If there’s one thing everyone hates, it is bank fees. One of the most popular posts on this blog is my rant about Bank of America’s monthly maintenance fee on their checking accounts that don’t meet certain balance, direct deposit, or other requirements. Thankfully you don’t have to pay monthly maintenance fees and other ridiculous charges to have a checking account. There are checking accounts out there without the outrageous fees and direct deposit requirements, and perhaps the best of those is ING Direct’s Electric Orange Checking. There is a lot to like about this account, including a $50 signup bonus (see below for more details), but there are a few drawbacks. Here’s a brief overview of the pros and cons of this account.
No monthly maintenance fees
One of the biggest selling points of the Electric Orange Checking account is that there are no monthly maintenance fees – period. There is no minimum balance requirement, direct deposit requirement, or debit card usage requirement.
Interest on checking deposits
Electric Orange pays interest on deposits based on the balance on the account. Deposits up to $50,000 collect 0.20% APY, $50,000 to $100,000 collect 0.85% APY, and over $100,000 gets you an APY of 0.90%. Granted 0.20% APY isn’t much, but is better than almost any other checking account out there, and if you have a good pile of cash this could be the perfect place for it.
Free debit cards and bill pay
Electric Orange offers a free debit card and free bill pay service. When it was introduced Electric Orange was designed to be a nearly paperless checking account, thus the encouragement to make payments electronically. Electronic payments can be made to merchants or to individuals using their Person2Person transfer service. You can also have a paper check sent via postal mail for free for those vendors you can’t pay electronically.
No overdraft fees
Unlike most other banks that love to soak you with overdraft fees, there are no overdraft fees on the Electric Orange checking. I think this fact is grossly oversold by ING on their website (the main page for the Electric Orange account just has a link inviting users to compare their overdraft fees to other banks without specifically stating there is no overdraft fee). The only fee related to overdrafts is an interest charge for accessing an overdraft line of credit based on the amount of the overdraft.
Free ATM access at select locations
For an online bank, ING Direct actually has a pretty good ATM network that you can access for free. You can access any ATM in the Allpoint network (most ATMs in this area are in retail locations of CVS, Walgreens, and Target) and, thanks to the buyout by Capital One, any Capital One ATM.
$50 Bonus for New Customers
As noted above, you can get a $50 bonus for opening an Electric Orange account. Just use one of the links below to sign up and make three card or Person2Person payments to earn your $50 bonus. Please see the fine print below for requirements. Disclosure: these are referral links for which I will earn $10 for each successful referral.
ING Electric Orange Bonus 1
ING Electric Orange Bonus 2
ING Electric Orange Bonus 3
ING Electric Orange Bonus 4
ING Electric Orange Bonus 5
Bonuses are only paid for accounts that are opened and a total of 3 Card purchases or Person2Person Payments (or any combo of the two) are made within 45 days of account opening. The $50 bonus is available only for new accounts with a new Customer as primary owner. Only one bonus will be provided per household. Your $50 bonus will automatically be deposited into your account on day 50.
No branch network
Because it is an online bank, there is no branch network for the Electric Orange account, meaning there is no way to directly deposit cash into your account or talk to someone face-to-face it the rare event there is a problem with your account. This also makes depositing of paper checks a pain, as noted below.
Difficulty depositing paper checks
In the era of electronic transfers and direct deposits, everyone still gets paper checks occasionally. Currently the only way to deposit paper checks directly into your Electric Orange account is to mail them in to ING Direct, which means a significant delay in how quickly the funds are credited to your account. ING Direct has announced that customers will be able to upload check images for deposit via computer or smartphone app beginning sometime this spring, but until then this will continue to be a significant drawback of the Electric Orange account.
Limited check writing capability
For most checking accounts you have the option of ordering checks directly through the bank, ordering from a third party (usually at a significant discount to the bank’s charge), or printing your own check on your home computer. For the Electric Orange account, however, you must order checks from ING Direct at a cost of $5.00 per 50 checks. Granted there is an additional layer of security to this arrangement as checks must be activated before use, but many will be annoyed at having to pay more for their printed checks. It is worth pointing out that this does work almost like a service fee for check writing, and that by minimizing the costs of processing paper checks they can offer other benefits without fees.
The ability to write paper checks is an improvement to the Electric Orange account since its introduction, even if the checks must be ordered from ING Direct. Previously customers could not write paper checks at all.
My overall assessment is that this is a great alternative to the fee happy checking accounts offered by most larger banks these days. Provided you don’t need to make cash deposits to your account, don’t write a lot of paper checks, and do most of your banking electronically you should definitely consider Electric Orange for your checking account needs.
If this doesn’t quite fit your needs you may also consider going to a local credit union or community bank with a truly free checking account. Compared to paying monthly maintenance fees at the big banks, you will still come out ahead.