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GoBank Review: Online Checking

Banking, Banks & Credit Unions, Checking Accounts
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NerdWallet’s rating: 3.5 / 5.0

GoBank is a mobile checking account that’s used mainly through a smartphone app. Owned by Green Dot Bank, GoBank doesn’t use ChexSystems or bad credit to deny accounts, so it’s an option for consumers with a spotty banking history.

Overdrafts aren’t allowed, and many essential features are free, including a large ATM network, bill pay and mobile tools. You’ll need to follow GoBank’s rules carefully, though, to avoid fees for other services.

The bottom line

  • GoBank offers a checking account and an attached savings account that doesn’t pay interest
  • There are no branches, just self-service mobile and online options, and ATMs
  • You can make cash deposits for free at Walmart stores, but you’ll pay a fee to deposit cash at other participating retail locations
  • Overdrafts aren’t allowed, and there are no overdraft or nonsufficient funds fees

» For other options, take a look at NerdWallet’s best checking accounts


4.0 / 5.0

  • $0 to open if you sign up online or via mobile
  • More than 42,000 free ATMs
  • No ChexSystems or credit check used
  • Two ways to get cash for free: via in-network ATMs or cash back with a debit card purchase
  • Free to deposit cash at Walmart
  • $2.95 to open account with a Walmart starter kit
  • $8.95 monthly fee; waived with $500 of direct deposits
  • Paper checks are costly at almost 50 cents each
  • Up to a $4.95 fee for depositing cash at retailers including Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens
  • A $2.50 out-of-network ATM fee

GoBank’s account comes with a debit card for making purchases, accessing ATMs and getting cash back. For a $2.50 fee, plus any additional fees the ATM owner might charge, you can also withdraw cash at Mastercard and Visa network locations. 

There are several free ways to deposit money, including direct deposit, mobile check deposit and cash deposits at Walmart registers (except in Vermont). Note that mobile check deposits can take up to 10 days to clear.

You can write out paper checks, but there are a couple of catches. You have to preauthorize the amount on your app, and each paper check costs almost 50 cents. It’s best to use bill pay or make a person-to-person payment since those services are free. There’s no charge for having GoBank send out a paper check drawn on your account. You can make electronic person-to-person payments only to GoBank or PayPal account holders.

GoBank lets you set aside money in a separate Money Vault account but, unlike savings accounts at other banks, that feature doesn’t pay any interest.

» Need a place to stash your savings? Check out NerdWallet’s best savings accounts

Bank experience

3.5 / 5.0

GoBank doesn’t have any branches, but you can deposit cash for free at Walmart stores. For customer service, you can reach GoBank by email, phone or sending a direct message on Twitter.

If you have bad credit or a ChexSystems record and you like banking on your smartphone, GoBank might be a good option. Anyone who passes ID verification can open an account, even if he or she has had trouble qualifying for a traditional bank account in the past.

» See how GoBank compares to other second-chance checking options

App store users generally approve of GoBank’s mobile banking app. They rate the Android version 4.3 stars out of five, and the iOS version gets 4.4 stars. The app has built-in money management features that can help you make a budget and track your spending. 

Overdraft fees

4.0 / 5.0

Because GoBank won’t approve a check or debit purchase that exceeds your account balance, there’s no reason to worry about overdraft fees. That may be an advantage for consumers who sometimes have low balances and would rather have a transaction declined than rack up fees.

It’s possible to avoid GoBank fees altogether by limiting yourself to the free services. You’ll be charged for using optional features, such as loading cash deposits at retailers other than Walmart, writing out paper checks or using out-of-network ATMs.

The mobile GoBank account can function as a basic checking account, providing a debit card and a way to receive paychecks and make payments. The mobile tools facilitate budgeting on your smartphone. But this no-frills approach might not work for consumers who prefer in-person banking or want to earn interest on their money. You can compare GoBank with other options on NerdWallet’s lists of best banks and credit unions.

Jeanne Lee is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @jlee_jeanne.

Updated Dec. 21, 2017.

Ratings methodology

NerdWallet’s overall ratings for banks and credit unions are weighted averages of several categories: checking, savings, certificates of deposit or credit union share certificates, customer experience and overdraft fees.

Factors we consider, depending on the category, include rates and fees, ATM and branch access, account features and limits, user-facing technology, customer service and innovation.

The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.