Debit Card Rewards Aren’t Dead

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Most banks have been killing off or scaling back their debit card reward programs. JP Morgan Chase, for instance, is scheduled to end its programs for nearly all debit card customers next week, with interchange swipe fee changes cited as a main reason for the debit reward demise. Just as the typical brick-and-mortar-based bank’s perks are disappearing, one online bank is launching a brand-new debit card rewards program—and it’s hardly the only debit rewards option out there.

Earlier this week, Ally Bank introduced Ally Perks, a program that rewards cash back directly into a customer’s account when purchases are made at certain stores. The program works differently than most reward programs; there are no points or miles amassed with every purchase, and there’s no redemption process. Instead, customers get cash put into their Ally account for making purchases through partner retailers: Right now, there are 20, including $5 back for a $50 purchase at Target, $5 on a $25 purchase at Best Buy, $5 on a $35 purchase at PetSmart, and $1 back on $2 purchase at iTunes.

While the simplicity of the cash-back program is nice, the limits and moving-target quality of the offers makes them not quite as rewarding as some customers might like. These offers expire (typically between 14 to 31 days after being introduced) and change from time to time, so it may be difficult to keep tabs on when and at which store you’ll get rewarded. Also, the cash back is a flat, fixed amount for each offer: The maximum reward for that Target offer mentioned above is $5 for spending $50 or more; you won’t get $10 off by spending $100, let alone $50 off for dropping $500 at Target.

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So there are very specific limits. Even so, the rewards are better than nothing, which is what most debit cards now provide.

As for simple unlimited cash back without requirements to buy with certain retailers or keep track of offers, another online bank, PerkStreet Financial, is hard to beat at the moment. With its current offer, new customers earn 2% cash back on all non-PIN debit card purchases—ones with just a swipe, and no PIN # is entered—for the first 90 days. After that, you’ll continue to earn 2% cash back on the same types of purchases so long as your checking account balance is $5,000 or more. If your balance is below that marker, non-PIN debit card purchases still earn 1% cash back.

That’s a lot better than nothing. Heck, it’s even better than the rewards offered by many credit cards nowadays.

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