T-Mobile's Next Big Move Is... a Checking Account?

I appreciate how clearly the Money app labels how much interested you are earning.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

While it’s not quite a pivot, it seems more and more tech companies are straying out of their lane and into the finance world. T-Mobile has decided to join the collection of startups and legacy tech players that want to handle your banking with a new checking account product simply called T-Mobile Money.

Of course, checking accounts aren’t new, and technically neither is T-Mobile Money, as it’s been in available since it soft launched late last year. But today marks its official rollout and with it, T-Mobile is looking to upgrade the traditional checking account by offering its customers a four percent interest rate on the first $3,000 in their account, with a one percent return on anything above that.

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If you’re not a T-Mobile customer, you can still sign up for Money, but you’ll only get a flat one percent return on everything instead of the four percent return on your first three grand.

While T-Mobile’s Money debit card isn’t as fancy as the Apple Card, it’ll get the job done.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

For some, four percent might not sound like a lot, however, compared to the 0.05 percent to 0.5 percent returns you get from a typical checking account, four percent is a pretty huge improvement.

And just to make sure T-Mobile Money is super clear about what kind of returns and benefits you’re getting, the app has a perks page that tells you how much money you’ve made, and how you are generating that interest.

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For Money, T-Mobile is also doing away with the banking fees sometimes associated with checking accounts and offers an overdraft limit that lets you go $50 into debt without penalty. However, if you don’t pay that $50 back within a month, you’ll lose that feature forever. And thanks to a partnership with Allpoints ATMs, the Money debit card will have access to over 55,000 no-fee ATMs, with the app including a map to guide you to the nearest machine.

in case of emergency, Money users can disable their debit card from inside the app.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)
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But the real benefit of T-Mobile Money might be its more contemporary app-based design, an approach that feels a bit more at home in our smartphone-centric world. So instead of having to do a bunch of paperwork and fill out forms, almost everything you might want to do with a checking account, including signing up for the service itself, can be done online right in the app.

Though if you prefer the comfort of brick-and-mortar, you will also be able to sign up for Money at T-Mobile stores. Just don’t go there looking for financial advice, as your local T-Mobile representative is not a banker, and as far as T-Mobile Money is concerned, they are mostly there to help guide you through the process.

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Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Inside the app, aside from checking your balance, Money also allows you to deactivate your card in case it gets lost or stolen, set up direct deposits, transfer money to mobile wallets like Google Pay, Samsung Pay, or Apple pay with a single touch, or even send payments to friends using services like Cash App, PayPal, and Venmo without needing to switch to another app, assuming you registered your account first inside Money first.

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Meanwhile, for those worried about T-Mobile selling your data, T-Mobile’s director of marketing for financial services Tiffany Minor assured me that both T-Mobile and its banking partner BankMobile won’t share any data between the two companies, and will not sell any user data to third-party sources either.

The perks tab makes it easy to see how much interest you’ve earned this month and lifetime.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)
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In a way, the most surprising thing about Money isn’t that T-Mobile is dabbling in banking, but how boring the app itself is. A lot of features like the support for virtual wallets and the ability to disable your debit card in-app are things every banking app should have but often don’t because of the seemingly glacial pace at which institutions like banks adjust to the speed of modern tech.

But if you’re looking for a checking account that plays a bit more nicely with modern payment apps and wallets while also offering a higher than normal interest rate, T-Mobile Money might be a good fit. You just better make sure you fully taking advantage that four percent interest.

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About the author

Sam Rutherford

Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.