Majority of Banks Offering High-Yield Savings are Traditional Brick-and-Mortar Institutions

Bankunited_savingsSavings accounts paying 5% or more are a sweet spot for consumers by allowing them to beat inflation with little risk. According to Bankdeals blog, <>, 22 U.S. banks are currently paying 5% or more on consumer savings accounts (see BankUnited's "Sweet Rate" in inset).

While there's been much talk about online-only banks and their competitive threat, only 4 of the 22 fit this definition. The other 18 are traditional branch-based banks, often marketing the higher yielding accounts through direct banking brands such as HSBC Direct (see 26 Aug 2005), MyBankingDirect from New York Community Bank, or the latest entrant Grand Yield Direct from Apple Bank for Savings (see Sep 27). 

The traditional banks are evenly split on how they market the higher-yield product. Ten use a separate brand which is often not mentioned on their main website. Six of the ten simply append a "direct" to their main brand. The other eight market high-yield accounts online under their normal brand, but two (Zions and Wamu) hide the higher rate accounts from users of their main websites. 

Here's the list as posted Oct. 7 at BankDeals:

Pure direct banks with little or no branch network (minimum balance to earn rate, if more than $1,000):

Direct brands of traditional banks (parent):

Traditional banks with links to the high-yield account from its main website:

Traditional banks with "secret" online-only offer (not linked to regular product pages):

Apple Bank Joins the High-Yield Savings Game with Grand Yield Direct

Google_highyield_25sep06_1Yesterday, a new advertiser appeared at the top of Google searches for "high-yield savings accounts (click on inset for closeup)," Apple Bank for Savings <>. The New York-based thrift is marketing the 5.25% APY account under the brand name, Grand Yield Direct <>.

To market the account, the bank uses a single-product microsite powered by Digital Insight (see screenshot below). The Apple Bank name and logo appear in the lower-right corner in a subtle graphic image, but there are no links back to the main bank site. The online application is hosted by CashEdge (click on continuation link for screenshot).

The new product joins an increasingly crowded field that just two years ago was owned by ING Direct. Just yesterday, E-Loan launched its 5.5% savings account (see NB 26 Sep).


First page of the online application hosted by CashEdge


Wamu Targets Savers on Google

Wamu_google_savingsaccountAs we reported Aug. 16, Washington Mutual Bank is looking to win back some of the high-yield deposit business from ING Direct, HSBC, and Citibank. The bank is now bidding aggressively on Google with its "5.00% APY" landing it in fifth place for "savings accounts" (placing it second on the right-side list) and eighth for "high-yield savings" (see inset, search conducted 21 Sep, 1 pm PDT, from Seattle IP).

After clicking through the ad, potential customers are delivered to a well-designed landing page further emphasizing the "5.00% APY Statement Savings" rate (see screenshot below, click for larger view). Wamu continues its year-long effort to lampoon bankers with the three-piece suited icon "complaining" about the high rate paid on savings (see also, 28 April).

A new Wamu checking account (opened after 11 March 2006) is required to take advantage of the special rate. That important fact is downplayed on the landing page but is obvious once the user clicks through to the application (see screenshot by clicking the continuation link below). Furthermore, both accounts must be opened online. However, deposits can be made in the branch.

Wamu landing page from Google ads on "savings accounts" (see continuation link to see full page with fine print)

Full landing page (with fine print)


Full application


Bank of Internet Launches MyRVBank

Bofi_rvbank_logo Bank of Internet <>, has launched its second niche, direct-bank brand, MyRVBank. This one is targeted to the 8 million U.S. households with recreational vehicles. The site is virtually identical to its Senior Bank <>. The only differences, aside from the URL, are the homepage picture, different button designs, a few unique links in the Community Center and the blog. Click on the screenshots below for closeups (follow the continuation link at the bottom of the article to see a comparison of the product pages).

Bofi_rvbank_home  Bofi_seniorbank_home

Creating microsites for market niches is a good strategy. The RV market has been targeted by at least two banks in the past, Chase Bank in 1997 and Affinity Bank. Neither of those programs is still in operation.

Bank of Internet shows how to do niche marketing on a shoestring budget, basically re-purposing its existing Seniors' website. The bank said it spends less than $100,000 on the niche site. From the looks of it, I'd estimate it's quite a bit less than $100,000.

The only content differences are in the Community Center which contains several links to blogs and other resources of interest to RVers. The bank also sponsors a blog, MyRVBank Blog, hosted on Google's free Blogger site <>.

Blogging is a great idea, and we think every financial institution will eventually host a blog (see NB Aug. 29); however, the bank's RV blog is bad. It's designed to demonstrate the joys and pitfalls of life on the road, with a hired guest blogger, Tim McWhorter, chronicling his year-long trip with his wife and four kids across the country.

Here are a few of the problems with the blog:

  1. No pictures: Travel blogs MUST have pictures at least every once in a while
  2. Small type: The font is small and the text-only postings have almost 25 words per line, an uncomfortable read for most users, especially the seniors they are trying to attract.
  3. Poor layout: The blog doesn't even use many of the free tools available to make it more visually interesting; for example, entries without dates, no author profiles, no explanations of purpose, no recommended links, no post categories, and no permalink so other blogs can link to specific entries.
  4. No email address: Most blogs provide a means to communicate with the author(s).
  5. No RSS feed: The blog does not allow users to sign up for an RSS feed.
  6. Infrequent posts: There are seven posts since the supposedly grand RV adventure started June 24; only three about the trip and four generic posts about fuel economy, buying an RV, and so on.
  7. Boring: It's just as well that there are few posts, because what's there is mind-numbing dull. Here's an excerpt about the trip:

When we came back outside, the sky had darkened and thunder was easily heard off in the distance. We had five miles to get back to our car with several large uphill climbs ahead of us! Yikes! We made it back to the car and loaded up the bikes. We did not even make it out of the parking lot before it started pouring down rain! We were very relieved to make it back before the storm which was also accompanied by high winds and lots of lightning.

Bank of Internet has the right idea here, but they need to invest a bit more in design and content to make its niche marketing effort more appealing. In addition to sprucing up the blog, the bank should work with marketing partners such as KOA to provide more RV-related value adds. The bank should also do a better job highlighting features of interest to frequent travelers, such as the $10 month in ATM surcharge rebates.


Appendix: Product page comparison, Senior Bank vs. MyRVBank (click for closeups)

Bofi_seniorbank_products  Bofi_rvbank_products

HSBC Teams with Marriott to Give New Customers Free Lodging

Hsbc_smartoffer_home HSBC <> is offering new Smart Idea checking customers a free night at participating Marriott hotels, and are even tossing in breakfast for two. The only major requirement, as outlined in the relatively scant fine print (click on continuation link at the bottom of this article), is a direct-deposit relationship or $3,000 deposited by the end of September. The screenshot right shows the offer on the bank's homepage (click to enlarge).

Here's the landing page for the offer (first click off the homepage):


This is a good offer because the perceived value of $200+ is likely far less than what HSBC is paying for it, which we estimate is considerably less than $100 due to the exposure Marriott receives. While it may not appeal to the stay-at-home crowd, they are not the target market for HSBC's premium checking account.

We also like the alternative to dropping $3 grand in the account in lieu of direct deposit. That appeals to small business owners and the self-employed who often are ineligible to participate in many bank premium offers  that require direct deposit. However, the bank should work with the single-deposit customers to get some electronic hooks into the account as soon as possible, either electronic bill payments, pre-authorized debits, or an integrated credit line with automatic payments from checking.



Fine print for HSBC's offer:
* Minimum balance to avoid monthly maintenance fee applies if direct deposit ceases. To receive the Marriott award, customers must open an Interest Checking account by 9/30/06 and either set up direct deposit or deposit at least $3,000 by 10/31/06. Interest Checking Account has 0.15% Annual Percentage Yield (APY), which is accurate as of 8/1/06 on balances of $5 or more. APY is variable and subject to change after opening. Charges and fees may reduce earnings. HSBC reserves the right to charge your Interest Checking account an amount equal to the bonus if your account does not remain active for at least 180 days. Hotel redemption forms will be sent to qualifying customers by 12/31/06. Hotel award includes accommodations for a one (1) night stay, including breakfast for two and room tax, at participating Marriott properties in North, South and Central America, Hawaii and the Caribbean, subject to availability. Breakfast not included at SpringHill Suites and TownePlace Suites properties. Hotel reservations must be booked and used by 1/1/08. Limit of one hotel award per customer. Cost of gift will be reported on IRS Form 1099.

** The Introductory APR does not apply to cash advances. After the Introductory Period or if during the first 12 billing cycles of your Account, whichever is earlier, your Minimum Payment (or any greater amount) is late or you exceed your credit limit twice, the Introductory APR will increase to the Customary APR. The variable Customary APR is 11.99%, 15.99% or 18.99% (as of 8/1/06), depending upon your creditworthiness. There is no balance transfer fee for balance transfers that post to your Account within 90 days of your Account opening; otherwise a 3% ($5 minimum, $50 maximum) balance transfer fee will apply, unless otherwise disclosed. We apply payments to lower APR balances before higher APR balances. We have the right to change your APRs, fees, and other terms at any time, for any reason including, but not limited to, any change in your credit history, credit obligations, Account performance, use of your credit lines with us or any creditor, or our financial return. Any changes will be in accordance with your Cardmember Agreement and applicable law.

Ohio Savings Marketing CDs through AmTrust Direct

Amtrustdirect_homeOhio Savings Bank <> is marketing CDs through a direct-banking subsidiary, AmTrust Direct. The company is currently topping the 1-yr CD chart at with a 5.35% APY. Users can click through to the direct-banking site (see screenshot right) through an enhanced listing at

The direct banking offer is only 35 basis points higher than the 5.00% offered at the parent, Ohio Savings, or its AmTrust Bank <> division.


Citibank’s 4.5% Direct Banking Savings Account

Citi_hysa_ad_yahooIn more direct banking news,* Citibank landed all over the media with the launch of a 4.5% no-minimum-balance savings account. A Citi checking account is required to qualify. The reason for the media attention had nothing to do with the rate, and everything to do with the channel conflict inherent in the offer.

The first line of fine print under the offer was (click on screenshot below for closeup; click on "Continue reading…" below for the full text of the mousetype):

This offer is not available at Citibank financial centers

Citi_hysa_landing_yahooMany stories contained an inaccurate observation that Citibank was launching an entirely new Internet bank. This inaccuracy seems to have its roots in the Reuters wire piece that first discussed the savings account offer.

The truth: This is NOT a new bank. It’s NOT a new website. It’s NOT even a strategic shift for Citi, which has previously made high-rate deposit offers to online customers (see OBR 120/121). This is simply a new advertising campaign targeted to online users, especially those frequenting Yahoo’s homepage (click on inset to see the ad positioning).

Any of Citi’s existing 2.5 million online banking customers can open the account by logging in to online banking and selecting "open an account" and following the directions. A small link in the lower right of the landing page directs existing Citi customers to these instructions.

Initial funding can be made by mail, credit card, debit card, or ACH (electronic interbank funds transfer). After the account is open, additional deposits can be made at Citi ATMs or through IN-BRANCH deposits.

You’ve seen high-rate savings account offers before. There is little new here. What can you really say about a savings account once you deal with the rate and the balance requirement?

Citi_hysa_acctopening What sets Citibank apart in this instance is its near-perfect sign-up form (click on inset right). The page is dominated by a banner promising that it will "take 10 minutes & 4 simple steps." The bank backs that up by showing the four steps immediately below the banner.

  1. Tell us about yourself
  2. Confirm your identity
  3. Fund your account
  4. Provide your E-Signature

Although these steps are the same as what thousands of banks have done for years, Citi’s language is exceptional in its clarity and how it addresses consumer fears. The "confirm your identity" demonstrates the bank’s commitment to stopping fraud. The "provide your e-signature" lets customers know they won’t have to mail some old-fashioned signature card to the bank before they can start enjoying the new rate.

The bank also uses several other devices to ensure that customers feel confident about acting on this offer:

  • "We care about your privacy and security" box with link for more info (upper left)
  • VeriSign clickable logo (left)
  • Ability to save and complete the application later (upper left)
  • Ability to print a blank application to mail in (upper left)
  • Link to account details and fees (upper right)
  • Link to live chat or toll-free number (right)

But we called this "near-perfect" for a reason.

There are several concerns not addressed on this page:

  • Timing: How long will it take before my initial deposit starts earning 4.5%?
  • Guarantee: Even though they address the need to confirm your identity, the bank doesn’t come right out and guarantee the safety of the process.
  • No reinforcement of account benefits: Although it’s been only a few moments since the customer navigated to this page, don’t let them lose sight of why they should go through the uncomfortable process of typing their personal details into a browser that may or may not be transmitting their keystrokes to Uruguay. Keep that 4.5% number right in their face.

Another weakness: navigation overload. Citi has included its full My Citi personal navigation across the top along with all the site utilities in the upper right. While this is helpful for research purposes, it tends to be distracting and will pull customers away from the savings account application.

Final Grade
Despite a few minor weaknesses, it’s impressive work. Definitely scores an A and is closing in on A+.

Web address for offer:

*We’ve started a new Direct Banking category for Financial Marketing Week, so you can easily find all the articles on the topic with a single click.

Continue reading “Citibank’s 4.5% Direct Banking Savings Account”

Popular Direct Banking Coming May 1

Populardirect_websiteThe new website for previously announced U.S. direct banking effort from Puerto Rico-based Popular Inc. <> is just five weeks away from launch. According to its website <>, "A whole new Popular Mortgage Online coming May 1st 2006." The company is also using <> to direct traffic to the new site.

The current website for Popular Mortgage is <>. There is no hint whether high-yield savings accounts will be offered at the outset.


April 6 update: An article in today’s American Banker outlines Popular Inc.’s overall goals for its U.S. expansion, including an expected $3 billion in deposits through its upcoming direct banking initiative. The timetable for the $3 billion isn’t spelled out, but it sounds like a 2008 year-end goal.

ING Direct and the Internet-only Banking Redux

Ing_on_bankrate_1During the height of the bubble, there were dozens, perhaps hundreds of banks secretly planning to launch Internet-oriented brands. But the strategy fell out of favor with the very public downfall of WingspanBank, which lost funding during a corporate restructuring at Bank One; followed by the collapse of NextCard, which went belly-up after a ill-advised bet on sub-prime credit.

But despite these public failures, there was never anything wrong with the underlying strategy. Quite the opposite. Direct banking has been a viable business model ever since deposit deregulation in the 1970s. The Internet only makes it easier to reach and serve customers.

Case-in-point: ING Direct, still not five years old in the United States, has amassed 2.5 million accounts holding $29 billion in deposits at year-end 2004, making it the 30th largest financial institution in the United States. If they continue to grow at the same pace, they should be close to cracking the top-20 by this time next year. Their laser sharp focus on savings accounts, trendy branding, and consistent high rates has put them on the map.

This success has not gone unnoticed around the country. They are frequently discussed at industry gatherings and internal planning meetings. However, you aren’t likely to see many of its more traditional competitors jumping on the high-deposit bandwagon. It doesn’t make sense for them to alienate their customers and branch employees by offering higher rates online. And they are not about to reprice their entire deposit base to compete with ING Direct and the other high-rate institutions.

Emigrant_direct_on_bankrateHowever, I think you will see smaller banks look to the Internet for growth using new brands or brand extensions. In perhaps the most aggressive launch since ING Direct in 2000/2001, Emigrant Savings practically owns the deposit real estate at In a recent visit, the bank’s Emigrant Direct brand not only had the top banner, they also bought the skyscraper on the left-hand side, effectively "framing" the entire content screen (click in the inset for a better look).

Note to ING Direct, check your skyscraper ad at (see above). Emigrant Direct has hung a small ad on the bottom of your banner that looks like part of your ad. I hope you are at least getting a discount from 


If you’d like to learn more about the future of online banking include internet-only, check out the Online Banking & Bill Pay Forecast: Current, future and historical usage: 1994 to 2016 from our sister publication, The Online Banking Report.

Affinity Banking Online from Blackwell

Bankblackwell_logoBankBlackwell, a new Internet-only bank targeting African-Americans, began it’s roll-out today, with its first press release announcing OTS approval. The bank hope to launch this summer, provided they raise sufficient capital and pass regulatory muster.

CEO James Mundy and CIO Bruce Narison briefed me on the bank last fall, and they have impressive plans. We’ll keep you posted as they lift the veil on their online banking platform.

BankBlackwell is the latest of a string of Internet-oriented banks using affinity marketing techniques. The two most prolific are: National Interbank which runs a number of banks for professional membership organizations such as the American Medical Association and The Bancorp Bank which has private-labeled banks for 40 organizations.

Affinity marketing is a proven strategy in the financial services arena, enjoying great success during the past 15 in the credit card market. We think there’s a great future in affinity-based online banking. As consumers grow more confident of web-based financial entities, they will be more than happy to take a few moments to set up an account and transfer a few grand into a higher-yield situation.


If you’d like to learn more about the future of online banking, check out the Online Banking & Bill Pay Forecast: Current, future and historical usage: 1994 to 2016 from our sister publication, The Online Banking Report.

The Future of Banking is Direct

In 1999, we published a report entitled Virtual Checking Accounts: On the Web it’s the plastic that matters (OBR 50/51, July 27, 1999). Our hypothesis was that web-based access, electronic transfers, and a Visa or MasterCard were really the primary transaction tools going forward.

It has happened as fast as we thought it might. Two early proponents of this strategy, WingspanBank and Juniper, really never got off the ground, though Juniper did create an impressive credit card portfolio that was recently sold to Barclays.

Fast-forward to six years, HigherOne is working with 13 college campuses to offer its OneAccount, combing college ID, MasterCard debit, financial aid depository, electronic funding, and of course, website access.

It’s a trend worth watching. As today’s teens and twenty-somethings move through their inevitable financial growth, they are going to think less about the bricks-and-mortar of THEIR BANK, and more about the website and plastic.

If you’d like to learn more about the future of online banking, check out the Online Banking & Bill Pay Forecast: Current, future and historical usage: 1994 to 2016 from our sister publication, The Online Banking Report.

Branchless Banks now Hold 2% of U.S. Retail Deposits

The Wall Street Journal published a story today that marks the growing importance of branchless online banks, Online Banks are Boosting Yields. Our sister publication, Online Banking Report, was the source for the article’s market statistics on branchless banks, which have developed a small, but significant following around the world.

In the United States, there are several dozen branchless banks, but more than three-quarters of the total branchless bank deposits are held by two banks, ING Direct and E*Trade Bank. Total branchless bank* deposits in Q3 2004 were about $65 billion, or 1% of all U.S. deposits, or about 2% of all deposits under $100,000. See below for more specific details.    

Branchless Bank Deposits
As of Sept 30, 2004, the deposit totals of the major branchless banks are as follows:

ING Direct       $26 billion in 1.9 million accounts ($14,000/acct)
E*Trade Bank  $23 bil in 2.3 million accounts ($10,000/acct)
NetBank          $2.7 bil in 200,000 accounts ($14,000/acct)
Everbank         $2.3 bil in 370,000 accounts ($6,200/acct)
All the rest      $5 to $10 billion total
Total               $60 to $65 billion

Total US Deposits
The total amount of deposits held in U.S. commercial banks on 9/30/04 was $6.4 trillion including retail and commercial deposits.

If you look only at deposits of $100,000 or less (a proxy for retail deposits), total deposits were $3.7 trillion.

Branchless Bank Deposit Market Share
Branchless banks hold about 1% of all U.S. deposits ($65/$6400).

Looking at just deposits under $100k, branchless banks hold just under a 2% share ($65/$3700), actually 1.8% if you want to be more precise.

Source: FDIC

What it Means
It’s not as big of a splash as Amazon made in books, but it’s a solid start for an niche about 7 years old (Netbank started in 1997). I expect it will continue to grow 25% to 35% per year for the rest of the decade, eg, doubling the branchless banking deposit base every 2 to 3 years.   

*We define "branchless bank" as a separately branded insured depository institution that derives the majority of its business through direct methods (mail, phone, online) with minimal brick and mortar presence. We are excluding direct banking units operating under lending or insurance brands such as Principal Bank, State Farm Bank, IndyMac, MBNA, and so on.