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Do We Really Need an AI Savings Account? Cleo Thinks So

Cleo has some cool AI savings tools, but is its new high-yield savings account all that unique?

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Cleo lets you harness the power of AI to improve your finances right from your phone. The fintech app analyzes your accounts and suggests tips to boost your credit, budget smarter and reach your savings goals.

Since 2016, over 5 million people have used the app to apply for cash advances, build savings and develop better financial habits. It recently added a high-yield savings account to its product mix. But with plenty of high-yield savings accounts providing savings tools, is Cleo’s offering really that unique? As a personal finance writer specializing in banking, I took a closer look.

Cleo high-yield savings account overview

Cleo’s new high-yield savings account has a respectable 4.11% annual percentage yield, or APY, that applies to your entire balance. However, savings accounts with APYs above 5% are still plentiful in this elevated-rate environment.

You can set savings goals and target dates in the app to help you stay focused and on track. In addition, Cleo provides four savings tools, which it calls hacks, to help automate your savings process. Each savings hack can be turned on or off independently. So you can use any of them at any time according to your needs.

  • Set and Forget: Set up an automated transfer from any linked checking account to your Cleo savings account. You select the amount to transfer each week and can change this amount anytime.
  • Roundups: This feature tracks your spending from a linked checking account, automatically rounds up your purchases to the next dollar and transfers the difference to your Cleo savings account.
  • Smart Save: Cleo analyzes your spending data and determines how much you can afford to automatically transfer from checking to savings each week.
  • Swear Jar: Cleo “fines” you for guilty-pleasure purchases by transferring a predetermined amount to savings each time you spend at a particular store. This is the hack that really sets Cleo apart from other accounts that offer savings tools, and it could be helpful if you’re prone to overspending. 

One major strike against Cleo is that its 4.11% APY and savings hacks are available only with a $2.99 monthly subscription to its premium service, Cleo Grow. Fees work against your savings progress, so you’re best off avoiding them to maximize your interest earnings. There are, however, no monthly maintenance fees or minimum balances to maintain.

Additionally, you can rest assured that your balance is protected with extended Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insurance of up to $3 million through Thread Bank’s sweep program. 

How Cleo’s high-yield savings account stacks up against other HYSAs

Cleo’s savings account pays a decent 4.11% APY on all balances, and its savings goal and savings hack features can help you maximize your savings strategy. However, there are a number of banks with similar savings tools that can give Cleo a run for your money.

BankAPYMonthly feesSavings tools
Zynlo Bank5.00%$0Round Up and Match (similar to Cleo’s Roundups, but with an added savings match)
Ally4.20%$0Savings buckets (similar to Cleo’s savings goals), round ups and savings boosters (similar to Cleo’s Smart Save)
Alliant Credit Union3.10%$0Supplemental savings accounts (similar to Cleo’s savings goals)
Cleo4.11%$2.99Set and Forget, Roundups, Smart Save and Swear Jar 
Rates as of June 4, 2024.

Factors to consider when choosing a high-yield savings account

When choosing a savings account, consider these factors:

  • APY: The higher the APY, the more interest you can earn. Compare rates across multiple banks to determine which accounts offer the best return on your money. Also, confirm whether the APY applies to the entire balance. Some accounts have tiered rate structures, and the highest APY is available only for balances above a certain amount.
  • Fees: Avoid savings accounts that charge monthly fees or require significant hurdles to avoid them, like maintaining a high monthly balance. Fees will work against your savings goals and can add up to hundreds of dollars each year.
  • Account features and perks: Compare the tools and services each bank offers. Savings accounts with savings helpers can help you reach your savings goals faster.
  • Account access: The best rates on high-yield savings accounts often come from online-only banks, which don’t have physical branches and may not offer fee-free ATM access. If this won’t suit your needs, consider a hybrid bank such as Capital One, which has a robust mobile banking app and physical branches. 

Cash deposits: If you handle large amounts of cash, make sure the bank accepts cash deposits or that you’re comfortable working with a secondary bank that provides the features you need.

Is the Cleo high-yield savings account worth it?

Cleo offers an impressive set of AI tools to improve your financial literacy and make money management easier. Its budget tool can help you create a personalized budget plan, or you can use its standard 50/30/20 budgeting plan. Its 0% APR secured card can help you build credit without a credit check. Cleo can also provide a no-interest cash advance of up to $250 to cover paycheck shortfalls.

There are a lot of things to like about Cleo, but its high-yield savings account isn’t one of them. The APY is lower than most top HYSAs and is available only if you subscribe to Cleo Grow for $2.99 per month. Cleo Grow also grants you access to Cleo’s savings hacks, but similar tools are standard with competitors such as Ally and Zynlo Bank.

So downloading the free Cleo app could be worthwhile if its AI financial coaching or other tools appeal to you. But you’ll earn more interest with accounts with higher APYs where your money can work harder such as UFB Direct.

Editors’ note: CNET used an AI engine to help create several dozen stories, which are labeled accordingly. The note you’re reading is attached to articles that deal substantively with the topic of AI but are created entirely by our expert editors and writers. For more, see our AI policy.

Toni Husbands is a staff writer with CNET Money who enjoys exploring topics that promote financial wellness. She began writing about personal finance to document her experience paying off $107,000 of debt, which is detailed in her book, The Great Debt Dump. Previously, she contributed as a freelance writer for websites, including CreditCards.com, Centsai and Wisebread. She was also a regular contributor to Business AM TV, and her work has been featured on Yahoo News. Being a part-time real estate investor and amateur gardener also brings her joy.
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