While some banks boost interest rates in the short term to bring in new customers, you're likely better off using a bank where you can consistently earn a better-than-average interest rate. But where can you find such an institution? Personal-finance website MoneyRates.com released a survey this month that offers some suggestions.
The MoneyRates.com survey analyzed savings account rates at 100 banks -- including the nation's 50 largest banks by deposit size -- over the last year to see which ones provided the highest interest rates on a consistent basis. While none of these accounts topped 1 percent in interest on average -- this is a low-interest-rate environment, after all -- the best accounts still posted rates up to four times the survey's average.
Five savings accounts to consider in 2014
Not surprisingly, the top five savings accounts in the study are all based online. The cost savings that come with an emphasis on online service over brick-and-mortar transactions appear to help these banks offer their customers higher interest rates.
Here are MoneyRates.com's top five banks for savings accounts for 2014:
- Ally Bank. Ally Bank's online savings account topped the rankings by offering an average annual percentage yield (APY) of 0.883 percent throughout the year the study surveyed. Customers appear to be drawn to Ally's user-friendly website and access to free ATMs throughout the nation: According to the study, the bank's total deposits are up 15 percent over the previous year.
- American Express Bank. American Express Bank came closest to Ally Bank in the rankings, with an average APY of 0.869 percent. The study reports that American Express attracted 22 percent more in deposits over the past year. Also worth noting: In the last two quarters, this bank's interest rates have exceeded Ally Bank's, making this a competition to watch.
- Sallie Mae Bank. Sallie Mae Bank is another close competitor to the top two banks, with an average rate of 0.867 percent. This bank grew fastest among the top five online banks, with an increase of 48 percent in deposits over the past year.
- Discover Bank. Discover Bank wins the award for the most consistent interest rates for the year, with the same average rate of 0.800 for each of the past four quarters.
- EverBank. EverBank lags a bit behind the other top savings accounts with an average APY of 0.717 percent for the past year, but since that rate still handily beats the overall average rate of savings accounts surveyed (a meager 0.186 percent), it's understandable how this institution has been able to increase its deposits by 27 percent over the past year.
Short-term interest rates have been kept extremely low by the Federal Reserve for several years, and that's not likely to change in 2014. Still, savers need a place to keep their emergency funds and other short-term savings both safe and accessible. So if you're at a bank with interest rates below the ones above -- and if national averages are to be believed, you probably are -- you may want to make 2014 the year you look elsewhere.