Best Online Banks 2021: Enhanced Services & Low Fees

At one time, consumers looked down on online banks for not having any physical locations. The top online banks took this disadvantage and turned it into a positive, channeling their cost savings into enhanced interest rates, products and services for banking customers. The best online banks now offer a full range of personal financial products and banking services, including checking and savings accounts, money market accounts and CDs, with most having ATM access and a high APY.

However, this doesn’t mean that all online banks are created equal. Rather, there is a large gulf between average online banks and the very best ones. To help you choose from among all the available options, GOBankingRates conducted a study to identify the best banks.

Best Online Banks of 2021

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Ally Bank

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Marcus by Goldman Sachs

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Discover Bank

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Synchrony Bank

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Citizens Access

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American Express Bank

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Barclays Bank Delaware

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CIT Bank

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FNBO Direct

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Simple Bank

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Comenity Bank

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Radius Bank

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USAA Federal Savings Bank

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Axos Bank

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TIAA Bank

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First Internet Bank

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Green Dot

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Sallie Mae Bank

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iGObanking.com

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Incredible Bank

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To determine the Best Online Banks of 2021, GOBankingRates evaluated online banks using a methodology centered on the following criteria:

  • Checking account fee
  • Savings account annual percentage yield
  • 1-year CD APY
  • BauerFinancial Star Rating for overall financial strength

Further consideration was given as to whether banks offered the following services:

  • 24/7 customer service by phone
  • Live chat service with a real person via a website
  • Mobile app
  • Remote check deposit

All of the top online banks offer competitive accounts that come with the best online banking services, such as a mobile app and mobile deposit. One of these banks might be the best bank for you, especially if your current bank lacks the generous rates and services offered by these online banks.

Learn More About Each Online Bank

Here are the highlights of the Best Online Banks of 2021:

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Ally Bank: Best Online Bank

Why we like it: Ally Bank offers a high savings APY and a wide variety of no-fee products, along with 24/7 customer service.

Benefits

  • No minimum deposit to open
  • No fees for official or cashier’s checks
  • Diverse product lines available
  • 24/7 live customer service

Drawbacks

  • No cash deposits

Checking Account Monthly Fee

$0

Savings Account APY

0.60%

1-Year CD APY

0.65%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

Yes

Bauer Rating

5

Other Products

Auto Loans, Mortgage Loans, Investment Services
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Marcus by Goldman Sachs: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: Marcus by Goldman Sachs offers online savings accounts with a high APY, personal loans up to $40,000, and insights to help manage your accounts.

Benefits

  • No minimum deposit
  • Offers 24/7 account access via the Marcus app for mobile banking

Drawbacks

  • Does not provide ATM access
  • No online checking account

Checking Account Monthly Fee

N/A

Savings Account APY

0.60%

1-Year CD APY

0.85%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

4

Other Products

 
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Discover Bank: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: Discover Bank offers a good range of products, from checking and savings accounts to money market accounts, CDs and IRA.Top that  with competitive rates and generally nonexistent fees.

Benefits

  • High rates and low fees on a deep product roster
  • Cashback Checking pays 1% back on monthly debit card purchases of up to $3,000, with no fees or balance requirements
  • Fee-free access to over 60,000 ATMs

Drawbacks

  • $2,500 minimum to open CD accounts

Checking Account Monthly Fee

$0

Savings Account APY

0.60%

1-Year CD APY

0.60% ($2,500 min. deposit)

24/7 Phone Customer Service

Yes

Bauer Rating

4

Other Products

Mortgage Loans, Credit Cards
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Synchrony Bank: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: Synchrony Bank offers high-yield savings and CD accounts.

Benefits

  • ATM refunds up to $5 per cycle
  • Rewards program “Synchrony Bank Perks” provides various discounts
  • Winner of numerous awards for products, rates, safety and technology

Drawbacks

  • $2,000 minimum deposit on CDs
  • No online checking account

Checking Account Monthly Fee

N/A

Savings Account APY

0.65%

1-Year CD APY

0.60% ($2,000 min. deposit)

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

4

Other Products

Credit Cards
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Citizens Access: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: Online savings accounts with high rates and low fees.

Benefits

  • Savings, money market and CD accounts
  • No account maintenance fees

Drawbacks

  • High minimum deposit

Checking Account Monthly Fee

N/A

Savings Account APY

0.25%

1-Year CD APY

0.60% ($5,000 min. deposit)

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

5

Other Products

 
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American Express Bank: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: American Express offers no frills access to great rates with no fees.

Benefits

  • High APY rates
  • No minimum balances

Drawbacks

  • No branch or ATM access

Checking Account Monthly Fee

N/A

Savings Account APY

0.60%

1-Year CD APY

0.20%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

Yes

Bauer Rating

5

Other Products

Credit Cards, Travel Insurance
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Barclays Bank Delaware: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: High APY and no minimum deposit.

Benefits

  • Higher than average interest rates
  • No minimum deposit
  • No account maintenance fees

Drawbacks

  • Limited to six withdrawals per month

Checking Account Monthly Fee

N/A

Savings Account APY

0.60%

1-Year CD APY

0.40%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

Yes

Bauer Rating

5

Other Products

Credit Cards
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CIT Bank: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: Checking, savings and CDs with great service and competitive rates.

Benefits

  • Full service banking, all online
  • Great range of checking accounts
  • Low fees and account minimums

Drawbacks

  • Limited ATM network

Checking Account Monthly Fee

$0

Savings Account APY

0.31%

1-Year CD APY

0.35%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

5

Other Products

Mortgage Loans, Commercial/Business Credit Cards (not personal)
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FNBO Direct: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: Basic banking services with high rates and low fees.

Benefits

  • Full service checking and savings
  • No fee accounts
  • Free bill pay and money transfers

Drawbacks

  • High overdraft fee

Checking Account Monthly Fee

$0

Savings Account APY

0.60%

1-Year CD APY

0.31%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

Yes

Bauer Rating

5

Other Products

Credit Cards
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Simple Bank: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: Good customer service options and smart budgeting tools make sure that impulse buys won’t dip into your rent money.

Benefits

  • Safe-To-Spend tool to help you budget
  • No fees for out-of-network ATMs
  • Simple Instant lets customers instantly move money between accounts

Drawbacks

  • Does not accept deposits made via ATM
  • Does not offer savings account, but does offer "Protected Goals" account, which is a hybrid savings/checking account advertised as high-yield checking

Checking Account Monthly Fee

$0

Savings Account APY

0.80%

1-Year CD APY

0.70%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

N/A

Other Products

Credit Cards
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Comenity Bank + Comenity Direct: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: Comenity issues private-label retail credit cards to borrowers and high-rate savings and CD accounts for savers.

Benefits

  • Simple product line
  • High rates of interest
  • No monthly fees

Drawbacks

  • No checking or ATM options

Checking Account Monthly Fee

N/A

Savings Account APY

0.60%

1-Year CD APY

0.60%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

3.5

Other Products

Credit Cards
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Radius Bank: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: Great checking account services by an online bank.

Benefits

  • ATM fee rebates
  • Checking account rewards program
  • Many no-fee account options

Drawbacks

  • APYs aren’t as high as at other online banks

Checking Account Monthly Fee

$0

Savings Account APY

0.05%

1-Year CD APY

0.50%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

4

Other Products

Credit Cards
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USAA Federal Savings Bank: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: USAA offers ATM fee reimbursement, low minimum balances and zero fees. Performance First Savings Account offers high interest rates on balances above $50,000.

Benefits

  • High savings APY
  • Offers up to $15 monthly reimbursement for third party ATMs

Drawbacks

  • Low interest rates for checking accounts
  • 1% fee for ATM withdrawals outside of the U.S.

Checking Account Monthly Fee

$0

Savings Account APY

0.05%

1-Year CD APY

0.17%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

4

Other Products

Auto Loans, Mortgage Loans, Credit Cards, Insurance
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Axos Bank: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: No-fee checking and savings accounts, along with unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements, help push Axos Bank onto the list of best online banks.

Benefits

  • No fees or minimums
  • Get paid up to two days early with Direct Deposit Express
  • Online bill pay
  • Mobile check deposits
  • No ATM fees
  • Unlimited domestic ATM reimbursements

Drawbacks

  • No interest on checking account

Checking Account Monthly Fee

$0

Savings Account APY

0.81%

1-Year CD APY

0.40%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

Yes

Bauer Rating

5

Other Products

Auto Loans, Mortgage Loans, Investment Services
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TIAA Bank: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: With relatively high CD yields and a guarantee of good rates from its checking account, TIAA Bank is certainly worthy of your consideration.

Benefits

  • Good 12-month CD APY of 0.50% APY
  • No-fee checking
  • Mobile app and remote checking deposit

Drawbacks

  • Basic Savings account only

Checking Account Monthly Fee

$0

Savings Account APY

0.55%

1-Year CD APY

0.50%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

4

Other Products

Mortgage Loans, Credit Cards, Investment Services
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First Internet Bank: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: First Internet Bank offers fee-free versions of the most popular types of accounts, all with decent rates; the ATM fee reimbursement program is a significant additional perk.

Benefits

  • Offers banking by text message
  • No ATM fees in network, reimburses up to $10 monthly for out-of-network ATMs

Drawbacks

  • High minimum deposits to earn interest
  • Not all accounts can be opened online

Checking Account Monthly Fee

$0

Savings Account APY

0.35%

1-Year CD APY

0.65%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

4

Other Products

Auto Loans, Mortgage Loans, Credit Cards
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Green Dot: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: Debit card services that are useful for people who do not have regular bank relationships.

Benefits

  • Robust mobile app
  • No monthly fees with direct deposit
  • Easy bill pay and cash transfers

Drawbacks

  • Potential for high fees

Checking Account Monthly Fee

N/A

Savings Account APY

2.00%

1-Year CD APY

N/A

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

4

Other Products

Credit Cards
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Sallie Mae Bank: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: Student lender that offers high APY savings accounts and other banking services.

Benefits

  • Competitive interest rates on savings
  • Goal features to encourage savers
  • Wide range of CD terms

Drawbacks

  • No 24-hour customer service

Checking Account Monthly Fee

N/A

Savings Account APY

0.65%

1-Year CD APY

0.60% ($2,500 min. deposit)

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

4

Other Products

Credit Cards

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iGObanking.com: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: iGObanking offers good rates, no minimum balances and an easy way to pay bills and transfer funds online.

Benefits

  • Zero fees on 55,000 in network ATMs
  • High interest rates and low minimum balances
  • Easy way to deposit checks, pay bills and transfer money via their app.

Drawbacks

  • Fees for out-of-network ATMs and transactions outside of the US.

Checking Account Monthly Fee

$0

Savings Account APY

0.25%

1-Year CD APY

0.85%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

No

Bauer Rating

5

Other Products

 
READ OUR FULL REVIEW

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IncredibleBank: Top Online Bank

Why we like it: Checking, savings, loans and other community banking services, available online.

Benefits

  • Full range of services
  • Excellent customer service
  • Relatively high APY

Drawbacks

  • Relatively small ATM network

Checking Account Monthly Fee

$0

Savings Account APY

0.01%

1-Year CD APY

0.30%

24/7 Phone Customer Service

Yes

Bauer Rating

4

Other Products

Insurance
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How To Choose an Online Bank

Choosing any type of bank is a personal decision that should match your financial needs. However, there are some general characteristics that you should look for in any bank. Here are some suggestions to help guide you toward the best online bank for you.

Check the Fees

Banks will loudly promote their $0 monthly-fee accounts, but look behind the scenes to determine if there are additional fees for services you typically will use, such as check-writing or ATM withdrawals.

Read the Fine Print

Some rates or fees might be promotional in nature; read the details to ensure you won’t run into any surprises down the road.

Check the APY

Banks usually publish their highest APYs right on their home webpage, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have high APYs across their entire product line. Always check the APY to make sure it applies to the products you’re interested in now or might be in the future.

Check Out the Website and App

Great rates and low fees are important, but if you can’t understand or don’t like an online bank’s user interface, you might not enjoy the experience over the long run, especially since there are no in-branch options. Take the website and mobile app out for a spin before you commit serious money to an online bank.

FDIC Insurance

All banks on this list have FDIC insurance, and indeed, most banks do. However, some fintech institutions that seem like banks don’t technically have their own FDIC insurance. Although they work with partner banks that offer FDIC insurance, your deposits aren’t technically insured until they reach those partner banks. Always check to make sure you understand your financial institution’s FDIC insurance policies.

Back to top

Online Bank vs. Traditional Banks

Both online and traditional banks aim to provide financial services to customers, but they accomplish this in different ways, with different features and benefits. Here’s a look at a few of the important differences.

Advantages of Online Banks

  • Low fees, often $0 for certain accounts
  • Generally higher APYs than traditional banks
  • Typically focus on providing enhanced mobile experiences

Disadvantages of Online Banks

  • No in-person interaction with a financial advisor or bank teller
  • Often, no way to deposit cash
  • May not have the breadth of services of a traditional bank

Summary

Online banks sometimes have sparse account offerings, but they typically deliver high-quality products with what they offer. The best online accounts have zero fees and high rates, so if your bank is coming up short in any of those areas, take a look at one of the above Best Online Banks of 2021.

FAQ

  • How Does Online Banking Work?
    • With online banking, you open an account on the bank’s web site or over the phone. You transfer money into the account or set up direct deposit, and then you access your funds through direct debit, using a debit card, or setting up an account transfer. The process is easy. You have all the services of traditional banking except for a branch to visit.
  • Are Online Banks Safe To Use?
    • Online banks are FDIC insured, but some may have cybersecurity issues. According to a GOBankingRates study, Americans’ greatest fear when it comes to banking is that someone will steal their account or personal information. The top online banks have advanced security measures in place, including two-step authentication and SSL encryption. Some online banks, such as Ally Bank, go so far as to provide an online and mobile security guarantee, protecting you from any unauthorized transactions as long as you notify the bank within 60 days.
  • Are Online Banks FDIC Insured?
    • Legitimate online banks, such as the ones on this list, all share the same FDIC insurance as traditional, brick-and-mortar banks. This means your accounts are insured up to at least $250,000 by the FDIC at your online bank.
  • Are There Online Bank Account Promotions of Sign-Up Bonuses I Can Take Advantage Of?
    • On occasion, online banks have promotions for new account holders, from cash payouts to higher interest rates. Search the homepage of banks you are interested in or check out our best bank account promotions list.

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: To discover the Best Online Banks, GOBankingRates looked at the top online-only institutions in terms of total assets size that had available published data. To determine rankings GOBankingRates looked at the following factors: (1) total assets as sourced from the FDIC; (2) checking account annual fee; (3) savings account APY rate; (4) 12-month CD APY rate; (5) customer service products offered (24/7 customer service and live chat with a human); (6) Bauer rating (out of 5 stars); (7) products/services offered (auto loans, mortgage loans, credit cards, investment services, and insurance); and (8) the average mobile app rating between the android and apple stores. All factors were then scored and combined, with the lowest score being best. Factor (1) was weighted 1.5 times, factor (2) was weighted 0.5 times, and factors (3), (4), and (7) were weighted 2 times. For all Savings and Checking Account data only the basic accounts/products offered at each institution was analyzed. All data is up to date as of November 4, 2020, rates and fees subject to change.

John Csiszar contributed to the reporting for this article.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the bank advertiser, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. This site may be compensated through the bank advertiser Affiliate Program.

About the Author

Ann Logue is a writer specializing in business and finance. Her most recent book is The Complete Idiot’s Guide: Options Trading (Alpha 2016). She lives in Chicago.

Best Online Banks 2021: Enhanced Services & Low Fees
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