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The Most Convenient Credit Unions of 2018 Ranked

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Credit unions have historically had a special place in the U.S. economy. These community-based banks are, in effect, not-for-profit financial institutions owned by their depositors. That means by design credit unions have a vested interest in keeping the cost of services like loans and banking fees low for their customers, while offering competitive rates.

On the other hand, credit unions don’t enjoy the same economies of scale of larger banks, which means they struggle to afford higher costs of adopting the latest mobile banking technology or toll-free telephone banking services. So it may be fair to ask if, by joining a credit union, you may be trading lower fees for some inconveniences, such as likely incurring more out-of-network ATM fees and shorter banking hours.

In a new study, MagnifyMoney figured out which credit unions are the true standouts when it comes to offering consumers the same conveniences of a big bank.

We collected information on the 50 largest credit unions (by assets) in the U.S., and ranked their relative convenience in five separate categories:

  • Teller hours. Average hours each local branch is open per week.
  • ATM availability. Participation in both nationwide and regional surcharge-free ATM networks.
  • Telephone hours. Number of hours per week personalized teller service via phone is offered.
  • Mobile app. The user satisfaction of the credit union’s mobile app, as determined by Apple Pay and Android smartphone users.
  • Portable transaction data. The ability to download credit union transactions to personal finance applications like Quicken and Mint.com.

We found many credit unions have also used technology to their advantage, by creating services that are nearly as good as those provided at larger banks. Some credit unions even share their branches with one another, allowing, for example, a credit union member on the East Coast to use branches and ATMs from a different credit union in California.

The 15 most convenient credit unions overall

These credit unions excelled in many, if not all, of the five criteria we used to measure relative convenience. In general, they all offer longer-than-average branch hours; extended personalized telephone service (many open 24 hours); surcharge-free ATM networks; decent smartphone apps; and the ability to track your credit union transactions from applications outside of the website.

  1. Alliant
  2. Hudson Valley
  3. Wright-Patt
  4. Alaska USA
  5. BECU
  6. Redstone
  7. Delta Community
  8. PenFed
  9. Navy
  10. Wings Financial
  11. Security Service Federal Credit Union
  12. Police and Fire Federal Credit Union
  13. Suncoast Credit Union
  14. OnPoint Community Credit Union
  15. DCU

Credit unions with the longest hours

  1. Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union
  2. Police and Fire Federal Credit Union
  3. Alaska USA Federal Credit Union
  4. America First
  5. Wescom (tie) and Logix (tie)
  6. Wright-Patt
  7. Veridian
  8. Desert Schools
  9. DCU (tie) and Redwood (tie)

Traditional bank branches have been closing in droves. There are nearly 5,000 fewer bank branches today than five years ago, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation data. Meanwhile, credit unions have grown their modest footprint, with the average credit union having more branches than three years ago.

One aspect that allows credit unions to artificially expand their branch reach even further is by belonging to a cooperative that offers the same services you might receive in your hometown credit union branch. The Co-op network, one of the largest, allows its member credit union to share activities like teller deposits and withdrawals at over 5,600 credit union branches nationwide.

But locally, extended hours still count, so we checked the working hours of credit union branches of the 50 largest credit unions. All but two credit unions had branches that were open on average of more than 40 hours per week.

Credit unions with 24-hour telephone service

  • Alaska USA Federal Credit Union
  • Alliant Credit Union
  • BECU
  • Delta Community Credit Union
  • First Technology Federal Credit Union
  • Navy Federal Credit Union
  • Redwood Credit Union
  • Security Service Federal Credit Union

Even 40- to 60-hour branch hours aren’t always convenient if you have, for instance, a long commute or unusual working hours yourself. So we also wanted to see how personalized phone services were at these credit unions.

We were surprised when early one New York morning we decided to call Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, where it was really early (4:30 a.m.). Nonetheless, the representative indeed answered, and confirmed that banking assistance was available 24 hours a day. (To be fair, Alaska USA also has branches on the West Coast of the continental U.S.).

But seven other credit unions also offer round-the-clock telephone assistance, which may come in handy for procrastinators, or simply those who like to bank in the dead of night.

Best credit union smartphone apps

  • Eastman Credit Union
  • ESL Federal Credit Union
  • Redstone Federal Credit Union
  • SEFCU
  • Wright-Patt Credit Union
  • Visions Federal Credit Union
  • Delta Community Credit Union
  • Wings Financial Credit Union
  • Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union
  • Kinecta Federal Credit Union

If you can live without features like sending money on a separate mobile app like Venmo, credit union apps can be just as effective as those provided by the big banks, just with a little less bling and pizazz.

We annually rank the best smartphone apps of both banks and credit unions at MagnifyMoney, but have never looked at credit union apps separately.

As it turns out, most have relatively good ratings (as defined by iPhone and Android smartphone users). Of the 10 best-scoring credit unions, all but one ranked as high or higher than apps of the three largest brick-and-mortar banks (Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo). The credit union apps have all the features of those of larger banks, like deposit-by-photo and ability to check balances without logging into the app.

In addition, all of these credit unions allow you to download your transaction history to budget apps like Quicken and Mint.com.

Best surcharge-free ATM network coverage

  • Alliant Federal Credit Union
  • Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union
  • Northwest Federal Credit Union
  • OnPoint Community Credit Union
  • Suncoast Federal Credit Union
  • Wings Financial Credit Union
  • Wright-Patt Credit Union

Banks typically charge around $3.00 for a using a non-network ATM for cash withdrawals. Often, you get dinged for fees both coming and going by using the “wrong” ATM — once by the bank that owns the machine you use, and again by your own bank. By participating in surcharge-free ATM networks like CO-OP and Allpoint, credit union members can avoid these fees.

And with these ATMs available in many drug stores and other nationwide retail chains, you can be reasonably certain you won’t incur surcharge fees on your next out-of-town trip.

Pros and cons of credit unions

Pros:

  • Lower costs, better rates. Credit unions, on average, have more favorable rates on auto loans and credit card APRs than banks overall, and offer higher yields on savings products like CDs. And fees for checking accounts and overdraft fees are lower than those of banks.
  • More willing to work with you on providing credit. Many credit unions will allow their members to appeal credit decisions if they are initially turned down for credit. They may ask you to supply additional documentation, and a committee will review your appeal.
  • Same levels of insurance as FDIC-insured banks. Credit unions have their own insurance fund, run by the National Credit Union Administration, that insures accounts at the same $250,000 levels as the FDIC. This is important because credit unions can fail just like banks. Our sister site, Deposit Accounts, notes that five Credit Unions were liquidated last year.

Cons:

  • You may not be eligible to join. Historically, to join a credit union, one had to share a “common bond” with other members of the credit union — for example, by working for the same employer, or by some other shared affiliation. While some credit unions make this requirement easy to meet by offering multiple membership paths, others still require specific employment or residency requirements.
  • A credit union mortgage may sometimes be harder to come by than one offered by a bank. Although credit unions may have more flexibility to make loans with some products, that may not always extend to home mortgages. A recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia notes that credit unions turn down mortgage applications more often than small banks. (They also note that credit unions have lower charge-off rates than banks, which is good news for its members).
  • Don’t expect an instant response. While nearly all banks can immediately offer you a credit decision on loans and credit card applications, don’t expect the same sort of instant gratification with a credit union. Depending on the size of the credit union, it could take a number of business days before you hear back about a credit decision.

Methodology

MagnifyMoney collected information on the 50 largest credit unions (by assets) in the U.S., and ranked their relative convenience in five separate categories:

  • Teller Hours. Average hours each local branch is open per week.
  • ATM Availability. Participation in both nationwide and regional surcharge-free ATM networks.
  • Telephone Hours. Number of hours per week personalized teller service via phone is offered.
  • Mobile App. The user satisfaction of the credit union’s mobile app, as determined by Apple Pay and Android smartphone users.
  • Portable Transaction data. The ability to download credit union transactions to personal finance applications like Quicken and Mint.com.

Each category represented 20% of the credit union’s overall score. The highest score was 90.0 (out of 100) and the lowest score was 46.6. Credit union data was collected in November 2017 for mobile app ratings, and in February 2018 for all other categories.

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.

Chris Horymski
Chris Horymski |

Chris Horymski is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Chris at [email protected]

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The Best CD Rates – July 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

The Best CD Rates
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Updated July 16, 2019

If you’re looking for a better yield on your savings and have time to burn, a high-rate CD at an online bank would be a great option. With a CD, you agree to lock up your funds in an account for a specific period of time, and in return the bank offers a higher yield than you’d find on a standard savings account. If you’re not keen on the idea of completely locking your money away for a set amount of time, you may want to consider a no-penalty CD. These accounts give you the benefit of locking down a rate for a set amount of time without requiring you to lock in your money for the length of the term.

CDs are often seen as the next level up after savings for that reason. If you’ve maxed out your savings account with enough funds to see you through the next year or so, it can be wise to start shoveling savings into a CD to maximize your returns.

For the best CD rates in the industry, check out online banks. They tend to offer much better interest rates than traditional banks, thanks to the lack of typical brick-and-mortar costs.

For example, let’s say you find a 12-month CD at a big brick-and-mortar bank that requires a $1,000 minimum deposit and pays 0.05% APY. If you were to open that account with just the minimum, you’d earn 50 cents after a year. Even a bigger deposit of $10,000 would only yield $5 at maturity.

At an online bank, on the other hand, you could earn 2.80% often with a minimum deposit of $1,000. Opening the account with $1,000 would yield $28, while a $10,000 deposit would earn $280 in a year, a much better return on your money no matter how you look at it. (If you would rather get a savings account or money market with no time restriction, look at the best savings accounts or best money market accounts).

The best CD rates from top banks

To find the best CD rates, we look for the banks and credit unions that consistently offer competitive CD rates month over month. This list is updated monthly, and competition continues to intensify. Here are the accounts from banks and credit unions with consistently competitive CD rates:

12 months – 3 years: BBVA – 2.70% APY – 1.90% APY; $500 minimum deposit to open
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BBVA has been around since 1964. This bank had humble beginnings in Birmingham, Alabama as Central Bank & Trust Company. This small community bank went through several name changes and pioneered several banking initiatives in Alabama (including opening on a Saturday and introducing the first ATM and debit card in the state). In the early 90s, the bank changed its name to Compass Bancshares. In 2007, it had its biggest change to date. The bank was acquired by a Spanish company (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria) and renamed BBVA Compass. Recently, BBVA dropped the Compass and is now just called BBVA. Through all these changes, BBVA has grown to acquire over $92 billion in assets.

While this, now, giant bank has not historically offered competitive rates on its deposit accounts, it’s begun competing in the online space by offering online-only CDs with decent rates. Currently, BBVA is offering a competitive 2.70% on its 12 Month Online CD. The bank does mention that this CD available for a limited time, so you may want to lock in your money in this CD sooner rather than later. You’ll need a minimum of $500 to open the CD. The early withdrawal penalty on this CD is pretty unique. It’s $25 plus 1% of the amount withdrawn. While BBVA does have other CD terms, this CD currently has the best rate.

CD TermAPY
12-months2.70%
15-months2.00%
18-months1.90%
3-years1.90%
6 months – 6 years: Goldman Sachs Bank USA – 0.60% APY – 2.85% APY; $500 minimum deposit to open
Goldman Sachs Bank USA

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Our advertiser Marcus by Goldman Sachs is the online consumer bank of Goldman Sachs Bank USA (the large investment bank). Your funds are FDIC insured, and Goldman offers very competitive rates. Even better: there is only a $500 minimum deposit. So, if you don’t have enough money to meet the minimum deposit of the other banks on this list, or you are looking for another bank for your savings, GS is a good option. It also doesn’t hurt that they also offer some of the best CD rates in the market today. Here are their rates:

CD TermAPY
6-months0.60%
9-months0.70%
12-months2.50%
18-months2.50%
2-year2.55%
3-year2.60%
5-year2.80%
6-year2.85%
3 months – 5 years: Ally Bank – 0.75% APY – 2.75% APY; $0 minimum deposit to open (higher APY with higher deposit)
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Ally is one of the largest internet-only banks in the country. Ally’s former advertising campaign made it very clear: no branches = higher rates. And Ally has consistently paid some of the highest rates in the country across savings accounts, money market accounts and CDs. For savers with fewer funds, Ally is unique. There is no minimum deposit to open a CD. However, if you have more money, you can earn a higher APY. If you have more than $25,000 to deposit, you can earn between 0.75% APY and 2.75% APY. And one of our favorite features of Ally: they often (although not always) offer preferential rates on renewal. Far too often banks give the biggest bonuses to new customers, but Ally has done a good job of rewarding its existing customers. A good example of this is a 1% cash back promotion Ally is currently offering to new and existing customers. All deposits at Ally are FDIC insured up to the legal limit.

3-months:
  • 0.75% APY (less than $5k)
  • 0.75% APY ($5k minimum deposit)
  • 0.75% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
18-months:
  • 2.35% APY (less than $5k)
  • 2.50% APY ($5k minimum deposit)
  • 2.55% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
6-months:
  • 1.00% APY (less than $5k)
  • 1.00% APY ($5k minimum deposit)
  • 1.00% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
3-year:
  • 2.45% APY (less than $5k)
  • 2.55% APY ($5k minimum deposit)
  • 2.60% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
9-months:
  • 1.25% APY (less than $5k)
  • 1.25% APY ($5k minimum deposit)
  • 1.25% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
5-year:
  • 2.75% APY (less than $5k)
  • 2.75% APY ($5k minimum deposit)
  • 2.75% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
12-months:
  • 2.50% APY (less than $5k)
  • 2.50% APY ($5k minimum deposit)
  • 2.50% APY ($25k minimum deposit)
3 Months – 5 Years: Nationwide by Axos Bank – 0.75% APY – 2.56% APY; $500 minimum deposit to open
Nationwide by Axos Bank

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Nationwide is most commonly known for its insurance products. However, in 1998, Nationwide registered with the FDIC as Nationwide Trust Company, FSB. In 2006, the company changed its banking name to Nationwide Bank. In 2018, Nationwide Bank reverted to Nationwide Trust Company, FSB after Axos Bank acquired the deposits business. Now, with Axos Bank powering the banking services, this brand is able to offer top of the line products to banking customers. Currently, Nationwide by Axos Bank is offering a pretty strong APY on its 12-month CD. Especially when you compare the rate against some of the top online banks. This CD does come with an early withdrawal penalty that is equal to six-months’ worth of interest. The bank has decided to focus on offering top rates on 12, 18, and 24-month CDs. See the full list of CD rates below:

CD TermAPY
3-months0.75%
6-months1.55%
9-months1.75%
12-months2.70%
18-months2.80%
24-months2.90%
36-months2.45%
48-months2.50%
60-months2.56%
1 year – 5 years: Barclays Bank – 2.50% – 2.85% APY, no minimum deposit to open
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Barclays is one of the oldest banks in the world. Although they’re based in London, they do have a U.S. presence and offer competitive rates on their CDs and savings account. Currently, they’re offering some of the highest CD rates in the market, and they have an edge over the rest of the institutions on this list: they don’t require a minimum balance to earn the APY or open an account. Deposit as little or as much as you’d like into a term of your choice and you can start earning interest as long as the account is funded within 14 days of opening the CD. Additionally, your funds are insured through the FDIC.

CD TermAPY
1-year2.50%
2-year2.55%
3-year2.60%
4-year2.65%
5-year2.85%
3 months – 10 years: Discover Bank – 0.35% APY – 3.05% APY, $2,500 minimum deposit to open
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Discover is best known for cash back credit cards. However, Discover has also quietly built a leading internet bank that offers checking accounts, savings accounts and CDs. Discover has invested in a mobile banking app and strong on-shore customer service. Although Discover does not always have the highest rate, it is very close (within basis points) across all durations. If customer service and digital tools (like apps) are important to you, Discover is an excellent consideration. Note: you can even get a CD rate with a duration as short as 3 months. However, you would be better off opening a high yield savings account if you plan on saving the money for less than a year. Keep in mind that all CD terms come with an early withdrawal penalty if you choose to withdraw money before your maturity date. If your Discover CD is less than one year, the penalty is worth three months of simple interest. If the term is between one to three years, the penalty is worth six months of simple interest. Four-year CDs have a penalty that is worth nine months of simple interest. Five year CDs have a penalty that is worth 18 months of simple interest and seven to 10-year CDs have a penalty that is worth 24 months of simple interest.

CD TermAPY
3-months0.35%
6-months0.65%
9-months0.70%
12-months2.50%
18-months2.55%
2-year2.60%
30-months2.60%
3-year2.65%
4-year2.75%
5-year2.85%
7-year3.00%
10-year3.05%
3 months – 5 years: Synchrony Bank – 0.75% APY – 2.80% APY; $2,000 minimum deposit to open
Synchrony Bank

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Synchrony used to be a part of GE, and now has an online bank that pays competitive rates. The online deposits are used to fund their store credit card portfolio – and the company is publicly traded. If you have $2,000 or more to deposit into a CD, Synchrony will offer you some of the best CD rates. However, if you have less than $2,000, you’re better off going with one of the other online banks above. Your deposit will be insured up to the FDIC limit. In a rising rate environment, this is a great way to get a high interest rate without locking yourself into a long term.

CD TermAPY
3-months0.75%
6-months1.00%
9-months1.25%
12-months2.50%
15-months2.85%
18-months2.50%
24-months2.50%
36-months2.60%
48-months2.65%
60-months2.80%
6 months – 5 years: Capital One – 0.60% APY – 2.50% APY; no minimum deposit to open
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Capital One is famous for its credit card business. However, it has recently started getting aggressive with its CD rates. There is no minimum deposit for their 360 CDs, which make them comparable to Barclays’ and Ally’s CDs. Capital One CDs are FDIC insured, up to the federal maximum. And you get the comfort of depositing your money with a well-known bank. In addition to this bank’s competitive CD rates, it also has interest-earning savings, checking, and money market accounts that offer top rates. We believe this makes Capital One a great option for those wanting to do all their banking in one place.

CD TermAPY
6-months0.60%
9-months0.80%
12-months2.30%
18-months2.30%
24-months2.35%
30-months2.35%
36-months2.40%
48-months2.45%
60-months2.50%

The best no-penalty CD rates

No-penalty CDs are unique because these accounts allow customers to withdraw from their CD without incurring an early withdrawal penalty. These CDs are an attractive offer to customers as it provides no risk if they choose to withdraw their money early. Here are some of the best no-penalty CD rates that are available nationwide:

7 months – 13 months: Goldman Sachs Bank USA – 2.15% APY – 2.35% APY; $500 minimum deposit to open
Goldman Sachs Bank USA

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Similar to its regular CDs, you only need a minimum of $500 to deposit into Goldman Sachs Bank USA’s no-penalty CDs. This makes these CDs highly attractive to customers with smaller deposits. If you choose to open one of these CDs, you’ll only be locked in for seven days after you fund the account. After the seventh day, you’re free to withdraw your funds, but keep in mind that you’ll need to withdraw the full amount. These CDs are an excellent option if you want your money to remain liquid or if you want to invest your money into an interest-earning account for a short amount of time. One thing to note is that the 7-month no-penalty CD has a much higher rate than the regular 6-month CD (2.15% APY vs 0.60% APY). The high APY makes Goldman’s 7-month no-penalty CD a fantastic option if you want to earn interest in a short amount of time. Here is Goldman’s full list of no-penalty CD rates:

TermAPYMinimum balance to earn the APY
7-month2.15%
$500
11-month2.20%
$500
13-month2.35%
$500
11 months: Ally Bank – 1.80% APY – 2.30% APY; $0 – $25,000 minimum deposit to earn APY
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Unlike the other two banks that offer multiple terms, Ally Bank only offers one term on its no-penalty CD. While Ally doesn’t require a minimum deposit to open, it does reward higher balances with higher APYs. This no-penalty CD is great for low-balance individuals who want to keep their money liquid. However, if you’re okay with locking your money into a CD for 12 months, you’re better off going with Ally’s regular 12-month CD as it has a higher APY (2.50% APY vs 1.80% APY) and doesn’t have a certain balance requirement to earn that high rate. If you still choose to open Ally’s 11-month no-penalty CD and you need to withdraw money before the terms ends, you’ll need to withdraw your funds in full and won’t be able to do so until seven days after funding the account. Here are the tiered rates for Ally’s no-penalty CD:

TermAPYMinimum balance to earn the APY
11 months1.80%Up to $5,000
11 months2.15%$5,000
11 months2.30%$25,000
11 months – 14 months: PurePoint Financial – 1.65% APY – 2.00% APY; $10,000 minimum deposit to open
PurePoint Financial

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PurePoint Financial is the online division of Union Bank. Both the parent bank and this online division are backed by financial giant, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG). Under the MUFG Union Bank umbrella, this institution has acquired over $130 billion in assets. As its online division, PurePoint Financial has been able to offer its customers highly competitive rates not only in CDs, but in an online savings account.

Currently, PurePoint Financial is offering an extremely competitive rate of 2.00% on its 13-month no-penalty CD. It also offers an 11-month and a 14-month no-penalty CD, but those two accounts have lower rates than its 13-month no-penalty CD. Keep in mind that you’ll need at least $10,000 to deposit into any of these CDs. If you do choose to withdraw money from this CD before the term is up, you’ll need to withdraw the full amount. You’ll also have to wait seven days after you fund the account to withdraw any of the money. Here’s a full list of PurePoint Financial’s no-penalty CDs.

TermAPYMinimum balance to earn the APY
11-month1.65%$10,000
13-month2.00%$10,000
14-month1.75%$10,000

The highest CD rates from banks and credit unions by term

The following banks and credit unions are currently offering the highest CD rates for each term.

Best 1-year CD rates

Best 1-year CD rate from a National Bank: TotalDirectBank – 2.60% APY, $25,000 minimum deposit
12 Month CD from TotalDirectBank

TotalDirectBank is a division of City National Bank of Florida, which was established in 1970 and has acquired over $14 billion in assets. The online division, TotalDirectBank, is currently offering a 12-month CD with a 2.60% APY. You’ll need to deposit a minimum of $25,000 to open the CD and start earning interest. If you need to withdraw money from the CD before the maturity date, you may incur a penalty that is equal to 3 months’ simple interest. The CD will renew automatically unless you withdraw all of your funds at the maturity date or within the ten days following your maturity date.


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Best 1-year CD rate from a Credit Union: State Department Federal Credit Union – 2.63% APY, $500 minimum deposit
24 Month Certificate from State Department Federal Credit Union

State Department Federal Credit Union was established in 1935 by a group of the United State Department of State employees. While it was originally intended to help those employees, membership has expanded to include a lot more people. You can become a member of this credit union if you’re a U.S. Department of State employee, are a part of one of the credit union’s organization affiliates, through group membership, or an immediate family member of an existing member of the credit union. If you don’t qualify through any of those ways, you can choose to become a member of the American Consumer Council (ACC) when you apply for membership to this credit union. Once you become a member of this credit union, you’ll be able to open the 12 Month Certificate with a minimum of $500 and start earning 2.63% APY. If you need to withdraw money from this CD early, you may be charged a penalty that is worth 180 days of interest.


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Best 2-year CD rates

Best 2-year CD rate from a Credit Union: Interior Federal Credit Union – 2.37% APY, $500 minimum deposit
24 Month Share Certificate from Interior Federal Credit Union

Interior Federal Credit Union was established in 1935 and has acquired over $211 million in assets. To join this credit union, you can either be a family member of an existing member, qualify through employment, or by being a volunteer for partner groups or certain organizations. If you don’t meet requirements through any of those avenues, you’re able to join by joining the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. You can choose this option when you apply for membership at Interior Federal Credit Union. Once you’re a member, you can open the 24 Month Share Certificate with a minimum deposit of $500 and start earning the 2.37% APY. This CD has an early withdrawal penalty that is equal to 180 days of interest.


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Best 2-year CD rate from a National Bank: Nationwide by Axos Bank – 2.90% APY, $500 minimum deposit
24 Month CD from Nationwide by Axos Bank

With as little as $500, you can open this 24-month CD and earn 2.90% APY. The early withdrawal penalty for this CD is equal to 12 months’ worth of interest. This CD will automatically renew if you don’t take action once it matures. You’ll need to call, send an email, or write a letter to the bank on the maturity date stating that you wish to close this account. You’ll have a ten day grace period after the account matures to take action, which includes closing the account, changing terms, or making additional deposits.


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Best 3-year CD rates

Best 3-year CD rate from a Credit Union: Mac Federal Credit Union – 3.00% APY, $1,000 minimum deposit
36 Month CD from MAC Federal Credit Union

MAC Federal Credit Union was established in 1952 to serve active duty personnel and civil service members associated with Fort Wainwright. In 2001, the credit union expanded to serve the Fairbanks community. Now, they serve customers nationwide through online and mobile banking. You can become a member a number of ways including residence, employment, and relation to an existing member. You can also become a member if you are part of, or choose to be part of, the Polar Bear Chapter of the Association of the United States Army. Once you become a member, you can open this credit union’s 36-month CD with a minimum deposit of $1,000 and begin earning 3.00% APY. This credit union does not disclose its early withdrawal penalty. While this credit union currently has the best 3-year CD rate, becoming a member and opening an account doesn’t seem to be as simple as it is at other institutions. You’ll need to fill out a contact form and wait for someone from the credit union to reach out to you. If depositing your money into a 3-year CD with the highest rate is all you care about, then it may be worth going through this credit union’s process. If ease of access is more important to you, then you may want to consider another option for a 3-year CD.


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Best 3-year CD rate from a National Bank: First National Bank of America – 2.85% APY, $1,000 minimum deposit
36 Month CD - Non Local from First National Bank of America

First National Bank of America was established in 1955. Originally, its goal was to focus on the local Michigan community’s financial needs. However, they decided to expand in 2011 in an effort to help even more people. Today, this bank services customers nationwide. With a minimum deposit of $1,000, you can open a 36-month CD earning 2.85% APY. The early withdrawal penalty for this CD is equal to 360 days of interest.


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Best 4-year CD rates

Best 4-year CD rate from a Credit Union: Hanscom Credit Union – 3.10% APY, $1,000 minimum deposit
48 Month CD from Hanscom Federal Credit Union

Hanscom Federal Credit Union was established in 1953 and has acquired over $1 billion. To become a member of this credit union, you can qualify through employment, military status, family relations, or by being a member or becoming a member of one of the credit union’s sponsoring member organizations. Once you become a member of Hanscom Federal Credit Union, you’ll be able to open its 48-month CD. You’ll need to deposit a minimum of $1,000 to earn the 3.10% APY. The early withdrawal penalty for this term is equal to 180 days dividends on the withdrawn amount.


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on Hanscom Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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Best 4-year CD rate from a National Bank: First National Bank of America – 2.90% APY, $1,000 minimum deposit
48-59 Month CD from First National Bank of America

First National Bank of America is also offering the best CD rate on a 4-year CD. With a minimum deposit of $1,000, you can earn 2.90% APY. This is definitely worth it if you’re okay with locking your money away for four years and don’t want to deal with the field of membership required by credit unions. This CD does have an early withdrawal penalty that is equal to 540 days of interest.


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on First National Bank Of America’s secure website

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Best 5-year CD rates

Best 5-year CD rate from a National Bank: The Federal Savings Bank – 3.30% APY, $10,000 minimum deposit
5 Year Promotional CD from The Federal Savings Bank

The Federal Savings Bank is a private, federally chartered bank that is veteran-owned. This bank mainly focuses on home ownership, but offers deposit products, as well. It has acquired over $395 million in assets since it opened its doors in 2000. Currently, the bank is offering promotional CDs with fairly high rates. Its 5-year CD is currently offering the highest rate for a national bank, but you will need a minimum of $10,000 to open the account. All deposits made to this bank are FDIC-insured.


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Best 5-year CD rate from a Credit Union: Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union – 3.00% APY, $500 minimum deposit
60 Month CD from Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union

Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union was established in 1930 by employees of the state of Minnesota. This group of people wanted to create a solution for those who couldn’t easily turn to a traditional bank. While this credit union went through quite a few changes before settling into the institution it is today, it has grown to have over $2 billion in assets. Anyone can become a member by making a one-time payment of $25 to the Affinity Plus Foundation, which supports financial education throughout Minnesota. Before you choose this option, be sure to check out the credit union’s other fields of membership to see if you qualify another way. Once you become a member, you’ll be open its 60-month CD with a deposit of at least $500. This will allow you to start earning the 3.00% APY. If you need to withdraw money from the CD before it matures, be aware that you may incur a penalty that is equal to 365 days of interest.


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on Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union’s secure website

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Questions to ask before you open a CD

1. How are CDs different from savings accounts?

With a CD, the saver and the bank make stronger commitments. The saver promises to keep the funds in the account for a specified period of time. In exchange, the bank guarantees the interest rate during the term of the CD. The longer the term, the higher the rate – and the higher the penalty for closing the CD early. With a savings account, you’re limited to six withdrawals or transfers per month. Otherwise, you can empty the account at any time without paying a penalty. You can’t lock in the interest rate on a savings account, though, since the bank can change the interest rate at any time.

2. Am I better off keeping my cash in savings?

CDs work best if you’re confident you won’t need to access a certain amount of money for a specified period of time. Let’s say you have $10,000 laying around that you can safely say you won’t need to use for two years. In a high-yield savings account earning 2.45%, you would earn $496.00 over two years with annual interest compounding — and potentially even more, if your bank compounds interest more frequently. If you put that money into a 2.90% 2-year CD, you would earn $588.41 (compounding yearly) once the account matures. The extra interest income is easy money, considering the ease of opening an account online. However, if you think you might need to use the money in the next couple of months, especially if your finances are already a little rocky, a savings account is a much better idea for its better flexibility.

It’s important to note that deposit rates are a bit in flux right now, due to the uncertainty surrounding the federal funds rate (more on that below). But we’re currently seeing some high, favorable interest rates on 1-year CDs, rates that outstrip savings account rates.

If you can afford to part with the funds, “choosing a 1-year CD now does make sense rather than keeping the money in a savings account,” says Ken Tumin, founder of LendingTree-owned DepositAccounts.com. “However, it is possible that 1-year rates could go below some savings account rates.”

That’s why it’s important to compare rates before you sign up for a certain account.

Tumin also notes that there is an added tax benefit to opening a 1-year CD now over a savings account. With a 1-year CD, you can choose to have interest paid at maturity, or in 2020 on accounts opened now. Taxes would be owed on that interest for 2020, but not paid until 2021. Savings accounts, on the other hand, pay out interest each month. So a savings account opened today will generate interest income for the 2019 tax year.

3. What CD term length should I select?

The early withdrawal penalties on CDs can be significant. On a 1-year CD, 90 days’ worth of interest is a typical penalty, although it can reach as high as 180 days. On 2- and 3-year CDs, a 6-month penalty is about average. The impact of the penalty on your return can be significant: if you opened a one-year CD with a 2.65% APY and closed it after six months, you would forfeit half of the interest and earn only 1.32%. You would have been better off with a savings account paying 2.25%.

The worst case scenario is with the longest CDs. 5-year CDs usually have a one-year penalty for taking out funds early. If you open a 5-year CD and close it quickly, you could actually end up losing money.

Given the risk of early withdrawal penalties, it’s important that you’re completely confident that you will not need to withdraw the money early. Check that you already have enough savings in a flexible emergency fund to cover you for the next few years in the event of an accident or surprise trip to urgent care. Ask yourself whether your deposit would be put to better use paying off any debts. If you’re not completely convinced you can sock away that much money for such a commitment, go for a shorter CD term or a savings account.

As of right now, if you’re trying to jump on the best rates and have cash to stash away for years, your best bet is to lock in a 5-year CD to get the best rates possible.

“It doesn’t look like we’ll see another Fed rate hike in the first half of the year,” says Ken Tumin. “In the last month or two, we’re seeing some drops in CD rates.”

However, this downward movement looks like more of a correction being made by banks who may have boosted their CD rates too far too fast, instead of signaling the start of an industry-wide drop in rates.

“We won’t see a big drop until we see signs that the Fed will start cutting rates,” Tumin notes.

Tumin suggests finding long-term CDs with small or mild withdrawal penalties, like Ally. That way, in the event you do need to break into your funds (whether for an emergency or to move to a new, higher rate), you won’t lose the majority of your savings. So while there are still 5-year CDs out there with 3% APY and higher, you’re going to want to lock those in for the long term.

4. Should I consider my local bank or credit union?

The interest rates shown in this article are all from credit unions and online banks that offer products nationally. However, our product database includes traditional banks, community banks and credit unions.

If traditional banks offered better rates, they would have been featured in this article. Internet-only banks have dramatically better interest rates. That should not be surprising — because internet-only banks do not have branches, they are able to pass along their cost savings to you in the form of higher interest rates and lower fees.

If you’re worried about early withdrawal penalties, credit union CDs might be your best bet; on average, they tend to have lower penalties than banks. Pair that with high credit union CD rates, and you’ve got a winning savings combo. (Interestingly, while internet banks tend to offer the best CD rates, they also tend to assess bigger early withdrawal penalties than brick-and-mortar banks.)

How to find the best CD for you

If you don’t find an account that meets your needs in this article, you can use the MagnifyMoney CD tool to find the best rate for your individual needs. Input your zip code, deposit amount and term. The tool will then provide you with CD options, from the highest APY to the lowest.

Even though CDs are traditionally pretty structured, you still have hundreds of options available to you. If your savings goal is years in the future, look closer at longer terms like 5- and even 10-year accounts. If you don’t quite have thousands of dollars to stash away, you can find a bank that requires a lower minimum deposit, if at all. You can also find select no-penalty CDs, which tend to be around one year long or less.

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Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at [email protected]

Lauren Perez
Lauren Perez |

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

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Best Money Market Rates & Accounts – July 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Updated July 16, 2019

If you’re looking to save more money beyond your regular savings account, consider adding a money market account to the mix. A money market account can earn at a higher rate than a savings account, especially if you have a larger balance to deposit. Many MMAs tier their rates as well, rewarding higher balances with higher rates.

Like most deposit accounts, the rate on money market accounts has grown over the past few years, up from 0.188% APY in 2016 to 0.402% APY in June 2019. Savings account rates have also increased, but still averaged only 0.279% APY in June 2019.

You can do much better than a 0.402% APY on a money market if you’re willing to break with traditional brick and mortar banks. Opening an MMA at the bank around the corner, for example, may not yield more than 1.00% APY, while an internet-only bank might offer a rate of 2.00% APY or higher. With a rate like that, you can boost your savings by a wide margin.

If you were to put $50,000 into an MMA earning 0.04%, you would earn only $20 in interest over a year. Put that same starting amount into an online bank account at 2.00%, and you’d earn $1,000 in interest over a year.

With so many options out there, it can seem daunting to search for a new bank account with a potentially new bank. We’ve made it it easier for you by rounding up the best money market accounts out there. We searched through over 12,000 banks and credit unions to find the money market accounts paying the highest interest rates. We also looked at an account’s minimum requirements and fund accessibility.

Overall, we found that internet banks consistently beat the competition. You might not recognize all their names — new online banks are continuing to crop up — but if it’s high interest rates you’re looking for, it might be good to branch out since online banks are the way to go. Here are our favorite rates for July 2019:

1. High Rate + bonus: BBVA – 2.50% APY, $10,000 minimum deposit and balance to earn APY + $100 bonus

BBVA Money Market Account - New Money Market Customer from BBVABBVA was established in 1964 and has grown to have over $92 billion in assets. This giant bank hasn’t always been known for its competitive rates on bank accounts, but has recently been offering top rates on several accounts. Its money market account is a clear example. BBVA is currently offering a 2.50% APY on balances of at least $10,000 to new customers. If you can’t deposit or maintain a balance of $10,000, you’ll still earn a decent APY of . You only need $25 to open the account and you’ll start earning the lower rate until your balance reaches $10,000. This account does have a monthly service fee of $15, but there are two ways that you can waive this fee:

  1. Schedule a recurring transfer of at least $25 each month to the money market account from a BBVA checking account
  2. Maintain a balance of at least $10,000

In addition to this high rate, BBVA is currently offering a $100 bonus if you open the money market account by 8/31/2019 with a balance of at least $10,000. You’ll have to maintain that minimum balance through 11/30/2019. The bonus will then be deposited into your account 90 days after you meet the requirements.

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2. High Rate: UFB Direct – 2.45% APY, $25,000 minimum deposit and balance to earn APY

UFB Premium Money Market - New Money from UFB DirectUFB Direct is a division of Axos Bank, a federally chartered, publicly traded and FDIC-insured bank based in San Diego. In recent months, UFB Direct has become increasingly aggressive with high rates targeting big balances. The APY of 2.45% is an outstanding rate, but you need to have a balance of at least $25,000. If your balance drops below that, you’ll earn an APY of 0.50%. You’ll also need to keep an average daily balance of at least $5,000 in the account in order to avoid a monthly maintenance fee of $10.00. You will get a Visa debit card and have access to limited check writing. We think this is the best option for people with big balances that they want to keep in a money market account.

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on UFB Direct’s secure website

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3. Trusted Bank: Capital One – 2.00% APY, $10,000 minimum balance to earn APY

360 Money Market from Capital OneYou may think of credit cards when you think of Capital One, but don’t overlook their deposit accounts. The 360 Money Market account currently comes with a great 2.00% APY. While the bank doesn’t require you to have a minimum amount to open the account, you will have to maintain a balance of $10,000 or more to earn their high rate. If your balance falls below that amount, you’ll earn an APY of 0.85%. We really like that Capital One doesn’t impose any monthly fees, and while they don’t offer checks, they do provide you with an ATM card that you can use to withdraw up to $1,000 per day. While you’re able to make an unlimited amount of withdrawals from an ATM per month, remember that you’re limited to making six certain transfers and withdrawals per cycle due to Federal Law. To access this account, you may do so online, in person, or on-the-go through Capital One’s mobile app.

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on Capital One’s secure website

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4. Favorite Online Package: Ally – 0.90% APY, no minimum deposit and link to free checking

Online Savings Account from Ally BankAlly Bank is a very popular internet-only bank. If you keep a daily balance of $5,000 or less, you will earn the 0.90% APY. If you’re able to keep a minimum daily balance of $25,000 the APY increases to 1.00%. Although the interest rate on the money market account is not the highest, Ally does offer a very competitive overall package – particularly if you link the account to an Ally checking account. The checking account has no minimum balance and no monthly fee. You can link your money market account to your checking account to provide overdraft protection. Money would be transferred to your checking account with no transaction fee if you ever made a mistake. You would be able to access your money market account with your Ally ATM card, which has free AllPoint access and up to $10 of non-Ally ATM fees reimbursed every month. This money market account is a nice way to provide yourself with overdraft protection while earning interest. If you don’t need check-writing capabilities on your savings, you would still be better off with Ally’s savings account.

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on Ally Bank’s secure website

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The rest of these are the best money market accounts listed by APY regardless of minimum balance:

5. High Rate: Western State Bank – 2.50% APY, no minimum balance to earn APY

High Yield Money Market from Western State BankWestern State Bank was chartered in 1902 as the Bank of Webster due to its location in Webster, North Dakota. In 1966, a group of people purchased the Bank of Webter and in 1968, this group of individuals moved the bank’s headquarters to another part of North Dakota and changed its name to Western State Bank. At that time, the bank had $600,000 in assets. Today, the bank has over $1 billion dollars in assets and serves customers nationwide.

Western State Bank is currently offering a remarkable 2.50% APY on its High Yield Money Market account. The bank does not require a minimum deposit amount to open the account nor do they require a minimum balance to earn the high rate. They do, however, place a limit on the how large of a balance the account can hold. If your balance exceeds $2,000,000, the APY will drop to 2.25%. While this account has an excellent rate, it does lack in features. Western State Bank will not provide checks or a debit card to go along with this account. You can only withdraw money via ACH, wire transfer, or the bank can mail you a cashier’s check if you call and ask for this method. The bank does have ACH limitations to keep in mind. You can only transfer $25,000 at a time and you can only do so six times per month (not exceeding $100,000). If you’re looking for a money market account with check-writing capabilities or ATM access, then this account may not be for you. If you’re looking for a high-yield savings account, then this account is a great place to deposit your money and earn interest.

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on Western State Bank’s secure website

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6. High Rate: Investors eAccess – 2.50% APY, no minimum balance to earn APY

eAccess Money Market from Investors eAccessInvestors eAccess is a new division of Investors Bank and launched at the beginning of April 2019. Powered by a bank that has over $26 billion in assets, it was able to show up in the market with a high-yield money market account. There isn’t a minimum deposit to open nor is there a minimum balance to earn the high APY. Once you open the account, you can start earning the 2.50% APY. You can fund the account via ACH or by sending Investors eAccess a check by mail. This account doesn’t offer check-writing capabilities and it doesn’t come with a debit or ATM card. You can withdraw money via ACH. You can only withdraw less than $250,000 per monthly statement cycle. Remember that money market accounts have the same limitation as savings accounts, so you can only make six certain transactions per monthly statement cycle. You can do all of your banking online or you can download Investors Bank’s mobile banking app. The bank has not created a specific app for Investors eAccess, but its website claims that you can manage this account from that app.

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on Investors EAccess’s secure website

Member FDIC

7. Guaranteed Rate through 12/31/19: Northern Bank Direct – 2.50% APY, $5,000 minimum deposit to open, checks and ATM card available

Money Market Account from Northern Bank DirectNorthern Bank Direct is the online division of Northern Bank, which was established in 1960. The parent bank has acquired over $2 billion in assets since it opened its doors. Currently, the online bank is offering 2.50% APY on its money market account. This rate is guaranteed until 12/31/2019.

One thing to be aware of with this bank – the same thing was offered last June. Last year, Northern Bank Direct offered a high rate (at the time) on its money market account, guaranteed the rate through June 2019, but only kept the product active for ten days. Fortunately, this rate has remained the same since the beginning of June. Just keep in mind that the bank can reduce the rate or completely stop offering this product at any time.

If you do decide to move forward with this account, you’ll need to deposit a minimum of $5,000 to open the account. Once the account is open, you can let the balance drop below $5,000 and still earn the APY. If you grow your balance past $250,000, the rate will drop. It will drop again if your balance goes above $1 million. There isn’t a monthly service fee. The bank does impose a maximum daily limit of $5,000 for external transfers and a $25,000 limit on monthly transfers. This account does come with check-writing capabilities and an ATM card.

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on Northern Bank Direct’s secure website

Member FDIC

8. High Rate: earn.bank – 2.46% APY, $100 to open, $0 minimum balance, $10k to avoid $10 monthly fee

Money Market Account from earn.bankearn.bank is a division of Silvergate Bank, a state-chartered bank headquartered in San Diego, CA. The state-chartered bank has over $1 billion in assets, and your deposit would be FDIC insured up to the legal limit. Silvergate Bank created earn.bank to provide “a transparent, powerful savings vehicle that will help you meet your savings goals”. At 2.46% APY, the internet-only bank is certainly starting out strong. You’ll need $10,000 to open the account, but there isn’t a minimum balance requirement to earn the high rate. A few downsides to this account include a $10 monthly maintenance fee that comes with a steep balance requirement if you want it waived. While you don’t need to maintain a minimum balance to earn the APY, you would need to maintain an average daily balance of $10,000 to avoid the monthly fee. The account does not come with check-writing privileges and there is no ATM access. You’ll also want to make sure you’re enrolled in eStatements as you’ll be charged a $25 fee for each paper statement you receive. You can deposit your funds via ACH (electronic transfer), which can take a couple of days. Just remember: there is a limit of 6 withdrawals per calendar month.

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on earn.bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

9. High Rate: MemoryBank – 2.45% APY, $50 minimum to open

Online Money Market Account from MemoryBankMemoryBank is the online division of Republic Bank & Trust Company. While this online division launched in 2016, its parent company has been around since 1982 and has over $5 billion in assets. Currently, MemoryBank is offering a 2.45% APY on its Online Money Market Account. You’ll need a minimum of $50 to open the account, but you won’t need to maintain this amount to earn the APY. The account doesn’t come with a monthly service fee, but it also doesn’t have check writing capabilities or ATM access. MemoryBank does have a mobile banking app to help you manage your account on-the-go.

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on MemoryBank’s secure website

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10. High Rate: Virtual Bank – 2.36% APY, no minimum balance to earn APY

eMoneyMarket from Virtual BankVirtual Bank, a division of IBERIABANK, is currently offering an introductory rate on their money market account that is the highest available. This rate is guaranteed for 12 months and will adjust to the standard rate that is in effect at the time. New customers can earn the 2.36% APY by depositing a minimum of $100. While there isn’t a minimum balance requirement to earn the APY, there is a balance requirement to avoid incurring the $5 monthly service fee. All you’ll have to do is maintain a daily minimum balance of $100 and they’ll waive the monthly fee. While this account doesn’t have any check writing capabilities, you can easily move money in and out of the account via ACH. Virtual Bank has a mobile app, that has the mobile check deposit feature, in addition to their online banking platform.

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on Virtual Bank’s secure website

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11. High Rate: Bank7 – 2.35% APY, $5,000 minimum to open, checks and ATM access available

Bank 7
Bank7, established in 1901, originated in Oklahoma, but has been expanding its reach to Kansas, Texas, and now online. In addition to their original banking products, they have created accounts that specifically suit the needs of online consumers. One of those accounts is their High Rate Online Money Market. This account requires $5,000 to open and awards accountholders with a 2.35% APY. The account comes with check writing capabilities as well as the option to get a Visa debit card, which will provide you free access to Bank7 ATMs as well as to Allpoint Network ATMs. One downside to this account is that if the balance falls below $5,000, you’ll be hit with a $15 charge each month your balance falls below that amount. In addition to their online banking platform, they also have a mobile app.

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on Bank 7’s secure website

Member FDIC

Premier Members Credit Union – 4.00% APY up to $2k

Premier Members Credit Union

Premier Members Credit Union is open to anyone willing to make a $5 donation Impact on Education, a charity for the Boulder Valley School District. This credit union is currently offering an incredible rate of 4.00% with only $5 to open the account. You can earn this APY on balances up to $2,000. Amazingly, even if you grow the balance up to $5,000, you’ll earn 1.49% APY. As the balance increases, the APY decreases to the following:

  • $5,000.01-$10,000: 0.75%
  • $10,000.01-$50,000: 0.50%
  • $50,000.01-$100,000: 0.40%
  • $100,000.01-$250,000: 0.35%
  • $250,000.01+: 0.30%

Premier Members Credit Union rewards low balance savers by placing the highest rate with the lowest deposit, but if the balance grows they start using a reverse tier system where they blend the APY as the balance grows. Checks are available with this account, but you can only make six withdrawals per month. Each additional withdrawal will be assessed a $10 fee.

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on Premier Members Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

What is a money market account?

A money market account is a special type of savings account: Cash you put in the account remains deposited with the financial institution, where it earns a variable annual percentage yield. Because the name of this deposit product has the word market in it, you may assume a money market account is some kind of investment product, but it’s not.

One of the features that differentiates a money market account from a savings account is that institutions generally make it easier to access deposited funds by offering checks and ATM cards. Note that some institutions are starting to provide them for savings accounts, too. Keep in mind that much like a savings account, money market accounts are governed by Regulation D, the Federal Reserve rule stating you can only make a maximum of six withdrawals via check or debit card. Additional withdrawals may incur a fee from your bank or credit union.

It’s also important to understand that money market accounts are different from money market funds. In the 1980s, shoulder pads and hair weren’t the only things that were big: Yields on money market funds were both low-risk and offered a good rate of return. To help out the banking sector, Congress passed the Garn-St Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982, which allowed banks to offer a new type of savings account — money market accounts — with an interest rate based on those offered in money markets.

What to consider before opening a money market account

Before you get bogged down in the details, let’s take a look at some quick pros and cons of a money market account.

Pros:Cons:
  • Typically carry higher interest rates than savings accounts
  • Convenient access to your funds with check-writing abilities and a debit/ATM card (not offered on all accounts)

  • May carry monthly maintenance fees or a high balance to waive one
  • Still limited to six transfers and withdrawals per month like a savings account (or you’ll face a fee)
  • You’re better off using a higher yield product like CDs for money you won’t need in the immediate future

Who money market accounts are best for

Now that you know the basics of a money market account, should you get one? They’re a good choice if you have a big deposit you’d like to keep safe and growing at a high interest rate. Then when you need to access that money, perhaps for an upcoming purchase or in an emergency, you can often easily do so with an ATM/debit card or by writing a check.

Savings accounts vs. money market accounts

Money market accounts often earn a higher rate than standard savings accounts. The caveat is that MMAs often require higher opening deposits or higher balances than a standard savings account. Even so, you may also find that one bank’s top money market rate earns at the same rate (or lower) as a savings account at another bank.

For example, one of the best savings accounts, Ally’s Online Savings account, offers a 2.10% APY while its money market account earns at a mere 0.90% APY (on most balances). So if it’s high interest rates you’re after, be sure to compare accounts across the board rather than turning immediately to a money market account. Just be sure to keep your balance limits in mind when shopping around.

What often separates money market accounts from savings accounts is their check-writing abilities or issued ATM/debit cards. This provides easier access to your money especially if you have larger balances you’re saving for a bigger purchase. Not all money market accounts offer these features, though. Furthermore, money market accounts are still savings vehicles, so they’re also limited to six outgoing transactions per month, like transfers and withdrawals.

Read more about the differences between money market and savings accounts here.

CDs can offer higher rates than money market accounts

Savings accounts and money market accounts often pay much lower interest rates than CDs. Right now you can get a 1-year CD paying 2.50% APY (with only a $500 minimum). You can find the best CD rates here. If you build a CD ladder, you can take advantage of 5-year rates that are currently as high as 3.00%. Creating a CD ladder also allows you to protect your investments over the years by locking in today’s high rates in a long-term account while also staying flexible for any potential rate increases with your shorter-term accounts. The interest rate on a money market account can change right away, at the bank’s discretion.

If you need some savings more immediately, money market accounts are great places to keep that money— it’ll keep growing, while still remaining accessible. In contrast, should you need to access your CD funds before it matures, you’ll likely face a pretty heavy penalty, typically forfeiting three to six months of interest.

A money market account isn’t the same thing as a money market fund

Money market accounts, like deposit accounts, provide FDIC insurance on your deposits up to $250,000. Money market funds, on the other hand, are investment accounts, most likely sold by your broker, and are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission instead. Money market funds invest in highly liquid cash and cash equivalent securities that typically mature within 13 months.

As an example, Vanguard offers the Prime Money Market Fund. Like other money market funds, this one “invests in short-term, high-quality securities.” Its objective is to keep the fund trading at $1 and generate a decent return. Still, money market funds can end up with a lower return than those you see from the money market accounts listed in this article. Since money market fund returns are dependent on the market and the Federal Reserve Rate, it’s important to keep an eye on the current interest rate climate to see whether investing in these funds are worth your time and money.

Money market funds charge expense ratios, or management fees, that are charged as a percentage of your fund (Vanguard’s is currently 0.16% as of Dec. 2018). You can also end up paying some transaction fees. It’s important to watch out for an account’s fees which can often lessen your total investment in the end. Like money market accounts, money market funds can also require a high minimum balance to open an account.

Most people compare the return of a money market fund (sold by their broker) to the interest rate paid by a traditional bank (sold by their local bank teller). As a result, they are willing to take the risk of a money market fund. However, as you can see from the best money market accounts in this article, you can get FDIC insurance and beat the return of most funds without taking on the risk of market investments.

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Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at [email protected]

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