Ever since I started taking an interest in the FinTech sector, one company whose name I’ve seen pop up over and over again is SoFi. Despite that, lately it seems as though that theme has been sent into overdrive as the company has rolled out everything from a robo-advisory platform and active investing options to a slate of exchange-traded funds (ETFs). But, of all their many recent expansions, the one that interested me the most is SoFi Money.
I actually first learned about SoFi Money while writing about different FinTech debit card options on the market. What got my attention was the account’s high-yield savings element coupled with things like free ATM access and very few fees. Before I even hit “publish” on that post, I had already signed up for an account.
Now that I’ve had a couple of months to try out some of SoFi Money’s many features, let’s take a look at what this account has to offer, what I like about SoFi Money overall, and where I think they can improve.
Features of SoFi Money
No monthly or maintenance fees
Like many online-only bank accounts, SoFi Money’s biggest pitch to consumers is that they won’t charge the kinds of fees that have given brick-and-mortar banks a bad reputation. Among the fees that SoFi doesn’t charge are monthly fees, minimum balance fees, overdraft fees, and returned items fees. There are others to name but you can view them all here.
As for what fees they do charge, they do note that they charge $20 for more than one replacement card — although your first replacement is free. If you need that replacement rush-shipped, that’ll also be $25. Other than that, there’s a $20 stop payment fee and a $100 Legal Processing fee (for garnishments, tax levies, or other court orders) but that’s about it.
Free ATM access
Not only does SoFi Money not charge accountholders ATM fees but they also reimburse third-party ATM fees. There’s no limit to how much in ATM fees they’ll reimburse in a month and this offer holds true both domestically and overseas. In other words, you can basically access cash whenever you need it using your SoFi Money card and not worry about getting charged extra.
No foreign transaction fees
Similar to how SoFi Money allows you to use international ATMs for free, they also permit you to use your debit card for foreign transactions. What’s more, unlike some banks they may tack on as much as 3% as a conversion fee, SoFi does it for free. Essentially whatever the current exchange rate is will be what you pay.
One interesting aspect of SoFi Money is that it is essentially both a checking and a savings account. So while you’ll have access to funds via a debit card or even paper checks, you’ll also earn interest on your balance. Better yet, SoFi Money pays out an APY on the very high end of what others offer — currently 2% APY. That’s upwards of 200 times what some traditional institutions pay and even tops many of its online competitors. Needless to say, this is a sizeable perk.
Peer to peer payments
This one’s a bit interesting but SoFi Money apparently allows users to send funds via peer to peer (P2P) payments for free. To do this, you can enter a phone number or e-mail address for the recipient along with how much you want to send. Then those on the receiving end can claim the funds by entering some basic info as well as their bank routing and account numbers. Should your intended recipient fail to respond within a set period of time, your money will be returned to you.
I did try out this feature and it seemed to work okay… but I’d just as soon stick with dedicated P2P apps like Square Cash, Venmo, or PayPal instead.
Bill pay and check ordering
While I was exploring my SoFi Money account in preparation for this review, I realized that they also offered a bill pay option. Here you can either arrange direct payments for credit cards or other bills or set up to have a paper check sent out on your behalf. Personally I have no use for this feature but it’s there if you need it.
On the other hand, another aspect of SoFi Money I just discovered and may actually use is their complimentary checkbook. With just a couple of clicks, you can order free personal checks linked to your account. By default, an order includes 25 checks, although you can reorder as long as it’s been at least seven days. Considering I still need to write checks to pay rent each month, I appreciate SoFi making this an option and making the process so simple.
Pros and Cons of SoFi Money
One app to rule them all
First up is both a pro and a con of sorts — but mostly the latter. In my review of Discover Bank, I noted that the merger of their banking and credit card account apps was a good thing. However, I’m not sure that the same can be said when it comes to SoFi.
Within the SoFi app, you’ll not only have access to your Money account but will also find tabs for investing, loans, their Relay account aggregator, and more. This is to say that only a small portion of the app is dedicated to banking functions and yet is bogged down in features that likely don’t apply to you. To be sure, this is far from an accident as SoFi wants you to take advantage of their other products but, for me, I’d definitely prefer a dedicated SoFi Money application.
Clear transfer dates
Considering that I now have upwards of six savings accounts alone, I end up transferring money with some frequency. Therefore I find it quite annoying — if not worrisome — when these transfers take an unexpectedly long time or are seemingly stuck in limbo without updates. That’s why I was impressed that, when I initiated a transfer from an external account to SoFi Money (via SoFi), it clearly states when the first portion of the funds would be available as well as when the full transfer would be complete. Of course it’s one thing to say what will happen, but thankfully SoFi stuck to their word. For that reason, I found the transfer process to be enjoyable and stress-free.
No cash back on checking
Like I mentioned earlier, SoFi Money’s current 2% APY makes it one of the highest-paying accounts I have (tied with Marcus by Goldman Sachs based on APY alone). That said one element missing from the equation is cash back on debit transactions or other checking functions. This is actually not a big negative for me as I mostly use rewards credit cards anyway, but it is notable that both Aspiration and Discover offer some form of cash back checking, making SoFi Money look less attractive by comparison.
Fairly favorable exchange rates
So far, in addition to that high APY, my favorite features of SoFi Money have involved travel. While in Paris I had the chance to try my card at an ATM, taking out the same amount using another bank card seconds later. Surprisingly I learned that SoFi’s exchange rate for the transaction came in 4¢ cheaper than the other bank on a 20€ transaction. Sure this isn’t much but it was interesting nonetheless.
Later in the trip, my Uber Visa suddenly stopped working for a time (likely the result of several repetitive train ticket transactions I was making), leaving me without a foreign transaction fee-free credit card to use. Luckily I was able to use my SoFi Money card without issue. In each case, these purchases were assessed at a fair exchange rate and I appreciate that SoFi “shows their work,” displaying the original currency rate and conversion for each line. As you can imagine, this was a huge relief and I’ll certainly be taking my SoFi card with me for future travels.
Joint accounts now in beta
Again, this is a bit of a pro and a con. The good news is that SoFi Money is currently testing joint accounts, which is something I’m excited about. However, since this feature is in beta, it seems like the company is still working out some of the kinks. On my end, I was able to invite my wife to join my account and she submitted her application. From what I’ve read online, this is where some waiting may come in. Hopefully the turn around will be short and, similarly, this option can be rolled out further. Until then, we’ll rate this one as neutral.
Attractive card design
I have to admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for a nice card design. Truth be told, that’s at least part of what attracted me to SoFi Money. With a shiny green and blue design and a front panel that displays only your initials, the look of the card is pretty sleek. Moreover the back bears a unique layout for the card number that adds to the cool factor. Of course this shouldn’t be the only reason you decide to open an account but, if you do, the card will surely look nice in your wallet.
Short track record
Finally I feel the need to mention that SoFi Money is still a relatively new offering, officially debuting to the general public in late February 2019. On top of that SoFi has been introducing so many new endeavors of late that one might worry that they’re spreading themselves a bit thin. With that said, while it may take the company some time to prove themselves and their Money accounts worthy, the good news is that funds are FDIC insured thanks to partnership SoFi has with banks. This should hopefully give you at least some peace of mind if you’re on the fence about taking a chance with a startup.
Final Thoughts on SoFi Money
With a sky-high APY, great perks for travelers, and an admittedly attractive debit card, SoFi Money is off to a pretty strong start in my book. Although I mostly intended to use them as an auxiliary account, I also appreciate that they include many traditional banking features such as check deposit, bill pay, and paper checks as well. Meanwhile my biggest complaint is that the app — cluttered by other products — is a bit lacking. Still, perhaps if this aspect of their business gains enough popularity, that aspect will be corrected.
As I continue to grow my collection of bank accounts and figure out a strategy that makes the most sense for maximizing my money, I have to say that, the more time I spend using SoFi Money, the more impressed I am. Because of that, I fully intend to start pitting some of these accounts against each other in future reviews. In the mean time, if you’re looking for a hybrid account that offers several perks with few fees, SoFi Money might be worth exploring.
Originally published at Dyer News.