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Update on Rate Guarantees and Availability of Reward Checking Accounts

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Update 9/23/09: I'm afraid it only lasted about 2 months. The nationwide availability of Commonwealth Bank & Trust Company's reward checking account is over. Under the "enroll now" button on the checking page, it states "Available to KY, IN & OH residents only."

I just received confirmation from Commonwealth Bank & Trust Company that they are accepting applications nationwide. This bank is currently offering a reward checking account with a 4.50% APY (up to $25K) that's guaranteed to last until May 2010 (see account review). I first reported on this bank a year ago when the APY had been 5.25%. The rate fell to 4.50% in January, and they started the rate-guarantee in May. I just recently noticed their new online application, and today I received confirmation that they accept applications nationwide. The bank appears to be in good financial condition with 4 stars from both BauerFinancial and Bankrate based on 3/31/09 data. It's not a large bank with $536 million in deposits, so if they get a big upswing in deposits, the deal may not last long.

Hot deals that end quickly have been common this year. Banks either change their policy and restrict new accounts to a smaller region or they cut rates and end rate guarantees. The latest example of this is at Countybank which is offering a 4.75% APY on balances up to $25K. In May they were allowing people from any state to apply online. They've recently started to restrict certain states. First it was the West Coast states, and readers have recently been reporting other states that are being rejected. By entering your zip code in the online application, it'll tell you if you're eligible to join (see post).

Don't forget that these reward checking accounts require monthly debit card usage. Also, they typically require direct deposit or ACH debit. I've found most that require direct deposit will also accept an ACH transfer initiated from a bank. To learn more about reward checking accounts, refer to my reward checking overview.

Commonwealth Bank & Trust is the only bank offering a rate guarantee for an account that's available nationwide. There are rate guarantees that are even better, but they are local-only deals. Below is a list of these:
  • 6.01% up to $25K guaranteed to 1/1/10 at United FCU in MI, OH, OK & AR (account review)
  • 5.15% up to $25K guaranteed to 5/15/10 at MBT Bank in Iowa (account review)
  • 4.50% up to $25K guaranteed until May 2010 at Commonwealth Bank & Trust Company in KY - Available Nationwide (account review)
  • 4.01% up to $25K guaranteed to 12/31/09 at Artisans' Bank in DE (account review)
  • 4.01% up to $25K guaranteed to 11/1/09 at Leominster CU in MA (account review)
  • 3.25% up to $30K guaranteed to 12/31/09 at Community Bank in MS, AL & TN (account review)
  • 2.75% up to $250K guaranteed to 9/30/09 at Allegiance Bank in PA (account review)
On Sunday I updated my High Yield Checking Website with the latest rates. Rates continue to fall, but the average rates continue to be much higher than the average online savings account. Out of 425 accounts, the average APY is 3.84%. My list of nationwide accounts is much smaller with only 47 accounts (I haven't added Commonwealth yet to this list). The average APY is 3.76%.

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Comments
8 comments.
Comment #1 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Notes from the Commonwealth Bank & Trust Company website: "Extreme Rate 4.50% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) paid on balances between one penny and $25,000, and 1.01% APY paid on all amounts above $25,000 each cycle the minimum qualifications are met. ... Rates as of January 15, 2009. We may change the interest rate and APY at any time after the account is opened. No minimum balance required; however, you must deposit $100 to open this account. Available to personal accounts only. No monthly service charge." NOTHING ABOUT RATE GUARANTEE.

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Comment #2 by Banking Guy (anonymous) posted on
Banking Guy
I should have mentioned that the guarantee is listed on the bank's home page (at least as of 7/28/09).

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Comment #3 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
The rate guarantee is still on their home page. I took a screen shot of it.

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Comment #4 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Is this bank offering the highest GUARANTEED nationwide rate anyone has found? I have a WAMU CD that is maturing and I'm trying not to rate chase--this seems like a good place to park $$ till next May and the requirements don't seem too onerous especially since there's no minimum on the debits or monthly ACH transfer. Unless there's a better guaranteed nationwide rate I've missed!

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Comment #5 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I’m getting really competitive rates with a product called easyGROW Checking at First Bank & Trust. You can go to www.easyGROWchecking.com for the info (including the current interest rate); but to summarize, it is a free high-yield account that also offers ATM fee refunds when I meet the three qualifications: using my debit card at least ten times, receiving e-Statements, and having a least one direct deposit or automatic payment each cycle. I do all of those things anyway, so it’s been really easy for me to qualify…and they send me an email each month to let me know if I met the qualifications. I have to admit, I love not having to worry about whether or not an ATM is on my network, and the interest is already starting to add up. It only takes $100 deposit to open the account, and there is no minimum balance

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Comment #6 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Nice spam there, EasyGROW

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22I%E2%80%99m+getting+really+competitive+rates+with+a+product+called+easyGROW%22

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Comment #7 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Last week, the Commonwealth website had no state specific limitations listed. However, I just looked at www.cbandt.com (under personal checking accounts) and they have added verbiage beside the "Extreme Checking" that it is only available to residents of 3 states (ohio, kentucky, and i just forgot the 3rd).

I hope i am grandfathered in since my account was opened prior to this change on their website.

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Comment #8 by Banking Guy (anonymous) posted on
Banking Guy
Thanks for the info. Sorry to see the limitation added. Most banks have allowed out-of-state residents to be grandfathered in after they've added limitations for new accounts. Hopefully, Commonwealth will do the same.

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