If you're earning less than 4% on your cash, you're not trying hard enough.
Kelli Grant said so in a recent Smart Money article, and she's absolutely right. I can tell that interest rates have been rising in recent years just by glancing at my checking account's interest rate -- it's nearly 1%! I'd be silly to leave too much money in that account, though, when there are so many more attractive options.
These options have most often been found on the Internet, but this online competition is forcing more traditional banks (and brokerages) to ratchet up their rates as well.
Big players, big interest
Grant noted that three major banks offer high-yield savings accounts, with rates of roughly 5% or more, to customers who apply for and use the accounts online: Citigroup's (NYSE: C ) Citibank, HSBC (NYSE: HBC ) , and Washington Mutual (NYSE: WM ) .
Online, providers such as ING (NYSE: ING ) , UFBDirect.com, and Capital One (NYSE: COF ) Bank recently offered money-market or savings-account rates of 5.3% or more. In a recent issue of Money magazine, I saw that FNBO Direct, out of Nebraska, offered 6% (with a $1 minimum) on money-market accounts.
Meanwhile, don't forget to consider your brokerage -- it may also double as a bank. E*Trade (Nasdaq: ETFC ) , for example, recently offered a 3.25% checking account, provided that you maintain a $5,000 balance. Schwab (Nasdaq: SCHW ) offered 4.25% with no minimum.
These rates will all fluctuate over time, of course, and various institutions will occasionally offer something new and better. It can pay to shop around. Bankrate.com is one place to seek out compelling rates and good deals. Our own Savings Center can also offer critical guidance on the best ways to sock away your short-term money. It recently highlighted a 5.23% rate for a six-month CD, for example.