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By Norma Rodríguez and Noel Dávila
Updated: May 12, 2021 3:36 PM ET

Between brick-and-mortar banks, credit unions, and online banks, it can be hard to find the best savings account for your needs. Whether you’re looking for a traditional account or a high-yield online savings option, finding the right type of savings to meet your goals is not an easy task.

To help, we researched and selected the best savings accounts of 2021.

Money’s 8 Best Savings Accounts of 2021

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Best Savings Accounts Reviews

PenFed Credit Union Review: Best Credit Union

PenFed’s Premium Online Savings offers a high interest rate of 0.45% APY (as of May 2021) on your entire balance and all that’s required to open the account is a $5 deposit. The Premium Online Savings account is federally insured by the National Credit Union Association (NCUA) for up to $250,000.

PenFed’s Premium Online Savings account highlights:

  • Monthly crediting of all earned dividends
  • No fees for recurring online transfers
  • Allows you to transfer money from savings into a regular checking account using PenFed’s mobile app
  • PenFed’s mobile app features: mobile deposits, constant access to your bank statements, bill pay, transfers between accounts, and the extra security of logging in using your fingerprint

PenFed’s COVID-19 Response

PenFed put out a statement on its website urging its members to log in to their account and see if their products are eligible to skip a payment as a form of assistance.

Capital One Bank Review: Best All-Around

Capital One’s 360 Performance Savings offers low fees, competitive rates, and no monthly maintenance fees. All accounts are FDIC insured and you can use the 360 app to deposit checks and check your balance.

Capital One Bank is a full-service online national bank with local branches in Texas, Louisiana, and the Washington, D.C. and New York City metro areas, for greater accessibility.

Capital One’s 360 Performance Savings account highlights:

  • High-yield savings account that pays 0.40% APY (as of May 2021)
  • No monthly fees and no minimum balance or minimum deposit requirements
  • Capital One’s mobile app features account transfers, checking deposits, and tracks of their online saving tools
  • If you don’t live in an area with a Capital One branch, you can access your money via the tens of thousands of machines in the nationwide Allpoint ATM network

Capital One’s COVID-19 Response

Capital One is temporarily stopping the transfer or withdrawal of funds from their savings accounts. Depending on the type of account, a customer’s savings account may be converted to a checking account if the transfer or withdrawal limits have been exceeded. Customers will continue to have access to their funds.

CIT Bank Review: Best for Account Options

Unlike other banks and credit unions, CIT Bank offers three options for online savings accounts: Savings Builder, Money Market, and Savings Connect (their higher yield option).

The first two accounts have interest compounded on a daily basis, and offer easy check deposits through CIT Bank’s mobile app. The app also allows you to make transfers and check your balance and account history.

CIT’s Savings Builder account highlights:

  • Pays 0.40% APY (as of May 2021)
  • Two ways for you to earn that yield: by making monthly $100 deposits or by maintaining a $25,000 balance.
  • Daily compounding interest
  • Opening deposit requirement of $100

CIT’s Money Market account highlights:

  • Offers a 0.45% APY (as of May 2021)
  • No monthly service fee
  • $100 minimum opening deposit

CIT’s Savings Connect account highlights:

  • Up to 0.50% APY with upper tier option, requiring a minimum $200 automated deposit to a linked e-checking account
  • 0.42% APY for base tier option
  • $100 minimum opening deposit
  • Must have a linked e-checking account

CIT Bank offers customer support through its website, automated phone service, and mobile app.

CIT’s COVID-19 Response:

CIT Bank is urging clients who have been impacted by COVID-19 to reach out and discuss options. Until further notice, customers may conduct unlimited transfers and withdrawals on their savings and money market accounts. CIT won’t charge a fee, send a notice, or take any other action if the client exceeds the customary six-transfer/withdrawal limit.

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Barclays Online Savings Review: Best for Long Term Savings

Barclays offers a competitive APY rate and does not require a minimum balance in order to open an online savings account.

Stateside, the bank provides FDIC Insurance up to $250,000 per account holder. However, people looking for a full-service bank should look elsewhere — British Barclays only has 5 branches in the U.S. (and only one location in each of those five states).

Barclays’ Online Savings account highlights:

  • Offers 0.40% APY (as of May 2021)
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • You can withdraw money by making transfers to a linked bank account at a different financial institution, but not through ATMs
  • Its Savings Assistant tool helps account holders crunch the numbers while encouraging long-term savings to meet financial goals
  • Barclays’ user-friendly mobile app allows you to check your statement balance, look up your FICO credit score, and deposit checks
  • Charges a $5 fee for each withdrawal over the federal limit of six per month

Barclays’ COVID-19 Response:

Barclays has updated its call center hours and added more customer support agents to better serve its clients. While some relief efforts are being offered to clients with products like loans, as of this writing there has been no change in policy regarding their online savings account.

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American Express: Best for Prompt 24/7 Customer Service

What sets the Personal Savings account from American Express apart, besides its high interest rate, is its superb customer service, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

American Express is the only bank we reviewed that can quickly connect you with a live agent at all times.

Amex’s Personal Savings account highlights:

  • Offers 0.40% APY (as of May 2021)
  • No minimum opening deposit
  • No monthly or annual fees
  • No fees for withdrawals exceeding 6 per month. Amex does, however, reserve the right to refuse your withdrawal request. (See Amex’s Regulation D Covid exceptions below.)

American Express’ COVID-19 Response:

American Express has raised its Regulation D six-monthly withdrawal limit up to nine. The company has also put a relief program in place, but the information seems to indicate it only applies to credit card holders.

Ally Bank Review: Best Online Tools

Aside from its high APY, one of Ally Bank’s most attractive features for their account holders are its “buckets” and “boosters” online tools, designed to help set goals and build your savings around them.

As an online bank, customers can expect robust tech tools, including its Ally Mobile Banking App.

BUCKETS BOOSTERS
Helps you visualize your savings goals as individual targets you’re working to reach, whether it’s home improvements or a vacation Allows you to set a fixed amount to be saved or allow Ally’s algorithms to analyze your checking accounts
Can simplify your savings process while still earning interest in a single high-yield savings account Ally’s algorithm searches for money you could save without compromising your budget and upcoming expenses

Ally Bank’s Online Savings account highlights:

  • FDIC-insured and offers a 0.50% APY (as of May 2021)
  • No minimum balances or monthly maintenance fees
  • Charges fees for more than 6 monthly transactions and/or overdraft items
  • Provides 24/7 customer support via email, online chat, or phone
  • Proprietary mobile app allows you to view balances, carry out transfers, and deposit checks by uploading two pictures

Ally Bank’s Covid 19 Response:

Ally Bank is providing relief in the face of COVID-19 for online savings account holders. They will refund the excessive transaction fee if you make more than six withdrawals.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs Review: Best High-Yield Savings Account

Marcus by Goldman Sachs, an online-only bank, offers deposit accounts and personal loans. Even though its high-yield online savings account doesn’t offer the highest APY rating in the industry, they only require a small minimum deposit and are providing support to their clients during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Marcus’ High-Yield Savings account highlights:

  • Above national average APYs (0.50% as of May 2021)
  • Low minimum balance of $1 and no maintenance fees
  • The ability to wire transfer funds (up to $100,000) to and from other financial institutions
  • Offers 24/7 account access online and through its mobile app

Marcus by Goldman Sachs falls short in not having a deposit feature on its mobile app.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs’ COVID-19 Response:

In order to support their clients during the pandemic, Marcus will waive the early withdrawal penalty on their high yield savings account. To request a penalty-free withdrawal of your CD funds, you can call 1-855-730-7283 toll-free.

Vio Bank Review: Best for High Rates

Vio Bank is the online-only division of MidFirst Bank offering a high-yield savings account with one of the highest rates out there. We selected it as the best in its category not only for its high APY but also for its savings on paperless bill options and how fast it is to open your account.

Vio’s high-yield online savings account highlights:

  • Offers 0.57% APY (as of May 2021)
  • Interest compounded daily
  • Offers 6 free withdrawals every statement cycle, as per the federal requirements
  • No monthly fee if you opt for paperless billing
  • Open your account in as little as 5 minutes with a $100 minimum initial deposit

Vio Bank’s COVID-19 Response:

Vio Bank doesn’t have any statement available regarding accommodations related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Other Savings Accounts We Considered

When we conducted our research, we looked at 19 different companies, including Nationwide, Axos, Chase, and Comenity Direct. Unfortunately, some of these didn’t meet our requirements. The following list includes some that didn’t make the final cut, but were still noteworthy.

Citibank

Citibank’s Accelerate Savings:

Pros Cons
Pays 0.50% APY (as of May 2021) Requires a $500 minimum opening deposit
Offers both online customer service and physical branches Not available in all US states

Synchrony

Synchrony Bank’s High-Yield Savings Account:

Pros Cons
No maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements $0 balance for more than 60 days could lead to automatic account closure
Mobile app that lets you deposit checks and make transfers No option to add a checking account
Offers an optional ATM card for cash withdrawals and transactions No physical branches

Discover Bank

Discover Bank’s Online Savings Account:

Pros Cons
No service fees High number of registered complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
Mobile banking app has mobile check deposit, check-writing, and easy transfers. Few physical locations

Sallie Mae Bank

Sallie Mae Bank Money Market Account:

Pros Cons
Pays 0.40% APR on all balances (as of May 2021) No ATM access
No minimum balance or maintenance fees If you don’t fund your account in 40 days, or have a balance of less than $100, it will be automatically closed
Offers check-writing from the savings account

Varo Bank

Varo Savings Account:

Pros Cons
APY of up to 3.00%, provided you make 5 Varo Bank Visa® debit card purchases a month, and receive qualifying total direct deposits of $1,000+ Earning the 3.00% APY rate is out of reach for most Americans
Offers a user-friendly mobile app and online banking portal May not exceed a $5,000 daily savings balance for the whole calendar month

Savings Accounts Guide

What is APY?

An APY, or annual percentage yield, is how much money a given account earns in one year, taking into account both the interest rate and compound interest. A higher APY means the savings account will earn more returns over a one-year period.

It’s important to be aware of how inflation influences APY rates on your account. When the economy is doing well, the Fed tends to raise interest rates, resulting in higher APYs.

Money

APYs are different from APRs (annual percentage rate) in that the latter are the annual rate charged for earning or borrowing money.

What’s the difference between my savings account, a money market account, and a certificate of deposit (CD)?

Savings Account
Offers returns over 1%
Flexible or non-existent balance requirements
Money Market Account
Higher interest rates than a savings account
Stricter balance requirements
Certificate of Deposit
Fixed interest rate
Money has to remain tied up for a specified amount of time

What’s the difference between a high-yield savings account and an average savings account?

A high-yield savings account has a much higher rate of return than other savings accounts and is mostly offered by online banks. A more traditional savings account has a lower rate of return but tends to provide easier access to physical branches.

The rate of return on both types of accounts is regulated by the Federal Funds Rate. Because of FDIC insurance, having a savings account presents low-to-no risk to depositors, and you can access the money anytime.

Savings Accounts in Traditional Banks Versus Online Banks

Traditional Banks

Traditional Banks Pros Traditional Banks Cons
Branches, debit cards, and ATM availability Return rates tend to be low
Make cash deposits at branches Fees are higher
Face-to-face service Strict balance requirements

Online Banks

Online Banks Pros Online Banks Cons
Easy check deposits (eDeposits) No real options for non-Internet users
Lower balance requirements Limited ATM network
Banking on the go Can’t deposit cash directly

Best Practices For Saving Money

Open an Emergency Fund

Setting aside three to six months’ worth of regular living expenses is recommended for unforeseen issues such as a job loss, unexpected car repair, or illness that keeps you out of work.

You can also open a savings account for future plans such as the down payment for a home, a new business venture, or travel. Savings account rates tend to be better than checking accounts—and have federally regulated limits on how often you can take cash every month.

Invest…and Diversify your Investments

After you’ve saved enough money to cover unexpected expenses, explore other ways to make your money work for you.

Consider investing in stocks, bonds, and shares of mutual funds or exchange-traded funds. These financial products have the potential to earn more than even the best savings rates, though they also carry a financial risk.

Automate Your Savings – Set it and Forget It

For newbie savers, there are times when establishing a habit of setting aside a fixed amount is too difficult or can be easily forgotten. An alternative that takes out the human element is simply setting the amount to be deducted every month from your savings account.

Plan for a Debt-Free Retirement

When approaching retirement, you have to prepare your personal finances and be aware of the costs involved in maintaining the lifestyle you want.

Your contribution to your savings account should depend on your goal, needs, and wants. Avoid going into retirement with credit card debt or any other type of debt you won’t be able to afford in the long term.

Manage Your Credit Card Debt

The biggest problem with credit cards is the high interest rates, which are now around the 15% mark, according to the Federal Reserve. Avoid getting into credit card debt if you’re not able to pay it off right away.

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Best Savings Accounts FAQs

What is a savings account?

A savings account is an interest-bearing deposit account. Savings accounts can also be great for any money you want to keep safe, like your emergency fund. While it’s easy to transfer money to and from a savings account, bear in mind that there may be restrictions on the number of withdrawals allowed per statement cycle.

How to open a savings account?

You can generally open a savings account in just a few minutes, either online, over the phone or in person. When you open a savings account, it’s simple to access your funds 24 hours a day, seven days a week and you can also link your savings accounts to other accounts like checking accounts and money market accounts and transfer funds between them.

How many savings accounts should I have?

There are no rules on how many savings accounts you can have, the shortest answer is: as many as you need. Some people like to put their money for various goals in separate accounts. For example, one account to build a down payment for a home, another for a vacation fund, and one for emergencies.

In which situation would a savings account be the best investment to earn interest?

Savings accounts typically have interest rates that are too low to be meaningful in the short term, so they are not the best investment if you are planning to purchase a car. However, if you are saving up for a house, a savings account is a great low-risk place to store your money.

How does a savings account work?

A savings accounts basically works like this: 1)you open a savings accounts at a bank — be it online, by phone, or in person —, 2)the bank pays you interest on the money you deposit and leave in the account. Interest on savings accounts is usually compounded daily and paid monthly.

Will the returns I earn be taxed?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers your returns as income. They are therefore deemed taxable, just like any other form of income.

Why do some banks and financial institutions require a minimum balance?

There are many reasons for this, including the bank’s need for liquidity. For some banks, the balance in their accounts represents the funds with which they offer other products such as loans and mortgages.

How We Chose The Best Savings Accounts

As part of our methodology, we conducted over 200 hours of research, interviewed six experts, and vetted a total of 19 companies.

We also analyzed the number of complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for checking and savings accounts between 2017 and 2020.

We ranked the companies on our list based on the following factors:

Rates and Maintenance

While we discarded companies with considerably lower interest rates and annual percentage yield than the determined average, we still encourage you to do your own research to find the latest numbers when shopping for savings account offers.

Minimum Balance Requirements

We favored accounts that don’t require a minimum initial deposit. However, we did include some options that require you to keep a set account balance month after month, in some cases as low as $5, in others of at least $100.

Federal Backing and Consumer Complaints

We reviewed banks and credit unions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). We also looked into complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and only reviewed financial institutions whose filed complaints fell below the average number.

App Availability and Customer Support

There’s a lot to be said about the convenience of having access to your bank or credit union from a mobile app on your smartphone — and for customer support that’s available around the clock. Savings accounts that provide this kind of access to consumers ranked higher on our list.

Summary of Money’s Best Savings Accounts of 2021