The typical savings accounts that are available at most banks and credit unions are a great option when you’re saving for something big, or simply need a safe place to store your emergency funds or hard earned money.
There are three types of basic savings accounts, and all three accounts pay interest on your savings. But each account type has slight differences that could end up costing you more money than you’ll actually earn if you don’t choose wisely:
Basic Savings Account
This is the simplest type of account available, and it usually doesn’t require a lot of money to open one. The opening deposit varies at each financial institution, and many banks require a minimum balance to avoid a monthly service fee. You can access your money any time, but beware—it’s not a checking account and there will be limits on the number of withdrawals you can make. Interest rates vary, so take a few minutes to do online research before opening a savings account. Look at the interest rates, balance requirements and fees.
Money Market Account (MMA)
An MMA typically requires a higher opening deposit (usually $1,000), and higher balances to avoid the monthly fee. But you’ll also earn a higher interest rate than on a Basic Savings Account. Some MMAs also provide more access to your funds, such as check-writing and more frequent withdrawals similar to a checking account. But there are still limitations. As with any savings account, interest rates can vary widely depending on the financial institution, and the big national banks often pay the lowest rates.
Certificate of Deposit
Certificates usually have the best interest rates of the three savings accounts described here, but they also provide the least access to your money. You’ll need to choose a “term” for your money to be left untouched. Terms range from 3 to 60 months, with 12 months being the most popular. The longer the term, the higher the interest rate. There is a fee if you need to withdraw money before the term is complete, called an “early withdrawal penalty” that can be quite significant. So be sure that you don’t put all of your savings into a Certificate—keep some in an account that’s easier to access in case of an emergency. Also note that you can’t add money to a Certificate. When the Certificate matures (reaches the end of its term), you can add or withdraw money, let it rollover into the same term, change the term, or simply close the account.
Whichever type of savings account you choose, you should also consider the financial institution. After all, you’re trusting the bank or credit union to keep your money safe. Banks and credit unions both have federal insurance to protect deposits up to at least $250,000 per customer. Banks use the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and credit unions use the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)—look for the FDIC or NCUA logo or disclosure before you open your account.
If you’re like most people, you might need a little help disciplining yourself to build your savings. You can ask your payroll department to direct deposit a portion of your paycheck into a savings or MMA account while the rest goes into your checking account. You can also set up automated transfers from your checking account, to move money from your checking account into your savings or MMA.
Regardless of where you save, how you save, or which account you choose—saving money is the first step to a financially secure future!