Certificate Of Deposit
A certificate of deposit (CD) is a product offered by banks and credit unions that provides an interest rate premium in exchange for the customer agreeing to leave a lump-sum deposit untouched for a predetermined period of time. Almost all consumer financial institutions offer CDs, although it’s up to each bank which terms it wants to offer, how much higher the rate will be compared to the bank’s savings and money market products, and what penalties it applies for early withdrawal.
Shopping around is crucial to finding the best CD rates because different financial institutions offer a surprisingly wide range. Your brick-and-mortar bank might pay a pittance on even long-term CDs, for example, while an online bank or local credit union might pay three to five times the national average. Meanwhile, some of the best rates come from special promotions, occasionally with unusual durations such as 13 or 21 months, rather than the more common terms based on three, six, or 18 months or full-year increments
Top-paying certificates of deposit pay higher interest rates than the best savings and money market accounts in exchange for leaving the funds on deposit for a fixed period of time. CDs are a safer and more conservative investment than stocks and bonds, offering lower opportunity for growth, but with a non-volatile, guaranteed rate of return. Although you lock into a term of duration when you open a CD, there are options for exiting early should you encounter an emergency or change of plans.
Opening a CD is very similar to opening any standard bank deposit account. The difference is what you’re agreeing to when you sign on the dotted line. Completing the process will lock you into four things.
The interest rate: Locked rates are a positive in that they provide a clear and predictable return on your deposit over a specific time period. The bank cannot later change the rate and therefore reduce your earnings. On the flip side, a fixed return may hurt you if rates later rise substantially and you’ve lost your opportunity to take advantage of higher-paying CDs.
The term: This is the length of time you agree to leave your funds deposited to avoid any penalty (e.g., 6-month CD, 1-year CD, 18-month CD, etc.) The term ends on the “maturity date,” when your CD has fully matured and you can withdraw your funds penalty-free.
The principal: With the exception of some specialty CDs, this is the amount you agree to deposit when you open the CD.
The institution: The bank or credit union where you open your CD will determine aspects of the agreement, such as early withdrawal penalties (EWPs) and whether your CD will be automatically reinvested if you don’t provide other instructions at the time of maturity.
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