In true modern fashion, Empower is a branchless bank that offers all of its services through Apple and Android mobile apps. Customers can check their account balances, transaction histories and make transfers through these apps. According to the Apple and Android app stores, Empower’s mobile offerings average around a 4.8-star rating across nearly 5,000 user reviews.
While a mobile-only bank like this can be polarizing, the bank does offer some help with ATM access. More specifically, Empower will reimburse its customers for up to three ATM fees per month, with a $10 cap on each reimbursement. Even though Empower is still a young financial institution, its accounts include $250,000 worth of FDIC insurance.
Perhaps the most attractive perk of Empower is its rather high annual percentage yield (APY) rates. Empower's accounts boast a 0.20% APY, easily beating big banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America which currently offer APYs below 0.05% on their standard savings accounts (though not quite as high as some of the best savings accounts). Beyond this, there are no minimums, overdraft fees or insufficient funds fees at Empower. There are also no minimums, meaning you can technically become an account holder regardless of how much money you have to deposit.
Empower also provides its customers with a cash advance feature that allows you to get some extra cash when you're in need. In other words, if you're eligible, you could get up to $150 as a cash advance under the promise that you'll pay it back later. The best part: These advances do not earn interest, do not incur late fees and do not require a credit check.
|Checking Accounts|| |
|Savings Accounts|| |
Prior to Sept. 2018, Empower’s primary service was a mobile app that allowed users to merge their various banking, credit card and financial accounts under one roof. Following this, Empower took a natural next step by creating its own checking and savings accounts. But Empower isn’t acting all by itself, as it has a partner in nbkc bank.
Empower Checking Account
|Access to Your Account||Mobile and ATM|
|Security||FDIC insurance up to $250,000|
|Fees||$8 monthly subscription fee that's waived for the first 14 days on new accounts|
|Current Terms and Rates||0.20% APY (if enrolled in AutoSave)|
Empower’s version of a checking account is quite bare-bones. The account doesn't inherently earn you interest, but if you enroll in Empower's AutoSave program, you'll gain access to a 0.20% APY.
There is an $8 monthly subscription fee needed to access the account's money management features. However, a 14-day free trial means the fee is waived for your first two weeks if you are a new account. The fee will apply immediately for returning customers. Beyond this, the account has no minimum initial deposit requirement. Empower also managed to eliminate charges for overdrafts, insufficient funds and there is only a minimal 1% foreign transaction fee on new accounts.
Should you need to get your hands on some cash, Empower offers up to three ATM fee reimbursements per month. Each fee reimbursement has a limit of $10, but that should be plenty for most ATM fees you'll incur. In addition to this, all checking account holders at Empower are given a Visa debit card that can be used like a credit card to spend money directly from their balance. The bank explicitly states that it will have your card out to you within seven to 10 days.
Compare Empower to Other Competitive Offers
|Access to Your Account||Mobile and ATM|
|Security||FDIC insurance up to $250,000|
|Current Terms and Rates||0.20% APY (if you own an Empower checking account)|
The primary objective of any savings account is to aid the account holder in, you guessed it, saving as much as possible. The Empower AutoSave account does this well, as customers are privy to a standard 0.20% APY, but only if they also own an Empower checking account. If you don't have an in-house checking account, you'll still gain access to Empower's savings features, but your balance won't earn interest.
To use the AutoSave feature, you'll need to tell Empower how much you want to automatically transfer from your checking account, as well as where that checking account is located. That means you can use either Empower's checking account or an account at an outside bank. Then, Empower will keep an eye on your deposits and expenses and make adjustments to your savings amount accordingly.
Where Can I Find Empower?
Despite Empower’s relationship with nbkc bank, it does not operate any in-person banking locations. Although this differs from the customary style of banking, Empower does afford its customers the ability to withdraw their money. In turn, the bank offers up to three ATM fee reimbursements per month, with an individual reimbursement limit of $10.
What Can You Do Online With Empower?
Empower technically doesn’t have an online desktop platform, but it does have Apple and Android mobile apps. Because Empower is a mobile bank, everything you need to manage your account balances is available on your phone or tablet. This includes push notifications for debit card transactions, full transaction histories, money transfers between accounts and an ATM locator.
Some of the major advantages of Empower lie within its various budgeting tools and AI financial assistant. Here you’ll be able to combine all of your bank and credit card accounts in a single place for convenient management. The app can show you your balances, monthly payments, due dates for bills and transaction histories. Once all this information is in the app, Empower will begin looking for ways to increase your monthly savings.
Concerns about financial safety are sometimes prevalent, especially with mobile and online banks. Empower says on its website that it institutes a number of security measures, like heavy-duty encryption, multi-factor authentication, PIN codes and Touch ID.
How Do I Access My Money?
The easiest way to spend the funds in your Empower checking and savings accounts is to swipe your Visa debit card. Empower allows customers to add their debit card to Apple Pay, as well as Google Pay and Samsung Pay for Android users. Occasionally you’ll need cash, though. When this time comes, you can stop by any ATM you want, and Empower will reimburse you for any fees you incur up to three times a month ($10 cap on each reimbursement).
For some Empower account holders, making cash or check deposits could be problematic. Based on a thorough analysis of Empower’s mobile apps, the bank presently does not support mobile check deposit. That means the most direct way to make a deposit is through an ATM. If you’re not near one, you have to deposit your money in a different account and initiate a transfer to your Empower account.
How Can I Save More Money With an Empower Account?
Without question, Empower’s strongest assets are its well above average savings APY. The base APY of 0.20% is right up there with the best savings options on the market.
Even if you find a bank that can match what Empower does, it’s improbable that this hypothetical bank will have equally low fees. By affording customers strong interest rates and fairly low fees, just about everything you earn will remain in your possession.
What’s the Process For Opening an Account With Empower?
Becoming the proud owner of an Empower checking or savings account is as simple as downloading the Apple or Android version of the bank’s mobile app. The signup process is short, but you must have your Social Security number, date of birth and U.S. mailing address on hand. After this is done, be sure to set up how you’re going to fund the account.
What’s the Catch?
Empower does not appear to have mobile check deposit, which could make depositing money a challenge outside of direct deposits. It’s rare for a mobile-only bank to skip out on mobile deposits, so it might be possible that Empower has this on the horizon. There is, however, no positive or negative indication from the bank regarding this matter.
There’s plenty of interest-earning potential available through Empower’s savings account, but it is notably missing a number of accounts that are usually seen at even online banks. The most obvious among these are money market accounts (MMAs), certificates of deposit (CDs) and individual retirement accounts (IRAs).
With the ability to visit any ATM and get reimbursed for fees up to three times per month, Empower account holders have solid access to cash when they need it. But should you need cash more often than that, excess ATM fees could eat at your balance.
Fans of the mobile-centric style of banking appealing will be hard-pressed to find a better option than Empower. Besides the absence of mobile check deposit, this bank has everything you could want, such as interest above the national average, ATM fee reimbursements and tools to help you budget.
At the same time, mobile banking isn’t for everyone. It takes a certain amount of autonomy and management that some Americans would simply rather not deal with. On the other hand, there are few brick-and-mortar banks that can compete with the 0.20% APY that Empower’s savings account can provide. In the end, the decision on who to bank with is personal, and it should be treated as such.