High-Interest Reward Checking at Arizona Bank & Trust


Update 6/14/2010: The top yield has fallen to 3.03% APY. Refer to the bottom of the post for the rate history.

Arizona Bank & Trust has a reward checking account called Cash Rewards Checking that pays 4.01% APY on balances up to $20,000 (1.01% for above) and refunds ATM fees (up to $20 per statement) if the following monthly requirements are met: 1) 15 signature-based debit card purchases, 2) one direct deposit, and 3) electronic statement delivery. If these are not met, the rate falls to 0.25%. There are no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees.

Update 5/21/08: Readers have reported that the bank no longer accepts applications from outside Arizona (As of 8/10/08, the website now states that they're accepting accounts only from its local service areas.) The bank also changed its policy regarding the maximum number of checking accounts allowed per household. The new limit is now 2.

I also asked once more about opening an account by mail. Last time they said new customers had to come into a branch. This time I was told that people in any state can open the account by mail (see 5/21/08 update above). Here's what's require. You first must provide them with basic personal information including your social security number and driver's license number. This can be done by phone. They will then mail you the account documents that will require your signature. Once the bank receives the signed documents and check, they'll open the account. Refer to their location page for phone numbers (Mesa office has a toll-free number).

Branches are located in the Phoenix metro area. The bank has been FDIC insured since 2003 (Certificate # 57620).

Other High Yield Reward Checking Accounts

For other reward checking accounts and for more information on these accounts, please refer to the following posts:

Thanks to the reader who mentioned this bank in the comments.

Rate History:
06/14/10: 3.03% APY up to $20K; 0.26% over; 0.05% base
03/30/09: 4.01% APY up to $20K; 1.01% over
12/06/08: 5.01% APY, 15/mo debit card purchases required. Previously opened accounts still get 6.01% APY guaranteed through April 1, 2009.
02/25/08: 6.01% APY up to $20K; 1.51% over; 12/mo debit card purchases required.

Edit 2/8/09: ACH debit is no longer listed as an alternative to direct deposit.
Related Pages: Arizona Bank & Trust, Phoenix, checking account, reward checking account

Bill in Ca
  |     |   Comment #1
I noticed it says "signature based" purchases with their debit card. Does this mean a purchase at a gas station where all you do at the pump is enter your zip code is not a qualifying purchase ? I guess the same would be true for a purchse where you enter your pin number? The only way I can see to make a "signature based" purchase would be to go inside the station and give them the card and say run it thru as a credit card so I can sign the receipt ?
  |     |   Comment #2
I know there's nothing special about entering the ZIP code when paying at the pump at a gas station. I use a cash back credit card, and always get that prompt.

A "signature-based transaction" is a transaction which goes through a credit card network, such as Visa or Master Card. There doesn't have to be a physical signature associated with the transaction.

You can use your debit card to make a signature-based transaction: just don't specify "debit" when given a choice between "credit" and "debit", and never enter your PIN. That should make it a signature-based transction.

If you use your debit card at a gas station, you don't indicate that's it's a debit card, and you don't enter your PIN, then I believe that it would be processed as a signature-based transaction.

Perhaps someone who has relevant experience could confirm this about using a debit card at the gas station pump.
  |     |   Comment #3
Banking guy,

I notice you've started using rc25 and rc50 labels for Reward Checking accounts at different cap levels. That's great. rc25 seams to indicate accounts through 25K, and rc50 seems to indicate accounts through 50K. I'm not sure it you've developed a 100K label yet.

For me, though, I'd find it more useful for labels with the following ranges:

Less than 25K
>= 25K, <>
>= 50K, <>
>= 100K

Perhaps others can give their opinions.
  |     |   Comment #4
Sadly, GLXPAS, there doesn't seem to be very many $50K to $100K balance caps (and no brand new ones at all). So, that list is going to be very, very small. And I would speculate that the very few Rewards Checking accounts left that have a balance cap of over $50,000 will eventually lower their cap, especially after they see that 99% of the other bank and CU Rewards accounts are $50K or less.

Oh, and when given the choice between debit and credit, always choose credit. This will guarantee your transaction will be accepted by your bank as an allowable debit. And this works with PayPal, as well. I tested it using PayPal, making sure I told PayPal to route the charge through the Visa network. I sent $1.00. My bank accepted the transaction as an allowable debit.
Stevenson From California
  |     |   Comment #5
Reward Checking was created by a company called BancVue, out of Austin, Texas:


They have sold this idea to many banks and credit unions across the country. It would be nice if we could get a list from them of institutions that have a $100,000 or more balance cap, because it might be difficult for Bank Guy to accumulate a thorough list. Why? Because there might be some smaller institutions that are for local people only that will offer a high balance cap.

I wonder if Bank Guy were to contact BancVue directly, maybe he could get a thorough list of banks? BancVue might say yes to Bank Guy in the hope of getting more people to put their money in Reward Checking. (This could only have the effect of making BancVue more successful.)

I wonder what Bank Guy thinks about my idea?

Thanks, Bank Guy
  |     |   Comment #6

There are certainly relatively few 50K+ caps out there for Reward Checking accounts, but they do exist, and I think it's worthwhile to separate them from the multitudes of accounts with lesser caps. Thanks for relating your experience with PayPal.

Stevenson, this is just a guess, but I'd be surprised if BancVue were willing to release a client list of any kind. It would be a form of free advertising for said clients. Also any client omitted from their list would probably feel discriminated against.
  |     |   Comment #7
Thanks to Banking Guy, I still get MORE than 5.xx% - and up to 6.01% on ALL of my money. This is truly amazing and mostly unheard of. Add on all the bonuses that Banking Guy has led me to. This is like having the gift of a second income.
Banking Guy
  |     |   Comment #8
I just started labeling the reward checking accounts based on balance caps. I started from the newest ones, and I stopped when I hit 2007. I'll try to add a little each day. Unfortunately, I haven't posted on any new ones this year with caps over $50K. Here's my $50K balance cap posts:

Reward Checking Accounts: caps over $25K to $50K

Most of these have $50K caps.

About contacting BancVue, I did contact them about a list of their clients who have launched reward checking accounts. A recent story on them indicates they now have 400 customers. Many of these banks may not advertise it on their websites so such a list from BancVue could be useful. I did hear back from them, but they did not provide such a list (perhaps for the reasons glxpass mentioned).
Stevenson From California
  |     |   Comment #9
Thank you so much, Bank Guy, for trying to contact Bancvue.

Too bad they wouldn't provide a comprehensive list.

You are so correct that out of the 400+ banks and credit unions that now offer some kind of reward checking account, some will not be easily publicized to people who might truly be looking to place their money immediately into these types of accounts with a high (or no) balance cap.

I know of two Credit Unions that have no balance cap at all and that have easy-to-manage terms:

Oregon Community Credit Union:



Southland Credit Union


Both require that one live in the local areas to join, so if you are one of the lucky ones that live in the right areas respective to these credit unions, these two are what might be considered the perfect rewards checking accounts.

So, I guess the best advice to people looking for a high or no balance cap is to hit their local phone book and call every credit union in their area to see what is available. (And then send an email to Bank Guy if they find success.)

I have not yet found a bank or CU with no balance cap that anyone in the country can join.

Thanks again, Bank Guy!
Banking Guy
  |     |   Comment #10
One interesting note about Oregon Community CU (see post) is that its rate has dropped from 6.01% to 5.05% APY in the last year. I don't think any reward checking accounts without caps have been able to maintain 6% yields.

There's an easier way to find all of your local credit unions. I did a post on it here. This Credit Union National Association CU Locator provides all of your local credit unions.
Michael of Orange County, CA
  |     |   Comment #11
Bank Guy, you are so thorough.

Thank you!

Appreciated the link to making it easier to find local credit unions.

You are absolutely correct (as usual) about the fact that if a bank or CU had a "no cap" policy, their rate will be lower. But as long as the no cap stayed in place, being able to deposit more money would make up for the approx. 1% lower rate. (Of course, if that 5% rate was eventually lowered, or a cap instituted, the account would be a lot less worthwhile.)

Bank Guy, you seem to be the hardest working man in the "Banking Blog" business!

Thank you,

  |     |   Comment #12
Thank you so much for this post. I went in and signed up for an account today. Two things that I really like about this account -- the rate is guaranteed until April 2009. So long as you meet the requirements, that's a guaranteed 6.01% interest rate for an entire year! And also, you can do either direct deposit or auto bill pay, which is great for those of us (i.e. students) who aren't able to do direct deposit. Overall, I'm very happy with this account.
Banking Guy
  |     |   Comment #13
Heather, thanks for the info. First time I read about a bank guaranteeing their reward checking rate that long. It's a good way to convince people that the rate is not just a short term teaser rate.
  |     |   Comment #14
Is anybody concerned about this bank's low ratings at bankrate.com? CAEL is 5 and bankrate.com's stars is only 1 star (both the lowest possible). I understand it is FDIC insured, but should this worry me? Also, is the guaranteed 6.01% for one year in writing anywhere (either on the website or in the application/account materials)? I'm ready to open an account, but am slightly hesitant.
  |     |   Comment #15
Arizona Bank & Trust will allow you to open an account by mail. You can contact the main branch directly at 480-844-4550.
  |     |   Comment #16
As for the banks rating being a concern: when looking into the bank you find that this bank's parent company is Heartland Financial- based out of Iowa. Arizona Bank & Trust is a young bank in Arizona but their financial backing comes from their parent company. There should be no concern on the rating at bankrate.com.
The bank is FDIC insured as well.
  |     |   Comment #17
is there a hardpull for opening this account?
  |     |   Comment #18
They customer service rep said they use ChexSystems. The rep also stated the paperwork for the account will need to be signed and notarized. The phone number to call as listed on their web site is (480) 844-4500 or (888) 906-4500. The one listed in a previous comment is a fax number.
  |     |   Comment #19
As of 5/20/08 the promotion was changed to Arizona residents only
  |     |   Comment #20
And there's now a maximum of two accounts per household.
Banking Guy
  |     |   Comment #21
Thanks elliot and glxpass for the updates.

Elliot, do you mean the April-2009 rate guarantee is now limited to Arizona residents or the checking account is now limited to Arizona residents?
  |     |   Comment #22
It's the latter. AB&T has reverted to their former policy of allowing only residents of Arizona to open this account, effective yesterday.
  |     |   Comment #23
Glad I already have my account then, cause that means I'm locked in at 6% for at least a year. Sweet!
  |     |   Comment #24
Does anybody know when it will show the correct interest rate when you login? Mine still says 0.25%. I had it set-up before June 1st, but haven't make all 12 of my purchases yet. Will it update after the 12 purchases or at the end of the month? I'd hate to get to the end of the month and find out I didn't get the full 6.01%! Thanks.
  |     |   Comment #25
Cash Rewards Checking accounts opened after January 1, 2009 will earn 5.01% APY. Previously opened accounts still get 6.01% APY guaranteed through April 1, 2009.

Also starting January 1, 2009 the debit card requirement increases from 12 to 15 transactions per month.
  |     |   Comment #26
Correct me, but I see no requirement for ACH auto debit, just direct deposit.
(Excluding that one tiny overlooked question in the FAQ section.)
Banking Guy
  |     |   Comment #27
Interesting how many of these reward checking accounts are removing the ACH debit/auto payment as an alternative to direct deposit. Wonder if ACH debits really don't qualify, or if they are being discouraged. Perhaps they don't think those ACH debits are sticky enough.
  |     |   Comment #28
The top rate seems to have dropped to 4.01% APY. [The lower-positioned 5.01% APY numbers have not yet been updated as of this date.]
  |     |   Comment #29
I signed up shortly after you first listed AZ B&T on your blog last year. I have been enjoying their 6.01% interest rate, even though I am in Ohio. Today I received a letter in the mail stating that they are closing all out-of-state accounts as of July 1st. They will send a check for any open balances. Very disappointing as I had gotten very good service from them, I had even gotten a birthday card personally hand signed by all the employees. You don't get that from the big banks. I will miss doing business with them.
Banking Guy
  |     |   Comment #30
Thanks for the info. Sorry to see this move by the bank. It's the first time that I've seen a bank actually close out-of-state accounts. Hope others don't follow this example.
  |     |   Comment #31
I wonder if this move has something to do with the bank's regulators? We saw that New Frontier Bank dropped its award checking rate to 1.22% a few months before it was closed by the FDIC. Maybe the bank is being ordered to shed high-interest deposit accounts to improve its financial standing?
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