3 Ways You Can Get Your Bank to Pay You

Bank teller assisting a customer with cash transaction.

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Need extra cash right now? Check out what your bank is offering.

When most people think of banks, they think of a place that will hold their cash or perhaps lend them money that they must pay back. Few think of banks as places that give money without any expectation of being paid back, but they do just that all the time.

Here's a look at three ways banks pay customers. If you're in the market for a new bank account or you could just use a little extra cash right now, see if one of the following appeals to you.

1. Interest on deposit accounts

Banks pay interest on savings and CD accounts. Sometimes banks even pay interest on checking accounts as well. They use the money you put in the bank to help fund loans for other customers. In exchange, they pay you a portion of the profits in the form of interest or an annual percentage yield (APY) on your money.

APYs vary by bank and account type. Online banks typically offer higher APYs than brick-and-mortar banks because they have fewer overhead costs and can pass their savings onto you. How much you'll earn depends on your APY and your account balance. Some banks reward you with higher APYs for keeping a certain amount in your bank account.

Checking accounts typically pay the lowest APYs, if they pay any interest at all. The best savings accounts offer higher rates and -- depending on the length of the CD term -- the APYs on some CDs can be even higher. But a high APY sometimes comes at the expense of easy access to your funds. Savings accounts typically limit you to six free withdrawals per month and CDs usually charge a penalty if you withdraw the funds before the CD term is up. Many banks have temporarily waived the limits on savings withdrawals during the COVID-19 pandemic and some are not charging CD withdrawal penalties.

You must keep these limitations in mind when deciding where to put your savings. If you believe you'll need to access the funds soon, you may be better off choosing an account with a lower APY but more flexible withdrawal rules.

2. Bank account bonuses

Some banks offer cash bonuses to those who sign up for new accounts. It's a way to make their accounts more appealing than their competitors. The bonus varies from one account to the next, but many can be worth several hundred dollars. You don't get the money as soon as you open the account, though.

Banks impose a series of requirements you must meet to claim your bonus. They usually involve some combination of the following:

  • Opening the account within a certain timeframe and possibly with a certain promo code
  • Placing a certain sum of money in your account
  • Keeping your account open for a certain number of days
  • Maintaining a certain minimum balance over a certain number of days
  • Completing a certain number of transactions, like debit card withdrawals or direct deposits

It can take several months to achieve your bonus, and once you've completed all the qualifying activities, it can take a few days or weeks for the bank to deposit your bonus into your account.

Sign-up bonuses aren't all that common, but they are out there. If you don't see one that appeals right now, check back in a month or two. Just make sure you read all the fine print so you understand what you must do in order to qualify. You should also make sure you're eligible before you sign up -- for example, most banks only allow you to claim the bonus if you are opening a new account.

3. Referral bonuses

Referral bonuses are cash bonuses your bank may give out if you get friends and family to open accounts. These bonuses are typically smaller, but you can earn multiple bonuses for referring multiple people to the bank. However, most banks cap the number of referral bonuses you can receive.

Usually, you must invite your friend to join using a personalized shareable link, which you can generate through your online account. Your friend must open the account through that link in order for you to claim your bonus. But your bank may handle things slightly differently. Research how your bank's referral bonuses work and find how long it'll take it to deposit your bonus into your account.

The above bonuses won't make you rich overnight, but who doesn't like earning easy money? Check with your bank to see what opportunities it offers for referring new customers. If you're in the market for a new bank account yourself, look for bonuses and compare APYs to find the best possible deal.

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Two of our top online savings account picks:

Rates as of Feb. 3, 2023 Ratings Methodology
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LendingClub High-Yield Savings Discover Online Savings
Member FDIC. Member FDIC.
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= Best
= Excellent
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= Fair
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Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
5.00 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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= Excellent
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Open Account

On LendingClub's Secure Website.

Open Account

On Discover Bank's Secure Website.

APY: 4.00%

APY: 3.30%

Min. to earn APY: $0

Min. to earn APY: $0

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