Robo-advisor Wealthfront now offers a new high-yield savings account with a minimum deposit of $1 - here's how it stacks up
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- The name might throw you off, but Wealthfront's new Cash Account is yet another high-yield savings account - competition in this field is leading to higher interest rates and lower fees, so now's the time to jump onboard.
- With a 2.24% APY, Wealthfront's new Cash Account finishes ahead of the pack when it comes to giving you the highest returns for your money.
- The account is fee-free and requires a minimum opening deposit of $1, making it accessible to all savers.
- High-yield savings accounts with no fees are the way to go for your short-term savings and emergency fund. Mine has already earned me $70 in interest over just three months.
It took me longer into adulthood than I'd like to admit to finally build a habit of saving money, but once I did, it really stuck. While I'd love to tell you that I went budget crazy and tracked every last penny I spent, the truth of how I boosted my savings is actually much simpler: automatic deposits and high interest rates.
I opened a savings account with an online bank that offers high interest rates and no fees, and I set up automatic deposits into that account from my paycheck. This means the money I intend to save never even makes it to my checking account, making it impossible for me to spend it impulsively.
The savings account I opened also earns a 2.20% interest rate, which is far higher than the 0.01% rate my old bank offered. At my old bank, my monthly deposits for interest earnings were actual pennies. With my new high-yield account, I get upwards of $30 deposited into my account every month. Sure, I'm not going to retire early on the returns from my savings account, but getting a bonus each month for growing my savings encourages me to keep going.
Thanks to the popularity of online banks like Marcus and Ally and high-yield savings accounts, new options are cropping up everywhere and competition is driving up rates and pushing fees down to zero. Wealthfront, one of the most popular "robo-advisors" - online applications that automate investing to make it easy and more accessible - is the latest company to jump on the high-yield-savings bandwagon.
While they don't call it a high-yield savings account, Wealthfront's new Cash Account is pretty much identical to its competitors in that arena - and actually, it might be leading the pack when it comes to helping you make the most of your money.
How does Wealthfront's new Cash Account work?
The name "Cash Account" might be confusing to some, but this is essentially a high-yield savings account. That means you can transfer money in and out of the account for free whenever you want, and you'll get some of the highest rates available on savings accounts, which can really make a difference when you're trying to build up your savings.
You won't have to pay any fees with this account either, regardless of your balance, and you only need to deposit $1 to get started.
I'm a big advocate of high-yield savings accounts. I recently switched from a traditional bank to a high-yield savings account with a popular online bank, and I've already made $70 in interest since opening the account three months ago. Seeing that money deposited in my account feels like receiving a reward. Building in rewards for saving money can actually rewire your brain to build new savings habits.
Wealthfront uses the language of "self-driving money" to describe their hopes for what this account will contribute to the financial world, which is really just a fun way of saying that it will help you automate your finances.
Lots of companies in the relatively new, but wildly successful fintech (financial technology) industry are doing this. New online banks offer fee-free checking and savings accounts that can be set up in minutes, and they can even be configured to split up direct deposits from your employer between various checking and savings accounts. Mobile banking makes it easy to automate bill payments and the repayment of debt. Finally, robo-advisors (of which Wealthfront is one) even automate your investments for you.
This self-driving money revolution is essentially taking what wealthy folks always had in the form of spendy financial planners - the ability to "set it and forget it" with their money and still experience good returns - and making that available to the masses.
The Cash Account is currently open to Wealthfront-investing members, but it will soon be available to everyone. You can sign up on their website to be put on their waitlist, and you'll be notified when you can open an account.
The best features of Wealthfront's Cash Account
Rate hunters might be tempted to join Wealthfront when they see this account's APY - 2.24% is higher than just about any other fee-free savings accounts out there, including those high-yield accounts from other online banks.
This account is truly fee-free, which is a must as monthly service fees - even when you can waive them by maintaining a minimum daily balance - can end up eating into your savings and canceling out any interest you earn. This account is suitable for seasoned savers and folks who are just getting started since you only have to maintain a minimum balance of $1 in order to open an account and earn interest.
Finally, the Cash Account is insured by the FDIC on up to $1 million per account holder, which is significantly higher than the usual $250,000 limit at many other banks.
Unfortunately, if you aren't already a client of Wealthfront, you can't open a Cash Account quite yet. However, this account will be open to the general public in the coming months, and you can put your name on a waiting list in the meantime.
Wealthfront isn't your traditional brick-and-mortar bank. In fact, they're an online-only investment service that is expanding into new services with their Cash Account. You don't have to worry about your money - online banks have been around for a while now, and as long as they're FDIC-insured, they're safe. But people who prefer to do their banking in person or aren't yet comfortable with online banking might prefer to bank elsewhere.
Some savings accounts come with an ATM card so that you can easily access your funds in case of an emergency. Wealthfront's Cash Account does not, and since they don't offer any checking account options, the only way to withdraw your money is by transferring it to an outside bank account. It will be at least one to three days before you receive your money, and it can take even longer if you're transferring the funds to a bank account that hasn't been previously verified and linked to your Cash Account.
Personally, I like having a savings account that doesn't offer immediate access to my funds as it discourages me from dipping into my savings for unnecessary purchases. If I ever need money for an emergency, I can always use my credit card. If you're worried about not having quick access to cash in an emergency, you could always keep a small portion of your savings in an account that's linked to your checking account.
The best way to use Wealthfront's Cash Account
Use Wealthfront's Cash Account for…
- Your emergency savings fund
- Short-term savings goals
- Money you don't need to access regularly
Don't use Wealthfront's Cash Account for…
- Your retirement fund
- Long-term savings goals
- Money you need to access regularly
Like other high-yield savings accounts, Wealthfront's Cash Account offers the best returns you're going to get on money that you can access easily and immediately. It's also a low-risk place to park your cash.
This makes it a great option for your short-term savings goals and your emergency fund. I like to use savings accounts for money I might need to access in the next five years.
For savings goals with a longer time horizon, I prefer options that offer higher returns. Certificates of deposit lock up your money for a pre-specified period of time (usually one to six years) but come with higher interest rates. As for your retirement savings, even the best high-yield savings accounts won't come close to competing with the average returns you'd get from a long-term investment strategy or a tax-advantaged retirement account like an IRA or a 401k.
Finally, you don't want to keep money you plan to use regularly in a savings account - keep that in your checking account. Not only do checking accounts offer easier access to your money, but most savings accounts only allow six easy withdrawals per month before you start racking up fees.
Wealthfront is shaping up to be one of the best options for your savings with their new Cash Account. They offer some of the highest interest rates, all with no fees and a minimum balance requirement that anyone can maintain.
Given how much switching my bank accounts helped me drastically improve my savings habits, I definitely recommend high-yield savings accounts, whether with Wealthfront or another low-fee online bank. By the end of this year, I'll have earned enough in interest to cover a flight to Europe, which makes cutting back on shopping in order to boost my savings a lot more rewarding.
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