The tradition of offering incentives for opening new bank accounts is old and time honored—and while the days of getting a free toaster oven or transistor radio for opening a new account belong to the Jurassic age, there are still a number of banks which still do have savings accounts offering a bonus for opening an account or transferring an existing account to their bank.

In the modern age the most common form of savings account bonus is a cash incentive, with gift certificates or gift cards coming in a close second.  While most people can definitely use a little extra “free” money, it is still important to do thorough research into the banks and the fine print of the cash offer—because it may turn out that the “free” money isn’t so free after all.

Virtually all banks offering a bonus will have very specific minimum deposit amounts –which require not just a big opening balance, but that a certain level of funds be kept in the account at all times.  Incentives past the actual bonus—such as “fee free” status and “higher interest rate” are generally also tied to larger initial deposit size and keeping an ongoing high balance. Not only can the promised cash bonus, fee structure and high interest rate be eaten up by a balance that falls below the minimum, it can also incur significant’ penalty fees—that make the new account an all around losing proposition in the long run.

Generally the minimums required by accounts offering a bonus are reasonable---averaging $100-250 opening balance which must be left in the account at that level for at least 90 days, however come bonus bearing accounts require upwards of $500 initial deposit with a minimum of six months or more. 

The most likely place to find a savings account offering a bonus in the modern age is not at a bricks and mortar local bank although there are still those which do—but rather an online banking entity. 

Online banks are well known for making it easy to link accounts from other banks; money can easily be transferred back and forth between the banks. Another extra with online banks is the interest rate is normally higher. Online banks use high computer security and encryption to make sure that the transactions are safe, which make them a viable and attractive option. But you must also have a high level of comfort with online banking, and be sure that the bank you are signing on board with is a legitimate, federally guaranteed institution or risk losing your hard earned cash.

One other type of bank offering account bonus incentives does so via a bonus that is dependent on the amount of interest made the previous quarter. This results in a higher effective interest rate throughout the term that money is kept in the account and is essentially a means of making interest on the interest.

Whenever money is involved especially in our current troubled economic climate, it is very much in the best interests of the consumer to carefully research any savings account offering a bonus before signing on the dotted line.  There are a number of online and offline resources for locating and investigating the best deals—such as online, and the better business bureau offline—and the wise potential new savings account holder will avail himself of all sources of information to make an informed decision.