Actions have consequences. Staying up too late will turn you into a zombie at work the next morning, eating ice cream for breakfast will force you to buy new jeans â€” and placing your money in a conventional checking or savings account could yield a piddling amount of interest.
The internet hasnâ€™t found a way to circumvent the biological necessities of sleep and a healthy diet â€” yet â€” but it can empower banks and financial institutions to offer accounts with APYs climbing well above 2.0% in some cases, all while providing the ease-of-access and convenience of a checking account. In the evolving world of online banking, these are usually called cash management accounts, and you need to know more about them.
You may have read about cash management accounts. They go by a variety of names: hybrid checking, hybrid accounts, cash management vehicles. Like many consumer financial products, readers may be a bit unclear about how these accounts actually work â€” and to start, note that they are very different than the â€ścash management accountsâ€ť offered by certain online stock brokerages.
â€śWeâ€™re trying not to think like traditional bankers, with the usual boundaries of how an account should be used,â€ť said David Hijirida, CEO of Simple, which offers its own cash management account. â€śWhat weâ€™ve found is that most customers use our accounts in a way that combines both checking and savings behaviors.â€ť
Letâ€™s get to the heart of the matter by defining what these new accounts are and whether theyâ€™re right for you and your money.
With some of the accounts reviewed below â€” like Aspirationâ€™s Spend and Save and Simpleâ€™s Checking and Protected Goals Accounts â€” the product actually consists of a checking account (which typically earns little to no interest) linked with a savings account (which earns a pretty decent APY) and features instantaneous, unlimited transactions between the two. Others â€” like Radiusâ€™ Hybrid Checking â€” comprise a single checking account earning a high APY, minus all the usual requirements typical of a traditional high-yield checking account.
While cash management accounts consisting of both a checking and savings account earn some of the highest APYs, you need to watch out that you donâ€™t keep the majority of your funds in the checking or spending portion â€” where it earns minimal interest. Because transferring funds between the checking and saving portions happens instantly and doesnâ€™t come with any limits, this is an easy mistake to avoid.
The boundary between â€ścash management accountâ€ť and â€śhigh-yield checkingâ€ť account can be hazy, but they share the following characteristics that place them in the â€ścash managementâ€ť category.
While the particulars vary from account to account, the principal underlying cash management account combines a traditional checking and savings account in one instrument â€” you deposit money with a bank or institution, where it earns interest. The financial institution then takes a cut of that interest in order to make money, and passes the rest on to your (which is reflected in the interest that particular account earns).
Because banks prefer customers to deposit as much money as possible for an extended period, they usually give accounts and products that limit customersâ€™ ability to withdrawal their cash higher interest rates in order to incentivize depositors into using those products.
|Average Checking Account APY||Average Savings Account APY||Average 1 Year CD
|Average 5 Year CD
As you can see from the chart above â€” this data comes from DepositAccounts.com â€” the more liquid your account, the less interest it earns for you. Checking accounts, which provide almost unlimited access to your money, earn the lowest APY on average. Certificates of deposit with a five-year term, which usually come with a steep financial penalty if you withdraw the money before the term is up, provide the highest interest, on average.
So how do the companies offering cash management accounts bypass this norm to offer customers high interest rates on accounts with little to no restrictions on withdrawals? A big part of the answer is their low overhead, thanks to their online-only operations.
Megabanks like Chase employ thousands and maintain a sprawling network of physical locations, while an online-only institution like Aspiration, offering the Spend and Save cash management account, might have only a few dozen employees on its payroll.
â€śBecause weâ€™re online-only, it helps us pass on those kinds of savings to our customers,â€ť said Andrei Cherny, CEO of Aspiration.
Since many of the institutions offering cash management accounts lack the extensive infrastructure of traditional banks, you may be wondering where your money is actually deposited with these accounts.
The answer is almost always that they partner with a bank (or a series of banks) to manage your funds. At the end of the business day, the money in your cash management account is swept into one of these participating bankâ€™s accounts, where it enjoys the normal protections provided by FDIC accounts.
This information should all be disclosed to you when you open a cash management account, and if itâ€™s not you should hesitate before placing a large amount of money in the account.
â€śAs with anything, read the fine print,â€ť said Jonathan Chapman, CFP at WJ Interests based in Sugar Land, Texas. â€śLook under the hood to see what banks they partner with to ensure they are working with quality institutions.â€ť
Customers should also keep an eye on the individual FDIC-insured accounts where your money is swept at the end of the day. Make sure none of the balances exceed the insuranceâ€™s limit ($250,000) â€” otherwise, the portion of your balance thatâ€™s greater than $250,000 is at risk of being uninsured.
The high interest rates offered by these accounts make them attractive to customers who want their money to grow at a decent rate while still remaining accessible, but theyâ€™re not for everyone. Because most of these hybrid accounts are offered by online-only banks or institutions, customers have to feel comfortable banking with a company that may lack decades of history â€” especially if theyâ€™re already accustomed to doing business with another bank.
â€śAs an advisor, my most difficult work is to get people to follow through on my recommendations,â€ť said Jayson Owens, CFP at Bright Road Wealth Management based out of Anchorage, Alaska. â€śTo accomplish this, I rarely recommend changes to a primary checking account. The cost in time typically outweighs the benefit of the change.â€ť
Another related concern customers may have about these cash management accounts is if the companies offering them will stick around for the long haul. â€śClients may not lose money but the company may get acquired or shuts down which would cause unnecessary hardship,â€ť said
Deva Panambur, CFA and CFP at Sarsi, a wealth management company based in West New York, N.J.
While youâ€™re not going to be able to waltz into the CEOâ€™s office and demand a look at his five-year plan, you should take into account your gut reaction to how a company offering a cash management account presents itself and whether it has a viable shot at longevity.
|Account name||APY earned||Minimum balance||Monthly Maintenance Fee|
|SoFi Money||2.25% APY on the entire balance||$1||$0|
|Simple Account||2.02% APY on the entire balance if requirements are met; otherwise 0.01% on the balance.||$2,000 in order to earn the 2.02% APY||$0|
|Aspiration Spend and Save||2.00% APY on the entire balance||$10,000 (requirement can be avoided by depositing at least $1 a month into the account)||$0|
|Radius Hybrid Checking Account||1.20% APY on balances of $100,000 and greater; 1.00% APY on balances between $2,500 and $99,999.99||$100,000 to earn the highest APY; $2,500 to earn 1.00% APY||$0|
Though itâ€™s probably better known for its mortgages and student loans, this online-only investment firm has staked a claim in consumer banking by offering its Money account, which offers the highest APY out of any of the hybrid accounts weâ€™ve reviewed.
SoFi doesnâ€™t require depositors to maintain a minimum balance in this account in order to earn that high interest rate, one of the few accounts in the market that doesnâ€™t place a barrier between the customer and the high APY. Account holders also get additional goodies like free paper checks upon request and unlimited reimbursement of ATM fees.
Simple was created out of frustration with the banking industry. According to the founders, they were confounded by the complexities of certain bank accounts; their solution was to offer a no fee bank account that earns interest and helps you budget your money â€śin one simple app.â€ť
What makes this bank account stand apart from other online checking accounts? Well, for starters, itâ€™s a checking account that doesnâ€™t have any fees, not even if you use an international ATM (however, a fee may still be charged by the ATM owner). But what makes it a cash management account is its ability to earn 2.02% APY. To earn such a high interest, youâ€™ll have to have a minimum of $2,000 in the Protected Goals Account â€” basically a savings account that lives within your larger Simple account, where you can instantly transfer money in and out of as many times as you want without any penalty.
Aspiration aims to transform personal banking from a chore to an act of social responsibility â€” at least according to their marketing campaign, which heavily emphasizes the fact that customers only pay whatever they wish in fees, with 10 percent of that money going to charity. But even depositors who donâ€™t buy into Aspirationâ€™s brand ethos will likely find themselves intrigued by the companyâ€™s Spend and Save account, which promises a 2.00% APY on what is effectively a checking account.
Similar to Simple, Aspiration has packaged together a savings account and a checking account into a single consumer product allowing users to move their money between both portions instantly and as many times as they wish. Users should be careful not to leave the majority of their funds in the checking portion, which owns zero APY. Instead most of the money should live in the savings account, where it earns the 2.00% APY the company advertises so prominently.
You can move your money between both parts of the Spend and Save account instantly, so having most of it in the savings portion shouldnâ€™t slow you down during a shopping spree; however, itâ€™s important to note in case you get careless and leave a big chunk of change in the spending portion, where it earns no interest.
Radius Bank is a community bank headquartered in Boston. The Radius Hybrid Checking account is free, as long as you open the account with the required deposit and meet three simple requirements: enroll in online banking, receive eStatements and choose to receive a debit card.
Because the Hybrid account offers a much-higher than average interest rate for a checking account without saddling the customer with a laundry list of requirements â€” like a number of debit transactions required each month â€” Radiusâ€™s account joins the list of best cash management accounts.