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Earning My First (Real) Banking Bonus — Or How I Made $400

Over the years, I’ve managed to score a surprising amount of free money. Mostly, what I’m thinking of are some very generous bonuses I’ve earned from FinTech apps while they’ve been in their “throw VC money at people to acquire customers” phase. Yet, my most recent bonus win was not only among the most lucrative but also happened to come from a “real” bank.

Earlier this year, I came across an offer from Central Bank — which operates in a few midwestern states including Missouri. More accurately, this was a two-part offer, allowing customers to earn up to $400. First, new customers could earn $300 by opening a new checking account, depositing at least $50 to start, and then making two qualifying direct deposits (totaling at least $250) within 90 days. On top of that, at the time, customers could score another $100 by depositing at least $500 in a new savings account and holding it for at least 90 days.

Before I get into my experience, I want to point out just how stellar this deal is compared to some others I’ve seen. Typically, to earn anywhere close to $400 from a bank bonus, you’d have to deposit a heck of a lot more than $550 — think more like $10,000 in some cases. Similarly, the two direct deposits requirement is also quite reasonable, especially since they only need to be for a cumulative total of $250. In comparison, I’ve seen others that require $5,000 in direct deposits. Lastly, another thing that’s awesome about this Central Bank deal is that they offer a checking account with no monthly fees, so you don’t even have to worry about the rules for getting that waived.

As I mentioned, I opened both of my accounts a few months ago. Due to some odd payment timing, I met the direct deposit requirement pretty quickly. Despite this, as I kind of expected, my bonus didn’t arrive until after the 90-day timeframe had expired. Once it did, I received a $400 deposit to my Central Bank checking. It was just that easy!

If there’s any criticism I have of Central, however, it’s how long it took for me to be able to transfer those funds to an external account. Rather than using Plaid or some other system, I first had to manually enter my Wells Fargo routing and account numbers in Central and wait for test deposits to be made, which took a few days. But, even after I had confirmed the deposits, it took another three days or so for my account to be fully linked. I imagine that Central is sensitive to ACH fraud and so I can understand the extra precautions — but, wow, this was a long and slow process. In the end, though, I was able to transfer some of my funds (including my bonus) out to Wells Fargo.

By the way, it looks as though this particular offer is still around as of this writing (and is set to continue through July 31st, 2023) — at least the $300 checking account aspect. So, if you live near a Central Bank branch location, it may be worth checking out.

All things considered, I’m pretty thrilled with how my first “real bank” bonus experience went. As for what I’m doing with my money, I’ve already earmarked it for another article I’m working on (meaning I used it to buy several pairs of pants). What’s also nice is that I now have an account with a local bank. Seeing as Wells Fargo doesn’t have any branches or ATMs in Missouri, I do appreciate now having faster access to my cash if I needed it. I even got a fun St. Louis Cardinals debit card to boot! So, while future bank bonuses I pursue may not be as great as this one, I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com.

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