Unifimoney App Review: Up to $1,000 Bitcoin Bonus Details

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Unifimoney is a new “money super app” which promises to help manage all of your assets in a single mobile app. I should start by mentioning that the app is currently iPhone/iOS only. Here’s a quick rundown at what it includes:

  • High-yield checking account. Allpoint ATM network, Billpay, Remote Check Deposit, 0.20% APY. FDIC insurance through UMB Bank.
  • Cash back credit card. Launching later this year with “target” 1.5-2% cash back rewards.
  • Self-directed brokerage account. $0 commission stock trades. SIPC-insured through broker-dealer DriveWealth.
  • Crypto and precious metals trading account. Bitcoin + 30 others, gold, silver. Uses Gemini trust, regulated and reputable crypto custodians, same as the BlockFi promo.
  • Roboadvisor. 0.15% annual advisory fee. SEC-registered RIA.

That’s a pretty impressive bundle out of the gate, especially considering that most other companies start with one thing and then add on other features. For example, Robinhood started with free stock trades, then tried to add on high-yield checking. Ally Bank went many years before buying the brokerage firm TradeKing and renaming it Ally Invest. Unifimoney seems to have put a lot of different parts together and jumped through all the regulatory hoops, but will it work as a user-friendly package?

New user bonus details (Up to $1,000 Bitcoin). First, they need to attract some customers to try it out. I like trying out new apps, but a good bonus is always appreciated. They have a tiered bonus, starting with a $25 bitcoin bonus after depositing $1,000, going all the way up to a $1,000 bonus for a $100,000 deposit. Here is the full chart:

Here’s how those bonuses break down in terms of annualized return. Note some have a 30-day holding period and some have a 90-day holding period.

  • $25 BTC bonus for holding $1,000 for 30 days works out to the equivalent of 30% APY.
  • $100 BTC bonus for holding $10,000 for 30 days works out to the equivalent of 12% APY.
  • $250 BTC bonus for holding $20,000 for 90 days works out to the equivalent of 5% APY.
  • $500 BTC bonus for holding $50,000 for 90 days works out to the equivalent of 4% APY.
  • $1,000 BTC bonus for holding $100,000 for 90 days works out to the equivalent of 4% APY.

So far, those numbers are pretty good, and comparable to the transfer bonuses from many brokerages on the high end. If you kept $100,000 in a 0.50% APY savings account, you’d only have $500 after an entire year.

Here are the steps to earn that bonus (taken straight from their site):

  • Open a new Unifimoney account.
  • Deposit the minimum amount based on the tiers in the chart above between $1,000 and $100,000+ within 14 days of account opening.
  • To qualify, hold that same minimum amount in combined deposits/assets in the account for 30 days for Tiers 1-2 and 90 days for Tiers 3-5.
  • Your Bitcoin reward (shown in the tiers above) will be paid into your Unifimoney Crypto account within 14 days of qualifying.
  • Bitcoin Rewards are inclusive of transaction fees and calculated at the rate of Bitcoin at the time of purchase (see details in terms and conditions below)

Here is an important detail below about funding. I always fund using a push from my online savings account anyway (usually Ally Bank), but I’ve heard many complaints about push/pull from within a startup bank. At least here they tell you the limit upfront.

For single funding transactions greater than $10,000 we recommend these funds are pushed to your Unifimoney account from your existing bank either via ACH or Wire Transfer. Funding transactions initiated within the app are restricted to a maximum $10,000.

Sign-up process details. You will need to have the following things handy at account opening:

  • Cell phone number
  • US Citizens: Photo ID and SSN. Non-US Citizens: Passport and SSN.
  • Address listed on Photo ID should match your current mailing address.
  • Account and routing number for funding bank account. You’ll need to fund with at least $100 initially, and you can add the rest to reach your desired bonus tier above within the next 14 days.

Tip: If you are deep into the account opening process and go off to find your photo ID and your phone goes to “sleep”, it will look like you have to start everything over again. Simply tap on “Login” and type in your phone number, and it should let you resume the application from where you left off.

Bottom line. Unifimoney is an ambitious new fintech with a banking/credit card/stock trading/portfolio management/crypto/gold all rolled into one app. They have a new user bonus of up to $1000 in Bitcoin, depending on how much you deposit. I’ll update this review after I have a chance to play around with the various parts.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Best Interest Rates on Cash – Monthly Update June 2021

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash as of June 2021, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. I try to find lesser-known opportunities to improve your yield while keeping your principal FDIC-insured or equivalent. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to see how much extra interest you’d earn by moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 6/2/2021.

Fintech accounts
Available only to individual investors, fintech companies oftentimes pay higher-than-market rates in order to achieve fast short-term growth (often using venture capital). I define “fintech” as a software layer on top of a different bank’s FDIC insurance. These do NOT require a certain number debit card purchases per month. Although I do use some of these after doing my own due diligence, read about the Beam app for potential pitfalls and best practices.

  • 3% APY on up to $100,000. The top rate is 3% APY for April through June 2021, and they have not indicated any upcoming rate drop. HM Bradley requires a recurring direct deposit every month and a savings rate of at least 20%. See my HM Bradley review.
  • 3% APY on 10% of direct deposits + 1% APY on $25,000. One Finance lets you earn 3% APY on “auto-save” deposits (up to 10% of your direct deposit, up to $1,000 per month). Separately, they also pay 1% APY on up to another $25,000 with direct deposit. New customer $50 bonus via referral. See my One Finance review.
  • 3% APY on up to $15,000. Porte requires a one-time direct deposit of $1,000+ to open a savings account. New customer $50 bonus via referral. See my Porte review.
  • 1.20% APY on up to $50,000. OnJuno recently updated their rate tiers, while keeping their promise to existing customers a grandfathered rate. If you don’t maintain a $500 direct deposit each month, you’ll still earn 1.20% on up to $5k. See my updated OnJuno review.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks pay essentially no interest, it’s easy to open a new “piggy-back” savings account and simply move some funds over from your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I list the top rates as well as competitive rates from banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you with a temporary top rate and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

  • T-Mobile Money is still at 1.00% APY with no minimum balance requirements. The main focus is on the 4% APY on your first $3,000 of balances as a qualifying T-mobile customer plus other hoops, but the lesser-known perk is the 1% APY for everyone. Thanks to the readers who helped me understand this. There are several other established high-yield savings accounts at closer to 0.50% APY.

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
A common question is what to do with a big pile 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 and take your time. 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 fixed interest rate that can never go down, but you can still take out your money (once) without any fees if you want to use it elsewhere. Marcus has a 7-month No Penalty CD at 0.45% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. AARP members can get an 8-month CD at 0.55% APY. Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 0.50% APY for all balance tiers. CIT Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 0.30% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Lafayette Federal Credit Union has a 12-month CD at 0.80% APY ($500 min). Early withdrawal penalty is 6 months of interest. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($10 one-time fee).

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
Many brokerage firms that pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the difference for themselves). Unfortunately, money market fund rates are very low across the board right now. Ultra-short bond funds are another possible alternative, but they are NOT FDIC-insured and may experience short-term losses at times. These numbers are just for reference, not a recommendation.

  • The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund which has an SEC yield of 0.01%. Vanguard Cash Reserves Federal Money Market Fund (formerly Prime Money Market) currently pays 0.01% SEC yield.
  • Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 0.31% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 0.41% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so your principal may vary a little bit.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 0.24% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 0.36% 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. Right now, this section isn’t very interesting as T-Bills are yielding close to zero!

  • You can build your own T-Bill ladder at TreasuryDirect.gov or via a brokerage account with a bond desk like Vanguard and Fidelity. Here are the current Treasury Bill rates. As of 6/2/2021, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.01% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.05% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a -0.08% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a -0.12% (!) 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. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest. The annual purchase limit is $10,000 per Social Security Number, available online at TreasuryDirect.gov. You can also buy an additional $5,000 in paper I bonds using your tax refund with IRS Form 8888.

  • “I Bonds” bought between May 2021 and October 2021 will earn a 3.54% 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-October 2021, 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.
  • See below about EE Bonds as a potential long-term bond alternative.

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 severely capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). There is a long list of previous offers that have already disappeared with little notice. I don’t personally recommend nor use any of these anymore, as I feel the work required and risk of messing up exceeds any small potential benefit.

  • Mango Money pays 6% APY on up to $2,500, if you manage to jump through several hoops. Requirements include $1,500+ in “signature” purchases and a minimum balance of $25.00 at the end of the month.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops which usually involve 10+ debit card purchases each cycle, a certain number of ACH/direct deposits, and/or a certain number of logins per month. If you make a mistake (or they judge that you did) you risk earning zero interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others would rather not bother. Rates can also drop suddenly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling.

  • The Bank of Denver pays 2.00% APY on up to $25,000 if you make 12 debit card purchases of $5+ each, receive only online statements, and make at least 1 ACH credit or debit transaction per statement cycle. The rate recently dropped. If you meet those qualifications, you can also link a Kasasa savings account that pays 1.00% APY on up to $50k. Thanks to reader Bill for the updated info.
  • Devon Bank has a Kasasa Checking paying 2.50% APY on up to $10,000, plus a Kasasa savings account paying 2.50% APY on up to $10,000 (and 0.85% APY on up to $50,000). You’ll need at least 12 debit transactions of $3+ and other requirements every month.
  • Presidential Bank pays 2.25% APY on balances up to $25,000, if you maintain a $500+ direct deposit and at least 7 electronic withdrawals per month (ATM, POS, ACH and Billpay counts).
  • Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union pays 3.30% APY on up to $20,000. You’ll need at least 15 debit transactions and other requirements every month.
  • Lake Michigan Credit Union pays 3.00% APY on up to $15,000. You’ll need at least 10 debit transactions and other requirements every month.
  • Find a locally-restricted rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
CDs offer higher rates, but come with an early withdrawal penalty. 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 to keep the ladder going. Some CDs also offer “add-ons” where you can deposit more funds if rates drop.

  • NASA Federal Credit Union has a special 49-month Share Certificate at 1.40% APY ($10,000 min). Early withdrawal penalty is 1 year of interest. Anyone can join this credit union by joining the National Space Society (free). Note that NASA FCU may perform a hard credit check as part of new member application.
  • Abound Credit Union has a 59-month Share Certificate at 1.30% APY ($500 min) and a special 37-month Share Certificate at 1.15% APY ($500 min). Early withdrawal penalty is 1 year of interest (and only with the consent of the credit union, so be aware). Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($10 one-time fee).
  • Lafayette Federal Credit Union has a 5-year CD at 1.26% APY ($500 min). Early withdrawal penalty is 6 months of interest. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($10 one-time fee).
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. You may need an account to see the rates. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. Right now, I don’t see anything available at a 5-year maturity. Be wary of 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 early withdrawal penalties. You might find something that pays more than your other brokerage cash and Treasury options. Right now, I see a 10-year CD at 1.80% APY vs. 1.59% for a 10-year Treasury. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity.
  • How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a unique 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 0.10%). I view this as a huge early withdrawal penalty. But if holding for 20 years isn’t an issue, it can also serve as a hedge against prolonged deflation during that time. Purchase limit is $10,000 each calendar year for each Social Security Number. As of 6/2/2021, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.21%.

All rates were checked as of 6/2/2021.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

OnJuno Checking Account Review (Updated May 2021)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Updated May 2021. OnJuno is a new fintech banking app with a competitive Bonus rate and 5% cash back on select merchants. They partner with Evolve Bank and Trust for FDIC insurance.

As of May 2021, they announced the following changes to their structure:

  • 2.15% Bonus Rate will be dropping to 1.20%. For existing users, this will not take effect until November 2021. For new users, this will take effect on May 20th, 2021.
  • Metal Tier is now free for everyone (formerly $9.99 a month).
  • Eligible balance for the Bonus Rate is increased to $50,000 (formerly $30,000).

All in all, I feel that these changes are a net improvement as the ongoing monthly fee was going to be a problem in keeping customers. A higher bonus rate doesn’t help when most or all of your earned interest was being eaten by a monthly fee. With the new structure, I can still enjoy a bonus rate that is higher (more than double) than most other online savings accounts without worrying about any fees. 1.20% times $50,000 is $600 of interest a year.

Sign-up process. The sign-up process was completed 100% online and mostly fine, although I had to spend some extra time carefully taking smartphone photos of the back and front of my driver’s license. My pictures were rejected for being too dark, too much glare, too fuzzy, etc.

Immigrant-friendly. According to this American Banker article, OnJuno intends to target Asian immigrants who like to build up savings and then remit some of it internationally to their families abroad. They have no hidden fees on sending money abroad, and you only need a Social Security number and state-issued ID to join.

Bank-to-bank transfers. OnJuno uses the Plaid service to link with external bank accounts for funding and free ACH transfers (both deposits and withdrawals). They also provide you with the full account number and routing number, which you can use to connect with other banks like Ally, Marcus, CapOne 360, etc. The routing number is 084106768 which is confirmed as that of Evolve Bank & Trust. I was able to make a deposit and withdrawal initiated at Ally without issue.

Bonus rate, not APY. You may notice that they don’t use “APY” and instead say “bonus rate”. Here’s their reason:

The Bonus Rate is offered entirely by OnJuno and is not interest provided by Evolve Bank and Trust. The bonus rate You earn will be credited to Your account at the beginning of each month. Your funds begin generating a bonus rate once they are available on Your OnJuno Checking Account. Please note that OnJuno reserves the right to cancel, remove, and change this bonus at any time. OnJuno also reserves the rights, in sole discretion, to refuse this bonus without cause, reason, and notice.

I’ve been getting my bonus rate every month without issue, but this is the first time I’ve seen this language. Your interest is still shown on a 1099-INT at the end of the year.

5% cash back merchant list. You can choose 5 from the following list of brands. No Costco (sad face).

  • Amazon, Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Spotify, Headspace, Calm, Whole Foods, Walgreens, Trader Joe’s, CVS, Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates, Doordash, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Blue Bottle Coffee, In N Out, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, Uber, Lyft, and AirBNB.

Here are my picks, as I already have the Amazon Prime credit card with 5% back at Amazon and Whole Foods.

Additional features.

  • No minimum balance requirements for either Free or Metal tiers.
  • Fee-free access to both Allpoint and Moneypass ATM networks (85,000+ locations).
  • Free debit Mastercard.

Instant virtual cards. You can create “virtual” 16-digit debit card numbers in the app, which are different than your physical card and you can “lock” them at any time. This may be useful for fraud prevention and perhaps even pesky trial offers.

Apple and Google apps. OnJuno launched their app in February 2021.

No mobile check deposit. I have installed the app, but they do not have mobile check deposit as of May 2021.

Customer service. You can contact them via phone at 415-969-5775 (9am to 6pm Pacific) or online message (they replied to me within a few hours).

Bottom line. OnJuno is a new fintech banking app with a competitive interest rate that is well above most online savings accounts, while also adding 5% cash back on select merchants. FDIC-insurance from Evolve Bank and Trust.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Big List of Car Demand Notes (GM, Ford, Toyota) & Other Non-FDIC Deposit Accounts: Up to 1.50% Interest

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Interest rates remain very low, which makes people more willing to take some risk for “just a little bit higher” interest rates. This has renewed interest in the financing arms of many automotive brands that offer “demand notes” which they use to fund the loans and leases they need to make to sell cars. (Can you imagine how much fewer new cars would be sold without financing?)

These demand notes allow you to “demand” your money back at any time, while they can also end the program at any time (as Ally recently did). Importantly, they pay a higher variable interest rate than most FDIC-insured high-yield savings accounts. Equally importantly, although it functions like a bank, it is not a bank and thus your money is not covered by FDIC insurance. You are buying unsecured debt backed by a finance company (not necessarily the actual car maker), and if it struggles, you may lose principal. Here is a list of some available options on the market:

GM Financial Right Notes

  • Current interest rate: 1.50% (as of 5/17/21)
  • Minimum initial investment: $500
  • Fitch credit rating: BBB-
  • Restricted to GM/GM Financial US employees and retirees, US employees of GM dealerships, GM customers, and GM stockholders.

The GM Financial Right NotesSM program is a direct investment in demand notes issued by General Motors Financial Company, Inc. Right Notes pay a variable rate of interest and are redeemable at any time. An investment in the Right Notes does not create a bank account or a money market fund and is not FDIC insured.

Toyota IncomeDriver Notes

  • Current interest rate: 1.35% (as of 5/17/21)
  • Minimum initial investment: $500
  • Fitch credit rating: A+

The IncomeDriver Notes® program is a direct investment in senior notes issued by Toyota Motor Credit Corporation (“TMCC”). IncomeDriver Notes® pay a variable rate of interest and are redeemable at any time. IncomeDriver Notes® are not a bank account or a money market fund and are not FDIC insured.

Mercedes-Benz First Class Notes

  • Current interest rate: 1.10% (as of 5/17/21)
  • Minimum investment: $10,000 to avoid $5 monthly fee
  • Fitch credit rating: n/a
  • Restricted to accredited investors only.

An investment in the First Class Demand Notes program does not create a FDIC insured bank account. All investments are senior, unsecured debt obligations of Mercedes-Benz Financial Services and are not insured or guaranteed by anyone else.

Ford Interest Advantage Notes

  • Current interest rate: 0.45% to 0.65% (depending on balance, as of 5/17/21)
  • Minimum investment: $1,000
  • Fitch credit rating: BB+

The Notes issued under the Ford Interest Advantage Program are unsecured debt obligations of Ford Motor Credit Company LLC. They are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, they are not guaranteed by Ford Motor Company, and they do not constitute a bank account.

Caterpillar PowerInvestment Notes

  • Current interest rate: 0.05% to 0.20% (depending on balance, as of 5/17/21)
  • Minimum investment: $250
  • Fitch credit rating: A

An investment in the Cat Financial PowerInvestment notes allows individuals and institutions to benefit from the financial strength of Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation. It is important to note that Cat Financial PowerInvestment is not a money market account, which is typically a diversified fund consisting of short-term debt securities of many issuers. An investment in the PowerInvestment notes does not meet the diversification and investment quality standards set forth for money market funds by the Investment Company Act of 1940.

Dominion Energy Reliability Investment Notes

  • Current interest rate: 1.25% to 1.50% (depending on balance, as of 5/17/21)
  • Minimum investment: $1,000
  • Fitch credit rating: BBB+

Dominion Energy Reliability Investment is not considered to be a deposit or other bank account, and is not subject to the protection of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) regulation or insurance, or any other insurance. The investments are direct purchases of new debt obligations of Dominion Energy.

Duke Energy PremierNotes

  • Current interest rate: 0.45% to 0.65% (depending on balance, as of 5/17/21)
  • Minimum investment: $1,000 to avoid $10 monthly fee
  • Fitch credit rating: Withdrawn

No, the notes are not equivalent to a deposit or other bank account, and are not subject to the protection of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) regulation or insurance, or any other insurance. The notes are direct investments in new debt obligations of Duke Energy.

Also see: WSJ article #1, WSJ article #2, Bogleheads forum discussion, Early Retirement forum discussion.

Financial advisers, however, often advise clients against tying up their money in one company. Those who rely on fixed-income payments as a form of income, such as retirees, should particularly avoid such concentration, says Larry Swedroe, chief research officer at Buckingham Strategic Wealth.

“I would want to buy a huge portfolio of hundreds of these so I wouldn’t have the idiosyncratic risk of Toyota,” he said. “The average investor buying this stuff is not going to be able to analyze the risk in each of these floating rate notes.”

My take. Given that US Treasury rates out to 1 year maturity are only paying 0.06% right now and most online savings account are paying around 0.50%, it’s easy to see how these rates can be attractive. However, not only are these notes not FDIC-insured, they are not even as safe as money market funds, which are diversified amongst multiple different investment-grade companies. With these demand notes, you are investing in the unsecured debt of a single company. I don’t feel like having to pay attention to the credit rating of a company for my cash. In 2008, Lehman Brothers’ bonds were rated AA by S&P just days before they went bankrupt. The eventual recovery rate on Lehman bonds was only about 20 cents on the dollar. Stuff happens.

In addition, bank accounts are regulated differently than securities sold through prospectus (where they detail all potential risks). For example, Regulation E provides the following consumer protection: As long as I notify the bank within a timely fashion, my liability for an unauthorized electronic fund transfers, including those arising from loss or theft of an access device, is limited to $50. Fifty bucks. These demand notes are not covered by the same consumer protections.

Finally, you have to consider all your available options. I personally have no plans to invest in any of these demand notes as with similar effort, I can get higher interest rates on my cash from FDIC-insured sources. I’m already earning 3% APY on up to $100,000 by moving over part of my direct deposit, with other additional options available. See my latest monthly interest rate roundup (future updates linked on right sidebar or in the Banking category). If the Toyota demand notes were paying over 3%, I might become interested.

Bottom line. The financial arms of major car makers (and a few energy companies) are offering higher interest rates through accounts that function like a savings account (flexible deposits and withdrawals, limited checkwriting). However, these are not FDIC-insured, but really unsecured debt involves the possible loss of principal. You have to decide if that added risk is adequately compensated by the higher interest. If you’re willing to open a new account to chase higher rates, there may be other options available that maintain FDIC insurance.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Tether Reserves Breakdown: A Clear Example of Stablecoin Risk

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Tether is the largest US dollar stablecoin in the world, with a market cap of about $58 billion. Stablecoins are supposed to be backed by an equal amount of fiat money held in a trust account. 1 USDT should be backed by $1 USD. But how do you know? Tether just released a report outlining the collateral backing its stablecoin as of 3/31/2021, and it’s…. a huge warning sign. Less than 7% is held in cash and Treasury bills, with the rest being a mix of vague commercial paper, loans to unknown entities, and honestly who-knows-what.

Alignment of interest. Keep in mind the concept of alignment of interest from David Swensen. Tether wants to seem as credible and legitimate and “NOT A SCAM” as possible. Everything they say will try to put them in the best light possible. In fact, Tether is only doing this because of a legal settlement with the New York Attorney’s General Office after being fined $18 million for lying in the past. (As recently as March 2019, Tether claimed it was backed by 100% USD cash.) Yet… this is the best they can do?

A single glance at this chart and I know that Tether is not taking my US dollar and whisking it away safely into a trust account at a regulated US bank. Instead, the people running Tether are using the collateral for their own personal gain. They are making loans, earning interest, all things that add risk while using other people’s money. Banks are allowed to do that within a highly-regulated environment. Tether is not a bank.

Liquidity risk. There is a reason why Warren Buffett only holds Treasury bills when he says “cash” and not commercial paper. When the poo hits the fan – and it will sooner or later – “cash” means you get your money out immediately and reliably. Tether will not be able to do this, given the composition of its reserves. This op-ed on the future of stablecoins covers a lot of related concerns.

As the volume and velocity of stablecoins grow, the liquidity risk, of course, will grow too. For this reason, it will become increasingly important for the banks managing stablecoin cash to be nonlending banks or perhaps liquid asset banks that ring-fence the investments in segregated, bankruptcy-remote accounts — and, again, invest the assets backing stablecoin deposit liabilities in 100 percent risk-free, short-term, and liquid assets. Indeed, one reason why Wyoming chose its Special Purpose Depository Institution (SPDI) charter to be a nonlending charter is precisely because leverage and digital assets do not mix. Let me pause and repeat that — leverage and digital assets do not mix. Digital assets generally settle in minutes and with settlement finality, which means leveraged financial institutions that handle them could quickly find themselves in trouble if they don’t manage the liquidity risk well — digital assets move fast. So, there’s a fundamental reason why digital assets should interface with the traditional financial system via nonleveraged banks whose demand deposit liabilities are 100 percent backed by risk-free, short-term, liquid assets.

Instead of 100% risk-free, short-term, liquid assets, Tether is less than 7% risk-free, short-term, liquid assets. Commercial paper? Backed by whom exactly? Fiduciary account? At which remote offshore bank owned by a third-party? They could be pointing to a half-eaten sandwich and calling it collateral.

As a result, I would never own Tether, and if such behavior continues to be allowable, it would make me more skeptical of the other stablecoins like USD Coin (USDC) and Gemini Dollar (GUSD), even though they do claim to be fully-backed by dollar reserves in a US Bank. (Gemini and Circle are also regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services, while Tether is not.) Regulation around stablecoins is so limited that we’ll probably have to experience some sort of major loss event before this gets addressed, just as we had to suffer deposit losses from failed banks before FDIC-insurance came around.

Having a clear stance on cryptocurrencies is tricky. On one hand, it is definitely a “Wild West” situation and there is certainly fraud and shady practices involved. On the other hand, this is how disruption works, and I don’t like anyone confidently telling me the future when nobody knows the future. I would rather try to learn about it, look for opportunities, but also remain very skeptical and careful. If you are holding a lot of Tether, possibly due to the high 8%+ interest rates available, please consider yourself warned.

Also see: Potential Risks of High Interest Stablecoin Savings Accounts

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Chase Business Complete Checking: $750 Bonus Promo

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Run a small business? Chase Bank has a Business Complete Checking account promotion offering $750 bonus for new customers. You enter your e-mail address, and you should be sent a unique promo offer code for your online application. Some of the language suggests you should reside near a physical Chase branch, but the link lets you apply online. If you already have a Chase business credit card or other Chase business profile, the application can be pre-filled. Here are the requirements for the bonus:

  • Open a new Chase Business Complete Checking account with your offer code. This offer expires 7/23/21.
  • Deposit a total of $10,000 or more in new money within 30 days of coupon enrollment and maintain a $10,000 balance for 60 days.
  • Complete 25 qualifying transactions within 90 days of coupon enrollment. Qualifying transactions include debit card purchases, Chase QuickAccept deposits, Chase QuickDeposit, ACH (Credits), wires (Credits and Debits).

Note the following fine print:

* You can receive only one new business checking account opening related bonus every two years from the last enrollment date and only one bonus per account.

If the checking account is closed by the customer or Chase within six months after coupon enrollment, we will deduct the bonus amount for that account at closing.

Avoid the $15 monthly service fee on Business Complete Checking when you do at least one of the following each statement period.

  • Maintain a minimum daily balance of $2,000 in your account as of the beginning of each day of the statement period; OR
  • Spend at least $2,000 in purchases (minus returns or refunds) using your Chase Ink® Business Card(s) that shares a business legal name with the Chase Business Complete Checking account, using each of their most recently completed monthly card billing period(s); OR,
  • Deposit $2,000 into your Chase Business Complete Checking account from your QuickAccept and/or other eligible Chase Merchant Services transactions at least one business day prior to the last day of your bank account statement period; OR,
  • Maintain a linked Chase Private Client Checking? account.

Sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs are eligible (see below). If the application process is similar to their business credit cards, they may ask for documentation such as Articles of Incorporation.

Note: Only privately held businesses structured as sole proprietorships, corporations or limited liability companies (LLCs) managed by a single member or manager can apply online at this time.

Bottom line. If you run a small business, Chase is offering a very solid bonus on their Complete Business checking account. You can earn a $750 cash bonus with a $10,000 deposit held for 60 days, generating 25 transactions, and maintaining a $2,000+ balance for another 4 months after that to avoid the monthly service fees. In today’s low interest rate environment, even keeping $100,000 in a business savings account for an entire year may not generate that much interest. (The bonuses are considered interest and will be reported on IRS Form 1099-INT.)

Hat tip to Doctor of Credit.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Best Interest Rates on Cash – May 2021

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash as of May 2021, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. Included are some lesser-known opportunities to improve your yield while keeping your principal FDIC-insured or equivalent. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to see how much extra interest you’d earn by moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 5/9/2021.

Fintech accounts
Available only to individual investors, fintech accounts oftentimes pay higher-than-market rates in order to achieve high short-term growth (often using venture capital). I define “fintech” as a software layer on top of a different bank’s FDIC insurance. These do NOT require a certain number debit card purchases per month. Although I do use some of these after doing my own due diligence, read about the Beam app for potential pitfalls and best practices.

  • 3% APY on up to $100,000. The top rate is 3% APY for April through June 2021, and they have not indicated any upcoming rate drop. HM Bradley requires a recurring direct deposit every month and a savings rate of at least 20%. See my HM Bradley review.
  • 3% APY on 10% of direct deposits + 1% APY on $25,000. One Finance lets you earn 3% APY on “auto-save” deposits (up to 10% of your direct deposit, up to $1,000 per month). Separately, they also pay 1% APY on up to another $25,000 with direct deposit. New customer $50 bonus via referral. See my One Finance review.
  • 3% APY on up to $15,000. Porte requires a one-time direct deposit of $1,000+ to open a savings account. New customer $50 bonus via referral. See my Porte review.
  • 2.15% APY on up to $5k/$30k. Limited-time offer of free membership to their higher balance tier for 6 months with direct deposit. See my OnJuno review.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks pay essentially no interest, it’s easy to open a new “piggy-back” savings account and simply move some funds over from your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I list the top rates as well as competitive rates from banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you with a temporary top rate and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

  • T-Mobile Money is still at 1.00% APY with no minimum balance requirements. The main focus is on the 4% APY on your first $3,000 of balances as a qualifying T-mobile customer plus other hoops, but the lesser-known perk is the 1% APY for everyone. Thanks to the readers who helped me understand this. There are several other established high-yield savings accounts at closer to 0.50% APY.

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
A common question is what to do with a big pile 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 and take your time. 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 fixed interest rate that can never go down, but you can still take out your money (once) without any fees if you want to use it elsewhere. Marcus has a 7-month No Penalty CD at 0.45% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. AARP members can get an 8-month CD at 0.55% APY. Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 0.50% APY for all balance tiers. CIT Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 0.30% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Lafayette Federal Credit Union has a 12-month CD at 0.80% APY ($500 min). Early withdrawal penalty is 6 months of interest. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($10 one-time fee).

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
Many brokerage firms that pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the difference for themselves). Unfortunately, money market fund rates are very low across the board right now. Ultra-short bond funds are another possible alternative, but they are NOT FDIC-insured and may experience short-term losses in extreme cases. These numbers are just for reference, not a recommendation.

  • The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund which has an SEC yield of 0.01%. Vanguard Cash Reserves Federal Money Market Fund (formerly Prime Money Market) currently pays 0.01% SEC yield.
  • Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 0.37% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 0.47% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so your principal may vary a little bit.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 0.29% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 0.41% 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. Right now, this section isn’t very interesting as T-Bills are yielding close to zero!

  • You can build your own T-Bill ladder at TreasuryDirect.gov or via a brokerage account with a bond desk like Vanguard and Fidelity. Here are the current Treasury Bill rates. As of 5/7/2021, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.01% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.05% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a -0.01% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a -0.12% (!) 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. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest. The annual purchase limit is $10,000 per Social Security Number, available online at TreasuryDirect.gov. You can also buy an additional $5,000 in paper I bonds using your tax refund with IRS Form 8888.

  • “I Bonds” bought between May 2021 and October 2021 will earn a 3.51% 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-October 2021, 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.
  • See below about EE Bonds as a potential long-term bond alternative.

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 severely capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). There is a long list of previous offers that have already disappeared with little notice. I don’t personally recommend nor use any of these anymore, as I feel the work required and risk of messing up exceeds any small potential benefit.

  • Mango Money pays 6% APY on up to $2,500, if you manage to jump through several hoops. Requirements include $1,500+ in “signature” purchases and a minimum balance of $25.00 at the end of the month.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops which usually involve 10+ debit card purchases each cycle, a certain number of ACH/direct deposits, and/or a certain number of logins per month. If you make a mistake (or they judge that you did) you risk earning zero interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others would rather not bother. Rates can also drop suddenly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling.

  • The Bank of Denver pays 2.00% APY on up to $25,000 if you make 12 debit card purchases of $5+ each, receive only online statements, and make at least 1 ACH credit or debit transaction per statement cycle. The rate recently dropped. If you meet those qualifications, you can also link a Kasasa savings account that pays 1.00% APY on up to $50k. Thanks to reader Bill for the updated info.
  • Devon Bank has a Kasasa Checking paying 2.50% APY on up to $10,000, plus a Kasasa savings account paying 2.50% APY on up to $10,000 (and 0.85% APY on up to $50,000). You’ll need at least 12 debit transactions of $3+ and other requirements every month. The rate recently dropped.
  • Presidential Bank pays 2.25% APY on balances up to $25,000, if you maintain a $500+ direct deposit and at least 7 electronic withdrawals per month (ATM, POS, ACH and Billpay counts).
  • Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union pays 3.30% APY on up to $20,000. You’ll need at least 15 debit transactions and other requirements every month.
  • Lake Michigan Credit Union pays 3.00% APY on up to $15,000. You’ll need at least 10 debit transactions and other requirements every month.
  • Find a locally-restricted rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
CDs offer higher rates, but come with an early withdrawal penalty. 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 to keep the ladder going. Some CDs also offer “add-ons” where you can deposit more funds if rates drop.

  • NASA Federal Credit Union has a special 49-month Share Certificate at 1.40% APY ($10,000 min). Early withdrawal penalty is 1 year of interest. Anyone can join this credit union by joining the National Space Society (free). Note that NASA FCU may perform a hard credit check as part of new member application.
  • Lafayette Federal Credit Union has a 5-year CD at 1.26% APY ($500 min). Early withdrawal penalty is 6 months of interest. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($10 one-time fee).
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. You may need an account to see the rates. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. Right now, I see a 5-year CD at 1.00% APY vs. 0.77% for a 5-year Treasury. Be wary of 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 early withdrawal penalties. You might find something that pays more than your other brokerage cash and Treasury options. Right now, I see a 10-year CD at 1.80% APY vs. 1.60% for a 10-year Treasury. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity.
  • How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a unique 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 0.10%). I view this as a huge early withdrawal penalty. But if holding for 20 years isn’t an issue, it can also serve as a hedge against prolonged deflation during that time. Purchase limit is $10,000 each calendar year for each Social Security Number. As of 5/7/2021, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.17%.

All rates were checked as of 5/9/2021.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Potential Risks of High Interest Stablecoin Savings Accounts

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

As an extension of High-Yield Crypto Accounts: 6% Interest in Bitcoin or 9% Interest on Stablecoin, I’m trying to better understand the potential scenarios that might cause loss of principal. Even if you’re tired of crypto talk, you should be aware that newer “savings account” apps exist that advertise high interest rates to mainstream customers while playing down their lack of FDIC-insurance and reliance on cryptocurrency markets.

Traditional bank lender model. You deposit your cash into a bank. The bank lends that money out for things like business loans and mortgages, charging them interest. The bank passes on some of the interest to you, and keep the rest as profits for itself. However, if the bank makes enough bad loans, it may not be able to pay the interest or even return all of your deposits. Even so, FDIC insurance will cover deposits up to $250,000 per titled account. This means we don’t have the burden of independently evaluating the quality of every bank. This safety net is critical.

Stablecoin lender model. Traditional banks will not loan out money to people want to put up Bitcoin as collateral. However, there is heavy demand by people with bitcoin/crypto to access cash without actually selling their bitcoin/crypto. Since the big banks are not competing and it’s a risky business, the interest rates charged are high. They have to pay you 8% interest because it’s the only way they can come up with enough cash to fund these loans. If they could get it cheaper elsewhere, don’t you think they would?

For example, BlockFi requires you to put up $200 of BTC for every $100 that you borrow (50% loan-to-value). The idea is that if they don’t pay back the loan on time, BlockFi can just sell the BTC. BlockFi may also sell the BTC anyway if the value drops enough and you don’t post more collateral:

If the value of your collateral significantly decreases, a crypto margin call may occur. Crypto margin calls are calculated based on the LTV (loan-to-value) rate outlined in your loan agreement. A margin call can happen when the value of your collateral drops, increasing the LTV of your loan.

In the event of a margin call, you will have to add more collateral to your account to maintain a healthy LTV ratio. The first margin call occurs at a 70% LTV. At this point, you have 72 hours to take action by posting additional collateral or paying down the loan balance. We will keep you informed if your LTV starts to near the 70% mark so you can take action preemptively.

If your LTV reaches the 80% mark, BlockFi will automatically sell a portion of your crypto collateral to bring your LTV back to a 70% LTV.

Loss scenario: Rapid BTC price drop. BTC prices might drop so steeply (more than 50%) and suddenly (no market liquidity) that BlockFi is unable to liquidate the BTC collateral in time. If they recover less than the original loan amount, and the total losses across their loans are great enough, and they don’t get other backup funding, they may not have the funds to pay back your cash deposits. The price of 1 BTC is $50,000 today, but less than a year ago it was under $10,000, so such a drop is not inconceivable (source):

Loss scenario: Stablecoin price dropping below $1. Stablecoins are supposed to be backed by an equal amount of real money held in a trust account. Right now, the trading price of 1 USDC = $1.00. USDC is issued by Coinbase (now a large publicly-traded company) and is audited monthly by well-known US auditor Grant Thornton LLP that their dollar balances are at least equal to the number of USDC outstanding. However, in the past Tether (USDT), another stablecoin, has had credibility issues regarding its reserves and its price has dropped to as low as $0.88 in the past. Tether was accused of quietly using its cash reserves to help shore up its other struggling businesses. For any stablecoin, if there is even a perceived risk that it is not fully backed by actual US dollars, the price of a stablecoin may drop below the $1.00 peg, which means a loss of principal if you have to sell/withdraw at that price.

Loss scenario: Hacking, accidental loss, and/or internal fraud. There are has been a long history of hacks that have resulted in the theft of many millions of dollars in crypto. Any major loss could bankrupt a company, with obviously some being more vulnerable than others. Coincheck was hacked for $500 million. Per CNBC, the “Canadian crypto exchange QuadrigaCX went bankrupt after its CEO died in 2019, resulting in millions of dollars’ worth of digital assets being trapped in a digital wallet.” This type of thing is why traditional banks don’t want to deal with holding actual cryptocurrency keys. You could view BlockFi’s role as being paid to take on the risk of hacked wallets, lost passwords, and liquidity crunches. As a stablecoin depositor, you are also indirectly making your interest by taking on these risks.

Loss scenario: Drop in interest spreads. This NotBoring longread by Packy McCormick explains in detail why hedge funds are using BlockFi to leverage up their Bitcoin futures arbitrages. This results in a huge demand by these large institutions and a willingness to pay high interest rates. However, as times goes on, these arbitrages will eventually dry up. In the best-case scenario, this will just result in a gradual lowering of interest rates. In a worst-case scenario, a rapid loss of revenue could lead to business failure.

Loss scenario: Sudden government regulation. While part of the allure of cryptocurrencies is the lack of direct government control, the regulation of cryptocurrencies still matters greatly. Just last week, Turkey banned the use of cryptocurrencies for purchasing goods and services. Immediately afterward, Turkish crypto exchange Thodex shut down and $2 billion of investor funds are allegedly missing. Regulation could directly impact these businesses by banning their operations, or indirectly impact them by affecting the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Due to the lack of FDIC insurance as a backstop, where you keep your stablecoin deposits matters (if you decide to play the game). You’ll want to find a place with a history of strong risk management, security protocols, good financial base, and access to additional capital. For example, BlockFi doesn’t hold private keys, uses Gemini Trust as custodian (one of the most reputable, 95% in cold storage, and regulated by New York state), and most recently raised $350 million at a $3 billion valuation from major venture capital firms. I’m not saying they are 100% safe, but I did look into it pretty deeply considering the small amount of Bitcoin that I hold.

None of these things are a concern if you put your cash in an FDIC-insured bank account. You don’t have to worry about how your bank deals with bad loans, hacking attempts, competitors, or government regulations. This is why I am not moving my cash reserves over to a stablecoin interest account. Cash is for safety, liquidity, sleeping well, and for buying assets on the cheap after any crashes.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

BBVA $250 Easy Bank Bonus: $200 Checking + $50 Savings (Back Again)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

$250 bonus is back. In the current low interest rate world, easy bank bonuses have become more attractive way to boost your safe interest income. BBVA has brought back their popular $250 bonus promotion for a limited-time.

  • $200 bonus for opening a new BBVA Free Checking account between April 12-26 and receive a qualifying direct deposit of $500+ by June 30th, 2021.
  • Additional $50 bonus by adding a new BBVA Savings account between April 12-26 and having a savings balance of at least $1,000 on June 30th, 2021.

If you want the entire $250 bonus, be sure to check the boxes for both offers on the promotion landing page. You must keep the account open for at least 12 months, otherwise they may claw back the bonus. You must be a new BBVA consumer checking customer who has not had a BBVA consumer checking account open within the last 36 months or closed due to negative balance to be eligible for the bonus. The promo code should be automatically applied, but it is SBOL2021. Note the following state restrictions:

For accounts opened online, eligible accounts include BBVA Free Checking and BBVA Easy Checking. BBVA Free Checking and Easy Checking are only available in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Texas.

BBVA Free Checking account details:

  • No monthly service charge. No ongoing minimum balance.
  • Minimum opening deposit is $25.
  • No ATM fees at BBVA USA ATMs.
  • Free online and paper statements.

Savings account bonus details:

You must first meet stipulations for the $200 Checking Bonus to be eligible for the $50 Savings Bonus. The savings account must be opened at the same time as the checking account through this landing page using the “Open Bundle Now Button”.

Online Savings account details:

  • No monthly service charge. No ongoing minimum balance.
  • Minimum opening deposit is $25.
  • Currently interest rate is 0.01% APY.
  • You will automatically receive a paper account statement by mail for a fee of $3 per month. However, you can opt for free electronic account statements and eliminate the $3 Paper Statement Fee when you turn off paper statements through Online Banking. Don’t forget to opt out!

The good thing is that this bonus doesn’t require a lot of money to be tied up – you need to switch over a single direct deposit of $500+ by the end of June 2021 and move over $1,000 in the savings account by the end of June 2021. There are no ongoing monthly fees or minimum balances, it can be only entirely online, and the timeline is reasonable. For comparison, you’d have to keep $50,000 at 0.50% APY for an entire 12 months to get $250 in interest.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Best Interest Rates on Cash – April 2021

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash as of April 2021, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. There are many lesser-known opportunities to improve your yield while keeping your principal “safe” (FDIC-insured or equivalent). Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to see how much extra interest you’d earn by moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 4/5/2021.

Fintech accounts
Available only to individual investors, fintech accounts oftentimes pay higher-than-market rates in order to achieve high short-term growth (often using venture capital). I define “fintech” as a software layer on top of a different bank’s FDIC insurance. Although I do use some of these after doing my own due diligence, read about the Beam app for potential pitfalls and best practices.

  • 3% APY on up to $100,000. The top rate is 3% APY for April through June 2021, and they have not indicated any upcoming rate drop. HM Bradley requires a recurring direct deposit every month and a savings rate of at least 20%. See my HM Bradley review.
  • 3% APY on 10% of direct deposits + 1% APY on $5,000. One Finance lets you earn 3% APY on “auto-save” deposits (up to 10% of your direct deposit, up to $1,000 per month). Separately, they also pay 1% APY on up to another $25,000 with direct deposit. New $50 bonus via referral. See my One Finance review.
  • 3% APY on up to $15,000. Porte requires a one-time direct deposit of $1,000+ to open a savings account. $50 bonus via referral. See my Porte review.
  • 2.15% APY on up to $5k/$30k. Limited-time offer of free membership to their higher balance tier for 6 months with direct deposit. See my OnJuno review.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks pay essentially no interest, it’s easy to open a new “piggy-back” savings account and simply move some funds over from your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I list the top rates as well as competitive rates from banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you with a temporary top rate and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

  • 1.25% APY on up to $250k. ZYNLO is a division of PeoplesBank with its own FDIC certificate. It also offers 100% roundup matching on debit card purchases if you maintain a $3,000 balance. See my ZYNLO review.
  • T-Mobile Money is still at 1.00% APY with no minimum balance requirements. The main focus is on the 4% APY on your first $3,000 of balances as a qualifying T-mobile customer plus other hoops, but the lesser-known perk is the 1% APY for everyone. Thanks to the readers who helped me understand this. There are several other established high-yield savings accounts at closer to 0.50% APY.

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
A common question is what to do with a big pile 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 and take your time. 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 fixed interest rate that can never go down, but you can still take out your money (once) without any fees if you want to use it elsewhere. Marcus has a 7-month No Penalty CD at 0.45% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. AARP members can get an 8-month CD at 0.55% APY. Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 0.50% APY for all balance tiers. CIT Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 0.30% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Lafayette Federal Credit Union has a 12-month CD at 0.80% APY ($500 min). Early withdrawal penalty is 6 months of interest. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($10 one-time fee).

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
Normally, I would say to watch out for brokerage firms that pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the difference for themselves). However, money market fund rates are very low across the board right now. Ultra-short bond funds are another possible alternative, but they are NOT FDIC-insured and may experience short-term losses in extreme cases. I personally don’t think the risk is worth the tiny yield at this time.

  • The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund which has an SEC yield of 0.01%. Vanguard Cash Reserves Federal Money Market Fund (formerly Prime Money Market) currently pays 0.01% SEC yield.
  • Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 0.42% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 0.52% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so your principal may vary a little bit.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 0.31% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 0.45% 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. Right now, this section isn’t very interesting as T-Bills are yielding close to zero!

  • You can build your own T-Bill ladder at TreasuryDirect.gov or via a brokerage account with a bond desk like Vanguard and Fidelity. Here are the current Treasury Bill rates. As of 4/5/2021, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.03% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.06% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a -0.01% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a -0.10% (!) 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. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest. The annual purchase limit is $10,000 per Social Security Number, available online at TreasuryDirect.gov. You can also buy an additional $5,000 in paper I bonds using your tax refund with IRS Form 8888.

  • “I Bonds” bought between November 2020 and April 2021 will earn a 1.68% 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 2021, 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.
  • See below about EE Bonds as a potential long-term bond alternative.

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 severely capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). There is a long list of previous offers that have already disappeared with little notice. I don’t personally recommend nor use any of these anymore, as I feel the work required and risk of messing up exceeds any small potential benefit.

  • Mango Money pays 6% APY on up to $2,500, if you manage to jump through several hoops. Requirements include $1,500+ in “signature” purchases and a minimum balance of $25.00 at the end of the month.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops which usually involve 10+ debit card purchases each cycle, a certain number of ACH/direct deposits, and a certain number of logins per month. If you make a mistake (or they judge that you did) you risk earning zero interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others would rather not bother. Rates can also drop suddenly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling.

  • The Bank of Denver pays 2.00% APY on up to $25,000 if you make 12 debit card purchases of $5+ each, receive only online statements, and make at least 1 ACH credit or debit transaction per statement cycle. The rate recently dropped. If you meet those qualifications, you can also link a Kasasa savings account that pays 1.00% APY on up to $50k. Thanks to reader Bill for the updated info.
  • Devon Bank has a Kasasa Checking paying 2.50% APY on up to $10,000, plus a Kasasa savings account paying 2.50% APY on up to $10,000 (and 0.85% APY on up to $50,000). You’ll need at least 12 debit transactions of $3+ and other requirements every month. The rate recently dropped.
  • Presidential Bank pays 2.25% APY on balances up to $25,000, if you maintain a $500+ direct deposit and at least 7 electronic withdrawals per month (ATM, POS, ACH and Billpay counts).
  • Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union pays 3.30% APY on up to $20,000. You’ll need at least 15 debit transactions and other requirements every month.
  • Lake Michigan Credit Union pays 3.00% APY on up to $15,000. You’ll need at least 10 debit transactions and other requirements every month.
  • Find a locally-restricted rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
CDs offer higher rates, but come with an early withdrawal penalty. 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 to keep the ladder going. Some CDs also offer “add-ons” where you can deposit more funds if rates drop.

  • NASA Federal Credit Union has a special 49-month Share Certificate at 1.50% APY ($10,000 min). Early withdrawal penalty is 1 year of interest. Anyone can join this credit union by joining the National Space Society (free). Note that NASA FCU may perform a hard credit check as part of new member application.
  • Lafayette Federal Credit Union has a 5-year CD at 1.25% APY ($500 min). Early withdrawal penalty is 6 months of interest. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($10 one-time fee).
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. You may need an account to see the rates. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. Right now, I see a 5-year CD at 0.90% APY vs. 0.98% APY for a 5-year Treasury. Be wary of 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 early withdrawal penalties. You might find something that pays more than your other brokerage cash and Treasury options. Right now, I see a 10-year CD at 1.80% APY vs. 1.70% APY for a 10-year Treasury. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity.
  • How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a unique 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 0.10%). I view this as a huge early withdrawal penalty. But if holding for 20 years isn’t an issue, it can also serve as a hedge against prolonged deflation during that time. Purchase limit is $10,000 each calendar year for each Social Security Number. As of 4/5/2021, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.28%.

All rates were checked as of 4/5/2021.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Evidence-Based Doomsday Prepping and Personal Finance

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

I dug into the longread Doomsday prepping for less crazy folk today. The title pretty much says it all – I prefer to call it “evidence-based doomsday prepping”.

Effective preparedness can be simple, but it has to be rooted in an honest and systematic review of the risks you are likely to face. Plenty of excited newcomers begin by shopping for ballistic vests and night vision goggles; they would be better served by grabbing a fire extinguisher, some bottled water, and then putting the rest of their money in a rainy-day fund.

[…] I also found that to come up with a rational threat model, we need to think of “risk” as a product of both the probability and the consequences of a given event. By that metric, stubbed toes and zombie outbreaks are equally uninteresting; one of them has nearly zero significance, the other, nearly zero odds.

Strangely enough, my favorite part might have been the section on getting in shape and losing weight, as it very closely matched my own experiences and opinions on the topic. But since this is my money blog, I’ll talk about the personal finance aspects. If you’re going to build a resilient lifestyle, you’ll need some assets and figure out how to protect them.

Good ole’ emergency fund. The most likely “disaster” you’ll face is probably unemployment. Forget retiring at age 30, you’re just trying to survive having no income (or a severe cut) for 6 months. If you can figure out how to build a stash of 6 months of living expenses, you’ll already be way ahead of most people and have a rough blueprint for eventual financial freedom anyway.

Cash. You should be prepared to not have access to banks or ATMs for a short period of time. It could be a huge systemic crisis, or you might simply have a bad case of identity theft. Cash is still mighty handy for anything other than an extremely severe event – although it might be good to smaller bills.

For short-term survival, simple solutions work best: just keep about 2-4 weeks’ worth of cash somewhere at hand; have enough money on you to get you back home when traveling, too. Of course, be mindful of the risk of burglary, so if you’re keeping the funds at home, pick an unobvious location for the stash; more about that soon.

Break-ins are difficult to prevent, especially in suburban single-family homes with secluded backyards and street-level windows and doors; tall fences and window bars can work, but they are expensive and tend to draw the ire of your neighbors. The most cost-effective solution may be to keep your windows and doors closed when away, but beyond that, just optimize for hassle-free outcomes. You can leave some less important goodies in plain sight – say, some cheap jewelry, a modest amount of cash, and a beat-up phone – and put all the real valuables in a much less obvious or less accessible spot. A heavy safe will usually do; diversion safes fashioned into books, cans or clocks are pretty cool, too – if you trust yourself not to accidentally throw them away.

Banking. The author suggests splitting your money between two unrelated banks. This practice could easily extend to your brokerage accounts.

As for the remainder of your money, I suggest splitting it across two largely unrelated financial institutions with different risk profiles – say, a big national bank and a local credit union.

Gold. Before you follow the safety box suggestion, know that banks aren’t responsible if they lose the contents of safe deposit boxes. Serious preppers recommend paying for a reputable, international vault to store your gold – I imagine it to be dug deep into the mountains of Switzerland – but as noted that is expensive and reserved for those with a high net worth.

Because of its very high value-to-volume ratio, physical gold is stored and moved around very easily, but keeping substantial amounts at home can be ill-advised; theft is a very real risk, and most insurance policies will not adequately cover the loss. Safe deposit boxes at a local bank, available for around $20 a year, are usually a better alternative – although they come with some trade-offs; for example, the access to deposit boxes was restricted by the government during the Greek debt crisis in 2015. Non-bank storage services do not have that problem, but cost quite a bit more.

Bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies aren’t discussed at all, but they are meant to be independent of governments. If you put your keys into a hardware wallet, this is another store of value that could have an infinite “value-to-volume ratio” and possibly easier to move than gold or cash. Will Bitcoin be more or less valuable in a crisis? I don’t know. The answer also might change over time.

Stuff. Yes, yes, guns and ammo. But for the most likely scenarios the best thing you could have done was to take a bit of your money buy some everyday stuff: keeping your gas tank half full, keeping a full propane tank, packing a simple Go Bag with clothes/first aid kit/energy bars/extra prescription medicine, a few crates of water, and so forth. Fire extinguishers, fire ladders, smoke and CO detectors in every room could be the best money you ever spent. You might also throw in a will and an advanced health directive.

Insurance. I was surprised that there wasn’t a more detailed discussion of insurance. If we’re talking real-world life-altering disasters, either getting hit by a car or hitting someone else with your car has got to be one of the more likely ones. Do you have adequate health insurance? disability insurance? auto (liability) insurance? homeowners? flood? earthquake/hurricane add-on? Don’t forget these 11 reasons to buy an umbrella liability insurance policy.

Bottom line. There are many simple things that you can do to make your life more resilient that doesn’t involve building your own underground bunker, and many of it meshes with basic personal finance advice. Here’s a nice ending line to keep things in perspective:

In the end, ladders, cars, and space heaters are a much greater threat to your well-being than a gun-toting robber or an army of zombie marauders could ever be.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

High-Yield Crypto Accounts: 6% Interest in Bitcoin or 9% Interest on Stablecoin

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

This WSJ article is the first mainstream financial article that I’ve seen discuss the high interest rates paid on Bitcoin and stablecoin (cryptocurrency backed by a “stable” asset like the US dollar). I am (again) not a cryptocurrency expert, but it does seem appropriate to educate and warn other curious investors about the risks. Here’s my take:

  • The price of Bitcoin can vary a lot. It probably went up or down by a hundred dollars in the time you took to read this sentence.
  • Stablecoin prices tend to vary less because they promise to be backed by a stable asset. USDT (Tether) and USDC (USD Coin) are both currently trading exactly at US$1.00, so it appears that the market believes this claim. However, US dollar stablecoins are not affiliated with the US government or any central bank.
  • Brokers/exchanges where you can buy and sell these cryptocurrencies are not backed by government insurance. They are businesses – some will end up worth billions, some will get bought by a bigger competitor, and some will probably fail (likely because they were hacked). Even though they might be called “savings” or “interest” accounts, no cryptocurrency is held in an FDIC-insured bank, or even an SIPC-insured brokerage account. They will promise to keep your crypto safe and pay interest, but it is possible they may not live up to their end of the deal, AKA “counterparty risk”. Not every exchange is equal.
  • This potential risk is a big reason that they have to pay you 6% annual interest in your Bitcoin and/or 9% annual interest in your USDC stablecoin. They are lending out your assets and earning even more interest, because traditional banks won’t do so.
  • The result is two separate risks – the risk of the price of crypto itself, and counterparty risk of the place holding your crypto.

In the end, I agree with this part of the article (even with the mocking tone):

If you’re a risk-taker who relishes the ride when an asset soars and can laugh off the losses when it crashes, then maybe you should consider letting a broker borrow your cryptocurrency at a generous rate.

After all, if you aren’t troubled by the extraordinary volatility of virtual money, you might as well earn some interest on it.

I did buy some crypto a few years ago as a purely speculative investment and to promote my own learning. We are talking less than 1% of net worth, but it has become a 5-figure amount. I was very skeptical at first, but now I am partial to the theory that either BTC is worth zero, or it will eventually be worth at least on par with the market cap of gold (roughly $200,000). I accept that both scenarios are possible.

I bought Bitcoin using the Voyager app ($25 bonus, publicly-traded with $3 Billion market cap) and also opened an account with BlockFi ($250 bonus, just completed $350m Series D at $3B valuation). Both of these companies are worth well over a billion dollars and gone though various rounds of funding, which isn’t bulletproof but it means that smarter people than me have vetted their security protocols and business practices.

BlockFi pays me 6% interest on up to 2 BTC (8.6% on USDC) and Voyager pays 6.25% interest on BTC (9% on USDC). I reinvest the interest so that I own a little bit more BTC each month. However, I fully accept that I am getting paid this interest and getting the convenience of buying BTC with a few taps in exchange for the potential risk that they will go bust while losing all my BTC. There are other options like hardware wallets, but I am don’t want the inconvenience or to worry about forgetting my bitcoin passwords for my relatively small investment.

Bottom line. Sorry, you can’t earn a 9% “safe” interest rate on your cryptocurrency, even if it is a US-dollar backed stablecoin. At a minimum, you still have counterparty risk. This is a business lending out your assets, charging interest, and giving you a cut. They can go bust, and not all exchanges are the same. Perform your own due diligence when picking a broker/exchange to buy from. I picked what I think are among the safest, but it’s still risky.

Even though the interest rates are quite low, I keep my “safe” cash in FDIC-insured bank accounts and similar.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.