The Big Switch: My Thoughts On Electric Orange After Moving My Primary Checking Account There

About a month ago, I switched my primary checking account from my local brick and mortar bank to ING Direct’s Electric Orange online checking.

What is Electric Orange?

Electric Orange is an online-only checking account offered by ING Direct. In short, that means you do all of your checking account business either online or with a debit card. For some people, this sounds like complete craziness, but bear me out.

What’s Good?

A 4.0% APY interest rate This checking account earns an interest rate higher than inflation. My average checking account balance over 2006 was just north of $4,000. In this account, that’s an earnings of $160, just for having Electric Orange.

A strong fee-free ATM network My ATM card has no fees if I use an ATM in the AllPoint network, which has several locations nearby and apparently has one in all Target stores. My previous bank had an extremely limited fee-free ATM card network.

An overdraft line of credit Instead of incurring a big fee if you overdraft, the account instead offers a line of credit and they just begin charging you interest on that credit line. The credit line seems to be set differently for different people depending on their initial deposit and any balances they might have in other ING Direct accounts, but the interest rate on the line is 12.25%. Thus, if you accidentally overdraft your checking, instead of charging you a big fee (my old bank charged $40), you just start owing interest on the amount that you overdrafted. If you deal with it quickly, it’s just a few pennies.

Extremely user friendly online banking ING Direct has very good customer service and the best overall online banking interface I’ve used. Online bill pay with them was incredibly easy – I was paying my bills online very quickly and it all worked smooth as silk, even to rather local institutions like the local telecommunications cooperative.

What’s Bad?

No paper checks This is probably the worst drawback, but so far it hasn’t been as bad as I feared. I left my old account open with about $100 in it for small incidental checks (the nearest grocery store to my residence only accepts cash and checks from local banks as payment). For other checks, the online interface allows you to fill out a form that looks like a check and then they will mail you a check first class the following day. For me, I receive the check about four postal days after filling out the form online. This works for some larger check situations, but it’s not the most flexible system in the world. So far, it has worked fine for me, but I can envision a situation or two that might cause me trouble.

No branches The biggest reason for this for me was that my local bank allowed me to deposit pocket change directly into the account using their counting machine. Thus, I would save up pocket change in a jar for several months, then deposit it all at once. By keeping the old account, I retain this service. Other than this service, I never used a branch, so for me, this issue with Electric Orange is basically nonexistent.

Am I Going To Stick With It?

I have been very happy with ING Direct’s online savings in the past in terms of customer service and their nice interest rate, so it was a no-brainer for me to give this a try. So far, I love the account. I haven’t been hit with a single fee of any kind as of yet (and they used to come in all the time with my old bank) and I’ve earned a pretty nice little piece of interest. If you figure the losses on the fees at my old bank (and the lack of interest) versus the lack of fees at this bank and the solid interest rate, it is a very good deal.

What about a recommendation? If you’re comfortable with online bill pay, then this is the type of checking account you should be moving to. If you prefer to write checks for your bills, then this account will cause you much frustration and isn’t worth it. The online bill pay factor is really the deciding factor here.

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