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Looking for a New Bank? Start With These Top-Rated Accounts

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Score a sweet tax return? Resist the impulse to splurge on new stuff, and instead, shop around for a new bank account to stash your money in. That said, evaluating which checking or savings accounts have the highest interest rates, the lowest fees and charges, and the best perks can be a laborious process.

Luckily for us, WalletHub did the hard work for us: In search of the best offers, the personal finance website perused 50 popular online-only checking accounts, along with 480 savings and money market accounts from 233 online and branch-based banks and credit unions. According to them, the ones listed below can help penny-pinchers make the most of their savings.

One note: WalletHub limited their choices for best checking accounts to online-only ones, and many of their best savings account selections were also digital. If visiting a physical bank branch is still at the top of your priority list, those suggestions may not be the best options for you. However, keep in mind that by eliminating the cost of maintaining physical locations, online banks are able to provide customers with higher interest rates and lower or fewer fees—meaning they’re a good choice for those looking to avoid extra costs and grow their savings.

Best Savings Account: Salem Five's eOne Savings

Regional banks tend to have lower or fewer fees across the board, and online savings accounts tend to yield higher interest rates—which may be why WalletHub’s choice for best overall savings accounts is eOne Savings, an online savings account offered by Salem Five, a regional New England bank. It's reportedly one of the highest-yielding ones on the market, as it offers a 1.1 percent APY, or annual percentage yield. (The average APY for savings accounts is often lower than 1 percent.) Plus, there aren’t any monthly fees or withdrawal fees.

Best Checking Account for Rewards: Bank5 Connect's High-Interest Checking Account

If you’re a fan of perks, go with the High-Interest Checking Account offered by online bank Bank5 Connect. Its APY is only 0.76 percent, but for every $2 customers make in debit card purchases, customers receive one point. These points can be redeemed for gift cards, travel, or merchandise—which, at the end of the day, equates to about 0.5 percent cash back. As for fees, there’s no monthly fee or ATM withdrawal fees.

Best Online Checking Account: Consumers Credit Union's Free Rewards Checking Account

WalletHub’s choice for best online checking account is offered by a credit union instead of a bank, which may be appealing for those looking to divest from big banks for personal or political reasons. Consumers Credit Union’s Free Rewards Checking has an APY of up to 4.59 percent, plus it doesn’t charge monthly fees, nor does it require customers to maintain a minimum balance. You will, however, have to make at least 12 debit card purchases per month to score the best return. To join Consumers Credit Union, simply make a $5 one-time donation.

Best No-Fee Online Checking Account: Bank of Internet's USA X Checking Account

Fees are the bane of every account holder’s existence, but customers who sign up for the Bank of Internet’s USA X Checking don’t need to deal with monthly maintenance fees, ATM withdrawal fees, or overdraft fees. The Bank of Internet also reimburses customers for domestic ATM-owner surcharges, making it convenient (and free) to grab cash on the go.

WalletHub’s full rankings for best online checking accounts and best savings accounts are available online.

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California Startup Pays Users to Consume Less Energy
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You may know that turning off the lights when leaving a room or lowering the thermostat before bed are smart habits, but with no way to see their immediate impact, they can be hard to keep. OhmConnect is built around the premise that more people would follow through with these actions if they had a little motivation. As Fast Company reports, the San Francisco-based startup rewards California residents for their green choices with real cash.

The mission of the company is to prevent energy grids from using costly and dirty emergency power plants by encouraging customers to conserve power when demand outweighs supply. During “OhmHours,” users receive a text suggesting energy-saving practices. They can choose to opt out or agree to make an effort to lower their consumption. If their usage in the next hour is lower than the average for their home on that type of day (weekdays are compared to the weekday average; weekends to the weekend average) they receive points which can be redeemed for money. The more people participate on a regular basis, the more points they’re able to earn.

Participants in homes equipped with smart devices like a Nest thermostat or Belkin smart switches can program them to automatically consume less during those times. Nearly a fifth of the user base chooses some type of automatic response.

Someone living in a small apartment participating once a week has the potential to make $40 to $50 a year, while a family living in a larger home can earn up to $200. The California energy grid has also reaped the benefits: Since launching in 2014, OhmConnect has saved the state a total of 100 megawatts (the equivalent of not running two emergency power plants at high-demand times). California residents who get their energy through Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, or San Diego Gas & Electric can sign up to participate online. If you don’t live in the state but are interested in the service, you may get a chance to try it out soon: OhmConnect plans to expand to Texas, Toronto, and potentially the East Coast.

[h/t Fast Company]

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11 Secrets of Financial Planners
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You share your darkest money secrets with your financial planner. You even tell him about the time you spent your last pennies at Starbucks, because without caffeine, how could you work? This is the person who is supposed to sort out your life so that you can buy everything your heart desires, after all—or so we want to believe. We found out whether financial planners judge your shoe-buying habit, whether they get mad if they have to repeat themselves time and time again (we hear what we want to hear), and why they don’t always follow their own advice.

1. SOMETIMES, THEY GET A LITTLE ANNOYED WITH YOU.

“I grimace when friends or clients get involved with multi-level marketing endeavors, thinking it’s a quick way to make money,” says Quentara Costa, a certified financial planner in Massachusetts. These MLMs, including LuLaRoe, Matilda Jane, and others, rarely last more than a year, but according to Costa, the outlay of funds and time you pour into developing and understanding the product could have been better spent pursuing other means of career development. “While well-intentioned, it’s my least favorite method of supplementing income because it can take years to develop business and trust within the community, as with any business venture,” he explains.

2. THEY DON’T ALWAYS APPROVE OF YOUR CAR-BUYING WAYS.

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Meghan Chomut, a certified financial planner in Thunder Bay, Ontario, says she can’t stand it when her clients overspend on vehicles. She even has a golden rule about it: The total value of all your vehicles and motorized toys shouldn’t add up to more than half of your annual income.

3. BUT THEY UNDERSTAND THAT YOU’RE GOING TO FORGET ABOUT SAVING MONEY DURING YOUR VACATIONS.

This is the time when clients tend to go off the rails, says Bill Ryon, co-founder and managing partner of the Dover, Delaware-based Compass Investment Advisors. Whenever Ryon sees clients taking distributions that are larger than what’s called for within their financial savings plan, he knows that they’re going on an international trip. “It can be a little bit of a sensitive conversation, since it is their money and I want them to enjoy themselves," he says, "however not at the expense of derailing their plan or jeopardizing their lifestyle in the future."

4. THEY BLAME YOLO.

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“If you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t do it,” Chomut says. “But then #YOLO, and all of a sudden, you’ve booked a trip to Florida. Or #FOMO you are going out to eat at a fancy restaurant with friends and putting it on a credit card," she says. "The struggle is real.”

5. THEY TOTALLY EXPECT TO REPEAT THEIR ADVICE OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

Warren Ward, senior planner with WWA Planning and Investments in Indiana, says that many years ago, his doctor told him that about half the medical issues he dealt with in his practice were optional: people overate, refused to exercise, or smoked. But they still wanted their doctor to keep them healthy. “He responded by repeating his good advice, and making medical interventions when appropriate,” Ward says. “Just like that physician, we care about our clients, and will patiently repeat our advice at every visit, knowing from experience that people can change over time and become more financially healthy.”

6. EVERY FINANCIAL PLANNER HAS THEIR OWN FINANCIAL TRICKS TO PASS ON.

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Ward is a huge fan of the “cash envelope system,” he says. Basically, you map out your spending for the week, and put that amount of cash into an envelope. “Mapping out your spending for the week allows you to know where your money goes instead of wondering where it went,” he says.

7. SOME WANT YOU TO FOCUS ON THE BIGGER PICTURE ...

“The secret is that all retirement planning is income planning and everything else is detail,” Ryon says. “I’ll have to repeat that several times, but that’s it. It helps them to focus on what’s really important and what they are planning for.” Essentially, he says, you’re saving and investing to sustain your lifestyle for at least 30 years after you retire. So if you focus on the fact that all of your retirement planning is income planning, then you’ll be able to think of your money as a machine that’ll pay the bills once you stop working.

8. ... OTHERS WANT YOU TO THINK ABOUT EVERY DOLLAR YOU SPEND.

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The key is to make a budget every single month, Chomut says. “Every dollar overspent is a dollar you have to either work harder for tomorrow, or a sacrifice you’ll have to make later.”

9. THEY DON’T ALWAYS FOLLOW THEIR OWN ADVICE ...

Ward says that the most difficult part of financial planning is convincing his clients to plan for death. That means setting aside money for the kids’ education and naming a close friend or relative as a potential guardian for those children ... just in case. “Just like my clients, I’m slow to face updating my estate planning documents,” Ward says. We don’t blame him!

10. ... BUT THEY STILL WISH YOU WOULD TRUST THEM ...

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“In our modern age of 24/7 news coverage, I think people tend to put too much emphasis on interpreting the latest headline, and then trying to act tactically in response,” Ward says. “Whether this involves making an investment decision based on world affairs, or following the weather minute-by-minute prior to a vacation, we prefer that they think strategically, formulate a plan and stick to it—of course allowing for periodic review and adjustment.”

11. ... BECAUSE AT THE END OF THE DAY, THEY’RE THE EXPERTS.

“I struggle watching one of a couple—usually the husband—claiming expertise that’s actually incomplete,” Ward says. After all, he doesn’t brag about medicine when he goes to the doctor, nor does he claim knowledge of the law if he visits a lawyer. “I try not to be judgmental, but this is an area where I struggle,” he says.

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