What to look for in a high-yield checking account

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It’s surprising but true. Some checking accounts will give you a higher annual percentage yield (APY) than some savings accounts.

While savings accounts often only require you to deposit a certain balance to get the highest APY, these high-yield checking accounts usually have additional catches to get the best rates.

High-yield checking accounts can be a great option for a portion of your money. But you need to know the products’ requirements to see if they are the right fit for you.

Substantial earnings from a checking account?

Credit unions and community banks tend to offer high-yield checking accounts. While you probably won’t find these offered at the bigger banks, you can easily find these accounts online by searching for “Kasasa accounts,” for example.

Before opening a high-yield checking account, pay attention to the account’s restrictions: Usually, you will only get this high APY on a certain dollar amount.  Once you exceed the maximum balance for the top APY on a high-yield checking account, the yield can dramatically decrease.

For example, T-Mobile Money offers a checking account that earns 4 percent APY on the first $3,000. But balances above $3,000 will only earn 1 percent. You also have to deposit $200 per month and register for perks.

Top-yielding savings accounts or money market accounts may earn you more interest on your deposit without the catch. When looking for accounts, compare banks on Bankrate to find the right account for you.

You may need to use your debit card often

To qualify for the top high-yield checking APY, another common requirement from banks and credit unions is making you use your debit card around 10 to 15 times per month. If you want to make that many debit card transactions per month, then this product might be a good fit for you.

But if you’re someone who enjoys earning cash back or rewards from credit cards, you will need to decide whether those products —  or the high APY —  are more beneficial for your everyday transactions.

You may have to move your direct deposit

High yield checking accounts may require a direct deposit into your account to get the highest APY.

Making direct deposits into your checking account can be valuable. Not only is the account designed for your money’s comings and goings, but the bank or credit union may waive a monthly fee on the bank account in addition to potentially offering a higher APY when you put your direct deposits into the account. But again, remember: This great rate usually ends after a certain balance on high-yield checking accounts.

[READ: 9 ways banks may penalize you and how to avoid these pesky fees]

Understand what the APY will be if you don’t fulfill requirements

If you don’t meet the requirements to earn the top-tier APY, it could cost you. An institution may cut your APY to nearly nothing and it may charge you a maintenance fee if you don’t meet the requirements to earn the top APY.

This can hurt your potential interest earnings. In some cases, an online savings account or money market account might make more sense. If you’re not willing to jump through the hoops of making the minimum number of debit card purchases or if you don’t want to move your direct deposit into your high-yield checking, you probably want to get a savings or money market account instead, for instance.

Make sure you have a way to avoid ATM fees

If you’re going to rely on a high-yield checking account to access ATMs, try to make sure the bank has a convenient ATM located close to where you work or live, or waives out-of-network ATM fees.

ATM fees are expensive. Using an out-of-network ATM just one time costs you, on average, $4.72 according to Bankrate’s 2019 checking account and ATM fee study.

Besides ATMs, mobile apps can be essential to your banking experience. If you like using mobile apps, make sure your bank supports one that has the best mobile banking features.

Best high-yield checking rates

Financial institution / Name of account Maximum APY Maximum balance for APY
Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union / High Yield Checking 5.00% $5,000
TAB Bank / Kasasa Cash Checking Account 4.00% $50,000
Orion Federal Credit Union / 4% Premium Checking 4.00% $30,000
Consumers Credit Union / Serious Interest Checking 4.00% $15,000
Solvay Bank / High Interest Checking Account 4.00%* $15,000
T-Mobile MONEY / T-Mobile MONEY checking account 4.00% $3,000

introductory rate

Bottom line:

If fees are going to cut into your gains, it doesn’t matter how much interest you’re earning. Before signing up for a high-yield checking account, make sure you meet all of the product’s requirements.

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Written by
Matthew Goldberg
Consumer banking reporter
Matthew Goldberg is a consumer banking reporter at Bankrate. Matthew has been in financial services for more than a decade, in banking and insurance.
Edited by
Senior wealth editor