In a Nutshell
- All features on one user-friendly app
- Solid APYs
- Virtually zero fees
- No lending products
- Requires iOS 9.0+ or Android 5.1+
Empower at a Glance
Fees: $6 per month
Personal loans available: No
Credit card available: No
SMS/Mail alerts: Yes
24-hour customer service: No
Money transfers: Yes
Check scanning: No
Average APY: 0.25%1
Minimum for APY: None
Advantages Over Regular Bank
Empower really is the opposite of a regular bank in every single way. While traditional banks revolve around brick-and-mortar branches and perhaps online banking, Empower lets you do everything from your phone, it’s a one-stop-app to manage all your finances.
Here are a few reasons to choose Empower over a regular bank:
- Personalized, responsive tips to help you make better financial choices
- Intelligent, automated savings
- Virtually zero fees (see Interest Rates and Fees below for more details)
- Lets you do everything from your phone
- Easily connects to your other checking accounts
- Takes around 90 seconds to register
- Option to freeze and re-order your debit card in the app
Cutting-Edge Banking Services
According to Empower, its mobile banking platform is designed to help you succeed in personal finance without even trying. We’re happy to report that Empower lives up to its mission statement, thanks to 5 simple but awesome features:
- Automatic Savings. Intelligent and simple automated savings account, FDIC insured for up to $250,000. Just tell Empower how much money you want to save each week, choose the checking account you want to transfer from, and Empower will do all the rest. Empower studies your income and expenses daily to help you set aside the right amount of money at the right time. Earn 0.25% APY1 on your AutoSave account with no minimums when you open an Empower checking account.
- Interest checking. Like a regular checking account, but with industry-leading interest of 0.25% APY1 compounded daily and insured for up to $250,000. It comes with a debit card, unlimited transfers, up to 3 monthly ATM reimbursements2, and 24/7 notifications to track your spending.
- Budgeting. The Empower app lets you create your own budget categories or select from template categories. It lets you set spending limits. It also sends you real-time alerts and a monthly report to help you understand your income and expenses and figure out where to save.
- Human coach. Get one-on-one guidance on any financial question from Empower’s human coaches. No financial challenge is too big or small, too tricky or basic. Whatever your personal financial situation, the coaches at Empower can help you.
- Smart recommendations. The great thing about the Empower mobile app is it sends you 24/7 notifications to help improve your personal finance. For example, Empower will tell you if there are better deals for your phone, cable, and internet, and will even negotiate on your behalf to lower your bills. It will send you alerts for things like bill increases, missed bills, bank fees, credit utilization, and more.
Traditional Banking Services
While Empower isn’t a traditional banking service, it does have some traditional banking features built into the high-interest checking account.
- Unlimited transfers between your checking and savings accounts
- Empower Debit card linked to your checking account
- 3 monthly ATM reimbursements2
Interest Rates and Fees
Empower offers a solid 0.25% APY1 on their checking accounts. You can also earn 0.25% APY1 on your AutoSave account with no minimums when you open an Empower checking account. The APYs can change in response to Fed interest rate decisions, but it will always be much higher than a traditional checking account (which averages 0.04% APY).
As for fees, there are virtually none. Empower doesn’t charge any overdraft fees, insufficient funds fees, or card replacement fees. It doesn’t require a minimum opening deposit or minimum balance and you can withdraw anytime. It does charge a foreign transaction fee, although even this is lower than its competitors—coming in at just 1%.3 Empower is free for the first 30 days. After 30 days, Empower charges $6 per month for continued access to its full suite of money management tools.
Empower has a comprehensive support section on its website. There are 2 ways to contact Empower directly: in-app, under Help Center, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Empower doesn’t offer a mobile app as an afterthought like most banks—it is an app. The Empower mobile app is the only place to get access to all the features described in this review. Through a slick iOS/Android-compatible mobile app, you can:
- Open and manage your checking and savings accounts
- Access your money at any time
- Make unlimited withdrawals
- Get personalized financial help
- Turn on push notifications for instant alerts
Given the bank-level security it has in place, it’s clear Empower takes your data privacy and security seriously. Security features include AES 256-bit encryption, touch ID, and multi-factor authentication.
Mobile banking is where things are headed in the banking industry. Empower has done the public a service with a native mobile banking platform that helps users save and improve their financial literacy at the same time. The Empower mobile banking app is a great option for anyone looking for a complete personal finance solution from the convenience of their phone.
1 Banking services for new accounts provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC. 0.25% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) may change at any time. APY as of March 19, 2020. Empower charges an auto-recurring subscription fee of $6 for access to the full suite of money management features offered on the platform after your first 30 days.
2 Reimbursement for up to 3 ATM fees per month, with a maximum reimbursement of $10 per ATM withdrawal.
3 Empower does not charge foreign transaction fees for the use of the Empower Visa Debit Card outside of the US. However, Visa charges a foreign transaction fee of 1%. Empower does not reimburse this 1% transaction fee on foreign ATM transactions or on any other foreign transactions or purchases.