Are Online Banks Safe Right Now?


Sure, online-only banks are offering great interest rates on high-yield savings accounts and certificates of deposit these days, but how safe is your money in an online bank compared with a traditional one?

Customers still view traditional banks as slightly more trustworthy than their online-only counterparts, according to a survey by UserTesting, a user experience consulting company. When asked how much they trusted banks, 33% of Americans polled said they trusted traditional banks more than digital ones—28% trusted both equally, and 29% trusted digital banks more.  The poll of 1,800 people was conducted between March and April, a period of time that saw two of the three largest bank failures in history up to that point. 

The chunk of customers who distrust digital institutions may be reluctant to take advantage of online banks offering some of the best interest rates around for high-yield savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and money market accounts, all of which have benefitted from the Federal Reserve’s campaign of interest rate hikes since March 2022. Some CDs for example, are yielding more than 5% APY, when nothing over 0.7% was available in February 2022.

For example, as of June 16, Total Direct Bank offered an account with 5.07% APY, according to Investopedia data, the second-highest on offer. Brilliant Bank, an online bank, was offering 5.10% APY for a 3-month CD, the third-highest in Investopedia’s data, and also was offering 5.25% APY on a money market account, the best in Investopedia’s data.

Fortunately for depositors, most bank accounts are protected up to a limit of $250,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation regardless of whether they’re a traditional bank with branches, or if they’re online only. 

One exception is with payment apps that may function similarly to bank accounts, but which are not actually bank accounts, and may not be protected by the FDIC. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends customers transfer money from apps like Venmo and Google Pay to FDIC-insured bank accounts, just to be safe. 

Security is also a factor for both online accounts and the online and mobile banking options provided by traditional banks. The FDIC recommends bank patrons who use online services:

  • Use hard-to-guess passwords and don’t re-use them between different accounts.
  • Be careful about sharing your banking information with third parties.
  • Periodically check your account for signs of fraud. 

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