Is GoBank the First Genuinely Good Bank?

Imagine a world without overdraft fees. A world in which minimum balance requirements are a thing of the past. A world where you decide how much your bank fees will be every month. No, this isn’t the trailer for some kind of financial fantasy movie – it’s actually real. Two weeks ago, prepaid card company Green Dot test-launched GoBank, a bank account that can be opened and managed entirely via smartphone, and about which all of the aforementioned things are true.

Instead of partnering with an existing bank, GoBank actually is the bank – they’re FDIC-insured and everything. There aren’t any brick-and-mortar locations, but customers can make cash deposits at one of GoBank’s 40,000 ATMs or at Green Dot retailers like WalMart.

Checks can be deposited via smartphone, just as with other mobile banking apps. Paychecks, tax returns, and federal benefits can all be sent to a GoBank account through direct deposit. Each account comes with a linked Visa debit card and another integrated savings account called the Money Vault, which sounds like somewhere Scrooge McDuck would go swimming. You can do a quick swipe to see your balance without logging in, and you can send money for free via email, text, and even Facebook. But that’s not even the craziest part.

With GoBank, you decide how much you want to pay in fees every month, a la Radiohead. There are no overdraft or minimum balance fees. Yes, you read that right. No. Overdraft. Fees. It’s every college student’s dream come true. GoBank will charge you $2.50 for using an out-of-network ATM, but since their network of ATMs is double even Bank of America’s, it seems those charges will be few and far between.

You’re probably wondering how GoBank will make any money. Well, because they won’t have branches or tellers, they’ll be able to significantly cut operating costs. GoBank also offering a $9 custom card on which you can get any picture printed. This will surely be irresistible to creepy cat ladies and overzealous grandparents everywhere. (Can you imagine – “Look at my adorable grandson doing this inane activity you don’t care about! On my bank card!”)

While all this sounds absolutely glorious, GoBank does have its share of issues. It seems to have about the same level of security as a standard banking app – strong password requirements, security questions, verifications and alerts about suspicious activity. That isn’t bad, but it’s not any better than standard banking apps, and perhaps it should be since GoBank isn’t just your banking card but your actual bank. But GoBank says they’ll take the hit if you do encounter fraud, and you won’t be responsible for a dime.

GoBank’s other red flag is that its parent company is a prepaid card company, which are notorious for ripping people off. But while prepaid cards are generally not the best idea for consumers, Green Dot makes one of the better ones – the fees are low and they’re waived entirely if you make a certain number of purchases per month.

GoBank, although not totally perfect, actually seems pretty awesome. A bank that seems more attuned to consumers’ needs than making huge profits is a breath of fresh air. And if GoBank is as sweet of a deal as it appears to be, it seems that the big banks will have to follow suit. Could this be the future of banking? We certainly hope so. What do you think? Would you trust your green with Green Dot? Let us know in the comments.