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Guaranteed yields on savings are surging

It's not every day, especially these days, that you can find a fat yield on savings, much less one that's good for a certain length of time. You could call them introductory rates or teasers and, certainly, some of the banks do. But in one case, the guaranteed rate lasts more than a year.

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These deals run the gamut from savings and money market accounts to checking accounts and certificates of deposit. Some are available solely in the financial institution's local market, some nationwide. Some you can apply for online, while others require that you come into the bank to open an account. The point is that even in what appear to be dismal times for savers, good returns are available. You just have to look. (Visit Bankrate's database to compare rates of high-yield savings accounts.)

Savings incentive
HSBC, for example, has raised the rate on its HSBC Direct Online Savings Account to 3.5 percent, from 3.05 percent. The yield is good through Aug. 15 and applies to new and current funds.

"This is the third year in a row that we've done this sort of promotion," says Kevin Martin, executive vice president and head of HSBC Direct U.S. "We're always looking to give our customers and the market a better reason to save. This just gives them a little extra incentive to help them do that."

Martin notes that 3.5 percent is the minimum that customers will receive; should interest rates rise between now and mid-August, he says the bank would consider raising the rate.

Introductory extras
Some institutions, such as EverBank, seem to perpetually have an introductory offer for new money. EverBank is paying a yield of 4.01 percent for the first three months on its money market and interest checking accounts. The online bank has varied the length of its introductory offers over the past decade but has settled on three months recently.

Perhaps more important, EverBank maintains a pledge that the regular yield paid after the introductory offer expires will always be in the top 5 percent of competitive accounts as tracked by Bankrate. Executive vice president Frank Trotter says that's a key promise.

"Consumers need to know if their bank is going to pledge to maintain a high rate or if they're going to cut the customer's knees out from under them in six months when they no longer need that financing. The unfortunate trend we see with so many local banks and traditional banks is that they boost the money market rate for six months, bring in a bunch of money and then, poof."

HSBC's and EverBank's offers are good nationwide.

Eye-popping offers
Some yields are eye-popping, such as Shore Bank's 10 percent for 90 days on its Grand Slam Checking account. You have to live in Maryland or Virginia to take advantage of the offer. The same goes for Flagstar Bank's 10 percent, six-month CD rate that you can get if you open a checking account at one of the bank's offices in Michigan, Indiana or Georgia.

In addition to the time restrictions on the guarantee, most of these offers have additional limits as to how much money can be deposited and earn the high yield, or how many accounts can be opened under one name to take advantage of the offer.

Reward checking accounts have usually been a good way to earn a high yield on checking account balances. These accounts are suitable for people who frequently use a debit card, pay bills online, have direct deposit and prefer receiving their statement online. If you can do all those things and, in some cases, meet a few other requirements, then you essentially have a free checking account that pays a high yield.

These accounts garnered a lot of attention a year ago when they were paying yields of 6 percent or better. As the Fed cut short-term interest rates, the yields slipped, but most banks that offer the accounts seemed to keep the yield above 4 percent. Now, many are back above 5 percent.

Next: "Many said, 'What's the catch?'"
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