The Empower app is a combination of an online checking/savings account and an “AI” assistant that analyzes your income and spending activity from external bank accounts as well. The savings account currently offers a base 2% APY and the checking offers 1% cash back on the first $1,000 in debit card purchases each month. A newly referred user can get a 30 day boost of double those numbers – 4% APY and 2% cash back. You can get an additional 30-day boost for each friend that you refer. I’ve had this account open for a week now, and here are my thoughts.

Application process (App-only). You must do everything in the iOS or Android app – initial application, funding, transfers, etc. They require all the usual bank things like SSN, but they explicitly state that they will not run a credit check. I don’t believe there is a web browser interface at all. Everyone who opens an account gets both a checking and savings account, plus the digital assistant. Note that when you link an external bank account, the digital assistant will parse through your historical and ongoing transactions and look for ways to save you money. You can easily turn it off, but this may affect the choice of what bank account you wish to link.

(Note: The referral program may only be available to those who use the Apple iOS version of their app. This might have changed already or may change later, but I only have the iOS app running right now.)

Empower Checking has no minimum balance, no monthly fees, no overdraft fees, and free ATM withdrawals from the 25,000 ATMs in the MoneyPass network. In addition, they will reimburse you for one (1) out-of-network ATM transaction each month. I like this last feature as I only take cash out of an ATM about once a month. They give you your debit card number immediately, but will send you a physical Visa debit card as well.

This is a “real” FDIC-insured bank, with deposits insured of up to $250,000 per titled account through Evolve Bank & Trust, FDIC certificate number #1299. The routing number provided in the app is that of Evolve Bank. You can use the routing and account numbers to link your Empower account to other online banks (on their side) without giving Empower access to your transaction history.

The linked debit card offers a base 1% cash back on the first $1,000 in purchases spend each month. Newly referred users get a 30-day boost to 2% cash back, and each time you successfully refer someone to Empower, you will receive another 30-day boost. Debit card purchases have no foreign transaction fees.

Empower Savings has no minimum balance and no monthly fees. The current base interest rate is 2% APY. Newly referred users get a 30-day boost to 4% APY (capped at a $50,000 balance), and each time you successfully refer someone to Empower, you will receive another 30-day boost. You can transfer money between checking and savings instantly, but the savings account is still subject to the federal law limiting withdrawals from savings to six (6) times per month.

Referral program details. There are some important clarifications to their referral program. Here are selected parts:

  • You earn 30 days of boost for each referred friend that opens an Empower bank account and deposits at least $10.
  • Your boost will start the first day the funds clear into your referred friend’s account. If you are already receiving a boost, your boost for any subsequent qualifying referrals will start once any prior boosts conclude. (i.e. invite 3 friends and your can earn three consecutive 30 day boosts).
  • Your referred friends each get a 30 day boost starting the day their deposit of $10 or more clears into their Empower account.
  • During each 30-day boost, each person will earn an additional 1% cashback on the first $1,000 of their debit card transactions during the boost period and an additional 2% per annum Cash Reward on up to $50,000 of savings account balance. The 2% per annum Cash Reward is in addition to the 2.00% APY that is paid on Empower savings accounts.
  • Boost rewards are paid out at the end of each boost period.
  • Invite friends by logging in to your Empower app and sending an invite SMS to your friends.
  • The phone number you text must be the same phone number that your friend signs up for Empower banking with to be eligible.
  • The invited friend cannot be an existing or previous Empower banking customer, nor can they have been invited by someone else in the past.

My experience. Empower feels like the future. Everything is done via app, and it’s kind of creepy. (Yup, that’s my view of the future. Apps and kinda creepy.) The user interface is smooth and I actually like that part. Once you link your external bank, it immediately scans your transactions and points out ways to save money (“You need a new insurance quote! Your premium of $1,234 is too high!” or “Cancel this subscription”). You may love this feature, or not. My bet is that the megabank apps from Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo will all do this type of stuff eventually.

In the end, I don’t see anything drastically new that would make me recommend this app on an ongoing basis unless you had a lot of friends that want a new bank. Lots of online checking accounts offer ATM reimbursements now. 2% APY is common across online savings accounts. The 1% cash back on debit card purchases isn’t that special.

Now, if you did have 12 friends to refer (and $50,000), you could basically get 4% APY on up to $50,000 for a long time. That’s an extra $1,000 a year above 2% APY, nothing to sneeze at.

You could treat also the initial 30-day boost as a sign-up incentive if you had enough money to move over. If you did have $50,000 and you got an extra 2% APY for 30 days, that would be about $82 in extra interest (plus $82 from the base 2% APY for a total of $164 of interest). It tells you very clearly how much days of “boost” you have left.

Here is my referral link as generated from my app. It might work like that, but the terms above say that I need to enter your phone number first. If you want to be sure, you can send me your phone number for an official direct referral via my contact form. I will only use your information for this purpose. This is the message you will get:

Hey, have you checked out Empower banking yet? We could both be getting a 30-day bonus of 2% cashback & 4.00% on savings!

Bottom line. is a new fintech banking app that combines a no-minimum checking account, a no-minimum savings account, and AI financial assistant that analyzes your spending and makes suggestions. The savings account currently offers a base 2% APY and the checking offers 1% cash back on the first $1,000 in debit card purchases each month. The feature that makes it noteworthy is that a new user can get a 30 day boost of double those numbers – 4% APY and 2% cash back – plus you can get additional 30-day boosts by referring more people.

“The editorial content here is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone.”

Empower Banking App Review: 2%-4% APY, 1%-2% Cashback, and AI Finance Assistant from My Money Blog.

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