Best Interest Rates on Cash – November 2018

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Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for November 2018, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to get an idea of how much extra interest you’d earn if you are moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 11/5/18.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks like to get away with 0.01% APY, getting higher rates is as easy as transferring money electronically from your checking account to an online savings account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I prioritize banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

  • MemoryBank and Redneck Bank offer 2.25% APY with no minimum balance (Redneck has $50k maximum balance). Northpointe Bank offers 2.30% APY with a higher $25,000+ minimum, guaranteed for 12 months. If you have existing accounts at CIT Bank, you may wish to move some money over to their new Savings Builder account at 2.15% APY. There was a bank (EBSB Direct) that offered 2.50% APY for a bit last month, but has since pulled the account information completely from their website. I hope they keep the rate high for existing accountholders. There are several other established high-yield savings accounts at 1.80% APY and up.
  • My primary “hub” bank account is the Ally Bank Savings + Checking combo due to their history of competitive rates, 1-day external bank transfers, and overall ease of use. The free overdraft transfers from savings allows to me to keep my checking balance at a minimum. Ally Savings is currently at 1.90% APY. From here, I open “spoke” accounts and CDs from other banks to lock in higher rates. (Ally Bank also recently had a good promotion that offered a 1% bonus on new deposits held for 3 months, but enrollment is now closed.)

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
I am often asked what to do with a big wad of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (just sold your house, just sold your business, legal settlement, inheritance). My usual advice is to keep things simple. If not a savings account, then put it in a flexible short-term CD under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.


  • No-Penalty CDs offer a locked-in rate with no early withdrawal penalty. That means your interest rate can never go down, but you can still take out your money (once) if you want to use it elsewhere. The Marcus 13-month No Penalty CD is at 2.15% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. Ally Bank 11-month No Penalty CD is at 2.10% APY ($25k minimum) and the CIT Bank 11-Month No-Penalty CD is at 2.05% APY ($1,000 minimum). The lack of early withdrawal penalty means that your interest rate can never go down for 11 months, but you keep full liquidity. You can open multiple CDs in smaller $1,000 increments to get even more flexibility.
  • VirtualBank has a 1-year CD at 2.75% APY ($10,000 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 1% of principal.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, you should know that money market and short-term Treasury rates have been rising. The following money market and ultra-short bond funds are not FDIC-insured, but may be a good option if you have idle cash and cheap/free commissions.

  • Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund currently pays an 2.21% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 2.10%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.
  • Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 2.58% SEC Yield ($3,000 min) and 2.68% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so there is a little more interest rate sensitivity.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 2.55% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.64% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months.

Treasury Bills and Ultra-short Treasury ETFs
Another option is to buy individual Treasury bills which come in a variety of maturities from 4-weeks to 52-weeks. You can also invest in ETFs that hold a rotating basket of short-term Treasury Bills for you, while charging a small management fee for doing so. T-Bill interest is exempt from state and local income taxes.

  • You can buy individual Treasury Bills at certain brokerage accounts with a bond desk like Vanguard and Fidelity, or individuals can buy them directly at TreasuryDirect.gov. Here is my post on building your own T-Bill ladder. Here are the current Treasury Bill rates. As of 11/2/18, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.18% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.69% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 2.05% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 1.97% SEC yield. GBIL appears to have a slightly longer average maturity than BIL.

US Savings Bonds
Series I Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation and backed by the US government. You must hold them for at least a year. There are annual purchase limits. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest.

  • “I Bonds” bought between November 2018 and April 2018 will earn a 2.82% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More info here.
  • In mid-April 2019, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.

Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with exceptionally high interest rates. The negatives are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. There is a long list of previous offers that have already disappeared with little notice.

  • The only notable card left in this category is Mango Money at 6% APY on up to $5,000, but there are many hoops to jump through. There is a $3 monthly fee and you need to maintain a minimum $800 net direct deposit each month. This means you can’t direct deposit $800 and also take out $800 via online transfer. Checks and ATM withdrawals have additional fees. This means you have to spend the money via the Visa debit card (and miss out on flat 2% cash back on all purchases).

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. Rates can also drop to near-zero quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. That’s just how it goes with these types of accounts.

  • Consumers Credit Union offers 3.09% to 5.09% APY on up to a $10k balance depending on your qualifying activity. The highest tier requires their credit card in addition to their debit card (other credit cards offer $500+ in sign-up bonuses). Keep your 12 debit purchases just above the $100 requirement, as for every $500 in monthly purchases you may be losing out on 2% cash back elsewhere (or $10 a month after-tax). Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
  • If you’re looking for a non-rewards high-yield checking account, MemoryBank has a checking account with no debit card requirements at 1.60% APY.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
You might have larger balances, either because you are using CDs instead of bonds or you simply want a large cash reserves. By finding a bank CD with a reasonable early withdrawal penalty, you can enjoy higher rates but maintain access in a true emergency. Alternatively, consider building a CD ladder of different maturity lengths (ex. 1/2/3/4/5-years) such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account. When one CD matures, use that money to buy another 5-year CD.

  • Mutual One Bank has a 19-month CD at 3.04% APY ($500 min). 6 month early withdrawal penalty.
  • United States Senate Federal Credit Union has a 5-year Share Certificate at 3.63% APY ($60k min), 3.57% APY ($20k min), or 3.51% APY ($1k min). Note that the early withdrawal penalty is a full year of interest. Anyone can join this credit union via American Consumer Council.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable fixed early withdrawal penalties. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 2-year non-callable CD at 3.05% APY and a 5-year non-callable CD at 3.55% APY. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs listed by Fidelity.

Longer-term Instruments
I’d use these with caution due to increased interest rate risk, but I still track them to see the rest of the current yield curve.

  • Willing to lock up your money for 10+ years? You can buy long-term certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable fixed early withdrawal penalties. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 10-year non-callable CD at 3.60% APY. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity. Matching the overall yield curve, current CD rates do not rise much higher as you extend beyond a 5-year maturity.
  • How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a guarantee that the value will double in value in 20 years, which equals a guaranteed return of 3.5% a year. However, if you don’t hold for that long, you’ll be stuck with the normal rate which is quite low (currently a sad 0.10% rate). I view this as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as long-term bond and thus a hedge against deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years. As of 11/2/18, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate is now 3.37%, so this EE bond is no longer offering a huge premium.

All rates were checked as of 11/5/18.



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Comments

  1. I like that Redneck Bank seems to go for a full 25 basis point jump in savings rate each time they raise rates. Whenever the other banks make a big deal about raising their rates another 5 basis points I just yawn.

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