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- Writer Eric Rosenberg looks for three things in a savings account: low fees, high interest rates, and a trustworthy bank.
- He’s found that high-yield savings accounts from Charles Schwab, Ally, and Capital One fit the bill perfectly.
- He spreads out his savings between the banks in order to maximize his earnings and to separate different types of savings.
As you progress through your financial journey and begin to focus less on budgeting and more on saving, you should see your savings account balance slowly begin to rise. After reaching your emergency fund goal, you shouldn’t just stop saving. But as your savings grow, you might find yourself growing out of your current bank or savings account.
I used to keep all of my savings at one bank, but these days I have them split up into three different ones. Here’s a look at the three savings accounts I use, why I use them, and what you should look at most carefully when choosing a bank account for your cash savings.
What to look for in a savings account
When picking a savings account, I look for three main features above all else. Those are fees, rates, and the ease of working with the underlying financial institution. Whether it is a traditional brick and mortar bank, an online-only bank, or a credit union, I look for the same three criteria.
For fees, I want to see none of them for regular activity. No minimum monthly balance, no monthly recurring fee, no annual fee, and no debit card fee. When I give a bank my money in a savings account, I know they are lending it out for mortgages, credit cards, and other loans that earn a big profit. I’m not going to pay fees for the privilege.
For interest rates, higher is better. I like accounts that offer rates well above what you’ll get from most traditional banks. Of the biggest banks in the US with branches dotted around the country, you’ll usually find an interest rate below 0.05%.
Some savings accounts pay a paltry 0.01%. You can’t get any lower without adding a digit – after the period! Many banks, however, pay well over 2% today. I know I’d rather get 200 times more. I wouldn’t settle for less.
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Finally, is it a bank or credit union I can trust? There are big banks out there with current penalties from the government for unsavory activities. I want a bank that cares about its customers, keeps my money and information safe, and makes online banking easy. When I add up those features, it leads me to a few top choices in the modern banking industry.
The 3 accounts I use for my money
I use three different accounts for my savings. There are a few reasons to do this, but for me it came down to chasing the best interest rates while keeping my money at banks I like that make online banking and transfers very fast and easy.
1. Charles Schwab Bank
I use Schwab as my primary bank. My Schwab checking account is the nerve center where all of my income goes in and all of my bills and expenses go out. I keep my basic emergency fund there because I can transfer into my checking instantly during business hours.
The savings account pays about 5 times the national average of .09% APY. If it paid more, I would probably keep all of my emergency savings there. But it doesn’t, so on to …
2. Ally Bank
The rest of my emergency fund lives at Ally Bank, which pays more than 20 times the national average interest rate. As a self-employed worker, I like to keep at least six to 12 months of expenses available in the reserves just in case. Ally meets all of my above criteria and is one of my favorite online banks.
3. Capital One Bank
I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with this bank for more than a decade. Way back before it was purchased by Capital One, I opened the old Orange Checking and Orange Savings accounts at ING Direct. This ultimately became the Capital One Bank that exists today.
My wife and I are saving to buy an investment property, and this is where we are keeping the down payment. It pays over 20 times the national average interest rate and is another of my very favorite online banks.
Make things easy, but not too easy
Outside of my quick access emergency savings at Schwab, I don’t want my savings to be too closely mingled with my checking and regular living funds. Even though I stick with a general spending plan each month, I wouldn’t want to tempt myself too much to overspend. Even us money experts get tempted once in a while!
With the right savings strategy, you will make the most for your money while avoiding losing any of it to fees. If you can do those things and you’re happy with the service you get from your bank or credit union, you’re doing things right.
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