Guide to Cash Management Accounts (CMAs)

By Ashley Kilroy · April 17, 2023 · 8 minute read

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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.

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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. Worth noting: Some banks participate in programs that extend the FDIC insurance to cover millions1.

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.


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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 https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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