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3.50% Reward Checking Account at Venture Bank Direct


Update 6/15/09: Per the bank's website "Wise Choice Checking is no longer being offered for new customers. Existing accounts will continue to be serviced."

Venture Bank Direct just introduced a reward checking account called Wise-Choice Checking that's available nationwide. The good news is that this is another internet bank is offering reward checking. The bad news is the rate is only 3.50% APY. Update: As of 3/28/09, this reward checking rate is higher than their online savings account rate which is currently 1.43% APY (originally 3.60%).

To earn the 3.50% APY on balances up to $25,000 (1% for above) and to receive refunds of ATM fees, the typical reward checking monthly requirements must be met:
  • 10 VISA check card purchases
  • one direct deposit or automatic debit
  • receive e-Statements
If these are not met, the rate falls to 0.25%. The minimum initial deposit is $100. There are no minimum balance requirements and no monthly fees. Checks are not free, but I was told that you can choose to decline checks in the application.

If you're not already a Venture Bank Direct savings account customer, you’ll automatically open a Wise-Choice Savings account when you apply for the checking account. I was told that there is no hard credit pull for either accounts. Only the savings account can be used to initiate ACH bank-to-bank transfers. Refer to my Venture Bank Direct savings account review for details about this account and its transfer features.

The Wise-Choice Checking rate is low for a reward checking account, but perhaps they set it with anticipation of a falling interest rate environment. If they keep this rate unchanged, it may unfortunately be competitive 6 months from now. On the other hand, they may intend for the checking to remain below the savings account yield. If that's the case, the reward checking account will only be useful as a free checking account. The reward checking features could come in handy if you're writing large checks and want to continue to earn high interest during the time the checks are outstanding or if you're using ATMs a lot.

Financial/FDIC Review

Venture Bank Direct is part of Venture Bank which is based in Washington State. Since my first review of Venture Bank Direct, Venture Bank's financial ratings for soundness have gone down. It now has a rating of 1 star (troubled) at BauerFinancial and 1 star (lowest) at Bankrate. Both ratings are based on 9/30/08 data. In my first review in August, it had a 3.5-star rating at BauerFinancial and a 2-star rating at Bankrate. These were based on 3/31/08 data.

This Olympian news article reported that Venture Bank's parent announced a record loss for the third quarter. Company officials attributed the bulk of the loss to an investment in preferred shares of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Venture Bank has been FDIC insured since 1979 (FDIC Certificate # 22868). This can be confirmed at this FDIC page. Note, only the main bank's URL is listed (venture-bank.com) at the FDIC page. I've contacted Venture Bank by using the contact information at this URL, and I've confirmed that venturebankdirect.com is operated by Venture Bank.

Thanks to the reader who emailed me news of this new checking account.

Other Reward Checking Accounts

Last Saturday I reported on a new internet bank that is also offering a reward checking account, and unlike this one, it's paying a rate much higher than online savings account rates (5.25% APY as of 12/16/08). Refer to my nationwide reward checking table for others that can be opened without a branch visit. Note, many of these require mailing in forms and copies of IDs. For the list of all available reward checking accounts, please refer to the front page of my High Yield Checking website.

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Anonymous   |     |   Comment #1
Wise Choice Savings is listed now at 3.30%.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #2
Per their web page:

"Wise Choice Checking is no longer being offered for new customers."