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I'm thinking about opening a new Checking account with Free ATM. I mean fully free, ie, reimbursed ATM owner's fees.

To name a few of the top ones:
Ally Checking
Schwab High Yield Checking
USAA (I'm not military, but I hear they're open to public)
Capital One (Online account - In CA so no branch near me)

Background: Only going to keep about ~$1000 in the account at any time so interest differences really make little difference.
I'm a college student - and while I don't have bad credit, I don't have a lot of credit history. 2 cards (AMEX + Capital One) that I've had for 2-2.5 years.

Breakdown:
Ally - refunds all ATM fees (withdrawals and balance checks) - unlimited
Ally - 24/7 customer service by phone and chat

Schwab - refunds withdrawal fees only - unlimited
Schwab - does NOT take a 1% Foreign transaction fee for international withdrawals (may go to Europe over summer)

USAA refunds withdrawal fees only - upto $15, first 10 ATM/monthly

Capital One - not sure if refunds withdrawal fees or all fees. Refunds "any ATM within the United States and at some ATMs located outside the United States". $25 monthly max.

---

It seems to me that there's no real reason for me to get USAA, unless someone tells me their service/ease is better than the others.
Not a fan of Capital One's "some" ATM clause. They also mention in some fine print that some ATMs within the US get charged a fee too.

So it comes down to Ally vs Schwab.
Ally gives 0.5% APY, Schwab gives 0.25% APY. That's $2.50 for consistent $1000 in the account after a year.. not a big enough difference to make a decision.

Schwab > Ally for no international fee.
Ally > Schwab for 24/7 customer service.

Are there any other reasons one is better than the other? Ease of deposits? Ease of service? Etc...
With my WF, I only use WF ATMs, so obviously I can deposit cash.
With Ally/Schwab on random ATMs can I deposit or just withdraw? I assume ATM deposit is not possible.
Also depositing a check? I read something about taking a picture of it for Ally, but it may have been for some customers only as a test?

Your opinions?

---------

tl;dr - help me choose between Ally and Schwab for checking

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The cash management account, which use to be known as "my smart cash" does NOT charge any fees at all and atm re-imburse... (more)

craig10x (Oct. 03, 2011 @ 10:59a) |

From my experience overseas last year Schwab does offer free atm withdrawals but only from certain related banks. These ... (more)

leemc88 (Oct. 03, 2011 @ 11:47p) |

Im looking at Schwab for a brokerage account. I dont need the ATM from Schwab. However only the bank account is FDIC i... (more)

grex23 (Oct. 04, 2011 @ 12:17a) |

Schwab:
0.20% APY
Mobile check deposit
0% international transaction fee
Cashier checks = $10
Outgoing wire = $25
Stop payment on item = FREE

Ally:
0.5 APY
eCheck deposit using scanner on computer available to some
1% international transaction fee
Cashier checks = FREE
Outgoing wire = $20
Stop payment on item = $15
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I use Schwab but I am not depositing cash. They do give you free envelopes to mail checks into their processing center but you will loose the time in the mail (not a big deal for me since I barely get any checks).
I like their non foreign transaction fee and always reliably got the ATM fees reimbursed in all countries I used it (Germany. Switzerland, France, China, Japan, Philippines). The exchange rate is also very good.
Can't speak for Ally.


GermanExpat said:   I use Schwab but I am not depositing cash. They do give you free envelopes to mail checks into their processing center but you will loose the time in the mail (not a big deal for me since I barely get any checks).
I like their non foreign transaction fee and always reliably got the ATM fees reimbursed in all countries I used it (Germany. Switzerland, France, China, Japan, Philippines). The exchange rate is also very good.
Can't speak for Ally.


That's something I didn't think of - exchange rate. Is there a comparison of exchange rates somewhere? That's potentially more important than the additional 1%. I guess I don't get that many checks either, so free envelopes would probably do.
Thanks for your input, GermanExpat. Hopefully someone has had both and can do a side-by-side.

Glitch99 said:   Banks that rebate ATM fees.
Thanks, Glitch.. I've seen the full list, but narrowed it down to this. That thread doesn't really contain anything beyond what I already posted in regards to the banks I've narrowed it down to. I didn't want to hijack an old thread with a more narrow goal.

Note for the Op: I have found that it is pretty rare that any bank (or even storefront atms) will charge a fee for balance checks and transfers between accounts...ONLY for actual cash withdrawals...
So for that reason, it isn't really very relevant whether the bank you are with re-imburses for balance inquiries or transfers....only the withdrawal fee from the other bank is an important "feature"...

If you can maintain two accounts, use Schwab for international and Ally for domestic.
If you can manage only one a/c, Schwab. Is 24/7 phone support really that important?

Another thing, you can get cash from most debit cards by making a small purchase in a store and asking for Cash Back. Some stores may limit the Cash Back amount but $50-$100 is usually not a problem. $500 maybe though I have never had a reason to try that.

Picture deposit for smart phones is available on Schwab.

I wouldn't hold on to two accounts, so whatever I choose should suit me for both.
I'm usually at my computer until late at night. So when I want to speak to a CSR at night, that's helpful to have. Question how much money is that worth to me? If I pull $2000 internationally, I'm paying a $20 premium for the 24hr service.

That might be the tie-breaker calwatch! Ally said they are slowly rolling out that feature to their customers. They had no timeline or goal of completion, but I'll assume that could take 2-3 years.

Anyone aware of any other differences besides:
1% foreign fee vs 0% foreign fee
24/7 customer service vs business hours
all atm fees vs just atm withdrawal fees (doesn't matter anymore)
And picture deposit
?

I might be missing something here, but my Schwab debit card (linked to a High Yield Checking account) has a 24-hour customer service number printed on the back.

atomicnebula said:   I might be missing something here, but my Schwab debit card (linked to a High Yield Checking account) has a 24-hour customer service number printed on the back.

Which number do you have there?

on http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/nn/customer_service/contact....
They have some 24-hour numbers. Brokerage and Active Trader.

But for Schwab Bank - they have this number for Customer service:
888-403-9000 which has business hours.
If you mean 877-824-5625, that's an automated machine service only.

Hmm, I have the 888 number, which is clearly marked as "24-hour customer service" on the card (even though the website says otherwise). The hours on the website are actually much longer than business hours, though still not long enough for someone on the West Coast I suppose.

Also, since no one else has mentioned it, the Schwab card just uses the typical Visa exchange rates: http://usa.visa.com/personal/using_visa/consumer_ex_rates_us.jsp

Called the 888 number right now (outside their listed hours obviously). And a rep answered. Apparently some of the Brokerage reps are "dual reps" and can deal with "debit card customers" (in his words). I asked if there's anything a dual rep can't do that a bank rep can do, and he said yea there are some restrictions, including Bill Pay and other things. He also said Schwab is planning to possibly do Bank CSRs 24 hours within a few months.

Thanks for that atomic. Ally has a mastercard, so I assume their rates are judged by this: https://www.mastercard.com/global/currencyconversion/index.html

The Visa rates were *slightly* better for a few dates I checked, but that can switch around.

So looks like Schwab wins.

I've had a great experience with Schwab in terms of product and costumer service. Although I've heard good things about Ally as well.

Schwab released a mobile check deposit feature on its iphone app this past week so just FYI.

I saw that... definitely helps push me toward Schwab. Well, I have an Android, but they claim the check deposit is coming in June.

Oh, more differences:
Ally - Free cashier checks. Schwab - $10.
Ally - "Incoming & Outgoing Collections (domestic & international)" - Free. Schwab - $25.
Ally - Outgoing wire - $20. Schwab - $25.

Stop payment on item: Schwab - FREE. Ally - $15.

I'm kinda in the same boat. I was with Incredible Bank for their fast ACH transfers, good rate, and ATM reimbursements. The rates have dropped, and they seem to be really anal about how many times you can use ACH, making them virtually useless as a "hub" account.

So I've been considering Schwab and Ally, but just to be sure, does anyone know if either of these banks have a history of getting angry if you do a lot if ACH transfers in and out?

I am not trying to complicate your decision, but have you looked at Fidelity? I use my Fidelity brokerage as my checking account. I also have a Schwab checking account. Since I travel internationally several times a year, I carry both debit cards. Both use the same great exchange rates, both rebate ATM fees, both have 0% foreign transaction fees. (I think Fidelity caps the ATM fee rebates at $75, but I've never had a problem with that.)

I also have accounts at Ally (but not checking) as well as USAA checking. Customer service at all places has been very good.

Edited to add: I just double-checked the Fidelity website -- they say they charge a 1% foreign transaction fee, but I've never seen that on my own withdrawals outside the U.S. Perhaps because I have most of my investments there, or I was grandfathered in under old terms?

Without going into any kind of controversial detail, I will say that there is a political difference between Ally and Schwab that might sway you one way or the other.

I use to have the Fidelity "My Smart Cash" account...one thing i didn't like is that you can't check your balance at an atm machine because they use a 3rd party bank...Schwab has it's own bank so no problem doing balance inquiries and if you have Schwab Investor Savings you can link it to the same debit card and do TRANSFERS as well at the atm...

I don't have recommendation either way as I don't have a Schwab account. That being said, I did just recently switch to Ally from a combo of TDBank/Bank of America for my day-to-day checking needs.

To put it bluntly, I was SHOCKED at how much more awesome Ally was then those two. I called in a couple times during the switching process and Ally reps were always very capable, competent, and knowledgeable. They always spoke english very well... no comprehension issues. And when they made changes to my accounts on the phone with me, they were IMMEDIATELY reflected online. And when I say 'immediately,' I mean I was able to hit the reload button on my browser before I got off the phone with them to confirm the changes occurred.

I only have two small niggles with them:
1) They take FOREVER to send out the postage paid deposit envelopes to you when you request them. Seriously.. it's like 2-4 weeks. And on top of that, they only send you 6-8 of them. I VERY rarely need to send in a deposit via mail... but I imagine if you had a larger volume of mail in deposits, this would trip you up once in a while.
2) Scheduled Billpay transactions are not reflected in anyway when viewing your account balances. So, I've just gotten in the habit of checking the billpay tab to see if I have any scheduled payments before doing calculations based on my available balance.

I have never had any issues getting account support with Schwab 24x7. But I did NOT go with Schwab Bank, I have the brokerage Schwab One account with debit card. I do not have to shift money between Brokerage/Bank to make trades but I lose the automatic interest for cash balances. (there is a money fund that I can fund manually, though)

(the Bank and the brokerage are legally separate entities due to FDIC/SPICA and other issues -- so they have separate balances even if you can transfer them back and forth)

I have a BofA "cash withdrawal" account, plus the Schwab account. I use the Schwab card anytime I can't find a BofA or its not convienient. If they get the Android mobile deposit feature working I may drop the BofA account though. Its probably time to simplify my banking. I have 2 credit union accounts including Penfed, a free BofA account, a free Wells Fargo account, and Schwab One which is my main working account.

BofA is free since I deposit $500/month, Wells Fargo holds my mortgage so give me a nice upgraded free checking. All the others are free as well.

---
I used to have the Penfed pre-funding deposit service and it worked until a check got lost in the mail for a week and they kicked me out. Asked nicely about it and they told me it was a "test" phase and that they were not readmitting anyone who was removed for any reason. So I went and re-opened my BofA account instead -- I was on a job in Massachusetts and no Wells Fargo branches out there.

What do you guys think about Ally bank? I am thinking about going online only and they seem to have the most complete package: Free checks, free debit card, good interest rates.

E*Trade Bank. Their Max-Rate Checking account has unlimited ATM fee refunds, plus unlimited free (and fast) ACH in/out. $5000 min balance or $200/mo direct deposit, or $50K in brokerage account to avoid monthly fee. I've used this account as my primary checking account for almost 10 years now, and been pretty happy.

"Max-Rate" is kind of a silly name for the account now, given that the rate is 0.15%

Medikit said:   What do you guys think about Ally bank? I am thinking about going online only and they seem to have the most complete package: Free checks, free debit card, good interest rates.
If you read this thread, everyone is saying good things.

jcm55 said:   E*Trade Bank. Their Max-Rate Checking account has unlimited ATM fee refunds, plus unlimited free (and fast) ACH in/out. $5000 min balance or $200/mo direct deposit, or $50K in brokerage account to avoid monthly fee. I've used this account as my primary checking account for almost 10 years now, and been pretty happy.

"Max-Rate" is kind of a silly name for the account now, given that the rate is 0.15%

They don't refund international ATM fees. They don't say anything about free checks (the physical checks). Plus a minimum balance of $5k. And they offer no obvious benefits above Ally/Schwab... Correct me if I'm wrong.

Don't you need to maintain a Brokerage account to be eligible for Schwab free checking? If you already have an account then its fine otherwise you have to open 2 accounts.

You need to open a "Schwab One" brokerage account. There's no minimums or anything for it. And you can open both at once.

Royal2000H said:   [E-Trade doesn't] refund international ATM fees. They don't say anything about free checks (the physical checks). Plus a minimum balance of $5k. And they offer no obvious benefits above Ally/Schwab... Correct me if I'm wrong.

The first order of checks is free. I've used E-Trade for a few years now and I think I'm up to check #5. Who uses checks anymore? True, E-Trade doesn't refund foreign ATM fees, but domestic ATM fees are refunded instantly. There is a $100 minimum initial deposit, and no minimum balance after that. If you want to avoid the monthly service fee, the minimum average balance is $5k, OR do direct deposit, OR $50k in a brokerage account, OR 30 trades per quarter. In the older E-Trade threads, I believe it is discussed that simply depositing $200 from PayPal each month is enough to avoid the monthly fee. It also makes a great hub account to link your various accounts at other banks together because there is no limit to the number of linked accounts. Their ACH transfers are some of the fastest in the biz, and the website is just really clean and user friendly.

I have savings at Ally and an unused brokerage account at Schwab. Ally has a nice website as well. I can never find anything on Schwab's site, but if I ever travel out of the country, I'll probably open a checking with them. I haven't called customer service recently at any of these banks, so have no comment on that aspect. My only gripe with E-Trade is they moved my savings accounts to Discover without my permission even after I had zeroed them out. Schwab requires you to call them before you can start doing ACH transfers.

For my needs, E-Trade does not fit in at all. But I'm sure some people will find that very useful. (I have to use physical checks, I care about the foreign fees, I don't mind waiting to the end of the month for the refund, and I don't do that many ACH transfers).

Schwab ACH by phone only is unfortunate... May make Ally more attractive, just after I was leaning toward Schwab!

Royal2000H said:   Schwab ACH by phone only is unfortunate...

It is just the first time you do an ACH transfer. After that, you can initiate the transfers online. The call was relatively painless. I just didn't appreciate the sales pitch that most other banks or brokerages don't put you through. They essentially give away their banking and credit card services for free in the hopes it will drive more business toward their investment arm.

Ally is the best, IMO. They are adding check deposit via scan/mobile upload very soon (they're already testing it on certain accounts).

Actually, they're testing eCheck Deposit which requires a scanner, not a camera. The good news though, is that they are releasing that feature in batches and you can request to be in the next batch. And their mobile app is "coming soon" for about a year now.

Otherwise, what makes them the best (and better than Schwab)?

Royal2000H said:   For my needs, E-Trade does not fit in at all. But I'm sure some people will find that very useful. (I have to use physical checks, I care about the foreign fees, I don't mind waiting to the end of the month for the refund, and I don't do that many ACH transfers).

Schwab ACH by phone only is unfortunate... May make Ally more attractive, just after I was leaning toward Schwab!


Hmm? I do ACH push AND pull from my Schwab One account all the time -- from the website. (I don't use Schwab Bank, but I would think it would have the same ability -- if not you can always move funds to the linked Schwab One account first)

They DO require a bit more documentation to authorize each linked bank and do NOT allow joint accounts if the other party is not also on the Schwab account. I seem to recall it was a signed form for EACH linked bank with farily specific details needed for each including specific branch.

By the way - Went with Schwab.

Sign up was kind of a pain. Automated verification (through Equifax) didn't work. Also, when I've tried to get an Equifax report, I failed their verification questions, so that's Equifax's fault, not Schwab.
Had to call during their "verification hours" 9-4 eastern. Called at 6am pacific and was verified in under 5 minutes. Though they gave me no real clear instructions about the next step, besides congrats and thanks for opening an account.

Got a call from a specific person at Schwab, has his own direct 888 number (he left a message). Called him back, went straight to him, he said he just wanted to personally thank me for opening the account and for doing the verification, knowing it's an extra annoying step. Told me I can call him if there's ever an issue, although I could always call the normal line. I told him I was going to wire money so he sent me full instructions to my email. This call really, although a small event, boosted my satisfaction in Schwab greatly. Made it seem like a bank that cares. Whether that's true or not, I'll find out in the upcoming months. He also noted that I don't have to use the brokerage account at all if I don't want to, but it's there if I ever want to. So I guess they don't really care about people doing Investor checking just for checking.

What he did tell me though, is that they only send the envelopes and debit card after I make my first deposit... Which means I had to mail in a form along with a voided check for the ACH transfer. The 44c isn't a big deal, but I had to get my lazy ass to the post office. Odd that they make you jump through hoops with their checking account when their Brokerage account lets you verify external accounts just by looking at 2 deposit amounts in your external account. Wells Fargo and Ally do the same 2-deposit verification method. Seems like Schwab wants you to get lazy and transfer through the brokerage account instead of directly to checking. Not a big deal though. After they get your verification form, you can initiate ACH transfers online. So this one-time thing isn't hugely a bother.

By the way, Ally (someone who does their twitter) has said that they've seen this thread. Hah.. Also, when I asked them to not be vague about their mobile app release date, they responded by being vague about their mobile app release date.
When I asked Schwab about their Android mobile scan, I got "within a few months." An actual answer!
Many have complained to Ally, not just about not having the app, but about being so vague about the release date! Ally doesn't care to answer, so why should I care to bank with them?

When I asked Schwab about their Android mobile scan, I got "within a few months." An actual answer! Many have complained to Ally, not just about not having the app, but about being so vague about the release date! Ally doesn't care to answer, so why should I care to bank with them?

Maybe they don't know when it'll be ready and don't want to BS you? You do realize "within a few months" could mean just about anything, don't you?

Seems like very strange criteria for choosing a bank.

Ally reps have posted in several threads in FWF already. They are much more active and responsive to customers than your typical bank, which is one of the reasons I went with them (since you asked earlier).

How is Ally checking vs Fidelity SmartCash. They look pretty similar to me: Free checks, great customer services, no/reimburse ATM fee. Ally might be better when the echeck deposit service is available, while fidelity has some branches.

Any other comments?

Have a quick question, does Schwab checking account statements provide a copies of checks paid in the month.

Thanks!

Thanks for the great advice everyone! I was also looking for a no ATM fee checking account and this thread helped a lot! I went with Ally. =)

defjukie said:   Maybe they don't know when it'll be ready and don't want to BS you? You do realize "within a few months" could mean just about anything, don't you?

Seems like very strange criteria for choosing a bank.

Ally reps have posted in several threads in FWF already. They are much more active and responsive to customers than your typical bank, which is one of the reasons I went with them (since you asked earlier).


It's possible they don't know when it will be ready, but they can give a broad ETA. If they can't even do that, they probably have very little progress on it. As they've been saying the very same non-response for a year now, it shows where their priorities are. If they are in fact close, after a year, then they should give a broad ETA like tons of customers are asking for.

Obviously this isn't the only criteria. If you look at this thread, Schwab had many advantages.

@ericwuyq:
I read somewhere Fidelity has a mobile deposit service already.
I'm curious why you're considering these two over Schwab

@sviv:
Somewhere in the fee statement it said that they are free.
I think Ally does this free too upto a certain limit of copies.

@dragon042:
I'm curious with you too why you chose Ally over Schwab

Skipping 48 Messages...
Im looking at Schwab for a brokerage account. I dont need the ATM from Schwab. However only the bank account is FDIC insured and Ive seen Money market funds go under. So it may force me to get the savings or checking account from Schwab. It also waives the $1000 min requirement for deposit.

Ive been looking for a quality bond brokerage firm with low commissions. Schwab I guess seems okay. Not sure where I will go yet.

If I need the brokerage account for trading, which account am I better off with, the Investor Checking or Savings? Im only using it so my funds are FDIC insured. I realize my trading is not secured however its done using my own research rather than relying on the money market funds that schwab sets up for its investors.

So its likely I will have a Schwab account now with free ATM fees. But I won't be using the ATM with it. Its just so I can use it as a sweep account instead of the non FDIC insured money market fund.



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