Last year, a friend told Peter Hsiao about high-yield savings accounts, and within a week, he had opened one. His rate was above 2%.
High-yield savings accounts, generally offered by online-focused banks and credit unions, pay interest rates far above the national average of 0.09%.
Months later, Hsiao’s bank e-mailed him to say it had lowered his rate. “At that point, I didn’t think much of it,” said Hsiao, a digital marketing professional in Dallas.
But his rate kept falling. “When it dropped to 1.70% [from 1.90%], I thought maybe I should consider more options,” he said.
If getting the best rate made you choose an online savings account, should you keep chasing the highest rate — even if it means switching accounts again? Here’s how experts say you should think it through.
Know how rate compares
If the rate on your savings account is close to the national average and you are comfortable with an online bank, consider switching to a high-yield account.
But if your rate is above 1%, should you opt for a higher one? Dan Stous, a certified financial planner, recommends doing some quick math. Multiply your current rate by your savings balance to estimate your annual interest. Now do the same with the better rate.
The result might surprise you. The difference between the interest 2% and 1.50% will earn you on a balance of $10,000 over one year is only $50. And that’s before taxes.
For some, however, the difference may be significant. “The higher the balance in [your] account, the more reason there is to switch to a higher rate,” Stous said.
Weigh the pros and cons
The perk to chasing the highest savings rate is maximizing your interest earnings. But the reality is more complicated. Competitive rates change over time and usually follow a similar trend. If the Federal Reserve drops its rate, many banks drop theirs, too. Plus, every account you open takes some effort to maintain.
Think big picture. The cash in your savings account is best for goals you will reach within five years. If you have considerably more in a savings account — enough that a slight difference in rate matters — consider investing more for retirement.
Look beyond the rate
Factor in fees, minimum balances required to earn interest, and access to customer support. Your online bank’s phone line or Twitter page might be your main lifeline in case of issues. Hsiao ended up choosing a new high-yield savings account with the same rate as his first one, but with a $200 sign-up bonus.
Spencer Tierney is a writer at NerdWallet. E-mail: spencer. firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @SpencerNerd.