4 factors in opening a savings account

What about interest rates?
What about interest rates? © Matthias Pahl/

Interest rates remain historically low, but that shouldn't deter families from beefing up their savings accounts. "The last thing you want to worry about in your emergency fund is building interest," Gavlak says. "An emergency fund is purely for emergencies."

Still, Briboneria says if you want to find the best interest rate possible, shop around at credit unions and online banks. "Typically, credit unions have higher rates than brand-name banks because credit unions support their members rather than shareholders," she says.

Additionally, online banks such as Ally, ING and Orange often offer higher interest rates than commercial banks, though the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates low to boost the economy.

Money market accounts, money market mutual funds, savings bonds and CDs will provide better interest rates. "They also will provide you with less flexibility, so you need to plan properly when funds will be needed," says Cary Siegel, author of "Why Didn't They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By."

However, don't get hung up on looking for a more lucrative interest rate. Far more important than earning a specific rate of interest is simply having that extra cash available, Brobeck says.


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