Back in 2004, a co-worker came in excited about this new bank account he has set up. He was ranting and raving about the great interest rates and if I wanted to open an account they would give me $25 reward and he would get a $10 bonus. Sounded like a good deal to me. To be honest, my financial awareness was pretty low in 2004, little did I know I was stumbling into what would be the foundation for future emergency or other savings accounts. With the contact information in hand I dialed and spoke with a representative at ING Direct.
The concept of a virtual bank, without a traditional brick and mortar location was a little intimidating at first. However, I’ve successfully interfaced with USAA by phone and Internet so I resolved this would not be much different. Most importantly, they were FDIC insured like any other bank I would use. After a pleasant exchange with the customer service representative my account was set up, complete with automatic savings. Eventually I switched from automatic savings to direct deposit.
After a period of unemployment / re-employment this account remained active but idle. I’d all but forgotten I had it. But when I decided I was going to take the necessary steps to get on track financially used this account to build my savings funds. ING Direct is one of my favorite financial institutions of a number of reasons:
1. Higher interest rates than traditional banks. When I opened my account with ING Direct back in 2004, the interest rates fluctuated between 2-4%. In 2000, when ING opened in the US, their rates were around 6%. Now, there is more competition, and if you are looking for an account solely based on the APY, their are better choices out there (sorry ING), but they are still higher than what I would get at a “regular” bank.
2. Stellar customer service! I don’t remember the exact dialogue that took place when I opened my account but I remember the experience being very pleasant. In fact, when my co-worker followed up with me about creating an account, I remember telling him that my account was created and the customer service representative I spoke with was very helpful and friendly. I’ve recently spoke with some representatives from ING Direct to set up additional savings accounts. The service remains fast and courteous.
3. Multiple accounts is something that sets ING apart from the competition. Often these are refered to as sub-accounts, but that is actually a misnomer. ING Direct gives you the ability to manage separate savings accounts under one user ID. By being about the compartmentalize your savings, you can easily track a variety of saving goals. You can also give the accounts nicknames so you can keep them straight. In the image below, there are 4 accounts labeled: Emergency Fund, Vacation, Car and House. I believe you can create up to 30 accounts.
4. Accessibility. One of the reasons I initially had success with ING Direct is because my savings were separate from my mainstream checking account. The “old Kita” treated my savings account like an extended checking account and the free overdraft protection made it easy to ignore the fact that I wasn’t actually saving. Once my funds entered ING, a withdrawal was a conscious effort. This eliminated frivolous spending done with the swipe of a card. To access funds from ING, you’ll need to withdrawal the funds to another bank that is linked to your ING account. This transfer takes around 3 business days. This barrier is enough to eliminate impulse buys. So while most may see this as a limitation, it actually works in my favor.
There is a minor limitation, and that is the fact that some funds are not available up to 5 business days after deposit. Because I use ING strictly for savings, that has never been an issue for me. Their website is user friendly and secure. I would recommend an ING direct Orange Savings account to anyone looking for a place to save their money. Like any federally regulated savings account, there is a limit on the number of withdrawals you can make per month (6). One thing I recently learned is a transfer between accounts counts as a withdrawal. So if you set up multiple accounts, be sure to fund them individually through direct deposit or automatic savings.
Since 2004, ING Direct has continued to branch out and now offers other products and services:
- Internet Cafes: Available in select cities as a place where ING customers can check their accounts, free Internet access, and sign-up for finance seminars. Sounds cool, but the nearest cafe is 4 hours from me!
- Electric Orange Checking: A no fees, no hassle, no minimum checking account that generates interest. This sounds like a great deal and I’ve been tempted to give it a shot, but as I mentioned above, I’ve found sucess in savings by creating a barrier between my savings and checking accounts.
- ING Sharebuilder: Buy stocks online for $4/share. (Cash Money Life has a full ING Sharebuilder review here)
- The Easy Orange Mortgage: Basically this is an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). I don’t see myself ever using this.
Official ING Blog
We the Savers
What about you? Do you use any products or services offered by ING direct? Tell us about your experience.