as part of my Emergency Fund Ladder because the termination penalty is only 2 months’ interest. What a steal!
Even Ally’s customer service is surprisingly helpful. You can chat online with them instantly(which I did when researching this article) or give them a call. Their website actually lists the wait time for calling in under their phone number.
We’re not talking about free money here; well in a way it’s free, but most people are so used to paying ATM fees by now, they don’t even think twice about it. Ally is one of the only banks that offers unlimited ATM fee reimbursement. This is my favorite feature of Ally and why I switched in the first place. They have no monthly reimbursement limits and no single transaction maximum. I was reimbursed once for a $15 ATM fee in Vegas!
In addition to this neat perk, Ally also offers standard free checking. This isn’t as big a deal as it once was, considering how little we write checks these days, but it’s one of many nice benefits of banking with them.
Although Ally is well known for it’s great customer service, there is only so much support they can provide online or via phone. A lot of customers rely on face to face encounters for some of their banking needs. I don’t think you can make the switch completely to Ally Bank yet, but it’s a great supplemental option to your local brick and mortar bank. Some other cons:
- If you have a lot of direct deposits set up to your local bank, switching these can really be a hassle.
- Ally offers some great rates, but you can always shop around at some other online institutions like ING to see if they have better rates.
- Ally has check scanning but they don’t have a smartphone app for it yet!
As long as the basic services are covered for free at my local bank, I’ll continue to use both. I don’t think I’m quite ready to completely switch to online banking because I like to take advantage of the benefits of both. I keep most of my money in high yield CD’s at Ally, but I always have my local bank if I need that cashier’s check or some face to face service.
Do you use an online bank? Have you tried Ally yet? Is there any reason not to?
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