Banco Popular continues to offer a pretty good checking account bonus for opening its Totally Free Checking. But there's a new potential gotcha. If the account has fewer than 5 transactions per month for 3 consecutive months, the account will be converted to Flat Fee Checking account, and then you will be hit with a monthly fee. This allows the bank to call the account a "free checking" account and still force monthly transactions. According to the small print "the required transactions include any combination of customer-initiated in-branch and/or electronic debits or credits." So if you have an internet bank account, it would be easy to satisfy this requirement via electronic credits/debits.
If you don't mind the 5 transactions per month requirement, then this checking account bonus might be worthwhile. The bonus does require some work. To earn the full $125, the following is required:
- Up to $25 for your old debit card and unused checks at another bank
- $50 for the first ACH direct deposit of $100 or more received within 60 days of account opening
- $50 for the first bill paid by the Bill Pay service within 60 days of account opening
Full details are listed on Banco Popular's checking account page. In addition to the $125, a free gift is mentioned but I don't see any details about what that free gift might be. Here's the small print regarding the Totally Free Checking and its transaction requirement:
Minimum opening deposit is $50 ($25 in NY for Totally Free Checking only). Customer purchases checks, except for Popular Investor Checking. 1. Totally Free Checking and 50+ Free Interest Checking have no minimum balance requirements and do not have monthly fees when the accounts maintain five or more transactions per month. The required transactions include any combination of customer-initiated in-branch and/or electronic debits or credits. These transactions exclude but are not limited to interest credits, service fee charges, and/or reversals to the account. If the account has fewer than five transactions per month for three consecutive months, the account will be converted to Flat Fee Checking account. 2. Customers have a grace period of one statement cycle before the average monthly balance applies.
And here's the small print regarding the checking account bonus:
Limit one gift per new account. Bring in your debit card and unused checks from another financial institution and we’ll pay you up to $25. The first ACH direct deposit of $100 or more must be received within 60 days of account opening to receive the $50 cash payment. However, you may have up to an additional 1–46 day grace period beyond such initial 60 day period for the first ACH deposit of $100 or more to be deposited to your account. The duration of such grace period, if any, is dependent upon the day in the calendar month in which you open your account. The first bill must be paid by Bill Pay service within 60 days of account opening to receive the $50 cash payment. The cash payments for direct deposit and Bill Pay are limited to one payment per household, are subject to IRS form 1099-INT, and will be credited to your checking account within 60 days after all conditions have been met. Your account must be open to receive the cash payments. Offer may be withdrawn at any time.
One downside is that they do not provide any free checks. If you do maintain the transaction requirements, at least the checking account does remain free and it does include free access to the nationwide Allpoint ATM network.
A reader who participated last year in this promotion commented that he had to call the bank to get the bonus. They assured him that the account would be credited within a month. It's always a good idea to document the terms of the promotion when you apply, and mark the dates in the calendar when the bonus should be credited. If it's not credited on time, make sure to call.
Application and Eligibility
There's an "apply now" button on the checking account page. However, it requires you to select one of its market service regions which include California, Central Florida, Illinois, New York and New Jersey.
Banco Popular Overview
Banco Popular is a sizable bank with $9 billion in assets. However, it's under the $10 billion size so they should be exempt from the debit card fee caps in the new Fed regulation.
The bank has an overall health score at DepositAccounts.com of 4 stars (out of 5) with a Texas Ratio of 24.58% (average) based on March 2011 data. Please refer to our financial overview of Banco Popular for more details. The bank has been a FDIC member since 1999 (FDIC Certificate # 34967).
Other Bank Bonuses
To find other bonus deals at other banks and credit unions, please refer to the bank bonus page which has all of my recent bank bonus blog posts. There are also additional bonuses listed in the checking account deals forum.