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