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5 hidden costs of checking-account bonuses

Free money comes with strings attached
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Free money comes with strings attached

From arranging monthly direct deposits of at least $500 to making 10 monthly payments with your new debit card, checking-account bonuses typically require new account holders to meet certain terms in order to keep their cash and waive monthly account fees.

"Requiring direct deposit or additional account relationships increases the odds that the customer will be around long enough to more than recoup the cost of that upfront bonus," says Greg McBride, CFA and Bankrate's senior financial analyst.

However, there are offers with fewer restrictions at some institutions.

Todd Pietzsch, spokesman for Washington-based BECU, says the credit union occasionally offers a $25 bonus for opening a checking account. To keep the bonus, the account must remain open for a minimum of 90 days with a balance above $5.

Whether you are considering a promotional offer at a bank or a credit union, additional account requirements do not always mean less rewarding.

"These bonuses can be a win-win for consumers that score a better deal and banks that attract a new customer," McBride says.


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