Facebook Twitter

Check out options when considering online checking accounts

SHARE Check out options when considering online checking accounts

You may be among the millions of Americans who have been lured by high interest rates to open a savings account in cyberspace. Now you're thinking about moving your checking account to an online bank or borrowing from one. Are the deals on checking and loans offered by online banks competitive with those of traditional banks?

The short answer: They're not bad, but not thrilling enough to keep you from considering all your options. A good place to start comparing fees and services is Bankrate.com.

If security is a concern, be aware that federal guidelines that take effect in 2007 require that you enter more than a user name and password to access your online account.

On the plus side, online banks' checking accounts often pay 3 percent interest, an excellent deal compared with interest-bearing checking at traditional institutions. If you use a lot of paper checks, find an e-bank that won't charge you extra to do so. If you prefer to carry cash, be sure your account includes an ATM card and note the fees.

Overall, we think EverBank, www.everbank.com, offers the best online checking account. The annual percentage yield ranges from 3.25 percent for balances of less than $10,000 to 4.41 percent for $100,000 or more. You need a minimum of $1,500 to open an account and enjoy an introductory rate of 6.01 percent for the first three months before it goes down to the market rate.

EverBank provides a Visa check card with its checking account and doesn't charge you to tap any of the thousands of ATMs in the worldwide Visa/PLUS network. The bank that owns the ATM will take a fee — but EverBank will reimburse you up to $6 a month for ATM fees charged by another bank, so it pays to make fewer and larger withdrawals.

Nevertheless, some bargains in online lending exist. For example, Citibank Direct beats regular Citibank branches on some home-improvement loan offers.