Updated January 13, 2015

Study: Best Savings Account - Capital One 360 vs Ally Bank vs GE Capital Bank

The goal of a savings account isn't just to squirrel away money. A savings account is where your money should grow in value, over time, by earning interest. Ideally, you'll end up with more money than you started with, and the money is easily accessible to you whenever you need it.

Opening a savings account is simple - nearly every bank out there offers one - but finding one that pays you a decent interest rate does take some legwork. So does finding one with little to no fees.

We’ve done the research for you. Here’s our list of the three best savings accounts currently being offered.

Study Methodology

Our methodology included:

  • FDIC Insurance: A bank insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is the only type of bank where you should deposit your money. FDIC insurance means that up to $250,000 of your money is insured against a bank failure. All of the banks on our list are FDIC-insured.

  • Interest Rate: How much will the financial institution pay you in interest for parking your money there?

  • Fees: A savings account is supposed to be a passive account, so there shouldn’t be a lot of activity (aside from deposits). That means you don’t want an account that comes with fees, including minimum balance requirements, and - especially - hidden fees.

  • Customer Service: Is your account information easy to find online? How easily are your questions answered?

Online Offerings Rule the Roost

Our research found that brick-and-mortar banks pay next to nothing in interest rates on savings accounts. A quick poke around shows an APR of just 0.01% at Bank of America, for example, Nationally, the average APR on a savings account is just 0.08% according to Bankrate.com (as of June 24, 2014).

By comparison, online savings accounts pay rates north of 0.85%, significantly more than brick-and-mortars, for essentially the same service. And online accounts have removed a lot of barriers to reaching a higher APR. Citibank’s Savings Plus Account pays 0.15% only on balances of $99,999 or higher, whereas most of the online accounts we reviewed pay a rate of 0.85% (or higher) on any balance.

Furthermore, traditional branch banks have more restrictions. Most offer a “free” savings account only as long as a minimum balance is maintained.

Because you benefit more with higher interest rates and lower fees, we found that our top three savings accounts are all online-only products.

Best Account for Earning Interest: GE Capital Bank

This trusted name offers an online savings account with an interest rate of 0.90%, the highest rate currently offered for a savings account. It’s owned by the General Electric Capital Corp.

Why We Like It
There is no minimum deposit to open an online savings account, and there are no transaction fees. The bank allows up to six free withdrawals per statement cycle (each month), and there are no fees for a seventh withdrawal because the system won’t let you make one.

You will need to register an existing external bank account with GE Capital and use it to transfer money into your new savings account. GE Capital does not provide checking accounts - just savings accounts and CDs. Deposits can be made through an electronic transfer or wire transfer, or you can snail mail a check to the bank for deposit.

The one thing to be aware of is that GE Capital Bank is not to be confused with GE Capital Retail Bank. A totally separate entity, GE Capital Retail Bank is now known as Synchrony and is not affiliated with General Electric.

Its Drawbacks
The bank doesn’t have branches to visit. And while all of your account information is available online, its customer service phone hours are only Monday through Friday until 11 p.m. Central.

Who GE Capital Bank Is Best For
Savers who want to earn the most interest on their money and don’t need much handholding or tech extras.

Best Savings Account to Save for a House: Capital One 360

The Capital One name is most often associated with credit cards, but the bank offers a savings vehicle as well. Its Capital One 360 Savings has a few of the bells and whistles that you’d expect from an online-focused entity. While the interest rate is decent compared to its competitors, it’s hard to accumulate much here. Still, if you already have some savings set aside for a future house and want to be sure you can tap the money at anytime, this is a good place to park it – and this type of account makes it easy to keep your house savings separate from your other funds.

Why We Like It
There are no fees and no minimums deposit is required to open a 360 Savings account. Its current rate is 0.75%, which is pretty high in the universe of savings accounts, although not as high as GE Capital Bank.

The online-only system has a few cool bells and whistles. For one, you can make deposits through its CheckMate system, at no extra cost, which is accessible through your home computer or the mobile app. You can also make deposits via electronic or wire transfer.

Moreover, once you open your initial savings account, you can open up to 25 separate accounts and nickname them. One savings account can be a “Vacation” account while another can be called “Home Repairs” or “College.” You could also easily open a savings account for a child and link it to your home account. Here’s a tip - watch for special offers on a 360 Kid’s Savings Account, such as a $50 opening bonus.

Capital One 360 also promotes its “Savers Community,” which brings social media to its savings customers. In addition to offering videos on YouTube, the bank allows users to connect via Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and through an online blog called We The Savers.

Its Drawbacks

Capital One accounts with the term 360 are truly online only, meaning it is not an account that you can get help with should you walk into a Capital One bank branch. It offers 24/7 online banking, but the hours to talk to a real human are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

Who Capital One 360 Savings Is Best For
A saver who values tech versatility and social interaction slightly more than being paid the maximum interest rate.

Best Simplest Savings Account to Open: Ally Online Savings

Ally Bank has one of the most transparent websites of any banking institutions we have surveyed. Any and all fees (of which there are a few) are clearly stated on one landing page. And while it’s online only, Ally is actually the new name of the General Motors Acceptance Corp. (GMAC), which rebranded in 2009, so it’s not as young a firm as you might think.

Why We Like It
The current interest rate on an Ally Online savings account is 0.87%, a leading contender in terms of interest rates offered on a savings account. There is no minimum deposit to open an Ally Online savings account, and there are no monthly maintenance fees.

In addition to electronic transfers, account deposits can be made remotely with its Ally eCheck Deposit system, available on its mobile banking app or through your home computer.

Ally offers a human to speak with 24/7. It also has an online chat option, which is useful for obtaining answers to general questions but not necessarily account-specific questions.

Its Drawbacks
You can make six withdrawals/transfers for free each month, but anything over this limit is charged a $10 fee for each transaction.

Who Ally Bank Is Best For:
A saver who is simply looking for a higher interest rate than most, along with some technological gadgetry.

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