High-yield checking: A good bet
- Yields will fluctuate, but the accounts are meant to be high yield.
- High-yield checking accounts are meant to be free.
- High-yield checking accounts are not alike in all aspects.
When the economy is seemingly stuck in neutral and the federal funds rate is hovering between zero percent and 0.25 percent for the foreseeable future, you could reasonably assume that you're stuck with low-yielding deposit accounts if you want a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. guarantee.
But there are high-yield checking or rewards checking accounts that sport very good yields despite a low-rate environment. Even though the yields will fluctuate, these accounts are created to be high yield. The top yield offered in Bankrate.com's 2012 survey topped out at 6.17 percent. The average yield offered was 2.05 percent. Rates vary depending on where you live.
Requirements to open
These checking accounts are meant to be free -- no fees and no minimum balance to maintain. To open one you must abide by certain requirements each statement cycle. Traditional requirements involve using a debit card at least 10 times, access online banking at least once and have one direct deposit, ACH debit or online bill payment. If you don't meet the requirements in any given month, your interest rate will be significantly lower for that cycle, often no more than 0.25 percent.
These checking accounts are designed to help community banks compete against their larger brethren. Some banks and credit unions choose to offer the product only in their local area; others allow consumers nationwide to sign up.
Be aware that high-yield checking accounts are not alike in all aspects. In addition to varying rates, the balance that receives the top tier rate may be $25,000 at one bank and $50,000 at another. Some institutions may have a longer list of requirements to be fulfilled.
While these rates tempt many consumers, others may find the fixed rate of a high-yield CD more to their liking.