I‘ve written a lot of reviews over the last few years about online banks and brokerages, generally only ones that I would use myself or recommend. You can find links to most of them on the savings rates and brokerages links at the top of the page.
Through the process of writing all those reviews, however, I’m not sure I’ve ever really said which accounts were my favorites, or which ones I’m currently using myself.
While I think it’s good to be constantly reviewing what’s out there, I think it’s also good to share which bank accounts I actually use so that people can know which ones I trust with my own money. So today I want to share my top 5 favorite online banks and brokerages.
Five Favorite Banks, Brokerages and Mutual Fund Companies
For this review I decided to look at what checking, savings, and investing accounts we’re currently using at our house.
Perkstreet Financial Rewards Checking
Our current main checking account for every day spending is our Perkstreet Financial rewards checking account. I’ve had the privilege of working with the folks over at Perkstreet quite a bit having written for their blog, as well as giving them input on new features and functionality for their account dashboard – like the cash envelopes product. Having met and worked with them I’m confident that these guys are a great bank, one that isn’t out to screw their customers over like some of the bigger banks.
Not only do I have a good working relationship with them, but I also think they’ve got a great checking product. They have one of the industry’s leading rewards checking accounts, where you earn rewards for regular every day spending you would have done anyway. For those of us who prefer to pay cash for things, and not put things on credit, that’s huge. As of this writing you can earn somewhere around 1% cash back on all purchases, as well as 2% at certain online retailers like Amazon.com and Walmart (where we spend a lot of money).
When I signed up for this account to get the cash back perks I was concerned at first that there wouldn’t be enough ATMs for me to use in my local area. I quickly found that there were actually more ATMS in their network, than there were for my local bricks and mortar bank. Perkstreet has 42,000+ free ATMs in their network, and I found there was one at the CVS 2 blocks away – about 3 miles closer than my other local bank’s closest ATM!
- Check out my full Perkstreet Review.
Ally Bank Online Savings Account
For our savings account we’ve been using our Ally Bank savings account for a couple of years now. We signed up originally for Ally back when they were offering one of the highest savings rates around, and we were closing out our old Bank of America savings account that held our 8-12 month emergency fund. We wanted to find somewhere that we would be earning more than a hundred bucks a year in interest.
While the rates at Ally are still among the highest (admittedly the savings rates are low pretty much everywhere), the reason we’ve stayed with them is for their convenience and good customer service. I’ve had to contact Ally several times about issues with my account. Every time we’ve chatted with their online customer service they’ve been extremely helpful, and have been able to resolve my issue in no time flat.
I also love the convenience of the account, specifically the fact that they make it easy to do online deposits with your scanner at home. Because of the online deposits I haven’t been to the bank to make a deposit in months.
- Check out my full Ally Bank Review.
ING Direct Savings
We signed up for a ING Direct savings account years ago for a couple of reasons. They had the best savings rate at the time, and because they had a cool goal based savings account feature where you could set up separate accounts based on different savings goals. When we signed up we set up one automatic savings account to save for regular budgeted vacations, as well as setting one up to automatically debit money every month for our “next car” savings fund. At times we’ve also setup our emergency fund with ING, although it’s currently over at Ally because they have a higher rate.
In addition to the goal based savings accounts ING Direct also now has online deposits via scanner or via smartphone app, so getting your money into the account is super easy and convenient. I still highly recommend them.
- Check out my full ING Direct Savings Review.
Betterment.com Investing Account
We signed up for a Betterment.com investing account last April shortly after the site launched. I loved the idea behind Betterment, to make investing in a diversified portfolio easier for just about everybody. At the time we signed up the only thing we weren’t hyped about was the fact that their fees were a bit high with an annual 0.9% annual fee.
As of a few months ago Betterment reduced their fees to a range of 0.15%-0.35%, depending on your balance, and I think the investing account with Betterment is a solid option for just about anybody now. With Betterment you can sign up for a taxable investing account, or a Traditional or Roth IRA. We’ve currently got a taxable investment account and a Roth IRA with Betterment, and highly recommend them.
- Check out my full Betterment Review.
Vanguard Investing Account
We also have a Roth IRA with Vanguard where we’ve done some investing. The reasons I love Vanguard include their low cost, the fact that you can get started investing with a small amount of money, and the fact that they’re very customer centric. Vanguard has a unique ownership structure such that it is essentially owned by the people who invest in it’s funds, so it removes a lot of the conflict of interest that some other companies might have. They have also consistently been the lowest cost mutual fund company for the last 30 years or so.
If you’re getting started with a Traditional or Roth IRA and you don’t mind being a little more hands on than with Betterment, Vanguard can often mean lower costs, which in the long run mean more money in your pocket at retirement. Definitely a good company to consider and highly recommended.
So there you have it. Those are the main checking, saving and investing accounts that we currently use and have been happy with. I’d highly recommend any one of them to someone else looking for a new account.
Have questions about any of these accounts or have your own account that you’ve been extremely happy with? Tell us what they are in the comments!
Want to do your own research on the best banks and brokerages? Check out the resources below for full reviews and details about a wide variety of companies.
Last Edited: 12th October 2012