App version: 0.1.0

What Is a Bank Bonus?

What Is a Bank Bonus?
Lauren Ward
Lauren WardUpdated July 28, 2023
Share this article:
Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
A bank bonus is a financial incentive to join a banking institution. It is often a cash bonus that is deposited directly into an account holder’s checking or savings account, but it can be another type of perk, as well. Bank bonuses are used to entice new customers to join or to retain the ones they have. If you’re considering opening a new bank account to receive a bank account opening bonus, here’s what you need to know. 

How Do Bank Bonuses Work?

A bank bonus is a perk to joining or staying with a financial institution. Bank bonuses often occur when a new account holder opens a savings account or checking account and deposits a certain amount of money, but how you receive particular bonuses can vary between institutions. Not every bank or credit union offers perks, but there are many that do.  

Why Do Banks Give Sign-Up Bonuses?

While some account holders have to make frequent trips to brick-and-mortar banks, many people rarely do. Because so much of banking is online, the location of a bank is much less important than it used to be. This means that all banks are essentially in competition with one another.To stand out, some banks and credit unions offer financial rewards or incentives for joining or staying. It’s not enough for banks to simply help account holders steward their money. They need a way to stand out amongst their peers, and some use perks and bonuses for that very purpose.   

Checking Account Bonus Pros and Cons


  1. Account holders can often still use other banks and credit unions. Sometimes it’s necessary to transition all of your financial activity over to a new bank, but many times it’s not. A one time deposit is sometimes all that is needed to receive a bank account bonus, so you may be free to stay with your financial institution of choice. 
  2. They are often quite simple to qualify for. Even though money is often involved, receiving a bank account bonus may not take too much effort. It depends on the bank, but you may only need to make a small deposit or leave your money in an account for a few months (much like a certificate of deposit).  
  3. You may realize you like the new bank more than your old one. While many banks are able to offer the same amount of features, it’s possible some bank accounts with bonus perks offer things your old one can’t (such as a larger ATM network). If this happens, you may decide to switch over all of your banking activity.


  1. Opening too many may affect your ability to open a bank account in the future. Just as credit card companies keep track of your history with debt and revolving accounts, banks and credit unions maintain records of your banking history. If you open up too many accounts to take advantage of bank bonuses, you may not be able to open an account when you sincerely need to. 
  2. Banks may charge fees even though it offers bonuses. Many banks have monthly fees, so it’s important to keep track of the monthly cost of opening a new checking account. The fees may eat too much into the bonus to warrant doing it.  
  3. Money may be tied up for a few months. You may be required to leave money in the checking account for a period of time to receive the sign-up perk. Should you need to spend your money, you may not receive the bank sign-up bonus.   

Savings Account Bonus Pros and Cons  


  1. The bonus will help you build your savings. The bank bonus may help you boost your savings and reach your financial goals sooner.
  2. Perks may be an ongoing incentive to stay. Some bank bonuses are not just a one-time thing. Some of them can happen on a routine basis provided you continue to meet the eligibility requirements.
  3. May not have to leave the money in the savings account for long to receive the bonus. Some financial incentives can take a few months to qualify for, but others don’t. You may only need to make a one-time deposit to automatically qualify for a bank bonus. 


  1. Fees can eat into profits. As with checking accounts, some banks charge savings accounts fees. You may be able to parry the fees by having a minimum balance, but it depends on the institution. Before you sign up with any bank, make sure you understand what fees you’ll be charged month to month. 
  2. May require more money than you routinely have. Once again, it varies on the financial institution, but to receive a bank bonus you may need to deposit more money than you’re currently able to.
  3. You may be better off finding a high interest savings account. Some banks only offer perks one time to new clients who are able to meet very specific requirements.  Even if you meet those requirements, you may get a better return by parking your money in a high interest savings account. Unlike perks, high interest savings rates last forever. 

How to Find Bank Accounts With Bonuses

There are a variety of ways to find banks offering bonuses. Some banks simply require an initial deposit while others may require you to live and work in a particular area. To find banks offering bonuses you can qualify for, try a couple of searches that reflect requirements you can meet. For example, consider the following searches when determining how to find the best bank sign-up bonus for you:
  • Teacher bank bonus
  • Direct deposit bank bonus
  • Austin, Texas, bank bonus
  • New bank account opening bonus

The Takeaway

If you meet certain requirements, some banks offer bonuses to new clients, while others offer perks to those who choose to stay. However, if you chase too many bank bonuses, you may damage your checking history, which could affect your ability to open an account in the future. How much you’ll get and what you need to do to qualify varies with each bank and credit union. If you’re looking for somewhere to deposit your money, you may instead want to focus your search on high interest savings accounts. Bank bonuses usually only occur one time, but the return on a high interest savings account is often paid out on a monthly basis. Lantern can help you compare online savings accounts and find today’s best rate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you pay taxes on bank bonuses?
Why do banks give bonuses?
What is the average bank bonus?
Photo credit: iStock/svetikd

About the Author

Lauren Ward

Lauren Ward

Lauren Ward is a personal finance expert with nearly a decade of experience writing online content. Her work has appeared on websites such as MSN, Time, and Bankrate. Lauren writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SoFi, including credit and banking.
Share this article: