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High-yield savings accounts raking in the customers

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High-yield is the new toaster
Asaf Buchner, industry analyst at JupiterResearch, says high-yield accounts are, to some extent, being used by banks as a gift to customers. Apparently, for a lot of people, a high yield is far more enticing than camping gear, coolers or toasters.

"They pay higher interest and they hope that in the future the deposit customer will buy more products from them. But the brick-and-mortar banks still have the advantage of having more products to offer."

Consumers are the beneficiaries of the competition among online high-yield account providers. Unlike the early days of online banks, many of which have failed or been acquired by other institutions, many of today's online banks are subsidiaries, if you will, of traditional banks. Nevertheless, you shouldn't expect branch services if you open an account at the online facility. The reason they can pay those yields is because they're not supporting branches.

But that's hardly an inconvenience. It appears that it's not uncommon for yield-lovers to open an online account for the yield and do most of their other banking elsewhere.

"The majority of banking customers still need the branch," Buchner says. "People still view the branch as a major reason for selecting a particular bank. They like to know if they need one, they can find one."

Should you ditch your current bank for a higher yield elsewhere? The liquidity of these accounts and the ease of opening them online might tempt some to jump around. But unless you have a lot of money on deposit, it's probably not worth moving funds for a quarter- or a half-percent.

Massey advises that these accounts should really be treated more like an investment as opposed to a savings account. "Many of the people who use the Internet to shop these rates are more educated and tech-savvy and they'll understand that it can take days to get their money into or out of a (linked) transaction account. But there is definitely a segment of consumers that doesn't understand that this money should be excess funds you don't need quick access to."

If you'd like to check out some high-yield savings and money market accounts, which are available nationwide, visit Bankrate.com's high-yield database, which is updated weekly. Visit the institution's Web site to check for specials or introductory offers that may be promoted in the interim.

*Yields are current as of when this article was written.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Feb. 6, 2007
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