Find a Bank That Pays You to Open an Account

Margarette Burnette
By Margarette Burnette 

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Banks are always on the hunt for new customers, and if you qualify, some will pay you — often around $200 or more — to open an account. You may have to meet certain qualifications, such as receiving a minimum direct deposit amount. But if you follow the rules, you can typically get the bonus money within a few months.

You can maximize your earnings by choosing an account with a strong interest rate. Online banks tend to offer higher rates because they don’t have as many operating expenses as traditional brick and mortar banks. The average savings account earns 0.45% APY, while a high-rate account typically earns a 1.50% APY or more. Depending on your balance, earning the higher rate could be like earning another bonus.

» Looking for top online options? Read our list of the online savings accounts.

How to find the right bank bonus

Check the dates

It is not hard to find bonus offers online, but they could have an expiration date. If you find an offer that interests you, check that it’s still available before starting an application. Some banks consistently offer promotions each month, but there is no guarantee they’ll be there in the future.

For current offers, you can check out NerdWallet’s list of best bank promotions and bonuses.

Make sure you qualify

Many bonuses are limited to those who meet certain criteria, such as living in a certain geographic area, and many are reserved for new customers. If you have a current account at the bank, or had one within the last six months or year, you may not qualify.

Consider any activity rules or conditions

Read the fine print for the bonus before you apply for an account. For example, you may be asked to receive a minimum amount in direct deposits each month, — say, $500. Or there could be an overall minimum deposit requirement of $1,000 for the first few months — all while keeping your account open and in good standing.

Note that if you are eligible, any bonus money you receive is probably considered interest, so it would be reported as taxable income.

Avoid future fees

Many checking and savings accounts require a minimum balance or activity level, or they’ll charge a monthly service fee — say, around $10. Make sure you can meet the requirements on an ongoing basis to avoid the fee. And if you tend to overdraft, look out for those fees as well. Banks charge around $35 per overdraft item, so a few of these charges could easily erase any bonus. (Read more about overdraft fees and how to avoid them.)

Think long-term: If you are planning to close an account after you receive a bonus, you might want to think twice. Some banks may deduct the bonus if an account is closed too quickly after you receive it. You’ll likely need to keep the account open for six months or longer to retain the bonus.

Bank promotion offers can give your bank balance a nice lift. The funds could go toward building an emergency fund or providing extra cushion in your budget. If you’re searching for a new checking or savings account, or are willing to start, getting one with a sign-up offer can be a financially smart move.

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