Some traditional banks still offer truly free checking accounts, but it gets more difficult every year to find one. More often, you have to jump through annoying hoops to get those monthly maintenance fees waived.
Good thing traditional banks — and tradition-minded online banks — aren’t the only game in town anymore. Dozens of fintech apps like Current have stepped up in recent years to offer banking services for free with no strings attached.
What Is the Current App?
Current is a financial technology app that offers basic banking services through Choice Financial Group, member FDIC. It offers a checking account with a Visa debit card that earns rewards on select purchases and connected savings accounts that earn variable interest.
Current charges no monthly maintenance fee and has no minimum balance requirements. Notable banking features include early direct deposit with qualifying payers, optional overdraft protection, a broad fee-free ATM network, and mobile check deposit.
Current also has a crypto investing platform, but it’s totally optional to use and you don’t have to keep any of your funds in crypto if you don’t want to.
What Sets Current Apart?
Current has several features that distinguish it from other bank accounts and fintech apps:
- Open to kids as young as 13. You can open a Current account as soon as you turn 13, though teen accounts only work when connected to a parent account, meaning a Current account owned by someone 18 or older.
- Generous rewards on eligible purchases. You can earn up to 7x rewards on eligible debit card purchases with Current. That’s far more generous than most rewards debit cards, though not all spending earns rewards.
- Competitive yield on eligible balances. Current offers an impressive yield on eligible savings: 4.00% APY on Savings Pods balances up to $2,000 in each pod. You can have up to three Savings Pods, for a total of up to $6,000 in interest-bearing balances across all pods.
- No gas holds. Current automatically and immediately removes debit card holds placed by gas stations. These holds lower your available balance, which can be a big problem if you have little or no buffer in your account.
Key Features of Current
Current is basically a mobile-friendly checking and savings account package with a crypto investing platform attached. Overall, it works like any other online bank account, but it has a few features that set it apart.
Earning Rewards on Debit Card Purchases
Eligible debit card purchases earn rewards through the Current Points program. However, you don’t earn points on as many purchases as you would with a typical credit card.. According to Current, about 14,000 locations participate.
You can find eligible Current Points locations using the app’s rewards map. For each location, the map shows how many points you can earn per $1 spent — as little as 1x or as much as 7x, depending on the merchant. You have to activate each offer to earn points, which adds a step to the process but is easy enough to do in the app.
You can redeem points for cash or credits against future Current purchases. There’s no limit to how many points you can earn overall.
Early Direct Deposit
Eligible private direct deposits hit Current accounts up to two days early. Most private employers qualify. If you receive government benefits by direct deposit, your funds may come up to four days early.
Savings Pods & Interest on Savings Balances
You can set up as many as three savings subaccounts within your Current account. Known as Savings Pods, these are goal- or purpose-driven buckets that keep your funds separate as you work toward specific future plans.
Savings Pod balances earn 4.00% APY on the first $2,000 in each pod. That means you can earn interest on up to $6,000 in your Savings Pods.
You can save faster by taking advantage of Current’s Round-Ups feature. After you opt in, this automatically rounds up each debit card purchase to the nearest dollar and deposits the difference in a designated pod.
Overdraft Protection (Overdrive)
Current offers fee-free overdraft protection on checking balances through its Overdrive feature. You must set up direct deposit to qualify, then opt in — protection isn’t automatic.
Overdrive protection tops out at $25 to start, meaning Current allows transactions that would result in negative balances as large as $25. It ranges up to $200 per instance based on Current’s assessment of your risk of nonpayment. Generally, your limit increases over time, but Current has no set schedule for increases.
Current has a network of more than 40,000 fee-free ATMs. ATM withdrawals outside this network may still incur surcharges Current can’t control.
Gas Hold Removal
If you use your Current debit card at a gas station that normally puts a hold on the account until the transaction settles, Current removes it with no action needed on your end. That frees up any cash that would have been tied up by the hold — up to $50 in many cases.
Current’s Spending Insights feature helps you track your spending and saving patterns over time. Based on your activity, Current may suggest positive changes that can free up room in your budget or increase your savings pace.
Current is a mobile-friendly app. Notable mobile capabilities include:
- Fee-free mobile check deposit
- Instant transfers to external bank accounts and linked Current accounts, including teen accounts
- Chore assignments with custom payment amounts for linked teen accounts
- Real-time notifications when a teen user swipes their debit card
- Customizable spending controls for teen accounts, including the ability to block specific merchants or merchant categories
Current has a built-in crypto investing platform where you can buy and sell popular coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum. It’s only available for adult accounts at the moment. And crypto pricing is extremely volatile, so be cautious if you choose to use this feature, and never invest more than you can afford to lose.
Advantages of Current
Current ticks many of the boxes you’d hope an entry-level checking and savings package would.
- No monthly service charge. Current has no monthly service charge, regardless of your balance or transaction activity. It costs nothing to open and maintain your account.
- Fee-free overdraft protection. Current’s Overdrive feature is a fee-free overdraft protection program that covers negative balances up to $200. Many fintech apps also have overdraft protection, but a fee-free option is rare.
- Competitive interest rate on eligible balances. Current’s Savings Pod yields are on par with the best high-yield savings accounts on the market. Many fintech apps don’t pay interest at all, and those that do often can’t compete with top yields.
- Early direct deposit with eligible payers. If your employer qualifies — and most do — you can get paid up to two days early with Current. That’s Wednesday instead of the usual Friday payday.
- No need to wait until you’re 18 to open an account. Current is open to kids as young as 13 as long as they link their accounts to an adult account owned by someone 18 or older. With built-in chore and allowance features, it’s an ideal first bank account for older kids.
- No gas holds. Current releases gas station holds as soon as the station imposes them. That can free up as much as $50 (and sometimes more) immediately without the customary two- to three-business-day wait.
- Strict parental controls for teen accounts. Current’s parental monitoring and control features include real-time debit card transaction alerts, customizable payment blocks on merchants or transaction categories, and a chore management interface that lets you assign chores and then mark them complete. If your teen is ready for more freedom and flexibility but still needs financial training wheels, Current has your family covered.
Disadvantages of Current
Current has some meaningful downsides, including a relatively low maximum balance to earn interest and significant limits on the rewards program.
- Many Current purchases don’t earn rewards. Current only earns rewards on certain debit card purchases. To find participating merchants and see how much you can earn at each, you need to use the Current Points map. That adds time and friction to the process — and even with careful planning, Current can’t match the efficiency or earning potential of a general-purpose rewards credit card.
- Must activate offers in the app to earn rewards. Current purchases don’t earn rewards automatically. You have to activate each opportunity in the app. While the app is user-friendly enough, that adds another step that’s easy to forget.
- Only $6,000 in savings balances eligible to earn interest. Savings Pod balances only earn interest on the first $2,000, and you can only have three Savings Pods at once. That means the biggest balance you can earn interest on is $6,000.
How Current Stacks Up
Current isn’t the only mobile-friendly checking and savings solution on the market. Chime is a popular alternative — one that shows up in multiple product comparisons on Current’s website. So before you go to open an account with Current, see how the two stack up.
|Debit Card Rewards
|Up to 7x at eligible merchants
|4.00% APY on up to $6,000
|2.00% APY on all savings balances
|Early Direct Deposit
|Yes, two days early
|Yes, two days early
|Yes, up to $200
|Yes, up to $200
|Yes, up to $250,000
|Yes, up to $250,000
Current has a number of advantages over traditional bank accounts, including no monthly service charge, fee-free overdraft protection, early payday with qualifying direct deposit, a potentially generous rewards program, and a very competitive savings yield. That makes it an ideal bank account for people who live paycheck to paycheck and younger folks transitioning into the workforce after finishing school.
It’s also useful for teens and their parents thanks to a teen-friendly account with parental monitoring and controls.
Current does have some drawbacks, though. Many purchases earn no rewards at all, and you need to activate offers before each transaction, which adds friction to the process. Current has a relatively low maximum balance to earn interest as well — just $6,000 across all eligible savings subaccounts.
For most would-be users, Current has more to like than dislike. But before you rush out to apply, make sure it fits your needs.