Money Fix: Finding high-yield checking and savings accounts

There are checking and savings accounts that pay There are checking and savings accounts that pay more than the near zero interest most offer, but consumers must shop for then and read the fine print, Bankrate.com advises. Photo Credit: Photos.com

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If you're sick and tired of the near-zero interest rates on your checking and savings accounts, Bankrate.com says there are federally insured checking accounts that earn 2 percent or more.

Bankrate.com surveyed 56 high-yield checking accounts offered by banks, thrifts and credit unions. The average annual yield was 1.57 percent, nearly twice the average five-year certificate of deposit yield of 0.80 percent and more than 26 times the average checking yield, 0.06 percent. Half of these accounts are available nationwide.

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But they can be complicated.

Avoid traps. "You often need to make multiple debit card transactions or lose the yield," says Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director for U.S. PIRG, a Washington, D.C.- based consumer action group. And the maximum account balance earning the yield is always capped, he says.

Know how long the great rate lasts. "I see clients opening accounts to get the best rate and let that money sit there for years without looking at the interest rate, and worse, paying inactivity fees on the account," says Michael Hartzman, a certified financial planner with Bristol Financial Services in Plainview.

Good fit? In Bankrate's survey, all the accounts mandated electronic statements and direct deposit. Online bill payments and/or automated withdrawals were part of the deal. Can you live with such requirements?

Watch out for fees. Be clear about all fees associated with the account, adds Susan Weinstock, director of the Consumer Banking Project with Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington.

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