Emigrant Direct American Dream Savings Account Review

Review of The Service and Highlights

Another way to bank from your computer. carl swahn/E+/Getty Images

The Emigrant Direct American Dream Savings Account is an online savings account with no fees or minimums. At one time, this was one of the highest paying online savings accounts. In recent years, Emigrant has kept the interest rate more or less competitive – not the highest and not the lowest rate available.

As of this writing, Emigrant was paying 0.5% APY. For comparison, CapitalOne 360 was paying 0.75% APY.

But rates change constantly, so it’s best to go verify current rates at Emigrant Direct’s website.

Overview

The main attraction is a fee-free online savings account. If you currently keep your savings at a brick and mortar bank, there’s a good chance you can earn more online. In addition to better rates, Emigrant Direct does not charge monthly fees or have any minimum balance requirement, so it’s great for savers with low (but hopefully growing) account balances.

Emigrant Direct is an online-only bank. You can’t visit a branch or mail in deposits, but you can do pretty much everything you need on the website, and helpful customer service representatives are available by phone.

Like many online accounts, this account is probably best for building up your savings and leaving it alone (you can even lock your money up in CDs for a bit more interest). Although it’s easy to transfer funds back and forth to your linked checking account, the process takes a few days.

If you want the ability to access funds with a debit card (or an online checking account with the same institution), Emigrant Direct might not be the best fit for you. Look to others like CapitalOne 360 or Ally Bank for additional features.

To win the hearts of tech-savvy customers, Emigrant Direct has to overcome a major hurdle: Emigrant customers cannot deposit checks with a mobile device.

These days, most large online banks – and even brick and mortar institutions – offer this service.

The Bank

Emigrant Direct is an online division of Emigrant Bank, which is based in New York. Emigrant Bank also runs online banks under the names MySavingsDirect.com and DollarSavingsDirect.com. Those websites appear very similar to EmigrantDirect.com, although the color schemes and logos are different, and interest rates vary from bank to bank (so if you like Emigrant, be sure to compare offers and requirements). In the past, Emigrant has offered the best rates at its newer online banks, allowing rates to fall in older accounts.

Emigrant is FDIC insured as of this writing, so your money is safe from bank failures, but deposits at the banks mentioned above are all aggregated for the purposes of calculating FDIC coverage. In other words, if the limit is $250,000, you’ll want to keep your combined deposits at all Emigrant banks and divisions below that limit.

How it Works

At Emigrant Direct, you do everything online, starting with opening your account. To start the process, visit EmigrantDirect.com. You’ll need to provide personal information (contact information, Social Security Number, and so on) as well as details about your existing checking account at a brick and mortar bank.

Be sure to have a check handy, or get ahold of your bank routing information and account number before you start.

You can make your initial deposit by check, but Emigrant Direct will not accept additional deposits by check. Ultimately you’ll need to link your personal checking account to the American Dream Savings Account to transfer funds. To make the initial link, watch your checking account for two small “test” deposits and verify those transactions with Emigrant Direct. You can link one additional checking account, but the process is cumbersome – you’ll need to mail in a voided check along with a form (most banks allow you to add additional accounts online).

Customer Service

Based on my own study of user experiences and reviews, it seems that account holders are largely satisfied with Emigrant Direct’s customer service.

If there’s a problem, help from a real person is available, and the operating hours should accommodate just about anybody’s schedule.

What you Might not Love

While Emigrant Direct is a perfectly good savings account, the bank does not appear highly committed to developing their product and bringing in new customers. The interest rate is currently lower than other competitive online banks (but MySavingsDirect.com has a better rate, which makes you wonder how longtime Emigrant Direct customers feel about the new bank).

Emigrant Direct’s website looks a little clunky, and it features pitches for riskier investments on the homepage (precious metals and bank owned foreclosures). Remember that if you use anything besides the FDIC insured bank account, you might lose money.

Finally, Emigrant Direct still doesn’t offer remote check deposit. This might be an effort to manage risk, and it’s really not that difficult to deposit to your brick and mortar account first, but it seems like customers should be rewarded with a slightly higher rate (APY) in return for less risk on the bank’s side.