TIAA was the dream of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. In 1918, the dream became a reality, providing college teachers with a system of annuities and low-cost life insurance. In 2013, TIAA paid over $4.5 billion in annuity payments and other benefits to retired clients. Today, TIAA offers a wide range of banking and financial services to meet the needs of those in the medical, governmental, cultural, research and academic fields. 

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The Good

  • Benefits of services
  • Great features

Benefits of Services

TIAA offers a solid checking account that is interest bearing, and is without a minimum balance. The account comes with free checks and a debit card. An initial deposit of $100 will open the account. Both the checking account and the savings account with TIAA Direct do not have monthly fees. There are also no minimum balance requirements for the savings account.

A fast and simple online application is provided, with the only required documents being your social security number and your mailing address. Users can get started online and finalize the application process in a matter of minutes. Upon approval, users will be able to take advantage of the following benefits:

  • Lower rates and fewer fees
  • High CD Rates: 1.15% APY for 13 months and 1.25% APY for 25 months
  • Privacy and security

Great Features

TIAA offers all the apps and options, including mobile check uploads, direct deposit and money transfers. Online statements are available to view and mobile banking provides a lot of the same features that you get online. These services include:

  • Bill pay center: pay bills and receive free online versions of your paper bills using TIAA eBills service
  • Free ATMs nationwide: use a debit card or ATM card to get cash at ATMs nationwide for free
  • Transferring money: make transfers between deposit accounts with TIAA and accounts with other banks
  • Mobile banking: manage deposit accounts with free mobile banking apps

By selecting one of the 23,000 Sum logo or Moneypass ATMS nationwide, customers can skip the ATM fees.

The Bad

  • Limited options
  • Customer service

Limited Options

TIAA Direct essentially only offers two banking functions: bank and borrow. Typically, online banks offer a wide variety of financial services, but TIAA Direct only focuses on these two products. The services are broken down as follows:

  • Checking account that also earns interest
  • Free ATMs nationwide
  • No monthly maintenance fee
    • 1.15% APY for 13 months
    • 1.25% APY for 25 months


  • Low adjustable rate home mortgages
  • Home equity lines of credit - TIAA pays closing costs
  • Personal mortgage consultant

Customer Service

While everything else is pretty nice, there is another area that is lacking. Customer service lines are only opened Monday-Friday, with business hours. If you lose your card on a Saturday, there is no way to report it lost until Monday morning. It would be appropriate to have customer service lines available 24/7.

The Bottom Line

TIAA was started nearly 100 years ago with the goal of helping people reach their financial dreams. Today, customers are still feeling financially secure due to the interest bearing accounts, retirement plans and annuity payments. If you want a bank with a solid reputation, no hidden fees or agendas and a helpful mindset, TIAA is the best choice for your next bank account. Those that use TIAA Direct can expect the following:

  1. Limited fees with better rates
  2. Bill pay and money transfers
  3. Only two online banking services

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