I remember a time when the best online savings accounts paid annual yields of 4% to 5%.
Those days are long gone. LONG gone.
Thanks to the low-rate environment, it’s not a surprise that for the past several years, my clients have been griping about how their savings accounts pay next to nothing, even from the best high-interest banks.
As painful as the interest situation is, looking for a top savings account to stash away some cash for a future financial goal or an unexpected emergency should be part of your financial strategy. But it can be hard to get excited if you don’t feel like you are earning any interest on your money.
There are still plenty of online banks that offer excellent terms. Don’t let your money sit in a savings account that’s going to be eaten by annual fees. You shouldn’t have to pay to let your money sit.
The Top 10 Best Online Savings Accounts
|Compass Bank BBVA||Best Variety of Products||Open Account||CIT Bank Savings||Best Ongoing Interest Rates||Open Account|
|Ally Bank||Consistently High Rates||Open Account|
|USAA||Best For Military||Open Account|
|TIAA Bank||Great First-Year Interest Rates||Open Account|
|Capital One 360||Trustworthy||Open Account|
|Synchrony Bank||High Interest Rates||Open Account|
|Discover Bank||Best CD Rates||Open Account|
|American Express High-Yield Savings||Great Customer Service||Open Account|
|Digit.co||Newest Option||Open Account|
All the banks on my list are great places to stash your cash. Each can provide different benefits, covered below.
1. Compass Bank BBVA – Best Variety of Products
Compass Bank BBVA offers a wide variety of products and services, everything from small business loans to online savings accounts (because that’s why you are here right?). Read our full review.
Compass isn’t the most well known bank on our list; however, they are one of the top largest U.S. commercial banks based on deposit market share.
If you haven’t heard of Compass Bank BBVA, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the organization.
2. CIT Bank Savings – Best Ongoing Interest Rates
CIT Bank is a great choice if you are looking for a bank to store some of your cash for a rainy day. Read our full review.
CIT Bank is in the upper tier of interest rates and current ahead of just about everyone else. On top of their high interest rate, they also offer a bonus rate tier for customers that have more than $25,000 saved with them.
CIT is also great because of its easy deposits. You can fund your account or add additional deposits via easy online transfer from your current bank, mailing in a check, or wire transfer.
3. Ally Bank – Consistently High Interest Rates
Ally Bank was built on the premise of getting rid of all the crazy fees that normal banks charge while giving customers great rates and great customer service.
I mean, seriously? How can you not love that? A bank that is fighting to end banks gouging customers will get my vote every time.
Ally also offers a robust set of products ranging from checking and savings to CDs, IRAs and other investment options
4. USAA – Best for Military
*You must have a family member this is serving/has served in a branch of the military.
Aside from being an exceptionally reputable organization, as an online savings account, USAA offers several unique benefits that the other banks on this list don’t. You can get a HUGE variety of different products with USAA. They offer just about any financial or insurance product you could ever need, and having all of your account and product in one place is an impressive advantage.
Here’s what you get with a USAA online savings account:
- Free access to virtually any ATM. No fees for withdrawals at more than 60,000 “USAA-preferred” ATMs. They will also refund you the fees of any ATM that isn’t one of the preferred machines.
- Low initial deposit. Similar to some of the other accounts, USAA does require an initial deposit, but it’s only $25.
- No fees. With a USAA savings account, you will not have any service fees or any fees if you transfer money to another bank.
If you have a family member that has ever served in the military, it’s worth checking out an online savings account with USAA.
5. TIAA Bank – Great First Year Interest Rates
TIAA Bank is one of the longest standing online banks and consistently has some of the best introductory interest rates. Currently their money market account is offering 2.15% for the first year. This gives them one of the strongest savings rates in the industry.
Here’s what you get with a TIAA online high-yield savings account:
- $5,000 minimum initial deposit
- No monthly fees
- Basic savings, CDs and Checking accounts available
If you are looking for a solution to get competitive one year interest rates then TIAA Bank will be a good option for your needs.
6. Capital One 360 Savings Account – Trustworthy
I’ve had an account with Capital One 360 Savings longer than I have with Ally. That’s because Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) was one of the first reputable online banks to exist. Capital One 360 is easy to use, secure, and you can connect your account to your other accounts, including your Capital One Investing account.
Here’s what you get with Capital One 360:
- Extremely competitive interest rates.
- No minimums. Like Ally, you won’t be hit with any minimum balance fees and you can open an account with as little as $1.
- Easy deposit options. Opening an account is easy — you just link a checking account from another institution like you would with any other bank.
- Easy access and management. Capital One 360’s user interface is one of the best around. One of the unique things Capital One 360 offers is “sub-accounts” where you can open up mini-accounts to hold your saving goal money. So you can have a main Savings Account, but have mini-accounts for Vacation Fund, Emergency Fund, and so on.
- Other account options. They offer a robust set of accounts ranging from checking to savings to CDs, mortgages, and investing.
7. Synchrony Bank – High Interest Rates
Synchrony has gotten very competitive in offering the some of the highest interest rates for deposits. They do not offer as many products as many of the other online banks, but they put their focus on what they are good at — vehicles for saving. Read our full review.
Here’s what you get with a Synchrony high yield online savings account:
- High interest. Synchrony is dedicated to being competitive on interest rates to attract new clients.
- Low minimums. $30 to open an account, $30 minimim balance to avoid a $5 monthly fee.
- Easy access. Many of the online banks only let you do transfers. Synchrony also has a debit card option to make accessing your cash easier.
8. Discover Bank – Best CD Rates
Discover moved into the banking business a few years ago. Their rates are competitive with other online products, and one to include in your search for a top savings account. I also really like Discover’s online CD. See our article on today’s best CD rates.
Here’s what you get with Discover Bank’s Online Savings account:
- Competitive interest rates. To attract customers, Discover often has some of the highest interest rates available.
- Multiple account options. You can start with a savings account and expand to an online certificate of deposit, IRA CDs, or a money market account.
- Low minimums. This is the only place that you might downgrade Discover on a bit. The other institutions listed require no minimum or a super low deposit to open an account. Discover requires a $500 minimum deposit. However, there are still no minimum balance requirements or fees for going below $500, so it isn’t much to worry about once you get your account open.
9. American Express High-Yield Savings Account
Just like Discover, American Express, the credit card company that offers fantastic cash back now has a banking arm that offers great interest on your account.
Rates are currently very competitive with some of the larger, well known online banks. Account access is not as sophisticated as you see with other banks, but you don’t need that sophistication if you are just looking for a solid place to keep some of your cash. If American Express Savings offered a full suite of financial products like mortgages and checking accounts on top of the savings account and CD, I would be more concerned about the website. But this is a pretty basic product: deposit money, earn interest, watch it grow.
AMEX also has a 36-month CD that you can drop your money into to earn a slightly higher rate of return. However, the difference is so small that I can’t recommend locking your funds up for 3 years.
Here’s what you get with AMEX’s High Yield Savings Account:
- Great interest. To attract customers, American Express often has some of the highest interest rates available.
- Simple options. You have two account options: high-yield savings and certificate of deposit. Two simple choices rather than an array of confusing options.
- No minimums. You don’t have a minimum balance requirement, and you don’t get hit with a fee for letting your balance get too low.
Whichever way you go, you’ll end up with American Express’ renowned customer service to back you up. You probably won’t need it, but it is always nice to know it is there.
10. Digit.co – A New Option
Another interesting savings option is Digit.co.
This is a bank that uses an algorithm to determine how much money to transfer from your checking account into savings every few days. By tracking your income and spending habits, Digit.co can determine how much extra money should be going into savings.
Digit promises that its automatic transfers won’t overdraw your account. The interest paid is very small, but it does exist. This is an account for people who want to save without needing to think about it.
Getting access to your money is easy; it’s all done through text. You text simple commands to change how much you save, to check your balance, and to withdraw to your own account.
Most of the time, once you text that you want to withdraw, the money is there in the next day or two. This is a great account for saving up for a night out each month, or for other entertainment.
Why you need a savings account
With so many options for storing your money and the low-interest rates, a lot of my clients ask, “why do I even need a savings account?” and honestly, that’s a great question.
The first reason is the obvious one – you get a slightly higher interest rate, and earning a little interest is better than no interest, right? But the interest you earn isn’t the only reason to find a good online savings account.
The other reason is a little more obvious, it forces you to save that money. Federal regulations limit the number of times that you can withdraw money from your account. If you can’t keep taking money out of the account, it’s going to encourage you to save. There are hundreds of thousands of places that you can open up a savings accounts, but all of them basically break down to three categories, traditional savings account, online savings account, and kids savings account. Many of these also offer a money market. If the MMA account offers a higher interest rate then we will list that instead of the savings account option.
What to Look for in a top Savings Account
There’s no need to let your money sit in an account that doesn’t pay any interest at all. That’s one of the worst things you can do with your money because the value of your money will slowly go down due to inflation. You need to generate some interest to combat inflation just to maintain the spending power of the money you have. However, even a high yield savings account is unlikely to beat inflation.
Then again interest isn’t everything. There are other considerations as well when choosing from among the top savings accounts.
Interest – High Yield
For me, interest comes first. Generating interest helps protect your money from inflation. Even if inflation is really low, getting some small interest on the side will help you bolster your account over time. Interest isn’t the only important factor, but it never hurts to have someone paying you to store your cash with them.
Don’t get too caught up in chasing yields, however. Most of the time, the difference between accounts isn’t enough to prompt you to move your money every time a bank comes out with a newer, higher yield.
Having great customer service is another key aspect of a great savings account. If you earn a little bit more interest at one bank but the customer service is awful you will probably regret it. I like to stick to firms that have solid reputations or that I’ve had previous experience with.
The accounts on this list all offer good customer service and a good user experience.
You want easy access to your funds. If you have to jump through a lot of hoops to pull money out of your emergency fund during an unexpected setback, it defeats the purpose. Other considerations when you look at savings account access:
Do you have to go to a physical branch? Or can you transfer funds online using your smartphone? What about ATM access? Can you withdraw money at ATMs across the country for free, or at least get reimbursed for the fees you do pay? Access can be a tiebreaker when you are comparing two very similar banks.
Understand the Purpose of Your Savings Account
Saving for future purchases and expenses is one of the best things you can do to stabilize your financial situation. Rather than using credit spending (and winding up in debt if you don’t pay off the balance each month), identifying your spending goals and saving up can help you buy the things you want — without ruining your financial future.
You should also understand that keeping an emergency fund available for a rainy day can be a good idea. What happens when the car needs repairs or you need to replace the dryer? An emergency fund can protect you from the need to borrow in order to meet these unexpected expenses.
While a high-yield account would be nice, it’s important to recognize that your savings account isn’t meant to help you build wealth so you can fund your retirement (learn more about investing for retirement through a Roth IRA). Rather than expecting high yields from your savings account, here’s how to think about it:
One of the biggest advantages of a savings account is the liquidity. Because it’s cash, it’s instantly available for you to use. You don’t have to sell shares and what for the proceeds of the sale, or jump through hoops to get your money. It’s available immediately.
This is what makes a savings account ideal for an emergency fund. You know you can get to the money immediately if you need it. The liquidity also makes it great for access your money for a short-term savings goal. You know that you will be able to pay with your savings account when you need to, or you can use the money to instantly pay off your credit card after you’ve used it to book your vacation (and earn the points).
The other reason to incorporate a savings account into your financial strategy is so that you can keep the money safe. You don’t have to worry about losing your vacation money in the stock market when you keep it in a savings account. You know the money is there when you need it for an emergency with your savings account. Plus, if your account is with a federally insured institution, you don’t have to worry about losing your money if the bank fails.
Stop thinking of your savings account as a place to help you grow your wealth, and instead think of it as a way for you to protect your assets and keep your long-term financial situation from deteriorating due to debt. You can also think of your savings account as a way to help you save for short-term goals. As long as you incorporate a savings strategy along with an investing strategy that allows you to build wealth over time, you should have a balanced approach to your overall financial plan.
Whether you are saving up an emergency fund or just preparing to spend money on a nice vacation next year, you need a great savings account to hold your money. Here are my favorite places to wring as much yield as possible out of your savings account.
Types of savings accounts
There are a few different types of savings accounts, but don’t worry, the main idea is still the same.
Bank Savings Accounts
This is the traditional idea of a savings account at a physical bank. You can walk into any local branch of a bank and open up one of these savings accounts. Normally, these accounts have maintenance fees and low-interest rates.
Online Savings Accounts
These accounts work almost identical to a traditional savings account except you manage the whole account strictly online. In most cases online savings accounts offer slightly better interest rates because they have lower overhead costs.
Savings Account for the Kids
Maybe you want to open up a savings account for your kids, that’s a very good idea! Some banks have savings accounts specifically designed for kids, but don’t’ worry, you’ll have control over the account. It’s a great way to teach your children about managing money.