For a better rate on your savings, consider opening a new checking account.
Almost two dozen financial institutions nationwide are offering checking account yields of 2 percent or better, according to a new study from Bankrate.com. That's at least four to five times better than typical checking and savings accounts, which are averaging 0.39 percent and 0.46 percent, respectively. The highest rate came from Northpointe Bank in Grand Rapids, Mich., which at 5 percent is almost 13 times more than the average checking account rate. (Tweet this.)
With those kinds of multipliers, most consumers would benefit from considering such an account, said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com. "Some people are literally earning 0.01 percent," he said. On a big balance, if you have money in one of these high-yielding accounts "you're adding several hundred dollars a year in interest earnings."
"It's checking in name only," said McBride. "The savvy savers that use this are going to treat this more like a savings account."
These offers are a move by smaller institutions to pull in deposits—and revenue. "Some of the banks, in lieu of what's been going on in the market overall, are now in the situation where they have had problems growing their checking account business organically," said Madeline Aufseeser, a senior analyst with research firm Aite Group. Dangling a juicy yield pulls in valuable high-worth customers, she said, while account requirements on paperless statements and debit card usage generate income.
Attractive as the rates may be, high-yield checking isn't a perfect fit for everyone. For starters, you may not be eligible to open one. Such accounts are offered primarily through regional banks and credit unions—of the 20 2-plus percent yields in the Bankrate.com study, 13 are available only to consumers who live in that financial institution's home state or, in the case of Advantage Plus FCU in Pocatello, Idaho, have a relative who is already a member. (See the chart below for seven high-yield checking accounts available nationwide.)