Bankrate's guide to choosing the right money market account rate

Best Money Market Accounts & Rates of January 2019

Bank/Institution Annual Percentage Yield (APY) Minimum Balance for APY Monthly Fees
Investors Bank 2.35% $0 $0
State Farm Bank 2.25% $0 $10
Sallie Mae 2.20% $0 $0
TIAA Bank 2.15% $5,000 $0
Capital One 360 2.00% $10,000 $0

What is a money market account and how does it work?

A money market account is a type of savings account that can be found at banks and credit unions. These accounts may pay a higher interest rate than traditional savings accounts, but their minimum deposit and balance requirements are often higher.

Money market accounts also often come with checks and a debit card, which distinguishes them from traditional savings accounts and certificates of deposit. The check-writing and debit capability of these accounts provide a degree of flexibility and liquidity often not found in other savings vehicles.

Money market accounts allow for up to six types of withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle.

Like a traditional savings account, there's no set term for maturity with a money market account — you can park cash for an unlimited amount of time.

But the way the institution can use your money is different from a savings account.

Banks and credit unions can use the money deposited into money market accounts for low-risk investments, like certificates of deposit, Treasury notes and government-backed bonds. Institutions can mainly use the money deposited into traditional savings accounts for loans.

That said, safety is still a top feature of these financial tools. Money market accounts are insured up to $250,000 at banks by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and at credit unions by the National Credit Union Association.

Who should get a money market account?

Anyone looking for a safe place to stash a good chunk of money and earn some interest may benefit from a money market account. But these accounts make particularly good sense in a handful of situations.

Here's when to consider a money market account:

  • You want an account that offers liquidity, safety and a higher interest rate than traditional savings or checking accounts.
  • You want the ability to write checks or use a debit card up to six times per month.
  • You want immediate access to funds if you're ever in a bind.
  • You want a good spot to keep your emergency fund.
  • You don't want to lock up your money in a CD for an extended period, but you still want a comparable interest rate and the safety of an FDIC- or NCUA-backed account.

What is the average interest rate on a money market?

The average interest rate on a money market account is currently 0.21 percent, according to Bankrate's weekly survey of institutions.

Yet some banks are offering 10 times that average or more. That makes it crucial to shop around for the best deal when you're searching for a money market account.

It's important to remember that institutions can change their interest rates on at any time, pushing returns higher or lower depending on the market.

That can be a boon in an environment where rates are on the rise.

While interest rates on money market accounts have been historically low over the past several years, lately, they've been increasing.

How do I start a money market account?

Opening a money market is as easy as choosing which bank and account is right for you. Some money market accounts don’t have a minimum balance, so you won’t have to worry about keeping a certain amount in the account or incurring a maintenance fee. Compare the top APY accounts with the minimum balance that you’re comfortable with to make the best decision for your saving needs.

Money market account details

Is a money market account safe?

Money market accounts are safe if they’re at an FDIC-insured bank or a federally insured credit union. FDIC deposit insurance covers accounts at FDIC banks up to at least $250,000. An account at an NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) institution has a standard share insurance amount of $250,000 per share owner, per insured credit union, for each account ownership category.

"Savings accounts and money market accounts offer the security of federal deposit insurance and complete liquidity so you can access your cash at any time. Seek out competitive returns so you can preserve your buying power and benefit as interest rates rise further."

- Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst.

Is a money market account savings or checking?

Money market accounts are savings products, but they often act as a hybrid of traditional savings and checking accounts, carrying characteristics of both.

Money market accounts tend to come with a higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts but with higher minimum deposit and balance requirements.

Like savings accounts, money market accounts only allow for up to six types of withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle, making them best for parking cash.

But like a checking account, they may come with checks and a debit card, allowing you to make purchases directly from the account.

Can you pay bills and write checks with your money market account?

Some money market accounts, but not all, provide the ability to write checks and pay bills directly from the account. These accounts may even come with a debit card. But there's a limit to the number of transactions you can make. Money market accounts only allow for up to six types of withdrawals or transfers per statement cycle.

If check writing is a feature you want in a money market account, confirm with the institution before opening an account that their product offers that capability.

Money market account fees and minimums

Minimums and fees to open and maintain a money market account vary by institution.

There are typically a few types of minimums you should watch for: minimum deposit requirements to open an account, minimum amounts to earn the APY and minimums to avoid fees.

Watch for monthly fees, transfer fees, shipping fees, inactive account fees or any other penalty you might incur for not using the account to the bank's specifications.

Capital One Bank, for example, requires a $10,000 minimum in order to earn it's APY. Minimums below that amount earn a lower APY. There's no minimum deposit amount required to open an account. It charges no monthly fees, but it does charge a $30 fee for wire transfers, $5 for statement copies, $25 for expedited shipment of a money market card and fees for processing foreign checks.

Research methodology

The " National Average," or "national survey of large lenders," is conducted weekly. The results of this survey are quoted in our weekly articles and national media outlets. To conduct the National Average survey, Bankrate obtains rate information from the 10 largest banks and thrifts in 10 large U.S. markets. In the national survey, our Market Analysis team gathers rates and/or yields on banking deposits, loans and mortgages. We've conducted this survey in the same manner for more than 30 years, and because it's consistently done the way it is, it gives an accurate national apples-to-apples comparison.

Are money market account rates taxable?

All taxable and tax-exempt interest must be reported on your federal income tax return. Most interest that you receive or that’s credited to an account that you can withdraw without penalty is taxable income in the year it becomes available to you, according to the IRS. Always consult with your accountant to answer your specific tax questions.

How are money market accounts insured?

Like savings accounts and CDs, money market accounts are insured at banks by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) up to $250,000. They are insured up to the same amount at credit unions by the National Credit Union Association (NCUA).

Should the bank or credit union fail, the FDIC or NCUA guarantees your money will remain safe.

Money market accounts and compounding

Something to consider when shopping for a money market account is how often the institution compounds interest. This can vary from institution to institution, with money market accounts compounding either daily, monthly, quarterly or even annually.

The faster interest is compounded, the better your returns.

Remember, because of compound interest, even small deposits into a money market account can add up to sizable amounts over time.

You can use our compound interest calculator to calculate your potential earnings on a money market account.

Money market accounts vs. savings accounts: Pros and cons

While a money market account is very similar to a traditional savings account, there are some pros and cons to each.

Here are some of the pros of a money market account over a savings account:

  • Money market accounts offer check-writing and debit card capabilities.
  • Money market accounts typically offer higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts.

Here are some of the cons of a money market account compared with a savings account:

  • Money market accounts typically have a higher minimum deposit requirement.
  • Money market accounts often have a higher minimum balance requirement to earn interest.
  • Money market accounts may come with more fees than a traditional savings account would charge.

If you want the ability to write checks or use a debit card, money market accounts are a good alternative to traditional savings accounts. And you'll typically get a better return.

But if earning a high return is your priority, don't forget to check out the rates on high-yield savings accounts found at online banks. The rates on these accounts can often be superior to money market accounts and traditional savings accounts, although they may come with some additional requirements.

Best Money Market Accounts: Bank Details

1. CIT Bank: 2.45% APY, $100 minimum deposit for rate

cit bank logo Overview: CIT Bank is an internet-based bank offering a variety of deposit products for savers nationwide. Its savings products include an online money market account, savings account and a range of CDs. CIT is typically at the top of the list for yield, paying some of the best nationally available APYs across all of its products. That's largely due to the fact that it doesn't have the overhead costs associated with brick-and-mortar institutions and can return those savings to its customers in the form of higher yields. If you're looking for a place to park your savings and earn a better-than-average rate, CIT's money market account is a solid choice.

Perks: CIT Bank's money market account rate is consistently competitive, often out-paying other top nationally available accounts. And the minimum deposit to open an account is a modest $100. No fees and daily compounding also make this money market account from CIT one of the best options available.

What to watch for: Although relatively modest, CIT Bank does require a $100 deposit to open a money market account. Some accounts don't require a minimum at all. In addition, CIT isn't a full-service bank — it doesn't have a checking account option. If you're looking for a place where you can park your savings and enjoy the spending freedom that comes with a checking account, you may want to consider other options.

2. Investors Bank: 2.35% APY, $0 minimum deposit for rate

Investors Bank eAccess logo Overview: Investors Bank, founded in 1926, is headquartered in Short Hills, New Jersey. The bank has more than 150 branches in New Jersey and New York. But in the other 48 states, customers can take advantage of the eAccess Money Market, which has one of the most competitive APYs available.

Perks: The Investors Bank eAccess Money Market account currently earns one of the highest yields available, at 2.35 percent APY, and interest compounds daily. That APY is good for balances under $2 million, and there is no limit on the number of eAccess Money Market accounts that you may open. It’s offered only as a personal account. The eAccess Money Market has no hidden fees and doesn’t have a minimum balance required to avoid fees. Investors Bank offers the Investors Mobile app, which allows you to deposit up to $3,000 daily per user and $6,000 daily per account. The app is available for both Apple iOS and Android phones. Investors Bank also offers customer service over the phone seven days a week.

What to watch for: The eAccess Money Market account doesn’t have check-writing privileges and doesn’t offer a debit card, an ATM card for ATM access or the ability to send an outbound wire transfer. But you’re allowed to make up to six withdrawals via Online Banking per month. These can be made either via an external account transfer or byway of an ACH, which electronically debits your eAccess Money Market and sends the money to another financial institution. These may not exceed $250,000 per monthly statement cycle. United States citizens and permanent residents 18 years or older throughout the U.S. are eligible for the eAccess Money Market account, as long as they don’t live in New Jersey or New York.

3. Sallie Mae: 2.20% APY, $0 minimum deposit for rate

sallie mae logo Overview: Sallie Mae may be mostly associated with student loans, but it also provides a range of savings products for consumers. The bank offers a money market account, high-yield savings account and CDs. And its rates are very competitive. Sallie Mae's yields are frequently among the highest in the country across all of its product offerings, something that can largely be attributed to its status as an online bank. Low overhead costs allow it to return those savings to its customers in the form of higher rates. Those higher yields extend to its money market account, which makes it a great option if you're looking for a place to keep your savings while earning interest.

Perks: Along with competitive interest rates, Sallie Mae's money market account requires no minimum balance and no monthly maintenance fees. Account holders can write checks from their account and manage their account completely online at any time without talking to a banker.

What to watch for: Because Sallie Mae is a completely online bank, it has no physical branches. If you like having the option of walking into a branch to talk to your teller or banker in person, Sallie Mae might not be the best choice for you. It's also important to note that while you can write checks from Sallie Mae's money market account, you're limited to six transactions or withdrawals per month. And Sallie Mae doesn't offer a checking account, limiting the liquidity of your banking experience. If you're looking for full-service banking, you might be better served at a different banking institution.

4. TIAA Bank: 2.15% APY, $5,000 minimum deposit for rate

tiaa logo Overview: TIAA Bank, formerly known as EverBank, provides a range of banking, lending and investing options. Its deposit products include a high-yield money market account, checking, savings and CDs. TIAA tends to offer competitive rates on its products. In fact, it claims that its yields are always in the top 5 percent of competitive accounts — each week it reviews rates from competitors and adjusts accordingly. It offers that yield pledge on its money market account, savings and CDs. In addition to great rates on banking products, TIAA also offers mobile banking and online tools.

Perks: One of the biggest perks you'll find with TIAA Bank is its "Yield Pledge," which maintains that its money market account rate will always be competitive and in the top 5 percent. Its money market account also has no monthly fee, allows for mobile check deposits and is IRA-eligible.

What to watch for: The 2.15% APR on its money market account is attractive, but it's only an introductory rate. After a year, your rate drops according to your balance, with balances of $100,000 to $10 million earning the highest yields.

5. State Farm: 2.25% APY, $1,000 minimum deposit for rate

State Farm Logo Overview: State Farm Bank officially began operating in March 1999. State Farm Bank doesn’t have branch offices. Customer service is provided by State Farm agents, via telephone customer service, the mail and online.

Perks: The State Farm Bank money market savings account has an ATM card available. When used for ATM withdrawals, there is no fee for withdrawals at State Farm Bank-owned ATMs, and accounts are rebated up to $10 per statement cycle when a non-State Farm Bank-owned ATM is used – if a direct deposit hasn’t been set up. With a direct deposit, there are unlimited ATM surcharge rebates when foreign ATMs are used. Limitations apply to this. For example, the direct deposit needs to occur during the statement cycle. Also, if the account is closed prior to the statement cycle ending, you won’t receive the ATM fee rebate. Money market style checks are complimentary with this account. Interest is compounded daily and credited monthly. You can make a MyTime Deposit if you have a money market savings account with the State Farm mobile app, available for iPhone and Android users.

What to watch for: This is an introductory APY for the first 12 statement cycles when opening a new consumer money market savings account. This means you won’t be eligible for the offer if you’ve had a State Farm Bank consumer money market savings account open or closed within the past 12 months. Also, a minimum balance fee will be assessed if the average balance for the month goes below $500. But if you have a direct deposit via automated clearing house (ACH), minimum balance requirement is waived.

6. Capital One: 2.00% APY, $10,000 minimum deposit for rate

capital one 360 Overview: Capital One is well-known for its credit cards, but it also provides a range of deposit and lending products to consumers through Capital One 360, an online banking subsidiary. In addition to its money market account, Capital One 360 offers a savings account, savings IRA, checking account options and a range of CDs. Yields from Capital One 360 tend to be highly competitive. In fact, its money market account rate is consistently among the top nationally available options. Along with stellar rates, Capital One's banking products don't charge monthly fees, a big advantage over some other banks in its class.

Perks: A high interest rate and low fees make the Capital One 360 money market account a top contender. But Capital One also provides quality banking tools for money management as well as excellent customer service. The company has opened a number of Capital One Cafes, which are spots where you can go to bank, get answers to financial questions and connect with other people.

What to watch for: Because it's mainly an online bank, Capital One has limited branch access. Capital One Cafes are located in 10 states. So, deposits and transfers are mainly done through the bank's mobile app. And although Capital One's money market account rate is very competitive, it's possible to find better yields from other banks. The minimum balance to get the 1.6% yield is a sizable $10,000. Balances under $10,000 will earn a 0.85% yield.

7. UFB Direct: 1.60% APY, $5,000 minimum deposit for rate

ufb direct bank logo Overview: UFB Direct is an online bank that offers several deposit products, including a money market account, savings account options and a checking account. Like other online-based banks, it doesn't have the costs associated with brick-and-mortar institutions. So, it's able to consistently offer some of the highest rates available across all of its products. In particular, its money market account is very competitive, but not only in terms of APR. UFB's money market account offers the high yield of a money market account with the convenience of a checking account, allowing you to write a limited amount of checks per month.

Perks: The high-yield money market account from UFB compounds daily, helping to grow your money faster. It also offers a mobile banking experience, where you can manage your money, deposit checks and gain access to a suite of money management tools. And if you're looking for some liquidity in a money market account, this MMA allows you to write up to six checks per month.

What to watch for: UFB requires a somewhat hefty $5,000 minimum deposit to open an account. It also requires a $5,000 minimum balance to avoid the $10 monthly maintenance fee. If you can't swing the minimum, it's wise to compare this money market account from UFB with accounts at other banks and credit unions.

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