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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Friday, March 22, 2013

Discover to get into the online banking market

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Discover, the people who do the credit card, are in the process of morphing into an online bank.

This is a great development. Online banks have clean-sheeted the idea of what a bank should be by going without branches and having lower overhead. The real benefits are for those who don't carry big balances or are looking for the best deal.

The model here is ING Direct. They've been purchased by Capitol One, and though I've been nervous they'll mess it up a good thing, so far that hasn't happened.

Now Discover is following that model with savings accounts, home equity loans, money market account. (The home equity loans are from $25,000 up to $100,000.)

Then The Wall Street Journal  reported that Discover is testing checking accounts by invitation only. As they work bugs out, this will become a more routine offering.

When online banks do checking accounts, they typically do them with no minimums, no fees, and no gotchas. So it's a real simple deal, particularly for younger people who aren't accustomed to walking into a branch.

The cost savings are there with online banks, but the problem is if you do have a problem, there's nobody to sit down and talk to. Still, if you hate the fees you pay where you bank now, try a new online option or try a credit union.

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