If you’ve received a bank sign-up bonus offer in the mail, you might be thinking about opening a new bank account. But how many accounts is enough? And how many is too many?
How Many Bank Accounts Do You Really Need?
Money expert Clark Howard says that most people should have at least two personal bank accounts:
- Checking account: money for paying bills and other short-term expenses
- Savings account: money that you may need to deal with life’s emergencies such as a big car repair, a major appliance failure or a health emergency
Money for long-term goals such as retirement should be invested, not kept in either of these accounts.
However, Clark says you may need more than two bank accounts in some cases. That’s especially true for couples and for those who use debit cards and/or payment apps. Read on to learn why.
Clark says couples should have a minimum of three accounts: his, hers and theirs.
“Most people get married today quite a bit later than when they used to with each of them having established their financial lives,” Clark says. “They tend to have different attitudes about money. Co-mingling all of their funds, particularly early in the marriage, can lead to a lot of stress and tension.”
When it comes to the household account, the couple has to decide how much each will contribute.
Sometimes people contribute toward household expenses based on how much each one earns. In other cases, couples will just contribute an equal amount to an account to cover the mortgage, utilities and other home expenses.
Debit Card or Payment App Users
Are you a fan of using debit cards or payment apps? Then you should also have more than two bank accounts, according to Clark.
First, let’s look at debit cards, which people use either for convenience or because they don’t like carrying cash. A debit card can be deadly to your finances if the card gets stolen.
That’s why Clark recommends that you always tie your debit card to a separate bank account, not your main checking account.
Meanwhile, the popularity of payment apps like Venmo, PayPal and Zelle poses a similar challenge. Fraudulent transactions have drained people’s accounts, and the powers that be behind these apps don’t always make customers whole.
“What I like is for someone to have a separate checking account if they use Zelle and all the rest or if they want to have a debit card,” Clark says. “In that separate account, you should only have enough money in there that you need for your walking-around money if you’re using debit or as a way to pay back friends, split bills and that sort of thing if you use payment apps.”
In Case of Financial Emergencies
In an episode of Clark’s podcast, a reader asked whether it’s a good idea to have money at more than one financial institution in case of a catastrophic disaster or hack.
While it’s not essential, Clark does think it’s a good idea to park your cash at more than one financial institution. Specifically, Clark recommends opening one account at a bank or credit union with physical branches and another at an online-only bank.
Extra tip: Clark advocates keeping a certain amount of cash in your home to use in case of an emergency.
If you find yourself chasing sign-up bonuses and end up with more accounts than you can handle, it’s time to simplify and reduce the number of accounts.
Too many people have both their checking and savings accounts with a traditional bank. But, as we all know, the interest rates the big banks pay on your hard-earned money are paltry.
If you want to earn more interest, try looking at one of the FDIC-insured options that made Team Clark’s list of the best online banks!