Banking is a competitive business, with banks doing their best to earn your business. Banks know that the majority of customers will not only use their bank for their main checking or savings account, but are more likely to use other, more profitable services, such as taking out a car loan or mortgage, opening a credit card account, or opening an investment account, such as a Roth IRA.
This works in your favor! Many banks now offer sign up bonuses to bring in new customers. Some of these bonuses can be incredibly lucrative, with many worth several hundred dollars. In the last few years I have opened new bank accounts to earn anywhere from $200 – $300 for each account. I have also opened accounts to earn a GPS unit and an iPod (cash is my favorite bonus offer, but gadgets can be nice if you need one, or want to gift it).
Signing up for a bank bonus isn’t rocket science, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain rules you should follow. If you don’t pay attention and meet your bank’s requirements, for example, they aren’t required to hand over your bonus at all.
Before you pursue a signup bonus with a bank, it’s important to know these rules and follow them to a “T.” What follows are some general rules of thumb and some things to look for when opening a new checking or savings account to earn a bonus.
Top Bank Bonus Offers
Here are some of the best offers we have found at the current moment:
|Bank / Credit Union||Bonus||Direct Deposit Required for Bonus?||Read Bank Review for More Info|
|Chase Total Checking® + Chase SavingsSM||Get up to $350 when you open a new Chase Total Checking® account with Direct Deposit and/or open a new Chase SavingsSM account, deposit $10,000 or more in new money and maintain a $10,000 balance for 90 days||Yes||Review|
|Chase Premier Plus CheckingSM||Enjoy $300 as a new Chase checking customer, when you open a Chase Premier Plus CheckingSM account and set up direct deposit||Yes||Review|
|Chase Total Checking®||Get a $200 bonus when you open a new Chase Total Checking® account and set up direct deposit||Yes||Review|
|Chase SavingsSM||Get a $150 bonus when you open a new Chase SavingsSM account, deposit a total of $10,000 or more in new money within 10 business days, and maintain a $10,000 balance for 90 days||Yes||Review|
Ten Rules for Earning Bank Bonuses
The following rules apply to most bank bonus offers. Always read the fine print to make sure you qualify for the bonus offer!
Rule #1: Read all of the fine print.
When signing up for a new bank bonus, it’s easy to get excited about the prospect of earning some quick money and throwing caution to the wind. Trust us, that’s the worst thing you can do. If you want to make the most of your bank bonus, you need to read through all of the fine print and make it a point to understand it.
Some bank bonus offers place certain expectations on the customer, including setting up direct deposit, making a certain number of transactions with a debit card, and keeping a certain amount of money on deposit for a specific length of time. By reading the fine print, you can know these details inside and out. A good example would be the sign up bonuses with a Chase checking account. With each of the offers you have to set up direct deposit to get the bonus. No direct deposit, no bonus.
Rule #2: Follow the directions of each offer you consider.
Once you’re aware of what your bank is asking in return for the bonus, you have to follow the directions. If that means setting up direct deposit, then you should do it right away. If it means keeping a certain amount of money on deposit, you should get that money into your new account as quickly as you can. And if it means making a certain number of purchases with a bank-issued debit card tied to your new account, you should get started on that.
The longer you wait, the easier it will be to forget all about it. Make sure to perform whatever tasks your bank wants fairly quickly if you want your bank bonus to post to your account as fast as it possibly can. A
Rule #3: Make sure to keep your money on deposit as long as the bank requires.
To earn a bank bonus, most banks require you to keep a certain amount of money on deposit for a specific length of time. It can be something like $1,500 for 6 months, or even $10,000 for 18 months.
Whatever it is, make sure to follow the directions to the “T.” If you don’t, you might miss out on your bank bonus altogether.
Rule #4: Watch out for fees.
While a lot of banks offer a bonus if you open a new account and meet certain requirements, some charge fees for keeping your account active. These fees can chip away at the bank bonus you earned, and potentially cost you more than the bonus if you keep your account open for a really long time.
This is yet another reason you should read the fine print. By knowing what fees to avoid ahead of time, you can stay clear of them altogether. Perhaps that means keeping even more money on deposit with the bank to keep your account truly “free.” Whatever it is, make it happen.
Rule #5: Don’t close your bank account until it’s time.
Another stipulation many banks place on people who earn bank bonuses is keeping their account open for a certain length of time. It might take 6 months to earn a bank bonus, but you might be required to keep that account open for 6 months or even twelve.
It’s important to know what your bank is asking of you before you open an account. Once you know, you can avoid closing your account until you are safely outside of the minimum length of time you needed to keep it open. If you close it too early, you risk losing out on your bank bonus altogether or forfeiting it.
Rule #6: Keep track of bank bonuses in a simple spreadsheet.
If you plan to pursue several bank bonuses at once, you might have trouble keeping track of the details. That’s why you should keep a simple spreadsheet that outlines each of the bank bonuses you’re pursuing and their offers. That way, you can refer to it when it comes time for your bank bonus to post to your account or close your account.
Details to keep on your spreadsheet include the date you signed up for the new account, the date you completed the requirements to earn the bank bonus, and the date when the bonus posted to your account. Beyond those details, you should also note the date you can reasonably close your account – well after your bonus is earned.
Rule #7: Don’t let bank bonuses ruin your cash flow.
If you’re pursuing more than one bank bonus at once, you’ll need to have quite a bit of cash on-hand. Since each bank will require you to keep a certain amount of money on deposit, this can make it hard to access extra funds if you encounter a large bill or an emergency.
Before you pursue a bunch of bank bonuses, you need to make sure you’re flush with cash. The last thing you need is to have to withdraw funds from an account early and miss out on a bank bonus.
Rule #8: Don’t forget to get your spouse involved.
If you think one bank bonus is great, try having two. Even if you open a new account to earn a bank bonus on your own, your spouse or partner is generally able to do the same.
Just remember that the same rules apply to everyone. You should never spread your cash too thin by trying to open too many accounts with a minimum deposit requirement at once. Also, your spouse should also read the fine print and meet all of the requirements religiously if they hope to earn a bonus as well.
Rule #9: You can still try to earn more on your savings elsewhere.
Bank bonuses are a smart way to earn interest on your cash in a time when most interest rates are paltry. However, since your new account might not offer a lot of interest, you should consider putting the rest of your savings into a high interest checking or savings account.
In other words, don’t let your extra money linger in your new account just because you used it to earn a bank bonus. Once your bonus has been earned and all requirements are met, you can close that account and move your money to an account paying a much higher rate.
Rule #10: Make your money count!
Since you went through so much trouble to earn a bank bonus, you might as well make that money count! Instead of letting it meld into the other funds in your account, find a way to set it aside so you can use it for something fun – or something important.
Save it for a rainy day, or stash it away in your IRA so it will be waiting when you’re ready to retire. Or, use it to splurge on something you wouldn’t buy otherwise. This is truly extra money, and you earned it, so you should really make it count.
What You Need to Know About Sign Up Bonus Offers
Be sure to read the fine print when you open your new account. As with most sign up bonus offers, you may be required to make a minimum deposit, and you may be required to maintain a minimum amount in your account for a set time frame. So be sure to note those requirements.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bank Bonus Offers
How do I sign up for a bank bonus?
You can sign up for most bank bonuses online by finding an offer you want and clicking on its link. From there, you can read the fine print and fill out an application from the comfort of your own home. Some banks may also offer a bank bonus if you sign up within a physical branch. Plus, many people receive offers for bank bonuses in the mail. There is no right or wrong place to sign up as long as you’re getting the best offer available.
Where do I read the requirements for each bank bonus I sign up for?
Whether you’re signing up for a bank bonus online or in the branch, they are all required to list terms and conditions alongside their offer. Many provide a small chart with rates and fees, along with several paragraphs filled with terms and conditions. Make sure to read through all of the accompanying print before you sign up for a new checking or savings account to earn a bonus.
Do I need to pay taxes on the bonus I earn?
Since bank bonuses are considered taxable income, you should expect a 1099-MISC tax form in the mail. Make sure to keep track of this form so you can use it when you file your taxes after the first of the year.
Can I earn more than one bank bonus from the same bank?
Some banks put requirements on offers or add additional fine print that states the same people can’t earn the same bonus offer over and over. Others might limit the number of bonuses you can earn to one per year or one every other year. It always pays to read the fine print if you have earned a similar bank bonus with the same bank before; that way, you’ll know if you’re eligible in the first place.
Can I earn bank bonuses from multiple banks?
Banks don’t communicate to let each other know which consumers are taking advantage of their bonus offers. With that in mind, you can feel free to sign up for as many bank bonuses as you see fit. Since you’ll need to have money on deposit with each bank, this could spread your cash out fairly thin. As a result, you should only pursue multiple bank bonuses if you have extra cash you won’t need right away.
Does opening a new bank account put a hard inquiry on my credit report?
Most of the time, opening a checking or savings account does not result in a hard inquiry on your credit report. Instead, banks will do a soft pull on your credit, which does not affect your score at all.
Can I close my account after I earn the bank bonus?
You can definitely close your account once you have earned a bank bonus, but you should only do so if you have met your bank’s requirements for the bonus in their entirety. If you close your account too early, you risk forfeiting your bonus or being forced to pay it back. They can also deduct the bonus from your bank balance when you close your account if you don’t meet all of their requirements.
Is a bank bonus really “free?”
Most banks require members to take some action, such as use direct deposit, maintain a minimum balance for a certain period of time, or meet other requirements. A bank bonus can be free if you follow all of your bank’s rules and don’t pay any fees associated with your new account. Most of the time, the only investment required on your part is time or depositing some money you already have.
Can my spouse and I both get the same bank bonus?
As long as both you and your spouse or partner meet the requirements established by the bank offering a bonus and it isn’t prohibited, you can both earn the same bank bonus from the same bank. You can each earn multiple bonuses from several banks as well, so don’t limit yourself. Just remember, you need to keep track of it all if you have any hope of remembering the details of each offer.
How do I pick between several bank bonuses?
Most of the time, the best bank bonus for your needs will stick out like a sore thumb. It will have a minimum deposit requirement you can handle, offer a big enough bonus to be worth your time, and be offered by a bank that operates online or in your local area. If you can’t decide between several bank bonuses, place priority on the one with the easiest barrier to entry.
Bank bonuses offer a fun way to earn some extra cash on the side. Just remember how important it is to read the fine print and know your offer inside and out. Armed with information, you can earn a nice side income just by opening new accounts and meeting the requirements for each bank bonus you pursue. But if you don’t read the fine print, the bonus you’re after could really cost you.