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Exclusive   2007 passbook/statement savings study
  STATISTIC: Banks pay an average yield of 0.35 percent on statement  
  accounts and 0.44 percent on passbooks.  
2007 passbook/statement savings study

The incredibly shrinking interest rate

If you have a statement savings account, you'll probably need a magnifying glass to find the interest, according to Bankrate.com's semiannual survey. If you're one of the rapidly dwindling number of people who have a passbook account, you fared somewhat better, but it's still nothing to brag about.

Bankrate's spring 2007 survey of passbook and statement savings accounts offered by the five largest banks and the five largest savings institutions in the nation's top 10 metropolitan markets shows that the average yield on statement savings accounts dropped 8 basis points to 0.46 percent. The average yield on passbook savings accounts shed 2 basis points to come in at 0.58 percent.

If you separate the banks from the thrifts, or savings institutions, you'll find significant differences in the amount of interest they're willing to dish out to their customers. Banks pay an average yield of 0.35 percent on statement accounts and 0.44 percent on passbooks. Statement accounts at savings banks average 0.57 percent, and passbooks average 0.71 percent.

Looking at the more popular statement savings accounts, there are some notable differences in yields among metro areas. For instance, statement savings accounts in the Detroit area pay the most, with an average yield of 0.71 percent. That's due mainly to Dearborn Federal Savings Bank, which pays 2.25 percent. Dallas ranks last with an average yield of 0.35 percent.

Sacrifice performance for convenience
It's probably safe to say that most people who have money in these accounts keep it there for ultraconvenience. You can go online and instantly transfer money between your checking account and one of these savings accounts. That compares favorably with the two or three days it may take to transfer funds between your checking account and a high-yield savings account at another institution. But is it really worth the lost interest?

Check Bankrate.com's high-yield money market and savings account database and study the difference in yields. As of this writing, AmTrust Direct is leading the pack with a yield of 5.36 percent. There are 16 institutions paying more than 5 percent on their savings or money market accounts, and another half-dozen are paying better than 4 percent.

If you plan ahead for your cash needs, it's easy to work around the extra time it may take to transfer money from one of these accounts to your checking account, and it's certainly worthwhile.

For example, $2,000 sitting in a savings bank account earning 0.71 percent yields $14.20 in simple interest in one year. Even worse, put that money in a regular bank paying the pitiful average of 0.35 percent and you'll sock away $7 after a year. Switch to a high-yield account paying 5.36 percent and you'll add $107.20 to your account in interest.

If that's not enough to get you to switch, think about the fact that your bank is probably lending your money to you or someone else for a home equity line of credit at more than 8 percent, or a new car at 7.7 percent, or a mortgage at 6.25 percent. That's how the banks make money.

-- Posted: April 10, 2007
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