I opened high-yield savings accounts two different banks to start earning 20 times more on my money, and I can tell you they live up to the hype
- It took me until later into my life than I'd like to admit to jump on the savings account train, but once I did, I pushed ahead full-throttle.
- I opened a high-yield savings account last year, and I've already earned $250 in interest in 2019.
- My favorite things about high-yield savings accounts, apart from the high interest rates, are the fact that they're completely free and can be opened online within minutes.
When I first set serious savings goals for myself, high-yield savings accounts were just starting to get more attention. As interest rates crept higher and higher, I noticed more people recommending them online. So I decided to give them a try.
Over the past year, I've used two different high-yield savings accounts to build up my savings. Here's my take.
They are truly free
If you're wary about banks that claim their accounts are "free," you have good reason to be. It's hard to find a bank account at a traditional brick-and-mortar bank. Even if you can find one that will waive the monthly fee, you'll usually get slapped with a charge if your balance falls below a certain amount.
However, with most of the new online banks that offer high-yield savings accounts, they are truly free. I've used Ally Bank's High-Yield Savings Account for the longest amount of time, and I've never paid a single fee, regardless of my balance. It's free to open and there are no monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements. In fact, the minimum opening deposit is $0.
You can open one online in minutes
It took me less than five minutes to open a high-yield savings account with Ally Bank, and about the same amount of time to open the new savings account offered by Betterment. I did it all online and essentially just had to fill out a form with some basic information.
It does usually take me a few days to fund the account, though. Some banks can be connected to your account instantly, but it took a day to verify my credit union checking account before I could link it to my new savings account. After that, it took five days, over a weekend, for the money I transferred from my checking account to actually show up in my savings account. Still, the process is incredibly easy, especially when compared to opening an account in person at a traditional bank.
Customer service is good, but you can't visit in person
I've never had an issue with my high-yield savings accounts, which is a good thing. That also means that I've never had to deal with customer service. That being said, I've heard that online banks like Ally often have better customer service than brick-and-mortar banks because they offer 24/7 support. Also, you have several options when it comes to contacting customer service: over the phone, by email, or through a live chat service.
Being the millennial that I am, I love not having to go anywhere or even speak with a real person in order to solve my customer service concerns. Live chat is easily my favorite way to handle any issues that come up. If you're the type of person who really likes to deal with your problems in person, though, you won't have that option with an online bank.
Right now, rates are some of the highest they've ever been
As high-yield savings accounts grow in popularity, dozens of online banks are competing to offer the best rate. Most of these accounts offer interest rates that are about 20 times higher than the national average.
For example, Ally currently offers a 1.90% APY, while a savings account from Chase Bank only offers 0.01%, and it comes with fees. Betterment's new savings account offers a 2.44% APY to customers who sign up for the waitlist for their free checking account (otherwise the APY is 2.19%). When Betterment opened its account, however - before the Fed cut interest rates in July - it was offering a 2.69% APY to customers who joined the waitlist, and I was so impressed I opened an account and transferred my savings over to Betterment from Ally.
These returns are nothing compared to a long-term investment strategy, but for your short-term savings, it's free money and a great motivator to save more. I've already earned $250 in interest since the beginning of 2019.
They're not always the best option for your savings goals
There are other options for short-term and mid-term savings goals that sometimes offer better returns. For example, certificates of deposit (CDs) and money market accounts may offer better interest rates than savings accounts, although the former requires you to lock your money up for a certain period of time. That being said, interest rates on high-yield savings accounts are so high right now that most money market accounts and CDs can't compete unless you're willing to lock your money up in a 3-year or 5-year CD.
If you've got a longer time horizon on your money, then it might be worth considering short-term investment strategies over a high-yield savings account.
However, for short-term savings goals, and particularly for emergency savings funds, I love my high-yield savings accounts. Between the lack of fees, ease of use, and super-sized interest rates, it definitely lives up to the hype.
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