Get a Better Savings Account


In the last post in the Break Up With Your Bank series, I discussed the benefits of opening a no fees, no frills checking account with an online bank or credit union. In this post, we’ll cover why you should open a high interest savings account too.

Are you still using the savings account you opened with you were a teenager, or during your first year in college? Many young people open accounts at popular banks like Wells Fargo or Bank of America, often because there’s a branch close to home or because it’s the bank their parents use. As a teen, I opened a US Bank account where my parents do their banking and then changed over to Wells Fargo when I moved to San Francisco after college. The savings accounts I had in those years had a few things in common: 1) Too little savings, and 2) A near zero interest rate.

Interest rates are pretty low across the board right now, ranging from 0.01% on the low end and reaching upwards of 1% if you’re able to get a great deal on a new account with an online bank or credit union*. The difference between 0.01% and 1.00% might seem pretty insignificant–especially if you’re a student or are working an entry-level position and don’t have much—or anything—in savings.

It might not seem worth the hassle it will take to close your existing account and do the research on opening a new account for a few dollars in interest this year. I get it. You’re busy and it feels like almost everything else is more important than opening a savings account when you aren’t really able to save right now anyway. I know you don’t want to take the time to do it. Do it anyway. I did, and here’s why it was a good decision…

Better Interest Rates

I closed my Wells Fargo savings account (with a pathetic 0.01% interest rate) during graduate school in 2012 and opened an ING Savings Account, which has since been acquired by Capital 360. When I made the switch, I had almost nothing in savings at all, so I didn’t see an immediate financial benefit. But here’s why that change was important: now that I have finished graduate school and earn a real income, I am able to put money into savings every month. And because I took the time to open an account with a better interest rate then, all the money I’ve saved since has accrued much more in interest than it would have if I had been putting it in the Wells Fargo account.

My Capital 360 savings account earns 0.75% in interest*. It’s not quite the best rate out there, but it’s far better than the 0.01% that I was earning. I’ve considered switching again since other banks and credit unions currently offer 1.00% rates, but I’ve opted to stick with Capital 360 for now because I’ve had good experiences with their customer service and online features like automatic transfers. I earned more than $30 in interest last year and am on track to earn even more this year, even after having some unexpected emergency expenses early in the year. These amounts seem small at first, but they become much more significant over time.

Referral Program That Pays You and Your Friends

A current feature of the Capital 360 Savings Account that I particularly like is their referral program and sign on bonus. You can get some extra money just for signing up for an account, and then get even more if your friends sign up for one too. Here’s how it works:

1. Sign up for a new Capital 360 Savings Account and make an initial opening deposit of at least $250 using a non-Capital One 360 account—probably your checking account with your current bank. If you read the post Get a Better Checking Account, you should be doing this from your new online checking account that doesn’t charge you for not having a minimum balance and which reimburses all of your ATM fees.

2. Once you open your new savings account, Capital 360 will despot an additional $25 into it.

3. If your friends or family opt to open an account with Capital 360 too, you can have them sign-up using your personal referral code, which earns you an additional $20 per referral, up to $1,000**.

The Capital 360 referral program is a nice way to earn some extra money in your savings account even if you’re a student and you aren’t able to save much right now. There are other good options out there though, so I recommend you do some research before making a switch. Be confident you’re signing up for an account that makes sense for your situation. Being smart with your money is all about making choices that make sense for you.

Why You Should Care

Even if you aren’t able to commit much to your savings account right now, I recommend you take an hour or two to set up a high interest account now. That way when you do start adding to your emergency or F-you fund—or start saving for that expensive trip for your friend’s beach wedding—you end up putting that money in an account that will pay you too. Later down the road you’ll be proud of yourself for making a smart move for future you.

Setting up a better savings account for yourself isn’t about the immediate returns. It’s about getting into the habit of being mindful about your finances and making informed decisions that will benefit you throughout your lifetime. By committing the time to these one-time tasks like setting up better accounts (and later setting up automatic transfers), you are setting up a financial structure that will pay you in small—then bigger—amounts for years to come. But doing this also makes a statement that you are smart and dedicated enough to be in control of your financial life.

Note: If you use the links from this post to sign up for a Capital 360 savings account, I will get a referral bonus. You don’t have to use these links, but I appreciate you considering it. Doing so costs you nothing (you get the $25 bonus) and it helps me out too. All of the writing I do for this blog is on my own time and I do not get paid for it, so things like these help me out. Thanks for considering it.

*Interest rates are current at the time of writing. Check online for updated rates.

**Referral program information current at time of posting. Check online for current details.