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America's Best Rates

America's Best Rates 2013 Q1: Online banks go their own way

MoneyRates.com Senior Financial Analyst, CFA
April 30, 2013

Chalk one up for the power of technology.

Online-only banks raised their savings and money market rates for the second consecutive quarter in the first three months of 2013. Meanwhile, traditional branch-based banks continued to show the burden of their higher cost structures, as savings account and money market account rates at these institutions either fell or remained flat.

Divergent trends in bank rates

Overall, the average annual percentage yield (APY) for savings accounts fell very slightly in the first quarter, from 0.170 percent to 0.166 percent. But a closer look reveals where trends diverge for online and branch-based banks.

Savings account rates for traditional banks were virtually flat during the quarter, falling by an average of just half a basis point to 0.105 percent. However, the average savings account rate at online banks rose by more than 3 basis points, to 0.630 percent. This means that savings account rates at online banks are now an average of six times higher than the savings account rates at traditional banks.

A similar trend appeared in money market rates. The overall average fell to 0.200 percent, while traditional and online bank rates again went in different directions. Rates at traditional banks fell by about a basis point, to 0.154 percent. At the same time, online money market rates rose by just shy of 1 basis point, to an average of 0.661 percent.

America's Best Rates: Savings account rates

While savings account rates now average just 0.166 percent, MoneyRates.com found 10 banks offering an APY of 0.500 percent or more, with a high of 0.903 percent. This means that consumers can earn anywhere from three to five times more interest than average by choosing one of the top-rated banks in this survey.

The following are the 10 banks offering the best savings account rates in the first-quarter 2013 America's Best Rates survey:


Average Savings Account APY

1. Ally Bank

0.903 percent

2. American Express

0.878 percent

3. Sallie Mae Bank

0.871 percent

4. (tie) Discover Bank

0.800 percent

4. (tie) GE Capital Retail Bank

0.800 percent

6. EverBank

0.760 percent

7. Capital One 360

0.750 percent

8. Mile High Banks

0.650 percent

9. (tie) Capital One Bank

0.500 percent

9. (tie) Zions Bank

0.500 percent

All 10 of these banks were also in the top 10 in the fourth-quarter 2012 survey, though mergers and acquisitions have resulted in some new names on the list. GE Capital Retail Bank took over deposits previously handled by MetLife Bank. Capital One 360 took over the U.S. deposit business of ING DIRECT. The reason Capital One also appears in the ninth slot is that Capital One 360 is the entity's new online-only operation, while Capital One Bank represents its branch-based business.

Fittingly, the top seven banks on the above list are all online banks, further demonstrating the rate advantage that online banks enjoy over their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

America's Best Rates: Money market rates

Just as the average money market rate, at 0.200 percent, is a little higher than the average savings account rate, the top money market rate is higher than the top savings account rate, with Sallie Mae Bank coming in just a whisker below 1 percent.

The following list includes the top 11 banks (rather than the usual 10), due to a three-way tie for ninth place:


Average Money Market Account APY

1. Sallie Mae Bank

0.993 percent

2. Ally Bank

0.903 percent

3. GE Capital Retail Bank

0.800 percent

4. (tie) EverBank

0.760 percent

4. (tie) Nationwide Bank

0.760 percent

6. Discover Bank

0.700 percent

7. Mile High Banks

0.680 percent

8. AIG Bank

0.635 percent

9. (tie) First Mariner Bank

0.500 percent

9. (tie) OneWest Bank

0.500 percent

9. (tie) Zions Bank

0.500 percent

As with the savings account rankings, all the banks on this list of top money market accounts appeared on the list in the prior quarter. In keeping with the trend toward online banks offering higher interest rates, the top six banks on this quarter's list of money market rates are all primarily based online.

Seeking consistently competitive yields

MoneyRates.com conducts its quarterly survey of savings account and money market rates to measure overall trends in the banking industry, and to point consumers toward institutions where they may find higher rates. This study looked at a 100-bank sample of the U.S. banking industry, which included the 50 largest banks for retail deposits and a similar number of smaller banks.

One special feature of the America's Best Rates survey is that it is based on an average of rates offered at various points throughout the first quarter of 2013, rather than on a snapshot of rates taken on a particular day. This means that the America's Best Rates survey tends to show which banks offer the best interest rates on a consistent basis.

The savings account and money market account results for the first quarter of 2013 suggest that in general, bank customers may earn more by placing their deposits with an online bank. Furthermore, given the trend of the past two quarters, with online bank rates rising and traditional bank rates falling, this advantage may grow larger in the months ahead.

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Rates / APY terms above are current as of the date indicated. These quotes are from banks, credit unions and thrifts, some of which have paid for a link to their website. Bank, thrift and credit union deposits are insured by the FDIC or NCUA. Contact the bank for the terms and conditions that may apply to you. Rates are subject to change without notice and may not be the same at all branches.

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