Big Bank Savings Account Promotions: KeepTheChange, Way2Save, and Savings For Success

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Instead of simply giving us higher interest rates on savings account, it seems that the big banks are relying on gimmicks to spur account openings. Here are a few. Most involve some convoluted scheme, but they still include the potential for some profit.

Bank of America: Keep The Change

You’ll need a checking account, a savings account, and a check debit card. If you charge say $4.05 on your debit card, $5 is taken from your checking account, but $0.95 is placed in your savings account. During the first three months, they match 100%, which means another 95 cents will be thrown in by BofA at the end of the year, max $250.

Best case scenario, you get 99 cents for charging $1.01 (or even 1 cent). This has led to many people trying various techniques to max out the $250 bonus. Examples: Pumping $1.01 or $2.01 of gas at a time, buying individual stamps from an automated postal machine, paying $1.01 towards your cell phone bill, or using the self-checkout lane at the supermarket and paying for small items you’d buy anyway. You definitely need to be committed to get $250. 🙂

Wachovia Bank: Way2Save

Again, you have a checking account, a special Way2Save savings account, and a check card. For each check card purchase or electronic payment (online billpay or automatic debit), $1 of your own money is moved to the Way2Save account. In addition, you can transfer up to $100 a month from checking to Way2Save. So the amount of money that can be placed into this account is greatly limited.

The special Way2Save account pay 5% APY over the first year, plus an additional 5% bonus at the end of the year. They even have a handy Way2Save calculator to estimate your earnings. (Be sure to compare against a regular 4% savings account.) People might try gaming this by opening multiple accounts, or making lots of electronic transfers.

Washington Mutual Bank: Savings For Success

You’ll need a checking account and a special Savings for Success account. You can open with up to $500. Then set up automatic monthly transfers from your checking to savings (up to $500 per month) for the rest of the year (11 transfers). You cannot make withdrawals during the first year. Your account with earn from 5.50% to 6.50% APY for a year, depending on your state. People also might try opening multiple accounts for this one.

Biggest catch: This program is limited currently to Texas, Illinois, Georgia, and Washington. The rest of us will have to be satisfied with their online-only 4.25% APY savings + checking account combination.

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  1. I think you are my favorite pf blogger. Happy Valentine’s Day!


  2. Thanks! Happy V-day to you too. 😀

  3. I know credit transactions cost merchants, but do debit transactions? I’m assuming they do. If so, I’m imagine owners of gas stations would get pretty angry at someone repeatedly processing $1.01 transactions.

  4. I went w/ BoA and feel that they have made me a ton of money in the past year or so. I never bothered w/ Keep the Change as I never use a debit card and don’t buy enough to make it worth it. Despite that:

    – I have opened several BoA accounts and funded w/ a rewards credit card. It counts as a purchase not a cash advance, $1K is the max you can fund w/ a CC, so I get $15 per account. Most of those accounts included a bonus signup, so $50 – $100 additional per account.

    – BoA has various money market affiliate programs, I went w/ one indexed to MFR + .5%. It was over 5% for a while, now its dropped like the others but it does well because of the indexing.

    – I’ve used the free trades to DCA invest with various index ETFs. I don’t have enough to do the same to make the mins to do the same w/ index mutual funds, so this has saved me a boatload in trading costs.

    – I got the $250 bonus for the University of Iowa CC

    – Not BoA directly but they bought MBNA, I also use the Fidelity CC, so I get 1.5% instead of the usual 1% on CC bonuses.

    Most/all of these I found out through this blog, so thanks a lot!

  5. Jeff – That’s why ARCO charges 35 cents per debit transaction.

  6. I opened the WaMu Free checking and online savings around the first of the year. Then I went for the Savings for Success at 6.50% (I’m in Texas). That opened another checking account and a sweep savings required for the Success account. I hadn’t thought of opening another Success savings account. I’ll check in to that, as long as I don’t have to do another checking and savings!

  7. Jonathan – You don’t really need to play any games to hit Bank of America’s $250 limit. Let’s say that the ‘cents’ portion of a transaction is a random number from 0-99. The average ‘cents’ value in the long run will therefore be 49.5, due to the Law of Large Numbers. Bank of America matches the difference for the first $250, so we can approximate that in the long run, a consumer will receive an average of 50.5¢ per debit transaction. The number of transactions that a consumer will need to complete in a year to hit the maximum bonus is (250/0.505)=495.05. 495.05/(365/12)=16.275 debit transactions a month to score the maximum bonus. Sounds pretty reasonable!

  8. Naveen, the 100% match is only for 3 months. But your math looks good up to then 🙂

    So you’d need 500 purchases in 90 days, or 5.5 per day, every day. That’s a bit of grind, so I think that’s why people try to bunch it up if they want that $250 really badly.

    It’s not a bad deal if you just do it casually and charge all your small purchases on your BofA debit card, either, especially if you have an account already.

  9. I found myself leaving tips that ended in .01 in that 100% match window.

    Keep in mind you don’t get paid the match until your anniversary of signing up for keep the change.

  10. Jonathan,

    Unfortunately for WaMu customers, including you and me, WaMu lowered the rate on their Online Savings account to 4% APY now. However, it’s still better any big banks and many online banks.

  11. I live in on of the states that WaMu will give >6% for. The only question is whether WaMu is stable. I know it’s FDIC insured but understand it’s not a short process getting money thru that process.

    Anyone care to give thought on WaMu?

  12. Well I keep almost all my money in WaMu, I figured that if things get really bad in Wamu so other bank will just buy them

  13. I think the 5% on Wachovia makes it a pretty enticing offer. That said, I’m the type who likes to have control over her money and doesn’t like the idea of it randomly changing accounts whenever I need to buy something.

    However, I guess we could work out a system where that’s part of our savings plan—estimate number of transactions per month, etc. I’d just have to plan for it.

  14. Did WaMu’s relationship savings account rate just drop to 4%, from 4.25%, today?

    Anyway, I walked into a WaMu today and asked about the Savings for Success account, and they told me the only way deposits can be made into this (SFS) account is through the preset, automatic monthly transfers from your WaMu checking account. Not only are you penalized for early withdrawals, which I understand, but you can’t make additional deposits, either. So you can’t put your tax refund into the SFS account. Or any CDs that may be maturing within the next year.

  15. WaMu wouldn’t let me set up multiple Savings for Success (SFS) accounts even though I was willing to set up multiple checking/savings accounts if necessary to do so. I was told that I could only have a single SFS per social security number.

    Furthermore, for those who might be wondering, I found out the following:

    * None of the accounts you must open have minimum balances or annual fees
    * There is no hard credit pull when applying for any of the accounts
    * They let you deposit (one time only) $100 from a credit card. It is not a cash advance but shows up as a purchase. They will not let you do this for each account; it’s a single-shot thing.
    * The 12 month clock does not start ticking until the first automated monthly transfer. You can set when that commencement date is (to some extent). If you put your initial $100 into the SFS account before the first automated transfer (I think you can even put up to an initial $500 in it when you start), that money is getting the 6.5% up to the time that you set for the clock to start. Thus, if you set the date far in the future, you get that money locked in for more than a year at 6.5%
    * I was told that if the system tries to do a scheduled automatic transfer and the WaMu account from which the transfer must occur lacks sufficient funds, there is no overdraft. Instead, the SFS account simply ends and prematurely and the money in it is shifted to a MM sweep account.
    * You must designate the automated monthly transfer amount at the time of SFS account creation. The amount CANNOT be changed for the entire year-long duration of the program. The maximum amount possible is $500/month. If you select $500, and later find that is too much, you’re stuck — you must either keep up the $500 rate or let the SFS account close prematurely.

    For those of you wondering how WaMu can get away with offering 6.5%, I suspect they are assuming most people will increase their WaMu checking account balances (which pay almost no interest) in order to guarantee that they won’t inadvertently miss a transfer to the SFS. Averaging out the zero interest checking with the 6.5% SFS (and factoring in the frequency in which people will screw up the SFS and have their SFS funds moved to a more conservative account), WaMu probably is expecting to give a total return on all additional money deposited with them as a result of this promotion beneath what competitor banks offer in flat savings rates.

    I do wonder why the promotion’s terms vary by state (and is unavailable in most).

  16. Wow, Don,

    I went into the branch, and was worried because I opened my SFS account in January, but the telephone person had messed it all up to where I couldn’t even make a deposit in Feb. I was told by an employee who had a SFS account that if you don’t have the funds in your checking account when they try to withdraw, you simply miss a month of deposits, thus interest.

    When I opened the SFS account, I was low on funds (just paid off my house), and opened it with $10, and set a date of 2 weeks later for a $50 transfer, planning to increase it with the next deposit. I increased it to $500, but it won’t happen until March 3rd. I was concerned that it might effect my anniversary date, but was told it wouldn’t…I would just miss February’s deposit and interest. Their system wouldn’t let them change it, which has been a problem with WaMu since I started dealing with them.

    My experience has been different in that I have been told by the branch (will never deal with the foriegn phone banking again) that I can change my date of deposit and amount at any time.

    I hope you aren’t right about about the SFS account being transfered to some other account if a deposit isn’t made on one month, because it was the bank’s fault, and I was told something totally different.

  17. Also, I was sent a certificate of the anniversary date when my SFS account comes due, and it is from when I opened it with my $10 deposit, not when the first automated deposit takes place.

  18. I just opened the Wachovia Way2Save since I already have a free checking account with them. If my calculations are correct, making a $100 transfer every month for 1 year yields about a 13.5% APY if you include the bonus. Not bad, even with the limit. Unfortunately, the perks drop off there, when I will transfer it all back to a traditional high yield account.

    I might go get the SFS account this week too. 🙂

  19. I’ve had BoA’s Keep the Change for just over a year now, which means I just got my first yearly deposit. I tried real hard to have all of my gas purchases right around the X.01 mark, and the same with tips at restaurants.

    My total earnings from a year of that? $2.79

    Yeah, not really worth it. It’s nice to get nearly $3 for not much work at all, but for a whole year? Much better to use a rewards credit card instead.

  20. Jonathan – You’re right. My mistake. I shouldn’t read so fast.

    Stephanie – $2.79? Are you sure? You should have been making 99 cents per transaction if you were consciously purchasing things that cost x dollars and 1 cent.

  21. Could someone tell me why Paypal isn’t mentioned? I make 1.5% for every purchase, and average about $35 a month profit just for paying my bills, groceries, gas…everything that will let me with the Paypal credit/debit card, and this has been going on for years. You don’t have to ask for the money, it’s put in your account as soon as the transaction is completed. If you took that money and put into a high yield savings, well it just makes sense to me. Plus, the money is in an MMA, so you even get a little extra at the end of the month. Only downside is that it takes about 3 days for the money to get into your Paypal account when you make a transfer from your bank.

  22. here’s another one: Southland Credit Union has 5.25% APY free-checking but must satisfy these 3 things: 1) direct deposit or online billpay 2) make at least 10 ATM/Debit purchases a month 3) they can only provide eStatements. Downside is they only have 3 branches but since its a CU you can make transactions in other CU banks and their ATMs can be found in 7-11 stores. Another plus, they’ll reimburse up to 20 bucks of ATM fees in case you had to withdraw money in non-CU banks. i don’t know if they have qualifications for membership but i signed up for this at my work.

  23. Not to mention that PayPal balances are not FDIC insured.

  24. Just had to post an update on my WaMu SFS application.

    It turns out the phone representative I was dealing with was talking out his ass. He knew next to nothing and was making things up as he went. I spoke to a supervisor, today, and according to the supervisor, the phone rep was wrong concerning the following points:

    * The phone rep told me that once you select the size of your monthly automatic deposit, it is fixed at that size for the duration of the program. In fact, according to the supervisor, you can change the size at any point. (e.g from $500 to $25 or vice versa).
    * The phone rep told me the clock doesn’t start ticking until the first automatic transfer, which is why I scheduled the first transfer a few months out even though I funded the account with $100 from my credit card. In fact, the supervisor informed me that the clock starts the instant any money is put into the SFS, which is consistent with Rhonda’s experience.
    * The phone rep told me the only penalty for early termination was that the SFS closes and the money in it is shifted to your savings account. In fact, according to the supervisor, early termination results in a LOSS of 180 days worth of interest. Thus, for example, if your SFS account was only open for 30 days when terminated prematurely (and thus accrued only 30 days of interest), they will still subtract from it as penalty the amount of interest that money would have accrued over 180 days — thus you would not even get back your full original principle.
    * The phone rep told me that if you miss an automatic payment, the SFS automatically terminates prematurely. According to the supervisor, you can miss up to 2 payments before that happens.

    After all of this, I think very little of WaMu’s account application people. They state terms authoritatively that are flat wrong.

  25. EXCELLENT! Thanks for the tips.

    I know of two other banks that will give you money.

    The first one will give you $75 cash for opening a checking account – Open it online, deposit $100, wait 90 days, get your $75 bonus deposited to your account- and then you can close your account or keep it.It’s up to you after that ! Pretty Easy money…

    The second one is better I think.Here’s how it works: Open an business account with Chase, and get them to put a $200 Bonus in your account in 10 days!

    HINT-This is one is a BIG Money maker!!! You can open as many accounts as you have Business tradenames for and money to open accounts… a quick 40% return in one month minus the cost of the tradenames(Usually $5-$15 per tradename registration for those that don’t have one.)

    I have many more tips on getting FREE money and other free stuff,both online and off on my site…Take a look at it.

  26. Wright Patt Credit Union has something similar with a phenominal program.

    1. Daily Round up debit card. Special savings account is set up for the rounded up dollars. The matching funds are deposited each quarter. They match 100% the first quarter. After that they match 5%. Each quarter giving you a potential 20% back if you spent the same each year. In addition it earns a normal rate of about 1% or so. The only problem is no direct depsits into this account. So at the end of each quarter, move everything + their match to…

    2. Reverse tier savings account. This is a 7% APY on the first $500.00 and 1.5% APY for everything over the balance.

    The two work together great to get people started with the HABIT of saving. It rewards you for starting to save. Once you have that $500, you should probably look for another place. It is also a great place to park the “overflow” for a normal person’s checking account. Since it’s a credit union, the transfers happen immediately between sub accounts so it is easy to just park anything you aren’t going to need for the next few days in there. It’s a great way to start for that $1000 for anyone like me trying to follow the Dave Ramsey plan.

  27. I love the keep the change program with Bank of America, it adds up fairly quick but a trick I usually do is when I go out to eat, I include the tip so that the total equals $xx.01 😉

  28. I opened up a WAMU SFS acct. If I deposit the max ($500) per month, it calculates to gaining $30-$40 of interest, right? Or am I calculating it wrong?

    In the end, is it worth it?

  29. If I did my math right, a 6.31% interest yielding 6.5% means it’s compounded monthly.

    Let’s say you make an initial deposit of $500 and then transfer $500 every month from your (non-interest-bearing?) WaMu checking account, meaning that $6500 of total deposits ($500 init. + 12 mos x $500) are made. At SFS’s compounding rate, the total grows to $6709 at the end of the year.

    If instead you had placed all $6500 into a money-market savings account bearing today’s typical rate of 3.5% APY, you’ll end up with $6727 at the end of the year.

    The simple conclusion, then, is that SFS is worse.

    But life is never simple. The MMA rate may drop so that SFS becomes competitive. Another possibility is to keep that $6500 in your MMA account at the beginning, and then deposit $500 into the WaMu checking account immediately before making the SFS transfer every month so that your money isn’t tied up making zero interest. Depending on the MMA rate activity, this should result in the highest total balance at the end of the year, though I’m not sure if the gain is worth the extra complexity. Notice I’m even too lazy to figure out exactly how much money I’d end up with.

    (Savings calculations were done at if anyone cares.)

  30. Another thought — if you didn’t have the lump sum at the beginning and needed to make periodic deposits into a savings account anyway, then SFS comes out better than a standard money-market savings account since its rate is so much higher. But its structure is not attractive to those who have a large amount available for deposit right away.

  31. Maybe I’m out of my league here. I thought this was for all people in life, regardless of their situations.

    Let’s assume that you don’t have $6500 to invest in an MMA, and 6.50% is the best you can get, and you do have $500 a month to invest in a savings account. In today’s economy, as a normal person, you would be lucky. That’s a good return.

    With the TDAmeritrade savings account that gives you $100 after a year if you deposit only $50 per month, that is a 30% return, plus considering you also earn over 2% per month in interest per month just for having it there.

    I have all kinds of questions about IRA’s, but can’t find a way to ask them on this web site, because of all you high-rollers.

    I am way more out of debt than most of you, because I’ve been dealing with the real world for a long time, and sacrificing for the sake of my debts. All my credit cards have 0% interest, and will be paid off before they are due. I now need house repairs, and to be honest, a little FUN.

    I just paid off my 8% house loan, and don’t have time for “if you put $6500 in an MMA”. I did things my way, and am now on a journey to pay the rest off, AND STOP WORRYING. I guess that happens when you are 55.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am game for the 0% credit card thing, but Jonathan, maybe you should divide this forum into two catagories…poor and rich.

  32. Thank you for the answer, Fred.

    The initial $500 I put in is 1 month out of the 12. That means at the end, I would be putting in a total of $6000 for the whole year. I think it’s 6.5% APY for the SFS acct.

    When I used this calcuator –, it says I will end up making $533 after 1 year. Or am I suppose to put in $6000 at the initial deposit field? When I do that, it gives me a total of $6,401.83.

    Is that correct?

  33. Hello? Can someone answer the above?

  34. You used the wrong calculator. That one assumes you have $6000 to put into the account to begin with, and that you’ll be earning interest on the full amount for the whole year. But you don’t. You’re starting with nothing and will be adding $500 to the account every month through the year.

    Here’s a fun calculator to play with:

    In your case, the opening savings would be $0, with the monthly amount being $500.

  35. I maxed out the BOA promo ($250) a year or two ago making small gas purchases (about 10x per visit at Costco). I’d now like to do the Wachovia deal. Are there any charities that have websites that I can make $1 donations to using a debit card?

    What other creative ways are there to make numerous small transactions?

  36. Fred, thank you so much for answering my question. I think that calculator has answered my question of how much interest will be made after the 1 year.

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