America's Best Rates 4Q 2014 - Traditional banks lose more ground

Tired of bank rates falling? Then look more closely -- there are exceptions to that trend, according to the fourth-quarter 2014 America's Best Rates survey.

While the overall averages for savings account rates and money market rates declined in the survey, online accounts bucked the trend, with the average rate for online savings accounts rising in the last three months of 2014, and the average rate for online money market accounts holding steady. This widened the significant advantage online account rates already held over interest rates on traditional branch-based savings and money market accounts.

There were also particularly good deals available for sharp-eyed consumers who shopped around, because several of the top banks in the savings account category raised their rates, even though the overall category average fell during the quarter.

Below are more details on the study's top savings and money market accounts.

America's Best Rates: savings accounts

Here are the leading savings account rates from the latest quarter:


Savings account rate (APY)

1st place (tie)

Synchrony Bank (ABR platinum medal winner)

0.973 percent

1st place (tie)

GE Capital Bank (ABR platinum medal winner)

0.973 percent

3rd place

CIT Bank (ABR gold medal winner)

0.939 percent

4th place

Ally Bank (ABR silver medal winner)

0.916 percent

5th place

Barclays Bank (ABR bronze medal winner)

0.915 percent

6th place

Discover Bank

0.870 percent

7th place

American Express National Bank

0.810 percent

8th place

Sallie Mae Bank

0.800 percent

9th place

Doral Bank (Ed. note: This bank failed and was closed by the FDIC in February 2015.)

0.793 percent

10th place (tie)

Capital One

0.750 percent

10th place (tie)

FNBO Direct

0.750 percent

In the prior quarter, the top rate had been 0.950 percent, so the two banks at the top of this list raised their rates to lead the way this quarter, as did a few other banks on this list. Those rising rates contrast with what most banks did, as the overall average rate for savings accounts fell by nearly a basis point, to 0.172 percent. This means the top savings accounts are offering more than five times the interest that the average ones are.

As a group, online savings accounts also raised their rates in the latest survey, to an average of 0.559 percent. In contrast, branch-based savings accounts lowered their rates as a whole, to an average of 0.085 percent. That widened the advantage of online savings account rates over traditional savings account rates by nearly 5 basis points, to 0.474 percentage points. To put it differently, online savings accounts on average are now paying over 6 times more interest than their traditional counterparts.

America's Best Rates: money market accounts

The following were the top money market accounts in the latest survey:


Money market account rate

1st place (tie)

Sallie Mae Bank (ABR platinum medal winner)

0.900 percent

1st place (tie)

Santander Bank (ABR platinum medal winner)

0.900 percent

3rd place (tie)

Ally Bank (ABR gold medal winner)

0.850 percent

3rd place (tie)

Mutual of Omaha Bank (ABR gold medal winner)

0.850 percent

3rd place (tie)

Synchrony Bank (ABR gold medal winner)

0.850 percent

6th place

Doral Bank (ABR silver medal winner) (Ed. note: This bank failed and was closed by the FDIC in February 2015.)

0.779 percent

7th place

Discover Bank (ABR bronze medal winner)

0.720 percent

8th place

Nationwide Bank

0.680 percent

9th place


0.610 percent

10th place

OneWest Bank

0.500 percent

Unlike in the savings account category, the money market category did not see an increase in the top rates available in the fourth quarter of 2014. Still, those top rates still represent a significant advantage over the category average. With the overall average money market rate falling to 0.165 percent, the top money market rates pay more than five times the interest of the average money market account.

As is the case with savings accounts, online money market accounts generally represent a rate advantage over traditional accounts. While the average online money market rate held steady at 0.552 percent in the latest survey, the average traditional account rate slipped a little, to 0.113 percent. That widened the rate advantage for online money market accounts to 0.439 percentage points.

Finding better bank rates

To help consumers fight back against the low-interest-rate environment, puts the emphasis in these surveys not just on high rates, but on consistently high rates. Short-term promotional rates are not included in the America's Best Rates survey, and the figures shown are the averages offered throughout the quarter, not just a one-time snapshot of rates. To present a cross-section of banking conditions, surveys 100 banks, including 50 of the largest retail deposit institutions, plus a mix of medium-sized and smaller banks.

2015 has begun with a stock market slump, which echoes broader concerns about economic conditions. This means that the near-term outlook for higher bank rates is not encouraging. With average rates near zero and showing no signs of rising, the one thing consumers can do to earn higher rates is to shop around. The rankings above should give you some ideas on where to begin your search.

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