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How To Chase High Interest Rates On Savings Accounts and Manage Them

Published 7/1/08 (Modified 3/9/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

I consider myself one of many rate chasers out there - savvy savers who hunt for the best annual percentage yield (APY) interest rates at banks and credit unions, and who are keen on quickly moving large sums of money from one account to another in pursuit of that financial ideal. High yield interest rate chasers seek out the highest available interest rate offerings possible, whether available at popular brick and mortar branches or whether available only through obscure online banks. We keep tabs on them all regularly and shift our bank balances around in pursuit of that elusive, but perfect high yield savings account. Rather than be content with letting our savings accounts sit idle, earning stable, yet passive interest growth, rate chasers such as myself prefer to actively manage our bank accounts to maximize interest earnings. Interest rates periodically change, thus so should we. Currently, I use my compiled list of the Best High Yield Savings Accounts to actively keep tabs on bank rate updates and changes.

High Yield Savings Accounts Offer Not Only Liquidity, But Rock Solid Financial Security and Reliable Growth As Well

While I have a diversified investment portfolio made up of high performing stocks, bonds, exchange traded funds, and mutual funds, I still try to put a sizable amount of what I own in cash form, invested in stable interest bearing savings accounts. The type of money I put in a savings account is money I can't afford to risk or jeopardize, and the type of funds that I may need to call upon to weather difficult financial times or unexpected financial emergencies. While I personally use credit cards for emergency fund purposes at least in the short term, stable savings account funds make up the bulk of my long term emergency money strategy. I try to keep at least 6 months worth of liquid assets on hand at all times - money that can be quickly converted into usable cash to pay current bills and liabilities on a moment's notice. You never know what type of sudden unemployment, cash flow, car trouble, or health problems might befall you that might necessitate the need to call upon such an emergency influx of readily available funds. I choose to invest my emergency fund money into savings and money market accounts because they not only provide a modest degree of interest growth that usually outpaces or at least keeps up with inflation, the invested funds are liquid and extremely well protected from loss. I plan to work certificate of deposits (CD's) into my emergency fund planning approach in the future, but wish to save up more in my savings before dabbling with higher yielding, but less liquid assets like CD's.

Some people call rate chasers - day traders of the banking world, but I think that's a terrible analogy. Unlike day traders who trade on short term, violent swings in the stock market, we do not take actions that could even remotely be construed as gambling or high risk stakes. Interest rate chasers tend to be risk adverse, and are almost always play-it-safe type investors and emergency fund builders who seek safety and pursue predictable rates of return, rather than high flying, speculative investments.

Besides, bank accounts, whether checking, savings, or money market accounts are one of the most stable, reliable, and dependent sources of asset preservation. While most traditional banking institutions do not provide investment assets that will make one rich as their rates of return are generally lower than that offered by other investment options such as stocks, bonds, options, or foreign currency exchange, they do provide a very stable and predictable rate of return. Insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the potential risk of loss of assets stored in a banking account is virtually nil. The FDIC, an independent agency of the United States government utilizes the full faith and credit of the federal government to protect the assets of all insured banks. Most major savings and banking associations are FDIC insured, and as such most traditional accounts offered by the insured bank, including checking, savings, money market accounts, CD's, and even IRA retirement accounts are protected from loss. Even if the bank fails, goes bankrupt, goes out of business, gets robbed, burns down, or succumbs to some market catastrophe like the mortgage meltdown or credit crisis, the money stored in a FDIC insured high yield savings account remains 100% safe, up to the coverage amount. For savings accounts, the legal coverage limit is $100,000. If you own substantial assets that exceed this basic coverage limit and want to be 100% safe, you may want to consider spreading your assets among difference asset categories or banks.

Register With The Top High Yield Savings Accounts And Manage Your Fund Transfers As Interest Rates Periodically Fluctuate

There are certain basic steps savvy rate chasers and high yield online bank arbitrage seekers (as I like to them sometimes) take to properly manage their pursuit of high interest savings rates:

1) Open High Yield Accounts With Online Banks That Consistently Offer the Highest APY Interest Rates For Savings Accounts

I currently own several savings and money market accounts with the top online banks that have consistently offered the best APY interest rates. Personally, I avoid savings accounts from major brick and mortar retail banks like Wachovia, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, or even Citibank, since most rarely offer attractive interest rates as they don't need to offer them to attract customers. Most of these big retail banks rely on convenience and physical location presence to attract clientele. On the other hand, online banking sites, blessed with lower operational and maintenance costs, are highly motivated and more willing to offer competitive interest rates for account holders.

Most of my recently opened high yield savings accounts are with generally well known online banking institution favorites like HSBC Direct, Countrywide's Savings, WT Direct, E-trade Savings Bank, and Capital One Direct Savings. Oldies but goodies like ING Direct Savings (get an ING Direct Sign Up Bonus), and Emigrant Direct still remain alive and well as members of my complete savings account tracking roster. While the actual order in the interest rate sliding scale changes periodically, the mentioned banks tend to offer consistently high rates. After opening accounts, it's simply a matter of tracking APY changes and shifting funds around accordingly.

It's important as a rate chaser to have target bank accounts ready for quick transfers as interest rates change. Back in the old caveman days before the advent of the Internet, opening new savings accounts was cumbersome and limited to local brick and mortar branches, and phone banking was a pain. With the emergence of the Internet and the development of fully functional online banking websites, online funds can now be shifted around instantly with a few strategic key strokes. To manage your online accounts and prep them for transfers, all you have to do is register for online account access and set up linked ACH electronic access. To set up ACH transfer permissions, you'll be required to submit information about the bank account that you want to link up - including the bank account number and the banking institution's ABA routing number (you can ask your bank for this information). Frequently the online system will initiate two small denominational test deposits into your linked bank account, the amounts which you'll have to verify to confirm that you are the actual owner.

2) Be Watchful Of New Bank Account Credit Report Check Penalties, and Electronic Bank Transfer Limits

If you're like me, you try to maximize your money whenever possible. In my case, so long as the resulting effects don't put myself in a potentially worse off financial position and the necessary actions to get me there aren't too prohibitive, I try to go for the gold whenever possible. For those looking to open multiple bank accounts, one thing to keep in mind is the health of your credit score and credit report history. When a new savings or money market account is opened, some banks initiate a hard credit check. The resulting hard credit pull, as it is sometimes called, may result in a small credit score hit in the nature of a request by one seeking credit. Not all banks initiate a hard credit pull that will ding your precious FICO score for new savings account applications, but some do. Examples of online bank account applications that result in harmless soft credit pulls include - Capital One Direct Savings, Countrywide, Emigrant Direct, E-Trade Savings, FNBO, HSBC Savings, ING Direct savings, and Washington Mutual.

Another thing rate chasers have to watch out for as well is the federal savings account limit of 6 ACH transfers a month. However, unless you are shifting your savings around every few days, the 6 ACH transfer limit per account should not be too much of a limitation or restrictive hassle. Be mindful that the transfer limitation also applies to money market deposit accounts as well. For most comparative factors, savings and money market accounts have little differences except money markets usually provide slightly higher interest rates and sometimes offer check writing privileges. However, money markets usually have higher tiered minimum balance requirements, although that is not always the case.

3) Manage Your Portfolio Of Multiple Savings Accounts By Using An Account Aggregation Service

To keep an eagle eye on your bank balances and army of savings accounts, I recommend using an account aggregation service like Yodlee, or Mint.com. Yodlee in particular offers its banking account consolidation service through other financial providers as well, such as Bank of America. In my case, I utilize Yodlee through Fidelity's Full View access, which allows me to link up all of my high yield savings accounts and money markets to Fidelity Investments, storing my account passwords securely so that I can easily view my regularly updated account balances from one location. To make actual transfers however, you'll have to log into the desired bank account directly.

4) Periodically and Regularly Shift Your Bank Balances Around As Major Interest Rate Changes Are Issued By the Federal Reserve

One thing to note is that I'm not a rabid or fanatic rate chaser. While some hardcore rate chasers shift their money around as soon as interest rate offerings change the slightest, I prefer to my make shift once or twice a month at the very most - call me a mild rate chaser if you wish. Usually I only shift my balances around in pursuit of higher APY rates every two or three months on average. Thus I don't go hog wild over every slightest budge in APY, although there are lots of super online rate chasers who do though. Just look at those crazies who post on Fatwallet forums - they go nuts over a single .01% change.

Frequently, I fashion my fund transfers from one savings account to another around major interest rate moves by the Federal Reserve when I know major changes are coming my way. Upcoming federal reserve meeting dates on the calendar greatly interest me because decisions by the Federal Reserve frequently have a correlative effect across the board on the interest rate offerings by major banks. Rate cuts by the Fed usually signal subsequent APY interest rate drops by banks in a matter of days. Similarly, raises in the Fed Funds rate usually signal potential banking interest rate increases. Thus I usually try to make my electronic fund transfers as major rate changes are made across the board in response to Fed interest rate moves. Usually there is a lag time of about 1-2 weeks before banks at large fully and collectively respond to Fed announcements. Keep that in mind as well, lest you shift or chase that higher APY interest offering prematurely.

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