How Online Banking Reward Programs Work

Enroll in a Rewards Program and Earn Points

Enrolling in an online banking rewards program is easy. Start by meeting the bank's minimum requirements for an online checking account. Then, visit the bank's Web site and look for online enrollment in its rewards program, find a toll-free number to call or visit a branch office.

Once enrolled, you can start earning points right away for everyday purchases. If you have a credit or debit card associated with the account, be sure to ask if you can link the accounts to earn points faster. Some banks offer double points for debit card or recurring purchases, or triple points for purchases made with a credit card.

You may earn even more points for purchases made through a network of merchants, such as Citizens' Bank's Merchant Network or Wachovia's Earn More Mall. These networks include popular retailers like Gap, Best Buy, Office Depot and more. Once you register, you can access these websites through a customized portal, and your purchases will help you accumulate rewards points faster.

Checking your points and redeeming them is as easy as logging into your reward account. You'll be able to see how many points you have available, then browse through an online catalog of rewards and redeem points to claim. For example, if you have 5,500 points, you can redeem points for a $50 gift certificate to Pottery Barn -- or you may choose to save your points and accumulate more to use toward a family cruise.

Some online banking programs may offer "premium" rewards, or awards from luxury retailers or travel partners, or even offer a chance to earn points at a higher rate. A fee may be associated with these types of account, so be sure that your monthly spend and the reward points you may earn justifies the additional fee. If you have to spend significantly more to justify the fee, you should stick to a program that comes free of charge.