Dedicated to Deposits: Deals, Data, and Discussion
DETAILSINSTITUTIONAPYMINMAXPRODUCT
Coulee Bank2.55%-$15kKasasa Cash
Westfield Bank FSB2.01%-$15kDream Big Checking
Centennial Bank (TX)1.26%-$25kReward Checking
The Bank of Fayetteville1.00%-$15kSmart Checking
South Division Credit Union0.10%-$25kFreedom Green Checking
Accounts mentioned in this post. Rates as of July 30, 2014

Newly Updated List of the 5 Best Reward Checking Accounts Available Nationwide

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Newly Updated List of the 5 Best Reward Checking Accounts Available Nationwide

I last reviewed the 5 best reward checking accounts in July. Since that time, 2 of the 5 banks have fallen off the list. I thought it would be useful to update the list with the ones that still have best rates available nationwide. I also thought it would be interesting to take a look at the size of these banks in terms of deposits and how the deposits have grown since the banks started to offer reward checking.

For those not familiar with reward checking, these checking accounts offer customers a high yield for up to a certain balance ($25K is common) if you meet certain monthly requirements which typically include around 10 debit card purchases, direct deposit/ACH transaction and e-statements. Many also offer ATM fee refunds if you meet the monthly requirements. Most are free checking accounts even if you don't meet the monthly requirements.

Can these high-yield reward checking accounts last? I first started reporting on them in 2006, so they have some history. New regulations that affect overdrafts and debit card fees will likely provide some headwinds as I mentioned in yesterday's post on the Future of High-Yield Reward Checking Accounts.

In this short list of reward checking accounts, I decided to include only those which have the best rates that apply to balances of at least $25,000. Some offer 4% but the maximum balance for this yield is only $10K or $15K.

The ones listed are available nationwide as of 9/8/10. Banks and credit unions often change their policies and restrict these to their local market areas. So some of these institutions may fall of this list.

The Two That Have Fallen Off the List

Restricting new accounts to their local market areas is why 2 of the 5 banks fell off my July list. The first to fall off the list was ViewPoint Bank which restricted the account to just Texas residents. It's still paying 4.00% APY on balances up to $50K. However, they recently announced this balance cap will fall to $25K effective November 1st. The second to fall was Randolph Bank & Trust Company. It's still paying a very nice 4.75% APY on balances up to $25K. Like ViewPoint, it restricted new accounts to residents of its home state, North Carolina.

The Original Three

I'm glad to report that as of 9/08/2010 three out of the five institutions on my July list have kept their accounts the same, and they all appear to be available nationwide. These 3 are Danversbank, South Division Credit Union and Westfield Bank FSB. Only Danversbank and South Division CU still have a 4% APY for up to $25K. Westfield Bank's reward checking is only 3.50% APY for up to $25K. Here's a summary of these three institutions:

  • Danversbank - 4.01% APY for up to $25K as of 9/8/10. First post was over 3 years ago so it has quite a bit of history. Readers have reported an easy account opening process. Danversbank is based in Massachusetts and is a sizable bank with $2 billion in deposits as of June 2010. They have grown substantially in the last 3 years. In June 2007, they had only $973M in deposits. Of course, other factors likely contributed to the growth besides the reward checking account.
  • South Division Credit Union - 4.01% APY for up to $25K as of 9/8/10. This Illinois credit union is on the nationwide list since its field of membership makes it easy for anyone in the U.S. to join. However, it's a small credit union which primarily serves an area in the Chicago suburbs. My first post on this reward checking account was in November 2009. The rate has remained the same since then. The credit union only has $53.9M in deposits as of June 2010. Deposits have actually fallen in the last year. In June 2009 deposits were $54.6M.
  • Westfield Bank FSB - 3.50% APY up to $25K as of 9/8/10. This is also fairly new on my list. My first post was last May. One advantage of this bank is that they are listed on CheckingFinder which makes the online application process easy. It's a small bank with 3 branches in Ohio. As of June 2010, the bank had $352M in deposits. This is actually down from $360M in March 2010.

Two New Banks

The two new banks added to the list have rates between 3.50% and 3.00% APY. I'm afraid 3.00% APY is the new competitive yield for reward checking accounts these days. Anything you can find above that is a great deal.

  • Coulee Bank - 3.33% APY for up to $25K as of 9/8/10. My first post was over 3 years ago so this bank has a long history of top rates. There's an online application at the bank's website. Coulee is a small bank based in Wisconsin with 4 branches and just under $200M in deposits. It has grown its deposits quite a bit in the last 3 years. In June 2007, it had only $113M in deposits.
  • HCSB Bank - 3.26% APY for up to $25K as of 9/8/10. This is not the giant international bank HSBC. HCSB used to have the name Hill Country State Bank. It's a small bank with 7 branches in West Texas and in the Texas Hill Country. Their reward checking history is short. My first post was in February 2010. The good news is they've held steady with both the rate and the nationwide availability. There are online applications at both the bank's website and at CheckingFinder. They have $310M in deposits as of June 2010. This has grown almost 9% in the last 6 months.

Honorable Mention

You might notice that all of the above banks have a balance cap of $25K. I decided to include one more bank with a nationwide reward checking account with a higher balance cap. The downside is a lower rate.

  • The Bank of Fayetteville - 2.75% APY for up to $50K as of 9/8/10. My first post was in February 2008 so it does have a fairly long history. At that time the top yield was 5.01% APY so the rate has fallen more than others (probably due to the $50K cap). It has an online application at both the bank's website and at CheckingFinder. The CheckingFinder application is more of a complete online application with electronic funding. It's interesting to note the bank's deposits haven't grown that much over the last 2 and half years. As of June 2010, it had almost $340M in deposits which is only about 11% higher than the $305M in deposits it had in December 2007. This shows that reward checking remains fairly unknown in the mainstream.

As you can see, you have to sacrifice quite a bit of yield for double the balance cap. How much yield would you be willing to sacrifice? If you don't mind multiple reward checking accounts, you probably don't want to sacrifice much yield. In yesterday's poll, 77% of the 35 people who responded said it takes a yield of at least 3.00% for a $25K balance to make reward checking worthwhile.

If you want rates higher than what's listed here, you'll have to look within your state. You can use the filter in our reward checking table to view what's available in your state. There are still 11 institutions that offer 5.00% APY or above. All of them are local deals.


  Tags: checking account, Danversbank, South Division Credit Union, Westfield Bank FSB, Coulee Bank, HCSB Bank, The Bank of Fayetteville

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Comments
18 Comments.
Comment #1 by scottj posted on
scottj
I'm just hoping Danversbank keeps the $100k max for those of us grandfathered into it when/if they lower rate. 

1
Comment #2 by MartinPa (anonymous) posted on
MartinPa
I currently have 3 open Rewards Checking accounts and attempted to add a 4th.  My application for the Westfield Bank’s Dream Big Accounts was denied with the following email explanation --   "Thank you for your interest in Westfield Bank’s Dream Big Accounts. We regret to inform you that we are unable to open an account for you at this time. A ChexSystems report, though not a negative credit report, has listed numerous inquiries for you at other financial institutions.  This indicates that this request to open an account with Westfield Bank is not for your primary checking account.  Our Dream Big Account products were designed to attract new deposit customers to Westfield Bank who will be using these accounts as their primary checking account.  Westfield Bank's risk guidelines prohibit us from making any exceptions to this report."

8
Comment #3 by darkdreamer4u posted on
darkdreamer4u
To MartinPa: OUCH! Tough going! Hope you'll have better success at another bank.

1
Comment #5 by darkdreamer4u posted on
darkdreamer4u
Nope - they are like regular checking accts. in that respect.

1
Comment #7 by 51hh posted on
51hh
mp (#4): Just find another bank that is not so fussy, there are plenty of them!  Actually, I always check whether the bank is fussy with their chexsystem report in terms of number of inquiries before I apply.  Fortunately, most banks are simply looking for negative record (e.g., overdraft due to insufficinet fund). 

It is good to know why some banks are fussy about the number of inquiries; i.e., the reason is linked with the famous quote: intended to be used as primary account and the "spirit" of a primary account (have no idea which turkey invented such terms initially, I first saw it with Southern Bank; the other fussy banks are just copy cats). 

4
Comment #8 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
51hh--How do you check for bank fussiness about too many accounts before you apply?

1
Comment #9 by 51hh posted on
51hh
Anon. #8: I simply asked them whether they will be "bothered" with too many Chexsystem inquiries; most would say no, they are only interested in adversary/negative reports like ISF.

I often ask them about their preference of debit transactions as well, most would say no restrictions. 

Even with the preliminary screening, I still got one bank that became "fussy" later on when they witnessed my spending pattern; insisting that I was not using the account as primary checking account.  What can I say, but... Frankly, my dear, I don't give a ****:D

6
Comment #10 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Has anyone tried opening a Danvers Free Rewards Checking Account today? I'm not in MA. I clicked  Apply online and when you get to the "Account Disclosures and Agreements" page, I keep getting a popup that says Andera session Timed Out Error when I try to read their disclosures, agreements, oops overdraft disclosure, and retail fee schedule?

2
Comment #11 by Tom (anonymous) posted on
Tom
I had the exact same timeout 8 months ago, when I opened my Danversbank account.  The banking sector has terrible IT systems in general, and it's worse for these small banks that offers RCAs.  Just call them up and have them send you the document in the mail.

Frankly, I don't understand why banks aren't even fussier -- why they don't require you to use credit transactions rather than debit, or why there isn't a minimum dollar amount for charges.  But, hey, if they want to give me free money, I'll take it.

1
Comment #12 by 51hh posted on
51hh
Tom (#11),

I think that there are bank rules/regulations that prohibit banks from specifying minimum debit card transaction amount.  Glxpass (mostly resides at FWF) has researched thoroughly about it. 

This is a "hush hush" issue that we had better not mention it too often or too obviously; if you know what I mean:-)

2
Comment #13 by Alan posted on
Alan
I received an email from Westfield Bank denying my application for their Rewards Checking Account on the grounds that the credit check (run during the application) indicated that other account activity (at other banks/credit unions) indicated this would not be my Primary Checking account.  Their policy, as per the email, is to open accounts to be used as ones primary account.

1
Comment #14 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Can someone please tell me how to set up a ACH transaction in place of a Direct Deposit?

2
Comment #15 by Jacquie Graves, Westfield Bank FSB (anonymous) posted on
Jacquie Graves, Westfield Bank FSB
Westfield Bank takes great pride in our aggressive efforts to safeguard our customers. In our effort to protect customers from fraudulent cyber crimes, we have limited our applicants to five inquiries for our Dream Big Rewards accounts. We realize this may cause an inconvenience for some, however we feel that protecting our customers' safe banking environment is most important.

1
Comment #16 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Effective October 4th, Danversbank will be dropping their rates to 3.01%

1
Comment #17 by Danvers Bank Customer (anonymous) posted on
Danvers Bank Customer
Due know Danvers Bank just sent me an email stating "Effective Monday, October 4th, the Rewards Rate APY on our Free Rewards Checking account will be 3.01%" 

 it does go on to say We're proud to say that in the nearly four years since Free Rewards Checking was introduced, this is only our second rate decrease.  So YES it is a great bank and they give back to the community but if your looking for the best rate it may be time to look else where.

May I recommend looking at http://fnbmt.com (First National Bank)  4.01% Apy , OPEN to ALL states and only 10 Debit Transactions required !

1
Comment #18 by 51hh posted on
51hh
DBC (#17):

1. One has to come in the branch the first time to open accounts.

2. Tha rate is 3.5%, not 4.01%.

3. Only two accounts are allowed.

2
Comment #19 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
viewpoint went down from paying on 50k to only paying on 25 K  starting 11-01-10

1
Comment #20 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
an ach trans. Is just paying a bill from your online banking Some banks want you to make it automatic every month Should be easy enough

1