Many financially-savvy people have turned to online banks for their savings (and sometimes even checking) account needs. Online banks often provide higher interest rates and better customer service than traditional brick-and-mortar banks. Of course, the lack of a physical branch makes it harder to access your money immediately.
Here’s my personal experience with one of the leading online banks – ING Direct.
ING Direct: Background
ING Direct has existed in the United States since 2000. It is the domestic outpost of the ING Group, a worldwide financial institution that began in the Netherlands. ING offers the following services:
- Savings (Personal and Business)
- Checking (Personal and Business)
- Certificates of Deposit (Personal and Business)
- Mutual Funds – through Sharebuilder
- Home Equity Line of Credit
My ING Experience: The Good
I opened a savings account with ING about two years ago, and opened an Electric Orange checking account about a year ago. I have also held three CDs through ING, although I only hold one today. Here are some of the things I like about ING:
- Competitive interest rate: Although all interest rates are low right now, ING stays competitive with other online banks. It’s not the best, but it’s nowhere near the worst!
- Easy online interface: I find the ING website incredibly easy to use. If by chance I can’t figure something out, the FAQ section provides detailed answers to the most common user questions.
- Tips and Tools: This section of the website offers resources to help you on your financial journey – ING feels like real partner to me.
- No fees: All ING savings, checking, and CD accounts are absolutely free with no minimum.
- Customer referrals: ING offers me the chance to earn up to $500 by referring my friends and family members.
- Security: ING is FDIC insured, so I know my money is safe. And their security policy makes me confident that my personal information is safe as well.
- Association with Sharebuilder: I have a brokerage account with Sharebuilder, and appreciate the ability to see that account balance when I log into ING. Additionally, I am able to transfer money from ING to Sharebuilder instantly with no charge. And I can invest in ING no-load mutual funds with the click of a button.
While I’ve been generally happy with ING, a few things do bug me at times:
- Slow log-in process: ING’s commitment to security means that I have to go through a few extra steps each time I want to log into my account.
- Interaction with financial aggregator sites: Because ING requires you to answer security questions each time you log in from a new computer, it’s difficult to see your ING balance/transactions using a website like Mint.com.
- Slow transfers: It takes up to 4 days to transfer ING money to an outside account, so plan your transfers ahead of time – or make sure to have an ING checking account with debit card! This one is a characteristic of all online banks, not unique to ING.
- No paper checks: This is about the only thing that keeps me from using ING as my only bank – instead of writing paper checks you can do electronic checks or have ING send a check in the mail for you. If you need to write an unplanned check, you’re out of luck.
My personal experience with ING Direct has been mostly good – and the positives far outweigh the negatives. While I don’t get the absolute best interest rate out there, I feel confident that my money is safe and in the hands of a good company. If you’re looking to open your own ING account, be sure to get a $25 sign up bonus.