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How to find the best bank rates

The new era of retail banking may mean the end of free checking accounts and other consumer-friendly services, but you can still find low-risk options for storing and growing your money. As banks across the country change the way they do business to turn profits in the face of new federal legislation, finding the best bank rates begins with financial self-awareness.

Know your spending and saving lifestyle

As you search and compare interest rates and account options at various banks, it's important to open an account based on terms that match your money management skills. The best bank rates aren't necessarily the highest interest rates; they are the rates with terms that can co-exist with your financial lifestyle. Ask yourself:
  • Do you use your debit card for most purchases?
  • How much money do you typically have in your checking or savings account?
  • Do you use online bill pay?
  • Is your monthly pay stub directly deposited into your account?
  • Do you rely on in-person banking?

Once you have a clear picture of how you spend and save money, getting the best bank rates then becomes a matter of reading the fine print.

Know the laws of high yield

In Bankrate's 2010 High-Yield Checking Study, the best bank rates for high-yield checking accounts were as high as 6.17 percent with an overall average of 3.3 percent. However, these rewarding interest rates come with plenty of must-follow rules. Ninety-five percent of the accounts in the study require a certain number of monthly debit card transactions, and other terms include online bill pay, balance caps and additional restrictions that affect the high-yield rate.

The best bank rates require some searching, too. Because some of the most appealing interest rates may not be offered at a bank in your local community, Bankrate's money market/savings comparison tool and Bankrate's Internet-based checking comparison chart can help you make sure that you don't miss any of the best bank rates available.

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