Banks paying you for your business? Not really

Banks are not in the business of giving away money, yet many offer to do just that if you open an account with them. While it may seem like a good deal, it could wind up costing you more than you get.

Banks offer these bonuses to bring in customers, often getting them to switch banks in the process. Santander Bank says it has recorded a 20 percent increase in new checking accounts since it began offering customers the chance to earn $20 a month for 12 months if they meet certain requirements, according to the Boston Globe.

Although checking accounts can cost banks as much as $200 to open and $300 a year to maintain, according to the American Bankers Association, they're still money-makers, responsible for most of the fees banks collect. Consumer Reports found that for a checking account paying no interest, banks charge an average of $10.27 a month. The average fee for online bill paying is $6.95 a month. And it costs $34.48 for having insufficient funds or overdraft protection. Banks also earn money via charges known as swipe fees from merchants.

Avoiding those fees by keeping a minimum balance in your account will cost you more as well. A survey by found that the minimum balance to waive fees for personal branch checking accounts increased from $3,170 at the end of 2013 to $3,879 as of the end of June.

And that won't actually protect you from those fees. also found that monthly fees for accounts that had met the minimum balance requirement increased by 7.5 percent to $0.47 in the past six months. Nor is that the only way this will cost you. The average interest rate on these checking accounts is currently 0.42 percent, according to With inflation at 2.1 percent currently, stashing that money in the bank is costing you about 1.7 percent.

Keep that in mind as you look at this list of current cash offers from banks, compiled by

  • BBVA Compass Bank: $100 if you use its p2p transfer system.
  • BMO Harris Bank: Up to $200 for opening an Everyday Checking account, Select Checking or Portfolio Checking account.
  • Capital One: $50 with a 360 Checking Account.
  • Chase Bank: $150 by opening a Total Checking account or $250 for a Chase Premier Plus Checking account.
  • Citibank: $10 each month through Dec. 31 if you open a checking account by July 31.
  • Fifth Third Bank: $150 to $250 for opening an Essential or eAccess checking account with direct deposit.
  • First Republic Bank: $25 for downloading its free online banking protection.
  • KeyBank: $150 for opening an eligible KeyBank checking account online.
  • PNC Bank: $100 to $300 for opening one of three PNC Virtual Wallets.
  • Santander Bank: $20 a month for a year when you open an extra30 checking account.
  • U.S. Bank: $100 in rewards by opening a S.T.A.R.T. savings account.
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    Constantine von Hoffman is a freelance writer and writing coach. His work has appeared in outlets such as Harvard Business Review, NPR, Sierra magazine, Brandweek, CIO, The Boston Herald,, CSO, and Boston Magazine.