Ask Clark: Should you bank with your cell phone carrier?


You could argue that banking has changed more in the past few years than it has in the last quarter-century. Industries traditionally far removed from banking, like cell phone carriers, are getting into the money game — and for good reason.

Mobile banking is forecast to increase rapidly over the next five years as overall digitalization make traditional brick and mortar banks more and more like relics.

Should you bank with your cell phone service provider?

For customers, the question becomes when and how to adapt to the new environment. As the cell phone industry studies the T-Mobile Money approach, other major carriers like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint could introduce similar options.

So what’s a consumer to do? Should you bank with your cell phone service provider?

Clark’s take: Banking with your cell phone carrier

Money expert Clark Howard says, “When you think about the bureaucracies of AT&T and Verizon and other major cell phone carriers, there’s no way they’d make an offer that’s clean.

Clark says customers would likely be burdened with unwieldy terms that make banking with carriers undesirable.

“If you look at any solicitation you get from them, there are so many conditions,” he says.

What does Clark mean by clean?

“It means that there are no junk fees, no gotchas, no minimum balance and other things,” he says.

While it’s true that T-Mobile Money will only pay 4% APR on up to $3,000 in your account (it’s 1% after that), the carrier will also let you overdraft up to $50, which is a boon for those who struggle with keeping their account balanced.


“T-Mobile’s ‘Uncarrier’ initiative is all about doing additional things that create loyalty, like free Netflix for some users, Clark says.

It’s too early to know if T-Mobile Money will be a success, but it’s a better deal than most online banks right now, Clark says.

Still, the best online banks offer many of the same “clean” amenities important to consumers. Take a look at our list of the best ones.

When it comes to banking with your carrier, T-Mobile Money may be the only game in town so far, but free checking is easy to find if you know where to look.

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