If you’re looking for a new bank or credit union to bank with, whether you already have an open account or not, picking one financial institution isn’t easy.
Not all banks and credit unions necessarily offer the same range of banking services and products, making it even harder to pick one.
In this First Foundation Bank review, we will be looking at everything that this bank has to offer and some alternatives that you might want to consider to make the best choice for yourself and your finances.
What is First Foundation Bank?
First Foundation Bank is a brick-and-mortar bank headquartered in Irvine, California.
Founded in 1990, they currently have 527 employees. Total bank assets total some $7.9 billion, and they have $5.3 billion in advisory assets under management.
While the bank’s headquarters are in California, they have 22 locations spread across Nevada, Texas, Hawaii, and California.
The bank also has a sizeable online presence and offers several online-only products and services, including deposit accounts, credit cards, along with a reasonably competitive rate.
It’s also worth mentioning that aside from the branch and online personal banking, First Foundation Bank also offers business checking accounts, private wealth management, and trust services.
First Foundation Bank Features
When it comes to personal banking features, it is worth noting that the bank offers different accounts depending on whether you’re looking for an online account or not.
If you’re looking for an online-only account, you’re limited to their Online Savings account.
However, if you’re looking for their standard banking package, you have more options available, including a checking account, several savings accounts, as well as loans and credit cards.
First Foundation Bank does not have its ATM network but will refund ATM fees incurred up to $20 per transaction. Fees vary by account, which we will cover in the fees section of the article.
Accounts also include a mobile app for Android and iOS devices, ACH transfers, and even ATM cards (you can request it with your Online Savings Account).
First Foundation Bank Products
First Foundation accounts come in either online or standard guise. This difference does not mean that standard accounts do not get internet banking and mobile banking.
However, the online account is available to clients located anywhere within the US.
There are three checking accounts to choose from:
- Standard Personal Checking Account
- Personal Interest Checking Account
- Senior Interest Checking Account (available to those aged 55 and over)
All three accounts come with a credit card, no limitations, and several features and perks, including;
- Online banking
- Mobile banking
- Bill Pay
- Mobile check deposit
- Credit score
When it comes to savings accounts, there are a further three to choose from right now.
- Standard Personal Savings Account
- Senior Savings Account (available for over 55s)
- Personal Money Market Account
All three accounts have a limit of six withdrawals/pre-authorized transactions per month and include online and mobile banking, mobile check deposit, and external transfers, among other features.
Certificates of Deposit
First Foundation Bank also offers two types of CDs, including personal CDs and personal IRA CDs.
Compared to the national average, First Foundation Bank’s CD rates aren’t bad.
If you’re looking for a credit card, you’ll be glad to know that First Foundation offers five different cards to choose from, depending on what you are after.
Annual fees start at $0 and go all the way up to $299.
Features and perks vary from one credit card to another, including cashback, points, and others.
Unfortunately, the complete list of benefits is only provided once your application is approved, making it challenging to choose the right card for you.
All credit cards on offer are Mastercard with no Visa option.
First Foundation Bank offers a few different property loans, including loans for purchasing your primary residence, secondary or vacation homes, and properties as an investment.
The bank provides adjustable-rate mortgages and can over high loan amounts that go up to $6 million.
Of course, eligibility criteria apply, so you will need to contact the bank to understand what you might be able to get.
Online Savings Account
As mentioned earlier, the bank also offers a First Foundation Bank online savings account.
The selling point of this account is that it provides a higher-than-average APY (Annual Percentage Yield) interest rate, which currently stands at 0.50%.
Any qualifying US resident can open this account and make use of this savings rate, so you don’t need to reside physically in one of the areas they service.
It’s also worth mentioning that the bank has a strong business banking arm.
While most people will not use this, if you’re thinking of opening your own business or already have, you might want to check out what they offer in this department.
As mentioned earlier, fees can vary quite a bit from one account to the other, so it depends on the account or accounts you need.
Checking Account Fees
Looking at checking accounts, both Personal Checking and Senior Interest Checking accounts come with no monthly maintenance fees.
Personal Interest Checking, however, has a $20.00 monthly fee, which is waived when maintaining a daily balance of at least $2,500. All three accounts have an opening deposit requirement of at least $100.
Savings Account Fees
Moving on to savings accounts, Personal Savings and Senior Savings have a monthly fee of $3.00. You can have this fee waived when maintaining a daily balance of $250 or more. The minimum opening deposit requirement for these two accounts is $100.
Money Market Account Fees
The Personal Money Market account, which sits between a savings account and a checking account, has a monthly maintenance fee of $20.00.
You can avoid this fee if you maintain a daily balance of at least $2,500, while the minimum opening deposit requirement is $500. The MMA gives you greater flexibility as you get check writing and a First Foundation Debit Card.
CD Account Fees
Personal CD and Personal IRA CD accounts have no monthly charge; however, you need to deposit at least $2,500 to open either of these accounts.
Online Savings Account Fees
The Online Savings account does not have any fees and no minimum balances to maintain.
If you choose to close your account before 90 days from account opening elapse, you will have to pay a $20 fee, but free after that.
The minimum deposit requirement to open an Online Savings Account is a rather steep $1,000 and can take up to 3 days to clear and show up in your account.
The process for signing up will largely depend on the product or service you want.
Of course, if you’re looking to open an Online Savings Account, you can complete the entire process online with no visits to any branch necessary.
The process takes five steps to complete, and you’ll need to have your SSN (Social Security Number) as well as a valid ID or driver’s license. You will also need to fund your account, which you can do through a wire transfer or a check.
Keep in mind that to get the advertised APY rate, you will need to transfer new money – that is to say, transfer funds from an account not held at First Foundation Bank.
If you’re looking for any of the other products or services, you will need to physically visit one of their branches since these cannot be opened or applied for online.
First Foundation provides a ‘Find a Banker’ feature on their website that can help you make sure you choose the right branch.
Here, you will need to provide your location and the type of product you’re looking for, and the website will do the rest.
At the moment, First Foundation Bank is not running any promotions or bonuses.
However, this does not mean that they won’t be when you come to open your new bank account, so be sure to check their website before making a final decision.
Bank promotions and bonuses can be pretty lucrative and, in most cases, can see you make some extra cash. However, there are several qualifying criteria that you need to meet before the money is yours.
Make sure you take the time to read and understand these terms and conditions and equally make sure you can meet them.
In many cases, it involves moving a sizable amount of money to your account and leaving it there for an extended period.
Taking the time to understand this will help you choose the right bank and bonus for you.
First Foundation Bank has a comprehensive security policy designed from the ground up to protect your information.
To this end, they partner with their customers to make sure that both parties – the bank and you – follow security best practices, which, to be fair, is how it should be.
Keeping their end of the deal, the bank ensures that all data is encrypted and employs threat detection and a secure backup mechanism.
They all run regular software updates, ensure their staff receives the appropriate training, and use dual authentication – which stops over 99% of attacks.
First Foundation Bank also provides a list for their customers, which details all of the necessary steps that customers should take to ensure accounts and data are protected as best as possible.
Even so, this does not mean they always get it right. The bank recommends that customers use spyware to protect their computers which you definitely shouldn’t do – use a good antivirus instead.
When it comes to customer service and support, the bank offers quite a few different options, including some unique ones that are pretty great!
With First Foundation being a brick-and-mortar bank, you can visit one of their branches, provided you live in a service area. Branches are open Monday through to Friday from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM. If you’re setting an appointment, opening hours are extended by another hour until 5:00 PM.
They also provide a Knowledge/Help Center that answers some common questions with the help of video. You can also request a Webex meeting and get virtual support without having to leave the comfort of your own home.
Lastly, they also offer several telephone numbers that you can call, depending on the nature of support that you require.
Hours vary accordingly but the general inquiries line is available 24/7, which is always helpful to have. You can also send them an email if you prefer.
Pros & Cons
First Foundation Bank has its own sets of pros and cons. While these can be pretty subjective, knowing what they are can help you determine if it’s the right bank for you or whether you’re better off looking elsewhere.
- High APY rate. While the bank’s high APY rate is not easy to get, if you do manage to qualify, you’ll be getting one of the highest interest rates around – helping you grow your money faster than if you had to save it elsewhere.
- Customer service. Regional banks are known for their exceptional customer service, with First Foundation bank being no exception having multiple ways to get in touch, including WebEx meetings.
- ATM fee reimbursement. First Foundation Bank reimburses ATM fees up to $20 per transaction nationwide.
- Regional Bank. First Foundation Bank is a regional bank, so while it’s a brick and mortar bank, you will not be able to visit one of their branches unless you live in their service areas.
- Limited choice of online products. They online have one online-only account – a savings account.
Alternatives to First Foundation Bank
With First Foundation being an all-rounder, there are quite a few alternatives that you can consider.
Of course, what you choose will largely depend on why you considered First Foundation Bank in the first place – so give this a thought before looking at other banks.
CIT Bank Savings Builder
CIT Bank certainly needs no introduction with their Savings Builder offering a high-yield savings account with an APY of 0.40%. To get this rate, you’ll need to either maintain a balance of at least $25,000 or make a deposit of $100 or more every month.
While this rate is not as high as the one offered by First Foundation Bank, it can be more attainable since you do not need to invite friends to join the bank.
Ally Bank consistently ranks as one of the best banks and offers a great alternative to First Foundation Bank’s online savings account. Their high yield online savings account offers an APY of 0.50% with no monthly maintenance fees and no minimum opening deposit requirements in place.
You also get additional savings tools such as buckets, which organize your savings according to your goals and include savings boosters such as Round-Ups and Surprise Savings.
Capital One is one of the largest banks in the US and is known for its focus on technology.
They offer a wide range of banking products and services, including deposit accounts, credit cards, auto loans, and business banking.
Their savings account has an APY of 0.40% with no minimum balance requirements and no fees.
Capital One also has branches across the country, making them a great option if you value face-to-face banking.
HSBC is a full-service bank that also happens to be one of the biggest banks in the world.
While their savings APY is nowhere near as high as the competition offers, the fact that they provide a wide range of services, including home loans and insurance services, makes it worth considering.
HSBC also has a solid online and mobile banking platform and branches that you can visit, giving you more flexibility.
Is First Foundation Bank reputable?
First Foundation Bank is considered to be a reputable bank and is well-capitalized.
For banks to qualify for FDIC insurance, they must undergo a series of checks, which means everything is above board and relatively safe.
Is First Foundation Bank FDIC insured?
First Foundation Bank is a Member FDIC bank, meaning that the FDIC insures your money up to a maximum of $250,000 per depositor.
Is First Foundation Bank Best For You?
With First Foundation being a regional bank, most customers will be those living within their service areas (California, Hawaii, Texas, and Nevada) looking for a more personalized experience than what the bigger banks offer.
However, their online savings account, available to all US residents (provided they qualify), offers an attractive APY rate that can attract those looking for a higher-than-average return on their savings.