Savings Account Interest Rates Just Hit a 15-Year High, But Fewer Americans Are Benefitting

D3sign | Moment | Getty Images
  • The returns savers can get on their money are the highest they've been in 15 years, yet most people don't have their cash in a high-yield savings account.
  • Higher returns are "the only free lunch in finance,” says Greg McBride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst.
  • Amid stubborn inflation, fewer Americans are saving at all.

The returns savers stand to get on their money are the highest they've been in 15 years, thanks in part to stubborn inflation, which pushed the Federal Reserve into hiking interest rates over the past year.

Top-yielding online savings account rates are now just north of 5%, the highest since 2008, and much higher than last year's 0.8%, according to

Even Apple got in the game with a savings account offering a 4.15% interest rate.

More from Personal Finance:
How Apple's new 4.15% savings account ranks
The 'best defense' against inflation, per a financial advisor
Here are the 3 best ways to pay down credit card

"Higher returns on federally-insured savings and money market accounts represent the only free lunch in finance," said Greg McBride, Bankrate's chief financial analyst. 

Meanwhile, the savings account rates at some of the largest retail banks, which have been near rock-bottom for years, are currently 0.39%, on average.

"On a $10,000 balance, that's $500 you could be earning, versus close to zero," said Ken Tumin, founder of  

While savers could get better returns on their cash, just 22% of savers are earning 3% or more on their accounts — and nearly as many savers are not earning any interest at all, according to a report from Bankrate.

Most people said the main reasons for not switching to a high-yield savings account were because they preferred their local branch or were comfortable at their current bank. Some also said they worried about the security of their cash at an online institution or they didn't have enough savings to make the switch worthwhile.

49% have less in savings, or none, compared to 2022

Americans, overall, are saving less. Nearly half, or 49%, of adults have less savings or no savings compared to a year ago, according to a separate Bankrate survey from February.

More than one-third also now have more credit card debt than emergency savings, which is the highest on record.

"Inflation has been running very hot, so savings has been a casualty of that in many households," McBride said.

The average American's savings are 32% behind where they should be when scaled against their salary, according to one analysis by DollarGeek based on data from the Fed's Survey of Consumer Finances.  

4.5% of households are unbanked entirely

And then there are those who don't save at all, at least at a bank or credit union.

In 2022, 4.5% of households had no checking or savings account, according to the FDIC's latest survey.

The most common reasons cited for being unbanked included not having enough money to meet minimum balance requirements and distrust of banks, followed by concerns over account fees.

Although more households can rely on online payment services such as PayPal and Venmo for day-to-day transactions, "if you are not part of the banking system, you are not benefitting from savings rates and not likely building credit very effectively," McBride said — "and those can have pretty significant ripple effects on your finances, not only now but for years to come."

Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.

Copyright CNBC
Contact Us