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Personal Finances

What is a Savings Account?

A savings account is a type of financial account that stores any funds for the future. Unlike non-interest bearing checking accounts, nearly all savings accounts accumulate interest, allowing account holders to earn money by keeping funds in their savings.

While some people may simply store their money in a checking account they use for daily transactions, there are several benefits to having a designated account for savings.

Why Should I Consider a Savings Account?

Savings accounts are a balanced account option that provides a mix of flexibility and structure. By having separate savings and checking accounts, account holders can have a clear understanding of how much money you’re putting toward different financial goals, such as a down payment on a car or a rainy-day fund. Here are some of the main reasons to consider opening a savings account:

Compound Interest

The ability to earn interest is one of the main reasons to keep money in a savings account instead of a checking account. With a savings account, the bank or credit union pays the account holder a small percentage of the money they have in the account. The institutions typically pay out monthly, but some institutions set alternative payment schedules.

Savings accounts allow depositors to earn compound interest, which means balances accumulate interest on both the principal balance and the interest it earns. Compound interest helps you grow savings more quickly and provides better returns the longer  money remains in the account.

Diversifying Investment Strategy

Because savings accounts accrue interest, they can be a practical way to diversify savings and investments. By keeping money in a savings account, there’s an expectation of small but consistent interest payments. Unlike other investment accounts, a savings account is a low-risk place to store money while still growing the principal balance.

FDIC Insurance

If a savings account provider is backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), account funds are insured up to a certain amount. Account holders can surpass the base insurance limit by using an Insured Cash Sweep account, like Protection+ offered by Amerant Bank.

The FDIC protects your money and guarantees that you’ll have access to it, even in the event that your bank fails and isn’t able to return depositor’s money. As a result, savings accounts are a secure place to store one’s funds long-term.

FDIC Limits

It’s important to note that the FDIC typically insures up to $250,000 per person per bank. This includes both checking and savings accounts. To insure excess deposits, you can open accounts at different banks or explore accounts specially designed for high balances, like the Amerant Bank Protection+ account.

Easy Funds Transfer to Different Accounts

Although savings accounts aren’t designed for your daily transactions, they make it easy to access money. If an account holder wants to make a withdrawal or transfer money from a  savings account to a checking account, they can typically do so without a waiting period or other restrictions.

How to Open a Savings Account

Opening a savings account is a simple process, and one can often start using an account the same day an application is submitted. For example, here’s how to open a savings account with Amerant Bank:

  1. Prepare your documents. Opening a savings account typically involves submitting identification, such as a Social Security number and a driver’s license. You may also need to submit proof of residency, such as a bill with your address and name on it.
  2. Select your account type. You can open an individual savings account or sign up for a joint account with another person.
  3. Complete your application. Fill out your contact information and other details on the application, either in person or online. Submit your initial deposit. Savings accounts typically have a minimum deposit to open the account. At Amerant Bank, savings accounts require a $50 minimum opening balance.

Limitations of a Savings Account

Although savings accounts are a common way to manage money, there are a few limits to consider before opening an account:

Lower Interest Rates

Savings accounts often have lower interest rates than other accounts where you store money long-term, such as certificates of deposit or money market accounts. If depositors want to maximize the interest earned, there are other options to explore, like a Relationship Money Market account or a high-yield CD, both offered at Amerant Bank.

Withdrawal Limits

Some savings accounts have a limit on how many withdrawals or transfers account holders can make each month. Many financial institutions only allow six transactions per month due to restrictions from the Federal Reserve. The federal restrictions are no longer in place, but many banks still have transaction limits as an institutional policy.

Minimum Balances

Many savings accounts require  a minimum balance to keep the account open and avoid service fees. If a balance goes below the required amount, the account holder may be subject to penalties. Those penalties may reduce any earnings from interest, so it’s important to monitor your account. Carefully read the terms of opening an account to determine if the minimum balance is realistic for your finances.

How Much Money Should I Keep in a Savings Account?

Ultimately, the amount kept in a savings account depends on personal financial goals. If  saving for a major purchase, a savings account is a good place to keep one’s money until that goal is reached. When using a savings account to simply store any unspent funds, depositors may consider investing that money or putting it into an account with higher interest rates.

Alternatives to a Savings Account

Other than traditional savings accounts, there are a few standard account types that can be used to store money:

Certificate of Deposit

With a certificate of deposit (CD), account holders agree to keep their money in an account for a set amount of time to earn interest. CDs typically offer much higher rates than savings accounts, but give depositors less freedom to access their money.

Money Market Account

Money market accounts (MMAs) are accounts that offer interest and provide depositors with the ability to easily access and spend their money. Many MMAs come with debit cards or give the option to write checks. However, they often have higher fees and minimum balances than savings accounts.

Interest-Bearing Checking Account

If earning interest  and being able to use it for daily transactions are priorities, consider an interest-bearing checking account. These accounts often have the most flexibility and the lowest interest rates.

If you’re interested in opening a new account, connect with a representative at Amerant Bank to learn about the right option for you. Learn more at amerantbank.com and follow Amerant on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @AmerantBank.

Amerant Editorial Team
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