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Whether you’re saving for a specific goal or creating an emergency fund, building your savings takes hard work. But with a high-yield savings account, you can make your money work for you.
Although savings account rates have been low across the board since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the national average currently sitting at 0.06%, many online banks offer high-yield savings accounts with rates up to 10 times that of the national average. And, with economic recovery on the horizon, savings accounts are poised to once again be a great deal in the near future.
Here’s a rundown of some of the best savings rates on the market today and details you should know before choosing an online savings account.
NextAdvisor’s Guide to Choosing the Best Savings Account and Rate
- Best Savings Rate Details
- How to Find the Best Online Savings Account
- Online Savings Account Terminology
- What Is a Savings Account?
- What are the Different Types of Savings Accounts?
- How are Online Savings Accounts and Traditional Savings Accounts Different?
- How Online Savings Accounts Work
- When Should You Use an Online Savings Account?
- Pros and Cons of Online Savings
- Other High-Yield Savings Options
- How Savings Account Interest Rates Change Over Time
- Savings Account FAQs
How We Chose These Banks
This list does not represent the entire market. To rank the high-yield savings accounts you’re most likely to be considering, we began by analyzing 32 of the most commonly reviewed and searched-for high-yield savings accounts, as well as the top 25 commercial U.S. banks.
Then, we eliminated any accounts that charge a monthly maintenance fee or require a minimum opening deposit of more than $10. With so many banks offering good APYs on high-yield online savings accounts, we think most people can and should stick to banks that don’t charge monthly service fees.
We eliminated any banks offering rates of less than 0.60%, a reasonable benchmark given current low interest rates. However, high-yield savings accounts offered by the biggest 25 commercial banks remain on the list, even if their rate falls below 0.60%. Due to their size and physical branch networks, these institutions can provide additional accessibility and familiarity, which makes a difference for some customers.
Finally, we made sure all of the institutions offering these accounts are FDIC insured, which gives greater security to your funds in the unlikely event of a bank failure.
The APYs shown above are as of May 24, 2021. They are the APYs available for the smallest balance and/or opening deposit possible. The NextAdvisor editorial team updates this information regularly, though it is possible APYs have changed since they were last updated. Also, some APYs may vary based on where you live.
NextAdvisor’s Picks: Best Savings Accounts in May 2021
Prime Alliance Bank
Prime Alliance Bank began in 2004. It’s based in Utah but open to online consumers nationwide, and its full-service deposit account offerings include checking, savings, money market accounts, and CDs. Prime Alliance has one branch in Utah, but personal savings account customers are served via online or mobile banking.
American Express National Bank
American Express’ consumer banking branch offers high-yield online savings and CD options with good rates for savers. Though it doesn’t offer ATM access, you can easily link multiple accounts with different banks to your American Express savings for transfers. American Express has no mobile app to access your online banking account information; the American Express mobile app features are for credit cardholders only.
Ally Bank is one of the most popular online banking options on the market, with products ranging from checking, savings, money market accounts, CDs, and more. If you’re comfortable with online-only banking, Ally’s portfolio of products could suit all your banking needs and help you earn some of the best available interest. Just keep in mind that you won’t be able to deposit cash since the bank has no physical branches.
One thing we like
Ally has a robust online and mobile app experience, so you can organize and maximize your savings as well as make transfers and access account information easily.
Marcus by Goldman Sachs
Marcus is the online consumer banking division of Goldman Sachs, and frequently qualifies among the top interest offers for its high-yield savings and CD products. Marcus also offers personal loans. Marcus introduced a mobile app in 2020 which has standard features such as viewing account activity and making transfers, and also offers a tool to visualize your savings over time. Marcus doesn’t currently offer a checking option, but it can complete same-day transfers of less than $100,000 to other banks.
HSBC Direct is global bank HSBC’s online banking option, and has checking accounts, savings, and CDs among its product offerings. While it doesn’t offer ATM or debit card access for direct savings, HSBC Direct online banking customers have the option to make deposits and withdrawals at HSBC Bank locations. Be careful if you already bank with HSBC Bank; your online savings deposit at account opening must be made with “new money,” meaning you cannot transfer your balance from another HSBC account.
Capital One’s online banking division builds upon its credit card offerings with CDs, checking, and savings accounts, including the 360 Performance Savings. Along with its full product suite, Capital One has branch locations throughout the U.S. in addition to its Capital One Cafés.
One thing we like
If you’re not quite ready to commit to an online-only bank, Capital One’s Performance 360 account may be a good way to venture into online banking.
How to Find the Best Online Savings Account
Finding a competitive interest rate and terms that agree with your financial plan are important aspects of choosing a savings account. But there are a few more important details you should confirm about any new savings account you’re considering:
First, always make sure your account is insured by the FDIC or NCUA and your savings total complies with insurance limits and guidelines set by those organizations (any amount up to $250,000 should be protected).
Also familiarize yourself with any monthly maintenance fees that may eat away at your interest earnings. Do your research into the fine print of your account’s terms so you can do your best to avoid fees as much as possible.
Finally, look into other benefits that may help you get the most out of your account, such as new account bonuses, ease of withdrawals and transfers, balance requirements, and of course APY.
Online Savings Account Terminology You Should Know
- Annual percentage yield (APY): The amount of interest your account earns over the course of a year. This percentage is calculated using the account’s interest rate and how often interest compounds annually.
- Compound interest: The amount you can earn on both your principal, or the money you put directly into your account, and on interest as it accumulates. As you earn interest, it’s added to your principal and itself earns interest the next time interest accrues. Many savings accounts compound interest monthly.
- Minimum required deposit: Some banks require a minimum deposit to open an account. There may be a time limit in which to deposit, so make sure you have the minimum up front before opening your account.
- Minimum required balance: Some banks may also set a minimum threshold at which your account balance must remain. If you fall below this minimum, you may be charged a fee or take on a lower interest rate.
What Is a Savings Account?
Savings accounts are secure accounts in which you can store your money. They may be offered by large, brick-and-mortar institutions or smaller online banks.
You can use a savings account (or multiple accounts) to save money toward future purchases or to put money away in case of emergency. Savings accounts usually offer some amount of interest earned on your balance, so your money can grow over time, and they’re also relatively liquid, meaning you can move money in and out easily.
What are the Different Types of Savings Accounts?
- Traditional savings accounts: You’ll typically find these accounts at standard brick-and-mortar financial institutions. Traditional savings accounts are convenient if you already have a relationship with the bank, but you’ll earn very little interest on your savings. The current national average interest rate on these accounts is just 0.05%.
- High-yield savings accounts: These accounts can be slightly less convenient than traditional savings — they’re most often found at online banks or online-only branches or larger banking brands — but offer much more interest value. Though they’re not as competitive in today’s low interest rate environment, accounts with some of the highest yields today still offer more than 10x the average traditional savings account.
How are Online Savings Accounts and Traditional Savings Accounts Different?
There are two main differences between an online savings account and a traditional savings account: access and interest rates.
You can typically open a traditional savings account with a brick-and-mortar bank or credit union, so it’s easy to go into a bank branch and withdraw, transfer, or deposit funds as you need. Most online banks have no in-person branches, so you’ll need to conduct all of your account activity online or via mobile app.
But because they save money on overhead costs associated with bank branches, online banks can pass along their savings to customers as higher interest. As a result, online savings accounts generally offer much higher yields on savings than traditional savings accounts.
Another big difference between these accounts is fees. In most cases, it’s easy to avoid fees with online savings accounts (and they often charge no monthly fees at all), while traditional savings accounts may charge several different fees if you don’t meet certain account requirements or minimums.
How Online Savings Accounts Work
Savings accounts are secure accounts in which you can store your money. They may be offered by large, brick-and-mortar institutions or smaller online banks.
Savings accounts usually offer some amount of interest earned on your balance, so your money can grow over time, and they’re also relatively liquid, meaning you can move money in and out easily.
Because they don’t have physical locations and other costly expenses, you’ll generally find the best interest rates with online banks. But you’re less likely to have access to an in-person branch or representative.
Unlike checking accounts, you shouldn’t rely on your savings account to make regular transactions. Savings accounts generally limit withdrawals and transfer out of the account to no more than six per month.
In addition to making these transfers online, many banks offer ATM access for savings account withdrawals. Money market accounts, which are a type of savings account, usually even offer check-writing abilities or debit card access.
When Should You Use an Online Savings Account?
Online high-yield savings accounts are great outlets to store any cash you don’t need immediate access to (keep that in your checking account) and aren’t investing for the long-term (stow that in a retirement fund or brokerage account).
Because high-yield savings accounts are highly liquid, they’re suitable for a range of savings needs. You may even choose to open multiple accounts for different purposes.
A high-yield savings account can hold everything from your emergency savings fund to the money you’re putting aside for a future down payment. You can open a savings account to make contributions toward next year’s vacation or a big-ticket item you’ve had your eye on. It can even be a space to stash any extra cash you’d like to keep safe and earn a few dollars on in interest.
Previously, CDs or money market accounts may have been better options for longer-term, non-retirement savings because of higher interest potential, but in the current low rate environment, high-yield savings offer similar if not better APYs. For most savers today, a flexible, secure, high-interest online savings account is likely the best option for the majority of your savings needs.
How much money should you keep in your savings account?
Only you can properly judge the amount you feel most secure having stashed away in savings.
When it comes to emergency funds, experts typically recommend keeping three to six months worth of expenses in an accessible, interest-earning account. However, after the pandemic-induced recession and resulting financial uncertainty, many experts have tweaked their recommendations—now, you’ll find advice ranging 6 months, 8 months, 12 months, and even more than one year’s worth of expenses.
Your emergency savings should be reserved for times of financial hardship, such as job loss or furlough, or unexpected expenses that occasionally arise—such as medical bills and home repairs. Look back at your expense history over the past several months and consider how secure you feel in your current financial situation to help you determine the savings total that makes most sense for you.
What are the Typical Fees Associated with a Savings Account?
Lack of fees from online savings accounts can be a major benefit for savers unable to meet minimum balance or deposit requirements. When you’re looking for a new savings account, here are some fees to look out for:
- Monthly maintenance fees: Monthly fees are standard among traditional savings accounts, and typically cost a few dollars each month. You may be able to waive monthly maintenance fees by maintaining a minimum daily balance or setting up automatic transfers/deposits. They are much less common among online banks, and none of our picks for best savings accounts charge a monthly maintenance fee.
- Withdrawal fee: Some banks charge a fee if you go over the monthly withdrawal limit. Check your limit in your account’s fine print and track your monthly withdrawals and outgoing transfers to ensure you’re not charged.
- Paper statement fee: You may be charged a fee to receive your monthly savings statement via mail. If your bank charges a paper statement fee, you can opt out and receive your statement electronically to avoid the cost.
Pros and Cons of Online Savings
Highly liquid and easily accessible
Competitive interest rates
No risk (choose an FDIC-insured account to secure up to $250,000 in savings)
Low or no minimum deposit or balance requirements
Low or no monthly fees
Rates are variable and can quickly fluctuate, like we’ve seen over the past year
CDs or money market accounts may offer higher interest rates (though they’re largely comparable in today’s low rate environment)
Some banks may limit the number of withdrawals allowed each month
Some accounts have certain requirements to earn advertised APY
Other High-Yield Savings Options
In addition to high-yield savings accounts, two comparable high-yield savings options include money market accounts and CDs.
Money market accounts can offer even more liquidity than savings accounts, since they typically come with check-writing or debit card access for withdrawals. In years past, when interest rates were higher overall, a major perk of opening a money market account was the opportunity to earn a more competitive yield than savings accounts offered. Today, though, the difference in APY between money market accounts and high-yield savings is marginal. Money market accounts often have higher minimum balance requirements and can charge higher fees, which limits the pool of savers who they make sense for.
Certificates of deposit, or CDs, are generally not as liquid as a high-yield savings account, but they can offer higher interest rates. To open a CD, you must agree to deposit a principal sum into the account at a fixed rate for a fixed term (six months, one year, five years, etc.). When that term reaches maturity, you’ll receive both your principal and the interest earned. But if you withdraw your money before maturity, you’ll face an early withdrawal penalty.
Historically, CDs offered the best interest rates among high-yield deposit accounts: in exchange for locking up your money with the bank, you earned more over time. But as rates have fallen, and especially following the Fed’s rate cut in response to the coronavirus pandemic, APYs for both short- and even long-term CDs now look similar to those offered by both money market and high-yield savings accounts.
How Savings Account Interest Rates Change Over Time
Savings rates are closely tied to the federal funds rate set by the Federal Reserve, but individual banks decide for themselves when to make changes to their variable interest rates. That means the rate at which you open your account is not the guaranteed amount you’ll earn over time. However, you shouldn’t necessarily anticipate your APY changing weekly or even monthly. Savings account rates generally remain steady for a few months at a time.
Rarely, changes may occur more rapidly, such as following the Fed’s emergency decision to lower rates to near zero at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Many banks also make changes to their interest rates around the same time, so if you have multiple accounts and one makes an interest rate change, don’t be surprised if another follows suit soon after.
Savings Account Frequently Asked Questions
Why do online banks pay more interest?
Because they have no bank branches, online banks have fewer overhead expenses than brick-and-mortar financial institutions. As a result, these banks can pass along those savings to customers (and add incentive for new customers) in the form of higher interest rates and lower fees.
Do I have to pay taxes on my savings account?
You don’t have to pay taxes on the money you deposit into your savings account, but the interest you earn on your balance is taxable. Before tax season begins, your bank will issue a Form 1099-INT, which you can use to report any interest you earned throughout the year on your tax return.
How many savings accounts should you have?
The number of savings accounts you have will depend on your savings goals and how many accounts you’re able to maintain. You should have at least one account for your emergency savings. But you may choose to keep savings for different purposes in separate accounts (emergency savings and money you’re saving for a wedding, for example). Multiple accounts can help distinguish savings goals so you don’t spend money saved for one purpose on another.
Can I make payments and purchases from my savings account?
In general, you cannot make purchases directly from your savings account. In some cases, you may be able to set up direct debits from your savings account. But in most cases, if you wish to use your savings to make a purchase, you should withdraw the money or transfer it to another account (like your checking account) where you can use a check or debit card to transact.
Can you lose money in a high yield savings account?
There is no risk associated with a high yield savings account; you can withdraw your full deposited savings at any time. As long as you choose an account with a bank that’s FDIC-insured, you can deposit up to $250,000 without worrying about losing it, even if the bank closes.