Counting Every Little Bit: Are Sign-up Perks Worth It? 

Americans love getting a bit of extra money in their pocket. Cashback, signup bonuses, or other promotional offers have all become ubiquitous in recent years, especially as the digital realm and e-commerce have expanded.

Many people make big decisions based on the perks offered to them.

In fact, one recent survey by the Motley Fool Ascent revealed Americans place more importance on credit card rewards and rates than on the trustworthiness of a credit card provider.

Signup bonuses can be a nifty way to get a bit of extra cash, points, or rewards when joining a new online service or making a purchase. These promotions are designed to entice customers to sign up by offering a tempting incentive upfront. Though always read the fine print to avoid hidden fees or requirements. Just how big a role should these kinds of promotion perks play in the bigger picture of personal finance, though?

How should bonuses should fit into your financial plan? Here are the most common types of perks out there, and the expert advice on the best use for them – or not.

Spoilt for Choice

There are many quick online money-grab offers to take advantage of. Many originate as growth marketing hacks, thought up by founders of startups as a way to incentivize new customers to share their products and expand their audience. Payment provider Wise, for instance, offers 50 British pounds for every new referral through their affiliate program for up to three people.

Meanwhile, the trading app Robinhood rewards users with free stock when they refer a new user who opens an account using the referral link. To be eligible for the free stock reward, however, the referred friend must make an initial deposit of at least $5 and complete the account approval process.

There are even whole websites dedicated to the hunt for more bonuses. Some, like Cashback Monitor, aggregate info on bonus offers for online shopping portals, while others, like, focus on a comprehensive list of credit card signup bonuses and related promotional perks.

Some advisors urge caution before clicking on the first free money promo that pops up in your feed.

“The Internet offers many opportunities to earn free money online, but not all are worth your time or trust,” says Jorey Bernstein, CEO of Bernstein Private Wealth. “Before signing up for anything online, you should always research and be realistic about your expectations and goals. While free money online can be a nice supplement to your income, it is not a substitute for hard work, education, and financial planning.”

There are plenty of apps out there that users can use to load up on savings or earn something extra. Many gaming apps, for instance, offer signup bonuses that can be converted into crypto or cash.

Then there are platforms like Survey Junkie, Swagbucks, and InboxDollars, which offer “Paypal money” (compensation sent via Paypal). These and others like them, like Cashyy and PrizeRebel, pay users to fill out surveys, watch videos or complete other simple tasks. Others, like Dosh and Honey, automatically offer rewards and cash back rewards for shopping online.

Some bonus enthusiasts take things further and make getting bonus points a kind of side hustle. Credit cards “churners” are a community that leverages credit card hacks to get as many points as possible. Typically this involves spending enough on a card to get the signup bonus and then canceling the card before the annual fee is due (hence, “churning” through the cards). This group even has its own dedicated sub-Reddit page where churners share info on how to optimize accruing points.

Everything In Moderation

These forms of bonus seeking can be helpful up to a point.

“If you meet the requirements, it can be a great way to save money, and when you're working hard at certain financial goals, every penny counts,” says Nathan Mueller, founder of BlackBird Finance.

However, Mueller warns, these promos may not be suited to some personalities and those with preexisting destructive financial habits. Rookie churners, for instance, who fail to juggle too many cards risk getting blacklisted by banks and having their credit score ruined.

“For clients that don't already have good control of their money, I typically won't suggest they do it as they haven't previously shown discipline,” he says. “While signup bonuses can be great, it is easy for people to forget to cancel during the promotional period, not spend enough on that new credit card to qualify for the bonus, or not complete some other stipulation. These promotions typically have one thing in common: a time constraint. The hope is that you will get too busy and forget.”

Relying solely on signup bonuses and other quick money grabs may not lead to long-term financial stability. Although they can be a fun way to get some extra cash, it's essential not to lose sight of one's broader financial plan.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.