One of the first online-only banks, Simple Bank offered financial products including checking accounts, CDs, loans, and more. While beloved by many customers, Simple Bank transitioned to its partner bank BBVA USA on May 8, 2021. BBVA USA accounts will include many of the same features, although they lack some of the components that made Simple Bank unique.
If you want to know how the switch will affect you, or if you’re considering opening up an account with BBVA USA, here’s everything you need to know about what products Simple Bank offered and how they will be affected by the switch.
Founded in 2009, Simple Bank began as an online-only bank with a mission to simplify the banking process. Simple’s main offering is an FDIC-insured checking account created to help you save money and manage your finances with built-in budgeting tools. Simple also features friendly customer service, few fees, and educational resources to help customers learn more about personal finance.
What is BBVA USA?
BBVA USA, which stands for Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria USA, is Simple Bank’s partner bank. BBVA is based in Madrid and Bilbao, Spain, and acquired Simple Bank in 2014. BBVA USA offers many similar products as Simple Bank, including checking accounts, loans, and educational tools.
Now the real twist is that PNC Bank announced it is acquiring BBVA. The merger is expected to be complete by summer 2021. This means anyone who has or is interested in a Simple account will move to BBVA and then PNC. That's a lot of change in one year for banking.
Simple Bank prided itself on offering banking products with few fees. Online checking accounts were free, with built-in budgeting tools that made it easy to save and manage your money. Simple’s no-penalty CD was also free and allowed you to put your savings to work for you.
Simple Bank features
Simple Bank pioneered simple, fee-free online bank accounts. Its products were designed to be easy to use, low cost, and with plenty of tools for customers to budget and manage their money.
Simple’s online checking deposit account was free to use and came with a sleek phone app, a Visa debit card, compatibility with payment services like PayPal and Venmo, and plenty of the unique budgeting tools that make Simple beloved by its customer base. If you needed them, you could also get paper checks for your account at a rate of $5 per book of 25 checks. The account supported direct deposit, so you could get your paycheck deposited straight to your account each month.
High-yield checking account
Similar to Simple’s traditional checking account, the high yield checking account came with many of the same features but also earned interest at a rate of .40% APY. Otherwise known as a Protected Goals account, the account charged no fees for monthly maintenance, overdrafts, or incoming wire transfers, and there were no minimum balance requirements or withdrawal limits.
Shared checking account
Simple also featured shared checking accounts that allowed two people to save up for big financial goals or manage day-to-day expenses. Whether you planned to open a shared account with a significant other or spouse, a family member, or someone else, Simple made it easy to combine the finances of two account holders in a way that is flexible and easy for both parties. Like the high yield checking account, SImple’s shared checking account also earned interest at a rate of .40% APY.
No penalty CD
Simple’s no-penalty CD is a great place to stash your cash. This account earned .40% APY and had a minimum deposit of $250 and a term limit of 12 months. You could have up to five CDs with combined balances of up to $250,000. Best of all, there were no fees for early termination, so you could access your money whenever you need to.
Simple personal loans
Simple also offered personal loans for borrowers looking to consolidate high-interest debt. This fixed-rate loan could help you to get out of debt faster by combining what you owe into one simple monthly payment. You could also get a 1% discount on your rate if you set up monthly payments.
Simple offered access to many fee-free in-network ATMs around the country through Allpoint ATMs. These were often located at common retailers including Costco, Target, Walgreens, and CVS.
Safe online banking
Simple was one of the first “neobanks” that operated exclusively online, with no physical location or brick and mortar bank branches. Because of this, mobile banking and digital safety and security were a big priority for the company. Safety features included two-factor authentication, fingerprint unlocks for iPhone and Android devices, chip technology, and photo check deposit.
Budgeting and saving tools
Simple’s most beloved feature was, by far, its truly simple budgeting and savings tools. These tools helped customers save money and manage their finances. For instance, you could have Simple automatically set aside money for recurring expenses like rent and utility bills.
You could also set up savings goals that Simple will stash away money for a bit at a time. Simple’s budget tracker let you know how much you could afford to spend each month, and its analytics delivered comprehensive information about where your money went each month. Simple even included a neat round-up feature that saved the loose change left over from your transactions.
The big question
Will all of the features listed above be included features when Simple is woven into the BBVA business model? Will BBVA's features be woven into the PNC Bank model? Will Simple's features make it through all of the transitions? None of it is clear.
Simple Bank was a good choice for customers who are looking for a, well, simple bank. While the bank might not have had as many bells and whistles as some other financial institutions, the products that it does offer are undeniably solid.
It was also good for a simple place to store your hard-earned paycheck without the excessive fees that often accompany traditional bank accounts? Simple’s traditional and high yield checking accounts were free, easy to use, and came with a handy mobile app.
PNC is known for having low-interest rates and some pretty hefty fees. However, it does have thousands of banks and fee-free ATMs to access your funds.
Right now, the main downside to Simple Bank is an obvious one: Simple Bank accounts will transition to partner bank BBVA USA. When the transition took place on May 8, 2021, BBVA's end failed, leaving Simple Bank account holders unable to access their funds and accounts.
Customers received error messages and if you visit BBVA's website you will find a warning message about extended wait times.
How Simple Bank accounts will change during the transition to BBVA USA
If you have an account with Simple and are worried about how the transition to BBVA will affect you, as noted the transition did not go smoothly. BBVA says your bank account, routing number, and debit card will stay the same, and there’s nothing you need to do to assist this automatic process. You’ll also keep the same debit card.
Some account features will be different after the transition. Instead of Simple’s Goals, Expenses, and Safe-to-Spend budgeting tools, BBVA features a different set of financial tools that can help you save. Unlike Simple, BBVA charges an overdraft fee and an insufficient funds fee of $32. Where Simple charged $0 for these services, BBVA charges a $3 ATM fee and $5 for debit card replacement. BBA also charges $15 for domestic and $10 for international incoming wire transfers, and $30 for domestic, and $55 for international outgoing wire transfers.
There are a few features that BBVA accounts will offer that didn’t come with a Simple Bank account. These include online bill pay and overdraft protection. Overall, however, the transition to BBVA strips Simple Bank accounts of many of the features that made them unique. The transition also comes with a bevy of additional fees, where Simple had prided itself on being a primarily fee-free banking option for consumers.
Simple vs. competitors
There are several other online banks and neobanks worth considering if you are not interested in moving to BBVA.
Other banking products
Yes, .40% APY
Shared savings accounts, CDs, personal loans
Budgeting and savings tools
Yes, .10% to .25% APY
Savings, money market, CDs, investment and retirement funds, mortgage, auto, and personal loans
Customer-friendly online bank with interest checking and plenty of other financial products
Secured credit card, high yield savings account
No hidden fees
Alliant Credit Union
Yes, .25% APY
Savings, credit cards, home, auto, and personal loans, retirement accounts
Not-for-profit credit union with competitive rates
Up to 1.00% APY on Aspiration Save funds
Socially responsible investing and retirement accounts
Cash management account with a focus on social and environmental causes
Like Simple Bank, Ally is an online-only neobank that charges few fees for its banking products. Ally features an interest checking account that earns .10% to .25% APY depending on your balance. Ally also offers high yield savings accounts, money market accounts, CDs, and investment and retirement funds. If you need to borrow money, Ally also offers mortgage, auto, and personal loans.
While its savings and budgeting tools aren’t as robust as Simple Bank, Ally has plenty of educational resources available to customers. Ally’s high yield savings accounts also let customers set up savings buckets, automatic transfers, and other features that make it easier to save.
Chime prides itself on its reputation as a truly fee-free bank. Chime charges no overdraft, minimum balance, foreign transaction, or monthly fees. While Chime’s checking account doesn’t earn interest, a savings account with Chime earns interest at a rate of .50% APY. You can set up automatic savings that deduct money from each paycheck to your savings account.
A credit union is similar to a bank, but where banks are responsible to shareholders, credit unions are member-owned and not-for-profit. This means that they can often give their earnings back to customers in the form of lower fees and interest rates across the board.
Alliant offers a high-interest checking account with a rate of .25% APY. There are no monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements, and Alliants also offers $20 per month in ATM fee rebates. In addition to their high yield checking account, Alliant also offers a wide range of other financial products, including savings accounts, credit cards, home, auto, and personal loans, and retirement accounts.
Aspiration is a neobank with a mission. Committed to environmental protection and social responsibility, Aspiration never invests money in fossil fuels or other harmful companies. Aspiration also takes steps to reduce customers’ environmental impact. You can “plant a tree” with each purchase made using an Aspiration card by rounding up to the next whole dollar amount and donating the difference to Aspiration’s reforestation partners. You can also earn up to 5% cash back on socially conscious spending with a variety of different retailers.
Aspiration’s main banking account is a cash management account, which combines features of both checking and savings accounts. You can earn up to 1.00% APY with this account, as well as enjoying low fees and cash back rewards. In addition to their cash management account, Aspiration also features socially and environmentally responsible investing and retirement accounts.
Simple Bank shut down as of May 8, 2021, transitioning to BBVA USA.
Who can I get in touch with for questions about an existing Simple account?
Per their website, Simple Bank customer service agents can’t address questions about the transition at this time.
What other banks are similar to Simple Bank?
While there’s no financial institution quite like Simple Bank, we think that Ally, Chime, Alliant Credit Union, and Aspiration all offer products with some of the same benefits and perks as Simple.
The bottom line
Simple Bank was one of the pioneers of online-only banking and built up a dedicated following thanks to its low fees and unique saving and budgeting tools. Now that Simple bank accounts have transitioned to BBVA USA accounts, many customers are understandably looking for another bank that shares Simple’s features and ethos.
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