I’m a big fan of BankDirect, I’ve written about it in the past such as here, they’ve hosted my primary checking account since July 2003. I’ve found the customer service excellent and the value proposition compelling.
I get 100 American Airlines miles for every thousand dollars of average balance each month, which in a low interest rate environment is a pretty good rate of return (and unlike Citibank, they don’t 1099 the miles). As long as I keep an average balance of $2500 in the account I’m avoiding fees. They reimburse my out-of-network ATM fees and give me postage-paid envelopes for mailing in deposits.
Yesterday I received a letter explaining changes to their program. They’re capping mileage earning for some very large depositors (hint: it won’t affect me at all!) and they’re upping their new member signup bonuses. Both changes go into effect April 1.
Currently there is no limit to the miles earned each month. You earn 100 miles for every $1000 average balance, no matter how big your balance. Some folks have deposited very large sums of money, say a couple of million dollars even (more than I’d be comfortable with, even if I had it..) to earn a couple of hundred thousand miles per month.
BankDirect is changing their mileage earning structure to say that you’ll only earn the 100 miles per $1000 average balance on the first $200,000 in a checking account (or Certificate of Deposit). After that they award only 25 miles per $1000 average balance. They’re also cutting mileage earning on their money market accounts in a similar way, 50 miles per $1000 up to $200,000 and 25 miles per $1000 after $200,000.
They’re also limiting each household to one mileage earning account of each type, no opening a second account to circumvent the mileage earning limits.
As I say, this won’t affect me at all. But for some heavy BankDirect players it’s a devaluation.
The other change is an improvement in their new member signup bonus.
Currently, new accounts receive:
- Earn 1000 miles for opening a Mileage Checking Account
- Earn 5000 miles for signing up for payroll direct deposit into a Mileage Checking Account
- Earn 2000 miles for using BankDirect’s bill pay service for 12 months
Plus 1000 miles for being referred by an existing customer.
Beginning April 1, the offer will be:
- 1000 miles per new account, plus 1000 miles per $100,000 in initial deposit
- 10,000 miles for payroll direct deposit (not sure if a Paypal transfer or EFT from another financial account will work to satisfy this)
- 5000 miles for using bill pay (presumably still a 12 month requirement? Not yet clear).
- 5000 miles for using their Visa Checkcard
- 1000 miles for referring new accountholders/being referred by an existing accountholder
So a standard account opening bonus, presumably fully received after a year, would be 22,000 American Airlines miles — up from 9,000 miles. Pretty good.
Bottom-line, though, is that if you’ll consider opening a BankDirect account you should wait to do so until April 1. And of course you should be referred by an existing accountholder. I’ve earned great referral bonuses by referring folks, of course. The strange thing is that there have been references to earning up to 10,000 miles from referrals, and I recall once seeing a limit of earning 20 referral credits, but in practice I can verify that no such limit has been enforced.