Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. We may receive a small commission from our partners, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.
Picking the best savings account to store your money is nearly as important as how much you save. Fees can eat into your cash, but a good interest rate can help grow it.
Many of us are guilty of settling for the savings account at the bank that holds our checking account. While there can be advantages to this — speedy cash transfers, most of all — it can be limiting.
Below you'll find our picks for the best savings accounts right now, which includes high-yield savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs) — two types of savings products that can help you earn up to 20 times more in interest than a traditional savings account. Each of these accounts has no fees, FDIC insurance up to $250,000, and online or mobile app access.
The most common way to access cash in a savings account is through electronic transfers to an internal or external checking account. With some accounts, an ATM card is provided or checks can be requested.
Keep in mind that most savings accounts limit the number of transfers and withdrawals to and from a checking or other savings account to six per statement cycle. With a CD, you cannot add additional money to the account or withdraw any money between the end of the initial funding period (usually between 10 and 14 days) and the maturity date without forfeiting your interest earnings.
Ally Bank: Best savings account overall
Why it stands out: Ally has been a power player in the high-yield savings space for a few years now, and it consistently nabs top awards for online banking. It's a particular favorite among millennials, who tout its accessibility and ease of use. You can deposit checks through the mobile app and open multiple accounts in minutes with $0 down. Ally's suite of products also includes a checking account, home and auto loans, and investing accounts.
What to look out for: An excessive transfer charge. Each transfer over the federal limit of six per statement cycle will incur a fee of $10.
Vio Bank: Best savings account for high APY
Why it stands out: Vio offers the top APY for high-yield savings accounts right now, and it doesn't charge a monthly management fee.
What to look out for: Minimum deposit. You need at least $100 to open an account. You'll also receive limited customer support. Unlike many online banks, Vio doesn't offer live chat with representatives. Also, bear in mind that interest rates fluctuate with the federal funds rate, which means you aren't necessarily guaranteed to earn the highest rate with this account forever. There are still good reasons to open a high-yield savings account when interest rates are low, but be aware they can change.
Capital One: Best savings account for kids/teens
Why it stands out: Kids under 18 can use Capital One's Kids Savings Account to deposit and store money with a little oversight from Mom and Dad. There are no fees and all balance tiers earn the 0.50% APY — much higher than kids' savings accounts at competing banks.
The mobile app allows kids to deposit checks and play with savings interest calculators to see how their money could grow. When the child turns 18, the account automatically becomes a Capital One 360 online savings account earning 1.50% APY.
Rate: 0.50% APY
What to look out for: Parental controls. Kids have their own online login to the account, but money can't be transferred without parental approval.
Synchrony Bank: Best savings account for college students
Why it stands out: Synchrony Bank's high-yield savings account comes with an ATM card and doesn't limit the number of transactions or withdrawals that can be made via ATM, so it acts like a checking account. The bank will reimburse up to $5 a month in ATM fees charged by other financial institutions. But even better: All balance tiers earn 1.50% APY.
Rate: 1.50% APY
What to look out for: Non-ATM transfer limits. If you're making transfers to other accounts electronically, you're limited to six per statement cycle. Also, you cannot swipe the ATM card at retailers like a debit card.
Ally CD: Best savings account for long-term goals
Why it stands out: If you have money you won't need until a future date (and not before then), a CD is a good option for earning more. CDs lock away your money for a set amount of time, and you can secure a fixed interest rate that won't fluctuate along with the federal funds rate. Note that if you need to withdraw your money before the term ends, however, you'll have to pay a penalty fee.
Ally offers some of the highest rates on long-term CDs paired with no minimum deposit requirement. For CD terms of 1 to 5 years, you'll be hard pressed to find a higher rate right now.
Ally also offers three types of CDs: high-yield CDs, Raise Your Rate CDs, and No Penalty CDs.
High-yield CDs lock in your rate when you create an account. Raise Your Rate CDs allow you to increase your rate at least once if Ally's rates go up. If you withdraw funds before your term ends with a high-yield or Raise Your Rate CD, you'll pay a penalty. However, No Penalty CDs let you withdraw funds early without paying fees.
Rate: The rates for Ally high-yield CDs are as follows:
- 3 months: 0.50% APY
- 6 months: 0.75% APY
- 9 months: 1.00% APY
- 1 year: 1.50% APY
- 18 months: 1.60% APY
- 3 years: 1.55% APY
- 5 years: 1.60% APY
Here are the Raise Your Rate terms and current rates:
- 2 years: 1.50% APY. You may increase your rate once during the two-year period.
- 4 years: 1.50% APY. You may increase your rate twice during the four-year period.
All No Penalty CDs come with an 11-month term. Here are the No Penalty CD terms and rates:
- Earn 1.40% APY when you open a CD with under $5,000
- Earn 1.50% APY when you open a CD with $5,000 to $24,999
- Earn 1.55% APY when you open a CD with at least $25,000
What to look out for: Types of CDs. Ally offers more variety than most banks, so be sure to choose a CD that fits your banking needs. For example, you don't want to let higher rates convince you to sign up for a CD with a longer term if you think you'll need your money relatively soon, because then you could pay a penalty for withdrawing early. Think about how long you're comfortable storing your money, whether you want the option to increase your rate, and whether you want a No Penalty CD in case you need access to your money sooner than expected.
Other savings accounts we considered and why they didn't make the cut:
- Wealthfront: This account allows unlimited transfers and an initial deposit of just $1, but its rate has dropped significantly to 0.35%.
- Betterment: This robo-adviser's high-yield cash account, which requires a $10 initial deposit but doesn't limit transfers, is generally a good deal. While Betterment plans to launch a checking account, it currently does not offer other financial products, like loans.
- Discover Bank: While it offers a respectable rate of 1.40%, Discover's high-yield savings account isn't as beloved as some of our top picks.
- Marcus by Goldman Sachs: While this high-yield savings account is a contender for fan favorite, the new mobile app doesn't support check deposit.
- BrioDirect: This high-yield savings account offers a respectable rate of 1.55%, but you'll need an initial deposit of $25.
- Wells Fargo Way2Save: While this account comes with ATM access, it offers a dismal 0.01% APY and charges a $5 monthly fee unless certain balance or auto-transfer requirements are met.
- Chase Savings: Despite access to thousands of physical branches and ATMs, Chase offers just 0.01% APY on its savings account and charges a $5 monthly fee unless certain balance or auto-transfer requirements are met.
- Bank of America: Despite access to thousands of physical branches and ATMs, Bank of America's savings account earns just 0.03% APY and charges an $8 monthly fee unless you keep a $500 daily balance.
- HSBC Direct: The 1.70% APY makes this high-yield savings account a good choice for high earning potential, but it's not the best no-fee, low minimum balance option out there.
- CIBC Bank: To earn the 1.45% APY on CIBC's high-yield savings account, you only need to maintain a balance of $0.01, but you have to put down $1,000 to open the account in the first place.
- Citizens Access: Despite offering a respectable 1.50% APY, the minimum deposit to open a high-yield savings account here is $5,000. Citizens Access offers high APYs on its CDs, ranging from 1.50% to 1.65%, but all terms require a minimum deposit of $5,000.
- Sallie Mae: Sallie Mae's CDs offer between 1.20% and 1.35% APY, but the minimum deposit to open an account is $2,500 and there isn't a no-penalty CD available. Sallie Mae does offer a fine high-yield savings account earning 1.40% APY, however.
- MySavingsDirect: This high-yield savings account earns 1.00%, and there are others with better user experience and similar features that earn more.
- Barclays: Barclays' CDs offer up to 1.40% APY, but you won't find the variety of CD types like you would with Ally. You can also open a Barclays high-yield savings account with a 1.50% APR (rates current as of 4/24/2020).
- PurePoint Financial: PurePoint's rates are on par with the best CDs and high-yield savings accounts on our list, but its $10,000 minimum deposit could be a major drawback for more modest savers.
- SFGI Direct: Although SFGI Direct's high-yield savings account earns a 1.71% APY, it requires $500 to open an account.
- Credit Karma: This high-yield savings account earns just 0.56%, and as a credit and loan company, Credit Karma's expertise is not in traditional banking.
- Personal Capital: This is technically a cash account, which makes it easy to sweep some money into investments, but it only offers a 0.05% APY on your savings.
- CIT Bank Savings Builder: This account requires a $100 monthly deposit or a $25,000 daily balance to earn the top APY. It's a great account to create savings momentum, but not the best overall.
- HMBradley: This hybrid checking and savings account offers high rates, but you have to save at least 20% of your deposits to earn the maximum APY of 3%.
- American Express CD: There's no minimum initial deposit to open an American Express CD, but the rates aren't as high as Ally's rates.
Frequently asked questions:
Why trust our recommendations?
At Personal Finance Insider, we strive to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. We spent hours comparing and contrasting the features and fine print of these savings accounts so you don't have to.
We understand that "best" is often subjective, however, so in addition to highlighting the clear benefits of a financial product or account — a high APY, for example — we outline the limitations, too.
How did we chose the best savings accounts?
We reviewed over two dozen banks and financial institutions and found that the best offerings are at online banks, in large part because they offer much higher interest rates and fewer fees. We ultimately narrowed our focus to banks offering at least 1% APY on their savings products (high-yield savings accounts and CDs included), with the exception of kids' savings accounts.
For this list, we did not consider credit unions — though they tend to offer high interest rates on savings accounts and CDs, many limit membership to people who work in a specific industry or live in a designated area.
What bank offers the best savings account?
Because of its ease of use, high customer satisfaction, and good interest rate, Ally Bank has one of the best savings accounts overall. However, the "best" savings account for you will depend on your goals and priorities. Some people prefer to have a savings account at a bank that offers other financial products, like loans or checking or investment accounts, so we took this into consideration as well.
What is the best savings account to have?
The best savings account to have is one that does not charge excessive (or any) fees, is easy to access, and earns an interest rate above the national average of 0.09%. Interest rates on traditional and high-yield savings accounts are variable, however, so it's important to consider other features of an account before opening it for a high APY.
If you don't need immediate access to your cash, you may want to consider a CD to potentially lock in a higher interest rate. Otherwise, for cash that you will need to access on a regular basis — whether you're adding or withdrawing money from the account — a high-yield savings account is the best option.
Are online savings accounts safe?
Just like a savings account opened through a brick-and-mortar bank, most online savings accounts are FDIC insured up to $250,000. The account is set up through a bank's website using the same information required at a physical branch — name, date of birth, Social Security number, driver's license or passport number, and address — but you will also need to create a username and password for online access.
Are high-yield savings accounts worth it?
A high-yield savings account keeps your money safe from market risk, is insured by the FDIC (usually up to $250,000, but up to $1 million in some cases), and gives you a shot at beating inflation with annual percentage yields over 1.50%.
The only potential downsides of a high-yield savings account would be maintenance fees that eat into your interest payments (though most accounts are fee-free) or restrictions on the monthly transfer limit or time it takes for your money to get to your checking account.
Tanza Loudenback has been writing about money every day for more than three years. She is an expert on strategies for building wealth and financial products that help people make the most of their money. She is a candidate for the CFP® certification.