When you’re in the market for a new or additional checking or savings account, it can be lucrative to consider available bank bonuses. That’s because banks are so hungry for new customers that they aren’t just paying token gestures to win your business—many are offering hundreds of dollars to new customers.
To help you earn as much as you can from a new account that meets your needs, we’ve rounded up our top picks for checking and savings account bonuses. We looked not only at bonus amounts, but how easy or difficult the requirements are to meet, how long you’ll have to wait for your bonus, what fees you might face, and all the other details you need to make a smart decision.
Just be sure to read the bank’s fine print carefully. Scoring bank bonuses means following the rules, and you’ll want to make sure you follow everything to the letter because missing a requirement means missing your bonus. But don’t worry, our list of winners will arm you with the information you need, which can add a hundred or more free dollars to your bank balance.
Best Overall : Associated Bank
For those who can set up direct deposit for their paycheck, pension, or Social Security benefits, Associated Bank offers one of the largest bank bonuses around, as well as one of the easiest to earn, making it our overall winner.
Bonuses of $200, $300, or $500 all represent a substantial return on your money
Very minimal direct deposit requirement
The minimum balance requirement for earning a bonus only has to be met for 30 days
Free checking option, plus two additional account choices
Direct deposit is required to earn the bonus
Paper checks don’t come with the free checking account
Very low interest rates on their other accounts (savings, money market, CDs)
If you don’t live in the upper Midwest, you may not have heard of Associated Bank, but don’t let that stop you from taking a look at their generous bonus offers of $200, $300, and $500. All you have to do is receive at least $500 in direct deposits during the first 90 days your checking account is open, and maintain an average daily balance of at least $1,000 during the third month. These easy requirements and the substantial reward earn it top marks for overall best banking bonus.
That minimal balance will earn you $200 cash back. But you can maximize your bonus by simply boosting your average daily balance to $5,000 during days 61-90, earning $300, or to $10,000 to reap the top bonus of $500.
This is a great return on your money, especially when you consider that the cash only has to be on deposit for a month. Most bank bonuses that have a balance requirement stipulate a 60- or 90-day duration. If you score the $500 bonus on a $10,000 balance, you’ve earned a 5% return in just one month. And the return on investment for the smaller balances is even better: 6% on $5,000, or a whopping 20% on $1,000.
To make the decision even more appealing, Associated offers three different checking account types, one of which is free, and the others with waivable monthly maintenance fees. The ability to conveniently send and receive money with Zelle is included, as is free access to more than 37,000 MoneyPass network ATMs across the country.
Best for High Earners : HSBC
Maybe parking five figures of cash in a new account doesn’t interest you, but you have regular paychecks of a substantial amount. HSBC is our winner here, providing the best bank bonus for high earners.
No minimum balance required; direct deposit alone qualifies you
Generous bonus amount of $450
Unlimited ATM refunds when using out-of-network ATMs
Account fees are high if you don’t meet the direct deposit requirement
Interest rates on related accounts (e.g., savings and CDs) are very low
Cash award could take eight weeks to receive after completing the bonus requirements
The British multinational investment bank HSBC is one of the largest banks in the world, founded in the 1860s as the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited. HSBC North American Holdings is a much newer division, having begun U.S. operations in 2004.
Its checking account bonus is great for those with a steady direct deposit option, and is especially lucrative for those with larger paychecks, landing it in our top spot for high-earners. If your paychecks reliably total $5,000 or more each month, you can open a Premier Checking account and qualify for a cool $450 by reaching that direct deposit threshold three months in a row. This offer does, however, end on August 31, 2021.
With no minimum balance requirement for these bonuses, you’re free to move money out of the account as frequently as you like. So this account is excellent for those who don’t want to tie up their funds in order to earn a bonus.
HSBC does charge a monthly maintenance fee on these accounts, but if you continue to meet the direct deposit requirements above, that is enough to waive the monthly fees. Otherwise, you’ll be charged $50 per month.
Read our full HSBC review.
Best for a Modest Balance : Chase
Chase’s current checking account bonus is about one of the easiest to earn. And because its requirement for holding funds in the account is minimal, we’ve chosen it as the best bank bonus for those with modest balances.
Only direct deposit is required; no minimum balance is needed to earn the bonus
The required direct deposit can be any dollar amount
If you live in a state where Chase operates, in-branch banking is possible
Bonus will be paid within a short 15 days after meeting requirements
The account charges a $12 fee, though it can be waived
Other bank bonuses are higher if you can meet the requirements
As the country’s largest bank, Chase hardly needs an introduction. It offers a full complement of virtually every type of bank account, loan, or credit card, and a well-honed website and mobile app for digital banking. It also operates about 4,700 branches across more than two dozen states (second only to Wells Fargo in its number of physical locations). Add to that Chase’s minimal bonus requirements and we’ve got our winner for best bonus on smaller balances.
Earning Chase’s $225 checking account bonus is very straightforward. Simply have a direct deposit of any amount hit your new account within 90 days of opening. This stands out from most direct deposit bonus offers, which almost always indicate a minimum direct deposit amount, making Chase a good option for those receiving a small, but regular, monthly payroll or benefits check.
It’s also well-suited to those who don’t want to keep a lot of money in the account, as there is no balance requirement to earn the bonus. That said, the account does charge a $12 monthly maintenance fee, and one of the ways to have it waived is to hold a $1,500 minimum daily balance in this account, or $5,000 across multiple Chase accounts.
Fortunately, you can also waive the fee with electronic deposits of any kind. If your direct deposits and any other ACH deposits to the account total at least $500, your monthly fee will be waived.
Read our full Chase Bank review.
Best for Building a Savings Habit : Alliant Credit Union
With its bonus paid at the end of a year of regular savings deposits, Alliant Credit Union earns our top award for best bank bonus aimed at helping you build a savings habit.
Very low balance requirement, and no direct deposit needed
The bonus amounts to more than an 8% return on your money
The account earns a competitive interest rate
No monthly maintenance fees on the account
Smaller bonus than other offers
Must become a member of the credit union (though it’s easy and free)
Must wait a year to receive your bonus
Suze Orman wants you to get in a habit of saving every month, and she’s put her name behind a special savings account at Alliant Credit Union that rewards you for doing just that. It’s called The Ultimate Opportunity Savings Account and it’s a great choice for those who simply want to slowly accumulate savings, all while being rewarded with a little something extra after achieving that goal for a year. This earns it our top honor for best bank bonus for those building a savings habit.
The way it works is you make a deposit into the savings account of at least $100 every month for 12 months. You need to keep that amount in the account so that at the end of the year, you still have at least $1,200 on deposit. At that point, Alliant will add its $100 bonus to your account.
This is a great return, though since it’s a small balance amount, the bonus is also small compared to other bank offers. But the account also pays a competitive high-yield savings rate on your balance and is completely fee-free, even providing free access to a network of 80,000 ATMs nationwide.
Joining Alliant is easy, and free as well. If you don’t meet one of their standard eligibility requirements such as working at a participating company or living in the Chicago area, you can still join by agreeing to a membership in their affiliated nonprofit, Foster Care to Success, which serves thousands of foster teens across the U.S. Alliant will even pay the $5 membership fee on your behalf.
This list of winning bank bonuses should set up almost anyone looking for an account that matches their banking needs while also providing a significant cash infusion in exchange for following some basic requirements. For those who can manage a direct deposit, Associated Bank’s three bonuses are top-paying options, offering a generous bonus for a minimal direct deposit threshold and a modest minimum balance. It also scores high marks for requiring the minimum balance for such a short time (30 days).
Direct deposit is not possible for everyone, however. And for some, it’s simply not an appealing option. Our list of best bonuses for no direct deposit, for high earners, and for those carrying a low balance should provide something for everyone. All offers and rates valid as of this writing, February 2021.
|Financial Institution||Why We Picked It||Key Benefit|
|Associated Bank||Best Overall||High return for a modest direct deposit and balance|
|HSBC||Best for High Earners||Generous bonus on large, recurring direct deposits|
|Chase||Best for a Modest Balance||Very minimal direct deposit and balance requirements|
|Alliant Credit Union||Best for Buildings a Savings Habit||Be generously rewarded for monthly savings deposits|
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Do Bank Account Bonuses Work?
Bank bonuses are essentially an incentive with strings. If you follow all the requirements carefully, the bank will pay you the advertised bonus. But miss on any one of the rules, and the bank is entitled to scrap your bonus. The onus is on you to make sure you check off all the required boxes.
This doesn’t mean bonuses are hard to earn. They generally have two types of rules: a direct deposit requirement and a required minimum balance for a set time period. Occasionally a bonus will require both of these, but more often, it’s one or the other. If direct deposit is required, the offer will generally specify the minimum amount that needs to be deposited and within how many days of first opening your account.
Balance requirements also specify a dollar amount—in this case, how much you have to keep on account—and a time duration. Most typically, they require the minimum balance to be held at the bank for 60 or 90 days.
After you meet the requirements, you are entitled to your bonus. That doesn’t mean you’ll receive it instantly. Most bank bonus offers will indicate an outside date (e.g., within 30 days of meeting the bonus requirements) by which they will credit the bonus to your account.
Are Bank Bonuses Worth It?
Scoring a bank bonus is like massively turbo charging the interest you can earn on your cash in the bank. The typical savings account pays less than 0.10% APY, and even the very best high-yield savings accounts in the country are paying far below 1%. In other words, it is really hard to earn much on your money right now.
Earning a cash bonus can change that, by sending your annual percentage return into the mid to high single digits, or even double digits. Take a bonus offer of $300 on a $5,000 balance: that’s a 6% return earned in just a month. Or a $700 bonus earned on $50,000: that’s 1.8% over just two months, and is more than double what you can earn in the best savings account over a full year’s time.
Also lucrative are the bonuses that don’t require a minimum balance, and instead focus solely on direct deposit. With no requirement for the cash that’s been deposited into the account to stay in that account, you can earn a bonus simply for the effort of changing your direct deposit instructions. The offers from Chase and HSBC are both good examples of earning free cash simply for setting up a new direct deposit routing.
Why Do Banks Offer a Bonus for Opening an Account?
You might wonder why banks are willing to pay this much to attract your business. The answer is really two-fold. For one, the competition is tight in consumer banking, and banks and credit unions are almost always hungry for new customers. That’s because having enough consumer deposits on hand enables the bank to make more loans, which is where it likely makes the lion’s share of its profits.
Secondly, the banks know that, in the end, they won’t have to pay that bonus amount for every customer they acquire. While you may personally be careful enough to follow all the bonus requirements successfully, others will in some way miss the mark on their end of the deal and thus be denied the bonus. So while the bank may sign up thousands of customers with a bonus offer, it will ultimately only pay bonuses to some fraction of those customers.
Are Bank Bonuses Taxed?
When banks pay you a bonus, they treat that payment just like any other interest payment on your account. And when the year ends and tax season rolls around, they will send you a 1099-INT form reporting the total amount of interest and bonus you received. To the IRS, there is no distinction between these two types of payments from the bank.
On your tax return, all of that bank income will count as interest income, which is taxed at the same rate as all of your wages and other income.
How We Chose the Best Bank Bonuses
We searched the web for all the current bank bonus offers we could find, digging up almost 30. We then prioritized nationwide offers and those from banks serving a large number of states. From there, we compiled each offer’s bonus amount, direct deposit requirement, minimum balance and duration, and account fees, ultimately comparing the options to select our winners in each category.