- First USA Digital Full Bank
- Partner offers
- Early direct deposit
- Overdraft protection
- No monthly fees
- Checking account
- Debit card
- Savings account
- Early Direct Deposit
- $100 Instant Cash
- Free ATM Withdrawals
2020 was an exciting year, and not ‘only’ because of the pandemic. Varo Money was the first challenger bank in the US to be granted a national bank charter making it a fully-fledged bank!
We decided to make a Varo Bank review to see what has changed after more than half a year after getting their license. But first, here’s our short verdict:
Varo’s bank account has no fees and is therefore great for everyday banking, spending, and traveling at home and abroad. It offers an excellent savings account, early payday, and more for $0.
About Varo Bank
Varo is an all-mobile bank based in San Francisco and Utah, USA.
Recent news has seen Varo get the coveted national banking license, making it the first of its kind in the US to receive full approval. This means the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) will offer Varo customers deposit insurance up to $250,000.
Why is Varo special?
Varo offers its customers a no monthly fee bank account, placing every customer on an even playing field with access to all of their services and features.
Their checking account has no minimum balance, offers no fees on overdrafts, no fees on transfers, no fees at Allpoint ATMs, and no fees to replace your debit card.
With your fully-functioning bank account, you will also have access to the range of in-app features designed for making personal banking more accessible, such as instant money transfers and early payday.
Pros & cons
- No monthly banking fees
- No overdraft or ATM fees
- No transfer or debit card replacement fees
- No minimum balance
- Overdraft protection
- Early payday feature
- Innovative budgeting tools
- High-yield savings account
- Highly-rated customer service
- Some features, such as mobile check deposit, are not currently available on the Android app
- No ability to write checks
- $2.50 out-of-network ATM withdrawal fee
- No minimum balance fees
- No monthly maintenance fees
- No foreign transaction fees
- No card replacement fees
- No transfer fees
- No account closing fees
- No Allpoint ATM withdrawal fees
- No over-the-counter cash withdrawal fees
As you can see, Varo is a sweet deal as they have no fees except for withdrawing cash from out-of-network ATMs. You might be wondering then:
How does Varo make money?
With no fees, how do they make money then? Are they philanthropists? Hardly.
You see, every time you use your Varo debit card, the merchant pays Varo a small percentage of the transaction. Varo also has third-party partners that they recommend to you, and they make money when you take advantage of their offers.
How do you open an account with Varo?
Varo offers an entirely digital service, meaning that there are no physical branches. However, this makes the sign-up process much more straightforward and convenient, lacking the paperwork and long waits of traditional banks.
To apply for an account, users have to download the Varo app from the App Store and follow the on-screen prompts. The application process takes no longer than five minutes, involving entering some personal details and verifying your identity with ID or a passport.
Suppose users experience any problems with their sign-up. In that case, Varo offers various customer service lines that provide quick and friendly advice.
There is no minimum balance required to open an account with Varo, and you won’t pay any fees even if your account is empty. Plus, there are no ongoing minimums necessary to maintain your fee-free status.
How to add funds to the Varo Bank account
To make up for the lack of physical branches, Varo offers five easy ways to deposit funds into your account. The easiest and quickest method is direct deposit, allowing you to pay money into the account yourself or receive your paycheck straight into the account.
Their direct deposit service also allows you to receive your salary up to two days early, and you can receive instant pay from Uber and Lyft if they are your employer.
The app also allows you to transfer from an external bank account through the app and your other bank’s online banking service. You can also make a transfer from Venmo, Paypal, Cash App, and more, which will often appear in your Varo account instantly.
Want to cash in a paper check? The app allows you to cash it in with your smartphone camera. Lastly, unlike many digital bank accounts, Varo will accept cash deposits. Simply deposit the cash at a Green Dot location or with a MoneyPak.
Varo Bank mobile app
Varo’s app is highly rated, boasting a 4.6/5 rating on the App Store and 4.6/5 on Google Play – speaking volumes to the high quality and smooth user experience on offer through the app.
The app is well-designed and transparent, making each feature easy to access and incorporate into your day-to-day personal banking. On top of the financial elements such as transfers and transactions, Varo also offers various innovative budgeting tools three to help customers stay in control of their finances.
Varo allows customers to track their spending in real-time with transaction notifications and spending categorization. They also utilize open banking to enable their users to see data from their non-Varo bank accounts. This allows you to get a thorough overview of your financial situation.
Security features such as instant lock and unlock will enable you to act fast if you lose your debit card.
Varo Bank debit card
- No monthly fees
- No minimum balance
- No foreign transaction fees
- No transfer fees
You get your Varo Visa debit card for free when you open an account and it gets delivered in 1-2 weeks, free of charge. You’ll only have to pay $25 if you need a replacement card to be shipped to you with express shipping.
Unlike a credit card, with a debit card, you can only spend the funds in your account, and the daily spending limit is $2,500 per day.
There are 55,000+ Allpoint ATMs worldwide that you can use to withdraw money for free. For non-Allpoint ATMs, the fee is $2.50. The maximum amount you can withdraw is $1,000 per calendar day, and you can get up to $500 in cashback at a point of sale at a merchant.
From a security standpoint, the Varo card is secure as it gets. There’s the standard option now to freeze your card from the app if you think you lost it or stolen.
You can set spending limits and where it can be used (ATM, online, in-store). Instant notifications will tell you every time your card is being used and so on.
If you’re quick to notify the company that there was an unauthorized charge on your card, you’ll be covered by Visa’s Zero Liability and won’t have to pay for expenses or be held responsible.
If you don’t want to carry your card around with you, there’s the option to connect it to your Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, or Cash App and pay contactless that way.
Saving with Varo
In addition to their checking account, Varo offers a savings account, ideal for those who prefer to have their checking and savings accounts in the same place. The savings account also has no fees and is notable for its high APY.
Their highest APY and figure advertised (3%) are exclusively available for those with savings below $50,000. There are a few other requirements customers have to meet to receive that specific APY. With this savings account, customers are allowed up to six withdrawals for every statement cycle to maintain the APY earnings.
Unlike some traditional banks, there is no minimum balance required for a Varo Savings Account. You need just $0.01 to start earning interest.
Varo’s APY is one of the highest of its kind, making this an excellent option for savers who meet the criteria.
What is Varo Advance? Well, it’s access to extra cash. When you’re low on funds, you can get instant access to up to $100 from your Varo app. There are some caveats, though.
You can get $20 for free straight away and borrow up to $100 based on your eligibility.
There are some specific conditions you’ll need to meet to qualify for Vero Advance:
- Your Varo Bank Account must be at least 30 days old and active
- You’ll need to have at least $1,000 in direct deposits to either your Bank Account, Savings Account, or both, combined within the last 31 days
- You can get another Advance as soon as you’ve repaid your previous Advance
As you increase your total direct deposits to Varo and build your repayment history, you may qualify to get an advance of up to $100.
To check the advance amounts available to you, tap on Varo Advance on your home screen.
There are some fees associated with cash advance:
- $20 – free
- $50 – $3
- $75 – $4
- $100 – $5
Advance is automatically deducted from your Varo Bank Account on the repayment date you selected, that can be set for 15-30 days after you get an Advance. There’s also the option to repay it early.
If you’re hurting because of your credit score, there might be a way that Varo can help you. They have a new credit building program in works that’s called – Varo Believe. And it is “coming soon.”
The Program includes the Varo Believe Card to use for everyday purchases and tools to help reserve funds to pay your bill on time and in full. Here’s how it works:
- Open a Varo Bank Account and set up a direct deposit
- Apply for your credit card (you’ll be invited, once eligible)
- Use your new credit card for all your purchases
- Varo will report on your payment history to the three major credit bureaus.
When you make purchases, money will be transferred from your Bank Account to a secured Vault Account that will help you pay your entire credit card balance every month on time.
Building your credit is a process that takes time and is affected by a variety of factors.
Make sure to check out MoneyLion’s credit builder program as well.
Cashback and rewards
If you’re spending money, you might as well get some of it back. And this is real money we’re talking about and not points.
Here’s how it works. You find a deal you like in the Varo app. Simply tap Perks from your app home screen, then filter by cashback category, and select the deal you want.
Follow the link in the deal, and you can check out using your Varo card. You’ll see your Cashback rewards reflected in the Perks tab of your Varo Bank app within 3 and 14 days.
Each time you reach $5, cash is automatically deposited into your Varo bank account.
To check the balance, go to the Varo app and tap Perks. You’ll see your total cashback balance at the top right-hand corner of the screen.
You must shop and make your purchases through the links in the app to receive the rewards.
Traveling with Varo Bank
Varo’s no fee service makes it an excellent option for those who frequently travel. You can use the Varo debit card anywhere where Visa is accepted. Unlike most traditional banks, you don’t need to set up travel plans or alerts before going abroad.
Most banks place a 3% fee on foreign transactions, leading to a bank statement full of added fees for every transaction you made while traveling. Varo sets no costs on your foreign transactions and has free ATM withdrawals at any Allpoint ATMs (available internationally in the UK, Australia, Mexico, and more).
Varo also won’t mark up the exchange rate, making travel as free of added expenses as possible.
Most people get in trouble with banks and credit institutions because they’re late with their payments, go into repeated overdrafts, or have unpaid fees.
Varo says it’s giving a chance to everyone that had problems like these before. By not using ChexSystems or running credit report checks, you’re able to open a bank account with them.
And, because they’re not asking for a minimum balance and don’t have fees, it’s easy to maintain and even rebuild your banking with a Varo bank account.
How is Varo regulated?
Varo has notably become the first consumer fintech in US history to become a national bank. Varo Money has announced that it was granted a national bank charter on July 31st, 2020.
What does all this mean for you? Should you care about Varo becoming a full-fledged bank?
Well, if you have an account with them or if you want to become their customer, Varo becoming a bank is good news. They can now offer more services that target a broader set of customer needs. Think – credit cards, loans, credit builders, and savings products.
Varo Money used to provide customers’ banking services, and all accounts were being held by The Bancorp Bank. Now that’s all in the hands of Varo Bank. The banking license also means that the company has to move more than 2 million accounts to Varo Bank in a phased process.
Is my money safe with Varo?
Varo says it’s keeping your personal information secure and your money safe. For example, with a Varo Visa Debit Card, you get protection from Visa Zero Liability, which protects you in case of unauthorized charges and all of your information is protected with 256-bit AES, the latest and greatest in encryption technology.
Additionally, all money in your Varo Savings Account and your Varo Bank Account is FDIC insured for a combined total of $250,000 through Varo Bank, Member FDIC.
Who owns Varo?
Varo was founded in 2015 by Colin Walsh and Kolya Klymenko. Its headquarters are in San Francisco.
The company raised more than $480 million from seven rounds of funding. The last corporate round brought in $63 million in February 2021.
It has 14 investors that include Russell Westbrook, Bono, The Rise Fund, HarbourVest Partners, Jeffery S. Skoll, and others.
Current has a 4.4-star rating out of 5 on Trustpilot from 1,600 reviews, with 83% of reviewers giving it an excellent mark and 10% a bad one. With a 4.4 score, Current is placed similarly to OnJuno (4.5), Current (4.5), and MoneyLion (4.6), for example, and better than Chime (4.1).
With more than 12 million users, Chime is the most popular challenger bank in America, and other than meeting the age requirement, anyone can apply and get approved. You don’t have to have an excellent financial record or a credit score above a certain amount to get started banking with Chime.
MoneyLion is a superb all-in-one financial service that has you spending, saving, budgeting, investing, and even building up credit. If you’re still on the fence about getting a mobile-only bank, MoneyLion might just tip you over.
OnJuno is a great neobanking platform that offers excellent APY, no minimum opening deposit, no monthly service fees, and an instant virtual card or a cool black metal card. It’s great for anyone who wants to earn high interest in their account without tying up their money in a savings account.
Current offers some great features for in-depth insight into your spending and saving activity. The savings pods allow you to squirrel money away to one side without even realizing it. Current has two different checking account plans designed to suit different types of people and a teen account.
The bottom line
Overall, Varo is emerging as one of the leading neobanks in the US. The banking experience on offer makes it clear why.
Varo is one of the most fee-free banking services available in America, meaning customers are not wasting money on unnecessary fees.
Not only does Varo offer a competitive high-yield savings account, but they also offer a range of savings features within the checking account,
Prospective customers have nothing to lose by trying out the no-fee service on offer at Varo.