We are still seeing checking account bonuses from the big banks. Those who are careful may be able to profit from these, but the banks know that they will most likely profit in the end. The latest big bank offering a checking account bonus is M&T Bank which is offering a $100 cash bonus for customers who add direct deposit to a MyChoice Checking account. M&T Bank has this promotion advertised on its home page and on its special website raisethegreenflag.com/mychoice.
Those who try to qualify for this bonus should be aware of the potential fees. First, MyChoice Checking is not a free checking account. According to the MyChoice Checking page, there's a $6.95 monthly fee unless you maintain an average daily balance of at least $500 or unless you make 10 or more check card purchases.
In addition to monthly maintenance fees, there are fees for things you might not have expected. If you use M&T Bank's bank-to-bank transfer service, they will charge you a $3 fee for each transfer you make from your M&T account to your accounts at other financial institutions.
If you have an M&T Bank savings account, you might be charged for just tranfering money from the savings to checking account. Regulation D imposes a limit of 6 withrawals per statement cycle. However, banks are free to set a lower limit, and that is what M&T Bank does. For example, M&T Bank charges a $5 fee if you make more than 4 withdrawals per month from its Relationship Savings.
If you do get surprised by one of these fees, you may want to dispute it with the bank's customer service rep. However, don't expect this to be easy. A reader described the trouble he had with trying to get M&T Bank to reverse this withdrawal fee.
The problem with banks is even if you choose a small bank, it has been common for many small banks to be acquired by the big banks. A recent example of this was Wilmington Trust and its online division, WTDirect. WTDirect's online savings account used to have many nice banking features and a competitive rate. That recently ended after its merger into M&T Bank was completed. A reader described his experience with this conversion in this forum thread.
Another option to reduce surprise bank fees is to stick with a credit union. If you're looking for a credit union, please refer to my post Finding the Best Free Checking Accounts at the Best Credit Unions.
Other Bank Bonuses
We have a new bank promotions page with a table of all of the active bank and credit union promotions. You can filter the table based on the type of promotion and based on your state. I have more details about how to use this page in this blog post.