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How to open a money market account: 5 steps to take

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Savers often choose a money market account to earn a competitive yield similar to that of many traditional savings accounts. Money market accounts may also come with added perks such as debit cards and check-writing privileges. These liquid deposit accounts provide easy access to your funds, and they’re commonly offered at banks and credit unions.

Whether you’re looking to open a money market account online or in person at a bank branch, setting one up usually requires just a few simple steps.

Opening a money market account (step-by-step)

1. Shop around

To get the best return on your funds, compare rates at various banks and credit unions to find a money market account with the highest annual percentage yield (APY). Rates for these accounts are usually variable, meaning they can go up or down as market conditions fluctuate — although some may come with a fixed rate during an introductory period.

When choosing an account, also pay attention to any minimum opening deposit requirements and whether there’s a minimum balance needed to avoid monthly service fees. Be sure to go with a bank that’s covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) or a credit union that’s insured by the National Credit Union Association (NCUA).

If you find it’s important to be able to talk to a teller in person now and then, choose a financial institution that operates at least one branch near you.

2. Gather the required documents

Whether you open a money market account online or in person at a branch, you’ll need to present certain types of documentation. If the account will have any joint owners, you’ll need to include their information as well.

This information may include:

  • Driver’s license or state ID
  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security number
  • Phone number
  • Proof of address, if your ID lists a previous address

Keep in mind if you have a credit freeze in place for security reasons, you’ll need to have it lifted temporarily while opening the account.

3. Fund the account

If you’re funding the account by transferring money electronically from another bank account, your options may include an online transfer or remote check deposit. For online transfers, be sure to have the account information handy for the bank from which you’re moving the money.

Opening a money market account at a bank branch gives you the additional options of depositing money with cash or a check.

4. Set up online banking

If you’re opening a money market account at a bank that’s new to you, you’ll likely want to set up online banking so you can make transactions using the bank’s mobile app or website. This can make it easy to check your balance, deposit checks, order checks, transfer money between accounts and more.

Whether you’re on the bank’s website or downloading the mobile app, you can sign up by creating a username and password. Be sure to use a strong password with random uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols.

5. Set up direct deposit

Many people prefer to have their paycheck directly deposited into a checking account so the money is available to pay bills. However, you can also set up direct deposit to go to your money market account and transfer money needed for living expenses to your checking account. This can help you save extra money instead of spending it. What’s more, your funds will likely be earning interest in a money market account, whereas not all checking accounts earn interest.

You can start up direct deposit by giving your employer the account number and routing number of the new account.

How to choose the best money market account

As with any type of deposit account, there are several factors to consider when searching for the best money market account for you.

APY

Similar to traditional savings accounts, the APY for money market accounts can vary a great deal. Online banks tend to offer higher rates than brick-and-mortar banks since they don’t have the overhead of maintaining branches. Some may offer competitive rates as a way to attract business.

FDIC insurance

It’s important to choose an account that’s insured by the FDIC or the NCUA, both of which insure deposits up to $250,000 per customer, per bank. This means you won’t lose your money in the event of a bank failure.

Most banks and credit unions carry this insurance, and you can confirm one is covered by using the FDIC’s BankFind Suite or the NCUA’s searchable database.

Minimum balance requirements

When shopping around for money market accounts, you may notice that many require a higher minimum balance than traditional savings accounts. Such a minimum balance may be necessary to earn an advertised rate as well as avoid monthly maintenance fees.

Check-writing privileges and debit cards

Some money market accounts allow you to write checks and use a debit card, so seek out one with these options if it’s important to you. However, it’s important to note that banks often impose a limit on the number of such transactions per month with money market accounts.

Bottom line

Money market accounts are offered by many banks and credit unions. Opening one can be as quick and easy as it would be for a traditional savings account or a checking account. Shopping around can help ensure you’ll get the right account for you when it comes to the rate of return, the safety of your funds and other features.

Written by
Karen Bennett
Consumer banking reporter
Karen Bennett is a consumer banking reporter at Bankrate. She uses her finance writing background to help readers learn more about savings and checking accounts, CDs, and other financial matters.
Edited by
Managing editor