26 Dec 2008 Recently the rewards checking rate dropped to 4% at Lee County Bank and Trust. See Bank Rewards Checking for banks still offering at least 5% on their rewards checking.
8 Jan 2009 Today I received notice that tomorrow the rate drops to 3%. Good grief that’s hardly rewards checking and I’m sure some customers will not appreciate the short notice. One wonders if the bank is in some sort of trouble. Fortunately I already pulled out my money and signed up with Deseret First Credit Union.
I wrote earlier about my experience with rewards checking at Coulee Bank. Lee County Bank and Trust offer the same 6.01% APY with their rewards checking account. They require 10 check card transactions a month, one automatic payment a month, online statements, and accessing your account at least once a month. They pay 6.01% on the first $25,000 and 2.50% on anything above that. The base rate for not meeting requirements is 0.15%. For those with a lot of spare cash, the 2.50% is a very good rate. However, I am merely looking for a backup account to transfer to if Coulee Bank should drop their rates or become rickety.
The whole process of signing up for my Lee County Bank and Trust account took a month. Not exactly at the speed of internet time. It began with the initial signup June 26 through CheckingFinder where I electronically made my first deposit. This was very smooth and I received an email saying:
Your application for The Big Account was successful. You will be contacted shortly by a representative at Lee County Bank & Trust, N.A.
The next day I was indeed contacted with a pleasant email which began:
Let me be the first to welcome you to Lee County Bank & Trust, N.A. We are so happy to have you as a new Big Account Checking customer. Your account has been approved and I’d like to let you know what you can expect from here.
In the mail I was to receive these several documents to sign and be notarized:
- Online Statement Agreement
- Combined ATM/POS/Debit Card request form
- Account Holder Card
- TIN/Backup Withholding
- Online Banking Service Application
- Notary Acknowledgment (just fill out, not sign)
This was not particularly stressful, as I stopped by my Credit Union on the way home from work and they notarized the documents for no charge. This was accomplished by June 6.
The End is Near
I received an email July 15 asking for a login name. Apparently I had left this blank on one of the forms. I could call a toll-free number to request a login name or email my choice. I used email.
The next day I got an email that began:
You are now officially a Big Account Customer! We received your documents today and your debit card has been ordered. The following is a summary of how to access your online banking account.
July 18 I received in the mail cardholder instructions to select my PIN using a toll-free number. Fortunately they had handwritten the last 4 digits of my debit card in the instructions. Around July 23rd I received my debit card which finally completed the application process. The bank automatically pays full interest the first month whether or not you meet the requirements to account for the time it takes to get everything in order.
I found that online at the bank there was no way to transfer money and also no internal messaging once I logged in. I sent an email to the bank asking about transfers and mentioned this was an important feature for me because I lived out of state. Recall that the initial deposit was made through CheckingFinder. The bank said that a transfer capability will be added the next week. Here are the instructions for external transfers:
To access transfers, login to online banking and press the “transfers” button located near the top left corner, then press “external transfers” from the sub-button menu. There you will find a form to fill out that can be mailed (address is on the form) or faxed (not toll-free). Please note that you will need a copy of a voided check with the form. This is only for incoming transfers.
I didn’t mind the long process because I only have to do it once. I understand that a small bank opening up accounts nationwide is going to have some growing pains. At times I felt like a beta tester, for example, when I asked about external transfers. The response was almost “Oh yeah, we forgot about that, we will have that fixed by next week.” I am used to logging in and in a few clicks transferring money, incoming and outgoing. However, I think over time improvements will be made and they are a very friendly bank, energized and ready to grow. For a rewards checking account they have less monthly requirements than many banks and the 2.50% paid for over $25,000 balances is excellent. But most of all I just love that six percent.