How to compare high-interest savings accounts
Are you getting a competitive interest rate from your current high-yield savings account?
Not all savings accounts are created equal, and some were simply meant to squeeze out as much interest as possible. Find out the benefits of a high-yield savings account and how you can benefit from compounding interest.
What's in this guide?
- Compare high-interest savings accounts
- How to choose a savings account
- What is a high-interest savings account?
- Benefits of a high-yield savings account
- How do high-interest savings accounts work?
- Find the best high-yield savings account
- Types of high-yield savings accounts
- Advantages and disadvantages
- The difference between a savings account and GIC
- How to apply for a high-interest savings account
- Bottom line
Compare high-interest savings accounts
What is a high-interest savings account?
A high-interest savings account, also referred to a high-yield savings account, is designed to help you save more money by offering a competitive interest rate for any funds you keep in your account. Typically, these accounts pay compound interest that’s typically calculated daily and paid out monthly. And because many of these accounts are also online savings accounts not connected to physical bank branches, they come with a free, 24/7 online banking platform to access your funds.
How is interest taxed on my savings account?
Benefits of a high-yield savings account
- You don’t need to know anything about finance.
Compared to other accounts like RRSPs and brokerage accounts, a savings account is probably the easiest one to apply for. You can always reinvest what you’ve deposited there into another asset, and it’s almost impossible to get a negative return on a savings account.
- You don’t need to take any risks.
Savings accounts are considered one of the safest investments in the financial system, next to a certificate of deposit. Most banks and financial institutions are guaranteed by the CDIC, which means that eligible deposits are insured up to $100,000 per person, per bank. If you have more than $1000,000, try to diversify your funds across different banks to cover all your investments.
- You’re buying time to learn.
A savings account is a stepping stone to learn how to earn greater returns by investing in stocks and other investments — you can leave the money there until you’re comfortable enough to take on more complex financial products.
- You can see results fairly quickly.
With the right account, you may begin to see your assets start to grow in as little as a few months.
How do high-interest savings accounts work?
You generally link a high-yield savings account to your chequing account so you can easily make transfers between accounts. In some cases, you can only link your savings account to another account within the same bank, but this isn’t always true. Besides convenient transfers, some account providers even offer ABM access to your savings.
The interest rate is calculated on your balance daily, monthly or quarterly, while your interest is paid monthly, quarterly or annually. The following is the formula your bank would use to calculate your daily interest:
Find the best high-yield savings account
- Look for: High and competitive interest rates
Make sure you know how much of your savings is earning the advertised interest rate. Rates can vary greatly, usually between 0.5% – 2.3%, with some banks paying as much as 2.5% interest. Other banks only pay a high rate once you reach a certain minimum balance like $10,000. Also, pay attention to the conditions required to earn the interest rate. The offer may only apply to new customers or you may need to meet deposit and withdrawal conditions.
- Look for: 24/7 accessibility
There are usually several ways to conveniently access your savings, including mobile, online and phone banking. Some savings accounts even come with debit card access. However, if you’re trying to stop yourself from dipping into your savings, consider an account with limited or no accessibility. Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) offer a higher rate of interest the longer you agree to keep your money inside. The catch is that you won’t have access to your savings for the duration of the term unless you want to pay a hefty penalty.
- Look for: Whether you can link your existing bank account or need to open another account.
Depending on your bank, you may be required to link your high-interest savings accounts to a chequing account in the same bank. If you have a chequing account at a different bank, find out if you can link it to your high-yield savings account. Otherwise, you may be forced to pay another monthly fee for a bank account you might not need.
- Look for: Zero fees
Check for fees for maintaining the account. Though it’s common for savings accounts to have no monthly fees, sometimes a fee will be charged per transaction if you go over a certain number of transactions.
See our list of the best high-interest savings accounts
Types of high-yield savings accounts
Find out if you’d be better off with a business account, a joint account or, if you want to open an account for your child, a youth savings account.
If you’re self-employed or a business owner, you may be better off with a business account. These accounts allow you to separate your work and personal expenses so it’s easier to organize your expenses at tax time.
If you’re sharing finances, a joint account may be easier. This kind of account allows 2 people access to the same account to deposit and withdraw funds. Joint accounts are good for couples running a home together as well as people who are out-of-town frequently or who suffer from mobility issues and need another person to help them with their banking. Joint accounts can help partners and couples reach a savings goal together. Read more about joint accounts here.
Youth savings account
If you want to teach your children good money habits, you can set up a youth savings account. Most banks offer competitive deals for youth savings accounts, which may include no fees and free transactions. Accounts offered by banks that operate strictly online tend to pay a higher interest rate and charge fewer fees, catering to savers gradually growing their balance over time.
Advantages and disadvantages
Things to consider before deciding on a savings account.
- You can reach your savings goals quicker. If you apply for a high-yield savings account that matches your savings style, you can get a head start on reaching your financial goals.
- They usually charge few or no fees. The majority of high-interest savings accounts don’t charge any fees for maintaining the account.
- You can limit the loss of money due to inflation. Due to the money supply and the changing value of the Canadian dollar, you can expect to lose around 1% – 3% or more of the value of your money each year. While there are possibly more profitable ways to beat inflation, such as mutual funds and GICs, savings accounts are a very safe way to get some financial protection.
- Low balances can earn a lower rate. Some accounts work on a tiered interest rate structure, which means that the more you have in your account, the higher the standard variable rate.
- You’re often only allowed limited transactions. You may only be allowed to make a certain number of transactions with your savings account per month without incurring a fee, which can range from $0.50 to several dollars. This could prove troublesome if you suddenly need the money for an important purchase.
- You have limited access to your funds. Often, banks do not allow you to link your savings account to your debit card, so you can’t debit directly from your savings account. This means that you can’t use cash-back options in stores to withdraw from your savings account, and you also can’t pay bills or make purchases online using funds drawn directly from your savings account.
The difference between a savings account and GIC
Savings accounts let you make deposits when you want and grow your balance at your own pace. You usually have limited access to your funds, and the penalty for going over this limit can cost you up to several dollars per transaction. There is no end date to your savings account investment – you may continue to grow your money as long as you wish.
Financial institutions offer set interest rates on savings accounts, although these rates may be subject to change. Interest rates on savings accounts in Canada run from under 1% to around 2.5%, but you may be able to score a higher rate for an introductory promotional period when you open your account (some promotional rates run as high as 3%; ask your bank if there are any savings promotions currently being offered). High-yield savings accounts offer competitive rates, sometimes up to 2.5% or more.
As a savings account owner, you might need to deposit a certain amount every month, refrain from making withdrawals and/or keep your balance above a certain amount or else your interest rate will go down or you may become ineligible to hold your account. For more information on regular savings accounts, see our savings guide.
While savings accounts are a very low-risk way of growing your money, the rate of return is also very low compared to other types of investments. Up to 3% of the value of your money could be lost every year due to inflation, and usually the interest rates on Canadian savings accounts aren’t high enough to offset this effect. However, it could be a good idea to put your money in a savings account if you want to keep some funds on hand for easy access – where accessibility of your money is concerned, savings accounts beat out many other investment strategies.
Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC)
(Note: Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) in Canada are different to Guaranteed Investment Contracts (also called GICs) in the United States. The following information pertains to Canadian GICs.)
A Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) is an investment that allows you to put a fixed amount of money upfront into an account that is grown and managed by the issuing institution (usually a bank). The investment lasts for a predetermined amount of time, and when that time is up, your money is returned to you with interest.
The interest rate is set when you first deposit your money, so you are guaranteed to get a specific return at a specific time. Short-term GICs last from 1-9 months, while long-term GICs usually last from 1-5 years but can even last up to 10 years. When you redeem your GIC, you may walk away with your money or choose to reinvest it in another GIC or some other investment vehicle.
The longer the investment term, the higher your rate of return. GIC interest rates often start around 1.5% and can reach over 3.5%, which is higher than most savings accounts. Most GICs are backed by the CDIC up to $100,000, which helps keep your money safe in the event of a bank failure. The CDIC is a federal crown corporation, but some GICs are backed by your provincial government instead and may come with different interest rates.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of investing in a GIC is that, if you want to withdraw your money before the term is up, the interest rate will plummet (you won’t simply be charged a small transaction fee as you would with a savings account). Cashable GICs exist that allow you to withdraw a minimum amount early as long as a minimum amount left in the investment. You’ll earn a lesser interest rate on the funds you withdraw, but the drop won’t be as steep as it would be with an ordinary GIC.
How to apply for a high-interest savings account
What do I need to apply for a high-yield savings account online?
Once you’ve clicked through to the bank’s secure application page, you will typically need to provide:
- Personal identification such as a driver’s license, passport or provincial ID card and personal details such as your name, contact information, email address and mailing address
- Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) card
- Details of an account you want to link to your new high-interest savings account like a chequing account
Note that minors need a parent or guardian to register a youth bank account for them. Such individuals will need to provide their ID, not just their child’s ID. Banks differ in the age they set for eligibility to have a youth account, so if you’re a teenager or the parent of one, check your bank’s eligibility requirements.
Can I open a high-yield savings account as a tourist?
Depending on your visa type, length of stay and other details, you may be able to open a bank account in Canada if you’re a tourist or frequent visitor.Normally, it would be difficult to do so because banks typically require a Social Insurance Number (SIN) to open an account, and nonresidents don’t have this. However, this article on the Government of Canada website suggests that it may be possible to open an account as a non-resident, but you’re advised to speak to the bank directly.
Someone who knows you well in Canada or, if you’re frequently in Canada on business, a representative from a Canadian company might be able to accompany you to a bank where he/she can speak to the manager on your behalf and vouch for your identity. At the manager’s discretion, you may be able to open a bank account.
However, there is no set rule requiring banks to do this, and different banks may have different policies. Speak with the financial institution directly about eligibility requirements for opening an account as a temporary visitor.
A high interest savings account is a great way to help protect your money from inflation and prepare for the future. The higher the interest rate, the more you’ll earn.
While shopping around for the best account, be sure to pay attention to other terms and conditions besides the interest rate including fees, minimum deposit requirements, minimum balance requirements, transaction limits and CDIC coverage. Consider different types of high-yield accounts such as joint accounts, if you have a partner, and youth savings accounts, if you’re looking to save for your child.
Still looking for the best bank account for you? Check out our detailed bank account guide for information on the different types of accounts you can get and what to look for when choosing the right one.
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