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Simple Bank is an online bank created specifically to address the public’s declining trust in the banking industry. Its founders sought to give customers a more convenient, more customer-centric, and simple alternative to traditional banks by offering a straightforward, low-cost checking account.
Based on the overwhelmingly positive customer reviews, Simple has largely delivered on its promise. However, following its recent acquisition by a large, traditional bank it hasn’t been so simple for many of its customers.
The hope is that Simple manages to overcome the clumsy transition to a holding bank subsidiary and regains its footing as the popular banking alternative people came to love. The remainder of this Simple Bank review will cover the banks history, as well as their platform.
A Brief Simple History
Simple was founded in 2009 as BankSimple. After raising more than $10 million in venture funding, the company was launched in beta form in 2012. A year later, the bank had 20,000 customers, growing to 40,000 by July 2013. By the end of 2013, Simple was well on its way with checking account assets of $64 million.
Simple then announced in February 2014 it had been acquired by Banco Bilbao Vizcava Argentaria (BBVA), a large global banking group with hundreds of billions of dollars in assets. The purchase was for $117 million by BBVA’s U.S. subsidiary, BBVA Compass, and praised by Simple for BBVA’s common passion for innovative technology and customer experience. The acquisition was thought to be a positive for Simple by not only strengthening its financial position; but also for legitimatizing its position as a top tier online bank.
It was business as usual for Simple as it continued to present itself as the anti-bank to a growing market of disillusioned banking customers. However, as Simple began to transition its infrastructure to the BBVA platform, things got a little complicated for its customers, casting a shadow over its reputation for being simple. More on that later.
The Simple Banking Platform
Simple operates an entirely online platform, with no physical branches. The only physical evidence customers have of its existences is the Visa debit card it issues. There are no checks and no paper statements. Customers benefit from no monthly maintenance fees, no minimum balance requirements and no overdraft fees. Customers can conduct all of their banking activities through the website or through mobile apps for Android or iOS. Simple has won accolades for its easy-to-use and slick online platform and mobile apps.
Interest Bearing Checking
Simple customers currently earn a low APY on their checking balance of a paltry 0.01%. But, when compared with traditional banks that may not pay interest on basic checking at all and charge monthly maintenance and overdraft fees, it is a net positive for Simple.
Customers are issued a Visa debit card which can be used at 55,000 ATMs in the STAR network. STAR ATMS are often found in stores, gas stations, and restaurants which can be located using Simple’s mobile app.
Money Management Tools
While its checking service is fairly middle-of-the-road in terms of what it offers customers, Simple has won a big following for its budgeting and savings management tools available through the customer’s online account or mobile app. The budgeting tool tracks every transaction by description and category so customers can see exactly how they are spending their money. Through its Safe to Spend tool, customers can then keep a running tally of their deposits and expenses so they know how much they can safely spend on future expenses. It also allows you to set up separate savings goals and track your progress for each goal. The tool enables you to make spending or savings decisions on the fly or set up a systematic approach.
Simple Bank Pros
- No monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirement
- Robust online platform for managing your account and your spending
- Excellent mobile apps for banking on the go
- Interest-bearing checking account
- Access to 55,000 ATMs
Simple Bank Cons
- No checks
- No cash deposits
- Outside ATM network which could make it difficult to find ATMs
- Some reports of occasional website outages and glitches
About That Transition to BBVA
Up until the time of Simple’s acquisition by BBVA, things had been going relatively smoothly with broad customer satisfaction. However, that began to change once Simple began to migrate its data and systems over to BBVA. Due to some incompatibility with BBVA systems, Simple was forced to cancel certain customer accounts that couldn’t be transitioned. While, this is a major glitch that seems to tarnish Simple’s reputation as a technology innovator, the bank expects its continuing operations and customer experience to be as simple and smooth as ever.
Author: Jeff Gitlen