How We Increased One Family’s Savings Yield to Over 3%

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NerdWallet was recently featured in ABC’s Real Money, where we helped one family increase their annual percentage yield from a paltry 0.05% to a full 3.13%. How did we do it? We’ll walk through how to allocate $45,000 of deposits to get an APY of over 3%.

Follow these deposits in order – we ranked them by yield, so you’ll want to max out Great Lakes first, then Inova, and so on. Since Lake Michigan and Inova have the same yield, we ranked LMCU first because its requirements to get the top rate are easier.

Deposit $10,000 into Great Lakes Credit Union (4% APY)

  • Perks: Refunds ATM surcharges up to $5 per month
  • Eligibility: Call for info on how to join – they’re very accommodating
  • Requirements for high yield:
    • $500 in direct deposits per month
    • 10 debit purchases per month
    • E-statements
    • One bill payment OR mobile banking login per month
  • Note: If you make less than 5 purchases per month OR a $500+ direct deposit, you will be charged a $5 monthly fee

Deposit $15k into Lake Michigan Credit Union (3% APY)

  • Perks: Refunds ATM fees up to $15 a month
  • Eligibility: Join with $5 donation to the ALS Michigan chapter
  • Requirements for high yield:
    • Direct deposit
    • 10 debit card purchases per month
    • 4 online banking logins per month
    • E-statements
  • No monthly maintenance fee if you don’t meet the requirements

Deposit $20,000 into Inova Credit Union (3% APY)

  • Perks: Free ATM access with INOVA, Alliance One or Co-Op Network ATMs
  • Eligibility: Join with $25 donation to Elkhart River Restoration Association, a nonprofit
  • Requirements for high yield:
    • Minimum daily balance of $1,500
    • 15 signature debit transactions per month
    • Direct deposit of $200 or more per month
    • E-statements
  • Note: There is a $5 monthly fee for anyone ages 24-59 who doesn’t meet the following requirements:
    • Direct deposit of $200+ per month OR e-bill payment every 45 days, and
    • E-statements, and
    • 10 signature transactions a month

Deposit the remainder into Capital One 360, which has no overdraft or foreign transaction fees and reimburses ATM fees. It earns 0.75% APY, so keep as little in there as possible.

If you’re having trouble making the requirements:

  • Split up your direct deposit so that a percentage goes into each account
  • Use a service like Venmo that lets you make peer-to-peer debit transactions fee-free
  • Give your kids access to the debit cards (with restrictions of course) to teach them responsible money management and to help reach the direct deposit threshold
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