Where To Get A High Interest Checking Account

High interest checking accounts are a great way to allow your emergency fund to make you some extra money.  Unfortunately most banks and credit unions do not offer high interest checking accounts, and those that do require you to jump through quite a few hoops and are limited to the community in which the bank is located.  I’ve been banking with the same credit union for 5 years and recently found out that you don’t have to be a Michigan resident to open an account,  anyone in the U.S. can open an account with them by making a $5 donation.

How Much Can You Earn With A High Interest Checking Account?

My credit union pays 3% on a balance up to $15,000.  That’s $450 per year.  For a couple that has separate accounts this could be $900 per year based on keeping a $15,000 balance in each account. I’ve looked all around and right now there isn’t a better checking account available in the country.  There are a few that pay a higher rate, but they have much lower balance caps.  Northpointe Bank for instance pays a 5% yield, but they limit it to a $5,000 balance, which gives off only $250 per year in total interest.

What Requirements Are There For A High Interest Checking Account?

In order to receive the 3% interest, a customer must meet the following:

  • Sign up for e-statements
  • Direct Deposit
  • 10 debit card transactions per month
  • Minimum of 4 log ins to home banking per month

What Do I Have To Do To Open An Account:

Go to Lake Michigan Credit Union’s website for 3% Max Checking, Click on “Open An Account”, then make a $5 donation to the ALS foundation.  If you reside, work, worship, or go to school in lower Michigan you can open an account without making the donation.  Donating $5 to be able to earn $450 per year on an account is a no brainer.

Will They Lower The Interest Rate?

Lake Michigan Credit Union has been paying 3% on their interest plus checking account for just over 5 years.  In 2011 they did lower the interest from 4% to 3% and I’m not sure how long it was at 4% for.  5 years of paying 3% is a fairly long time, so this is obviously not a teaser rate. I think it is highly likely that the 3% rate will stay in place for the foreseeable future.

Other Benefits Of A High Interest Checking Account:

Opening a bank account in a state you don’t live in can be a stressful situation.  When I opened my account with Lake Michigan Credit Union they had a branch within 5 miles of my house.  That branch shut down and now the closest branch is 45 minutes away and there are no full service Lake Michigan Credit Union ATM’s in my area.  This is the major downside to using this credit union.  Thankfully, there are some ways that Lake Michigan Credit Union makes it easy to deal with not having a local branch.

1. $15 refund on ATM fees.  I have never reached $15 in ATM fees per month, but it is fairly common for me to be in the $5 to $10 range.  This is a nice perk and makes not having a local branch a bit less painful.

2. Mobile Banking App:  Lake Michigan Credit Union has a mobile banking app that allows you to instantly deposit checks. You can also pay bills and transfer funds through the app.

3. Linking Accounts: This isn’t specific to Lake Michigan Credit Union, however I have found that this helps me tremendously.  With my other bank that does have a local branch I linked my Lake Michigan Credit Union account as an external bank.  This allows me to easily transfer money from my other account to Lake Michigan Credit Union with out any problems.

What’s It Worth?

$450 per year isn’t a ton of money, but it’s passive money.  There really isn’t that much you have to do to get it, and there is no risk. All your money is insured, just like at a normal bank account.  Think about it this way,  $450 per year, every year for 30 years invested in a Betterment.com account with 8% annualized returns will grow to $55,000!

One of my largest struggles with personal finance is knowing that my emergency fund is just sitting still and not helping me build any wealth.  Even though a 3% return isn’t amazing, it eases my mind to know that the money isn’t just sitting there doing nothing. To me the consistency of this high interest checking account is a big factor. There have been several other credit unions and banks that have offered rates from 3% all the way up to 6%, but those rates disappeared within a year or two.


Do you have a high interest checking account?  If so for how long have you had it? I have a checking account and 2 mortgages with Lake Michigan Credit Union.    Also, this is quite the milestone for Action Economics. This is the 250th article published on this site!

John C. started Action Economics in 2013 as a way to gain more knowledge on personal financial planning and to share that knowledge with others. Action Economics focuses on paying off the house, reducing taxes, and building wealth. John is the author of the book For My Children's Children: A Practical Guide For Building Generational Wealth.

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