Simple (bank) evacuation guide
in the news banking
☆: Sunday, March 21, 2021. ∆: Monday, March 22, 2021. Belief: very likely.
If you do not move fast enough on getting a new bank account, you run the risk of being stuck with BBVA. It usually takes about 10 days to get a new card and a new account fully setup. You need to move quickly because of the time it takes for things to happen in the banking world. Think 5 business days to get a new account opened, 10 for a card, and 3-5 days for any pending ACH transactions to clear.

Simple (the bank) is a sinking ship, and it’s a really bad idea to stay on that ship when it goes down. Simple’s account comparison is practically designed to get you to move off of Simple. For starters, BBVA will charge a $32 overdraft fee per item, a $32 insufficient funds fee, a $5 card replacement fee, and a $3 monthly statement fee (which you can opt out of). If you bank with Simple, you’ve enjoyed zero fees.

The reason why this is happening is because PNC is acquiring BBVA, and BBVA’s children need to die, because PNC hates you. Simple was my favorite bank, and this will forever stain PNC’s name (and BBVA’s now short-lived name) for me.

You need to jump ship before it starts sinking. Do all of these steps before May 1st. Get a new account no later than the end of March.

If you find errors in this guide, please send me a correction: [email protected]

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get a new bank

The hardest part of this whole process is that you need a new bank. Nerd Wallet has a write up on alternatives to Simple that you can check out if you want to try to find the perfect bank. A better comparison of Simple alternatives is from 11jwolfe2’s spreadsheet of alternatives to Simple, which includes tabs for a survey of other banks that people have picked, as well as a website that collects the data called Not So Simple. The spreadsheet has some errors. Please make sure you do not trust the spreadsheet for critical things, but instead use it as a reference point to explore banks.

I do not encourage you to try to find the perfect bank right now. Doing so is risky: you need to move fast, and wasting your time comparing banks is going to suck. Trust me, I know. Instead, I’ve tried to provide alternatives that I’ve explored.

If you have moved recently but not filed for an address change with USPS, move fast. You need to get that changed. Ideally, get as many official documents changed to your new address as you can. This is because many banks need verification documents to open a new account. Do not attempt to move your Simple account's address until you have a new account. It may not even complete by the time that the BBVA transition happens, and if anything goes wrong, your account may be locked.

if you want me to decide for you

  1. For your day to day banking, pick one of: Ally, One Finance, Monzo, Current (soft suggestion). Just by the numbers, many people have gravitated towards One Finance, and then another large minority went to Ally.
  2. Optional: for your “brick and mortar” backup bank, pick: Charles Schwab or none.

You really should have a bank like Schwab as a backup for things like using Cash App, Cashier’s Checks, and other weird things that neobanks don’t support. You may also want to see if there are offers for something like Chase’s total checking account (you may be able to get a $300 account opening bonus). Note that the learning curve is really high on Schwab. But it may be worth it to you.

When you’re picking a bank, make sure that you go with a bank that has no fees. Prefer banks that use The Bancorp, NKBC, or Sutton Bank, if you’re going with an app based bank, in that order. Bancorp’s entire business is banking for other companies like new apps, so they won’t shut your app-bank down, probably.

do you still want a neobank?

Maybe you don’t want a neobank anymore? I define neobanks as online-only fee-free banks that focus on user experience and technology features. That is to say, neobanks do not typically offer the best interest rates or advanced financial products. Instead, they focus on things like making banking more accessible.

If that’s not your cup of tea, I can’t help you find a different bank. Of the above banks, One Finance, Monzo, and Current are “true neobanks.” Ally and Schwab are online-only banks, but they’re more classical banks than they are neobanks.

Physical banks typically charge some amount of fees (neobanks charge none) and have varying levels of app quality. They also tend to restrict some features to “in-branch only.” For example, it may be difficult or impossible to perform some operations entirely using the app. Whereas neobanks typically allow messaging the bank for anything, a physical bank may require calling or visiting in-person.

if you need other apps

You need something called “Plaid” integration, which can be hit or miss. If you use an app that lets you link a bank account by selecting it from a list, it’s probably through Plaid. Try to link to your new bank before you switch to make sure it works with Plaid. Monzo US beta does not work with Plaid. The spreadsheet is wrong. You need this for something like YNAB. Schwab doesn’t support imports.

if you need budgeting in the app

If budgeting is the best thing that you liked about Simple, try Monzo, One Finance, or Current. All of these are startups. Monzo is in private beta.

if you can tolerate a terrible app

Charles Schwab’s Investor Checking account, Betterment, and possibly Capital One have really interesting products. They have fee free banking and ATM reimbursement.

Note that Charles Schwab doesn’t work with Plaid for transaction imports. So, that sucks if you depend on other apps for budgeting.

Betterment’s app kinda tries to get you to invest a lot. It kinda feels like a giant trap. If you’re not comfortable with trying to decide between investment products, don’t go with Betterment.

I’ve heard a lot of positive things about Capital One but haven’t tried it.

do not use these banks

  1. Citi (any credit cards or bank products). My reasons are too long here. If you can tolerate the fact that your account may arbitrarily be blocked for fraud for ridiculous things, sure, Citi is okay. Just kidding. Citi sucks.
  2. BBVA (for obvious reasons I hope).
  3. PNC (for obvious reasons I hope).
  4. Wells Fargo (created multiple accounts and charged fees for people for free).
  5. Goldman Sach’s helped with a giant financial crisis more than most other banks. Other banks were involved but Goldman particularly sucks.

what I have

This is what I did. I opened a Charles Schwab investor checking account and I use a credit card for most purchases. But I use Privacy for all of my subscriptions, and those pull money out of Schwab. For budgeting, I use YNAB.

I have a Monzo account, and it’s almost good-enough for budgeting for me. I just don’t use it as much because it doesn’t have Plaid integration, and when you use credit cards, it’s not as useful to have in-app budgeting.

I have a Betterment account as a trial. I don’t really suggest it. It’s too easy to accidentally invest in something as a “goal” and not just save it away. I really suggest One Finance or Monzo. Betterment might be a good “brick and mortar backup.”

I have a Chase Total Checking account. I’m not a fan of the fee schedule, so I only use it for very tiny things. The app is actually pretty good, but nothing special.

I have a Robinhood account. Don’t use Robinhood.

I have a TD Ameritrade account. As far as I can tell, though they may offer a similar product to Schwab, it’s probably not worth your time considering unless you want to get into investing.

I have a Discover credit card and they’re okay. I also have a Chase credit card, and they’re also okay.

I have Ally, and I hate it. A lot of people love it though.

get your money out!

  1. Move your direct deposit to your new bank.
  2. Move your PayPal account to your new bank (if applicable).
  3. Move your Venmo account to your new bank.
  4. Move your Cash app account to your new bank.
  5. Move your electric payments to your new bank.
  6. Move your rent payments to your new bank.
  7. Move your other utility payments to your new bank.
  8. Move your phone payment to your new bank.
  9. Move any of your credit card payments to your new bank.
  10. Using the Simple app, go over the last two months of transactions. Make sure that any recurring transactions have been moved over.

Pay particular attention to auto-pay if you get a discount from a service for having it. If your electric company or phone company gives you a discount for autopay, it likely uses ACH. ACH is the “direct deposit” network and they aren’t charged as many fees, so you usually get a discount. But if the ACH payment fails on an auto-pay payment, you may be charged an additional fee by the company that tried to take your money. This is because there is no such thing as a ‘decline’ in the ACH world until long after they’ve tried to charge you.

Now that you’ve hopefully intentionally moved all of your payments and major credits over, begin the process of moving money out. Remember that if you’ve tried to pay something or someone using ACH/“direct deposit” it will take 3-5 days for the funds to clear. This works on both sides. If you need to pay someone important within the next week, I suggest paying via debit card on Simple or your new bank if it’s funded.

Your goal is to make sure that you have no pending ACH payments to important people or companies.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Is an important pending payment going to go through in the next week?
  2. Do I need to keep some amount of money in Simple to let a transaction clear?
  3. Will there be enough money in my new bank account for the recurring payments I’m moving?
  4. Will there be enough money in my Simple account if I need to pay for something on it?
  5. Is there enough money on some account that I can access for living and stuff?

Once you’ve moved all of your payments over to your new card, some initial direct deposit money has arrived, and no payments are pending on Simple, you can continue.

Direct deposits and ACH transfers usually take 3-5 business days to complete. Deposits into new accounts usually have a 5-7 day delay between deposit and the hold clearing, to discourage fraud. Many new accounts have spending/transaction limits that increase over time. Please keep all of this in mind.

You need to move your money out of your Simple account. Initiate a transfer to your new bank and move all of it out (every last penny). This will make closing your account easier. You can continue onto the next step when you’ve scheduled the transfer. You should do this by from inside Simple, because it’ll clear faster from Simple’s side than if it’s pulled out from another bank. Odds are, your newly opened bank account will have worse limits on moving money that you “pull” versus money that is “pushed” in.

If it’s May 1st or later, god help you. Your transfer may not happen before your account becomes a BBVA account.

If your account is at $0.00 before the transition date, it will be closed, and not moved to BBVA. Please be aware of this.

prepare to jump ship

export data

  1. Login to the Simple website.
  2. Click on “More Filters.”
  3. Change “Time Span” to “All Time.”
  4. Next to the “List” and “Graph” selector, and click the download button. Download both the CSV and JSON archives. These archives will contain all of your transaction history. You can open the CSV in Numbers, Excel, or Google Sheets. This may be very important later, if you need to find evidence of a payment for taxes or something.
  5. Open the CSV in Google Sheets, Numbers, Excel, or any text editor. Each column is separated by a comma. You may need to figure out how to properly format the CSV.
  6. Make sure that the first transaction in your account is listed, and that you didn’t accidentally download only 6 months of data (which is the default timeframe).
  7. Hover over your name/picture, and click on “Statements & Tax Documents,” then click the big blue “Download all” button.
  8. Store all of the downloads you’ve just completed in some safe place. Ideally you never need to reference your statements or transactions again, but you’ll want these if the tax people come knocking.

block your card

  1. Hover over your name on the Simple website, then click “Account Settings.”
  2. Navigate to the “Your Simple Cards” tab.
  3. Block your card.

This will help detect any new transactions that might cause your transfer to your external bank to fail, if it’s still processing.

wait for your final transfer to clear

This will take a few business days.

close your account

Login to the Simple website and click the big red “close account” button, but only do this after you’ve had your card blocked, you have a new bank, you know your new debit card works, all of your money is out, and you have no pending transfers or transactions.

Sit back, and relax: you’ve escaped the sinking ship!

bonus: how to avoid this

In the future, if you want to avoid this, you really want a bank that is attempting to get its own banking charter, already has one, or is running off of something like Bankcorp. A banking charter is a specific thing that enables a bank to be a bank without having another bank back it. Varo has its own banking charter. Monzo wants to have its own banking charter. Simple was acquired by BBVA, but it used to be on Bancorp. Bancorp is a fancy company that only sells banking services to companies. They won’t shut down random small banks, probably, because that’s their whole business.

bonus: customer support

Customer support at many startup banks is limited by the number of staff. One Finance doesn’t have a lot of staff. Simple wasn’t the best either sometimes.

The thing is though, Simple had really nice support in the sense that they could solve a lot of weird problems…

bonus: what differentiates banks

App-based banks and brick-and-mortar banks and old and new banks all have one big factor that outweighs most others: their ability to problem solve. Simple was really great at this. Simple was the first real “neobank” that was fully online and app-based. To compensate for the obvious downside of not having a place to walk into to get help, they had an incredible support team that could do anything.

When I needed to pay my first month’s rent at a new apartment, I basically had a huge problem. I needed a fancy type of check – a cashier’s check – and I needed it rapidly. The Simple app doesn’t support this. It was also a holiday weekend. When I contacted Simple support via messaging, they were able to get me an expedited cashier’s check at no charge. This request was sent on a holiday weekend.

This really doesn’t happen at other online-only banks. Most don’t support cashier’s checks. Let alone free expedited shipping. Simple did. Betterment, for example, explicitly says that you’re out of luck.

This is really what differentiates banks. This is also the reason why I went with Charles Schwab. I know that if I absolutely need to, I can call them to get something like this taken care of. They can handle wire transfers, expedited requests, cashier’s checks, and other things like that. I don’t have confidence that Monzo or One Finance can handle these requests.

Some app store reviews on Aspiration, Current, and Empower warned of weird issues involving accounts being locked/frozen or customer support taking ages to respond. Some of Simple’s reviews had similar complaints (but I never experienced this). Please keep this in mind when selecting which banks to go with. Remember that “when things go wrong” is just as important as when things go right.

bonus: no really, it’s not simple’s fault

I’ve seen a lot of hate directed at Simple for this. It’s not their fault. BBVA killed all of its microbanks, including Azlo (sort of like a business version of Simple). Blame BBVA and PNC.

Simple was awesome. I loved Simple to death. I recruited maybe 15 people to Simple. I feel terrible that everyone is going through this now. It sucks.

bonus: need an invite to Monzo?

Join the waitlist, then send me an email at [email protected] from the email that you joined the waitlist on. I might be able to get you bumped to the top. I’ll let you know if it did.