Safety is the name of the game when it comes to your savings. The last thing you want when trying to build a savings cushion is to lose it all and return to square one.

Fortunately, you can stash savings in a number of safe financial instruments that also reward your efforts with a little free money in the form of interest.

While they aren’t going to set the world on fire with sky-high returns, the following investments each provide a safe place to park your savings:

Places to park your cash

Checking accounts

  • What they are: Interest-bearing checking accounts allow account holders to access funds with checks and debit cards while still earning interest on their money.
  • Risk: These accounts are insured for up to $250,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or the National Credit Union Administration (for credit unions) through Dec. 31, 2013. On Jan. 1, 2014, the standard insurance amount is scheduled to return to $100,000.
  • Liquidity: Interest checking accounts are extremely liquid. Most come with the ability to write checks, transfer cash and make debit purchases. For many accounts, however, account holders are assessed a fee if the balance drops below a certain minimum.
  • Pros and cons: Interest-bearing checking provides the opportunity to earn interest with high liquidity and low risk. However, most interest checking accounts charge higher fees than their “free checking” counterparts. In many accounts, these fees can be waived if the accountholder meets certain conditions — for example, keeping a minimum balance or making at least five debit card transactions in a month.

    Regular interest-bearing checking accounts also typically pay interest well below the rate of inflation, so money that’s left in these accounts runs the risk of losing significant purchasing power over time.
    High-interest checking accounts reward savers with an above-average rate of return. However, many of these accounts brim with fees and requirements that threaten to erode any possible benefits. So, it’s important to review terms and fee schedules before choosing an account.

  • Where to find them: Banks, credit unions and other institutions offer these checking accounts. Bankrate can help you find the best checking rates currently available.