If you let a $US10,000 deposit sit in your standard savings account for one year, you’d receive a mere $US1 of interest, and that’s before taxes. A $US50,000 deposit would yield just $US5 of interest after one year.
That’s because the “big banks” out there — Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, and Wells Fargo, to name a few — usually offer an interest rate of 0.01%. Your savings just sit there, growing by a negligible amount.
However, if you’re using an a high interest savings account at an internet bank such as Ally Financial, your $US10,000 deposit would generate $US100 of interest over one year — and $US50,000 would generate $US500, thanks to the 1% interest rate. Online savings accounts with higher interest rates (the highest one out there is 1.25%), would get you even more.
“It’s pretty rare in the world that between the best and the worst product you have an over 100 times price differential,” says Nick Clements, co-founder of Magnify Money, a free, independent service that provides unbiased comparisons of financial products.
When choosing between savings accounts, there are two major factors to consider, he explains: interest rate and access to funds.
With the big banks, you’re guaranteed convenient access to your money, thanks to the network of branches they have built that allow you to walk into your bank and take out money at a moment’s notice.
“What traditional, brick-and-mortar-based banks are doing is providing you with convenience, and ignoring interest rate,” Clements explains. “If you don’t need the branch — if you’re willing to wait a few days to get your money — then the difference in value is extraordinary between the traditional banks and the internet banks.”
Rather than spending money building thousands of expensive branches and hiring people to fill them, internet banks are choosing to pay their users a higher interest rate, the major drawback being convenience: It will take you a couple of days to access your money.
You should look at it as a better way to earn money on your emergency fund, rather than as an investment strategy, Clements says: “In general, savings accounts are horrible places to put money, but if you’re going to put your six months worth of expenses in an emergency fund there, over a 30 year period, you can earn 100 times more than what you’re normally getting, which can be significant.”
If you’re ready to make the jump from a traditional bank to an online bank, Clements Magnify Money lists some good options, and allows you to compare how much you would would save with a high-interest account compared to a savings account offering a rate of 0.01%.