As the Federal Reserve continues to cut interest rates, those who are traditional savers are suffering. Decent interest rates on savings accounts are going away fast. And the interest on money markets is dwindling too. Between money markets and savings accounts, you're lucky if you're getting 2.5% to 3.5% interest. After inflation, you could very well be looking at a negative return on your money.

But there are still some higher rate savings options out there, and they don't carry the risk of stocks or bonds with them. Community banks and credit unions are attracting customers with higher interest rates, some over 6%. The accounts are called reward checking accounts or maximum earnings accounts, and they're safe, normal bank accounts that generally have no monthly fees.

There's a little catch, however. In order to receive these higher interest rates, bank customers must jump through hoops. The banks and credit unions are requiring account holders to use online banking, bill pay services, direct deposit of paychecks, or a certain number of debit card purchases in order to qualify each month for the higher rate. Many of these activities bring the banks revenue, hence the reason for "encouraging" you to use those services.

If you use these services, don't be afraid to open an account at a bank offering the higher yield accounts. The deposits are federally insured, just as any other checking or savings account would be at a bank. And you might as well earn a little better rate on your money if the extra services aren't an inconvenience to you.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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