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NerdWallet’s Top High-Yield Online Savings Accounts

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Extreme close-up of hand holding a modern smartphone with a generic mobile banking app running. This is a version with Dollar symbol.

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In the old days, a bank was a well-guarded building where wealth was stored. But in the digital age, little of our money ends up in physical form. With less necessity for maintaining branches, many banks are focusing on creating a strong customer experience where the majority of us do our banking: online.

Many online savings accounts pay interest rates that are far higher than your typical brick-and-mortar savings account. Here are NerdWallet’s top high-yield online savings accounts.

Best interest rate with ATM access

SYNCHRONY HIGH YIELD SAVINGS, 1.05% APY

Along with an exceptional yield, this account comes with an ATM card for easy access to your money, which helps it stand out among high-interest savings accounts. Synchrony has no monthly service fee or minimum balance requirement. There is no Synchrony fee on Plus, NYCE or Star ATMs, either in the U.S. or abroad, and the bank rebates you $5 per month toward out-of-network ATM fees.

Your account automatically earns perks — such as extra ATM reimbursements, free checks, hotel and theme park discounts, and more — based on your balance and how long you’ve had the account. Synchrony doesn’t have a mobile banking app. Instead, you visit the site with your mobile browser and make photo check deposits directly from your iPhone or Android device. Since the only branch is in Bridgewater, New Jersey, most customers will need to use email or phone if they require support.

If a high yield — currently 1.05% — and ATM access are must-haves for your online savings account, Synchrony is a good option.

Best interest rate and digital experience

ALLY BANK, 1.00% APY

While not the very highest, Ally’s 1.00% APY is close to the best in the market. This tech-forward bank has a well-organized website, and its mobile apps are compatible with Apple and Android phones and tablets, as well as Windows phones and Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Its customer support options are unusually broad and include a 24-hour call center, along with Twitter or secure online chat for the phone-phobic. There are no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements to worry about.

The Ally online savings account can be hooked up to a checking account to serve as overdraft protection, and the bank got glowing reviews from the Pew Charitable Trusts in its May 2015 roundup of consumer-friendly banks.

If good design and high-tech customer service are important to you, Ally is a worthy choice.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best online checking accounts

Best interest rate runners-up

BARCLAYS ONLINE SAVINGS, 1.00% APY

This online offshoot of the global financial services company offers U.S. customers a high-yield savings account accessible through a streamlined website. There’s no monthly fee or minimum balance requirement. With a 1.00% APY, Barclays’ interest rate is close to the highest out there. Customer service is available by phone, and the banking apps are highly rated by users.

CIT BANK HIGH YIELD SAVINGS, 0.95% APY

This no-fee account’s interest rate of 0.95% APY is among the best available. CIT requires an initial deposit of at least $100 to open the account, but you don’t need to maintain a minimum daily balance to earn interest. CIT is an Internet bank; customers can use the mobile app or online banking — or can call customer service — to manage their accounts.

Best feature

360 SAVINGS® BY CAPITAL ONE®

Most people are saving money for multiple goals. You may be building an emergency fund, saving for summer vacation and socking away money to replace your aging car. It can be hard to prevent yourself from mixing those pots of money together, spending too much of your emergency fund on a vacation or buying a junker car because you’re afraid to dip too far into your rainy-day fund.

Capital One’s smart solution is to allow online 360 Savings account holders to divide their money into multiple accounts — as many as 25. Easily named to reflect what you’re saving for, these accounts can be viewed all at once, and money can be transferred from one to another, up to six times per calendar month, and there is no monthly fee.

It’s like a high-tech version of the old tried-and-true envelope method of budgeting, but better, since each account has a variable Annual Percentage Yield (APY) of 0.75%, effective 3/14/16. No minimum balance is required.

If you like to organize your savings goals into separate buckets, you and Capital One are made for each other.

Best bonus

DISCOVER BANK

If you have cash to stash, consider this bonus offer from Discover Bank. The company says:

“To get your $100 Bonus:

What to do: Apply for your first Discover Online Savings Account (OSA) by 08/31/16. Enter Offer Code NW716 when applying. Deposit at least $15,000 by 09/15/16.

What to know: Offer not valid for existing or prior Discover savings customers. Account must be open when bonus is credited.

Bonus will be credited to the account by 10/15/16. Bonus is considered interest and will be reported on IRS Form 1099-INT. Offer may be modified/withdrawn without notice.”

To open the account requires a minimum deposit of $500. There’s no monthly fee or minimum balance to worry about, and the account comes with an APY of 0.95%.

AMBOY DIRECT ESAVINGS

When you open a new online savings account at Amboy Direct and maintain a $3,000 average balance for 90 days, you can earn a $50 credit. That works out to a 1.7% bonus on your deposits.

To open the account, you’ll need to deposit at least $100. You can electronically transfer the money by linking the new account to your existing checking account. There is no monthly fee or minimum balance.

Amboy pays interest on balances over $300: 0.3% on amounts up to $2,999, and 0.8% for $3,000 to $100,000, which is the account maximum. Amboy Direct is an online-only division of New Jersey-based Amboy Bank, so your deposits are FDIC-insured.

To get the reference code for the bonus, you’ll need to click on the promotional $50 bonus offer on the Amboy Direct site and enter your email address, or call 1-877-22AMBOY.

360 SAVINGS® BY CAPITAL ONE®

Capital One wins again. When you open a new 360 Savings account and deposit at least $5,000 from an outside account, you can qualify for a cash bonus that starts at $50. The bonus increases with higher deposits. If you put in $10,000, you can qualify for $100; for $20,000, you can qualify for $200, and so on, up to a maximum bonus of $500 for $50,000.

To qualify for the bonus, you must deposit at least $5,000 within the first 10 days after the day you open and maintain that balance on a daily basis for an additional 90 days (following the 10-day period). You also must not have had a savings product with Capital One 360 or ING DIRECT previously. If you qualify for a bonus, you will be paid on or before day 130 (measured from the day after your account is opened). Capital One extended this offer, which now expires 3/31/16 at 11:59 PM EDT (EXPIRED). More details can be found here.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best checking account promotions and bonuses

Making banking better

Savings accounts are a key tool for protecting some of your money from monthly cash flow needs. Although many brick-and-mortar banks excel at providing online tools, you might be happiest with a bank that focuses on a few basic accounts that offer a higher return on your deposits.

Jeanne Lee is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: jlee@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @jlee_jeanne. NerdWallet writers Virginia C. McGuire and Devan Goldstein contributed to this article.

This article was updated July 15, 2016. It was originally published in November 2012.


METHODOLOGY

To determine the best accounts, we took a close look at more than 50 financial institutions: the largest U.S. banks based on assets, debit card volume and Internet search traffic, the nation’s largest credit unions with broad-based membership requirements, and other notable and/or emerging players in the industry.

Financial institutions surveyed: ableBanking, Alliant Credit Union, Ally Bank, American Express, AmTrust Direct, Associated Bank, Bank5 Connect, Bank of America, Bank of Internet USA, Barclays, BB&T, BBVA Compass, BMO Harris, Boeing Employees Credit Union, Capital One, Charles Schwab Bank, Chase, CIT, Citibank, Citizens Bank, Comerica Bank, Connexus Credit Union, Discover, EverBank, Fidelity, Fifth Third Bank, First Convenience Bank, GoBank, HSBC Bank USA, Huntington Bank, KeyBank, MetaBank, MovenM&T Bank, MUFG Union Bank, MyCBB, Navy Federal Credit UnionPentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC, Regions BankSantander, Security Service Federal Credit Union, SimpleState Employees’ Credit Union of North Carolina, SunTrust, Synchrony BankTD Bank, Union Bank, USAAU.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.disco