PerkStreet Financial Review: Free Online Checking Account

by Stacey Doyle on Debt, Credit and Loans

PerkStreet Financial offers a free online checking account with a Visa debit card and “perks”. You can earn from 1% to 5% cash back, coffee or music incentives when you use your PerkStreet Financial debit card to pay for purchases. From what I’ve seen, I feel that they offer something beyond your traditional checking account.

What Do You Get From PerkStreet Financial?

The PerkStreet Financial debit card is issued by the Bancorp Bank. Like with other bank accounts, your deposits are FDIC insured up to $250,000. There is also fraud protection through the Visa Zero Liability policy. I did notice that there were exceptions under that policy. They include ATM transactions, PIN transactions that are not processed by Visa and certain commercial card transactions.

PerkStreet Financial states that they have the nation’s largest surcharge-free ATM network through STARfs. They promise that they are likely to have more local ATMs than any other bank, with a total of 37,000. If you use an ATM outside the network, it will cost you $2.

To sign up for a PerkStreet Financial Checking Account and Visa Debit Card, please visit this link.

I did notice many of the ATMs were at gas stations and convenience stores. This can be both a good and a bad thing. Most of these locations are open for extended hours or for 24 hours. However, safety considerations are a priority when you bank at a gas station or convenience store environment. There are also ATMs at Target and Costco, which can be a busy environment.

ATMs were also located at pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens, which are often quieter. It is also convenient to have access to your cash in places where you might pick up an emergency prescription. Common sense is key when choosing a free ATM location displaying the STARfs logo.

How Does A PerkStreet Financial Checking Account Work?

Deposits are made to your checking account in several ways. You can deposit checks by standard mail using a postage-paid envelope. You can mail a check at one of 3,400 Mailboxes, Etc. and UPS locations to get free overnight delivery. Your paychecks can be direct deposited. Online transfers can be made between your PerkStreet account and outside accounts. You can also make deposits at certain ATM locations.

You get your first checkbook free when you open your account. You can order additional checkbooks for a fee. Checks are written from your account, just like with any other checking account. Internet banking makes it easy to pay bills, find an ATM, see transaction history, check your balance, transfer money and set up mobile alerts to stay updated. You can withdraw $500 daily from an ATM. You’re allowed a maximum of $1,500 in transactions daily, unless you contact PerkStreet. Customer service is available 24/7 at a toll-free number.

Are There Fees For A PerkStreet Financial Account?

There is no account maintenance fee but if your account is inactive for a month, a $4.50 fee is charged to your account. Activity includes making a transaction with your debit card, using Online Bill Pay, making a deposit or withdrawal or writing a check that clears the account. Overdraft protection fees and insufficient fund fees are $30 per transaction. As long as you actively use the account and conduct transactions at STARsf ATMs, you should not incur fees. I did notice a 1% fee for foreign transactions.

Perks You Get From PerkStreet Financial

The rewards or perks you earn are tied to your current account balance. If the amount of your balance for a given day is at least $5,000, then you’ll earn 2% cash back on the debit card purchases that you make during the day. If your balance is lower than $5,000 on a given day, then your cash back earned will be 1% on all the debit card purchases you put on your card for that particular day. On some occasions, you can earn 5% cash back if you shop at certain retailers during promotional periods which are announced by PerkStreet via their Twitter or Facebook accounts. These are not unlike the rewards you earn by using cash back credit cards, but obviously, there are still differences.

So what can you do with your rewards? Perkstreet Financial gives you coffee perks along with other options including music, gift cards and a VISA gift card. Coffee perks are offered at various stores including Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. Music perks include iTunes and others. Gift cards are offered for, Best Buy, Target and more. In addition, when you cash in perks, a donation is automatically made to The Hunger Project. Your perks also do a bit of charitable work!

How Do I Open a PerkStreet Account?

You can apply for a PerkStreet account online through this link.

A minimum deposit of $25 opens the account using a current checking account number, debit card or credit card. In about a week, you receive your Visa debit card and checkbook. There is no minimum balance, which is good for those of us who keep a small balance on hand for everyday cash.

The Bottom Line

I like the idea of a Perkstreet account. It’s an easy way to separate my “spending money” from my “bill money” or “savings”. You may want to keep a PerkStreet account handy for your everyday spending.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carl May 4, 2011 at 9:47 am

WARNING ON PERKSTREET: If you take the “cash” rewards option they send you a visa check card. If you never receive or lose your check card YOUR MONEY IS GONE AND THEY CANNOT REPLACE IT. I just got off the phone with a PerkStreet customer service rep because this happened to me. A $50 card never arrived (although I did successfully receive two $100 cards prior to this). I was apologetically told there was nothing they could do. Essentially, someone in their shipping department can take the cards, list them as shipped and you are S.O.L.

I’m quite pissed.

For those who do keep your account (I’m going to kill mine), you should take the gift cards. The codes are supposedly emailed.

2 Dan - BankVibe May 4, 2011 at 11:38 am

If you’re going to open the perkstreet checking account, I’d wait for one of their promotions to come along. They regularly run short term promos that offer cash bonuses and higher rates of cash back.

3 Mike June 16, 2011 at 8:03 am

These accounts aren’t worth it. After the 2%, it’s down to 1% unless your balance is over 5K. And don’t think you’ll get rich off the 5% revolving categories because they are too specific. I recently blogged about earning $945 in credit card rewards this year. Of that sum, only $35 came from my Perk Street debit card. I’m going to stick with my regular checking account and use credit cards for rewards.

4 bankguru November 23, 2011 at 9:51 am

Perkstreet hit me with several fees on my account over several months and did not send me any email notifications until several months after the fact. When I contacted them about fees they only reimbursed a small amount. I pay very close attention to my bank accounts and, in my opinion, Perkstreet was very sneaky about adding fees and not giving me the proper notification. The rewards are nice but be very careful about their fee schedule. I doubt I will keep this account much longer. Customer Service did not perform up to my expectations. I also could not get my account with Perkstreet to link with my account. I had difficulty accessing my account online for several months earlier this year as well.

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