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Banking

The best online checking accounts offer competitive interest rates with low fees and easy access. Here’s our list of the best options for 2018.

best online checking accounts

Consumers have grown increasingly frustrated by the checking account options offered by traditional banks. Large banks are continuing to add fees and are not concerned with scaring the less profitable customers away. This is part of a larger plan to increase profitability.

Enter online banks. Banking customers are seeking out the best online checking accounts for better interest rates, service, and lower fees. The key is to is find the best checking account that meets your needs at that particular time.

Here are my picks for stable, convenient online checking accounts.

Ally Bank

Ally Bank (formerly GMAC Bank): Ally offers a checking account with no monthly fees and no minimum balance. The no-fee, no-minimum accounts are becoming increasingly rare. Very few banks offer interest on a checking account, as Ally Bank does.

While they offer free free checking, customers will suffer with a low APY.  For accounts with less than $15,000, the APY is 0.10% and for balances greater than $15,000, the APY is 0.60%.  Perhaps the biggest benefit is that Ally reimburses up to $10 in ATM fees each statement cycle.  That can go a long way in saving money when you need to withdraw funds from non-Allpoint ATM’s.

  • $10 per cycle ATM fee reimbursement
  • NO monthly fees

EverBank

EverBank: EverBank comes with the unique promise that the account will always offer a rate within the top 5 percent of comparable accounts. Other perks include no monthly fees, unlimited ATM fee reimbursements as long as the minimum balance is met, and mobile check deposits. The minimum to open this account is $5,000 and be reimbursed for ALL ATM fees is the same $5,000.

EverBank also shines in the 1st year interest rate they offer consumers with large balances.  Everyone earns a 1.21% APY (for the first $250,000) on the first year they’re on board with EverBank. Then it’s a tiered rate based on deposit size.  0.25% for balances under $10,000 all the way up to a 0.71% APY for balances of $100,000 – $10MM.  In order to receive the promotional 1.21% APY for the first year, you must open a new account, not transfer old funds to a new account.

  • Unlimited ATM fee reimbursement w/ $5,000 minimum balance
  • NO monthly fees

BBVA Compass

BBVA Compass: BBVA Compas offers the Compass ClearChoice Free Checking Account. As the name suggests, there is no monthly maintenance fee. BBVA offers free online and mobile banking as well as unlimited free check writing (but not free checks). You also get free mobile and online bill pay. And there are no fees at any of BBVA’s ATMs.

But that doesn’t mean there are no ATM fees.  If you use an ATM outside of the BBVA network, you are charged their fee; and while BBVA will not reimburse you for that fee, they do offer a unique ATM fee rebate program.  If you agree to a $5 monthly charge, you can be reimbursed for up to 4 ATM fees per month.  A typical ATM fee is about $3, but if you’ve ever withdrawn money from an airport or casino, you know that fee is bigger.  The $5 monthly charge will save you money if you’re a habitual ATM user, but if not, you should pass.

The biggest drawback to the ClearChoice Free Checking Account is that it is not accompanied by an interest rate.  The minimum to open an account is just $25.

  • NO ATM fee reimbursement (unless you pay a $5 monthly charge)
  • NO monthly fees

FNBO Direct

FNBO Direct: FNBO Direct offers an online savings account with a competitive interest rate, and the Online BillPay Account is a competitive offer as well. FNBO offers a competitive interest rate on their BillPay Account and integrates PopMoney, a system that allows you to easily transfer money to and from your friends (or anyone else who uses PopMoney).

Opening an FNBO Direct BillPay account requires only $1, and the current interest rate is a 0.65% APY across all account balances.  As far as ATM fees go, FNBO touts that there are no foreign ATM fees, however that’s somewhat misleading.  FNBO will not charge you a fee, however if you use a non FNBO ATM, you can be charged a fee by the other bank.  There is currently no plan available to receive ATM fee reimbursements.

I’ve had an FNBO Direct savings account for quite a long time, and have always been a satisfied customer.

  • NO ATM fee reimbursement
  • NO monthly fees

Capital One 360

Cap One 360: Capital One 360 combines every good checking account feature into one package.  This is a no fee account with a top rated mobile app platform that allows you to transfer money, deposit checks and manage your account free of charge.  It also offers mobile check deposits and the security of SureSwipe to see all transaction details.

Cap One currently provides a tiered APY structure.  For balances less than $50,000, the APY is 0.20%, balances between $50,000 and $100,000 the APY is 0.75% and for balances greater than $100,000 the APY is 0.90%.  Their ATM fee structure is very straightforward; charging nothing for using a Capital One ATM (on the AllPoint network) and reimbursing up to $15 in ATM fees per month from other banks.  From their website:

For certain banking products we offer, fees assessed at any ATM within the United States and at some ATMs located outside the United States will be reimbursed within 5 business days, up to $15 per statement period.

  • $15 per cycle ATM fee reimbursement
  • NO monthly fees

USAA

USAA: USAA is taking advantage of banks charging $5 debit card fees, heavily advertising that their debit card is free to use. The USAA Classic Checking account is certainly a favorite among experts, earning its place as a finalist at the 2nd Annual Plutus Awards. USAA was also named one of CNN Money’s least evil banks and it’s a bank that my brother uses for all of his financial needs (member of the National Guard).

This is a no fee checking account that requires a $25 opening deposit and no ongoing minimum balance requirement.  Similar to the Capital One policy above, USAA offers fee free ATM withdrawals at over 60,000 locations.  They’ll kindly reimburse you for up to $15 in ATM fees each month, should you use an ATM not in their network.  USAA has a terrific mobile app that allows for sending money, checking balances, paying bills and a handful of other necessary banking features.

Unfortunately, the negative is that it’s current interest rate on a balance of $1,000 or more is just 0.01% APY.  Virtually nothing.

  • $15 per cycle ATM fee reimbursement
  • NO monthly fees

The bank serves primarily members of the military, but membership is open to the public. The checking account has no fees and does not charge for up to the first 10 AM withdrawals each month. USAA also reimburses customers for up to $15 in ATM transactions each month, making any convenient location an “in-network” ATM. USAA also offers remote deposit, a convenient way to deposit checks into the account by scanning or taking a photograph of both sides of the check.

Aspiration Bank

Aspiration Checking: Aspiration is not like the other names on our list.  It’s a name you likely have not heard of; as they do little advertising and don’t have the presence that the other big name banks on this list have.  That said, it’s the best online checking account you’ve never heard of.

Aspiration offers fee free checking.  No monthly maintenance fees, no minimum balance required to maintain an account and opening an account can be done for as little as $10.  Account balances of greater than $2,500 will receive a terrific interest rate of 1.00% APY and balances with less than $2,500 will receive an interest rate of 0.25%.

The best feature of the Aspiration checking account is that there are NEVER ATM fees.  If you use an ATM inside of their network, it’s free and if you use an ATM outside of their network, they’re reimburse you the expense.  Without exception, all ATM transactions are free with no caps.  Truly a unique service in today’s checking market.

  • Unlimited ATM fee reimbursement
  • NO monthly fees

Discover Bank

Discover Bank Checking: Discover is best known for their credit card products, but they put together a strong checking offer as well.  They have a Cashback Checking account that includes the unique feature of 1% cash back for the first $3,000 in debit card transactions per month.  Those transactions do not include things like withdrawals and money transfers but do include things like purchases at the pump, retail outlets or at the grocery store.

The Discover Cashback Checking account charges no monthly fee and has no balance requirement to remain open.  Some of the nicer features include free checks (including reordering checks) free online bill pay and free official bank checks, should you require them.  Their ATM policy is straightforward; if you use one of their 60,000+ ATM’s there is no fee; however if you wander outside their network, they will not reimburse you for other banks ATM fees.

To assist in finding a fee free ATM, they have an ATM finder online and on their mobile app.

  • NOATM fee reimbursement
  • NO monthly fees

With the largest banks finding ways to eliminate the least profitable customers through the addition of fees, as of today, there are still plenty of options available for people who are interested in sticking with an institution that generates revenue in another manner. If the above options don’t work for you, there are credit unions that would be happy for an influx of customers. Every financial institution is a business, however, and if new customers end up being unprofitable in the future, free checking will become extinct.

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We’ve tracked bank rates since 2008. The latest list shows the best bank interest rates available nationwide as of April 2018 (with daily updates).

best bank rates

Since many banks are constantly updating their interest rates offered on savings, money market and checking accounts, this chart should come in handy. On the 1st of every month, this page is updated to show the most accurate rate information available.

Banking Deal: Earn 1.75% APY on an FDIC-insured money market account at CIT Bank.

This list is organized into two sections. The first section includes FDIC-insured savings or money market accounts and the second includes FDIC-insured checking accounts. Each list is sorted alphabetically and unless there is a notation listed, the APY rate applies to all amounts.

Current rates

Use the table below to search for current interest rates available on money market accounts, savings accounts, and certificates of deposit. For historical rates, scroll down.

Historical interest rates

Banks that have lowered or raised their rates in the last month are shown in red and green, respectively.

Bank Account Name Tier Notes 4/1/2018 1/1/2018 1/1/2017 1/1/2016 1/1/2015
Synchrony Bank Online Savings All No minimum balance  1.55% 1.30% 1.05% 1.05% 1.05%
Ally Online Savings All No minimum balance 1.45%  1.25% 1.00% 1.00% 0.99%
CIT BankNew Money Market All No minimum balance 1.75%
American Express Bank High Yield Savings All  1.45% 1.35% 0.90% 0.90% 0.80%
Barclays Online Savings All  1.50% 1.30% 1.00% 1.00% 0.90%
Capital One 360 Online Savings All Formerly ING Direct  1.00% 1.00% 0.75% 0.75% 0.75%
Discover Bank Online Savings All  1.50% 1.30% 0.95% 0.95% 0.90%
GS Bank Online Savings All No minimum deposit  1.50% 1.40% 1.05% N/A N/A
Everbank Money Market $5k to $10k Includes 1st year intro rate  1.41% 1.31% 1.11% 1.11% 1.11%

Savings Account Rates

As you review the current and historical rates for savings accounts and money market accounts, keep the following in mind:

  • Fees: The best offers come with no monthly maintenance fees. Even a small fee can wipe out much of the yield, particularly in the current low rate environment. Before opening an account, make sure you understand what if any fees you’ll pay. The best savings accounts don’t charge fees.
  • Minimum Deposit: Many bank accounts require either a minimum deposit or a minimum balance going forward, or both. Be sure you know these requirements as you shop for the highest yield.
  • Tiered Rates: Some, but not all, banks offer tiered rates based on the amount of your balance. While one might assume that the rates go up as the balance goes up, that’s not always the case. Some banks actually lower the rate for balances over a certain limit.
  • Online Banks vs Traditional Banks: As a general rule, online banks offer the highest rates. Many brick and mortar banks offer yields as low as 0.01%. It’s as if they don’t want your money. In contrast, online banks offer yields of 1.00% APY or more.

Checking Account Rates

With checking accounts, the interest rates tend to be lower. That’s generally fine because most people don’t keep a lot of money in a checking account. Any extra money one has should be moved over to a high-yield savings product. That being said, many banks do offer interest checking accounts. Here it’s critical to consider fees, which are more common than on savings and money market accounts.

Finally, if you know of other bank accounts or deals we should include in our list, please leave a comment below.

Picking the right bank is not as simply as it once was. To help, we show you how to choose the best savings account based on rates, fees and customer service.

Choose the Best Savings Account

In a world with literally thousands of options at your fingertips, choosing a savings account can be tough. These days, you won’t get extraordinary interest rates anywhere. But many online and even brick-and-mortar banks offer a variety of other benefits to turn heads. You might get a sign-on bonus, like you would with a credit card. Or maybe you get a slick online system to track your savings.

Whatever your goal, there’s a savings account out there to help you meet it. You just have to choose the account that works best for your needs.

Why Do You Need to Save?

Your first question is why are you saving? There are, of course, a few basic answers to this question. Everyone should have some short-term and longer-term savings goals, and everyone should save for emergencies. But beyond that, you might have particular goals in mind for your savings account. But here are some angles to consider when deciding on a savings account for your needs:

Saving is not the same as investing. All too often, we get the idea of saving and investing confused. Sure, we hear a lot about “saving for retirement.” But, really, we’re investing for retirement. Investing comes with higher risks but should also, over time, net you better returns. Saving in a savings account, on the other hand, won’t get you much by way of interest. But that’s not the point. The point is to keep that money–money you might need in the short-term or in an emergency–safe and secure.

You may have different accounts for different purposes. The proliferation of free online savings account options has made this approach easier than ever. You might have several savings accounts, each with its own purpose. This can make it easier to maintain different goals for your savings. Maybe one account is for your annual vacation, another is for emergencies, and a third is for a down payment on a new home. Just be sure you’re not paying fees for all of these accounts, which can incrementally wear down your savings rate.

Savings doesn’t need to be easily accessible. Too often consumers default to keeping their savings accounts with whatever bank has their checking account. This isn’t a terrible strategy, as long as the product is a good fit otherwise. But remember that your savings account doesn’t necessarily need to be easily accessible from your checking account. In fact, sometimes separating them is a better strategy for avoiding spending that set-aside money.

So with these things in mind, let’s talk about what to look for when you’re choosing a savings account.

What to Look for in a Savings Account

There are so many savings account bells and whistles. And some of them are great. It can be nice to be able to automatically roll “spare change” from your checking to your savings account, for instance. And having tools to automatically track your savings account balance on your phone is also great. But these are really extras. At the core, here are the five things you need to consider when looking at a savings account:

  1. Stability
  2. Fees
  3. Accessibility
  4. Interest Income
  5. Service

Let’s tackle these issues one by one here.

Stability: Look for FDIC Insurance

The first thing to look for in a savings account is FDIC protection. This ensures that your money will be available to you, even if the bank you choose fails. As we saw in the early 2000’s, even the banks with the best reputations can fail. So always be sure that your money is FDIC insured. Or if you choose a credit union, look for National Credit Union Administration insurance, which is similar to the insurance offered by the FDIC.

Fees: How Low Can You Go?

These days, there are so many fee-free options available that you really shouldn’t be paying for a savings account at all. But if you do choose one with conditional fees, see if you can meet the requirements for having those fees waived. Even fees as small as a few bucks a month will wear away at your savings over time. And, again, with so many fee-free options on the market, there’s just no sense in paying fees for your savings account. And if you plan to maintain a relatively large balance, you’ll have even more fee-free options available!

Accessibility: Get Your Money When You Need It

Sure, you might find a bank that offers outstanding interest and no fees. But if it’ll take you a week to transfer money from that bank to your checking account, it’s not a good place to store your emergency fund. Generally, the more likely you are to need the money at a moment’s notice, the more easily you should be able to access the money. But as we noted above, you may not want to have all your savings linked to your checking account, as that can cause unnecessary temptation to overspend.

The bottom line here is that you might need different levels of accessibility for different accounts. Maybe half your emergency fund is at a bank in town so that you can withdraw cash without ATM fees whenever you need it. Store the rest of it at an online bank with a good interest rate. It’ll take a couple of days to get your money, but not usually more than that. And then you can store savings for particular things like your next car somewhere that you can access the money within three to five days.

Interest Income: Higher Isn’t Always Better

Remember, this type of savings account is not for investing. And in today’s environment, you shouldn’t expect to find an account with stellar interest rates. The differences between banks are pretty small too, so don’t choose based on this factor alone. With that said, earning a bit of interest can offset some of what you’d otherwise lose to inflation. So do look at interest rates, especially when choosing a bank for longer-term, higher-balance savings that will earn more over time. But, of course, be sure to balance any increases in interest against potential increases in fees, which can quickly erode that extra interest income.

Service and Tools: Look at Reviews

Good customer service is essential for a bank. If you have trouble logging in online and need your money, you need to be able to get someone on the phone to fix the problem. So check around for customer service reviews for the banks you’re considering. Then, be sure to take a look at additional tools that you might find helpful. These days many banks have apps for managing your money, take check deposits from your phone, or have financial advice available for free. These aren’t make-or-break features for most customers. But they can be the icing on the cake.

Once you’ve gotten through all of these steps, you should be able to find a savings account–or two or three!–that meets your particular needs. You can check out our reviews of particular accounts, such as the Capital One 360 Savings account and the Barclay’s Online Savings option. You’re sure to find a savings account that will perfectly suit your needs.

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What happens if your bank account is hacked? Are you liable or is your bank? We have the answer, along with some tips how to keep your money safe online.

bank account is hacked

As society’s reliance on technology grows, especially for things like banking, we will continue to see more and more issues with account hacking. Whether on a large scale–such as the recent $10M theft from banks in the U.S. and Russia–or small, data breaches are becoming increasingly prevalent. So, what happens if your bank account is hacked?

How Big is the Problem?

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, hacking was responsible for a whopping 59.3% percent of the total data breaches in 2017. This number has grown significantly each year (up from 14% in 2007 and 27% in 2012, for instance). It shows no signs of slowing.

It’s concerning enough to think about our email accounts being breached or our personal data being compromised through physical theft of personal documents. However, when we consider the impact of our checking or savings accounts being hacked–and even emptied–the fear increases exponentially.

This may even lead some to think about pulling their money out of financial institutions, opting instead a more personal, less-likely-to-be-targeted solution. However, that might not be the best option.

While there are many reasons to reconsider doing business with large financial institutions, the threat of a cyber attack shouldn’t be one. Those who see the potential for this kind of data breach as a reason for not doing their financial business over the internet are over-reacting. Of course, that’s little comfort in the face of fear.

Let’s take a look at exactly what happens after your bank account is hacked, and why you shouldn’t be scared to bank with an online institution.

Banking Deal: Earn 1.75% APY on an FDIC-insured money market account at CIT Bank.

You Probably Won’t Lose Your Money

You may not know this, but the banks are actually liable for any stolen funds as a result of cyber crime. Non-business Customers should not lose money, as long as they notify their banking institution of the fraudulent transaction(s) within a reasonable period of time and took steps to safeguard their account information.

This is all thanks to Regulation E, a guideline established by the Federal Reserve to protect electronic funds transfers (ETFs). According to Reg E, banking customers are only liable for up to $50 in losses if they notify their bank right away (typically, within 2 days of receiving the statement with the fraudulent charge). If they wait up to 60 days, their lost funds are still limited–losses are capped at $500–and the bank carries most of the liability.

However, if customers wait beyond 60 days to notify their bank of any fraudulent charges, they may be liable for the full amount stolen.

The takeaway here? You’re still protected as a personal banking customer, even against cyber threats, as long as you stay on top of your account activity. Of course, you should be doing this anyway, but thanks to the Federal Reserve, your losses are largely capped even if you’re the unfortunate victim of bank account hacking.

Banks Are More Prepared than Ever

Banks are hit by cyber attacks every single day. As a result, they are becoming more adept at preventing breaches of security, and are implementing cutting-edge protocols and software to prevent such attacks from being successful.

It’s important to remember that only the big attacks hit the news. Banks are bombarded by security threats all day every day, and their systems are improving exponentially for detecting and dealing with these problems.

You Can Help Protect Yourself

While some breaches happen on a much larger scale, many of them originate by an individual having his or her personal data compromised. In today’s world of WiFi hotspots and coffee shop internet, it’s even easier for hackers to gain access to our accounts.

Luckily, it’s fairly simple to ensure your account is not vulnerable to this particular attack. When using a public internet connection – whether at the airport, in a coffee shop, or even at your kids’ after school gymnastics practice – avoid logging in to important personal accounts. Browsing the web is fine, but don’t enter personal information like your bank account login or even email password while on a publicly-accessed connection.

Also, when logging into your bank account online, most banks allow you to “remember your computer.” This allows you to bypass a few added security questions the next time you log in, but makes it easier for cyber threats. Hackers can spoof your IPv4 address or even use malware to hijack your computer, so you don’t even know it’s accessing your bank account.

It’s a good idea to always disable the “remember your computer” feature. While it makes logging in a bit more of a pain, it’s much more secure in the end.

Keep an Eye Out for Spoofs

Even the most technology-savvy folks can be fooled by today’s advanced social engineering. Keep a close eye on everything you open and click on, to ensure that you’re not their next victim.

Email programs have become very adept at filtering out spam most of the time. However, they’re not foolproof. You may still see emails that look very much like they are official, coming from your bank or even Paypal, asking you to visit the website and confirm some piece of financial information.

In reality, the “bank’s website” is actually a hacker’s website, designed to look identical to the official site. Never enter your password or any other identifying information on a website that you’re accessing over an insecure connection.

Internet browsers now even identify the security certificate. So when you’re visiting a secure website that’s supposed to be operated by Chase, you can verify you’re safe. Click the security icon in your browser’s address bar for more information. Here is a screenshot of what that looks like with Chrome.

When dealing with suspicious emails, you can even nip spoofs in the bud. Simply click on the sender’s email address if you receive a message requesting information, to see if it truly came from your financial institution. If you have any doubts, forward the message directly to your bank’s customer service department and get their confirmation.

You can make your passwords as long and as random as you like, but the complexity of a password is irrelevant if you hand it to a criminal willfully.

Safer Alternatives Don’t Exist

I’m sorry to break the news to your sweet grandma, but stashing money under your mattress is much less safe than giving it to the bank.

When you don’t like dealing with banks because you already believe that these corporations are evil, fear-inducing stories about recent hacks or cyber theft prevalence are particularly resonant. News of major security threats seem to confirm the skeptic’s opinion that money is only safe when it’s cold, hard cash… not bits in a bank’s computer.

However, the threat of your money being physically stolen is much more serious than it being digitally stolen. Your house being robbed and criminals being able to find your hidden bills or walk away with your safe is much more likely than losing money due to cyber crime.

Plus, as we mentioned before, you have methods of recourse if your bank account is compromised. Thanks to Regulation E, your stolen personal funds are protected by-and-large, as long as you notice the theft and alert your bank in a timely fashion. If someone walks out of your house with a coffee can full of bills, you’re simply out of luck.

Should You Worry?

While news of past attacks and the threat of future ones is scary, the truth is that the banks will know before you do. Often times, these institutions (and their advanced cyber security teams) solve the problem before the media even mentions the threat.

Federal law requires that banks are liable in the event of a security breach. There is no bank that wants to be liable for a potentially large amount, so the companies have a very strong incentive to be very proactive and protect their customers.

Banks are easy to criticize, for a number of other reasons. However, security is one area where the needs of the customers, shareholders, employees, and executives are completely aligned.

Does news of cyber attacks change the way you feel about banking online?

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Capital One 360 Savings Account Review

by Luke Landes

Capital One 360 is one of the oldest online banks. In this review, we look at the savings products it offers, the interest rates, and the fees. When Capital One purchased ING Direct to create Capital One 360, it made a splash in the online savings account market. Now, Capital One 360 offers a whole […]

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5 Best Money Market Rates for 2018

by Michael Pruser

The best money market rates today pay interest in the top 5 percent of all deposit accounts. These rates come from online banks. Here’s our list of the top 5. I’ve never been a big saver. And that’s especially when it comes to putting money into an online savings account or money market. During the adult […]

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Are Online Banks Safe?

by Rob Berger

Online banking is a reality for everybody. Even traditional banks with branches offer account access online. But are online banks safe? Here are several tips to help keep your money secure online. This article was first published several years ago. At that time, most individuals were still doing their banking transactions in person or over […]

16 comments Read the full article →

Barclays Online Savings Review

by Luke Landes

Barclays online savings account offers one of the highest interest rates and lowest fees available today. In this review, we cover the details to help you determine if Barclays Bank is right for you. Barclays Bank is a relative newcomer to the U.S. online savings market. It’s been around as a bank, though, since 1690. […]

13 comments Read the full article →

10 Tips for Avoiding Overdraft Fees

by Luke Landes

What’s a quick way to empty your pockets? Paying for overdraft fees. Here are ten tips to help you avoid those bank penalties. Consumers overdraft their bank accounts . . . a lot. According to data compiled by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, these fees totaled more than $11 billion in 2015. More recent data […]

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Discover Bank Online Savings Account Review

by Luke Landes

Discover Bank is an online only bank that offers excellent rates for savers with low fees. In this review, we cover its products, rates and fees. Interested in opening a savings account at Discover® Bank? Read this article first. Most every consumer knows the Discover brand, but for it’s extensive line of credit card products. […]

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