FNBO Direct

FNBO Direct Review – No Frills, Online High-Yield Checking Account

AT A GLANCE

Rating: 4

FNBO Direct Open Now

Published or updated: April 16, 2015


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fnbodirectFNBO Direct is the online banking arm of First National Bank of Omaha, itself a subsidiary of financial conglomerate First National of Nebraska. While First National Bank of Omaha’s physical branches and account holders are confined to several states in the middle of the country, FNBO Direct accounts are available to anyone with a U.S. address.

FNBO sets itself apart with a high-yield checking account that features no minimum daily balance, no recurring fees, and a nominal opening deposit of just $1. It also has a savings account and multiple CDs, all of which have decent but not spectacular yields, and all of which come with FDIC insurance up to $250,000 per account. Additional perks include person-to-person transfers via Popmoney, Apple Pay functionality, and a Visa-branded rewards credit card that’s exclusive to account holders (but is contingent on qualification).

Key Features

  • Savings Account. FNBO’s online savings account yields 0.75% on all balances, requires a minimum opening deposit of just $1, and doesn’t require a minimum balance thereafter. There’s no monthly maintenance fee.
  • Interest Checking Account. The interest-bearing checking account yields 0.65% on all balances and comes with an ATM card. Like the savings account, its required opening deposit is just $1, and there’s no minimum balance requirement thereafter. The account doesn’t come with any monthly maintenance fees or ATM fees, though FNBO does not reimburse out-of-network ATM fees. The maximum balance for each account is $1 million. Although the account doesn’t come with paper checks, you can use FNBO’s free BillPay system to make payments between $5 and $10,000.
  • Multiple CD Options. FNBO Direct offers eight distinct CDs, all of which require a minimum opening deposit and ongoing balance of $500, and a maximum deposit and balance of $1 million. Terms and yields are: 6 months (0.16%), 9 months (0.26%), 12 months (0.31%), 18 months (0.41%), 24 months (0.50%), 36 months (0.70%), 48 months (0.90%), and 60 months (1.15%). CDs with terms between 6 and 12 months carry an early withdrawal penalty equivalent to three months’ interest, while all other CDs carry a penalty equivalent to six months’ interest. At maturity, all CDs automatically renew after a 10-day grace period during which you can ask for your funds to be withdrawn.
  • ExtraEarnings Visa Card. All FNBO Direct account holders can apply for the bank’s ExtraEarnings Visa card, a no-fee rewards credit card, as long as they have a FNBO checking or savings account. All card purchases accrue points at a rate of one per $1 spent, with no earning caps or bonus categories, rotating or permanent. During the first 12 billing cycles (months), points accrue at double the normal rate – two points per $1 – also with no caps. Once you accrue 2,500 points, equivalent to $25 cash, you can redeem them as a statement credit or cash deposit to the FNBO account of your choosing. It’s important to note that having a FNBO account doesn’t automatically entitle you to the ExtraEarnings card. To secure approval, your credit history and score need to meet FNBO’s standards, which the bank doesn’t reveal publicly.
  • Person-to-Person Payments via Popmoney. FNBO Direct facilitates person-to-person payments and transfers via Popmoney, a mobile-friendly app that lets you transfer funds between your checking or savings accounts and other U.S. bank accounts. You are, however, limited by law to six outbound savings transfers per month. Popmoney is similar to PayPal: You don’t need to exchange bank account information with other transferees, just an email address and phone number. The program lets you initiate outgoing transfers and request incoming transfers (payments), both of which are free. Transfers typically take two to three business days, but you can opt for next-business-day transfers for $10 per transaction.
  • Access to Apple Pay. FNBO Direct’s checking account is compatible with Apple Pay, a mobile payment system that lets you make purchases directly from your phone. To sync your FNBO account with Apple Pay, you need to open an Apple Pay account and take a picture of your FNBO debit card or manually enter your account information. You can only use Apple Pay at merchants that have signed up for the service – look for the Apple Pay logo in the storefront window or checkout area.
  • Mobile Banking. FNBO Direct has a mobile-friendly customer interface that lets you access all of your accounts and features from a mobile device. The bank also has high-functioning Android and iOS apps available for download.
  • Overdraft Protection. FNBO Direct has an opt-in overdraft protection program that assesses a one-time fee of $33 per transaction, up to a maximum of four transactions per day (for a maximum daily overdraft charge of $132). The bank does waive this fee for your first overdraft in a given calendar year. If you choose not to opt into the program, any transactions that would normally result in an overdraft (including debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals) will simply fail.
  • Customer Support. FNBO Direct offers several different types of customer support: an extensive FAQ section, a customer support email address, and a 24-7 hotline with live representatives at the other end. Phone wait times are usually minimal, though things can get backed up during busy periods, such as weekday evenings.

Advantages

1. Checking Account Offers Attractive Flexibility and Above-Average Yield
FNBO Direct’s checking account is arguably its most distinctive product. With a 0.65% APY, no minimum balance requirements, virtually no minimum opening deposit requirement, and no tiered interest rates, it’s more straightforward than many competing accounts that use gimmicks to appear better on paper. For instance, EverBank‘s High-Yield Checking Account has a higher headline yield, but requires a $1,500 opening deposit and minimum balance. Likewise, Ally’s checking account only yields 0.10% on balances up to $15,000. Capital One 360‘s yields just 0.20% on balances up to $50,000.

2. Low or Nonexistent Opening Deposits and Balances
FNBO Direct’s checking and savings accounts both have a nominal minimum opening deposit of $1, and no minimum balance fees thereafter. The bank’s CDs have a fairly low minimum opening deposit and minimum balance requirement – $500 on both counts. This compares favorably to other online banks, including EverBank ($1,500 minimum opening deposit on all accounts) and Bank of Internet USA (minimum balance of $100 required to earn interest).

3. Popmoney Transfers Are Free in Both Directions
FNBO’s person-to-person Popmoney transfers are free to send and receive. This isn’t always the case with other banks that partner with Popmoney. For instance, Ally Bank charges $0.95 per payment sent. While that’s not an extortionate fee, it can quickly add up if you frequently send money.

4. Impressive Bonus on Rewards Credit Card
Although having a FNBO account isn’t enough to qualify you for an ExtraEarnings Visa card, it’s a requirement to apply for one. Many FNBO customers, depending on credit score and credit history, can expect to be approved.

ExtraEarnings’ one-point-per-$1-spent rewards system isn’t Earth-shattering, but the introductory bonus (two points per $1 spent) equates to 2% cash back on all purchases, regardless of purchase category. Since it doesn’t come with a cap on the number of bonus points you can earn, this could be a superior alternative to rewards cards with rotating, capped bonus categories.

For instance, Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back on purchases in categories – grocery stores, for example – that rotate quarterly, but caps the bonus at $1,500 in total category purchases ($75 in total rewards cash). And many online banks, including Ally Bank, omit rewards credit cards altogether.

5. Apple Pay Compatibility Is a Nice Bonus
FNBO Direct is compatible with Apple Pay, making it easy for customers to pay for purchases at participating merchants without swiping a debit card or carrying cash. Though Apple Pay is increasing its reach, many popular online banks – including Ally Bank and TIAA Direct – aren’t yet synced with the service.

6. Responsive, 24/7 Customer Service
FNBO Direct has a solid customer support apparatus that includes live, round-the-clock phone support and timely responses to emailed queries. However, unlike some online banks (notably Ally Bank), FNBO doesn’t post call center wait times online.

But its customer service offerings are far ahead of many other competitors: Bank5 Connect’s phone team is mostly available during weekday business hours and some limited weekend hours, while Bank of Internet USA’s is only available on weekdays.

Disadvantages

1. No Loans or Commercial Financing
Aside from the ExtraEarnings Visa card, FNBO Direct’s credit offerings are nonexistent. The company doesn’t provide auto, home, or commercial loans, nor does it offer secured lines of credit, such as home equity lines. That compares unfavorably with Ally Bank, which offers auto loans and commercial financing, and Capital One 360, which provides mortgage loans.

2. Savings Yield Is Low
FNBO Direct’s savings account yields 0.75% on all balances. While this is a good deal better than many traditional banks’ savings yields, which can be as low as 0.05%, it doesn’t match popular online competitors. For instance, Ally Bank’s savings account yields 0.99%, and GE Capital Bank‘s yields 0.90%.

3. CD Yields Compare Unfavorably to Some Competitors
FNBO Direct’s CD offerings are also somewhat lackluster. The company’s 60-month CD yields 1.15%. By contrast, GE Capital Bank’s 60-month product yields 2.25%. Given that discrepancy, it makes sense to maintain a relatively high-yield checking account with FNBO Direct and keep longer-term savings in a CD with GE Capital Bank (which doesn’t offer checking accounts).

4. Overdraft Fees Are on the High Side
Fees for FNBO Direct’s opt-in overdraft protection plan are definitely on the high side. The bank charges $33 per overdraft transaction, up to a maximum of $132 per day, or four overdrafts. That’s significantly more than what many competing banks charge, including Ally Bank ($9 per transaction) and TIAA Direct ($25 per transaction, up to a $75 daily limit).

5. No Retirement Options
FNBO Direct doesn’t offer any in-house options for retirement savers or investors. While the majority of online banks lack an in-house brokerage, many allow customers to structure CDs, money markets, and even savings accounts as tax-protected retirement accounts – notably traditional, Roth, and (occasionally) SEP IRAs. Popular banks that offer retirement options include Ally Bank and Optimizer Plus by Synchrony Bank.

6. No Account Opening Bonuses
Although such things are subject to change with temporary promotions and incentives, FNBO Direct doesn’t offer any account opening bonuses, and hasn’t been known to do so in the past. This is an inconvenience for customers who want to juice their opening deposits with some of their new bank’s money. Other online banks offer generous incentives for new customers, such as Capital One 360 ($50 account opening bonus) and Nationwide Bank ($200 account opening bonus).

Final Word

True to its heartland roots, FNBO Direct is a straightforward online bank that’s built on simple, universal values: great service, convenient accounts, and above-average functionality. An easy-to-use but visually bland website epitomizes the bank’s practicality and humbleness.

However, FNBO Direct isn’t perfect – no online bank is. It’s missing several features that would be necessary for it to serve as a true one-stop shop for customers with complex needs. You won’t find a brokerage, retirement options, personal loans, or commercial financing here.

Given the above-average checking yield and surprisingly attractive Visa rewards credit card, FNBO Direct is great for your day-to-day spending and money management needs. For longer-term savings, superior options are just a click away.

Verdict

FNBO Direct is a no-frills online bank that’s great for customers who want to earn an attractive yield on their checking balances without sticking to minimum deposit or balance requirements. The Visa-branded cash rewards card (ExtraEarnings) further sweetens the deal, and fringe perks like free P2P money transfers and Apple Pay functionality are nice too. On the other hand, savings and CD yields aren’t the best, and a lack of retirement options and account opening bonuses may alienate some prospects.

Score

4.1 out of 5 stars: FNBO Direct gets high marks for its attractive checking account yields, solid rewards credit card, low minimum deposits and balances, and good customer service. Low savings and CD yields, high overdraft fees, and no opening bonuses count against it.

Published or updated: April 16, 2015

Categories: Banking, Money Management, Reviews

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