Deposit rates at banks have been slow to respond to the recent Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, though competition for deposits is now motivating a few banks to increase what they pay on deposits. But before savers chase after the highest rates, it's useful to understand the sneaky techniques some banks use to attract deposits. By understanding the games banks play and by taking the time to do your homework, you can get a higher rate on your checking or savings account.
Here are a few tips to help you get a higher rate that will last over the long run.
Check to see if your bank is advertising higher rates on a new account than on your existing account. Instead of raising rates for all savers, some banks have been creating new accounts that offer top rates that are aimed at attracting new customers. Existing customers keep earning lower rates. Banks hope that many of them will be too busy to notice that their accounts are lagging behind.
If your bank is advertising higher rates for new accounts, ask it to increase the rate of your existing account to match the advertised rates. You'll have better luck if it's a brick-and-mortar bank where you can talk with a branch manager. Show the manager rates that rivals are offering. That can help motivate the manager to increase your rate.
If your bank refuses, you may need to apply for the new account. Make sure you're aware of the requirements. First, will you be eligible as an existing customer? If you are, does the account require new money? This is money on deposit at another financial institution. Ask if there's an easy way to apply for the new account as an existing customer. The application may be expedited if you access it after you log into online banking.
If your checking or savings accounts were competitive when you first opened them, don't assume they still are. Brick-and-mortar banks often attract new customers with promotional rates that rarely last more than a year. That's also the case at internet banks, many of which may be rate leaders for several months, but they rarely stay there over the long run.
By reviewing the top currently available rates at other banks and credit unions, you'll likely be able to find an account with a much better rate. That's especially the case now as some banks start responding to rising interest rates.
If your bank is lagging behind on rates or playing games with promotional accounts, it may be time to move your money. If you don't want to keep chasing the highest rates every few months, look for banks with a history of competitive rates. The best ones have accounts that have nonpromotional rates that have remained competitive for the last several years.
Ken Tumin is founder and editor of DepositAccounts.com, which has been tracking and rating the savings, CD and checking account offerings of banks and credit unions for more than a decade.