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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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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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