Only a few years ago, Internet savings accounts that paid 3.5% were a mouse click away. Now, you’re lucky if you can earn more than 1% on your savings -- unless you tie up your funds for five years. Online banks’ low overhead (they have no branches, after all) used to work to your advantage, but it no longer seems to matter. So you need to do your homework now more than ever to find the best parking place for your funds.
Start by checking out rates for both savings and money market deposit accounts (they are almost equal now) at www.bankrate.com or www.mybanktracker.com. Then go to www.checkingfinder.com to see what community banks and credit unions are offering (see The Credit Union Advantage). You may earn as much as 4% in a high-yield checking account if you agree to bank online and use your debit card ten to 12 times a month. (For help comparing your options, see How to Find a Local Bank.)
Some high-yielding accounts are available only to local customers. For example, Westfield Bank’s Dream Big Savings pays 1% and requires just $100 to open an account, but only Ohio residents are eligible. Amalgamated Bank, with branches in California, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., is offering a 1% yield on its Hardworking Money Market account to branch customers. OneWest Bank, in Southern California, restricts its tiered Personal Savings and Premium Money Market accounts, which pay up to 1% and 1.1%, respectively, to local residents. Branch customers in the Mid Atlantic region who deposit $10,000 in Capital One’s Simple Savings account earn the same 1.15% that the bank offers online.