American Express: The couture of online banking

American Express, or AmEx as it's also called, is most commonly known for its credit and charge cards, as well as travelers checks. Their popular catch phrase, "Don't leave home without it," has been part of the common consciousness since the 1970s. The company itself, however, has been around since 1850. Whoa! Talk about an American institution.

What you may not know, however, is that American Express also offers personal savings options. Deposit products offered include high-yield savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs). Accounts offered by American Express Bank, FSB are FDIC-insured. That means each depositor is insured to at least $250,000.

Account features

As is becoming the trend among banks, AmEx high-interest savings accounts are online-only. That means that, while there are no branches to visit, you can access your account 24 hours a day via the American Express website. And in today's increasingly technological world, that's often the most convenient option for folks anyway. Other account features include:

  • The ability to link up to three external accounts to your Personal Savings account

  • Deposit and withdrawal by electronic transfer, with the ability to deposit by check

  • No account fees or minimums

  • Competitive annual percentage yields (APY)

  • Track your money by setting up alerts according to specifications you establish

If you have an American Express card, be aware that you can't use your card to access your personal savings. In addition, American Express Personal Savings doesn't offer ATM cards. Electronic transfer is the only means of withdrawal.

AmEx also offers CDs with terms from 6 to 60 months at a variety of competitive interest rates. Like their personal savings accounts, you will be able to access your account around the clock and there are no minimum deposits required. Like most CDs, there are fees for early termination. But CDs aren't intended for emergency funds, but rather for money you don't anticipate needing before the end of the term.

CDs automatically renew after maturation unless the terms of your CD are no longer offered. If you want to withdraw your funds upon maturity, you can do so. Notification can be sent by mail and/or email in advance of the maturity date.

Mission and philosophy

With over 160 years of history, American Express is one of the oldest and most trusted brands in the world. They have a reputation for being elite, which means exceptional customer service. According to their website, their goal is to understand their customers and go the extra mile on their behalf. It seems to be working; they've earned five consecutive J.D. Power and Associates awards for highest customer satisfaction among credit card companies.

American Express is also committed to paying it forward, and not just through the interest rates you'll enjoy as a member. They adhere to an action plan for improving our world that is threefold:

  • Preserving historic places

  • Developing leaders

  • Encouraging community service

The bottom line

I know that I always thought of AmEx as a "fancy bank." But when I say that, I don't mean fancy in a shallow, Kardashian-flashy way. I mean it in a pearls-and-understated-Coco-Chanel way. After all, they're not only one of the most valuable brands in the world; according to Forbes magazine, they're one of the World's Most Admired Companies.

The beauty of American Express Personal Savings is that someone like me, who watches too much reality TV and shops at Goodwill, can afford an account. That means I'm entitled to the same level of customer service as someone with one of their no-limit charge cards! I'll also get one of the best online savings account rates available.

Honey Smith has been reading GRS since at least 2008, right when she got her first "real" job and started getting serious about finances. She and her husband Jake are in their early 30s and married in 2012 after dating for six years, four of which they spent living together. Currently, she manages graduate programs at a large state institution, and he is an attorney who recently started his own practice. Between them, they have approximately $200,000 of student loan debt and $30,000 of consumer debt, so she will be chronicling their debt-paydown journey.In addition to personal finance, Honey is interested in vegetarianism and cooking; gardening (despite living in the desert and having a black thumb); issues in higher education (including the student loan bubble and the slow death of tenure); and animal rights. However, her heart lies with fantasy novels, trashy TV, and Skyrim.

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