American Express Personal Savings Account Review

AMEX LOGOAmerican 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 Basics
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 (0.85% APY as of 11/12/13).

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.

Application Process
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.

  • American Express Personal Savings

Comments

  1. ING dropped their rate to .85% about 12 days ago…….

  2. As you mentioned ING is always trying to be on top of the chart by giving max rates currently with .90%. I started doing smartypig.com goal oriented savings when they used give 1.7% few months ago but now they couldn’t even match up to internet bank rates. So I am pulling it out. So I am not sure AMEX will be able to keep up if they dont’ get proper consumer base. Also 6 days is norm for savings account in ING as well. That’s why I use ING Checking to move money and then to savings accounts. It works like charm. I like AMEX but not sure whether I will try their bank unless they give better competitive rates.

  3. I have this account too, and have no complaints. In my experience, the 6-day hold only applies if you initiate a transfer on the receiving end. If you initiate transfers on the sending end, the funds become available immediately upon deposit.

  4. American Express online banking is provided by FIS, formerly Metavante, which is why it looks the same as many other bank’s websites. Customer Service for Personal Savings accounts is not provided by American Express but rather another bank that is not related to American Express. I work in the call center for that other bank and take AmEx calls on a regular basis. Open an account with AmEx…it’s job security for me! ;)

  5. Alliant Credit Union – 1.15% APY. If you’re not already a member, you can join by making a $10 donation to Foster Care to Success. (I’ve had them about a year – very quick ACH, been a great account.) http://www.alliantcreditunion.org/membership/eligibility/

  6. @Greg – Yup, I missed that initially!

    @David – Good tip.

    @Elliot – Very interesting, so you take calls for more than one bank at the same time?

    @Mary Anna – Do you use the savings or just the checking which has nearly the same rate? lWould you be interested in writing a review about them for this site, using this review as a template? (was the application all online, what is the online interface like, etc)

  7. I use the savings – I have my checking account at a smallish local bank that refunds my ATM fees anywhere (even overseas), but doesn’t have good savings rates. And sure, I’d love to write a review! It’ll likely be a week or two til I can get to it (am going to Maine this coming week, and then lots going on for Christmas), but I can definitely write one.

  8. I’ve been looking for somewhere to move my money since Emigrant Direct is woefully low compared to everyone else recently. This is another good option. May still just go ING though, not sure yet.

    Is it recommended to keep an online savings account open even if you empty it out to move your money? I’m not needing to take out a mortgage in the next year or anything, just wondering how savings account closing affects a credit score (if at all) since there’s less talk about that kind of thing than how closing lines of credit affect the score.

  9. @Mary Anna – That would be great, no rush, just send it over whenever you get a chance.

    @Sean – If I think a bank has “given up” being competitive – usually if they stop for a while they never go back to being competitive – then I do close the account. Closing a savings account won’t affect your credit score. In some rare instances, a checking account may offer you a small line of credit for overdrafts, like Penfed with a $500 limit.

    Banks I’ve given up on off the top of my head – Emigrant Direct, Dollar Savings Direct, WT Direct, SmartyPig.

  10. @Mary Anna ~ Thanks for the tip about Alliant CU. I just opened an account on line with no problems and plan on closing accounts at other banks and transferring the balances to Alliant.

  11. @Jack – Sweet! Glad to be of help!

  12. @Mary Anna

    Any disadvantages in opening an account with them if I’m not a resident of IL?

  13. @Jay B – I don’t think so… I’m not, and haven’t run into any problems at all. (I’m in CT.)

  14. Looks like Alliant is now 1.00% APY now…

  15. John Lavery says:

    NEWBIE here. I have about $75k inheritence coming soon and thought the following would be a good distribution.
    $25k MMA account for 3-6 months emergency account.
    Then $25k into a mutual fund through USAA and $25k into a Roth IRA.
    Make sense?

  16. Mary Anna says:

    @John. You’re limited to $5000 per year ($6000 if you’re over 60), in contributions to a Roth. If you get it before you file your taxes this year, you can make a $5000 contribution for tax year 2011 and an additional $5000 for tax year 2012. The other $15k you’ll either have to sit on until it’s time for future year’s Roth contributions, or do something else with for the time being.

  17. One thing I dont understand and is stopping me from trusting this 0.9% interest rate for high yield savings account. The CD rate is 0.4 % for 6 months and 0.55 % for 1 year. Why would I lock my money for 6 months and 1 year if the high yield savings account gives me 0.9% and I can withdraw money any time (?). Am I missing something here?

  18. @don – Any bank can change the interest rate on their savings account at any time. The danger is that future rates could go even lower than 0.4%. Predicting interest rates is hard, as shown by this Nobel Prize Laureate:

    http://www.mymoneyblog.com/ally-bank-commercial-with-nobel-prizer-winner.html

  19. I have my money in HSBC, which currently has a rate of 0.40%. When I contacted them they weren’t concerned that I was unhappy and planning to move my money. They aren’t competitive at all. The problem is that my large balance is in a Premier fund, which offers a lot of perks, but their low rate is a real turn-off. Can you explain to me how the AmEx compounding works using a basis of $100,000? I never understood that!

    Thanks

  20. I am using AMEX Savings for almost year now, Interest rates are competitive.. Mostly .90%, few months with .80%. I keep comparing them with ING and found them always higher than ING.

    Overall I am happy and satisfied with one nagative thing… You can’t check your transcation history beyound 30 days if you have paper statements.. Big negative.

  21. I missed the fine print about no checks. They tied a wire transfer to a closed account. Need an wire transfer application to change inline connection. Said I could download from website. Looked on website while talking to customer service person and no form available, said the took it off with the change that occurred last 6/14-15/2013. Sending me a check with form. Have no fax which they would do.
    Will

  22. Grant Morgan says:

    First be aware of the extended times you must wait until you can withdraw funds. We had the experience that several weeks after our deposit, they would not honor a withdrawal until a lot of investigation into the validity of the deposit.
    After closing the account, there was interest left. They sent us a check for this amount. However they refused to honor the check because the account was closed. Never have been able to resolve this in spite of hours on the phone. We of course had bounced check charges from our bank also.
    If they ask you to fax them a document … when you call back they never can find it.
    I asked once on this issue, “How long until you get back to me?” Answer, “10 business days.” Of course that was a long time ago.

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