You can use our reward checking table to find reward checking accounts that are available in your state. However, it still can be useful to review reward checking accounts that are available in a city. I've done this in the past for Houston and Austin. Today, I'll focus on the Phoenix metro area.
I'm afraid the best reward checking account deals aren't in Phoenix. Higher rates can be found in other parts of the country, but most of these are local deals which are only available to residents of that market area. The reward checking accounts that are available nationwide are comparable to some of the Phoenix accounts. So if you live in the Phoenix metro area, you may prefer these local deals.
Reward Checking Overview
For those not familiar with reward checking, the basic high-interest reward checking account is a free checking account with no monthly service charges. You are rewarded with a high interest rate if you meet monthly requirements. Most also reward you with ATM fee reimbursements if you use ATMs at other banks. Below are the typical rewards:
- Some top rate (2.00% is typical) for balances up to a cap ($25K is typical)
- Much lower rate (i.e. 0.25%) for the portion of the balance over the cap
- Tiny base rate if requirements are not met (i.e. 0.05%)
- ATM fee refunds up to a certain limit per month
The typical monthly requirements include:
- 10 to 20 debit card purchases
- At least one direct deposit or ACH transaction
- Receiving electronic statements
There are sometimes additional requirements such as logging into online banking at least once a month or performing online bill payments.
Reward checking has been under pressure from not only the ultra-low interest rate environment, but also from new regulations. However, the new regulations should not impact small banks and credit unions as much as the large banks, and this may allow reward checking to continue into the future. I have more discussion on reward checking accounts in my post 10 Common Traits of High-Yield Reward Checking Accounts.
Review of Phoenix Reward Checking Accounts
Below is a list of some of the best reward checking accounts that are available in the Phoenix metro area. All are free checking accounts even if you don't meet the monthly requirements. All have the typical reward checking monthly requirements which include 10 to 15 debit card purchases. Also, all require that you receive electronic statements. One even charges you a monthly fee if you want paper statements.
Rates accurate as of 8/31/2011:
- Arizona Bank & Trust's Cash Rewards Checking has a 3.03% APY for balances up to $20,000 and offers free ATM access nationwide. It has the highest rate of the Phoenix reward checking accounts, but the balance cap is lower than the others. Also, it requires the most work to qualify for this rate. The monthly requirements are 15 debit card purchases and at least one direct deposit. I first reported on this account in February 2008 when the top APY was 6.01% and it only required 12 debit card purchases per month. Branches are located in Phoenix, Chandler, Mesa, Tempe and Gilbert.
- Bank 1440's reward checking account is called Optimum Checking. It has a 2.01% APY for balances up to $25,000. ATM fees are refunded nationwide. The monthly requirements to qualify for this are 10 debit card purchases and one automatic payment or direct deposit. I first reported on this account in March 2009 when the top APY was 5.01%. Bank 1440 has two branches in Phoenix and Peoria.
- National Bank of Arizona's reward checking account is called Green Returns Checking. It has a 2.00% APY for balances up to $25,000, and offers free nationwide ATM access. The monthly requirements for this are 10 debit card purchases and one direct deposit or two ACH debits. You also must log in to online banking at least once per month. This is a fairly new account. We have only been tracking this account since this May. During this time the top APY has remained at 2.00%. National Bank of Arizona is one of the largest banks that offer reward checking accounts. It has 74 branches throughout the Phoenix metro area and throughout Arizona.
- Alhambra Credit Union's reward checking account is called Gold Star Checking. It has a 2.02% APY for balances up to $25,000. The monthly requirements include debit card usage, direct deposit and online bank access. We have only been tracking this account since last February when the top APY was 2.51%. This is a small credit union with two branches in Phoenix and Avondale. Membership into the credit union is primarily limited to employees, students, and parents of certain school districts. Please refer to the credit union's About page for the full membership details.
- Credit Union West's reward checking account is called Star Checking. With a top rate of 0.51% APY, it has the lowest rate among the Phoenix reward checking accounts. This rate appplies to balances up to $25,000. The account also provides reimbursements of ATM fees. The monthly requirements to qualify for this interest rate and ATM fee reimbursements are 10 debit card purchases and one direct deposit or ACH credit. I first reported on this account in May 2007 when the top APY was 6.01%. It's nice to see the account has survived for over 4 years, but as you can see in the rates, it's no longer a great deal. Anyone who lives, works, or worships in Maricopa or Yavapai County are eligible to join. Branches are located throughout the Phoenix metro area.
Finding Other Reward Checking Accounts
To find the best reward checking accounts in your area or that are available nationwide, please refer to our reward checking account table. Use the "Filter Accounts" button on top of the table to select either nationwide accounts and/or your state. Also, you can use this button to select the investment amount. This allows you to compare accounts with different rate tiers. For more details about how to use the rate tables, please refer to our rate table guide.