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I read somewhere that salary account should be restricted to only receiving salaries and any spending, personal or otherwise should be carried out from your savings account. I am not able to find the source as I did not bookmark it at the time. Is there a recommended practice? Like receive salary to the salary account, transfer it to savings account and then do the spending/saving with that account? What's wrong with doing everything using just one salary account even though, say the person has multiple accounts? Thanks.

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    If you can find the source I'd be interested to dig into their reasoning. I land all of my incoming into one checking account and then transfer to other accounts all that isn't needed for that period's planned expenses, and pay my planned expenses from the same checking account the money lands in. Can't think of a reason to have a dedicated account for landing funds. – Hart CO Apr 24 '17 at 14:49
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    If you are in the US, savings accounts usually have a monthly 6 withdrawal limit. Just a FYI. – Michael Apr 24 '17 at 15:46
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    if you take your day-to-day spending out of an account, that account is by definition not a saving account. – njzk2 Apr 24 '17 at 17:00
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    Taegost: I'm liking the idea you mentioned. – user1956 Apr 24 '17 at 17:04
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    Savings accounts are for saving, not spending. Checking accounts are the ones designed for frequent transactions. Check out your bank's website, they will certainly list the transaction limits for each type (some checking accounts won't have any transaction limits at all, whereas saving account limits are generally very low). – Matthew Read Apr 24 '17 at 18:26

12 Answers 12

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This seems like a risky setup. All it takes is one missed or delayed transfer for you to overdraw your "savings". There is a benefit to keeping your regular expenses and savings separate, and I can see some benefits in having multiple checking accounts depending on how you organize your finances, but I don't see a benefit to having a paycheck go to one account and all regular spending (and "savings") come from another. It requires some regular maintenance to transfer money over to use for regular spending. I suppose if you have a checking account that earns interest, but requires direct deposits, and a savings account that earns slightly higher interest you could squeeze out a bit, but it's probably not worth the effort these days unless you have a LOT of money going in and out.

Also, it should not be easy to tap into savings, but your day-to-day spending should be very accessible. All those factors suggest (to me) that your paycheck should go into your regular spending account, and keep your savings separate.

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    Keeping savings account separate looks like a better wealth management practice than using it for spending as well. I am liking other answers as well, but this looks more apt. – user1956 Apr 24 '17 at 17:06
  • For some accounts, you can set up automatic withdrawals to avoid overdrafting. I do this, and there are no charges. – Kimball Apr 26 '17 at 23:21
  • Or you could have only a debit card for the spendings account and never overdraw not spend more than you budget. No risk perfect control over spendings. – bjarkef May 2 '17 at 18:59
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It possibly could have made sense historically when interest rates were higher. In the UK, you used to get negligible (if any) interest on a current (checking) account, but could get modest interest from a savings account, so transferring the bulk of your salary to a savings account and paying from there (or transferring back to the current account when needed) could make some sense (but even then was probably not worth the effort).

Nowadays (at least in the UK), most (easy access) savings accounts pay very little interest, but there are current accounts (example list here from comparison site) that pay more interest provided you go through several hoops. Typically you have to pay your salary (or a minimum number of £000s per month) into the account, and have a minimum number of direct debits going out. Some have fees, some only last for a year.

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Well the idea of 'good practice' is subjective so obviously there won't be an objectively correct answer. I suspect that whatever article you read was making this recommendation as a budgeting tool to physically isolate your reserve of cash from your spending account(s) as a means to keep spending in check. This is a common idea that I've heard often enough, though I don't think I am alone in believing that it's unnecessary except in the case of a habitual spender who cannot be trusted to stay within a budget.

I suppose there is a very small argument to be made about security where if you use a bank account for daily spending and that account is somehow compromised, the short-term damage is limited.

In the end, I would argue that if you're in control of spending and budgeting, have a single source of income that is from regular employment, and you use a credit card for most of your daily spending, there's no compelling reason to have more than one bank account.

Some people have a checking and savings account simply for the psychological effect of separating their money, some couples have 3-4 accounts for income, personal spending, and savings, other people have separate accounts for business/self-employment funds, and a few people like having many accounts that act as hard limits for spending in different categories.

Of course, the other submitted answer is correct in noting that the more accounts that you have, the more you are opening yourself up to accounting issues if funds don't transfer the way you expect them to (assuming you're emptying the accounts often). Some banks are more lenient with this, however, and may offer you the option to freely 'overdraft' by pulling funding from another pre-designated account that you also hold at the same bank.

  • If you have a habitual spender, they are probably using a credit card anyway. – IllusiveBrian Apr 24 '17 at 16:57
  • Or they would just move the money from the other account. – jamesqf Apr 24 '17 at 18:06
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In the United States, savings accounts generally have higher interest rates than checking or money market accounts. Part of this is the government restriction on the number of automated transactions per month that can be done on a savings account: this is supposed to allow banks to lengthen the time frame of the cash part of their investments for savings. This limit is why direct deposit of one's paycheck is almost always into a checking or money market account... and why many people have savings accounts, especially with Internet banks, because they pay significantly higher interest rates than brick and mortar banks.

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I can't immediately think of a reason to keep your paycheck and spending account separate, unless it be because you want to keep your savings in a money market or savings account and you deposit your paycheck into a checking account.

However, I do have one reason from my experience to keep the bulk of your savings away from accounts that you transfer stuff out of. I used to keep all my cash savings in an account from which I transferred money into my brokerage account (my paycheck was also deposited there). A couple of years back a state that I haven't lived in since I was a child took $40,000 out of my account. The broker mistakenly told the state I lived there and the state made some mistakes about how much tax I would owe. Without either one telling me, the state helped themselves to my checking account to cover the bill. When I called, both acknowledged that they were wrong, but it still took a long time (many months) and lots of letters and threats (I was close to paying a lawyer) before they returned my money. It was worse because this was my savings for a down payment on a home and having it taken and not returned affected my ability to buy the house I wanted.

If I hadn't had my money in that account, they would have tried to garnish my wages, and would have immediately stopped their attempt once they found out they were in the wrong. Now I keep cash savings in an account that I never pay taxes out of and do not use to transfer money directly to any broker or anyone who might give my account number to an inept government.

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    This should not have been able to happen. Even if someone has your bank account information, they need explicit authorization for the transaction, or a court order, for the bank to transfer money out. I don't doubt that it happened, but this was a serious fail by your bank, which would not necessarily have been prevented by separating accounts, and which the bank should have corrected immediately at their own expense until the issue was resolved. – R.. Apr 24 '17 at 18:54
  • The state got a court order. When I noticed my account suddenly very low, I called the bank and after a while they were able to get me a copy of the court order, which is when I figured out who had taken my money. As far as I know the state did not get my bank records, so would not have known which other banks to get court orders for without more digging. I'm sure with some effort they could, but I'm not sure it would have happened in this case. Either way I would have had time to react. Once my money was in the state's system, the process for getting it out was extremely lengthy. – farnsy Apr 24 '17 at 21:00
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In my opinion, separating your money into separate accounts is a matter of personal preference.

I can only think of two main reasons why people might suggest separating your bank accounts in this way: security and accounting.

The security reasoning might go something like this: My employer has access to my bank account, because he direct deposits my salary into my account. I don't want my employer to have access to all my money, so I'll have a separate account that my employer has access to, and once the salary is deposited, I can move that money into my real account.

The fault in this reasoning is that a direct deposit setup doesn't really give your employer withdrawal access to your account, and your employer doesn't have any reason to pull money out of your account after he has paid you. If fraud is going to happen, it much more likely to happen in the account that you are doing your spending out of.

The other reason might be accounting. Perhaps you have several bank accounts, and you use the different accounts to separate your money for different purposes. For example, you might have a checking account that you do most of your monthly spending out of, you might have a savings account that you use to store your emergency fund, and you have more savings accounts to keep track of how much you have saved toward your next car, or your vacation, or your Christmas fund, or whatever. After you get your salary deposited, you can move some into your spending account and some into your various savings accounts for different purposes.

Instead of having many bank accounts, I find it easier to do my budgeting/accounting on my own, not relying on the bank accounts to tell me how much money I have allocated to each purpose. I only have one checking account where my income goes; my own records keep track of how much money in that account is set aside for each purpose. When the checking account balance gets too large, I move a chunk of it over to my one savings account, which earns a little more interest than the checking account does. I can always move money back into my checking account if I need to spend it for some reason, and the amount of money in each of the two accounts is not directly related to the purpose of the money.

In summary, I don't see a good reason for this type of general recommendation.

  • I disagree with "doesn't really give your employer withdrawal access". Direct Deposit forms I've filled out (in the US) definitely do include authorization for the employer to make corrections. Although PayPal access to bank accounts is not employer related, www.paypalsucks.com has horror stories of people fighting PayPal when corrections were made, in some cases repeatedly for the same transaction, wiping out the entire account. PayPal has been unresponsive, putting an incredible burden on the customer. My employers have always behaved honorably, though. – donjuedo Apr 24 '17 at 16:35
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Personally, I keep two regular checking accounts at different banks. One gets a direct deposit totaling the sum of my regular monthly bills and a prorated provision for longer term regular bills like semi-annual car insurance premiums. I leave a buffer in the account to account for the odd expensive electrical bill or rate increase or whatever. One gets a direct deposit of the rest which I then allocate to savings and spending.

It makes sense to me to separate off regular planned expenses (rent/mortgage, utility bills, insurance premiums) from spending money because it lets me put the basics of my life on autopilot. An added benefit is I have a failover checking account in the event something happens to one of them. I don't keep significant amounts of money in either account and don't give transfer access to the savings accounts that store the bulk of my money. I wear a tinfoil hat when it comes to automatic bank transfers and account access...

It doesn't make sense to me to keep deposits separate from spending, it makes less sense to me to spend off of a savings account.

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I live in the UK so it's a little different but generally you'd have one account (a current account) which would have a Visa/MasterCard debit card associated before working and any high street bank (don't know what the US equivalent would be, but big banks such as HSBC/Santander) will offer you a savings account which pays a v small amount of interest as well as bonds as all sorts.

From what I know most people have their salary paid into their current account (which would be the spending account with a card associated) and would transfer a set amount to a savings account. Personally, I have a current account and a few different saving accounts (which do not have cards associated). One savings account has incoming transfers/money received and I can use online banking to transfer that to my current account "instantly" (at least I've done it standing at ATM's and the money is there seconds later - but again this is the UK, not US).

This way, my primary current account never has more than £10-15 in it, whenever I know I need money I'll transfer it from the instant access account. This has saved me before when I've been called by my bank for transactions a few £100 each which would have been authorised I kept all my money in my current account. If you don't have money (and dont have an overdraft!) what are they meant to do with it?

The other savings account I had setup so that I could not transfer money out without going into a branch with ID/etc, less to stop someone stealing my money and more to be physically unable to waste money on a Friday if I don't arrive at the bank before 4/5PM, so saves a lot of time.

US banking is a nightmare, I don't imagine any of this will translate well and I think if you had your salary paid into your savings on a Friday and missed the bank with no online banking facilities/transfers that aren't instant you'd be in a lot of trouble. If the whole "current + instant access savings account" thing doesn't work to well, I'm sure a credit/charge (!!!) card will work instead of a separate current account. Spend everything on that (within reason and what you can pay back/afford to pay stupid interest on) on a card with a 0% purchase rate and pay it back using an account you're paid into but is never used for expenses, some credit cards might even reward you for this type of thing but again, credit can be dangerous.

A older retired relative of mine has all of his money in one account, refuses a debit card from the bank every time he is offered (he has a card, but it isn't a visa/mastercard, it's purely used for authentication in branch) and keeps that in a safe indoors! Spends everything he needs on his credit card and writes them a sort of cheque (goes into the bank with ID and signs it) for the full balance when his statement arrives. No online banking! No chance of him getting key logged any time soon.

tldr; the idea of separating the accounts your money goes in (salary wise) and goes out (spending) isn't a bad idea. that is if wire transfers don't take 3-5 days where you are aha.

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I pretty much only use my checking. What's the downside? Checking accounts don't pay as much interest as savings account. Oh, but wait, interest rates have been zero for nearly 10 years. So there is very little benefit to keeping money in my savings account.

In fact, I had two savings accounts, and Well Fargo closed one of them because I hadn't used it in years.

Downsides of savings accounts: You are limited to 5 transfers per month into or out of them. No such limit with checking.

Upsides of savings accounts: Well, maybe you will be less likely to spend the money.

Why don't you just have your pay go into your checking and then just transfer "extra money" out of it, rather than the reverse?

If you want to put money "away" so that you save it, assuming you're in the U.S.A., open a traditional IRA. Max deposit of $5500/year, and it reduces your taxable income. It's not a bad idea to have a separate account that you don't touch except for in an emergency. But, for me, the direction of flow is from work, to checking, to savings.

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There is no "should", but I am strongly of the view that if you have savings of several months' salary or more, they should not only be in a separate account, but with a separate financial institution, or even split between two others. A fraction of a percent of extra interest is scant reward for massively increased personal risk.

The reason for this is buried in the T&Cs. There is almost always a "right of set off": if one account is overdrawn, the bank reserves the right to take money from your other accounts. Which sounds fair enough, until you consider the imbalance of power. Maybe your salary account gets hacked? Maybe that's the bank's fault? Maybe the bank has made an accounting error? Maybe the bank has gone bust? Maybe you need to employ a lawyer to act on your behalf? Oh dear, you no longer have any savings. (*)

This cannot happen if your savings are with a completely separate institution. Then, the only way that the salary account bank can touch your savings is by winning in the courts. If you split the savings two ways, you have also given yourself the reassurance that in the worst case only half your savings have been affected.

"Don't put all your eggs in one basket" is proverbial. And there's a folk song that's lodged in my memory... "As through this world I wander, I've met all kinds of funny men. Some rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen. Yet as far as I have wandered, as far as I have roamed, I've never seen an outlaw drive a family from their home".

I've never been in this sort of trouble and the UK's laws tend to favour the banks' customers. I don't even hate bankers. Yet even so, why take this risk when it can so easily be reduced?

(*) If this sounds far-fetched, read the news, for example https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/feb/02/hbos-manager-and-other-city-financiers-jailed-over-245m-loans-scam

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There are a lot of good answers, but I will share my experience.

First, a savings account needs to be for savings. If your in the US you have "Regulation D" to deal with and that will bite you on the rear if you go over those limits. Specially easy to do if your purchasing from a savings account.

Next having an "Income" account and a "Spending" account can be a very good tool to build a nest egg. So for example you get $1500 into your income account and then move $1000 to your spending account then budget based on that $1000. This is an amazing thing to do, so long as you have the discipline to never transfer that extra $500, and pretend your broke when you run out of the $1000.

That being said there is no reason that you can't do that in one account. It's all preference. My wife and I use YNAB (an envelope budgeting system) to do just that. We don't need the separate accounts. We are no more likely to "not spend" in one account then we are to "not spend" in two accounts. It's all just self discipline and what you need to do.

This does lead to the situation we call YNAB broke. It's when we have to start choosing between "going hungry" or getting that new DVD, even though our bank account has $5,000 in it. It's even harder when you choose "go hungry" and have to follow through with it, even though you have enough to buy a used car in your bank account.

But rather it's "YNAB broke" or your spending account is empty and your income account it full, the result is the same. It's up to "you" to have the self discipline not to spend. Rather that's in one account or two makes little difference.

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My wife and I do this. We have one account for income and one for expenditures (and around 7 others for dedicated savings.) Doing this we are forcing ourselves to keep track of all expenditures as we have to manually transfer funds from one to the other, we try to do this periodically (every Wednesday) and then keep the expenditures within what is actually on the account.

It is a really good way to keep track of everything. Bear in mind that our bank provides a fast handy smartphone app where we both can check our account as well as transfer funds in less than 10 seconds. (Fingerprint authentication, instant funds transfer as well as zero fees for transfers.)

Right now we have a credit card each attached to the expenditures account, but earlier we only had a debit card each and no credit cards. Meaning that when the weekly funds ran out we where simply not able to pay. We did this to mimic living only on cash and when the cash runs out you simply have to stop buying stuff. And at the same time we could accrue quite a bit of savings.

I would definitely recommend this if you have problems with over expenditures.