Monday, March 08, 2010

Try CheckingFinder.com for 2-4% APY high-interest checking

I noticed an ad for CheckingFinder.com (on some web site which I do not recall) which promised 3.25% interest on a checking account. I starting looking into that web site and the deal is basically that you need to do a minimum of 10 to 15 debit card transactions, use e-statements, and possibly one or more direct deposit, automatic payment, and/or bill-pay ACH transfers every month. Enter your zip code and the web site will give you a list of local, non-major, community banks that are offering these deals at rates in the 2.00% to 4.00% APY range on balances up to typically $25,000. For my Manhattan zip code I got a list of 16 banks, including one as far away as California.

As an example, the Bank of the Sierra in California (Fresno County and vicinity) is offering 4.09% APY on balances up to $25,000. They pay 1.01% on higher balances and 0.12% if you fail to meet their "qualificiations" in any given month. As they say, "To meet these qualifications do each of the following each month:"

  • Minimum of 12 debit card purchases (ATM usage does not count toward the 12 purchases)
  • 1 Automatic Payment (Automatic Payment must be at least $0.00) or Direct Deposit transfer (Direct Deposit must be at least $0.00), and 1 Bill Pay transfer
  • Receive your monthly account statement electronically

Personally, I have no direct deposits, prefer not to make automatic payments or bill-pay (I pay some bills via ACH debit, but only after carefully checking each bill), and prefer to use my 2% cashback credit card, but still this offer looks quite appealing. In fact, very tempting. I could live with the first and third "qualifications", but I am not sure that I could meet the second one.

As another example, you can get 3.51% APY from Liberty Bank in Illinois with these monthly qualifications:

  • Minimum of 10 debit card purchases (ATM usage does not count toward the 10 purchases)
  • 1 Automatic Payment or Direct Deposit transfer
  • Receive your monthly account statement electronically
  • Sign in to your online banking account at least once

Or, earn 2.00% APY on up to $35,000 at Malvern Federal Savings Bank in Pennsylvania with these qualifications:

  • Minimum of 10 debit card purchases (ATM usage does not count toward the 10 purchases)
  • 1 Automatic Payment (Automatic Payment must be at least $0.00) or Direct Deposit transfer (Direct Deposit must be at least $0.00)
  • Sign in to your online banking account at least once

Typically, these banks will reimburse up to $25 in ATM fees as long as you are meeting their monthly qualifications.

Obviously the banks are looking to make a bundle of money collecting fees from merchants for all of these mandatory transactions, but at least they are willing to "share the wealth" with us mere mortals.

I will seriously consider this approach, but I do need to seriously question whether all of these qualifications might be too onerous for some of us who do not naturally meet the qualifications.

Nonetheless, the availability of these offers from these smaller, community banks and ths marketplace portal from CheckingFinder.com are a breath of fresh air after all of the recent banking scandals and the nickel and diming of consumers that banks have traditionally engaged in.

And, of course, all of these bank account are FDIC-insured. (Make sure to check each offer though to be sure.)

Besides, use of a debit card is a great way to thumb your nose at the evil credit card companies.

Please let me know if you have had recent experiences with CheckingFinder.com or any of the banks it works with.

-- Jack Krupansky

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