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 ATM access
SYNCHRONY HIGH YIELD SAVINGS, 1.05% APY
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 digital experience
ALLY BANK, 1.00% APY
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 top rates
BARCLAYS ONLINE SAVINGS, 1.00% APY
CIT BANK HIGH YIELD SAVINGS, 0.95% APY
Best for tracking savings goals
360 SAVINGS® BY CAPITAL ONE®
This Capital One account is designed to make it easier to track and meet your financial goals. The account’s My Savings Goals feature lets you set a savings target: for example, $500 for “holiday gifts.” You can input the amount you’ll put aside each period (e.g., weekly or monthly), and the tool can figure out when you’ll reach your goal.
Alternatively, you can set your target date, and the tool will calculate the necessary contribution amounts. You can also set up automatic transfers from your checking account to make the process effortless.
In a neat twist on the old envelope budgeting system, customers can open multiple savings accounts and set a goal for each one. Your deposits earn interest at a rate that is well above average: a variable Annual Percentage Yield of 0.75%, effective 3/14/16. There is no monthly fee or minimum balance requirement.
If organizing your savings into separate goals sounds like a strategy that would work well for you, Capital One could be a wise choice.
“To get your $100 Bonus:
“What to do: Apply for your first Discover Online Savings Account (OSA) by 10/15/16. Enter Offer Code NW916 when applying. Deposit at least $15,000 by 10/31/16.
“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 11/15/16. 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
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.
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: email@example.com. Twitter: @jlee_jeanne. NerdWallet writers Virginia C. McGuire and Devan Goldstein contributed to this article.
Updated Sept. 1, 2016.
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, Moven, M&T Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, PNC, Regions Bank, Santander, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Simple, State Employees’ Credit Union of North Carolina, SunTrust, Synchrony Bank, TD Bank, Union Bank, USAA, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.