CIT Savings Builder Review

Jordan Wathen is a personal finance expert with a deep professional and personal expertise on credit cards. His articles have appeared on sites such as MSN, CNBC, and Yahoo.

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After a thorough review of CIT Savings Builder, I concluded that it’s one of the best online savings accounts on the market. CIT Savings Builder offers one of the best interest rates you can earn on your savings, with relatively trivial requirements for scoring the best possible rate on your account. If you’re currently setting aside at least $100 per month, or have at least $25,000 to deposit, CIT Savings Builder should be on your radar as one of the best places to put your excess cash. And with a minimum deposit of just $100 to open an account, you don’t have to have a lot of money to start earning a higher rate on your money.

How CIT Savings Builder works

The CIT Savings Builder program is all about rewarding you for keeping a large bank account balance or for making monthly deposits into your account. The CIT Savings Builder account promises an industry-leading deposit rate for meeting one of two criteria: You must keep a balance of at least $25,000, or make at least one deposit of $100 or greater every month.

The beauty of the CIT Savings Builder program is its simplicity. Whereas many other banks and credit unions offer promotional interest rates that require a certain number of debit card swipes or direct deposits from your employer, CIT Savings Builder simply rewards you for having a $25,000 deposit or making at least one deposit of $100 or more per month. You don’t have to waste all day navigating the ins and outs of the fine print to choose a bank that offers a high interest rate.

Interest tier Balance requirement APY
Base Less than $25,000 1.22%
Upper Less than $25,000 with monthly deposits of at least $100 2.10%
Upper More than $25,000 2.10%

Data source: CIT Savings Builder.class="small-caption">

Rates are determined every month. So, if you qualify for the highest rate tier in January, you’ll receive that higher rate in February. If you fail to qualify because you didn’t keep a $25,000 balance or make a deposit of $100 or more, it’s no big deal. The next month you’ll earn the respectable “base” rate on your cash, and can re-qualify for the higher rate by making a deposit of at least $100 or having a balance of $25,000 in future months.

Technically speaking, the cutoff point for determining whether you’re eligible for the “upper” rate tier is the fourth business day prior to the end of the month. If you want to keep it simple, make a $100 deposit early in each month, or keep a balance of at least $25,000, and you don’t have to do too much thinking about the cutoff dates for qualifying for the higher rate.

Why you can trust me

Long before I began writing for The Ascent, I was always optimizing my personal finances by looking for bank accounts that offered the best rates, credit cards that offered the most rewards, and brokers that offered the best commission prices. In looking for deals to use personally, I’ve stumbled on plenty of great deals, and plenty more that didn’t live up to the hype. Below, I’ll explain the ins and outs of CIT Savings Builder, how it works, and who is best positioned to get the most out of it.

CIT Savings Builder’s fee schedule

Banks are notorious for nickel and diming customers with a laundry list of fees, but CIT Savings Builder has a really fair fee schedule. Most customers will pay nothing in fees for the basic banking services.

Here’s a quick list of the fees that popped out to me:

  • No monthly fees -- You won’t pay a fee every month just to have a CIT Savings Builder account. With many of the big banks charging $10 just to have an account, this already puts it ahead of the average bank account.
  • No minimum balance fees -- Some of the highest-yielding savings accounts and money market accounts charge you fees if you don’t keep a certain average balance, which can set you back $10 or $15 per month. CIT Savings Builder doesn’t have these fees, nor does it have any on-going minimum balance requirements.
  • Free or cheap wire transfer fees -- If you need to make the occasional bank wire, it’ll cost you just $10. However, if you have a balance of $25,000 or more, wire transfers are free. That’s a nice perk for people who need to make the occasional payment by bank wire to quickly fund a brokerage account, for example.
  • Excessive transaction fee -- CIT Savings Builder isn’t a checking account, so you’re limited by law to no more than six transactions per month. Going over the limit will set you back $10 per transaction, which is one of the lowest fees I’ve seen for excessive transactions (my ordinarily fee-friendly credit union hit me with a $25 fee for going over my transaction limit).

In short, if you simply need a place to sock away some savings, you’ll have to go out of your way to trigger a fee.

CIT Savings Builder’s limitations and drawbacks

There are drawbacks to any type of financial account. Most of the drawbacks of CIT Savings Builder are consistent with what you’d find at virtually any online bank, but particularly those that offer the highest rates on deposits.

Here are three notable drawbacks to CIT Savings Builder:

  • Transfer limits -- You can only make six transfers in or out of a CIT Savings Builder account per month. This isn’t a CIT limitation; it’s a legal requirement that affects all savings and money market accounts. If you might need to make more transactions, a checking account would be a better solution.
  • No ATM card or branches -- You won’t be able to get access to your money or make deposits into your CIT Savings Builder account through an ATM or bank branches. It doesn’t issue ATM cards, and CIT Bank doesn’t have any brick-and-mortar branches. Instead, you can move balances from your CIT Savings Builder account to another bank for free whenever you need to, which is a relatively easy workaround for getting access to your money.
  • Rules for higher rates -- Getting the highest possible rate on your savings does require that you keep $25,000 or more in your account, or make at least one deposit of $100 or more every month. It’s a pretty fair requirement to get one of the best rates on the market in an account with few other limitations and essentially no fees for basic banking service.

Realistically, there’s a trade-off with any kind of financial service; there isn’t a perfect bank account that wins in every single category. Overall, the fact that CIT Savings Builder offers really high rates with only minor roadblocks ($25,000 deposit balance or $100 monthly deposit) already puts it easily among the best choice for people who are most concerned about getting a good APY on their deposits.

Is CIT Savings Builder right for you?

  • You want liquidity -- Sure, you can probably earn a higher APY on your savings by using certificates of deposit, but you’ll have to give up access to your cash for several months or years. With CIT Savings Builder, you earn a high interest rate while being able to withdraw your money at a moment’s notice, without penalty.
  • You want FDIC insurance -- CIT Bank is an FDIC insured institution, so your deposits are protected against loss in the event of a bank failure up to $250,000. This peace of mind is invaluable for people who want the highest possible rates without risk of loss.
  • You don’t need ATM or branch access -- CIT Savings Builder is best viewed as a place to keep savings you won’t need to withdraw as cash. It works best when paired with another bank account with ATM access. Simply transfer balances from CIT Savings Builder to another bank account and use that account to withdrawal at an ATM. (Unsure? See our comparison of online and traditional savings accounts.)

You can afford to keep a $25,000 balance or make at least one deposit of $100 per month -- CIT Savings Builder’s top rate is one of the best on the market, but if you can’t qualify for the “upper tier,” other online banks would be a better fit. Many banks pay a slightly lower rate, but don’t require a high minimum balance or at least one $100 deposit per month.

If you need a high-yield savings account and can meet the minimum requirements to get the highest APY, it’s tough to beat CIT Savings Builder’s value proposition.

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