ING DIRECT: Electric Orange™ Checking Account

Based In:   Delaware (ING Bank)
Bank RTN:   031176110
Minimum Deposit to Open:   $1
Customer Service:   1-800-ING-DIRECT (8am - 8pm EST)
Minimum Balance
to Avoid Fees:
   None
Website:    ING DIRECT

NOTE: In 2012, Capital One purchased ING Direct and its assets. At that time, all ING Direct "Electric Orange" checking accounts became part of Capital One 360. Please see my Capital One 360 Checking review for more details, and, of course, my updated review.

The account formerly known as "ING Direct Electric Orange Checking" is now "Capital One 360 Checking."

ING DIRECT Electric Orange Checking

First, they changed forever what internet-savvy users should expect from savings accounts. Then ING DIRECT set their sights on making the standard, non-interest-bearing checking account seem like a prehistoric entity.

ING's Electric Orange™ checking account ventures into new territory, to be sure. ING dubbed it "America's first all-electronic, paperless checking account," which, as checking accounts go, sure seems counterintuitive.

But it gets better: As I write this, Electric Orange even pays interest on checking balances. Not a lot, to be sure, but finding an interest-bearing, no-fees checking account these days is a task worthy of any major Roman hero.

Like its predecessor, the Orange Savings Account (review), Electric Orange abounds with freshly squeezed "no-fees, no-minimums" goodness.

Here's what I think: If ING DIRECT can keep doing for checking accounts what they've done for savings — and I wouldn't bet against them at this point — then that bricks 'n' mortar bank across the street from you is about to take a(nother) swift kick in the financial privates.

Electric Orange Features

  • FDIC insured? Well, yeah. Of course it is.
  • Great interface. I mean, I'm not a big fan of orange, personally, but ING makes it look good. Seriously. Their banking interface is probably still the best out there. The other online banking guys could learn a thing or twelve from them.
  • Comes with MasterCard debit card. Myself, I'm not a big debit-card user. But I know lots of people who wouldn't be dead without one.
  • Electronic depositing of checks. Starting in April, 2012, ING Direct offers digital uploading and depositing of paper checks. Hooray!
  • Access your cash at more than 32,000 ATMs on the Allpoint™ Network. A useful ATM Locator is provided when you log-in to your account. For what it's worth, I recently found 15 free ATMs within a 20-mile radius of my home in Oklahoma.
  • Free online Bill Pay & Direct Deposit. Both of which are pretty common offerings these days.
  • Free Electric Checks. This, as ING Direct describes it, is their "lightning-fast online check writing feature." If you have to send a paper check somewhere, they’ll send it for you. And they'll supply the postage.
  • Electric Orange Security Guarantee. According to the account welcome letter, ING guarantees "...that you will not be liable for any losses resulting from unauthorized purchases."
  • Customizable transaction histories. Click on "Transaction History" in your account, and you can create a clean, printable list of all transactions between any two dates.
  • eStatements. View and print your monthly or quarterly statements, whenever you want, in PDF format.
  • Handy email notifications. Choose what email notifications you'd like to receive: alerts when there's been a purchase over an amount you've specified, alerts when your account balance drops to a specified amount, and more:
  • Email Notifications
  • Ability to earn referral income. As with their Orange Savings account, ING encourages customers to refer friends and family members to become new ING Direct account holders. You can earn up to $250 with the twenty-five $10 referrals attached to your Electric Orange account.
  • Download transactions into MS Money or Quicken. Personally, I input all my transactions by hand, but I also know lots of folks who prefer to let Quicken or Money do it electronically through the bank. Yep — it can be done with Electric Orange.

ING Direct: That's One Big Orange

• VIDEO •

ING CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann
says they're going to
Make Savings Cool.

(He's being serious.)

ING Direct is the online-only branch of the internationally-known, Netherlands-based ING Group. ING Direct got its start in 2000 — and a notable start it was, because that's when they opened up the world's first online-only savings account, the Orange Savings account. Since then, ING Direct has grown to become the nation's largest internet bank. They hold over $75 billion in assets, and they attract roughly 100,000 new customers each month. [Source: ABC News]

I am very clear about the idea that I serve. I can look every one of our five million customers in the face and not be ashamed of anything.
— Arkadi Kuhlmann

Expertly guiding ING DIRECT USA's steamship is CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann. Check out the Making Savings Cool video above, and what you'll find is that Kuhlmann is nothing like your average banker: He believes in financial literacy, community service, and in helping folks save their money. And oh yeah — he's an innovator who, to this point, has been about five steps ahead of all of his banking peers.

Getting Started With Electric Orange

Since I was already an Orange Savings account owner, my opening of an Electric Orange account took all of five minutes. The "Three Step Application" was insanely simple and fast.

Account Opening Confirmation

Debit Card Activation Is a Breeze

Once you receive your Electric Orange debit card (my pin arrived two days later), activating it is a snap. Just log-in to your account, visit the Account Maintenance page, and enter the last four digits of your card number. That's the activation process in its entirety. So, so easy!

Direct Deposit & Electric Orange

ING's Electric Orange was intended to be the world's first "fully paperless" checking account. But what if your employer requires — as mine does — a voided check be submitted in order to set up Direct Deposit?

The answer: ING Direct has it handled.

Just head into your "Account Maintenance" section, then scroll down to "Useful Forms." There you'll find links for adding a joint owner, printing a pre-filled Direct Deposit form, and — yes! — printing a (faux) voided check for your account.

Seriously: These guys are on the ball.

Depositing Paper Checks Electronically

In April, 2012, ING Direct started offering its customers the ability to deposit paper checks electronically by uploading front- and back-of-check JPEG images via smartphone or PC. This is a feature that I was hoping ING would roll out, and sure enough, it's up and running.

As of May, 2012, I've deposited a handful of checks successfully, and am super happy that ING has made this available! If you're interested, I have a few more thoughts in my "ING Adds Remote Check Deposit" blog post.

Electric Orange: Bill-Paying a Business

Add a Business

Utilizing Electric Orange's Bill-Pay feature means you get to add your business and payee addresses to the system. ING's single screen for gathering this data looks like the thumbnail image to the right.

After that, paying bills with Electric Orange is about as simple as it gets. Here's how ING's 3-step process looked as I paid my household's recent natural-gas bill:

  1. Enter the Payee, Amount, and Date:
    Bill Pay - Step 1
  2. Verify the Info:
    Bill Pay - Step 2
  3. Your Payment's Out the Door:
    Bill Pay - Step 3

At that point, a check of my account's main page now showed a pending transaction:

Bill Pay - Pending Transaction

A few days later, the transaction had posted. It showed up as an electronic payment, rather than a paper check. So apparently ING Direct was able to pay my gas company electronically:

Bill Pay - Posted Transaction

Electric Orange: Sending Money to Your Homies

Who says businesses get all the money fun? With Electric Orange, you can issue Electric Checks. These allow you to send money to individuals electronically — although you can still elect to do so by standard paper check, too. (You gotta wonder just how Paypal feels about all this.)

Pretend you want to send an Electric Check for $70 to your cousin Suzie Spendsalot. It's easy to do; you'll just need to know two things about Suzie:

  1. Her bank's rounting number (RTN), and ...
  2. Her bank account number (checking or savings).

Plug Suzie's bank info into the "Send Electric Checks" section ...

Electric Checks - Add a Person

...and a few clicks later (much like the business bill-pay above) your $70 is off and running. (Probably never to be seen again!)

Electric Checks - Send to a Person
Electric Checks - Confirmation

Nifty Feature: Once you've "Added a Person" to your EO account in this manner, their info is saved (much as it is for businesses) so that you can simply select it from a drop-down box later. You won't have to re-enter it in the future.

Electric Checks: What the Payee Sees

Really, I kind of like the idea behind Electric Checks. I'm not sure how much opportunity I'll have to use it, but it might come in handy at some point.

Just for giggles, and because I wanted to see how it works, I sent an Electric Check for a small amount to my wife via one of my our household's other checking accounts. One I sent the check, a few minutes passed, and then my wife received an email:

Picking Up an Electric Check - Click to Enlarge Email

Clicking the link in the email then took her to ING's site where she could confirm her banking information:

Picking Up an Electric Check

She then entered her bank's routing number and her account number. That brought up the confirmation screen:

Picking Up an Electric Check

When all was said and done, this was the Electric Check timeline:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 10: Sent Electric Check to wife's credit union at 12:05pm.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 10: My wife received the ING email within minutes. She accepted the Electric Check later, at 10pm.
  • Friday, Oct. 12: The deposit was in my wife's account; we checked it at 9am.

Man, that's fast. Once more, we see that ING's electronic-transfer speed leads the pack.

Yes, You Can Also Send Paper Checks

Just input the necessary info ...

Electric Checks - Add a Person - Pay by Check

...and ING Direct will mail a check to whomever you want. Postage? It's on them.

Just for funsies, I decided to have ING mail a small paper check to my wife. The timeline went like this:

  • Sunday, Jan. 6 @ Noon: Logged into Electric Orange and issued a standard paper check to my wife.
  • Monday, Jan. 7 @ 9am: Received an email from ING telling me that the check had been mailed.
  • Thursday, Jan. 10: The check reached our mailbox.

And a few images:

Check by Mail
Check by Mail

The check arrived in a standard, large-window envelope. The name and address of the payee (input when you create the check in your Electric Orange account) serve as the viewable mailing address for the envelope.

More Juicy Screenshot Goodness

ING Direct has a tremendous interface — no question about it.

Log-in Splash Screen Electric Orange Main Screen

Selected as a "Best of" by Kiplinger's

Kiplinger's Personal Finance selected ING's Electric Orange as its "Best Checking Account" for 2007.

So if you're one of those folks who likes to select your financial accounts based on personal-finance magazines' selections ... well, Electric Orange has a leg up on the competition in that regard!

ING DIRECT Electric Orange Checking: Notes & Caveats

• One thing I really hate: At the top of your main Electric Orange screen, you'll always see something like this:

Overdraft Line

For a company that's so big on "saving you money," such upfront and blatant flag-waving of their overdraft protection "feature" sure does seem hypocritical. That protection, after all, ain't free.

• Linking external accounts. Oh, how I would love to see ING Direct allow more than 3 externally-linked bank accounts.

No More Links

I keep hoping that one day I'll wake up to find an email from them saying that I can now link unlimited accounts ...

Oh, what a glorious day that would be.

Refer a Friend

• Everybody loves easy money. Once you have your own ING Direct account, you can then refer 25 new customers to open Electric Orange accounts, and then another 25 new customers to open Orange Savings accounts, and you just made a tasty $500 ... plus earned yourself kudos from your friends for turning them on to the awesomeness that is ING Direct. Not bad, huh?

Just out of curiosity, when's the last time your local bank gave you the opportunity to earn $500?

Love Those Occasional Promos...

One of the best things about ING accounts is that ING loves to run time-sensitive bonuses every so often. For instance, in November 2008, ING emailed Electric Orange account holders with an offer: Use your EO debit card for at least five transactions of $10+ during the month of November, and ING would credit your account $20.

Face it: Promos like this constitute the easiest money you'll ever earn:

Cha-ching!

Tough to beat deals like that!

Summary: Bump Your Checking Up a Notch

At this point, I don't even pay attention to the naysayers and rate-chasers who spend so much time complaining about how "ING's rates aren't competitive any longer" and "ING closed my account because I was calling them too much." If these guys can find something better ... well, more power to 'em.

All I know is what I've experienced. And my experience with ING Direct has been nothing short of exemplary.

No, their rates aren't world-topping. But they're darn sure better — like four or fives times better! — than what I'd be getting if my money was languishing in a local credit-union account.

If you're looking for decent earnings on your money, and for fantastic stability and service, then ING Direct deserves your attention. Theirs is a recognized and trusted name. They're innovators, and they excel at what they do. I also suspect they take a tremendous amount of pride in knowing that they're pretty much responsible for a large chunk of the online-banking revolution.

If all this sounds good to you — it sure did to me — then I'd recommend that you start an Electric Orange checking account as soon as you can.

Michael • Updated July, 2014




Update • April, 2012:

Electric Orange is the best all-around checking account I've ever used. It's not the best-paying checking account, because there are rewards accounts at credit unions and small banks which beat ING's rates handily, but to be fair, rewards checking accounts are a different animal altogether. The fact that there are ZERO fees attached to Electric Orange means that its features just blow away those of every other standard checking account of which I'm aware.






Ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the top ranking.
Initiation:
Is it easy to open an account?
5 Stars
Adaptability:
Do they adequately adjust interest rates over time?
4 Stars
Usage:
Is its usage intuitive?
Is it efficient in function?
Are transactions processed quickly?
5 Stars
DISCLOSURE
Opening an ING DIRECT account via the links on this site supports IYM with a $10 to $20 affiliate referral fee. [Learn More]