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Rate roundup: How does Bankrate gather savings rates?

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In order to provide information that is useful as well as accurate, Bankrate researchers follow a strict blueprint in conducting their surveys. The idea is that in looking at rates, consumers should be able to compare apples to apples. That is, when comparing Bank A's money market account to Bank B's account, it's important that the 2 accounts offer the same benefits and services. That way, the consumer can make sure which is actually the best deal.

In this section, we'll take a look at the criteria used by researchers as they check out savings products.

Bankrate surveys certificates of deposit, or CDs, that have maturities of 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 2 ½ years and 5 years. Bankrate's research team includes data analysts who objectively gather rate data every weekday. To ensure accuracy, Bankrate's Quality Control team randomly mystery shops data obtained by the data analysts.

RATE SEARCH: Compare CD rates on Bankrate.

The CDs must be FDIC-insured if they're purchased through a bank, or NCUA-insured when bought through a credit union. The CDs must have a fixed rate of interest when held to maturity, and the rate and yield are based on you holding the CD for the entire term (to maturity).

What is the FDIC?

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., or FDIC, insures deposits of virtually all U.S. banks and savings and loan institutions up to $250,000 per customer (individual or business) in the event of a bank failure. Retirement accounts are insured up to $250,000.

Bankrate surveys only CD accounts that are offered directly to individual consumers. The institution can't require that you have another relationship with them, such as a checking account, mortgage or credit card, in order to get the listed rate. These accounts must include a withdrawal penalty if funds are withdrawn within the first 7 days -- that's a federal requirement.

The CDs listed in the best rate (100 Highest Yields) tables are offered to consumers across all 50 states. Institutions listed in the city tables (e.g. New York Metro, Atlanta, Birmingham) include locally based institutions along with national institutions that are interested in offering CDs to consumers in that area. All tables include rate, annual percentage yield and minimum deposit required to earn the stated rate of interest.

Savings accounts

Savings accounts are FDIC-insured (or NCUA-insured for credit unions) accounts that have no fixed term -- you can withdraw money when you want without penalty. All accounts are offered directly to individual consumers with no other relationship with the institution. Federal regulations limit the number of pre-authorized or automatic transfers you can make per statement cycle to 6 typically no more than 3 of them can be by check.

  • Passbook savings accounts -- deposits and withdrawals are posted in the passbook that the bank will give you.
  • Statement savings accounts -- you're given a receipt for deposits and withdrawals made in person, and you receive a full listing of all transactions in a statement you'll receive periodically.

RATE SEARCH: Compare checking account rates on Bankrate.

Money market accounts

Money market accounts provide periodic statements and a higher rate of interest than other savings accounts. Money market accounts are surveyed for the following information: lowest "minimum to open and earn interest" account offered by the institution, the account with the highest yield on a $10,000 deposit, the account with the highest yield on a $25,000 deposit, the account with the highest yield on a $50,000 deposit and the account with the highest yield on a jumbo ($100,000) deposit.

The institutions listed in the best rate (100 Highest Yields Money Market Accounts) table are available to consumers across all 50 states. Institutions listed in the city tables (e.g. New York Metro, Atlanta, Birmingham) include locally based institutions along with national institutions that are interested in opening accounts within that area. All tables include rate, annual percentage yield and minimum deposit required to earn the stated rate of interest. Money market account IRAs are provided with the same criteria.

RATE SEARCH: Compare checking account rates on Bankrate.

Checking accounts

Checking accounts are FDIC-insured or NCUA-insured accounts that allow consumers to make unlimited transactions and support activities such as bill paying. All accounts are offered directly to individual consumers and the bank can't require that you have another type of account with it. Each institution may offer multiple checking options. Bankrate includes each institution's "lowest minimum to open" non-interest checking account and "lowest minimum to open and earn interest" checking account. All data are based on the assumption that the consumer does not use direct deposit but may require online statement delivery.

All tables include the minimum to open the account (and earn interest for interest-bearing accounts), the minimum to avoid fees, the annual percentage yield (APY) if applicable, the monthly service fee, the NSF (the fee for a check returned unpaid due to insufficient funds, also called a bounced check fee), the fee to the accountholder to use another institution's ATM and the fee the institution charges a non-account holder to use its ATM.

RATE SEARCH: Compare checking account rates on Bankrate.

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