Like any industry working to pick itself up after the economic downturn, banks large and small have struggled to keep business coming through the door. Among the many impacts of the Great Recession was the Federal Reserve's move to keep the interest rates artificially low – a maneuver that has made it increasingly difficult for savers to earn yields on their deposit products and harder for banks to entice new account holders.
Rewards for Opening New Accounts
According to the 2018 World Retail Banking Report, only half of the surveyed bank customers reporting satisfaction with their retail banking services. These financial institutions are eager for new business, and cash-back rewards are proving both scalable for banks and a much-needed windfall for customers. So, looking for an inventive way to grow business, banks and credit unions began offering cash rewards to new clientele for opening a checking or savings account with them.
As an example of the type of rewards being offered, if a depositor put $100 into a new checking account and receives a $200 bonus in return, that creates a 300% return on investment (ROI). This return sounds like a wonderful idea, but as with anything that sounds too-good-to-be-true, this practice requires a deeper examination.
The Costs Behind the Rewards
Banks and other such financial institutions earn from many sources. One such source is the revenue they receive from—on-average—over 30 potential fees on checking accounts, according to The Wall Street Journal. These fees include items such as monthly maintenance and dormant account fees. However, a cash-back promotion can be a win-win for banks and consumers alike—as long as the latter remain aware of the pitfalls that could threaten their deposits.
Calling All Heads of Households
Banks are looking to attract heads of households with these promotions. This type of customer is more likely to require a mortgage, credit cards, or other future loans. They may also be enticed to move existing accounts and loans into the new institution. To encourage this activity, banks offer multiple product discounts, to further sweeten the pie.
However, consumers should be aware of the costs associated with closing and moving accounts. They must weigh the difference between the advertised cash incentive to open a new account and any fees to close or move their financial holdings.
Available New Account Bonuses
GOBankingRates conducted a study of cash-back promotions available by surveying the 50 biggest banks by deposits in the United States, based on FDIC data. The following 10 are currently offering cash incentives for opening a deposit account.
#1. BBVA Compass Bank
Customers who open a checking account with a Compass For Your Cause or Workplace Solutions code can earn a $150 bonus between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2018.
To get the bonus, you must not have had a BBVA Compass checking account within the last 90 days. Customers must receive a direct deposit to the account of a paycheck, government benefits, or pension, totaling at least $500, within the first 90 days. Open a credit card or Express Personal Loan to get an additional $50 bonus.
#2. BMO Harris Bank
Customers who open a BMO Harris Bank personal checking account online can qualify for a cash-back incentive. Depositors earn $200 for opening a Smart Money, Smart Advantage or Premier account.
To qualify, a customer must have a minimum of two direct deposits of a paycheck, pension payment, Social Security payment or other government benefits within the first three months of opening the account. Each of these deposits must be $500 or more. The customer must also make at least 10 debit card purchases from the account.
This cash incentive is paid approximately 120 days after the account is opened and the bank requires these accounts to remain open for a minimum of six months. The cash reward will be reported to the IRS for tax purposes. This account also comes with fees. The bank's Smart Money Checking account comes with a $5 monthly maintenance fee, and Portfolio Checking charges a $30 fee monthly unless one of a list of requirements is met to waive the fees. Smart Advantage has no monthly fee.
#3. Capital One
Those who open a 360 Checking account with an initial deposit of $250 and make a total of three debit card purchases or Person2Person payments, or any combination of the two, within 45 days of opening the account qualify for a $25 bonus that will automatically be deposited into their accounts on day 50 of the account's opening.
This account comes with no overdraft, ATM surcharge or monthly fees, and rewards depositors with tiered interest based on deposited amount: 0.20% APY on balances up to $49,999, 0.75% APY on balances between $50,000 and $99,999, and 0.80% APY on balances of $100,000 and up.
#4. Chase Bank
Through Jan. 14, 2019, new customers who open a Chase Total Checking account with $100 and set up direct deposit will receive a direct deposit of $200 from the bank. This deal is not available to current Chase checking customers, those who have closed their accounts within 90 days, closed with a negative balance or have fiduciary accounts.
This checking account comes with a $12 monthly service fee ($10 in California, Oregon and Washington) that can be avoided if an account holder either makes a direct deposit of $500 or more to the account, keeps a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or more in the account, or maintains an average daily balance of $5,000 or more within any combination of Chase checking, savings and other qualified balances.
Account holders must also maintain the account for six months, enroll in Chase Online Banking and activate Online Bill Pay to receive the bonus.
#5. First Republic Bank
First Republic Bank is giving $25 to customers who download Trusteer Rapport for free. This online banking protection software helps protect confidential information that could be jeopardized when banking online. To eliminate this threat and help protect customers' personal information, First Republic Bank is providing a cash incentive just for taking this preemptive measure.
To claim the bonus, customers must sign into their accounts after downloading Trusteer Rapport and send a secure email to the bank letting it know which account to credit the cash bonus to.
This financial institution will credit depositors' accounts with $200 if they open a new Key Express Checking. To qualify, depositors must open their checking accounts between before Nov. 11, 2018, and make at least $500 in direct deposits in the first 60 days of account ownership. Direct deposits can include payroll, Social Security, pension and government benefits, PayPal, Schwab Brokerage, Discover, and ACH. This cash reward will be reported on a 1099-INT tax form and will be deposited within 90 days of meeting the aforementioned requirements.
Those looking to open a checking account with KeyBank will need to enter promo code MASE0618 to be eligible for the $200 bonus. Accounts closed within 180 days of opening will be charged a $25 early closure fee.
#7. PNC Bank
Those who open a new account with PNC Bank could earn up to $300 for opening a new PNC Virtual Wallet.
Opening a new, standard Virtual Wallet earns depositors $50. By opening a Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend, depositors get $200. Those who open a Virtual Wallet with Performance Select get $300 deposited into their accounts.
Direct deposits must be $500, $2,000 and $5,000 for the Virtual Wallet, Performance Spend, and Performance Select, respectively, to qualify for the reward. Customers must establish a qualifying direct deposit to the account and make at least 10 debit card purchases.
#8. Santander Bank
Until Dec. 31, 2018, Santander Bank is offering a $225 bonus to customers who open a Simply Right Checking, Basic Checking, or Premier Plus Checking. With a minimum opening deposit of $25, and Direct Deposits totaling $1,000 or more within the first 90 days, customers can earn $225 to be paid within 30 days.
The account must remain open for 90 days to receive the bonus. Bonuses will be reported as interest on a Form 1099-INT in the year received.
#9. TD Bank
This promotion is designed for young depositors. Kids in kindergarten through fifth grade who read 10 books this summer and fill out the bank's summer reading form will receive $10 in their new or existing Young Saver accounts at TD Bank upon submitting their reading forms to the nearest branch. This deal is available June 1 through Aug. 31 and is limited to one $10 reward per reader during the promotion duration.
#10. U.S. Bank
Encouraging depositors to bulk up their savings, U.S. Bank is offering customers rewards for those who join the bank's S.T.A.R.T. savings program. By opening either a Silver, Gold, or Platinum Checking account and pairing it with a Package Money Market Savings account, customers can receive $50 when they save $500 within a year.
Existing customers of U.S. Bank can still take advantage of this offer by transferring their existing accounts into a qualifying package checking account and opening a Package Money Market Savings account, which comes with the S.T.A.R.T. enrollment option. Depositors can decide when, how much and how often to transfer money to the money market account.