Ever since I started taking an interest in the FinTech sector, one company whose name I’ve seen pop up over and over again is SoFi. Despite that, lately it seems as though that theme has been sent into overdrive as the company has rolled out everything from a robo-advisory platform and active investing options to a slate of exchange-traded funds (ETFs). But, of all their many semi-recent expansions, the one that interested me the most is SoFi Money.
I actually first learned about SoFi Money while writing about different FinTech debit card options on the market. What got my attention was the account’s high-yield savings element coupled with things like free ATM access and very few fees. Before I even hit “publish” on that post, I had already signed up for an account.
Now that I’ve had a couple of months to try out some of SoFi Money’s many features — and with the product recently undergoing some notable changes — let’s take a look at what this account has to offer, what I like about SoFi Money overall, and where I think they can improve.
Editor’s note: this article was last updated in June 2020 with the latest APY information and changes.
Features of SoFi Money
No monthly or maintenance fees
Like many online-only bank accounts, SoFi Money’s biggest pitch to consumers is that they won’t charge the kinds of fees that have given brick-and-mortar banks a bad reputation. Among the fees that SoFi doesn’t charge are monthly fees, minimum balance fees, overdraft fees, and returned items fees. There are others as well; you can view them all here.
Incidentally, when I originally wrote my review of SoFi money, they did charge $20 for more than one replacement card — although your first replacement was always free — as well as a $25 fee if you wanted that replacement rush-shipped. Elsewhere there was also a $20 stop payment fee and a $100 Legal Processing fee (for garnishments, tax levies, or other court orders). However it seems that SoFi has even dropped these reasonable fees down to $0 as well. So, when they say “no fees,” they really mean it.
Free ATM access
When I signed up for SoFi, one of the highlights was that not only did they not charge accountholders ATM fees but that they also reimbursed third-party ATM fees. Furthermore, there was no limit to how much in ATM fees they’d reimburse in a month and this offer held true both domestically and overseas. In other words, I could basically access cash whenever I needed it using my SoFi Money card and not worry about getting charged extra.
Unfortunately, this policy was changed in June 2020 — at least for new members. Now, SoFi Money has joined the Allpoint ATM network, which will give cardholders access to more than 55,000 free machines, but they will no longer reimburse other ATM fees. That said, if you joined SoFi Money before June 8th, 2020, good news: this change will not affect you (at least not yet). Meanwhile, if you join on or after that date, you’ll be limited to the Allpoint Network.
If you’re not sure exactly when you joined or if this new policy applies to you, log into your account and it should layout whether or not you’re eligible for ATM reimbursements.
No foreign transaction fees
Similar to how SoFi Money allows you to use international ATMs for free (or did, I should say), they also permit you to use your debit card for foreign transactions. What’s more, unlike some banks that may tack on as much as 3% as a conversion fee, SoFi does it for free. Essentially whatever the current exchange rate is will be what you pay — although they note that a .2% MasterCard foreign conversion fee may apply, but is baked into your total.
One interesting aspect of SoFi Money is that it is essentially both a checking and a savings account. So while you’ll have access to funds via a debit card or even paper checks, you’ll also earn interest on your balance. This was especially great back in the day when SoFi was boasting an APY north of 1.5%. Sadly, due to several rounds of Fed rate cuts since then, the current max for SoFi Money is 0.2% APY.
You’ll notice I said “current max” as the APY structure is also something SoFi Money has recently changed. Now, users who join on or after June 8th, 2020 will earn a default amount of just 0.01% APY on their funds. Then, in order to unlock the higher amount, they’ll need to deposit at least $500 a month into their account. Once again, those who joined SoFi prior to June 8th are grandfathered into the old way of doing things and will retain their 0.2% (for the time being) regardless of their deposit habits.
Although some of the changes SoFi Money has made in recent months have been disappointing — especially for new users — it hasn’t all been bad. Case in point: their Cashback Rewards Program. Since migrating to Mastercard from Visa (more on that in a minute), SoFi has been offering cashback deals from select retailers. For example, during the lockdown months, SoFi Money customers could earn 20% back on purchases from DoorDash as well as various streaming services, with a maximum cashback benefit of $40.
Additionally, at the time I’m writing this, SoFi has also announced a limited time Father’s Day promotion where users can earn 10% back on purchases from Nike.com, Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker.com, and Old Navy.com, up to a total of $10 back. With these two offers actually overlapping, it seems SoFi is being pretty aggressive with these cashback deals.
On top of that, under the Offer tab in the SoFi app or site, there are several local deals sporting cashback. Despite this being in beta, in my area, there are already half a dozen eateries where I could earn 4–5% cashback if I activate the offer and use my SoFi Money card for the transaction. Notably, these restaurants are ones I’ve seen featured on other apps and services including Dosh, so I’d be curious if these offers were stackable (I haven’t yet tried to confirm).
Looking around their site, it seems that only those users who qualify for the higher APY rate will also be eligible for the cashback offers. This includes those like myself who joined before June 8th, 2020. I suppose that’s just more incentive to make SoFi Money one of your main money accounts.
Peer to peer payments
This one’s a bit interesting but SoFi Money apparently allows users to send funds via peer to peer (P2P) payments for free. To do this, you can enter a phone number or e-mail address for the recipient along with how much you want to send. Then those on the receiving end can claim the funds by entering some basic info as well as their bank routing and account numbers. Should your intended recipient fail to respond within a set period of time, your money will be returned to you.
I did try out this feature and it seemed to work okay… but I’d just as soon stick with dedicated P2P apps like Square Cash, Venmo, or PayPal instead.
Bill pay and check ordering
While I was exploring my SoFi Money account in preparation for my initial review, I realized that they also offered a bill pay option. Here you can either arrange direct payments for credit cards or other bills or set up to have a paper check sent out on your behalf. Personally I have no use for this feature but it’s there if you need it.
On the other hand, another aspect of SoFi Money I discovered after opening an account is that they offer a complimentary checkbook. With just a couple of clicks, you can order free personal checks linked to your account. By default, an order includes 25 checks, although you can reorder as long as it’s been at least seven days. Considering I still need to write checks to pay rent each month, I appreciate SoFi making this an option and making the process so simple. In fact, I’ve recently been using my SoFi checks for this purpose and they work just like any other checking account would.
SoFi Money’s Move to MasterCard
Earlier this year, SoFi announced a new partnership with MasterCard that would impact its SoFi Money product. For one, all account holders would be sent an updated debit card that operates on the MasterCard network as opposed to the current Visa network.
Personally, I kind of miss the old Visa design as the MasterCard version of the card just isn’t quite as appealing. However, as I mentioned, it was the move to MasterCard that brought about the various cashback deals SoFi has been running. Therefore, in my view, the switchover was at best a win and at worst a non-event.
Pros and Cons of SoFi Money
One app to rule them all
First up is both a pro and a con of sorts — but mostly the latter. In my review of Discover Bank, I noted that the merger of their banking and credit card account apps was a good thing. However, I’m not sure that the same can be said when it comes to SoFi.
Within the SoFi app, you’ll not only have access to your Money account but will also find tabs for investing, loans, their Relay account aggregator, and more. This is to say that only a small portion of the app is dedicated to banking functions and yet is bogged down in features that likely don’t apply to you. To be sure, this is far from an accident as SoFi wants you to take advantage of their other products but, for me, I’d definitely prefer a dedicated SoFi Money application.
Clear transfer dates
Considering that I now have upwards of six savings accounts alone, I end up transferring money with some frequency. Therefore I find it quite annoying — if not worrisome — when these transfers take an unexpectedly long time or are seemingly stuck in limbo without updates. That’s why I was impressed that, when I initiated a transfer from an external account to SoFi Money (via SoFi), it clearly states when the first portion of the funds would be available as well as when the full transfer would be complete. Of course it’s one thing to say what will happen, but thankfully SoFi stuck to their word. For that reason, I found the transfer process to be enjoyable and stress-free.
No flat cashback amount on checking
As much as I enjoy SoFi’s strategy (so far) of offering lucrative cashback amounts on select purchases, there may be better options out there for those looking to earn cashback from their debit card.
For example, Discover’s debit gives you 1% back on everything you buy. Granted, this isn’t really a big deal for me either way as I use credit cards far more than debit cards. But, for those who do prefer the latter, they might also appreciate earning a flat amount back instead of dealing with random promotions.
Fairly favorable exchange rates
So far, in addition to that high APY, my favorite features of SoFi Money have involved travel. While in Paris I had the chance to try my card at an ATM, taking out the same amount using another bank card seconds later. Surprisingly I learned that SoFi’s exchange rate for the transaction came in 4¢ cheaper than the other bank on a 20€ transaction. Sure this isn’t much but it was interesting nonetheless.
Later in the trip, my Uber Visa suddenly stopped working for a time (likely the result of several repetitive train ticket transactions I was making), leaving me without a foreign transaction fee-free credit card to use. Luckily I was able to use my SoFi Money card without issue. In each case, these purchases were assessed at a fair exchange rate and I appreciate that SoFi “shows their work,” displaying the original currency rate and conversion for each line. As you can imagine, this was a huge relief and I’ll certainly be taking my SoFi card with me for future travels.
My joint account attempt
The last time I wrote about SoFi Money, the joint account option was still in beta. At that time, it seemed like the company was still working out some of the kinks. On my end, I was able to invite my wife to join my account and she submitted her application. Alas, nothing ever came of that.
Honestly I haven’t bothered trying to re-add her but, since it’s been a while since that original attempt, I can only hope that these requests are now being processed in a more timely manner.
Subject to change
One of the reasons that I frequently update my reviews is that a lot of products and services in the FinTech space tend to evolve. Sometimes these changes are good and other times… not so much. This is something I actually noted in a previous version of this review that now seems a bit prophetic. Sure enough, as we’ve recently seen, these accounts might not stay gold forever. So while I was personally spared from this last round of adjustments, I do worry about what the future will hold.
Short track record
Finally I feel the need to mention that SoFi Money is still a relatively new offering, officially debuting to the general public in late February 2019. On top of that SoFi has been introducing so many new endeavors of late that one might worry that they’re spreading themselves a bit thin. With that said, while it may take the company some time to prove themselves and their Money accounts worthy, the good news is that funds are FDIC insured thanks to partnership SoFi has with banks. This should hopefully give you at least some peace of mind if you’re on the fence about taking a chance with a startup.
Final Thoughts on SoFi Money
With what was a sky-high APY, great perks for travelers, and an admittedly attractive debit card, SoFi Money was off to a pretty strong start in my book and was one of my favorite accounts. Although I mostly intended to use it as an auxiliary account, I also appreciated that it included many traditional banking features such as check deposit, bill pay, and paper checks as well. Meanwhile my biggest complaint was that the app — cluttered by other products — was a bit lacking. All of those opinions mostly remain, although I can’t ignore the fact that the experience may no longer be the same for new users.
With that said, despite the recent changes, I still think SoFi Money is a solid option. Unlike some other services I’ve reviewed, I find SoFi’s cash management product to be very usable, offering much of what I think an online bank account should.
Also, while the $500 a month deposit requirement for earning higher APY and cashback may be new, it’s also not ridiculous (in my opinion). However, of all the policy changes, the loss of ATM fee reimbursement is the biggest to me since I used this often while traveling.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a hybrid account that offers several perks with few fees, I believe that SoFi Money might be worth exploring.
Originally published at Dyer News.