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The hottest-selling ETF last month was – get this – a vehicle for parking money in savings accounts.

So was the fourth bestselling exchange-traded fund of October. Both stocks and bonds are having a knockout year, but investors are pouring money into ETFs that combine safety with returns that at least keep them even with inflation.

Investors are obviously in a mood to keep some of their money in cash, and the investment industry has capitalized with products to meet this demand. What’s missing is a way for investors to tell which products each online brokerage firm offers to clients who want to park cash.

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The Globe and Mail DIY Investing Guide to Parking Cash fills that need by offering a broker-by-broker look at two types of cash investments – high-interest savings ETFs and high-interest saving accounts packaged as mutual funds. As you’ll see in the accompanying chart, there’s a lot of variation in who offers what.

For example, BMO InvestorLine, RBC Direct Investing and TD Direct Investing do not offer clients access to the CI First Asset High Interest Savings ETF (CSAV), which led the sales charts last month with $410-million in net inflows, or the Purpose High Interest Savings ETF (PSA), which ranked fourth in sales with inflows of $208-million.

CSAV holds savings deposits at big banks, while PSA’s holdings are deposits at banks and at credit unions. The yield after fees for both is in the 2-per-cent range after management-expense ratios in the range of 0.15 per cent.

Brokerage commissions incurred in the trading of CSAV and PSA units will cut into the returns from high-interest savings ETFs. But you would still likely come out ahead of other cash vehicles if you have a large amount of cash to park.

A good alternative to CSAV and PSA is a high-interest savings account that trades like a mutual fund. These products are really helpful in that they offer a reasonable yield, no fees to buy or sell in most cases, and the ability to integrate these products right into your investment account. Yet many brokers do a weak job of showing clients which high-interest accounts they offer.

It can also be a hassle to find the right Fundserv code for the fund when placing an order for a high-interest account with an online broker (Fundserv is the electronic network for processing mutual fund trades). Our guide to parking cash includes these codes.

Canadian-dollar high-interest savings accounts typically benefit from deposit insurance through Canada Deposit Insurance Corp., which means holdings in eligible accounts would be protected up to $100,000 in combined principal and interest. If you have a larger deposit, you could use two different high-interest accounts. Also, some issuers offer multiple versions of their high-interest accounts, each with separate deposit insurance coverage. High-interest savings ETFs are not CDIC-protected.

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The yield on the mutual fund version of high-interest savings accounts in early November was 1.6 per cent in most cases. U.S.-dollar versions of these funds typically pay less – about 1.2 per cent at best. The yield for these funds is squeezed a bit by a trailing commission of 0.25 of a percentage point that is paid by the issuing fund company to brokers selling the product.

As noted in the chart, Questrade and Virtual Brokers offer Series F versions of some high-interest savings mutual funds. Trailers are eliminated in these funds, which means the yield should rise by 0.25 of a point.

One of the main differences between high-interest savings account mutual funds is the minimum balance required. The B2B Bank High Interest Investment Account advertises no minimum balance, while the Renaissance High Interest Investment Account sets a $50 initial minimum. Expect other products to have minimums of $500 or $1,000.

If trading commissions deter you from using a high-interest savings ETF, check out a mutual-fund version of CSAV called the CI High Interest Savings Fund. The management-expense ratio is higher than CSAV, but the after-fee yield, at 1.9 per cent in early November, was still ahead of the typical competing investment savings account mutual fund.

The DIY Investor's Guide to Holding Cash

An  increasingly popular way to hold cash in an online brokerage account is to use a savings account packaged as either a mutual fund or an exchange-traded fund. Here's a broker-by-broker look at the products available.

BrokerTHE MUTUAL FUND OPTION:
Sample Selection of Available High Interest
Savings Accounts, which are bought and sold
like mutual funds:
Issuer


Fund Code
THE ETF OPTION:
Availability of the Purpose
High Interest Savings ETF (PSA)
and the CI First Asset High
Interest Savings ETF (CSAV)
BMO InvestorLineBMO High Interest Savings AccountAAT770No
BMO U.S. Dollar High Interest Savings AccountAAT780
CIBC Investor's EdgeRenaissance High Interest Savings AccountATL5000Yes
Renaissance U.S. Dollar High Int. Savings Account ATL5500
Manulife Bank Investment Savings AccountMIP510
Manulife Bank US$ Investment Savings Account MIP511
NBI Altamira CashPerformer AccountNBC100
NBI Altamira U.S. CashPerformer AccountNBC101
Desjardins Online BrokerageRenaissance High Interest Savings AccountATL5000Yes
Renaissance U.S. Dollar High Int. Savings Account ATL5500
B2B Bank High Interest Investment AccountBTB100
CI High Interest Savings FundCIG2113
Equitable Bank High Interest Savings AccountEQB100
Home Trust High Interest Savings AccountHOM100
Manulife Bank Investment Savings AccountMIP510
Manulife Bank US$ Investment Savings Account MIP511
HSBC InvestDirectB2B Bank High Interest Investment AccountBTB100Yes
ADS Canadian Bank Tiered Investment Savings AccountDYN5000
Equitable Bank High Interest Savings AccountEQB100
ICICI Bank High Interest Investment Savings AccountIBN100
ICICI Bank High Int. Investment Savings Account (US$)IBN200
Manulife Bank Investment Savings AccountMIP510
Manulife Bank US$ Investment Savings Account MIP511
Interactive BrokersNone. IB pays higher interest on cash than other firms
- 1.2 per cent as of early November for clients with balances
higher than the equivalent of US$10,000 (or C$14,000)
Yes
National Bank Direct BrokerageRenaissance High Interest Savings AccountATL5000Yes
Renaissance U.S. Dollar High Int. Savings Account ATL5500
ADS Canadian Bank Tiered Investment Savings AccountDYN5000
NBI Altamira CashPerformer AccountNBC100
NBI Altamira U.S. CashPerformer AccountNBC101
Qtrade InvestorRenaissance High Interest Savings AccountATL5000Yes
Renaissance U.S. Dollar High Int. Savings Account ATL5500
B2B Bank High Interest Investment AccountBTB100
CI High Interest Savings FundCIG2113
NBI Altamira CashPerformer AccountNBC100
NBI Altamira U.S. CashPerformer Account NBC101
QuestradeB2B Bank High Interest Investment AccountBTB100Yes
B2B Bank High Interest Investment Account Series FBTB101
ADS Canadian Bank Tiered Investment Savings AccountDYN5000
Home Trust High Interest Savings AccountHOM100
Home Trust High Interest Savings Account Series FHOM101
Renaissance U.S. Dollar High Interest Savings AccountATL5500
Renaissance U.S. Dollar High Interest Savings Account Series FATL5501
RBC Direct InvestingRBC Investment Savings AccountRBF2020No
RBC U.S. Investment Savings AccountRBF2014
Scotia iTRADEBNS Tiered Investment Savings AccountDYN6000Yes
BNS Tiered Investment Savings Account (US$)DYN6001
Montreal Trust Co. of Canada Investment Savings Account DYN3064
Manulife Bank Investment Savings AccountMIP510
Manulife Bank US$ Investment Savings Account MIP511
NBI Altamira CashPerformer AccountNBC100
NBI Altamira U.S. CashPerformer AccountNBC101
TD Direct InvestingTD Investment Savings AccountTDB8150No
TD Investment Savings Account ($US)TDB8152
Virtual BrokersRenaissance High Interest Savings Account ATL5000Yes
Renaissance High Interest Savings Account Series FATL5001
Renaissance U.S. Dollar High Interest Savings AccountATL5500
Renaissance U.S. Dollar High Int. Savings Account Series FATL5501
B2B Bank High Interest Investment AccountBTB100
CI High Interest Savings FundCIG2113

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