You’re probably familiar with the usual ways to earn money from your bank accounts, such as interest on your deposits, referral bonuses, and cashback rewards for spending.
These are all things you should be taking advantage of. But there’s also free money waiting for you in the form of bank bonuses, and all you have to do is open a new checking or savings bank account.
Let’s review how these bonuses typically work and some of the main things to watch out for.
What Are Bank Bonuses and Promotions?
Banks and credit unions are always looking to attract as many new customers as possible. The more new money that these financial institutions can bring in, the more overall profit they make.
One of the most popular ways that banks lure in new customers is by offering new account bonuses, which are financial incentives you can get for opening a new account and meeting certain terms and conditions.
These new account offers are a win-win for the bank and customer. They’re attractive to customers because it’s free money. And for banks, it’s a prime opportunity to bring in new customers, who are likely to stay on board for many years down the road.
Typically, you’ll have to meet a minimum balance requirement for a period of consecutive months to qualify for the bonus. This is required so that new customers don’t get the bonus and quickly close the account, which would result in a financial loss for the bank.
But, how is this bonus paid out, and how much money can you get?
Most of the time, it’s in the form of a cash bonus that the bank puts directly into your new checking account. The bonus might also be handed out in other forms, such as a Visa Gift Card or rewards points that you can use to make online purchases.
Sign-up bonuses typically range from a couple hundred to a thousand or more dollars, depending on the bank and how much money you deposit. New account bonuses are typically seen in traditional checking accounts, but you can also occasionally find them with business checking accounts and money market accounts.
How To Get Bank Bonuses
Keep an eye out for promotional materials for new bonus offers. Banks are frequently sending these out over email, snail-mail, and through online and mobile app ads.
Chances are, you’ve come across more bank bonuses than you even realize. And, just from reading this article, there’s a strong chance that you’ll be retargeted for new account bonuses as you browse the internet.
Once you find a bank bonus that strikes your interest, the next step is reading the fine print. It is very important to understand what’s going to be expected of you, because If you can’t meet those requirements, then what’s the point?
But, before you get your hands on any bonus money, you’ll probably have to fulfill some qualifying activities. The specific requirements vary from bank to bank, but some of the most common include:
- Meeting minimum deposit amounts (e.g., $500 to open the account)
- Monthly direct deposit requirements (e.g., having your employer make one or two direct deposits to the account each month, for a period of three months)
- Making a minimum amount of debit card purchases in your first statement cycle (e.g., six debit card purchases)
In addition to meeting the initial requirements, you also usually have to stay in good standing with the bank for a certain number of days of account opening (the first three months is pretty typical).
This means that you either have to maintain an average daily balance, an average monthly balance, a specified combined balance, or a minimum daily balance as required by the bank. Avoiding a negative balance is also key, so don’t overdraft your account.
The reason banks require your account to be in good standing is that when accounts are not in good standing, banks risk losing money. With that in mind, a good rule of thumb is to avoid a negative balance and overdraft fees, especially during the bonus qualification period.
Once you’ve met all the requirements, it’ll usually take a few business days for your checking offer bonus to show up in your account. Keep in mind that bonuses are usually reserved for new customers, so opening a new checking account with your current bank probably won’t get you one.
What Do The Best Bonuses Look Like?
The bigger, the better, right? Yes, and no. Bonus offers vary quite a bit, and it isn’t necessarily as simple as finding the biggest number and going after it.
New account bonuses are everywhere, but customers can most often expect to see them popping up at the bigger national banks, with Chase Bank promotions, Citibank promotions, and U.S. Bank promotions, being some of the most popular.
The best bonuses also have easy-to-reach requirements. For example, if the bank requires a $100,000 minimum opening deposit, most people wouldn’t qualify for that.
Another thing to watch out for is that if the bank charges monthly service fees, this could eventually wash out any bonus that you might get.
So, if you’re eyeing a $200 sign-up bonus, but then the bank plans to charge a $15 monthly maintenance fee, then your bonus gets washed out in about 13 months.
Ideally, the bank you decide to go with won’t charge you any fees, or there will be a way to get around them (such as linking direct deposits). It’s also good to have overdraft protection, so you don’t get hit with any hefty overdraft fees.
That way, you’ll be able to enjoy your bonus without giving it right back.
The Fine Print
It’d be nice if it was as simple as signing up and cashing in, but there are few more things to consider.
Banks may require that account holders make their initial deposit via direct deposit, rather than transferring money from another account. Banks like direct deposits because they provide steady, guaranteed revenue coming into the bank.
When it’s tax time, don’t forget to claim your checking account bonuses. Unlike credit card reward points, which are viewed by the IRS as purchase rebates, checking account bonuses are considered taxable income.
The good news is that, unlike applying for a new credit card, when you open a new bank account, there’s no impact on your credit score.
Finally, bank offers are often regional, so your friend in Michigan might see different ones than you’re getting in Kentucky — even if it’s with the same bank. What’s more, sometimes you need a promo code, or you need to be targeted with a specific offer page to get in the door.
Frequently Asked Questions
What banks give you a bonus for opening an account?
The best offers are constantly changing. At BankBonus.com, we’re constantly updating and refining the best bank bonuses available, so be sure to check back often. With that said, even though bonuses tend to change over time, almost all banks offer some perks for opening a new bank account.
Larger, national banks typically have the resources to pay out the best bank account bonuses. But you can also find sign-up rewards at your local community bank or credit union.
Whichever bank you decide to go with, make sure that it’s a member FDIC, which means that your deposits will be protected up to $250,000.
Are bank bonuses worth it?
Some bonus offers are worth it, and some aren’t. A $400 bonus might seem like an amazing deal, but if you’re moving funds over from your high-yield savings account, which offers a significantly higher Annual Percentage Yield (APY), you might be losing money in the long run. Generally speaking, big national banks don’t offer the best interest rates on checking account deposits, so take that into account as well.
You also have to pay attention to any fees that might come with your new account. Even if you’re opening a free checking account, there might be monthly maintenance fees or ATM fees that exceed the value of the bonus you’re trying to get.
The Best Bank Bonus For You
The key is to think of a personal checking account bonus as, well, a bonus. It’s a nice-to-have. What you shouldn’t do is open an account that’s a poor fit for your financial position just to chase some extra cash.
Instead, find exactly what it is that you’re looking for in a bank account. Then, narrow it down based on the offers of those that meet your needs.
The best bank account bonus for you is the one that makes the most sense for your financial situation and that doesn’t hit you with a ton of fees down the road.
To learn more about how to find, track, and maximize bank bonuses and promotions, sign up for the free 3-day email course below.