Check Cards Advance into Credit Card Territory

With consumers trying to rein in their spending by using credit cards less frequently and credit card issuers trying to limit their exposure to increased delinquency by decreasing solicitations – as found by market-research firm Mintel and reported by Progressive Grocer in May, – check cards, or “debit cards,” may earn a new status among purchase payment methods.  As banks and credit card issuers look to attract and/or retain would-be-credit-card-users-in-better-times, check card offers are now sometimes coming with extras that until recently were reserved for their more profitable credit card cousins.

If you are looking to switch from credit to check cards but are not ready to give up the credit card perks (or have shied away from credit cards but envy the benefits), here are two offers worth considering:

ING’s Electric Orange Checking: This account can be linked for free to a checking or savings account you have at any other US bank, standard among internet-based banks, and pays 0.25% interest (APY) on balances of less than $50,000 and at least 1.60% on balances above.  It comes with a MasterCard check card, which can be used for payments as well as for withdrawals at ATMs from the Allpoint network for no fee.  And if you sign up by July 31st and use the card for three “signature transactions” (i.e., those that require your signature, to the exclusion of online purchases, for example) within 45 days after opening, ING will give you a $25 bonus.  To get this offer, just make sure to use code EM292 when registering.

SunTrust SkyMiles Check Card: Advertised as the “first-ever SkyMiles Check Card” this is, as far as I know, the check card closest to mimicking a credit card in terms of bells and whistles.  There are two options for individuals – classic and platinum – as well as a business option.  The Classic Check Card has a $20 annual fee and gives 1 mile on Delta per $2 spent, along with 2,500 bonus miles after the first signature purchase.  With an annual fee of $55, the Platinum and the Business cards both give 1 mile per $1 spent, 5,000 bonus miles after the first signature purchase, and a Delta Sky Club Day Pass (the latter a $50 value).  All three cards are from Visa and can be used for free at SunTrust ATMs and for purchases.

These two offers are probably only the first of many check card deals to come.  As the credit card industry has adapted to different people’s needs by offering a diverse range of benefits through different credit cards – from miles to prizes and from cash back to points, – check cards  should soon follow the same trend.  If you have long stayed away from credit cards or are trying to move to debit, your vindication may be just around the corner.

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