Better Than Interest: 10 Ways to Earn Money From the Bank

Better Than Interest: 10 Ways to Earn Money From the Bank

You've probably heard the old joke; when asked why he robs banks, the criminal says, "Because that's where all the money is!"

While there is a lot of money there, becoming a bank robber probably isn't the wisest way to get it. But collecting interest won't do much for you either. The average interest rate for a bank savings account is just 0.17% APY, and even the best banks offer only about 1%.

So how do you make money using a bank? Fortunately, you have some more interesting and lucrative ways. Here are 10 to consider.

1. Invest in Bank Stocks

One way to make money from a bank is to own one, or at least part of one. It's as easy as buying bank stocks.

Consider Wells Fargo (WFC), one of Warren Buffett's favorites. Five years ago, you could have bought the stock for less than $25 per share, but at the moment the price is over $55. Not only would you have more than doubled your money, but you would have collected dividends along the way -- tthe stock currently pays about 2.6%.

2. Get a Job at a Bank

The median annual wage for bank tellers is only about $27,000, but the median wage for the top 10% of workers in this position is closer to $36,000. That's not too bad for a job that typically only requires a high school diploma.

Also, there are opportunities for advancement. Starting as a teller, you can work your way up to more highly-paid positions, including head teller, supervisor and loan officer, according to MyBankTracker.

3. Collect Signup Bonuses

Last year, I received a $125 bonus for opening a checking account at a local bank. I've since closed it. This year I've already made $400 in bank account bonuses, and I'm aiming for another $400 before the year ends.

Recently, Chase offered $250 for new checking account customers, but these promotions come and go quickly, so that may not be available by the time you read this.

To find current deals like these, search for banks near you using Google Maps (try "banks" and the name of your city). Then search each bank's name plus "signup bonus" to see what you find. Be careful to read the fine print to be sure you meet all of the qualifications.

4. Go Coin Roll Hunting

The concept is simple enough: Buy rolls of dimes, quarters and half-dollars from the bank and search for coins from before 1965. They are 90% silver, and therefore worth much more than face value. We used to do this as kids and make regular finds of silver coins.

Today, coin roll hunting is still popular. In addition to the silver ones, you can sometimes find coins old enough to have extra value to collectors. But it’s getting harder to find the old coins, so you might not make much for your time.

5. Try Penny Hoarding

Pennies minted prior to 1983 were mostly copper, whereas now they’re mostly zinc. With the price of copper close to $3 per pound, that makes these older pennies worth about two cents each. Penny hoarders stash them away by the tens of thousands, waiting for the day when they can legally melt them down for their copper value.

You can buy pennies from your bank in $25 boxes (2,500 coins). My recent tests turned up 7% to 15% pre-1983 pennies. You can sell them on eBay for about $135 per $100 face value, but to make this worth your time, you probably have to invest in a penny sorting machine that separates out the older copper cents.

Not into pennies? You could also choose to hoard nickels.

6. Borrow for a Business

One of the most traditional ways to make money from a bank is to borrow to start a profitable business.

You might want to look for a bank that handles SBA loans. The Small Business Administration guarantees a portion of these loans, so banks are willing to take the risk.

7. Borrow to Flip a House

You found a great fixer-upper you can flip for a profit, but you don't have the money to buy the house. What can you do? Go to the bank!

It’s been difficult to get a loan to flip a home, but recently the FHA waived its rule against house flipping for its foreclosure sales, so some banks are ready to start loaning on these projects.

Another option for raising the money needed to invest in a fixer-upper is to borrow against your own home, if you have sufficient equity.

8. Buy a Bank Foreclosure

Banks are not only where all the money is, but also where all the homes are -- well, at least the deeds. Many banks have a pile of foreclosures they need to sell, and you could fix and sell some of them for a nice profit.

And you may not need as much money as you think to buy one of these bank foreclosures. It all depends on where you live. Detroit's foreclosed homes start at a few hundred dollars.

9. Get a Credit Card

How do you make money by getting a credit card from your bank? Well, there are those signup bonuses. Then there are points you get for using the cards, which can be converted into cash.

My post on reasons to use credit cards instead of cash looks at how to save money with them too, which is pretty much like making more money.

10. Collect Teaser-Rate Interest

I started by saying interest rates on bank savings accounts are terrible, averaging 0.17% APY. But you can often get a higher "teaser rate" for opening a new bank account.

For example, Everbank pays 1.4% on a money market account and a checking account. That's eight times the national average. After six months your account will revert to the regular rate (which is still pretty good), but you can do as I did, and move your money to another bank when the time comes.

Your Turn: How many ways have you made money using a bank?

Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).