I was going through my stack of mail to look at (separate from the stack that has things that actually need taken care of) and came across an offer for Fidelity’s mySmart Cash Account. Intrigued, I decided to take a look at the Fidelity checking account that they were so proud of that they included a glossy little flier to advertise it. The result? What the—?
Regular Bank Checking Sucks This Bad?
The Fidelity myCash account boasts exactly two features that do not count as minimum basic features for a checking account. First, it pays interest. How much interest? Well, this is where Fidelity gets a little weasel-ish. The flyer says that I will “Earn three times the national average…” Um, OK. How much is that? Folks, it isn’t even in the fine print, that’s how much the rate must be worth!
A visit to Fidelity’s website reveals the depressing answer. A balance of less than $5,000 in a myCash checking account will earn a whopping 0.20% APR. Whoo hoo! But wait! Maybe if you have over $5,000 it is worthwhile? Survey says? 0.20% again. Yes, go through all of the steps and take the time to open a Fidelity mySmart Cash Account, and you too can earn a whole 0.20% interest.
Ironically, you can actually earn something in the neighborhood of 2% by using a money market fund, but when you are pandering to the fear of the people who can’t be bothered to read anything more than headlines by really pushing the whole FDIC insurance thing, you can’t switch gears and point out the much better rate that you can get in what is still a pretty safe account.
Oh, the other value added feature is unlimited ATM fee refunds. That is nice, but hardly a huge deal anymore if you know what you are doing. In other words, the Fidelity cash account is good enough, but nothing better.
This leads to the inevitable question. Are regular bank checking accounts so bad now that this counts as a great deal, or is Fidelity just dutifully pushing another product in an effort to meet a marketing projection or to make their services more “sticky”?
Credit Union Free Checking Accounts
The reason I’ll have to do some research is that I have had my checking at my local credit union for many years, so I honestly have no idea what kind of shenanigans banks are pulling these days. The free checking account at my credit union offers:
- FREE Online Bill Pay
- FREE Downloads into Quicken® and Microsoft® Money
- FREE Online Check Images
- UNLIMITED ATM withdrawals without any credit union fees (though they do not refund the fees charged by the ATMs)
- UNLIMITED check writing
- A FREE Visa Check Card
- No Minimum Balance
- No Monthly Fees
- No Annual Account Fees
Granted there is no interest paid on this account. They do have an interest bearing checking account if you have a certain minimum balance. It pays 0.15% starting at under $2,500 and by $5,000 it pays either 0.25% or 0.50% depending upon which version you have. Guess there is no reason to try out that Fidelity cash management checking account thing after all.