Jumping through hoops for decent interest rates on checking accounts

Sally Herships Jun 23, 2011

Jumping through hoops for decent interest rates on checking accounts

Sally Herships Jun 23, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: Consumer advice site BankRate.com is publishing the results of a new survey today looking at checking account interest rates.

Consumers can find relatively high rates but as Sally Herships reports there’s a catch, or a couple.

SALLY HERSHIPS: You don’t have to look far these days to find someone who’s unhappy with the interest rate they’re earning on their checking account.

MONIQUE DAVIS: I only get a checking account for direct deposit but when my money goes in I take it out because it doesn’t grow.

Monique Davis is 25 and I found her one block from my office.

DAVIS: It doesn’t grow, I could leave my money in there and it don’t grow, so I just take it out.

The good news for Davis is there are relatively high interest rates available on checking accounts. The key word here is “relatively.” BankRate.com says the average interest rate for high-yield accounts is down to 2.56 percent. The bad news is consumers have to jump through hoops to get them.

Greg McBride is senior financial analyst at BankRate.com He says customers can face requirements like these every month.

GREG MCBRIDE: Ten debit card transactions, having direct deposit and making at least one either automatic payment or an online bill payment.

And if you miss a requirement, your interest rate drops all the way down to an average of 0.11 percent. Which is pretty much the same as a standard checking account.

Bart Narter is a senior vice president at Banking Group Celent. He says Federal Reserve policy is keeping banks flush with money. So there’s little incentive for them to offer better interest rates. At the same time, Narter says, loan demand from well qualified borrowers is low and as a result — so are interest rates.

BART NARTER: Welcome to the world of supply and demand. It works in banking as well.

Narter says try thinking small.

NARTER: The typical large bank has a very large and expensive branch network.

Which you pay for. So you might find a better interest rate at a smaller, local bank.

In New York, I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.

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