Firsts Citizens Bank has a check card reward program called FreeMoney in which you can earn close to 4% cash back on your debit card purchases with a maximum of $500 per year. Unlike other debit card and credit card cash back reward programs, this requires some work if you want to maximize the cash back reward.
First, you're required to open the First Citizens personal checking account and FreeMoney Bonus Savings Account. To earn cash back, the following debit card usage is required:
- Make 10 non-PIN check card purchases per month
- AFTER these 10 check card purchases are made, you'll earn $1 for every non-PIN check card purchase of $25 or more.
- The FreeMoney bonus is deposited into the FreeMoney Bonus Savings Account each month
According to the terms and conditions, the maximum bonus per checking account is $500 per calendar year.
As you can see, it won't be easy to get close to 4% cash back from this program. Your first 10 check card purchases would have to be small since there's no cash back associated with them. The additional check card purchases during the month would have to be $25 or just a little bit higher. Then you could get close to earning 4% cash back. Of course if it were too easy, everybody would earn the 4%, and the bank wouldn't be able to afford it.
A branch visit is required to open an account. Branches are located throughout North Carolina. It also has branches in Arizona, Maryland, Tennessee, Washington, California, Virginia and West Virginia.
You might be wondering why the branches are so scattered across the country. First Citizens Bank has been expanding in the last several months with much of the expansion coming from the acquisition of failed banks. The latest acquisition was on Friday when it acquired Sun American Bank in South Florida.
First Citizens Bank's ratings for safety and soundness are strong: 5 stars (superior) at BauerFinancial (based on 12/31/09 data) and 4 stars (sound) at Bankrate.com (based on 9/30/09 data). The bank has been a FDIC member since 1934 (FDIC Certificate # 11063)
Other debit card and credit card reward programs
As I've mentioned in previous posts, banks make sizable profits from non-PIN debit card usage. This is one new type of program that encourages debit card use. PerkStreet Financial is one that's available nationwide which offers 1% cash back without any hoops to jump through. It also has a special 2% cash back promo (see review). For those with large savings, you'll probably do better with high-yield reward checking accounts (refer to the reward checking section of DepositAccounts.com).
If you prefer using credit cards, some of the best cash back programs are from PenFed, Charles Schwab and Fidelity.