But there are a few details to pay attention to: once you’ve bought the bonds, you can’t redeem them for a year. And if you redeem them before five years, you will lose your last three months of interest.
Here are some questions and answers about savings options:
Do I need to be a member of a credit union to open an account?
Credit unions are member-owned financial institutions and you generally need to register to open an account. Membership is often limited to people living in a certain area or sharing interests, such as the same employer or service in the military. But the rules have become more flexible in recent years. For example, “everyone is eligible to apply” to join PenFed, said Spencer Kenyon, a spokesperson, because it merged in 2019 with a credit union with an “open” charter. To join, all you need to do is open and maintain a basic savings account with at least $5.
I found a bank that offered higher savings rates, but I had never heard of it before. Is it safe?
Smaller regional banks and online banks are more likely to offer higher rates, but may be unfamiliar to consumers. But as long as the bank or credit union is federally insured, Tumin said, your funds are safe. The FDIC and its checkout counterpart, the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, protects the savings deposits of up to $250,000 per depositor, per bank.
Banks must indicate that they are members of the FDIC. If you are unsure of the status of a bank, you can use the bank finder tool. Most so-called neo-banks or fintech companies are not themselves insured, but partner with FDIC-insured banks to hold deposits. The FDIC recommended confirming details of how the company handles deposits. Customers should also verify the name of the bank holding the funds and confirm that it is federally insured.
Should I keep my emergency savings in a Basic Savings Account or seek higher rates?
Emergency savings should generally be kept in a liquid savings account so you can withdraw the funds quickly if you have an unexpected expense, said Kia McCallister-Young, co-director of America Saves, a Consumer Federation of America.
Depending on how much of a cushion you have saved, you can put a portion of your reserve into a higher rate certificate of deposit. But you should probably choose a short-term CD so your funds aren’t tied up for a long time. And if you’ve struggled to build a rainy-day fund, Ms. McCallister-Young said, tax time is a good time to start: You can put some or all of your refund aside to open the account. .
You can also check with your employer. According to the Benefits Research Institute, about 15% of large employers offer options to help workers build up hard-day funds.