Capital One is a well-known financial institution that made its name in the credit card business. Capital One 360, one of its major divisions, offers a related, if less sexy, suite of products: online banking and personal lending services. If you’re not satisfied with the brick-and-mortar banking options in your area – or you want to cast as wide a net as possible during your search for an attractive mortgage – then this institution should be on your radar.
At first glance, Capital One 360 looks similar to online banking applications from Ally Bank, Aurora Bank, and other well-known providers, but it offers updated features and perks that aren’t available to consumers everywhere. For instance, its My Savings Goals program allows you to open multiple savings accounts to track specific goals, such as a down payment on a new home or a lease on a new vehicle. If you own a small or medium-sized business, Capital One 360 has a slew of savings accounts and CDs geared directly to your needs.
Although Capital One 360 has only existed in its current form since early 2013, it has actually been around much longer than that. Previously, the bank was known as ING Direct. Capital One purchased the company in 2012 and completed the transition to full ownership – with the resultant name change – in February 2013. Many of ING’s services and perks survived the switch: In addition to a high-interest savings account, Capital One 360 also includes a checking service, discount brokerage (Sharebuilder), CDs, and various other financial products.
Capital One 360 has several core products and a variety of useful key features. You may recognize some of them from similar online banking services, while others are significantly updated or totally unique to Capital One 360.
- High-Interest Savings Accounts. Capital One 360 has really been pushing its 360 Savings Account. It offers a variable APR, which at 0.75% is competitive with other online savings products. This no-fee account requires no minimum balance and it allows customers to open multiple online savings accounts at once, making it easier for folks who have discrete goals to manage separate financial stockpiles. 360 Savings Accounts can be linked with Capital One 360’s interest-bearing checking accounts as well.
- CDs. The company’s CDs feature variable term lengths of between 6 and 60 months. They also come with market-based interest rates that increase with term length – at the moment, a 60-month CD yields 1.70% per year. For CDs with terms of less than 12 months, users face an early withdrawal penalty equivalent to three months of interest. CDs with terms longer than 12 months impose an early withdrawal penalty equal to six months of interest. In both cases, then, you need to keep these accounts open for longer than the “penalty period,” or you lose a small portion of your principal amount. There are no minimum balance requirements on Capital One 360 CDs.
- Retirement Accounts. Customers can open or roll over IRAs and 401ks without leaving the 360 ecosystem. If you’re okay with limiting your retirement investments to FDIC-insured vehicles such as savings accounts or CDs, you can simply open a “Savings IRA” that allows you to earn interest without accumulating a tax burden. If you want to invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or ETFs, you can open an IRA with Sharebuilder – which is owned and managed by Capital One – and transfer funds directly from your existing, non-IRA 360 Savings account. Sharebuilder also offers 401k solutions for business owners.
- Interest-Bearing Checking Accounts. The Capital One 360 Checking Account comes with a fee-free debit card and access to about 40,000 ATMs nationwide. It also pays a small but noticeable interest rate that ranges from 0.20% for deposits of less than $50,000 to 0.90% on deposits of more than $100,000.
- Business Services. In addition to the Sharebuilder 401k, Capital One 360’s business services include Business Savings Accounts and Business CDs. These are quite similar to its consumer-facing savings and CD products, with added perks such as separate account access for up to three authorized individuals.
- Home Loans. Capital One 360 offers fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages. Borrowers can choose from 15- or 30-year terms for the former and 5- or 7-year fixed-rate periods for the latter. Both adjustable mortgage products amortize over 30 years.
- Investment Products. When it purchased ING Direct, Capital One also got its hands on ING’s Sharebuilder brokerage platform. Unlike Fidelity, Schwab, and other “full-service” brokerages, Sharebuilder doesn’t hold its customers’ hands or provide detailed guidance. For experienced investors, low fees and expenses make this an acceptable tradeoff. You can use Sharebuilder to purchase stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs and other market-traded investment vehicles.
- Kid-Friendly Tools and Services. Many banks pay lip service to financial education, but Capital One 360 actually seems to mean it. The bank offers multiple accounts for kids and teens, including the Kids Savings Account – an FDIC-insured account with an identical APR to the regular 360 Savings Account – and MONEY, a teen-oriented checking account that comes with a free debit card and full parental oversight. Through Sharebuilder, parents can also open a custodial investing account for kids of any age.
- Reasonable Balance Requirements and Fees for Cash Accounts. All of Capital One 360’s basic savings and checking accounts, including kid-focused products, lack minimum balance requirements or maintenance fees. In a world where brick-and-mortar banks routinely charge monthly fees on regular checking accounts, this is a big deal. That said, many online banks remain fee-free.
- Variable Interest Rates. Interest rates on Capital One 360’s cash accounts vary based on market fluctuations. Capital One doesn’t reveal the exact formula it uses to set these rates, but, as with many banks, it’s likely based on the Fed Funds Rate, as well as current market rates on Treasury bonds. If these benchmark rates rise, you won’t be locked into a long-term commitment to a low interest rate.
- Interest-Based Overdraft Charges. Unlike many banks’ checking accounts, 360 Checking doesn’t charge overdraft fees on negative balances. Instead, it charges a flat, daily interest rate on all overdrafts, with a total negative limit of $5,000. The daily overdraft fee on a negative balance of $4,999, for example, is just $1.54. Of course, these charges can add up over time, but they’re a far cry from the one-off $30 or $50 charges that some other banks levy.
- Mobile Access for Savings, Checking, and Investments. Given the sheer mobile-unfriendliness of many of Capital One 360’s smaller competitors, the fact that you can access your 360 savings, checking, and investment accounts from any wireless-enabled mobile device is worth noting. Minor interfacing differences aside, 360’s mobile experience is virtually identical to its desktop version.
- Check Deposit and Direct Deposit. The CheckMate app allows you to remotely deposit checks into your checking and savings account via smartphone snapshot or desktop upload. You never have to visit a physical branch, period.
- Automatic Savings Plan and My Savings Goals. 360 Savings comes with some novel programs that aim to encourage and reward regular saving patterns. The Automatic Savings Plan is self-explanatory: Once per week, it automatically transfers a preset sum from your checking account to your savings account. You can change or discontinue this feature at any time. My Savings Goals allows you to set individual savings goals, track your progress toward them, and receive regular updates on how much longer it will take to reach them at your current pace. Since you can open multiple savings accounts at once, you can keep track of these goals separately and avoid confusion or redundant deposits.
- Flexible Interest Payments on CDs. Some banks don’t allow you to choose when your CDs throw off interest – Capital One 360 does. You can receive interest payments on a monthly, yearly, or once-per-term basis. If you accept payments on a yearly or once-per-term basis, that interest sits in your account longer and thus has more time to compound. Also, remember that prematurely terminated CDs do come with early-withdrawal fees.
- FDIC Insurance on Some Products. Capital One 360 customers enjoy FDIC insurance of up to $250,000 – as is legally required – on their accounts. It’s important to note that this coverage applies to all 360 accounts cumulatively, not separately. If you have $100,000 in a savings account, $100,000 in a CD, and $100,000 in a checking account, $50,000 of your stash remains uncovered.
- Fee-Free ATMs. Capital One has about 2,000 branded ATMs and 38,000 “Allpoint” ATMs in its nationwide network, all of which offer fee-free withdrawals, deposits, and balance checks. International ATMs may charge fees, however.
- Novel Solutions for Small Businesses. Capital One 360 makes a concerted effort to appeal to small businesses. Like their consumer-facing counterparts, its business savings accounts and CDs offer variable-rate interest payments and have no maintenance fees. All business products offer separate, fully secure access for three stakeholders. According to its website, 360’s business instruments are useful for “sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), corporations, not-for-profits, and small organizations.” It’s implied that larger organizations may wish to look elsewhere.
- Mediocre Interest Rates on CDs. In the current low-rate environment, it’s noteworthy that Capital One 360’s CD products pay any interest at all. However, its rates aren’t particularly competitive with similar products from other online banks such as Ally. Whereas a 60-month 360 CD yields 1.70% per year – the bank’s highest rate – an identical product from Ally yields 2.00%. Unlike Ally, the bank also lacks a class of “high-yield” CDs that offer significantly higher interest rates relative to “normal” CDs. For instance, Ally’s high-yield arsenal boasts yields of 1.05% to 1.55% on CDs with terms of 12 to 36 months – Capital One 360’s 12- and 36-month CDs yield just 0.75% and 1.30%, respectively.
- Inflexible CD Products. Capital One 360’s CDs also lack the increasingly commonplace flexibility of other banks’ CDs. Should market rates rise during its term, Ally’s heavily advertised “Raise Your Rate” CD allows customers to upwardly adjust their vehicle’s interest rate once during a two-year term and twice during a four-year term. Ally also offers a “No Penalty” CD that gives early withdrawal privileges at any point during its 11-month term without requiring users to give up any earned interest or pay any additional fees. That option simply isn’t available at Capital One 360.
- Low Interest Rates on Business Savings Products. For consumers, 360 Savings’s 0.75% interest rate is competitive – though Ally’s currently sits at 1.00% and hasn’t moved much over the past six months. For businesses, though, 360 looks pretty weak. Its business savings rate is just 0.40%, and its business CD payouts mirror those of its consumer-facing CDs. By contrast, Ally’s higher-yield accounts are just fine for small businesses, and other well-known banks offer more attractive rates on business CDs.
- No Hands-On Investment Guidance. To its credit, Capital One 360 honestly portrays Sharebuilder for what it is: a discount brokerage that’s perfectly serviceable for DIY investors and retirement planners. While it does have a solid customer support service, including live chat and phone options, it doesn’t make true investment experts available to rank-and-file customers. Investors who don’t like to make weighty decisions on their own – or who simply need to get oriented with the world of investing – may wish to start with a full-service broker. However, compared to truly bare-bones brokerages such as TradeKing, Sharebuilder makes reasonable accommodations for novices and non-experts.
- Middling Mortgage Rates. Capital One 360’s best home loan rates currently exceed the national benchmark – about 3.95% – by 30 basis points (0.3%). On a $200,000, 30-year loan, that represents a premium of several thousand dollars. Unless you can get a special deal through the bank’s lending office, you may want to look elsewhere for a market-rate mortgage loan.
- Limited Phone Support Hours. Capital One 360 has a pretty robust customer care infrastructure that includes an impressive “knowledge database” of help topics and FAQs. However, many banking customers still like to talk to a live person about potential problems, and the bank is less steady on this front. Unlike Ally’s 24-hour phone bank, 360’s call center is only open for 12 hours per day (8am to 8pm, Central Standard Time), although it does keep to those hours on weekends. The company claims to respond to emailed requests within 24 hours, so that might be a better route for customers with in-depth questions to take.
Capital One 360 is a full-service online bank that offers checking, savings, investment, and business products. It places a clear emphasis on financial education and ease of use, but it’s not perfect – it lacks many of the user-friendly features that older online banks, such as Ally Bank, have honed over the years. Although its kid-friendly services are truly impressive – few banks advertise custodial brokerage and checking accounts so prominently – it also seems to take a DIY approach to money management. This is especially true for its Sharebuilder brokerage, which has the potential to alienate and confuse inexperienced investors.
The bottom line is, if you’re relatively comfortable with managing your own finances and need a convenient place to stash cash for personal needs or small business operations, you should seriously consider Capital One 360. If DIY investing, saving, and asset management make you uncomfortable, look elsewhere – at least to start.
What has your experience been with Capital One 360?