The Bank Account Bonus From Hell.

I’ve opened a lot of new bank accounts for bonuses. My mom has never been to shy to share her opinion that it’s not ethical to open a bank account, collect the bonus, and close the account.  This is an area where my mom has a different opinion on ethics than I do.

Going from memory, which is not very good, I’ve opened the following personal bank accounts for bonuses:

Chase Bank – 5 or 6 times.

US Bank – twice

Bank Of America – twice

Citibank – twice

Discover Checking – once

First Tennessee Bank – once

TIAA Direct – once

Something happened in 2016 though. This blog. I already had a sole-proprietor Chase business credit card that I opened a few years ago, and I received a coupon in the mail to collect $200 for a new business checking account. I went into the branch. Business banker was pretty cool. I shared that my business currently has $0 in assets and $0 in revenue. I doubt he cares. He probably gets paid per new account opened. All I need is an internet connection to operate my business. I don’t think you can argue that i’m not trying to make a profit. There are affiliate links. There’s the professional logo I paid for. I even paid for a blog coaching session. Hell, I’m going to a financial bloggers conference. Even if I never make a profit, you can’t say that I didn’t make an attempt at it.

So yeah. I opened the account with absolutely no issues.  About a month later, I get a phone call from the banker. “Please call me back”. It’s always a vague voice mail, but I guess they aren’t allowed to leave detailed voice mails. Either a corporate rule or a regulated rule. I hate it when people just leave messages to call them back. When a bank calls you and doesn’t tell you why, it would be natural to freak out and assume something is wrong.

Tell me why you are calling, so that I don’t freak out, and so that I can decide if I want to call you back?  I called him back, it turns out that their scanner machine cut off part of my driver’s license so he had to scan my driver’s license again. Thankfully, the branch is literally 1 mile from my job, so I can head over there after work or during lunch. It would be out of my way to drive there in the evening.

I get voice mail again in early January. I call him back, he says I have to fill out some form. Account has been opened for 3 months, but the back office needs another form signed. It turned out I had to disclose if my business is involved with internet gambling. Unfortunately, the banker didn’t offer an appointment time and just told me to come by in the next couple of days. When I went, I saw him talking to another banker and he said he would be right with me. I waited 30 minutes in the lobby.

And then I left. I was pissed.  He started calling and leaving messages again, I contacted Chase Online Banking and I’m like WTF is wrong with this banker, he made me wait 30 minutes to sign a form. Can’t I sign this stupid thing electronically?”. I was admittedly a bit of a jerk and hopefully he didn’t get in any trouble.

I got a call from the branch manager the next day that this is not indicative of their behavior and that he talked to the banker and explained that even if you are with a client and you have someone who needs to fill out a form that takes 30 seconds, you should take care of that . Waiting 30 minutes in the lobby to sign a form that takes 30 seconds is absolutely unacceptable.” So I went into the branch and I signed the form. Of course, I was rushing my signature of said form and I checked the box that declared that I *AM* involved with internet gambling. Whoops.

I’m like “can I just cross it out, initial it and check the right box?” The branch manager was like, “Yeah, that should be fine.” Literally the minute I get back to the office from lunch, I get a voice mail from the branch manager that it was not fine and I need to re-sign the form. Karma right? I go in after work, I sign the form correctly. The branch manager wants me to wait in his office while he scans it. Of course, 20 minutes later, ALL of his scanners are broken. He has to call IT and will scan it later. “It sounds like you are just having bad luck”. Maybe the worst luck of all is that my business continues to not produce revenue? Haha.

Bottom line, I received incredible customer service from Chase Bank, the banker apologized, the branch manager gave me his business card, and they did all this for a client who has a history of rinsing and repeating the personal checking accounts for the bonuses, a history of signing up for credit cards for the bonuses and cancelling them before the annual fee is due. I know they know these things because when I’ve opened new personal accounts, bankers have commented about my past accounts. I’d guess that between credit cards and bank accounts, I’ve collected between $4,000 and $5,000 from Chase over the past seven years. And I didn’t even get in on the Sapphire Reserve. I definitely don’t spend enough for Chase to make it up on the interchange fees on my credit card transactions.

The branch doesn’t care, they get use to me to reach a quota in new accounts or whatever. And I’m sure that they also know that I will most likely be closing the business account after I fulfill the terms of the contract of leaving it open for six months. Keeping $1,500 in a checking account to waive the fees is a poor use of my capital. They have to know all these things and they still go out of their way to give me unbelievable customer service. That’s why Chase is a multi billion dollar corporation. They do a lot of things right. I’ve been with them off and on since around the time they acquired Washington Mutual and I’ve never had a problem until this most recent frustration that I absolutely overreacted to.

The irony is that Chase WAS my primary bank before I opted for Alliant Credit Union with their better interest rate and faster ACH speeds. Chase has a really good bill pay system. Chase Quick Pay was also fantastic in easily receiving funds from an old landlord. If you want the convenience of a mega bank, I would have no hesitations in recommending Chase every single time.

Why close it if I’m not closing the business? Doesn’t the business need it’s own account? I can easily enough keep track of business transactions in one of my personal checking accounts that I don’t use. The TIAA Direct account that I recently opened conveniently has no minimum balance to avoid a monthly fee. My business is not at present time a separate legal entity. My business can use a “personal” checking account. As long as I don’t commingle funds, it serves the purposes of being easier for me to keep track of.

I would highly recommend anyone with a side hustle monitoring your business transactions in a separate bank account for your own sanity of your bookkeeping and tax management. Were all these back and forth trips to Chase Bank worth the extra $200? I don’t know, but it definitely made for a fun confessional blog post!