CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through American Express if you apply and are approved for an account on this page, but our reporting is always independent and objective.
Our quick take: The FDIC-insured American Express High Yield Savings Account offers a competitive rate in the current low-interest environment and provides a safe place to put money away with easy online access, no maintenance fees and quick setup.
- Competitive interest rate in a low-interest environment.
- No monthly fees and no minimum balance.
- Easy to link to accounts at other banks.
- Quick sign-up process with minimal information needed.
- No ATM access.
- Transfers to other accounts aren’t immediate.
- Savings accounts in general offer a minimal return right now.
- No welcome bonus.
Best for: People who want a savings account that’s easy to set up online and earns a relatively competitive interest rate.
Related: How to choose the best checking account.
The events of 2020 have made many people realize the importance of having an emergency fund. It’s never easy to put money aside, especially when you’re living from paycheck to paycheck, but not having money put aside can really leave you in the lurch when you’re hit with unexpected events.
You can always stick cash in a jar on the kitchen counter, and that’s better than nothing. But if you want to put your money away in an account where it’s not as easy to get to on a whim — and also earns a few bucks while it’s sitting there — the American Express High Yield Savings Account is worthy of consideration.
While the 0.5% annual percentage yield (APY) on the Amex High Yield Savings Account (as of December 22, 2020) isn’t going to put your kid through college, it’s a relatively competitive rate in the current low-interest environment, so at least your money will grow rather than stagnate.
The account provides minimal access to your deposits, which is both a blessing and a curse. There’s no debit card with the account, so you can’t use an ATM, and while you can transfer your money from the account to an external bank account with a few online clicks, it’ll take several days for the money to show up on the other end.
People who want quick access to their money will be turned off by those restrictions, but others who don’t want to be able to dip into their savings unless it’s absolutely necessary may find that the rules help them to stay disciplined when it comes to building a college or vacation fund.
The Amex High Yield Savings Account takes only a few minutes to get up and running. You just need a few pieces of information to open the account — your social security number, your address, phone number and email address, and the routing and account number of an external bank account that you can use to transfer money in to start the account (or you can send a check).
There’s no minimum deposit to open the account, and no minimum ongoing balance to keep it open. And since the account has no monthly maintenance fees, there isn’t any minimum balance required to avoid them. The only minimum is that you must have at least one dollar in the account each month to earn interest that month.
Once you’ve linked an external account, you can have money transferred directly into the Amex High Yield Savings Account on a recurring basis. Or, if you prefer, you can adjust your employer’s direct deposit so that a portion of your check goes directly to the account on each payday instead of into your primary account. You can also make deposits by physically mailing in checks.
Interest on the Amex High Yield Savings Account is compounded daily and posts to your account each month. It’s insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which means you’re covered by the federal government for up to $250,000 if for any reason American Express has a liquidity issue in the future (which itself is unlikely).
With interest rates at historical lows right now, even high-yield savings accounts like this one aren’t particularly “high yield” at the moment. The 0.5% APY offered on the Amex High Yield Savings Account as of December 22, 2020, isn’t the absolute highest interest rate you’ll find for an online account, but it’s competitive. And in exchange for slightly less than the absolute top savings interest rate available, you’re gaining ease of use and the strength of the American Express brand.
If your main concern is having instant access to the funds in your savings account, the Amex High Yield Savings Account isn’t a good choice for you. Since the account doesn’t come with a debit card, there’s no way to use money from the account to pay for items at a store, nor can you go to an ATM to get cash out of the account. And it’s a savings account, so checks aren’t an option either.
Once money is in the account, you’ll need to make a transfer back to an external account if you need the funds, and it will take at least a few days for the money to arrive. So if you expect to need access to funds immediately, you’ll be better served with another option.
Also, by law, withdrawals from savings accounts aren’t unlimited. With the Amex High Yield Savings Account, you can make up to nine withdrawals or transfers during each monthly statement cycle. After that, you’re locked out until the next month, though you can always transfer the entire balance out of the account with any of your nine monthly transactions.
It’s also important to remember that this is an online-only account, so there are no branches where you can go in and access your account or talk to a bank employee. Of course, that’s why there are no fees and the interest rate on the Amex High Yield Savings Account is higher than typical savings accounts at physical banks. Maintaining those branches is a major expense.
Finally, while some bank accounts offer a bonus to new customers, you won’t find any welcome bonus on the Amex High Yield Savings Account. That’s not a deal breaker, but if you’re trying to get an emergency fund off the ground, a nice sign-up bonus can be helpful.
The American Express High Yield Savings Account isn’t perfect, but it has a number of strong features, including a very simple sign-up process, no fees or minimum balances and a relatively solid interest rate. The fact that it’s a bit challenging to get cash out of the account may actually make it more attractive to people who don’t want easy access to their money, though others won’t want to be bound by the restrictions.
But if you’re looking for a safe, easy place to start putting money aside each month with an eye toward a long-term saving goal, or a pot of money that you can get to for major unexpected expenses with a few days’ notice, take a look at the American Express High Yield Savings Account to see if it fits your needs.