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

At a Glance
fnbodirect
4.2 / 5
Rating

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FNBO Direct

  • Accounts: Checking, savings, CDs
  • Bonuses: None
  • Monthly Maintenance Fees: None
  • Minimum Deposit Requirements: $1 for checking and savings accounts, $500 for CDs
  • Benefits: Mobile apps for Android and iOS, P2P money transfers

FNBO 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 cash rewards credit card that’s exclusive to account holders (but is contingent on qualification).

Key Features

Savings Account

FNBO’s online savings account yields 1.85% APY 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. By federal law, you’re limited to 6 savings account withdrawals per month.

Interest Checking Account

The interest-bearing checking account yields 0.65% APY 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.

FNBO’s interest checking 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, which should be plenty for most customers. 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 8 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%)
  • 60 months (1.15%)

CDs with terms between 6 and 12 months carry an early withdrawal penalty equivalent to 3 months’ interest, while all other CDs carry a penalty equivalent to 6 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.

Tributary Funds

FNBO Direct customers can invest in the Tributary Funds, a group of mutual funds managed by First National Bank subsidiary Tributary Capital Management. There are 6 available funds:

  • Balanced Fund (FOBAX), a moderate allocation option
  • Growth Opportunities Fund (FOGRX), a mid-cap growth fund
  • Small Company Fund (FOSCX), a small blend fund
  • Income Fund (FOINX), an intermediate-term bond fund
  • Short-Intermediate Bond Fund (FOSIX), a short-term bond fund
  • Nebraska Tax-Free Fund (FONPX), which offers long exposure to tax-free municipal bond funds from Nebraska

Compared with low-cost index funds used by virtual robo-advisors and fee-only financial advisors, these funds’ expense ratios are on the high side. Risk-wise, they run the gamut from conservative to moderately aggressive. You’ll want to consult a financial advisor or, at minimum, read each prospectus carefully before investing.

If you do choose to invest in the Tributary Funds, you can streamline your experience with an automatic investment option (which includes rebalancing and auto-invest) starting at $50 per month. The minimum investment amount is $1,000 for each fund. You can invest directly by opening an account with Tributary, work with a First National financial advisor as an intermediary (likely the most expensive option), or use an online brokerage platform.

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.

With the ExtraEarnings Visa, all qualifying purchases accrue points at a rate of 1 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 – 2 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 supports 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 6 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 2 to 3 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 high-functioning Android and iOS apps available for download. However, the website itself is sorely lacking in the mobile department, so if you’re used to accessing your bank accounts from your smartphone, you’ll need to download the app.

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 4 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 $5,000 opening deposit and minimum balance. Ally Bank and Capital One 360‘s interest checking accounts both have lower prevailing yields, especially on smaller balances.
  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. Competitive Savings Yield. FNBO Direct’s savings account yields 1.85% APY on all balances, in line with top competitors like Ally Bank (1.80% APY) and just a hair shy of best-in-class banks like Bank5 Connect (2.05% APY).
  4. 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.
  5. Impressive Bonus on Rewards Credit Card. Although having an 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’ 1-point-per-$1-spent rewards system isn’t Earth-shattering, but the introductory bonus (2 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). If you’re a big spender, ExtraEarnings is a better deal.
  6. 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 aren’t yet synced with the service.
  7. 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. 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, EverBank’s 60-month product yields 2.30%. 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 EverBank, which has high minimums for its high-yield checking accounts.
  3. 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 4 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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 – check that link often, as the deals change frequently.

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
fnbodirect
4.2 / 5
Rating

Open Now

FNBO Direct

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, CD yields aren’t the best, and a lack of retirement options and account opening bonuses may alienate some prospects.

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 CD yields, high overdraft fees, and no opening bonuses count against it. Overall, this is a fine online bank for everyday needs.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Comments Disclosure: The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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