Earn $600 A Year With A Cash-Back Rewards Debit Card

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UPDATE 08-12-13:  It saddens me to say that Perkstreet has closed it’s doors.  They truly were a great bank with a great vision to help put some of the profits that all the other banks take back into the pockets of their customers.  I have yet to find a bank that comes even close to the cash-back rewards that Perkstreet offers, but I will start investigating a bit more and see what the next best thing is now that they are closed.  Stay tuned, but in the meantime here are some interest bearing checking accounts to check out:

I heard about the PerkStreet Financial Cash-Back debit card about a year and a half ago and it seemed like a pretty good deal when they were offering 1% cash back on all purchases. But when I found out that they were offering 2% cash back for new customers for the first 3 months, I decided to give it a shot.

Now that I have been banking with them for 1.5 years I figured I would let you know how it has worked out for me.

Since opening my account in May of 2010 I have earned $1169 cash back.

This breaks down to an average of $58/month for doing nothing different than I was doing before I switched from my old bank. They have all the same protection and features of my old bank, the only difference is I get a ton of money back just for using them.

Everyone’s situation is different, so I know not everyone will be able use a bank like Perkstreet, but I would recommend looking at your current banking situation and budget and considering if opening an account would be worth it for you.

Below is the original article I wrote in June of 2010:

The PerkStreet Deal

Basically this is a rewards debit-card (note: debit card, not credit card) that really does have some great perks. You are lucky to find a credit card that gives you 2% cash back on your purchases, much less a debit card.

In order to get the 2% beyond the 3 month introductory period, you just need to maintain an account balance of $5000. We did this by moving our Emergency fund over to the account. But even if you have a $10 balance in your account you will still earn 1% on all purchases. So if you use the card as your primary debit card, you can imagine how the rewards could add up.

Once you are ready to cash out your rewards, you just go to the PerkStreet site and press a button and viola, your $50 or $100 Visa Gift Card will be on the way.

Here are a few of the answers to the questions I had…

  • They do not have physical branches
  • Similar to  Capital One 360, to make a deposit you have to transfer the $ from another account or set up direct deposit.
  • They do offer checkbooks (and the first one is free)
  • They have live phone service 24/7
  • Free online banking and bill pay
  • According to their website they have the “Nation’s largest surcharge-free ATM network”
  • No minimum balance requirement
  • FDIC insured up to $250,000

What’s the catch?

I am naturally skeptical when it comes to good deals, I am always looking for the catch in the fine print – and here it is… There is a monthly inactivity fee of $4.50 if you don’t use your debit card or write a check that month.

While I wish they didn’t have the inactivity fee, I still opened an account because I am going to make it my primary debit card. I use my debit card almost daily, so as long as I am using this account – I won’t ever being charged a fee.

How do they offer 2% cash back rewards?

According to their website, “U.S. banks spend over $80 billion a year to build and keep their branches open. Our customers prefer to bank online, so we invest our money in what really matters.” This makes sense to me. ING functions using a similar business model – they save millions by doing away with branches and pass some of the savings on to the customers.

Deciding if it is worth it

Before signing up Linda and I had a quick discussion about whether or not it would be worth it for us to sign up. I am not a guy who drives 10 miles out of my way to save 3 cents on gas, and so I didn’t want to waste my time creating this account if it really weren’t going to be worth our time.

Looking at our budget I calculated that during the first 3 months we would likely earn $55-$60 each month if we kept a $5000 buffer in our account.

After thinking about it I realized that while it would take a little time setting up the account, once it was set up, running our personal budget and money management would be no different – except that the debit card would have a different logo. So after chatting about it for a few minutes we realized that for us it would definitely be worth trying it out.

We would likely earn $500-$600 this year in cash back rewards and really don’t have to do anything different.

If things end up being different than I am expecting I will be sure to update this article.

Setting up the account

As it says on the website, it only takes about 5 minutes to open the account. I filled in all the info and then they said they would get back to me within 2 business days and the debit cards and checks would be in the mail.

(A few days later…) I logged into my new PerkStreet Account today and my deposit had been made. I haven’t received my debit card or other paperwork in the mail yet, but it looks like everything is good to go. The website is pretty simple, but seems like it will do everything that I will need it for – transferring money and bill pay.

(A couple days later…) I just received my debit cards and activated them. Now we are good to go!

If you are interested and want to find out more, you can watch the video below or visit their website here.

Have you tried out the PerkStreet CashBack debit card or are you planning on it in the future?

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  1. Lance

    Great review. I’m glad to finally see a cash back debit card, since I use my debit card almost exclusively. It’s a wonder how they pay all that reward money to people just on the money they make from inactivity fees. I’m sure they probably invest the money you have sitting there like any other bank does. The only other concern I would have is the time it takes to transfer money into the account. I get so impatient with the 2-3 day ING transfers!

  2. [email protected]

    Thanks for the info- I have known about Perkstreet for a while, and have been thinking about opening an account, but have not done so as of yet- sounds like it is pretty simple.

  3. Charlie Summers

    Maybe, but while they encourage customers to use the VISA network (you get 1%, they pocket the other 2-3%), they don’t tell you ACH transactions are limited. Unless you plan on mailing them a lot of checks, it becomes useless pretty quickly.

  4. Tim

    To me the catch in the fine print is: “cash back on all non-PIN debit card purchases”. How many non-PIN purchases do you make with a debit card? It has been four month, are you earning what you thought?

    • Bob

      Tim, it might be a catch for some -but I always use my debit card as credit anyway – and I am still getting about $50/month in rewards – it is just about what I thought initially…

  5. David

    Where do traders watch for breaking news? I seem to be way behind any moves. Are there any free services that are fast?

  6. Michele

    Just happened upon your blog. But then again I don’t think anything happens by chance..God has been working with me to get our financial matters on an upward track. Over a year ago I started super couponing and have been saving at least 50-60% on our groceries as well as lots of free groceries and household supplies.
    Just this week I found the free Kindle download 1-2-3 Money Plan by Gregory Karp. It offers some great and simple advice. Gregory points out that $1.00 saved is worth more than a $1.00 earned. As a super couponer I am all about saving ~ which somehow landed me on your blog. I am interested in knowing how this Cash Back debit card is working out and has it been worth it? Was it hard to set up and do you feel secure with the bank? I am always leary when it sounds to good to be true.
    I appreciate your thoughts.

  7. Jenna Walker

    Hi Michele,

    I apologize for the late response, but I just saw this comment. My name is Jenna and I work at PerkStreet Financial. I am also a PerkStreet customer and love earning tons of cash back! I’m obviously bias, so I’ll let Bob answer your questions, but I wanted to let you know that if you have any questions about the account please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected]

    Thanks a lot,

  8. Terry

    Great, an account designed for people who have $5000 to sock away and who spend too much. Whatever became of frugality? What would John Wesley say?

    • Lily at PerkStreet

      Hi Terry,

      Thanks for your feedback. We love engaging with customers and potential customers alike and welcome opportunities to explain what we believe our value to be. While we’re not for everyone — online banking can be tricky — we believe that the product we offer rewards consumers for spending responsibly. Regardless of your financial status, we pay cash back for healthy, debt-free financial choices. Our community is one which fosters and congratulates positive changes and personal finance betterment, not one of reckless spending or of exorbitant bank balances. (We like to say “Everyone buys toilet paper. Why not do that on debit and earn cash back?”) Further, our blog almost exclusively focuses on frugality and on money saving tips, and we have deeply savvy customers.

      PerkStreet offers 2% cash back on debit spend regardless of balance for the first 90 days of the account (current promotion). Thereafter, as you suggested, accounts with balances above 5K earn 2%, but those below that threshold still earn 1% back. Additionally, we offer seasonally-relevant and community-voted upon PowerPerks monthly, which gives 5% cash back to all customers, regardless of balance, at select retailers and/or retailer categories. As someone who earns 1%, I still find PerkStreet wonderfully valuable. In a way, it’s like “free” money for participating in everyday financial decisions I’d be making regardless of cash back.

      While I should not speculate what John Wesley might say about PerkStreet, I can say with confidence that we believe in the product we offer and would love to have you join us. Feel free to email our Customer Advocacy team as per the e-mail notated if you’d like to chat further.

      PerkStreet Financial

  9. Joolie

    I find it odd PerkStreet does not yet offer Savings accounts. They say they’re coming in 2012, but customers may be limited to 1 personal and 1 joint account. This would prevent me from using them for all my banking, since I currently use the unlimited Savings accounts with ING as envelopes, and tend to do a fair amount of moving money around between Savings and Chequing.
    For the same reason I move money around (fluxuating income), I also find myself occasionally in a slight overdraft situation. At PerkStreet I’d be charged $25 per incident, but ING offers an unusually lenient 1% per day. This crutch isn’t something I’m proud of, and I’m working toward a point where I have enough in my chequing account to avoid this, for now ING is my best solution.
    I love the idea of cash-back on our many transactions, but I don’t wish to have my money spread out at three banks (1 brick & mortar, 1 for “envelopes”, 1 for cash-back).

    • Lily at PerkStreet

      Hi Joolie,

      Thanks for the feedback. Always nice to hear from our customers and to have the opportunity to weigh in on their insights.

      With the low-rate environment, it’s been difficult for institutions to maintain valuable interest rates for consumers. We spent 2011 working diligently with our banking partner (TBBK) to craft a savings vehicle that will offer a competitive rate. Users will [likely] be able to have one personal checking account, one joint checking account, and a savings account on top of each*. (*Details forthcoming as per official company announcement). Moving money between the two accounts should not be any more cumbersome than it is at your current institution(s).

      In 2012, we have new and exciting product extensions launching, including budgeting-based software, which you may find comparable to envelopes in theory. This, combined with remote capture desktop deposit, with remote deposit via mobile, and with savings, are all going to be huge “wins” for our community.

      Unfortunately, we do not plan to offer any sort of debt product. Our community is about rewarding for responsible spending and about improving the health of personal finances. Of course, many of our customers are just starting down the road to such security and while an overdraft line of credit would be a nice cushion, it’s not in the cards for us in 2012.

      Thanks for being a part of the PerkStreet family. We think you’ll enjoy what’s in store.

      PerkStreet Financial

  10. Jeff Crews

    It looks like I might have found a new debit card. I use my debit card for everything so why not make some extra cash off of purchaser. What are your thoughts on the best credit cards without fees?

  11. Vickie

    I have always been warned not to use a debit card for everything. I have read they are not as safe as a credit card. Any opinion on that?

    • Bob

      Vickie, I have heard that if you run your debit card as a credit transaction, you have all the same protections as a credit card. I found this on Visa’s website…. “With a debit card, also known as a check card, you can shop at many merchant locations without having to carry cash or remember your checkbook and enjoy all the protections of using Visa, like our zero liability policy* against fraud.”

    • Lily at PerkStreet

      We believe they are as safe as credit cards, Vickie. And Bob, you’re correct. Here’s a post on the PerkStreet blog as it regards the Platinum Debit MasterCard network’s benefits and protections: http://blog.perkstreet.com/perkstreets-platinum-debit-mastercard-benefits-a-quick-rundown/

      PerkStreet Financial

    • Joolie

      Vickie, The cash-back in this case is ONLY on transactions run as CREDIT; if you use your PIN it’s DEBIT and you won’t receive a cash-back.

  12. Haley Hill

    I’ve also been using Perkstreet for just over a year and I absolutely love it! We have earned over $800 in perks so far and we just cashed out $400 to use for our vacation in March! It’s a wonderful company with great service and values. I have no affiliation with Perkstreet except for being a customer but I would highly recommend them to anyone who wants to avoid debt and credit cards while still earning great cash back! Just a note, they switched to the Mastercard network a few months ago so you may want to update your article to reflect that (you referenced Visa). Go check out perkstreet everyone!

  13. Jaclyn Chretien

    Hello! I have come across your website for the first time today and I love it! My husband and I have been married just under two years, and need to do a budget. This isn’t going to be easy for either one of us, because it will be a first for both of us. We have wanted to get financial advice on this from a fellow Christian, trusting that God would move in the endeavor. We have little money, but big plans, like so many others today. I like forward to reading and learning more, and will be researching ING, PerkStreet and YNAB.
    Thanks so much! God bless!

  14. Nicholas

    This sounds like a great deal, but I wonder is it ethical? In my understanding when a merchant processes a non pin transaction at his or her point of sale they are charged a higher percentage for that transaction by the card processing company. In essence it seems like Perkstreet wants to team up with consumers to rip off merchants. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

    • Bob

      Nicholas, they are a bank just like any other bank, so any time anyone runs a transaction as a credit purchase it functions the same way. I see it more as they are a bank that is willing to share some of their profits with the customers, rather than just about every other bank that just keeps them all to themselves…

  15. Megan

    How would it work when tax time came around?

    • Jenna Walker

      Hi Meghan –

      My name is Jenna and I work at PerkStreet Financial. That’s a great question, and one that some of our customers bring up. We do not believe perks are taxable and don’t send out 1099 INTs. We do recommend you talk to your accountant when asking for tax advice though.


  16. Seemit

    Okay. After reading this, I was sold to opening an account. I can definitely keep my 5K in the bank for long term. I would’ve loved if it was 2% for 5K and 4% cashback for amounts over $25 K in account. Would’ve been awesome. I have series of planned transactions with PerkStreet that is going to earn me much more than that 2%. Thank you and Thanks to AMEX and Thanks to WalMart … And possibly Office Depot lol

  17. Brandon

    I’ve been doing a bit of research on Perk Street to see if it’s something my wife and I should do. Maybe someone here would have some insight for us. I have three things that make me wonder a little bit. First, it sounds like the “Perks” are rewarded in the form of gift cards. (Visa Gift Card, Wal-Mart, Applebee’s Etc…) unless you want cash put into your account and take 9% off of your total. If that’s the case then the money I get back via gift cards will have to start being used for the things I would normally be buying. If you take the rewards as a gift card you are forced to have to use the money from the gift cards and now you aren’t using your Perk Street card and can’t continue to acquire more cash back into your account until you are done using your previous rewards money. Just seems silly to me. Second, we have our emergency fund in a free checking account at a local credit union that currently gains interest of 2.24% every month. I don’t know if it would be best to keep it all in there and continue getting interest there on everything or go ahead and split it up and take $6,000 or so and start a Perk Street account and start using that instead of our cash back Discover card. (which we pay off every month by the way). Any thoughts, I could continue the Credit Union account and then utilize Perk Street and take advantage of both if it would be worth it. Third, I saw that one of the drawbacks to perk street is that there is a Returned item fee of $32/item. Does that mean that if my wife would happen to buy a shirt at the mall and then decide the next day that she wants to return it, that if she took it back and the store credited the account that Perk Street would literally charge me a fee of $32 to do that? All thoughts I’ve had. I’d love some feedback from anyone. Thanks.

    • Kyle Psaty

      Hey Elliot and Brandon,
      Kyle from PerkStreet here, just chiming in to help with the math. Obviously we all want Brandon to get the best deal he can, and PerkStreet as a company feels an obligation to clear up misconceptions whenever we can. Please don’t take this as anything other than an attempt to help. Federal regulation requires that banks and financial institutions express interest rates in the form of Annual Percentage Yield (APY), which means Brandon’s likely earning 2.24% / 12 = .187% monthly on his credit union account. This means he’d be earning $7500 *.00187 = $14 per month (approximately).

      Now, I should point out that PerkStreet no longer offers unlimited 2% cash back for maintaining a $5K balance on our debit cards. This was the case when Bob wrote this blog post. (Hey Bob! Hope things are well with you!) Today, Brandon would earn unlimited 1% cash back on all non-PIN purchases, plus up to 2% at major online retailers like Amazon.com and Walmart.com. We’ve also since launched customized, personalized bi-weekly deals at specific merchants for up to 25% cash back. We call these PowerPerks and you can read about them at perkstreet.com. Since they’re customized and I have no idea how much Brandon shops online, I won’t factor in those components of his hypothetical earn…

      In order to match what I understand to be his $14 monthly earn with a PerkStreet account, Brandon would have to spend about $1,400 per month (non-PIN) using a PerkStreet Cash Back Debit MasterCard. But here’s the thing… He’s not required to keep a minimum balance to earn that. Brandon, you could have your cake and eat it too by keeping your hypothetical $7500 emergency fund in your other CU account and simply using the PerkStreet card for all your spending money.

      Hope this helps you make your decision, Brandon. Elliot, if my math is wrong, point it out. Let’s make sure Brandon makes a wise decision here. Thanks everyone for participating in this important conversation.


      Kyle Psaty
      Public Relations
      PerkStreet Financial

  18. Elliot

    @Brandon No, returned item fee is a different way of saying overdraft fee. If you write a check that bounces or charge the account $500 when you have $250 you get hit with that fee. It’s extremely common everywhere.

    As for how to tell if it’s better, do the math! If you’ve got say a $7500 emergency fund at 2.24% per month You’d be getting $168 per month. Therefore you’d need to spend over $8400 per month to equal that. If your credit card gets good cash back you’re unlikly to be better off with this. I’d say this is great for people who lack good credit, self control, spending experience or all three.

    I don’t work for them, so take my advice for what it is.

  19. Jose Pena

    Announcement the perkstreet bank is closing down.

    Today is a deeply disappointing and painful moment for our team. We started PerkStreet with the seemingly impossible goal of making banking more rewarding for the average person. We were able to give cash back for spending money that was already earned, not risking going into debt by spending on a credit card. We believed we could reward everyone, not just the people who would tell you it takes money to make money. The last 5 years were an incredible journey. We’ve given out over $4 million dollars in perks and done groundbreaking things to create our amazing online community. We are deeply saddened to see it end.
    Over the last 6 months we have been pursuing additional investment to grow our business to the point it could be self-sustaining. Unfortunately, we were unable to secure more funding and now must begin the process of closing the company.
    We are honored that you put your trust in us. We regret the inconvenience and disappointment this causes you. Each of you has been an incredible partner in this journey, whether holding our feet to the fire for things you didn’t like or gushing that you feel like a member of movement rather than a customer.
    Keep on perk’n –
    Jason & the PerkStreet Team
    For more information, please choose the appropriate option below.
    My PerkStreet debit card number begins with 5519
    or your account number starts with 123
    My PerkStreet debit card number begins with 5507
    or your account number starts with 234

    Find an ATMEmail Us

    DisclosuresPartnersPerks MerchantsFees
    Bank accounts for PerkStreet customers whose debit card number begins with 5507 are held at Provident Bank, New York, member FDIC. Banking services for other PerkStreet customers may be provided by another bank; see our Partners page for more details.

    The merchants represented are not sponsors of PerkStreet perks, or otherwise affiliated with PerkStreet Financial, Inc. The logos and other identifying marks are trademarks of and owned by each represented company and/or its affiliates. Used under license. Please visit each company’s website for additional terms and conditions of use.

    The Bullseye Design, Target and Target GiftCards are registered trademarks of Target Brands, Inc. Terms and Conditions are applied to gift cards. Target is not a participating sponsor of this offer.

    Amazon.com Gift Cards (“GCs”) sold by SVM, an authorized and independent reseller of Amazon.com Gift Cards. Except as required by law, GCs cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods on Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. ©,®,™ Amazon.com Inc. and/or its affiliates, 2013. No expiration date or service fees.

    The PerkStreet FinancialSM Debit MasterCard® is issued by Provident Bank pursuant to license from MasterCard International Incorporated. MasterCard and the MasterCard Brand Mark are registered trademarks of MasterCard International Incorporated.

    ©2013 PerkStreet Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.

  20. Patty DeLeo

    Perkstreet will cease operations as of Sept 2013. Sad news..maybe Capital one 360 formerly ING or Ally bank best out there presently as far as online banking..others include American Express and Discover bank online..

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