Non-Bank Alternatives

posted Oct 30, 2013, 1:10 PM by Lou Peppe   [ updated Oct 31, 2013, 5:22 AM ]

Looking for back to basics banking? 

Here are some great “non-bank” alternatives for people who don't have bank accounts or want to scale back from the fees and overdraft charges of traditional banks. 

These “non-banks” or “near-banks" are similar in that they all offer

·         No Fees – No Minimums

·         Have No Traditional Brick-and-Mortar locations

·         Are FDIC Insured

·         Use technology to access their features online and through mobile devices

·         Offer Easy Enrollment


Bluebird: Bluebird is a partnership with Wal-Mart and American Express.  Billed as “Your Checking & Debit Alternative”, it has no annual, monthly or overdraft fees and no minimum balance requirement. 

You get a reloadable American Express card that lets you add funds with direct deposit, transfer funds from traditional bank accounts or add cash at Wal-Mart checkout registers or deposit checks through their mobile app.  The cards can be used at Wal-Mart ATMs or any of the 22,000 ATMs in the MoneyPass network.  There is no ATM fee if you have direct deposit.  You can write checks, pay bills online and more.  It is easy to apply for since there are no credit checks.  

With Bluebird you have access to American Express Purchase Protection and Fraud Protection.  It also includes roadside assistance that can jumpstart your vehicle, arrange for towing, change a flat tire, deliver 2 gallons of gas or provide a lockout service if you get locked out of your car!


Simple: has partnered with Bancorp to provide an FDIC insured “Worry Free Alternative to Traditional Banking”. With Simple you get a Simple Visa Card, no overdraft, minimums, or monthly fees.  Access to 55,000 Fee Free ATMs, Photo Check Deposit, and ability send checks and pay bills.

Like Bluebird you can add funds with direct deposit or transfers from a bank. Features include Photo Check Deposit, A Fast ATM Locator, and the ability to send money to anyone by typing in their name, address, and the amount. Simple does not charge if you use an out-of-network ATM although the ATM owner probably would.


GoBank:  Green Dot, a big player in the prepaid card business, has partnered with Bonneville Bank to offer the same no fee, FDIC insured, non-checking, debit account model as Bluebird and Simple.

GoBank is “The Mobile Bank Account.  No Overdraft Fees.  No Worries’. 

Like Bluebird and Simple, you can fund your account through Direct Deposit or transfer funds from a bank account. With GoBank you get a Visa Debit Card (you can personalize it with any photo for a $9 fee), a Mobile app for scanning and depositing checks, and an online checkbook to pay bills or send money.  The GoBank ATM network has over 40,000 free ATMs.

These products are all designed for simplicity and meant to appeal to those unhappy with their current bank checking account and those who are "unbanked" or underserved by traditional accounts.