(Update October 2011: Ally has just announced that eCheck online deposit is available to all interest checking, online savings and money market accounts. So even if you just have the online savings account, you can deposit checks into it via scanner from home. I’ve updated my review below accordingly.)
It’s been a few months since I opened up an Ally interest checking account to complement my existing 5-year CDs and online savings account. Click here for a rundown of features that show why I made the switch. I’ve managed to try out many of their “perks”, including their official Perks program. Here are my experiences:
Unlimited ATM Rebates Anywhere in US
I’ve made a few ATM withdrawals at random ATMs, and the surcharges have been credited at the end of the month as promised. (I wish they were credited immediately.) Actually being charged those fees made me realize how fast $2-$5 a pop can add up. My fee rebates were almost higher than the interest I earned one month! I actually feel bad making Ally pay for something I could avoid, so whenever possible I still use my local bank’s ATM card for now. International ATMs are not eligible.
Free Overdraft Transfers from Savings
The checking account pays less interest than savings, so it is best to open both and keep as much money as you can in the savings. The Ally online saving account currently pays 0.85% APY, and is one of the places I keep my emergency fund cash. With their free Overdraft Transfer Service, Ally will automatically transfer the required funds from savings if your checking goes negative. I actually initiated this last month when I wrote a check, here’s the screenshot from my account:
Ally transferred an amount equal to a round number near the overdraft amount plus $100. Alternatively, you can set it to auto-transfer a preset amount over if your checking balance dips to a certain threshold.
eCheck Online Deposit
The process is straightforward. You must endorse your check with your signature, the phrase “For Ally eCheck Deposit Only”, and your account number. You can also deposit directly into your Online Savings account. The funds availability policy is such that checks submitted before 4pm Eastern will post the next business day, otherwise the 2nd business day. Your deposit starts earning interest as soon as the check posts, although for large deposits you may have a hold preventing immediate withdrawal.
Ally Perks Debit Card Rewards
This is a free rewards program that is linked to your Ally Checking debit card. It’s not a % cashback program on everything like that offered at PerkStreet Financial, but instead is more of a coupon-style service that works at specific online or brick-and-mortar merchants. I did see a few opportunities for some easy savings, for example $1 off a $1 minimum purchase at iTunes, $5 off $50 at Lowe’s in-store, and $2 off $7 at Subway.
You don’t need any coupons or codes, just pay with the Ally debit card and the discount amount is deposited directly into your checking account. I plan on checking in from time to time for any useful discounts, but this program certainly won’t convince me to buy things on their debit card. I’ll stick with credit card rewards.