There are literally thousands of legitimate checking accounts to choose from, and more spring into being all the time as online banks emerge and grow. There’s no way you can evaluate them all.
If you’re under age 25 and don’t care about loading up on potentially generous features, you can safely narrow your search by limiting your choices to basic checking accounts built for young, unfussy people. One account that should still be among those choices is the BMO Harris Smart Money™ Account.
The BMO Harris Smart Money Account has no monthly maintenance fee for users under 25 and relatively few other account fees. It comes with a Mastercard debit card accepted by millions of merchants worldwide. And it could be right for you — but be sure you understand its capabilities and limitations before opening an account.
What Is the BMO Harris Smart Money Account?
The BMO Harris Smart Money Account is a basic checking account designed for younger people and those seeking the peace of mind that comes with fee-free overdraft protection.
Smart Money has no monthly maintenance fee for anyone under 25 and no overdraft fees for anyone. Otherwise, it has the same basic features as BMO Harris’s two other consumer checking accounts — Advantage and Premier — including a vast fee-free ATM network, a robust mobile app, and no ongoing minimum balance requirement.
What Sets the BMO Harris Smart Money Account Apart?
The BMO Harris Smart Money Account stands out from competing checking accounts in a few key ways:
- No overdraft fees. Smart Money has no overdraft fees. This is less generous than it sounds because BMO declines most Smart Money transactions that would result in an overdraft. Still, BMO may allow some transactions to go through even if they result in a negative balance. If and when it does, there’s no charge.
- No maintenance fee for younger users. Smart Money has no monthly maintenance fee for users under 25. It qualifies as a free checking account for younger folks.
- No way for older users to waive the maintenance fee. Smart Money does have a maintenance fee ($5 per month) for users 25 and older. This is low as checking account maintenance fees go. But it’s also unusual (in a bad way) because there’s no way to waive it. Most checking accounts waive maintenance fees if you maintain a minimum balance or incoming direct deposit.
Key Features of the BMO Harris Smart Money Account
The BMO Harris Smart Money Account is a straightforward checking account for people who don’t need many bells and whistles.
Smart Money has no official age restrictions. Kids under age 18 can open an account with a parent as a joint owner, and anyone 18 or older can open an account as the sole owner.
However, Smart Money does make an important distinction between account holders under age 25 and those 25 and older. While there’s no monthly maintenance fee for users under age 25, users 25 and over must pay a $5 monthly maintenance fee. There’s no way to waive this fee, either.
Minimum Deposit & Balance
The minimum deposit to open this account is $25. Once opened, there’s no ongoing minimum balance.
BMO Harris belongs to the Allpoint ATM network, which has more than 40,000 fee-free ATMs across the United States. These ATMs are relatively evenly distributed across the country, including in many locations where BMO Harris has no physical branches.
Smart Money doesn’t reimburse out-of-network ATM fees, however. Be sure to use Allpoint ATMs to the extent possible.
Possible Account Fees
Smart Money has no maintenance fee for users under 25 and an unwaivable $5 maintenance fee for users 25 and older. It has no overdraft fee for any users, though BMO Harris declines most transactions that would result in a negative balance.
Other possible fees include:
- A $2 paper statement fee per month
- A $3 fee for each out-of-network ATM transaction
- A $3 fee for each check image if you’re not opted into paperless statements
Smart Money users get access to BMO Harris’s user-friendly mobile app. Notable capabilities include:
- No BMO user fees for person-to-person Zelle transfers (though other fees may apply)
- Free mobile check deposit
- Free budgeting and expense-tracking tools
- A single view of all your BMO accounts, including bank accounts and credit cards
Like the account itself, Smart Money’s advantages are straightforward: no maintenance fees for younger users, no ATM fees if you stay in-network, and excellent mobile features, to name a few.
- No monthly maintenance fee for younger users. BMO waives the $5 monthly fee for account holders under age 25. That makes Smart Money an appealing choice for college students and recent college graduates.
- No overdraft fees. Though it declines most transactions that would result in negative balances, BMO waives overdraft fees and insufficient funds fees for such transactions anyway. If it allows negative-balance transactions to go through at its discretion, it still doesn’t charge an overdraft fee.
- Big fee-free ATM network. As part of the Allpoint ATM network, BMO Harris has more than 40,000 fee-free ATMs in the United States. You can find these machines in every corner of the country, including places far from any physical BMO Harris branches.
- Excellent mobile features. BMO Harris has a comprehensive, user-friendly mobile app with useful, time-saving features like mobile check deposit and Zelle transfers.
Smart Money’s biggest downsides include an unavoidable monthly fee after age 25, unavoidable ATM fees outside the Allpoint network, and no sign-up bonus for new account holders.
- No sign-up bonus. Unlike the BMO Harris Premier Account and the BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking Account, the BMO Harris Smart Money Account has no sign-up bonus for new account holders. If you’re looking to pad your balance early on, consider one of those instead.
- Can’t waive the monthly fee after age 25. Most checking accounts offer a way around their monthly maintenance fees, and sometimes several. Often, maintaining a minimum balance of a few thousand dollars or receiving a recurring direct deposit does the trick. Smart Money is different — in a bad way. There’s no way to waive the $5 monthly fee after you turn $25.
- No out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement. Smart Money doesn’t reimburse out-of-network ATM transaction fees. These can really add up, so if you expect to use non-Allpoint ATMs often, consider an account with a more generous reimbursement allowance.
How the BMO Harris Smart Money Account Stacks Up
The BMO Harris Smart Money Account is one of three BMO checking accounts. Before you open yours, see how it compares to the highest-end account in the BMO family: BMO Harris Premier.
|BMO Harris Smart Money||BMO Harris Premier|
|Monthly Maintenance Fee||$5, limited waiver only||$25, but can be waived|
|Waiver Requirements||Only waived if you’re under 25||Yes, required $10,000+ balance|
|ATM Fee Reimbursement||None||Up to $25 per month|
|Credit Card Benefits||None||Up to $75 in quarterly spending bonuses|
|Mortgage Benefits||None||Closing cost and interest rate discounts|
|Interest on Balances||None||0.01% APY|
If you’re a college student or recent college graduate looking for a basic checking account that lets you spend as you please, wherever you please, the BMO Harris Smart Money™ Account makes sense for you.
Just don’t expect Smart Money to be anything more than it claims. With no sign-up bonus or perks beyond fee-free in-network ATM withdrawals, it’s not a lifelong checking account. Better to use it as you work to build your net worth, then trade up to a more generous product — whether with BMO or another bank of your choice.