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Today I closed my Bank of America checking account, and received $125 in cold hard cash. I only opened it with $25 — that’s a 400% return on my investment in less than two months! That was by far the easiest $100 I’ve ever made. There are plenty of sign-up bonuses floating around, but you have to determine if they really are a good investment (some require you to keep your money in the account for a long time at less than optimal rates), worth the the time (really, it takes 5 minutes to open the account…and perhaps a few more minutes of your time to maintain it and/or close it), and worth a potential drop in credit score. I’ve recently taken advantage of these two offers.

Bank of America – Receive $100 when you open a new checking account online
I signed up online on 10/12/06, was credited the $100 on 11/20/06, and closed the account (in-person) on 12/9/06. Doesn’t get any easier than that. Especially since there is a branch within walking distance of my house. If you want to take advantage of this promo, it should still be going on (deadline says 12/31/06).  After 60 days, you will be charged a monthly fee of $5.95 unless you sign up for direct deposit, so make sure you close the account within 60 days. The only disadvantage to this deal is that they do a hard credit pull when you first sign up. Is it worth $100 cash? I say it is. Sign up here.

Net Bank – $150 bonus for opening a checking account and a money market account
This one involves a bit more leg work. You get $75 for opening a checking account, $75 for opening a money market account, and up to a $100 gift card for opening a 1-year CD with at least $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000. Forget about the CD’s, they’re probably not realistic for most average people,and they’re not at the most competitive rates.  You have to keep your accounts open for a minimum of 6 months. Also, there is a multitude of fees that you have to watch out for. These include:

  • Online Bill Payment Inactivity – $5.00 per month after 3 successive months of inactivity on accounts with average monthly balance less than $3,000.
  • Early Closure – $25 for Checking or Money Market Account Closed Within 6 Months
  • Dormant Checking Account – $5.00/month beginning 12 months after most recent activity
  • Account closure – $7.50 ( however, I have read of people closing an account with > $7.50 in it and getting the entire sum in check form  — I think they signed up when there was a different fee list.)

So, what you want to do is open the checking account (make sure and sign up for basic, and not bill pay or you will get charged for bill pay inactivity) with $500 and the MM account with $1000. After one month & bonus reward, reduce checking to $7.50, reduce MM to $500. Put money pulled out in a higher earning account at another bank (Emigrant Direct, for example). After three months, you’ll have to make a small deposit in your checking account each month to keep it active. After 6 months, close checking and MM. You may be charged a $7.50 account closure fee for each acct, but you’ll have made $150 + interest. Plus you get your first box of checks free (all my other checking accts want to charge me for checks!) Sign up for this promotion here.

I opened my NetBank accounts on 9/21/2006. It took about a week and a half to process my application and fully open the account. I was bad and didn’t follow my own advice of pulling out some of the money after the first month, so I’ve been letting it sit at 3.66 %apy(MM) and 0.74%apy(checking) for the past month. The only hassle I’ve ran into: NetBank only pulls money from external accounts, it doesn’t push money. So to transfer money out, I have to pull it from another account, or I could write a check to “cash” and deposit it into another account. I’ll probably write myself a check tomorrow, deposit it into my local Wells Fargo account, then transfer that over to my Emigrant Direct savings(currently at 5.05%apy). The good news is that my $75 bonus posted into each of my accounts on 11/02/06!!

Total money made from sign-up bonuses this year: $250 + 2GB nano Ipod.

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