How the Bank Begged Me to Take Their Free Money!

I love taking advantage of the bank. Does that sound mean? Well, since I worked for several banks over my career, I can tell you this: banks are kind of mean themselves. They make a ton of money and they sit around most of the day trying to find new ways to make even more off of you.  Just recall the way they were back in the financial crises a few years ago, practically destroying our economy and rewarding themselves with “golden parachutes” while many were losing their houses thanks to their predator mentality in the mortgage game. So it is a good feeling to know that many of them are on their knees begging for my business.  The best part of that is that I know how to beat them at their own game. And now I want to share it with you. Am I being too hard on them? I don’t think so. Here’s how the bank begged me to take their free money!

Banks are begging for the business of qualified customers, going so far as to offer free money in bonuses and rewards for using accounts and credit cards.

One thing has changed since 2007. The banks are trying to win you back are being are pretty nice to you in one way. And that’s this: They will practically bend over backwards to get you to open an account by giving away free money! The sky is the limit and the competition is so fierce that the offers are just plain weird. You probably know that, if like me you get bombarded with e-mail, snail mail, and all kinds of promotions each week to draw you in to their “web”. So here are just a few of the ways that you can get something for practically nothing these days. I did it and so can you.

An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse

You remember Wells Fargo, don’t you? Those are the people who brought you “account openings even if you never wanted one!”. I use Wells Fargo as my mortgagee and have done so since I refinanced my mortgage a few years ago. I didn’t actually pick them myself, but my mortgage was sold to them after it closed so they became my new “friend” for life (or the next couple decades).

The Pre-Cursors

When I saw their offers I had had to jump on it. It was so good that I just had to have it. Let me give you some facts first before the details.

I don’t want to brag, but I have really great credit. It’s something I am very proud of and it always gives me an edge in any dealings I have. In case you don’t know it, having great credit can save you thousands in interest, help get you a job approval, or even help you get a rental apartment just because it shows that you are a dependable person and a low financial risk. Because of my credit rating I qualified for their amazing dealio!

I have several credit cards and I also have a checking account and debit card. Many of us have that, right? And after all, how many does one actually need? Well, apparently the people at Wells Fargo think they are special and that they have the best checking accounts and credit and debit cards in the world!

The Deal

So here’s their offer that I grabbed, knowing full well that I would never become one of their loyal customers:

  1. Open a checking account with them with just a $25 initial deposit. Maintain the account for at least 6 months. As long as you have either a direct deposit into the account of at least $500 a month (set up within 90 days of opening), an average daily balance of $1,500 or more OR a link to your mortgage (just a link, no other requirement…lucky me) you pay no fees for the account!  But wait, there is more!!!
  2. Get a free Wells Fargo ATM debit card with your new checking account and make 10 debit card purchases in the first 90 days and they will give you $150 as a cash reward credit in your checking account. Free money!

So that’s exactly what I did. And I had no mercy. I spent my 10 debit transactions on practically nothing. I bought gum at CVS, a soda at Stop and Shop, a newspaper at 7-11. You get the idea here. Within the first 9 days I spent $22.40 of my initial deposit of $25.00 on the 10 debit transactions. I then took my card and dropped it into a drawer of my “never to be used again” card files.

When the end of the second statement cycle for my checking account, I received a credit of $150 and my balance and the account read $152.60 as of that statement. I quickly transferred all but $1 into my regular checking account I use from Chase Bank. I will keep the account open for the 6 month requirement and then close it. Mission accomplished.

But Wait, There’s More!

While I was going through the “motions” of pledging my loyalty to Wells Fargo, a funny thing happened. The aggressive banker “convinced” me to open a new Wells Fargo Cash Wise credit card. The deal I got on that was even better than the free money I got from the checking bonanza. My great credit made the account opening take all of 45 seconds and here’s what I had:

  1. I received my new card a week later in the mail. If I use the card to charge $1,000 or more in the first 90 days, I get a cash reward credit to my statement of $200.
  2. The card has some great perks. First, no annual fee and you pay no interest on any purchase you make for 12 months as long as you make the minimum payment each month.
  3. You get 1.5% cash reward on every dollar you charge and can redeem it when you have at least $25 accumulated.
  4. That reward increases to 1.8% if you use their app linked from the card to your phone when paying for things.
  5. FYI, the APR on the card is a low 13.74%, another good deal (not that you should be paying interest if you keep your card paid off or use the no-interest period).

Making It Work

Now you may be thinking, Gary, you’re going to be spending needlessly $1,000 bucks just to get that $200. Well, I would be using a credit card to spend that $1,000 anyway, on this card or on my Chase card if I didn’t open the account. In fact, I had several credit card transactions that were about to take place anyway.

For one, it was time to pay my annual car insurance bill that I always pay by credit card on bill pay (saving on those envelopes and stamps, of course). Making it in one payment saves on convenience charges. In addition, I had my condo insurance bill due. Throw in my car payment for the month (the one I’m trying to get rid of once and for all) and I was at $1,033.34.

In just the first month, I had met the requirement of the deal. By the way, besides earning the $200 cash reward, I also earned another $15.50 from the 1.5% rewards for a total of $215.50 credited to my account.

Since I got that money, I said to myself, good deal Gary. You just reduced your 2017 car insurance bill by $215.50.  And there’s more great news. I am paying the balance of $817.84 after the rewards credits over 12 months at no interest in installments of just $68.15 for those three transactions! Great for the old cash flow!

Some Cautions

Taking advantage of offers like this is good for people who have their finances well-organized, who have good credit, and who can control their use of credit cards. If this doesn’t describe you, then that free money might turn out to be not-so-free as you rack up debt or take needed cash out of your main accounts. Know yourself and act accordingly.

Some may say that’s a lot of nonsense to go through for a couple hundred dollars. It didn’t take me long, and for me it was worth it. Like any money-saving or money-earning activity, you’ll have to decide if the benefit is worth the cost for you.

If you are going to take advantage of a bank’s deals, be sure to read the fine print and make sure you can comply with all the terms of the agreement. Don’t get 99% of the way through the process only to find out that you’ve closed the account too soon or missed the spending deadline by a day. Keep track of what you’re doing so you know when you’ve earned the rewards or bonuses.


Banks are begging for the business of qualified customers, going so far as to offer free money in bonuses and rewards for using accounts and credit cards.

Willie Sutton

You may know the name “Willie Sutton” or “slick Willie” as he was called from history books. He was a notorious bank robber back in the 1930’s. One of the things about Willie most remembered was his supposed answer to the question as to why he robbed banks as his occupation. His answer, known as Sutton’s Law, was said to be, “Because that’s where the money is!”. I guess you might say that’s what motivated me too. I “robbed” the bank just like Willie and you can too.

Wells Fargo is just one of the many banks practically wearing out holes in their knees of their pants begging for your business. Are you one to take advantage of a deal like this? What deals have you done to make some quick cash like I did? Are you feeling “slick” like Willie and me?

Second Bank of the United States image courtesy of Beyond My Ken via CC BY-SA 2.0

Disease Called Debt

About Gary Weiner @ Super Saving Tips

Over the last 45 years I’ve worked in retail (department stores and supermarkets) and financial planning. In addition, I am a shopper, born and bred, who enjoys the challenges of finding the best items for the best prices. When I’m not busy saving money or writing here at Super Saving Tips, I enjoy baseball, music, and classic movies. I am retired and live in New Jersey with my wife.

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25 Comments

  1. Something to be aware of. Unlike credit card cash rewards, bank account rewards are taxable. I’ve heard Citibank actually sends the IRS tax documents. The difference is cash rebates on purchases (credit card) versus cash like interest (bank). I don’t move around between banks because of hassle, but tax hassles are also a consideration.
    FullTimeFinance recently posted…What does the Personal in Personal Finance Mean?My Profile

    • You are right about the taxable event regarding “free money” from the bank. I’m fortunate enough in my position in retirement that that money doesn’t affect my taxes now that I’m not working. Thanks for adding the information, FTF.

  2. When the money’s on the table, the money’s for the taking! Nice hack :).
    Daniel Palmer recently posted…Lowering (or Eliminating) the Cable BillMy Profile

  3. Hmm, I’m glad you got such a good deal, Gary, but my experience with Wells has left me wary. My mom had accounts there, and about a year after she died we got a notice about renewing her safe deposit box (something none of us had ever heard of and no one had a key.) So we had to make an extra 4-hour trip and spend $75 and 2 hours to get the box drilled. It was empty.

    Since she had left immaculate records, We figured that they had helpfully assigned her the box…without her knowledge. Combine that with how incredibly unhelpful they were with moving her IRA into an inherited IRA (it took 9 months) and they probably can’t offer me a good enough deal to entice my business. I’ll stick to our local credit union for the good dependable honest service, even if they don’t offer such lucrative options.
    Emily @ JohnJaneDoe recently posted…Mutual Fund Terms: Don’t Guess the Flavor EditionMy Profile

  4. We have not taken advantage of any bank deals recently, but have on a number of credit card reward bonuses. I find as long as you are not changing your spending habits or spending money you don’t have to take advantage of these deals, why not!
    Brian recently posted…Does your Saving Need a Rize?My Profile

  5. Anything that increases your income is a great outcome 🙂 Thanks for sharing Gary.
    Erik @ The Mastermind Within recently posted…Content Inc.My Profile

  6. Glad to hear you made out so well!

    I’ve banked with Wells Fargo and I wouldn’t give them the time of day – even for $150 – at this point. I’m glad you closed it out after you got the reward. They’re horrible to deal with.
    Financial Coach Brad recently posted…What is the 4% rule and how can it help your financial planning?My Profile

  7. Excellent work!!!! I’ll have to see if our mortgage holder (U.S. Bank) has any slick deals like that. 🙂

  8. This made me giggle out loud, especially the part about buying gum! These small victories can make you feel so great. They probably make a killing off of 95% of their customers, but not you. Nicely done!
    Mrs. Groovy recently posted…The Groovy Guide to Knowing if You’re College MaterialMy Profile

  9. I love taking advantage of bank account bonuses. Recently I opened a checking account with HSBC. I had to pay two bills a month for three months through their bill pay and they gave me a $300 bonus. Since I have to pay my water and electric bill every month, this was easy to accomplish.

    Have you checked out http://www.doctorofcredit.com/best-bank-account-bonuses/ ? I’m using the bonuses to beef up my savings account.

  10. It’s free with a little effort and it’s perfectly legal. I’m all about this kind of cash!

    I’m getting ready to do some of the same, looking forward to sharing when it’s all done 🙂
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…Finally Friday: Slow cooker garlic pork shoulder bladeMy Profile

  11. Great deal! You had it all planned out nicely! You know if it’s free it did take a little “work.” Well worth it though in my opinion.

  12. Good for you! I’m all for using bank and credit card bonus offers to pad my coffers. I banked with Wells Fargo for a long time – but they made my life miserable when I was living in England and trying to do international transfers. They made me so angry, I closed my accounts as soon as I moved home. Hopefully things go smoother for you!

  13. I love free money deals from the bank! We just did this same deal with Huntington around Christmas time. The bank wants to give me and my wife a few hundred bucks each? Yes please!
    DJ @1000WaysToSave recently posted…21 Intelligent Ways How to Save Money on UtilitiesMy Profile

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