Take a quick look at customer satisfaction surveys related to traditional banking and it’ll make sense why so many non-traditional banking competitors have sprung up in recent years. Although retail banks have experienced recent growth, customer satisfaction is actually on the decline. According to a recent survey, 65% of traditional banking customers don’t think they’re treated fairly with respect to new fees.
Nevertheless, banking services are essential in this day and age, so most people continue to maintain a checking and savings account. But that raises an obvious question: is there a better alternative to the traditional banking model? Or are all the online banks just more of the same?
Introducing Varo Money.
Varo serves as an alternative to the hassle of big banks by offering a two-pronged solution. Varo provides a convenient, fee-free banking experience while offering a savings account interest rate that dwarves rates offered by traditional banks.
We’ll survey Varo’s suite of app-based tools and features from A to Z, so you can decide if Varo has what it takes to replace your traditional bank account.
What is Varo?
Varo is a mobile banking experience that helps customers manage their bills and build wealth over time. Best of all, Varo is totally free!
Founded in 2015, Varo’s mission statement is simple: bring high-quality relationships back to the banking industry by delivering outstanding customer service and best-in-class financial tools!
Getting Started with Varo
Start by downloading the Varo app to your mobile device. For now, Varo is only available on iOS devices, but their Android platform is set to launch very soon! Next, complete the in-app application – it’ll only take you about five minutes!
In case you need help transferring your banking activities to Varo, they’ve prepared a handy step-by-step guide to help you make the most of your new Varo account.
Some banks require you to make an initial deposit to open your account – Varo doesn’t.
Once you finish signing up, it won’t be long until you receive your stylish Varo Visa Debit Card in the mail. This card gives you instant access to your checking and savings account. Your Varo checking account comes with all standard features you’d expect. Features include online bill pay, direct deposit, and mobile check deposit. Varo also sets users up with free access to a high-yield savings account. Neither account carries any fees or minimum balance requirement. Plus, you’ll have 24/7 access to your funds.
Varo’s Finest Features
Varo brings together the very best features the banking industry has to offer and puts them in an all-in-one mobile banking app. Here are the details:
High-Interest Savings Accounts
Varo’s best known feature is probably its industry-leading high-yield savings account. Varo’s interest rate varies depending on market conditions, but it’s currently at 1.35% APY.
This beats out competitors such as SmartyPig and Ally Bank, which currently offer savings accounts with rates in the 1.15 to 1.25% APY range. To really put Varo’s APY into perspective, check out the 0.02% you’ll get at large retail banks such as Chase and Wells Fargo – yikes!
Zero Liability Checking Accounts
Varo’s checking accounts come equipped with Zero Liability protection. This means you won’t be held responsible for any fraudulent purchases made on your account if you report them right away. Other financial institutions typically hold consumers accountable for up to $50 even if they report the charges within 48 hours.
Varo’s money management software works with both your checking and savings accounts. Varo helps you manage your cash flow and spending habits by giving you an overview of your current account balances, alerts for upcoming bills, and tools so you can set in-app saving/spending goals. In addition, Varo provides personalized recommendations to help you improve your financial health.
Varo also has some pretty cool systems to help you supercharge your savings. Similar to Acorns and Simple, you can customize spending rules in the app and set up automatic transfers to your savings account based on purchases you make. The app makes it easy to check your progress and adjust your goals in real time.
Varo’s Personal Loan program is probably its boldest leap toward becoming a one-stop-shop for all your banking needs. Customers can apply for a loan of up to $25,000. Varo’s Personal Loans are competitively priced and may provide an alternative to credit cards when a consumer is seeking to consolidate debt or obtain cash for an unexpected expense. Another great feature of this program is that Varo gives customers the ability to conveniently repay their loan within the app – either via automated checking account deductions or through manual transactions.
Best-in-Class Customer Service
Anytime a business lacks a physical presence, there’s bound to be concerns about getting questions answered or problems resolved in a timely manner. To make up for its lack of branch locations, Varo has made customer service a top priority. Varo’s call center is open seven days a week and can provide quick solutions in case you run into any issues with your account.
How Varo Separates Itself from the Competition
Varo’s greatest distinction from large retail banks is its devotion to no-fee banking. Varo doesn’t charge any monthly services fees and there’s no minimum account balance required to get started. Varo customers can use their Varo Visa Debit Card anywhere in the world and will never incur foreign transaction fees. Plus, Varo has a network of over 55,000 ATMs and they’re all free too!
Varo’s greatest competition in the digital banking sector probably comes from Simple Bank and Chime. Those institutions are also proponents of money saving, no-fee structures. Unlike the competition, however, Varo’s savings account comes with an industry-leading interest rate. Simple Bank doesn’t even offer a savings account. And Chime’s savings account interest rate is somewhere near the back of the pack.
And with respect to online-only banking, Varo is the only institution that I’ve come across that offers Personal Loans direct from their mobile banking app!
Room for Improvement?
Varo is an extremely young company, especially compared to banking giants that have been around for decades or longer. Naturally, Varo lacks the maturity of those financial institutions. Yet, Varo still offers an incredibly wide range of services. Still, their lack of experience has been known to show at times which can lead to the occasional hiccup.
I don’t have any firsthand experience with those issues, but common complaints concern glitches with mobile check deposit and account balances that don’t update in real-time. Fortunately, those appear to be technological issues that are relatively simple fixes.
Because Varo is in a hyper-growth phase – which is a notoriously challenging period for most startups – many issues relate to slow response time and less than optimal customer support staffing. But given Varo’s commitment to customer service, I don’t anticipate these issues will last long. And the good news is that Varo’s most attractive features work as advertised!
Varo’s all-mobile bank account features an intuitive design and user-friendly experience. On top of that, Varo uses industry-leading data encryption to ensure that your information remains safe and secure. Here are a few screenshots to give you an idea of what to expect:
Is Varo Right for You?
Varo is a young company with tremendous potential to disrupt the online banking industry. If you don’t mind banking with an institution that lacks branch locations where you can meet with employees face-to-face, then Varo is worth serious consideration. Personally, I’d rank Varo as my top pick in the all-mobile banking industry.
Featuring one of the best savings account interest rates you’ll find, along with personal loans, and money management tools – all at no cost – Varo is truly a game changer!