Simple Bank Review: An Online Bank for Goal-Oriented Savers

A business man smiles as he looks at his iPad.
Getty Images

If you’re willing to give online-only banking a try, Simple is, indeed, a simplistic option — and one that can offer a lot of value for those looking to save toward specific financial goals. 

Simple integrates a range of budgeting tools into its basic checking account package and also offers an upgraded high-yield checking account that offers a whopping 1.75% APY. 

Best of all, members can access all of these features and earnings without worrying about monthly maintenance fees, initial opening deposit requirements or monthly account minimums.

Although it’s a great deal for those who can make it work, Simple is an online bank, which means its offerings are limited: You won’t be able to get an auto loan or home equity line of credit through Simple. There’s also no Simple small business banking option, and depositing cold, hard cash can be a challenge.

Here’s the nitty gritty on what we love (and don’t love) about Simple.

Simple: The Pros and Cons

What we like:

  • None of its accounts carry monthly maintenance fees or account-balance minimums, and you don’t have to worry about overdraft fees, either. 
  • With more than 40,000 in-network ATMs, you shouldn’t ever have to pay Simple for access to your money.
  • In lieu of a traditional savings account, Simple offers a high-yield checking account whose 1.75% APY has us looking like the money-mouth emoji.
  • Integrated and innovative budgeting tools, like the automatically calculated Safe-to-Spend feature, make managing your money easier (and even fun).

What we don’t like

  • Simple’s regular checking account doesn’t accrue an appreciable amount of interest.
  • Although the all-online model is convenient and easy in many ways, it does make depositing cash more challenging, and if you deal in cash often, it might not work for you.
  • Simple doesn’t offer a small business banking product.

Checking

Grade: B

Simple’s checking account could be described as just that: simple. It’s a no-fee, online-only solution that can work well for many users — so long as you don’t make the bulk of your income in cash. (More on that in just a minute.) 

Simple only offers one type of basic checking account, and it bears only minimal interest (0.01% APY). Simple does also have a shared checking account option, however. 

Simple’s checking account carries no minimum opening deposit and no monthly maintenance fees, and it does away with a lot of other traditional bank expenses like overdraft fees as well. 

The only times you’ll spend money on your Simple account is if you spend money internationally (up to 1% of the transaction), order paper checks ($5 for a book of 25) or use an out-of-network ATM (but there are over 40,000 fee-free, in-network ATMs to choose from). 

Taking money out of your account is pretty easy. You can use your Simple debit card at any of those ATMs as well as any point-of-sale platform where Visa is accepted. Simple also plays well with third-party apps like PayPal, Venmo and Square Cash, and you can link external bank accounts and do free ACH transfers.

Putting money into your account is a little trickier. Digital transfers are fine, as are direct deposits. Checks can be deposited via the mobile app or mailed directly to Simple.

But there’s no good way to deposit cash. Simple requests you don’t send it in, and you can’t go into the bank or do it at the ATM. You’d need to either deposit it to a different bank account and initiate a transfer or buy a money order and send it snail mail… so if you’re someone who works for tips, Simple (or any online bank account) may not be your best option. 

Savings

Grade: A

Simple doesn’t offer a savings account, per se, but rather a high-yield online checking account — and “high-yield” is right. The Protected Goals Account offers members earnings of 1.75% APY, which easily trounces the 0.09% savings average

All you have to do to open one is have a regular Simple account and set up a Savings Goal. That’s it. No account minimums, no fees, no fine print switch-a-roo. 

Protected Goals Accounts can also be shared, just like regular Simple checking accounts. And Simple is also in the process of introducing Certificates of Deposit, though they’re not available yet (as per late February 2020). 

Small Business Banking

Simple doesn’t offer small business banking.

Convenience

A business woman talks on the phone.
Getty Images

Grade: A-

Convenience for an online-only bank account is relative. If you aren’t someone who finds yourself at the bank often (or ever), Simple’s customer service availability and mobile technology may be all you need… but if you’re hoping to talk to someone face-to-face, you’re going to be disappointed.

That said, we do have to give Simple high marks for its live phone lines, which offer the opportunity to speak with a real, live person without waiting through an extensive phone tree. These lines are not available 24/7, however; you can call between 9 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET Monday through Friday or 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET on Saturday. 

You can also send a digital message through the app or web browser client or reach out to the team on its social media channels, though only general questions will be answered there for security reasons. 

Simple also hosts a large number of support articles that may help you find the answer to your question on your own.

Mobile Banking

Grade: B+

When it comes to mobile banking, an online-only bank really has to go above and beyond. After all, it’s literally the only way you have to access and control your money.

Simple’s app does live up to that mission, offering its customers both the standard set of on-the-go money management tools, like mobile check deposit, and some above-and-beyond features that are Simple specific, like Safe-to-Spend and Goals.

Goals are just what they sound like: customizable savings objectives that help you get serious about setting aside money for your emergency fund or upcoming vacation. You can manually funnel money towards a savings goal or use Simples Round-up Rules, which will automatically save the spare change from your purchases.

Simple also uses your spending habits and Goals to power its Safe-to-Spend feature, which tells you how much money you can spend in a given day while staying within your financial limits. Money set aside for Goals are hidden from the Safe-to-Spend algorithm, ensuring you aren’t using your stash for daily spending.

And perhaps more importantly, Simple takes security seriously, protecting its users with two-factor authentication to get into the app and the ability to remotely shut down your debit card in case it’s lost or stolen.

That said, Simple’s apps carry relatively low star ratings, of only 3.9 on the Google Play store and 3.3 in Apple’s App Store.

Our Bank Review Methodology

The Penny Hoarder’s editorial team considers more than 25 factors in its bank account reviews, including fees, minimum daily balance requirements, APYs, overdraft charges, ATM access, number of physical locations, customer service support access and mobile features. 

To determine how we weigh each factor, The Penny Hoarder surveyed 1,500 people to find out what banking features matter most to you. 

For example, we give top grades to banks that have low fees because our survey showed that this is the No. 1 thing you look for in a bank. Because more than 70% of you said you visited a physical bank branch last year, we consider the number of brick-and-mortar locations. But more than one-third of you use mobile apps for more than 75% of your banking, so digital features are also considered carefully.

Ratings are assigned across the following categories:

  • Personal checking accounts
  • Personal savings accounts
  • Small-business banking
  • Convenience
  • Mobile banking

Credit card and loan products are not currently considered.

Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.