Orion FCU Premium Checking Review: 4% APY (Up to $30k) w/ Activity Requirements

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Orion Federal Credit Union (FCU) has a Premium Checking account that offers 4% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet certain direct deposit and debit card transaction requirements. However, if you don’t meet the requirements, you’ll get basically no interest and be charged a monthly fee. Their membership requirements are now open nationally, which is newsworthy. Thanks to reader Bill for the tip. Details below.

Membership eligibility. Orion FCU is based in Memphis, Tennessee and has a field of membership open to nearby residents and employers of local companies. However, you can also join as a “volunteer” for one of their affiliated nonprofit organizations:

Volunteers for Orion Gives Back organizations are eligible for membership in Orion. You can qualify as a volunteer fundraiser simply by choosing an organization and asking us to make a $10 donation.

Yes, you read that right – they will even make the donation for you. Choose from Habitat for Humanity Greater Memphis, Hope House, Porter-Leath, Ronald McDonald House, and Wolf River Conservancy.

Note that the application states that you will need your Social Security number and Driver’s License number. In addition, reader Bill reports that they will perform both a ChexSystems inquiry and a hard credit check through Equifax.

Premium Checking requirements. To qualify for the 4% APY on balances up to $30,000 and up to $10 in ATM fee rebates per month, you must have the following:

  • Electronic deposits totaling at least $500 per month. Electronic deposits include: direct deposit, mobile deposit, and electronic transfers from another financial institution.
  • Perform at least 8 signature-based card transactions per month. When using your card, choose the credit option and bypass using your PIN.

Note that amounts in excess of $30,000 will only earn 0.05% APY. If you meet these requirements, there is no monthly fee. If you don’t, then there is a $5 monthly fee and your rate goes down to 0.05% APY.

It is nice that the deposit requirement is not restricted to “payroll direct deposits”. You can set up an automated monthly transfer from another bank account.

Good deal? In my opinion, the relatively easy requirements, high interest rate, and moderate qualifying balance make this the best nationally-available “Reward Checking” account currently available. (“Rewards Checking” = requires a minimum number of debit card transactions + other activity each month.) While it is indeed a solid offer, the main question is how long it will last.

At the same time, I will not be joining. First, I don’t like accounts where I have to keep jumping through hoops (that I can’t easily automate like CIT Savings Builder) without being hit by a penalty of lost interest and a monthly fee. Second, I have gone ahead and opened accounts like this in the past, only to have them shut down shortly thereafter. I am concerned that this account won’t last longer than 6 months from today.

I’d rather open a credit union CD where I know the rate is guaranteed for a fixed period (i.e. past offers from Andrews FCU, Sharonview FCU, and Garden Savings FCU, etc.) These certificates just keep earning interest each month and I don’t have to do anything at all.

Bottom line. Orion FCU has opened up their Premium Rewards checking account to anyone nationwide. You can get 4% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet certain direct deposit and debit card transaction requirements. However, if you don’t meet those requirements, you will earn virtually no interest and be subject to a $5 monthly fee. If this interests you, I recommend creating a reliable system where you satisfy the requirements early on in the month.

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  1. I live in Memphis and I have had this account since September 2017. Back then the account paid 3% for balances up to $20,000. The 4% started in October 2018, and it also raised its cap on the amount subject to the higher interest rate. You will get next to nothing once you hit the cap, however.
    I don’t know how long this rate will last but I don’t think it is a teaser rate. I had considered opening an account with Orion long before I had actually done so, and in my experience it consistently pays the best interest rate you will find anywhere. For what it’s worth they also don’t charge for orders of checks.
    This money is insured through NCUA which is just as solid as FDIC insured deposits. Credit unions don’t pay taxes, which allows them to offer better rates than traditional banks.
    Jonathan is right in that the account will actually cost you money if you don’t satisfy all of the requirements.

    • Thanks for sharing. I’m not saying that this is a teaser rate from Orion FCU, but once you open nationwide you’ll get a lot of rate chasers who will keep exactly $29,999 in the account and make exactly eight $1 debit card transactions each month. This is why nationwide rewards checking accounts with high rates and high balance limits are rare. The theoretical point of these accounts is to encourage you to make the checking account your everyday account, and then Orion can make some money off the debit card fees. This is why local versions tend to do better and last longer. I hope I’m wrong and the rate stays high for everyone.

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