Got cash? Great. Or not so great if you want to deposit it in an online bank account.
The best online banks have high savings rates and low fees, which generally make them attractive places to put your money. Depositing cash requires a few extra steps, but it’s doable. Here are four ways.
1. Deposit locally, transfer electronically
Online banks such as Ally, Capital One 360 and Discover let you link your account electronically to another account at a traditional bank or credit union. If that linked institution has a local branch, make your cash deposit there. Then, create an electronic transfer, also known as an ACH transfer, to move the money to your online bank.
Many institutions allow free ACH transactions, though they can take up to three business days to complete.
» Want to learn more? Read NerdWallet’s survey of transfer costs to find which institutions allow free transfers and which ones don’t.
2. Buy a money order
Transform your cash into an easy-to-deposit check by buying a money order at a local retailer or a post office, then make it payable to yourself. If your online bank has an electronic scan feature, you can snap a photo and upload the money order to your account for deposit. If your bank doesn’t have this feature, you can mail it to the bank’s headquarters for deposit.
You might have to pay a small fee for the money order — often less than $2 — for a value of up to $1,000. But you would have a safe alternative to cash, which is one of the main reasons to buy a money order. For amounts larger than $1,000, you may have to spring for a cashier’s check at a bank, which usually costs a few dollars more.
» Although cash deposits aren’t a strong suit for online banks, great rates and lack of fees may more than make up for it. Check out NerdWallet’s guide to the best online checking accounts.
3. Deposit cash in a linked ATM
Some — but not all — online banks are able to collect deposits through cash-accepting ATMs. Ask your institution if an ATM option is available. With a Capital One 360 checking or savings account, for example, you can deposit cash in a machine at one of the Capital One’s cafes or bank branches in a few states and handful of cities around the country. Another bank, Radius Bank, participates in a network of deposit-accepting ATMs that carry the NYCE logo.
Compare Capital One 360, Radius Bank and American Express online savings accounts.
4. Load cash on a reloadable prepaid debit card
To make frequent cash deposits, consider buying a reloadable prepaid debit card and linking it to your online bank account. You can then load cash to the card at certain stores and make an ACH transfer to your online bank. American Express Bluebird card (read NerdWallet’s Bluebird review) and GoBank (see our (GoBank review), for example, let you add cash at most Walmart registers for no additional fee.
But there are drawbacks: Many cards charge for deposits at other retailers, and some have extra fees, such as monthly membership charges, that will eat into your balance. You’ll want to compare prepaid debit card options before deciding to buy one.
Online banks are optimized for online transactions, so electronic transfers and even mobile check deposits are often a snap. That’s not the case with cash, but there are ways to eventually stash your money into an online account. It may take some effort, but it will be worth it the next time a wad of bills comes your way.