Best Places to Consider Keeping Your Emergency Fund

By Rebecca Lake · July 03, 2023 · 6 minute read

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Best Places to Consider Keeping Your Emergency Fund

An emergency fund can help you cover life’s curveballs when an unexpected financial situation comes your way. You may be wondering where to keep your emergency fund until you actually need it.

You could stuff your emergency savings under the mattress or in a piggy bank, but a bank account can be a smarter way to save. The best account for emergency fund savings is one that offers you convenient access to your money, a competitive rate on deposits, and minimal fees.

Weighing some of the different banking options can help you decide where to put emergency funds.

Where to Keep Emergency Funds

Now, where to keep an emergency fund? There are different places you could keep your rainy-day money. When making a decision, it’s important to consider what works best for your lifestyle. And you’ll also want the security of knowing your money is safe, so it can be best to bank at a financial institution that is insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) or NCUA (National Credit Union Administration).

With that in mind, here are five possibilities you might consider when looking for the best account for emergency funds.

💡 Trying to figure out how much to save? Check out the emergency fund calculator for help.

1. Traditional Checking or Savings Accounts

You might consider keeping emergency savings in a traditional checking account or savings account at a brick-and-mortar bank. On the pro side, that could make it easier to access your money in an emergency. However, you may not get the best rate for your money. Also, checking accounts often don’t earn you any interest, and their accessibility can make it tempting to dip into the funds for something that isn’t a true emergency.

Traditional banks are not known for offering the highest annual percentage yields, or APYs, on savings accounts either. You’re also more likely to pay a monthly maintenance fee for a traditional savings account than one at an online bank.

2. High-Yield Savings

High-yield savings accounts offer above-average rates on balances. For example, you might find a savings account with an APY that’s five, 10, or even 20 times higher than the national average.

It’s more common to find high-yield savings accounts at online banks vs. traditional banks. That’s because online banks tend to have lower overhead costs so they’re able to pass on savings to their customers. You’re also less likely to pay a monthly fee for a high-yield savings account.

Of course, you won’t have branch banking access with an online savings account. You may, however, be able to access your account via an ATM card or debit card, or by transferring funds to a linked account.

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.


3. Bonds

A bond is a type of debt instrument. When you buy a bond, you’re agreeing to let the bond issuer use your money for a set time period. In return, the issuer agrees to pay interest back to you.

Bonds can be attractive since you can earn decent interest rates on savings. However, they’re not great for accessibility since you have to wait for the bond to mature to get your money back.

You could cash out a bond early but that might mean forfeiting some of the interest you could earn. So you may want to consider bonds for money that you’d like to invest, versus money that you might need to tap into for emergencies.

4. Certificate of Deposit (CD) Accounts

A certificate of deposit or CD is a time deposit account. When you put money into a CD, the bank agrees to pay interest on your balance over a set time period. Once the CD matures, you can either withdraw your initial deposit and the interest or roll it all over to a new CD.

CDs can be a reliable way to save, since interest rates are guaranteed. However, your money is locked in for the entire maturity term. If you need to break into a CD early, your bank may charge an early withdrawal penalty. That could cost you some or all of the interest earned.

If you’re interested in using CDs for emergency savings, you might consider a CD ladder. Laddering CDs means opening multiple CDs with different maturity terms. That way, you always have a CD maturity date on the horizon. CD laddering could also help you to capitalize on rising interest rates since you can roll expiring CDs into a new account with a higher APY.

5. Money Market Accounts

Money market accounts combine features of savings accounts with checking accounts. For example, you can earn interest on balances and you might also get a debit card or paper checks that you can use to access your money.

A money market account can offer flexibility since they’re easier to access than bonds or CDs. And you might find money market accounts at online banks that offer rates comparable to what you could get with a high-yield savings account or CD. However, read the fine print: There may be minimum account opening and balance requirements as well as monthly fees to be paid.

If you’re considering a money market account for your emergency fund, consider the fees. An online money market account might be preferable for minimizing what you pay in fees while getting a competitive rate. Remember, the best account for an emergency fund will be the one that suits your specific needs.

The Takeaway

Having an emergency fund can help you sleep easier at night if you know that you’re covered should an unexpected expense crop up. If you’re looking for the best emergency fund savings account option, you can start with your current bank then compare it to other banks. Look for a combination of high APY and low (or no) fees to make the most of your money.

For instance, you might consider opening an online bank account with SoFi. With our Checking and Savings account, you can spend and save in one convenient place, plus you’ll earn a competitive APY on balances while paying no account fees, which can help your cash grow faster. One other terrific benefit: Qualifying accounts can get paycheck access 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.

FAQ

What type of account is the safest for emergency funds?

A bank account at an FDIC-member bank is the safest option for holding your emergency fund. FDIC insurance protects your deposits in the rare event that your bank fails. Accounts that can be FDIC-insured include savings accounts, money market accounts, checking accounts, and CD accounts. NCUA serves a similar function insuring credit union accounts. Both offer $250,000 coverage per depositor, per account type, per insured institution.

Should I open a separate bank account for my emergency fund?

Opening a separate bank account for an emergency fund can be a good idea if you’re worried that you might be tempted to spend savings that are mingled with other funds. Having a separate savings account that’s linked to your checking account can allow for easy transfers. You’ll also continue earning interest until you need the money.

Should emergency funds be kept in cash?

Keeping an emergency fund in cash can be problematic as it increases the risk of the money being lost or stolen. You’re also not earning any interest by keeping emergency funds in savings. What’s more, certain emergency expenses might need to be paid using a check or debit card, which would still require you to deposit your cash into a bank account at some point.


Photo credit: iStock/dobok

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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.

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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