Obviously, when opening a bank account, interest yield is very high on my list. The more important thing than having the absolutely highest yield is whether the bank is consistently competitive in offering their bank yield. You don’t want to open a bank account and several years later go through all the hassle of moving money around to another better bank. Consistency for me is more important than absolutely highest yield. Among the online bank of choices from NetBank, ING, EmigrantDirect, CapitalOne, HSBC, IndyMac, both NetBank and ING have fallen behind the curve of competitiveness of the market. While NetBank still have the attractiveness of close to full banking service for writing checks and free online payments, ING has no additional attractiveness other than being the first to market with more credibility. IndyMac bank requires a minimum deposit of $25000 to get their highest quoted APY. For most people to find higher bank yields then, one is left with the choices of EmigrantDirect, CapitalOne, and HSBC. (There are always many other ones, but I’m only limiting my discussion to the more well-known choices.)
To narrow down my choice, I would be using a criterion that not many people pay attention to: financial risk of the bank. Most people overlook the financial risk of the bank when opening a bank account because bank deposits have FDIC insurance for upto $100K. But as with everything else, extra yield almost always come with extra risk. Nothing is riskless, even for bank accounts in my opinion. The financial risk with bank accounts is whether the bank institution will go belly up and force you to go through FDIC to recover all of your money below $100K. It’s a hassle that you would probably never want to go through. The best way to avoid that risk is to have your money split in two different banks, so that the probability of simultaneous belly-up is close to nil. This way, you will be always left with some money to get through the period of recovering your money from FDIC. But if you don’t want to have the hassle of managing two bank accounts, and just want to consolidate into one bank, which one of the above three would you choose?
From my stock investing experiences, I can tell you that I would choose EmigrantDirect over others. In 2002 slowdown, when I was looking for short-selling candidates in the area of consumer credits, I found two companies that had higher deliquency and bad loans on their consumer credit cards among others: Metris (MXT for its symbol, Yahoo’s message board & thestreet.com joked that you definitely don’t want to put your money under this mattress or Metris), and Capital One (COF for its symbol). And guess what? Metris is now under HSBC through acquisition, and Capital One has started offering banking services more actively. Is this a coincidence? I think not. In fact, it may really make a lot of sense. The only reason that banks want to offer higher bank yields than others is to attract more cash money, and nothing else. Why would a bank give you more interest money besides that? It’s a capitalistic society, and they are not charities. Now, the next question that you should ask yourself is that why do they want your cash. And the answer could be that they REALLY need it (for their delinquent real estate or consumer credit card loans). If they are desperate, or close to edge of going belly-up, you definitely don’t want to get into that mess.
While my information from 2002 is quite out-dated but still may be true, I really don’t want to take such chance with my money. Here are my views for each, assuming that not too much has changed since 2002:
- Capital One: Based on the risk assessment, this could be the worst choice. Why would they start offering banking services more actively? If you understand banking, you would know that for every dollar of bank deposit, they are allowed to lend out about $10 of loan. It’s called fractional reserve banking. With sufficient bank deposits, they can make both of their book on consumer loan and banking to look sufficiently decent, with this 10X help.
- HSBC: Because Metris was acquired by HSBC in Dec. 2005, your risk is averaged with the new merged company. I assume that the averaged risk should definitely be lower than Metris standalone, and therefore, HSBC should have lower risk than Capital One.
- EmigrantDirect: I cannot find their stock symbol (if it exists). I believe that they are probably a relative new player. A new player is good in the sense that it will take quite a long time before they screw up themselves totally, with the help of the 10X fractional banking reserve. They could pretty much mess up, and still limping forward. It’s very hard to get a bank to fail in general, and even harder to get a new bank to fail financially. While there are other risks such as internet security, I have no such information to be compared for these three banks. But a newer bank like EmigrantDirect in respect to financial risk of the bank should be on a solid ground.
I still believe that the above three should be quite good choices because it’s simply very hard to get a bank to fail. However, I prefer not to take a higher risk for such a tiny difference in the interest yield. Yes, you would earn $8 more a year on every $10,000 of deposit at Capital One, and receive $25 if you pay $100 Costco executive membership. And yes, you would earn $5 more a year on every $10,000 of deposit at HSBC. But the race of chasing the absolutely highest yield is simply elusive, especially when EmigrantDirect will be raising its 5.00% APY to 5.15% very soon.
Here is a short review for EmigrantDirect in case you want to read it over before opening an account. And if you appreciate for my effrots in offering you good financial information on this site, please open the EmigrantDirect account through the sponsoring ads on my site. It will help me defray the website hosting costs and misc. for the year and the coming years. I would really appreciate it.
P.S. Please do check out the comment sections. I won’t be pretending to “know all”. In fact, I probably looked a little stupid. But in any case, no one can know all, and no one can be perfect, and that’s why in the comment sections, there could always be some people who are kind enough to share their knowledge.