This Checking 2.0 Guide is intended to show the state of checking accounts in the U.S. It’ll offer some insight about premium, paid, and bundled accounts, as well as services and capabilities that are generally considered table stakes in today’s banking environment.
Additionally, this guide will briefly explore challenges facing traditional checking accounts. These challenges include competitors, such as Chime, Acorns, and SoFi; they include legal and regulatory concerns, such as changes to NSF, overdraft, and other fee income; and they include greater market trends, such as changing consumer demographics and increased reliance on digital banking channels.
Ultimately, this guide will help you find fintechs and CUSOs that can help you transform your checking account strategy. If you want your checking account to improve your member’s lives—and potentially drive growth and income at your credit union—then this guide is for you.
Check out our new downloadable Credit Union Provider Guides here!
Checking 2.0 Trends and Analysis
- Checking accounts should be more than direct deposit destinations.
Checking accounts should provide value to members—and to credit unions.
Credit unions are ready for premium, paid, and bundled checking accounts. A CU 2.0 survey of credit union executives revealed that most respondents thought there was potential in the idea—and many already implemented something similar for their members.
(For this guide, premium and bundled checking refers to accounts that include additional perks and services, such as higher interest rates, cash back rewards, local or national discounts, identity protection, travel or mobile phone insurance, gamification, or even streaming media accounts.)
- Most competing fintechs offer features that go beyond basic checking.
Top neobanks offer free perks like the following with their checking accounts:
Chime, 12m customers. Chime’s free account offers 0.5% APY interest, 60,000 free ATMs, and fee-free overdraft up to $200.
Dave, 10m customers. Dave offers earned wage access (EWA), inbuilt budgeting tools, and builds credit through rent payments.
Upgrade, ~15m customers. Upgrade’s debit card gives 1–2% cash back rewards, credit cards with crypto rewards, and Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) offers.
Acorns, 4.5m customers. Acorns features micro- and robo-investing along with its rewards-enabled debit card and spending account.
Revolut, 18m customers. Revolut helps travelers with great exchange rates, international fund transfers, interest on savings, and optional overseas medical insurance.
- Traditional fee income is in jeopardy.
Regulatory changes may limit or eliminate overdraft and NSF fees, and class-action litigation trends make fees increasingly risky. Moreover, many fintechs, banks, and a few credit unions have already discontinued NSF and overdraft fees.
However, checking accounts provide new opportunities for non-interest income (NII). By adding value through bundled or add-on services, credit unions can increase NII without relying on fees.
Here’s why switching from fees to Checking 2.0 is so compelling: Fees typically punish the most at-risk members and damage relationships. Yet, premium checking features can drive revenue and improve the member experience simultaneously.
Fintech Rating Methodology
CU 2.0’s rating methodology for our early guides is very simple. We measure the potential impact of working with each fintech on two variables: Potential ROI (resources required vs payoff) and Member Experience (effects on banking experience, financial wellness, etc.).
0: N/A or no impact. Competes with or disintermediates credit unions; doesn’t offer relevant services.
1: Minimal impact. Limited partnership opportunities; limited or narrow use cases for members.
2: Moderate impact. Partners with credit unions but may require more resources; meets at least one or several common member needs/desires.
3: Major impact. Partners well credit unions and doesn’t require much resource or investment; meets or exceeds most member needs/desires seamlessly. Our impact ratings don’t necessarily correlate to the quality of a given solution. Fintechs with higher potential impact scores aren’t automatically better, or a better fit, for your credit union and members.
The following fintechs are listed alphabetically. These ratings correspond only to the two listed variables (Potential ROI and Member Experience). These aren’t ranking of quality, nor are they recommendations—they’re meant only to serve as a starting point in your research to improve your credit union’s checking account.
Trusted solutions are highlighted with an asterisk—these are fintechs that CU 2.0 has vetted personally.
See more ways to evaluate fintech lending providers in our downloadable 2.0 Guide here.
Credit Union Checking 2.0 Guide
|Organization||Description||Potential ROI||Member Experience|
|Accelewage*||Accelewage offers earned wage access (EWA) to members so they can access their pay before payday.||3||2|
|Acorns||Acorns is a fintech that offers automated investing, retirement accounts, and rewards with its spending account.||0||3|
|Amazon Checking||Amazon’s proposed checking account may appeal to younger and underbanked people—it will have massive amounts of data behind it.||0||2|
|Array*||Array uses credit scoring and offers to turn “single-serving” members into “real” ones.||3||2|
|ChangeEd||ChangEd collects “spare change” in member accounts and puts it toward student loan payments.||1||1|
|Chime||Chime is a fintech that offers competitive interest rates, 60k+ free ATMs, and more with its checking account.||0||3|
|Constellation*||Constellation’s digital banking platform offers many native Checking 2.0 fintech integrations.||3||3|
|Dave||Dave is a fintech that offers EWA, credit building, and other perks with its checking account.||0||3|
|DoubleCheck*||DoubleCheck alerts members of incoming NSF fees and provides alternative payment options.||2||2|
|Dovly||Dovly is an automated credit repair engine that tracks, manages, and fixes your credit.||2||2|
|equipifi*||equipifi offers a simple, CU-specific Buy Now, Pay Later option that automatically deposits to and withdraws from member accounts. Their CEO, Bryce Deeney, spent years as VP, Payments at Alaska USA FCU, so you know they know credit unions.||3||2|
|Google Pay||Google simplifies account aggregation, payments, P2P, etc. on a single, simple platform.||0||3|
|Greenlight*||Greenlight grows credit union reach with kids and teens with a robust youth banking experience.||3||3|
|i2c||i2c is a fast-growing Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) provider that offers solutions for BNPL, cryptocurrency, card issuing, and more. They’re a larger organization with an extensive product catalog that ranges from BNPL to cryptocurrency cards and more.||2||3|
|Kasasa||Kasasa helps smaller FIs offer complete financial products and marketing with their branded platform.||1||3|
|Marstone Inc.||Marstone is a digital wealth management platform and robo-adviser that partners with qualifying credit unions||2||2|
|Otomo*||Otomo provides AI-based autonomous banking that helps consumers reach financial goals.||1||2|
|Personetics||Personetics is a self-driving finance solution that helps members achieve financial goals.||2||2|
|Plinqit||Plinqit helps members meet savings goals with automatic transfers, education, and rewards.||2||2|
|Pocketnest||Pocketnest coaches Millennials and Gen Xers toward financial wellness.||1||1|
|Polaris Portfolios||Polaris Portfolios’ Credit Union Wealth Group helps credit unions provide simple wealth management solutions to their members.||2||2|
|Quilo*||Quilo’s loan syndication network and platform can also power point-of-sale loan application and origination of installment loans BNPL, debt repayment, or account replenishment after purchases.||3||2|
|Revenew*||Revenew provides a merchant funded cash back program for cardholders and gives credit unions sales commissions.||3||2|
|Revolut||Revolut is a fintech that offers competitive interest and exchange rates with its checking account.||0||3|
|Robinhood||Robinhood is a fintech that offers fee-free stock and crypto trades, and its spending account and debit card feature rewards and other bonuses.||0||3|
|Savvymoney||savvymoney shows members their credit score and how to improve it, and makes offers based on it.||3||2|
|Upgrade||Upgrade is a fintech that offers cash back rewards, credit, and competitive loans with its checking account.||1||3|
|Zogo||Zogo is a gamified financial literacy app to help younger members understand their money better.||2||1|
Please note that these ratings are in their early stages and will be updated as we include more data and more complex variables. The ratings are not definite—your credit union could see a different level of impact than listed in this guide.
Did we miss a fintech? Please let us know at [email protected]
Choosing the right partners to leverage fintech lending capabilities and efficiencies will depend on your goals, budget, timeline, and other factors. The shop that works for the credit union down the street may not be the best fit for you.
However, we are comfortable extending a rare recommendation to include Tailwind in your list of potential partners. We’re impressed with their track record with credit unions, and their driving philosophy matches the credit union motto of people helping people.
For deeper discussion, analysis, and recommendations, CU 2.0 can help in the following ways:
- Join our Fintech Call Program. In quarterly 30-minute calls, we’ll discuss in depth new and innovative fintech solutions that fit your credit union’s needs. We can also help you review other solutions you’re looking at.
- Ask for an introduction. We maintain relationships with most or all of the vendors rated above. We would be happy to give you a warm introduction to any we can on the list.
- Book a consultation. CU 2.0 offers technology and fintech consultations and reviews to identify best-fit solutions for your credit union.