Charles Schwab Bank Review - Everything You Need to Know

Enjoy unlimited ATM rebates and no foreign transaction fees on your debit card

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Charles Schwab Bank is the banking arm of Charles Schwab and Co., one of the largest brokerage firms in the U.S. As an online bank, the offerings are not noteworthy. However, Schwab customers and global travelers may appreciate the convenience and free savings available in these accounts.

Pros

  • Unlimited ATM fee rebates

  • No foreign transaction fees for using your debit card overseas

  • FDIC insurance on deposits held with Charles Schwab Bank

Cons

  • Relatively low interest rate in the savings account, compared to other online banks

  • Money market accounts at other banks pay more and allow limited spending

  • Branch locations are primarily for investors and only located in major cities

Who is Schwab Bank Best For?

Schwab’s bank accounts may be an excellent choice for anybody who uses Charles Schwab’s brokerage services. You can work with a name you’re familiar with, and it’s easy to move money between accounts. These accounts are also good for heavy ATM users.

Consider Schwab bank if you want:

  • To use any ATM worldwide and receive unlimited ATM fee rebates
  • Fast transfers between Schwab brokerage accounts and your bank account
  • A mobile app with mobile check deposit
  • No monthly charges, and few additional fees
  • Limited branch locations for check deposits
  • Unlimited external bank account links

Types of Accounts

  • High Yield Investor Checking
  • High Yield Investor Savings

High Yield Investor Checking

The Schwab High Yield Investor Checking account is an FDIC-insured checking account that pays interest and includes generous debit card features. While some brokerage firms offer cash management accounts with similar features, Schwab’s checking account is truly a bank account.

  • Earn 0.35 percent APY on your checking account balance
  • No monthly fees
  • No minimum amount to open
  • Use your Visa debit card worldwide without foreign transaction fees
  • Free online bill pay for one-time and recurring payments
  • Deposit checks with your mobile device
  • Free order of checks when you open your account

This account allows you to do everything you need in a checking account. You can deposit funds, make payments, earn interest, and avoid fees. To open the checking account, you’ll need to open a linked Schwab One brokerage account. Schwab One accounts also have no monthly maintenance fees, and Schwab is presumably nudging you to use Schwab’s brokerage services — which you don’t have to do.

Some banks pay higher interest rates than Schwab in their money market accounts — allowing you to spend money with a debit card, checks, and online bill pay. But those accounts typically limit certain withdrawals (like payments) to six per month. This checking account does not have those transaction limits, so it’s useful for frequent, everyday spending.

High Yield Investor Savings

The Schwab High Yield Investor Savings account is an online bank account that pays a modest interest rate. You won’t earn as much as you can get from most online banks, but the account may be handy if you want to withdraw cash frequently from ATMs (especially if you do so internationally).

  • Earn 0.45 percent APY on your savings
  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • No minimum initial deposit
  • No ongoing balance requirement
  • Unlimited ATM rebates

When compared to banks like Discover Bank, Marcus, and Ally Bank, Schwab’s savings account does not appear competitive. However, some banks don’t provide ATM cards with savings accounts, instead requiring you to transfer funds to a different account before withdrawing or spending. If you want to make ATM withdrawals directly from savings, Schwab’s account may be a good fit.

Other Types of Accounts

Schwab Bank does not directly offer FDIC-insured Trust accounts or retirement accounts, but those options are available through The Charles Schwab Corporation’s brokerage accounts. It may be possible to add check writing features to brokerage accounts, but they’re not the same as bank accounts. Cash in brokerage accounts might not be FDIC-insured, and investments are typically not FDIC-insured, so it’s possible to lose money in those accounts. Ask a licensed Schwab representative to explain the different options available to you.

Charles Schwab is primarily a brokerage house, and the firm provides a wide variety of brokerage and investment accounts. Those options include trust accounts, Traditional and Roth IRAs, and other types of retirement accounts.

Schwab also partners with Quicken Loans for home purchase loans, mortgage refinancing, and second mortgages. Schwab customers can potentially qualify for discounts and more favorable borrowing terms by using the Quicken Loans and Schwab relationship.

How to Bank With Schwab

To open an account, visit Schwab.com or call 888-403-9000. You’ll need to provide information required by most financial institutions in the U.S., including:

  • Full names of all account owners
  • Social Security Number (SSN) or Tax ID Number (TIN) of all account owners
  • A physical address of account owners (an additional mailing address is optional)
  • E-mail address and phone numbers of account owners
  • Mother’s maiden name for each account owner
  • Basic employment and income information
  • Bank account information for the first checking account you want to link to Schwab Bank 
  • A valid form of government-issued identification, along with expiration dates
  • Marital status
  • The source of funds that you’ll use to make deposits
  • The expected frequency of deposits, withdrawals, and transfers

When opening a checking account, you’re required to have a Schwab One brokerage account as well. To establish that account, you need to provide additional details required by securities industry regulations, such as:

  • Information about your investment experience
  • Specific income ranges
  • Information about your liquid net worth
  • Your investment objectives
  • Primary financial goals for the account

Brokerage accounts allow you to invest in non-bank investments, so you can lose money in those accounts.

You can fund your account through mobile check deposit, direct deposit of your wages or benefits, mail deposits (with postage-paid envelopes provided by Schwab), wire transfers, ACH transfers from a linked bank account, or transfers from other Schwab accounts.

Account Fees

Schwab Bank discloses fees clearly. The charges are competitive with other online banks, and the small charge for returned deposits (when somebody writes you a bad check) is very reasonable, given what some banks charge.

  • Outgoing wire transfer: $25
  • Request a cashier’s check: $10 per check
  • Insufficient funds fees: $25 per item, with a maximum of four items per day
  • Returned deposit: $5 each
  • Rush delivery for a new debit card: $15 or more

Notably, the following transactions have no charge:

If an overdraft causes you to take on margin debt, you will pay interest, and you might also take an extraordinary risk by borrowing against your investments.

Funds Availability

When you deposit funds into your account, Schwab Bank may hold your funds temporarily, even though the money appears in your account balance. Schwab might even let you use money before it clears, but you’re always responsible for deposits into your account, and you’ll have to replace funds if a deposit doesn’t go through. Ask a customer service representative for details on the funds availability timeline whenever you make an important deposit.

Schwab’s funds availability policy is slightly more restrictive than other online banks, but it’s still easy to work with.

New accounts: During the first 30 days your account is open, Schwab applies slightly longer hold times than you’ll experience as a “seasoned” customer.

  • Electronic deposits: Direct deposit to your account should be available on the business day Schwab receives the deposit.
  • Official checks and wire transfers: When deposits come from incoming wires, funds should be available on the first business day after Schwab accepts the deposit. For official checks (like government-issued checks or cashier’s checks), the first $5,000 should be available on the next business day, with the remainder available after five business days.

Check deposits: After your account is open for 30 days, most deposits should be available on the next business day after deposit. However, Schwab can set a longer hold time if the bank sees the need to do so.

Electronic deposits: When a deposit is initiated at another institution (or comes from your employer), the funds should be available on the day Schwab receives your deposit, in most cases. If you initiate the transfer from your Schwab account, the funds are expected to be available on the fourth day after the deposit hits your account.

Extended hold times: If Schwab decides to set a longer delay, the first $200 of your deposit is typically available on the first business day after your deposit.

Exceptions: Numerous factors can lead to a longer-than-normal hold time, including events that have nothing to do with you or your account activity. Always ask a customer service representative if you need to use funds from a deposit. For example, if you deposit more than $5,000 in one or more checks on the same day, the hold could be extended. Likewise, returned deposits and other account activity may trigger longer hold times.

About Charles Schwab Bank

Charles Schwab founded The Charles Schwab Corporation, headquartered in San Francisco, in 1971. Originally a discount brokerage, Schwab evolved to provide check writing and debit card availability in brokerage accounts. Charles Schwab Bank launched in 2003, and the high-yield checking account became available in 2007.

Schwab uses industry-standard security features to prevent unauthorized access to their systems, but data breaches are possible anywhere. The following features can add additional security to your account:

  • Voice ID: Schwab customers can protect their accounts via a system that attempts to verify your identity with your voice.
  • Two-factor authentication: You can also require Schwab to ask for a unique code every time you log in. Schwab will provide a device that creates new codes every 30 seconds, or you can use a mobile app to generate codes that are valid on Schwab’s systems.

The Bottom Line

Benefits If you use a debit card for international travel or frequent ATM withdrawals, these accounts can help you access your money fee-free. Other online banks may charge extra for currency conversion and pass on a variety of ATM fees. Schwab accounts come with a user-friendly interface funded by a large brokerage firm, and these accounts may be particularly convenient for those who want to use Schwab’s brokerage services. You might also be able to find a convenient Schwab branch if you’re in a hurry to deposit funds.

Drawbacks If you’re just looking for a high-yield savings account, Schwab Bank probably won’t be your first choice. You can currently earn two percent or more on liquid savings accounts at multiple banks (including Discover Bank and Alliant Credit Union), although you may need to transfer money out to another account for spending. Money market accounts at Discover Bank, which pay slightly less than their savings accounts, also allow limited spending with a debit card, checks, or online bill payment.