In a few recent articles (here and here) I mention my new endorsement for the bank PerkStreet. Let’s see what they’re all about so you can determine if they’re worthy of your business.
What is PerkStreet?
PerkStreet Financial offers a personal checking account only. They do not offer personal savings or business checking accounts but are working on implementing them soon.
From their website:
“PerkStreet Financial offers an FDIC insured checking account with the most debit card rewards around. When you use your PerkStreet FinancialSM Debit MasterCard® you can earn up to unlimited 2% cash back, plus up to 5% cash back in popular categories called PowerPerks. No matter how you use your PerkStreet FinancialSM Debit MasterCard®, the money is withdrawn from your checking account. You can earn great rewards without going into debt.”
Today we’ll review the PerkStreet Financial Debit MasterCard.
Cash back debit details and fine print
They claim you can earn over $600 in rewards per year with the only unlimited 2% cash back debit card. They also say you earn 5% cash back in “popular” categories. Let’s break that claim down to see if the benefits outweigh the details of the account.
- You will earn unlimited 2% cash back for your first 3 months, or if your current balance is $5,000 or greater at the start of the day.
- After the first 3 months, you will earn unlimited 1% cash back if your current balance is less than $5,000 at the start of the day.
- Everyone earns 5% PowerPerks in popular categories up to $5,000 in yearly purchases.
- No credit check needed, but they do pull a ChexSystems report to evaluate if your checking account history has a checkered past (pun intended).
- The account includes Bill Pay services and Checks, but using these services does not earn rewards. This is important because if you pay your mortgage through their bill pay, you will not earn rewards – but, if you use your debit card to pay the bill, you do. (Please check to make sure your mortgage provider does not charge a fee.)
You will only earn rewards (perks) for non-PIN purchases, so please make sure the transaction is signatory, online, or over the phone. This means you must make credit – not debit – transactions with your debit card.
Questions and Answers to clear the fog.
- Q: How do we earn the $600 in rewards?
- A: Making $601 in weekly non-PIN purchases will earn you $625 in perks annually (when you maintain a balance of $5,000). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spends $601 per week on purchases that could be put on a debit card, including stuff like utility bills or rent.
- Q: What do they mean by “unlimited cash back?”
- A: Many rewards cards cap the cash back amount you can earn, PerkStreet does not. The more you spend (via debit transactions) the more cash back you earn.
- Q: What are the “popular” categories that earn 5% cash back?
- A: The popular categories are called “PowerPerks” and they change monthly. Please refer to the PerkStreet blog for the current months PowerPerks.
Notable fees and how to avoid them
I only noticed two fees worth mentioning, the others are standard with any account or uncommon. Let’s take a look.
From their website:
“The PerkStreetSM checking account is free to use. You’ll never pay a maintenance fee when you use your account each month. And there are no account minimums, low balance fees or charges to make purchases with your debit card. The fees we do charge are avoidable and all of them are explained here. No tricks, no games, no gotchas. Promise.”
They said “You’ll never pay a maintenance fee when you use your account each month.” After looking into this I see there is an “Inactivity Fee” if you do not do any of the following at least once each month: making a transaction with your debit card, writing a check that clears the account, using Online Bill Pay, initiating a withdrawal or making a deposit to the account.
This fee is insignificant if you’re using the account for rewards because no transactions means no rewards, which defeats the purpose. Basically, use the account at least once each month to avoid the inactivity fee.
From their website:
“You won’t pay any fees as long as you use ATMs within the STARsf® surcharge-free network. If you use an ATM outside this network you will be assessed this fee.”
If you need to pull cash from the account I recommend withdrawing the entire months allotment once at the beginning of each month. This is how me and Betsy fund our cash envelopes, we each get $300 at the 1st of the month and never need to hit an unplanned ATM. It works great.
How to open an account
I opened an account so I could detail the process for you. There were 5 easy steps with little fine print which I found uncommon and refreshing.
1) Identity 2) Contact/Joint 3) Account Options 4) Review 5) Funding
Pretty self explanatory, you enter your name, address, date of birth, and social security number.
Here you need your driver’s license number, phone number, and email address. You can also open a joint account easily, just make sure you know the social security and driver’s license number of the joint account holder.
3) Account options
The 2 options were overdraft protection and electronic statements. They say, “You must choose electronic statements to open a PerkStreet account.” so that’s more of a requirement than an option so let’s focus on the overdraft protection.
From their website:
Q: What are the standard overdraft practices that come with my account?
A: We authorize and pay overdrafts for the following types of transactions:
- Checks and other transactions made using your checking account number
- Automatic bill payments
We do not authorize and pay overdrafts for the following types of transactions unless you ask us to (see below):
- ATM transactions
- Everyday debit card transactions
We pay overdrafts at our discretion, which means we do not guarantee that we will always authorize and pay any type of transaction. If we do not authorize and pay an overdraft, your transaction will be declined.
Q: What fees will I be charged if PerkStreet Financial pays my overdraft?
A: Under our standard overdraft practices:
- We will charge you a fee of up to $25 each time we pay an overdraft.
- We limit the number of overdrafts you can incur to three per day.
Pretty standard stuff. The next step asks you how you’d like to fund your PerkStreet account.
You must fund your account with at least $25 or the amount specified in your bonus offer up to a maximum of $500. You can do this in two ways:
- by using your debit / credit card (no cash advance or other fees apply for the first funding)
- by transferring money electronically from your current checking account using the routing and account number from the bottom of your check.
After you submit your application they say…
“Thank you. Your application is being processed. You will receive an email shortly confirming your application and describing the next steps in opening your account.”
You then receive an email confirming your application. In it they list your information, ask you to review it, and instruct you to call 866-792-2834 with any changes or questions.
If this looks like something you will benefit from you can learn more and open and account here.
If you already use your debit card regularly for purchases the rewards on this account should pay far greater than the measly interest rates on checking accounts nowadays.
We liked what we saw so we opened an account and are experimenting with the rewards, since they’re the best debit rewards available. Stay tuned for updates on our findings and ask questions by leaving a comment below. As mentioned above, if this looks like you’ll benefit from you can learn more and open and account here. If not, don’t bother.