Stashing cash finally pays, thanks to high-yield savings accounts

If you've stashed some cash in a savings account, this is your time to shine.

Signs of rising inflation, which pushed the Fed into hiking rates beginning in 2015, are finally having a significant effect on the annual percentage yield banks pay consumers on their money.

As a result of the increase, savings rates are now more than 2.4 percent, up from 0.1 percent, on average, before the Federal Reserve started increasing its benchmark rate in 2015. (You can earn even more with certificates of deposit.)

"If you're not earning upwards of 2 percent on an online bank then you're really missing out," said Mandi Woodruff, MagnifyMoney's executive editor.

In 2018, high-yielding savings accounts even outperformed the stock market for the first time in over a decade.

"Cash was the lone investment class to generate positive returns in 2018," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. "Anytime markets are volatile, it's the money you have tucked away that helps you sleep at night."

"Anytime markets are volatile, it's the money you have tucked away that helps you sleep at night." -Greg McBride, Bankrate's chief financial analyst

Still, most consumers don't check the interest rates on their savings accounts, and that can cost them. According to the FDIC, the average savings account rate is a mere 0.09 percent or even less at some of the largest retail banks. Online banks pay 10 or 20 times that.

"With inflation at 2 percent, earning anything less than that means you are losing buying power," McBride said. "Over time, the loss of buying power is just as damaging as the loss of principle."

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To make the most of your savings, snag significantly higher savings rates by switching to an online bank, McBride advised. Online banks are able to offer higher-yielding accounts because they come with fewer overhead expenses than traditional bank accounts.

The best online banks also offer perks such as no minimum balance and free ATM access. You can even link an online savings account to the checking account at your local bank to access cash when you need it.

"Keep your current banking relationship but do yourself favor and move your savings somewhere where you can earn more," McBride said.

Supplementing with a high-yield savings account could mean almost an additional $500 in annual interest for the average U.S. savings account of $25,000, according to Anand Talwar, a deposits and consumer strategy executive for Ally Bank.

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.