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Guide to Cash Management Accounts (CMAs)

By Ashley Kilroy · June 14, 2022 · 6 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. Read more 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. Read less

Guide to Cash Management Accounts (CMAs)

A cash management account or CMA provides an alternative solution for storing a large sum of money. Instead of using a checking or savings account from a traditional bank or credit union, you can park your money with non-financial institutions such as robo-advisors, online investment companies, or trading apps. While CMAs provide some of the features you receive from traditional banking, they also make managing your money more convenient since you can keep your banking and investing under one roof.

Here’s your complete guide to cash management accounts to discover if this type of account is right for you. We’ll share details on:

•   What is a cash management account?

•   How do cash management accounts work?

•   What are the benefits and considerations of cash management accounts?

•   Is a cash management account right for you?

What Are Cash Management Accounts?

Let’s explore what a cash management account is exactly. A CMA or cash management account provides a solution for managing your cash flow and your money. The cash inside the account usually earns interest, so your money can grow over time. You also may have checking writing capabilities, debit card access, or a combination of both. These non-banking institutions usually have no fees, another attractive aspect of using a cash management account. However, they typically make their money by charging fees for other services such as investing, retirement planning, or financial planning services.

While traditional banking accounts have similar benefits, the biggest draw to a cash management account is that you can bank and invest with one company. This way, you’re not toggling back and forth between several companies or platforms to manage your money.

How Do Cash Management Accounts Work?

Now that you know what a CMA is in big-picture terms, let’s drill down on how they work. Cash management accounts are interest-earning accounts that offer a safe place for cash. Since investment firms and robo-advisors are not banks, they don’t keep your money at their financial institution. Instead, they partner with several banks and spread your deposit out among them.

Like traditional banking accounts, account holders can deposit funds, withdraw funds, transfer money, set up direct deposits, write checks, and use a debit card. You can manage your personal cash flow statement by checking on your CMA regularly.

In addition, some CMAs earn interest like savings accounts and have checking account capabilities. Therefore, they can act as a way to merge these accounts into one. However, some CMAs may not have features of both accounts, so check with the institution to determine what features are available.

What Are the Pros of Cash Management Accounts?

Understanding the benefits of using a cash management account can help you determine if this is the right banking solution for your needs. With that in mind, here are several advantages of using a cash management account.

Convenience

The most significant pull for consumers to open a cash management account is that they can keep their investments and banking under one umbrella. Keeping everything in one place can simplify your money management efforts.

Traditional Banking Features

When you open a cash management account, you typically have access to tradition banking features like:

•   Direct deposit

•   Complementary ATM networks

•   Electronic bill pay

•   Third-party payment site access

But, before you open an account, make sure you check with the institution about their banking services. This way you can ensure they have everything you need.

FDIC Insured

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) protects your banking deposits from losses up to $250,000. So, if your bank fails for any reason, you can recover your funds. While non-banking firms are prohibited from offering FDIC insurance directly, their partner banks can extend coverage. Since nonbanks spread funds across several partner banks, each can offer $250,000 of FDIC insurance per depositor.

What Are the Cons of a Cash Management Account?

Now that we’ve considered the advantages of a cash management account, it’s only fair to review the potential downsides of these financial vehicles. Here are some points to keep in mind as you decide whether a CMA is right for you.

Lower Interest Rates

While these accounts do offer some earnings, you will often find better rates at online banks. Yes, it may as if low-interest checking accounts are the norm and that CMAs are in their ballpark, but dig a bit deeper. If you are planning on parking a large sum of cash in an account, it can literally pay to explore your options elsewhere and see what APY’s are available in high-interest accounts. You may find that a short-term savings account works better for your needs.

Recommended: APY vs. Interest Rate: What’s the Difference?

Fewer Features

Cash management accounts may not offer the conveniences of checking accounts, like bill pay and other ways of making your financial life simpler.

No Physical Branches

Many cash management accounts are offered by online banks, which means you won’t have bricks and mortar locations to visit. Nor will you have a team of bankers to support you as you do at a traditional bank. If you are the kind of person who prefers personal interaction, this may be a significant issue for you.

Cash Management Accounts vs Checking Accounts

While cash management accounts offer similar services and features to traditional bank accounts, you might wonder what the differences are. If we break down CMAs compared to checking accounts further, these features are worth noting.

•   Maintenance fees. There are usually no maintenance fees for CMAs. However, you may have to meet a minimum balance to keep your account active. On the other hand, depending on the bank, some high-yield checking accounts come with maintenance fees. It may be possible to get these fees waived if you meet specific bank stipulations, but it’s worthwhile to consider this point.

•   Interest earning. Many cash management accounts earn interest, like what you find with high-interest online savings accounts. While it’s possible to earn interest on a savings account, it’s usually less than the interest cash management accounts earn.

•   Account integration. Investment firms and robo-advisors usually offer cash management accounts and investments. You can usually link your CMA with your investments, making it easy to move money and automate contributions. Traditional banks may also offer retirement and investment services. However, that’s not their primary business. Also, if you have investments and banking accounts separate, there may be a time lag for transactions, which usually doesn’t happen with CMAs.

Considerations When Comparing Cash Management Accounts

Before you enroll in a cash management account, it’s wise to compare all of your options. You may also want to assess the pros and cons of each banking solution. So, when comparing your solutions, here are some things worth considering when determining if a CMA is suitable for your needs.

Customer Service

When you need an issue resolved with your money, it’s nice to know customer service is there to help. So, you will want to make sure that the company you’re considering offers a robust customer service solution to assist you with all of your questions or concerns. For online banks, check out the hours that support is available and find out if you’ll be interacting with a human or an automated assistant.

Minimum Balance Requirement

As we noted above, CMAs can have minimum balance requirements to keep the account active. Therefore, you’ll want to determine these requirements in advance to see if you have the appropriate sum of cash to deposit.

Investment Management

Most of the institutions that offer cash management accounts offer investment services. So, if you’re looking to use their investment service, make sure you select a company you trust and feel comfortable with. You’ll also want to ensure the investments offered are suitable for your needs.

Is a Cash Management Account a Good Fit for You?

A CMA is ideal for folks who like to manage their investments and bank accounts under the same umbrella. It may make managing your money somewhat simpler and smoother.

But, for those who feel a bit uncertain about using online banks or mobile apps to complete their daily transactions, a bank account may be a more viable solution. Also, if you would prefer to separate your investments and banking needs, a high-interest checking or savings account may make more sense that stashing your funds in a CMA.

The Takeaway

CMAs are interest-earning alternative solutions to traditional banking accounts like checking and saving accounts. Since investment firms usually offer CMAs, you can keep your investments and banking needs in one place, streamlining your money management efforts. As with most services, there are pros and cons to these accounts. Determining whether one is right for you will depend upon your reviewing all the features and seeing what is the best fit for your money management style and goals.

If you feel more comfortable with traditional banking, SoFi offers a smart, money-savvy solution. Our online bank accounts, when opened with direct deposit, are fee-free and earn a competitive APY. Also, you can access your paycheck up to two days earlier. We think it’s a great combination of convenience and money-growing features that you’ll love.

Ready to bank better? Come see what SoFi offers.

FAQ

What is the purpose of a cash management account?

Cash management accounts give consumers a way to complete everyday banking transactions like bill pay or direct deposit while managing investments, all under one roof.

What type of account is cash management?

A cash management account is like a traditional bank account, except it’s offered by non-banking firms, like online investment firms or robo-advisors. You can complete transactions (direct deposit, withdrawals, check writing, etc.) the same way with a traditional checking or savings account.

Is a cash management account the same as a money market account?

While cash management accounts and money market accounts have similar features (earning interest, withdrawals, deposits, etc.), they are not the same. Banks offer money market accounts, while nonbanks like robo-advisors offer cash management accounts.


Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub

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