Chicago and Milwaukee area residents who open an Ultimate Checking account at Great Lakes Credit Union can earn 4% APY on balances to $10,000.
But if you’re really organized, you can beat that low balance cap by opening multiple accounts.
Like any rewards checking account, you’ll have to take several steps each month to earn the top rate.
The account requires a direct deposit of at least $500 per month, and you must make at least 10 debit card transactions. You’ll also need to agree to receive eStatements and either pay one bill online or access mobile banking once.
The account has no minimum monthly balance requirements.
But there’s no good reason to keep more than $10,000 in your account. Balances above $10,000 only earn the standard savings rate of 0.05% APY.
If you don’t meet the requirements — say you don’t make any debit card transactions — not only will you not earn interest, but you’ll have to pay a $5 fee for your account.
This is an exceptionally rare penalty for reward checking accounts.
You can avoid the fee by completing a direct deposit of $500 per month and at least five debit card transactions, but you won’t earn any interest.
You can have up to three Ultimate Checking accounts, but to make that profitable, you’ll need to be a heavy debit card user and have at least $500 direct-deposited into each account.
The credit union, headquartered in north Chicago, serves a wide field of membership.
Anyone is eligible for membership who lives or works in Cook, Lake or McHenry counties in Illinois, and Kenosha County, Wis. Membership is also available to members of certain employee groups, active-duty or retired military personnel and reservists, and current or retired federal government employees.
You can fill out a membership application online (www.glcu.org) and deposit at least $5 into a sharing savings account. Then you can open an Ultimate Checking account.
Great Lakes Credit Union has eight branches in northern Illinois and two in Milwaukee.