Finding a new bank that’s right for you is tricky. This is especially true if you’re considering an online bank — which offer enviable interest rates and features, but without the convenience of a local branch — such as Ally Bank and CIT Bank.
So, if you’re on the market for a new online bank and these two are on your short list, how can you decide? Well, today we are going to look at both CIT Bank and Ally Bank, and all of the features they offer. Both of these banks offer comparable products and rates, making them great choices for many banking customers. However, there are some differences between the two, meaning that one is likely to be a better match for your needs than the other.
We will discuss each of the products that you will find at both of these banking institutions, and where the strengths lie with each. We will also go over the returns that you can earn on your money, how you’ll access your funds without brick-and-mortar branches, and how secure your money will be. In the end, you should have a clear idea of which bank — CIT or Ally — is right for you.
Why Choose an Online Bank?
Before we get into the details of these online banking leaders, let’s talk a bit about why you would want to choose an online bank to begin with. After all, don’t you need to have a local branch nearby?
Well, not really. Today, most customers do the vast majority of their banking online anyway, between web platforms and mobile apps. Gone are the days where we had to deposit paper checks with a teller or get cash with a withdrawal slip. Now, we can immediately transfer funds, pay bills, and even deposit checks online, using our phone, tablet, or computer.
While some banking customers still want, or even need, a brick-and-mortar location nearby, most of us do not. This has paved the way for the success of the online bank. Add in the fact that online institutions often offer rates of return that are considerably higher than you’ll find at conventional banks, and you can see why they have grown in popularity over the years.
Online banks are unique, though, in that not all of them offer the full spectrum of banking products that you desire. One bank may have exceptional savings products, but not offer checking accounts. Or, you’ll find the savings and checking accounts you like, but you’ll have to choose a certificate of deposit elsewhere.
The banking products you need could include:
- Checking accounts
- High-yield savings accounts
Depending on how you manage your funds, you might also desire a range of services and features, including:
- A mobile app for on-the-go account management
- ATM and/or check access
- Mobile check deposit
- FDIC-insured protection
- Brick-and-mortar locations (which select online banks will provide, though they’re very limited)
It’s rare that you can “have it all” at an online bank, which makes it even more important to do your diligence when shopping around.
Both Ally Bank and CIT Bank offer a healthy mix of services and features. This makes them great options for anyone looking at choosing a new online bank.
|High-Yield Savings Account
|Money Market Accounts (MMAs)
|Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
All of us need a place to put our money that is accessible, safe, and easy to manage. And for most, that place is a checking account.
Of Americans with one or more bank accounts, 98.2% have a checking account in the mix. Checking accounts come in a variety of flavors, sure to meet whatever your daily spending and financial management needs might be. If that means you are still writing paper checks and balancing your account with a ledger book, great; if you prefer to track and manage everything online with an app or web platform, you can find that, too.
While it’s important to have both a checking account (for the money you earn and spend) and a savings account (for those rainy day funds and future plans), you don’t necessarily have to have them at the same bank. In fact, some experts recommend keeping them separate, especially if you aren’t able to resist the temptation of spending the funds you have set aside. Being mere seconds away from depleting your hard-earned savings (via a quick click and online transfer) might be all it takes for you to wreck your budget.
There’s also some value to keeping your checking and savings accounts at different banks even if you’re resistant to temptation. One bank may offer the perfect checking account for your needs, but their savings account options could be lacking. You may fare better by keeping your savings elsewhere, where it can earn a higher return.
Why do I mention this? Well, not all banks offer checking accounts, especially in the online banking world. Such is the case with Ally Bank, in fact.
|Checking Account Offered?
|ATM debit card
|Local branch access
Ally Bank: Checking Accounts
Want an online checking account that doesn’t charge monthly fees, pays you interest on your balance, and even has ATM fee reimbursement? Then Ally Bank might be right for you.
Ally’s Interest Checking offers a number of great features. Their accounts come with:
- No minimum deposit
- No monthly maintenance fees
- No minimum balance to maintain
- Free ATM Debit MasterCard
- Access to free Allpoint ATMs across the country, or up to $10 in reimbursed out-of-network ATM fees each month
- 24/7 live phone customer service
- A top-rated app with mobile check deposit
- Online bill-pay
- The ability to move funds or make account changes with your voice using Amazon Alexa
Ally Bank’s Interest Checking also, as the name implies, earns you interest on your balance. If you have less than $15,000 in the account, you’ll earn 0.10% APY. Carry a $15,000 minimum daily balance, and that rate jumps to 0.60% APY. (Rates current as of December 5, 2018.)
CIT Bank: Checking Accounts
While CIT Bank is an excellent online bank, there’s one downside: they do not offer checking accounts. However, this might not be as big of a deal as it seems at first glance.
You may find that keeping your checking and savings accounts separate is a good idea for you, as we talked about above. Putting an electronic transfer — which can take a few business days to complete — might be just the step you need to resist the temptation to overspend. If you’re not seeing those funds every time you login to your account, you might even forget that the account is there (until you really need it!).
You could choose another bank for your everyday checking account needs, but still open a savings account, money market account, or even CD at CIT Bank. That way, you’ll have the best of both worlds.
Summary: Ally Bank offers online checking accounts, CIT Bank does not.
High-Yield Savings Accounts
If there’s one thing that most online banks have in common, it’s that they typically offer some pretty enviable interest rates on savings accounts. Their returns are usually quite a bit higher than the national average, and than those offered by traditional brick-and-mortar banks (even the most popular ones!).
|High-Yield Savings Offered?
|ATM debit card
|Above-average interest rate?
|Local branch access
Ally Bank: High-Yield Savings Accounts
If you want to earn a solid interest rate on your savings, regardless of the balance you hold, Ally Bank makes it easy. Their high-yield savings accounts offer a market-topping 2.0% APY, no matter how much money you have saved. (Rates current as of December 5, 2018.)
There are no hidden fees with Ally Bank. Whether you have $5 or $50,000 in your account, you won’t pay any monthly maintenance fees or fees to open the account. There’s no minimum deposit required to start, either, and you don’t have to keep a minimum balance.
Here’s what you’ll get with an Ally Bank savings account:
- No monthly fees
- No minimum balances
- No minimum deposit
- APY well above national average
- Flat interest rate, regardless of balance held
- Mobile app with check deposit
Right now, the national average for savings account returns is about 0.08% APY. With Ally Bank, though, you’ll earn well above that. In fact, they give account holders 2.00% APY (as of December 5, 2018) on all high-yield savings, regardless of how much money is in the account.
Ally Bank does not have any local branch locations, so you can’t just pop in to conduct business or speak with a teller. However, they do have 24/7 live customer service. If you need help with an existing account or even opening a new account, you can simply give them a call… whether it’s 3pm or 3am.
You won’t be offered an ATM card with your Ally Bank high-yield savings account, so you cannot withdraw cash. You can easily transfer funds to a connected external bank account, though, or initiate an outgoing wire. If needed, you can also request a check to be sent directly from the bank.
No matter which bank you choose, all savings accounts are limited to six withdrawals per month. This is a federal guideline and not one imposed by the bank, though, so it’s the same across the board.
CIT Bank: High-Yield Savings Accounts
As far as savings account features go, CIT Bank is toward the front of the pack. They offer two different “flavors” of high-yield savings, depending on your needs and savings plans. These make it easy for you to maximize your earnings, regardless of how (or how much) you save.
Here’s a look at some of the features offered by the basic high-yield savings accounts at CIT Bank:
- No minimum balance
- No monthly maintenance fees
- $100 required to open
- Interest rates that are ~12x the national average
- A mobile app for account management and check deposit
Standard CIT Bank savings accounts offer 1.55% APY (as of December 5, 2018). However, if you want to earn even more, you can opt for the Savings Builder account.
With CIT Bank’s Savings Builder, you are able to earn as much as 2.25% (as of December 5, 2018) just by opting for one of two account management options. You can either A) open your account with a minimum of $100 and deposit at least $100 monthly, or B) maintain a balance of $25,000 or more.
In months where you follow either of those guidelines, you’ll earn the higher interest rate offered. If you are unable to maintain either of those in a given month, you’ll earn the lower tier rate instead.
To deposit funds, you can either transfer in from an external bank account, transfer from an existing CIT Bank account, set up an incoming wire, or deposit a check by mail or using the mobile app.
For withdrawals, you can either request an ACH transfer to an external account, initiate an outgoing wire (there is a $10 fee for this if you have a balance less than $25,000), or request a check from the bank. As with all other savings accounts, you’re limited to six withdrawals in a statement cycle per federal regulations.
Summary: Both banks have comparable mobile apps and higher-than-average interest rates. Ally Bank is better for account holders with less than $25,000 in savings or those who cannot commit to at least one deposit of $100+ per month; CIT Bank’s Savings Builder account will earn you more if you meet either requirement, though.
Money Market Accounts (MMAs)
Want a savings account but need more flexibility with how you access those funds? Then a money market account, or MMA, might be right for you.
These types of accounts are very similar to high-yield savings accounts. They typically provide returns that are significantly higher than the national average, giving you a great place to stash your funds. Some banks even offer higher interest rates on MMAs than they do savings accounts, though there are often higher balance requirements.
One of the biggest perks of an MMA over a savings account, though, is that you are often given greater accessibility to your funds. This might come in the form of a debit card or checkbook, so you can easily utilize your savings without having to wait for a transfer to process.
|Money Market Account Offered?
|ATM debit card
|Above-average interest rate?
|Local branch access
Ally Bank: Money Market Accounts
It’s easy to earn high interest on your savings while also maintaining ease of access with an Ally Bank MMAs. These accounts offer a tiered interest rate, depending on the balance you carry, while also giving you checks and a debit card so that you can use your funds when you need them.
The money market accounts at Ally currently offer the following rates (as of December 5, 2018):
- If your balance is less than $25,000, you’ll earn 0.90% APY
- If your balance is $25,000 or more, you’ll earn 1.00% APY
You may notice that while this is significantly higher than the national average, it’s also quite a bit lower than the rate offered for high-yield savings accounts. Of course, the money market accounts offer customers both a checkbook and an ATM debit card — which can be used for free at any one of the 43,000 national Allpoint ATMs. Ally Bank will also reimburse you for $10/month in out-of-network ATM fees.
While there’s something to be said for ease of access of your funds, it may not be worth the drop in interest earned. However, rates are subject to change at any time, so be sure to compare the current rates when you are ready to open an account.
There is no minimum deposit required to open a money market account with Ally Bank. If you want to snag the highest interest rate offered, you’ll need to maintain a minimum daily balance of $25,000. If you don’t, though, you still won’t have to worry about monthly maintenance fees. There’s also no fee to open your new MMA.
Deposits can be made by mailing in a check, using the app to deposit a check via mobile, initiating an ACH transfer, or setting up an incoming wire. Withdrawals can be made by writing a check, using your ATM debit card, requesting a check from the bank, ACH transfer, or initiating an outgoing wire.
As with all Ally products, you’ll have 24/7 access to live customer service over the phone. There are no local branches for Ally Bank, though.
CIT Bank: Money Market Accounts
Unlike we saw at Ally Bank, you’ll actually earn more by putting your funds in a money market account at CIT Bank, as opposed to a high-yield savings. At least, up to a certain amount.
With CIT Bank’s MMAs, you’ll earn a flat interest rate of 1.85% APY (as of December 5, 2018). This is quite a bit higher than was offered by the bottom tier of the Savings Builder account and that of the basic high-yield savings account. However, the upper tier of a Savings Builder account will still earn you more than the MMA, assuming you can meet the requirements each month.
There is a $100 minimum deposit required to open a money market account at CIT Bank, though there are no minimum balance requirements or monthly maintenance fees.
You won’t get an ATM debit card or checks for your MMA through CIT Bank. However, they are about to roll out a new bill-pay platform, which you’ll only be able to utilize from your money market account. This service is not available for high-yield savings or Savings Builder customers.
As with all savings accounts, you’ll still be limited to six withdrawals per month. If you go over than limit, there is a $10 fee per transaction beginning with the seventh (up to $50 per month total). Funds can be deposited into your CIT Bank money market account via mobile check deposit, incoming wire transfer, mailing in a check, or initiating an ACH transfer. Withdrawals can be made via ACH, outgoing wire, requesting a check from the bank, or using the new bill-pay system when it’s available.
Summary: If your priority is funds access, Ally Bank’s checks and ATM debit cards win out. If earning interest is more important to you, though, CIT Bank easily wins out here.
Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
Some savings we need to have available at short notice, such as our emergency fund. However, we might also be saving for future reasons, such as the down payment on a home or car, a family vacation, etc. These funds might not need to be touched for a while and, in turn, have the opportunity to earn you more money in interest through a certificate of deposit.
Certificates of deposit, or CDs, offer enviable interest rates in return for essentially locking away your funds for a while. You will earn significantly more than you would by putting that money in a savings account, but you won’t be able to touch the money for a specified term (or period of time).
|Term CD offered?
|No-Penalty CD offered?
|Early withdrawal penalties
|Above- average interest rate?
|3 – 60 months
|60 – 150 days’ interest
|6 – 60 months
|90 – 365 days’ interest
Ally Bank: Certificates of Deposit
There are many different types of CDs available, including term CDs, no-penalty CDs, and even “raise your rate” CDs. Ally Bank offers all of them, ensuring that you’re able to get exactly what you want from your savings.
There are no minimum deposit requirements to open a CD through Ally Bank, though you may be able to earn a higher interest rate by depositing a larger amount. You’ll also find that, with CDs, the longer term you choose, the higher the rate you’ll earn on your money.
As of this writing (December 5, 2018) these are the interest rates that Ally Bank is offering on term CDs:
- 3-month CD at 0.75% APY
- 6-month CD at 1.00% APY
- 9-month CD at 1.25% APY
- 12-month CD at 2.65% APY
- 18-month CD at between 2.50-2.70% APY, depending on opening deposit
- 36-month CD at between 2.60-2.75% APY, depending on opening deposit
- 60-month CD at 3.10% APY
As you probably noticed, you can actually earn more money through Ally Bank’s savings accounts, if you are only wanting to lock your funds away for less than a year. However, beginning with the 12-month CD, you can snag quite a bit more in interest by just opting for a CD.
You’ll also notice that for 18- and 36-month CDs, you will earn a higher rate of interest the more you deposit. The three tiers available for these term CDs include deposits less than $5,000, deposits of $5,000 to less than $25,000, and deposits of $25,000 or more.
Ally Bank also offers a raise your rate CD. This certificate is available in two lengths: 2 years and 4 years. With this CD, you will have the opportunity to raise your rate once (for the 2-year term) or twice (for the 4-year term) if the offered rate on your term and balance tier happens to go up after you’ve already opened your CD. At-present, both CD terms offer a rate of 2.60% APY.
The key thing to remember about CDs is that you absolutely cannot touch the funds once you’ve deposited them. In exchange for your enviable interest rate, you’re agreeing to lock the money away and leave it alone. If you need to pull out the principal balance before the CD matures, you’re subject to some hefty fees.
Early withdrawal fees can really sting; in many cases, they can eat up all of the interest you’ve earned, or even cost you some of the principal balance. At Ally Bank, these fees are as follows on term and Raise Your Rate CDs:
- If your term is 24 months or less, you’ll pay a fee equal to 60 days’ interest
- If your term is 25-36 months, you’ll pay a fee equal to 90 days’ interest
- If your term is 37-48 months, you’ll pay a fee equal to 120 days’ interest
- If your term is 49 months or more, you’ll pay a fee equal to 150 days’ interest
How badly this stings depends on when you pull out your funds and how much you had initially deposited. However, it’s not uncommon to lose all of the interest you had earned, or even wind up owing some of your principal toward those fees, if you withdraw early.
If you think there’s a chance that you could possibly need to touch that money before the CD matures, or simply want to avoid the risk, there are no-penalty CD options. Not all banks have this product, but Ally Bank offers it to customers.
These CDs allow you to pull out your principal balance early if you need it, without being subject to steep fees. The trade-off, though, is that you’ll earn a lower return over the life of the CD, and the term lengths are much more limited.
At Ally Bank, no-penalty CDs only come in one size: 11-month terms. At-present, you’ll earn a tiered interest rate ranging from 1.80% APY (for deposits under $5,000), to 2.10% APY (deposits over $5,000), to 2.25% APY (deposits of $25,000 or more). While this might be the peace of mind you need, it will cost a bit in the end.
There are no monthly maintenance fees with any of Ally Bank’s CDs.
CIT Bank: Certificates of Deposit
There are three different CD options to choose from with CIT Bank. Depending on how much you plan to save, how long you can afford to lock your money away for, and whether you need the safety net that a no-penalty CD provides, you’re sure to find a product that works for you.
The first option is the standard term CD. Currently, CIT Bank is offering term CDs in the following length/rate combinations: (rates current as of December 5, 2018)
- 6-month CD at 0.72% APY
- 12-month CD at 2.20% APY
- 13-month CD at 2.25% APY
- 18-month CD at 2.50% APY
- 24-month CD at 1.40% APY
- 36-month CD at 1.30% APY
- 48-month CD at 1.50% APY
- 60-month CD at 1.70% APY
If you know anything about CDs, the list above might have made you do a double-take. I personally had to call CIT Bank to confirm these rates, because they didn’t look quite right to me. Typically, when you commit to a CD with a longer term length, you are rewarded with a higher interest rate. In return for promising to lock your money away for more time, you’re given more in interest.
This is not the case with CIT Bank’s term CDs, though. Their rates actually cap out with the 18-month CD, which currently offers 2.50% APY. Go any longer than that, and you will drop down significantly… even lower than some banks offer with high-yield savings accounts!
So, if you’re planning to bank with CIT Bank, be sure that you optimize your money in either savings or a CD, according to how long you plan to let it sit. If you are holding the money for less than a year, a high-yield savings account will yield the most in interest. Between a year and 18 months, you’re better off going with a term CD. And if you plan to hold it for longer than 18 months, you might want to consider an MMA or high-yield savings/Savings Builder account.
The next certificate of deposit option for CIT Bank customers are Jumbo CDs. If you have a significant nest egg to deposit ($100,000 or more), you can opt for a jumbo CD. These offer you the ability to lock in a rate for a number of years in order to safely invest a larger amount of money. CIT Bank’s current rates are as follows for jumbo CDs:
- 2-year jumbo CD at 1.45% APY
- 3-year jumbo CD at 1.40% APY
- 4-year jumbo CD at 1.60% APY
- 5-year jumbo CD at 1.75% APY
Again, pay close attention to the numbers. You’ll earn a smaller interest rate with a 3-year term than you would with a 2-year term, though the rate jumps up again for 4- and 5-year terms. Also, these rates are lower than you would find with either the Savings Builder account or the 18-month term CD. So, consider all of your possibilities before locking in your savings.
For either of these CD types, you will be charged a fee for early withdrawal, if you need to pull out your deposit before the certificate of deposit reaches its term maturity. Depending on how much you had deposited, how long you’ve held the CD, and the rate you had locked in, this penalty can be pretty significant. It has the ability to not only eat up all of the interest you had earned, but even dip into your principal balance in some cases!
Be sure to only choose a standard CD if you know that you can lock those funds away until maturity. At CIT Bank, the early withdrawal penalties are as follows:
- For CD terms of 12 months or less, your penalty is 3 months’ worth of interest.
- For CD terms greater than 12 months up to 36 months, your penalty is 6 months’ worth of interest.
- For CD terms greater than 36 months, your penalty is 12 months’ worth of interest.
Lastly, we have the No-Penalty CD from CIT Bank. This product offers you the ability to lock in a great rate on a CD, without the risk of early withdrawal penalties in the chance that you need to pull your principal balance out early.
There is only one no-penalty CD option from CIT Bank at the moment, with a minimum deposit of $1,000. You can opt for the:
- 11-month no-penalty CD at 2.05% APY
While this doesn’t let you lock in the rate for very long, it’s a great way to earn a nice rate for a shorter period of time.
There is a $1,000 minimum deposit to open a CD with CIT Bank, with the exception of the Jumbo CD which has a minimum deposit of $100,000. There are no monthly maintenance fees on any of their CD products.
Summary: Both banks offer CDs with comparable interest rates and features, and both have a no-penalty CD option. However, Ally Bank does not have a minimum deposit requirement, if you need to deposit less than $1,000.
While your interest rate is important, it’s not the most important thing when choosing an online bank. Or at least, it’s not the only thing you should consider.
It’s important to also choose a bank that can offer your the services, features, and overall accessibility that you require. It doesn’t matter if a bank offers you an interest rate that’s 0.1% higher, if you can’t ever access your funds or easily make deposits. You should also ensure that the bank you choose is secure, giving you peace of mind with your money.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important banking features, and how these two institutions compare.
Both Ally Bank and CIT Bank are FDIC insured. What does this mean? Well, if something were to happen to the bank, your funds would be protected up to the maximum insured limits. These are currently up to $250,000 per depositor, per institution, and per ownership category.
Verdict: It’s a tie.
You’re typically forced to choose between two categories when picking a new bank: those with online-only services and those traditional banks with brick-and-mortar branches. The former will often offer higher interest rates on accounts, at the sacrifice of local accessibility. The latter gives you the ability to do your banking in-person, but usually at lower interest rates.
Both CIT Bank and Ally Bank are true online banks. Neither of them has a brick-and-mortar option for customers, so you are forced to rely entirely on their email and phone customer service.
However, Ally Bank offers debit cards for both their checking accounts and MMAs, giving you access to your funds at ATMs across the country.
Verdict: Ally Bank wins here.
Piggybacking on that last category: Ally Bank offers ATM debit cards to their customers for specific accounts. CIT Bank does not offer cards for any of theirs.
Ally Bank debit cards, which are offered for MMA and checking account customers, can be used at any Allpoint ATMs across the country for free (there are more than 39,000 of them!). If you decide to use your card at an out-of-network ATM, they will also reimburse up to $10 a month in fees. There’s something to be said for that level of funds accessibility.
With CIT Bank, you won’t get an ATM card for your checking account because the bank doesn’t offer checking accounts. They don’t offer them for savings accounts either, though, forcing you to utilize bank checks or transfers if you want to access your money.
Verdict: Ally Bank wins here.
We are on our smartphones and tablets all day. It makes sense, then, that we can really utilize a stellar mobile app for managing our bank accounts. Luckily, Ally and CIT banks both have apps that do it all.
With Ally Mobile, you can deposit checks, see a snapshot of your accounts, initiate transfers, and even send money to other through Zelle. The app also has a 4.8/5 star rating in the App Store.
With CIT Bank’s mobile app, you can do much of the same. You can transfer funds, deposit checks, and also send money through People Pay. Their app also has a 4.6/5 rating in the App Store.
However, CIT Bank’s app is a little less functional and comprehensive than Ally’s. For instance, if you’re looking to initiate a transfer from an external account to an internal account (even if they’re already linked), you’ll need to do so online through the bank’s web platform.
For this reason, we’ll give the win to Ally.
Verdict: Ally Bank wins here.
Mobile Check Deposit
If you choose an online bank, you will want the ability to deposit checks on the go. Even if you don’t use checks regularly, it’s important to be able to deposit from your mobile phone in the case of a payroll check, tax refund, etc., rather than having to mail it in to the bank (and risk it being lost or stolen in the mail).
Both Ally Bank and CIT Bank allow customers to deposit checks on the go through their mobile apps. The functionality of both mobile deposit features seems comparable, too.
Verdict: It’s a tie.
Which Bank Is Right for You?
Choosing the right bank to save your money is important, and there are many factors to consider. It’s not just a matter of the interest rates offered, but also the account types and features that you need most. This is especially true when choosing an online bank, where your funds won’t be accessible by simply walking into a local branch.
The needs you have from a bank today may also change over time. Just because you don’t need a solid CD today doesn’t mean you won’t need one next year. Your savings habits may also adjust, offering you the ability to earn more with certain banks than others. It’s important to always be reevaluating your financial habits and needs to ensure that the bank you have today is the bank you need tomorrow.
Both Ally Bank and CIT Bank are highly-rated online options, offering customers a popular and comprehensive way to manage their funds. Neither of them squashes the other in terms of being a “better” choice; rather, one bank is likely better suited to your individual needs right now. And only you can make that determination.
Hopefully we have provided you with an excellent comparison of these two banks, so that you can make an informed choice when signing up for your next bank. Both Ally Bank and CIT Bank are likely able to provide you with a safe, secure, and feature-rich experience, allowing you the peace of mind that comes with saving… and earning on those savings.