Simple is an online and mobile bank that presents itself as a low-cost alternative to traditional, national banks. The bank offers convenient features like online bill pay and mobile deposits, and also provides interactive tools to make keeping track of your money easier and more fun.
To help you decide whether Simple is one of the better banks — and whether it’s the best online bank for you — here’s a look at all the features and functions that Simple offers.
Simple Bank Review
Simple is an online banking service focused almost exclusively on mobile banking. Founded in 2009 by Shamir Karkal and Josh Reich, Simple was designed to make banking and managing your money easier by unifying different bank accounts into one online bank account readily accessible from the palm of your hand.
Simple is basically for mobile banking only, but you can access some of the bank’s features at Simple.com. Simple offers an array of banking services, including:
- Simple Visa card
- Mobile check deposit
- Direct deposit
- Money transfers
- ATM cash withdrawal
Simple sends you a Simple Visa card when you open an account. Issued by Simple’s partner bank Bancorp, the Simple Visa card is a debit card with no charges for overdraft fees.
Simple offers a number of mobile banking features, including:
- Photo deposit: Take a photo of a check and submit the check for processing at any time.
- Simple Instant: Instantly transfer money to other Simple customers.
- Goals: Simple can help you set financial goals. Use the graphic provided by the bank to see how much you’ve saved toward a goal you specify.
- Safe-to-Spend: The Safe-to-Spend feature provides a more accurate idea of how much you can spend today by subtracting upcoming bills — like rent, pending transactions and goals you’re saving for — from your current balance.
- Payment Goals: Link your goal with Simple bill pay service. With your goal connected to a scheduled payment, money will be automatically set aside from your Safe-to-Spend balance until the goal is completed and payment is sent.
- Reports: Get a category breakdown of what you spend your money on.
The Simple web and app interface are easy-to-use and intuitive, and available for Android and iOS devices. Simple bank employs multiple levels of network and software security to keep the information on your mobile app safe. If suspicious spending arises, you can instantly block your Visa card using the Simple mobile app; if that fails, the Visa Zero Liability policy protects customers against fraud. Simple also gives you the security of a traditional bank because it is FDIC-insured through Bancorp Bank.
The Pros: More Tools and No Fees
Simple lives up to its name: The bank simply offers an online checking account rather than a choice of checking, savings, CD or other accounts. But Simple makes up for this lack of variety with tools and features that make it one of the best online banks.
Here are some of Simple’s advantages:
- No fees: No monthly maintenance fees or overdraft fees are charged, and no minimum balance is required.
- Mobile check deposit: Deposit checks via photo and set up direct deposit on your smartphone.
- Budgeting tools: Goals, Safe-to-Spend and Reports keep track of your spending and provide a more accurate picture of what you can spend day-to-day.
- Online bill pay: Use the Simple app to pay bills, set up recurring bill payment and link to completion of goals.
- ATMs: Simple customers have access to a network of over 50,000 surcharge-free ATMs.
- Customer Service: Simple offers customer service over the phone or through mobile chat.
- Debit card: The Simple debit card is issued through Visa, so it’s widely accepted.
- Third-Party support: Simple is compatible with third-party payment services like Google Wallet, PayPal, Square Cash and Venmo.
The Cons: Fewer Products and More Limitations
Simple comes up short in its lack of products. Offering only checking accounts allows the bank to focus on quality, but many competing online banks offer more accounts with better APYs.
Here are some other ways Simple is lacking in online banking:
- Deposit limits: Simple has a deposit limit of $2,000 per check on mobile deposits for the first 30 days. The bank also requires that you mail in deposits for checks over $3,000, traveler’s checks and international checks, which are held for 45 days — longer than the hold time of a number of other banks.
- Limited product offering: Simple doesn’t offer options like high-yield savings, money market accounts or CD accounts.
- Low APY: A Simple online bank account earns only a 0.01% APY.
- No rebates on ATM fees: Simple doesn’t charge for using ATMs outside of its network, but does not reimburse the ATM fee charged by out-of-network machines.
- Limited photo check deposit hours: You can deposit a check from anywhere through your smartphone, but must submit it by 2 p.m. PST to get it processed the same day.
- Device limitations: Banking with Simple requires that your device be able to operate the Simple mobile app; if your device can’t run Simple, you can’t bank with Simple.
How to Apply for a Simple Account
Applying for a Simple online bank account is easy. You can apply right on your mobile device in just a few steps:
- Download the free Simple app from the app store of your choice.
- Enter your email address, username and password phrase. Choose your mobile unlock code and whether to use Touch ID.
- Fill out contact information including your name, date of birth, occupation, Social Security number, phone number and address.
- Enter how many bank transfers and deposits you expect per month, and their amounts.
- Double check your information before agreeing to terms and disclosures.
- Send in the application.
Once you’ve completed these steps, you’ll receive an email from Simple confirming receipt of your application. The application process takes up to four business days, at which point you’ll find out if you’re approved.
Simple vs. Other Online Banks
See how Simple compares to some of the best online banks available:
& Monthly Fee
|ATM Fees||APY||Mobile Banking||Online Banking||Bill Pay||Savings Accounts||Investments & Mortgages|
|Simple||None||None within Allpoint network||0.01%||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Ally||None||None within Allpoint network||0.10% – 0.60%||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Investments|
|Bank of Internet USA||None for Essential Checking||None within U.S.||0% – 1.25%||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Capital One 360||None||None within Allpoint network||0.20% – 1.00%||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Rates accurate as of May 9, 2016, except for Ally Bank and Capital One, which are accurate as of today|
Simple vs. Ally Bank
Simple and Ally both provide checking accounts with no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements and free ATMs through the Allpoint network. Both banks support mobile banking, online banking and online bill pay. But Ally edges out Simple bank with better APYs, savings accounts and investment options. Ally also reimburses customers up to $10 for non-network ATM fees at the end of each statement cycle.
Simple vs. Bank of Internet USA
Bank of Internet USA beats Simple in terms of checking account options: Bank of Internet USA offers five different checking accounts to Simple’s one type of account. Simple, does offer a higher APY for its checking account than Bank of Internet USA, though — 0.01% APY for Simple’s checking account versus 0% APY for Bank of Internet USA’s Essential Checking account. Aside from Essential Checking, Bank of Internet USA offers checking accounts that can earn APYs higher than Simple’s online bank account, plus savings accounts, mortgages, IRAs and CDs.
Simple vs. Capital One 360
Capital One 360 offers everything Simple can — and more. Capital One 360 offers higher yields — 0.20% to 1.00% APY — on its online checking accounts than Simple. Capital One 360 also offers a greater variety of financial options, including savings accounts and investment accounts.
Simple: For Basic and Mobile-Only Banking
Although Simple does offer a low-cost way to bank and plenty of convenient features like online bill pay and mobile banking, its services do not match those of the three other mentioned online banks. Additionally, a number of its policies — like the requirement to deposit checks worth $3,000 or more by mail — undermine the bank’s mobile capabilities.
Simple also requires you to own a device that can run the Simple mobile app in order to bank — not just to bank on your phone, but to bank with Simple at all. And if you haven’t upgraded to iOS 8.0 or higher or Android 4.1, you won’t be able to run the mobile app and cannot bank with Simple.
Still, there are a number of reasons to consider leaving your brick-and-mortar bank for an online bank. Because an online bank doesn’t have the high overhead costs of a traditional bank, an online bank can pass the savings on to its customers. In the case of Simple, you get these savings in the form of no annual fees and no required minimum balance.
Simple is good for people looking for an uncomplicated mobile banking service that helps track spending and saving. The bank’s interactive features like goals and Safe-to-Spend encourage better financial habits. But if you’re looking for more comprehensive banking that goes beyond a banking app, Simple is not the best bank or you; it’d be better to go with one of Simple’s competitors, like Ally or Bank of Internet USA.