Rewards Checking

Coulee Bank
This article will give readers new to Rewards Checking some idea of how it works. Be aware though that the interest rates are out of date.

Ever since my own internet bank dropped their interest rate from 5.2% to 2.5% I have been looking for a better place to park my spare cash. I saw a lot of banks advertising rewards checking at rates between 4% and 6%. I identified a few at 6% that were out of state. Several had very clunky Internet sign up procedures such that I was unable to sign up online. For example, at one bank my browser would crash. At another bank I was diverted to a PDF form with no instructions on what to do with it. Yet another bank had nowhere to start the sign up process.

Eventually I tried Coulee Bank that was offering 6.01% APY with their rewards checking account. They require 10 check card transactions a month, use of e-statements, and require 1 automatic payment a month, called an Automated Clearing House (ACH) transaction. Coulee Bank pays 6.01% on the first $25,000 and 1.01% on anything above that.

For me, Coulee Bank was out of state. The application process was straight-forward except I failed the online identity check. A friend joining the same bank also failed his identity check. I think they have a bug in their program because I’m sure I’m really me at the moment. I was invited to call the branch in Wisconsin and answered the identity questions correctly. Incidentally, the staff were very friendly and helpful, plus there was a bonus — I could understand what they said. Next a paper was sent in the mail for me to sign and return. A thoughtful touch was the stamp placed on the return envelope. Once that was done I received instructions via email to open the online account.

After a few days I received my checking card, complete with a picture of a steamboat. A really nice feature was a user name I could choose rather than have to remember the account number. The web account features were reasonable. There was no count of qualifying transactions but my monthly transaction count ended on the last day of the month making it easy to remember.

To transfer more money to my account I sent a message in the internal email of the account giving the routing number, account number, and amount. The first month you do not have to meet the requirements to obtain the 6.01%. Even so, I met the ACH requirement by having $50 a pay period (fortnightly) transfered from my pay.

The 10 credit transactions are easy to meet because every workday I eat out for lunch. Some rewards checking accounts can require as many as 15 transactions and also mandate at least one account access a month. Coulee Bank rewards checking is still free and pays a standard 0.30% APY if you don’t meet the requirements during the month.

A feature that I don’t use is the $20 to $25 a month reimbursal of ATM fees provided you met the transaction requirements. I don’t expect the 6.01% rate will last for long. Some other banks that started at 6.01% have dropped their rates to 5%. Just yesterday I received an email from Coulee Bank that said in part:

Rewards Checking has been an amazing success due to its incredible rate, ease-of-use, and environmentally friendly attributes. Due to rising costs to deliver this product however, it has been decided to limit the number of Rewards Checking accounts to one per Customer/Social Security Number.

I am going to have difficulty funding one account so this will not affect me. The rate I am earning is 24 times the amount I receive from my local credit union checking and even the standard 0.3% beats their 0.25%.

I hope this little narrative has been of interest to you.

Updates

26 Dec 2008 Recently the rewards checking rate dropped to 5% at Coulee Bank.
28 Mar 2009 See Bank Rewards Checking for banks still offering 5% 4% on their rewards checking.
2 Jul 2009 Coulee dropped their rate to 4%.
2010 Coulee’s rate has dropped below 4%.
7 Apr 2012 Changed have to having in the paragraph beginning “After a few days…”
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