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PerkStreet Financial Review – Setting Themselves Apart with Cash Back Debit Card & Rewards Checking

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At a Glance
perkstreet financial logo
/ 5
Rating

perkstreet financial logoI recently decided to check out the website PerkStreet Financial, an online bank which offers a lot of things that you really won’t find anywhere else.

In this day and age, there are a wide variety of places that you can put your money, including a huge number of online banks. PerkStreet does a great job of setting themselves apart from most other online banking websites.

Features and Benefits

PerkStreet offers a checking account which is pretty much free. Here are the high points of what it has to offer:

  • $25 to open the account
  • No minimum balance
  • Free checks
  • No monthly fees, when you use your account
  • Free online banking and bill pay
  • Nation’s largest “free” ATM network
  • 24/7 customer support, live and fast
  • Unique debit card offering 1% cash back, or free coffee or music
  • Sign up takes five minutes
  • Fraud protection

The Breakdown

For the features and benefits that are not self explanatory, I’d like to go into a little more detail as to what they really mean. There are no monthly fees WHEN you use your account. What that basically means is that if you don’t use your account in a particular month, then they will assess your account a $4.50 inactivity fee. What they consider “activity” is a debit card transaction, writing a check, making a deposit or withdrawal, or using online Bill Pay. Also, I dug into the fine print pretty deeply and, fortunately, I wasn’t able to find much in terms of “sneaky fees” with PerkStreet.

Their ATM network has over 37,000 branches, which they state is the largest in the country.

They also offer free overnight delivery if you deposit money through the mail at UPS and Mailboxes Etc. locations.

Rewards

Most debit cards do not even have rewards programs. PerkStreet does and their rewards program is really quite unique. As I said, they are trying to set themselves apart from all the other online banking sites and all the other reward programs, and they really do a pretty good job of it. Their debit card offers a rewards program that can range from 1%-2%. If your account balance is $5,000 or less, you earn 1%. If it’s more than $5,000, then you earn 2%. They also offer 5% when you shop at certain retailers. The participating retailers are announced periodically, and it you don’t need to “sign up” for this aspect of the rewards program. Keep in mind that the purchases that qualify for rewards are all non-PIN debit card purchases, so make sure you don’t use your PIN when purchasing (choose “credit” at the checkout machine even though it’s essentially the same thing as “debit”). There is no limit to the amount of rewards that you can earn and these rewards can be redeemed in less than 60 seconds.

Cash, Coffee or Music

They also have some very unique features to the reward program itself. They offer the option of cash back, which you really don’t find with many debit cards. Now, when you get down to it, it’s really not CASH back. The reward will come to you in the way of a gift card which is essentially cash. The options are a Visa gift card, or a gift card to a variety of retailers. With their other reward options, you can either get free music or free coffee. This part alone was enough to get me interested in this site. Not that I am a huge coffee or music fan, but the fact that they offer a rewards program that seems so “out of the box.” So if you are a huge coffee fan you can redeem your reward for a gift card to a variety of coffeehouses. And yes, Starbucks is included. Or you can get your reward in a gift card to a variety of music sites. And yes, iTunes is included.

Fees and Fine Print

A scouring of the fees and the fine print on the site yielded the following. They have the inactivity fee that I mentioned before, plus all the standard overdraft fees and so forth. The only other fee I found of interest, which must be one of the newer wrinkles that the banking industry has cooked up, is a “research” fee. Basically, it sounds like if they have to research anything when you make an inquiry, they could charge you an hourly fee for it. But it sounds like they limit that to cases involving the IRS, legal requests and so on (most likely not applicable to you). They also have a fee if you use your debit card outside of the PerkStreet network which again is fairly widespread.

“The Company” Website Section

Most sections of this nature on banking websites are filled with the same old boring stuff. A list of the higher ups with their pictures, and the same old mumbo jumbo. I found PerkStreet’s “Company” section to be different and refreshing. Check it out for yourself because it contains some good information, but here are a few quick excerpts:

  • “We believe that banks should align their goals with their customer’s best interests…”
  • “We serve people who manage their money responsibly…who prefer to bank using their computers and ATMs…(and) who believe that positive change in banking can happen and choose to be a part of it.”

These are some things that you probably wouldn’t have heard from a bank in recent years. I think it shows that PerkStreet realizes what has happened to the reputations of banks in general, and that they are dedicated to their customers and are trying to regain the public’s trust.

Their Blog

As always, I had to check out their blog. And honestly, it’s one of the better ones that I’ve read in awhile. The content there is excellent, they have fresh new posts almost daily, and they even offer quite a few “guest” posts with unique content. It resembles a personal finance blog in a lot of ways so if you decide to check it out, you can find content there that is not strictly related to banking.

The Other Side

And also, you know I had to dig deep to see what, if any, “dirt” I could find on PerkStreet. That was quite a task, as there really wasn’t much of any. I looked longer and harder than I have for most other reviews that I have done, and I really couldn’t find any.

I found a few complaints regarding the payment of a $100 bonus offer that they ran awhile back (delay in payment) and that was really about it. And I had to dig to find that. Everything else out there in the way of reviews and so forth was extremely positive.

Final Word

My final word is that if I were looking for an online bank to put my money in, I would definitely consider PerkStreet. They seem truly committed to long term high quality customer service, they have a rewards program that most debit cards don’t even offer, and they could not make the process of signing up, redeeming rewards, or online banking in general any simpler.

Keep in mind that debit card transactions generally not do anything to build your credit portfolio, so if this is one of the things you’re trying to accomplish, you’ll have to go elsewhere. Other than that, I think PerkStreet has really set themselves apart from most online banks as well as most rewards programs.

Are you a member of PerkStreet Financial? Or another online bank that may be better? Or worse?  Please share below!

Verdict
perkstreet financial logo
/ 5
Rating

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

Comments Disclosure: The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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