Best High Interest Reward Checking Account Rates

Published 4/8/09 (Modified 3/8/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

Updated Review Of High Yield Reward Checking Account Deals Below

Remarkably, despite a struggling economy and lower interest rates across the board, high yield reward checking accounts are still touting bank rates as high as 5.50% APY in certain locales. At their peak, the best reward checking account offers were topping off at an astounding 6.00-6.50% APY. Definitely nothing to sneeze at. However, before I get started on my usual long winded blog post about the financial possibilities and benefits of high yield reward checking accounts, let me say a few things up front. No, you're not going to be able to roll your interest rate earnings into a mint or become a millionaire overnight. But if used properly in tandem with other interest chasing pursuits, high interest checking accounts have the potential to really give your otherwise idle savings a big boost. The associated interest rates with these special bank reward checking accounts are often higher than the top savings account rates, the best money market rates, and even the highest bank CD rates.

Demand A Higher Interest Rate For Your Checking Account Cash

Personally, I don't usually keep a ton of money in my checking account to begin with, preferring to stash them in hassle free high interest producing assets like savings accounts and certificate of deposits. However, because check writing and convenient ATM access are still daily necessities in quite a few situations (example: not all apartment landlords allow tenants to pay their rent via credit card), most of us are still pressed into keeping a sizable amount around for such purposes. But unless you have a better storage solution for your on-demand cash, you might as well milk the most out of it while waiting for such checks to clear.

The vast majority of people don't actually realize how pitifully low their checking account interest rates really are, particularly if they have accounts with big name banks like Citibank, Bank of America, or Wells Fargo. Despite their instant brand recognition, these popular banking institutions are notorious for shelling out ridiculously low rates - frequently only offering pennies on the dollar - in the neighborhood of 0.05% - 0.25%. With the way most banking transactions and bill payments are made online these days and with the way most online banks are offering reimbursements of customer ATM fees, there is no need to tolerate such paltry token interest payments any longer. A growing number of online banks and credit unions in out of the way places are leading the charge when it comes to offering its customers competitively high interest rates in exchange for their bank checking business.

However, to get those top high yield reward checking account rates - there is a catch - several in fact. Reward checking accounts often demand much more stringent and active account maintenance requirements than other bank account types like savings and even money market accounts. Most of the highest paying reward checking accounts require users to engage in fairly heavy debit card usage and agree to certain direct deposit activity pre-conditions - all designed to instill customer loyalty with that particular bank. Many of those hassling requirements are discussed in greater detail below, but fear not - most if not all can be overcome and easily met with some practical adjustments in your daily banking practices and changes in your tool of choice when making card based purchases.

List Of The Best Banks With High Interest Reward Checking Account Offers

Bank/Credit Union
APY Rate Maximum Balance
First State Bank 5.03% $25,000
Bank2 5.01% $25,000
Focus Bank 4.51% $25,000
First Arkansas Bank & Trust 4.44% $50,000
Olmsted National Bank 4.11% $25,000
Coulee Bank 4.04% $25,000
Heartland Community Bank 4.02% $30,000
Farmers & Merchants Bank 4.01% $50,000
Charter Bank 4.01% $25,000
Bank of the Wichitas 4.00% $10,000
AmericaNet Bank 4.00% $10,000
Evantage Bank 4.00% $10,000
First New England Fed Credit Union 3.65% $15,000
First City Bank 3.51% $50,000
Malvern Federal Savings Bank 3.50% $35,000
Connexus Credit Union 3.21% $25,000
CBDirect Bank 3.00% $250,000

Meeting Reward Checking Account Requirements To Get The Highest Rate

Compared to savings accounts, bank CD deposits, and money markets - checking accounts, with all of their unlimited check writing privileges and unlimited ACH transfer benefits, are much more expensive for banks to operate and maintain. High yield checking accounts compensate for the extra cost of offering higher interest rates by requiring reward checking account holders to jump through extra complex debit account activity hoops and to satisfy higher monthly maintenance thresholds - in the hopes of turning them into loyal and dependent banking customers.

The requirements for each high yield reward checking account differs from program to program, but typically, certain requirements must all be met for the customer to maintain the highest premium interest rate yield. If���� all of the requirements are not met, the customer falls into a lower earning reward checking tier. Some of these requirements include a certain number of debit card usages per month, mandatory participation in online bill pay and direct deposit, and maintenance of a certain minimum monthly balance.

One thing you'll notice among these high yield reward checking account offers is that most of the headaches and trickiness associated with their use are focused around the debit card transaction requirements. Many reward checking accounts require at least 10 or more debit card transactions a month to continue receiving the highest interest rate. Because not everyone is a habitual user of debit cards, it's not always easy ditching the reward credit cards in favor of bank debit check cards. Ultimately, the banks that offer these lucrative checking account packages make money by profiting off of the debit card transaction fees and other charges that they hope you will accrue and rack up over time.

When it comes to meeting the debit card usage requirement, you certainly have options at your disposal. One is to simply use your bank debit card for all of your daily purchases and transactions as you would normally use your credit cards for. Another option is to purchase a large number of small denominational items (25 cent or $1.00 candies for example) once a month and spend a few moments at the self checkout aisle at your neighborhood supermarket and swipe each item in as separate debit card purchases - up to the required monthly number necessary.

Another interesting way to meet the debit card transaction limit is to make multiple debit card powered PayPal donations to charities of your choice up to the required number of debit card transactions. With minimum donations of $1.00 each, you should be able to hit your limit with ease. Not only does your chosen charity get a few bucks worth of donations, you get your high interest rate yield, along with payments that are also deductible as charitable donations come tax time (essentially hitting 3 birds with 1 stone).

Local Banks Are More Convenient, But Nationwide Online Banks Offer Better Deals For High Interest Reward Checking

In terms of ATM and branch accessibility, the emergence of ATM fee reimbursement programs and improved online customer support have greatly closed the gap between online banks and brick and mortar institutions. However, with all things considered, it's generally still a better idea to go with a local bank or credit union whenever possible, particularly when it comes to checking accounts. Unlike savings accounts and CD's which tend to see much more limited transactional activity in comparison, checking accounts are by their very nature, much more heavily used on a day to day basis.���� Because of their heavy involvement in ATM withdraws, deposits, check writing, and bill payment activity, they are more likely to demand a greater degree of customer service attention than more static savings based accounts. In the area of dispute resolution, it's almost always better to have the option of speaking to a live customer service rep face to face at a local branch, than trying to explain your problem solely through email or phone.

However, it's a trade off. What you lose in the way of convenience with an online-only or out-of-state bank, you are likely to gain back in the way of much higher interest rate yields for your willingness to accept a measure of inconvenience. Remember, the best reward checking account offers are not always found with banks that are locally based. Many of the best offers are found with fully FDIC insured banks that are frankly no names and located in the booniest of boonies.

Disclaimer: Discover is a paid advertiser of this site.
Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the Discover online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards.

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27 Responses to “Best High Interest Reward Checking Account Rates” 

  1. Raymond says:

    Annie,

    You are correct...the vast number of charities out there do not accept PayPal payments because of the Paypal fees involved, and furthermore, many only accept check or credit card payment for donation purposes - debit cards are frequently not accepted.

    However, there are a few charity intermediaries out there that do indeed accept PayPal charitable donations and allow online users to direct their donated funds towards specific good will charities. Check out the following short list of charities and charitable organizations that do accept Paypal payments.

    1) Network For Good
    2) Charity Navigator

    If anybody else knows of any other charity or charitable go between organization that accepts PayPal debit card payments, please list them for everyone's benefit. Thanks!

  2. James says:

    Actually, I have not had a problem transferring money out or into the account. I transfer enough money into the account to cover the expenses for the month when added to the interest. Technically, I nearly live off the interest received from the account - it pays for gas, groceries and lunch. I add another $50 each month in case I go over the interest gained. If the extra money grows over $500, I remove it (has not happened except once)

  3. annie says:

    Thank you, Raymond. Network For Good is an excellent site, it had all my organizations in one place. Perfect. I know they do take a 4% or so cut, but it's totally worth it. Thank you so much for the information. Greatly appreciated.

  4. Raymond says:

    For the benefit of other readers....Network For Good is sort of an intermediary between the donation contributor and the charity. You purchase "Good Cards" and direct the funds to be sent to the charity of your choice. Like Annie mentioned, they do deduct a fee for their services but for those looking to make their donation payments via PayPal (debit card or credit), it's one of the few options available out there. Charity Navigator is also another great and recommended online charity management service to use.

  5. Kelly says:

    These accounts are a great option. I definitely recommend the account from Coulee Bank. @ 5.01%. It's all about finding a bank you can trust, rather than an account you can trust.

  6. Garrett says:

    Can someone provide me a list or at least a name of an online bank with national nation wide presence that offers free check deposits from home. I've heard of banks that offer this service where they give you a check scanning machine to allow business owners the ability to scan checks for deposit from home without having to constantly visit a bank branch of ATM machine.

  7. Raymond says:

    Garrett,

    Lots of these nationally available reward checking account banks offer features that include the ability to make check deposits from home. Check out First City Bank. They offer a very intriguing Express Deposit gadget that customers can utilize from the comforts of home to make checking account deposits without having to physically visit a bank branch office or ATM.

  8. Andrea says:

    I would like to know how to keep the balance right under the balance requirement if we were getting the higher interest rate. I understand that 10ATM transactions must be fulfill and we may send in a personal check as direct deposit{?}. I plan on opening one of them and it is not going to be the primary checking acct that I will be using daily. I mainly need the high rate of return since I am getting ready to retire. Thanks

  9. Raymond says:

    Andrea,

    I'm not entirely clear on what exactly you are asking...but the 10 transaction requirement that many of these reward checking accounts impose is related to the debit card use as it relates to actual purchase transactions. I assume when you refer to the "10 ATM transactions" you are referring to that and not merely ATM transactions as it relates to ordinary ATM deposits and withdrawals.

    In terms of keeping your bank account balance below the maximum allotted limit for the maximum checking interest rate offered, my advice is to simply monitor your accounts extra closely or set up some type of automatic email or phone text system that alerts you when your balance falls or exceeds a certain threshold. There are banks that offer this type of alerting service for their account customers.

    Another idea is to go with a high yield reward checking account that offers a very high maximum balance. Take a look at the chart above...there is at least one online bank that offers a maximum limit at the highest APY interest rate up to $250,000. It's interest rate yield isn't the highest compared to its competitors, but it has the highest max balance limit of any.

  10. Jill B. says:

    Your website needs updating. Many of the rates have changed. Wichita, Olmsted, and Evantage are only paying 4%.

  11. Dan says:

    The listed high yield rates appear to be accurate as of July 2009...pretty impressive! 5.00% and 4.00% APY rates?! That's amazing for bank rates at this time. Too bad the debit card usage requirements makes the reward checking accounts rather difficult to maintain however. I guess that's the catch - there's always that naggy catch.

  12. Red Beck Banker says:

    I just found a funny new bank...maybe not new but the name was certainly new to me - Red Neck Bank - http://www.redneckbank.com/

    Is this online bank for real or is it some April Fool's prank? Instead of an image of a banking customer or something, the bank features a laughing horse with its gums exposed on the website. The website is funny but the very competitive and attractive 4.00% APY interest rate is no laughing matter. It seems legit - FDIC insurance coverage etc. Does anyone have a checking or savings account account there? Thinking of setting up any account just for the weirdness factor..heh

  13. Dena says:

    I am have been interested in finding one of these high interest checking accounts. Some that I have seen you have to be within a certain distance from the bank. Do you know of any by Chicago or without distance restrictions with a good return?

  14. Peggy says:

    Can you transfer money out of one bank using bill pay into another bank therefore having it appear as a direct deposit? Will that satisfy the 1 direct deposit as required?

    Any ideas on how to generate various ACH's? I already have my phone bill, my electric bill and my water bill as ACH's at different institutions to satisfy the ACH requirement on their rewards checking accounts. I am running out of ideas on how to meet the ACH or direct deposit requirement. I don't know if my regular longtime bank (Chase) evens allows transfers to other banks without charging. Any ideas?

  15. Henry says:

    For Dena: There is a long list in ILL. from highyieldchecking, several 5% offers. Good luck.

    For Peggy: Yes, for most banks. Some actually need payroll DD. So it is YMMV; find out for your own case. Some will accept their own Billpay as DD requirement. To help you out: 1. Use utility bills: pay $1.00, $1.01, etc. to all your RCAs. 2. Use banks such as Ally to do ACHs, they usually count. 3. Use RCA banks to transfer amongst themselves; e.g., Bank A --> Bank 2; this will usually meet requirements for both. Make sure you do more than one in case some transfers do not count. Good luck.

  16. Henry says:

    FAB&T changed rate to 3.5% as of 3 November and limit to $35K/one account only as of 2 December; FYI.

    This account is out of the door since there remains many RCAs above the nominal 4% APY.

  17. Henry says:

    And Charter is at an amazing 1.25% APY, with an increased $50K limit; only one debit transaction is required.

    What were they thinking??

  18. Rick says:

    Two more banks to add to the list are Tri Counties Bank, Modesto, CA paying 3% on checking and Bank of the Sierras paying 4.51% on checking. I have experience with both and they are as advertised.

    Rick

  19. Henry says:

    BotS dropped rate (now 4.09%) right after the Bank Deals site broadcast (as best RCA in the nation). Luckily, the drop is "tolerable." I am still staying with them.

  20. Fern says:

    Hi; On the high rate checking can anyone tell me which bank has the highest rates at the time for nationalwide?
    Fern

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