Let's talk about savings accounts: what they are, why you should have one, and other various pieces of information including what to look for in a savings account's interest rate. I hope I will convince you to open a savings account if you don't have one already.
What Is A Savings Account?
A savings account is a type of bank account where you can store money, such as an emergency fund, that generally earns better interest than your checking account. It does not, however, provide the potential growth, or the potential risk, of an investment account.
An online savings account's interest rate is often the biggest draw-in because high-yield savings accounts often offer 15 to 20 times the rate of brick-and-mortar banks.
Related Post: Your Emergency Fund: Are You Saving Enough?
Savings accounts are insured up to $250,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) at banks, and at credit unions by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). This means if you have a balance up to $250,000 in your savings account, and something happens to the bank, your money is safe.
I use CIT Bank's Online Savings Builder Account for my emergency fund for their competitive interest rates and ease of access to my money.
How Does a Savings Account Work?
Unlike Certificates of Deposit (CDs), savings accounts are liquid, allowing you to access your money at any time. This makes savings accounts an excellent place to stash money you're saving for a rainy day.
That said, some savings accounts will limit how many transfers or withdrawals you can do in a month to six times. This limit excludes ATM withdrawals if your bank offers you an ATM card for your savings account.
Why Have A Savings Account?
A savings account generally has a higher interest rate than a checking account. In fact, an online savings account typically has up to 20 times, or more, interest earned than a traditional brick-and-mortar savings account.
By earning interest, you're getting extra money, without the risk of an investment account, for storing into savings. This can be handy, for example, for saving for a dream vacation, a car, or a down payment on a new home.
Online savings accounts also tend to have lower fees, if any at all. The reason for this is because online banks have fewer overhead costs.
Do Savings Accounts Have Fees?
Some savings accounts will have a monthly maintenance fee if you don't maintain a minimum balance. My personal recommendation is never to use a savings account that has a maintenance fee. One key reason I use CIT Bank for my online savings account is that they have zero maintenance fees and zero bank transfer fees.
If you're paying to use a savings account, then you're earning a less effective interest rate, if not actually losing money each month.
Other fees include ATM fees. Some banks will charge you a fee to use their ATM at ATMs outside of your bank's network. Others will refund any ATM fees that you incur.
Some banks might charge for wire transfers. When shopping for a savings account, look for minimal to no fees.
Are Savings Accounts Worth It?
Absolutely! A fundamental reason for having a savings account is saving for an emergency. And by maximizing the interest you're earning, your savings grows faster over time.
Oftentimes when making financial goals, a high yield savings account is the first place to start storing money. This is in part because online savings account interest rates are high enough that you can earn noticeable money each month on even smaller balances.
Are Savings Accounts Safe?
The majority of financial institutions are insured, keeping your money safe up until a limit. Most banks are FDIC-insured and most credit unions are NCUA-insured, up to $250,000 per depositor, per bank.
That means, if you have less than $250,000 in your savings account, in an insured bank or credit union, your money is safe.
How Do You Set Up A Savings Account?
To set up a savings account, you'll first want to research banks. Online high yield savings accounts are generally the best to have and I look for benefits such as an easy website to use outstanding customer service, ability to get my money in and out of the account, and high interest rates.
I also prefer the ability to set up automatic transfers so that I can save regularly while on autopilot.
My personal bank of choice for a high yield online savings account is CIT Bank. They provide a competitive interest rate, great customer service, easy-to-use website, and easy access to my money.
You'll create an account and provide all necessary information such as:
- Driver's license or government ID
- Social Securty number
- Recent residental addresses
- Email address
- Date of birth
- The bank account number and its routing number of the bank you'll use to fund your savings account
Once you provide that information, you may be asked some additional information and/or agree to the bank's terms. Then if everything is approved, you'll set up a user ID and password to the online bank and start the process of funding your new account.
How Much Should I Have In My Savings Account?
An emergency can take a toll on you and your family. It's recommended that you have between 3 and 6 months of living expenses in savings in your emergency fund. If your household has one income, it's wise to lean towards 6 months of expenses saved.
If your household has two or more steady incomes, it's generally safe to lean closer to 3 months, though up to 6 months is still not a bad idea. Either way, put your money in a high interest savings account.
Related Post: 8 Amazing Ways How To Save $10,000 In A Year.
What Is A Good Savings Account Interest Rate?
In January 2020, online banks typically offer between 1.60% and 2.05% APY. Brick-and-mortar banks average only 0.09% APY. This is a reason why online savings accounts are so popular.
Higher savings accounts interest rates compound your money much quicker, and an online bank generally offers interest rates 15 to 20 times higher than a brick-and-mortar bank.
CIT Bank offers competitive rates for those that save on a regular basis. As of this writing, CIT Bank, an online bank, offers its top APY whenever you deposit $100 or more each month, or if you maintain a $25,000 or more balance.
There are no monthly fees regardless of your balance. CIT Bank's savings builder account is my current bank of choice for ease of use, competitive rates, and the encouragement for me to save each month via their high APY incentive.
Why Do Online Banks Pay More Interest?
Online banks don't have to maintain branches, saving them a lot on overhead costs. These savings are then passed on to customers in the form of interest, which is why online banks have savings accounts that offer high interest.
Why Have A Checking And Savings Account?
I firmly believe that you should have a separate checking and savings account. This is true even if your checking account offers attractive interest rates.
Why? By separating your money and having a checking and savings account, you're able to better discipline yourself with saving money. You can use your checking account to pay bills such as paying your credit card, and you can use your savings account to secure an emergency fund or save for a future investment such as a car or house.
Why not simply have a savings account? Savings accounts often limit the number of transactions you can make per month (before paying a fee) to 6. This limits how often you can withdraw money, such as paying bills.
Use a checking account for everyday expenditures and a savings account to keep your money growing and safe.
When Should You Open Your First Savings Account?
You might be wondering when should you open your first savings account. The simple answer is, “As soon as possible.”
I was very lucky that I had a savings account when I was a kid. My parents opened it for me would occasionally fund it to later use when I graduated high school.
If you don't have a savings account now, then there's no better time to open one than now. You can go with any financial institution, or check out CIT Bank for my personal recommendation.
Benefits And Drawbacks
Savings accounts have benefits and drawbacks, though personally I'd say the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Let's go over benefits and drawbacks of savings accounts below.
Money in your savings account at an FDIC-insured bank or NCUA-insured credit union is insured up to $250,000. Your money is safe up until that limit, so save away!
You can access your savings when you need to. The only exception is that you might only be able to withdraw or transfer six times per statement before having to pay penalty fees.
You'll earn interest, especially in an online savings account. The more interest you're earning, the faster your money will grow.
Many online savings accounts have low fees or even no fees at all.
Interest rates vary. That means your interest rates may drop, and your money will grow slower.
(EDIT June 4th, 2020) Since writing this post in early February 2020, average interest rates from online banks have dropped by up to 0.5%. This is a very real drawback of savings accounts over-investing your money, however, this does not detract from the importance of having an emergency fund in a savings account for cushioning yourself from a financial hardship.
Interest rates are still not high when compared to investing your money into bonds or index funds. If you truly want to grow your money, consider investing in bonds (less risk) or index funds (more risk).
Wrapping It Up
If you don't currently have a savings account, or you're earning a low- interest rate in your current one, open a savings account today. Savings accounts are a safe place to store money for many occasions.