When I first talked to Kyle at PerkStreet about blogging for the company, I couldn’t help but bring up ING’s Electric Orange online checking account. I’ve been using ING for six years and have always loved the bouncing orange ball. I had a hard time believing Kyle when he told me PerkStreet’s account was better than ING’s. I had to find out for myself what could be better than the online bank that I have been with so long. I signed up for my own PerkStreet account and tried them out. Here’s an honest account of my experience switching from ING Electric Orange to PerkStreet Financial:
I Stepped in Cautiously
While it’s true I love new technology, I’m a cautious adopter. I read all I can about new technologies before I take the plunge. For example, I only accepted the reality that Facebook is here to stay a month ago, despite being heavily involved with social media. So, I was a little nervous stepping into PerkStreet. If you’re feeling that way, don’t worry. It’s natural to be nervous when making a change with your finances.
In researching PerkStreet, there were a few things I was really excited about. For example, the company doesn’t charge fees very often and compared to most banks, the fees are low. PerkStreet limits overdraft fees to three in a day to keep you from being bounced out of all your money. They will never authorize an overdraft initiated at an ATM or random debit transaction. Only automatic payments and checking transactions will be approved, and even then only at PerkStreet’s discretion. Of course, you can always opt out of overdraft protection if you don’t want to risk those fees at all.
Sometimes you need an actual check and PerkStreet wins on that one. ING will mail a check on my behalf, but sometimes I like have the check at hand, especially if I need to setup a payment from my checking account. Some vendors need an actual check number, not just routing and account numbers. With ING, I would have to request a check printout to give me what I needed. With PerkStreet, I have it right there in my hand — PerkStreet sends them for free when your account is opened.
ING just can’t compete with PerkStreet when it comes to earnings. Cash back on your spending will always be greater than interest on your checking account balance. Other perks besides cash back deserve mention too. Let’s not forget the thing we traditionally think of as a perk — convenience.
For instance, if you want to deposit a check at ING, you’ve got to snail mail it in, or deposit at a brick and mortar bank, then transfer it to the online checking account. PerkStreet lets you print a free UPS label online, stick the endorsed check in an envelope and take it down to the UPS store. (Yay, a reason to go to Starbucks!) They’ll overnight it for you at no cost.
The Sign-Up Process
The customer service folks at PerkStreet didn’t know I was going to write this. That was the only way I could be sure I’d get the same experience anyone else could expect and truly compare the two. The sign up process was easy. My own disorganization made things a little bumpy, but PerkStreet reps got me through it with politeness and responsiveness. I was never left on hold more than five minutes and my signature card — verifying my identity — was accepted a day late with no complaint.
PerkStreet kept me in the loop with mail every step of the way, but the emails announcing these mailings arrived out of order. Three things arrived in my mailbox over the next two weeks. First, I received a letter requesting a signature card, then a packet containing checks with nifty little fold up check container, and finally my PerkStreet card arrived.
I couldn’t directly compare this experience with ING because I signed up six years ago and honestly don’t recall how it went. I’m lucky if I can remember what I had for breakfast, much less the sign up process for an account I opened that long ago.
Waiting for my PerkStreet card was the most unpleasant part of the experience. I was so excited by the rewards that PerkStreet offers that the anticipation was painful. The first thing I wanted to do with my new card was set up auto pay for all of my bills. I figured getting cash back on my living expenses would be like getting a discount on life.
Once the card arrived, switching my automatic payments over was a little frustrating, through no fault of PerkStreet. Tracking down all my bills, going through the different policies of each biller and finally getting my new payment info into the account profiles was a pain in the neck. Still, every time I see the automatic bill pay notification, I hear, “cha-ching!” as I mentally subtract cash back the total bill. That part feels really, really good.
A few things about my new PerkStreet account surprised me. For instance, a security measure limits the amount you can pull into the account from another bank in the form of a transfer. The monthly limit will increase as you build history, so it’s not a big deal, but I had never experienced that before in a checking account.
For now, you can work around the limit by initiating the transfer from the external account. If your bank doesn’t allow external transfers (like my old brick and mortar), it could be a problem. For now, I’m using the unbelievably awesome free UPS overnight shipping PerkStreet makes available to deposit checks.
Another funding option, albeit clunky, is initiating a withdrawal from within ING to get money from my brick and mortar bank, and then use ING to transfer that money into PerkStreet. Honestly, I’m more annoyed with my brick and mortar bank for not offering external transfers than I am with PerkStreet for trying to keep my account secure. I mean for crying out loud, even PayPal offers external account transfers!
Money Money Money!
I’m not just excited about getting cash back instead of interest. I’m thrilled about the collossal amount of cash back I can earn — PerkStreet has no limit* on the cash back you can earn. I made $2.95 this year from my ING checking. How much did I spend out of that account? I’m sure it was tens of thousands.
Even though Electric Orange doesn’t charge overdraft fees (instead, they charge a 7.35% APR subject to change), PerkStreet will still earns me a lot more money. When I looked at the actual earnings at ING and compared them with what I would have earned for the same transactions at PerkStreet, well, ING just can’t compete. Even with one or two “oopsies” on overdrafts, I still would have come out way ahead with PerkStreet. I’m talking hundreds of dollars here, not just a few bucks.
There is talk of a PerkStreet savings account. Surely, many cardholders would like this product so they can have the savings account funds available as a backup for the checking account if the balance is too low. PerkStreet has already said they are working on a savings account product. (Sign up HERE if you’re interested.) Given what PerkStreet has done for checking accounts, it will be interesting to see what they come up with for savings.
Don’t get me wrong. I have the urge to “touch the ball” every time I see an ING commercial. I still love the big bouncing ball in its Zen-like orange.
…Maybe we can still be friends even though we’re seeing other people.
*To redeem a perk as a statement credit requires 2 perks per each $20 redemption, thereby reducing your effective cash back rate. In addition, statement credits are redeemed in $20 increments. All other reward redemption options require no additional perks. For example, a $20 statement credit will require $22 in perks. A $40 statement credit requires $44 in perks, etc.
Editor’s Note: These posts were updated on 8/7/2012 to reflect changes in PerkStreet’s products.
Jessica Bosari is not employed by PerkStreet, and like all the other regular contributors to the PerkStreet blog, she’s a PerkStreet customer. She is the Site Manager and Editor for Billeater, a blog with Money-saving tips to lower your bills. When she’s not gathering money-saving tips, Jessica is feeding her geeky side with sci-fi movies, tech gadgets, useful apps and productivity tricks, just to keep things interesting.
Interested in becoming a regular guest contributor to the PerkStreet Blog like Jessica is? Email the editor at kyle.psaty[at]perkstreet[dot]com