THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Beat soaring bank fees

You could save big bucks by moving your banking online. Here are some of Gerri's tips.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK ( -- Bank fees are running at their highest levels on record. But you may be able to save money by going online.

1. Online banks: a better deal

By most measures, online banks are a better deal than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

They have lower fees and smaller minimum balance requirements says Greg McBride of And interest rates can be a lot higher, especially on Internet-only banks.

An average savings account at a traditional bank is 0.3%. At an Internet bank, that rate can be as high as 2%.

And some brick-and-mortar banks offer online specials not found in their branches. HSBC is currently offering a 2% yield on a one-year CD online. Get that CD at the branch and you'd earn about 0.50%.

2. Keep your money safe

Keeping your money safe is key. Make sure the bank you're considering has FDIC insurance coverage.

You also want to make sure that the bank's Web site has a valid security certificate so you don't have to worry about cyber-thieves.

Be forewarned that ATM access and cashing checks with an Internet-only bank can be challenging. However more and Internet-only banks are joining ATM networks or reimbursing customers their fees when they use other banks' ATMs.

3. Get the ranking

Consumer Reports rated seven of the largest online banks. Here are their top four: ING Direct, HSBC Direct, Citibank and Capital One. You should also go to or to compare bank interest rates.

-- CNN's Jens Haley contributed to this article.

Got a financial dilemma? Go to to submit questions, read the Help Desk articles and check out new Help Desk videos. And tune in to CNN's Newsroom Tuesdays and Fridays, when Gerri Willis and other experts answer your questions. To top of page

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