Robinhood (Not a) Checking Account 3% APY: SIPC Insurance Mean?

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

I don’t know who does PR for Robinhood, but they are good. I don’t ever recall this many media articles in a single day for a pseudo-checking account. Techcrunch, Barron’s, Business Insider, Bloomberg, USA Today, CNBC, Marketwatch… All coming the day after they deactivated some user accounts without notice and halted all options trading mid-day.

Robinhood announced a new Checking & Savings Cash Management account to expand their existing (required) brokerage account product. Robinhood is not a bank, and this account is not FDIC-insured. They did partner with Sutton Bank to provide a debit card, but deposits are not held at Sutton Bank. After reading through all their materials, here’s what is included:

  • 3% APY, subject to change at any time.
  • No minimum balance, no monthly fee, no overdrafts allowed.
  • ATM/Debit card with free access at 75,000+ ATMs (Allpoint and MoneyPass ATM networks). Only 4,000 of those ATMs accept deposits, and you are limited to depositing up to $1,000 per day and $5,000 per month.
  • “Pay bills, send and receive checks, transfer money, and set up direct deposit–all from the Robinhood app.”
  • “This process will not affect your credit score.” (I assume this means no credit check.)
  • No physical checkbooks. You request a check via app and they will send a physical check via USPS First Class mail the next business day. Limited to $2,500 per day and $10,000 total per month.
  • Mobile check deposit (take pictures on your smartphone) is limited to $2,500 per day and $10,000 total per month.

What does SIPC insurance mean? As with any other US brokerage account, Robinhood has SIPC insurance. This covers up to $500,000 by the SIPC in cash and securities, of which $250,000 can be in cash. SIPC does not cover changes in value to securities. However, you may be surprised to know that per the SIPC website, the following are considered securities:

  • Money market mutual funds.
  • Treasury bills and Treasury bonds.
  • Certificates of deposit.

Is your money earning 3% APY at Robinhood cash? securities? Robinhood is being rather vague about this. They say “we only use the safest assets, such as US treasuries”. Well, short-term US Treasuries are securities and they don’t even earn 3%. They call it a “cash management account”, but many cash management accounts have an FDIC-insured sweep (i.e. Fidelity CMA). Are they keeping it as pure “cash” and just crediting you money on the side somehow? Are they just creating another money market mutual fund? Money market mutual funds are securities, and tightly regulated ones, especially after 2008 when the Reserve Primary Fund did “break the buck”. Is the SIPC going to let them offer a loss-leader money market fund that pays out more interest than it earns?

(Update: The SIPC has some concerns.)

(Update 2: Looks like Robinhood got a phone call and they have to change the name from “Checking & Savings”. Seems like they will still try to work this in as a cash management account.)

In my opinion, if this is just a hyped-up money market mutual fund, the worst case scenario is that start-up Robinhood runs out of venture capital giving away free trades and crazy interest and both the brokerage fails and the money market fund has issues. This means you may not have access to your money for a while. The Reserve fund mentioned above gave back 99 cents on the dollar, but it took over a year (!) for all the money to be distributed. No interest was paid during that lost time. Following that history, you will probably get most of your cash back eventually (up to the limits) since money market mutual funds must only hold relatively safe assets. Then there is the hassle from losing potentially your primary checking account and all the bill payments, direct deposits, etc.

In contrast, I feel that the FDIC has a more streamlined process to handle bank failures. Several banks fail every year. As long as you are within the limits, you’ll get every last penny back. Nearly all of the time, another bank will take over the deposits immediately and your transactions will keep posting as usual.

I see a lot of internet comments that are either “OMG I’m moving all my money here!” or “OMG you’d be stupid to keep any money here!”. I’m in the middle. I am signing up on the waitlist (that’s my referral link so I move up the waitlist) since it’s free and will read through the application fine print when the dust settles. Right now, Robinhood is just in hype mode. By the time they actually start accepting money, 3% APY might not be all that special.

In any case, I don’t plan to move all of my money or my daily transactions over there. I just don’t trust them enough as a young start-up with barebones customer service that discourages phone calls. With all of the various deposit and withdrawal limits, I would definitely consider maintaining a full-service checking account somewhere else.

If you like how this sounds but don’t have a Robinhood brokerage account yet, you should get your free share of stock first since you need that opened first anyway. WeBull also offers new users free trades and a free share of stock.

Bank of America Cash Rewards Card Review: Choose Your 3%-5.25% Cash Back Category

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Updated. Bank of America announced some new changes that will take effect January 14th, 2019. Cardholders will be able to choose their 3% cash back category from one of these 6 options: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement and furnishings. Before it was only gas. You can change your category once each calendar month in-app or online. Do nothing and it will stay the same. Stays the same: The fixed 2% cash back on grocery and wholesale clubs and the limit to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter.

The full review:

The Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card is the no-annual-fee “cash back” credit card in the Bank of America line-up. In this review, I’ll cover the basic card features but also focus on a lesser-known opportunity – if you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% – 75%. For such “relationship” customers, the bonus can change this card from good to great. Here are the highlights:

  • $200 cash rewards bonus after $500 in purchases in the first 90 days.
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) up to the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
  • 0% Introductory APR offer. See link for details.
  • Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% – 75%. See details below.
  • No annual fee.

Preferred Rewards bonus. The Preferred Rewards program is designed to rewards clients with multiple account and higher assets located at Bank of America banking, Merrill Edge online brokerage, and Merrill Lynch investment accounts. Here is a partial table taken from their comparison chart (click to enlarge):

bofa_pref1

Let’s consider the options. Bank of America’s interest rates on cash accounts tend to be lower than highest-available outside banks, so moving cash over to qualify may result in earning less interest on your cash deposits. Merrill Lynch advisory accounts also usually come with management fees. The sweet spot is if you have brokerage assets like stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs. In this case, moving them over to Merrill Edge may actually reduce your costs because at the Platinum and Platinum Plus levels they will actually give you 30 to 100 free online stock trades every month.

I recently moved a little over $100k of brokerage assets (Vanguard funds) over to Merrill Edge to qualify for Platinum Honors. I realize not everyone will have this level of assets to move around, but if you do then it is worth considering. Keep in mind that it will take a while for your “3-month average combined balance” to actually reach the $100k level and officially qualify for Platinum Honors. After that, the 25%-75% rewards bonus on credit card rewards kick in.

If you are opening a new Merrill Edge account, check out the current Merrill Edge brokerage sign-up bonus. As of this writing, it is up to $1,000.

Cash Back Rewards after Preferred Rewards bonus:

Recall that the basic structure is “1/2/3”; you get 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter (1/2/3). Here’s how the bonuses work out:

  • Platinum Honors: 1.75% cash back on every purchase, 3.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 5.25% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • Platinum: 1.5% cash back on every purchase, 3% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 4.5% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.
  • Gold: 1.25% cash back on every purchase, 2.5% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3.75% on gas (choice category after 1/14/19) for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter.

Note that the terms state “The Preferred Rewards bonus will replace the customer bonus you may already receive with the card.”, which means that you will lose the 10% bonus for redeeming your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account.

For my personal spending, I like the idea of getting up to 3.5% cash back at Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJs wholesale clubs. Costco only takes Visa while the current application picture indicates a Mastercard (past versions have been Visa). If you have a Mastercard, you could try and call them and request to switch to a Visa version of the card instead of a Mastercard. If the customer service rep says they don’t do that, hang up and call again. Alternatively, you could apply for the Susan G Komen or World Wildlife Fund versions of this card, which do show a Visa.

I also like the idea of getting up to 5.25% cash back on “online shopping” assuming that includes Amazon, although Amazon’s own card already offers 5% back.

This is finally a case where bundling services actually worked out for me. Bank of America has managed to convince me to go from only having a checking account with them to now also having a Merrill Edge brokerage account with 100 free trades per month and a Bank of America credit card.

Not all Bank of America consumer credit cards qualify for Preferred Rewards. Another card that does qualify is the Bank of America Travel Rewards card. The Travel Rewards credit card is actually a better everyday card in my opinion (assuming you have at least some travel purchases to offset), but this card exceeds that card in the special categories.

Bottom line. The Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card is an “okay” cash back rewards card with a 1/2/3 structure, but turns into an “excellent” rewards card if you can take full advantage of their Preferred Rewards program. If you transfer $100,000 of existing brokerage assets over to Merrill Edge, you can qualify for the highest Platinum Honors tier. This won’t be a good option for everyone, but something to be aware of if you can swing it.

Hanscom Federal CU Thrive Review: 5.00% APY High Interest Starter Account

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

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(Note: As of 12/10/18, HFCU also has a 19-month special certificate at 3.00% APY.)

Hanscom Federal Credit Union (HFCU) has hiked the rate on their CU Thrive account to 5.00% APY, which is a capped certificate of deposit that rewards consistent saving. The rate is set for 12 months, and during those 12 months you can transfer up to $500 every month from a HFCU checking account. No monthly fees. However, you cannot make any withdrawals during those 12 months, or you will be subject to an early withdrawal penalty of 90 days interest.

This product is not meant for big balances. Instead, it is meant to encourage a modest savings habit. 5.00% APY is more than double what the top high-yield savings accounts offer right now.

How much interest can I earn? At 5% APY, if you maxed out this account and set aside the full $500 a month for 12 months, at the end you’d have put in $6,000 and earned about $150 in interest by the end of the year (~$162 if you made every transfer on the 1st of the each month by my quick calculations). $6,000 also happens to be just about the same amount as a full Roth IRA contribution. Hint, hint.

At the end of the 12 months, all accrued savings plus earned dividends will be transferred into your primary savings account. Each member can only have one CU Thrive account open at one time, but after one 12-month period ends you can open up another one (assuming it is still offered). Full disclosure (PDF).

Eligibility details. To open a CU Thrive account, you must first open an HFCU checking account in addition to the savings account required for all members. HFCU offers a free checking account with no direct deposit and no minimum balance requirement. HFCU membership is open to active duty or retired military, but anyone can also join the Air Force Association, Paul Revere Chapter for a one-time $20 fee and be eligible. On the application, choose the option “I am a member of or will be joining a sponsoring member organization.” You must also keep $25 in the share savings account as long as you are a member.

New refer-a-friend program. HFCU has a referral program which offers an additional $30 cash bonus after your new savings and checking accounts are open and in good standing for 90 days. The referring member gets $30 as well. If you would like a referral from me, please me send your full name, e-mail address, the text “HFCU referral” via my contact form. I will use this information only to fill out their referral form.

Account opening process. I started the online application and said I would join the Nashua River Watershed Association for a one-time $35 fee (the AFA option was not available at the time). I had to provide the usual personal information and then answer questions based on my credit report to verify my identity. Based on my free credit monitoring, they did not perform a hard pull on my credit report. You can fund with an online bank transfer but they also gave me the option to fund with credit card up to $2,000. They didn’t mention if this would be considered a cash advance or not, but it showed up as a purchase for me. Finally, you must print out, sign, and mail in a signature card. You can also open an account in-person. All of their physical branches appear to be located in Massachusetts.

My 1-year experience. I had set the maximum $500 to be transferred every month to my CU Thrive account from my HFCU Checking account. I made 11 transfers but missed one because my checking balance was too low on the date of automatic transfer. My fault. When that happens, the account basically just skips the transfer. There is no penalty, you just don’t get to earn interest on that money. I called them but they said there was no way to replace that transfer, even if I moved more money into the checking account a day later. Other than that, everything went very smoothly and I was paid my interest as promised. At the 1-year maturity date, the funds were automatically transferred to my HFCU savings account and the CU Thrive no longer shows up on my online account page. I can now open up another CU Thrive account, if I wish.

I also discovered that Hanscom Federal has paid a Loyalty Dividend to its Credit Union members for over 15 consecutive years. In 2017, they paid a 2% bonus on dividends earned and consumer finance charges paid over the year. So on top my my $78.46 of interest earned, I earned another $1.57 in bonus loyalty dividends.

In addition to the CU Thrive and free checking options, HFCU also has a Kasasa Cash Checking account that offers up to 2.50% APY on balances up to $15,000 if you make at least 12 debit card or credit card purchases per month, complete at least 1 ACH Credit/Direct deposit per month, and enroll in online statements.

Bottom line. The CU Thrive account is a good option for people looking to build up a savings habit, with 5.00% APY for 12 months, $30 sign-up bonus, and easy membership eligibility. However, the system really works best if you use HFCU’s free checking as your primary checking account. Juggling it as an external savings account is perfectly possible, but you have to keep on top of your transfers to avoid idle cash earning zero interest. I received all of the interest promised, the customer service was nice and polite when contacted, and any errors were my own.

Navy Federal CU Year End Specials: $100 IRA Bonus + 3.75% APY 40-Month IRA Certificate

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

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Updated 2018. Navy Federal Credit Union (membership now limited primarily to those with military affiliation) announced their year-end specials.

  • 40-month IRA Certificate at 3.75% APY with add-ons. Open with $50 minimum. Make additional deposits anytime during those 40 months (up to $150,000 max).
  • $100 Bonus for first-time IRAs at NavyFed. Offer only available to members who open their first IRA (at NavyFed) and deposit a minimum of $100 in the new IRA account no later than 45 days after account opening.

Thanks to reader CA for the heads up. In case you were curious, the December 2017 specials were a 15-month at 2.25% APY and a 32-month at 2.75% APY. The December 2016 specials were a 17-month at 2.00% APY and a $150 bonus for new IRAs.

The “add-on” feature is useful for IRAs as it lets you deposit additional funds at any time and get the same rate. Since this is combined with a very low minimum of $50, there is very little risk. Open now while you can with $50. If the rate is good later on when you have more funds available (perhaps another CD matures or a new year allows more contributions), then add more money. Otherwise, just leave it alone and invest your money elsewhere.

Membership. The membership eligibility for NavyFed includes Active Duty members of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, members of the Army and Air National Guard, Delayed Entry Program (DEP), DoD Officer Candidate/ROTC, DoD Reservists, and Veterans, retirees and annuitants. There was previously a quiet way for the general public to join, but that window has since been closed. The good news is that NavyFed now accepts all military veterans.

Navy Federal Credit Union has solid bank and loan products, including checking accounts with ATM rebates, competitive mortgage rates, and limited-time 0% balance transfer promotions. Readers have commented on their excellent customer service and the fact that they often keep and service the mortgages and other loans they originate.

Best Interest Rates on Cash – December 2018

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for December 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 12/3/18.

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.

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 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 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. Ally Bank 11-month No Penalty CD is at 2.25% APY for $25k+ balance, Marcus Bank 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.15% APY with a $500 minimum deposit, and the CIT Bank 11-Month No Penalty CD at 2.05% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Live Oak Bank has a 1-year CD at 2.85% APY ($2,500 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 90 days of interest.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, beware that many brokers pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the money for themselves). 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 2.30% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 2.19%. 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 2.64% SEC Yield ($3,000 min) and 2.74% 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 2.66% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.75% 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 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 11/30/18, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.30% 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 2.18% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 2.07% 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 2019 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. I don’t use any of these anymore.

  • The only notable card left in this category is Mango Money at 6% APY on up to $2,500, but there are many hoops to jump through. Signature purchases of $1,500 or more and a minimum balance of $25.00 at the end of the month is needed to qualify for the 6.00%.

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. I don’t use any of these anymore, either.

  • The best one left is Consumers Credit Union, which 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 cash back rewards elsewhere. 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.
  • Greenwood Credit Union has a 5-year certificate at 3.75% APY ($1,000 min). Early withdrawal penalty is 6 months interest. 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 3.10% 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 11/30/18, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 3.19%, so this EE bond is no longer offering a huge premium.

All rates were checked as of 12/3/18.



CIT Bank Savings Builder Account: 2.25% APY w/ Monthly $100 Deposit or $25k Balance

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Rate increased 11/21/18. CIT Bank has a new high-yield savings account called the Savings Builder Account. This is a unique savings account with two ways to qualify for their highest interest rate tier of 2.25% APY (as of 11/21/18). You need ONE of the following in each Evaluation Period:

  • Maintain at least one single monthly deposit of $100+, OR
  • Maintain a balance of $25,000+.

I noticed that this rate is currently higher than that of their 11-month No Penalty CD, although that rate can never go down during that 11 months.

There is a $100 minimum to open the account, and everyone earns the top tier rate for the first monthly “Evaluation Period” (see below). Then, if you meet one of the requirements listed above during the first Evaluation Period, you’ll earn the top rate (2.25% APY as of 11/21/18) for the next Evaluation Period. If you don’t meet a least one of the requirements, you will receive the base interest rate during the next Evaluation Period (1.14% APY as of 10/8/18). They will send you an e-mail reminder if you haven’t made the $100 deposit requirement by mid-month.

There are no minimum balance fees, no monthly service fees, no inactivity fee. You just get the lower rate. Interest is compounded daily.

Evaluation Period vs. Calendar Month. I guess they aren’t using calendar months since banks don’t like to do anything on the weekends, so instead it’s called an “Evaluation Period”. The first Evaluation Day will occur at the end of the first full month after account opening. Your monthly “Evaluation Day” is the fourth business day prior to the end of a month. The “Evaluation Period” begins the day after an Evaluation Day and ends at 4pm PT on the next month’s Evaluation Day.

You can set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to this account for $100 and satisfy the requirement on auto-pilot. I don’t like having to jump through hoops like debit card purchases, but at least this one I could automate instead of having to remember to do something every month. Log into your account, click on “External Transfer” and then “set up recurring transfers”. You can then pick your external account (you may need to add it) and choose a “Monthly” frequency:

I would pick a day that is not near the end of the month. (I picked the 10th.) Deposits can be made via online funds transfer (ACH), mobile check deposit via app, incoming wire (no fee), or by mailing a check.

I also noticed that outgoing wires are free with an average daily balance of $25,000+. Otherwise, the fee is $10 per wire. This may be helpful for people who have high balances but like the ability to instantly deploy their money elsewhere as needed.

Existing CIT Bank customers can quickly open a new account by clicking on “Open an account” here, then “I have a CIT Bank account”, and then logging in with your password. The entire opening process can be done online, and you can fund with another CIT Bank account or an external account.

Bottom line. The new CIT Bank Savings Builder Account has two different ways to qualify for the top rate. If you either make a $100+ single deposit every month, OR maintain a $25,000 balance every month, you get 2.25% APY as of 11/21/18.

Ally Bank 11-Month No Penalty CD Review: 2.25% APY for $25k+

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Rates updated as of 11/20/18. Ally Bank raised the rate on their 11-month No Penalty CD. These have been an interesting new product in this rising rate environment. If you have older No-Penalty CDs, you may want to take advantage of this higher rate. Here are the new interest rates for the No Penalty CD under their tiered structure:

  • 2.25% APY at $25,000 minimum opening deposit
  • 2.10% APY at $5,000 minimum deposit
  • 1.80% APY at no minimum deposit.

The 11-month No Penalty CD is unique in that while the rate is locked in at deposit, you can still withdraw your principal and interest without penalty at any time (well, you must wait at least 6 days from the deposit date). In other words, your interest rate can never go down, but you can still jump ship if rates rise or if there is a better promo elsewhere.

For comparison, the Ally Online Savings account is currently at 2.00% APY for all balances. The interest rate on the savings account can go up or down, although in this current rising rate environment that seems unlikely. The Ally 12-month CD is at 2.65% APY, which is fixed but if you withdraw early there is a penalty of 60 days of interest.

In addition, Marcus Bank has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.15% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. CIT Bank has a 11-Month No Penalty CD at 2.05% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. If you have lower balances, one of these may be a better fit.

If you recently opened one of these, remember that Ally Bank offers a “Ten Day Best Rate Guarantee”:

When you fund your CD within 10 days of your open date, you’ll get the best rate we offer for your term and balance tier if our rate goes up within that time. The Ally Ten Day Best Rate Guarantee also applies at renewal.

If you have an existing No Penalty CD past the 10-day rate guarantee, this means you may consider closing it and then opening up a new one at a higher rate. You will have to withdraw everything at once – there are no partial withdrawals allowed on this type of CD. If you have an Ally savings or checking account, you can close the old CD, see the deposit in your savings/checking, and open up a new CD all in minutes online. (Note that savings accounts are limited to 6 withdrawals per month, so use your checking if possible.) You will be extending the term out another 11 months, but since you can always close it at any time it isn’t much of a concern.

Here’s a screenshot of my withdrawal showing no penalty and instant availability when withdrawn directly into an Ally account:

ally_np_withd

You can use my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to get an idea of how much additional interest you’d earn if you switched over.

Ally is my primary “hub” bank, despite not being at the tippy-top of all rates. I like Ally because their rates are generally competitive across both savings and CD products and they offer an easy-to-use website, Live Chat customer service, easy bank account linking, and 1-day bank transfers in many cases. I then proceed to open additional bank CDs as temporary “spokes” when external rates are significantly higher.

Bottom line. The Ally No Penalty CD is unique in that you are always able to move out to a higher rate, but you’ll never get a lower one. This means you can even break the No Penalty CD simply to get another No Penalty CD if/when the rate rises again.

Garden Savings Federal Credit Union: 4-Year CD at 4.08% APY

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

(Update: “Due to the tremendous success of our certificate promotion, we have concluded the special rates that were being offered as of the end of business on Friday, November 9th.” Reader Ryan adds that as long as you started the application process before the end of business on Friday, they will let you complete the process but you must fund by the next Friday.)

Garden Savings Federal Credit Union has a limited-time certificate special on their 4-Year Share Certificate at 4.08% APY. They also have a 2-Year certficiate at 3.04% APY. NCUA-insured. Here are the highlights:

  • $500 minimum deposit.
  • Interest paid monthly.
  • Penalty for early withdrawal is 180 days of dividends.
  • Membership with at least $5 deposited in a Share Savings account required.

According to a myFICO forum post from 2016, the membership application is a soft credit pull. This is not a guarantee, of course. Please share your own experience if you apply.

If you have the big bucks, Garden Savings FCU has the usual NCUA-insurance up to $250,000, but also another $250,000 in additional deposit insurance through Excess Share Insurance.

Credit union membership eligibility. You are eligible for membership if you live, work, worship, attend school, volunteer or regularly conduct business in Newark, Elizabeth, or Jersey City. Select employer groups are also eligible. In addition, anyone can join by being a member of the American Consumer Council (ACC), a non-profit organization dedicated to consumer education, advocacy and financial literacy. The cost is a one-time $8, although there is a promo code “consumer” that has worked to get the membership fee waived. You can make additional donations as you wish, but it is not required. They will send you an e-mail shortly with your ACC membership number. I’ve joined a couple of credit unions with my ACC membership.

Good deal? 4.08% APY is the best rate that I know of for a 4-year CD, with the current competitive range for a 4-year CD being around 3% to 3.35% APY. The closest deal from my Best Cash Rates November 2018 post was a 5-year CD at 3.63% APY that required a $60,000 deposit. A 5-year Treasury bond currently yields about 3.05% and is exempt from state and local income taxes. The 180-day early withdrawal penalty is on the reasonable side.

I think the deal is good enough that it won’t last very long. This credit union is not tiny, but it isn’t huge either. It is quite possible that there will be enough new applications to overwhelm their staff (and deposit needs). If you’re interested, I would act quickly as these deals can end abruptly. I’d be ready to send in additional paperwork (like a copy of your driver’s license) if requested to expedite things.

Best Interest Rates on Cash – November 2018

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

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.

Savings I Bonds November 2018 Interest Rate: 2.32% Inflation Rate, 0.50% Fixed Rate

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

sb_poster

Update 11/1/18. The fixed rate will be 0.50% for I bonds issued from November 1, 2018 through April 30, 2019. The variable inflation-indexed rate for this 6-month period will be 2.32% (as was predicted). The total rate on any specific bond is the sum of the fixed and variable rates, changing every 6 months. If you buy a new bond in November 2018, you’ll get 2.82% for the first 6 months. See you again in mid-April 2019 for the next early prediction.

Original post 10/14/18:

Savings I Bonds are a unique, low-risk investment backed by the US Treasury that pay out a variable interest rate linked to inflation. You could own them as an alternative to bank certificates of deposit (they are liquid after 12 months) or bonds in your portfolio.

New inflation numbers were just announced at BLS.gov, which allows us to make an early prediction of the November 2018 savings bond rates a couple of weeks before the official announcement on the 1st. This also allows the opportunity to know exactly what a October 2018 savings bond purchase will yield over the next 12 months, instead of just 6 months.

New inflation rate prediction. March 2018 CPI-U was 249.554. September 2018 CPI-U was 252.439, for a semi-annual increase of 1.16%. Using the official formula, the variable component of interest rate for the next 6 month cycle will be 2.32%. You add the fixed and variable rates to get the total interest rate. If you have an older savings bond, your fixed rate may be very different than one from recent years.

Tips on purchase and redemption. You can’t redeem until 12 months have gone by, and any redemptions within 5 years incur an interest penalty of the last 3 months of interest. A known “trick” with I-Bonds is that if you buy at the end of the month, you’ll still get all the interest for the entire month as if you bought it in the beginning of the month. It’s best to give yourself a few business days of buffer time. If you miss the cutoff, your effective purchase date will be bumped into the next month.

Buying in October 2018. If you buy before the end of October, the fixed rate portion of I-Bonds will be 0.30%. You will be guaranteed a total interest rate of 2.52% for the next 6 months (0.30 + 2.22). For the 6 months after that, the total rate will be 0.30 + 2.32 = 2.62%.

Let’s look at a worst-case scenario, where you hold for the minimum of one year and pay the 3-month interest penalty. If you theoretically buy on October 31st, 2018 and sell on October 1, 2019, you’ll earn a ~2.09% annualized return for an 11-month holding period, for which the interest is also exempt from state income taxes. If you held for three months longer, you’d be looking at a ~2.20% annualized return for a 14-month holding period (assuming my math is correct). Compare with the best interest rates as of October 2018.

Buying in November 2018. If you buy in November 2018, you will get 2.32% plus a newly-set fixed rate for the first 6 months. The new fixed rate is unknown, but is loosely linked to the real yield of short-term TIPS, which has been rising a bit. The current real yield of 5-year TIPS now about ~1.00%. My best guess is that it will be 0.50% or 0.60%. Every six months, your rate will adjust to your fixed rate (set at purchase) plus a variable rate based on inflation.

If you have an existing I-Bond, the rates reset every 6 months depending on your purchase month. Your bond rate = your specific fixed rate (set at purchase) + variable rate (minimum floor of 0%).

Buy now or wait? In the short-term, these I bond rates will not beat a top 12-month CD rate if bought in October, and probably won’t if bought in November unless inflation skyrockets. Thus, I probably wouldn’t buy in October. I haven’t bought any savings bonds yet this year, and will wait until November to see what the new fixed rate will be. If it greatly lags the real yield on short-term TIPS, then I will probably just buy TIPS instead. However, if it is close, I will probably buy some savings bonds as a long-term investment given the unique benefits below.

Unique features. I have a separate post on reasons to own Series I Savings Bonds, including inflation protection, tax deferral, exemption from state income taxes, and educational tax benefits.

Over the years, I have accumulated a nice pile of I-Bonds and now consider it part of the inflation-linked bond allocation inside my long-term investment portfolio.

Annual purchase limits. The annual purchase limit is now $10,000 in online I-bonds per Social Security Number. For a couple, that’s $20,000 per year. Buy online at TreasuryDirect.gov, after making sure you’re okay with their security protocols and user-friendliness. You can also buy an additional $5,000 in paper bonds using your tax refund with IRS Form 8888. If you have children, you may be able to buy additional savings bonds by using a minor’s Social Security Number.

For more background, see the rest of my posts on savings bonds.

[Image: 1946 Savings Bond poster from US Treasury – source]

Chase Bank Bonus: $600 Total Checking + Savings, 60,000 Point Upgrade to Sapphire Banking

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Chase Bank has updated banking promotions for new customers without a Chase Bank account (closed more than 90 days ago and haven’t gotten a bonus in the last 2 years). The first bonus is for their Total Checking and Savings accounts, and if you satisfy that and have a Sapphire credit card, you can upgrade to the Sapphire Banking with higher requirements.

  • Up to $600 for opening a new Total Checking + Savings account. You must move over a direct deposit on the new checking account ($300 bonus), and/or deposit and maintain $15,000 in the savings account for 90 days ($200). Do both, and get another $100, for $600 total. The easiest way to avoid monthly fee is to keep $1,500 in Total Checking and $300 in Savings.
  • 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for upgrading to a Chase Sapphire bank account. Got a Chase bank account and a Sapphire credit card? They want your business, so take a look at their upgrade offer to Sapphire Banking. You must move over $75,000 in assets (bank deposits or securities) to Chase Bank or Chase You Invest brokerage. You can simply move over some existing stocks, ETFs, or mutual funds via ACAT transfer and your tax cost basis should transfer. Alternatively, you could buy US Treasury bills in the brokerage account as an alternative to Chase Bank’s sad interest rates. You need to also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card.

Together, this could be up to $1,500 total value. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the 60,000 points are worth $900 towards travel (or 60,000 airline miles). $900 airfare/hotel/car rental value + $600 cash = $1,500. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the 60,000 points are worth $750 towards travel (or 60,000 airline miles).

Here are previous posts on the Chase Total Checking bonus and Chase Sapphire Banking bonus with more details.

Ally Bank Payback Time Promotion: 1% Additional Cash Bonus (~6% APY 3-month CD)

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Ally Bank has a new promotion called Ally Payback Time that is offering a 1% cash bonus (up to $1,000) on new deposits on top of their existing interest rates. Valid for both new and existing customers. Given the holding period, this roughly equates to the same total interest paid as a 3-month bank CD at 6% APY. Here’s how it works:

  • Enroll by 10/21/18 at ally.com/payback. You must enroll or you won’t get the bonus. Existing customers must enroll with the same e-mail as linked to their Ally bank account.
  • Fund account by 10/31/18. This means your account has to be approved, opened and funded by this date. Technically the terms state that the funds must arrive by 11/5/18, but that is likely just a grace period and you should initiate any fund transfers by 10/31/18.
  • Maintain funds through 1/15/19. You must keep your new funds there through 1/15/19. This is really only a 2.5 month period if you waited until the last moment. Withdrawals may lower your bonus.
  • Get cash bonus on 2/15/19. After another 30 days, they will deposit your cash bonus into your Ally account.

To be clear, the bonus applies to new funds added to an eligible Ally bank account, not your total balance. Eligible accounts include Ally Online Savings, Money Market, Interest Checking, and CD accounts.

Rough math. The current rate on the Ally Online Savings account is 1.90% APY, and the 11-month No Penalty CD is 2.10% APY on $25k+ balances (as of 10/15/18). Given that you can an additional 1% bonus in a bit under 3 months, the bonus itself works out to the equivalent of a 4% annualized yield. 2% plus 4% = 6%, so you’re looking at the equivalent of a 3-month CD at 6% APY for new money deposits between $1,000 and $100,000. At such a high yield, this promo is a “no-brainer” when compared to other liquid savings accounts for the next 3 months.

The promo page has a calculator to show you your total cash earned over a year. If you move over $10,000 at 1.90% APY, you’d get $190 of interest in a year plus a $100 bonus = $290 total. That would work out to a total of 2.9% APY if you were lazy and just kept it all there for a year. Still not too shabby.

Should I move money out of Ally and back in to qualify? No, it won’t make any difference as Ally has already thought of that. All new funds added after 10/8/18 will count as new money for this promotion. They’ve already set the start date in the past, so you gain nothing by delaying your enrollment.

Existing customers. As a longtime Ally accountholder, I’m happy to see that this offer includes existing customers, even if it has to be new money. The promotion should be called the “Ally Money Comeback Time” as lots of people are probably bringing back funds that in the past year or so.

Payback Time? This YouTube ad explains the meaning behind “Payback Time”, basically the megabanks pay you no interest and keep it for themselves:

Bottom line. Ally Bank has a new promotion to attract new money (or bring back old money). You get a 1% cash bonus (up to $1,000) on new deposits on top of their existing interest rates. For their savings account, this works out to a 3-month holding period paying roughly 6% annualized interest. You must enroll soon by 10/21 and your account must be opened and fully funded by 11/5/18 at the very latest.