Talk about an opportunity cost. As a whole, Americans could earn another $30 billion to $50 billion in interest each year if they put their savings in higher-rate accounts, instead of letting their money languish in low-interest savings accounts.
That conclusion comes from a study of Federal Reserve data commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Providian Financial Corp. The two groups also conducted an opinion poll on personal savings habits through Opinion Research Corporation International. Here are some of the findings:
* 57 percent of savings-account holders have no idea what the interest rate is on their accounts.
* 45 percent do not consider US Savings Bonds to be lucrative. (Returns on Series I Bonds are as much as five percentage points higher than savings accounts.)
* 30 percent think there is little difference in the returns of saving accounts and Certificates of Deposit. (Most CD rates are more than three percentage points higher than savings accounts.)
* Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) keep savings in the same bank as their checking account, with nearby convenience being the major factor in their choice.
The CFA's message is that savers need to be more aware of the potential of higher interest alternatives such as CDs, savings bonds, and high-rate savings accounts. The consumer group also notes that these savings vehicles are easy to purchase and underwritten by federal government insurance.
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