The 5 Best High-Yield Savings Accounts · The Penny Hoarder
It’s tough to make any meaningful return on your savings right now.
But you probably already knew that.
Interest rates for bank savings accounts — you do have a savings account, right? — have been notoriously low for years. Don’t expect these low rates to change anytime soon, either: In a recent statement, the Federal Reserve announced plans to keep interest rates low until certain economic conditions have been reached.
At this moment, the average interest rates paid on checking and savings accounts are 0.15% and 0.73%, according to BankAround. And the biggest banks often offer worse rates. In fact, if you put $5,000 in a regular Bank of America savings account (0.01%), in a year, you’ll only have collected 50 cents in interest.
So, what are your options for making more money on your money?
Check Out High-Yield Savings Accounts
High-yield or high-interest savings accounts are a vehicle for you to save money you don’t use for everyday expenses. For example, you might open this type of account to build an emergency fund. In exchange for not using this account often — and typically saving a good amount in it — you’re rewarded with a higher interest rate.
This isn’t your regular ol’ savings account that earns pennies on the dollar. While the average savings account has a 0.06% interest rate, per the FDIC, you can expect to earn more with a high-yield savings account. Sometimes up to 25x more.
Now, rates aren’t bonkers-good like they were just a couple years ago. In 2019, an account with My Savings Direct, an online banking division of Emigrant Bank, earned a cool 1.25% annual percentage yield (APY). That rate is now 0.25%.
But hey, more money is more money.
What to Consider When Looking for a High-Yield Savings Accounts
While you’ll bring in more than you would in a traditional account, you’ll often need to adhere to strict guidelines. So keep that in mind before you sign up.
For instance, you may experience the following:
- A required opening deposit.
- A minimum required balance at all times.
- A cap on how often you can move money out of the account.
- Monthly maintenance fees.
- Fees for going over the allotted amount of withdrawals a month.
- A high interest rate — but only for X months or Y years for a certain amount of money AND if you follow all the rules. A particular rate may only be available for new account holders, too.
With that said, these accounts are a great way to earn more on money you don’t plan on touching for sometime — just read the fine print (and maybe brush up on your organizational skills) first.
How to Open a High-Yield Savings Account
Typically, the same rules will apply as for opening any other type of bank account. You’ll likely need to be at least 18 years old and need identification, for example. Pretty standard stuff.
You have options on where to open a high-yield savings account, too. They can be found at traditional brick-and-mortar institutions, credit unions and online-only banks. In fact, the latter may offer you higher interest rates since there’s less overhead (i.e. no physical location to pay bills for, so the savings get passed on to you). The interest rate may vary depending on where you live.
Bonus: Many companies offer various banking products (loans, checking, etc.), too. So if you want additional services on top of a high-yield savings account, you’re in luck.
Our Criteria for Finding the Top High-Yield Savings Accounts for You
We looked at accounts that offered a high APY by today’s standards — that means around the 0.50% interest-rate-mark — and low (or no) fees. We included a variety of online-only and big-name accounts to choose from as well.
You don’t have to transfer all your banking needs to an institution that offers a high-interest account. You can hang on to your primary bank and have a separate, high-earning savings account elsewhere. But note: Some accounts may require you to open other products with them, so keep that in mind.
The 5 Best High-Yield Savings Accounts
Of course, “the best account” will be determined by your individual wants and needs. If you’re highly organized, a stricter but high-paying account could be a good option. And if you’re more of a “set it and forget it” type of person, another one on the list might better suit you.
Here are some of our favorite accounts right now.
1. Axos Bank: A High, High-Interest Account
Axos Bank offers an FDIC-insured, high-yield online savings account. You can earn up to 0.61% APY on your money. Here’s the lowdown:
- You need $250 to open an account.
- You can live anywhere in the U.S. (another bonus — you’re not tied to any one location).
- You can earn up to 0.61% APY on accounts with $0 to $24,999.99 in it (and then it dips to 0.25%)
- You can get a free ATM card upon request.
- A big one: No monthly balance requirements or maintenance fees.
- Axos offers other banking products, such as rewards checking (with a 1.25% APY!), business CDs, small business banking services,commercial lending and more.
Axos is a digital-only bank, so if you prefer a physical branch, see what’s available at the big banks and your local credit union.
2. CIT Bank: Low Opening Deposit to Get Started and No Monthly Fees
CIT Bank is another online financial institution. It offers an FDIC-insured Savings Builder account where you can earn up to 0.40% APY. Here’s what you need to know:
- You only need a $100 minimum opening deposit.
- It’s a digital bank you can access anywhere online.
- You can earn up to 0.40% APY by maintaining a balance of $25,000 or more — or, by making a monthly deposit of $100.
- No maintenance fees.
- CIT also offers CDs, money market accounts and more.
You can also make six money moves in this account per statement cycle, which is the industry standard.
3. Citi: A Familiar Name with a Top Rate
Citi or Citibank (not to be confused with CIT Bank) is prominent in major cities such as New York City and Chicago. The over 200-year-old financial services group offers an Accelerate High-Yield Savings account. Here’s the lowdown:
- There’s no minimum to open the account.
- This account is available in most states and in select markets.
- You can earn 0.50% APY on your money with no limit on how much you can earn.
- You’ll pay a monthly fee of $4.50 unless certain requirements are met.
- Citi also offers basic checking and savings accounts, CDs, home lending, IRAs and more.
There are several accounts listed under the Accelerate High-Yield Savings umbrella — from the Citi Elevate Account Package to the Citibank Account package — with slightly different fees and requirements. However, they all share a 0.50% APY.
Worth pointing out: You can only open this high-yield account within an “account package.” This means you can’t have it as a standalone and will need to open another Citi account.
4. PenFed Credit Union: Membership With Benefits
If you prefer to bank with credit unions, PenFed’s Premium Online Savings account could be a good choice for you. This account is federally insured up to $250K by the National Credit Union Administration, or NCUA (basically the FDIC for credit unions). Here’s what else you need to know:
- You only need $5 to open the account.
- There aren’t branches in all 50 states, but there are over 85,000 ATMs and anyone in the U.S. can apply for membership (which you need in order to get this account) and access it online.
- You can earn 0.45% APY.
- No monthly maintenance fee.
- PenFed also offers auto loans, credit cards and more.
Contrary to some information online, you do not need to be a member of the military to join.
If you’re comfortable banking largely online and want to take advantage of other member benefits from discounts on home security to flower delivery, check out PenFed Credit Union.
5. Marcus by Goldman Sachs: Best for Those Who Don’t Want to Touch Their Money and Watch it Grow
Goldman Sachs is a well-known name in financial services. And the bank also offers a solid high-yield savings account known as Marcus (fun fact: Marcus Goldman founded the company). Here’s the deal:
- You don’t need a minimum opening deposit.
- The account is open to U.S. residents and easily accessible online or via the Marcus mobile app on the Apple and Google Play stores.
- You can earn a competitive rate of 0.50%.
- No monthly fees.
- Marcus also offers debt consolidation and home improvement loans, the opportunity to manage investment portfolios and more.
With this service, you’ll need to fund it with an external account, mail a check, set up a wire or establish direct deposit. Marcus by Goldman Sachs is a solid account if you’re looking for a recognized leader that won’t ding you with extraneous fees.
Here’s a breakdown of these high-yield savings accounts.
|Bank or Financial Institution||Minimum to Open Account||APY||Other Fees|
|Axos Bank||$250||0.61%||No monthly balance requirements or maintenance fees.|
|CIT Bank||$100||Up to 0.40%||No monthly maintenance fee. You must have a minimum balance of $25K or a $100 monthly deposit to earn the 0.40% APY.|
|Citi Bank||None||0.50%||You’ll pay a monthly fee of $4.50 (and up, depending on the account type) unless certain qualifications are met.|
|PenFed Credit Union||$5||0.45%||No monthly maintenance fee.|
|Marcus by Goldman Sachs||None||0.50%||No monthly maintenance fee.|
Overall, while these types of accounts don’t pull in the rates like they used to, they’re still a worthwhile avenue to store and safely grow your money.
Additional High-Interest-Earning Accounts That Can Help You Make More Money
On top of high-yield savings accounts, we found two other types of accounts that will help you bring in more money: rewards checking and debit-card-linked savings accounts.
You’ll need to meet a few requirements to qualify for these rates as well, but they’ll still give you more bang for your buck.
Rewards Checking Accounts
Rewards checking accounts pay higher interest rates (usually between 1.5%-4%) on your money up to a certain amount. For example, a bank or credit union might offer a 2% APY on accounts capped at $15,000.
Even though they pay higher interest rates, you usually won’t find rewards checking accounts on a typical list of the best checking accounts. They’re in a category of their own, and you can’t simply deposit your money and forget about it; these accounts require a little work and organization.
To take advantage of rewards checking accounts, you might be required to do any of the following:
- Have a minimum deposit to open the account.
- Keep a required minimum balance at all times.
- Pay a monthly maintenance fee.
- Hit a certain number of regular deposits or ACH transactions.
- Make a fixed number of debit card purchases per month.
- Opt into e-statements (paperless statements) or other agreements.
Your interest rates may fluctuate or plateau depending on the amount in your account, as well. But the maximum APY can be pretty significant — more than the current 0.03% average rate for checking accounts in 2021, anyway — so these accounts may be worth it.
For example, Solvay Bank in upstate New York offers 4% APY for its high-interest checking account. Here’s the deal:
- You must be a new customer.
- You must live in specified counties in the State of New York.
- You earn this rate for only 12 months.
- This rate is available on balances up to $15,000.
You must also follow certain guidelines during each monthly statement cycle:
- Enroll in and receive e-statements.
- Have at least one direct deposit or ACH transaction.
- Make at least 12 debit card purchases.
A minimum deposit of $15 is required, and there’s a $5 monthly maintenance fee for the account, though it can be waived.
It’s easy enough to click the button to enroll in e-statements, and once you set up direct deposit for your paycheck, it’s automatic. If you follow the rules, you can earn a cool $200 a year on a $5,000 balance.
Another example is Guardian Credit Union in Alabama, which offers 4% APY — on balances up to $30K. To qualify for the Guardian Ultimate Checking account, you’ll need to:
- Live, worship, go to school in or be retired or active Alabama Army or Air National Guard personnel in specified counties in Alabama.
- Have 15 posted “swipes” (purchases) a month.
- Enroll in e-statements.
- Have a minimum payroll deposit of $500 a month.
If you don’t meet the requirements (check the website for all of them), you won’t receive the perk — and you’ll also be hit with a $10 fee.
You can find a list of rewards checking accounts in your state along with current interest rates here.
Savings Accounts Linked to Prepaid Debit Cards
A prepaid debit card allows you to load money onto a card without needing a bank account. It can be a helpful budgeting or learning tool (some parents get them for their kids). Others may prefer using this financial service over a traditional bank account. However, these cards typically come with their own set of rules and fees.
Some prepaid debit cards come with savings accounts. Mango Financial is one such example — and you can earn up to 6.00% APY with Mango Savings.
Here’s an overview of how it works:
- First, you need to activate and load your Mango debit card.
- Then, you can open a savings account with $25.
- To qualify for the 6.00% APY, you’ll need signature purchases of $1,500 or more and a minimum balance of $25 at the end of the month.
Cardholders are entitled to up to six transfers each month. Also, you can only have one savings account with Mango. You can view a list of fees (for balance inquiries and ATM withdrawals, etc.) here.
Netspend is another prepaid debit card with a savings account option. You’ll have to load the card account and then transfer the money to the savings account. From there:
- You can earn up to 5.00% APY on $1,000 or less (the APY drops to 0.50% on any higher amount).
- You can set up an auto-save function to transfer money every time you load your Netspend card account with funds.
- You can transfer money from your savings account to your card up to six times per month.
Again, you want to be mindful of associated fees.
Frequently Asked Questions about High-Yield Savings Accounts
1. Can You Lose Money in a High-Yield Savings Account?
No. As long as your money is in an FDIC-insured high-yield savings account, it’s safe.
2. Are High-Yield Savings Accounts Worth It?
If you’re looking to save money and have semi-flexible access to it, all while earning a little more interest on it, then yes, a high-yield savings account is worth it. These accounts are ideal places to store an emergency fund, for example — a place where you can safely grow your money, yet access it (typically, via a debit card or transfer it to another bank account) relatively quickly when needed.
3. Where Can I Get 5% Interest on My Money?
High interest rates are harder to come by these days. Rates tend to fall between 0.10% and 1.00% APY. Your mileage — depending on where you live and how much you can put in a high-yield savings account — may vary. If you have a lot of money saved and are open to online-only high-yield savings accounts, then you might get more bang for your buck.
If you’re looking to make more on your money regardless of the account type, check out rewards checking accounts and savings accounts linked to prepaid debit cards for more options.
4. Which Bank Has the Highest Yield Savings Account?
Axos Bank, an online-only institution, offers a solid 0.61% APY. Another online bank, CIT Bank, has a 0.40% APY. If you’re looking for a more traditional, big-name bank, Citi offers 0.50% APY on your money.
Rates can change, so look around every now and then to see the latest, highest offers.
Earn More Interest on Your Accounts
Of course, it can be tricky to keep track of numerous accounts and their requirements (and to avoid fees). But, that’s just the way it is in this low-interest-rate environment.
Start with the accounts that have simple requirements and options for avoiding all fees.
You have to exercise your organizational skills to make some extra money on your high-yield savings accounts. But the end results can be worth it.
Steve Gillman and Kathleen Garvin are contributors to Codetic.