Bank Bonus “Gotchas” to Watch Out For
March 20, 2018
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If you’re looking for a way to earn some side income this year, it would be hard to find easier money than a bank bonus. These offers typically extend a few hundred bucks to anyone willing to open a new checking or savings account and follow some simple directions. And, if you are able to meet the prescribed requirements, you’ll score some free cash with little to no work on your part.
Unfortunately, like most “free” offers out there, the details may be thicker than you realize. While some bank offers are fairly simple and to the point, others make you jump through quite a few hoops to earn the bonus.
As you explore bank bonus offers and decide which one to sign up for, it’s crucial to read the fine print so you can avoid the biggest gotchas and pitfalls. Here are some fine print details you should absolutely be aware of:
#1: Minimum deposit requirements
While earning a bank bonus may seem as easy as pie, you definitely need some money to play around with. That’s because, fair or not, the majority of bank bonus offers require a minimum deposit to get started.
For some offers, like the $200 checking account offer from Chase, the minimum deposit to earn the bonus is only $25. However, earning a $150 bonus for opening a Chase savings account requires you to deposit at least $10,000 for at least 90 days.
If you opened a savings account without reading those terms and failed to deposit at least $10,000, well, you would be out of luck because you wouldn’t earn the bonus offer. The bottom line: Make sure you know how much you need to deposit and for how long before you sign up. If the requirement is too steep, look for an offer with terms you can actually meet.
#2: Direct deposit requirements
In addition to requiring a minimum deposit to open a new account and earn a bank bonus, many offers also require you to set up direct deposits. These direct deposit requirements can vary in the amount of the deposits and how often you need to set them up, so it’s crucial to read each offer to learn their rules.
Take this $200 checking offer from Regions Bank, for example. To earn the bonus, you need to set up at least $500 in direct deposits that come from payroll or the government. This checking bonus from PNC Bank, on the other hand, requires $2,000 in qualifying direct deposits to qualify.
That’s a big difference between the two offers, so make sure to never assume and to check ahead of time.
#3: Long deposit timelines
You will likely need to deposit at least some amount of cash in addition to setting up direct deposits if you want to earn a bank bonus. However, there’s another layer of fine print to be aware of – deposit timelines. Depending on the offer, you may need to keep your money in the bank that offered the bonus for a year or even longer.
Take the Chase checking $200 offer and the $150 savings offer, for example. Both require you to deposit a certain amount of money, and the savings account offer requires you to keep at least $10,000 on deposit for a minimum of 90 days. However, the fine print also mentions that you need to keep your account open for at least six months:
“If either the checking or savings account is closed by the customer or Chase within six months after opening, we will deduct the bonus amount for that account at closing.”
While six months is a long time, some offers ask you to keep your money on deposit for up to 18 months! If you close your account early, they will typically claw back your bonus and deduct it from your account as well, making the entire process a waste of your time.
#4: Monthly maintenance fees
While some bank bonus offers don’t require a huge deposit to get started, that doesn’t mean they won’t charge you any fees. In fact, many banks charge a monthly maintenance fee if you don’t meet their minimum deposit requirements, and there’s no reason for them to waive these fees just because you’re trying to earn a bank bonus.
Typically, you can find out exactly what you need to do to avoid monthly fees in the fine print. With the Chase checking account offer, for example, you can avoid the $12 monthly service fee three different ways - by setting up at least $500 in direct deposits per month, by keeping at least $1,500 deposited in your checking account, or by keeping at least $5,000 on deposit across all Chase bank accounts you own.
#5: Other fine print
In addition to these “gotchas,” there are other random requirements you may need to meet to earn a bonus as well. When you open a new PNC Virtual Wallet account, for example, you need to set up at least $2,000 in direct deposits and make at least 10 purchases with the new debit card you receive with the account. If you read the fine print, you will also find out that the direct deposit requirements and debit purchases all need to be completed within the first 60 days of account opening.
The Regions Bank offer we mentioned also comes with a similar requirement. To earn the $200 bonus for opening a checking account, you need to make at least 10 purchases with your new Regions debit card within 60 days and make at least $500 in qualifying direct deposits.
The Bottom Line
Bank bonuses seem like easy money and they are, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any hoops to jump through. Make sure you thoroughly read through all the terms and conditions before you sign up for one of these offers, then follow the directions to a “T.” If you don’t, you could waste your time and your money only to wind up with no reward in the end.