Dedicated to Deposits: Deals, Data, and Discussion

High Yield Savings Account and CD at Choice Financial - Nationally Available

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Choice Financial
Update 7/24/09: Rates have dropped. Rate Builder Savings: 2.26% APY 30-day intro, 1.26% APY $5K-$25K, 1.51% APY $25K-$100K, 1.76% APY $100K+. Rate Builder 13-mo CD: 2.21% APY.

Update 5/12/09: Rates have dropped. Rate Builder Savings: 2.76% APY 30-day intro, 1.76% APY $5K-$25K, 2.01% APY $25K-$100K, 2.26% APY $100K+. Rate Builder 13-mo CD: 2.51% APY. Rates are from disclosure.

Choice Financial has two attractive deposit account deals: a savings account with a rate of up to 3.26% APY and a 13-month CD with a rate of 3.01% APY. The bank calls these their RateBuilder accounts. The savings account and CD are available nationwide. There's also a high-yield checking account for those in Minnesota, Montana and the Dakotas.

The savings account has a 30-day intro rate of 3.76% APY. After the intro period, the following tiered interest rates apply:
  • 2.76% APY $5K to $25K
  • 3.01% APY $25K to $100K
  • 3.26% APY $100K and over
The above rates are listed at the RateBuilder Page as of 5/08/09. Note, the disclosure lists the rates for the bottom two tiers as interest rates rather than APY.

One downside to this account is that interest is only credited quarterly, and if the account is closed before the interest is paid, you'll lose the accrued interest. Some other features mentioned on the website and the disclosure (pdf) include:
  • Minimum opening deposit of $5,000
  • $2/month fee if balance falls below $5K on any day of the month
  • Interest credited and compounded quarterly
  • $50 closing fee if closed within first 90 days
  • If account is closed before the interest is paid, you'll lose the accrued interest
  • Typical limit of 6 withdrawals per month
RateBuilder Certificate of Deposit

There's also a good deal on the RateBuilder CD. As of 5/08/09, the rate is 3.01% APY for a 13-month term. Minimum deposit is $5,000. Some additional details mentioned in the disclosure (pdf) includes:
  • 13-month term
  • $5,000 minimum deposit
  • Interest will be compounded and credited annually
  • Early withdrawal penalty equals 6 months of interest on the amount withdrawn
  • Grace period at maturity of 10 calendar days
  • Add-on feature: You will be able to make additional deposits to the CD up to the original deposit amount without extending the term of the CD
Additional Details from the Customer Service Representative

For some additional details about the savings and CD, I called the bank's customer service number at 1-877-380-3623. At first, the voice message informed me that they were busy with other customers and that I should leave a message. Instead of leaving a message, I called back a little later and was quickly connected to a CSR. According to the CSR, they rolled out these RateBuilder accounts about 4 weeks ago. She said the posted rates are accurate. Some additional things I was told by the CSR include:
  • No hard credit inquiry. They just use ChexSystem
  • ACH service provided to allow electronic funding of savings account and CD. You can also mail a check
  • Savings account has an ACH transfer service. Transfers are free, and there are no size limitations on transfers (CSR didn't appear too knowledgeable about this)
  • CD rate locks at the time that the application is submitted
There were two interesting features mentioned in the disclosure that I tried to confirm with the CSR:

Savings account bonus: As described in the disclosure: Electronic gift certificate issued after receiving opening deposit valued at $10. Electronic account anniversary gift certificate issued one year from account opening date valued at $25 if your account has an average daily balance $500 on the account anniversary date. The CSR confirmed this. She said that the gift cerificate is for some online store.

Add-On Deposits in the CD: As descrbied in the disclosure: After the account is opened, you may make an unlimited amount of deposits. The total of the deposits may not exceed original amount of the opening deposit. The CSR did not think you could make additional deposits. Leave a comment if you are able to confirm. The add-on feature is limited in value since the add-on is capped to the initial deposit. Update: Another CSR confirmed that the CD does have this add-on feature.

Update: I received additional info from a CSR by email (I'm impressed by the speed of the replies). Below is what I received:

More RateBuilder CD info from the CSR:

The CD does have an add-on feature. You will be able to make additional deposits to the CD up to the original deposit amount without extending the term of the CD.

The CD starts earning interest on the business day that they receive the initial deposit. The CD rate that you will receive on the CD is the rate as of the date that they receive the application.

When the CD matures, you may elect to have those funds withdrawn by a mailed check, ACH transfer or wire transfer. You can close the CD over the phone. They'll use security questions to verify your identity.

More RateBuilder Savings Account info from the CSR:

I confirmed that they had mistakenly listed the rates instead of the APYs for the first two tiers on the RateBuilder webpage. It was correct in the disclosure. I've corrected the rates above.

The CSR didn't provide many additional details on their ACH bank-to-bank transfer service. They do seem to have such a service, and transfers are free.

You may fund the account by mailing a check, wire transfer or by ACH. This also applies to the RateBuilder CD.

Health Savings Account

Thc CSR confirmed that their Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are also available nationwide. A reader commented that she has been happy with their HSA for the last 3 years. It's a tiered account with rates that range from 1.04% APY to 2.53% APY as of 5/08/09. Refer to their HSA rates page for the latest info, and for general info and good nationwide options on HSAs, refer to this post.

Overview of Choice Financial Group

Choice Financial is a small bank with 11 branches in North Dakota. You can review the details about their financials at this FDIC page. They have some solid ratings for safety and soundness: 3.5 stars (good) at BauerFinancial and 4 stars (sound) at Bankrate.com. Both ratings are based on 12/31/08 financial data. The bank has been FDIC insured since 1934 (FDIC Certificate # 9423).

Thanks to the reader who emailed me news of these online accounts.
  Tags: Minnesota, Choice Financial, South Dakota, Montana, CD rates, checking account, savings account, North Dakota

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Comments
28 comments.
Comment #1 by Mary (anonymous) posted on
Mary
They, also, have a Health Savings Account that works very well. Even though I am across the country from them, I have had the HSA for three years and it has been a well functioning account.

1
Comment #2 by Sofa King Frustrated (anonymous) posted on
Sofa King Frustrated
What a shame they only credit interest quarterly for the savings account because the rate is great.

****!

But again, if they credited interest monthly, can you imagine the money that would flood into this bank, which would then have the ultimate effect of causing them to drop the rate a lot?

1
Comment #3 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
How do you get your money out when the CD matures? Is it like CWB where you could call, have them transfer the $$ to SavingsLink and then ACH it out? or do you have to wait for a check to arrive in the mail?

1
Comment #4 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
The rate will drop after the 30 intro!

1
Comment #5 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
It will take a month to open and fund the account through the mail and waiting for initial deposit to clear. I don't think we will get the intro rate as advertised.

1
Comment #6 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I applied tonight and indicated that I would wire funds. Upon applying, they stated they would email me with my acceptance, etc. I am assuming they will send my account number at that time for wiring. Does anyone know if they charge an incoming wire fee?

1
Comment #7 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I thought about the interest loss thing. If you have to pull funds, instead of closing the account, can't you can just drop it down near nothing and leave it open until the end of the 3 months, pay the $2 per month (or leave 5K) and then get out the day after the interest posts? Or leave the minimum and avoid the $2 fee. Should not lose interest that way.

1
Comment #8 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Banks rules are geared against the customers, the logic applied by the poster at 11:11 PM, May 08, 2009 will not work.

They require written notice to close any accounts and you are on their mercy to acknowledge your request for closing account. Many times they ignore the request and continue with fees if not sufficient funds are in the account.

To the poster at 11:05 PM, May 08, 2009, you can not wire funds until the account is opened, which require mailing check first and wait until the initial deposit has cleared.

Such a small bank and thousands of new applications, will bring long delays for processing new accounts.

Good luck to all who are brave enough to open account with a tiny bank, since the rates will plummet the moment they reach their goal.

1
Comment #9 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
According to a CSR, the listed rates could change at any time and their ACH system takes 3-5 business days to complete the transfer.

1
Comment #10 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
In effect, they want us to keep at least $5000 for minimum of 3 months, which effectively is 4 months, since you can not close the account within 3 months without losing $50 and all of the interest for the prior 3 months. If you close before 6 months, 3 months of interest is lost.

We are all better of with a 6 mo CD then this lousy terms on the saving account. It is not for me, I will wait for better bank and terms.

1
Comment #11 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I agree with the poster at 8:40 AM, May 09, 2009.

This is essentially 3 mo CD disguised as saving account with variable interest rate.

1
Comment #12 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I still don't get the negativity on this one. The fee is only $2 per month if you have less than 5K in the account. So, if you have to pull your money for some reason, the worst case is you have to lose $6 to qualify for your 3 months of interest. Regarding poster 8:13. I have opened many bank accounts over the years. I can't remember any banks not closing my account within a reasonable time with written notice. I almost feel like the posters are trying to talk people out of opening an account her for some unknown hidden agenda. It just seems like unwarranted negativity. Does anyone else out there feel like I do on this one?

1
Comment #13 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Has anyone wired money into this bank? If so, what are the incoming wire fees?

1
Comment #14 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
To poster Anonymous, at 3:00 PM, May 09, 2009.

There is no negativity here, it happened twice to me.
Once the bank said we did not received your letter to close the account and another time, they kept the letter unopened (as per their side of the story), until the window for closing elapsed and the new statement period started, so they didn't pay me interest and got me on the penalty late request fee to close account (CD).

So, count yourself lucky for not being a victim of a bank fraud, perpetrated on their customers.

1
Comment #15 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
To Anonymous @ 3:01 PM - According to the disclosure form, there is a $15 fee on incoming wire transfers.

1
Comment #16 by None (anonymous) posted on
None
Does anyone have actual experience with their CDs? I'm considering the 13 month, but in view of many of the comments I've read this morning, perhaps it might be wise to either wait or perhaps wait.

1
Comment #17 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I opened the Rate Builder Savings account last Friday (5/8) and when I spoke with a CSR she told me that ACH is available. Today I was told by the same person that after clarifying with the group who handles Rate Builder she found out that ACH can only be initiated by the external bank for now till 180 days - at that point I can do ACH from Choice Financial online banking - kind of sucks!!. But she was kind enough to let me know that if I send a secure email than the CSR can do the ACH on my behalf - this is a workaround till 180 days (if I keep my account that long !!)

1
Comment #18 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I applied for this account on Friday and received a welcoming E-mail yesterday. It contained my User ID and password login information. This was a regular, nonsecure E-mail. Is it normal for bank's internet divisions to send it this way?

Anyway, I have a Mac and found that the Camino and Mozilla Firefox for Mac browsers will not work for the process because I received a message saying "Unsupported Software Version," apparently related to how Adobe Acrobat Reader works with these browsers. I did reach a normal login screen when I used the Safari browser. I proceeded to enter my UserID and password. However, I get a message saying I entered an incorrect combination. I called customer service for help a few hours ago but there's been no call back as yet. I was told they have just two CSRs handling the online accounts, so that may be why. I spoke with both on Friday and both seemed nice and helpful. I guess I will just wait and see what happens here but was wondering if others have had a similar experience. I want to be reassured there are no bugs in the system before I deposit funds in the account.

1
Comment #19 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Addendum to note of 10:14 -- I've learned that other people with Macs have experienced some compatibility problems, too, so I imagine the IT people are working on it. As for the login information, you do have to include the last 4 digits of your SSN, and you can change your password once you log in, so I guess that's why they felt it was okay to send the UserID and initial password by E-mail.

1
Comment #20 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I opened one over the weekend online. Received password/login on Monday.

There was a problem wtih my documents (interest rate noted wrong), so I called, left message after hours. Received an e-mail back from someone who had heard the message, and the problems were corrected. Now waiting for pull from account.

1
Comment #21 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I just checked Choice Financial's website and the Savings Account rates have dropped significantly!

1
Comment #22 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Thanks for the warning. I am cancelling /blocking my opening deposit transfer and messaged them I am doing so and withdrawing my account application immediately.

1
Comment #23 by dimossi (anonymous) posted on
dimossi
Anonymous, @ 3:48 AM

How are you going about canceling / blocking the initial ACH transfer? Because I want to do the same thing. And can you let me know if you were successful in doing so?

1
Comment #24 by dimossi (anonymous) posted on
dimossi
I haven't been able to log into the online banking using the username / password I was chose either.

1
Comment #25 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I monitor a variety of national online bank rates, and although the rate has dropped recently, the rates still seem pretty competitive. For example, their savings intro rate at 2.76% is only for 30 days, but after that the lowest tier rate is at 1.76% which is better than ING direct at 1.50%.

1
Comment #26 by Randy (anonymous) posted on
Randy
Look out! I applied for the 13 month 3.01% CD online on Monday and received the confirmation number to include on the check I was mailing. Lovely CSR confirmed the rate locks with the application and that there was a 7 day period for them to receive the funds. I mailed the check Tuesday

Today, Wednesday, I received an e-mail stating: "Unfortunately, the qualification guidelines for this account have not been met and the requested account cannot be opened at this time. You will receive a notice by mail detailing the decision."

I have no clue as to what "qualifications" were not met, and am now wondering about the status of the funds presently in the mail to them. VERY shoddy, unprofessional and puzzling!

1
Comment #27 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
this bank is a joke, big rate drop in less than a week.
better off with a 3 months rate lock account.

1
Comment #28 by Wil (anonymous) posted on
Wil
RateBuilder CD dropped to 1.65% on March 2, 2010. RateBuilder Savings account also down, to 2.06% APY.

1