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Innovations and Payment Systems

T-Mobile MONEY guide: fees, benefits, how it works

Looking for a mobile alternative to traditional checking accounts? T-Mobile MONEY might be one of your options. Here’s what you need to know

Summary

T-Mobile MONEY is an online-only checking account that lets you deposit checks, pay bills and send money through your smartphone. Intrigued? Here’s a full guide to T-Mobile MONEY.

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Consumers today have plenty of alternatives to traditional savings and checking accounts – everything from credit unions and online-only banks to financial apps offered by companies that aren’t even financial institutions.

One of the most recent additions to the growing list of banking alternatives is T-Mobile MONEY. This online-only checking account allows customers to deposit money, pay bills and send money, all through their smartphones.

Is T-Mobile MONEY a good option for you? It could be, depending on whether you already pay for wireless service from T-Mobile.

If you’re considering signing up for T-Mobile MONEY, here’s everything you need to know, including benefits, fees, requirements and other alternatives to online and mobile checking accounts.

See related: How to protect your cards and accounts online

What is T-Mobile MONEY?

T-Mobile MONEY is an online checking account that provides a host of benefits tailored to people who seek higher interest rates and lower fees.

  • The biggest plus is its 4 percent APY. That APY is high, but it is only available to MONEY account holders who are also enrolled in a T-Mobile wireless phone plan.
  • The 4 percent APR only applies on balances up to and including $3,000. The APR on balances higher than $3,000 earn just 1 percent APY. That does lessen, then, how attractive this perk is.

What benefits does T-Mobile MONEY offer?

T-Mobile MONEY does offer other benefits, though.

  • Got Your Back feature
    , which provides overdraft protection of up to $50. Again, though, to take advantage of this perk, you must have a T-Mobile wireless plan.
  • No overdraft fees, no account fees and no maintenance fees. Customers aren’t required to keep a minimum balance in their T-Mobile MONEY accounts.

The program does include many of the features of a traditional checking account.

  • Customers have access to 55,000 no-fee ATMs.
  • Direct deposit, online bill pay and free money transfers to external accounts.
  • Customers can use the service to send money to friends, too.
  • It’s possible to set up recurring payments.

How does T-Mobile MONEY work?

You can sign up, make mobile check deposits, set up direct deposits, send a check, pay with Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay and anything else you’d normally do with a checking account directly through T-Mobile MONEY’s mobile app or website.

John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, said the service was designed for consumers who do most of their banking on their mobile devices.

“Traditional banks aren’t mobile-first, and they’re definitely not customer-first,” Legere said in a news release. “As more and more people use their smartphones to manage money, we saw an opportunity to address another customer pain point.”

On the downside? Customers can use out-of-network ATMs, but the fees they incur using them aren’t rebated.

T-Mobile, of course, isn’t a bank. But the company is working with Customers Bank, which is the actual banking entity behind T-Mobile MONEY, to offer this service.

Does T-Mobile MONEY offer a card?

Yes. T-Mobile-MONEY comes with a Mastercard debit card you can use at more than 55,000 Allpoint ATMs worldwide at no charge.

The card offers Mastercard Zero Liability Protection, according to T-Mobile MONEY’s website.

How do you apply for T-Mobile MONEY?

  • To sign up, download the T-Mobile MONEY app from the App Store or Google Play.
  • You can also sign up online.
  • You must be 18 and have a government-issued ID or state-issued driver’s license.
  • You’ll also need a Social Security number and a U.S. street address within the continental U.S.
  • You don’t have to be a customer of T-Mobile’s wireless phone service to sign up. If you’re not, though, you won’t qualify for that 4 percent APY.
  • T-Mobile says it doesn’t run a credit check before approving people for the service.

Is the money deposited in a T-Mobile MONEY account secured?

T-Mobile MONEY deposits are FDIC-insured up to $250,000, according to the company’s website.

What other alternatives to traditional checking accounts do I have?

Bluebird

Chane Steiner, CEO of the Crediful banking and credit blog, said services such as T-Mobile MONEY and Bluebird – an online checking account alternative offered by American Express – come with both benefits and drawbacks, and that it’s important for consumers to research these pluses and negatives before signing up.

Steiner points out that with Bluebird, consumers can only withdraw cash without incurring a fee at MoneyPass ATMs, a network that includes over 30,000 locations, according to Bluebird’s website. Also, American Express cards are accepted at fewer locations than are Visa or Mastercard.

But there are positives, too. It’s free to use the service to write checks and pay bills. Bluebird doesn’t charge a monthly fee, but it does provide services such as purchase protection and roadside assistance.

“Bluebird is a sufficient alternative to a checking account, but has a couple of drawbacks, so it’s probably not ideal for everyone,” Steiner said.

T-Mobile MONEY, though, is connected with a far larger ATM network. It’s easier for customers to make ATM withdrawals without getting hit with a fee. Mastercard, the type of debit card people signed up for MONEY will receive, is also accepted at more locations.

See related: Busted: 12 myths about contactless cards

Fidelity’s Cash Management Account

The Fidelity Cash Management Account is another alternative for those not looking to work with traditional banks.

Fidelity, which specializes in retirement accounts, says the Cash Management Account requires no minimum balances, charges no fees and automatically reimburses any ATM fees.

You can scan and deposit checks with your smartphone or tablet after signing up for the Fidelity Mobile app. You can also use the service to pay bills, view balances or transfer money.

Online-only banks

There are plenty of online-only banks, too, that offer high-interest-rate checking accounts.

Alliant Credit Union, for instance, offers an online checking account with an interest rate of 0.45 percent – which it says is five times the national average – and an online savings account with an interest rate of 1.90 percent, which Alliant says is 17.3 times the national average. Alliant will rebate out-of-network ATM fees of up to $20 a month.

Radius Rewards Checking is another good option, but mostly for consumers who keep a high balance in their checking accounts. This online checking account gives you 1 percent cash back on online and signature-based credit transactions made with a Radius Bank debit card. However, you will have to keep an average balance of $2,500 or more in your Rewards Checking account. This checking account also pays out an APY of 1 percent on balances from $2,500 to $99,999.99.

Then there’s Simple, an online checking and budgeting app. You can direct deposit checks through your phone with the Simple app. If you do, your money will earn an impressive 2.02 percent APY. Simple says this is 30 times the national average.

See related: Alternative data: 5 myths debunked

Credit unions

Another option for consumers seeking a nontraditional banking experience? Credit unions.

Credit unions are like banks in that they make loans, accept deposits and provide financial services. But credit unions are not-for-profit organizations owned by their members.

“Because credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives, the profit goes back to the membership in the form of lower interest rates on loans and higher rates on savings accounts and CDs,” said David Bolden, CEO of Hiway Federal Credit Union in St. Paul, Minnesota. “We usually have lower fees. That is attractive to people.”

Dan Ziniti, director of member experience at Hanscom Federal Credit Union in Hanscom, Massachusetts, said credit unions often offer more flexibility than do traditional banks. Lenders at credit unions will look at your credit score, income and debts when deciding whether to approve you for a loan. But many will consider mitigating factors if these numbers aren’t stellar, Ziniti said.

“People are looking for different options than banks,” Ziniti said. “The flexibility we have, the better rates, those are attractive to people who are looking for something different from a traditional bank.”

You will have to meet certain requirements to become a member of a credit union. Some credit unions serve members of the U.S. military, for example, while others serve people working in a specific profession. More often today, though, credit unions have eased their membership restrictions, Bolden said. Many will serve people who live, work or go to school in a specific geographic area, while others accept members who belong to specific organizations or associations.

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