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How Perkstreet Checking Stacks Up

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I recently saw a Perkstreet ad that caught my attention, so I decided to look into it a little more.  I wanted to compare it to companies I work with now.  At first I thought it was too good to be true since it mentioned giving 2% cash back.  Then I realized it had some drawbacks too like the fact that it only gives any cash back for debit card purchases.  Based on what I could find at Perkstreet.com, here is how they stack up against the three companies I have experience with – ING Direct, Smarty Pig, and Chase.

Perkstreet Checking

With Perkstreet checking, you earn 2% with all non-pin debit card purchases for 3 months or as long as you keep a $5,000 balance, 1% after that, and 5% on certain categories at certain times.  You can redeem your cash back earnings for gift cards it seems.  Their checking is also free – no monthly fees, free bill pay, 37,000 nationwide ATM’s, free online banking, etc.  You can deposit money using direct deposit, online transfers, and they even accept mailed checks and cash you send via Moneygram.

ING Checking

With ING checking, you do not earn cash back rewards, but you do get a tiny bit of interest on your money.  Right now, that interest rate is 0.25% for balances less than $50,000, 1.1% over $50,000, and 1.15% over $100,000.  Their checking is also completely free – no fees, free bill pay, 35,000 nationwide ATM’s,  free online banking, etc.  You can only deposit money via direct deposit and online transfers though.

Smarty Pig

With Smarty Pig, you can only save for set goals, so there are no checking accounts.  But you do get 1.1% interest, can redeem that for straight cash or get an additional 14% for certain gift cards, and can use their Smarty Pig Rewards Mastercard to get 10% cash back at more than 9,000 locations once you load the card with cash from your goal accounts.  They also do not have monthly fees, but you cannot bank through their site either.  You can deposit your money via online transfers.

Chase Checking

I was a Washington Mutual customer that was handed to Chase, and here is what I get through Chase Total Checking.  There is no cash back or interest.  Their checking is free if you have a direct deposit of $500 or more or a running average of $1500 or more in the account.  They have more than 16,000 ATM’s.  You can deposit money using direct deposit, online transfers, checks, or cash.

My Personal Take

Personally, Perkstreet sounds fine, but I do not use debit cards.  I use rewards credit cards since I am one of those people who spend more with a debit card or cash.  I like the fact that credit card purchases are there to stare me in the face all month before I pay the balances in full.  Therefore, I would not get the benefits of Perkstreet’s debit card cash back.  ING will give me interest while Perkstreet and Chase will not.  Smarty Pig is too restrictive to be useful to us.  In short, ING is our best bet right now.  If you are a debit card user though, Perkstreet may be a great idea for you!

What checking account do you use?  Do you get rewards or any interest?  Can you suggest any other great options?

{ 14 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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14 Responses to “How Perkstreet Checking Stacks Up”

  1. LD says:

    I was a Washington Mutual customer too, and was very disappointed when Chase took them over. I HATE Chase with a white-hot, burning passion. Switching checking accounts is such a daunting task, though, and I’ve been very lazy until recently.

    I’ve done a little research on PerkStreet and I think I’ll be switching to them when the time comes. I also had a savings account with ING (closed that when Capital One bought them) so I did research their checking account and found it wouldn’t fit my needs. I need to write the occasional (once a month) paper check and they don’t offer that service. PerkStreet will send you the first book of checks for free – they should last me a couple years.

    Currently, I have to drive about 10 miles to get to a Chase ATM, which is very inconvenient. With PerkStreet (and ING, btw), I can pull money from the 7-11 right next door with no fees! I’m a debit card kinda gal, so the purchase requirements are no big deal.

    I look forward to see what PerkStreet customers have to say about their experiences.

    • I’m hoping the Capital One buyout doesn’t change everything I love about ING, but I will move on if it does…stupid Chase…

      • skylog says:

        don’t we all, don’t we all. that said, i have no clue where i am going to move. i hope they just leave it be, but we all know that will not be the case.

  2. CW says:

    I’ve been a perkstreet customer for a while and your incorrect about the 2% perks. You get 2% for perks as long as your balance starts the day @ 5k. You earn 1% if your balance starts the day below 5k. In my first year alone I earned over $250 in perks and it’s tax free.

  3. David says:

    A few things about Perkstreet- it’s only free if you meet certain minimum requirements (not too bad, like two non PIN transactions per month or direct deposit), or check processing can take several days if you’re on the West Coast. Also, you get rewards if you use it like a credit card (so they can profit from the higher transaction fees I think). I have it and am not excited about it, but not bothered enough to switch. Until interest rates rise, anyway…

  4. JXZ says:

    Still getting the no-gimmick straight 2% cashback from the (original) Schwab Invest First visa signature card. They have since been taken over by FIA, but the 2% cashback has been honored. Fingers crossed that they won’t take it away.

  5. JXZ says:

    Just to add to my comment, I really like the Invest First cashback because the rewards go straight to a schwab brokerage account so it doesn’t get spent or turned into statement credit right away. I use the 2% reward to invest on more risky stocks since I am a little less risk adverse on free money!

  6. I’ve used PerkStreet, and it’s really cool to have. I actually have to renew the account, as I can really use the cash back. I also use Bank of America and Chase (I don’t use SmartyPig anymore). I wish I could combine some of them together.

  7. Anonymous says:

    If you charge less than $5k a month almost any rewards checking account is better (assuming you can otherwise fulfill the conditions). Let’s assume you earn 2% interest on your balance, that means that the $5k minimum you’d need to keep at perkstreet, could’ve been making 2% at your other bank. So to make up for that you’d need to spend $5k in a month to earn a similar amount of cashback. And that’s just to break even. If you earned 3% you’d need to spend $7.5k

    This deal gets even worse if you assume that you could also have used a 1% rewards credit card. Not only is the 2% of perkstreet devalued, but you get to keep the money in your bank account an extra month thanks to the extra grace period.

    In short if you’re someone who puts their money in higher yield accounts with 1% or better, and uses a rewards credit card, this deal is not for you. Also consider that 1% is only “high yield” as of recently, wasn’t too long ago that 5% or more was easy to come by.

    • will says:

      You are forgetting that the 2% at any bank is APY not a full 2% monthly. If you are earning 2% monthly on your checking account, I need to know where you bank because that is 24% APY!! i.e. 5,000*2%=$100. Simple interest that is $1,200 a year. Now when you take $5,000*(2%/12)= $8.33 per month. So your break even point is actually just $416.50 in spending a month because 2%*416.50=$8.33.

      Now for an example, say you have $15,000 in savings. Lets keep it easy and say it is simple interest paid annually and not compounded monthly. Assuming 2% on your account, you would earn $300 in that year. Now lets say you spend $15,000 in a year and earn 2% you have the same return of $300. However, what is more attainable, maintain a $15,000 balance for an entire year or spend $15,000. $15,000/12=$1,250 per month; or $15,000/52weeks=$288.46. I think the average family would spend $288.46 per week a lot easier than maintaining $15k in an account. Not to mention that you would have to pay taxes on that $300 but your interest would compound so the $300 is a fairly safe number. The problem is finding a checking account that pays 2% right now. Basically, you need to look at how much you would spend on a debit card vs. what interest you would earn on a checking account for a year.

      • Sun says:

        Will, thanks for setting him/her straight.

        1% reward on debit card is great because you are still living within your means and getting a 1% discount. I think many retailers price assuming credit card purchase, so if you’re paying by cash you end up subsidizing credit card users.

        You can always negotiate cash on bigger ticket items… so it may be a wash if you know how to negotiate.

  8. I have PNC Virtual Wallet, which is actually 3 linked accounts. My savings is only earning .85% interest right now (boo!), but I earn points for everything I buy from checking – 1 point per dollar, but double on money spent at a grocery store, gas station, or pharmacy. I have about 18,000 points right now, which I could trade in for a sweet multi-function blender, but I’m saving them. :)

    I love Virtual Wallet because, similar to ING’s subaccounts, I can set up categories within my savings to save for certain goals. I just find it easier to deal with than opening a million different savings accounts.

  9. Akatenshi says:

    CW is right, on most Perkstreet purchases, you will earn 1%, but you can earn 2% (such as on purchases at amazon.com or target.com) or even 5% with their monthly featured vendors. I heard about Perkstreet on Dave Ramsey’s finance radio show, and have just opened an account. I use it for purchases I would be making anyway, such as paying bills online, grocery shopping, gasoline, school books, even vet visits for my pets. If you’re going to be spending the money anyway, why not earn cash back on it?! Seems like a no-brainer…and that way, you ensure that you meet the minimum purchase requirements for the account to be completely free. This, at least imho, seems to be a better option than credit cards (unless you’re one of those rare types that pays the balance in full each month in order to avoid any fees and it has some insanely awesome reward, but I think that combination is uncommon), much safer than carrying cash, and much more convenient than stopping at an ATM all the time (though they apparently do have a wide selection of fee-free ATMs). I don’t know that I’ll try to build up a $5k balance here to earn the extra rewards, but this is a great way to make the money you would already be spending each month work a little harder.


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