Best savings accounts for growing your money

With a little research, you can find the best savings account to make your money grow as safely and quickly as possible. What are the characteristics of the best savings accounts on the market today?

Competitive interest rates. The best savings accounts usually pay a slightly higher interest rate than checking accounts, while keeping your money liquid. Your savings account pays a rate of return on all the money in your account, which means you get paid for just letting your money sit there. If you're not planning on using or investing the money, it's better to keep it in these savings accounts than stashing it under your mattress.

Safety. One of the safest things you can do with your money is to put it into a savings account. The best savings accounts are FDIC insured up to $250,000. And you can't say that about your mattress.

Extra features. The best savings accounts are the ones that make your life as easy as possible. Good interest rates aren't the only hallmark of the best savings accounts--you want to make sure to consider other options, such as: Does your bank offer CDs, if you plan to transfer some of your savings to CDs? If it's an online bank, do they have physical locations you can go to if you need to, say, print a check? How long do you have to wait for bank-to-bank transfers?

So where can you find the best savings accounts for you? Believe it or not, some of the best savings accounts today are online. Though you might be wary about working with your finances online, these online savings accounts have proven to be as safe as brick-and-mortar banks, provide comparable services and higher interest rates, and don't require a minimum balance.

Some of the biggest online banks offering the best savings accounts are: ING Direct Orange Savings Account, Emigrant Direct American Dream Savings Account and HSBC Online Savings Account. The one exception: If you have a significant amount of cash to deposit, these online banks might not offer the best savings accounts for you, so be sure to research both online and brick-and-mortar banks.

You may hear the term "high yield savings account." That basically means a savings account with a high annual percentage yield, and to qualify for the best of these savings accounts, you probably need to meet some criteria, such as keeping a high balance over a certain period of time, limiting account transactions, and maintaining other accounts within the same bank. Ask your current bank what high yield savings account they offer, to see if they can provide you the best savings account possible.

One example is the Ally Bank (formerly GMAC) High Yield savings account; another is the Costco Capital One High Yield Savings Account, which offers a 1.75% rate (as of 11/23) when you have an account balance of $5,000 or higher, and a 10% quarterly bonus on your interest earned that quarter when your average balance is at least $15,000. You also get a Costco bonus that varies depending on your Costco membership level ($60 for Executive Members and $20 for Gold Star and Business Members) when you open the account and deposit $5,000 within the first month.

Then again, maybe the best savings account for you isn't really a savings account. If you want a savings account and a payment account, where you can write checks, pay bills online and have access via a debit card, look for a hybrid account. These allow you to earn interest on par with the best savings accounts and make payments as you would with a checking account.

One hybrid is the CapitalOne High Yield Money Market Account -- but you should also take into consideration that CapitalOne doesn't always get the best reviews from its customers. To read customer feedback, go here.

For more up-to-the-minute information on best savings accounts, check out the Bankdeals Website.

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