Banks have always been keen to attract new customers and new business. Incentives have always been part of signing up to new bank accounts, with toasters being a common incentive to move banks. Some gifts have gone beyond household appliances. Here we look at some of the wilder incentives banks have offered their customers.
Last year, HSBC offered customers who met certain specifications a $900 Saks Fifth Avenue gift card to tempt them to join the bank. While this seemed like a fantastic incentive, things got a little hairy when the tax-man came a-calling.
According to the Desert News, HSBC Holdings mailed the IRS form 1099 to thousands of customers who accepted their incentive in the previous year. The forms list the income the banks reported to the government in the customers' names, reminding recipients they may be obliged to pay taxes on those sums. Perhaps this gift card did not seem such a lucrative gift once this tax reminder arrived.
Guns and Rifles
Michael Moore famously showed a bank giving away a gun as a wild incentive in the movie "Bowling For Columbine." A scene in the film depicts how Moore discovered a bank in Michigan that would give customers a free hunting rifle when they made a deposit of a certain size into a time deposit account. The film follows Moore as he goes to the bank, makes his deposit, fills out the forms and awaits the result of a background check before walking out of the bank carrying a brand new Weatherby hunting rifle.
Just before leaving the bank, Moore jokingly asks, "Do you think it's a little dangerous handing out guns at a bank?"
The bank was North Country Financial Corp., and customers needed $869 in a 20-year certificate of deposit for the bank to hand over a Weatherby Inc. Mark V Synthetic rifle. If customers deposited more, they could have a choice of six Weatherby shotguns or a limited-edition rifle, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.
Now customers can enjoy a brand new Mercedes Benz when they open an account at C1 bank. If they've got a million dollars to deposit that is. New customers should note that the car represents pre-paid interest and the bank hopes the instant gratification of a spectacular Mercedes Benz will entice new clients to the bank. Consumers will get what amounts to a $61,294.00 car (including tax, delivery and registration) instead of five years of interest, worth around $60,000. Any customers who withdraw funds early will get the balance less the cost of the car. Just in case you're getting too excited, the bank offer is limited to only two cars per household.
Chase bank is offering customers two free front-row tickets to attend a New York City-based sports match, musical or concert. You need to deposit $100,000 to get the tickets for the prestige event. On average, the two free tickets had a value of around $400, which essentially translates into a 0.40% return.
The Bottom Line
In an era of low interest rates and austerity, banks are trying to entice us to deposit with them, especially if we are wealthy. The only question is, what will they come up with next?