If you’ve built up your cash reserves and simply have it all sitting in a traditional savings account, it may be time to reconsider how you’re storing your money. Opening a money market account is a step up from a savings account once you’ve accumulated a certain amount of cash.
There are certain pros and cons with money market accounts, so it’s important to understand what it is and how it works. You just might find that your money can better work for you when it’s in a more growth-oriented account such as a money market account. Ready to learn more?
What does a money market account do?
The most appealing aspect of opening a money market account, particularly compared to a savings account, is that it typically offers a higher interest rate. At the same time, it still provides you with the flexibility to access your money as you need it.
Money market accounts are FDIC-insured up to $250,000, so they’re considered a low-risk way to store your money, just like a regular savings account. If you open an account through a credit union, your funds are similarly insured by the National Credit Union Administration.
Depending on your financial institution, your interest can accrue daily, monthly, quarterly, or annually. The more frequent the accrual, the more money you’ll earn over time because of the effects of compounded interest.
How to Set Up a Money Market Account
To deposit cash into your money market account, you can use any method you use with other savings accounts, including electronic transfer. If your account is with a financial institution that has physical branches near you, you can also make cash and check deposits.
You will usually receive both a debit card and a checkbook linked to your money market account. This will allow you to make withdrawals at your convenience. That is another benefit that a savings account doesn’t usually offer.
This keeps your funds liquid, so you can quickly access them during a financial emergency. There are some limitations on how often you can make withdrawals, so keep reading to familiarize yourself with the restrictions that occur when you have a money market account.
Limitations of a Money Market Account
While money market accounts do offer a degree of flexibility, there are some restrictions as well. Most notably, you may not make more than six withdrawals each month. This is a federal rule, not one made up by the banks. You could receive a fine if you exceed this limit.
On top of that, you’ll start to receive formal warnings from your financial institution. If you continually exceed the withdrawal limit after being warned, the bank is eventually required to move your funds into a checking account, so be aware of your behavior and plan accordingly.
Another restriction imposed by some banks (but not necessarily all of them) are minimum balance requirements. Many banks require that you open a money market account with at least $10,000. On top of that, you may also be required to maintain a certain minimum balance threshold. If you don’t, you could again be subject to a fee from the bank.
If you don’t meet the minimum balance requirements to open a money market account but still want one, you may be able to pay a monthly fee to bypass the deposit minimum. Just check to make sure it’s worth it.
There’s no sense in paying an expensive fee that exceeds the interest you accrue each month. If that happens, you’re probably better off keeping your cash in a free savings account or other similar product. Take the time to do the calculations to know exactly how much you’re earning (or paying) to determine if a money market account makes financial sense for your funds.
Is a money market account right for you?
There are a lot of factors involved in whether or not a money market account is right for you. Start off by looking at your holistic financial picture. Do you have a healthy buffer in your checking account or other savings account?
Money markets are often used for savings that don’t need to be accessed regularly, so make sure you have cash stored somewhere if you need it more frequently. Once you start to save on a larger scale, you can consider opening a money market account.
Money Market Rates
Another thing to think about with money market accounts is how competitive the yield rate stands. Years ago, money market rates were much more competitive than a standard savings account. But today, interest rates across the board are extraordinarily low.
While this is great if you’re borrowing money, it’s not so great when you’re trying to save money and benefit from a high yield account. Many money market accounts today are below 1% and are oftentimes even less than that. It’s definitely worth some research to determine which banks and credit unions are currently offering better rates.
The bottom line is that money market accounts do have limitations. If you can’t meet the minimum threshold without paying a fee or you need to withdraw your funds frequently throughout the month, then you might look for another type of account.
But if you want to diversify your savings while still receiving a nominal return, then consider a money market account. It’s low-risk and easy to access, so you get that flexibility to make withdrawals when you need to — just not every day.
What are the best money market accounts for 2021?
Check out our in-depth guide to 2021‘s best money market accounts. There’s a great variety of banks and credit unions offering different minimum deposits and some of the most competitive APYs on the market. Here is a brief overview of each of our top picks to help get you started.
With no minimum deposit for a money market account from Sallie Mae, you can earn a 0.40% APY on your funds. They also have a slightly more flexible overdraft policy compared to other financial institutions.
This is a money market account with a low minimum deposit of just $250. Paired with a 0.50% APY, it’s ideal for beginning savers. An added bonus is that you get same-day transfers if you have another AbleBanking account.
Ally offers a money market account with 0.50% APY and daily compounding interest. And unlike most money market accounts, there’s no deposit minimum, no monthly fee, and the APY applies to all balance tiers.
Alternatives to Money Market Accounts
While a money market account can be a great savings tool, it’s smart to familiarize yourself with similar options. A savings account usually offers less interest than a money market account, but this isn’t always the case — it really depends on the financial institution.
A savings account doesn’t let you write checks like a money market account does, but you don’t generally need a minimum deposit. Both types of account are considered low risk and insured by the FDIC up to $250,000. They also have the same withdrawal restrictions of up to six times per month.
Another comparable product is a certificate of deposit, or CD. The savings rate with a CD is generally higher than that of a money market account, but here’s the catch: you have to commit to a certain time frame before withdrawing funds from a CD.
Unlike a money market account, you’ll receive a penalty for making a withdrawal from your CD before the term matures. You can choose your term length, typically lasting between six months and five years.
While placing funds in a CD could certainly be a part of your savings strategy, it’s not meant to replace liquid cash assets. You probably shouldn’t put any money in a CD that you would expect to need before the maturity date. But the longer term you commit to, the more interest you can expect to earn, so there are definitely merits involved as long as you have a holistic savings plan.
Money Market Accounts vs. Money Market Funds
These two financial products are actually completely different, so be careful not to confuse a money market account (MMA) with a money market fund (MMF). While an MMA serves as a low-risk account for savings, an MMF is an investment in a mutual fund and typically done through a broker.
While money market accounts are insured by the FDIC, money market funds are not. There’s no guarantee that you’ll even receive back your entire principal, let alone any earnings. Still, they are low-risk on the spectrum of investments, but there’s no financial safety net in terms of insurance.
So what exactly do money market funds invest in? Most commonly, they focus on U.S. Treasury bills, commercial paper, and other short-term debt securities. These aren’t turbulent investments by any means, and they’re starting to see higher yields as the Federal Reserve begins to raise rates.
Like all savings vehicles these days, savers don’t see dramatic differences among many of these products. Whether you’re considering a money market account or anything else, be sure to check on exactly what terms the financial institution is offering, and don’t be afraid to shop around.
If you’ve been saving since before the recession of the mid-2000s, you might remember APYs that actually made you a decent return. But today’s markets are different as the country still sifts through economic recovery. For savers, that means taking a closer look at what kind of interest you can expect to receive.
It also means making sure you don’t actually end up losing money by paying hefty fees or tying up money in low-yield accounts with too many restrictions. In many cases, a money market account could be the next step up in your overall savings plan.