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Funding A New Bank Account With A Reward Credit Card For Arbitrage

Published 11/18/08 (Modified 3/9/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

I'm a credit card arbitrage seeker, which means I enjoy looking for creative ways to make an extra buck by legally exploiting the existence of attractive credit card rewards and 0% APR credit card offers in the marketplace. One of the ways I used to make some extra money on the side was by applying for introductory 0% balance transfer credit card offers and depositing the interest free funds into high yield savings accounts to earn some passive interest income. While the most lucrative 12 month, no balance transfer fee promotions have dwindled as a result of the ongoing economic slump and worsening credit crisis, there are still creative ways available for savvy credit card arbitragers to profit from.

As with all credit card arbitrage type activity, the decision to partake or not requires that you weigh the potential payoff against the risks and effort involved. While some people may shrug off such activity as a waste of time and not worth the potential rewards, others see it as a relatively effortless way to earn some free credit card rebates that they'd otherwise not have. I tend to adopt the latter viewpoint, regarding credit card arbitrage and interest rate pursuits as integral facets of my financially frugal lifestyle. Personally, I don't mind taking advantage of effortless free money opportunities as they present themselves, so long as the application or management process is not too onerous or prohibitive.

Of course, there will always be naysayers who cite such activity as a complete boring waste of time. But frankly, if $100 or $200 worth of rewards is small pocket change to you, I supposed it begs the question as to why you are even reading this personal finance blog to begin with when you ought to be sitting on some tropical beach resort with a martini in your hand and tended to by bikini clad beauties (or the male equivalents if that's your thing).

Open Your New Bank Deposit Account With A Reward Credit Card To Earn Free Credit Card Rewards, Or Use A 0% Purchase Card To Get An Interest Free Credit Card Loan

While certainly not as lucrative or easy to fully manipulate on a massive scale as balance transfer credit card arbitrage, one relatively new way to take advantage of arbitrage rewards is to use a reward credit card to open and fund a new checking or savings account to earn free cash back, reward points, or airline miles. When you open a new checking or savings account pursuant to some promotional bank offer and have to transfer in money for the first time, certain banks permit you to initially fund the account using a credit card. Oftentimes, the card transaction goes down as a credit card purchase, allowing the cardholder to earn free instant rewards, rebates, or whatever purchase incentives the credit card offered. For those interested in earning credit card arbitrage income through the use of interest free credit card loans, funding the new bank account with 0% credit cards that offer introductory zero percent rates on all new purchases is another interesting option to consider in lieu of credit card rewards.

Before funding a new bank account with a credit card, here are a few very important factors to consider:

  1. The funding limits imposed by the bank where the new checking or savings account is being opened at - some banks limit the amount of the initial deposit that you can charge onto a credit card. The credit card funding limit can range anywhere from $1,000 to an unlimited amount, capped only by your credit card's maximum spending limit.
  2. Whether the bank will treat your reward credit card funding transaction as a purchase (preferable) or as a cash advance (deal breaker). This factor is critical because you will only be able to earn credit card rewards if the initial fund transfer's treated as a purchase. If the transaction's recorded as a cash advance, not only will you be forced to pay the high APR rate for cash advances immediately, you will earn no credit card spending rewards in the process (which defeats the whole purpose of credit card arbitrage, which is to get more back than you put in).
  3. The third factor to pay attention to is whether there are any credit card issuer restrictions (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or American Express). While some banks impose no card issuer restrictions when it comes to new checking or savings account funding, others limit the permissible cards to only just Visa or Mastercard.

Finding a bank that permits newly opened checking and savings accounts to be funded with a credit card is relatively easy. Making certain that the credit card transaction will be registered as a purchase, rather than a cash advance transaction will require a bit more digging and conversing with customer service support on your part. While the majority of funding requests via a credit card go down as purchases, a quick browse through various online forums reveals a bit of disagreement among arbitrage seekers on how the different credit card issuers are actually treating such transactions.

Ultimately, how a particular credit card transaction is treated is up to the credit card issuer and not the merchant. Thus, the bank you are opening the new checking or savings account with has little say over how the funding transaction will be treated, whether it be recorded as a purchase or a cash advance. Because of this slight ambiguity, it's probably safer to fund newly opened bank accounts with the merchant's own brand of credit cards. Thus for example, if you are opening up a new Citibank checking or savings account, to be on the safe side, you may be better off funding your new account with a Citi credit card as they are less likely to pull a fast one and record the transaction as a cash advance than another credit card merchant like JP Morgan Chase or Bank of America. Likewise, if you are opening a Bank of America account, you should stick with using a Bank of America credit card to fund it. This is just a precautionary measure. Of course, you can always call the bank and credit card issuer directly to confirm how the initial bank account funding will be treated.

List Of Banks That Allow New Accounts To Be Funded Using Reward Credit Cards:

1) Citibank (view Citibank offers) - Citibank does not permit new bank accounts to be funded with Discover or American Express - you'll have to use either a Visa or Master Card. On the plus side (and this is a very tremendous plus), Citibank does not appear to impose a maximum deposit limit on the amount you can charge onto your Mastercard or Visa credit card to open your new Citibank account. Theoretically, if your reward credit card offered 1% cash back with a high spending limit of $100,000, you could pocket an instant $1,000 worth of rebates immediately - theoretically of course. Of course, you'd want to pay off the whopping balance immediately by using the new $100,000 bank balance lest you face the prospect of a $100,000 credit card bill.

2) Bank of America (view Bank of America offers) - Within the last year, I opened a new Bank of America online checking account and successfully transferred in funds using a credit card. The card I used was actually a Chase credit card, but the transaction went through without a hiccup and was duly recorded as a reward earning purchase. While there is no limitation on the type of card that may be used to fund a new BoA account, the big downside is that Bank of America limits credit card deposit requests to a measly $1,000.

3) JP Morgan Chase - Chase bank also permits applicants to fund their new Chase checking or savings accounts with a credit card. Like Bank of America, they impose a deposit transfer limit, currently capped at $2,000. It's not a whole lot, but if you're going to open a Chase bank account anyway, might as well use a credit card to fund it and put some free credit card rewards in your pocket in the process.

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