If you've never heard of Synchrony Bank, but seen it advertised everywhere online, you wouldn't be alone.
In fact, if you looked prior to 2014, you wouldn't have seen Synchrony Bank anywhere. Then, in what appears to be an instant, it was everywhere.
That's because Synchrony Bank was founded in 2003 but operated as a subsidiary of GE Capital. It would IPO in 2014 on the NYSE with the ticker SYF to the tune of $2.88 billion. It didn't appear out of nowhere, unless you consider an IPO “out of nowhere.” (does this story sound familiar? Ally Bank was once General Motors Acceptance Corporation, GM's financial services arm, and these stories rhyme)
So who is Synchrony Bank?
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About Synchrony Financial
They're a financial services company based out of Stamford, CT and they offer everything you'd expect from a bank – deposit, credit, financing, and lending. In layman's terms, that's checking and savings accounts, credit cards, mortgage, car loans, and the like. They also provide private label credit cards (they're one of the biggest), so they are the backbone behind some popular retailer credit cards like Amazon, Lowes, Walmart, and Gap.
Synchrony Financial is the parent company, Synchrony Bank is the institution that provides those products. They're FDIC insured #27314 and they're headquartered in Utah.
Synchrony Bank offers the full menu of deposit products – money market (similar to checking), savings, high yield savings, certificates of deposit, and even IRA accounts.
All rates cited are as of 10/13/2017:
- High-Yield Savings: No monthly service fees, 1.30% APY, no minimum balance.
- Certificates of Deposit: Maturity periods of 3-months to 60-months, $2,000 minimum deposit and the 15-month CD yields 1.65% APY
- Money Markets: No monthly service fee, mobile check deposit, no minimum balance, up to 0.85% APY
- IRA: You can open a regular IRA account or an IRA CD account.
Fees & Penalties
Like many online banks, there are no minimum balances for their savings or money market accounts. There is also no monthly service fees.
What is rare is that they will not charge you a fee if you exceed six withdrawals/transfers in a statement cycle. Many banks will charge this because you aren't supposed to (according to the Federal Reserve) treat a savings account like a checking account, but Synchrony won't. They do, like other banks, reserve the right to close your account if it happens too much.
With their CDs, there is an early termination fee if you make a withdrawal from your Cd before the maturity date:
- Term 12 months or less: 90 days of simple interest at the current rate
- Terms of more than 12 months but less than 48 months: 180 days of simple interest at the current rate
- Terms of 48 months or more: 365 days of simple interest at the current rate
These interest penalties are fairly standard – it's the exact same as what Bank of America and any major bank would charge.
The gold standard of CD rate penalties is Ally Bank:
- Term 24 months or less: 60 days of simple interest at the current rate
- Terms of more than 24 months but less than 36 months: 90 days of simple interest at the current rate
- Terms of more than 36 months but less than 48 months: 120 days of simple interest at the current rate
- Terms of 48 months or more: 150 days of simple interest at the current rate
It's almost unfair to compare the penalties with Ally Bank because they are far and away the lowest for early withdrawal.
Synchrony Bank also offers “Loyalty Perks” that reward you for saving. Whereas most institutions, like credit cards, will reward you for spending – Synchrony rewards you for saving. The Perks Tiers are based on your balance and time with Synchrony:
- Basic: Balance under $10,000 AND less than 1 year
- Silver: Balance of $10,000 – $49,999.99 AND 1+ years
- Gold: Balance of $50,000 – $99,999.99 AND 2+ years
- Platinum: Balance of $100,000 – $249,999.99 OR 3+ years
- Diamond: Balance of $250,000+ OR 5+ years
Here's a quick explainer video about their Perks:
Pros and Cons
The main pros are similar with other online banks – you get low/no fees, a wide ATM network due to partnerships, much higher interest rates, and the smartphone apps are more powerful. They offer free checks for the money market account and there is $5 in ATM reimbursements. The Loyalty Perks are a nice add-on we don't see elsewhere
The cons are similar too – there no branches you can visit and everything happens via the app (or perhaps mail) or online. You have to be comfortable with working with a bank entirely online if you want to go with Synchrony Bank. I personally have no issue but if you're not comfortable, Synchrony Bank would not be a good option for you.
Synchrony Bank checks all the boxes and adds a little flair with their Perks feature.
I don't ever suggest rate chasing, switching banks for the best rates, but if you're #1 bank is an old brick and mortar bank with abysmal interest rates… it's worth a look.