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Banking

I’ve banked with Ally Bank for years, opening both a savings account and CD. In this Ally Bank review, we’ll look at rates, fees and account types.

Ally Bank Review

Just over ten years ago, General Motors was having trouble remaining in business. Its subsidiary that provided customers financing for automotive purchases, GMAC, converted to a bank holding company. The goal was to take advantage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

In return, it received $5 billion from taxpayers through the government. By this time, GMAC Bank, a division of GMAC, already offered retail banking. Its products included savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and money market accounts.

In an attempt to distance itself from the faltering GM brand, GMAC Bank re-branded itself as Ally Bank. It focused on offering a high-yield interest product. And it began actively seeking new customers and depositors. Later, the bank’s parent company, GMAC, also re-branded itself to become known as Ally Financial. Today, Ally Bank offers some of the most competitive banking products around.

Opening an Account with Ally Bank

Here are my experiences from the Ally Bank account opening process. As I visited the website to begin my application, Ally Bank warned me that I would need my driver’s license (or an alternate state or military identification number) in addition to my Social Security Number to proceed.

Like some other banks, Ally performs a credit check to verify identity. But they may also reject your application if they see you as a credit risk. However, getting rejected because of your credit history is unusual. But since this bank was once a financing company and then a bank holding company, this strategy may become more prevalent.

It look less than two seconds once I submitted my application for Ally Bank to inform me my application was approved. Once inside this virtual gate, I was able to choose whether I wanted to receive paper or electronic statements. I always choose electronic to cut down on paper waste. I wish more services would offer this option from the beginning.

Here’s another great feature: I can create as many separate savings accounts, with their own account names and numbers, as I want. At this point in the initial set-up, I could also add money market accounts and certificates of deposit.

I set up two separate savings accounts, both to be funded electronically from my Citizens Bank checking account. Like configuring linked accounts at any other bank, I will be required to verify two small deposits to ensure I am the owner of the linked account. Options for a one-time initial deposit or a recurring automatic savings plan are available.

Ally Bank then required me to create my security settings for viewing my account information and activity online. The bank has combined most of the security features that have become commonplace over the past few years. I created a username and a strong password, including mixed case letters and numbers.

Then I selected some secret code words and an image I can expect to see each time I log in. I also chose three security questions and answers. Ally provides the option to register the computer you use for accessing the website. This avoids repeated security questions at each online session.

If Ally Bank does not recognize the computer you are using to log into your account, they will send you an email with a single-use password to further confirm your identity. I have not seen this feature implemented anywhere else.

Using the Ally Bank Savings Account

Once logged in, I was impressed with the clean look of the interface.

You can transfer among your Ally accounts and two and from other accounts for free. But keep in mind, for money market and savings accounts there is a limit of six withdrawals per period, due to government regulations.

Ally Bank charges no account maintenance fees and requires no minimum balance. If you exceed the six withdrawals mentioned above, Ally will charge a $10 fee. Cashier’s checks and wires carry an additional cost. A returned deposit item, if a check you send bounces or if you don’t have funds in an external account to cover a transfer, will cost $25.00

The bank is also drawing attention to their 24-hour customer service availability and the plain language used throughout their website. I have not yet worked with Ally’s customer service, but I will be sure to report any future frustrations.

Ally Bank Products

High Yield Savings–This is the best product Ally has to offer in my opinion. The current APY is a robust 1.20%. Ally routinely ranks in the top 1% of all banks in terms of two very important factors: interest rate and customer service.

Interest Checking–It’s not easy to find a high yield online checking account these days. Ally tries their best, God bless ’em. For balances less than $15,000, Ally offers a 0.10% APY. And for balances greater than $15,000, the APY is a much more respectable 0.60%. Either way, Ally charges no monthly maintenance fees, which is rare today when looking for a high quality checking account.

CD’s–If you don’t mind losing a little liquidity for a higher interest rate, a CD is a great option for better returns. Ally has a wide variety of CD options, including high yield CD’s, a raise your rate CD, and a no penalty CD. The no penalty CD is perhaps their best offer, providing a 1.50% APY on balances of more than $25,000.

Money Market–Money Markets have always puzzled me. You see the interest rates above for CD’s and checking. And then you check the Ally Money Market account, and it earns a 0.90% APY on all balances. What would possess someone to open a money market account vs. a savings account? The Ally Money Market account does provide a debit card and the use of checks if needed. But you’re sacrificing a lot of interest for a touch of convenience.

Ally Invest–Ally recently purchased the online discount broker TradeKing and absorbed its business. Now, you can not only open a deposit account, but an investing account with Ally Bank. Trades are charged at a flat rate of $4.95, and options contracts run you $0.65 per.

Is Ally an Ally of Your Personal Finances?

ally1

Opening my account with Ally Bank was painless and quick, and I like how the website operates so far. After my initial deposit transfers, I will have a better idea of how quickly funds are available and can be transferred back to external accounts. I will return with more information at that time.

The main question I have moving forward is how long Ally Bank will be able to maintain their position as one of the highest among high-yield savings accounts. Banks have long used high interest rates to lure new customers, only to drop the rates when they become confident in their position as leader.

The American Bankers Association (ABA) sent a letter on May 27, 2009 to the FDIC requesting that Ally Bank be forced to lower their deposit interest rates, citing the bank’s unfair competitive advantage. It is unfortunate that the ABA would take this stance with savers forced to settle for interest rates that will not reach the rate of inflation going forward. The ABA has since removed the letter from the organization’s website, and I would suspect top tier interest rates so long as Ally is in business.

If you are interested, apply for an Ally Bank savings account here and let me know about your experience by commenting below.

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In our SFGI Direct savings account review, we were frankly surprised at the high rates offered by this bank many have never heard of. It beats almost all existing online banks. Here are the details.

SFGI Direct Savings Account Review

If you haven’t considered an online savings account before, here’s why you should now. Below we review the SFGI Direct Savings Account. And what it has to offer you that may beat your current bank.

Over the last decade, most banks have made a conscious decision to move their business online. As a result, some of the best interest rates and product features available today come from banks that have no physical presence. Are there any Ally Banks on your street? When is the last time you saw a sign that said: “Synchrony Bank parking only?”

SFGI Direct is a little known online bank that offers one amazing feature. The interest rate on their online savings account is a whopping 1.31%. That APY is one of the best of any bank, online or otherwise. SFGI Direct has just 30 branches, all located in West Virginia and Virginia. This allows the bank to increase the value it provides to you.

Let’s take a look at their online savings account and see if your money belongs with SFGI Direct.

SFGI Direct Account Opening Process

SFGI Direct is the online banking division of Summit Community Bank, based in Moorefield, West Virginia. Deposits at Summit and SFGI Direct are covered by the FDIC as you would expect for any legitimate bank in the United States. To open the online savings account at SFGI Direct, you will need to provide the typical personal information, including Social Security number and employment information. The account requires a $500 minimum balance, and initial funding deposits are limited to a maximum of $25,000.

For some people, SFGI Direct may be one of the fastest bank account opening processes from application to use. Like a small number of other banks, SFGI Direct allows “Instant Verification.” Most banks still offer only “Micro-Deposit Verification,” or the even more antiquated “Check Verification.”

Basically, once your application is approved, you can link your existing bank account right away. This feature is dependent on your current bank’s systems. But it can get you out of waiting two or three days for Micro-Deposit Verification. SFGI Direct will securely and privately confirm your account details with the external bank and allow you to immediately initiate your initial funding deposit.

SFGI Direct Savings Account

In September of 2017, SFGI Direct increased the interest rate on their savings account from 1.21% to 1.31%. The minimum to open an account is $500, but there is no minimum balance required to keep the account active. That said, SFGI Direct will impose a “dormant” fee on your account if there is no activity for a period of seven years. Each month following the seven year period, you will be charged a $5 dormant fee. Once you make a deposit or withdrawal, the clock starts over.

The Downside to SFGI Direct

SFGI Direct, while offering a terrific APY on their online savings account, is truly a one-hit wonder. They offer no other deposit products, and the way in which you can use your savings account is limited to transfers in and transfers out.

Here are some frequently asked questions from consumers that use the bank for their online savings account:

  • Can I use checks with my SFGI Direct Savings account?
  • Can I fund my account with a paper check?
  • Are wires allowed in and out of SFGI Direct?

The answer to all of those questions is the same: NO. SFGI Direct will allow you to set up external transfers so you can bring money in and out of your account. But you cannot fund your account in any other way. You can’t use checks at all. And the bank does not offer CD’s, IRAs, or anything else you might find with another online bank.

Why Use SFGI Direct?

The answer to this question is as simple. SFGI Direct offers an interest rate currently in the top tenth of 1% of all banks in the United States. The 1.31% APY on a savings account is the highest we can find online, beating out banks like Ally, Synchrony, Barclays and others.

So long as you don’t mind waiting a couple of days to use your funds, SFGI Direct is one of the best places to actually park your money right now. Sure, they lack the features and flexibility to do other things. But does that matter? When I choose an online savings account, the primary factor is interest rate. I’m looking for a bank that will provide me the best return on my money. If I need money immediately, I can simply transfer it from my SFGI Direct account into my checking account in two business days. No muss, no fuss.

If you’re in need of a simple, straightforward online savings account with no minimum balance requirement, check out SFGI Direct and their 1.31% APY.

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We’ve reviewed countless banks. Our review of Synchrony Bank led to one inescapable conclusion–Synchrony bank offers some of the highest interest rates on savings products. Coupled with low fees, it’s an excellent choice for savers.

Synchrony Bank Review

The main reason why people use Synchrony Bank is its ability to deliver higher-than-average interest rates. Of course, the nice payback offered by this bank comes with the compromise of settling for what could be considered bare-bones customer service. The company is part of a new movement in online banking that goes light on customer service to offer high yields and nonexistent fees. Here are some of the strong points of Synchrony Bank:

  • FDIC insurance and identify monitoring
  • Customers can bank from anywhere on a smartphone of tablet
  • Rates that are consistently above the national average
  • Perks for loyalty

Synchrony Bank Savings AccountSynchrony Bank is strong when it comes to high interest rates on savings accounts, long-term CD options and everyday banking rewards. It is not the best option for anyone looking for a straightforward checking account. In addition, you simply aren’t going to get in-person customer support like you would with a traditional bank. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy some great benefits and returns when you open and maintain an account with Synchrony Bank. Your funds can be managed online, by phone or using your ATM card.

Open an Account

Synchrony High Yield Savings and CD’s

After a recent interest rate bump, Synchrony now offers a fantastic 1.30% APY on savings accounts. This interest rate is one of the best available online and the rate is received for ALL balances.  To keep your account in good standing Synchrony asks that you maintain a balance of at least $50.

Synchrony Bank Perks is a rewards program that offers various tiers that customers can unlock. The rewards offered include discounts on hotel stays, park admissions and car rentals. There are even things like spa deals and restaurant coupons in the mix. Members at certain tiers get access to a dedicated customer service number, three free wire transfers per statement cycle and unlimited ATM reimbursements. The exact reward tier that you’ll reach is based on a combination of your account balance and how long you’ve been a customer with Synchrony Bank.

A 15-month CD offers 1.65% APY. You can choose a CD term between three months and 60 months when you start your account. Opening an account requires a minimum deposit amount of $2,000. Here’s a look at the current APY for the different terms currently available:

CD Term
Interest Rate (APY)
3 months
0.25%
6 months
0.41%
9 months
0.45%
12 months
1.50%
15 months
1.65%
18 months
1.45%
2 years
1.74%
3 years
1.80%
4 years
1.95%
5 years
2.30%

Synchrony Bank Money Market and IRA Accounts

This type of account doesn’t come with any monthly service fees or monthly minimum balance requirements. Synchrony Bank Money Market accounts offer up to 0.85% APY. You can withdraw money from this type of account online, by phone, via check or using an ATM.

It’s possible to open and set up a traditional or Roth IRA with Synchrony Bank for a minimum deposit $250. You’ll need a minimum of $2,000 if you’d prefer to open an IRA CD. A 15-month IRA CD offers the same 1.65% APY you can find on the standard high yield CD. The Synchrony IRA probably isn’t the best option if what you’re looking for is investment opportunities that center on stocks and bonds.

Synchrony Bank has a nifty calculator on their IRA Money Market page which allows you to figure out just how far a 0.85% APY can take you. Whether over six months or 60 months, you’ll see just how much interest can be made.

Pros and Cons of Synchrony Bank

It only takes a few minutes to open an account with Synchrony Bank online. It will be necessary to have your Social Security number, driver’s license and other basic pieces of personal information ready when you sit down to sign up. Most customers throughout the country won’t have an option for signing up for an account in person.

  • Can Synchrony Be Used With Accounts From Other Banks?

You won’t need to close the accounts you have with other banks when you switch to Synchrony. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t. You can actually link your new Synchrony account with outside accounts to create an easier method for transferring money.

  • How Liquid is Your Money with Synchrony?

Using your ATM card with Synchrony Bank will work exactly the same as using the ATM card from a traditional bank that’s located down the street from you. Synchrony Bank does not charge a fee to use an ATM. However, you could bump into fees that are charged by ATM operators. Synchrony Bank offsets these costs by providing a $5 refund every cycle.

  • Can You Write Checks Using Synchrony Bank?

Synchrony is not a full-service bank. It should be thought of strictly as a savings bank. This means that the account you open will not be capable of functioning like a checking account. The only way to write a traditional check is to transfer money out of your Synchrony account to an account that has check-writing privileges. The exception is when it comes to Synchrony Bank Money Market checks. They also provide free checks with limited capabilities.

Why Synchrony Is a Must Have Savings Account

There are many scenarios where Synchrony Bank could serve as a great financial tool. A Synchrony account isn’t necessarily intended to be your primary or only bank account. It makes a good supplement to a traditional bank account or checking account.

The healthy CD rates offered by Synchrony Bank make it a good option if you’re looking for a way to break up a lump sum. Synchrony’s terms make it easy to stagger maturity dates between long-term and short-term CDs. In addition, Synchrony offers a great platform for stashing away and building up an emergency fund in a separate place from your main savings account.

Synchrony Bank is a solid option if your goal is to get some of the highest interest rates available in the banking world without going with the traditional investing route. Synchrony Bank does fall short when it comes to in-person customer service and consulting. You’re definitely choosing a do-it-yourself type of approach when you sign up for an account and begin moving funds into different categories. However, anyone who is at least a little bit financially literate and tech savvy should be able to get what they want from this platform.

Both the Synchrony Bank high yield savings account and the Synchrony Bank Money Market account have APY rates that rank in the upper most tier for online savings accounts. In addition, both account types are free from fees. Those two details could be enough to make this a solid option for putting away your money.

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Amboy Direct offers an eSavings account with a competitive rate and a $50 bonus. Get all of the details in our Amboy Direct review.

amboy direct review

There’s a chance to get a cash bonus of $50 if you’re planning to open a new interest-earning bank account.

Banking Deal: Earn 1.30% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at Synchrony Bank.

Amboy Direct is offering a limited-time bonus for new customers of its eSavings account program. This bonus comes in addition to the program’s everyday high yield rate. You don’t have to change banks or get rid of your existing checking account to take advantage of this bonus offer. Your new Amboy digital-banking account can be linked to your existing checking account.

Amboy Direct eSavings Interest Rate

Amboy offers semi-competitive interest rates as long as you have at least $300 in your account. Account holders with balances of between $300 and $2,999 are given an APY of 0.30%. Accounts with balances between $3,000 and $100,000 are given an APY of 0.90%. Accounts with $300 or less don’t earn any interest. It should be noted that APY may change daily.

Amboy Direct eSavings Account

An Amboy eSavings account is essentially a high yield savings account that utilizes the tools and perks offered by online banking. What is notable about the accounts provided by Amboy Direct is that they’re all backed by competitive APY’s. You can essentially take advantage of the high rates of a CD without being forced to lock up your money. Customers are able to move money between an existing checking account and an eSavings account with ease.

Amboy claims that customers can earn 40 times more with an Amboy eSavings account than with accounts offered by major banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Amboy is able to offer higher rates than most traditional banks because everything is done strictly online and there is no need to devote resources to managing banking branches. However, Amboy Direct is a division of Amboy Bank. This means that customers get to enjoy the confidence of working with a banking institution that’s been around since 1888 while they take advantage of a cutting-edge online banking solution.

What are some of the things you should know about how an eSavings account from Amboy Direct works? These accounts are relatively easy to open and maintain. Here’s a look at the basics:

  • Pays monthly interest
  • No fees
  • Available to customers nationwide
  • Requires a minimum initial deposit of $100
  • Backed by FDIC insurance up to $250,000 per depositor
  • Provides 24-hour access for money transfers between accounts
  • Allows for automatic transfers to be scheduled
  • Account balance is limited to $100,000 per client

Opening an Amboy Direct eSavings Account

You can apply for an Amboy Direct account at any time online. You will begin earning interest on your money the next day after you are approved. Here’s a glance at some of the basics you’ll need to know before applying:

  • Accounts are open to United States citizens who are at least 18 years old
  • A valid Social Security number is required
  • Accounts must be opened using an initial deposit from a personal account that has check-writing privileges
  • Your initial deposit will be available for withdrawal after seven business days
  • Amboy Direct will automatically initiate two small transactions to your personal checking account for verification when you fill out an application
  • How to Get Your $50 Bonus From Amboy Direct

The Amboy eSavings New Client offer can be accessed here. Interested customers must submit an email address to receive a code to activate the offer. What if you don’t use email? You can call 1-877-22AMBOY to inquire about the bonus.

Amboy Direct $50 Bonus Rules

There are some requirements to be eligible to receive the bonus. A minimum monthly average balance of $3,000 or more must be maintained for at least 90 days. The $50 bonus will be credited to your account during the next statement cycle after you reach the requirement. Only one offer can be used per household. While Amboy has been offering this deal for quite a long time, there’s no guarantee that it will be around forever.

Using Your Amboy Direct eSavings Account

Your Amboy account can be viewed online around the clock. Only you can access your Amboy Direct account. Logging in will require an access ID and password. Online statements are emailed to customers on a quarterly basis. All current transactions will be listed for you to see whenever you’re logged into your account.

In addition to managing your account online, you can also manage funds directly from your keyboard. Amboy Direct offers a state-of-the-art system for completing bank-to-bank transfers. This means that you can move funds between your existing checking account and your Amboy Direct account with the simple click of a mouse. You will have the option to move money back and forth between the two accounts with ease. You can also manually enter the amount that you want to move when you’re logged into your account.

Electronic transfers made to your non-Amboy checking account will take about two to three business days to be completed. You will be able to make transfers up to six times per month. While Amboy Direct doesn’t charge any fees, the bank that your checking account is associated with may charge its own fees.

There are a few things to be cautious about when you open an online account with Amboy Direct. Amboy is extremely strict when it comes to maintaining a minimum balance in your account. An account will be closed immediately any time a balance drops down to $0. This is a big thing to watch out for because any accrued interest in your account will be automatically forfeited when that happens. In addition, you will forfeit all interest that has built up in your account if your balance dips below $1.

Is the Amboy Direct eSavings Account a Good Option?

Amboy’s eSavings accounts offer a relatively straightforward and consistent way to earn interest without doing any heavy investing or working with a financial consultant. It’s a good alternative to CDs and similar financial products if having access to your money without penalties or extra steps is important to you.

The fact that you are able to earn interest without any monthly fees definitely gives this option a boost if you’re comparing what different banks are advertising. Amboy offers a good setup if you’re interested in handling banking completely online. Anyone who prefers to meet with representatives in person or visit branches when they have issues or questions will be disappointed to know that Amboy Direct does not have any physical locations that can be visited. It is possible to speak with a service consultant over the phone by calling Amboy’s toll-free number.

The one thing that detracts from the allure of Amboy is the company’s punitive policy regarding balance totals. Customers really need to keep a close eye on their balances if they think totals could dip down to below $1. The fact that accounts can be cancelled and gained interest will be forfeited is definitely a big drawback to an otherwise beneficial and positive online banking option.

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Today’s Best Bank Deals, Promotions, and Bonuses

by Stephanie Colestock

Get the best bank bonuses, promos and deals with this regularly updated list of bank signup promotions. When opening a bank account, there are a few things you should be looking for: low (or no) fees, the highest interest rates possible, and promotional bonus offers. With the latter, you can often score free money without […]

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Best 12 Month CD Rates of 2017 (Updated Daily)

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Wal-Mart Offering Check Cashing Services

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The Best Current and Historical Bank Interest Rates

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How to Switch Banks the Easy Way

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6 Ways Your Bank is Ripping You Off

by Richard Barrington

Banks not very popular institutions. Fairly or unfairly, the prevailing impression many folks have is that bankers are fat cats who make their fortunes at the expense of ordinary people. So here is how to choose a bank while avoiding being ripped off. However, instead of being mad at bankers, perhaps consumers should be mad […]

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