4% Interest on My Checking Account -- I Love My Local Bank!
Sep 1, 2009
Pros: high interest rate on checking, local bank, good customer service, reimburses ATM fees
Cons: Only in Greater Cambridge area, few branches, no international banking, holds on large deposits
The Bottom Line: Did I mention the 4% interest on my checking account? Yeah, I'm SuperSmart.
I get 4% interest on my checking account through Cambride Savings Bank's SuperSmart Checking. That's right: 4%! That's higher than ING Direct or any other online bank, and CSB is brick and mortar. So you can access your money immediately and talk to real live tellers if you go to any of the branches.
If you live in Cambridge (or one of the surrounding towns), I highly recommend making Cambridge Savings Bank your primary bank. It's like banking in the old days -- a local bank where the staff takes pride in their job and you actually benefit from doing your banking there. Cambridge Savings Bank has been around for 175 years, so it's a stable company.
I opened an account with Fleet, which was later bought by Bank of America, before I went off to my freshman year of college because there was a Fleet ATM (later Bank of America) in the student center. The one advantage of Bank of America is that they have ATMs everywhere! But they kept my money for 10 years without any interest. I tried to keep as little money as possible in my BoA account since it just sat there. I thought about switching, but I kept most of my short-term money in ING, so it didn't seem to matter much.
Then one day, Bank of America screwed me over royally (that's a story for another time), and I began my search for another bank. I saw billboards for Cambridge Savings Bank's SuperSmart account, and it seemed too good to be true. Four percent interest on your checking and free ATMs anywhere? What's the catch?? Well, you have to do all four of these things to get the advertised interest rate: 1. Set up direct deposit. (So, if you are self-employed, this account probably won't work for you.) 2. Sign up for online statements (Not for the computer illiterate) 3. Keep your balance between $10 and $25,000 (balances above $25,000 get something like 0.05% interest, so if you get up that high, transfer some of your money to ING or some other savings vehicle). 4. Use your debit card 15 times a month (or 20 times a month to avoid paying a $5 maintenance fee) -- ATM transactions don't count. The last of those requirements was what gave me pause. I almost never used my Bank of America debit card because why would I? I have a Chase credit card that gives me 5% back on grocery store, pharmacy, and gas station purchases, and 1% back on everything else. Using a debit card just means they take your money sooner. But I figured I could use my debit card for smaller purchases to make it worth my while. In the first month, I met the 20-transaction requirement within about a week! The pub crawl/bachelorette party on the first of the month helped a lot. I would charge a beer to my debit card or even a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee on the weekends!
One thing to keep in mind is that the last day of the previous month counts toward that month. E.g, July 31 transactions count for August's debit card use. Ask for a schedule when you open your account.
I opened my account at the Central Square branch, and the woman who helped me was very patient with my myriad questions. My downstairs neighbors and I also plan to open an account with them for our condo association account (free business checking account). We didn't have the correct forms the first two times we went, but again, the staff was very helpful at both the Central and Porter Square branches.
Other good things: - Free checks (Evil Bank of America made me pay for them) - You can use any ATM and Cambridge Savings Bank will reimburse the fee at the end of the month. Weirdly, I haven't had to use this feature yet! I just rarely use cash. Especially now that I have to use my debit card 20 times a month! - The web site is easy to use. - You get points for using your debit card. Every time you use your debit card, you accumlate reward points that can be redeemed for gift cards or merchandise. - I once called Customer Service to make sure that my account was set up correctly to get the 4% interest, and the person on the phone was very helpful and friendly. Drawbacks: - There are a limited number of branches (16) and ATMs around, so it can be a little bit annoying if you have to deposit or cash a check. Luckily, this isn't a big deal for me because I live in Cambridge where there are four branches, but it could be a hassle if you live outside the People's Republic or you travel a lot. Brach locations are in Acton, Arlington (3 branches), Bedford, Belmont, Burlington, Cambridge (4), Concord, Lexington (2), Newton, and Watertown. - As a small bank, CSB cannot do international transactions. You'd have to go to one of the big guys for that. - If you deposit a large personal check (more than $5000, I believe), they put a hold of four business days on it before you can access the funds. If you are a new customer (first 30 days), they put a hold on any personal check. So if you are switching from another bank to CSB, make sure you take this into consideration.
CSB is a full-service bank that also offers business banking, traditional savings accounts, safe deposit boxes (some branches), CDs, mortgages, home equity loans, commercial loans, and anything else you'd want. My debit card has the CSB logo on it, but it's a MasterCard and is part of NYCE, AccelExchange, and SUM, so you can use it anywhere.
Overall, I am very happy with Cambridge Savings Bank. I love supporting a local business, and I love getting 4% interst on my checking account even more.
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With the addition of Banking Centers in Inman Square and Lexington, we are 11 branches strong and have over $1 billion in assets, all the while practicing community banking and being recognized as Outstanding in the area of Community Reinvestment.