American Express started a banking division recently called Personal Savings through their FDIC-Insured bank American Express Bank, FSB. There are currently just two products – a high yield savings account and certificates of deposit. This is a review from my own experiences with the American Express Personal Savings Account, which hopefully will help you decide if you should open an account yourself.
First of all, you don’t need to have an American Express credit or charge card to open a bank account with them. The credit card and banking websites are actually separate, and you use an independent login and password to access your credit card and banking information. I wonder if they’ll integrate everything together sometime in the future.
The savings account has no minimum balance requirement, no inactivity fees, and no monthly fees. Their rate history suggests that they do consistently pay a competitive interest rate, currently 0.85%, sometimes either matching or being above the rest of their competition like Capital One 360 (0.75% APY) and Ally Savings (0.84% APY as of 3/11/13).
Like those other online savings banks, this one is designed to piggyback onto your existing checking account through online transfers. There are no checks, no ATM cards, and no online bill-pay with this account. If you really want, you can withdraw your money by having them send a check payable to you. Interest is compounded daily, and credited monthly. Interest begins to accrue on the business day the deposit is received, as long as it is by 5pm Eastern.
The application process can be done completely online. You provide the usual personal information, as well as the routing number and account number of the checking account you wish to link and fund your account with. There is no minimum opening amount. AMEX Bank will then send two small verification deposits of under $1 to your checking account (and then withdraw them as). They’ll also send a verification code to your e-mail address. With this information, you can activate your account and initiate the funding transfer. They’ll send you a welcome packet in the mail, but there is no paper to sign or send in.
Website User Interface
After you log into your account, you’ll find yourself on the domain IBanking-Services.com. It may look familiar to you; This is the same back-end interface used by two of my local credit unions as well as many other online banks. I’m actually fine with this service, it does the job and I’m used to it, but it’s not especially sleek or customized. Here’s a screenshot (click to enlarge):
Online transfers to/from your external accounts take the usual couple of business days to complete. However, I wasn’t thrilled about this note on the transfer page: “Funds from electronic deposits to your account that you have initiated through us will generally be available for withdrawal on the sixth business day after the deposit is initiated.” This is likely for protection against fraud, but could be inconvenient and discourages me from using this account as a central transfer hub.
Other Handy Stuff
American Express Bank, FSB Routing Number: 124085066
Customer Service: 1-800-446-6307, available 24 hours a day. I haven’t had to call in yet, but American Express does have good customer service on their credit cards in my opinion.