The risk-free money move most Americans are missing out on

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There is an easy way for Americans to grow their wealth with just a few clicks of a button, but few are aware of this risk-free money move. 

A majority of middle-class Americans are leaving money on the table by not stashing cash in a high-yield savings account amid higher interest rates. As a result, they could collectively be missing out on earning billions of dollars in interest on their savings without lifting a finger.

Since early 2022, 68% of middle-income Americans have not moved deposits into high-yield accounts to benefit from higher interest rates, despite mounting concerns around inflation affecting their financial well-being, according to research from Santander Bank. 

A March survey from Bankrate found that only 22% of savers earn 3% or more on their accounts, despite 75% of online accounts offering higher rates. The average annual percentage yield on 63 savings and money market deposit accounts surveyed by Bankrate is 3.33%. 

What’s more, 16% of savers don’t earn any interest on money in their accounts, according to the same survey.

Some savers aren’t aware of how much they could earn by opening a high-yield savings account. Others are loathe to make any changes to their banking routines, or think the process of opening a new account would be too time-consuming. 


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“An opportunity to get free money”

“When I bring up high-yield accounts to clients, most people have done nothing with their cash. Most of them keep it in a traditional bank account. But it is a good idea in this environment,” said Jaime Eckels, a wealth manager at Plante Moran Financial Advisors. “There’s not a whole lot of downside to using them, so it makes sense if you’re going to get 10 times what you’ll receive from a traditional savings account.”

Other customers are just creatures of habit.

“The average customer sticks with the same checking or savings account for about 17 years,” Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate, told CBS MoneyWatch. 

But taking 10 minutes or so to open a high-yield savings account is well worth the effort. 

“It’s a good automation strategy that could really pay off overtime. You make a good decision once and it gets repeated every month when the interest rolls in,” he said. Some banks offer savings accounts that yield as much as 5% interest annually. 

“It’s an opportunity to get free money,” Rossman said. 

Take a saver with $10,000 in a savings account that earns 5% interest every year. That account holder will earn an extra $500 in a year. 

“That’s pretty solid for a risk-free account that’s just sitting there,” Rossman said.

On the other hand, the same sum stashed in a big bank would only yield a few bucks. “You’re talking hundreds back every year just for keeping your money aside at an online or neo bank,” said Lily Liu, a financial expert and CEO of Pinata, a credit building program for renters.

Competing on rates

Online banks compete for clients by offering attractive interest rates on savings accounts, versus spending millions of dollars on advertising at sports stadiums, for example, like big banks do. And because they’re online, they don’t have big branch networks to staff, allowing them to keep costs low. 

Big banks, on the other hand, offer savings accounts that yield next to nothing. 

“You don’t make any money off of your savings at them,” said Adam Taggart, founder and CEO of Wealthion, a financial advisory. 

Another alternative to high-yield savings accounts are money market funds, a type of mutual fund available from brokerages that can also earn savers decent returns on their money.

“All of a sudden, more people are waking up saying, ‘I can take cash from one account earning nothing at a commercial bank that pay insultingly low returns and move it to a money market fund with a rate of  5.25% with couple clicks of mouse. There is no reason not to do it,” Taggart said. 

“If you’re able to put your money into savings vehicles like this yielding decent return with low risk you’re putting the geometric force of interest compounding at your back,” he added. 



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