2011 High-Yield Checking Survey
High-yield checking
Grab better rates with high-yield checking

Even if the monthly fee is nonexistent or waived, a high-yield checking account still can involve charges for other banking services. So what can trigger fees?

  • Check printing.
  • Replacement ATM cards.
  • Copies of canceled checks and statements.
  • Overdraft protection.
  • Cashier's checks.
  • Checks drawn against insufficient funds.
  • Outgoing wire transfers.
  • Stop payments on bill pays or checks.
  • Tax levies or garnishments.
  • Account inactivity.

These fees can range from a few dollars to as much as $50 per item, according to banking websites. Some accounts also have transaction restrictions, allowing only a limited number of checks, ATM uses or calls to customer service per month.

Rate bonus may expire soon

Many financial institutions offer interest-bearing checking accounts primarily to entice new customers in hopes of locking in their loyalty and cross-selling more profitable products, such as home loans, insurance and investment services to them, according to Justin Krane, president of Krane Financial Solutions, a financial planning firm in Los Angeles.

"The more checking accounts, mortgages, credit cards or whatever that people open, the stickier the client becomes," he says.

Sticky customers are less likely to leave and more likely to utilize more services, generating revenue for the bank over time. Consumers who have thousands of dollars in liquid savings are particularly hot prospects, so much so that banks routinely offer a cash bounty of $50 or a short-term interest rate bonus as an inducement to open a sizable new account.

That higher rate is likely to expire in three to six months. After that, "you're toast," Krane says.

The bottom line for consumers is that high-yield checking accounts offer a better return as long as the relationship requirements are met and restrictions aren't violated.

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