Betterment Checking review: Free checking with cash back rewards and no hidden fees

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Betterment checking accounts at a glance

Physical locationsNone
Getting startedEasy to get started — no deposit or minimum balance requirements
Monthly service feeNone
Overdraft feesNone
Other feesNone — Betterment reimburses ATM fees worldwide, which the company says includes the “Visa 1% transaction fee on foreign transactions, purchases and ATM transactions”
How to depositMobile check deposit, transfers between Betterment accounts, transfers from other bank accounts and direct deposit
Notable featureYou can open a joint checking account with anyone who’s eligible for a Betterment checking account

Betterment offers a free online checking account with no hidden fees, a cash back rewards program and free cellphone insurance.

It’s easy to get started, but you’re limited to a maximum of two checking accounts and one debit card.

6 things to know about Betterment Checking

Let’s take a closer look at some important features of a Betterment Checking account.

1. One-stop financial services

Betterment may be best known as one of the first automated robo-advisers, providing people with “guided investing” and retirement planning. You can use Betterment Checking to fund your investment goals by easily making deposits, withdrawals and transfers into your individual or joint taxable investment accounts, cash reserve accounts or a trust.

For some, being able to combine checking and investment services could be a significant advantage to having a Betterment checking account.

2. Cash back rewards and perks

Betterment Checking offers cash back rewards from brands like Walmart, Dunkin’, Adidas, Staples, Sam’s Club and more. Once you activate your Betterment Visa® Debit Card, you’re automatically enrolled and can start earning.

If you pay your cellphone bill with your Betterment Visa® Debit Card, you’ll get cellphone protection worth up to $600 per claim. No enrollment is necessary. The insurance automatically applies once you register your card and use it to make payments to your monthly cellphone bill.

3. No interest paid on checking account balances

Unlike some other online companies, Betterment doesn’t pay interest on its checking accounts. If you typically hold a significant amount of cash in your checking account, this could be a drawback.

4. Limited customer support

Betterment allows you to chat with a virtual assistant 24 hours a day to resolve customer service issues. You can also use Betterment’s mobile app to lock your card, change your PIN and process other simple customer service requests.

But if you want to speak with a customer service representative about your Betterment Checking account, you’ll need to call during business hours — Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern time.

If having access to a real person is important to you and these hours aren’t convenient, you may want to look elsewhere. Since there are no in-person locations, you also won’t be able to talk with a service representative face to face.

5. Account and debit card limits

Each Betterment user can have only two checking accounts, regardless of whether they’re individual or joint. Each user also receives only one Betterment Visa® Debit Card. If you have two checking accounts, you’ll need to designate one as your spending account. You may switch spending accounts, but Betterment says this will take about an hour to process.

If you need more than two checking accounts or you want to be able to withdraw from each of your accounts easily, then this might not be the right option for you.

6. Mobile check deposits may not be available

While many account holders can deposit checks using the Betterment mobile app, this feature isn’t currently available to everyone. To qualify, you must be a Betterment customer for at least 30 days and must have direct deposits into your Betterment Checking account totaling $500 or more within the past month. 

If you continually use Betterment’s products and services, the company may make mobile deposits available to you. But Betterment says it isn’t able to manually grant access to this service.
Without the ability to use Betterment’s mobile check deposit, you’ll need to either fund your account through direct deposit or by linking another account. Betterment doesn’t allow you to deposit funds through a wire transfer, by depositing paper checks or cash through an ATM, or by depositing cash or paper checks in person.

Is Betterment a bank?

Neither Betterment LLC, Betterment Financial LLC nor any of their affiliates is a bank. But Betterment Checking accounts are insured up to $250,000 per depositor through nbkc bank, which provides checking services and is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Not sure if Betterment is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

  • Capital One: Capital One’s 360 Checking is a free online account that allows you to get in-person help at branches and Capital One cafes. You can add cash to your account at any CVS location.
  • Ally: Ally offers an online checking account with no minimum balance and no monthly fees that pays you interest on your deposits.

About the author: Beth Deyo is a personal finance freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in Finance from the University of South Florida. She is also a Certified Financial Planner™ with 14 years of wealth management experience. She … Read more.