Squirreling away cash under a mattress or in the freezer might keep your savings flat and fresh -- but the money won’t grow. And, all kidding aside, a traditional savings account isn't much better.
Conventional savings accounts yield as little as 0.01% percent a year. Think of that: If you keep $1,000 in your account, you'll earn a hardly-worth-mentioning 10 cents in interest during an entire year.
And these low-yield accounts are were most Americans are keeping their spare change.
High-yield or high-interest savings accounts pay substantially more than that.
This means that a high-yield account is the perfect place to store your emergency savings, work on a downpayment for a new home, or start your vacation fund. While you work to increase your savings, your account will be helping you out!
Here's everything you need to know to score a high-interest account and make more money with your money.
Understand 'high interest'
APY, or Annual Percentage Yield, is the first number you will see when looking for a savings account. That's the yearly rate of return on the money in your account, and it includes compound interest, which is the interest earned on your interest. As a rule of thumb, the more frequently your investment compounds and builds interest on the interest already earned, the faster your money grows.
So how high is the interest offered by a high-interest savings account? As of March 2019, the best rates were a bit above 2% --that's 200x more than a standard savings account.
Read the fine print
Many high-yield savings accounts require that you open the account with a deposit of a specified size, or always keep a certain amount in your account to access the high APY.
But don't worry. There's plenty of high-yield accounts have no minimum deposits or minimum balances. Make sure you look for an account with the right minimum balance for your needs.
One of our favorites is CIT Bank's Savings Builder account, which offers a 2.45% annual percentage yield and a low minimum deposit.
Don't just take our word for it, though. Make sure you comparison shop to find the best account for your needs.
Other fees and requirements
Other than minimum deposits or minimum balances, there's a few other fees to watch out for.
Note that some banks charge set-up or maintenance fees for high-yield savings, or you may be required to maintain additional accounts — such as checking, with regular deposits — before you can open a high-yield account.
You also may face fees for withdrawals, or there may be a limit on the number of withdrawals you can make each month.
It's important to read the fine print before you make up your mind about an account.
Beware of bank
Remember that high-interest accounts are federally insured up to $250,000. Make sure you're dealing with a bank insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), or a credit union insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
As you cast around for the perfect high-yield savings account, don't focus narrowly on just brick-and-mortar banks and credit unions. Many online-only banks have excellent high-interest options.
Because they don’t have to cover the costs of a physical location, online-only banks can pass along savings to customers in the form of higher APYs.
The downside of online banks is that they may have slower customer service response times or offer more limited access to your money -- although there is an argument to be made that having your savings in a harder-to-access account might actually be a great trick to help you save better.
When shopping around for a high-yield account, you should start by considering minimum deposit and balance rules. Narrow it down to only the accounts that meet your needs. Then pick the account with the highest APY.
You'll want to plan to make regular deposits. The more money you have in your account, the more interest you’ll earn and the faster your savings will fatten.
Compare accounts and select the one that works best for you.
Shopping for a savings account online is the best way to comparison shop without the pressure of an in-person meeting. It allows you to see multiple options, and most banks have online help services that will help you understand the terms before you decide.
Most importantly, most savings accounts can be opened online, right from your computer.
Check out today's best savings accounts below, and start your savings today.