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Verdict: Capital One remains one of the few larger banks with not only free checking, but rewards checking. This is not an online-only program, either. You can open an account at your local Capital One branch, too. Although the bank isn’t nationwide. there are more than 1,000 branches and over 2,000 ATMs in Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Lousiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Virginia. All it takes is $50 to open an account.
If you don’t like the changes your current bank has made in regard to checking account fees, Capital One is a nice alternative to a very small local bank, which may have fewer branches and ATM options, but no fees.
Overview: Capital One began life as the “No Hassle” credit card company, touting friendly service and flexible rewards. The rewards program isn’t as great as other cards we recommend, like Discover More and Chase Freedom, but the bank is still one of the few to offer free checking (online or in-branch) with free rewards. The rewards may not be the best, but at least you’re not paying fees or jumping through hoops to avoid fees, which seems to be the case with more and more big banks.
We should mention, though, that we’ve read reports of bad customer service at other credit card blogs and forums and in consumer reviews. Personally, I’ve only called Capital One about three times since I’ve had a Capital One No Hassle Cash Rewards card. The service is no better or worse than any other bank — they aren’t as “friendly” as they claim, but my experience wasn’t terrible, either.
If you’re ready to make the jump away from big banks and new checking fees, let’s take a look at why Capital One is worth it.
How this Checking Program Works: You can open an account online at www.capitalone.com, by phone by calling 1-888-855-BANK (2265) or at a local Capital One branch near you. All you need to open an account is:
- Your social security number
- Driver’s license or state-issued ID
If you are opening the account online, you will want the routing and account number for the account you’ll use to fund your new Capital One checking account. Your rewards begin immediately when you get 1,000 miles just for opening the account, and another 4,000 if you establish direct deposit through your employer or a government-issued monthly check within three months of opening the account.
And you’ll continue earning rewards every time you bank.
Rewards: While some banks are now charging customers for writing checks, Capital One is actually giving rewards for it. Here are all the different ways you can earn miles:
- 1,000 miles for opening account
- 4,000 miles for setting up direct deposit
- 10 miles every time you make a Non-PIN debit card purchase
- 5 miles every time you make a PIN debit card purchase
- 10 miles for paying bills online
- 5 miles for writing a check
- 1,000 miles on your first account anniversary
You can begin redeeming miles for cash or merchandise when you get 5,000 or more, and you can purchase airline tickets starting at 15,000 miles. The Capital One website is not clear about the conversion rate of miles to cash, merchandise, gift cards or flight prices, but cardholders mention miles are worth 1/2% of cash. So, if you have 5,000 miles, you can redeem for $25 in cash or statement credit. Miles don’t expire and you can transfer miles, points or cash rewards between your different Capital One accounts.
Benefits: Capital One Rewards Checking offers many of the benefits customers have come to expect from online banking, including:
- Free alerts by email, voice mail or text, with information like payments or deposits posting or your average daily balance
- Free online bill pay, with next day options available
- Full mobile banking options to do anything you do online, on your phone
- Transfer funds between Capital One accounts or to other bank accounts
- Receive free online statements
- Sync accounts to Quicken or Microsoft Money, free
- Free checking
- Free online bill pay
- Earn rewards for setting up your account, writing checks, using direct deposit, debit transactions, etc.
- Rewards never expire
- Transfer points between many other Capital One Rewards cards
- Bank online, by phone, or in a local branch
- 1,000 branches and 2,000 ATMS regionally
- Open an account with only $50
- The rewards program is not one of the best
- Complaints of poor customer service are fairly widespread