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Varo Bank: 2024 Banking Review

This online-only bank offers a simple product lineup ideal for those who are starting their personal finance journey.

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Varo Bank
Overview

Varo started as a financial technology company in 2015, and five years later secured an official bank charter. As an online-only bank, Varo doesn’t operate branch locations but aims to meet the needs of customers who don’t want to pay fees or worry about minimum balance requirements.

The biggest reason to consider moving your money to Varo is the ability to earn up to 5% on your savings. However, be mindful of the fine print: That supersized yield applies only to balances of less than $5,000. If you have more, the yield on the remaining balance drops to 3% -- that’s lower earning power than some of the best savings rates available right now.

What we like

  • No overdraft fees
  • No monthly account fees
  • Competitive savings rates
  • A debit card that earns cash back from more than 50 brands

What we don’t like

  • Tiered savings rates with lower yields on deposits of more than $5,000
  • Limited availability for customer service (primarily via chat)
  • Limited product offerings outside of checking and savings accounts
  • Fees for depositing cash

Who is Varo Bank suited for?

Varo Bank is a good pick if you’re looking for an alternative to traditional banks and you’re just starting your personal finance journey. The online-only institution offers a straightforward and simple product lineup with a competitive yield on its savings account and the ability to earn cash back with debit card purchases at many retailers. 

But if you’re looking for a wide range of offerings, Varo Bank probably isn’t right for you. There are, for example, no CDs or money market accounts, and you’ll need to find another financial services company for other products such as unsecured credit cards, mortgages and other loans.

Varo Bank products

Overview

The Varo Bank Account is a no-frills checking account that doesn’t charge any overdraft or monthly service fees. You can withdraw cash for free at any ATM with the Allpoint logo, which includes plenty of popular retailers such as Target, Walgreens, CVS and Kroger. However, if you need to deposit cash, this account probably isn’t for you. You’ll have to pay a retail fee to do this via the Green Dot Network. If you’re comfortable with all online deposits, you can move money from other accounts electronically and deposit checks via the app. The account doesn’t pay any interest, though.

 

One big selling point is that the Varo debit card can earn up to 6% cash back at certain retailers. However, it’s not an automatic rewards system. You’ll need to look through available offers in the mobile app to determine where you can earn cash back.

 

Account features

  • Minimum deposit: None
  • Overdraft fees: None
  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • ATM fees: None at Allpoint locations (40,000+), but you’ll have to pay a fee to deposit cash
Overview

The Varo Savings Account will catch your attention with a 5% APY headline. That’s great earning potential, but it comes with a limit: Anything over $5,000 will earn 3% APY. There are helpful automated savings tools including Save Your Pay -- which directs a predetermined portion of your direct deposit into your savings account vs. your Varo bank account -- and Save Your Change, a program that rounds up the cost of debit card transactions to the next dollar and transfers that change to your savings account.

 

Account features

  • APY: 5% for balances up to $5,000 with direct deposits of at least $1,000; 3% for balances over $5,000
  • Minimum deposit: None
  • Monthly fees: None

Overdraft fees

Varo doesn’t charge any overdraft fees or monthly account fees. 

Other banking products

If you have an active Varo Bank account and you’ve received at least $1,000 of direct deposits, you may be eligible for Varo Advance. It’s a small-dollar line of credit, ranging from $20 to $250, that can help you get cash if you need to make ends meet. It feels like a low-priced way to avoid ever using high-priced payday loan services. However, it still comes with a cost: Fees for the service range from $4 to $15.

Varo also offers Varo Believe, a secured credit card. If you’re working to build your credit, this product can be good to add to your wallet.

Banking experience

Varo doesn’t operate any physical branch locations, and it steers the majority of customer inquiries to an online chat feature in the mobile app. The bank has average reviews on Trustpilot -- 3.3 out of 5 stars based on more than 2,500 submissions -- and a solid 4 out of 5 stars on the Better Business Bureau’s customer review rating system.

Customer service

Varo offers live chat support in its mobile app from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. PT seven days a week, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. 

There’s also a phone option -- 877-377-VARO -- but it’s quite limited. It’s solely to resolve issues related to filing a dispute, logging on to your account or adding your debit card to your digital wallet.

David McMillin writes about credit cards, mortgages, banking, taxes and travel. Based in Chicago, he writes with one objective in mind: Help readers figure out how to save more and stress less. He is also a musician, which means he has spent a lot of time worrying about money. He applies the lessons he's learned from that financial balancing act to offer practical advice for personal spending decisions.
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