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US Bank's New Savings START Program and Review of Other Savings Programs


US Bank has started a new program to encourage saving called S.T.A.R.T. (Savings Today And Rewards Tomorrow). The promotion page is located at usbank.com/start. It's similar to Wachovia's Way2Save program and Bank of America's Keep The Change program in that it's designed to encourage the average American to save more. Like these two programs, the amount you can make in the START program is limited. Here's how the START program works:

First, open a checking and savings account as part of the US Bank Five Star Banking Package

Second, set up one or more of the following qualifying transfer options from the checking to the savings account:
  • set up automatic transfers from the checking to savings account (minimum of $25/month), OR
  • $1 transfer from checking to savings for each US Bank Check Card purchase ($25 limit per month), OR
  • $1 transfer from checking to savings for each US Bank Credit Card purchase ($25 limit per month)
There's also an optional Savings Accelerator which you can have FlexPerks Cash Rewards automatically transferred to your savings account each month.

The rewards include:
  • $50 US Bank Visa Rewards Card when your savings balance reaches $1,000
  • $50 US Bank Visa Rewards Card when you maintain a balance of $1,000 or more in your account for one year
I called their toll-free number (800-720-2265) and spoke with a CSR about this program. According to the CSR, you could make an initial $1,000 deposit to qualify for the first $50 rewards card. Then you would just have to maintain a minimum balance of $1,000 for a year and maintain the monthly transfers to qualify for the second $50 rewards card. The automatic transfers from the checking to savings would be the easiest.

Unlike Wachovia's Way2Save program, there's no incentive to go beyond $1,000. I was told the current savings account rate is only 0.10%. On the plus side, I was told there are no monthly fees associated with the checking or savings account.

If you type your zip code in the promotion page, you can determine if you live near a participating branch. There doesn't appear to be many of them even if you have a US Bank branch in your state. I've read that this is a new program that hasn't been rolled out to all branches. However, the CSR said that anyone in the nation can apply by phone. According to the CSR, a hard credit pull will be done in the application process.

Credit for this find goes to FW member dmlavigne1 who mentioned it in this FW thread. Note, one FW member mentioned being told by a US Bank rep that you have to be careful that the new accounts get tagged with the START label to ensure you get the bonuses. You may want to wait for the START program to be officially rolled out nationwide later this year.

Other Savings Programs

Wachovia (now part of Wells Fargo) has its Way2Save program which has the potential to earn more than this START program. Refer to my Way2Save account review for more details.

Bank of America has its Keep the Change program. Unlike the other two programs, you'll need to make a lot of debit card purchases for the KTC program to pay off.

Capital One has just started it's own savings program called Smart Cents which is very similar to BofA's KTC program (I'll be covering this in a separate post soon).

Are These Savings Programs Worthwhile?

These programs can be used in one of two ways. First is to use them to help you to become a regular saver. However, you have to make sure that you're careful with the debit card features of these programs. A few overdrafts can be costly. This post at WalletPop has a good discussion of this issue. For those looking for help with basic savings, SmartyPig may be a better option (see post).

The other way is to use them like a checking account bonus or a high-yield low-cap CD. For these cases, the money you put in will be small (under $10K), but the return will be much better than what it would earn in an online savings account or CD. The result will be similar to what you get from a checking account bonus. For example, in Wachovia's Way2Save program, you could put in $1200 (over one year) and easily earn about $80 more than what you could earn in an online savings account (see post).

This is similar to the high-yield low-cap CDs that some banks and credit unions offer. In these cases, you can get a very high CD rate (like 7%) but the maximum deposit is small (like $1,000). I list several of these in my survey of high-yield low-cap CDs and savings accounts. Patelco Credit Union's 7% 1-year CD and People's Trust FCU's 5% 5-month CD are still available. There's also a 12% 12-month CD at Premier America Credit Union (see post).
Related Pages: savings account

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  |     |   Comment #1
FYI - Patelco's 1 year new member CD has dropped to 5% now.
  |     |   Comment #2
Southern Commerce Bank in Florida only opens CD accounts in a branch. Therefore, no out of state applications are accepted. If you have spoken to someone who will open a CD over the telephone or online, please advise through this blog.
Banking Guy
  |     |   Comment #3
Thanks for the info on Southern Commerce Bank in Florida. I've updated my last post on this bank with this info.

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