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Banks want to pay you to open an account

Be sure to check the fine print so you'll get your $100 (or higher) bonus.

By Teresa Mears Jan 21, 2010 8:03PM

Just when we think our banks don’t love us anymore, they start sending flowers -- at least to some of us.


While banks are adding fees with one hand, they are offering us money with another, in hopes of luring desirable checking account customers.


And the bonuses offered to sign up for new checking counts are substantial: $50 here, $100 there, even $300. Like any relationship, these come with strings attached, but if you qualify, you can pick up some free money.


How do you find these offers? Some of them will find you. Chase, for example, has sent numerous offers to its credit card and mortgage customers in the last year, offering $100 or $125 for opening a new checking account, though none of these offers appears to be in effect now.  

Several blogs have lists of bank bonuses for opening accounts. EMoney Central has a list that includes $200 from Union Bank and $100 from Bank of the West, among other offers, and Deposit Accounts includes several other deals on its list. Credit Card Outlaw has a post on its favorite checking account bonus deals. Monitor Bank Rates also lists bank bonus deals, including one from Citibank offering a $100 bonus to AT&T Universal credit card holders who open new Citibank checking accounts.


With new restrictions on credit card fees and overdraft fees, the offers are likely to keep coming, SmartMoney reports. “Banks are wondering how they’ll recoup some of their lost revenue, so they’re focusing on generating revenue through checking accounts and debit card activity,” Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst with market research firm Aite Group, told SmartMoney.

Not everyone is eligible for all offers. In addition to meeting whatever rules the banks set for qualifying for an account, you sometimes have to live in areas where banks are trying to increase business.


Here are a few current promotions:

  • Open a new checking account at Bank of America with a minimum balance of $500 and get $100. This deal, good through Feb. 28, requires you to keep the account open at least 30 days and make at least one debit card transaction.
  • Open a new checking account where Capital One has branches (Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas) and get $300.
  • Open a brokerage account at TD Ameritrade and deposit $100 a month for a year and earn $100. This promotion, first announced in Suze Orman’s “Women & Money,” published in 2007, has been in effect for several years and is open until March 31.

If you decide to take advantage of one of these offers, be sure to read the fine print. Most come with a list of requirements, such as requiring direct deposit from an employer, a certain number of debit card transactions, minimum balances and other restrictions. If you don’t follow the rules, you don’t get the money. And, of course, you want to make sure that fees associated with the accounts don’t negate any bonuses.


If you’re looking for the best interest rate, these may not be the best deal. Make sure you can’t earn more interest elsewhere than you would get as a bonus.

Convenience is also an issue. Transferring money from one of my online accounts to another account takes five business days, an incredibly long amount of time for an online transfer. (Putting money into the account, in contrast, takes less than a day.)


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