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Are Bank Account Sign-Up Bonuses Worth the Hassle?

By: Phil Kirkeiner
2019-03-30

Yes, and here's why

This is easily one of the most frequently asked questions we get from newcomers. The answer is always the same: Absolutely.

We hear it constantly - "Yeah that $200 bonus looks nice, but I don't want to deal with the hassle of opening the account, figuring out the requirements, paying fees, whatever. Doesn't seem worth it."

Well, I am here to tell you that bank bonuses are not only worth the hassle, but that the time spent on them is most likely going to pay more than double what your day job pays on an hourly basis. And that's with all the potential hassles built in.

Spoiler alert - It's a good investment.

Hassle #1 - Finding a Good Bank Bonus (5 Minutes)

Twenty years ago, finding a good bank account signup bonus was hard. There was less transparency in the market which meant that shopping for a good bank was more difficult. There was no internet or place you could go to that could compare all of the banks side-by-side. You pretty much had just the ads in the newspaper or on the street.

Now with the internet, you can easily shop for the best bank accounts on dozens of different sites.

We've made finding a good bank bonus even easier by categorizing the fine print of every bonus and letting you filter down to only the best offers based on your location and financial status. Head over the bonuses page and use the filters to find the best bonuses in less than a minute.

Hassle #2 - Opening the Account (10 Minutes)

Once you have found a good bonus, you'll want to go to the bank's site and apply for the account.

If it's been awhile since you opened your most recent bank account, the usual expectation is that the process will take over an hour, requiring intense paperwork and background checks. There is an application process you have to go through, but most banks allow you to do this online on your own in about 10 minutes.

They will ask you to verify your identity, so be sure to have your driver's license and social security number ready. They do this as a way to prevent identity theft and other kinds of fraud. You wouldn't want someone funneling drug money through an account in your name, would you?

You may also want to have handy the payment method that you will use to fund the new account. Bank account numbers and debit cards will always work, but sometimes banks will allow you to use a credit card. (Pro-tip: this is a great way to earn extra points!)

Hassle #3 - Keeping Track of the Account (10 Minutes)

This would have also been a pain twenty years ago. However, with the release of dozens of free money dashboards and budget apps like Mint, you can easily connect all of your financial accounts to one hub.

As soon as you open a new bank account, copy and paste you account and routing numbers into a safe place like a private google doc. Then log into the bank's online banking portal to set up a username and password.

Once you have done this, head over to Mint (or whatever budgeting app you use) and securely link your new bank account to the dashboard. You should then be able to see your new bank balance right next to your old one.

If you ever want to transfer money between banks, go into your old bank and add the new one as an external account. This should only take a minute, and the bank may even let you connect instantly by using your new bank's login info like you did with Mint. Once that is taken care of, you can now move money back and forth as you please!

Hassle #4 - Meeting the Bonus Requirements (10 to 30 Minutes)

Every bank requires that you complete different actions to get the sign-up bonus. We have gone through the trouble of making the requirements super easy to understand.

Whether you need to set up direct deposit, maintain a minimum balance in the account, or use your debit card a certain number of times, you will take care of that as soon as possible after opening the account.

If you need to set up direct deposit, log into you employee profile where you work and update your direct deposit information. If you need to maintain a minimum balance, set up a transfer right away. Need to use your debit card ten times? Link it to Venmo and send your friend a dollar over and over again until you have done so.

Each of these actions won't take more than 10 minutes, but you will need to exercise some discipline to take care of them before you forget!

Hassle #5 - Avoiding Monthly Fees (5 Minutes)

We have arrived at the topic of most concern.

Every bank account has different monthly fees attached with unique requirements to have the fees waived.

All I can say is that sometimes the fees are worth waiving, and sometimes they aren't. That is for you to decide.

The vast majority of bank bonuses will be large enough to cover at least six months of fees, no matter the account. If the requirements are easy, you should definitely try to meet them and waive the fees. If not, just take the hit and you will still net positive.

For example, a checking account might require you to have just one of any kind of transaction post your account each month in order to waive the $10 fee. To satisfy that requirement, you could easily set up an automatic monthly transfer of $1 from your main bank to the new one so you won't have to worry about the fees ever again.

In another case, you might have to pay a $25 monthly fee if you don't maintain $50,000 in the account on average. If the signup bonus was $300 and you can close the account without penalty in six months (which is almost always the case,) then you may just opt to pay the fees and net $150.

Plus, if you are leaving too much money in an account to avoid fees, that money could be used instead to get another bonus. Just sayin'!

Hassle #6 - Closing the Account (10 Minutes)

This task might seem daunting, but it is actually one of the smallest hassles on the list.

A simple Google search will pull up the customer service number of the bank you need. Call that number, hit 0 to patch through to a representative, and tell them you are closing your account.

Have your account information handy to speed up the process. After about 5 minutes of them verifying your identity and asking why you chose to close the account (to which you say you're consolidating your finances to fewer banks), you will be off the phone with a check on its way to you for any remaining balance.

If you do not plan on keeping a bank account long-term, it is important to close the account as early as possible. The earlier you close, the sooner you will be eligible to get the bonus again later.

Hassle #7 - Other Hassles (10 minutes)

From time to time you might experience a hiccup in the bonus process. A few examples include:

Speaking with the bank over the phone as an additional measure of identity verification Emailing your payroll department directly about switching direct deposit because you can't do so yourself Getting approved for an account but then later having it closed on you for having an address outside of the bank's service area

Sometimes hiccups are easy to overcome, and other times they aren't. If a bank is being annoying, remember that it is not worth stressing over - there are always more bonuses.

Ideally, the account opening and bonus processes should be incredibly smooth. The whole purpose of a bank bonus is to entice new customers to stick around, not push them away. That's why in my personal experience, I've noticed that the easiest and biggest bank bonuses come from the best banks.

So Are They Worth It? (Yes!)

Add up the time associated with each hassle and you get between 60 and 90 minutes per bonus. Compare that to the value of the bonuses which typically range from $100 to $300.

Do the math and that means a given bonus may pay anywhere from $60 to $300 per hour. If you make that much already, then go back to work. The rest of us will be opening bank accounts during lunch!

Despite of the various hassles that might arise, bank bonuses are nearly always worth the trouble. Use them to take her out to a special dinner, to fund a vacation you couldn't afford otherwise, or even to pay for groceries this month. It might not be enough to pay for everything, but it can certainly make life a little nicer.

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