Review of Empower

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APYMINMAXINSTITUTIONPRODUCTDETAILS
1.65%--EmpowerChecking Account
Rates as of October 16, 2019.
Written by Brynne Conroy | Published on 10/11/2019

Empower combines attractive budgeting tools with a full-featured BillShark cash management account. Empower’s account has all the advantages of a checking account, and pays a relatively competitive APY of 1.65% (as of October 11, 2019), a rate that’s just below some of the best savings account rates available.

There are no fees to use Empower, and the cash management account charges no ATM fees for out-of-network withdrawals. Plus, it will refund one fee per month charged by an out-of-network ATM operator.

If you link accounts to Empower, the app will build a budget for you and then let you know if you’re staying on track. It will help you lower your bills and uncover fraudulent charges as they happen. All in all, the app’s strong features and attractive APY make it a strong contender among similar cash management/budgeting apps.

In this article we will cover:

Empower account features

Empower helps you meet your overall financial objectives by analyzing and predicting your spending habits. Additionally, it offers a cash management account that combines the liquidity of a checking account with the higher APY of a savings account.

Empower account features

Empower’s AI Assistant helps you budget, and identifies extraneous fees and subscriptions. This assistant integrates seamlessly with the cash management account, and monitors spending and balances for any external accounts you link to the app. The more external accounts you link to Empower, the more accurate the view of your finances becomes.

Empower’s AI assistant can help you:

  • Build a budget, and monitor actual versus planned spending
  • Remember due dates on your bills, and pay your bills automatically
  • Find extraneous fees you may not need to be paying
  • Identify potentially fraudulent charges
  • Determine the best time of the month to set aside extra money for saving

In addition, Empower works with BillShark to find you lower rates on your monthly bills. If it thinks it is able to negotiate a better price for you, you will be notified by BillShark directly, which will then seek your permission before approaching your cable company, utility provider, etc.

Empower checking account features

Empower offers a relatively competitive APY of 1.65% (as of October 11, 2019), although there are other cash management accounts out there that will offer you more. You can put money into Empower’s cash management account via direct deposit, bank transfer, wire transfer or mobile payment services such as PayPal, Venmo, Square Cash or CashApp. You cannot deposit cash, and while you cannot currently deposit checks via mobile deposit, the latter is an upcoming feature Empower will be adding to its app in the near future.

The account comes with a debit card that earns cash back. On the first $1,000 you make in purchases via debit transaction, you can earn 1% cash back. Empower charges no fees at in-network ATMs, though you may be charged a fee by the ATM owner should the machine be out-of-network. Empower will refund your fees the first time this happens in a given month. After that, you’re on your own.

There are no overdraft fees, as purchases that would overdraft your account are blocked. This account does not offer paper checks

Empower works with Evolve Bank & Trust to hold your deposits and provide FDIC insurance of up to $250,000 on your account. This is the maximum amount for a single bank account; however, other cash management accounts distribute your money among multiple accounts at different financial institutions, securing higher levels of FDIC deposit insurance. It then offers you a singular, easy-to-understand interface, allowing you to interact with your money as if it’s all in one account.

Empower fees and fine print

Empower charges no monthly account maintenance fee, there is no minimum balance requirement, and there is no charge for international transactions. In addition, there are no minimum initial deposit requirements. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a fee schedule so in favor of the consumer elsewhere.

Empower Fees
Monthly fee $0
Maintenance fee $0
Overdraft fee $0
ATM fees Empower charges no ATM fees, but you may be charged withdrawal fees by the ATM owner at out-of-network ATMs. Empower refunds one such fee per month.
Insufficient funds fees $0
International transaction fees $0

Using the Empower mobile app

Using the Empower app is fairly intuitive. When you first sign up, you’ll fill out a short questionnaire and link your bank account. At the time of writing, supported banks include:

  • Discover
  • TD Bank
  • US Bank
  • USAA
  • Wells Fargo
  • American Express
  • Bank of America
  • Capital One
  • Charles Schwab
  • Citi
  • Chase

Many other financial institutions are supported as well; simply use the search bar at the top of the screen to look for yours. To get the most out of the app, you’ll want to link all of your financial accounts.

Once your account is funded, you’ll be able to view a diagnosis of your spending habits, including graphs showing you if you’re on target for your spending goals this month and potential monthly subscriptions that you may be paying for but are no longer using.

The biggest missing feature from Empower is mobile check deposit. This should be changing soon, though, as Empower is working to bring these capabilities to the app.

Opening an Empower account

You can open an Empower account directly through the app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. In order to qualify, you don’t necessarily have to be a U.S. citizen, but you do have to have a valid Social Security number.

You’ll sign up with your phone number, which is necessary as Empower texts you a code to verify your account. You’ll then be asked to provide:

  • Your full name
  • Birthdate
  • Address
  • Social Security number
  • Email
  • Driver’s license, passport or other state-issued ID

From there, you’ll be able to link your bank account. The process is simple, but transfers from external bank accounts generally take one to four business days, so it may take some time before you can start using your account.

What else you should know about Empower

Empower does not charge fees, so it generates revenue through interchange fees, said Elsa Hou, director of performance marketing at Empower. Every time you use your card with a merchant, the merchant pays a small percentage in interchange fees to Empower.

Empower does have daily transaction limits. For example, you’ll only be able to withdraw $510 per day via an ATM, and you’ll only be able to make a max of $2,500 in purchases each day from your account.

You can earn rewards via Empower’s referral program. In the 30 days after someone you refer opens an Empower account, both you and your referral will receive double the standard APY and double the standard cashback rewards on purchases. So, a referral would earn you an APY of 3.30% for 30 days at the time of writing (double the current standard 1.65% APY is 3.30%). Your rewards would double from 1% to 2% cash back on all debit card purchases.

Overall review of Empower

Empower may not offer the highest APY on the market, but it’s far from the worst. Its lack of fees and the ease of using the AI Assistant to better your money situation are both major draws to this account, as are referral opportunities and the potential signup bonus.

If you want more than $250,000 in FDIC insurance with your cash management account, look elsewhere. But if the $250,000 limit is sufficient, Empower’s account and tools make it a great fit for most consumers trying to better their finances.


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