When did you last look at how much interest you're earning on your savings, if you have any? Chances are if it was more than a few months ago you're earning less than you could and should.

Banks, bless 'em, rely on our apathy to boost their profits. One way they do this is by reducing the interest rates on accounts.

To get the best returns on cash, you need to be on your toes and willing to sweep small amounts of money into higher-earning investments regularly. Knowing the options helps:

Take a term deposit

You're not going to get rich of term deposits. Taking inflation and tax into account, you probably won't even break even.


But term deposit accounts should pay more than your current account. Never invest all your savings with a single bank or financial institution. Bank deposits aren't Government guaranteed in New Zealand.

Invest in notice saver accounts

These are a bit like term deposits, without a finite end date.

You give notice one, three or six months before you want to withdraw funds.

They can offer better rates than similar term deposits and, importantly, you can deposit more at will.

This means even small sums of money that would otherwise be getting no interest in a current account can start earning more.

Kiwibank and RaboDirect have notice saver accounts and Heartland's Optimiser account works in a similar way. I did find another one, but it slashes the interest during the notice period.

Pick a pie account

The words Portfolio Investment Entities (Pies) are enough to make most Kiwis glaze over. But it's worth knowing about them.

Pies have the same basic structure as an ordinary bank account or term deposit. They're just taxed slightly less, which means a better post-tax return.

If your bank or other provider is offering two accounts with the same interest, but one is a Pie, then it makes sense to choose that one.

Their other benefit is that you don't need to declare Pie earnings in your IR3 tax return if you do one.

But do make sure your bank or other institution has your correct PIR (Pie tax rate). It should be lower than your ordinary tax rate on income.

Use a credit union or building society

These are not-for-profit organisations that offer banking-like services such as current accounts, term deposits, Pies, mortgages and so on.

The concept has the customer at heart and they may offer budgeting and advice to customers that the banks don't.

The rates aren't bad either.

Bank on a bonus saver

These accounts give you bonus interest if you don't make withdrawals. It's nigh impossible to stick to the rules and if you don't you get a pathetic rate of interest. This is more gimmick than serious investment option.

Go a bit kooky

It's worth checking out some of the overseas banks that have local operations in New Zealand such as Korea's Kookmin Bank, RaboDirect from the Netherlands and China's ICBC, which is one of the largest in the world.

The Bank of Boroda, Bank of India and others operate online here, too.

Find a finance company

You can earn 4 to 5 per cent interest from finance companies for 12-18 month deposits. That's more than you'll get with a bank, but comes with greater risk.

Lend direct to borrowers

Peer-to-peer lending isn't that simple to get your head around but can give you a much higher return than bank deposits, for more risk.

You invest chunks of your money into individual loans on a website. You get all of the interest paid by the borrower, less a "platform fee".

Some investors in Harmoney and Lending Crowd report "realised annual returns" of more than 10 per cent on their money after fees and written-off loans.

No one really knows what the risk is with these new-style investments, however, so don't invest more money than you can afford to lose.

Cash-like investments

Most of the fund management companies have investments that mimic returns from term deposits, but pay more.

For example, Harbour Asset Management's and QuayStreet Asset Management's income funds offer a regular monthly return. In the case of Harbour that's a fixed 5 per cent.

You can drip-feed money into some funds through intermediaries such as Sharesies, which accepts $5 at a time, to others such as Smartshares and InvestNow.

Ultimately, the only way to get the best return on your savings is to stay alert and vigilant and be willing to break up with your bank or other provider at the mere sniff of a rate reduction or better deal elsewhere.