Online savings accounts represent one of the best guaranteed options for growing your money, especially if you need to maintain access to cash on short notice. Still, not all online savings accounts are created equal.
We’ve rounded up a list of the best online savings account rates in 2017.
We'll also discuss the following:
- Savings account rate history
- Why online savings accounts produce better yields
- The difference between savings accounts and CDs
We obtained the following rates by searching through our comprehensive Personal Savings Accounts list. We set a deposit amount of $25,000 and only included nationwide banks that do not offer local branches. These are the top results for the best online savings account rates.
Although these are the current best rates, make sure to keep an ear to the wind. As the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, it’s possible that we’ll see further increases in high-yield online savings account rates as well.
The Best Online Savings Account RatesRates are current as of December 4, 2017
Savings Account Rate History
We saw moderately higher rates on savings accounts just five years ago, when the average interest rate was 0.233% APY. Since then, we’ve been in an interest-rate desert, with average rates on savings accounts bottoming out at 0.179% APY in August 2016. Today, the figure’s hovering around 0.194% APY. You can do significantly better at internet-based banks.
Since last year, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has raised the Federal Funds Rate three times to its current high of 1.00-1.25%. Banks now seem to be picking up steam in raising interest rates, giving us a much-needed reprieve from ultra-low returns of the past few years.
We’ve seen a consistent upward trend in raising interest rates on savings accounts over the past year, with average interest rates going up by 0.014% APY. That’s not anything to write home about, but what is exciting is that it shows banks are willing to play ball now and compete against each other for higher rates — all of which benefits us as consumers.
Indeed, one of the highest-yielding savings account on our list, the Incredible Savings account from IncredibleBank, has increased rates three times over the past year to lock in one of the top spots on our list.
Besides the FOMC interest rate hikes, there’s another reason banks like to raise rates. When they raise rates, they attract new customers and, of course, that means more deposits. Banks use those deposits to fund the loans that they give out. They’re willing to pay deposit account customers a bit more on their money. That’s because the higher the bank’s deposits are, the more they can fund lending to other consumers and generate potentially greater returns in the form of interest payments.
If these trends continue, we’ll see even higher rates in 2018.
Why Online Savings Accounts Produce Better Yields
If you’re looking to get maximum returns on your money while still keeping it liquid, an online savings account is definitely the way to go. The way these banks offer the highest interest rates is simple: They keep costs elsewhere low because they aren’t paying for expensive staff and brick-and-mortar locations.
Furthermore, online banks typically come with a less heavy fee structure. Rather than being charged for every little ATM transaction or overdraft, a lot of online banks let those “infractions” slide.
In fact, some online banks will even refund some ATM surcharge fees. This results in even more money back in your pocket at the end of the day.
The Difference Between Savings Accounts and CDs
There are different pros and cons to saving money in a savings account versus a CD. In general, CDs offer higher rates than savings accounts, especially for long-term CDs. That means maximum returns for your cash, especially in today’s low-interest savings account environment. Currently, the average interest rate on a five-year CD is 1.57% APY — that beats out the top savings account rate on our list here at 1.55% APY.
That might make you think CDs are the wiser decision, but consider this: Your money is locked away when you deposit money into a CD. You can still get it at any time, but you might have to pay a fee for doing so that can chew up your earnings. There are some no-penalty CDs but their rates may be lower.
If you know you might need access to that cash at any time (such as for an emergency fund), it’s better to save in a regular savings account. CDs are better investment tools for money that you can afford to tuck away and not touch until the term has ended.