Money at 30: Current Banking Review
I like to fancy myself a bit of an aficionado when it comes to FinTechs and neobanks, seeing as I’ve reviewed plenty of them in the past. Yet, while I may have heard of some such options, I’m occasionally taken aback at just how big some of these players are. For example, as it turns out, the banking service Current (not to be confused with the music and rewards app I also recently covered) is now the second-largest neobank in the United States. Luckily for me, I happened to open an account just a couple of months ago and have been exploring the platform ever since.
With that, let’s take at Current, my experience with the banking app, and what I think has led to their success so far.
What is Current and What Does it Offer?
Signing up for Current
In order to open an account with Current, you’ll need to provide some personal information. This includes your name, mailing address, Social Security number, and more. You’ll also need to verify your phone number.
By the way, Current deposits are held with Choice Bank, Member FDIC. As a result, funds are FDIC insured up to $250,000 per depositor.
Once you’ve entered your information, you’ll need to choose an account option. While Current does offer a free Basic account, its Premium offering comes at a cost of $4.99 a month. However, they advise that you can cancel your Premium membership at anytime.
I should also mention that, in addition to their regular checking accounts, Current also offers the Teen Banking. But, since I don’t have any kids (let alone a teen), I will be focusing on their main checking account for this review.
Recently, Current has been partnering with a number of creators and influencers. Perhaps the most notable of these partnerships has been with YouTube star Mr. Beast. Thus, when you open your account, Current may ask you to enter an applicable Creator Code. In fact, doing so may just result in exclusive perks and features (as I’ll cover more in the “My Experience” section). So, if you know of creators that have partnered with Current, be sure to enter their code when prompted.
Linking external accounts
When it comes to funding your Current account, the easiest option is to link an existing bank account. This is done via Plaid, which allows you to log into an external account in order to initiate transfers. Once you’ve added an account, it will show up as one of your Funding Sources for future transfers.
Navigating the app
Not only is Current’s app easy to get around but it may be among the most visually appealing banking apps I’ve personally used. On the home screen, users will see their current balance, recent transactions, spending trends, and Savings Pods as well as have access to additional Insights and Card Settings. Next to that, the $ tab is where users will find transfer options, an ATM map, and Current Pay (the app’s P2P option). Other tabs include the Points map, Notifications, and “You” (which houses settings and more).
Although Current is seemingly aimed at a younger demographic, the app still includes what I view as a key feature: mobile check deposit. To deposit a check, users just need to select where they’d like to deposit the funds (a Savings Pod or their main account) and then take a photo of the front and back of the check. Even if this might not be used too frequently, I’m glad it exists within Current.
For those who want to have their paychecks sent digitally to Current, the app offers direct deposit. What’s more, users with direct deposit may be able to access their funds up to two days early. However, this will vary depending on your employer’s payroll system.
In the event that your employer requires you to present a void check to get started with direct deposit, Current actually provides one by visiting the You tab, then Account Numbers and Voided Check.
Speaking of direct deposit, one potentially useful feature is Overdrive. With this benefit engaged, Current users can overdraft their account by as much as $100 without incurring a fee. That said, there are a few requirements that must be in place first.
For one, this feature is only available to Premium customers. Second, users must receive at least $500 a month in direct deposits to be eligible. Finally, Overdrive limits may start lower and increase to as high as $100 over time. Note that Overdrive can not be used for ATMs transactions, P2P payments, ACH payments, or Current Pay transactions.
With your Current debit card, you’ll have access to more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs. These can be located by going to the $ tab, tapping “Withdraw or Deposit,” and navigating the Free ATMs map.
Meanwhile, if you use an ATM that’s not a part of this network, you’ll be charged a $2.50 fee from Current on top of whatever the machine’s operator charges.
Should you need to deposit cash into your Current account, you can do so by visiting participating locations such as Dollar General, CVS, Walgreens, and more. To find locations, users can tap the “Deposit Cash” tab, which is next to the Free ATM interface. Once at the location, customers can tap the “View Barcode” button, which the cashier can scan to initiate the transaction.
While this may be a helpful option, depositing cash does come at a cost. At this time, Current charges $3.50 per deposit. Users can add up to $500 per transaction and up to $1,000 per day. In total, customers can only deposit $10,000 in cash to their account per month.
Savings pods and automated savings
For those looking to start setting money aside for an emergency fund, upcoming trip, or other savings goals, Current’s Savings Pods may come in handy. When setting up a Savings Pod, users can select a name for their Pod, pick a custom image (or use preloaded options), and set a goal amount. As for reaching that goal, customers can make one-time deposits to their Pod or set up a recurring transfer routine. On top of that, users can opt to round up their Current debit card purchases, placing the change in their Savings Pod. For example, my transaction for $22.82 was rounded up to $23, and the 18¢ difference was deposited in my “Rainy Day Fund” Pod.
When you use your Current debit card at select retailers, you’ll have the chance to earn points that can then be redeemed for cash, free months of Premium, and more. For those with Basic accounts, the number of points you’ll earn for these offers is limited to 1 point per dollar whereas Current says that are Premium customers can earn up to 15x points on eligible purchases. In my experience, the average seems to be between 3x and 5x per offer. Luckily, earned points do not expire and there are no minimum purchase requirements for earning.
To find eligible offers, customers can use the map in the app. Then, once they find an offer they want to claim, they can tap “Activate Offer.” After an offer has been activated, users will have a limited amount of time to make their transactions.
Some of the retailers I’ve come across so far include Conoco gas stations, Little Caesars, Quiznos, and a few local eateries. When it comes to redeeming points, rewards range from $1 to $100. As mentioned, Premium subscription months are also available, starting at 500 points for one free month.
My Experience with Current
Free premium for life
When I first signed up for Current, I figured I’d pay for a month or two of Premium to review and then downgrade. But, to my surprise, I actually ended up scoring Premium for life at no cost. Let me explain.
As I mentioned, seeing as I knew that Mr. Beast had partnered with Current, I decided to enter his creator code when signing up. Soon after my account was ready, I saw an alert notifying me that I had been selected for this bonus perk. What’s more, as another part of the promotion, I received a $1 bonus from “Mr. Beast himself.”
According to the Current site, this “Premium for life” bonus isn’t offered to everyone who uses Mr. Beast’s code. Therefore, I do feel fairly lucky to have been selected. Ironically, though, this put me at a slight disadvantage for this review as it means that I don’t have much insight into what the standard Current account entails or how the process of canceling Premium works. Good problems, eh?
Using the app
I know I mentioned it in the main section, but the Current app really is impressively pretty. Even gimmicky elements — such as how the icons change color when you scroll down the You page — make an impression. Aside from one gripe I’ll get to in a moment or two, I think that the app is incredibly well designed and is really the star of the show when it comes to Current.
Direct deposit bonus
Typically, when I review these various banking accounts, I don’t bother testing out the direct deposit feature because, well, it’s a lot of work. However, when Current offered me a $50 bonus to give it a shot, I caved. Incidentally, in the process, we discovered that switching the direct deposit account info for my wife’s part-time job was fairly easy — so that’s good to know for the future.
Anyway, like a growing number of neobanks, Current advertises that customers can receive their paycheck funds up to two days early. However, the actual advance time you get will depend on how your employer processes payroll. Nevertheless, each of my wife’s checks have arrived early… just not two days early. Instead, I typically get a notification saying that the funds are ready around 7-8 p.m. on Thursdays before her Friday paydays.
As for the bonus, as promised, Current issued me 5,000 points within a few days of the first direct deposit being completed. I then used these 5,000 points to claim a $50 bonus, which showed in my balance soon after. Therefore, I think it was worth making the switch and getting to see how direct deposit works with Current.
Whether you have the Basic or Premium, you’ll be able to earn points for select debit card purchases. As a Premium member, I’ve found that these offers tend to offer 3x to 5x points per dollar spent at certain restaurants or at select gas stations. To find these offers, just tap on the points icon (the center tab) and explore the map.
Starting off with the bad, I really hate that there’s not an option to view these offers in list form. Instead, I need to scroll the map, pinching and expanding to try to find them. It’s less than ideal, but it kinda sorta works.
On the bright side, I really like how, in addition to noting how many points you’ll earn at participating gas stations, Current’s map also lists the price for Unleaded. While this opens the door to discrepancies, when I tried it, the price was indeed accurate.
Speaking of me trying this out, I decided to head to a local station where I could earn 3x points on gas — but 4x points on in-store purchases. After activating the offer, I headed to the station and used my card like normal. Soon after, I was alerted that my points had arrived.
With this particular purchase earning me 66 points, I’m actually not too far from the first redeemable reward: $1 (for 100 points). On that note, I have to give Current credit for offering such a reasonable cash-out minimum. Plus, while I do have a credit card that offers 4% cashback on gas, earning 3% back on a debit card is pretty strong. Because of this, I’m inclined to declare Current’s point offers a win, although there’s always room for more.
Gas hold reimbursement
Another advertised perk of the Premium account is that holds placed on your account at the gas pump will be instantly refunded. Needless to say, I needed to put this feature to the test.
While on a recent road trip, I made a point to fill up at a station that I knew typically has large holds. Sure enough, after swiping my card, Current initially showed that I had spent $151. Yet, once I finished pumping, my actual total showed up and the difference was immediately refunded.
Although you could say that this feature worked like a charm based on this experience, I later decided to see how my Wells Fargo debit card handled a similar situation. What I found was that it ended up only showing the actual total and never deducted the hold amount from my balance. Therefore, I have to wonder how much of a perk this really is. While I’m sure there are banks that aren’t as well equipped to handle these transactions and will tie up customer funds with these holds, perhaps the systems are getting smarter. Honestly, I have no idea — but I guess it’s better not to have to find out. With that, let’s leave it at “Current’s gas hold reimbursement works.”
One of the most disappointing aspects of Current is one I honestly didn’t notice for some time: the lack of any paid interest. While today’s APYs don’t make this too big of a deal, it is a notable exclusion. So why didn’t I notice it at first? I guess because there’s so much going on in Current that I didn’t even think to check. This is very unlike me and speaks to the allure of the overall Current package. Nevertheless, if you do plan on holding savings in the app, then this lack of APY could well be a dealbreaker.
Final Thoughts on Current Banking
After trying out Current for the past few weeks, I can definitely see why the digital banking option has been gaining in popularity. With a sleek and easy-to-navigate app, a bevy of features, and more, there’s a lot to like about the platform. At the same time, this gloss doesn’t completely forgive some notable downsides. For one, the $4.99 a month price tag for Premium may be lower than some offerings but there are still plenty of completely free options that rival Current’s features. Additionally, the fact that the service doesn’t currently pay any interest on savings is disappointing.
Overall, despite my few qualms with the service, I have to give Current props for what they’ve built and think it could be successful in getting younger adults to better manage their finances. Even outside of that demographic, I think the well thought out platform will continue to earn fans. Personally, armed with my free Premium for life, I plan to keep utilizing my Current account for the debit card offers and because the app is truly enjoyable to use.
Also published on Medium.