Bank Toaster

Bank + Toaster, You do the math!

Banks love finding ways to get new people to deposit their money with them and open an account. Decades ago (in the United States, at least), that involved giving away free toasters, alarm clocks, or other cheesy home electrical appliances to new customers, which grew to be an expected perk for opening a new bank account. Indeed, the free toaster became so closely associated with new bank accounts that it has influenced how banks are depicted in media and popular culture.

Whenever a there is a scene in a bank, the Bank Toaster can commonly be Invoked in signs or promotional displays advertising new accounts or character dialogue. If one of these toasters is established as part of a promotional display at the beginning of a bank scene, certainly anticipate something happening to it by the scene's end.

In bank robberies, the Bank Toaster usually comes up as a comedic device, such as an item Stupid Crooks may try to steal either in a last ditch attempt to take something from the bank after any effort to take the money has failed or in a clueless mix-up/failure to realize there would be something more valuable to take from the bank.

As it has become much more unheard of for Real Life banks to give out toasters and similar house appliances in our present day (though freebies and perks are handed out for new bank accounts to this day), this trope has grown into more of a Forgotten Trope.


  • The page image, above, comes from a commercial for Chesapeake Bank of Maryland, which implies that larger banks, here represented as "Big Bank", are so out of touch with their customers that they equate giving out items like the toaster with customer service.

  • A David Letterman "Top 10" list from January 1990, "Top 10 Signs that Your Bank Is Failing", includes "#10—Free handful of Cheetos with every new account", "#9—They hand out calendars one month at a time", and "#6—Free giveaway toaster is made by G.E.", General Electric at the time having been found guilty of defrauding the US Department of Defense during the previous year.

  • In Spider-Man 2, a Morally Bankrupt Banker, on top of denying Aunt May and Peter Parker a loan, denies them a coupon for a free toaster.
  • In Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, he opens a bank account and receives a free rifle. He cut out the part where he waited to clear a background check, though.
  • In The Admiral Was a Lady the male characters (all demobbed World War II soldiers who are currently unemployed) use this to their advantage to make a bit of extra money on the side. A local bank offers a free piggy bank as its opening gift. Instead of simply cashing their unemployment cheques with the cheque-cashing man who charges a fee, they deposit them in a new bank account, get the piggy bank, immediately close the account (for a cash withdrawal, no money lost)... and then sell the piggy banks to the local pawnbroker!

  • Dave Barry mentions this in one of his books, remarking how the only question banks used to ask was if you wanted the toaster or the electric blanket.

Live-Action TV
  • In Eerie Indiana, the ghost of Grungy Bill, "The Worst Bank Robber West of the Mississippi" ("worst" as in "no good, incompetent") who has never committed a successful bank robbery, tries to run away during yet another unsuccessful attempt to rob a bank with one of the Eerie Bank's free toasters. Managing to be successful at stealing the toaster, Grungy Bill determines this to be a successful bank robbery and his soul can finally rest in peace.
  • The episode of The Lucy Show "Lucy Takes a Job at the Bank", Lucy takes a job at the bank handing out the complimentary toasters, and screws things up in a hilarious manner.
  • In a Superdude skit on All That involving the superhero having to thwart a bank robbery by an evil Costume Copycat, when Superdude is incapacitated and the the villain has taken all the bank's money, the villain turns around at the last minute to steal one of the bank's free toasters, as well. The villain's balked escape gives Superdude enough time to recover and defeat his foe with his magnetic butt that pulls the toaster (and the villain who won't let go of it) back to him.
    Superdude: You should've let go of the toaster, but you HAD to be greedy, didn't you?
  • There's a Monk episode with this trope. In fact, the bank manager gives Monk one of the toasters as a reward for solving a bank robbery, which is greatly welcomed by Monk after the show had begun with Adrian at breakfast contending with burnt toast and a subplot developed necessitating he and Natalie getting a new one.
  • On Laverne and Shirley, Laverne agrees to help a woman who she thinks wants more of the bank's free dishes. Instead, she turns out to be a bank robber, and she and Laverne are both arrested.
  • Referenced/parodied on Ellen DeGeneres's sitcom Ellen, during the famous coming out episode. When Ellen's lesbian friend Susan casually comments on how she thought Ellen was gay, the (still-closeted) Ellen hilariously freaks out and accuses Susan of trying to "recruit" her.
    Susan: I'll have to call up national headquarters and tell them I lost you. Damn, just one more and I would've gotten that toaster oven!
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. episode "Crystal Hawkes" features a scene where Brisco steps into a bank offering a free branding iron to anyone opening a new account.

  • The Capitol Steps' Parody of "You'll Never Walk Alone", "You'll Never Get a Loan":
    Dream on, dream on,
    With hope in your heart,
    But you'll never get a loan!
    You just might get... a toaster!

Print Media
  • Newspaper editorial cartoons which focus on the American banks during the continuing global financial crisis of the early 21st Century made use of the bank toaster visual.
  • In one Sherman's Lagoon strip, an octopus is seen thinking about the various options and account choices banks provide, ending his inner monologue with the remark that getting a free toaster used to be so much easier.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • The League of Super Evil schemed to steal $5 so they could open a bank account and obtain a free toaster.

Alternative Title(s):

Free Toaster, Free Bank Toaster, Bank Account Toaster