Shopping around for a checking or savings account means finding a bank that fits with your financial lifestyle, says Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride.
As competition escalates for new savings customers, many financial institutions are promising high yields simply for becoming a customer and following various transaction requirements. And if done correctly, the annual percentage yield can reach as much as 5% — and add hundreds to your bottom line just for letting your money sit there.
That said, getting in on the action sometimes comes with a fair share of hurdles. The highest-yield accounts “work great for some consumers but are not a one-size-fits-all,” says Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride. Plenty of high-yield savings accounts, in fact, pay 3% or so right now with fewer hurdles. (Compare some of the best savings accounts here.)
How to pick the right high-yield checking or savings account
Shopping around for a checking or savings account means finding a bank that fits with your financial lifestyle in terms of digital and mobile capabilities, as well as branch and ATM access, says McBride.
You also need to understand what is expected of you to get the higher yield. “Earning that APY means meeting certain requirements each and every month — a certain number of debit card transactions, online bill pay, direct deposit, and e-statements. If those don’t mesh with your banking lifestyle, you’ll likely fall short of the requirements and earn a much more pedestrian yield,” he adds.
McBride adds that there are several red flags to consider. “Avoid checking accounts that have balance requirements and monthly fees so you don’t unnecessarily strand money in a low-yielding account just to avoid fees,” adding that there are plenty of non-interest options out there that have no fees.
When it comes to finding accounts with higher rates than the national average, MaxMyInterest CEO Gary Zimmerman says to keep in mind that checking accounts, by design, are used for monthly transactional needs, and that they traditionally are not meant for holding large amounts of money.
Zimmerman says it’s critical to find a “checking account that comes with no monthly fee, and includes free ATM access anywhere.” For those who do hold large balances, often necessary to meet the requirements of the high-yielding options, “you should also look for a bank that offers free wire transfers, as these fees can add up quickly if you find yourself making lots of investments or funding capital calls,” he said, adding that “most private banks offer free wire transfers, but regular banks often charge upwards of $35 per transfer.”
The modus operandi of high-yield savings accounts, on the other hand, is typically binary: store your money and earn high interest. “The higher the rate, the faster your money will grow, and because of the power of compounding, the APY you earn matters a lot,” Zimmerman says. “As long as the account is FDIC-insured, it really doesn’t matter much which bank you pick.”
Bottom line: “There are online savings accounts that are available nationwide, with little or no minimum deposit, a competitive yield, and can be linked to the checking account at your present financial institution. This is an option that is literally available to everyone,” says McBride.
5 bank accounts with the highest APY
Can’t seem to find a high-paying bank account on your own? MarketWatch Picks has searched the internet high and low to bring to you five checking and savings accounts with the highest available interest rates. (We also recently reported on a bank offering 7.5%, but only just to a very small amount.) We’ve also listed the various requirements to take advantage of these high rates and linked directly to their account registration pages. (Compare some of the best savings accounts here.)
Meet the transaction requirements on Consumer Credit Union’s tiered balance system and earn as much as 5% APY on account holdings of up to $10,000. These various requirements include making at least 12 monthly debit card purchases, setting up electronic transactions (direct deposit, ACH transfer or mobile check deposit) and making $1,000 in Consumers Credit Union credit card purchases. Accounts with more than $10,000 earn between 0.10% or 0.20% APY. If you don’t meet the requirements, however, account holders earn 0.01% APY on all balances.
No monthly maintenance fees
Over 30,000 ATMs and 5,000 shared branches
Unlimited reimbursement for ATM fees
Online banking and bill pay
$30 overdraft fee
No sign-up bonus
Varo Savings Account: 2% to 5% APY
Start with a 2% APY for the first month when joining this account and qualify to earn 5% thereafter on a balance of up to $5,000. Requirements to earn this APY boost includes receiving four direct deposits totaling $1,000 or more; and ending the month with a positive balance in both a Varo bank account and savings account. After meeting those rules, accounts over $5,000 continue to earn 2% APY.
No minimum balance requirements
Earn up to $100 instant cash loan with Varo Advance feature
$30 overdraft fee
External transfers limited to $10,000 per month.
La Capitol Choice Checking Choice: 4.25% APY
Ensure you get 15 debit card transactions, excluding ATM transactions, posted to your account before the end of the statement period and earn 4.25% APY on accounts up to $3,000 and between 4.25% and 2.67% APY on balances of $3,000.01 to $10,000. Balances over $10,000, or those that have not met the qualifications, earn an APY of 0.10%. Average account balances may not fall below $1,000 during the statement period.
ATM fee refunds of up to $25 every month
Online banking, bill pay and mobile banking app
$8 balance fee applied if monthly debit transaction requirements are not met or if daily balance average falls below $1,000 for the month.
Members ages 18 to 59 face a $2 fee for not enrolling in e-statements
Genisys High Yield Checking: 4.07% APY
Enroll in e-statements, use your Genisys debit Mastercard 10 times a month for purchases of $5 or more (excluding ATMs), and earn 4.07% APY on balances up to $7,500 with the Genisys high-yield checking account. An APY of 0.05% is applied to balances over that threshold. Membership is also only available to residents in Michigan and to some residents in Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
Low $5 minimum to open an account
$1.25 ATM fee per transaction after exceeding the six free monthly limit at non-Genisys CO-OP ATMs
Membership and physical branch locations are only offered in Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania
Account holders here can earn 4% APY on balances up to $20,000 for the first 12 months from the time of opening an account and 0.10% APY on balances over that amount. Balances less than $20,000 earn an APY of 2%.
No minimum requirements for opening a new account
No monthly fees when opting for electronic statements
$32 overdraft fee unless you link with another Elements account
Although available nationwide via the co-op shared branch network and Allpoint ATMs, Elements has just five physical locations in the state of Indiana
Low APY if you surpass the account maximum
The advice, recommendations or rankings expressed in this article are those of MarketWatch Picks, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by our commercial partners.