In true modern fashion, Empower is a branchless bank that’s based entirely out of its Apple and Android mobile apps. Customers can check their account balances, transactions 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 throughout nearly 5,000 user reviews.
While a mobile-only bank like this can be polarizing, the bank subscribes to the MoneyPass ATM network, a fee-free collection of 25,000 ATMs. If you want to find out where MoneyPass ATMs are in your area, Empower's mobile apps feature an ATM locator. Even though Empower is still a young financial institution, both of 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. The Empower checking account does not earn interest, but the savings account boasts a 2.15% APY to start. By contrast, industry leaders Wells Fargo and Bank of America currently offer 0.01% and 0.03% APYs, respectively, on their standard savings accounts. Beyond this, there are no monthly fees, overdraft fees, insufficient funds fees or international transaction 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.
|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 Evolve Bank & Trust, a banking and mortgage business. Evolve’s headquarters are in Memphis, Tennessee, though it also has bank branches in Arkansas and mortgage offices in 17 states.
Empower Checking Account
|Access to Your Account||Mobile and ATM|
|Security||FDIC insurance up to $250,000|
|Current Terms and Rates||Not interest-bearing|
Empower’s version of a checking account is quite bare-bones. Although the account doesn’t earn interest, you won’t lose any money from maintaining an account-holder status. In fact, you can open this account without having to worry about a minimum initial deposit or monthly maintenance fees that pick away at your balance. Beyond the lack of monthly fees, Empower has also managed to eliminate charges for overdrafts, insufficient funds and foreign transactions.
Should you need to get your hands on some cash, Empower provides more than 25,000 free ATMs through its subscription to MoneyPass, a nationwide ATM network. If you’re unable to visit to a fee-free ATM, the bank will reimburse you for one out-of-network ATM charge per month. Aside from 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.
A unique aspect of the Empower checking account is that it offers up to 2% cash back on certain debit card purchases. The first 1% in cash back is earnable by default on the first $1,000 you spend every month. When you fund your account, you’ll receive a 30-day boost that’ll tack on an extra 1% cash back. If you’re able to refer a friend who opens an Empower checking account, you will get this boost as well.
Compare Empower to Other Competitive Offers
Empower Savings Account
|Access to Your Account||Mobile and ATM|
|Security||FDIC insurance up to $250,000|
|Current Terms and Rates|| |
The primary objective of any savings account is to aid the account holder in, you guessed it, saving as much as possible. The Empower savings account does this admirably, as customers are privy to a standard 2.15% APY. If you can manage to refer a friend to Empower, the aforementioned boost will double your interest rate for 30 days to an astounding rate of 4.30% per annum. You'll also receive this boost for the first 30 days that you're an account holder. Like the checking account above, Empower’s savings account is devoid of all minimum deposits, monthly fees and other outstanding charges.
Where Can I Find Empower?
Despite Empower’s relationship with Evolve Bank & Trust, it does not operate any in-person banking locations. Although this differs from the customary style of banking, Empower does everything it can to afford its customers the ability to withdraw their money. In turn, the bank offers access to 25,000 fee-free ATMs across the U.S. via its partnership with the MoneyPass ATM network.
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 one of the 25,000 MoneyPass ATMs around the U.S. that offer fee-free withdrawals for Empower customers.
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 eligible MoneyPass ATM. If you’re not near one, you have to deposit your money in a different account an initiate a transfer to your Empower account.
How Can I Save More Money With a Empower Account?
Without question, Empower’s strongest assets are its well above average savings APY and debit card cash back. The base APY of 2.15% is right up there with the best savings options on the market, and 1% cash back on debit purchases is virtually unheard of. What’s more, both percentages are doubled for 30 days when you open an account and when you get a friend to become an Empower account holder.
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 nearly nonexistent 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 25,000 fee-free MoneyPass ATMs at their disposal, Empower account holders should have access to an in-network machine wherever they go. The U.S. is a large country, though, and there are bound to be dry areas. If you run into this issue, remember that Empower will only reimburse you one out-of-network charge per month.
Fans of the mobile-centric style of banking appealing will be hard-pressed to find a better option that Empower. Besides the absence of mobile check deposit, this bank has everything you could want, such as high interest rates, cash back on debit purchases, a massive fee-free ATM network 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 2.15% 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.