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Kick start your savings with goal-based accounts

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Saving money is always one of the top New Year’s resolutions, but halfway through the year, you’ve usually kicked that goal to the curb.

Hard to believe, but some banks and credit unions actually want to help you make those resolutions stick, paying higher interest rates or bonuses if you stash money in your savings regularly.

Play it right and you could get an extra $250 added to your account or earn 2.50% APY on your savings.

What’s the catch? You typically need to contribute monthly to these goal-based savings accounts, and leave it there. No making withdrawals to buy Justin Timberlake concert tickets or the latest Coach handbag.

It’s tempting to “want to spend money to keep up with the Joneses,” says Brett Engel, manager of deposit products at Baxter Credit Union, or BCU as it is usually called, in Vernon Hills, Ill. But once you start setting money aside, “you get excited. You want to see more digits in your bank account.”

As that savings racks up, you can use it to buy a car or make a down payment on a house.

Or you can buck the trend and create emergency cash reserves. About one-quarter of consumers have no emergency savings and another quarter don’t have enough to cover three months of expenses, according to’s most recent Financial Security Index.

How to find goal-based accounts

You may not be able to walk into your local bank to open an account that pays big bucks for socking money away.

Your best bet is to search online for goal-oriented savings accounts. You might find them through an online bank that doesn’t have brick-and-mortar locations, at some regional banks and at some credit unions.

If you find a credit union with one of these accounts you’ll need to meet their eligibility requirements to join.

How they work?

Every account is different, so once you find one that looks interesting, you need to do your homework so you understand exactly how it works.

Some require you to set up automatic transfers from your checking account at the same financial institution.

Some set minimum amounts you need to deposit in your account each month or cap how much you can deposit.

Some won’t let you make any withdrawals for a year, so you truly won’t be able to touch that money.

Others limit the number of withdrawals you can make, or might charge a fee if you make a withdrawal.

What are the choices?

Here are some of the accounts that reward you richly for your saving ways.

Barclays: You can earn a bonus on the interest you earn with the Dream Account. Anyone can open an account with the online American bank run by the British financial giant. Deposit up to $1,000 each month and earn 0.95% APY at a time when savings accounts are typically paying less than 0.10% APY. By making deposits for six straight months you’ll get a 2.50% APY bonus on the interest you earned during that time. If you don’t make any withdrawals for six months, you’ll get another 2.50% APY bonus on the interest.

Regions Bank: You can score a bonus of up to $100 a year with a LifeGreen savings and checking account at this Birmingham, Ala.-based bank. If you automatically transfer at least $10 from your checking to your savings account each month for a year, you’ll earn a 1% annual savings bonus, up to $100. Regions serves residents of 16 states in the South and Midwest.

BBVA Compass: With a Build My Savings account you can construct a nice bonus of up to $250 a year by putting money away each month. You need to have at least $25 automatically transferred from your BBVA Compass checking account each month for either six or 12 months. The bonus is determined by the amount you deposit to open the account, the amount you transfer each month and the number of months the account is open. Your maximum bonus is $125 if you have the account open for six months or $250 for a year. The Birmingham-based bank operates in seven states in the Southeast, Southwest and West.

Grow Financial Federal Credit Union: You’ll receive a $100 bonus once you rack up $10,000 in your Get Fit Savings Account at this Tampa, Fla.-based credit union. To qualify for the bonus you’ll need to put $20 to $400 in your account each month till you hit $10,000. During that time you’ll also earn a little more than Grow pays its basic savings account holders (0.35% APY vs. 0.10% APY). Membership is open to active and retired members of the military and workers at scores of Tampa area businesses.

BCU: Here’s a chance to see your earnings skyrocket if you keep your money in a Rainy Day Savings account for more than a year. The first year, you’ll earn 1.25% APY for putting $25 to $500 in your account each month. If you keep making deposits after those first 12 months, you’ll rake in 2.50% APY on balances up to $25,000. Membership is available to anyone who lives in the north Chicago area or is employed by scores of participating companies.

With these accounts, the goal is to “try to instill in the client the regular habit of savings. You learn to handle your finances better,” says Joe Cartee, executive director of BBVA Compass’s consumer segment.

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