[Update: This review still applies, but the rates are a bit old. Currently rates for this account can be found here. As of 4/3/06, it is 4.37% APY.]
Since Presidential Online Bank offers a great product, their Internet Plus Checking, but hasn’t had a great amount of publicity (and they don’t seem to have an active advertising campaign either, unlike Capital One 360 or Emigrant Direct), I thought I’d give a review. I’ve been with them for over a year and a half now.
First, some facts: This is an online checking account, and Presidential Bank is FDIC Insured since 1985, so it’s legit. Their Internet Plus Checking account requires a minimum of $1500 to open, and a minimum balance of $1,000 to avoid a $5 monthly service fee. More importantly, it also requires a monthly direct deposit of $200 per month from “payroll, annuity, pension, or a business account.”. They actually check this, so a transfer from PayPal, VirtualBank, etc. won’t work. I realize the preceding has already turned away some people. Did I mention that it also offers 3.25% APY on an account with unlimited checkwriting abilities, free initial checks, ATM access, and free online Bill Pay?
Ok, if you’re still interested, read on.
Application (from when I did it in late 2003)
Presidential does pull a “hard” credit inquiry on your credit report for some reason (with Equifax only for me). I thought about contesting this with the credit bureaus, but didn’t, since they really aren’t extending any credit to me. Otherwise, it’s the usual name, address, SSN info.
3.25% APY on balances up to $25k, and 2.0% for anything over that.
Free online access & Bill Pay
Free initial checks
Free nationwide ATM access (other banks may charge fees for their ATMs)
Free return of cancelled checks
They say they also offer check images, but I’m not getting them. I haven’t asked either.
Yes, their website design leaves much to be desired. Ok, it’s a bit hokey. Don’t worry. The site is secure, their online interface is simple and it works. Most importantly, Presidential Bank has delivered on all their promises, except for maybe the check images thing – I think that’s a new feature and may not be activated with my account. They pay a constantly competitive interest rate, every month, on time. I transfer money easily between my accounts via VirtualBank.
If online banks like Capital One 360 make you a bit uncomfortable, this checking account makes things a bit better, as you can write checks whenever, and access your money at any ATM (find one that doesn’t charge you, like a Washington Mutual one).
Overall, I like Presidential because they seem to have a “small bank feel”. Every time I’ve called their customer service phone number (800-383-6266) I’ve gotten a real human being within 5 minutes or so. No complicated phone tree or crazy-long hold times. My issues have also been resolved promptly. They are the only bank I have that mails me a paper statement with my cancelled checks, even after Check21 passed.
I use their online Bill Pay constantly, it lets you schedule ahead of time what day the payment will post, so you can make payments closer to the due date without potentially forgetting. Why pay your thousand dollar bill right away when you can earn interest on it?
Overall, I’m very happy with Presidential Bank, FSB and would recommend it to anyone who can meet their relatively stringent requirements. I even recently opened another account with them, their 3.5% APY Premier Savings account.