Savings accounts that force you to save
How it works: This program automatically transfers $1 from your Wachovia checking account to your Way2Save savings account every time you make a debit card purchase or schedule an electronic payment. To help boost your earnings, Wachovia offers a 5% APY and a 5% banking bonus (up to $300) on your accumulated savings for the first year.
Small Print: Your Way2Save account must be linked to a Wachovia checking account. (Neither account requires any fees.) In addition, you're only allowed to transfer up to $100 into your Way2Save account each month via automatic debits. After your first year of membership, your APY and annual bonus both drop to 2%.
We say: This account is worth opening if you have modest savings goals. Unfortunately, the APY on this account drops after the first year, but luckily you can take your money and transfer it elsewhere with no fees or penalties.
Bank of America Keep the Change
How it works: Each time you purchase something with your Bank of America debit card, BofA will round up your purchase to the nearest whole dollar and transfer the difference from your checking account to your savings account. For the first three months, BofA will match 100% of your Keep the Change transfers and contribute 5% per year (up to $250 annually).
Small Print: To enroll, you must visit a BofA branch in person. Rewards cards are not eligible for the match (only personal accounts). BofA's Regular Savings account requires a $25 minimum opening balance and pays a paltry .20% APY.
We say: Kudos to BofA for offering one of the most unique savings programs available. However, unless you use your debit card ferociously, the amount of money you save with this program will be very small, and that measly .20% APY isn't helping either.
How it works: SmartyPig is a savings account, social network, and gift registry rolled into one. Upon opening a free account with SmartyPig (accounts are held with Iowa's FDIC-insured West Bank), customers define a savings goal (i.e. a new car, HDTV, etc) and begin saving toward that goal. Your SmartyPig account can be funded via electronic transfers from any existing checking or savings account. Users also have the option of making their SmartyPig account public and letting family and relatives contribute to their savings. SmartyPig pays 3.9% APY and upon reaching your goal, offers up to 5% bonuses from its retail partners, which include the likes of Best Buy, Pottery Barn, and Home Depot. So if you saved $900 toward the purchase of a new HDTV from Best Buy, SmartyPig will throw in a 5% bonus upon closing your account.
Small Print: If you contribute to someone else's account using a credit card, SmartyPig will charge the contributor a 2.9% processing fee. (There are no charges for transactions you make to your own account). A minimum opening balance of $25 is required.
We say: If you can overlook the site's cartoonish feel, SmartyPig's high APY and added bonuses are a great incentive if you're saving for a specific product, though we wouldn't use this as our primary savings account.
One from American Express
How it works: Make a purchase with your One from American Express credit card and American Express will contribute 1% of your eligible purchases to your American Express savings account earning a 2.75% APY. There's no minimum balance or limit on how much you can deposit into your savings account. Plus, get $50 after your first purchase to jump-start your savings.
Small Print: After your first year (which is free), American Express charges a $35 annual fee. Depending on your credit history, the One credit card can carry from a 10.99% APR to 12.99%. Should your account go into default, you'll be charged a 26.99% APR.
We say: While the plan sounds great on paper, remember that the One card is a credit card and you'll be charged interest if you don't pay your purchases off each month, making this the least tempting offer of the bunch.
Louis Ramirez is dealnews' Features Editor.