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Matthew Ahrenstein

Enterprise Infrastructure Lead for an amazing company, hiker, avid shooter, and inventor.

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For the past few months I’ve been testing out a new bank alternative known as Simple. I’d like to talk about the experience a bit.

First off, I won’t be able to share any screen shots because I have been using this service for my personal banking, but if you’d like to see screenshots of the app, or web interface you can head over to Simple.com to check out the service for yourself.

User Interface
The user interface on both the desktop website, and the iPhone app are very well designed. The design is simple and to the point. The money in your account is broken down into Safe-To-Spend, and Goals. Goals allow you to set money aside for things you want to buy, such as a new iPad, or a vacation. When you spend money you can go into the app, and tell the transaction to spend from a Goal as well. Safe-To-Spend is money you haven’t allocated to a goal, and that you are free to spend. This is the feature that originally interested me in trying the service out. Simple also added a new feature recently that lets you log in to your account and turn your card on and off. That way you can block it from working if you misplace it, or think it has been compromised, and you can reenable it when you find out everything is ok. This is kind of cool, and very useful.

Rich Data
One of the best things about Simple is that they give you a lot of data about your transactions. They give you a friendly name for the location of the purchase instead of a register number and a location ID. They also give you a location on a map (if you enable this) and if the category of the location is likely to be a place where tips are given, then they will hold a guess percentage for budgeting purposes. The transaction will clear at the right value though. You can even use hashtags to make your own catalog for transactions. For example, I could tag every lunch with a client as #clientLunch and see how much I spend on client lunches every month, or week, or any specific date range I specify.

Customer Service
This is by far the best thing about Simple. You can call any time and get a person on the phone without having to navigate an annoying menu. You can also use the web interface, or the app to open a support request via messaging. You can tie the support request to a specific transaction if there is an issue. The support response is fast and helpful. I’ve only ever needed support once, and it was because a restaurant over charged me. Simple corrected the transaction for me.

Complaints
While Simple has been fantastic so far, and I don’t really have any real “complaints” I do have some suggestions. Currently if you spend more than you have in Safe-to-Spend you will draw from a goal. Ideally the transaction should be declined so that you don’t violate your budget. (It’d be even better if this behavior could be toggled between decline/draw from goal) The only other thing I’d like to see is the ability to set a goal to grow by a certain amount per deposit instead of being forced on a daily schedule. Fortunately Simple told me they have both of these things planned for sometime in the future.

One Last Thing
Fees! Simple doesn’t charge fees unless what you are trying to do costs them money. They (and I agree) believe that a business based on holding your money, shouldn’t charge you fees, because it puts them at odds with their customers. Simple doesn’t charge fees for low balance, or withdrawing from non-network ATMs. (The ATM owner may still charge you though.)