New banking players are redefining what a checking account looks like.
Financial technology, or fintech, companies in banking — often called neobanks — typically offer mobile-focused accounts with eye-catching features, generally do without branches, and partner with banks since many don’t have banking licenses of their own. From 2018 to 2020, neobanks skyrocketed from 60 to 256 worldwide, according to a report by the business strategy firm Exton Consulting.
But more competition can have side effects. Once-innovative banking services such as two-day early direct deposits are becoming standardized, so “the challenge is how to stay differentiated,” says Kevin Travis, an executive vice president at the financial analytics firm Novantas.
Differentiating might mean appealing to certain groups, like freelancers or international travelers, or offering unusual perks. Here’s how some current and upcoming neobanks try to stand out.