Weighing the Positives and Negatives of ING Electric Orange Checking

I’ve been weighing the positives and negatives of ING’s new Electric Orange checking account, which is now available to some existing ING Direct customers and will be available to everyone in a few months. Rather than repeating what’s already been said, I encourage you to read this fine summary of Electric Orange at The Sun’s Financial Diary.

The Positives

The Interest
For any balance, Electric Orange offers a 3.00% APY interest rate. This means while money is sitting in your checking account waiting to be withdrawn to cover bills, you can earn 3.00% percent on it. If you have a lot of cash on hand (above $50,000), the rate jumps above a 5% APY, which is approaching certificate of deposit rates just sitting in your checking. That’s truly impressive and is the real calling card of the Electric Orange account.

Free ATM Access
The account offers a MasterCard debit card that also functions as an ATM card. Nothing special, except that the card is part of AllPoint, which means that there’s a huge number of ATMs all over the United States that you can use this card at with no fees. I checked the list and there are usable ATMs all over near where I live that can use the card.

$1000 Overdraft Line of Credit
As if those features weren’t enough, the account also offers a $1,000 overdraft line of credit, which means they’ll cover any minor overdrafts for you automatically with no fee, instead just charging you a finance charge for the amount that you overdraft. This makes money management a bit easier for some, but with that kind of interest rate, I won’t feel so bad about leaving plenty in the ol’ checking account.

Competition
The existence of this account is going to really shake things up in the checking market – I expect that other banks will again be following ING’s lead and offering similar rates and features. With features like these, the consumer wins.

The Negatives

No Local Branches
I don’t mind using ING for savings, but I often use my local bank for additional services that largely require a teller unless you want to pay a fee elsewhere. What if I want to acquire $60 in quarters (this happens regularly for me, as I often play poker with dimes and quarters with friends)? What if I want to just immediately cash a check without delay? It’s going to be hard to do these things without any local branches.

No Checks
This is the one that really worries me. The Electric Orange account doesn’t allow you to actually write a check. If you actually need a paper check, you have to request one online and wait for them to print it and mail it to you. This isn’t a problem if you exist in a mostly checkless environment, but I live in a rural area where many people (including the local grocery) only accept cash or check for incidental payment.

And The Conclusion

I admit it – I’m unsure about what to do. My thinking right now is to switch to it as my primary checking, but maintain my old checking account with a small balance in it for the check-writing convenience, and transfer money to the old checking from time to time when I need to. This would enable me to take advantage of their tellers for check cashing and change needs as well.

If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

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