Checking account bonuses are easy money. I personally know many people who jump from bank to bank, scooping up sign-on offers and earnings well over $1,000 per year with just a few clicks.
That may sound latently unethical, but it can actually be a great way to test out multiple banks and see which best fits your lifestyle. That’s what those bonuses are for — to convince you to give each bank’s product a trial run. After all, banks often build terms into their bonuses letting you know how long you must keep the account open to avoid being penalized.
Of course, an intro bonus is far from the only reason to pledge your loyalty to a bank. You must look at other features offered by a financial institution — which we’ve happily done for you.
Let’s examine the current best checking account offers to see which one is a good fit for you.
Overview: Best Checking Account Offers
- Best overall: Laurel Road Loyalty CheckingSM
- Best for an easy bonus: Chase Total Checking℠
- Best for a quick bonus: PNC Virtual Wallet with Performance Select
- Best for online shoppers: Axos® Bank Rewards Checking
- Best for a small account balance: First Tech Federal Credit Union Carefree Checking
- Best for a high-yield checking account: SoFi Checking and Savings
Laurel Road Loyalty Checking: Best overall
- Minimum deposit: $0
- Fees: $0
- APY: 0.01%
- Promo: Up to $540: $300 bonus cash when you make $2,500 or more in direct deposits within 60 days; $20 bonus cash per month for the first year your account is open for each statement period you make at least $2,500 in direct deposits
- Unique features: $10 in cash each statement period you deposit at least $2,500
Yes, the Laurel Road Loyalty CheckingSM account gives you the potential to earn a $300 sign-on bonus — but there’s more. You’ll get a deposit of $20 into your account for every statement period you deposit at least $2,500, for the first 12 months. That means by the end of the first year, you’ll have a whopping $540 in bonus cash.
However, Laurel Road CheckingSM also regularly gives you $10 in cash each statement period you deposit $2,500 into your account — for as long as you have the account.
This is an extremely fee-free checking account, giving you free paper checks and debit cards, as well as access to over 40,000 ATMs at no cost. But note that if you use an out-of-network ATM, you won’t be reimbursed — if you do this often, you may be better off opening a checking account with a bank that does reimburse you. Some will give you $15 or more each month to compensate you.
Chase Total Checking℠: Best for an easy bonus
- Minimum deposit: $0
- Fees: $12 (avoidable)
- APY: None (savings account accrues 0.01% APY)
- Promo: $200 when you set up direct deposit within 90 days of enrollment, Offer expires 07/19/2023, Terms Apply
- Unique features: You can withdraw cash at ATMs with your smartphone (no card needed)
Perhaps the easiest $200 you’ll make in your life is by opening a Chase Total Checking℠ account. New customers earn the bonus after setting up direct deposit within the first 90 days of account opening with coupon enrollment. That’s child’s play.
Chase charges a $12 monthly maintenance fee for its Total Checking® account, but you can get it waived with one of the following activities:
- Monthly direct deposits totaling at least $500;
- Maintaining a minimum daily balance of at least $1,500; or
- Having an average daily balance totaling at least $5,000 between checking, savings, or other Chase account balances.
If physical branches are important to you, it’s hard to beat opening an account with Chase. You’ve got nearly 5,000 locations to choose from around the U.S. That may sound like a lot, but some online banks offer more than 50,000 ATMs worldwide — dwarfing Chase’s reach.
PNC Virtual Wallet with Performance Select: Best for a quick bonus
- Minimum deposit: $0 when opened online ($25 in-branch)
- Fees: $25 (avoidable)
- APY: 0%
- Promo: $400 bonus cash when you make at least $5,000 in total qualifying direct deposits within 60 days of account opening
- Unique features: Above-average financial management tools
Some of the best checking account bonuses take a little while to earn. Some require you to participate for several months. Some may require you to open the account through a shopping portal to get the biggest payout (as you’ll see), which can take weeks or even months to post. Some won’t deposit your money until after a lengthy promotional window.
The PNC Virtual Wallet with Performance Select doesn’t drag out the process. Data points show customers getting the promotional $400 cash bonus about two weeks after completing the $5,000 deposit requirement.
PNC is one of the few banks on this list (along with Chase) that has thousands of branches around the U.S. — over 2,500 branches, in fact. So if you’re the kind of customer who prefers an in-person experience, PNC is a serious contender for you.
However, PNC also offers free access to around 19,000 ATMs. That’s more than Chase, but still woefully fewer than many online banks. But it also grants you up to $20 in fee reimbursements per statement period. If you’re only visiting once or twice per week, that should be enough to cover your ATM visits.
PNC also charges a $15 monthly account fee — but this can be avoided in three different ways:
- An average monthly balance of at least $5,000 in your checking account and up to seven other PNC consumer checking accounts you link;
- $25,000 in combined average monthly balance across linked PNC consumer deposit and/or PNCI investment accounts; or
- $5,000 in qualifying monthly direct deposits to your checking account.
Axos® Bank Rewards Checking: Best for online shoppers
- Minimum deposit: $50
- Fees: $0
- APY: Up to 3.30% (you’ll have to meet lots of requirements to get this, but it’s possible)
- Unique features: Unlimited domestic ATM fees
If you’re able to achieve the full 3.30% APY, Axos® Bank Rewards Checking is a good account for anyone with a high account balance.
However, also note there’s an extraordinarily high early account termination fee of $150 if you cancel your account within 180 days of opening.
First Tech Federal Credit Union Carefree Checking: Best for a small checking account balance
- Minimum deposit: $0 (three deposits of at least $1,000 to earn the bonus)
- Fees: $0
- APY: 0%
- Promo: Up to $350: $200 bonus cash when opening an account with promo code “NEW2022.” You must set up direct deposit within 60 days and receive three recurring direct deposits within 120 days; 10% bonus cash on purchases ($150 max on qualifying purchases with a First Tech debit or credit card.
- Unique features: Schedule virtual appointments instead of visiting in-branch
First Tech Federal Credit Union is located primarily on the west coast, but there are a handful of other branches in Texas, Massachusetts, Idaho, Georgia, and Colorado. If you don’t live near a branch but still want the personal touch of brick and mortar, you can set up virtual appointments.
To earn this sizable bonus, you don’t need to keep a red cent in your checking account. All you’ll need are three direct deposits of at least $1,000 each to earn the initial $200 chunk (which you can spend, transfer, etc.). Also, you’ll have a 60-day period to earn 10% back on the following purchases you make with your First Tech debit card (max $50 per category):
- Food delivery
- Online streaming services
Admittedly, you may have a tough time achieving the full $50 in both food delivery and online streaming accounts in two months. But it’s easy money if you can do it.
Another small caveat with this bank is that you’ll have to first open a savings account to be eligible for a checking account. But that doesn’t mean you need to feel compelled to use it.
SoFi Checking and Savings: Best for a high-yield checking account
- Minimum deposit: $0
- Fees: $0
- APY: 2.50% after setting up direct deposit (1.20% APY otherwise)
- Promo: Up to $250: $50 bonus cash when you deposit between $1,000 and $4,999, or $250 bonus cash when you deposit at least $5,000
- Unique features: Receive your paycheck up to two days early
A 2.50% APY is one of the most generous returns on the market for a checking account. Many other high-yield checking accounts taper off their earnings as the balance gets higher. SoFi does not, making it one of the best accounts for those with a big balance. For example, maintaining a balance of $15,000 in a SoFi checking account will net you $375 per year for literally doing nothing.
The opportunity to earn up to $250 is also an excellent offer.
SoFi charges almost no fees. The only big red flag is for those who think they’ll deposit cash regularly. SoFi doesn’t have physical locations, so you’ll have to visit a Green Dot retail location to do that. You could be charged an obscene $4.95 per deposit.
How to choose the right checking account offer for you
Banks are clamoring for your business. If that means publishing incredibly generous loss leaders to get you in the door, they’ll do it.
From the above list, you can see how it’s relatively easy to net $400 or more just for giving a bank a test drive for a few months.
The top priorities we looked for were:
- Value of the promotion
- Effort required to earn the promotion
- Ongoing benefits, such as unique features not offered by other banks
But if you’re looking for a long-term relationship, there are far more important factors to consider.
Some accounts do incur fees (though you can often get them waived one way or another), so make sure that you’ve counted the cost before feverishly pounding your information onto the application page with a saliva-drenched keyboard.
If you’re reading a post on the best checking account bonuses, that feature is probably top of mind. Some bank bonuses go as high as $1,000! But can you achieve the requirements to earn it?
Some offers target those who can deposit $100,000 within a specific time frame to earn the full bonus. If you’re not independently wealthy, you probably can’t pull that off. Stick to feasible requirements, or you’ll end up with nothing.
Bonus cash is great, but you need to be looking for a checking account that will facilitate the best possible financial experience. Some checking accounts literally pay you bonus cash each month just for depositing your paycheck. Some waive $15+ in ATM fees each month. Some offer incredibly high APY. In a single year, features like these can eclipse the money you’d receive in a sign-on bonus.
Ease of access
Does the bank you’re eyeing make it easy for you to manage your money in an effortless way? Are you able to partition your money to help you budget for expenses? Is there a stringent limit on how often you can visit the ATM? Does the mobile app allow you to remotely deposit checks?
The bottom line
There are lots of checking account options. This post should make it easy enough to shop around and find the best bank for your needs.
Checking account offers and deals might be the incentive you need to give a bank you’ve never heard of a whirl. Just remember that terms are constantly changing — bonuses are here one day and gone the next. If you see a bonus you like, best to sign up sooner than later.
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