Friday, September 30, 2005

Internet savings accounts

While doing some online research recently, I came across several Internet banks that are now paying relatively high interest rates on savings accounts – all accessible online. With the Federal Reserve’s recent discount rate increase, banks are now raising the rates they pay on savings, money market and certificates of deposit.

Two Internet banks stood out -- ING Direct and EmigrantDirect.

ING Direct is an online bank that now pays 3.40% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account. Opening an online account is easy and takes just a few minutes. The website was organized very well and instructions were easy to follow. I opened an account on Thursday and the process was very easy.

The best deal that I found was with Emigrant Savings Bank in New York. Their online bank, EmigrantDirect, just raised their interest rate to 4.00% APY on a FDIC-insured savings account. I opened my account this week and the account-opening process was pretty simple, but a little more involved than ING's. Because of the government's requirement of "knowing your customer," EmigrantDirect asked me some simple personal questions to verify my identity.

The ING Direct and EmigrantDirect accounts both have no minimum deposit, but do require a checking account to be linked to the account. Make sure you have your Social Security Number handy along with your bank's routing number and your driver’s license or state ID. The account usually takes about ten days before you can access it. Both companies test the linking process by depositing small amounts (each under $1.00) into your checking account. Your responsibility is to view your checking account history online (or calling your bank's telephone banking department) and then verifying the amounts with ING or Emigrant. This is for your account safety and to make sure the checking account is linked properly. No, you can't keep the extra money!

Once you have completed the testing and the savings account is established, you simply go online, log into your account and indicate the amount you wish to transfer from your checking account into the savings account. Do the opposite to withdraw money from your savings account. The money is deposited into your checking account and is then available to withdraw by check or ATM withdrawal. The deposits and withdrawals take about two days to complete.

Note: I am not in any way affiliated with either financial institution nor am I being compensated to promote either bank.

Update #1: Now that my ING Direct account is set up, I can refer people to ING to open their own accounts. If you are interested in receiving a $25 credit into your account, please e-mail me. If you set up and fund your account (for whatever minimum amount you wish), I get $10 for the referral. You get $25; I get $10...not a bad deal for either of us.

Update #2: ING Direct now requires a $250 minimum deposit to receive the $25 bonus. Earning $25 for a $250 deposit is still a 10% return. E-mail me if you are interested.