Simple Bank Review - Everything You Need to Know

A checking account with budgeting tools included

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Simple is a bank account that lets you pay bills, budget for goals, and keep your banking relationship, relatively, well, simple. Launched in 2009, Simple is a part of BBVA Compass, allowing for FDIC insurance on your deposits. Simple Bank offers completely mobile banking and is crystal clear about fees and revenue sources.

Who Is Simple Best For?

Simple is a good fit for those who want modern money management tools. Instead of developing your own budgeting system or downloading an app (separate from your bank account), you get most of the financial tools you need in one place. Consider Simple if you want:

  • Free checking and online bill pay
  • A clear view of your regular monthly expenses
  • Easy tracking of spending goals (like your vacation fund or a down payment)
  • A bank that does not nickel-and-dime you
  • Competitive interest earnings on long-term savings
  • Mobile alerts whenever charges hit your debit card
  • Zero-sum budgeting integrated into your bank account

Pros

  • No monthly fees or overdraft charges

  • No minimum balance requirements

  • Automated budgeting tools with your account

Cons

Types of Accounts

  • Simple Account
  • Protected Goals Account

Simple Account

Simple lives up to its name with a limited product line: The primary offering is a deposit account for spending and budgeting. The account pays a negligible 0.01 percent APY on your deposits, but it’s a spending account—not a long-term savings account.

Some features include:

  • Free debit card
  • Free online bill payment
  • Deposit checks with your mobile device
  • Link to five external accounts for ACH transfers
  • No fees for overdrafts, money transfers, or a replacement debit card
  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • Over 40,000 fee-free ATMs in the Allpoint network

The Simple account automates most daily money management tasks. If you just want to use it as a checking account, that’s great, but it can do more. For example, you can set up your regular expenses, and Simple automatically allocates the amount you need for that expense every time you get paid. Whatever is left over goes toward other goals you identify—or gets labeled as money that you’re free to spend.

  • Scheduled expenses are regular bills that you identify (like rent or your mortgage).
  • Goals are any priorities you specify, including regular budgeting categories or special events like vacations. Simple can automatically move a small amount over to your goal every day to help you follow through on funding those goals.
  • Safe-to-Spend is Simple Bank’s term for money left over after accounting for all of your goals. If you need to spend more than you have available, Simple pulls the money from your goals.

By categorizing expenses and predicting where your pay goes, Simple becomes a powerful budgeting tool. It’s a particularly good fit for those who prefer zero-sum budgeting or the envelope system of budgeting. After you set up your spending categories, Simple tracks the money.

How to use your money: When it’s time to spend, you can send payments through online bill pay, transfer funds to another bank account, or use your debit card at a merchant or ATM.

Protected Goals Account

If you want to earn interest and leave your savings in a safe place, a Protected Goals Accounts helps you do so. These accounts are ideal for emergency funds and high-priority savings goals. Technically, the account is not a savings account, but the functionality is similar.

Some features include:

  • Earning 2.02 percent APY if you have more than $2,000 in your Protected Goals Account
  • The ability to move money out of your primary Simple account so you’re not tempted to spend it
  • The option to move it back into your primary Simple account when you’re ready to spend your savings

Protected Goals Accounts are a relatively new feature. Like most things at Simple, they’re pretty straightforward, but these accounts will likely evolve in the coming years.

How to Bank With Simple

Contact Simple: To open an account, download the app for full functionality. You can also visit Simple.com or call 888-248-0632.

What you need: As with any financial institution, you need to provide personal information:

  • Names of all account owners
  • Social Security Number (SSN) or Tax ID Number (TIN) of all account owners
  • Basic occupation information for all account owners
  • The physical address of account owners (a mailing address is optional)
  • E-mail address and phone numbers of account owners
  • Bank account information for any accounts you wish to link to Simple

Funding your account: You can add money to Simple in several ways.

Customer Service: Simple provides phone support from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern on business days, and from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Representatives are not available on Sundays or holidays.

Peer-to-peer payments: Simple provides instant transfers between Simple customers but does not participate in a P2P payment network. However, you are welcome to use apps like Square Cash, PayPal, and others with your Simple account.

Account Fees at Simple

Simple is transparent about fees, but there aren’t many fees to disclose.

  • No monthly fees
  • No overdraft or insufficient funds fees
  • Pay a one percent international transaction charge when you use your debit card outside of the U.S.

Funds Availability

Check deposits: When depositing funds into your account by check, Simple (along with every other bank) may hold the funds temporarily. That’s true whether you add money by remote deposit or mail in a check. Simple’s policies are competitive with other banks, and in some cases, funds are available faster than federal law requires.

New accounts: For the first 30 days after you open your account, Simple holds funds for nine business days. However, if you deposit official checks by mail (such as cashier’s checks), the first $5,000 may be available on the same business day as the deposit — unless an exception applies.

Seasoned accounts: After keeping your account in good standing for 31 days, funds are available more quickly, but there may be exceptions. Always verify deposit timelines with a customer service representative when you’re making an important deposit.

  • Photo deposits are typically available within one business day if submitted before 5 p.m. Eastern.
  • Mail deposits should be available on the same day that Simple receives and processes the deposit. But in some cases, Simple only makes the first $200 of your deposit available that day, and the remainder should be available on the second business day after processing.
  • If you deposit more than $5,000 by mail (one or more checks), the first $200 should be available on the same day of processing, the next $4,800 should be available on the second business day, and the remainder will typically be available by the seventh business day after deposit.

Direct deposit: If your employer sends money directly to your Simple account, funds should be available immediately after Simple receives the transfer.

External transfers: When moving money between bank accounts by ACH, Simple estimates the following wait times:

  • Incoming transfers that you request through Simple: Three to four business days
  • Outgoing transfers requested at Simple: One to two business days

Depending on your account activity and other factors, Simple can extend hold times to reduce risk. As a result, it’s always wise to have a backup plan in case of slower-than-expected clearing.

About Simple

Josh Reich, Simple’s founder, wanted to form a frustration-free bank with transparent fees and useful tools. In 2009, he launched Simple, headquartered in Portland, Ore. Simple partnered with BBVA Compass in 2014 for critical banking services, including the ability to provide FDIC insurance on your deposits.

Simple uses industry-standard security measures to protect your information and your money. Additionally, Simple rewards individuals and organizations that discover (and responsibly report) vulnerabilities.

Federal law protects customers from certain types of fraud and errors, but you need to act quickly for full protection. For added security, Simple accounts include the following features:

  • Two-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized logins
  • The ability to use a passphrase — an extra-long password that consists of multiple words
  • Zero-liability debit card protection, which can reduce (but doesn’t eliminate) your risk
  • Push notifications to your mobile device that alert you when transactions occur in your account
  • The ability to turn off your debit card from your mobile device if you lose your card

Simple doesn’t charge monthly fees, so how do they make money? Every time you swipe your payment card, Simple earns a small amount. Also, banks typically invest the money you deposit (by lending it to others or investing elsewhere) and pay you less interest than they charge to borrowers.

The Bottom Line

BENEFITS

Simple takes a unique approach to banking. With budgeting tools included in your account, it’s easy to spend — and manage your spending — in one place. The price is right, making Simple an excellent choice for those who would otherwise pay monthly fees for a checking account. Protected Goals Accounts are a nice addition to the offering, eliminating the need to open another high-yield savings account, and Simple says that more features are in the works.

DRAWBACKS

As with any online bank, Simple lacks physical locations for in-person services. You may never need those services, and you can always keep an account open at a local institution, just in case (regional banks and credit unions may offer free accounts). Also, Simple does not pay a meaningful interest rate on your balance unless you move at least $2,000 to a Protected Goals Account. That said, with less than $2,000, you might earn $40 or less at an online bank. By dodging bank fees and enjoying fee-free banking at Simple, you may still come out ahead.

Simple is a modern bank. As such, you do not receive checks with your account, nor can you order checks from third-party printers (they won’t work). Instead, you must make electronic payments or have Simple print and mail checks through the free online bill payment service.

If you want one-stop-shopping for payment accounts and high-interest rates — and you don’t need integrated budgeting tools — other banks may also meet your needs.