Charles Schwab

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The Charles Schwab Company got its start as an investment newsletter created in 1963 by Charles (Chuck) Schwab and two partners at the same firm. The newsletter was named Investment Indicator. By 1971, the firm had become a wholly owned subsidiary of Commander Industries, Inc. in the state of California. The company’s mission was to offer traditional brokerage services along with publishing the Schwab Investment newsletter. Soon after, Schwab and four partners acquired Commander Industries and changed its name to Charles Schwab and Company in 1973. Over the years, Charles Schwab has been a pioneer in the financial services field, being the first to offer bank accounts without minimum balance and maintenance fees. Today, Charles Schwab serves over 8.2 million client brokerage accounts, with more than $1.65 trillion in assets from over 300 offices in the United States, one office in Puerto Rico, one branch in London and one branch in Hong Kong.

 

The Good

  • No-fee services and products
  • Investor savings account
  • Individual retirement accounts

No-Fee Services and Products

Schwab Bank's main selling point is its no-fee account products and services. It offers a High-Yield Checking Account, High Yield Savings Account, Individual Retirement Account, Pledged Asset Loan and Home Equity Line of Credit with no fees to open or maintain and without hidden transaction fees.

High Yield Checking Account:

  • Unlimited fee rebates from any ATM worldwide
  • 0.06% APY variable interest rate on any balance
  • Free bill pay on Schwab.com and Schwab Mobile
  • Schwab Mobile Deposit™ to deposit checks from anywhere
  • Free standard checks and a Visa® Platinum debit card once the account has been funded.
  • FDIC insurance up to $250,000
  • Link to Apple Pay™ to make purchases with iPhone® 6 or iPhone 6 Plus

The Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account is only available when linked to a Schwab One brokerage account. The two accounts may be opened at the same time and will be linked, so customers can easily transfer funds between them to meet both their investing and checking needs. There is no obligation to use the Schwab One brokerage account, it just has to be an open account but customers can invest with Schwab brokerage at no additional cost.

Investor Savings Account

Whatever the account balance, this High Yield Investor Savings account offers:

  • Minimum opening deposit: $0
  • Monthly service charge: $0
  • A competitive interest rate on any balance
  • Easy to access, transfer and manage cash
  • Unlimited fee rebates from any ATM worldwide
  • Powerful mobile apps to access account or transfer money
  • Ability to deposit checks from anywhere when accepted for Schwab Mobile Deposit™
  • FDIC insured up to $250,000
  • Direct deposit to deposit all, or a portion of paycheck or Social Security check

Individual Retirement Accounts

  • Immediate tax benefits or tax free withdrawals, depending on your IRA
  • Access retirement planning tools and resources
  • 24/7 service and support
  • No service fees
  • No fees to open or maintain an account. Other account fees, fund expenses and brokerage commissions may apply.

Charles Schwab bank also offers no-fee loans for varying purposes:

Pledged Asset Line® (PAL)

Schwab offers customers an immediate, flexible, non-purpose line of credit that leverages the value of their investments. This line of credit (PAL) can be used for anything from existing property renovation, real estate investments or to expand one's business.

HELOC Loans

Schwab Bank's HELOC program is provided by Quicken Loans, the nation's largest online mortgage lender, offering:

  • a 3.99% APR
  • no prepayment penalties
  • no balance requirements
  • a quick closing period

Schwab Bank offers three types of college savings plans:

  • 529 Plan: A state-sponsored, tax-deferred college investment account.
    • Holders can contribute up to $70,000 ($140,000 per couple) per beneficiary in a single year.
    • Free of federal income taxes when used for qualified education expenses.
    • Average lifetime contribution limit of  $365,000 on average.
    • No age limit for beneficiaries
  • ESA (Education Savings Account): An education savings account set up and managed by a parent or guardian for the benefit of a minor child.
    • Contributions can be made until the beneficiary reaches age 18; funds must be distributed to the beneficiary by age 30
    • Free of federal income taxes when used for qualified education expenses
    • No lifetime contribution limit
  • Custodial Account: A brokerage account that's managed by a custodian and can be used for college or any other purpose.
    • Federal tax penalty upon withdrawal
    • no contribution limit.
    • Beneficiary must be under age 18

ESA and 529 College Savings accounts have many advantages over custodial, general brokerage, and savings accounts. Any earnings in 529 plans and ESAs are free from federal income tax as long as they're used to pay for qualified education expenses. So the investment can grow faster than it would in a taxable account.

  • Free ATM Use Worldwide

No ATM Fees

Schwab Bank does not charge any ATM fees and reimburses any ATM fee customers are charged worldwide.  This means in situations that an ATM charges a fee, i.e. $3, customers can select 'Yes' and Schwab bank will refund that charge to their account. Any ATM fees charged by ATM operators will be refunded in the same month when using the Schwab Bank Visa® Platinum Debit Card.

Schwab prides itself on seeing itself through clients' eyes-serving driven, motivated people who believe that personal engagement, a sense of ownership, and a commitment to investing gives them control over their financial futures.

The Bank serves its clients with:

  • More than 325 branches. Clients not served by a local branch can partner with one of Schwab's Financial Consultants at its National Branch. These National Branch Consultants offer the same services as those in the physical branches, just over the phone.
  • Approximately 1,200 financial consultants
  • $192.8 billion enrolled in advisory solutions
  • 100,000+ financial plans provided to date

The Bad

  • Brokerage account
  • Checking account
  • High yield

Brokerage Account

If a customer wants to enjoy the benefits of the no-cost Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account®, they will be prevented from doing so unless they have a linked Schwab One® brokerage account. Although the Schwab One brokerage account has no minimum balance requirements when opened with a linked High Yield Checking account, this may be daunting for individuals unseasoned in brokerage accounts and investing.

Checking Account

If someone just wants a checking account, this addendum may make opening a checking account with Schwab more trouble than it's worth. Although a customer may be eligible for an account at a regular bank (only requiring a photo ID and a social security number) they may not meet the requirements to open a Schwab brokerage account-which means they cannot open a Schwab High Yield Checking account.

Direct Deposits

There also exists a potential limitation for mobile customers looking to make direct deposits. Schwab Bank deposits are accepted only at Schwab Bank branches. Customers can make deposits from a mobile internet connection with Schwab's Mobile Deposit service; however, the service is subject to certain eligibility requirements and enrollment is not guaranteed. Having to come into a branch for a regular deposit can be inconvenient for those with busy schedules and who live far away from a nearby branch. That may be more feasible with a bank like Bank of America, which has branches in most cities every 20 miles, but to have to come in person to a Schwab branch for a deposit is inconvenient at best.

High Yield

Accounts are advertised as "High Yield" when in reality the yield may not be high due to the fact that the High Yield Investor Savings account and the Checking Account both have a variable interest rate, so it may change as market conditions vary. When the interest rate of return is dependent on the market  that makes the ROI vulnerable to market crashes.

The Bottom Line

For more than forty years, Charles Swab bank has provided a full range of securities, brokerage, banking, money management, and financial advisory services to clients worldwide. Its most unique selling proposition is its no-fee banking-including checking, saving, brokerage accounts as well as loans such as HELOC and college savings plans. Schwab's high-yield savings accounts have variable interest rates, so the account earnings are subject to market changes, both good and bad. Checking accounts are only available when linked to a Schwab brokerage account, which has to be approved with an application. Brokerage accounts need to be open but not active to qualify-unless the customer wants to utilize it.  Checking accounts come with a free debit card to be used anywhere VISA is accepted and ATMs are free of charge worldwide. Any ATM fees incurred will be returned to the client's account in the same month.

Despite a good reputation from Charles Schwab bank we recommend using another bank for your consumer needs.

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  • User Score

    10

    June 13th, 2017 Sandy, UT

    Free financial advice and consultation if you need it. Financial seminars offered if you are interested in learning more about trading. Easy to read website. Always a good experience with customer service.

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  • User Score

    9

    June 10th, 2017

    I opened a checking account at Charles Schwab about six months ago. I researched several banks and the lack of fees really captured my attention. I was sick of worrying about my minimum balance and setting up automatic transfers to avoid penalties. I love that I can have a $0 balance. The set up process was extremely easy. I was able to perform the entire process online. It was easy to set up transfers between my new account and my old accounts. As soon as I transferred an initial deposit they mailed me a debit card and box of checks. You can also order free boxes of checks. (I didn't realize they were mailing a box so I ordered one as well. It was very simple.) Another big draw was the ATM fee rebates. I love traveling and this is a huge perk! I recently traveled to Iceland and withdrew cash from an ATM. My fee was completely refunded. (NOTE: The refund happens at the end of the month. I initially found this confusing). Several of my travel companions had hefty fees from their banks, some amounting to $15 for one withdrawal. I have also used a local ATMs with similar ease and success. The mobile app allows you to deposit checks. This has been a very nice feature since there are no local Schwab offices. I've been able to do everything will no hassle and haven't needed to speak to a representative. I've deposited checks, made withdrawals, set up direct deposits, and scheduled travel plans with ease. I do think the term "High Yield Investor Checking Account" is a bit of a misnomer. The interest rate is by no means high. However, I don't know of many, if any, banks that offer great interest rates on checking accounts. Also, you do have to open a brokerage account with this checking account. I haven't touched the brokerage account, it just sits idly at the top of my account summary page. It doesn't require any extra steps in the set up process and there is no penalty for completely ignoring the brokerage account, as I have done. It seems superfluous but doesn't have any actual negative impact on my banking experience. My banking needs are pretty simple so this company has been a great fit for me. I've been very happy that I made the switch.

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