Simple: A Smart Banking Alternative

Guest post by Tory Martin:

Tim asked me to write a guest blog post. I decided to take the easy way out and just do an app (or in this case app and ecosystem) review. Here are my thoughts on Simple.

Purpose & Functionality

Simple is a banking startup that’s really only been around in its current form for about a year or so. Their customer base is around 100,000, so they’ve really progressed quite quickly. I think this is attributable to 3 things.

  1. No hidden fees are included (or even any non-hidden ones). Simple is completely free. They ascribe this to the fact that they have no physical locations and that they work how banks used to work. That is, they invest and profit from that instead.

  2. Their customer service is quite good. I’ve called Simple several times and they’ve always been courteous and helpful solving small issues I had and even giving congratulations about my recent marriage.

  3. Simple is easy to use. I mean really easy to use. Simple has apps for all major mobile platforms and the web. Checking your “safe-to-spend,” as they call it, is as easy as opening my Simple app and entering the 4 digit pin. The “safe-to-spend” balance is simply a measure of what you don’t have locked up in goals, which are also really easy to set up (either as one time manual allocations, or recurring daily ones). Depositing checks is also just 2 photos and a signature away. Sending money to other Simple customers is similar to Paypal’s system for transferring money (easy). You can also send checks to your contacts right in the app.

I have had a few minor complaints about the service. Since they are an online-only bank, working with cash is kind of a pain. Getting cash out is not an issue, as they have partner ATMs everywhere. However getting cash into the account involves money orders and similar aspects of banking that I don’t really feel like doing. Another thing I ran into was the limit of checks that can be deposited in one day. The limit is 5, which honestly is not usually an issue. But around wedding time, I had something like 25 checks to deposit… my wife ended up just taking them in to her bank instead (we made a joint account).

Rating: simplicity, usefulness, beauty and necessity

  • Simplicity. (9/10) I should hope this category gets a good score (Simple is simple). But honestly this is one of the least confusing at first glance apps I’ve ever used. There are a few things that could use refining (goals in iOS app, no swiping for functionality) but for such a young app, I’m happy overall.

  • Usefulness. (10/10) It’s an easy-to-use mobile banking app. Compared to the competition? Simple scores more like 100.

  • Beauty. (8/10) The apps for Simple are very nice looking. They are not iOS 7-ified, which honestly I think still works for them. It has a tangible, but not overdone brown-card feel.

  • Necessity. (9/10) Honestly, I think people would be more aware about finances if they used a bank like Simple. It makes it so easy to check your spending habits that it’s very hard for me not to be guilty when I buy too much.

  • Stickiness. (10/10) Both the app and the service behind this are so sticky it hurts. I won’t be using simple for personal use anymore unfortunately (they haven’t gotten joint accounts implemented yet, though it will be soon they tell me), but will still use it as my business account.


If you count traditional banks’ apps, there are hundreds of competing apps. I haven’t tried them all (obviously), but of the ones I’ve tried (PNC, SC Telco, TD Bank) Simple blows them away. In every area. Ally evidently has some good services (they’re also an online-only bank) but their app looks crappy.

As Dylan Love on Business Insider said, “(Simple) changed the way I interact with my money, and I'm recommending it to friends like mad.” I could say the same.

Simple is on the the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Free.

Header image from Simple press kit

Tory Martin