Sexy and Dangerous: Avoid the 3.50% Toronto Dominion Callable Step-Up CD

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TD Ameritrade is sending out notices to some of its clients offering a new callable step-up CD offered by Toronto Dominion, its parent.

This new product - which offers an initial 3.50% APY interest rate - is dramatically more sexy than their offerings just a few months ago which we discussed and recommended against here.  

After two years, the newly-offered Toronto Dominion CD will pay 4.50% APY for years 3 and 4 and 5%, if it isn’t called away sooner by the issuer.   The issuer has the right to call the CD any time after year 1.   

BestCashCow has never liked brokered CDs.   We recommended that they be avoided when rates where much lower and we basically recommend against them now for the same reason.  Since they cannot be broken with the payment of an early withdrawal penalty, they represent a significant risk to anyone who may require earlier liquidity.   Since this CD has a maximum maturity of 5 years, should you need to get out of it in the early years, you could take a real bath trying to find liquidity in a market that doesn’t exist (where TD Ameritrade is the only buyer).    Should you die before the CD’s maturity, your heirs will likely inherit a fraction of what they would inherit were you to buy a straight 5-year CD.

Moreover, interest rates are presumably still rising and the Fed is likely poised to bring the Fed Funds rate above 3% by the end of 2019.   If you must reach for yield, you can get 2.70% on a one-year CD and then have the liquidity in 12 months to find a new product with a higher rate.  

But, we’ve just had an election that has left the US in an even worse place than we were immediately after the Russians handed Trump the Presidency 2 years ago.   And, that opens up the prospect of falling rates.   Should that happen, this product will be called away on the first possible call date in November 2019.   While you may have brought in 80 basis points more than you would have made in the 1-year CD that pays 2.70%, you will not have been compensated for the risk that you took. 

Sexy?  Yes.

But, dangerous as hell.  

Your better bet is to look at online one-year CDs.

Editor’s Note: The Toronto Dominion product is listed under CUSIP 89114QER5.


How to Avoid Early Withdrawal Fees on A CD

As interest rates have begun to rise, I’ve received numerous questions from readers asking about ways that they can get out of paying early withdrawal fees on long-term Certificates of Deposit that they may have bought a couple of years ago, but that are no longer attractive.

As I stated in an earlier article, I strongly recommend against breaking any CD until the rate that you are earning falls below the current rates on comparable savings rates.   In a rising rate environment, you do not want to break a CD in order to get another CD that you may then need to break.   I have 2 years left on a 5-year CD at 2.25% and I will not break it until online savings rates are firmly above 2.25%.  

If you do need to withdraw your money early, the withdrawal is entirely at the discretion of the bank or credit union.   Most banks and credit unions will waive it because of death or adjudged incompetence of the holder, or because a bank merger causes the holder to be over FDIC limits.  Early termination fees may be waived due to other hardships at the bank’s or credit union’s discretion.

Reg D forbids banks from allowing any withdrawal within 7 days of issuance (this restriction also applies to No Penalty CDs), but there are no other limits on a bank’s ability to waive early withdrawal fees.   Any bank officer (or other website) that will tell you that they are lawfully required to charge the early withdrawal fee is misinformed.

However, a contract is a contract and you enter into a time deposit contract when you purchase a CD.   When you break a contract, any contract, the counterparty has a right to extract penalties.  In this case, the bank has made commitments based on its expectation that they are borrowing the money for the course of the CD at the indicated rate.

As with any contract, the party entitled to a penalty can exercise its discretion not to extract the penalty (to waive it).  But, if I were an officer of a bank or credit, I would not be inclined to waive it simply because the customer can now get a higher rate.  Would I waive it if the customer committed to do further business with my bank or credit union?   Would I waive it on a one-time basis if the customer agreed to roll into a higher yielding but longer term CD?   Maybe.


Could Trump Fire Fed Chairman Jay Powell?

It is very standard practice that the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is appointed to a 4-year term by the President of the United States.   It is also custom that in between appointments, the President refrains from commenting on Federal Reserve policy.

It has already been several months since the President defied custom by trying to jawbone Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell into not raising rates.

Jerome Powell acted independently, raising the Fed Funds rate to 2.00% to 2.25% in September, while indicating that further rate moves are on the way.

Now that the stock market has begun to fall, the President is escalating his rhetoric, including telling the Fox News microphone that the Fed has “gone loco”.

This brings into question the issue of whether Trump would try to fire Powell should the stock market continue to fall precipitously.   Actually, with this President, the question is not “would he” but “could he”.

And, my analysis after reading the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 is he could.   Section 10.2 gives the President broad latitude to remove any member of the Federal Reserve “for cause”.   It states.

The members of the Board shall be ineligible during the time they are in office and for two years thereafter to hold any office, position, or employment in any member bank, except that this restriction shall not apply to a member who has served the full term for which he was appointed. Upon the expiration of the term of any appointive member of the Federal Reserve Board in office on the date of enactment of the Banking Act of 1935, the President shall fix the term of the successor to such member at not to exceed fourteen years, as designated by the President at the time of nomination, but in such manner as to provide for the expiration of the term of not more than one member in any two-year period, and thereafter each member shall hold office for a term of fourteen years from the expiration of the term of his predecessor, unless sooner removed for cause by the President. Of the persons thus appointed, 1 shall be designated by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to serve as Chairman of the Board for a term of 4 years, and 2 shall be designated by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to serve as Vice Chairmen of the Board, each for a term of 4 years, 1 of whom shall serve in the absence of the Chairman, as provided in the fourth undesignated paragraph of this section, and 1 of whom shall be designated Vice Chairman for Supervision.

There is a host of legislation and precedent laying out what constitutes "cause" for removal of an appointed official.   I believe that the President inherently has broad authority to do this (especially when he is unchecked on this matter, as he is now, by the legislative branch).   Precedent in the form of the 1935 case of Humphrey’s Executor v. United States would indicate that the President’s power may be limited, but it has been widely suggested that Justice Kavanaugh would provide the deciding vote in overturning that case.   Under any circumstance, there is an open issue here, and with this President that means it could happen.

I’ve stated on BestCashCow frequently and repetitively that I see little reason to buy CDs in the current environment.   That view would change quickly if Trump continues to jawbone Jay Powell and takes further action towards firing him.


Interest Rates Rise: What it Means for CDs

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Over the last two days, we have seen the 10 and the 30-Year US Treasury rates move higher.   The financial media is saying they “spiked” but the 10-year US Treasury is now at 3.20% (from 3.00%) and the 30-year US Treasury is now at 3.45% (from 3.15%) that I don’t think represents a spike.

I have been saying for some time that we will see much higher interest rates in the US.   I first warned against all fixed-rate bond holdings in September 2017 when the 10-year US Treasury was at 2.10%, see this article).   You should to continue to avoid bonds, except those that have escalation clauses or those that otherwise produce more interest as long-term bonds rise.

Those who read the BestCashCow newsletters will note that I have strongly encouraged depositors to buy short-term CDs (one year or less) over long term CDs, and expressed a preference for savings and money market accounts over CDs.

CDs at well-recognized online banks provide not only guaranteed income over the life of the CD, but usually allow for early withdrawal with the payment of a penalty (often, the right to allow early redemption even with the payment of the penalty is retained by the bank, so we urge caution here, especially with lesser known or less financially stable names.  Learn more here. {https://www.bestcashcow.com/can-you-always-withdraw-your-money-early-from-a-cd.html}).

Even if you can get out by paying a fee, if rates are going up, you still want to avoid locking in at this time.

We think inflation is here.   We think interest rates could be dramatically higher in a year.  We are seeing savings and money market rates over 2% at banks nationally and in most local markets and at credit unions.  While 1-year CD rates at 2.65% look attractive now, we are betting that you will see savings and money market rates at or around these levels shortly.

Bottom line: Exercise caution vis-a-vis all CD purchases at this time.


TIAA Global Growth Marketsafe CD is to be Avoided

Back before TIAA acquired Everbank, the latter made a name for itself issuing CD products that were aimed at unsuspecting, ill-informed customers looking for exposure to emerging markets and/or their currencies.

I warned customers about these emerging markets-based currency products back in  2014 here and again in 2017 here and again earlier this year here.

A constant theme highlighted in my articles has been that these products are not CDs at all and that their issuance may be illegal, violating the 1933 Securities Act.  I maintain that position.

Another recurring theme is that depositors should steer clear of these products.  Those few who did not find my articles and walked into Everbank’s trap are now sitting on broken products, hoping to recover some or all of their principal at maturity and consulting tax attorneys or accountants about how to handle the Original Issue Discount forms that Everbank (now TIAA) sends them for interest they will never receive.

Yet, Everbank, now renamed TIAA Bank after its acquiror, is at it again!    The latest product looks up your hard earned money for 4 years and is virtually guaranteed to fail.   The basket of five currencies upon which it relies (the Brazilian real, Indian rupee, Chinese yuan, Mexican peso and Russian ruble) are almost certainly going to decline against the dollar over the next four years, and the only measurement date is at maturity in 4 years.   For TIAA Bank as the issuer this product is a safe way to attract long-term capital interest free from unsuspecting customers as the trajectory of emerging market currencies over a period of this length always leans towards a significant devaluation.

 I recommend anyone looking for an example of the lengths to which people will go to sell crocked financial instruments watch the video trying to sell this product.    The TIAA representative’s case for the buying instrument is based on the specious argument that “what goes down must go back up” combined with the appeal that they have done people a favor by omitting the Argentine peso and the Turkish lira from this one.

Bottom Line: All of these TIAA (previously EverBank) so-called CDs are bad, very bad.   Folks who bought EverBank’s Icelandic Krone CDs got scalped in 2008.  Even if TIAA didn’t know well enough to discontinue this program, the good news is that you now know to avoid it.

See all real 4 year CD rates here.


Think Carefully Before You Buy a Five-Year CD (For Goodness Sakes)

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Over the last two days, I have been contacted by a number of people who have asked me about 5-year CDs.  

I am not sure why this is all happening at once.  

I did learn today that TD Ameritrade is apparently pushing a 5-year brokered CD offering 3.30% which is currently higher than any online 5-year CD rates offered on BestCashCow and at least some of their brokers are directing people to compare rates on BestCashCow.   It should be noted that BestCashCow does show many local bank and credit union 5-year rates that are higher than the 3.30% TD rate.   Moreover, BestCashCow has always strongly advised against brokered CDs because they are a different animal that provides less protection to the holder and cannot be terminated with the payment of an early withdrawal penalty (and we redouble that advice here).

I also think that many people – quite correctly in hindsight – bought 5-year CDs with their cash in 2013 and are on a laddering program or some other program and feel that they soon must buy another 5-year CD.   My advice to these people is to put their programs away.   The more likely direction of interest rates at this point in the cycle is for them to increase.  The Federal Reserve and Jay Powell are pretty unequivocal.   We are in September now and the Fed funds rate is clearly going to be raised twice before the end of 2018 (to 2.25% - 2.50%).   The Federal Reserve’s most recent forecasts continue to guide towards a 3.125% Fed funds rate at the end of 2019 and a 3.375% Fed funds rate at the end of 2020.   And, there is risk to those numbers.  This Administration’s ridiculous trade “policy” could cause inflation that could drive the Fed to move by 2020 to a much higher Fed funds rate.  So, if you are going to lock in for 5 years, I think you want a significant premium over that rate and the premium just isn’t there right now.

If you must buy something to augment your current savings rate, you would be much better off looking at 1-year rates.  Several online banks are currently offering 1-year CD rates as high as 2.65%.  If inflation comes soon and interest rates spike, you could even regret those purchases.   But, the term is short and the opportunity for a significant mistake simply is not there.

See all of the best online 1-year CD rates here.

Editor’s Note:  Marcus Bank and Synchrony Bank are both advertisers on BestCashCow.   Please read our Advertiser Disclosure here