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Investing

Review of LPL Financial

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

LPL Financial is the largest independent broker-dealer in the United States based on gross revenue. Dually registered as an investment advisor, the firm supports a network of over 16,000 affiliated advisors who operate their own businesses. LPL Financial is based in Boston, and it also has offices in San Diego and Fort Mill, S.C. The network of advisors it supports are located throughout the country. The firm’s advisors oversee nearly $159.1 billion in assets under management (AUM).

All information included in this profile is accurate as of January 23rd, 2020. For more information, please consult LPL Financial’s website.

Assets under management: $159,099,423,965
Minimum investment: Varies by service and portfolio type
Fee structure: Percentage of AUM, hourly fees, fixed fees and commissions
Headquarters:75 State Street
22nd Floor
Boston, MA 02109
617-423-3644
www.lpl.com

Overview of LPL Financial

LPL Financial was founded in 1989 after the merger of two smaller brokerage firms, Linsco and Private Ledger. With 16,109 advisors and 17,205 licensed insurance agents on its staff, LPL has $159.1 billion in assets under management LPL Financial is owned by LPL Financial Holdings, a publicly traded firm.

Advisors often choose to affiliate with LPL to tap into the firm’s technology, investment research and business building support, for which the firm earns a fee. LPL advisors maintain their own relationships with clients and negotiate their own fees and service offerings independently. LPL does not sell any of its own proprietary financial products, so advisors are free to recommend whichever investments and financial products they believe are in their clients’ best interests.

What types of clients does LPL Financial serve?

LPL Financial’s advisors serve mostly individual investors. In addition, the firm serves:

  • High net worth individuals
  • Trusts and estates
  • 401(k) plans
  • Individual retirement accounts
  • Pensions and profit-sharing plans
  • Charitable organizations
  • State and municipal entities
  • Corporations

The minimum amount of assets required to work with an LPL advisor varies depending on the service you receive. LPL does not have a minimum asset requirement for its financial planning, consulting or research services. For customized investment advisory plans, the investment minimum is up to the discretion of the advisor and is detailed in the client agreement.

Clients who opt to use one of the firm’s portfolio programs will be subject to minimum requirements that vary by program. Minimums start as low as $5,000 for Guided Wealth Portfolios and go up to $250,000 for Personal Wealth Portfolios (see more details on these options below).

Services offered by LPL Financial

LPL’s financial advisors offer the full gamut of financial planning and advisory services, such as budgeting, financial projections and selling insurance, though not all advisors offer every type of service. Among the services LPL advisors may offer are:

  • Investment advisory services and portfolio management
  • Wrap programs
  • Financial planning
  • Insurance
  • Retirement plan and pension consulting
  • Selection of other advisors
  • Workshops and seminars
  • Brokerage services

In addition to the services that LPL advisors provide directly to clients, when advisors affiliate with LPL, they get access to a range of services to help them build and manage their businesses. This includes business building ideas, compliance and technology support, investment research and the execution of trades.

How LPL Financial invests your money

Because LPL’s advisors work independently, investment approaches and strategies vary from advisor to advisor and client to client. Advisors can offer customized investment advisory services, and LPL also provides advisors with programs for investing client funds.

One option offered by LPL is the Strategic Asset Management program, which allows a high level of customization so clients can choose to exclude certain investments or emphasize others. The program offers access to a full range of investment options, including mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, equities, fixed income and alternative investments, such as non-traded real estate investment trusts and non-traditional exchange-traded funds.

Advisors who want to take a more hands-on approach with their high net worth clients can use a separately managed account wrap program from LPL called Manager Select. With this program, LPL reviews and recommends outside institutional portfolio management firms for inclusion.

For advisors who don’t want to create customized portfolios, there is also the option to invest clients’ money in one of LPL’s model portfolios. These portfolios — which include Personal Wealth Portfolios, Model Wealth Portfolios, Optimum Market Portfolios and Guided Wealth Portfolios — are professional asset allocation strategies that are created, managed and monitored by LPL. Mutual funds and ETFs make up the investments within these portfolios, but the exact mix will depend on a client’s responses to an online questionnaire about their financial goals, investment horizon and risk tolerance.

Portfolio NameInvestment Strategy
Strategic Asset Management
($25,000 minimum)
Open architecture program that allows advisors to invest client assets in mutual funds, ETFs, individual equities, variable annuities and other investments.
Manager Select
($50,000 minimum)
Separately managed wrap program for high net worth clients that uses LPL-researched and monitored institutional portfolio managers.
Personal Wealth Portfolios
($250,000 minimum)
Asset allocation investment program that combines mutual funds, ETFs and investment models for high net worth investors.
Model Wealth Portfolios
($10,000 minimum)
Program that uses strategic asset allocations to take advantage of market opportunities that will persist for the next 3 or 5 years; designed for more aggressive investors.
Optimum Market Portfolios
($10,000 minimum)
Suite of model portfolios that invests in up to six mutual funds from the Optimum Funds family.
Guided Wealth Portfolios
($5,000 minimum)
Digital investment platform for low-balance investors.

Fees LPL Financial charges for its services

It’s up to LPL advisors to determine how to charge for their services. Advisors use several fee models, including a percentage of assets under management, hourly fees, fixed fees and commissions. Fees are negotiated between clients and their advisors and detailed in the client agreement. All fees are paid directly to LPL, and LPL then shares a portion with the independent advisor representative.

That said, the firm typically charges for financial planning consulting services on an hourly or per plan basis, which is a flat rate. The maximum hourly fee that LPL advisors will charge is typically $400 per hour, while the maximum flat fee is typically $15,000.

For customized advisory services, LPL typically charges based on a percentage of assets under management. A client’s rate will be set out in their agreement with the firm. LPL states in its Form ADV that the maximum rate it generally charges is 1.50%.

For clients who opt to participate in one of the programs offered by LPL that’s laid out above, they will also pay a fee based on a percentage of assets under management. The maximum account fee is generally 2.50%.

Along with the account fees, clients may pay other miscellaneous administrative or custodial-related fees and charges. Clients are notified of these fees when they open an account, and LPL provides clients with a list of fees on its website.

LPL Financial’s highlights

  • Awards and recognition: LPL advisors consistently appear on top advisor lists. In 2019, for example, 65 LPL advisors ranked among the best advisors in their states in Forbes’ list of Best-in-State Wealth Advisors. Deborah Danielson, an advisor based in Las Vegas, ranked No. 3 in her home state on Barron’s list of 1,200 Top Financial Advisors in 2019.
  • Advisors for all types of clients: Because LPL has a vast network of advisors across the U.S., clients are likely to find an advisor whose specialty matches their needs. In addition to one-on-one advice with advisors, clients can also tap into technology-assisted portfolio management platforms similar to what they might find at a robo-advisor.
  • Inclusive workplace: Human Rights Campaign gave LPL a 100% score in its Corporate Equality Index as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

LPL Financial’s downsides

  • Advisor defections: Over the last few years, several big RIA firms have left LPL, citing the firm’s lack of service to their advisor groups. These groups included Retirement Benefits Group, which managed $10 billion, and Resources Investment Advisors, which oversaw $5 billion.
  • Potential conflicts of interest: Some LPL advisors are dually registered, meaning that they are able to charge fees for financial advice as well as for products they recommend, such as 12b-1 fees, paid to cover distribution costs for mutual funds. This could incentivize advisors to sell certain products. One way that LPL has attempted to mitigate these potential conflicts is to credit back certain fees to client accounts, thus eliminating the financial incentive.
  • Numerous disclosures: Over the years, LPL has been fined on several occasions for failing to supervise its brokers carefully, leading to sales of inappropriate and complex investment products.

LPL Financial disciplinary disclosures

LPL has had a long history of disciplinary disclosures, many of which are centered around the firm’s failure to properly supervise its brokerage practices. The firm has been ordered to pay fines and restitution as a result.

Among the most serious instances of wrongdoing, LPL was fined $26 million in 2018 for failing to establish and maintain reasonable policies and procedures to prevent the sale of unregistered, non-exempt securities to its customers.

In 2015, the firm was fined $11.7 million for “broad supervisory failures” in a few key areas, such as non-traditional ETFs, variable annuities, non-traded real estate investment trusts and other complex investment products. The firm was ordered to pay an additional nearly $1.7 million in restitution directly to clients who had bought non-traditional ETFs.

LPL Financial’s onboarding process

Advisors have their own onboarding process when they sign on new clients. LPL has recently streamlined its sign up process by reducing the number of fields clients must fill in and introducing a progress bar.

If you are interested in working with an LPL advisor, you can find one near you by searching on the firm’s website. You can either search for a specific advisor by name or take a look at the advisors in your area.

Is LPL Financial right for you?

With LPL’s vast network of affiliated advisors, potential clients should be able to find an advisor who can address their needs. However, LPL’s size does bring downsides — indeed, the firm has faced numerous disciplinary actions in recent years. Further, some of LPL’s advisors are dually registered as brokers and receive commissions for sales, which could create potential conflicts of interest. Some investors may prefer a smaller, more intimate advisory practice with fewer potential conflicts of interest and a more personalized feel.

Before choosing a financial advisor, it’s always important to do your research and compare several options to ensure your advisor is the right fit for you.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Ilana Polyak
Ilana Polyak |

Ilana Polyak is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Ilana here

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Best of

The Best Checking Account Bonus Offers

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

It’s easy to stick with the same bank your whole life. If you’re not rate-chasing for the best deals out there, all you really need from an account is convenient access to your money to get by each day. At least that way, you get to avoid the hassle of switching your money and accounts, even if it does mean you miss out on some great savings rates.

Banks realize that it’s easy to stay put, too. So in an attempt to gain some new customers, banks can offer some great bonus offers on checking accounts. The promise of a few hundred dollars just for opening an account can be enough to incentivize potential customers to open an account. These bonus offers can be so tempting, that many people chase bonus offers to try and make a few extra bucks.

When looking for bonus offers, it’s important to look past the promotional dollar amount that’s being advertised. For starters, make sure you trust a bank before opening an account with them. You don’t want to be stuck with a new bank that has terrible customer service! Also, be sure to check what’s required of you to snag that bonus offer. Often, it’s opening the new account with a certain balance and maintaining that balance for the next few months. It could also require several direct deposits posted to the account. Make sure you can fulfill these requirements before opening an entirely new bank account.

If you should see an offer you like, just be aware that you may have to open the account from a specific webpage to qualify for the bonus. Other banks could require you to visit a branch to redeem your offer, so it’s important to double check the application requirements.

The best checking account bonus offers in 2020

BankBonus*Minimum Deposit to Earn BonusWhen the deal expires
Chase$2,000$250,0003/06/2020
Chase$1,000$75,0003/06/2020
HSBCUp to $750$5,0003/1/2020
Citibank$700$50,0003/31/2020
CitibankUp to $500$15,0003/31/2020
Wells Fargo$400$4,0007/31/2020
TD Bank$300 $2,500No expiration date
Chase$300$01/21/2020
Huntington BankUp to $200$1,0001/07/2020
Chase$200 $251/21/2020
SunTrust$200$5003/31/2020
Citibank$200$5,0003/31/2020
Fifth Third Bank$200$5004/30/2020
TD Bank$150$500No expiration date
*Terms apply

Methodology

The best checking account bonus offers are — simply put — the ones with the biggest cash amounts we could find at the time of publishing. Below, we’ll detail each of the best checking account bonus offers. You’ll find out whether it’s available in your area and what the requirements you have to meet to earn the bonus.

You might also want to read more about what each account is like on its own. For example, you might want to snag the highest bonus, but what if the account normally charges a monthly fee that you can’t afford? Check it all out below.

Chase — $2,000 bonus with $250,000 minimum deposit

Offer ends 3/06/2020

Offer rules: Earn this $2,000 cash bonus by joining Chase Private Client. You’ll need to transfer at least $250,000 in qualifying new money or securities to a combination of eligible personal checking, savings and/or investment accounts and maintain the balance for at least 90 days. This excludes any You Invest, J.P. Morgan retirement accounts and CDs.

Who’s eligible: This offer is available only to existing Chase customers in select states and Washington D.C. You can redeem this offer by visiting a Chase Private Client branch of emailing an upgrade code.

Account details: Chase Private Client requires you to maintain an average daily balance of $250,000 or more. This can be in any combination of qualifying personal or business deposits and investments. Chase Private Clients gain access to further perks and benefits in banking, credit cards, loans and investing. This includes free ATM withdrawals abroad, home and auto loan specialists and free online stock and ETF trades with You Invest by J.P. Morgan.

There is no monthly service fee on Chase Private Client Checking or Chase Private Client Savings accounts. Private Client Savings Accounts earn 0.01% APY.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Chase Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Chase — $1,000 bonus with $75,000 minimum deposit

Offer ends 3/06/2020

Offer rules: Earn this $1,000 bonus when you join Sapphire Banking. Within 45 days, transfer at least $75,000 in qualifying new money or securities to a combination of eligible personal checking, savings and/or investment accounts and maintain that balance for 90 days. J.P. Morgan retirement accounts and CDs are excluded from this combination.

Who’s eligible: The offer is available in select states and Washington D.C. Anyone can snag this offer as long as you meet the requirements detailed above.

Account details: Chase Sapphire Checking earns 0.01% APY. You can link your Chase Sapphire Checking account to a Chase Premier Savings account to earn higher relationship rates on the Premier Savings account. That enables higher balances to earn higher rates.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Chase Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

HSBC — up to $750 bonus with $5,000 minimum deposit

Offer ends 3/1/2020

Offer rules: There are two offers available here. For the $750 bonus, you can open a Premier Checking account and make recurring direct deposits totaling at least $5,000 for three consecutive consecutive calendar months from the first full calendar month after account opening.

To earn a $350 bonus instead, open an Advance Checking account and deposit at least $5,000 in new money to combined accounts within 30 calendar days of account opening and maintain at least that balance for 90 days. You must also set up recurring direct deposit for at least three consecutive months following the account opening month.

Who’s eligible: You must be a new HSBC customer to take advantage of these offers and fund your new accounts with new money. This means money not already held with HSBC.

Who’s eligible: The Premier Checking account earns 0.01% APY on balances of $5 or more but charges a hefty $50 fee that can be waived with a whopping $100,000 minimum balance. The Advance Checking also earns 0.01% APY, but has a smaller $25 fee that you can waive with a $10,000 minimum balance.

LEARN MORE Secured

on HSBC’s secure website

Member FDIC

Citibank — $700 bonus with $50,000 minimum deposit

Offer ends 3/31/2020

The offer: To earn this $700 bonus, open a new Citi Priority Account Package with an initial deposit of at least $50,000 within 30 days of opening. This deposit can be shared between the new checking and savings accounts in the Package.

You must also maintain at least that balance for 60 consecutive calendar days following account opening.

Who’s eligible: Only new-to-Citibank customers who have not been a signer on a Citibank checking account within the past 180 days are eligible for this offer. You must be a U.S. citizen or resident who is at least 18 years old. You can redeem the offer by opening online here.

Account details: The Citi Priority Package earns 0.03% APY on its Interest Checking account and 0.04% – 0.15% APY on the Citi Savings account.

The package includes access to Citi Personal Wealth Management Financial Advisors by phone, investment resources and financial planning tools. It also adds extra perks like waived fees for overdraft protection, checkbooks and incoming wire transfers.

The Citi Priority Package charges a $30 monthly service fee. You can waive it by maintaining a combined average monthly balance of $50,000 or more in eligible linked deposit, retirement and investment accounts.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

Citibank — $400 or $500 bonus with $15,000 minimum deposit

Offer ends 3/31/2020

Offer rules: You can earn $400 in bonus cash if you open a new eligible checking and savings account in a Citibank Account Package. You’ll need to deposit at least $15,000 in new-to-Citibank money within 30 days of opening. Since the package includes a checking and savings account, you can split that deposit between the accounts. You’ll need to maintain at least that much money in your accounts for 60 consecutive days to receive the bonus.

You can earn $100 more — for the total $500 bonus — when you complete at least one qualifying direct deposit (within 60 days of account opening) each month for two consecutive months.

Who’s eligible: You qualify for this offer if you are a new Citibank customer opening a new Checking and a new Savings account. To redeem the offer, you can easily apply online. You must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or resident to apply for these accounts online.

Account details: The Citibank Account Package earns 0.01% APY on its Interest Checking account and 0.04% – APY depending on your balance on the Citi Savings account. The account includes certain perks like a free order of checkbooks, fee-free ATM access (when you meet balance requirements) and the opportunity to earn Citi ThankYou Rewards.

The Citibank Account Package charges a $25 monthly service fee. You can waive the fee if you keep at least $10,000 in eligible linked deposit, retirement and investment accounts with the bank.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

Wells Fargo — $400 bonus with $4,000 in direct deposits

Offer ends 7/31/2020

Offer rules: Open a new Everyday Checking account with a $25 minimum opening deposit. Then within 90 days of opening, you must make at least $4,000 in qualifying direct deposits. This includes your salary, pension, Social Security or other regular monthly income deposited by your employer or another outside agency.

Who’s eligible: Only new Wells Fargo checking and savings customers from Denver, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Fla., Phoenix, and Seattle are eligible to redeem this offer. You must also not have received a bonus for opening a Wells Fargo consumer checking or savings account within the past 12 months.

You can redeem the offer online here or receive the offer code through the same page to bring to a branch to open your new account.

Account details: The Wells Fargo Everyday Checking account is simple, with a Platinum Debit Card and access to more than 13,000 Wells Fargo ATMs. There is a $10 monthly fee on the account, which you can waive in a few different ways:

  • Make 10 or more debit card purchases or payments
  • Receive qualifying direct deposits totaling $500 or more
  • Maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance
  • Link a Wells Fargo Campus ATM or Campus Debit Card (for college students)
  • The primary account owner is between 17 and 24 years old

LEARN MORE Secured

on Wells Fargo’s secure website

TD Bank — $300 bonus with $2,500 minimum direct deposits

No expiration date

Offer rules: You can earn a $300 bonus when you open a new TD Beyond Checking account. The account needs to receive direct deposits of at least $2,500 within 60 days of opening to qualify. The direct deposit must be from your paycheck, pension or government benefits from your employer or the government.

Who’s eligible: To qualify for this checking account bonus offer, you must be a new TD Bank customer, without any previous or current TD Bank personal checking accounts. You must also open the account through this web page.

You cannot redeem the offer if you’re a Canadian cross-border banking customer.

Account details: The TD Beyond Checking account earns interest on all balances. Higher balances have the chance to get a slight rate boost, but all rates are still pretty minimal. Account holders can access non-TD ATMs without a TD fee and receive reimbursement for other ATM surcharges with a minimum daily balance of $2,500. The account also includes a free standard checks, money orders, stop payments, paper statements and incoming wire transfers.

The account charges a $25 monthly maintenance fee. However, you can waive the fee when you receive monthly direct deposits of $5,000 or more, maintain a minimum daily balance of $2,500 or maintain a combined balance of $25,000 across eligible TD accounts.

LEARN MORE Secured

on TD Bank’s secure website

Chase — $300 bonus with direct deposit

Offer ends 01/21/2020

Offer rules: It’s pretty simple to earn this $300 bonus offer when you open a new Chase Premier Plus Checking account. You just need to make a direct deposit in this account within 60 days after opening. This can be your paycheck, pension or government benefits.

Who’s eligible: You cannot apply for this offer if you’re an existing Chase checking or fiduciary account holder. You do not qualify if you had an account closed within the last 90 days or closed with a negative balance.

Account details: Like its name suggests, Chase Premier Plus Checking is a high-end account. It earns interest, although at a minimal 0.01% APY on all balances. It has a high fee of $25, which you can waive with an average beginning day balance of at least $15,000 in combined balances between this account and any linked qualifying Chase checking, savings and other accounts.

The account includes four free non-Chase ATM transactions per statement cycle and free Chase design checks. You can also take advantage of a rent-free small safe deposit box.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Chase Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Huntington — up to $200 bonus with $1,000 cumulative deposits

Offer ends 01/07/2020

Offer rules: You can benefit from a $200 bonus by opening a Huntington 5 checking account or a $150 bonus with an Asterisk-Free Checking account. Whichever account you open, you must make cumulative deposits of at least $1,000 within 60 days of account opening and keep your account open for at least 90 days to earn the reward.

Who’s eligible: You must be a resident of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania or West Virginia to qualify for this bonus offer. You must also be a new Huntington checking customer who hasn’t closed a checking account within the last six months.

You’ll need to fund this new account with money not currently on deposit with Huntington. You cannot combine this offer with another checking offer.

You can redeem the offer by applying either online or through a code found online to bring to your local branch.

Account details: The Huntington 5 Checking account earns at a modest 0.05% APY. There is a small $5 monthly fee that you can waive with at least $5,000 in total relationship balances, which includes other Huntington deposit and investment accounts.

The Asterisk-Free Checking account is more basic. It does not charge a monthly fee, earn interest or have a minimum balance requirement.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Huntington National Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Chase — $200 bonus with $25 minimum deposit

Offer ends 01/21/2020

Offer rules: When you open a new Chase Total Checking account with at least $25 and set up direct deposit, you can get a bonus of $200. The direct deposit needs to be made to the account within 60 days of account opening. This can be your paycheck, pension or government benefits.

Opening the checking account alone can earn the $200 bonus. If you would also like to open a Chase Savings account along with the Chase Total Checking, you can boost your total reward to $350.

Who’s eligible: You cannot open a new account with the checking account bonus offer if you already have a Chase checking account. The offer also doesn’t apply to those with fiduciary accounts, who have had accounts closed within the last 90 days or closed with a negative balance.

Account details: Chase Total Checking is the bank’s most popular checking account out of its three checking options. It’s also the most basic and straightforward without any added perks or features. It charges a $12 monthly service fee that you can waive with either direct deposits of at least $500, a minimum daily balance of at least $1,500 or an average daily balance of at least $5,000 in combined linked qualifying Chase checking, savings and other balances.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Chase Bank’s secure website

SunTrust — $200 bonus with $500 in direct deposits

Offer ends 03/31/2020

Offer rules: This checking bonus offer applies to new SunTrust Essential Checking accounts. You must make at least $500 in direct deposits per statement cycle for two consecutive cycles within the first three full months after opening the account.

The bonus will be deposited into your new account up to 8 weeks after all qualifications have been verified.

Who’s eligible: This offer is available to new SunTrust personal checking customers. You can’t even be a secondary account holder on another account or have closed a personal checking account within 180 days of the promotion start date. You must also have a mailing address in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia or Washington, D.C.

To qualify, you must use the application link on this SunTrust page with the code Q120ESSENTIAL. You can also use the page the email yourself a coupon to bring into a SunTrust branch to redeem the offer.

The SunTrust Essential Checking account does not earn interest. There is a $7 monthly fee which you can waive with one of the following per statement cycle:

  • Making 10 or more client-initiated transactions
  • Making $500 or more in total qualifying monthly Direct Deposits
  • Keeping a $500 minimum daily collected balance

Students opening a new account may also receive a 5-year Student waiver.

LEARN MORE Secured

on SunTrust Bank’s secure website

Citibank — $200 bonus with $5,000 minimum deposit

Offer ends 03/31/2020
Offer rules: Opening a new Citibank checking account in a Basic Banking Package can earn a $200 bonus if you deposit at least $5,000 in new money within 30 days of opening. You need to maintain at least that minimum in the account for 60 consecutive calendar days to fully qualify for the reward.

Who’s eligible: You can redeem this offer through the offer webpage. You’re eligible if you’re a new Citibank customer who is at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or resident.

The account: The Basic Banking Package is made for simple checking. It includes unlimited check writing and free non-Citi ATM usage for customers 62 and older. There is a $12 monthly fee that you can waive by making one qualifying direct deposit and one qualifying bill payment each cycle, or by keeping a combined average monthly balance of at least $1,500 in this account and other eligible linked accounts. Customers 62 and older can also waive the fee.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

Fifth Third Bank — $250 bonus with $500 minimum deposit

Offer ends 04/30/2020

Offer rules: You have the option of opening a new Fifth Third Essential, Enhanced, Preferred or Free checking account to earn the bank’s $250 bonus offer. While you don’t need to open the new account with a specific deposit amount right away, you have 45 days to reach an account balance of at least $500. Then you’ll need to maintain at least $500 in the account for 60 days to qualify completely for the bonus.

Who’s eligible: To redeem this offer, you will need to visit this Fifth Third webpage, email yourself the offer coupon and bring it to a Fifth Third branch to redeem. This limits the offer’s availability to customers near a branch, which you can find in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

You do not qualify for this bonus if you are already a Fifth Third Bank customer, or have closed an account with the bank within the last 12 months.

Account details: Unlike most other banks, Fifth Third Bank allows you to choose which checking account – Essential, Enhanced, Preferred or Free (when available) — you’d like to open with the bonus offer. This gives you the flexibility to open the account that works better for you in the long run. The Fifth Third Enhanced and Preferred Checking accounts earn interest on your balances, with the Preferred Checking earning at a slightly higher rate. As for fees, the monthly service fee ranges from $8 to $25, which you can waive with minimum balances.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Fifth Third Bank (OH)’s secure website

Member FDIC

TD Bank — $150 bonus with $500 in direct deposits

No expiration date

Offer rules: If the TD Bank Beyond Checking account above isn’t quite your style, you can still earn $150 when you open a new TD Convenience Checking (SM) account. You’ll also have to make at least $500 in cumulative direct deposits within 60 days after opening to qualify for the offer. The direct deposits can be a paycheck, pension or government benefits from your employer or the government.

Who’s eligible: This offer is open only to new TD Bank customers without any previous or current TD Bank personal checking accounts.

The account: The TD Convenience Checking account doesn’t earn interest. It charges a $15 monthly fee that you can waive by maintaining a $100 daily balance or if you’re aged 17 to 23.

LEARN MORE Secured

on TD Bank’s secure website

 

5 things to watch out for with checking account bonus offers

#1 Checking account bonus offers aren’t entirely “no-strings-attached.” You can see above the various requirements you typically have to meet to earn a bonus, whether that’s meeting a minimum deposit amount or completing a certain number of direct deposits. But there’s often more to checking account bonus offers than what meets the eye.

#2 Banks report bonus payouts as interest to the IRS. In the year you receive your bonus, you’ll also receive a 1099-INT form, indicating you need to file the “income” in your taxes for that year. This lessens the total reward you gain from the checking account bonus offer. The exact amount deducted will depend on your tax bracket, but the higher the bracket, the smaller your final bonus.

#3 Banks may pull a credit check and a ChexSystem verification report when you apply for an account. This allows them to check for a history of good account standing, or, to the opposite, any dings in your financial history, like a trail of unpaid fees or bounced checks. Even if you have nothing to hide, a hard inquiry into your credit can temporarily dip your score just a little, so if you’re just opening one account, the effect won’t be catastrophic. However, if you’re opening multiple new accounts within quick succession, your credit score can take a hit.

Opening several accounts can also appear in a ChexSystem report. Whenever a bank pulls a ChexSystems report, it shows up as an inquiry. While this doesn’t ding your credit score or financial history, it may hurt your chances at a new account if a bank sees all those recent inquiries.

#4 You need to keep the account open for at least a few months. If you thought you could quickly open an account, collect your checking account bonus and close the account before moving onto the next one, we’re here to tell you that’s not how it works. Remember all those requirements you need to meet to redeem the offer? Not only is there a minimum deposit requirement, but you also need to keep your balance above that minimum for a certain number of days, typically 60.

Even after waiting two months to fully qualify, you may not see the bonus deposit into your account until months later. For example, Citi will deposit your bonus into the qualified account 90 days after you complete all the required activities. You may need to wait even longer if there are delays in depositing your reward. If that does happen, though, contact customer service to see what the delay might be.

You could also lose your bonus rewards if you close the new account within a certain time period. For example, Chase will deduct the checking account bonus amount from your account at closing if you close the account six months after opening with the bonus offer. This protects banks from paying out too many bonuses without getting any new account deposits in return.

#5 Finally, make sure you’re opening your new account the right way. To snag a checking account bonus offer, you often need to start your application through the right webpage. Other banks may require you to visit a branch to redeem the offer. Pay attention to the specific bank and account requirements; otherwise, you could find yourself with a new checking account, just without a bonus.

Think beyond the bonus offer when committing to a checking account

Although it’s tempting, you shouldn’t open new accounts left and right just for a checking account bonus offer. Once you snag that bonus, you’re stuck with an entirely new checking account. You should make sure that you’re comfortable enough with the account to make chasing the bonus worthwhile.

Pay attention to the account’s fees. Banks are quick to advertise the checking account bonus offer and the account’s many benefits. But make sure you also look for the account’s monthly maintenance fee. Once you open that account, you’ll be responsible for paying that fee each month. Plus, don’t forget that it takes months to meet the offer requirements in the first place, and another few months for the bonus to be deposited into your account. Paying that fee over those months can really add up, cutting into the total bonus you’ll actually receive. No one wants to be trapped paying an unnecessary and high fee that could have been avoided.

If you do choose to close your new account, whether before or after snagging the bonus, you’ll likely face a fee for closing it early. Paying this fee certainly isn’t worth it if you didn’t earn the bonus. But even if you do earn those extra dollars, paying any fee lessens the total reward you could have received. Some banks may also deduct the checking account bonus amount from your account if you close it too early, leaving you with zero net gain.

Make sure you can meet an account’s minimum balance. You can often waive an account’s monthly fee by meeting further requirements, typically a minimum balance. These can reach pretty high, though, especially when accounts have several features and perks. These accounts also tend to offer higher bonuses, so be careful if you’re looking solely for the highest bonus.

Instead, look for the checking account bonus offers that require lower balances to qualify. These accounts tend to charge smaller monthly fees. Even better, look for an account that doesn’t charge a monthly service fee, no matter your balance.

The accounts with high bonuses may not be the most favorable ones. Banks create these checking account bonus offers to invite consumers to become a customer. But perhaps there’s a reason why not too many new customers are opening these accounts. If you take a look at the accounts above, you’ll see they’re all from brick-and-mortar banks. They all charge monthly fees and can require sky-high balances to waive those fees. Those that earn interest only earn at the most minimal rates. These accounts, while appealing in the short-term for their bonuses, may not be the most beneficial in the long run for your finances. You should invest in accounts that grow and save you money.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Lauren Perez
Lauren Perez |

Lauren Perez is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lauren here

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How to Open a Bank Account If You’re Not a U.S. Citizen

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Foreign nationals who live in the United States may open bank accounts. However, there are some hurdles to overcome as a non-U.S. citizen looking to open an account. While it’s perfectly legal, you should be prepared to deal with some challenging extra steps. Read on to understand all of the details below before you visit a bank branch.

What you need to open a bank account as a non-U.S. citizen

If you are a non-U.S. citizen who wants to open a bank account, financial institutions are required you to present one or more of the following forms of identification:

  • Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN)
  • A passport number or an alien identification card number
  • A government-issued ID issued by a foreign country

In addition, both non-U.S. citizens and U.S. citizens need to present the following information to open a bank account:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Proof of your physical address, such as a lease or utility bill

U.S. law requires financial institutions to know who their customers are and trace each of their transactions. That means banks and credit unions must verify the identity of a customer when they open a new deposit account, such as a checking account, a savings account or a certificate of deposit (CD).

In addition to the materials above, U.S. citizens need to present their Social Security number to open a bank account.

Why do non-U.S. citizens need extra information to open a bank account?

Not all non-U.S. citizens have Social Security numbers. That makes verifying the identity of a non-U.S. citizen challenging, and that’s why banks and credit unions need a foreign national’s passport number or some other government identification document to verify their identity.

Online bank account applications typically do not offer a place to input a passport number or other ID number. So institutions generally ask foreign nationals to come into a branch to verify their identity in person. This is also why it can be very difficult if not impossible for non-U.S. citizens to open an account with some online banks. In most cases, online banks do not have physical branches.

Before you visit a branch office of a bank or a credit union, make sure to check on the institution’s website or call for information about required verification documents for foreign nationals. Each institution has its own set of policies and procedures in place to comply with the requirements touched on above.

Are you a resident alien or nonresident alien?

A foreign national who resides in the U.S. is either a resident alien or a nonresident alien. You’ll need to know whether you are a resident alien or non-resident alien when you talk to an institution about opening a bank account. If you are unsure about your status, here’s how to figure it out.

Resident aliens

You are a resident alien for federal tax purposes if you hold a valid green card or pass the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS)  substantial presence test for the current calendar year.

It’s less straightforward to determine whether a non-green card holder — such as an international student or an expats with a work visa — is a resident alien. According to the IRS, to qualify as a resident alien, you must be physically in the U.S. for at least:

  1. 31 days during the current year, and
  2. 183 days during the three-year period that includes the current year and the two years immediately before that, counting:
    • All the days you were present in the current year, and
    • One-third of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, and
    • One-sixth of the days you were present in the second year before the current year.

There are also special categories of foreign nationals who are exempt from the substantial presence test, which means their stays in the U.S. do not count as residents when they are on certain visas.

An “exempt individual” is:

  • An individual temporarily present in the U.S. as a foreign government-related individual under an “A” or “G” visa, other than individuals holding “A-3” or “G-5” class visas.
  • A teacher or trainee temporarily present in the U.S. under a “J” or “Q” visa.
  • A student temporarily present in the U.S. under an “F,” “J,” “M,” or “Q” visa.
  • A professional athlete temporarily in the U.S. to compete in a charitable sports event.

The exemption time frames differ by visa type. For example, if you are an international student, you are an exempt individual for five calendar years when you are on an F visa. Starting year six, you will be considered a resident alien if you meet the substantial presence test above.

Nonresident aliens

A nonresident alien is a non-U.S. citizen who is not a lawful permanent resident during the calendar year and does not meet the substantial presence test in the section above. Nonresident aliens can still open bank accounts in the U.S.

Do you need a Social Security number to open a bank account?

While it is possible to open a bank account without a Social Security number, you’ll need to visit a bank branch to make it happen. Because online banks don’t have physical branches for a customer to walk into and sit down with a customer service representative, it’s not as simple for these banks to verify the identity of someone who does not have an SSN.

MagnifyMoney recently reviewed four online savings accounts — Online Savings from Discover Bank, Online Savings Account from Ally Bank, Member FDIC, Marcus by Goldman Sachs® and Capital One 360. Each of these banks required a SSN and physical U.S. address to sign up for their savings account. Discover and Ally did not allow nonresident aliens to open accounts at all even if they had a SSN.

How to open a bank account without a Social Security number

Resident aliens with a Social Security number can usually finish the bank account application process online just like any other American citizen, because they are considered U.S. residents for tax purposes.

For example, at Bank of America, resident aliens can open an account at a BofA branch by presenting a Permanent Resident Card, INS Employment Card, Non-immigrant Visa, Border Crossing Card or a foreign passport, along with an additional form of identification. According to Don Vecchiarello, Jr., BofA’s senior vice president and communications manager for consumer products and small business, the options for the required secondary ID include a major credit card or retailer card, student ID, employment work badge or foreign driver’s license.

However, nonresident aliens won’t be able to do that. Typically, an error message would likely tell the person to visit a local branch or call for assistance. For this reason, it may be better for nonresident aliens to stick to banks that have physical locations. Large banks are less likely to have roadblocks for noncitizens than smaller local banks, said Ken Tumin, founder and editor of DepositAccounts.com.

If you are a nonresident alien, you will most likely have to visit a bank branch to get a checking or savings account with the assistance of a bank clerk. Some banks may ask for immigration documents in lieu of other identification, but it can still be tricky.

The challenge is that bank clerks may not know your status and which documentation is needed to open an account for you, explained Libby Dawson, a wealth advisor at Worldview Wealth Advisors. You may be required to provide all forms of paperwork that the bank needs to open an account for all non-U.S. citizens, even if you are a resident alien.

“They are going to follow whatever they see in terms of their own system, but at the end of the day, it’s often not until the paperwork is actually processed that you know for sure if everything has been done the way that they needed to be done,” Dawson said.

Resident aliens have online options

MagnifyMoney reviewed bank account applications for eight major U.S. banks. We found that if you are a resident alien who has an SSN, then you can open an account online with a major U.S. bank.

However, small local banks may not allow non-U.S. citizens — resident aliens or nonresident aliens — to apply online. For example, at Hills Bank, a community bank in Iowa City, Iowa, we found its online application informs the applicant that if they aren’t a U.S. citizen or U.S. person, they can’t continue the process using that method.

If you are a resident alien and hope to open a bank account online, your best shot would be a large U.S. bank that operates throughout the country. In a typical online application, you will need to enter your personal information, including name, address, phone number and your SSN.

I’m an undocumented immigrant, can I open a bank account?

You can open a bank account if you’re an undocumented immigrant at some banks, like BofA. However, you will likely need to apply in person and need several forms of identification, like proof of address, Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), birth certificate, unexpired passport and more. Every bank has its own set of criteria, so be sure to research the requirements before heading to the local branch.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Chris O
Chris O'Shea |

Chris O'Shea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Chris here

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