Founded in 2015, Varo is an all-mobile firm that offers checking and savings accounts. As a startup, Varo seeks to disrupt traditional banking (even of the online-only variety) by providing monthly-fee-free accounts and an entirely mobile experience.
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No-monthly-fee checking and savings accounts
Access to 55,000 Allpoint ATMs
Impressive savings rate
No online platform
Cash deposit only available through a third-party that charges fees
Only two deposit accounts available
- No-monthly-fee checking and savings accounts – Varo delivers no-monthly-fee checking and savings accounts. You will pay no monthly maintenance fees, no overdraft fees if eligible, no in-network ATM fees, no foreign transaction fees, no debit card replacement fees, and no transfer fees. The biggest exception is a $2.50 out-of-network ATM fee, which is easy to avoid by using one of the 55,000 in-network Allpoint ATMs.
- No-fee overdraft – While many institutions promise no overdraft fees, Varo takes this one step further by covering overdrafts of up to $50 that are the result of a debit card purchase, an online payment, a check, or a transfer (but not an ATM or other cash withdrawal). You will pay no fee for this coverage, and you can repay the overdraft with your next deposit within 30 days. You must qualify for the No Fee Overdraft program by receiving at least $1,000 in direct deposit each month and by making at least five debit card transactions each month. If you don’t qualify or overdraft for more than $50, your transaction will be declined, and you will still pay no fees.
- Access to 55,000 Allpoint ATMs – Varo is part of the Allpoint ATM network, which has 55,000 ATMs worldwide, 42,000 of which are within the United States.
- Impressive savings rate – Savers with Varo can expect a minimum annual percentage yield (APY) of 1.21% but may qualify for as much as a 2.80% APY.
- No online platform – Online-only banks with no physical branches are hardly a novelty at this point, but Varo is also without an online platform. The website outlines the details of available accounts, but all you can do from the site is sign up for an account. From there, you will have to get the mobile app to access your Varo account.
- Cash deposit only available through a third-party that charges fees – If you need to deposit money into your Varo checking account, you will need to visit a retailer that participates in the Green Dot network, such as Dollar General, Walgreens, CVS, 7-Eleven, or Kroger (among others), and pay up to $4.95 to add cash to your account at the register. Alternatively, you can purchase a $5.95 MoneyPak at a participating Green Dot retailer and deposit your cash onto it, which you can then transfer to your Varo account. You cannot deposit cash directly into your Varo savings account but must deposit it into your checking account and then transfer it to savings on the mobile app.
- No checks – Varo does not offer paper checks with its checking account. However, you send a check via the mobile app, which is mailed within three to nine business days. There is no fee for this service.
- Only two deposit accounts available – Other than the checking and savings accounts, Varo does not offer any other deposit accounts, such as certificates of deposit (CDs), money market accounts, and the like.
Who is Varo Best For?
Varo will appeal to customers who prefer a mobile experience, want to avoid fees, and want a competitive savings rate. Specifically, Varo will be right for customers who:
- Are tech-savvy and enjoy handling their banking on their phone
- Want a fee-free banking experience
- Don’t often need to deposit cash
- Want a high interest rate on their savings account
- Don’t need more than the basic checking and savings account
- Want easy access to fee-free ATMs
- Don’t write many paper checks
What Does Varo Offer?
As a mobile-only startup, Varo keeps its offerings very simple. The only accounts Varo has are savings and checking.
The sole Varo savings account is a high-yield account with no fees whatsoever with which savers can earn up to a 2.80% APY. To open a Varo savings account, you will first need to open a checking account (known as the “Varo Bank Account”).
In addition, the fee structure is a little confusing. To earn the 2.80% APY, you will need to meet the following three requirements:
- Make at least five debit card purchases each calendar month
- Receive $1,000 or more in direct deposits in the same calendar month
- Keep a daily savings account balance of up to $10,000
If you do not meet these requirements, your rate is 1.21% APY. This means that savings account holders who keep a balance greater than $10,000 (but meet the other two requirements) are not eligible for the 2.80% APY. Once you reach a $10,000 balance or greater, your rate drops down to 1.21%. On the plus side, there is no minimum balance required on the Varo savings account, and you need no more than $0.01 in your account to earn interest.
Though you are required to have a Varo checking account in order to open the Varo savings account, the institution offers some benefits with this structure. Specifically, Varo has two automatic savings options to help encourage you to reach your savings goals.
- Save Your Pay – This program allows you to choose a percentage of each direct deposit into your Varo checking account to have automatically transferred to your Varo savings account.
- Save Your Change – With this program, anytime you make a purchase with your debit card, Varo will round up the purchase to the nearest dollar and transfer that amount from your Varo checking account to your Varo savings account.
The only checking account option is officially known as a “Varo Bank Account,” and it packs quite an impressive punch for a fairly simple offering. The benefits of this account include all of the following:
- No Monthly Fees – With no minimum balance, no monthly maintenance fee, no overdraft fees or interest owed for overdrafts, no transfer fees, no foreign transaction fees, and no debit card replacement fees, you really do enjoy monthly-fee-free banking.
- Early Direct Deposit – If you set up direct deposit of your paycheck, you may be able to access your money as much as two days earlier than payday. That's because Varo will deposit your money in your bank account as soon as it receives the direct deposit notification. You may also be able to access the direct deposit of your tax refund up to two days early.
- No Fee Overdraft – If you receive at least $1,000 in direct deposits per month and make at least five debit card purchases per month, you are automatically eligible for No Fee Overdraft, wherein Varo will cover an overdraft up to $50 with no fees and no interest owed. Your next deposit within 30 days will reimburse the overdraft.
- No Overdrafts – Even if you do not qualify for No Fee Overdraft, any transaction that would overdraw your account is declined. This means you can rest assured that you will not be hit with an overdraft fee (that averages $36 each at traditional banks) on top of your overdraft.
- Visa Debit Card – The Varo Bank Account comes with a Visa-branded debit card that can be used anywhere Visa is accepted. With your debit card, you can connect Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, Cash App, and Venmo for effortless payments anywhere. You are also eligible for the Visa Zero Liability guarantee, which ensures that you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges on your debit card.
- Excellent App – As a mobile-only bank, Varo needs a great mobile app, and it definitely delivers. The app allows you to deposit checks with mobile check deposit, send money instantly to other Varo customers, track spending and account activity with instant alerts, and even link external accounts so you can transfer money as well as track your finances across Varo and other financial platforms. It has a 4.8 star rating on iTunes and a 4.6 star rating on Google Play.
While the Varo Bank Account has a lot to offer the right customer, it’s not going to be a good fit for everyone. The fact that you have to pay a third-party to deposit cash means that anyone who regularly receives cash may want to look elsewhere for a basic checking account.
It’s also a good idea to double check if there are Allpoint ATMs in your area before signing up for a Varo Bank Account. Through a network of 55,000 ATMs (42,000 in the United States) covers a lot of territory, that doesn’t mean that everyone can easily find an ATM near them. The one exception to this fee-free account is the $2.50 out-of-network ATM fee, which could be an expensive exception if there are no convenient Allpoint ATMs near you.
Varo Customer Service
Though Varo is a mobile-only bank, there is a robust help section on its website that is both set up as an easy-to-use FAQ and easily searchable. If you are unable to find a solution to your problem via the help section, you can email Varo or call its customer service line from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST Saturday and Sunday (excluding federal holidays).
How to Bank With Varo
Signing up for an account with Varo starts on its website. You will enter your email and some other identifying information and create your account on the website. From there, you will need to download the app to finish opening your account. Without a smartphone or tablet, however, it is impossible to bank with Varo.
Varo does not have a wide array of products and services, but it makes sure that what it does offer is excellent. The no-strings-attached fee-free accounts make this a good option for young and newly banked customers, and the impressive APY on the high-yield savings account can tempt even veteran savers.
The fact that Varo is only available on mobile and does not have a great solution to the problem of cash deposits means this is not necessarily the right institution for everyone. That said, Varo is an excellent competitor in the world of digital and mobile banking.
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