Certificates of Deposit - Branch Banks
A certificate of deposit (CD) is a savings product offered by a bank in which a depositor (someone who has money to put into the bank) agrees to commit a certain amount of money for a set period of time, in return for a fixed rate of interest. While it is possible to withdraw the money earlier (breaking the CD) doing so comes with high interest penalties and is generally not advised.
The time period in which money is held in a certificate of deposit is called the term. Terms can run for any period of time but in general, banks use the following terms: 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, 24 months, 36 months, 48 months, and 60 months. Terms can either be described in months or years. The term that is right for each individual depends on their goals, the rate they which to earn, and their future plans for the money. In general, if rates are going up, savers should avoid putting the money into a long-term CD. If rates are going down, then the opposite is true, and savers should try and lock into a good rate for an extended period of time.
Almost all banks provide CDs to their consumers and they have been a mainstay of savers and retirement accounts for years. If FDIC insured, the CD represents a safe place to put money that will generate a predictable return.
Inflation is the main risk of a CD. Inflation can often run higher than the inflation adjusted return on a CD, thus eroding the value of the money stored in the CD over time. This is especially true for longer-term CDs opened in low interest rate environments.
How Interest is Paid
The method of distributing the interest earned on a CD varies by bank. Some banks pay interest monthly, other semi-annually, and others at the maturity of the CD. One advantage of a branch-based bank is that a depositor can walk into the bank and receive their interest that day in the form of a check. Online banks tend to use electronic funds transfer or check via mail.
Since the financial crisis in 2008, CDs have become less popular because the yields they offer have dropped precipitously, making it difficult for retirees and savers to generate sufficient income. But investors looking for a place to stash some cash might still find CDs an attractive place for some of their savings. Online banks generally offer better rates on six month CDs but the accounts must be opened online. View online bank rates.
When interest rates are falling, it is often preferable to lock in high rates for an extended period of time with a longer-term CD. When interest rates are rising, depositors should avoid committing their money for long periods of time. To see interest rate trends, visit the BestCashCow rate analysis page.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The advantages of a Certificate of Deposit from a branch bank are:
Funds deposited in FDIC banks and within insurance limits are protected by the full faith and credit of the United States government.
CDs provide a predictable, set rate of return.
Depositors can walk into a local branch and open the CD and fund it that day. Question and inquiries can also be handles in-person.
The disadvantages of branch-based CDs are:
The deposited money is committed for a certain period of time and can only be withdrawn with substantial penalties.
One year CDs from branch banks often pay less interest than from online banks.
All banks listed on BestCashCow are FDIC insured; BestCashCow.com strongly recommends that you stay within FDIC insurance limits and that if you are unsure of how the limits affect you, you visit the FDIC website.
To understand all of the income generating options available to a saver, please view the Income Generating Investments Comparison Chart.