Technology firms dominate your online activity, so why not your wallet, too?
Most recently, Google has announced it will offer checking accounts as part of a project code-named Cache, notching the boldest move yet by tech into consumer banking.
In fact, the company is just the latest Silicon Valley leader to make a bid to be your bank.
Apple, for its part, launched a credit card for iPhone users earlier this year with Goldman Sachs, Amazon has reportedly been in talks with J.P. Morgan Chase over a checking account and just last month Facebook said it is taking on PayPal‘s Venmo with a new payments service.
That’s in addition to new offerings from start-ups such as SoFi, Betterment, Wealthfront, Robinhood and CreditKarma.
While still a small segment of the market, these so-called fintech firms are battling for your banking business in a big way.
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As the competition heats up among tech giants and fintech start-ups alike, here’s what you need to consider before cashing in:
The first thing to know is whether these companies have partnered with a bank that’s already backed by the FDIC, according to Ken Tumin, the founder of DepositAccounts.com.
Banks are covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, which insures your money for up to $250,000 per depositor.
“Otherwise, it’s not as clear how safe or protected your funds are,” Tumin said.
Further, these tech giants are not only vying for your cash but also your personal data.
“Data is the commodity,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, and sharing that information exposes you to breaches and privacy concerns. “Unless you go hide under a rock, that concern is there everywhere, every day,” he said.
“The more institutions you share your data with, the more risk there is,” Tumin added.
On the upside, new offerings may have a better user interface, making account management from your smart phone simpler and easier — especially compared to traditional banks, which have been slow to keep up with today’s tech savvy customer, Tumin said.
“They could also have features that are very consumer-friendly, like no overdraft or minimum balance fees,” Tumin said.
In addition to low fees, “they often have lower rates on loans and higher rates on deposits,” according to PwC Financial Services Advisory Leader Julien Courbe, primarily due to lower overhead costs compared to traditional brick-and-mortar banks.
For example, a wave of fintech firms are now offering a 2% or higher rate on savings, which is more than 20 times the national average. In order to compete, analysts say some banks may have to raise their own rates to attract new customers.
Still, few of the newer banking services — also called “challenger banks” — offer a full slate of products. More likely, it’s a checking account or savings account or a payment provider, Courbe said.
One of the questions consumers must ask themselves, he added, is whether they want the best possible rates — or full service.
“Time will tell,” Courbe said.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.