Bank Account Bonuses: Extra Cash In Your Pocket - Smart Money Seed


Bank Account Bonuses: Extra Cash In Your Pocket

As the holiday season rapidly approaches, a lot of us begin to budget our finances to ensure that we can afford gifts for our friends & family. For some of us, that means scrapping some leisure activities or that meal out on Friday to save some extra cash. I’m the oldest of 5 children and know that the holiday season definitely finds me strapped for money. Fortunately, I’ve been able to utilize one of the overlooked assets of the travel hacking community to finance recreational trips & that extra beer at the bar in December: bank account bonuses.

Why Bank Account Bonuses?

I find that many of the available sign-up bonuses across the banking industry are quite easy to obtain and put cash in your bottom line quickly. Throughout the last few years, I’ve been able to utilize bank account bonuses as a buffer to many of my side hustles I have going. If you were worried about paying tedious manufactured spending fees or simply want to make the rent burden a little less, checking/saving account bonuses have you covered. Here are a few of the ways I’ve used checking account bonuses in the past:
  •     Excursions on a cruise
  •     Student loan payments
  •      Wedding expenses

The best part about these bonuses-you are not tied into travel partners or a specific points program. This is stone-cold cash that you take home at the end of the day (minus some tax obligations, depending on the bank in question). No matter how you decide to use the extra cash, it’s definitely convenient to have these bonuses readily available at your disposal.

General Requirements of Checking & Savings Account Bonuses

The checking & savings account field tends to be a bit more competitive in their bonuses than credit card companies of late, who have slashed benefits & point bonuses across many major cards (looking at you, AMEX Platinum & Citi Reserve). The bonuses associated with checking and savings accounts tend to range from $100-$500 and will have steeper requirements as the bonus rises.

Keep in mind that in this hobby, your mileage may vary. Every bank has a separate list of requirements necessary to reach their specific bonus-it is vital to keep all of these in mind while meeting the requirements.

While every bank has different requirements for the customers to earn the extra cash, here are a few that are standard across the industry.

Setup Direct Deposit

This is something that anybody with a checking or savings account has heard before. Many bank bonuses will require a direct deposit of a certain threshold as a requirement, e.g. two direct deposits of $1500 or more in consecutive months after account opening. If you do not want to change your direct deposit setup at work to accommodate this requirement, there are ways around this.

I’ve found that simply initiating a transfer from my personal checking account to the checking account associated with this bonus often registers as “direct deposit”. Depending on the bank & credit card, you may also be able to utilize your credit card and not have this count as a cash advance, which could simultaneously help you meet minimum spend on a credit card while satisfying bonus requirements for the checking/savings account.

Debit Card Transactions

One of the easier requirements of banking bonuses, this simply requires using your debit card multiple times over the course of a month. A standard Wells Fargo requirement would be 10 debit card transactions/month for three straight months to earn the bonus (typically $200-300).
As many of us would prefer to use our credit cards instead of debit, an easy solve for this is to simply load your Amazon account with the minimum amount required per load ($.50). A simple $5/month to earn hundreds of dollars doesn’t sound too bad to me!

Account Requirements-Don’t Get Hit With A Dumb Penalty

With bank account bonuses, there are a few things to keep top-of-mind that the banks may try to sneak past you. Similar to credit card bonuses, it is imperative that you read the stipulations of the account you are opening so you are not hit with a monthly account fee or the dreaded bonus clawback, leaving you holding the bag with an account you would not have opened without the bonus. Some of the various requirements a bank may stipulate to avoid additional fees include:

·         Keeping an account open for a certain period of time
o   Chase is notable for doing this-if you do not keep your account open for 6 months or more, they will take your checking/saving bonus back.
·         Minimum balance in the account
o   Many checking accounts require a minimum balance in order to avoid a small fee. Ensure that you are at least leaving the minimum-required balance in the account to not get hit with that pesky $5-10 monthly penalty.
·         Monthly direct deposit
o   This is exactly as it sounds-simply direct deposit the minimum requirement (in many cases, $500/month) to avoid a service fee ranging from $5-15.

Every bank is different. Some banks may simply require meeting one of the above three to avoid a penalty; some require all of the above AND MORE. This is why reading the fine print is so important when signing up for these accounts-we don’t want to give back our hard-earned money!

Geographical Requirements

Before signing up for a checking/saving account, be sure that the offer in question applies to your specific geographical region. Many banks cater to a specific part of the country and as such, their bonuses only apply to people in that area. I recently found a great offer from Wells Fargo ($200 for 10 debit transactions/month for three months) only to find that the offer was only good for residents of 9 different U.S. cities. Be sure to keep this in mind when deciding what bonus is right for you!

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Unlike our credit card bonuses we’ve come to know and love, these checking/savings account bonuses are indeed taxable. Most banks will issue a 1099-INT at the end of the fiscal year; again, your mileage may vary on this. This may be the biggest drawback to the banking bonus game; where we don’t have to worry about this when accruing miles & points, the cash earnings we are getting from these are liable to Uncle Sam & the IRS.

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Where To Look For Offers?

When I’m looking for the best bank account offers, I find that using a variety of methods tends to be my best bet. If you live in an apartment complex, look twice before throwing out that large stack of grocery flyers/local business advertisements. You never know when you’ll find a juicy bonus offer-this is where I tend to find a lot of my local banks (Chase, Huntington, Credit Unions, etc.)

You can also use the built-in time you are looking for credit card offers with the major banks as an excuse to venture (if you’ll pardon the pun) to the bank account page and see if you are targeted for any specific offers. Many of the best bank account offers come from targeted bonuses and as you’ll be on the bank’s website anyways to service credit card needs, why not take a look at your checking/savings account offers?

Summary-Earn That Cash!

As you can see, it’s relatively easy to earn a little extra cash on the side to supplement your travel hacking endeavors. Checking & savings account bonuses have provided me with the extra juice necessary to go on that extra guided tour on vacation, upgrade that seat I booked in economy or simply buy the next round at the bar. Once you find the offer that works for you, you’ll have that extra cash at your disposal in no time. Enjoy!


Tyler Henze


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