I recently had occasion to take a close look at my bank. Nothing wrong with my bank per se, but I chose it about 30 years ago and my situation and banking has changed over the years.

I want:

  • “High interest savings” - I’m going to put 3-6 months in an FDIC insured account in case there’s a major market melt-down. This covers everything except government melt-down.
  • Checking - I want my checking and savings at the same bank for easy inter-account shuffling.
  • Another free checking account elsewhere in case my main bank gets frozen. I’ll send my ACH debits and P2P e-transfers through here.
  • Free “Bill Pay”.


There are many good banks. I’m focusing on:

  • Alliant
  • Ally
  • Discover

These are all highly-rated by consumer reports and Reddit seems positive about them. There are others, but I want:

  • Full range of services
  • Among the higher savings rates
  • Among the higher customer satisfaction
  • Very good web site

“Very good” in all of these – not necessarily the best in any one category.

Detail Shopping List

Checks - no clear winner; Discover maybe a tad better

  • No per-check/per-transaction fee
    • Alliant: yes
    • Ally: yes
    • Discover: yes
  • How many free paper checks
    • Alliant: First ‘box’ free. (Reportedly 100 checks.)
    • Ally: Free. (Reportedly in lots of 20.)
    • Discover: Reportedly free forever
  • Criteria for no-fee checking
    • Alliant: $0 minimum balance; at least one electronic deposit per month; electronic statements only
    • Ally: $0 minimum balance
    • Discover: $0 minimum balance

Savings Account - no clear winner; Discover maybe a tad better

  • Interest rate on savings, Jan 1, 2020
    • Alliant: 1.62%
    • Ally: 1.6%
    • Discover: 1.7%
  • Criteria for no-fee savings
    • Alliant: electronic statements only
    • Ally:
    • Discover:
  • Current Savings rate with $1000 initial deposit, $100 minimum balance
    • Alliant:
    • Ally:
    • Discover:
  • How long to transfer from savings to checking
    • Alliant:
    • Ally:
    • Discover:

Bill Pay - no clear winner; Ally maybe a tad better (because people really like their web site).

  • Free Bill Pay
    • Alliant: some reports it is ‘clunky’
    • Ally: yes
    • Discover: yes
  • Bill Pay Uses MY account number or 3rd party:
    • Alliant:
    • Ally:
    • Discover:

Web Site - Ally

  • Transfer between accounts via web site
    • Alliant:
    • Ally:
    • Discover:
  • Web site quality:
    • Alliant: “It’s decent, a lot less buggy than my last CU’s app but there are definitely some room for UI improvements.” “Alliant has a dated website.”
    • Ally: “Ally has a sweet app/website”. * https://www.thebalance.com/best-online-checking-accounts-4158695 = “one place where Ally stands out is its online transfer options”
    • Discover:

e-payments - no clear winner

  • ACH Limits:
    • Alliant: Reportedly, can only push $25K/day and pull $100k/day.
    • Ally: Reportedly, Ally allows $150k push and $250k/pull.
    • Discover:
  • Works with Google Pay:
    • Alliant: Yes, via debit card.
    • Ally:
    • Discover:
  • Zelle
    • Alliant: no (work-around: Google Pay via their debit card)
    • Ally: yes
    • Discover: yes
  • Can I EFT to/from Schuler instead of Zelle. Can I do the allowance via ACH? (Or is Google Pay better?)
    • Alliant: Bill Pay paper check
    • Ally:
    • Discover:


  • 2FA
    • Alliant: yes, opt-in
    • Ally: yes, SMS
    • Discover: yes, SMS or email
  • Per-transaction text/email
    • Alliant: yes
    • Ally: “If you want to get instant push notifications about transactions you have to download a second app the goes with the first main bank app. This second app let’s you set push notification settings and control your debit card. “
    • Discover: ?
  • Other Security:
    • Alliant:
    • Ally:
    • Discover: When I set up Vanguard for ACH, Vanguard made micro-deposits to Discover overnight. Discover sent me an email at 4 AM to notify me of the deposits, explained they were typically for setting up ACH, and told me to contact them if I’d not done this.

Mobile Banking

  • Limits on mobile deposits
    • Alliant: $50,000 per day
    • Ally: $50,000 per day
    • Discover: $10K/day and $25K/month ($5K/day and $10K/month for first 90 days)


  • US-based call centers? Discover=Y, Ally=?, Alliant=?
    • Alliant:
    • Ally:
    • Discover:
  • Phone support hours
    • Alliant: 24/7
    • Ally: 24/7
    • Discover: 24/7
  • Online chat hours
    • Alliant: Can’t find chat. Phone oriented.
    • Ally: 24/7 - I waited < 2 minutes for a chat on New Years Day at 5 PM
    • Discover: Can’t find chat. Phone oriented.


  • 3 nearest ATM
    • Alliant: Allpoint (all over the place)
    • Ally: Allpoint (all over the place)
    • Discover: Allpoint + Moneypoint (all over the place)
  • Reimbursement/fee for other ATM
    • Alliant: Free at multiple networks; Up to $20 reimbursed
    • Ally: Free at Allpoint; up to $10 reimbursed
    • Discover: Free at Allpoint and MoneyPass; $0 reimbursed

Teen Checking

  • Alliant: Nerdwallet likes their teen checking. But, “The account also imposes low daily limits of $100 on cash withdrawals and $300 in spending.” When child turns 18, account converts to a standard checking account. But the joint account owners remain the same unless you apply for change. Maybe sign up for this WITHOUT a parent account?
  • Ally: Nothing at all. Can’t even open a joint account with teen.
  • Capital One 360 MONEY: Frequently cited as a ‘best’ teen account, but it does not allow writing checks.
  • Discover: ????
  • SunTrust: 4 years free; joint account with a parent if under 18.


  • Current promo and criteria
    • Alliant:
    • Ally:
    • Discover:
  • Bonuses
    • Alliant: Reportedly can deposit cash at ATMs.
    • Ally: “Ally has a more modern website and mobile app. Ally’s mobile app also has a second card control app that you can use to disable your debit card, restrict transactions amounts and types of transactions as well as region lock purchases to only occur near your smart phone”
    • Discover:
  • Gotchas
    • Alliant: Not part of the national credit union network; cannot do Alliant banking at other credit unions. But someone says you CAN deposit at ATMs.
    • Ally:
    • Discover: Their debit card is Discover, not MasterCard/Visa.
    • Discover: New accounts (1st month) hold deposits for 7 business days.