Online-only banks are attractive to anyone looking for a simple and convenient banking solution.
While most traditional branch banks offer online banking and mobile apps, digital banking platforms tend to blow them out of the water in user experience and convenience — because they’re created by technology companies.
These companies let you access the products and services you’re used to from traditional banks, but they layer on features through robust apps to help you simplify your life and work toward financial goals.
As the landscape for online banks becomes increasingly competitive, digital banking apps look more and more similar — but each stands out through unique features designed for specific lifestyles and financial goals.
Two leading players in the online banking space, Chime and Simple, exemplify those subtle differences. One is great for paycheck-to-paycheck living, and the other is better for more sophisticated budgeting and savings.
Chime and Simple offer similar products: pared-down online bank accounts for spending and saving. Which is best for you lies in the details. Here’s how we rated each.
|Small Business Banking||n/a||n/a|
|Fees||Out-of-network ATMs, over-the-counter withdrawal||Foreign transaction fees, checkbooks, out-of-network ATMs|
Chime Bank Features
Chime is one of the earliest digital banking platforms and a leader in the space. Its banking options are basic, but these features help it stand out among other online banks:
- Fee-free Spending and Savings accounts: None of Chime’s accounts carry monthly maintenance fees or account minimums. You’ll get a Visa debit card for spending and ATM transactions, and have the option to set up automated savings rules.
- Overdraft protection: Chime doesn’t charge overdraft fees — and its SpotMe fee-free overdraft protection doesn’t require you to link a savings account. Chime will spot eligible members up to $100, which is taken out of your next deposit.
- Get paid early: Chime offers an “early payday” feature that can help you get your hands on your paycheck up to two days early with direct deposit.
- Cash deposits: You can deposit cash into your Chime account at more than 60,000 retail locations with Green Dot, which is a feature many online banks don’t allow.
- Bill pay: Pay bills directly from your account through ACH transfer by giving companies your Chime routing and account numbers, or mail a paper check using the Chime Checkbook feature.
Simple Bank Features
A Simple account integrates budgeting and banking in a user-friendly way competitors don’t match. Its features include:
- Safe-to-Spend account: Simple’s free checking account charges no monthly fee and offers a Visa debit card for everyday transactions and ATM withdrawals. Fund it through bank transfer or direct deposit.
- Protected Goals account: Simple’s savings option encourages you to set up an emergency fund and long-term savings. It comes with an impressive interest rate: 1.2% annual percentage yield.
- Integrated budgeting and saving tools: Expenses and short-term savings goals are built into your Safe-to-Spend account, and you can automatically fund Protected Goals.
- Joint account option: Simple lets customers open a Shared Account, which Chime doesn’t offer.
- Certificates of Deposit: Purchase 12-month CDs of at least $250 to earn a fixed 1.00% interest rate.
Both Banks Offer…
- Online banking services with no monthly fees.
- FDIC-insured bank accounts.
- Debit cards with access to fee-free ATM networks.
- No overdraft fees.
- Robust banking apps, including mobile check deposit.
Neither Bank Offers…
- Credit cards.
- Loans or refinancing.
- Small business banking.
Each online bank has its strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a closer look at each company’s features.
Chime Spending Account: A-
Simple Safe-to-Spend: B
Each company offers checking/deposit accounts with no monthly fees, minimum balance or overdraft fees.
Chime’s Spending account is a non-interest-bearing checking account linked to a Visa debit card. It functions like most checking accounts, but its claim to fame is the ability to set up direct deposits to receive your paycheck up to two days ahead of payday.
The Simple cash management accounts bucket your money into Expenses, Goals (for short-term savings) and Safe-to-Spend — all under one account number, but separate visual balances. This envelope-style budgeting helps you cover bills, work toward major purchases and enjoy stress-free day-to-day spending.
Chime Savings Account: B
Simple Protected Goals: A
Both Chime and Simple offer savings accounts that encourage automatic savings and earn competitive interest rates, but they function differently.
Chime’s Savings account is a federally regulated savings account, subject to any withdrawal limits the Federal Reserve sets (currently none, but that could change). It earns 1.00% APY.
You can fund Chime Savings only by transferring money from your Spending account, not through direct deposit or an external account. Do so manually anytime, or set savings rules to automate it, including:
- Rounding Chime debit card transactions to the nearest dollar.
- Automatically transferring 10% of each paycheck.
Simple’s Protected Goals account is technically regulated as a checking account (separate from your Safe-to-Spend account) that accrues 1.2% APY.
Simple lets you set savings goals and fund your Protected Goals account from Simple checking or an external account. Simple also lets you fund Goals manually or automate your savings by:
- Setting up an automatic funding schedule, like a transfer when you get paid or a small transfer each day.
- Rounding up to the nearest dollar every time you make a Simple debit card purchase.
- Using the “IRS Payments Rule” to automatically set aside part of your tax refund.
Both online-only banks are convenient relative to traditional banks — as long as you don’t prefer in-person service from a bank teller. Their mobile apps are robust and let you deposit checks, manage your accounts and transfer money from anywhere 24/7.
Both accounts include access to fee-free nationwide ATM networks, so you can withdraw cash when you need it.
Chime offers some services Simple and other online banks don’t, including cash deposits via Green Dot, free overdraft protection and early paycheck deposit.
Simple’s Shared Account option lets you and a partner or roommate open joint checking and savings accounts, an option Chime and many other online banks don’t offer.
Both banks limit services to spending and savings. Neither offers credit cards, or lending products like loans, mortgages or lines of credit, which you could find through most traditional banks or credit unions.
SoFi Money is a good option if you want the convenience of an online bank with the full range of products and services typical to a traditional financial institution.
Chime Mobile App: B
Simple Mobile App: B+
As technology companies first, both Simple and Chime offer mobile apps that are far more user-friendly than those of most traditional banks. But each has room for improvement.
With both, you can view and manage your accounts, transfer money, deposit checks, locate ATMs, freeze your debit card and contact customer support.
Chime’s banking app is simplistic, lacking the budgeting tools Simple and many other banking apps include.
Simple’s app integrates those budgeting features, but some actions are much easier to perform on its desktop site — not ideal for a mobile banking product.
Small Business Banking
Neither Chime nor Simple offers small business banking options, like loans, lines of credit, credit cards or business checking accounts.
Both Chime and Simple take it easy on fees, cutting out a lot of the expenses you’ll face at a traditional bank. You’ll pay no monthly maintenance fees or face minimum balance requirements for checking or savings with either company.
A Chime account gives you access to 38,000 fee-free ATMs in the U.S. through the MoneyPass and Visa Plus Alliance networks.
A Simple account comes with fee-free access to a network of 40,000 Allpoint ATMs.
With Chime, you’ll pay $2.50 for using an out-of-network ATM — plus any ATM fee the owner charges — or making an over-the-counter withdrawal at a Green Dot retail location.
With Simple, you’ll pay a foreign transaction fee of up to 1% and $5 per 25 paper checks if you want to buy a checkbook. Simple doesn’t charge a fee for using an out-of-network ATM, but you’re subject to any ATM fees the owner charges.
Our reviews of Chime and Simple rate the online banks similarly, with Simple ahead by only a hair, but the accounts offer significantly different features. Which is best for you depends on what you need from an online bank account.
Chime might be right for you if:
- You regularly run your account balance close to $0.
- You’re often paid through direct deposit — you could benefit from an early payday!
- You’re often paid in cash but want an online bank account.
- You’re paid irregularly (like gig workers or freelancers).
Chime’s protection against overdrafts, early payday and ability to deposit cash should be attractive to anyone on a paycheck-to-paycheck budget. Its simple automated savings features, based on your income and spending, will help you build savings regardless of your budget.
If you bring home a lot of cash through contract, gig or service industry work, this is one of the only online banks that’ll be easy to use for your primary account.
If you want to set specific savings goals or put your budget on autopilot, this isn’t the account for you.
Simple might be right for you if:
- You like using budgeting apps or envelope budgeting.
- You’re mostly paid through digital payments or direct deposit (not cash).
- You share expenses with someone but want to keep a separate bank account.
- You have a steady pay schedule and fixed expenses.
Simple’s sophisticated budgeting features are perfect for anyone who’s ready to take their money management to the next level. Account for your fixed expenses and short- and long-term savings goals to set your finances on autopilot and spend without stress.
If your income or expenses fluctuate a lot from month to month, or your bank account often lingers near $0, you’ll find Simple’s budgeting features less useful, and this probably isn’t the app for you.
Neither requires a minimum opening deposit, but you have the option to connect an external bank account to transfer money right away. You can also set up direct deposit and start funding your accounts when you get paid.
The Penny Hoarder’s editorial team considers more than 25 factors in its bank account reviews, including fees, minimum daily balance requirements, APYs, overdraft charges, ATM access, number of physical locations, customer service support access and mobile features.
To determine how we weigh each factor, The Penny Hoarder surveyed 1,500 people to find out what banking features matter most to you.
For example, we give top grades to banks that have low fees because our survey showed that this is the No. 1 thing you look for in a bank. Because more than 70% of you said you visited a physical bank branch last year, we consider the number of brick-and-mortar locations. But more than one-third of you use mobile apps for more than 75% of your banking, so digital features are also considered carefully.
Ratings are assigned across the following categories:
- Personal checking accounts
- Personal savings accounts
- Small-business banking
- Mobile banking
Credit card and loan products are not currently considered.
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media.