Checking vs Savings Accounts

By Sarah Li Cain · March 23, 2024 · 8 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right.

Checking vs Savings Accounts

The main differences between checking and savings accounts is that checking accounts are for spending and come with a debit card and checks, while savings accounts are a place to stash and grow your money via interest earned but your access may be more limited. These two kinds of financial products can form the foundation of how you manage your money day to day.

Read on to learn what the difference between a savings and checking account is, how they are the same, and the role each plays in your financial life.

Key Points

•   Bank transfers move money from one bank account to another.

•   These can be done by online transfers, checks, peer-to-peer services, wire transfers, third-party companies, or bank-to-bank money transfer services.

•   There may be limits on how many bank transfers you can do in a specific time period and the dollar amount.

•   The time it takes to complete a bank transfer may vary with the method.

Quick Comparison of Checking vs Savings Accounts

To help you understand the difference between checking and savings accounts, here is a chart summarizing some key points.

Checking Account Saving Account
Fees Varies Varies
Interest earnings Minimal (if at all) Yes
Debit card access Yes No
Check writing capabilities Yes No
Withdrawal limits None May be capped at 6 per month
Maintenance fees Varies Varies
Minimum opening balance Varies Varies
Best used for Spending Saving

There are similarities when you compare checking vs. savings accounts, such as varied minimum opening deposits, maintenance fees, and other monthly fees. Also, both kinds of accounts are typically insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) or NCUA (National Credit Union Administration), which can give you peace of mind.

That said, there are also three major points of difference between checking and savings accounts: how account holders access their money, withdrawal limits, and interest earnings.

Three Major Differences to Know

Consider these three important ways that checking vs. savings accounts can differ.

1. Interest Earnings

When it comes to earning a bit of a return on an online bank account, savings accounts typically offer a higher interest rate than checking accounts. In many cases, checking accounts aren’t interest-bearing, meaning no interest is earned at all. Interest rates for savings accounts vary. The current average is 0.46% APY (compared to a current average of 0.07% APY for checking accounts), according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC. That said, you probably will find higher rates at online banks instead of bricks-and-mortar ones, with rates ranging from 4.35% to 5.15%. By not having physical locations, online banks save money and can pass savings onto their customers.

2. Liquidity

Here’s a key difference between a savings and checking account: Checking accounts are usually used by account holders to access their cash frequently, whether paying monthly bills or buying a latte. Checking accounts generally include a debit card, which can be used for purchases or ATM withdrawals. Checks, while not as popular as they once were, are also typically provided.

Savings accounts, on the other hand, don’t usually come with debit cards. Some financial institutions offer an ATM card for deposits and withdrawals to a savings account. Similarly, they lack checks. This reinforces the idea that these accounts are not for spending.

3. Withdrawal Limits

Checking accounts allow unlimited withdrawals, whereas savings accounts may only allow up to six per month. After that point, the transaction could be denied or the account holder charged a penalty. The bank might even convert the savings account into a checking account.

However, in April 2020, the Federal Reserve lifted this limitation of six transactions imposed through Regulation D. Financial institutions are no longer required to limit savings account withdrawals or transfers to six per month, but some may continue to do so. Check with your financial institution to learn the full story.

Earn up to 4.60% APY with a high-yield savings account from SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings account and earn up to 4.60% APY - with no minimum balance and no account fees.

What Is a Savings Account?

A savings account is an account held at a financial institution such as a bank or credit union, and its primary purpose is to store your funds safely. Most savings accounts allow the account holder to earn interest on the account balance.

A few points to note:

•   Savings account rates are generally higher than those offered with checking accounts (if those pay any interest at all). For this reason, they can be a good option as a savings vehicle for money that the account holder doesn’t need to access frequently.

•   Common uses for savings accounts are emergency funds, short-term savings goals, and funds for occasional expenses. The cash can accumulate in the savings account and have an opportunity to earn interest.

•   As mentioned above, banks can still impose a per-month transaction limit on savings accounts — they’re just not required to by the Fed anymore. There could be fees imposed on these excess transactions, which can add up.

•   Some financial institutions may automatically close an account holder’s savings account or convert the savings account to a checking account if too many withdrawals are made each month on a regular basis.

•   Other financial institutions don’t charge a maintenance fee or require account holders to maintain a minimum account balance, although they may require a minimum deposit to open an account. It’s wise to check with your financial institution to make sure you understand the ground rules.

Benefits of Savings Accounts

Here are some of the upsides of opening and maintaining a savings account:

•   Savings accounts are low-risk, which means you are unlikely to lose money. Rather, you are likely to make money, thanks to interest, especially when that interest compounds.

•   Interest is a plus. By shopping around for high-yield accounts, you may be able to grow your money without the volatility of investing in, say, stocks.

•   Savings accounts are usually insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000 per account holder, per account ownership category, per insured institution. In the highly unlikely event of your bank going out of business, you’d be covered. What’s more, some banks participate in programs that extend the FDIC insurance to cover millions1.

•   Easy access is another plus. Unless term or time deposits, in which your money can be locked up for a specific period of time, savings accounts allow for easy withdrawal of your funds.

•   Peace of mind can come with savings. Having a savings account can help you feel more secure as you work toward your financial goals. For instance, you’ll know that you have funds available if an emergency cropped up.

Recommended: Guide to Using an ATM

What Is a Checking Account?

A checking account is also held at a financial institution, though its primary purpose is to be used for everyday spending. These accounts generally don’t have any withdrawal limits, so account holders can make as many transactions as their heart desires.

•   Debit cards typically come with checking accounts, and can be used for purchases at bricks-and-mortar and online retailers and to withdraw cash from an ATM.)

•   Checking account holders may also be able to use paper checks, either complimentary or purchased by the account holder, which can be used to pay bills and make purchases.

•   Account holders may also access their funds by P2P platforms (such as Venmo or PayPal) and other means.

Checking accounts may not earn as much interest compared to savings accounts, if they earn any interest at all.

Many financial institutions charge the same types of fees for checking accounts and savings accounts, such as monthly maintenance fees. Additional checking account fees may include overdraft or non-sufficient funds fees and out-of-network ATM fees.

Having enough money in the account and sticking with in-network ATMs are good ways to avoid charges like these, but banks are required to disclose certain fees it charges. Take a look at the fee schedule for any particular type of account you are thinking of opening and get acquainted with the details.

Benefits of Checking Accounts

There are many advantages to having a checking account, including:

•   You can pay bills and transfer funds online, in person, or by app; there’s no need to carry around cash for such transactions. Checking accounts can make money management very convenient.

•   Checking accounts are typically insured by the FDIC (or, if you bank with a credit union, NCUA), so your money is safe. Even if the financial institution were to go out of business, you wouldn’t lose your money up to $250,000 per account holder, per account ownership category, per insured institution.

•   Checking accounts can be an affordable way to conduct financial transactions. For instance, your account is likely to come with checks, which can save you the effort and expense of using money orders or other types of payments in many situations.

•   Your checking account may offer rewards, such as cash back opportunities, or if you apply for a loan at the same institution, you may get a better rate.

Recommended: Ways to Avoid Overdraft Fees

The Takeaway

Yes, there are significant differences between checking and savings accounts. They serve quite separate purposes (spending vs. saving) and can be useful in working toward varied financial goals. For many people, however, it’s not a question of which kind of account to open, but where’s the best place to open both.

When you’re looking for the best banks for checking and savings accounts, see what SoFi can offer.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


Are interest rates variable on savings and checking accounts?

Savings and checking accounts virtually always have variable interest rates.

Are checking or savings accounts insured?

Yes, both checking and savings accounts are usually insured by the FDIC (or NCUA) for up to $250,000 per account holder, per account ownership category, per insured institution.

Is it better to have most of your money in a savings or checking account?

When comparing checking vs. savings accounts, know this: If you have a chunk of the money that will sit in the bank for a period of time, a savings account can be a wise choice since it will earn interest.

Photo credit: iStock/AleksandarNakic

1SoFi Bank is a member FDIC and does not provide more than $250,000 of FDIC insurance per legal category of account ownership, as described in the FDIC’s regulations. Any additional FDIC insurance is provided by banks in the SoFi Insured Deposit Program. Deposits may be insured up to $2M through participation in the program. See full terms at See list of participating banks at

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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