Why I Switched to Capital One & Won't Ever Look Back

Why I Switched to Capital One & Won't Ever Look Back
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We can make lemonade when life gives us lemons, but we can’t live on lemonade alone. We need other forms of sustenance, and that requires money and somewhere more advantageous than a shoebox to keep that money safe but accessible. I came nose-to-nose with that reality on the heels of a nasty breakup. All our financial accounts were in joint names. I had to grab my share of the money and start over. Enter Capital One.

It’s a hybrid financial institution that offers both credit cards and banking services, an online bank that's also sprouted some brick-and-mortar locations and cafes. Yes, you read that right. Capital One is unique in that you don’t always have to stand in line at a physical branch to take care of your banking needs in person if you’d rather not do so online. Sit yourself down and have a cup of joe while you take care of business. The cafes are staffed by “ambassadors” who can help you with your banking needs, if need be.

And if you do want to take care of things online or on your phone? Fear not. Capital One’s mobile app is rated as one of the best out there, and it’s Alexa-friendly. Have a question about your finances? Just clear your throat and ask.

I haven't taken advantage of all Capital One’s products and services, because there are a lot of them. But I’ve established a somewhat exclusive relationship with them and they meet all my needs. These are the products I’m familiar with.

Capital One 360 Checking

This is an awesome checking account. It’s mobile banking to the nth degree, and there are no fees. Your debit card is welcome fee-free welcome at over ​40,000 ATMs​. And if you prefer paper checks to debit cards, Capital One has you covered there, too. Your first checkbook with up to ​50 checks​ is free, too.

I definitely don’t prefer paper checks, but let’s face it – at some point in everyone’s life, they’re probably going to have to issue and/or receive one or more of them. There’s one entity in my monthly budget that’s set up to accept only paper checks. Not a problem. I simply go to my account online, access the “Bill Pay” feature and ask them to send a check for me. Done. That’s it. Seriously. They mail this entity a check. For free. They don’t even ding me for postage.

And if some antiquated soul or client sends me a paper check for payment? This used to be cause for some teeth-grinding, necessitating a drive to the bank. Not with Capital One. I just take a picture of it on my phone, transmit it and...voila. It appears there in my 360 Checking account.

There’s no minimum deposit to open the account, and there's no minimum balance requirement. Capital One 360 Checking pays interest. Okay, you’re not going to retire on the interest. The annual percentage yield is 0.10 percent. That said, it’s still money you didn’t have before.

And you can set your account up with a payable-on-death beneficiary so whatever money Capital One is holding for you will go directly to the named individual upon your death, no probate required. Don't worry –they won’t have access to your money until that time.

But if there’s one thing I learned from my breakup, it’s that nothing is perfect. Capital One does impose a few limitations and restrictions on the 360 Checking Account. You can’t use the “Bill Pay” feature if you want to send someone more than ​$100,000​, but that is most definitely not a problem for me.

Cashier’s checks are limited to no more than ​$500,000​ a day total. And as for those debit cards, you’re going to have to limit yourself to ​$5,000​ per day in transactions and ATM withdrawals. I particularly like the “lock” option that Capital One provides for my debit card in the event that someone else is playing happy with my card because I've lost it or it's been stolen. You can use the mobile app to lock and unlock your card while the problem gets straightened out.

Read More​: Mobile Banking Regulations

Capital One Credit Cards

I have a couple of credit cards with Capital One as well, and these have some neat features, too. One I really like – most of the time – is the fraud alert service. Capital One will text you immediately if any charges hit your account that are out of the norm, a little tap on the shoulder that effectively says, "Did you do this?" They'll temporarily freeze your account if you respond, "No!" so no further charges can be made until you can get the matter straightened out.

Of course, the downside here is that your charge won’t be approved if you did make it but you don’t respond quickly enough, like maybe if you’re doing last-minute holiday shopping in the wee hours with your phone volume turned off and it's sitting upside down beside you on the sofa so you won’t be distracted when the screen lights up. Oops. Charge declined. That one necessitated a phone call to Capital One, but Customer Service took care of it efficiently and without fuss, no matter the hour.

Capital One will also text you when charges you make online hit your card, as well as regularly scheduled payments, although you don't have to respond to these unless you want to. They'll sent you balance alerts if you ask for them. In fact, you'll even be notified if a recurring payment is higher than usual, as in, "Your gym membership just tripled." You can lock your credit cards from your phone or computer in an emergency, just as you can with your debit card.

Capital One Cafes and Branches

Now about those brick-and-mortar locations. Unfortunately, you’re out of luck if you don’t live in Texas, Louisiana, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, or the District of Columbia. These are the only areas that have physical branches, although those cafes are scattered about the country.

This won’t stop you from taking full advantage of all the neat mobile and online that Capital One features, but you can forget about that cup of coffee while you're taking care of business unless you make it yourself...or you happen to be in an unaffiliated café seeing to your banking tasks on your phone.

It’s Not All Free

So what’s in all this for Capital One? Naturally, they have to earn their own living, so there are ​some​ fees involved. A cashier’s check will cost you ​$10​ if you can access a branch and purchase it in person. It’s ​$20​ if you buy it online, but that includes expedited delivery.

It will cost you ​$25​ to stop payment on a paper check or if you used the Bill Pay feature. The insufficient funds fee is ​$9​ if you somehow manage to overdraw your account, unless you’ve signed up for their “Next Day Grace” program. The overdraft will be honored in this case, but it will cost you ​$35​. But I figure all this is pretty reasonable, given everything I get out of my relationship with this financial institution. Capital One is simply the best bank I've worked with.