In the last couple of weeks I've been taking new looks at some of the old reward checking accounts that continue to be good deals and nationally available. Today's updated review is on the reward checking account at Lake Michigan Credit Union (LMCU) which it calls Max Checking. I first reviewed this account in August 2007 when it had a 5% APY. The rate has fallen, but it remains competitive for reward checking accounts. Max Checking has the following rates and features if certain monthly requirements are met (as of 5/14/2012):
- 3.00% APY on balances up to $15,000
- 0.00% APY on portion of balance over $15,000
- Refunds up to $15 per month in surcharge ATM withdrawal fees at non-LMCU ATMs
The monthly requirements include:
- 10 debit card purchases
- 4 logins to home banking
- Direct deposit
- receive eStatements and eNotices
Max Checking has no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements. Many readers have provided their experiences of this account and credit union in this discussion thread. A credit union representative has also answered questions in this thread.
Max Checking has changed little since I reported on it 5 years ago. Only the rate has changed (down from 5%). It still has a balance cap of $15K, and the same debit card usage requirement. It also still has that strange login requirement. The few institutions to require a login to qualify for the higher rate usually only require one login per month. This is the only institution that I can remember that requires 4 monthly logins. It's easy to do, but it's also easy to forget if you're busy.
Application and Eligibility
Another nice aspect of this checking account is that you can apply online, and membership in the credit union is open to all who are donors to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association, West Michigan Chapter. When you click on the "Sign up for Max" button in the credit union's Max Checking page, it'll provide a link for new members. That link takes you to an online application for new accounts. The first page of the new-account application requires you to select how you qualify for membership. If you live in Michigan, you can probably select the option which lists dozens of Michigan counties. If you don't live, work, worship or attend school in one of these counties, you can qualify by donating to the ALS Association of Michigan. This is the second option, It even provides a link to a donation form for this association. Minimum donation is $5.
For full details about qualifying for membership, please refer to the credit union's field of membership page.
Credit Union Overview
LMCU is a large credit union with 34 locations in West Michigan and almost $2.42 billion in assets.
The credit union has an overall health score at DepositAccounts.com of 5 stars (out of 5) with a Texas ratio of 6.74% (excellent) based on December 2011 data. Please refer to our financial overview of LMCU for more details. The credit union is federally insured by the NCUA (Charter # 62514).
How This Reward Checking Account Compares
The 3% APY makes this very competitive for reward checking accounts in today's interest rate environment. However, the $15K balance cap is a downside. If you want a $25K balance cap, the best rate at an all-access credit union is 2.52% APY at ABCO Federal Credit Union. This rate and balance cap are accurate as of 5/14/2012.
There are reward checking accounts with higher rates in some parts of the country. To find the highest reward checking rates in your area, please refer to our reward checking rate table. This can also be used to find accounts available nationwide. If you're new to these tables, my rate table guide should be useful.
If you're new to reward checking, my blog post, 10 Common Traits of High-Yield Reward Checking, should be useful.