And while unemployment claims remain low, layoffs at tech and media companies have prompted unease. Some people, Mr. McCarron said, may not see the point of moving cash that they expect to spend soon anyway.
Other factors may also come into play. Some people may be intimidated by the math behind compound interest, so simply seeing a higher annual rate advertised may not be enough to make them take action, said Perry Wright, senior behavioral researcher at Duke University’s Common Cents Lab.
In addition, he said, when people are unsure about a decision, they often look to see what others are doing. But unlike observing what neighbors are spending money on — cars, new landscaping — it’s not easy to know where they’re depositing their cash. “Savings is invisible,” Mr. Wright said.
“It all adds up to a lot of inaction,” he said.
Even if savers are well aware of higher rates, they may think opening a new account will be a hassle, so “the juice is not worth the squeeze,” said Feraud Calixte, a certified financial planner in Burlington, N.C. “I think it’s inertia.”
Opening online accounts, however, is generally simple to do these days, said Ken Tumin, founder of DepositAccounts.com, part of LendingTree. It’s not necessary to abandon your main checking account to open a high-yield savings account at a new bank. Just link the two accounts so you can transfer funds if needed.
Others may worry that moving cash will cost them at their main bank since many perks, like waiving monthly fees or reimbursing out-of-network A.T.M. charges, depend on a minimum balance. Consider leaving some funds at your main bank to meet the minimums, but move extra cash to the online bank.
Here are some questions and answers about savings.
Why should I move cash if banks can change the rate they offer at any time?
It can be frustrating to open a new account with an attractive rate, only to see another bank beat that rate the next day. But constantly chasing rates is time-consuming and ultimately unhelpful since you have to leave the money in the account to earn the rate, Mr. Calixte said. Mr. Tumin suggested picking a bank that pays generally competitive rates and sticking with it for a while.