Up Banking Review: My first year using the digital bank and savings accounts

Digital bank Up bank and savings accounts

My verdict

A modern day bank experience full of your regular banking options plus handy tech features on a hand crafted, cutting edge app.

It's not your traditional way managing money but it is built with intention and might be able to make money management easier for you.

When deciding to make the switch from bank to bank, why not hop aboard the digital bank Express.

I’ve been using UP Bank for just over a year now after I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Since signing up for an account I’ve worked out what it’s like using a neo bank.

But did I decide to move all my regular banking to UP? Short answer. No. It’s still a new platform with a lot to build in its product suite, but the team is reimagining banking from the ground up so I like being part of the journey.

While it provides a solid fee-free banking experience, the banking app is its real differentiator. It allows for accessing and monitoring the accounts on the phone in a slick way. I’ll get into the fun stuff soon, but let’s start with the intro to this Up bank review.

Writing this article on the day I got sent my Upperversary message.

What’s a Neobank?

Neo-banks are banks entirely digitally created and operated. However, the name bank has traditionally been associated with lengthy queues, poor service, and countless fees but they do have promises of being different. There are no physical branches!

The bank gives everything the bank needs with its app for smartphones. The bank promises to provide an app-driven banking experience with an intuitive user interface and beautiful design with the ability to rapidly track the expenditure of the customers.

What is Up Banking?

Up is one of the earliest digital banks on Australian shores. Founded in 2017 in Melbourne, Up offers numerous features and functions that will attract digital and e-commerce enthusiasts. Up is focused on promoting innovation in the banking industry as a neo bank. The fact that the app runs entirely in the cloud is driven home by the fact that it does not have branches or phone banking.

The best way to describe the Up app experience

Is Up Safe to use for banking?

Despite its label as a neo bank, it is governed by the Australian Prudence Regulation Authority (APRA) and ASIC.

This means you are protected the same way as if you were using a traditional bank. Any deposit (money held within Up) of up to $250k per person is protected under a financial dispute settlement scheme, FCCS.

More about the company

Up Bank was founded by Grant Thomas and Dominic Pyme Ferocia. The company was founded between Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

Up is a highly technologically focused company that operates a completely digital platform. The majority of features, tools, and customer support areas are provided in the app.

The latest Australian digital banking company is quickly gaining popularity amongst consumers as an alternative to the standard banking system.

Up’s products

Up currently includes two accounts – a transaction account and one savings account – both available via the Up app.

They are built in the same way you find many modern digital banks do.

You create a transaction account first, that has a debit card linked to it.

From there you can create multiple savings accounts that are linked to that original account.

That’s the basic product overview, but the evolution of these products has been continual since launch and there is plenty the Up Bank team wants to achieve in the product space according to their road map.

Traditional banking services Up bank provides

Low-cost bank accounts

Just about a staple for banks these days, but Up is free to have and keep a bank account, or savings account and use their traditional banking services.

For ATM withdrawals and cash out, you will avoid paying atm fees when using the major bank-owned ATMs. Unlike a bank like ING, they won’t cover the ATM costs if you do get charged to use one.

Decent Interest Rates for savings accounts

For the linked savings account, the interest you can earn is competitive. It’s not the best but Up is pretty active in reviewing their rates when interest rates rise or drop.

I’d say they’d be easily better than the big banks, but not top tiers like ING or uBank.

You will need to use your up debit Mastercard five times a month to unlock the bonus interest which makes up the majority of the interest rate for your savings account.

When I say your Up debit Mastercard, it doesn’t need to be the physical card itself. Can be an online payment or device payment.

You can also create multiple savings accounts too if you wanted to dedicate a savings account for a goal, which looks very pretty in the app.

How Up Savers look

Travel Perks

Happy to report that there are no overseas purchase fees online or in-store.

I’ve been using the transaction account for that purpose and it’s great to avoid international transaction fees or a foreign transaction fees.

The Up bank app experience

Now we covered the product basics, let’s start talking about the fantastic banking app they provide. It’s fairly cutting edge and always adds new features or updates.

Instant and threaded payments

Up provides a conversational payment feature in its app that allows users to pay customers and companies in real-time using OSKO, PayID, or good old BSB.

Different from most banks your payment history for a specific person is displayed in message history, like WhatsApp.

So if you have a friend you transfer to regularly, then it’s a simplified way to view your detailed spending history for that person. Up bank call them threaded payments.

threaded payments

Contactless payments

In terms of how you might want to pay beyond using the debit card, you can connect your Up account to the following devices:

  • Google Pay

  • Apple Pay

  • Samsung Pay

  • Garmin Pay

  • Fitbit Pay

Yeah, they are big on wearable transactions. If you have an Apple Watch then they regard their app on it one of the best banking experiences for the device.

Create an Up bank account and get $5

Get the tools to help them master your money, smash savings goals and simplify your financial life. Join Up Bank today and get $5 dropped in when you complete your signup.

Round-ups

Just like Raiz, you can set your transaction accounts to round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and send that amount automatically to a savings account.

A nice little feature that a few banks offer, but also a small way to build up savings.

Money insights and more detailed spending history

One of the more unique ways the Up app provides a better experience to most apps is the way they display your spending.

They treat you like a real person who has pay coming, spends money throughout the week, and needs to allocate money to upcoming expenses.

Rather than a just list of incoming and outgoing transactions, up breaks it down into a number of sections you can swipe back and forth with.

  • Activity – see all your transactions

  • Payments – Summary of all your outgoings and the ability to send or even request money

  • SAvers – Your savings accounts

  • Upcoming – Up remembers your regular payments (like a subscription) and will note it here so you know what exactly they will all cost in the month ahead. It’ll also note your Payday is a regular wage or salary comes, in on the same frequency.

An obvious but also a rare feature that Up manages to provide are icons and logos for all the transactions that take place. For example, if you spent money at coles the icon will appear so it’s easier to quickly identify what you spent. No more confusing descriptions wondering what exactly you paid for and where.

There is also the weekly insights area. This is a list of transactions completed during the previous week and compares these transactions with the transactions of the previous week.

So while the app looks simplified when you start using it, there are a few mechanics behind the scenes making it easier to understand your personal finance rhythm.

Automation

I love automating my finances and the Up Bank account knows how to do it well.

The feature Up bank has is called split payments.

This gives you the ability to have your income automatically distributed around your up saver account or accounts. Leaving you the money you can spend in the spending account.

The coolness of the app shines here where you don’t need to nominate a dollar amount but an actual percentage of your pay towards a savings account – 10, 20, 40%. Automatically.

You can turn this on and off at any time, but for those who want to commit to multiple savings goals, it’s a handy feature.

I’m up to level 4 in the $1000 in a year savings challenge.

2UP

2-PLayer banking is a term Up bank has coined themselves. It’s a reimagined way to do joint bank accounts. LAck of joint accounts was the main reason I was reluctant to use UP as the main bank account, and even with it now available I haven’t tried it.

You’ll need to have your own individual accounts to create a joint 2Up account. That’ll be a shared bank account where you spend on it via the individual cards you get for it – or via Google Pay or Apple Pay.

Up app 2Up activity feed screen on a phone
Very transparent joint account setup

After that you can add joint Up saver accounts as you like, so it can become a mix of personal and combined savings.

At the moment I’ll be sticking with ING for my joint accounts. Purely because I do a bit of banking via the desktop and Up do not have that option yet.

I’d say the 2Up features is more geared to couple thinking about joining their finances as it seems a good way to do it without losing your personal accounts. Oh and I have an article on combining finances with a partner if that is you right now.

Is Up right for you?

If you love new banking technology and a different way to do money management then give the Up app a go.

I’ve been using it for a year as an experiment and have become more used to the way it presents your spending, savings, and accounts.

There are no fees for basic stuff, so it’s a good solid option for that. But it’s really the Up app that is the winner here. Full of fun features, notifications, labels, and graphics that just make banking a little more personal.

So while it has not yet offered a complete product suite that many Australians want in a bank. like credit cards or home loans, it’s still worth trying to use the technology available.

Summary of key features

  • All digital – sign up for an up account and start using the digital debit card straight away

  • Competitive – No account fee, fee free to use ATMs and the big banks, decent interest rates for savings (after 5 purchases on your card a month)

  • Device friendly – Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit pay, Garmin pay are all there

  • Modern banking technology – round-ups, weekly spending notifications, money insights, payment splitting, conversational payments

  • Colour scheme – it’s all orange, yellow and black. The debit card is a neon bright orange

Can you deposit cash or a cheque into Up Bank?

The bank offers offer free deposits to the Australian Post office at no charge via [email protected] The only thing required is the physical Up card and PIN. You may need your ID when you deposit a cheque. Deposits may take 5-10 days to appear.

Is Up a legitimate bank?

Yes, they are owned by the Bendigo Bank and Adelaide Bank organisation.

Up bank review: conclusion

I’ve had fun exploring my up account over the last year. Didn’t think it was possible to be surprised and impressed by a bank but I have.

It can be a bit different and unusual to understand at first but start slowly using it and you’ll find it’s not just a solid set of banking products, but brilliant banking technology.

Why not sign up for free, get $5 for doing so and see what the fuss is all about?

Create a bank account with Up and get $5

Get the tools to help them master your money, smash savings goals and simplify your financial life. Join Up Bank today and get $5 dropped in when you complete your signup.

Tim Ellis

Tim is the founder of DadInvestor where he helps people take their next steps in personal finance and investing. He provides in-depth guides, online courses, tools and personal coaching.