What's the Deal: Is virtual banking for you?

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ByNydia Han via WPVI logo
Thursday, December 3, 2015

If you're sick of your traditional bank, think about switching to a virtual bank - some experts say making the switch could pay off.

Evolving technology is dramatically changing the way people bank and we're not just talking about doing SOME of your banking online.

A recent Consumer Reports survey found about one in ten subscribers has switched to a virtual bank, which is a bank that exists primarily on the web.

Jay Driggers says for the most part, he has given up on traditional banking. He's able to do just about everything online with his new bank that doesn't have any branches at all.

Why did he switch?

"Convenience, number one. And then number two, I get a much better rate on my savings account than I can with a regular branch, you know, that I could walk into," said Jay.

Virtual banks like USAA Bank, Schwab Bank, EverBank, Discover Bank, and Ally Bank that are online or primarily online get high scores in a Consumer Reports' survey of its subscribers.

"Our survey showed that those readers who used virtual banks were highly satisfied, the highest levels of satisfaction we've seen with any service we've rated. That contrasts sharply with readers who use the biggest banks," said Margot Gilman from Consumer Reports.

Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Bank of America all get relatively poor scores for their fees and only average scores for customer service.

In general, virtual banks offer higher interest rates on savings.

For instance, Discover Bank pays .95 percent, whereas Chase and Wells Fargo pay as little as point .01 percent.

To get cash, customers can use a network of fee-free ATMs. If they use other banks' ATMs, they're often reimbursed for the fees.

"And despite having almost no branches or tellers, all eight of the virtual banks in the Consumer Reports survey did well at communicating with their customers," said Margot.

Still, if you like having a personal relationship at your bank, virtual banking might not be for you.

Credit unions are another type of financial institution that did well in Consumer Reports' survey.

Credit unions get kudos for customer service and low fees and they also can offer more personal service.

Switching banks can be a bit complicated, though.

For advice on how to switch banks, visit: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/banks-credit-unions/buying-guide.htm