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Don't fear internet banks
Online banks are a good bet for higher yields. With the help of Bankrate.com, you'll find rates as high as 1.11 percent APY on savings and money market accounts -- far better than the near-zero rates at the nation's biggest banks.
"Look at large banks, small banks and different credit unions," says David Hryck, a partner and tax and business attorney at Reed Smith in New York City. "All of these avenues are competing for your money."
You'll find juicy rates in unexpected places. For example, Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburg in New York offers an FDIC-insured high-yield money market account that pays 1.1 percent APY with no monthly fees or minimum monthly balance. While you won't be able to visit a branch unless you reside near Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau or the Bronx, you can get this deal online no matter where you live as long as you have $1,000 to open the account.
A more well-known option is Ally Bank, which pays 1 percent APY on any balance with no monthly maintenance fee.
Don't feel that you're locked into a bank long term, Hyrck says. Open an account to take advantage of a good rate, then do your research again in 12 months. Don't be scared to jump around, he says.
Your money is perfectly safe in an internet bank as long as it's FDIC-insured. But do your due diligence on any institution you're unfamiliar with.