Tricky Ways to Get a Better Return from the Money You Put in the Bank

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What with interest rates on CDs paying a measly 1% or 2% and bank savings accounts paying even less, sometimes you have to wonder what’s the point of trying to save money. But by paying close attention to the fine print of certain bank agreements, and even by using your ability as a smooth negotiator, you could be able to double your annual return.

The Chicago Trib’s Gail MarksJarvis details a few ways to get a better payoff from money deposited in a bank. One strategy is simply to ask your banker for a CD with terms that are better than the rates they list for the general public:

Andre Adler, an Illinois Institute of Technology professor, said he always asks bankers to raise the rates when picking CDs. Typically, he can get bankers to lift rates about a quarter percent above posted rates, although it’s tougher lately. He says bankers get motivated when customers have $100,000, and “$200,000 makes bankers jump through hoops.”

What if you don’t happen to be sitting on $200K? Consider a high-interest checking account, which might come with interest rates as high as 4% — if you know how to play by the rules, that is. The rules typically include mandatory direct deposit, online-only banking (no monthly paper statements), and requirements to use your debit card a certain number of times per month.

You must be attentive, though. If you fail to use your debit card enough in a certain month, many banks will pay no interest that month. Also, banks often don’t want to pay high interest on huge accounts. So they will put a limit on the sum eligible for the special interest rate.

For example, MB Financial in Chicago is offering a 4 percent annual interest rate on sums in a checking account up to $10,000. Anything in the account over $10,000 earns a quarter-percent interest.

To get that 4% interest rate, a customer must use his debit card at least 12 times per month. If the customer fails to swipe the card a dozen times in a given month, he gets no interest at all that month.