If you're like many Americans, you spend a lot of time thinking about your stock investments and real estate investments ... and just about any other investment that's not your savings account. After all, the stock market has historically returned some 10% per year, on average, over the past century, and real estate sometimes (thought not too often) jumps that much or more in a single year. So why bother focusing on your savings or checking account, when it just pays a relative pittance?

Because that pittance can add up, that's why.

Let's say that you keep about $5,000 in a bank account that earns about 1% annual interest. Over 20 years, that amount would become $6,100. But if you earned 2%, your money would grow to $7,400 -- a $1,300 increase. Even small differences in percentage points can have a big impact on your bottom line.

So what should you do? Seek out the best returns you can find for your savings. We offer more short-term savings guidance and some special interest-rate deals in our Savings Center. You'll also be able to look up good rates at Bankrate's (NASDAQ:RATE) website. There, for example, I recently found Countrywide (NYSE:CFC) and E*Trade (NYSE:ET) one-year CDs paying more than 5%.

The people at bestcashcow.com are also a good resource; they regularly direct investors to outstanding interest rates from banks and brokerages. Last time I checked, for example, these good folks were highlighting competitive rates from ING (NYSE:ING) and HSBC (NYSE:HBC), two prominent global financial-services companies. They were offering in the neighborhood of 5% for an introductory period for new money.

Shop around and make sure that your money is earning as much as it can. And check out our Savings Center for more tips.

This article was originally published on April 4, 2006. It has been updated.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.