Some nugget ideas for squirreling your money

Interest RatesThe past few years have been downright pitiful when it comes to earning interest on bank accounts.

With the average savings account paying close to zero, and some even charging fees, which puts your return in the negative, it can be discouraging to see your savings sit idle. But what options are there? With some work you might be able to find a way to squeeze out a little bit more.

Go online

For cash you won’t need tomorrow, I’m a fan of online banks, which typically pay an interest rate approaching 1 percent. Check out Bankrate for the highest national rates, noting any minimum balances to open or to maintain to avoid fees. Also watch for introductory rates that expire, and take care to stay within the maximum number of transactions per month.

Kasasa

If you don’t mind jumping through some hoops, a Kasasa account can pay nicely and support your local community at the same logo-kasasatime.

Kasasa is not a bank, but a company that partners with local credit unions and community banks to offer a much higher than market interest rate. In exchange for earning that rate, you agree to meet certain terms each statement cycle. That might mean using your debit card a minimum number of times and having a direct deposit to the account.

In the Stroudsburg area, First Keystone Community Bank and Tobyhanna Federal Credit Union are Kasasa providers, and in Northern NJ, you can find Kasasa at First Hope Bank in Hackettstown, Aspire in Clark, and Xcel Federal Credit Union in Jersey City.  You can find locations near you and specific terms on the Kasasa site, but as an example, First Keystone’s Kasasa Cash account pays 2 percent on up to $10,000, assuming in that statement cycle you also have at least 12 debit card purchases per month, receive e-statements, and enroll and log into online banking at least once.  Didn’t make the requirements? Not to worry, you’ll still get .05 percent.

I’ll be writing more in depth about Kasasa for the Pocono Record at the end of April.

Shop around

From time to time, banks and credit unions offer promotions to attract deposits. They don’t usually last long, so catch them while you can.

Go online to visit the websites of our local banks; you may find one offering a promotion. Or check out the website MoneyCrashers, which has a list of promotions that includes an offer from PNC Bank of $150 for new Virtual Wallet customers.

These tend to be one-time cash bonuses, so check out any transfer fees or penalties that could eat up that bonus upon moving your money should you decide not to keep it there long term.

Privately insured credit unions

The rules of risk and reward say that to get more reward you must take on more risk. If you are in the position to take on risk, you may be rewarded by using a privately insured credit union.

While the vast majority of credit unions are federally insured, a small number of state chartered credit unions carry private deposit insurance.

One example is the Christian Community Credit Union, which offers a new-member promotional rate CD with a 5 percent APY.

It is critical that you do your due diligence on these credit unions, look at their financial strength and be ready to accept the risk of possible loss of funds.

Note: This does not constitute of an endorsement of the promotions listed. Be sure to check out terms and safety, and make sure they are right for your individual financial situation before opening an account.

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