Just a half-decade ago, the term online savings account was known to very few. Online banking was merely in its infancy. Some banks were allowing people to view their accounts online, but that’s about it. ING changed the name of the game when it launched the first online high-yield savings account. They could offer much better rates than everyone else because they didn’t have the overhead of branches, tellers, and the like. ING Direct is now hoping to replicate the success that they had with their savings account by pioneering a new online-only checking account for its customers. The new service, called ING Electric Orange Checking is offering a lot of interesting features that most online checking accounts simply do not have.
ING Direct’s Electric Orange Checking Account has one of the highest interest rates among any checking accounts that are out there. With most checking accounts, you can expect to earn zero for interest, not with ING Direct. With Electric Orange, you get a whopping 3.0% APY on the money in your checking account. In comparison, BankRate.com’s average of all interest bearing checking accounts is a mere 0.3%! The 3.0% APY is a little bit deceiving. If you read the fine print, you’ll see that it’s a mix of a savings account and an interest free checking account. After you reach the 6 withdrawals a month, it’s turned into an interest free checking account for the rest of the month. So if you write a lot of checks, be aware that you probably won’t accrue that much interest! If you have a crazy high checking account balance, more than $50,000, you’ll have an even higher interest rate, of 5.05%!
In addition to the accruing interest, you will also get free access to ATMs through the AllPoint network. Electric Orange gives you a standard MasterCard debit card. It bills it self as the largest surcharge-free ATM network. You’ll be able to find an AllPoint ATM just about anywhere, as long as you don’t live in rural South Dakota like me! There are over 32,000 AllPoint ATM locations in the United States. With most online checking accounts, you have to pay the $2.00 fee every time you take money out of someone else’s ATM, but with Electric Orange, you can just use an AllPoint ATM and not have to pay a fee.
ING Direct is perhaps the only checking account that doesn’t actually let you use checks, yes, it’s true! ING Direct Electric Orange is a paperless checking account. Even if you ordered checks from somewhere else, you wouldn’t be able to use them! So what good is a checking account without checks? There are some rather unique things that ING Direct does instead. ING offers paper checks as part of their bill pay function, so you can have all of your bills sent to the ING people and they’ll write the checks for you, which is a pretty neat feature to have. Their bill pay service is of course, completely free.
They also have what are called eChecks. Basically, if someone gives you their bank’s routing number and their account number, you can send them money just as a standard check through the electronic funds transfer (EFT) method. This method might seem a little bit different at first, but they work like a charm once you get used to them!
Depositing money can be a bit of a challenge. If you have direct deposit, that works very well, but every now and then you’ll get a random check here and there that needs to be deposited. With Electric Orange, you’ll have to mail in those checks, but that’s about the only inconvenience of the electric Orange Checking account.
In addition to the features above, the ING Direct Electric Orange Checking account has no minimum balance and no fees to be seen.
This account works very well for some, but is certainly not for everyone. If you’re used to writing a lot of checks for your everyday purchases or are given a lot of checks to deposit, this account might not be for you. If you don’t mind using your debit card for your purchases and have an AllPoint ATM handy, this account might be a great way for you to earn some extra interest on the money that would otherwise just be sitting in your checking account.
Currently the account can be opened by existing members who have been with ING Direct’s Orange Savings account for some time, and the account will be open to the public sometime in March.