Washington - Rising interest rates haven't offered much relief for savers, but that's starting to change. The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.25 percentage points making it the fourth rate hike since December 2015.
Those rate hikes have had a more immediate effect on what borrowers pay for credit cards, home equity lines and other loans. But over the past couple of months, some online banks have passed those rates along to consumers by raising the yield on savings accounts.
"They're finally getting to the point where, if you shop around, you can get some decent savings rates," says Robert Frick, a corporate economist with Navy Federal Credit Union.
Some online banks are offering savings yields as high as 1.3 percent on accounts that are available nationwide, up from a high of 1.1 percent at the start of the year, according to Bankrate.com. Meanwhile, the average yield offered by traditional savings accounts has remained pretty much unchanged at 0.09 percent.
Online banks have typically offered some of the most attractive deals for savers because they don't have to pay for overhead business costs. But the banks have been sweetening their savings accounts as the Fed has raised rates as a way to attract more cash the firms can use to issue more loans, says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.
BankPurely, DollarSavingsDirect and ableBanking were all offering annual percentage yields of 1.3 percent on savings accounts as of Wednesday, the highest yield available, according to Bankrate. Goldman Sachs offered the next highest yield of 1.2 percent, followed by Synchrony Bank, which offered a yield of 1.15 percent. Some of the banks have been offering these yields for several months, but others, such as Goldman Sachs, have upped their yields in the past couple of weeks.
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Consumers still may not notice much of a change in the yields offered by most traditional savings accounts, analysts say. Big banks have generally been swimming in cash since the Great Recession and don't feel pressure to bring in more deposits, says Ken Tumin, creator of DepositAccounts.com, a website that compares bank accounts.
People thinking about opening an online savings account should make sure they understand the ins and outs of the accounts, including any fees they may be charged. Some of the banks may set limits on how much money consumers can transfer out of the accounts each day, Tumin says. Other banks may require a minimum amount of deposits.
Consumers who may need immediate access to their savings should look for online savings accounts that offer debit cards or ATM access, Tumin says. Otherwise, it could take between one and four days for money to be transferred from an online savings account to your checking account, he says.