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Comparison of FirstIB, E*Trade bank & AmEx banking

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#1 markber


    1 billion bucks

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 07:58 AM

Below is a recent feedback about First Internet Bank of Indiana posted on epinions.com that includes comparison of FirstIB with E*Trade Bank and American Express membership banking.

Great fee structure, interest rates and customer service. Quicken Direct Connect support.

Could improve web site and ACH account setup. $5 fee for each ACH push.

The Bottom Line
Best online checking account that I've used. Period.

Full Review
This review is based on personal experience using First IB interest checking account for Dec. 2004. I've also compared it to similar online checking accounts at American Express (www.americanexpress.com/banking) and E*Trade bank (www.etrade.com).



I thought I'd start with the conclusions for those people who don't want to read through a long review. First Internet Bank of Indiana is by far the best online checking account that I've used. It has a great combination of high interest rates, very low fees, low average balance to avoid monthly fees, and Quicken direct connect access. The only other banks with higher checking account interest had terrible fees, so bad that I didn't even bother testing them. The ATM reimbursement of $6/month is nice, with this you don't have to worry about hunting down ATM machines, you just always use the one that is most convenient to you. The one fee that they charge that is a bit questionable is an ACH push fee of $5 per push. I rarely, if ever, do ACH pushes from my checking account, so did not factor this into my rating. If this is something you do a lot, you should probably avoid First IB as your checking account. Also, setting up ACH accounts requires 14 days lead time and submitting paperwork...very painful. You can, however, do ACH pushes and pulls entirely electronically. You are not charged a fee for ACH transactions initiated by other institutions.



Pure online banking isn't for everyone, but for me it is pretty good. Typically for pure online checking accounts you get:

1. No brick and mortar services: no convenient tellers, no safe deposit boxes, no cashier's checks, no money orders, etc.
2. Electronic transactions can take longer to process than checks.
3. Low fees and better interest rates than brick and mortar companies due to reduced overhead.
4. Depositing money can be slow if you have to mail the check out-of-state.
5. Usually have extended hours for telephone support.
6. Convenient, online bill payment.
7. Usually, get online statements only. Printed statements typically cost money.
8. May be difficult, to impossible, to deposit cash.



Some of the things that are important to me in a checking account are:

1. Few fees. Fees charged should be reasonable and disclosed appropriately.
2. Good interest rates. No tiered interest (usually this is just a scam to not pay you any significant interest while still claiming to have high interest rates).
3. Quicken direct connect access.
4. ATM fee reimbursement (this is pretty important as almost none of these banks will have their own ATMs and it's also mighty convenient to be able to use any ATM without having to worry about fees).
5. Web site usability.
6. Ability to easily set up ACH transactions.
7. Good telephone support.
8. Free online bill payment.
9. Check ordering flexibility.
10. Checks should not have a "Payable through" line on them, or it becomes prohibitively difficult to link to high-yield online savings accounts like Ing Direct and VirtualBank.
11. ATM card networks should provide good coverage.
12. Must be able to get an ATM card only vs an ATM/Visa card (personally, I think ATM/Visa cards have too many risks associated with them for my tastes -- someone who steals your wallet could start making purchases with your ATM/Visa card without knowing your pin and have money immediately taken out of your checking account).



I recently tried out 3 different online checking accounts including E*Trade, American Express and First Internet Bank of Indiana. Here are the results:

1. Fees:

a. E*Trade: F. High fees $15 per month if your account ever dips below $5000. Most good banks use a monthly average calculation, E*Trade uses an absolute minimum (which is worse for the typical consumer). No fees for ordering checks. E*Trade charges an early closing fee if you have your account open for less that 6 months, this fee is not disclosed in their fee schedule but instead buried in their Truth in Saving page. Other typical banking fees apply. See: https://us.etrade.co...skinnertab=bank

b. American Express: C. $9 monthly fee waived if you keep at least $2500 in the account (sounds like an absolute minimum to me, but I haven't verified). Other fees apply. See: http://www64.america...ts/checking.jsp. Note: I couldn't find their Truth in Saving page, so this probably does not list every last fee.

c. First Internet Bank of Indiana: A. $10 monthly fee waived if you keep a $500 average balance. $5 fee for ACH pushes initiated by First IB. This fee is a bit odd, but I didn't really factor this fee into my rating since I rarely, if ever, do ACH pushes from my checking account. Other typical banking fees apply. See: http://www.firstib.c...s/acctfees.html

2. Interest Rates:

a. E*Trade: D. 0.85%. Tiered. 0 percent for balances under $5000. See: https://us.etrade.co...skinnertab=bank
for updated rates.

b. American Express: D. 0.15%. See: http://www64.america...ts/checking.jsp
for latest rates.

c. First Internet Bank of Indiana: A . 1.06%. See: http://www.firstib.c...s/checking.html for latest rates.

3. Quicken Access:

a. E*Trade: C. Annoying Web Connect access rather than the much preferable direct connect.

b. American Express: F. Doesn't currently work with Quicken 2005 at all, but they are working on it.

c. First Internet Bank of Indiana: A. Direct Connect access with Quicken.

4. ATM fee reimbursement:

a. E*Trade: A . Unlimited reimbursements. No direct ATM fees.

b. American Express: A. No direct ATM fees. Up to 4 ATM fee reimbursed a month for up to $6.

c. First Internet Bank of Indiana: A. ATM Surcharge Rebate of up to $6.00 per month. No direct ATM Fees.

5. Web site usability:

a. E*Trade: A . One of the best looking and feature rich banking web sites I've ever used.

b. American Express: A. Very good.

c. First Internet Bank of Indiana: A. Very good.

6. Ability to easily set up ACH transactions:

a. E*Trade: A . Completely automated.

b. American Express: D. Need to submit paperwork to set up and then need to call in requests for ACH transactions.

c. First Internet Bank of Indiana: C. Setting up account for ACH requires submitting paperwork and 14 days lead-time. Deposits and withdrawals can be set up online. $5 fee for ACH pushes initiated by First IB. Grade would be an F if I really needed to do ACH pushes.

7. Good telephone support:

a. E*Trade: C. Had a couple pretty clueless representatives answer the line. Almost always have to wait at least 5 minutes and typically 10 minutes or longer to get someone on the line. 7am - Midnight EST 7days a week.

b. American Express: A+. Very helpful staff. Usually quick response times. 24/7 access.

c. First Internet Bank of Indiana: B. Incredibly helpful and on-the-ball telephone support. Good response times. Telephone support is 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM Eastern, Monday through Friday and 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Eastern, Saturday.

8. Free online bill payment:

a. E*Trade: A. Free. Haven't used, but the web site looks feature rich and usable.

b. American Express: A. Free. Very reliable and usable.

c. First Internet Bank of Indiana: A. Haven't used yet but the web site looks usable. One somewhat weird thing is that you have to apply for bill payment privileges after you open your checking account.

9. Check ordering flexibility:

a. E*Trade: F. You get really, really, really ugly checks that are an Exorcist-inspired pea-green color with a huge E*Trade logo covering a large part of check area. No ability to easily order duplicate checks or checks with a different design. No wonder they give them away for free. I would too, just to get them far away from me.

b. American Express: A. Standard checks through Deluxe.

c. First Internet Bank of Indiana: A. Standard checks through Deluxe.

10. Checks should not have a "Payable through" line on them:

a. E*Trade: A. none.

b. American Express: F. Payable through American Express Centurion Bank which technically makes them third party checks and can cause problems when attempting to link to various high-yield, online savings accounts.

c. First Internet Bank of Indiana: A. none.

11. ATM cards networks should provide good coverage:

a. E*Trade: A. Plus (might be others too, they never sent me the card I requested though).

b. American Express: F. NYCE, Pulse, The Exchange and Star. Doesn't not work on any machine outside of the US. Good coverage inside the US though.

c. First Internet Bank of Indiana: A+. Plus and Mac. Participates in Star shared deposit which allows you to deposit checks/cash at participating ATMs nationwide. Nearest ATM to me with this feature is 53 miles away 8-(. See http://www.star.com/...tmLocator.start to find the nearest one to you, make sure to click on the envelope icon when setting up the search.

12. Must be able to get an ATM without VISA logo:

a. E*Trade: F. When submitting online application, only given options of no ATM or of Visa/ATM. Must call for non-Visa ATM card. I called them and requested a non-Visa ATM card; it never arrived.

b. American Express: A. I think hell would freeze over before Amex supported a Visa logo on their ATM cards.

c. First Internet Bank of Indiana: A. I added a note to the online application requesting a non-Visa ATM card; it arrived promptly.



Note: This information was compiled on 1/4/2005. Rates, policies, etc. are likely to change over time.

Note: This review only covers the interest checking at First Internet Bank of Indiana and not any other service provided by them.

Note: I am not affiliated with any of these institutions.

Note: Some banks keep online pictures of all cleared checks and give you access to the images from the web site, I think the E*Trade is the only bank listed here that provides that service.

Source: epinions.com/content_168273940100