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UFB Direct Review – Online Banking With Airline Rewards

At a Glance
Ufb Direct Logo
3.8 / 5
Rating

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UFB Direct

  • Accounts: Airline Rewards Checking, UFB Direct High-Interest Savings, UFB Premium Savings, UFB High Yield Money Market
  • Bonuses: 1,000 bonus AAdvantage miles when you make your first direct deposit totaling $1,000 or more into the Airline Rewards Checking account
  • Monthly Maintenance Fees: $10 monthly maintenance fee on the money market account (waived with a $5,000 minimum balance)
  • Minimum Deposit Requirements: $100 for checking and savings; $5,000 for money market
  • Benefits: Free P2P transfers, ongoing airline mile earnings (1 AAdvantage mile per $3 spent on point of sale purchases), mobile check deposit, FinanceWorks

UFB Direct is a subsidiary of BofI Federal Bank, a diversified financial services firm that administers deposit accounts and credit products for everyday consumers, small businesses, and commercial enterprises. Consumers are most likely to interact with BofI Federal Bank through Bank of Internet USA, another online banking subsidiary. Anyone with a U.S. address can make deposits and apply for loans.

UFB Direct has a limited but distinctive lineup of deposit accounts, including a checking, savings, and money market option. The most distinctive is definitely Airline Rewards Checking. When you make a purchase with your Airline Rewards Checking debit card, you earn miles that can be redeemed through participating airline loyalty programs.

Like many other U.S.-based online banks, UFB Direct provides FDIC insurance up to $250,000 on all deposit accounts. In addition, the bank offers some nice value-added perks, including enrollment in Quicken’s FinanceWorks, a free, powerful budgeting and money-management tool, and MyDeposit, which lets you make check deposits right from your home or office desktop computer.

UFB Direct also offers mortgage loans for single-family home purchases. Its site does list more exotic mortgage products, such as multifamily mortgages and reverse mortgages, but these are actually available only through BofI Federal Bank.

Key Features

Airline Rewards Checking Account

UFB Direct’s standout account is Airline Rewards Checking, which accumulates 1 airline mile for every $3 in point of sale purchases, up to a limit of 120,000 miles in a calendar year.

American Airlines’ AAdvantage program has participated since Airline Rewards Checking was launched, but other airlines may also work with UFB Direct, so check with the bank for an up-to-date list of carriers.

Whichever rewards program you choose, your miles or points are credited to your account on a monthly basis. There’s also a 1-time bonus of 1,000 miles when you make your first direct deposit totaling $1,000 or more.

Airline Rewards Checking requires a minimum deposit of $100 to open, but there’s no minimum balance or fee thereafter. Another major perk is unlimited ATM fee reimbursements for all U.S. withdrawals, regardless of who owns the ATM. You also get a free book of checks and Visa-branded debit/ATM card when you open this account.

UFB Direct High-Interest Savings Account

This account requires a minimum opening deposit of $100. There’s no monthly maintenance fee or minimum balance requirement after that. The yield is 0.20% APY on balances up to $20,000, and 1.00% APY on balances above that amount. When you open your account, you get a free ATM card, but mind the legally mandated limit of 6 withdrawals in a statement cycle. If you exceed that limit, you’ll pay a $10 fee for each additional transaction.

UFB Premium Savings Account

This account requires a minimum opening deposit of $100, but there’s no minimum balance or monthly maintenance fee thereafter. The yield is 0.20% APY on balances up to $25,000, and 1.30% APY on balances above that amount. You get a free ATM card with account opening, though you’re limited by law from making more than 6 withdrawals in a statement cycle. If you exceed that, you’re charged $10 for each additional transaction.

UFB High Yield Money Market Account

This account requires a $5,000 minimum opening deposit. There’s technically no minimum balance requirement, though the only way to waive the $10 monthly maintenance fee is to maintain a minimum daily balance of $5,000. The yield is 1.60% APY on all balances. Like the UFB Premium Savings Account, the UFB High Yield Money Market Account comes with a free, optional Visa-branded debit/ATM card and free optional checks, though the same monthly withdrawal limits and excess transaction fees apply.

Mortgage Loans

UFB Direct offers a wide range of home loans through BofI Federal:

Person-to-Person (P2P) Transfers

UFB Direct lets you make free person-to-person (P2P) transfers from your checking account using Popmoney, a third-party service. This feature is useful if you need to split the bill at lunch or settle a small debt on the go and don’t have enough cash on hand.

UFB Direct also integrates with third-party mobile wallet apps like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay. These services have their own idiosyncrasies and may charge transfer fees, so be sure to read the fine print.

Customer Support

UFB Direct’s customer support team is available by phone on weekdays from 6am to 6pm Eastern Standard Time. There’s no weekend availability, though automated phone banking features such as balance checks are available 24-7. Emailed queries typically produce a response within one business day.

Mobile App

UFB Direct has a mobile app that works with Android and iOS operating systems and has many of the features and functions available on the desktop site. You can also use its Mobile Deposit feature to make mobile check deposits from anywhere with a cellular connection. Simply snap a photo of the front and back of your check and follow the prompts, and the deposit appears in your account.

FinanceWorks

UFB Direct integrates with FinanceWorks, a dashboard system that lets you see all your financial accounts in one place. FinanceWorks’ cash flow analysis tools show you how you’re spending your money and can help identify opportunities to tighten up your budget.

Advantages

1. Airline Rewards Checking Is Great for Travelers
Airline Rewards Checking earns you 1 American Airline AAdvantage mile for every $3 you spend on point of sale purchases. You may be able to earn miles from other carriers too – check with UFB Direct for a current list of participating airlines.

Airline Rewards Checking isa nice alternative to travel rewards credit cards for folks whose credit might be overstretched, or who simply don’t want to apply for yet another piece of plastic. Only a handful of online banks offer airline rewards as a customer benefit. Many of the most popular do not, including Ally Bank, FNBO Direct, and Capital One 360.

2. Deposit Checks From Anywhere
These days, mobile check deposit is pretty much standard at online banks, and UFB Direct is no exception. With UFB Direct’s Mobile Deposit feature, you simply snap a couple of photos with your phone, follow the online prompts, and watch your account balance rise. There’s also a cool desktop check deposit feature called MyDeposit – the likes of which isn’t available at many other online banks. It functions much the same as Mobile Deposit, except you scan your check instead of photographing it.

3. Free P2P Transfers Are Nice
UFB Direct lets customers make free P2P transfers through Popmoney, a third-party service. Popmoney is a great way to handle informal cost-sharing situations, such as splitting a restaurant bill, without using cash.

Many online banks don’t offer P2P transfers at all. Others levy charges for certain types of transfers.

4. Reasonable Excessive-Transaction Fee
Due to federal restrictions on how frequently one can withdraw funds from a savings or money market account, virtually every online bank imposes an excessive-transaction fee for withdrawals above the 6-per-month limit. At $10 per transaction, UFB Direct’s fee is pretty reasonable. For comparison, Synchrony Bank charges $20 per transaction.

5. FinanceWorks Is a Nice Extra Perk
UFB Direct provides FinanceWorks, a Quicken-powered personal accounting program, to every depositor at no additional charge. If you’re looking for an easy way to organize your finances without creating your own spreadsheets or investing in potentially costly accounting software, it’s hard to do better. Some popular online banks, including Ally Bank, don’t see clear to offer FinanceWorks or any similar program as a fringe benefit.

6. Unlimited ATM Reimbursements Helps
Speaking of fringe benefits, UFB Direct’s checking account comes with a pretty attractive perk: unlimited ATM reimbursements at any machine in the United States. This is particularly useful for people who travel a lot (the Airline Rewards Checking account’s core audience) and either don’t want to carry all the cash they need on each trip or aren’t sure they’re going to be near fee-free ATMs. Very few other online banks offer unlimited ATM reimbursements – $10 to $15 per month is more typical.

7. Solid Money Market Yields
UFB Direct’s money market account has a pretty solid yield: 1.60% APY on all balances, though you’ll need to maintain a $5,000 minimum balance to avoid the $10 monthly maintenance fee. This rate is above average, even among online banks.

Disadvantages

1. No CDs
There’s a major gap in UFB Direct’s deposit account offerings: it does not offer CDs. As CDs are relatively safe and predictable – and typically come with higher yields than savings, money market, and interest-bearing checking accounts – this is a big drawback for savers.

Popular online banks typically have at least a handful of CDs of various yields and term lengths. For instance, Ally Bank‘s CD yields range up to 2.00%, while GE Capital Bank‘s crest above 2.20%.

2. No Retirement Options
UFB Direct also doesn’t offer tax-advantaged retirement accounts, such as IRAs. This is a significant disadvantage for long-term savers looking to shield their nest eggs from federal taxation. Many online banks, including Synchrony Bank and Nationwide Bank, allow customers to structure money market accounts and CDs as traditional, Roth, or SEP IRAs, and occasionally as more novel retirement products.

3. High Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements for Money Market
UFB Direct’s money market account requires you to keep $5,000 in it at all times, or else you’re charged a hefty monthly maintenance fee of $10. That’s quite a burden for rank-and-file customers, particularly those who lack large savings reserves or have their savings tied up in other, less liquid vehicles such as CDs with other banks. For comparison, Ally Bank doesn’t require any minimum balance in its money market account, and never charges a maintenance fee.

4. Very Limited Credit Offerings
Aside from mortgage loans for single-family home purchases, UFB Direct doesn’t have much in the way of credit products. You can’t get a personal loan, auto loan, student loan, home equity loan or line of credit, or even a home refinance loan.

Other online banks have a much better selection of credit options. For example, Discover Bank has an impressive lineup of branded credit cards, while Nationwide Bank boasts personal, auto, and specialty vehicle loans.

Final Word

My wife and I weren’t always frequent travelers. We used to take just a handful of multi-day car trips per year.

These days, we’re on the road more often. It was a pretty big deal when we finally signed up for an airline rewards program, reasoning that as we always seemed to take the same airline out of our local airport, it would be silly to ignore the opportunity to get a free flight down the road.

That was before UFB Direct was on my radar. Now that it is, I’m seriously considering opening a UFB Direct checking account just for the airline rewards benefits. With no monthly maintenance fee or minimum balance requirement, I figure it’s worthwhile even if we only marginally shorten the time it takes to earn that free flight. Fellow occasional fliers, take note.

Verdict
Ufb Direct Logo
3.8 / 5
Rating

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UFB Direct

UFB Direct‘s best feature is definitely its Airline Rewards Checking account, which allows you to earn airline miles through everyday purchases without signing up for a carrier-specific credit card – unlimited ATM reimbursements only sweeten the deal. Value-added perks such as FinanceWorks and free Popmoney transfers help around the margins, as does mortgage loan access.

Honestly, though, little else about UFB is distinctive enough to warrant mention, with the possible exception of the above-average money market yield. And with limited credit offerings and a high minimum deposits for the money market account, you can easily find better non-checking options elsewhere.

Airline Rewards Checking is the big standout, both for the airline rewards and the unlimited ATM reimbursements. Free P2P transfers and the high-ish money market yields help too.

However, no CD or retirement options and restrictive money market account policies detract from the overall picture. If you don’t fly often, think twice before opening a new account with UFB Direct.

 

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 credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach 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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