PerkStreet Continues To Be a Cut Above the Rest

PerkStreet Financial(SM) MasterCard® Debit CardIf you are looking for a free online checking account, arguably one of the best offers around is from an FDIC-insured back you’ve probably never heard of PerkStreet Financial. If the giant image to the right with a big fat 2% doesn’t clue you in as to why PerkStreet is high on our list, allow me a few minutes to explain.

Several months ago we reviewed PerkStreet Financial’s free online checking account. While a free checking account is great, what really caught our eye was the 1% cash back debit card. Cash back credit cards are common, but a cash back debit card is hard to find.

Then, PerkStreet decided to up the ante by offering 2% cash back on all purchases . As far as we know, there is no equal among checking accounts and debit cards. You do need to take heed of the terms and conditions. For example, the 2% applies to signature transactions, not PIN-based transactions. That’s not a big deal, other than when asked whether you want to use the card as credit or debit, be sure to say credit.  Here’s how to earn 2% on all purchases, straight from the PerkStreet website:

After the first 90 days, when your Current Account Balance at the start of the day is $5,000 or more, you’ll earn unlimited 2% cash back for all non-PIN debit card purchases you make on that day. When your Current Account Balance at the start of the day is less than $5,000, you’ll earn unlimited 1% cash back on all non-PIN debit card purchases you make on that day. To determine your starting Current Account Balance, we use your closing balance after all settled transactions from the previous business day. Pending purchases and transactions are not included in your Current Account Balance.

In addition to the 2% cash back rewards on all debit purchases, PerkStreet also provides 5% cash back categories on a month to month basis.  The merchants which offer 5% cash back are changing on a regular basis, so make sure to visit PerkStreet and they’re homepage will show you which purchases qualify from month-to-month.

However great the debit card is, be sure to take a close look at the checking account, too. The one downside is that the checking account does not pay interest. For me that’s not a big deal because I don’t keep much money in my checking account for long. But if you want an interest bearing checking account, EverBank or ING Direct is a better option. But otherwise, PerkStreet Financial offers a solid checking account. You only need $25 to open an account, there is no minimum balance requirement, no monthly fees when you use your account, and checks are free.  To sign up for an account or for more general information, visit

Topics: Banking

One Response to “PerkStreet Continues To Be a Cut Above the Rest”

  1. There are several problems with this bank, so I would warn potential customers to be aware of the fine print. Although PerkStreet’s website has the appearance of being clear about their policies, I found that not to be the case. These “fine print” policies seem designed to (1) make it difficult to move money out of the account, and (2) to limit the cashback that you can earn. Below are examples.

    (1) They have a limit of $1500 on incoming online transfers in an entire *month*! They don’t tell you about this anywhere except when you actually try to move money into your account. When I called them about it, they said that they have this restriction for new customers and I was still in my first month. After a couple more calls, I realized that they will increase this limit to $2500 after six months.

    Stated reason: Security.
    Suspected motive: To limit the amount of money you can spend to get cashback.

    (2) They have a limit of $500 on outgoing online transfers. So, say you move $5000 into your account to get 2% cashback. You are stuck with that money with them for the rest of the month (unless you adopt a slower paper check route).

    (3) They have a limit of $1500 on daily expenses and explicitly say on their website that it can be waived simply by making a phone call. I had to book two one-way international flight tickets that cost a total of over $1500. I booked these and called them to waive the limit. They refused to do so because I was still in my first month. There is no notice about waivers not being allowed in the first month anywhere. As a result, I have to now spend much more money re-booking that ticket just because PerkStreet does not allow me to spend my own money.

    Stated reason: Security for new customers. They claim that all banks have spending limits on debit cards. Really? Bank of America did not.

    Suspected motive: Limiting spending => limiting cashback.

    (4) When I tried to circumvent the limitation in (1) above to move more money into my account using FedEx, there was another surprise! The first FedEx check takes not 1 day as stated, but about 9 days for some reason. Again, some vague security reason that is incomprehensible to rational beings is given as an explanation.

    Bottomline: It is not easy to get much cashback because of their restrictive policies on what you can do with your money. And they make it harder to move money out of the account while not giving any interest on it. As for the 5% cashback, they are on such specific and tiny items that I have never been able to get 5% cashback so far.

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