Low interest rates can be rewarding or problematic, and it totally depends on which side of the fence you’re on.
It’s great to get a mortgage or a personal loan with a low interest rate, right?
Unfortunately, earning almost nothing on your savings isn’t quite as exciting.
Up until a few years ago, I pretty much lived on both sides of that fence. I had a fifteen-year mortgage at 3.75% that I was extremely happy with, but I also earned .01% on the cash I saved in my Chase savings account.
Yes, I said .01%. That means I was earning a measly dollar per year for each $10,000 I had on deposit if interest compounded monthly. That’s practically nothing, which makes you wonder why I kept that savings account for so long.
How I boosted my savings with one simple step
Fortunately, I was smart enough to start researching online bank accounts several years ago. My research led me to CIT Bank, which has historically offered rates that are significantly higher than what consumers can get elsewhere.
In late 2018, CIT Bank also began offering their new Savings Builder product. Once I learned of the details, I promptly opened a new account and began transferring my emergency fund and other short-term savings over.
Thanks to interest rates that are more than 20x higher than the national average, doing so was an absolute no-brainer. And since you can open an account online, it was easy as pie as well. To make it even easier for you, Bankrate has put together expert bank reviews so you can compare the features that matter most to you before choosing a savings account.
CIT Bank savings builder account
Here’s how the CIT Bank Savings Builder Account works: When you open an account, you can qualify for 2.45% APY (or more than 20 times the national average for savings accounts) if you meet one of two requirements:
- You maintain a balance of $25,000 or more
- You open your account with a minimum of $100 and make a minimum deposit of $100 per month
While keeping at least $25,000 on deposit is the easiest way to ensure you earn 2.45% APY, it’s nice that you can also score that higher rate if you transfer at least $100 per month to your account. This makes it possible for almost anyone to secure the bank’s highest earnings on their savings, even if they don’t have a big balance to start with. Also note that interest accrues daily and is credited to your account monthly.
CIT Savings Builder accounts are also FDIC-insured up to $250,000, and they offer a robust online platform that allows you to track your savings and growth online any time of the day or night. You can also connect other bank accounts to your CIT Savings Builder account for easy online transfers.
In terms of the requirements to open an account, the rules are rather simple. You only need $100 to open your account and start building your savings, and you only need to transfer at least $100 per month to earn their highest interest rate. This account also has no hidden fees. This means no application fees, no transfer fees, and no monthly maintenance fee to pay.
In fact, the only fees you’ll encounter are totally avoidable. These include a $10 fee for outgoing wire transfers if you have a balance of less than $25,000 and various fees for over drafting a money market account.
Yes, you need a savings account
While many experts disagree on how much cash you should keep on-hand and in an emergency fund, everyone agrees that most people need some sort of savings buffer stashed away. Without any emergency funds, you could struggle to stay afloat if your financial situation changes for any reason.
My husband and I typically keep our savings account stashed with at least three to six months of expenses. While it’s nice to think we’ll never need that money, our emergency fund has helped us out of tight spots before. You never know when you’ll max out your health deductible over the year, have an expensive car repair to cover, or experience a loss in income for a while.
Just last year alone, my daughter broke her arm and required expensive surgery, we faced a huge car repair bill for our used 2009 Toyota Prius, and we had to replace flooring in one of our rental properties. I can’t imagine how we might have struggled if we didn’t have money set aside for these very unpredictable, highly variable costs.
At the same time, I can no longer imagine earning just .01% on my savings.
Why you should assess your savings strategy
While CIT Bank offers some of the highest rates on their savings accounts in the business, they’re not the only one. Keep in mind that there are dozens of companies offering extraordinary rates on their savings accounts, and that many also come with no fees and no fine print. On the flip side, .01% is the national average rate for savings accounts in the U.S. This rate may be the norm, but it adds up to almost nothing over time.
If you don’t want to be average, it’s probably time to see whether you could find a better deal for your long-term savings or your emergency fund. Some of the best online savings accounts come from banks such as BBVA Compass, Citizens Access, PurePoint Financial, Goldman Sachs, and HSBC Direct. Each of these banks offers more than 2.0% APY, so make sure to explore your options to see which ones offers the features you need the most.
Earning 2.0% APY or more on your savings may not make you rich, but it’s absolutely better than what you’ll get from most traditional banks — nothing.