Low-fee checking with 2-factor authentication & fast check deposits?
July 20, 2015 8:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm shopping for a new basic personal checking account at a bank or credit union in the L.A. area, because I no longer qualify to get the monthly fee waived at my current bank. Must-haves: Need to deposit paper checks reliably, with a fast availability of funds. Online banking must have two factor authentication. Lower fees: say, under $10... under $5 would be better... free would be excellent! I've put a list together... can you help me think of other candidates?

I've read a lot of previous banking AskMes and the above requirements rule out a lot of options. I would like to support a credit union rather than a big bank, but I couldn't find any local CUs that have 2FA, and at least one that claimed to have "multi-factor authentication" turned out to be just the usual username, password and challenge questions.

Deposit reliability: I'm paid in paper checks for my current job. I need to be able to deposit them right away and have the funds available as quickly as possible, either in-branch, at an ATM, or by iOS mobile deposit (as long as the remote deposit works!). I'm in the L.A. area (south bay).

This rules out mailing checks to the bank. I'm also not sure I should depend on mobile deposit apps: I've seen many reviews of them and so many bug reports on the deposit function. I also realize I may have to deal with getting approved for mobile deposit, and amount limitations.

Same day deposit availability would be awesome! but I realize that's unusual... I would be happy with next-business-day deposit availability.

Low fees: I would prefer something closer to $0-5 than $10. I'm using Chase now and they recently raised their monthly fee to $12/month for the most basic personal checking account. My financial situation recently changed so there's pretty much no way I can meet their min $1500 daily balance or $5000 avg monthly balance requirement, and I have no direct deposit to waive the fee either.

Online security: I've seen this Two factor authentication list of a few banks and CUs and it's clear that the industry is still catching up on 2FA. I know some people dislike having to take more time to log in (I do too) but I appreciate the extra security precaution (as long as the site doesn't block me if I've typo'd an answer 1-2 times, which I've read about elsewhere).

Bonus: If the online banking website uses an Extended Validation Certificate (shows the green identification in the browser address bar). I'm not sure how much of a difference this makes in the grand scheme of security (?), but I find it helpful to see the verified certificate owner right there.

The fee hike is the main thing that's prompting me to switch, because Chase has 2FA and funds are usually available from my check deposits in 1 business day. If paying $144 a year is the cost of having that, then I guess I'll accept it grudgingly, but it's not an insignificant amount for me and I'm really hoping there's a better option I'm missing.

And just to answer these because I know they'll be suggested:

Possibly in the running:

- Wells Fargo: They have 2FA, lots of branches around here, but the minimum fees for basic checking are about the same as Chase. $10/month for their basic checking; I wouldn't qualify for their fee waivers either. Also I'm not forgetting all the comments here about bad service and that they are also an Evil Big Bank and I'm not really fond of them (or Chase either).

Probably not a great fit:

- Schwab Bank: Has 2FA and lots of rave reviews, and their mobile deposit app sounds like it works ok and is fast once you have an established account. Two things give me pause:

No local branches, so if for whatever reason mobile deposit doesn't work for me one day because of an iOS upgrade or because I lose my phone or something, I wouldn't have any other fast way of depositing my paycheck with them (same goes for any other online bank).

Also, their password limitation of 8 characters really makes me pause. I mean, even with 2FA, really, 8 characters?

- Ally, Everbank: They have 2FA, but I would have to depend on mobile or online deposits working each time.

Out of the running:

- USAA: I'm not eligible.

- Alliant CU: They don't have 2FA.

- Bank Of America: They have 2FA but the monthly fee would still be $12/month for me, so not worth switching to them from Chase.

- Capital One 360: They don't have 2FA.

- Citibank: They don't have 2FA.

Do you like any bank or CU not here that I should look into? Are you a member of a local CU that has 2FA? Thanks in advance!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I use Ally and have never had any problems with any of the paper checks I've deposited with the mobile app. Totally reliable in my experience.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:29 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Mobile check depositing has gotten a lot better with my experience in the past year or so. I've done it with a few different banks, and while it used to be somewhat flaky (mostly getting an image it would accept), it's pretty seamless now. But if you're going to truly rely on that, make sure you know what the maximum deposit is, and how long the holds they put on it are. I'm what should be a very low-risk customer at my primary bank (I've been a customer since the 90s, almost always have large balances in my accounts), and they'll still hold a $50 deposit for days at a time sometimes. Seems ridiculous when it's a tiny fraction of the account balance, but they still do it. I suspect they'd be even more cautious if the deposit were more than I currently had in the bank. I also seem to remember my maximum mobile deposit being something laughably low, but I just checked and now it's $10k, so maybe they raised the limit recently. In any case, I'd ask a LOT of questions about that functionality before I relied on it for my primary income.
posted by primethyme at 8:50 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Came in here to recommend Ally. Been with them for years, great customer service, no fees, even low-balance accounts accrue interest, have had absolutely no problems with depositing paper checks with the mobile app.
posted by General Malaise at 9:12 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't disagree that strong passwords and 2FA are a good thing, but are you trying to solve an actual problem with that requirement or just reward good practices?
posted by Candleman at 10:41 PM on July 20, 2015

I use First Tech FCU and it checks off pretty much all of the items on your list. They have 2FA, EV certs, e-deposit through mobile apps or the website, and free interest-bearing checking accounts. I've never had an issue with e-deposits or ATM deposits with them; a certain amount of the deposit is available immediately (I don't recall exactly how much, I believe around $200) with the rest available when the check clears. As far as local branches go, they are a member of the Co-Op network, so you can do nearly anything you'd do at an official branch (including making deposits and withdrawls) via other participating credit union branches, or use any Co-Op ATMs (most of the ATMs in 7-11s are Co-Op ATMs, in addition to the CU-operated ATMs). I haven't had a need to step inside a branch office in years.

The main catch is membership requirements, but apparently they do allow you to open an account if you join the Financial Fitness Association, which costs $8. I got my account through my employer, so I don't know how that works.
posted by Aleyn at 12:07 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

No specific suggestion but if you do end up going with a bank that has mobile check deposit, make sure your checks are not too big to be mobile deposited. I have had zero problem with mobile check deposit EXCEPT when the check was for too large of an amount. I think the cutoff was $2000 or $3000 or something.
posted by mskyle at 4:25 AM on July 21, 2015

Seconding First Tech if you are eligible. They've been my primary CU for years, and though I keep most of my money in Lake Michigan Credit Union now for the higher interest, they're still my local CU and they do tick your boxes. I have never had check holds I don't think (or if I did it was a long time ago), all my money is immediately available to me when I deposit checks, which I always do via the mobile app. OTOH, I do some banking in person so I don't know their limitations (like when depositing a check for over $100K for instance).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:16 AM on July 21, 2015

Another recommendation for First Tech here. The mobile banking app works well, they have 2FA and eDeposit. Plus you can still speak to a human who is empowered to fix any problems you might have.
posted by monotreme at 9:41 PM on July 21, 2015

Do you not make or not want to make debit card purchases?

I think that I have the Wells Fargo account you mentioned - basic checking with a $10 monthly fee unless you meet one of the criteria for waiving the fee, one of which is making a small number of debit card purchases (five or ten?) in the billing period. There's no minimum dollar amount for the purchases that qualify as far as I can tell.
posted by thdavis at 6:57 AM on July 22, 2015

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