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Bank of America's referral program delivers the goods

In Derrick's little world, a good day is when a new deposit shows up in my bank account. And thanks to Bank of America's referral program, I just had myself a pretty darn good day.

As you know from my previous article about Wachovia's now-expired referral incentive, "Get free money with bank referral programs," I love bank-hopping.

My roommate banks with Bank of America, and I knew they had a referral program where my roommate and I would both get a $25 reward if I were to open up a new checking account with them. So one day when we weren't doing anything, I suggested that we take a little excursion over to our nearby Austin BOA.

It took about 45 minutes to get the new account created, but I figured it was worth it for free money. Time is money, and any time spent making money is time well spent. It makes me wonder how many people are too lazy to get up and go the banks and open up their own referral accounts. Those people are scoffing at free money, and I judge them.

At the BOA, they told me that if I were to pay three bills with the Online Billpay program, they would also give me a $35 bonus on top of the $25 referral bonus! I guess they figure that, once you've used their billpay program, you'll be more likely to continue banking with them for the long run and they'll make their money back.

I wondered what kind of catch there would be to all of this. Would they charge me a fee for my checking account? But guess what - if you are associated with The University of Texas at Austin - or other various employers - you can get free checking with no minimum balance!

At the bank, the junior assistant told me that I had to meet the bank manager, that she likes to personally meet each new account-holder.  And so this well-dressed manager came into the office and introduced herself to me and my roommate.  I knew it was all part of the act, the wooing of new customers, the hope that I'll pay overdraft fees or invest my money with them. But for free money, I was more than happy to let them put on their dog-and-pony show.

So I opened my account, and I paid my three online bills, and guess what: a month later I received $60 in total ($25 referral plus $35 online billpay incentive)! It was absolutely thrilling to see my checking - which had previously had $0 in it because of the no-minimum-balance plan I am on - go from nothing to $60. My roommate also got her $25 reward, so the total became $85 of free money just for getting acquainted with their bank.

And it doesn't end there. Now that I'm an account-holder of BOA, I can refer my own friends and we'd both get more $25 rewards!

I'm sure I'm not the only Austinite who recently got a mailer from Chase Bank, offering a $100 bonus reward to anyone who opens a new account at their bank. There will be many who ignore thismailer. And I will not be one of them. At a first glance, Chase Bank's referral program seems more complicated than Wachovia or Bank of America's programs. Maybe they'll want me to have a minimum balance in my checking account system; oh, well, I can deposit $60! And then that $60 can become $160, and so on and so on....

So yes, I'm in the bank-hopping business. And baby, business is booming.

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