Checking and savings smarts: Make your accounts work harder for you

Learn which type of account to use for what purpose when trying to achieve your financial goals.

Tags: Accounts, Checking, Savings
Published: June 12, 2019

Four months. 40 years. No matter how long you’ve been managing your own money, you can always learn new ways to practice smart spending and saving, says Bart Davis, Vice President and Group Product Manager for Consumer Deposits at U.S. Bank.
 

What is a checking account?

According to Davis, your checking account is your primary tool to pay for day-to-day expenses. “It’s pretty straightforward,” he says. “A checking account lets you accept money — and then spend that money to meet your everyday expense needs.”

Your checking account safely holds the funds you need for day-to-day living. When you pay for groceries, gas, and monthly bills, it’s common to use money from your checking account.
 

What is a savings account?

If a checking account can be viewed as a primary tool to pay for day-to-day expenses, a savings account can be thought of as a piggy bank.

“The primary purpose of a savings account is to protect your money for future use,” says Linda Wu, Assistant Vice President and Senior Product Manager for Consumer Deposits at U.S. Bank. “By design, it limits how frequently you can transfer funds in and out. So you’re not tempted to use it for day-to-day spending.”

A savings account is a financial tool with a couple of unique features. The first is that limitation on transfers. The second? Interest. “A savings account offers you an interest rate on the money in your account to help your savings grow,” says Wu.
 

What is interest, and how can it help me save over time?

Some savings accounts offer a small financial return in exchange for keeping your money in that account. This return (a.k.a., interest) gets calculated as a percentage of the balance you maintain in the account.

The percentage varies depending on the type of account you hold. Other “interest-bearing” financial tools, such as certificates of deposit (CDs,) offer potentially higher returns. But these accounts also charge fees for early withdrawal.

So a savings account gives you the best of both worlds: You get a small return on your investment. You also have the flexibility to make withdrawals or transfers — usually up to six times per month or statement cycle, per Regulation D requirements.
 

What is the best savings account for me?

Some savings accounts will suit your needs better than others. Asking these questions can help you find a good fit.

  • What is the yearly interest rate for this account?
  • Will I pay a fee to open this account?
  • Does this account automatically charge a monthly maintenance fee?
  • Are there certain activities I can perform or minimum balances to meet in order to waive a monthly maintenance fee?
  • Do I need to keep a minimum balance in the account to avoid fees?
  • What other fees apply to this account? (Examples: transactions outside your financial institution, foreign transactions, wire transfers)
  • Can I withdraw money from this account at an ATM?
  • Can I make payments from this account?
  • How many withdrawals/transfers can I make per month from this account?
  • Can I make recurring automatic transfers from my checking account into this savings account?
     

What is the best checking account for me?

You’ll want to be as choosy with your checking account as you are with your savings account. In general, make sure you get a clear picture of the accounts that meet your financial needs. Pay special attention to the account’s overdraft policy. These questions can help you decide which checking account makes the most sense for you.

 

  •  Does this account have a monthly maintenance fee? What steps can I take to avoid this fee as well?
  •  Do I need to keep a minimum balance in the account to avoid fees?
  •  What is the overdraft policy on this account?
    • Does this account offer overdraft protection? How does that protection work?
    • How much does a single overdraft cost?
    • How many fees per day could I potentially rack up (if there’s more than one overdraft)? What’s the maximum cost I might see per day as a result?
  • Does this account charge me if I use an out-of-network ATM?
  • What other fees apply to this account? (Examples: foreign transactions, wire transfers.)

 

How can I make my checking and savings accounts work together for my benefit?

Checking and savings accounts offer more than secure storage for your hard-earned income, says Davis. Used together, they can help you develop a solid financial health plan. “At U.S. Bank, we offer a number of transaction and savings solutions to meet your financial needs. This includes establishing automated savings options to prepare you for your future.”

Say you deposit $1,000 from your paycheck into your checking account. You can earmark $200 of that so it gets automatically moved into your savings account. You control the amount, the frequency, the day of the week for the transfer. And you can change these settings as your life circumstances change.

“We’re always looking for new ways to help people manage their money more effectively,” says Wu. “Auto transfers are a great tool for holding yourself accountable to a higher level of financial preparedness.”

“Auto transfers are incredibly simple to set up and maintain,” agrees Davis. “That simplicity is important, especially if you’re just starting to establish yourself financially. We are committed to assist you in establishing financial habits that position you to realize financial well-being from day one.”

 

If you need help determining with account is right for you, learn more about our checking or savings accounts today.