High-yield checking: Is it right for you?


This weekend's Wall Street Journalreports (subscription required) on the rise of "rewards checking accounts" offering interest rates as high as 6% for customers who use their debit cards frequently and/or meet other requirements.

These rates compare favorable to what even the highest-yielding online savings accounts are paying right now and, if you meet all the terms, it might be a good deal.

But here's the catch: For many of us, keeping our savings in our regular checking account will induce overspending. And earning an extra 1 or 2% APY isn't such a great deal if it increases your spending on frivolous items. Taking a chunk of each check and putting it in an online savings account automatically where you can't write checks against it is a good method of "forced savings" if you don't have phenomenal will power.

This might be one of those cases where the savviest move -- going with the highest yield available -- could actually slow your wealth accumulation.

I'm not saying these high-yield checking accounts are a bad idea. I think they're great. But you just have to ask yourself whether you'll really save responsibly when they money is so easy to access.