On average, U.S. adults keep their checking and savings accounts for an average of 17 years, according to a recent Bankrate survey.
To attract new customers, many banks are now offering lucrative cash bonuses — anywhere from $100 to $2,000 — for simply moving money into their various savings and checking accounts.
A recent Reddit thread highlighted dozens of first-hand accounts of people earning thousands of dollars by moving their money to various bank accounts to get the bonuses, and then moving on. But while some options may seem enticing (ahem $2,000 cash), and moving your money can pay off, pros say a look at the fine print can help you decide if the hoops — like minimum balances, required direct deposits and more — that are often significant are worth the money. Indeed, you may simply be better off with a high-interest savings account as many of those are paying more than they have in a decade (see some of the best savings account rates you can get now here).
That said, if you want to put in the work, here’s what to know about the bank bonuses, and 10 of the best ones.
There will be hoops to jump through
The first thing to know is that these deals come with caveats. To get the bonus, you may need to move over thousands (and sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars and leave it there for a certain amount of time, hold or make consistent deposits for several months or even years, keep a minimum amount in the account and/or get direct deposit. “If you miss the requirements, you went through all that hard work for nothing,” explains Brian Schmehil, managing director of wealth management at the Mather Group.
“The opportunity cost to earn a few hundred dollars versus going through the hassle to set-up everything with a new bank just usually isn’t worth their time,” Caleb Pepperday, a certified financial planner at JFS Wealth Advisors in Pittsburgh, says.
Though, it can be. If you have enough money set aside as a safety net, Schmehil says the return on your investment may be worth it. The “best option, if possible, is to just move cash around to all these different banks to get the bonus while keeping your main checking and savings accounts intact,” Schmehil says, adding that “banks have realized this, though, so it’s becoming harder and harder to do so without really moving your banking relationship to another bank.”
See some of the best savings account rates you can get now here.
Only use the bonus as one factor in whether to switch banks
Bankrate banking analyst Matthew Goldberg thinks staying in the know when it comes to available bonuses is one way to ensure you aren’t leaving money on the table, explaining that “it’s better to use a bank account bonus as a part of the fact-finding process when you compare accounts.”
But in many cases, bonuses come in the form of one-off payouts and are not the best long-term strategy, says Margarette Burnette, banking specialist at NerdWallet. “Even after you get the bonus funds, which can take several weeks, it may not be worth it to hunt for another offer immediately. If you try to close an account that’s been open for less than six months, the bank may charge you an early account-closing fee.”
After all of those considerations, Burnette says considering a more stable investment option may pay off just as handsomely, if not better. “A one-time bonus is nice, but it’s also good to consider putting your money in a high-rate savings account and let it earn a little interest with no extra work on your part,” she says.
See some of the best savings account rates you can get now here.
Best savings and checking account bonuses
If you’re looking for the best available banking bonuses today, MarketWatch Picks has done the research for you. Below are the best five offers for both checking and savings accounts. Just be sure to read the fine print.
5 best savings account bonuses
Alliant Credit Union: Getting free money with Alliant can take a little work, but you are eligible to earn $100 after holding down an Ultimate Opportunity Savings Account for a year and by making deposits of at least $100 for 12 consecutive months. Current Alliant members are not eligible, so this is only a one time offer.
BMO Harris: New members who open a Savings Builder account can earn $5 per month, or $60 per year, by depositing $200 every month for the first 12 months.
Discover: Jumpstart your savings account and earn a $150 bonus when you deposit at least $15,000, and $200 when you deposit at least $25,000, in a new Discover Online Savings Account. The offer, however, is not valid for existing or prior Discover savings customers, so this is essentially a one-time deal. Accounts must also be held for 30 days to qualify.
CIT Bank: Get one year of Amazon Prime, a $139 cash value, for free when you open a money market account with CIT using promo code AMZN22. Some caveats here include a $15,000 account balance minimum that must be reached in 15 days, as well as held for 60 days, to qualify. The offer must also be redeemed by March 24, 2024.
Regions Bank: Set up the automatic transfer feature from your Regions checking to your LifeGreen Savings account and earn an annual bonus of up to $100. Regions Bank is only available in certain states and the program involves some work so be sure to read the fine print.
5 best checking account bonuses
Citi: Earn $2,000 when you deposit and maintain a $300,000 account balance and $1,500 for depositing and maintaining a minimum balance of $200,000. While that may seem like a lot, balances of $10,000 also earn $200 with other offers available on a sliding scale in between.
BMO Harris: If you don’t already have a BMO Harris checking account, you may be eligible for $200 to $350 bonuses by opening a Smart Advantage Account, Smart Money Account or Premier Account. One account is limited per customer and it must be opened between Oct. 1 and Dec. 30.
SoFi: Register, set up direct deposits, and earn up to $250 after it hits your account. This process, according to SoFi, takes an estimated two to four weeks to complete. Those who deposit between $1,000 and $4,999.99 are eligible for a cash bonus of $50 while those who deposit more than $5,000 stand to earn $250 if done within the required 25-day evaluation period.
TD Bank: New TD Beyond Checking customers can earn up to $300 when they make $2,500 in qualifying direct deposits within 60 days before Oct. 31, 2023. Existing TD Bank checking customers and those who held a checking account with the bank within the preceding 12 months, or ever received a checking account bonus, are not eligible. This offer ends on Oct. 31, 2023.
Huntington National Bank: Make the minimum account deposit of $25,000 and earn $300 when you open a new Platinum Perks Checking account. Apply by Feb. 23, 2023 to qualify.
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