Cash management accounts aren’t bank accounts, but they share some similarities. It’s a place to stash your cash, get your paycheck deposited, pay bills and earn some interest. Even though it might feel like a bank account, the top cash management accounts (CMAs) offer other features and benefits for consumers, including:
- A competitive annual percentage yield (APY)
- Fee-free ATMs
- A checking account
- Debit card
- No monthly fee
- No overdraft fees
- Early paycheck direct deposit
- “Round-up” investing
- A portfolio line of credit
You’ll find cash management accounts at a financial institution other than a bank or credit union — often from a broker or robo-advisor. Some people use a cash management account instead of a checking or savings account, or in addition to one.
These types of cash accounts are often overlooked as a way to grow your savings at a much higher interest rate than you’ll find at traditional brick-and-mortar banks. Plus you won’t get charged monthly fees or overdraft fees, and there’s no account minimum balance requirements for the companies on our list.
Many robo-advisors and brokerages offer these services at no extra cost to you, so you can find a truly attractive cash management account with a ton of benefits.
The distinction between a brokerage account and a traditional bank account continues to collapse. Increasingly, more financial institutions do it all. So in many cases you could actually use the cash management account as a primary bank account even if you don’t take advantage of the related investing features at all.
And that’s a reason to check out brokers and robo-advisors to see how they compete against a traditional bank and whether it might make sense to move at least some of your business there.
Best cash management accounts in January 2024
Wealthfront is best known as a robo-advisor, but its cash management account is a formidable feature in its own right. It offers many of the most popular features: interest on balances, fee-free ATMs, checking benefits, a debit card and no monthly fees.
But you’ll also get some of the rarer features such as access to your direct deposit up to two days earlier and a portfolio line of credit, which allows you to borrow money against your investing balance with no credit check. You can link external accounts to gain a holistic view of your financial picture and track your net worth with the platform’s visually-appealing and customizable Plan feature. And, oh yeah, Wealthfront offers a top-flight investing service, too.
Fidelity has rightly earned a reputation as a customer-friendly outfit, and you’ll see that in its CMA. You won’t get socked with an account fee, nor does the account have a minimum. You’ll have ATM fees reimbursed when you use the account’s debit card, and you’ll be able to write checks using the account, along with access to bill pay and mobile check deposit. If you’d prefer to simply add a debit card or bill pay to your existing brokerage account, Fidelity can get that done, too.
You can really turn your brokerage account into an all-in-one account here without the hassle.
Charles Schwab has long been known as an investor-friendly institution, and it takes that rep to its cash management account at Schwab Bank. Schwab’s checking account has no monthly fees or account minimums, and offers unlimited ATM fee rebates across the world if you use the associated debit card. You won’t pay foreign transaction fees either.
If there’s a downside, it’s that Schwab’s interest rate isn’t competitive with other CMAs listed here. You’ll need to have a Schwab brokerage account to open a checking account, but you can open one at the same time, and you won’t pay fees on it. When you’re ready to invest, you can quickly shuffle money between the two accounts.
Betterment and Wealthfront have been fierce competitors in the robo-advisor space for years, so it’s no surprise that they offer highly attractive (and highly competitive) features on their cash management accounts.
At Betterment, you’ll earn some of the best interest rates on your cash, enjoy access to fee-free ATMs, a debit card and more. It also checks all the boxes you’d expect from one of the best cash accounts with access to mobile check deposit, bill pay, check writing all with no overdraft fees and zero monthly fees or foreign transaction fees. As an individual, you’ll also have up to $2 million (or $4 million for a joint account) in FDIC insurance on deposits through Betterment’s partner banks.
Interactive Brokers offers one of the best trading experiences but also has attractive cash management features that can make it a true “go anywhere” account. All funds will be held in your investing account, but with the associated debit card, you can pay bills straight from the account. If you run over your available cash, you’ll run up a margin balance, and pay interest rates that are just 1.5 percent above the benchmark rate – so cheap.
You’ll also be able to use mobile check deposit, pay bills to any payee and have automatic payroll deposit. Among brokers, Interactive Brokers pays among the industry’s best rates for cash balances.
What are the pros and cons of cash management accounts?
- Easier to invest: With many brokerage firms and robo-advisors offering cash management accounts, it’s easy to start investing your savings.
- Interest boost: Many cash management accounts earn higher interest than is typically available through traditional bank savings accounts.
- FDIC insurance: Many cash management accounts funnel your savings to multiple banks in their program, which allows you to have FDIC insurance on your funds beyond the typical $250,000 limit.
- Interest below high-yield savings accounts: Though cash management accounts can earn higher interest rates than traditional banks, they often fall short of those offered by high-yield savings accounts.
- Online only: Many cash management accounts are offered by institutions that exist only online, so if you prefer to bank in-person, it might not be a good fit for you.
- Minimum balances: Some cash management accounts require high minimum balances or regular deposits in order to receive all the features offered.
What is the difference between a savings account and a cash management account?
Cash management accounts are typically offered by non-bank financial institutions such as brokerage firms or robo-advisors. They come with many of the same features as traditional savings and checking accounts, but also have some investment options. A savings account is usually offered by traditional brick-and-mortar banks and doesn’t offer the ability to invest. You’ll also typically earn less interest in a traditional savings account than what is offered by many cash management accounts.
While you might be searching for a traditional bank account or even a popular fintech app, don’t overlook the benefits of using a cash management account from a broker or robo-advisor. You often won’t have to use the investing features, but they’ll be there if you want to bring everything under one roof.
As an enthusiast with a deep understanding of financial services and investment products, let me break down the key concepts and provide additional insights related to the article on cash management accounts.
Cash Management Accounts (CMAs):
- Definition: Cash Management Accounts are financial products that serve as a hybrid between traditional banking services and investment options. They allow individuals to manage their cash, receive paychecks, pay bills, and earn interest.
- Features and Benefits:
- Competitive APY: CMAs offer a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), providing a higher interest rate compared to traditional brick-and-mortar banks.
- Fee-Free ATMs: Many CMAs provide access to fee-free ATMs, allowing users to withdraw cash without incurring additional charges.
- Checking Account and Debit Card: CMAs often come with checking account features, including a debit card for convenient transactions.
- No Monthly Fee or Overdraft Fees: Unlike traditional bank accounts, CMAs typically do not charge monthly fees or overdraft fees.
- Early Paycheck Direct Deposit: Some CMAs offer the benefit of receiving paychecks up to two days earlier than traditional direct deposit timelines.
- "Round-Up" Investing: This feature allows users to automatically invest spare change from everyday transactions.
- Portfolio Line of Credit: CMAs may offer a portfolio line of credit, enabling users to borrow against their investment balance without a credit check.
Providers of Cash Management Accounts:
- Known primarily as a robo-advisor, Wealthfront offers a feature-rich cash management account with competitive features such as early paycheck access and a portfolio line of credit.
- Fidelity, a customer-friendly brokerage, provides a cash management account with no account fees, ATM fee reimbursements, and the option to write checks.
- Charles Schwab:
- Charles Schwab's cash management account features no monthly fees, unlimited ATM fee rebates globally, and no foreign transaction fees.
- A notable competitor in the robo-advisor space, Betterment's cash management account offers high-interest rates, fee-free ATMs, and various standard banking features.
- Interactive Brokers:
- Known for its trading platform, Interactive Brokers also offers cash management features, including bill payments, mobile check deposits, and competitive interest rates.
Pros and Cons of Cash Management Accounts:
- Easier to Invest: CMAs make it easy to start investing savings.
- Interest Boost: They often offer higher interest rates than traditional banks.
- FDIC Insurance: Funds in CMAs often have FDIC insurance beyond the standard limit.
- Interest Below High-Yield Savings Accounts: While higher than traditional banks, CMAs may offer lower interest than high-yield savings accounts.
- Online Only: Many CMAs are offered by online institutions, which may not be suitable for those who prefer in-person banking.
- Minimum Balances: Some CMAs require high minimum balances or regular deposits for full features.
Difference Between Savings Account and Cash Management Account:
- Savings Account:
- Typically offered by traditional banks.
- Primarily for storing money, with limited investment options.
- Generally offers lower interest rates compared to CMAs.
- Cash Management Account:
- Often provided by non-bank financial institutions like brokerage firms.
- Combines banking features with investment options.
- Offers competitive interest rates and may provide additional benefits like early paycheck access.
- Savings Account:
- While searching for banking options, considering a cash management account from a broker or robo-advisor can be advantageous.
- These accounts provide a blend of traditional banking services and investment opportunities.
- Evaluate the features offered by different providers to find the best fit for your financial needs.