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Checking accounts are essential tools for making everyday purchases, paying bills, depositing funds and otherwise managing your day-to-day finances. Standard checking accounts don't earn interest, but high-yield checking accounts do.
A high-yield checking account works like a regular checking account but the balance in your account earns more interest. While these accounts can help your money grow, it's important to consider their pros and cons.
What Is a High-Yield Checking Account?
A high-yield checking account works like a standard interest-earning checking account but offers a higher annual percentage yield (APY). Although interest rates vary, you can currently find high-yield checking accounts with APYs of 3% or more. By comparison, a standard interest checking account earned an average 0.07% APY in November 2023, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC).
High-yield checking accounts and high-yield savings accounts both boast a higher APY than standard checking and savings accounts. However, there are some important differences between high-yield checking accounts and high-yield savings accounts:
- High-yield checking accounts are used for day-to-day transactions, like paying bills or depositing your paycheck.
- High-yield savings accounts are used to stash money you don't plan to touch until later. To encourage saving, some high-yield savings accounts limit you to six free withdrawals per month.
To qualify for the highest APY the account offers, you may need to meet certain criteria, such as using direct deposit or receiving e-statements.
Find High-Yield Savings Accounts
How Do High-Yield Checking Accounts Work?
You can use a high-yield checking account as you would any other checking account. Deposit and withdraw funds, pay bills, transfer money to and from linked bank accounts and more. The money in your account earns interest—but how much interest isn't always straightforward.
A high-yield checking account's APY may vary depending on whether you meet specific criteria. For example, to earn the highest interest rate, you might need to:
- Perform a certain number of debit transactions per month
- Make a certain number of withdrawals per month
- Receive e-statements instead of paper statements
- Have direct deposits of more than a certain amount per month
- Maintain a certain average daily balance
- Hold other accounts at the same financial institution, such as a savings account or investment account
- Spend a certain amount using a credit card from the same bank or credit union
- Get a loan from the financial institution and use the high-yield checking account to make loan payments
There may also be different APY tiers based on your account balance. For instance, a balance up to $5,000 might earn 4% APY, while any part of your balance above that amount earns a lower APY.
Pros and Cons of High-Yield Checking Accounts
Before opening a high-yield checking account, consider the benefits and downsides.
- Your deposits can net a higher rate of return. If you typically keep a lot of money in your checking account and can meet the requirements for earning the maximum APY, a high-yield checking account can be a smart way to put your money to work.
- Deposits are federally protected. As long as your bank or credit union is insured by the FDIC or National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), up to $250,000 of your money per depositor and per account ownership category is protected if the financial institution fails.
- Accounts provide more liquidity. Unlike investments, certificates of deposit (CDs) or savings accounts, the funds in your checking account are easy to access at any time without penalties or fees.
- You'll have convenient access to your cash. Your money is readily available using a debit card, check or ATM. You can also link your high-yield checking account to other checking or savings accounts to transfer funds.
- Requirements may be complex. Meeting the criteria to earn a high-yield checking account's highest APY can get complicated. If your balance drops below a certain amount, for instance, your APY might plummet.
- Accounts aren't widely available. High-yield checking accounts aren't as common as standard or interest checking accounts. You might have to change banks or join a credit union to find the best rates.
- You may owe taxes. Earnings on a checking account may be taxable, which could cut into your financial gains.
- Accounts may charge fees. Monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees or other fees can eat into your high-yield checking account's earnings.
- Interest rates can vary. APYs on high-yield checking accounts are variable, rising and falling with the federal funds rate. If that rate drops, you'll earn less.
Are High-Yield Checking Accounts Worth It?
It could be worthwhile to open a high-yield checking account if you usually keep a lot of money in your checking account, can easily meet the requirements to earn the highest APY, and don't mind switching your account to a new bank. In this situation, a high-yield checking account earns interest on money that would otherwise sit idle.
However, a high-yield checking account probably doesn't make sense if you'll struggle to meet the bank's criteria for the highest interest rate. For example, a balance that frequently dips below the account's required minimum level could trigger bank fees that outweigh your interest earnings.
APY isn't the only factor to consider when choosing a checking account. Features such as ATM access, branch locations, convenient mobile banking apps, bank services and fees could make a checking account earning little or no interest a better bet than one with the highest APY.
How to Choose a High-Yield Checking Account
When shopping for a high-yield checking account, compare these features to find the right account for your needs.
- Type of financial institution: Traditional banks, online banks and credit unions all have their strengths. Traditional banks have physical locations and more services, but may charge higher fees. Online banks typically boast higher APYs and lower fees, but lack a physical presence. Credit unions offer personalized banking and lower fees, but may be limited in terms of locations and online capabilities.
- Interest rate: In addition to comparing account APYs, consider a bank's criteria for earning the highest interest rates and whether you can meet them.
- Fees: Bank fees such as maintenance fees, overdraft fees, nonsufficient funds fees and fees for using non-network ATMs can eat away at your earnings. Be sure you understand all bank fees and how to avoid them.
- ATM access: If you frequently use ATMs for deposits or withdrawals, check how big the bank's free ATM network is and whether ATMs are conveniently located.
- Website and mobile app: Compare the convenience and ease of use of various banks' online features.
- Deposits and withdrawals: Can you link your checking account to your savings account to automate savings? If you have other accounts at a different bank, how easy will it be to transfer money between them?
- Opening deposit requirements: If the bank requires a minimum deposit to open a high-yield checking account, make sure it fits your budget.
Alternatives to High-Yield Checking Accounts
Unsure about opening a high-yield checking account? Consider these options for earning interest while keeping your money liquid.
Rewards Checking Account
Like rewards credit cards, rewards checking accounts give perks to account holders who meet certain criteria. Some rewards checking accounts also earn interest; even if they don't, rewards such as cash back on debit card purchases, free checking, welcome bonuses and no ATM fees can add up. You can't get into debt with a rewards checking account because you're limited to the funds in your account. However, if you think you'll be tempted to overspend to earn rewards, this may not be the right account for you.
Money Market Account
Many banks and credit unions offer money market accounts (MMAs), a cross between a checking and savings account. Your money earns interest, but you can also write checks and may be able to use a debit card. Banks may restrict the number of checks or debit transactions per month to six, which can limit an MMA's usefulness for day-to-day spending. These accounts typically have minimum balance requirements. The average APY on a money market account was 0.63% in November 2023.
High-Yield Savings Account
High-yield savings accounts available from banks and credit unions earn a higher APY than traditional savings accounts or high-yield checking accounts. Currently, you can find high-yield savings accounts earning 5% or more; online banks often offer the best rates. Although you can't pay bills and make purchases directly from a high-yield savings account, you can access your money whenever you want by transferring funds into your checking account or withdrawing cash. Banks often limit savings accounts to six free withdrawals per month.
The Bottom Line
Bank account information is not reported to credit bureaus, so your checking account doesn't directly impact your credit score. However, failing to pay bank fees could negatively affect your credit if your account is sent to collections. Manage your checking account wisely to ensure you can pay your bills on time, which is a major factor in your credit score. You can also track your financial health by signing up for free credit monitoring from Experian to get alerted of changes in your credit report that could signal identity theft.
If you're thinking about opening a new checking account, the Experian Smart Money™ Digital Checking Account & Debit Card can help you build credit without debt by automatically linking to Experian Boost®ø, which gives you credit for eligible bill payments after three months of payments. You'll also pay no monthly fees¶ for Experian Smart Money, have access to more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs worldwide** and could receive your paychecks up to two days early when you enroll in direct deposit†. You can get an Experian Smart Money Account through a free or paid Experian membership, which also gives you access to your FICO® Score☉ , Experian credit report and more. See terms at experian.com/legal.
Learn More About High Yield Accounts
- What’s the Difference Between a High-Yield Savings Account and a CD?
There are lots of ways to grow your wealth and safeguard your savings. High-yield savings accounts and CDs are two different approaches.
- Are High-Yield Savings Accounts Safe?
High-yield savings accounts are FDIC-insured, making them safe places to store your savings.
- How to Open a High-Yield Savings Account
High-yield savings accounts can earn more for your money. To open a high-yield savings account, provide ID documents, an application and a deposit.
- Are High-Yield Savings Accounts Worth It?
A high-yield savings account can be a safe space to store and grow your cash reserves, but there are some potential drawbacks to be aware of.
- How to Find the Best High-Yield Savings Account Rates
To find the best high-yield savings account rates, review rates at a range of banks online. Check if the accounts have other features you want access to.
- What Fees Do High-Yield Savings Accounts Charge?
Some high-yield savings accounts charge fees, though most don’t. They can allow you to earn interest without sacrificing convenience (or money).