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An online savings account is like a regular savings account, but with higher rates, lower fees, and greater convenience.
Banks that operate online spend less on overhead than banks with brick-and-mortar branches. These savings get passed on to customers in the form of higher rates (also known as annual percentage yield, or APY).
APY, or annual percentage yield, is the yearly return on a bank or investment account.
Online savings accounts have become more popular in recent years as internet-only banks have emerged as competition for traditional banks. These days, most online banks offer mobile apps that let users track savings, deposit checks, and transfer money between accounts—all from the comfort of their smartphone.
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Each online savings account is unique, so it’s important to go comparison shopping before deciding where to park your money. The following is a list of the top things to focus on when comparing online savings accounts.
APY: This is the most important thing to look for when comparing online savings accounts, given that the entire point of a savings account is to save as much as possible. Today’s APYs for online savings accounts range from as low as 0.01% to as high as 2.25%. The higher the rate, the greater the likelihood that there are minimum requirements (such as a minimum balance) attached.
Minimum requirements: As mentioned, savings accounts often come with minimum requirements that the customer must commit to in order to receive the promised APR. The requirement usually takes the form of a minimum monthly balance or minimum opening deposit.
CDs: An online certificate of deposit, or online CD, is an alternative type of online savings account. With a CD, the customer must lock in their money for a certain period of time, e.g. 3 months, 12 months, or 6 years. Generally speaking, the longer the customer locks their money in for, the better the rate. At the time of writing, online banks were offering 5-year CDs with as high as 3.10% APY, more than double the national average of around 1.30%.
Checking services: Increasingly, online banks are offering hybrid checking-savings accounts that give the customer a combination of everyday banking services and a competitive savings rate. The best online savings accounts permit withdrawals (usually 4-6 per month), unlimited transfers between personal checking and savings accounts, and check deposits straight from a mobile app.
Customer service: Just because something is online doesn’t mean having to forego customer service. Most online banks offer service by live chat or phone. Some online banks even maintain a few physical branches, giving customers the option of face-to-face contact from time to time.
Here are some of the services users can expect to be offered with the best online savings accounts:
Transfer money between accounts – Unlimited transfers between your personal savings and checking accounts.
User-friendly dashboard – Track all bank accounts and download statements from the one online or mobile dashboard.
Digital check deposit - Instantly scan and deposit a check with your smartphone and see the funds land in your savings account right away.
Savings and budgeting tools – Set savings goals, track your progress, and get useful tips on how to make the most of your savings account or CD.
Mobile banking app - Manage your savings account from your mobile device.
Sophisticated security and encryption - Keeps your data safe with multi-factor authentication and high standards of encryption.
FDIC Insurance – Deposits insured up to at least $250,000 (and sometimes as high as $1.5 million, depending on the bank).
SMS / email alerts – Notifications whenever any unusual or suspicious activity occurs in relation to your bank account.
ATMs – Withdraw money from ATMs in the US and around the world, and get reimbursements from third-party ATM withdrawals.
Add-ons - In an effort to entice customers, many online banks offer add-ons to savings accounts. These include rewards programs, ID theft resolution services, roadside assistance, reduced loan rates, third-party partner discounts, and free wire transfers.
Discover High Yield Online Savings Account:
* To get your $150 or $200 Bonus: What to do: Apply for your first Discover Online Savings Account, online, in the Discover App or by phone. Enter Offer Code NI223 when applying. Deposit into your account a total of at least $15,000 to earn a $150 Bonus or deposit a total of at least $25,000 to earn a $200 Bonus. Deposit must be posted to account within 30 days of account open date. Maximum bonus eligibility is $200.
What to know: Offer not valid for existing or prior Discover savings customers or existing or prior customers with savings accounts that are co-branded, or affinity accounts provided by Discover. Eligibility is based on primary account owner. Account must be open when bonus is credited. Bonus will be credited to the account within 60 days of the account qualifying for the bonus. Bonus is interest and subject to reporting on Form 1099-INT. Offer ends 6/15/2023, 11:59 PM ET. Offer may be modified or withdrawn without notice.