Everyone should have a chunk of cash in an instant access savings account; see Dilbert’s guide to financial success.
If you’re in the US and have $250 spare to put in a savings account, I’ve got a voucher you can use to open an account with ING Direct, and they’ll give you $25 free. (Plus $10 for me.)
I’ve been saving with them for a while, because their rates are so much better than my bank’s savings account rates (4.4% APR with no fees). They’re a proper FDIC insured outfit backed by a real bank, a European multinational. I briefly had all the proceeds from selling my UK apartment in the account, and they didn’t abscond with it, so I’m pretty sure your $250 will be safe.
Also on the subject of free money, a while back Bank of America bought MBNA. I have MBNA credit cards; naturally I pay off the balance each month. Based on my transaction history, Bank of America have sent me mail saying they’ll pay me $100 to open a checking account with them. Maybe I’m crazy, but I haven’t rushed to do so. A quick glance at the relevant Wikipedia page and you’ll see that Bank of America has engaged in various sleazy business practices.
My current bank is Wells Fargo; they have a much cleaner record, and I also get the joy of knowing I’m supporting a company that really irritated Focus in the Family. Plus, they were the only US bank I could find that had all the necessary information about how to transfer money internationally available on their web site.
A customer was worried that a check for an eBay transaction might be fraudulent, so he asked Bank of America to examine it carefully. They said it was on a valid account, so he asked them to cash it. Then Bank of America changed their minds and decided the check was fraudulent, called the cops, had him put in jail, and effectively wasted $14,000 of his money on legal hassles.
OK, now I’m really sure I don’t want to do business with Bank of America.