Banks are paying for cash again – here are the best deals

  • The average savings account offers a paltry 0.6 percent annual return.
  • "If you're not seeking out the best returns on savings accounts and CDs, you're leaving money on the table," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.
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If you want to grow your savings, one smart strategy is to keep your money in an account earning the most interest.

Although the Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates, recent hikes largely haven't trickled down to consumers in the form of better savings yields. The average savings account offers a paltry 0.6 percent annual return, according to personal finance website ValuePenguin.

Some experts say that money could grow faster at online banks. Some CDs, or certificates of deposit, are also more generous than others.

"If you're not seeking out the best returns on savings accounts and CDs, you're leaving money on the table," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. "It's the only place in the investment universe where you can get extra returns without extra risks."

These accounts are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a government agency that provides deposit insurance, for up to $250,000.

Savings accounts

Online banks, McBride said, are currently in an "arms race" to lure people with the best rates.

Although current rates of around 1.75 percent still seem low — one could find savings accounts with a 4 percent annual percentage yield in 2006 — experts say they make sense in the current environment.

"When banks are giving car loans for 3 percent and mortgages for 4 percent, no one is getting 10 percent on savings," McBride said.

Here are some of the banks with the best savings yields:

Synchrony Bank offers a savings account with a 1.85 percent annual return — and its accounts come with an optional ATM card, although like with most online savings accounts, there is a limit of six withdrawals or transfers in a month. Although this restriction might feel like a nuisance, it's actually helpful to people, McBride said.

"Too easy access can defeat the purpose of saving," he said.

Dollar Savings Direct, a division of Emigrant Bank, offer an annual rate of 1.80 percent on its savings accounts. "It's a smaller internet bank, but it's still a legitimate, FDIC [Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation] insured bank," said Ken Tumin, founder of the website DepositAccounts.com.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs offers online savings accounts with an annual rate of 1.80 percent as well. "Goldman Sachs seems to be a little hungrier for deposits," McBride said.

Barclay's savings accounts earn 1.75 percent a year, as do those at American Express and Discover.

Certificates of deposit

For savers who won't need their money for an extended period of time, interest rates on CDs can be worth a look.

People generally can withdraw their CD interest at any time throughout the term. There are penalties for redeeming the original deposit. "If it helps you to think, 'I can't get that money,' it's worth it," said Seaman.

Savers should look for CDs with the lowest penalties, said Allan Roth, founder of financial advisory firm Wealth Logic. That way they can gain the benefit of a high interest savings account without the restrictions of a CD. "If you need the money, you break the CD," he said.

Here are some CDs with the best rates:

Ablebanking, an online wing of NorthEast bank, offers a 2.5 percent rate on a one-year CD, and 2.8 percent rate on a two-year account. You need to deposit at least $1,000.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs also offers certificates of deposits with higher-than-average returns, although there is a $500 minimum deposit. A one-year CD comes with a 2.45 percent rate; a five-year CD with a 3 percent interest rate and a six-year CD has a 3.1 percent annual rate.

Synchrony Bank offers a 2.4 percent rate on a one-year CD, and 2.85 percent rate for a five-year one, but you'll have to deposit at least $2,000.

Barclays offers a 2.4 percent yield on a one-year CD — and there is no minimum opening deposit.

If you can make your way to Teaneck, New Jersey, Cross River Bank offers a 2.63 percent rate on a 12-month CD, and 3.56 percent rate on a four-year CD. You have to open the account at the branch but anyone can do so.

Savers can also "ladder" their CDs, in which a person deposits money into, say, a one-, two- and three-year CD, so that they're not tying up too much of their money at once and can reinvest their savings should rates rise.

It can be hard for people to spend the time and energy to change their saving ways, Roth said. People need to "fight that inertia."

"I know so many people that will complain about a sandwich being $12 when it should be $10," he said. "And yet they lose thousands of dollars each year by having their money in a big-name checking account."

Keep in mind you'll pay ordinary income tax rates on earnings from savings accounts.

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