Several years ago, ING Direct  made a name for themselves when they introduced the Orange Savings Account. At the time, the concept of an online savings account was as foreign as its owners, Dutch-owned ING Group, and many folks wondered if the offer was a scam. At the time, I know my credit union’s savings account APY was sub-1% and here ING was offering 2.60% ! It was unheard of!
I had my reservations though. First, the company was Dutch so I didn’t know if that had any implications (it doesn’t). I was new to managing my own money so I was always wary of doing something stupid (I still do stupid things). Lastly, I didn’t want to jump too quickly even with the ING Direct $25 referral bonus  dangling out there. Fortunately, my comfort with all things online coupled with my inexperience pushed me towards opening an account at ING Direct and I’m glad I did.
Since then, many banks have begun offering high interest savings accounts  and ING Direct has ceased to be one of the top interest rates out there… but it still has some merits and a warm place in my heart.
Signing up for an account takes mere minutes and is actually one of the strengths of ING Direct when ING first started. Back then, opening an account online was practically unheard of. You always had to visit a physical branch so that a teller or account representative could go through the screens themselves. Now, a quick account signup process is the norm.
One feature that is noticeably absent from many other online banks is the ability to add new accounts as quickly. Once your first account is opened, subsequent accounts can be added in mere seconds. Everything managed through the same login, which recently benefited from a face lift, and it really does help you save more.
For example, opening new savings accounts are trivial and, given the ability to name them whatever you’d like, you can easily open an account for the purposes of a saving goal. If you have a big expense, such as a vacation, coming up in the future you can set up an account specifically for that. Once you set up an account, you can establish automatic transfers between all of your linked accounts (ING Direct accounts are automatically linked). So, you could set up a monthly transfer from your checking account to your ING Direct savings account and then intra-ING Direct transfer from your main ING Direct account to your vacation savings account. This transferring feature isn’t unique to ING Direct but the ability to add new accounts so easily is.
ING offers a CD laddering form that makes CD laddering a cinch. While the interest rates aren’t especially competitive, the 12 month CD is 3.40% APY and the 60 month CD is 4.00% APY (compared to FNBO Direct’s 3.50% APY high yield savings account ), this feature is the only one of its kind I’ve seen available anywhere. When their CD rates become more competitive, I can see this form getting a lot more use.
Overall, I was very pleased with ING Direct. While their rates have lagged their competitors lately, I think the intuitive and friendly interface really puts new online banking customers at ease. I have accounts at Emigrant Direct  and HSBC Direct  and their banking screens look very antiseptic and austere. While you can’t judge a book by its cover, ING Direct does a great job putting the softer elements into its interface that puts someone at easy.