With most of the advice out there advocating a cash position in this economy, you want to maximize your savings rate. The average money market account is earning just under 2.5% nationally, and the average interest checking account is growing at a rate of 1.5%.
Consumer Reports recently identified a few savings strategies that offer more competitive rates. Remember to compare rates for various bank products at www.bankingmyway.com.
Save on Autopilot
Directly deposit part of your paycheck into a high-yield online savings account that’s fee free, like at ING Direct and HSBC Direct that have savings rates of more than 3%.
Numerous employers will let you direct deposit part of your paycheck into more than one account, such as an IRA, a 529-college savings plan or mutual fund. T. Rowe Price allows systematic contributions starting at $50 in its IRAs or mutual funds, instead of the usual $1000 to $2,500. Over at Fidelity, you can automatically invest $100 through your employer instead of $2500 or more. For 529s the investment is often lower, like $25.
If you are paying your credit card balance off in full each month, go for a cash-back rewards card. You’re essentially earning free money for being a good borrower. Avoid cards with low credit limits to keep your credit utilization ratio down. And remember, borrowing more than 30% of your credit limit can knock a few points off your credit score.
Banks are starving for deposits right now. Use that vulnerability to your advantage. If you’re unhappy with your savings rate, call up your bank and ask for a better deal. Mention you’re tempted to move your deposits to an internet bank or a competitor and that might get you another half point tacked on. If that doesn’t work, see what other concessions you can get: Ask for fee-free checking, free money withdrawals, free overdraft protection, etc. The ball’s in your court.