Bank bonuses are pretty cool: They mean you earn money or other rewards just by banking, though asterisks are involved.
Typically, bank account bonuses are offered one time, for opening a new account, but some institutions give ongoing rewards as an incentive for doing business with them.
Many bank bonuses, however, require account holders to deposit or maintain a minimum or meet other qualifications.
If you can meet these requirements with ease, bank bonuses can be a good way to sweeten the deal and earn or save a little pocket change, especially if you’re already considering opening a new account or moving your money around.
How Do Bank Bonuses Work?
While the specifics depend on the bank, generally, bank account bonuses are offered to new banking customers and come with some specific stipulations about banking behavior.
Along with minimum account balances or opening deposits, bank sign-up bonuses may also require a series of actions—such as making a certain number of debit card transactions or receiving a certain monthly threshold of direct deposits for several months running.
Once the account holder has opened the account and performed whatever trigger actions are necessary, the welcome bonus is usually deposited directly into the account.
However, because some of the required actions may take time (and simply because of the bank’s processing procedures), it may be awhile before the account holder sees the bonus—as long as 120 days in some cases. In other words, a bank account bonus may be easy money, but it isn’t necessarily quick.
What’s more, bank bonuses frequently change as financial institutions review their needs and update their marketing strategies.
Just because a sweet welcome bonus is available today doesn’t mean it will be in a month.
Why do banks offer these bonuses in the first place?
Well, as you’ve likely noticed, there are a lot of options out there for consumers as they decide which financial institution to bank with.
By offering attractive bonuses, banks can distinguish themselves from the competition and perhaps win customers—and can specifically aim for clients who make large or regular deposits and transactions, all of which are good for the bank’s business.
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5 Common Bank Account Bonuses
We’ve covered the basics of bank account bonuses. Now let’s talk about some specific types you may encounter when shopping around for your next checking account.
1. Sign-Up Bonuses
One of the most common types of bank account bonuses are those designed to bring new customers into the fold—and are therefore offered to those who don’t already have an account with the financial institution in question.
In fact, in some cases, there may be stipulations blocking those who’ve recently been customers from benefiting from the bonus if their account was closed within a given window of time, such as 90 days.
Bank account sign-up bonuses, also sometimes called welcome deposits, range from about $100 to more than $500—though larger bonuses generally carry more difficult eligibility requirements. For instance, the bonus seeker may need to open both a checking and a savings account, and may be beholden to large minimum balance requirements, sometimes into the five figures.
Other common eligibility requirements include setting up direct deposit (and receiving a certain minimum threshold in direct deposits on a monthly basis for a specified number of consecutive months), making a certain number of debit card transactions within a given time frame of opening the account, and depositing a minimum amount into the account.
In short, while bank bonuses are ostensibly offered “just for opening an account,” there are almost always stipulations and eligibility requirements in the fine print—which is why it’s important to actually read that stuff.
2. Bonuses for Upping the Ante
Another way banks might structure their bonus offers is to give higher rewards to customers who are able to deposit more money into their accounts.
These institutions sometimes offer bonuses on a tier system, with higher rewards available for those who are able to meet more strenuous eligibility requirements.
A bank like this might offer a “basic” system of some sort, in which the new account holder will earn a small bonus for opening a new checking account and meeting relatively easy qualifications.
For instance, you might earn $200 if you’re able to fund your account with $5,000 and maintain that minimum balance for 60 consecutive calendar days.
That same bank might also offer a $400 reward for new customers who open both a checking and savings account and who can up that minimum balance to $15,000—or a $700 reward for those who can meet a minimum balance requirement of $50,000.
Higher tiers may come with additional privileges, such as waived fees or free checkbooks, along with the bonus incentive.
3. Direct Deposit Bonuses
As mentioned above, many bank account bonuses require setting up—and receiving —direct deposit payments into the new account.
The direct deposits may need to reach a certain minimum amount per month or within a given time frame of opening the account, and each deposit may need to meet a certain minimum as well.
For example, one bank might require new account holders to receive $2,000 in direct deposit funds within 60 days, and another might require at least two direct deposits of $250 or more within 90 days of opening the account.
For other banks, simply setting up direct deposit is enough, but again, all this critical information will be in the fine print of the offer.
4. Checking and Savings Combo Bonuses
In some cases—as with the tiered rewards system outlined above—a bank may offer additional incentives to those who open both a checking and savings account.
For instance, a new customer might be able to earn $200 for opening a checking account and $150 for opening a savings account, totaling a welcome bonus of $350.
Of course, as with the other bonuses listed here, these rewards will likely come with stipulations and minimums, which, in this case, may vary for each account.
Because of the nature of savings accounts, from which withdrawals are limited and into which most people don’t receive their direct deposit paychecks, new account holders probably will need to maintain high minimum balances to qualify for the reward.
5. Waived Bank Fees
While it’s not the same as an extra $100 plunked into an account, many banks offer the opportunity to waive monthly maintenance fees and other costs by maintaining certain minimum account balances or having a certain minimum number of direct deposits per statement cycle.
Although they’re generally small—say, $12 or so—monthly maintenance fees can eat into the account holder’s income, so waiving them is still a nice incentive.
On the other hand, money management accounts are available that don’t assess monthly maintenance fees at all, so this could also be an opportunity to shop around for a better place to bank.
The Fine Print
Bank bonuses come in all kinds of different configurations, but as this list shows, it’s always important to read the fine print carefully.
That’s where account holders will learn what exactly they have to do to get the bonus.
Also, there may be stipulations about what happens if you close your account early; some banks will take back their bonus if you close your account shortly after meeting the bonus requirements.
These kinds of clauses mean it might not be wise—or even possible—to game the system by opening multiple bank accounts in order to get a variety of bonuses.
It may be smarter to use bank sign-up bonuses to winnow down the options when switching banks. Even so, there are other factors to keep in mind that may outweigh even a very attractive welcome deposit.
Here’s an Account Full of Bonuses
Although bank bonuses can certainly be both valuable and attractive, they’re not always easy to earn.
Depending on your personal financial needs and status, bank bonuses may or may not be worth it, especially if it means tying up a significant amount of your income to maintain high monthly minimums.
What’s more, as nice as a one-time bonus is, there are accounts that offer continual rewards to their clients over time.
For instance, you might be able to earn cash back on debit card purchases or earn interest on the money in your checking account.
SoFi Checking and Savings® is a mobile-first checking and savings account that offers significant cash-back rewards on spending to those who make $500 recurring monthly deposits.
And welcome bonuses are periodically offered.
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