Best banks for earning interest: These high-yield checking and savings accounts really pay

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Remember that time you earned 4% interest on a savings account? Yeah, probably not, unless you're over the age of 40 — considering that the last time banks offered such a soaring yield was in the 1980s. The good news is that, while rates from '80s aren't wholly back, checking and savings account rates are finally on the rise at certain banks, even hitting 5% at some institutions.

Rates aren't increasing across the board, however. Experts see most interest hikes at online banks rather than traditional banks: "The movement has been with the internet banks paying the most competitive yield," Greg McBride, CFA and chief financial analyst for Bankrate, said in a phone interview. "Everyone should have an online savings account, too, because there is no reason why you should only earn 0.1% at a traditional bank when you could be earning 1.3% at an internet bank. It's like leaving money on the table."

Financial institutions are also finding ways to reward customers for high account activity, such as using their debit card and enrolling for online statements and direct deposit in exchange for higher rates and fewer fees.

"For most people, it's not hard to satisfy the qualification criteria," Kasasa CEO Gabe Krajicek said to CNBC. "This is the stuff you probably do anyway." Kasasa is a third-party checking account provider that helps financial institutions pay customers a higher rate and reduce fees in return for locking into "sticky" services, which keep customers actively using their accounts, like electronic banking and debit card usage.

With a myriad of checking and savings accounts on the market, which pay best without charging fees? Here are eight of the more generous bank accounts out out there for earning interest, ranked from above-average to highest-yield.

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8. Goldman Sachs Bank

Account name: Online Savings

Rate: 1.20%

Fees: None

The catch: Federal law, called Reg D, allows only six withdrawals during the statement cycle, which applies to all savings accounts.

More details: There's no minimum balance or transaction fees on this online savings account, and you have multiple ways to make deposits, such as transferring between Goldman Sachs accounts or by check, direct deposit or domestic wire transfer.

7. PurePoint Financial

Account name: Online Savings

Rate: 1.25%

Fees: None

The catch: There's a high minimum balance — $10,000 — to earn 1.25%. No more than six transactions per statement period (a $10 fee is imposed if you perform more than six) and Reg D rules apply.

More details: No minimum to open, but if your savings account drops below $10,000, you earn only 0.25%. The account does not come with an ATM card.

6. Bank Purely

Account name: Saving Purely

Rate: 1.30%

Fees: None

The catch: As with other similar accounts, the interest rate can drop at any time and Reg D rules apply.

More details: You only need a buck to open this savings account, and there’s no minimum balance requirement. Account holders receive an ATM card and access to surcharge-free ATMs nationwide. The bank also plants a tree for each new account.

5. Dollar Savings Direct

Account name: Dollar Savings Account

Rate: 1.30%

Fees: None

The catch: Reg D rules apply.

More details: The minimum deposit is only $1 and you can link a current checking account to your Dollar Savings Account.

4. Lake Michigan Credit Union

Account name: 3% Max Checking

Rate: 3%

Fees: None

The catch: Must have direct deposit, a minimum of 10 debit card purchases each month, a minimum of four online banking logins and have signed up to receive eStatements. On deposits above $15,000, you earn 0% interest.

More details: You earn 3% on balances up to $15,000 and snag ATM refunds of up to $15 a month in surcharge fees.

3. One American Bank

Account name: Kasasa Cash

Rate: 3.5%

Fees: None

The catch: Perform at least 12 debit card purchases of $5 each per month, be enrolled for and receive eStatements and use online banking.

More details: This checking account pays 3.5% on balances up to $10,000 and offers up to $25 monthly in ATM refunds. On balances over $10,000, you earn 0.25% — and if requirements aren't met, you can still earn 0.01%. It's only $50 to open, and you don't need to meet a minimum balance to earn rewards.

2. Alden Credit Union

Account name: Nuff Said

Rate: 5%

Fees: None

The catch: You must perform 20 debit card purchases during the billing cycle, enroll to receive eStatements and set up direct deposit.

More details: Checking account holders earn 5% for balances up to $5,000 and access to surcharge-free ATMs. This account has no paper checks, no minimum balance and only requires $10 to open.

1. Northpointe Bank

Account name: UltimateAccount

Rate: 5%

Fee: None

The catch: You must perform 15 or more debit card purchases each month totaling at least $500, sign up to receive eStatements and arrange for direct deposit or automatic withdrawals.

More details: This free checking account even reimburses you for out-of-network ATMs each month, plus pays 5% on balances up to $5,000 and 2.5% on balances over $5,000. If you don’t meet the monthly requirements, you won’t be charged a fee, but will instead earn a measly 0.05%.

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