Best high yield savings accounts in 2021

Fernando Figueiredo
03.31.21
8 minute read

Whatever stage you’re at in life, it’s vital to look ahead and make sure you have enough money for the future – whether you’re thinking about retirement, buying property, putting money aside for your children, or even just saving for a holiday.

That’s why you have the option to have your money earning on its own – with a savings account, you can have your bank balance growing each month.

But choosing between the many different accounts on offer isn’t easy – and that’s why you can check this selection of 13 of the top high-yield savings accounts for 2021.

At the end of the article, you’ll also find some information about managing your finances in different currencies, and how Wise can help save money in those cases.

What is a high-yield savings account?

A high-yield savings account is simply what it sounds like: it’s any savings account that offers a particularly high rate of return, compared to the national average - and therefore it allows you to earn substantially more on your savings than a lower-yield account.

When we talk about high-yield savings accounts, the figure we’re really talking about is APY, or annual percentage yield – this is the real yearly rate of return you earn on your money once interest has been compounded.

Say your account balance is $1,000, and the interest rate is 5% paid monthly. At the end of the first month, you’d receive $50 interest, so your balance would be $1,050. The next month, you’d get 5% of $1,050 – $52.50 – and the interest payments would keep rising each month. Overall, the APY would work out as about 5.1% – slightly higher than the interest rate itself, because of compound interest.

Sadly, a 5.1% APY would be very high indeed for a high-yield savings account at the moment – rates in general are lower these days, with some savings accounts offering figures in the region of 0.01%. But that’s all the more reason to suss out the best high-yield ones.

High-yield savings accounts aren’t the same as pension funds or other very long-term options – you should look into those separately.

Money market vs high-yield savings account

A high-yield savings account isn’t your only option: a money market deposit account is an alternative. This is another sort of interest-bearing account that banks and credit unions offer, and a money market account will often come with a debit card and checkbook.

It can be the case that MMAs offer better interest rates, but this isn’t necessarily so, and you should look out for the same terms and conditions that affect high-yield savings accounts – limited numbers of transactions, minimum balance amounts, and so on.

All in all, money market accounts and high-yield savings accounts are currently very similar products from the consumer’s perspective. It’s best to be guided by the numbers: how high will the yield be each year?

And with that question in mind, here’s a pick of high-yield savings accounts.

Best high-yield savings accounts in 2021

We’ll go through each of them in detail below, but here’s an overview of the top 13 high yield savings accounts (numbers last checked in March 2021).

Bank APY Minimum opening deposit Notes
Marcus by Goldman Sachs 0.50% $0
Vio Bank 0.57% $100
Varo Savings Account 0.20% or up to 3.00% $0 Various conditions for the higher APY including that the balance does not exceed $5,000
Axos Bank 0.61% $250
Ally Bank 0.50% $0
CIT Bank Savings Builder 0.28% or 0.40% $100 For the higher APY, you must make a monthly deposit of at least $100 OR have $25,000 or more in the account
American Express National Bank 0.40% $0
Discover Online Savings 0.40% $0
SmartyPig by Sallie Mae 0.45-0.70% $0 Higher rate up to $10,000
Live Oak Bank 0.60% $0
OnJuno 0.25% or 2.15% $0 Higher rate for balances up to $5,000 (or $30,000)
Consumers Credit Union Smart Saver 0.25% or 1.50% $5 Various conditions apply for the higher rate
Aspiration 1.00% $10 APY only with Aspiration Plus ($12.50-15/month)

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Run by finance giant Goldman Sachs, Marcus is a justifiably popular option with an APY of 0.50%. There’s no minimum deposit amount and no fees, and there’s a handy app you can use. A strong all-round option from a globally recognized name.1

Vio Bank

Vio Bank’s High Yield Online Savings Account currently offers an APY of 0.57%. You only need $100 to open it, though that could be a low amount if you really want to earn interest. There’s no monthly fee either.

Vio also offers CDs – certificates of deposit – if you want a savings account that offers a little more flexibility in exchange for a lower interest rate.2

Varo Savings Account

Varo offers a seriously tempting maximum APY of 3.00%, knocking spots off many competitors – but there’s a catch.

You can only access that each month if you receive £1,000 via direct deposit, make at least 5 qualifying purchases with a Varo Bank debit card, avoid going into overdraft, and have only up to $5,000 in your account. Otherwise, the rate is a less impressive 0.20%.3 So if you have – or want to have – more than $5,000, it may not be quite as good an option as it sounds at first.

Axos Bank

So long as you have at least $250 to save, you can enjoy an APY of 0.61% with Axos Bank, and you won’t have any maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements. You can get an ATM card if you want it and also manage your account online.4

Axos also offers a Rewards Checking account with offers 1.25% APY if you meet a range of monthly conditions, so if you’re happy enough with a checking account instead then that could be a great way to earn even more.4

Ally Bank

Ally Bank’s Online Savings Account offers 0.50% APY on your savings, with no monthly maintenance fees and no minimum opening deposit either.

It also has a few online and app-based tools to help you manage your savings, so for detailed financial planning it could be ideal.5 Ally also has various other products on offer if your eyes are on the long term, including investment and retirement plans.

CIT Bank Savings Builder

There is a hoop you have to jump through to get CIT Bank’s APY of 0.40% – you need to be paying in at least $100 monthly, or have at least $25,000 in the bank. Otherwise, the rate drops to 0.28%.

If you’re likely to meet one of those criteria with ease, however, CIT is another option for gradually building up some savings.6

American Express National Bank

AmEx doesn’t just do credit cards – it also offers a range of savings accounts including a High Yield one with an APY of 0.40%.

You don’t have to pay in a minimum amount, you can make up to 9 withdrawals or transfers each month, and you’ll have the full heft of American Express looking after your cash. Interest is compounded daily and paid in monthly.7

Discover Online Savings

Just like with credit cards, one rival to AmEx is Discover. Its Online Savings Account offers an identical 0.40% APY, and there aren’t any monthly fees or minimum deposits here either. It also offers the same deal on interest as AmEx, with daily compounding paid in monthly.8 One difference: Discover’s app is well worth a look.

SmartyPig by Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae is best known for student loans, but it also offers other products. For savers looking to lay down some decent financial fundamentals, their SmartyPig account – an “online piggy bank,” they call it – offers an impressive APY of 0.70% for balances up to $10,000. For higher balances it’s 0.45%.

There are no fees to join, or to pay in or withdraw, and there’s a tool to track your savings goals too.9

Live Oak Bank

Another impressive APY is on offer from North Carolina-based Live Oak Bank, which also offers both personal banking and accounts for businesses. Its Personal Savings account offers 0.60%, with no monthly fees or minimum amounts.1

That puts it comfortably among the highest on offer here.

OnJuno

OnJuno’s remarkable 2.15% APY is actually offered not on a specialist high-yield savings account but on a checking account – but it’s such a high figure that it’s definitely worth a mention.

But take care – the mobile bank only offers 2.15% on balances up to $5,000, after which the rate drops to 0.25%. The exception is if you get a premium or “Metal” account with OnJuno – then, you can get 2.15% on balances up to $30,000. You could be able to get this free for a few months, but generally it’ll set you back $9.99 a month.11

Consumers Credit Union Smart Saver

Consumers Credit Union offers another high APY – but again there are a few catches. To get its 1.50% APY, you need to have a checking account with CCU as well as their Smart Saver savings account.

Plus, every month, you’ll have to deposit between $50 and $1000 into the savings account, deposit at least $500 into the checking account. And you have to enrol in e-documents. Otherwise the APY is 0.25%.12

Still, if that all sounds easy enough, it’s an impressive rate.

Aspiration

Aspiration places a big emphasis on sustainability and fairness, so it’s well worth considering for planet-conscious savers.

To get its impressive APY of up to 1.00%, however, you’ll need to sign up for Aspiration Plus, which costs $15 a month or $12.50 if you pay annually.13

So in order for this to be worth it, the rest of Aspiration’s premium package will need to look tempting as well. That package includes carbon offsets for gas purchases, a $200 welcome bonus, and a few other perks too.

Conclusion

Which is the best high-yield savings account of all? There’s no simple answer. The ones offering the very highest rates – like Varo, OnJuno, or Consumers Credit Union – often have strings attached, or stop paying that rate once your savings balance hits a relatively low amount.

The less spectacular-looking options could prove safer bets in the long term, especially if you’d rather give your money to a well established name like AmEx, Discover, or Goldman Sachs. But lesser-known institutions like Axos and Sallie Mae might just edge them out on APY.

It’s worth taking a few different options seriously, and do bear in mind concerns like minimum monthly deposits and whether the APY changes if you save more than a certain amount. Remember: with a savings account, you should be thinking years ahead, so do consider how your money will build up over time.

Good luck with your research – and happy saving!

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Learn more about Wise


  1. Marcus The high-yield Online Savings Account you deserve
  2. Vio High Yield Online Savings Account
  3. Varo savings account
  4. Axos Bank High Yield Savings; Rewards Checking
  5. Ally Online Savings Account
  6. CIT Bank Savings Builder
  7. American Express High Yield Savings
  8. Discover Online Savings Account
  9. Sallie Mae SmartyPig Account
  10. Live Oak Bank Live Oak Personal Savings
  11. OnJuno
  12. Consumers Credit Union Smart Saver
  13. Aspiration Spend & Save Plans (Spend & Save Supplement Disclosure)

All sources checked 28 March 2021


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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