We get it, the extended period of low savings rates is putting a damper on your goals of saving for a much-needed vacation, that new car, a home downpayment and all the other many things you need. But, here is a more optimistic way to look at the situation.
In the past month, the national savings rate average remain unchanged at 0.29% APY due to inaction by banks to raise or drop rates on their savings accounts. The savings rate average has stayed at that level for the past quarter.
What is going on with savings rates? We think it has something to do with the relaxed stance that the Federal Reserve has taken since Janet Yellen became the new chairwoman. There has been no major announcements to monetary policy since March, when Yellen dismissed the unemployment rate as the primary indicator for future rate hikes.
Previously, we were told that the jobs market would determine when the time would be right to raise rates. (An unemployment rate of 6.5 percent was supposed to trigger a rate hike. The May unemployment rate was 6.3 percent.)
With little forward-guidance to rely on, it seems that banks are just staying put on their savings rates. For certificates of deposit (CDs), however, banks are making moves to account for a rate hike in 2015. There have been significant jumps in long-term CD rates as many banks try to lock in consumer deposits before interest rates start to rise. (See how CD rates are moving now.)
According to rate projections from the Fed’s June board meeting, a majority of board members believe that the target federal funds rate will increase from the current 0 to 0.25 percent level in 2015.
We don’t see any major shifts in savings rates until the Fed finally boosts interest rates. There may be initiatives, such as exceptionally-high rates, by banks from time to time with the goal of attracting customer deposits, but they tend to be short-lived.
Beat the average
Although the relatively-low national savings rate average is nothing to rave about, you can definitely find a savings account that pays much more.
Currently, the top nationwide savings rate of 1.01% APY is available from SFGI Direct, the online division of a Michigan-based community bank. That is followed by 1.00% APY from MySavingsDirect and 0.95% APY from Synchrony Bank (formerly GE Capital Retail Bank).
Even the largest online banks — including Capital One 360, Ally Bank, Discover Bank and American Express Bank — offer savings rates of at least 0.75% APY, more than twice the national average.
Big brick-and-mortar banks, on the other hand, offer unremarkable savings rates — you’ll get next to nothing on your balance. More likely than not, a big-bank savings account offers a measly 0.01% APY (that’s just one penny per $100 per year that you keep in the account). Additionally, these savings accounts tend to carry monthly fees that require minimum balances to avoid.
The table below provides a sample set of savings rates and any changes to those rates at benchmark financial institutions from May 15, 2014 to June 15, 2014. By monitoring the savings rates at some of the largest U.S. banks, we get an idea of the direction of deposit rates at other financial institutions.
|Bank||Savings account||APY (as of 5/15/14)||APY (as of 6/15/14)||APY Change|
|Bank of America||Regular Savings||0.01%||0.01%||0%|
|Ally Bank||High Yield Savings||0.87%||0.87%||0%|
|Capital One 360||360 Savings||0.75%||0.75%||0%|
|American Express||Personal Savings||0.80%||0.80%||0%|
The lack of movement at these major banks reinforce the notion that savings rates will remain flat for the time being.
EverBank is offering an introductory rate bonus on its money market account. For the first year of account ownership, you earn a rate of 1.40% APY on balances up to $50,000 for the first six months, and 0.61% APY thereafter (applies to all balances). The effective first-year APY is 1.01%.
Compared to the top nationwide savings rates, EverBank’s money market account keeps up with the best of them — for the first year. After that, the rate becomes much less attractive, which is the downside of the account. (If you pass on EverBank’s money market account, the online bank’s CDs are worth a look as the long-term CD rates are very competitive.)
Your next move
If you already have a savings account that is earning a competitive interest rate, it is generally not worth moving your money around in search of a higher rate, unless you keep a large amount of cash in savings.
For those who currently rely on a savings accounts from a major U.S. bank, you’re probably better off switching to an online savings account.
Once your money is earning a competitive interest rate, you should not be too concerned with minor fluctuations with rates — whether it’s the rate on your account or the rates from other banks.
Rather, you should be focused on developing good savings habits that will ensure financial progress, regardless of what savings account you have.
For instance, automation is a care-free method of accumulating savings. You can tell your employer to split a portion of your paycheck and direct deposit it into your savings account. Or, you can set up recurring monthly transfers that will move a fixed amount of money from your checking account into your savings account. You might find that saving isn’t so difficult if you remove the need to do it manually.
Another key part of savings is goal-setting. More and more banks are letting you manage your savings accounts in a manner that allows you to dedicate funds for a specific purpose. Ally Bank and Capital One 360 are known for letting customers nickname their accounts. SunTrust Bank recently launched a new savings product that is meant to help customers achieve multiple financial goals.
And, you can always use tools like Mint.com to help track savings goals. Review your accounts regularly to ensure you are on track with meeting your goals.
So long as you keep up these savings habits, you’re more prepared to take advantage of the times when rates begin to climb again.
Check out the current top savings rates below: