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Money Market Accounts vs. Savings Accounts: Which Is Right for You?

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You probably know that savings are a crucial part of building financial security. But where should you store your money? Ideally, you want to earn interest. You also need to be able to access your stash when you need it.

Money market accounts and savings accounts both offer decent interest rates and relative liquidity. The two have a lot in common, as well as a few differences that you need to be aware of. Let's take a look at money market accounts vs. savings accounts to see which is the right choice for you.

How do money market accounts work?

A money market account (MMA) is a deposit account available from most financial institutions. The best money market accounts typically offer higher (or at the very least, the same) interest rates as high-yield savings accounts. This helps you grow your hard-earned cash. One perk is that you can get check-writing privileges and even a debit card, giving you easy access to your money.

Since these are deposit accounts, the Federal Reserve's Regulation D limits the number of withdrawals or transfers to six per month (though the Fed has temporarily withdrawn these restrictions due to COVID-19). The good news is that withdrawals in person and through ATMs technically don't count.

How do savings accounts work?

A savings account is also a deposit account offered by credit unions and banks. Interest rates vary depending on which financial institution you go with. You'll tend to find the best rates with online-only institutions.

Like money market accounts, savings accounts are also governed by Regulation D. However, you typically won't get a debit card or check-writing privileges with a savings account. If you need to move money around, you can make an online transfer or head to your nearest branch. You'll need to link the account to a checking account if you want to write checks.

Savings vs. money market accounts

A crucial difference between a money market account and a savings account is the way you can access your funds. Money market accounts offer a debit or ATM card and the ability to write checks. Savings accounts generally don't. Some financial institutions offer savings account holders an ATM card, but it's not that common.

Another difference is the minimum deposit requirement. Savings accounts typically require lower minimum balances and initial deposit amounts. That's not to say that all money market accounts require high deposits, but many do -- we're talking about a few thousand dollars to qualify for the best rates. In return, you can usually earn much better APYs compared to those of savings accounts.

Otherwise, both savings accounts and money market accounts offer similar features. Both types of accounts are FDIC- or NCUA-insured, meaning your cash is protected up to $250,000 in the event your bank or credit union goes belly up. And you'll find the same transaction restrictions on savings accounts and MMAs.

It's important to consider how you want to use your new bank account before opening one. For instance, if you only have a small amount of money you want to keep in savings, then a money market account may not be for you. That's especially true if you can't meet the minimum opening deposit requirements.

However, if you can afford it and are after the best rates, then a money market account may be your best choice. Plus, money market accounts usually make it easier for you to get at your money. That may be useful, for example, if it's where you are keeping your emergency fund. What if you're the type of person who would be tempted by easier access to your cash? Then, a savings account -- with its lack of ATM and check-writing access -- may be the smarter choice.

Money Market Savings
FDIC- or NCUA-insured Yes Yes
Earns interest Yes Yes
ATM access Yes Varies
Check-writing privileges Yes No
Requires a high minimum deposit Varies No

How to open a money market account or savings account

Before opening either a money market or savings account, it's a good idea to shop around and choose the one that best suits your needs. Think about what's most important to you: online or mobile access, check-writing privileges, or even a financial institution that offers a wide range of accounts.

Check out our picks of the best money market accounts if you think an MMA is the right choice for you. And you'll find plenty of options on our best savings accounts page if you think that would be a better fit.

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Read savings account reviews

If you're looking for more in-depth information on savings accounts, here are a few we've reviewed:

Once you've decided on the best account for you, opening a new account can be as simple as filling out an online application form. You'll be required to provide personal details to get started. That might include your full name, mailing address, email address, phone number, and Social Security number.

The financial institution will also ask you to provide information on how you'll make your initial deposit amount. Depending on the bank, you can either conduct a bank transfer, wire the funds, or mail a check. Once complete, your bank will mail you a debit card and checks if you opened a money market account that offers these features.

Whichever type of bank account you choose, the most important thing is to make regular contributions to it. Prioritize saving money, even if it's only a small amount each month. Not only can you earn interest on it, but you'll be able to use it if you ever face a financial emergency.

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