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I’m back to rate chasing again! Now that I’ve purchased my house, my credit score can afford a few dings from credit pulls.

Yesterday, I drove ALL THE WAY TO FREAKIN’ BFE North Scottsdale ( ~1hr drive EACH WAY for me) to sign up for a new Optimum Rewards Checking Account at Bank 1440. Am I crazy, you ask? Well, after doing the math it was one of those no-brainer decisions for me. I found that I’ll be making an additional ~$900 interest a year if I switched my funds over to the Bank 1440 accounts. You can use Jonathan’s handy Rate Chaser Calculator to see if chasing rates is worth it for YOU.

Here I get sidetracked with an (unpaid) endorsement for Arizona Bank & Trust…
I love my current Arizona Bank & Trust rewards checking account. I really, really do. I’ve never before loved a bank like I love AZ B&T. Seriously, if you want me to wax poetic about a bank account, then ask me how I feel about AZ B&T! It’s probably as boring as it sounds :) I still highly recommend anyone in the Valley using them, especially if you consider driving all the way out to BFE Scottsdale too much of a hassle to open a Bank 1440 account.

AZ B&T’s rewards checking account still has SUPER HIGH RATES compared to the rest of the country (4.01%APY), they have convenient locations (at least in the East Valley they do), they reimburse all ATM fees, and their staff is always super helpful and friendly. I also have been pleased with their online interface. The fact that they appear on Yodlee is also a bonus in my book! But most importantly, I like how they make me feel about myself…. (haha, okay, that’s a quote from Friends. Couldn’t help myself! Now – name that episode! Boy, I have ADD today. Errr…yeah, that’s really no different than any other day…)

I’m still leaving my AZ B&T accounts open, because they’re convenient and always willing to take my large deposits of coins (another topic for another post!). And who knows, in the event that these Bank 1440 rates falter, I may be switching back over.

But, like I said, after doing the math, I couldn’t help but move the vast majority of my accounts from Arizona B&T over to Bank 1440. I treat these rewards checking accounts like a savings account, basically. I don’t ever touch them (except to add money), and only do the mandatory debit transactions and direct deposit each month to earn the interest. I do the majority of my banking online (through Yodlee), so the far off location of Bank 1440 isn’t a big deal for me.

Back to Bank 1440 Basics:
Bank 1440 is FDIC insured (very important!).  They have two locations in Peoria and Scottsdale. To qualify for the 5.01%APY interest, you must do the following:

  • Open an Optimum Rewards Checking Account in person
  • Make 10 Visa Debit Card Transactions each month
  • Set up 1 Direct Deposit or Automatic Payment from your account each month
  • Enroll and receive electronic statements
Now for the fun part! Here were some random observations that I made throughout the account opening process:
  • Hard to find location
  • This is the most foo-foo bank I’ve ever stepped foot in!
  • Odd cycle: starts on the 10th of each month
  • High interest (5.0%), with high balance limit ($25K)
  • Relatively low debit card requirements (10 transactions)
  • Can open as many accounts as you wish to take advantage of the 5.0%APY – you just need to satisfy the requirements for ALL accounts
  • A competitive rate on balances over 25K (2.01%APY)
  • Can make deposits at any Wells Fargo ATM (with a $50K maximum deposit)
  • Limited banking hours (9-5, M-F)
Granted, I’m not the best with directions, so it’s easy for me to get lost. But this bank is tucked away on the first floor of a totally nondescript office building, along with a dentist and a myriad of other offical looking businesses. So don’t make the same mistake as me and look for a standalone location.

Oh, and the office building? This must be a Scottsdale thing. I felt the same way when I first went to Roaring Fork (“a restaurant in an office building, huh?”). These fancy office buildings must make Scottsdale-ites feel all official and la-te-da. Or something.

Anyway, I’m kind of a down-home girl. I like the feel of small community type banks. You know, with approachable bank tellers who have pictures of their kids and cheesy holiday decorations. I sort of felt like I was out of my league by banking here. With the glass doors, and doctor’s-office-like waiting area. And all the customers had that Scottsdale “aura.” The “I have lots of money” aura.  I sat there thinking. “Hmmm. I’m seriously underdressed.” and “I wonder if anyone saw me drive up in my beat up, decades old Explorer?” hahaha. I did appreciate the water bottle they offered me, though. I guzzled the entire bottle down! That drive in rush hour traffic had me parched :)

The odd banking cycle is just one of those “makes you scratch your head and go huh?” items. Who came up with the idea to start and end the cycle on the 10th? Who knows. It doesn’t really matter.

Old Bank (AZB&T) vs New Bank (Bank 1440)
The high interest rate of 5.01%APY was enticing, but it was the lower debit card transaction requirement (10 transactions) that really swung me in the direction of Bank 1440. AZB&T currently has a debit card transaction requirement of 15.  So my two accounts at Bank 1440 would only require 20 transactions, as opposed to 30(!) at AZB&T. That 30 was getting a bit excessive.

Also, you receive the 5.01%APY interest on balances up to $25K at Bank 1440, as opposed to 4.01%APY on balances up to $20K at AZB&T. Balances over $25K still get 2.01%APY at Bank 1440, which is still right on par with most savings accounts out there. So if you have more than $25K in liquid assets, and didn’t want to do more than 10 debit transactions a month, you could open only one account and still get decent interest on the balance over $25K.  In contrast, balances over $20K at AZB&T only earn 1.01%APY interest.

Oh, and AZB&T has a limit of 2 rewards checking accounts, I believe. Don’t quote me on that. Bank 1440 lets you open unlimited accounts. Although, unless you live in San Francisco or NYC and are saving up for a 20% down payment on an ultra expensive house, I don’t really see why anyone would hold onto this much cash…

Lastly, you can make deposits to your Bank 1440 account via any Wells Fargo ATM. So if I want to transfer money from a different bank account to my Bank 1440 account, I just write myself a check and deposit it at the Wells Fargo ATM down the street. Pretty simple. If you have to go in person, the branch hours for Bank 1440 are pretty limited: 9am-5pm, M-F. AZB&T have the same limited hours, with the exception of Friday which is 9am-6pm. Neither are open on Saturday.

Moral of this post:
If you’re getting an unsatisfactory interest rate on your savings, you might want to consider opening a checking rewards account. There are a few AZ and many national options, with Bank 1440 offering among the highest rates at 5.01%APY.

And no, there are no referral or sign up bonuses associated with any of these accounts. I’m just passing them along for the other rate chasers out there :)

5 Responses to “Free Optimum Checking at Bank 1440: 5.01%APY on Balances up to $25K”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I saw this the other day in the newspaper and I have to admit I am slowing down these days. It would be about 350 more a month for me if I switch assuming 2 things, AZB&T doesn’t raise their rate and 1440 doesn’t lower it.

    I’ll give them a few more months, if things don’t change too much I’ll have to look at changing as well.

    Nice post

    -Jacob

  2. admin says:

    Yeah, Jacob, it’s probably a good idea to wait out and see before going through the hassle…it was really the # of debit card transactions and the higher qualifying balance ($25K vs $20K on two accounts, which is an extra $10K total at 5% interest) that really pushed me to go through with it.

    Trying to do 30 debit card transactions is rough. 20 is much easier to handle :)

    (Did you mean $350 more a year up there? otherwise you have a TON of cash to be pulling that much interest a month, hahaha)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ya a Year :) My bad, ya 30 transaction is a lot, thats why I only have 1 account over there and just deal with there 2.xx saving account which isn’t that bad.

    I pay my cellphone bill $1 at a time :)

  4. admin says:

    Wow, that’s genius. And it works?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yep!

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