Money market accounts are deposit accounts that function like a hybrid of checking and savings accounts. Their main appeal is they often earn higher interest than a traditional savings account, while remaining accessible. Account holders usually receive checks or debit cards to access the money, similar to checking accounts.
The downside: Monthly withdrawals and transfers are typically limited, just like with some savings accounts. But money market accounts can be an ideal way to earn a return on your savings with less risk than investing.
If this seems like the best place to park your savings, you can open a money market account by following the steps below.
1. Consider a Bank or Credit Union
First, you'll need to decide which type of financial institution you'll open the account with. You can choose one where you already have accounts, but it's worth considering other options to land the best interest rate. While not all of them offer money market accounts, your two main choices are banks and credit unions.
- Credit unions: These are not-for-profit and member-owned institutions. That means compared to banks, fees and loan interest tend to be lower, and savings interest rates tend to be higher. They're generally smaller than large banks and might have a local, friendlier feel. On the other hand, you must meet certain criteria to be a member, and there may not be as many branches or financial products as at banks.
- Banks: Banks are for-profit, so you may not be able to score as good of money market rates as with a credit union. Some bigger banks have a corporate feel, and customer service may be hit or miss. However, banks often have more in-person branches and more digital services, which might appeal to you if you value the ability to visit a branch or use online banking. You could also try a small local or community bank, which might feel friendlier than a large national chain.
Find Money Market Accounts
2. Compare Money Market Accounts
Not all banks and credit unions offer money market accounts, so research to find some available options, including online-only accounts. It can pay to compare money market accounts and find the best rate and terms, so before you apply, see how different accounts stack up on these key factors:
- APY: One of the most important pieces of information to review is the annual percentage yield (APY), which is the annual rate of return you earn on your savings.
- Opening deposit: Some, but not all, money market accounts require a minimum deposit to open the account.
- Minimum account balance: In addition to the minimum opening deposit, some money market accounts require customers to maintain a minimum balance at all times. Failure to do so results in fees. This is more common for accounts with the best APYs.
- Fees: Compare account fees, including fees for simply holding an account, not meeting minimum balance rules, transfers and more.
- Accessing money: Some money market accounts allow you to write checks; others have debit cards you can use to make payments or withdraw cash from ATMs. If it's important for you to access your money in a specific way, look closely for these features. Also find out if there's a limit on the number of withdrawals or transfers you can make each month.
3. Gather Information
Now that you've compared options, find out the key details to narrow down the best one. For example, if you've found an excellent rate at a credit union, read up on their membership eligibility requirements to ensure you can become a member.
Review the fine print closely on your top choices to make sure you're eligible and can meet any minimum deposit or minimum balance standards. You may also need to do some math to see which account is likely to deliver the best returns.
4. Submit an Application
Once you've landed on your top choice, it's time to submit your application to open a money market account. The process doesn't require a credit check and intense scrutiny like when you apply for a credit card or loan. Instead, you just provide some basic information, which may include your Social Security number, address and other personal details.
Application and approval are usually quick, and you're unlikely to be declined unless you have a track record of issues with prior bank accounts (like excessive overdrafts, unpaid fees or suspected fraud).
5. Make an Opening Deposit
Once approved, you'll submit your opening deposit in one of the methods offered by the bank or credit union. This might be an internal or external money transfer, though some may also allow debit or credit card payments.
If your account has a minimum opening deposit or balance requirement, you'll have to start by depositing that amount or more. If it doesn't, it's up to you how much to kick off the account with. Just remember that the more you put in, the more interest you'll earn.
A money market account is a deposit account you open at a bank or credit union. It earns interest, much like a savings account, though typically at higher interest rates. It usually also offers check-writing privileges and/or a debit card. It may have restrictions on the number of withdrawals and transfers you can make in a month. Money market accounts are also federally insured, just like savings or checking accounts.
These deposit accounts are different from money market mutual fund accounts. Earnings may be slightly higher with money market funds, but they are considered investments, aren't federally insured and come with more risk.
Money market accounts are a safe, federally insured way to save money. Their interest rates are competitive with high-yield savings accounts, allowing you to earn decent returns without the risks of investing in the stock market.
What makes them especially appealing is their ability to function similar to both a checking and savings account, providing liquidity and also check-writing or a debit card.
Just like savings accounts, the interest earned on money market accounts is typically considered taxable income. But you don't pay interest on the total amount in the account, just on the interest earnings at your usual tax rate.
Don't Forget About Credit
Focusing on savings is important, both for the long term and short term. For better or for worse, however, deposit accounts like money market accounts don't impact your credit.
If you do need to build or improve credit, you'll need to find another strategy. One of the easiest ways to do this is to open a credit card, use it regularly and pay it off on time. You can find free personalized credit card card offers with Experian CreditMatch™. By building credit while simultaneously building savings, you're setting up your future self for strong financial health.