FitnessBank recently cut rates again on its Fitness Savings Account. The top tier rate fell from 1.90% to 1.75% APY at the start of May. FitnessBank typically only makes rate changes at the start of the month, so hopefully, the new rates will hold through May. FitnessBank is almost a year old, and since it has launched, its top tier rate has remained close to the rate leaders for nationally available online savings accounts. That trend continues with the new May rates.
The top tier rate requires meeting monthly step requirements, which makes it unique to online savings accounts. This step requirement is both a benefit and a drawback. It’s a benefit in that it allows the Bank to offer a top rate. Since not every customer qualifies for the top rate, the average interest rate FitnessBank pays is more sustainable for an online bank. The drawback is that it does have step requirements that many customers may not be able to meet to qualify for the top rate.
The Fitness Savings Account requires that the customer average at least 12,500 steps per day in the previous month to earn the top APY (the Senior Savings Account requires only 10,000 steps per day for that APY). If you average fewer steps, the rate that you earn falls. The Fitness Savings Account currently has the following APY/step tiers:
The Senior Fitness Savings Account is for those who are at least 65 years of age. This account has lower step requirements to qualify for the interest rates:
FitnessBank Rate History
It’s rare for an online bank to remain a rate leader over the long run. Banks often launch an online division with very competitive rates. Once they acquire enough customers and deposits, the rate eventually falls back inline with their competitors or falls to uncompetitive levels. FitnessBank may be a little different due to its step requirements. Since the average rate it pays is less than the top tier rate, it has a better chance of being able to maintain a high top tier rate.
For two months in the summer of 2019, the top tier rate had been 3.00% APY. After three Fed rate cuts in 2019 that totaled 75 bps, the top tier rate eventually settled at 2.20% APY on January 1, 2020. That rate held until the COVID-19 crisis took hold in March. The APY has fallen to 2.10% on March 1st, to 1.90% on April 1st and now to 1.75% on May 1st.
I thought it would be interesting to compare the top tier APY of FitnessBank to the APY of another new online bank that has been near the rate leaders over the last year. I decided to choose Comenity Direct which has maintained very competitive online savings account rates since my first review of it in April 2019. I just wrote about it last April when it partially reversed a rate cut it had done in early March. Comenity Direct’s savings account APY is currently 1.70% on balances up to $10 million without any activity requirements. It’s reasonable to ask if FitnessBank’s step requirements are worth it, but as you can see in the following rate history chart, FitnessBank’s top tier APY has a history over the last year of staying well ahead of Comenity Direct.
FitnessBank Savings Account Features
I first reviewed FitnessBank in July 2019 when the rate had recently risen to 3.00% APY. Many details of FitnessBank and the savings account are described in that FitnessBank review. One important change that occurred in late 2019 was that account balances are now capped at $250,000. According to the account disclosure, “The maximum amount you can deposit is $250,000.00. FitnessBank will contact you if your balance exceeds $250,000 to discuss disbursing the additional funds.”
As I mentioned in November, the ACH transfer limits that can be initiated from FitnessBank are small. Those small limits are still in effect. Outgoing and incoming ACH transfers initiated while logged into FitnessBank have a default maximum of $2,500 per every four business days. If customers need higher limits, they can request a limit of up to $15k. There’s no dollar limit when the ACH transfer is initiated from another bank.
Qualifying for the High Rate
The step requirements are waived for the first month. The initial APY will be 1.75% until the rate adjustment date following the first full month that the account has been opened. After that time, your interest rate will be determined based on your average number of steps for the previous month.
The step counting requires that you install the FitnessBank Step Tracker app on your smartphone. This Tracker app is compatible with several step tracking devices including Fitbit, Apple Health, Google Fit and Garmin. The steps are counted by one of these step tracking devices, and then the step counts are transferred to the FitnessBank Step Tracker app which is read by FitnessBank to determine your interest rates.
I know many readers had concerns about being able to average enough steps to qualify for the top rates. It should be noted that FitBit will register steps even if you are using a treadmill or elliptical exercise device. FitBit doesn’t require actual movement as when you’re walking or running outside. So if the weather is bad, you can still pick up steps by using exercise equipment at home or at a gym.
In my experience with FitBit, you can achieve between 2,000 and 3,000 steps by walking a mile. Also, a lot of house chores such as taking out the trash, doing the dishes and cleaning your house can quickly add 1,000+ steps.
The FitnessBank Step Tracker app has a leaderboard that lists the average daily step count for all customers who choose to be included in the leaderboard. Last year a reader who is a customer of FitnessBank reported that the leaderboard had a total of 792 customers. Out of those 792 customers, only 223 were averaging at least 12,500 steps per day. That’s only about 28% of the customers. It should be noted that there is likely to be a higher percentage at the end of the month when customers ensure their Tracker apps have been synchronized with their FitBit and other step tracking devices. Also, customers have different account balances. Customers with larger balances are probably more likely to ensure they meet the step requirements.
Availability and Application
Headquartered in Covington, Georgia, FitnessBank offers its savings accounts online only to US Citizens, 18 years or older, with a valid Social Security number. Single and joint accounts can be opened. The applicants must have a driver’s license.
The initial deposit can be made by ACH transfer from another bank or by credit/debit card. The CSR didn’t know the initial deposit limits for either an ACH transfer or for credit cards. CSR said that based on his experience with recent applications, the ACH limit is at least $200k. If the initial deposit is done by ACH, the routing and account number of the external bank is not kept for future transfers. A new link must be established.
The online application does not provide options for designating beneficiaries. However, beneficiaries can be designated after the account has been opened and funded by contacting customer support. Social security numbers of the beneficiaries are required.
Another change at FitnessBank is a new parent bank. It’s now a division of Newton Federal Bank. In early January, the parent of Newton Federal Bank acquired the parent of Affinity Bank. An acquisition is always concerning for customers of the online division since many times in the past, the acquiring bank has not been supportive of the online division. In those cases in the past, the online division products became uncompetitive. This acquisition appears to be different. The CEO from Affinity Bank has become the CEO of Newton Federal Bank, and I was told that the team in charge of FitnessBank has remained in place.
As an online division of Newton Federal Bank, FitnessBank operates under Newton Federal Bank’s FDIC Certificate and shares its financial history. Also, Newton Federal Bank and FitnessBank are treated as the same entity for the purpose of calculating FDIC insurance limits and deposits.
FitnessBank’s website address (fitnessbank.fit) has the “.fit” top-level domain (TLD). This website address used to be listed in the FDIC database as one of the deposit accepting websites of Affinity Bank. The FDIC database has not yet been updated to show this as a deposit accepting website of Newton Federal Bank. The “.fit” TLD was made available in 2015 to all who want to identify themselves as part of the fitness community.
FitnessBank/Newton Federal Bank has an overall health grade of "A+" at DepositAccounts.com, with a Texas Ratio of 4.06% (excellent) based on December 31, 2019 data. In the past year, the Bank increased its total non-brokered deposits by $16.91 million, an excellent annual growth rate of 7.25%. Note, these numbers are based on the financials of Newton Federal Bank before its acquisition of Affinity Bank. According to a January 13, 2020 press release issued by the parent of Newton Federal Bank, “the merger has resulted in a bank with approximately $645 million in total assets.” Please refer to our financial overview of FitnessBank/Newton Federal Bank (FDIC Certificate # 29510) for more details.
How the Fitness Savings Account Compares
When compared to Savings Accounts and Money Market Accounts tracked by DepositAccounts.com that are available nationwide, FitnessBank’s Fitness Savings APY currently ranked first, tied with the promo rate of the Patriot Bank Online Money Market and the online savings account rate of First Foundation Bank. This assumes the FitnessBank customer will be able to maintain the required step activity. No other online savings accounts currently have this type of requirement.
The above rates are accurate as of 5/4/2020.