Comparing BillPay between ING Electric Orange and Fidelity MySmartCash

December 4th, 2008 · 5 Comments

This morning I was reading on the Fidelity website about the Fidelity MySmartCash and decided to compare it’s BillPay service to an ING Direct Electric Orange account.  To do a proper comparison I actually opened up a new MySmartCash so that I’d have full access to the tools an actual user would have.   I already have a recently opened Electric Orange account to compare to.

Accounts built around checks

At a high level, both accounts aim to replace your standard, brick-and-mortar bank’s checking account with a number of improved features.  In my opinion, ING’s offering is a now pretty common online checking account with the real draw being the speed of transferring money to and from your Orange savings account(s) — if you don’t have Orange savings accounts, I’m not sure you’d go out of your way to open one of these.  And Fidelity’s draw seems to be the tools they provide to ensure you aren’t keeping too much money sitting idle and not invested.   However, one could easily argue that sitting in a yield-bearing cash account isn’t always bad — say during the last couple months and possibly the next few!

Anyway, before you even consider the additional features and benefits, I think it’s worth understanding some of the details of the core capabilities that relate directly to why you’re likely to want a checking account — the ability to write checks and pay bills.  Here is what I’ve learned that differentiates the two accounts, in no particular order.  For the most part, I’ve left out features that are almost exactly the same:

  1. Both accounts have no minimum balance and charge no maintenace fees, though there are differences in service fees for things like overdrafts, etc.  As they are things I don’t use much, I won’t go into more here but for those who do, you should definitely compare them.
  2. Both sites let you enter the full details of a payee, but MySmartCash has a nice shortcut for common billers.  There you only need enter the name you’ll be writing the check to, and if the details are found in the database, you then only enter your account number and possibly the billing zip code to help figure out where your payment should be sent to.  At Electric Orange, they only try to match to their database AFTER you’ve entered the full details yourself.  And when there is a match, you can no longer edit the payee — you’re only option is to delete it and start over.
  3. When entering payee information, MySmartCash makes you enter the account number twice.  At first I was annoyed with this but the more I do it, the more I’m glad they make me validate it by typing it twice.
  4. Electric Orange lets you assign a nickname to each payee as you enter their information.  Whereas MySmartCash makes you save the information then navigate your way back through to the payee edit screen to be able to assign a nickname.  Nicknames are VERY useful.  Too bad Electric Orange restricts the characters you can use in your nickname so that you can’t enter things like “AT&T”.
  5. MySmartCash guarantees that payments arrive on time as long as you conform to their guidelines (see below). If it doesn’t happen on time, they’ll pay any late fees.  I’ve yet to see anything similar in the Electric Orange documentation or FAQ but perhaps I’m just missing it somehow?
  6. MySmartCash clearly identifies payees that you can do electronic transactions with, which means those payments can be entered for today or the next business day.  If they have to send a paper check, they say it takes upto four business days for the payee to receive it.  At Electric Orange they state your payments will arrive in 3 to 5 business days, though they give you the option for next business day delivery if you’re willing to pay a $15 courier charge.
  7. The docs for MySmartCash explicitly say you can enter a payment date that is the same as the due date on your bill.  Electric Orange uses some weaker language that makes me feel like I have to set the payment date in advance of the due date.
  8. Electric Orange deducts the money from your account as soon as a bill is sent, meaning you earn no interest on the money between the time the bill is sent and the payee cashes it.  If you sent a large check to a relative who forgets to cash it for a month, this could cause you to lose alot of interest.   Since I have yet to use MySmartCash to actually send a payment, I can’t confirm that they don’t do this but I will say no other bill pay account I’ve ever used (Wells Fargo, Wachovia) deducted the money until the check was actually deposited by the payee.
  9. The MySmartCash bill pay website pops up a dialog to warn you about inactivity prior to logging you out whereas Electric Orange just quietly logs you out.  In addition, Electric Orange seems to time out in about two minutes whereas MySmartCash gives you about 10 minutes.  I much prefer the longer time-out period and pop-up warning of MySmartCash as it gives me a chance to avoid having to go through the trouble of logging in again and navigating back to the bill payment pages as often when I’m paying bills during breaks in some other activity.
  10. Electric Orange is a completely paperless account whereas you can get paper checks for your MySmartCash account.  This matters little to me as I can’t even remember the last time I wrote a paper check.
  11. Quicken recognizes Electric Orange as a checking account, but MySmartCash is an investment account.  This changes where it shows up in your list of accounts which may make it harder to treat it as a checking account.
  12. I’ll mention this next fact even though both accounts behave in the same way but that is because I figure I’m not the only one who can never find an answer to it without making a phone call to customer service:  Quicken can’t be used to upload bill payment instructions to either Electric Orange or MySmartCash, though you could use the fee-based Quicken BillPay.  Yech.

All-in-all, it is starting to look to me like MySmartCash is the better checking account for CHECKING features.  And I think things go even more in its favor when you consider that Fidelity will rebate ATM fees, plus they allow you to sweep your balance into a number of different money market funds that can earn you a higher yield than Electric Orange’s variable rate — which is currently at 1.00% APY.  It is my understanding that MySmartCash will automatically pull that cash back when it’s needed to pay bills.  The one thing that I think I need more research on before seriously using MySmartCash is the timing for transferring money in to, and out of, MySmartCash, and any associated holds that may be placed.  I know ING has relatively high hold times on externally deposited funds but hopefully MySmartCash won’t.

Tags: Checking

5 responses so far ↓

  1. 1 Erika // 2009.01.08 at 9:42 am

    You’ve got a mistake in #2. You can edit a payee in ING Electric Orange. I’ve changed account numbers plenty of times on a payee.

  2. 2 davmp // 2009.01.09 at 8:35 am

    @Erika Either we have access to different features or we’re talking about something different. I’m specifically talking about the situation where ING recognizes your payee as something in their database (about half of my payees are recognized this way.) I just tried again with one of my payees that was recognized and I can still only change the nickname. I can’t edit the payee name, address, or account number.

  3. 3 LAVANA // 2009.10.19 at 9:25 pm

    Has FIDELITY failed to pay your bills altogether??/ I do not mean late just your payment never happen eventhough you know you put them. Let me know. They really mess me up badly.

    They never paid my water bil, my phone or my utilities. I would like to know if these is happening to other folks.



  4. 4 davmp // 2009.10.20 at 9:36 am

    @Lavana, I’ve never had that problem with Fidelity BillPay. Nor have I ever had a payment arrive late. I’d definitely be very shocked if payments I had scheduled never, ever, arrived.

  5. 5 Anneliese Worlie // 2011.04.17 at 2:24 am

    Simply wanna admit that this is extremely helpful, Thanks for taking your time to write this.

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