We give the PerkStreet Financial debit card rave reviews, and this is why: on top of getting 1-2% cash back on all your purchases, from now until Christmas Day, you’ll receive a $25 bonus when you sign up for a PerkStreet account. If you join PerkStreet before 11:59 Eastern on December 25th and make 3 purchases on your debit card within 30 days of opening the account, PerkStreet will credit your account with an extra $25.
Ongoing value from the anti-Bank of America
Update March 6th: PerkStreet has changed its rewards program structure. Now it gives 5% back on rotating merchants that change monthly; 2% back on a handful of merchants like Amazon, Walmart and Target when you shop online, up to $2,500 spent a year; 2% back at those merchants in-store, if your account balance exceeds $5,000; 2% back when you and a friend shop at the same place; and an unlimited cash back on all non-PIN purchases.
In addition to this limited-time signup bonus, the PerkStreet debit card offers a pretty great ongoing rewards program. If your account balance is over $5,000, you earn 2% rewards on your purchases; if it’s less, you still earn 1% back. In neither case are you subject to monthly or debit card usage fees. And for the first 3 months of your account opening, PerkStreet will give you the full 2% rewards to give you time to get your account balance up. You also get an impressive 5% back on rotating categories, up to $250 in purchases per year. But remember – while the 2% rewards rate is a feature of the card, the $25 signup bonus expires on December 25th.
PerkStreet stands in sharp contrast to Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Regions Bank, which piloted or implemented debit card fees before rescinding them in the face of public outrage. That’s because BofA, et al are trying to drive away customers with low balances. On the other hand, PerkStreet actually wants your business.
What’s in it for PerkStreet?
When a bank offers you signup bonuses or rewards, it’s a good idea to think about why. Capital One doesn’t offer $1,000 signup bonuses out of the goodness of its heart. And if Bank of America, Chase and Citi are doing their best to shed checking account customers, why does PerkStreet actively court them?
Interchange fees. When you swipe your debit card, the merchant pays a small fee to your bank, nominally to cover fraud costs. These highly lucrative swipe fees were capped by the Durbin Amendment, in a move expected to cost major banks about $6.6 billion in lost revenue. But the Durbin Amendment exempts institutions with less than $10 billion in assets – and that’s PerkStreet. They’re still getting full value out of your transactions.
Lower costs. PerkStreet is entirely online, so each checking account costs far less to maintain. The largest expenses for checking accounts are physical branches and ATMs. A nationwide bank like BofA shells out $349 per checking account per year on average, while an online bank can maintain the same account for less than $200.
Incidental fees. Just because the PerkStreet card doesn’t have a monthly maintenance fee doesn’t mean that it’s without its own charges. If you opt in to overdraw on your account (and you must do so proactively), you’ll see a $25 fee; PerkStreet has an extensive, nationwide ATM network, but if you use one that’s out-of-network, you’ll have to pay $2. Still, that’s no reason not to get the card – it’s just reason to be careful. See below for a full fee schedule.
We’re PerkStreet fans, because they actually offer free and rewards checking at a time when both are rare. And with a $25 signup bonus, there’s little reason not to get the card.
Debit card fees: a quick comparison
Chase was nice enough to voluntarily adopt the PEW streamlined checking account disclosure form; we similarly hope to elucidate checking account fees. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it covers the fees you’re most likely to encounter.
|PerkStreet||Chase Total Checking||Bank of America MyAccess Checking|
|Ways to waive the fee||N/A||$500 in direct deposits
$5,000 average daily balance
Incur $25 in fees
|$250 in direct deposits
$1,500 average daily balance
|Incurred when…||You don’t use your account in a given month||N/A||N/A|