Making Sure The Bonus Is Worth Opening A Checking Account

In a competitive financial landscape, banks and credit unions often offer enticing bonuses to attract new customers. These bonuses can range from a few dollars to several hundred, making it a lucrative proposition to open a new checking account. However, navigating this maze of offers can be overwhelming. This article aims to simplify that process, offering you a roadmap to find the best checking account bonuses.

Understand the Basics

Before diving into the world of bonuses, it's crucial to understand what you need in a checking account. While a bonus offer may be attractive, you don't want to end up with an account that doesn't serve your needs. Consider factors like minimum balance requirements, monthly maintenance fees, ATM access, and other features that are important to you. Make a checklist of your "must-haves" and "nice-to-haves" to help guide your search.

Where to Look for Bonuses

Once you have a grasp of your requirements, the next step is to find the bonus offers. There are various platforms where you can find information on checking account bonuses, including:

Bank Websites: The most direct way is to visit the official websites of banks and credit unions. They often promote their latest offers on the homepage or under the ‘Promotions’ section.

Financial Blogs and Forums: Websites that focus on personal finance often curate lists of the best checking account bonuses. Forums like Reddit’s r/personalfinance can also be good places to find user-submitted deals.

Email Newsletters: Many personal finance websites offer newsletters that send the best deals straight to your inbox.

Social Media: Some deals are promoted exclusively on social media platforms. Follow the banks and credit unions on platforms like Twitter and Facebook to stay updated on their offers.

Read the Fine Print

Attractive as they may be, bonuses often come with conditions that you must meet to qualify. Common requirements include:

Minimum Deposit: Many banks require a minimum initial deposit to open the account and qualify for the bonus.

Direct Deposit: Some accounts require you to set up direct deposit from your paycheck to release the bonus.

Transaction Volume: You might have to make a certain number of transactions within a stipulated period.

Time Commitment: Some bonuses require you to keep the account open for a specific amount of time to avoid a penalty.

Reading the terms and conditions ensures that you can realistically meet these requirements.

Calculate the Net Benefit

It’s crucial to calculate the net benefit after accounting for all fees and requirements. For instance, if an account offers a $300 bonus but has a monthly maintenance fee of $15, you would lose $180 over a year if you can't meet the criteria to waive that fee. In such a scenario, a $200 bonus with no monthly fee would be more profitable. Always do the math before making a decision.

Check Your Eligibility

Some bonuses are location-specific, requiring you to live in a particular state or region. Others might be targeted towards students, senior citizens, or specific professions. Always check your eligibility before you spend time trying to avail yourself of a bonus.

Compare Multiple Offers

Don't settle for the first bonus offer you find. Compare multiple offers to evaluate which one gives you the most value for your needs. Use your checklist of requirements to weigh the pros and cons of each offer and identify the best fit.

Don't Forget About Taxes

Bonuses are often considered interest and are therefore taxable. The bank will send you a 1099-INT form at the end of the year, and you'll need to report this income when you file your taxes. Keep this in mind when calculating the net benefit of a bonus offer.

Application Process

Once you've made your decision, the application process is usually straightforward. You'll need to provide identification, social security number, and possibly other documents depending on the bank's requirements. Most banks allow you to apply online, but some may require a visit to a physical branch, especially for special types of accounts.


Finding a checking account with a lucrative bonus is not just about chasing the highest dollar amount. It involves understanding your banking needs, reading the fine print, calculating the net benefit, and comparing multiple offers. By being diligent in your research and realistic in your expectations, you can find a checking account that not only offers a sweet bonus but also aligns with your financial habits and goals.