Most regular bank checking and savings accounts offer security—and not much else. Interest rates on FDIC-insured instruments remain at all-time lows. Still, for those who want quick and easy access to funds for a major purchase, vacation or an emergency, bank-based accounts can be invaluable. With diligence and a little research, reasonably acceptable interest rates can be found.
Use Compound Interest
To grow your savings when interest rates are low, compounding is a must. Do not consider any account that doesn’t offer compound interest—period. Compounding simply means the interest earned is added to the principal with interest paid on that amount as well. Compounding can take place annually, quarterly, monthly or daily. All things being equal, more frequent compounding is best.
Replacing a standard checking account (which may charge a maintenance fee and offer no interest) with a high-yield reward checking account (often free with a yield of up to 5 percent) can help increase return on an account you use all the time. High-yield checking accounts typically pay their highest rate on the first $10,000 to $15,000 you deposit, with a much lower rate on anything over the cap.
If your local brick-and-mortar bank pays any interest on passbook savings accounts, it will likely be pathetically low. According to the FDIC, the average savings account rate is 0.06 percent. Instead, seek a savings account on the internet. Online banks don’t have the overhead of their brick-and-mortar brethren and pass the savings (literally) on to you. Interest rates of up to 1.4 percent with no minimum balance and no maintenance fees are available.
Money Market Account
A money market account is like a regular savings account, but it pays slightly higher interest rates—up to 1.5 percent currently. Typically, a minimum deposit and minimum balance are required. A money market account also limits how often you can withdraw or transfer funds, so it should be used for infrequent transactions.
Certificates of Deposit
Certificates of deposit (CDs) require you to commit to leaving your savings in the account for a set period. The longer you agree to keep the funds untouched, the higher the interest rate. If you take money out before the CD matures, you pay a penalty. CDs are available in terms from six months to five years, with annual percentage yields of up to 2.45 percent.
Things can get complicated quickly if you constantly open and close savings accounts in pursuit of the highest available yield. A better tactic might be to leave old accounts in place and open a new one when a higher rate at another bank pops up. If you don’t overdo it and find yourself opening more accounts than you can track, this will also provide protection in the event of another financial crisis.
Save Long Term
The longer you leave your money in the bank, the more interest you will earn. Some people follow a “30-day rule” when considering tapping into savings. The 30-day rule requires you wait that long before making a major purchase to ensure that it’s something you really (not sort of) need.
A tried-but-true axiom of saving is to “pay yourself first.” When money comes in, make sure savings are deposited right away. Payroll deduction or another automated savings tool will guarantee that you stick to your savings plan, allowing that compounding machine to run smoothly and efficiently.
Another tactic to increase savings is to set aside (do not spend) your annual raise (or a portion of it) in addition to what you’ve been saving already. The same could apply to commissions and bonuses. This requires discipline when it comes to spending, or you run the risk of running out of money before you run out of month.
Round Up and Save
Bank of America’s “Keep the Change” program lets you automatically round up purchases to the nearest dollar and transfer the “change” into your savings account. Apps such as Acorns, Digit, Chime and others do the same thing. Some even add reminders to deposit money into your savings account. Each of these tactics is a variation on the age-old practice of emptying your pockets at the end of the day and putting coins in a piggy bank or jar.
Consistency and Time
Getting the most out of saving cash involves finding the best savings vehicle(s) for you, then following commonsense rules for putting away money on a regular, long-term basis. Compounding favors both consistency and the passage of time. Your ultimate reward will come in the form of peace of mind and a sizable savings account balance.