Considering downloading the Current app? Here’s everything you should know about the fintech company – its fees, benefits, money management features and potential drawbacks – so you can decide whether it’s right for you.
It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has affected some sectors of the U.S. economy more than others. Travel, tourism and restaurants have been some of the hardest-hit industries, whereas construction and manufacturing, though not entirely unscathed by the crisis, are faring better. In certain areas – fintech among them – COVID-19 has even been the catalyst for growth.
Just ask Current, a fintech startup whose customer base doubled in less than six months as the pandemic spurred consumers to turn to digital technology as a way to manage their money and avoid using cash. By focusing on its core demographic – the estimated 130 million Americans who live paycheck to paycheck – Current was already positioned to respond to essential workers’ needs, who make up nearly half of the country’s lower-wage earners as the outbreak hit the U.S.
Keep reading to learn more about Current, the banking services it offers and how it could help you access your paycheck up to two days faster than usual.
What is Current Bank?
Founded in 2015, Current is a mobile banking app and Visa debit card with a stated mission to lower the barriers to financial inclusion for people who traditional banks often overlook. Former Wall Street trader Stuart Sopp created the company “after recognizing that the growing inequality gap could be addressed through innovation in technology to improve financial outcomes for everyone.”
The so-called challenger bank – which launched a product for teens, a custodial account paired with a debit card that parents can monitor and manage via an app, in 2017 – started offering basic and premium checking accounts in early 2019. With features such as free ATM withdrawals, no hidden fees and no minimum balance requirements, a Current account is designed to keep more money in your pocket.
(Note: Since it doesn’t have its own charter, Current isn’t technically a bank; instead, the fintech partners with Metropolitan Commercial Bank and Choice Financial Group to issue its Visa cards.)
Current Bank features and tools
When you sign up for Current, you have your choice of two plans – basic and premium checking. Here’s what you can expect to get with each one:
|Basic checking (free)||Premium checking ($4.99/month)|
Both accounts include free ATM withdrawals and no minimum balance requirements, as well as 24/7 member support and mobile check deposit. Though the fintech company doesn’t have any physical locations, Current members do have the ability to deposit cash at more than 60,000 participating retail chains, including Dollar General, 7-Eleven, CVS and Walmart.
If you don’t need anything more than a way to receive (and spend) your paycheck, a basic account might suit you well. But as you can see in the chart above, Current’s premium account offers additional perks, one of which is that any temporary holds placed on your card at the gas pump are refunded right back to you, so you won’t have to wait for the authorization to “fall off” before you can spend that money.
For people who live paycheck to paycheck, this could be a godsend: Considering hold amounts are often $100 (and sometimes more), it can make the difference between paying a bill on time and falling behind.
And that’s not the only advantage you’d enjoy as a Premium account holder, either.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest benefits of a Current account is getting paid up to two days faster than a regular bank when you enroll in direct deposit. That’s because Current makes your paycheck available immediately upon receipt of payment information instead of posting funds at settlement.
The average bank overdraft fee is $35. But according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the median debit card transaction that leads to an overdraft fee is just $24, meaning you’re basically paying an extraordinarily high interest rate for a very short-term, small-dollar loan. What’s more, these fees disproportionately impact lower-wage earners – the same people Current was created to serve, which is why the fintech allows qualifying Premium members to overdraft up to $100 in debit card transactions with no fees.
The Overdrive feature requires premium account holders to have at least $500 per month in direct deposits from an employer. (Current considers your account history and spending activity when evaluating your eligibility for overdraft protection, too.) If you qualify and opt-in, any debit card purchases that exceed your balance are covered up to your Overdrive limit, which starts low but can reach up to $100 overtime.
The next time you get paid, Current deducts the amount of the overdraft to resolve your negative balance without charging a penalty. (Note that checks, ATM withdrawals and other payment types don’t qualify for overdraft protection.)
Cash back benefits
There are tons of cash back credit cards available, but cash back debit cards are still the exception rather than the rule. Somewhat similar to card-linked offer programs that offer deals on everyday spending, Current members can earn up to 15X points when they swipe their debit card at one of 14,000-plus participating merchants, including Burger King, Subway, True Value, Forever 21 and Cold Stone Creamery. All rewards offers can be found on a map in the Current app, and new offers are added regularly.
Points are redeemed for cash at the rate of 100 points per dollar. You can apply points to your premium subscription fee, but you don’t need to be a premium member to earn rewards; basic members can also take advantage of this feature.
Money management tools
Whether you’re thinking about quitting your existing bank or upgrading from a basic prepaid debit card, Current may offer the kind of money-management tools you need to make the switch.
For instance, premium members can create up to three Savings Pods to set aside money for things like an emergency fund, a big upcoming purchase or a vacation. You can move funds to and from your checking account, as well as have your purchases rounded up to the nearest dollar, with the difference automatically moved over when the transaction finalizes. (Basic members can create only one Savings Pod.)
Current’s Budget tool also lets you establish monthly limits for the kind of spending you do most, whether that’s groceries, gas or your daily coffee run. Premium members can create budgets for as many spending categories as they like, whereas basic account holders can have only one.
You’ll receive an alert if you get too close to your limit in any particular category, but Current won’t decline any transactions that would put you over budget. You can simply use the tool to get a handle on where your money is going and make adjustments along the way.
Current Bank vs. Mint and other money management apps
For instance, the Current app doesn’t allow you to connect any third-party financial accounts, which means you won’t have a big-picture view of your finances all in one place. You also won’t be able to create detailed goals for things such as paying off debt or get an all-inclusive breakdown of your spending across categories, which is helping for spotting trends and identifying areas that you can cut back.
Should you download the Current app?
The answer to that question depends on where you’re currently banking, your overall financial goals and whether you’re willing to pay for a premium membership to get more out of the app. For essential workers (who comprise around 80% of Current users) and others who live paycheck to paycheck, getting their hands on the money they’ve already worked for up to two days faster could be reason enough to shell out the monthly $4.99 fee for a premium account.
However, if you require more functionality than what a Current premium membership can offer, or if you can’t justify paying for something you can get for free elsewhere, Current may end up being another unused app taking up space on your smartphone.