How much money would it take to get you to switch banks?

If you’ve never thought about that question, maybe you should, because banks and credit unions routinely offer cash incentives to attract new customers.

For some people, it would have to be an awful lot of money. I’m talking about people who feel like they have a relationship with their bank, or maybe they have so many things tied to their account — direct deposit, bill payment, automatic mortgage transfers and so on — that switching would seem complicated.

For other people, one bank may seem as good as another. If you just need a federally insured place to keep your money, and an ATM card, most banks and credit unions have got that covered.

Sometimes people switch banks because they move, or because of a customer service problem, or because the institution made them angry by aggressively charging fees.

Avoiding unreasonable fees is one good reason to consider switching. Another would be the lure of cash incentives.

I mentioned in a column last week that some banks offer incentives, and readers have asked for examples. I’ll list some here, but first a few basics.

Some banks will simply give you cash for opening a new account. Others will insist that you do some additional things that benefit the bank, such as having paychecks or Social Security checks directly deposited to the new account, or using a bank-issued debit card a certain number of times, or using their online bill-paying service.

In almost every case, unless you just have piles of money, the cash incentive a bank offers for signing up for a new account will be worth far more than the interest earned on your savings, considering today’s paltry interest rates.

So, here are some examples of offers available at banks and credit unions with branches in the Lowcountry. In most cases, the offers require signing up online, and I have included links in the online version of this column, at

Regions Bank is offering $125 to those who open a new “Lifegreen” checking account. To get the incentive, customers must make direct deposits to the account totaling $500 or more, and make 10 purchases with a Regions checkcard within 60 days of opening the account. Regions has local branches, but the new account needs to be opened online.

New customers of Navy Federal Credit Union who sign up in August and open a checking account with direct deposit get $100. Defense workers, contractors, those in the military and their family members are among those eligible to join that credit union.

PNC bank is offering $150 to people who sign up for a new “virtual wallet with performance spend” account by Sept. 30. Requirements include a recurring direct deposit and at least one use of online bill payment.

If you don’t care about having a local brick-and-mortar branch, there are also online banks offering incentives. With online banks, you do most of your banking electronically.

Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) is offering $50 to new checking customers who also make three debit card purchases or “Person2Person” payments within 45 days.

Promotional offers come and go, so if you don’t find an offer you like, keep checking around. Banks and credit unions that don’t have any offers today could have new promotions soon.

For example, BB&T had a $125 new account promotion that expired at the end of May, and in early July Capital One 360 was offering $100 instead of the current $50 for new checking accounts. Years ago, S.C. Federal Credit Union ran a $250 promotion to attract new customers, and that was the most generous offer I have ever seen.

You may see lots of offers online, or listed on deal sites, if you searching around the Internet looking for bank promotions. Be aware that many deals are not available in South Carolina, because many banks offering promotions don’t have branches in the state.

Finally, if you really like your bank or credit union and don’t want to switch, maybe you can tell your friends about your terrific bank and make some money. Some banks offer cash incentives, typically $50, for every new customer that a current customer refers.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or dslade@