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Money Fix: Benefiting from high-yield checking accounts

A new survey found 56 high-yield checking accounts

A new survey found 56 high-yield checking accounts that averaged about 1.64 percent. How does a consumer get one? What's the catch? There are all sorts of requirements. Credit: Photos.com

You'd consider yourself lucky to get a checking account paying 0.50 percent interest, so for sure one that yields more than 30 times the national average of 0.05 percent and is federally insured to boot gets your attention.

Bankrate.com recently surveyed 56 high-yield checking accounts that averaged about 1.64 percent. What's the catch? There are all sorts of requirements.

Good for whom? "These accounts are best suited for disciplined savers that routinely use a debit card," says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. They commonly require 10 debit card transactions each month. "Because this is the highest-yielding cash account, you want your monthly deposits to exceed the withdrawals so you can maximize interest earnings," he says.

Gotcha. Generosity has limits. McBride says interest earnings are typically capped at $15,000 or $25,000. If you fail to meet monthly requirements, the yield drops to an average of 0.07 percent. There can be minimum-balance requirements, size-of-withdrawal restrictions and more, points out Demissew Ejara, associate professor of finance at the University of New Haven.

Questions to ask. Ejara says there are a few critical questions. "What is the net yield the account offers after fees, and how does that compare with the yield from other accounts? Can you meet the requirements? Can you access the account anywhere?"

Says McBride, these accounts "can produce higher yields than other cash investments, while maintaining both access to the money and the protection of the FDIC."

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