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Best Tax Software in 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

The most sweeping tax reform legislation in decades was passed in 2018, and this is the first tax year when filers will feel the impact as they set out to prepare their taxes.

The impact on taxpayers will vary based on the individual. Some folks may get a bigger refund than expected, while others may owe extra money (especially if you’re a homeowner in a state with high property taxes). To help reduce any friction in the tax filing process and ensure that your records are filed correctly, choosing the right tax software is key. Software has only gotten better year after year, and in our third annual tax software roundup, we sought to find you the best tax software options out there.

We personally used all 13 of the products mentioned in this article. Our recommendations of the best tax software are specifically based on the following factors:

  1. How well the software meets the needs of the intended user (simple filers, stock traders, etc.)
  2. Price vs. product offerings
  3. Which has the best functionality (such as user interface, most imports, best navigation, etc.)

Which tax software fits your needs? Find out below. Please note, the prices for tax software change regularly. As the April 15th tax filing deadline approaches, prices for the software tend to increase.

Note: The prices reflected in this article are accurate as of the date of publishing.

The Best Tax Software of 2019

Best free tax software

Of the 13 tax software packages we reviewed only two allow all users to file state and federal taxes for free.

Winner: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax Credit Karma Tax has a clean user interface, limited jargon and easy navigation which makes it a top choice for free filers. Additionally, the built-in calculators make Credit Karma appropriate for even complex filers such as those with rental properties or side businesses. This year, Credit Karma Tax also offers an audit assistance guarantee which can be an excellent bonus for this free service.

Runner-up: DIY Tax

DIY Tax, also known as FreeTax.com, is a free service offered by Liberty Tax Service. DIY Tax has built in calculators to support stock traders and rental property owners, and it has excellent support articles. Despite the positives, its user interface is harder to use than the Credit Karma Tax interface. Experienced filers may be able to navigate the software, but newer filers should stay away.

Best tax software for basic filers

We consider “basic filers” to be W-2 employees who don’t need to itemize their taxes, and who only earn income from a W-2 job and interest from bank accounts. Our tax software recommendations for these filers are completely free (for simple filers), and the offer the easiest to use interfaces.

Winner: H&R Block Free

H&R Block Free H&R Block is one of the most robust software solutions for people with W-2 jobs. Its free version allows you to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, student loan interest deduction, the Child Tax Credit and the Dependent Care Credit, and the Retirement Saver’s Credit.

Runner-up: TurboTax Free Edition

TurboTax Free Edition offers a simple question and answer navigation style which makes it easy to file your taxes. Using the free edition you can claim the earned income tax credit and a child tax credit (but not dependent care credits). Filers who don’t need to itemize or claim other credits will find that TurboTax offers a great experience

Best tax software for students and recent grads

Most students and recent grads have fairly simple tax returns, but many will need to claim the Student Loan Interest Deduction, the Retirement Saver’s Credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. These recommendations offer the easiest to use platforms that are free for students and recent grads.

Winner: H&R Block Free

H&R Block Free If you’ve got student loan interest, you can claim an “above the line” deduction for it. However, most tax filing services require you to pay for this deduction. With H&R Block Free edition, you can claim the Student Loan Interest Deduction, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Retirement Saver’s Credit and other critical credits to lower your tax burden. The one drawback to H&R Block Free is that you can only enter W-2 and interest income while still qualifying for the free service. If you’re a side hustler, look to the runner-up, Credit Karma Tax

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

H&R Block Free is easier to use than Credit Karma Tax, but Credit Karma Tax is completely free for all users. If you’re a student or recent grad employed in the gig economy (driving for Uber, or renting out a room on Airbnb, etc.), Credit Karma Tax is the best choice for you.

Best tax software for itemizers

In 2019, fewer people than ever before will itemize their taxes. That’s because the new tax laws increased the standard deduction, and the deduction for state and local taxes is limited to $10,000. However, if you’re someone who pays state and local taxes, has mortgage interest to deduct and gives charitably, you may pay less to the federal government by itemizing your taxes.

Read more: Should You Itemize Your Taxes This Year?

Winner: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax People who qualify to itemize can use Credit Karma to file their state and federal taxes for free. Credit Karma makes it easy to claim deductions for state and local taxes, mortgage interest and charitable contributions. The interface is clean, and Credit Karma Tax offers free audit assistance guarantees. That means a tax specialist will help you if the IRS audits you. This is an important bonus for itemizers in 2019.

Runner-up: TaxSlayer Classic

TaxSlayer Classic has an easy to use question and answer interface that rivals top contenders H&R Block and TurboTax. Using the interface, you’re unlikely to miss even the most obscure of tax deductions. However, TaxSlayer Classic costs $17 to file your federal taxes and $29 for state taxes, and it doesn’t come with audit protection like Credit Karma Tax.

Best tax software that offers audit protection

The IRS has the right to audit anyone, but people with complex taxes run a greater audit risk. No tax software (or accountant) can prevent you from getting audited. However, some tax software will give you access to a tax specialist or accountant if you undergo an audit. These are the software services that can lend a hand if you need it.

Winner: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax In addition to being a free tax filing software, Credit Karma Tax offers a free audit assistance guarantee. If you’re nervous about the potential for an audit, filing with Credit Karma Tax is a good move in 2019.

Runner-up: FreeTaxUSA Deluxe

FreeTaxUSA Deluxe costs $6.99 for federal filing and $12.95 for state filing, and this price includes an audit assistance guarantee. If you’re audited, FreeTaxUSA’s audit specialists will help you understand the issues and help you prepare for the audit. FreeTaxUSA is a software worth considering if you want audit assistance.

Best tax software for stock traders

If you buy and sell stocks, bonds, or options outside of your tax-advantaged retirement accounts, you need a tax software that can handle all your information. Tax software for traders must allow users to import their brokerage statements and have internal calculators that minimize capital gains. Please note, if you only sell a dozen or so positions per year, you may want to consider a free service like Credit Karma Tax.

Winner: TaxAct Premier+

TaxAct Premier+  TaxAct Premier+ allows stock traders to import tax forms from most major brokerages, and it is a bit less expensive than competitors- $39.95 for federal filing and $39.95 for state filing.

Runner Up: H&R Block Premium – Online version

H&R Block Premium online software costs $49.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state filing. But the price is well worth for active traders. H&R Block allows you to import all major forms from many financial institutions.

On top of allowing users to import tax documents, H&R Block also has accurate accounting for short-term gains and losses. This functionality helps investors minimize the tax they owe.

Best tax software for real estate investors

Real estate investors need to calculate depreciation on their properties, and they need to amortize certain expenses and deduct others. If you’ve sold property in the last year, you’ll also need to calculate your capital gains taxes. With all these moving parts, filing taxes can be confusing for real estate investors. The best tax software for real estate investors needs to feature helpful support articles, intuitive depreciation and amortization calculators, and as many import features as possible.

Winner: TurboTax Premier

TurboTax Premier TurboTax Premier costs $59.99 for federal filing and $39.99 for state filing, but despite the high cost, real estate investors will love it. The real estate portion of TurboTax is superior to all other interfaces on the market. If you use QuickBooks software to manage your real estate accounting, you can connect it directly to TurboTax. If you don’t, you can still upload a Schedule E or use the robust calculators embedded in the software.

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax isn’t nearly as easy to use as TurboTax Premier because you cannot connect the software to any accounting app. However, it still offers plenty of functionality for real estate investors. Plus, it’s totally free. It’s built-in calculators make it easy to depreciate or amortize expenses. Its question and answer section also help real estate investors determine whether they qualify for the qualified business income deduction.

Best tax software for self-employed people

Are you a freelancer or contractor? If so, you know that you can deduct many business-related expenses. This means that taxes can get messy in a hurry. The best tax software for self-employed people makes it easy to claim business deductions. It will also offer robust explanations that will help you understand amortizing equipment expenses and whether you qualify for a home office deduction.

Winner: TaxSlayer Classic

TaxSlayer Classic TaxSlayer Classic has one of the easiest to use interfaces in the market, and it’s Classic level makes filing self-employment expenses easy. Plus the Classic level comes with IRS inquiry assistance (audit assistance) for a full year after filing. At just $17 for federal filing and $29 for state filing, TaxSlayer is a bargain for people

Runner-up: TurboTax Self-employed

TurboTax Self-employed offers incredible value to self-employed users. It’s the most expensive product on the market ($89.99 for federal filing and $39.99 per state), but it comes with incredible service. User can reach out to certified tax specialists with an questions, and users who file before the April 15th deadline can get a free subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed. When you combine those advantages with TurboTax’s unparalleled user interface, the software can be a great choice despite the price tag.

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax doesn’t have all the functionality of TurboTax or TaxSlayer, but it is completely free. If your business has straightforward accounting, Credit Karma Tax may offer all the functionality you need.

Best tax software for small businesses

Sole proprietors and single member LLCs can use tax software for self-employed people, but if you’re part of a partnership, a corporation, or a multi-member LLC, then you need more than the standard tax software that we reviewed above.

Corporations need software that supports Form 1120. S Corporations (with more than one member) need tax software that supports Form 1120S. Partnerships and multi-member LLCs need software that supports Form 1065.

Since business tax software is different from individual tax software, MagnifyMoney reviewed just three packages. The software packages include TurboTax Business, H&R Block Premium and Business and TaxAct for Small Businesses.

Winner: H&R Block Premium and Business

H&R Block Premium and Business H&R Block Premium and Business costs $89.95 for the federal and State software (this includes up to five federal e-files. State e-filing costs $19.95 per state. Additional state programs are $39.95 each. H&R Block offers an excellent interview style user interface that DIY business owners need. Plus the software allows users to create employee forms, and it supports the major forms for businesses, plus the form for nonprofit organizations. For most business owners that want to file their own taxes, H&R Block Premium and Business offers excellent value for the price.
Credit Karma Tax is a completely free filing service, and it has a decent user interface. Unfortunately, it has had several technical glitches this year, and Credit Karma has struggled to respond in a timely manner. If you run into trouble, you may want to try a different filing service.

Runner-up: TurboTax Business

TurboTax Business is one of the most expensive software packages on the market. It costs $159.99 for the federal software (which includes up to five federal e-files). On top of that, you’ll pay $59.99 per state and $19.99 per state e-filing fee. However, for most business owners the interface may be worth the price. TurboTax Business offers the same interview style interface that consumers love, but it offers increased functionality. Small business owners will especially love that they can use it to create unlimited W-2 forms and 1099-MISC forms.

Tax Software pricing, plans, and insights

In 2019, MagnifyMoney reviewed 13 unique tax software packages, and selected the best tax software options from those packages. Below, you can learn more about the each tax software, it’s pricing structure, and what to expect when you use it.

Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax Credit Karma Tax offers free federal and state filing for all users. Credit Karma also offers an audit assistance guarantee for its users. The software doesn’t allow any imports, but it’s clean user interface is easy to use and includes helpful knowledge bubbles that explain tax jargon. Users also can get free technical help when filing through Credit Karma Tax.

Superlatives: Best free tax software, Best tax software for itemizers, Best tax software that offers audit protection, Runner-up best tax software for real estate investors, Runner-up Best tax software for self-employed

DIY Tax

DIY Tax DIY Tax offers free federal and state filing for everyone. It’s user interface is cluttered and the navigation can prove to be confusing. However, the calculators in the software are accurate.

However, real estate investors and small business owners need to be careful with this platform. The depreciation and amortization calculators can be confusing. The software comes with limited technical assistance, but they push Liberty Tax Service offices for more robust tax support. The software doesn’t come with an audit support guarantee.

DIY Tax is sponsored by Liberty Tax Service, and you will see ads for its offices in the software. However, filing in a Liberty Tax office isn’t free.

Superlatives: Runner-up Best Free Filing Service

eSmart Tax

eSmart Tax eSmart Tax and DIY Tax are the same software package. However, you have to pay for eSmart Tax. Why would you pay? The Deluxe and Premium packages offer unlimited phone or email support from tax specialists. This is important if you need tax questions answered. However, in most cases, eSmart Tax is a software package to avoid, it’s simply too expensive to be considered worthwhile.

 

FreeBasicDeluxePremium
Price$0 Federal
$29.99 State
$34.95 Federal
$36.95 State
$45.95 Federal
$36.95 State
$59.95 Federal
$36.95 State
Best For1040EZHomeowners, people with dependents, sole proprietorsStock market investors without capital gains or lossesFreelancers, real estate investors, people who sold a home in the previous years

Superlatives: None

TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer TaxSlayer has an incredible question and answer user interface and helpful support articles. When it comes to itemizing deductions or finding credits, it is one of the easiest to use tax software packages on the market.

Unlike most tax software, TaxSlayer supports all forms on its second-tier Classic level. This means that anyone could complete their entire tax return at a relatively low price. TaxSlayer’s Premium and Ultimate levels gives you access to live chat support, audit protections, and help from tax professionals. The Self Employed tier offers similar but it doesn’t offer audit protection.

However, TaxSlayer has one demerit. It doesn’t allow you to see internal calculations for depreciation and amortization. That makes TaxSlayer inappropriate if you’re a real estate investor or self-employed.

TaxSlayer is also the only software company offering an interest free advance on your refund is TaxSlayer. With TaxSlayer you can get an advance of $500 or $1,000 after the IRS accepts your file. The loan is deposited on a TaxSlayer Prepaid Visa® Card powered by Green Dot. The card charges a $7.95 monthly fee, so you’ll want to use your refund quickly. After your refund appears, TaxSlayer will repay itself and then deposit the remainder of your ` in your bank account.

 

Simply FreeClassicPremiumSelf employedUltimate
Price$0 Federal
$0 First State ($29 each additional)
$17 Federal
$29 State
$37 Federal
$29 State
$47 Federal
$29 State
$57 Federal
$29 State
Best For1040EZAll others (itemizers, stock market investors, real estate investors, self-employed, etc.)Comes with audit assistance, ask a task professional, and live chat support

Superlatives: Best for self-employed, Runner-up Best for Itemizers

TaxAct

TaxAct TaxAct uses simple questions, helpful knowledge articles, and easy navigation to help you complete your taxes. It’s even easy to import your prior year’s taxes into the software. The one area where TaxAct shin

Despite all these praises, the software stumbles somewhat on its real estate coverage. The depreciation calculator seems clumsy in certain areas. Plus, it’s interface isn’t as easy to use as most of the top software packages, but it’s prices are nearly as high.

Overall, TaxAct tends to be a software to avoid unless you’re an active stock trader.

 

FreeBasic+Deluxe+Premier+Self- employed+
Price$0 Federal
$0 State
$9.95 Federal
$19.95 State
$29.95 Federal
$39.95 State
$34.95 Federal
$39.95 State
$49.95 Federal
$39.95 State
Best For1040EZ, 1040A (no dependents, claiming standard deduction)People with dependents claiming the standard deductionPeople with student loan interest, other itemizers.Real estate investors, stock market investorsSelf-employed people and contractors.

Superlatives: Best for Stock Traders

OLT.com

OLT.com OLT.com offers bargain basement pricing, but it shows in the interface. It’s clumsy user interface only allows you to import prior year tax forms from its own database. Its support articles send you to the even more confusing IRS website.

However, OLT.com offers a few bright spots. The health insurance coverage is easy and accurate. It is the only tax software that makes it easy to claim the premium tax credit for part of the year. Also, the real estate depreciation calculators are flexible enough to deal with complex circumstances. In most cases, we don’t recommend OLT.com since there are free options that offer better service.

 

FreePremium
Price$0 Federal
$9.95 State
$7.95 Federal
$7.95 State
Best ForAll major schedules supportedAnyone who wants audit support

Superlatives: None

1040.com

1040.com - Tax Software Pricing According to 1040.com, tax filing should be smart and simple, and to a certain extent, 1040.com delivers. The software is friendly and informative. It offers free live chat and email technical support. It also offers support articles that are approachable and informative.

Unfortunately, it’s friendly interview style interface starts to falter if you’re a real estate or stock market investor. The software doesn’t have built-in calculators which makes it inappropriate for people with complex filing situations.

Although 1040.com is easy to use and has a decent interface for people with simple filing situations, it’s not a recommended software. Users in most filing situations can find less expensive software options that deliver more value.

 

Free$24.95$44.95
Price$0 Federal
$0 State
$24.95 Federal
$19.95 State
$44.95 Federal
$24.95 State
Best For1040EZStock market investorsSelf-employed, real estate investors, itemizers

Superlatives: None

H&R Block Online

H&R Block Online H&R Block is one of the biggest names in tax software for good reason. People with complex tax returns will love the value that H&R Block offers. H&R Block offers unlimited technical support to all filers, and phone and chat tax support for those who pay. The only disappointment is that H&R Block online filing customers do not get a free in-person audit support. This is reserved for those who purchase a $119.99 (plus $36.99 per state) Tax Pro Review service.

However, H&R Block offers easy navigation, helpful interview questions, and robust articles that can help you untangle even the most complex filing situation. H&R Block’s built-in calculators are flexible enough to deal with uncommon tax situations. Plus, you can import most major forms, including prior year’s tax returns from competitors. H&R Block’s software isn’t quite as easy to use as TurboTax, but it’s less expensive in most situations.

 

FreeDeluxePremiumSelf-employed
Price$0 Federal
$0 State
$29.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$49.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$79.99 Federal
$36.99 State
Best ForNew filers, people with dependents, people with student loan debt.Best for itemizersReal estate investors, self-employed people with less than $5,000 in expenses, stock market tradersSelf-employed with more than $5,000 in expenses

Superlatives: Best for Simple Filers, Best for Students and Recent Grads, Runner Up Best for Stock Traders

TurboTax

TurboTax If you’re looking for the Cadillac of tax software, TurboTax emerges as the winner. The interface is easy to use no matter how complicated your tax situation is. And anyone who pays for the service can get help from tax professionals. And the professional help is a step above most other providers. With your permission, support staff can “draw” on your screen to guide you through tough situations.

Real estate investors, self-employed people and small business owners will appreciate TurboTax’s robust interface. However, TurboTax is consistently the most expensive software, so only users who really need TurboTax’s features should pay for the high price.

 

FreeDeluxePremiumSelf-Employed
Price$0 Federal
$0 State
$39.99 Federal
$39.99 State
$59.99 Federal
$39.99 State
$89.99 Federal
$39.99 State
Best ForW-2 employees, people with children but no dependent care costs.Itemizers, people with dependent care costsInvestors, real estate investorsSelf-employed

TurboTax also offers TurboTax Live where you can get help from a CPA. Federal costs range from $49.99 to $169.99 for federal filing and $29.99 to $39.99 for state filing. This offer is available when you create an account with TurboTax.

Superlatives: Best for Real Estate Investors, Runner-up Best for Simple Filers, Runner-up Best for Self-Employed.

FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSA FreeTaxUSA and TaxHawk offer the same tax software at the same price. They are owned by the same parent company, and you can even move your profile from one site to the next. The websites offer a decent user experience, and experienced filers will find everything they need to complete their taxes.

FreeTaxUSA offers two pricing tiers. Both levels support all major tax forms. Users can also access chat support from tax and technical specialists from both levels. However, upgrading to the Deluxe level will give you priority access to tax specialists, and it gives users audit support.

The name might lead you to believe you’re getting free tax filing, but you’ll have to pay at least $12.95 for state filing. Nonetheless, FreeTaxUSA is a great bargain — especially if you have a complex filing situation.

 

FreeDeluxe
Price$0 Federal
$12.95 State
$6.99 Federal
$12.95 State
Best ForAll major schedules supportedAnyone who wants audit support

Superlatives: Runner-up Best Audit Protection

Jackson Hewitt Online

Jackson Hewitt Online Jackson Hewitt brings the neighborhood tax filing office online. They feature excellent knowledge articles and easy interview style tax filing. It’s easy to import your taxes from any major competitor or from Jackson Hewitt. This makes switching to Jackson Hewitt Online easy.

Jackson Hewitt Online has some excellent features including built-in calculators make depreciation and amortization easy. It also offers live chat tech support to all its customers. However, the navigation and built-in knowledge articles are subpar. Those drawbacks make Jackson Hewitt online somewhat difficult to use.

Overall, the Jackson Hewitt Online software is a middle of the pack software, and most users can find better software at lower prices.

It’s important to note that this review is only for the online Jackson Hewitt software package. Magnify Money did not review Jackson Hewitt office preparations.

 

Free$29.99$49.99
Price$0 Federal
$0 State
$29.99 Federal
$36.95 State
$49.99 Federal
$36.95 State
Best For1040EZ

Superlatives: None

Liberty Tax Online

Liberty Tax  Online Liberty Tax Online is identical to DIY Tax and eSmart Tax, but the price is quite a bit higher. While the clunky user interface doesn’t make tax filing easy, the high price tag actually might be worthwhile to some consumers. Unlike Liberty Tax’s other software projects, Liberty Tax Online comes with a Double Check Guarantee.

With the double check guarantee, users can fill out their tax return online and then visit a Liberty Tax retail location. In the Liberty Tax retail outlet, a tax professional will review the user’s form before filing. If you miss anything important, a certified professional can help you out. All of Liberty Tax Online’s packages come with audit assistance guarantees as well.

 

SimpleBasic EditionDeluxePremium
Price$24.95 Federal
$35.95 State
$34.95 Federal
$39.95 State
$54.95 Federal
$39.95 State
$79.95 Federal
$39.95 State
Best ForW-2 Income only.Itemizers, Self-employed people with less than $5,000 in expensesSelf employed peopleStock market traders, real estate investors, people who sold a home in the previous year

Superlatives: None

ezTaxReturn

ezTaxReturn ezTaxReturn has a clean and fairly easy to use interface for people with simple filing situations, but it doesn’t support state returns in every state. Plus, the software is a mess for people with complex filing scenarios need to avoid it. ezTaxReturn doesn’t have built in calculators to depreciate rental property or business depreciation. Additionally, the software only supports one rental property. It also doesn’t support many capital gains calculations such as wash sales, options trading, or selling a rental property.

The only way to qualify for ezTaxReturn’s free offer is if you qualify for the earned income tax credit (EITC), and you don’t have dependents, and you only have W-2 or interest income. Since knowing whether you qualify for the free software can be a challenge, it’s best for most people to avoid ezTaxReturn in 2019.

 

FreeAll others
Price$0 Federal
$0 State
$29.95 Federal
$19.95 State
$39.95 Federal + State
Best ForSimple filers in some states*Anyone else who qualifies.

*ezTaxReturn supports these states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin. Free returns for Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico and Utah.

Superlatives: None

Tax Software FAQs

Tax-related identity theft is the number one reported form of identity theft. However, most theft isn’t the direct result of using online software. Any time you apply for a credit card or use online banking, your information enters the digital world. If this information gets stolen, you’re at risk. Nobody can eliminate the possibility of identity theft, but you can work to protect yourself.

Part of protecting yourself involves only giving out your information on trusted websites. When you file your taxes, you provide all your personally identifiable information to a software service. You need to know whether or not that information is safe.

Every software company that we reviewed is an Authorized IRS e-File provider. This means that these sites comply with the security and business standards set forth by the IRS.

None of the software packages we reviewed will sell your personal information to a third party. Each of the software packages we reviewed requires you to use multi-factor authentication. This makes it difficult for hackers to access your personal information. These websites are as secure as possible, but they are not 100% safe.

If you think you’ve been the victim of tax fraud, contact the IRS immediately at 1-800-908-4490 to work with the IRS resolution specialists. You will need to file an identity theft affidavit that explains that someone filed taxes in your name.

If you don’t want to use tax software, you can choose a paper filing option. Each state requires you to mail your check to a different office.You can also use the IRS’s free electronic fillable forms. However, these offer limited guidance and can be difficult to use. With so many other free options, these should be a last resort.

Finally, you can hire a professional tax preparer to do your taxes for you. Be sure that the person you hire is in the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.

An accountant can save you time, headache, and in some cases, money. Tax professionals must follow the tax code, but their specialized knowledge helps them pick up on deductions or credits that you might miss on your own.

In general, the more complex your tax return, the more you may want to hire an accountant. If you choose to hire an accountant, be sure that they are an authorized tax return preparer. They should sign your return as an authorized preparer.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah here

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The Uber Visa Card earns 4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else. The foreign transaction fee is 0% of each transaction in U.S. dollars. So it’s great if you travel outside the U.S.

Travel – 3%

The AAA Member Rewards Visa® Card offers 3 points for eligible travel & AAA purchases, 2 points on gas, grocery store, wholesale club and drugstore purchases, and 1 point per $1 everywhere else. You don’t have to be a AAA member to get the card.

The information related to AAA Member Rewards Visa® Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

U.S. Supermarkets – up to 6% (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply | Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Regular Purchase APR
15.24%-26.24% Variable
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 12 months
Intro BT APR
0% for 12 months
Annual fee
$95
Rewards Rate
NEW 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions & 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Credit required
good-credit
Excellent/Good

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers the highest rate we could find for U.S. supermarket shopping: 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). This card does have a $95 annual fee, but if you spend $1,584 a year at U.S. supermarkets, you’d earn enough cash back to recoup the annual fee.

Gas – 5%

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Fort Knox Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Visa® Platinum Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn an unlimited 5% cash back on gas and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Regular Purchase APR
11.50% - 18.00% Variable

You might not have heard of this credit union, but anyone can join. You just need to pay $5 to join the American Consumer Council / Kentucky and you’re eligible.

Another option includes the Sams Club® Mastercard® with 5% at the pump on up to $6,000 worth of gas purchases a year, then 1%, but you need to be a Sam’s Club member to hold the card.

Dining – 4%

Uber Visa Card

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The information related to Uber Visa Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Uber Visa Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else.
Regular Purchase APR
17.99% - 28.74% Variable

This card earns 4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else.

Everything else: Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card

If you’re willing to pay an annual fee, the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Card card earns Unlimited 3% cash back during the first year; 2.5% cash back afterwards. There is a $99 annual fee, waived the first year. Alliant is targeting this card to high spenders with excellent credit, so it might be tough to get approved.

Just mark each of the cards you pick in your wallet with a sticker for each category so you remember which to use, and you’ll rack up lots of cash with minimal hassle. And afraid to have more than one card? Well if you’re responsible with credit, a few additional inquiries might have less of an impact than you think. See our experience with scores and getting several cards for the rewards.

For unlimited retailer-specific discounts, also consider:

If you want to maximize absolutely everything, read on…

We’ve organized cash back cards for each of the over 25 spending categories that are currently eligible for more than 2% in cash back rewards.

They include both year round and quarterly rotating categories like those on the Discover it® Cash Back. Pick the categories that matter most to you, and you’ll see the opportunities you have to earn 3-5% if you’re willing to keep track of some limits and quarterly changes.

Remember, these are all cards that let you earn cash value rewards, with no restriction on where you spend the rewards, unlike travel points.

You’ll find three flavors of cash back rewards, in the order of hassle factor:

  • Unlimited cash back – This is the simplest form. You usually won’t find the very highest 5%+ rewards this way, but we’ve found some great cards that get you 3% or more in some popular categories.
  • Cash back with limits – This is where a card limits the cash back you earn by putting a cap on the spending which earns the cash back in the specific category, on a combination of categories, or the card as a whole.
  • Quarterly rotating categories – These are the cards with the big headline 5% rates. Don’t be fooled. While you can earn the 5% rate, you may have to opt in to categories each quarter manually and be hit with caps on how much you can earn.

Advertising Services

With Limits

3%: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express* – up to $25,000 in purchases in bonus categories. Terms Apply.

Airfare

Unlimited

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Quarterly category in July 2019

  • 5%: Visa® Platinum Cash Rewards credit card from Nusenda Credit Union – Oct. – Dec. July 2019 – up to $1,500 – Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) by becoming a member of the La Montanita Food Co-op.

Amazon.com

Unlimited

Quarterly category in July 2019

  • 5%: Discover it® Cash Back – up to $1,500 when you activate – Oct. – Dec. July 2019

Bookstores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+* up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Car Rentals

Unlimited

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.
  • 3%: Visa Rewards Credit Card from InFirst FCU (no annual fee -join FAPAC at a reduced rate of $10 using discount code INFIRST)

Cell phone

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 5%: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express – up to $50,000 in bonus purchases a year. Terms Apply.

Cellular Phone / Landline / Internet / Cable TV

Clothing Stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+* up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Commuting, Taxis

Unlimited

  • 3%: Citi Premier℠ Card* ($95)

Department Stores

Select U.S. department stores. See the list here.

  • 3%: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express ( $95 annual fee). See Rates & Fees.

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+* up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Discount stores

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Drug stores

With limits

  • 3%: Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer* – 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, 1% on all other purchases
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Education

Quarterly category in July 2019

  • 5%: Visa® Platinum Cash Rewards credit card from Nusenda Credit Union – July – Sept. 2019 – up to $1,500 – Anyone can join the Nusenda Credit Union (formerly the New Mexico Educators Credit Union) by becoming a member of the La Montanita Food Co-op.

Electronics

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+* up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card®* – 3X points in one of 10 categories (capped at $2,000 each quarter or 6000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points.

Furniture

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+ up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer – 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, 1% on all other purchases

Gas

Unlimited

With limits

Quarterly category in July 2019

  • 5%: Chase Freedom®  – up to $1,500 when you activate – July – Sept. 2019
  • 5%: Visa® Platinum Cash Rewards credit card from Nusenda Credit Union – July – Sept. 2019 – up to $1,500

Supermarket Spending

Unlimited

  • 5%: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card* – Earn 5% at Whole Foods Market
  • 3%: Amazon Rewards Visa® Signature Card* – Earn 3% at Whole Foods Market
  • 2.55%: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
  • 3%: Golden 1 Platinum Rewards (only available to California residents)

With limits

  • 6%: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express – Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). Terms apply.
  • 3%: Consumers Credit Union Visa Signature Cash Rebate – up to $6,000 rebate per year – anyone can become a member of the credit union
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 a quarter
  • 3%: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express – Earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). Terms apply.

Gyms

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+* up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Home improvement

No limits

With limits

  • 3%: Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer* – 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, 1% on all other purchases
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Hotels

Unlimited

  • 3%: Uber Visa Card*
  • 3%: AAA Member Rewards Visa® Card*
  • 3%: Citi Premier℠ Card* ($95)
  • 3%: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi* (need to be a Costco member)
  • 3%: Visa Rewards Credit Card from InFirst FCU (no annual fee – can join FAPAC at a reduced rate of $10 using discount code INFIRST)
  • 3%: Sams Club® Mastercard®

With limits

  • 3%: Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer* – 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, 1% on all other purchases
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in July 2019

  • 5% – Visa® Platinum Cash Rewards credit card from Nusenda Credit Union – Oct – Dec July 2019 – up to $1,500

Movie Theaters

With Limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+* up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose

Quarterly category in July 2019

  • 5%: Visa® Platinum Cash Rewards credit card from Nusenda Credit Union – April – June July 2019 – up to $1,500

Office Supply Stores

With limits

  • 5%: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express* – up to $25,000 in bonus purchases. Terms Apply.
  • 5%: Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card* – up to $50,000 in bonus purchases a year
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Restaurants

Unlimited

  • 4%: Uber Visa Card*
  • 3%: AARP® Credit Card from Chase Bank*
  • 3%: Sams Club® Mastercard®
  • 3%: Marvel Mastercard®
  • 3%: Golden 1 Platinum Rewards (California residents only)
  • 3%: Navy Federal GoRewards (You needent to have military affiliation to be a Navy Federal member.)
  • 3%: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi* (need to be a Costco member)
  • 3%: Visa Rewards Credit Card from InFirst FCU (no annual fee – can join FAPAC at a reduced rate of only $10 using discount code INFIRST)
  • 2.5%: PayPal Extras MasterCard®( (3x card but points worth 0.8 cents when you turn them into PayPal credits)

With Limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Quarterly category in July 2019

  • 5%: Discover it® Cash Back – up to $1,500 when you activate – July – Sept. July 2019
  • 5%: Visa® Platinum Cash Rewards credit card from Nusenda Credit Union – April – June & Oct – Dec July 2019 – up to $1,500

Shipping

  • 3%: SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express* – up to $25,000 in purchases in bonus categories. Terms Apply.

Sporting Goods Stores

With limits

  • 5%: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card* up to $2,000 / quarter across two 5% categories you choose
  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 a quarter

Target

Unlimited

  • 5%: Target REDcard™ Credit Card
  • 5%: Discover it® Cash Back – up to $1,500 when you activate – Oct. – Dec. 2019

Trains, Cruises, Other Vacation

Unlimited

  • 3%: AAA Member Rewards Visa® Card*
  • 3%: Citi Premier℠ Card* ($95)
  • 3%: Visa Rewards Credit Card from InFirst FCU (no annual fee – can join FAPAC at a reduced rate of $10, using discount code INFIRST)
  • 3%: Sams Club® Mastercard®

With limits

  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Utilities

  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice

Walmart

  • 3%: Huntington Voice Credit Card® – up to $2,000 in spending a quarter in one category of your choice
  • 5%: Discover it® Cash Back – up to $1,500 when you activate – Oct. – Dec. 2019

Warehouse Clubs

  • 2%: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi* – at Costco warehouse clubs
  • 2%: Visa Rewards Credit Card from InFirst FCU (no annual fee – can join FAPAC at a reduced rate of $10, using discount code INFIRST)

*The information related to this offer has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at [email protected]

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Earning Interest

The Best Online Savings Accounts in July 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

The Best Online Savings Accounts

Updated July 18, 2019

There are no excuses for sticking with a low-rate savings account these days. Online savings accounts provide consumers with interest rates that are way above those offered by conventional banks. The best online savings accounts can easily earn you an APY of 2.15% or greater, while the average rate offered by a traditional brick-and-mortar bank remains at a paltry 0.26%.

If you’re still skeptical about switching to an online bank, consider the facts. Your funds are just as safe stashed with an FDIC-insured online bank as they would be with the bank branch on Main Street, and you’re likely to get better technical support with an online-only bank website and app. Many offer round-the-clock customer support and online chat features that make it easy to resolve issues without needing to visit a branch in person. Along with higher rates, you may end up saving on the cost of the account. With lower overhead costs, online banks typically charge lower fees.

Every month we review and compile the best savings account offers from online banks. Our ranking factors in features such as a higher-than-average interest rate, no minimum balance requirement, and superior ATM access.

1. High Rate: Goldman Sachs Bank USA – 2.15% APY, no minimum balance (but no ATM access)

High-yield Online Savings Account from Goldman Sachs Bank USA

Our advertiser Marcus by Goldman Sachs, the consumer bank of Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, offers a 2.15% APY on deposits. There isn’t a minimum balance requirement to earn the APY and there are no transaction fees. Upon opening the account, you can deposit funds via electronic transfer, wire transfer, or deposit by check. You can get access to your funds via electronic transfer or wire transfer. Goldman has been investing heavily in Marcus, its online consumer bank. Marcus is already offering some of the best savings accounts and personal loans in the market, and further expansion is expected. The savings account has consistently been paying one of the highest rates in the market. With a 2.15% APY, you can get one of the highest rates in the market from a well-known brand. The maximum deposit is $1,000,000 and deposits are FDIC insured up to the $250,000 limit.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Goldman Sachs Bank USA’s secure website

Member FDIC

2. High Rate: Barclays Bank – 2.10% APY, no minimum balance

Online Savings Account from BarclaysBarclays is a large, old British bank, based in London and with more than 325 years of history. Although Barclays is huge in the United Kingdom, it is a challenger brand in the US. Barclays offers savings products with highly competitive rates. These deposits are used to fund their rapidly growing American credit card business. The online savings account has a 2.10% APY with no minimum balance to open and no monthly fees. Your deposits are FDIC insured up to the legal limit. The Barclays website has a good look and feel. And you can have the confidence of keeping your money with one of the world’s largest and oldest universal banks.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Barclays’s secure website

Member FDIC

3. High Rate: American Express National Bank – 2.10% APY, no minimum balance (and no fees)

High Yield Savings Account from American Express National BankOur sponsored advertiser, American Express National Bank, offers a Personal Savings account, which earns a 2.10% variable Annual Percentage Yield (APY) as of 12/20/2018. The account charges no monthly fees and requires no minimum deposit, making it an affordable account to open. You must fund your account within 60 days of applying for the account, and the FDIC insures your deposits up to $250,000. Overall, the account is a great option for anyone who wants the flexibility of earning a high interest rate on a sum of money you’ve stashed away, minus the withdrawal restrictions of a certificate deposit.

LEARN MORE Secured

on American Express National Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

4. Top Choice: Ally Bank – 2.10% APY, no minimum balance and you can get a free checking account

Online Savings Account from Ally BankAlly is a bank without branches that has consistently been paying high interest rates on savings accounts. Ally has no minimum balance requirement and will pay 2.10% APY. Even better, you can open a free checking account (also with no minimum balance requirement and eligible for the 1% cash back offer). This makes access to your savings account incredibly easy – because you can transfer funds online (or via the app) and have immediate access via checks, debit cards and ATMs. With an Ally account, you will have access to their full suite of expanding (and market-leading) products.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Ally Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

5. High Rate: Synchrony Bank – 2.15% APY, no minimum balance, (and ATM access)

High Yield Savings from Synchrony BankSynchrony Bank pays a healthy 2.15% APY. There is no minimum balance requirement and no monthly fee. In addition to the great rate, you can get an ATM card. Most internet-only banks require you to transfer funds electronically, which can take a few days. If you ever need quick access to your funds, the ATM card makes access easy. You might not recognize the Synchrony brand in the banking space, but it is a large, well-capitalized business. Synchrony used to be a part of General Electric (GE), and was spun out as a separate company. Unfortunately, the digital experience is not the best, but they now have a mobile banking app.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Synchrony Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

6. High Rate for big balance savers: Customers Bank – 2.50% APY, $25,000 to open

High-Yield Savings Account from Customers BankCustomers Bank was established in 1997 and has grown to be known as a “super-community bank” in Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and New England. The bank has over $9 billion in assets, making it a mid-sized bank. Currently, Customers Bank is offering an outstanding rate on its High-Yield Savings Account. If you can deposit a minimum of $25,000 into the account, this bank will reward you with a 2.50% APY. You’ll have to maintain this balance to continue earning the high rate. You must fund the account within 30 days of receiving application approval. This account doesn’t come with any monthly fees. A few items to be aware of: this account doesn’t come with checks or a debit card. Customers Bank does have ACH transfer limitations of $5,000 per day and $50,000 per statement cycle. You can easily open this account online and manage the account online or Customers Bank’s mobile banking app. Deposits are FDIC-insured.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Customers Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

7. High Rate: CIBC Bank USA – 2.39% APY, $1,000 to open

CIBC Palladian Savings Account from CIBC USACIBC Bank USA is the U.S. division of a Canadian based bank. This division was established in 1991 and has since acquired over $27 billion in assets. Currently, CIBC Bank USA is offering an online-only savings account with a competitive APY of 2.39%. You’ll only need $1,000 to open the account. While there isn’t a monthly maintenance fee, you may be charged $10 if you make more than six transactions per statement cycle. CBIC Bank USA does have a mobile banking app, but make sure that you download the app for the U.S., not Canada.

LEARN MORE Secured

on CIBC USA’s secure website

Member FDIC

8. High Rate: CIT – 2.30% APY, $100 to open

Savings Builder from CIT BankCIT is a very large bank that you probably never heard of. It has more than $50 billion of assets and makes loans (and leases) to middle market companies and small businesses. To fund those loans, CIT operates an internet-only bank that pays some of the highest interest rates in the country. While CIT isn’t as big as other online banks, they’re currently offering a very healthy APY of 2.30% on their Savings Builder account. You only need $100 to open the account, but you’ll need to meet one of two requirements to earn the high rate. We really like the options that CIT Bank has put in place to earn this high APY. The two ways to continue earning this high rate are:

  1. Make a monthly deposit of $100 or more into this account
  2. Maintain a daily balance of $25,000 or more

Even better: there aren’t any monthly maintenance fees and interest compounds daily. Deposits are FDIC insured.

LEARN MORE Secured

on CIT Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

9. High Rate: HSBC Direct – 2.30% APY, $1 minimum to open, no minimum balance to earn APY

HSBC Direct Savings from HSBC DirectHSBC Direct is the online division of financial giant, HSBC Bank. Based on the amount of assets HSBC Bank has acquired to date, it is the 14th largest bank in the U.S. While HSBC Direct may sound like a new player to the online banking game, this division was actually around prior to the 2008 financial crisis and offered extremely competitive rates. After the financial crisis, the bank renamed the online division to HSBC Advance and slowly started to decrease its online savings account rates, much like other online banks were doing around that time.

Fortunately, HSBC has decided to reenter the online banking space. Since the initial launch in July of 2018, the bank has consistently increased its HSBC Direct Savings Account rate from 1.70% APY to 2.30% APY. You only need $1 to open the account and the APY will be applied to any balance below $2 million. You may fund the account via ACH transfer and the account can be opened online. You will have to deposit new money to the account, which means that you cannot be a member of the HSBC Group in the United States. The account doesn’t have a monthly maintenance fee and all deposits are FDIC insured.

LEARN MORE Secured

on HSBC Direct’s secure website

Member FDIC

10. High Rate: Citizens Access – 2.20% APY, $5,000 minimum balance amount

Online Savings Account from Citizens AccessCitizens Access is the online division of Citizens Bank. This division was recently created to provide the best savings rates to consumers. While the online division is brand new, the bank its backed by isn’t. Citizens Bank has been around for a while and has grown to have over $122 billion in assets. While you need to deposit and maintain a minimum balance of $5,000 to earn the 2.20% APY, you’ll be funding an account that comes with no fees. If your balance happens to fall below $5,000, the APY will drop to 0.25%. One downside to this online-only bank is that they don’t currently have a mobile banking app. This means that you’ll have to do all of your banking through their website. Luckily, their website is mobile-friendly.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Citizens Access’s secure website

Member FDIC

11. Unique Bank + Highest Overall Rate: Fitness Bank – 3.00% APY, $100 minimum to open

Fitness Savings (12,500+ Steps) from FitnessBankFitness Bank is unique and new online bank. It’s a division of Affinity Bank, which has been around since 2002 and has acquired over $318 million in assets. Affinity Bank decided to launch a concept like no other to reward actively fit individuals with the highest APY currently available. While most institutions choose to offer tiered rates based on balance amounts, Fitness Bank offers tiered rates based on the average number of steps you take on a daily basis. To earn the high 3.00% APY, you’ll need to take an average of 12,500 steps or more per day. If you only take an average of 10,000 to 12,499 steps per day, you’ll earn an APY of 2.50% (which is still a great APY). You’ll earn 1.75% APY if you take an average of 7,500 to 9,999 steps per day. Taking an average of 5,000 to 7,499 steps per day will qualify you for an APY of 1.25%. Finally, if you take anywhere between 0 to 4,999 steps on average per day, you’ll only earn 0.50%.

Fitness Bank will track your steps by requiring you to download its Step Tracker app. The bank will then calculate your average steps from the previous month to determine which tier you qualify for. Once the bank determines which rate your activity qualifies you for, you will continue earning that rate for an entire month until the bank recalculates your activity. The activity requirement will be waived for the first month so that you can get your app all set up and start logging in some steps. For this first month, you’ll automatically earn the 3.00% APY.

In terms of actual money, you will need at least $100 to open the account and you’ll need to maintain this balance to waive the $10 monthly maintenance fee. The bank does impose a limit on the amount of money you’re able to transfer in and out of the account via ACH. You cannot transfer more than $15,000 per day in or out of the account. You also cannot exceed more than six certain withdrawals or you’ll incur an excessive withdrawal fee of $10 for each additional withdrawal. In addition to the Step Tracker app, Fitness Bank has a mobile banking app to manage your account.

LEARN MORE Secured

on FitnessBank’s secure website

Member FDIC

12. High Rate for big balance savers: Northpointe Bank – 2.55% APY, $25,000 minimum balance amount

Ultimate Savings from Northpointe BankNorthpointe Bank is a fairly small institution when compared to some of the bigger banks on this list. However, they’ve quickly accumulated over $800 million in assets. This month, they’ve made it on to our list due to their outstanding APY of 2.55% on their Ultimate Savings Account. In order to earn this rate, you’ll need to maintain a minimum balance amount of $25,000. If your balance drops below $25,000, you’ll still be able to earn a 1.12% APY. If your balance rises above $1 million, the APY will also drop to 0%. There are no monthly fees associated with this account, but there may be a $15 excessive transaction fee if you make more than six transactions per month. Northpointe Bank allows you to easily manage the account via their mobile app.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Northpointe Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

13. High Rate: Vio Bank – 2.52% APY, $100 to open

High Yield Online Savings Account from Vio BankVio Bank is the online division of MidFirst Bank, a national private financial institution with over $16 billion in assets. Vio Bank was recently created and is not yet as established as Marcus, Barclays, American Express, Synchrony, and Ally Bank. However, this online bank launched strong with a High Yield Online Savings account offering 2.52% APY on all balances. You only need $100 to open the account. You can fund the account via ACH.

There are a few limitations to keep in mind: incoming ACHs take anywhere between two to five business days to post and the online bank may place a hold your ACH for two or three business days. When you’re ready to transfer funds out of the account, you’ll be limited to $5,000 per outgoing ACH. You’ll also be limited to transferring an aggregate monthly total of $20,000 via outgoing ACHs. As is with every other savings account, you’ll also be limited to making six withdrawals per monthly statement cycle. The good news (aside from the high APY) is that Vio Bank doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee. Vio Bank also has a mobile banking app where you can conveniently manage your accounts on-the-go. Also, its website is mobile friendly so it should be fairly easy to do your online banking from a smart phone, as well.

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on Vio Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

14. High Rate: Salem Five Direct – 2.51% APY, $100 to open

eOne Savings from Salem Five DirectSalem Five Direct is the online bank division of Salem Five Cents Savings Bank, a community bank based in Salem, Massachusetts. Salem has been around for more than 150 years and all deposits are insured by the FDIC up to the legal limit. Salem Five Direct also has DIF Insurance, which means that if you have over $250,000 in a Salem Five account, the amount over $250,000 will also be insured by the Depositors Insurance Fund. That’s a huge benefit that not a lot of banks offer.

You only need $100 to open this account, and there are no monthly maintenance fees. However, they do have a few limitations to be aware of. First, according to their online banking agreement, Salem Five Direct limits the dollar amount of their External Transfers to $5,000 per transaction, $5,000 in aggregate per day, and $20,000 in aggregate per month. So, if you decide to have more than one account with them, like their money market account, they’ll look at the aggregate amount of External Transfers conducted from both the savings account and money market account. Second, account holders are limited to six withdrawals per statement cycle due to Federal Regulations. If you exceed the six withdrawal limit, they’ll charge you $10 per additional transaction. Finally, the web and mobile experiences are not great. But, if you give them a call (which we have done), you will get friendly service from a community bank. While this bank does offer one of the best rates for an online savings account, we want you to be aware of their limitations.

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on Salem Five Direct’s secure website

Member FDIC

15. Runner-Up: For Small Balance Savers Digital Federal Credit Union – 6.17% APY up to $1k

Primary Savings from Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU)Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) currently offers a nice account for people who are just starting to save. You can earn an APY of 6.17% with their Primary Savings Account. You will only earn that rate on deposits up to $1,000. Once you have more than $1k, you should consider other accounts on this list. It is a credit union – and your deposits are insured by the NCUA up to the legal limit. Anyone can join the credit union by donating to one of their participating organizations such as Reach Out for Schools, which has a membership fee of $10. You’ll be able to join one their participating organizations when you go to open your account with DCU. DCU is also part of a nationwide CO-OP network that allows their members to have access to shared branches and surcharge-free ATMs throughout the U.S.

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on Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU)’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Recap of the best high-yield savings accounts by APY

  • Digital Federal Credit Union – 6.17% APY
  • FitnessBank – 3.00% APY
  • Northpointe Bank – 2.55% APY
  • Vio Bank – 2.52% APY
  • Salem Five Direct – 2.51% APY
  • Customers Bank – 2.50% APY
  • CIBC – 2.39% APY
  • CIT Bank – 2.30% APY
  • HSBC Direct – 2.30% APY
  • Citizens Bank – 2.20% APY
  • Synchrony Bank – 2.15% APY
  • Goldman Sachs Bank USA – 2.15% APY
  • Barclays – 2.10% APY
  • American Express National Bank – 2.10% APY
  • Ally Bank – 2.10% APY

How to find the right savings account for you

  • Focus on rates, but don’t forget about fees. Snagging the highest interest rate isn’t always your best bet. You also want to ensure the whole account helps you earn consistent returns. For example, a high-rate online savings account might reset to a lower APY after an introductory period. Perhaps the best rate requires a balance that’s too high or too low for your needs. And watch out for monthly fees that could eat into your savings.
  • Compare, compare, compare. Use our savings account comparison tool to calculate how much you could earn with different accounts. You can filter by ZIP code and size, which can help large-balance savers find better options than no-minimum options.
  • Carefully consider CDs. CDs allow savers to earn more on their savings by agreeing to lock up their funds for a set period of time. With CDs, you make your initial deposit at a set APY and wait for the CD term to mature. With most CDs, you can’t touch the original deposit amount before maturity without paying a penalty. Since CDs are less liquid than a standard savings account, they’re good for setting aside money you won’t need to access in the near term. Typically, we recommend using CDs for long-term goals, like accumulating a down payment for a home.

How the Fed impacts online savings rates

The interest rates offered by banks are tied to the federal funds rate, which is set by the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). This includes the deposit account rates that grow your money in savings and other deposit accounts. When the federal funds rate rises, you might see that reflected in the deposit interest rates at most banks.

As the Fed hiked rates over recent years, online banks were far quicker to raise their rates in turn than traditional banks. Just look at the average APY offered by big banks — 0.26% vs. 1.52% on average for online banks as of December 2018.

We’ve enjoyed successive Fed rate hikes for the last few years, but the trend is waning. As we continue into 2019, the odds of a rate hike this year have reached zero. The Fed did nothing at its January meeting, and didn’t raise rates at the March meeting either.

The bleak federal funds rate outlook doesn’t necessarily mean that banks will start slashing their own deposit account rates. Online banks are extremely competitive and need to remain so if they want to maintain their edge.

In the January Goldman Sachs earnings call, Goldman Sachs Executive Vice President and CFO Stephen M. Scherr noted it has no plans to walk back on rates for its online savings account Marcus, aiming to keep its rank among the top savings rates in the country.

We heard much of the same from fellow online bank Ally Bank, whose CFO Jennifer LaClair said during its January earnings call that it’s still important to take the “competitive landscape” into account.

Still, other earnings calls indicated that banks are in as much of a holding pattern as consumers are. When asked about the bank’s deposit rate outlook in the event of a Fed rate slowdown, Bank of America CFO Paul Donofrio noted, “At some point, the broader retail rates will rise. We just don’t know when. So, I think we’re just going to have to wait and see.”

As for what that all means to you, chances are that if you keep your deposits with an online bank, you’ll still get the most competitive rates regardless of a Fed pause or rate decrease. You might see an overall decrease in online savings rates (moreso in the competitive rate-chasing CD space), but they’ll still outperform most brick-and-mortar rates any day.

The bottom line

So what’s a saver to do? At the end of the day, you want the account that makes the most sense for you. Choose the one that lets you save and manage your money in the best ways possible. The most efficient way to consistently grow your money is to open an online savings account. These accounts will offer the best interest rates compared to brick-and-mortar banks, no matter where the federal funds rate goes this year — plus, they’re easily accessible in case of emergency. If you don’t need immediate access to your money and you have some extra cash lying around, open a high-yield CD as a more long-term savings alternative.

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LaTisha Styles
LaTisha Styles |

LaTisha Styles is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email LaTisha at [email protected]

Lauren Perez
Lauren Perez |

Lauren Perez is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lauren here