Synchrony Bank Review

Synchrony Bank is an online only consumer banking and credit service company that traces its history back to 1932 in Stamford, Connecticut.

Originally part of GE Capital Retail Bank, Synchrony was spun-off in 2014 to focus on retail credit cards; it has since added savings, money market and CD products to its lineup. Its savings, certificates of deposit and money market options offer higher-than-average rates, and Synchrony is now the largest provider of private-label credit cards in the United States. This online bank has more than 80 million active accounts, but without physical branches, clients may face challenges if they encounter banking issues or have questions about specific service offerings.

Synchrony at a glance

Pros
  • Higher-than-average interest rates
  • Wide variety of credit products
  • Easy digital banking via mobile app
Cons
  • No physical branches or checking accounts
  • No branded ATMs and limited fee refunds
  • Limited to online transfers and withdrawals

 

What’s interesting about Synchrony Bank

Synchrony describes itself as “pioneering the future of finance” by engaging with customers on their own terms. While Synchrony is an offshoot of more traditional institutions and an FDIC member, the bank focuses on offering online-only services to deliver high-yield interest rates. In addition, the bank’s partnerships with a wide variety of retailers across the country allow it to offer private-label credit cards which may include special financing rates.

It’s also possible for clients to link 10 separate accounts from other financial institutions with their Synchrony account to streamline the process of withdrawals and balance transfers.

Things to consider

With no physical branches or branded ATMs to visit, clients must be comfortable using online portals, mobile apps or calling contact centers to receive banking support. Some customers report significant delays between deposits being made and funds being available, while others find their online options lacking. And while the wide variety of credit products provides options for clients, terms are set on a per-retailer basis, requiring greater oversight and management by account holders.

Also worth noting? Synchrony doesn’t currently offer any checking accounts.

Checking and savings accounts

As noted above, Synchrony doesn’t offer any checking account options, so if customers are interested in this feature, they will have to turn to other online banks like Capital One or Chime. Both allow customers to open accounts fully online without visiting a branch and offer a few different options for checking and savings.

Synchrony does offer a single savings product — a High Yield Savings (HYS) account. This account offers above-average APY with no minimum balance and allows access to withdrawals by ATM, online or by phone, along with 24/7 mobile banking. Interest rates remain consistent no matter your balance.

According to Synchrony’s website, only six withdrawals are permitted per month — and this includes electronic transfers, checks and wire transfers. No additional fees will be assessed if you exceed this limit, but your account may be closed. ATM transactions do not count toward this six-transaction limit. Deposits can be via transfers from another Synchrony account, ACH from linked accounts or mobile check deposit using your online account and mobile device. There are no monthly service fees on savings accounts.

Money market accounts

Synchrony offers one money market account with slightly below average APY on all deposit amounts. Their interest rates are above most brick-and-mortar banks but just under those of online competitors. Money market accounts allow clients to write checks and withdraw cash via ATMs, phone requests or online.

All accounts are FDIC insured and come with 24/7 online digital banking access. Similar to the HYS account, only six electronic transactions are permitted per month — regularly exceed this limit and your account may be closed. Clients enjoy unlimited ATM transactions with some refunds for ATM fees. Synchrony does not charge monthly fees on any money market accounts.

CDs

Synchrony offers a CD product with an above-average APY on 12-month accounts with a $2,000 opening deposit. Terms ranging from three to 60 months are available, and rates increase steadily with each additional year of term length. Shorter-term interest is close to the industry average, while longer terms earn at rates that are above similar online offerings.

Funds withdrawn before the maturity date are subject to simple interest penalties that vary based on term length. Interest from CDs may be withdrawn at any time and transferred to Synchrony or external accounts. Additional deposits may only be made during the 10-day grace period after your CD matures. No monthly fees are assessed on CD accounts.

Synchrony credit cards

While Synchrony offers co-branded Visa and Mastercard cards by partnering with retailers like Old Navy and Paypal, the bank is mainly in the business of private-label charge cards that can only be used at specific stores. The bank offers 116 credit cards in total, which vary from the Amazon store card to Chevron and Texaco gas cards. Interest rates and special offers on these cards vary by provider, but Synchrony is known for streamlining the application and approval process. All Synchrony credit cards can be managed via their online portal.

The bank also offers a unique product called CareCredit — a healthcare credit card accepted at more than 200,000 locations across the country. This card is designed to help manage health expenses that are not covered by insurance including dentistry, hearing aids, vision prescriptions and pet care.

Personal loans

Because Synchrony focuses its energy on high-yield savings and money market accounts, it does not have any sort of personal loan offerings for its customers, new or existing. It wouldn’t be surprising if the bank never offered loans to its customers, as it seems to have established itself well as an investing-savings institution. If you’re looking for personal loans, try SoFi. SoFi is an online lender that offers loans from 5.99% to 20.01% APR for loans up to $100,000. There are no fees and SoFi offers unemployment protection; if you lose your job and it’s not your fault — like department cuts or the company shutting down — then SoFi will defer your loans with interest still accruing while helping you find a new job.

Mortgage loans

Synchrony also does not have any sort of mortgage lending product. If you want to buy a home, SoFi is still a good choice to do so. With SoFi, customers only need 10% down payment to originate a loan — although as much down payment as you can afford is preferable. SoFi offers 15- and 30-year fixed-rate loans and competitive interest rates for the prospective homebuyer.

Mortgage refinancing

As stated above, Synchrony doesn’t offer any type of mortgage refinancing, including mortgage refinancing products. If you’re trying to refinance your mortgage, look into Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. The application process is all online and this bank offers a wide range of terms and rates to choose from.

Home equity loans and HELOCs

Synchrony doesn’t offer home equity products, so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you’re trying to take advantage of your home equity to make repairs or pay off large debts. Try looking into Fifth Third Bank, which has low APRs on its home equity products, or check out Figure’s HELOC options if you need fast funding. There are a ton of home equity products available from other banks, so with some research you should be able to find something that meets your needs.

Car loans

Again, Synchrony does not offer any lending products, and this includes car loans. For financing a car, try out LightStream. As the lending arm of SunTrust Bank, LightStream is backed by a reputable and established financial institution, and it offers fantastic rates when you qualify for it. Furthermore, if a competitor offers you better interest rates on a loan with the same terms, present it to LightStream and it will beat the competitor’s rate by 0.10%.

The final word

Synchrony occupies a unique place in the banking market. This online offshoot of a historic retail institution focuses on delivering high-yield savings, money market and CD accounts to clients that are easily accessible via online portals. They’ve also partnered with retail companies across the United States to offer private-label credit cards and healthcare coverage options.

The caveat? The bank doesn’t offer any checking account products, and customers are limited to six electronic transactions per month or risk the closure of their accounts. ATM transactions are unlimited, but with no physical branches available, consumers could spend more on fees and surcharges than they anticipate.

If you’re looking for a bank that offers easy online access to above-average savings, money market, and CD rates and the ability to link external accounts, Synchrony has you covered. If you prefer checking options, Synchrony may not be your best fit.