Reader Question: Should I Buy Savings Bonds in September/October 2021 or November 2021?

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Here’s a timely reader question about Series I Bonds. It’s a good question because I predict that Series I Bonds will be soon getting even more media attention soon due to an even higher inflation-linked rate.

Would it be best to wait till November 1st to purchase I bonds? You mentioned the fixed rate will probably confine at 0. but what about the semiannual inflation rate? Do u think it is likely to be more than 3.54%? I’m new to this please educate me.

Series I Bond rates react every 6 months to delayed inflation reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. August CPI-U was already reported in mid-September, and September CPI-U will be reported in mid-October. 5 out of 6 months of data are already in the books, leaving only one month of data left. The 12-month trailing inflation rate as of that August CPI-U update was over 5%. Therefore, unless that data contains a significant amount of deflation, we already know that the next inflation rate on Series I Bonds is going to be higher than the 3.54% from May to October 2021. I roughly estimate the range that the next inflation rate will be between as 5% to 7%. That should be enough accuracy to make a purchase timing decision, earlier than my usual practice of waiting until mid-October.

  • If you buy in September or October 2021, you will receive a total rate of 3.54% for the first six months, then the “new” (estimated 5%-7%) rate for the next 6 months, and then new rates adjusted every six months for inflation onward.
  • If you buy in November 2021, you will receive the “new” (estimated 5%-7%) rate for the first 6 months, and then new rates adjusted every six months for inflation onward.

The takeaway is that either way, you will earn the “new” rate (estimated 5%-7%) eventually. If you buy in September/October, you’ll just have to wait a bit due to the staggered structure. Given that the current rate of 3.54% is still a higher interest rate than nearly any other savings account or CD is paying, I would personally just invest now if I had the cash ready and waiting. Also remember that Series I Bonds do not allow early withdrawals within the first 12 months after purchase date. As long as you complete your purchase by the end of September, it will count as purchased in September 2021 and you will be able to withdraw as of September 1st, 2022 (though subject to a penalty if held less than 5 years). It may take a little bit to set up your TreasuryDirect account, and it may take a couple business days for the withdrawal and purchase to process, so I wouldn’t wait until the last day.

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. You can only 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 I 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.

As noted in my previous savings bond posts, these Series I bonds are a unique investment opportunity in that they are only available to individuals and are subject to purchase limits. Even if the real yield (fixed rate) is set at zero, that is still significantly higher than that of TIPS that trade on the open market (well negative across the board!). If institutional investors like pension funds or endowments could buy I bonds like you and me, they would buying billions of them.

I plan to purchase up to my annual purchase limit for 2021 as part of my asset allocation to inflation-linked bonds, although you can start with as little as $25. I guarantee that there will be many more articles about Series I bonds in mainstream personal finance sites in November after the new rate is officially announced.

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.

Lili Banking App For Freelancers: $90 Drop Bonus + $50 Referral Bonus

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.

Lili is a new banking app that has the core features of popular consumer fintech apps like Chime, but adds features focused on freelancers and independent contractors (sell on Etsy, find projects on Upwork, etc). Highlights:

  • Banking. No minimum balance and no monthly fees. Access your direct deposit up to 2 days early. No ATM fees within the 38,000+ ATM MoneyPass network. Free debit card.
  • Free freelancer features. App helps you easily mark business expenses, find tax deductions, set aside tax withholding. Deposit cash at 90,000 retail locations including Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and 7-11.
  • Paid freelancer features with Lily Pro at $5/month. This premium paid tier includes $200 in fee-free overdrafts, 1% APY interest on savings, cashback rewards on the debit card, and the ability to create and send unlimited invoices.
  • $90 Drop promo + $50 referral bonus for new users. Details below.

My experience. After opening an account, my most important tip is to double-check your SSN on the application before submitting. If you mistype it, they won’t give you a chance to try again and you’ll have to reach them by phone to correct the situation, which wastes a lot of time. Otherwise, it would have been quite fast. I’m currently waiting on my debit card in the mail. This app does offer special appeal to solo-entrepreneurs (I prefer that term to “side-hustlers”) looking for some help marking business expenses and tracking them to minimize taxes.

I was also interested in the 1% APY savings account, but it requires the Lily Pro subscription at $5 a month. If you maintain high cash balances, this still might be a good trade-off since most other online banks are only at 0.50% APY or so currently. In addition, invoice software can cost $5 a month on its own, so if you can use both features, this can be a good combo.

$90 Drop promo + $50 referral bonus details. The Drop app is a rewards app that is mostly a “shop to earn” app but also includes a few good non-shopping promos from time to time. If you open via my Drop referral link and use referral code cg5no, you’ll get a $5 bonus (5,000 points) after earning your first 1,000 points. You’ll also get 2,000 points (worth $2) for linking a bank account.

After opening your account, download the app and search for “Lili”. Right now there is a promo for 90,000 Drop points (worth $90) if you open a new account through the Drop app and deposit $200 within 45 days. There is no direct deposit requirement. See screenshot below:

In addition, you should be able to stack this with the referral offer. To accomplish this, do NOT use my Lili referral link and instead use the Drop app above to initiate. Instead, during the Lili application process, look for the place (blue text at bottom) to enter a referral code. This separate $50 bonus is triggered when you enter JonathanPing as the referral code and spend $250 on the Lili debit card within 45 days. Excludes P2P payments and ATM withdrawals. See screenshot below:

Altogether, that’s hopefully $140 without requiring moving your direct deposit or much upfront capital. As noted in my Turning Small Deals into a $100,000 Nest Egg post, you can motivate yourself by treating these bonuses as a way to max out your annual IRA contribution. $6,000 annual limit = $500 per month = $125 per week. I’m trying to think of a catchy name, something like “Project Maxed-Out IRA 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.

Chime Banking App Review: $100 Cash Bonus via Referral, 0.50% APY on Savings

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.

Bonus back up to $100. With rates drops everywhere and no end in sight, I’ve been picking up various cash bonuses instead. Chime is a popular fintech bank app with a $100 cash bonus (up from $50) after a payroll direct deposit of $200+ within the first 45 days of new account opening. To get this offer, you must be referred by an existing user. Here is my Chime $100 referral link. Thanks if you use it! It’s a very simple bonus. Here is a screenshot of my bonus (when it was only $50) appearing nine minutes after my direct deposit:

Here is the fine print:

In order for the referring Chime member (“Referrer”) to qualify and receive the $100.00 monetary referral reward and $10.00 temporary SpotMe Base Limit increase referral reward, and for the referred person (“Referred”) to qualify and receive the $100.00 monetary referral reward, all of the following conditions must be satisfied: (1) Referrer is part of the SpotMe Referral Incentive referral reward campaign; (2) Referred has not previously opened a Chime Spending Account (“Account”); (3) Referred opened a new Account between August 6, 2021 and December 31, 2021; (4) Referred opened the new Account using the Referrer’s unique referral link; and (5) Referred received in the new Account a qualifying direct deposit of $200.00 or more within 45 calendar days of opening. A qualifying direct deposit must be made by the referred individual’s employer, payroll provider, or benefits payer by Automated Clearing House (ACH) deposit. Bank ACH transfers, Pay Friends transfers, verification or trial deposits from financial institutions, peer to peer transfers from services such as PayPal, Cash App, or Venmo, mobile check deposits, and cash loads or deposits are not qualifying direct deposits.

Why is Chime so popular? Chime is the second-most popular online-only bank in the US (only behind Ally) with over 3 million customers and a recent valuation of $5.8 billion as of November 2020. (Update: Now 5 million customers and $25 billion valuation as of August 2021!) I learned that Chime is very attractive to those who are “unbanked” or underbanked”, those people who don’t like traditional banks due to their monthly fees and $35-a-pop overdraft charges. Instead, Chime offers:

  • No monthly fees. No minimum balance. No minimum opening deposit.
  • No credit check. No Chexsystems check.
  • Access to paycheck 2 days early. If you usually get paid on Friday, you can spend the money on Wednesday.
  • No overdraft fees, and they may even “spot” you up to $100 until you pay them back.
  • Free ATM withdrawals at 38,000+ MoneyPass and Visa Plus Alliance ATMs.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

For many folks that have a lot of activity but maintain a low balance, this fee structure is better getting 4% APY or even 10% APY. The key is avoiding those crazy overdraft charges from the big banks and also the various $2 fees hidden inside many prepaid cards. Chime’s only major fee is a $2.50 fee if you make a cash withdrawal at an out-of-network ATM. Chime earns revenue via interchange fees when you buy things on your debit card.

As I opened an account, I noticed that Chime treats you like have never had a checking account before. The sign-up is easily done completely on your phone in a few minutes. You don’t need to deposit a single cent to open. They send basic “Chime 101” emails explaining the effect of bank holidays and how to set up direct deposit.

There is no credit check, so you can have bad credit and even a bad Chexsystems record (meaning you probably left another bank with a negative balance). Nearly every major bank uses Chexsystems to screen new customers. Otherwise, they are referred to as a “second chance” bank account. Chime might have the lowest fees of all such “second chance” banks.

Savings account at 0.50% APY. Once you open the main Chime checking account, you can also open a separate savings account that pays a competitive (but no longer outstanding) 0.50% APY. No minimum balance and no monthly fees on the savings account, either.

Chime has the most of other bank stuff as well. Debit card. Paper check deposit via mobile app. FDIC-insured via partner banks, either Stride Bank or The Bancorp Bank. The only major thing missing besides bank branches is that they don’t provide paper checks. Depositing cash is available, but the third-party physical stores may charge a fee.

Added: I am able to deposit and withdraw fund via Ally Bank push/pull. Your routing number and account number is available openly in the app under “Move Money > Direct Deposit”. My routing number is 103100195, which ABA.com confirms as Stride Bank, NA. based in Enid, Oklahoma.

Bottom line. Chime is an interesting bank startup that targets the underbanked and unbanked by offering a much better fee structure to those with access to direct deposit. No overdraft fees, no credit checks, no Chexsystems. Currently, there is a $100 bonus available via referral link and a no-minimum savings account paying 0.50% APY.

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.

House Downpayments and Low Interest Rates: Keep Your Eye on the Prize

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.

My neighbors put up their house for sale a couple weeks ago. A single open house, what felt like over 100 private showings, and in escrow within a week. So when I read this WSJ article Where to Stash Your Down Payment if You Didn’t Buy a House This Year, I felt their answer was too wishy-washy and complex. If you are looking for a house, as in – if the right one came up you would buy it – then keep your downpayment in 100% liquid and safe cash. Simple.

Keep your eye on the prize: The house + a 30-year fixed mortgage at 3%. Best quote from the WSJ article:

As Blair duQuesnay, a financial planner at Ritholtz Wealth Management, points out, there is another upside to waiting longer to buy: You can grow the original amount by ramping up your savings. “If they’re still earning, that could add to the down payment,” she said. “And the low interest rates we’re all complaining about? That’s how you’re going to get a low mortgage rate.

Exactly. Don’t complain about earning a low interest rate on your downpayment for perhaps 12 months. Be grateful that you’ll get a low fixed interest rate on your mortgage for the next three decades! A lot can happen in that timeframe, look at the past 50 years (via @lenkeifer):

Don’t forget that the American 30-year fixed mortgage with no prepayment penalty is an amazing product that would not exist if not for government intervention. It’s an awesome inflation hedge. If you don’t move (or even if you move but don’t sell), your mortgage payment is fixed for 30 years, no matter how high inflation gets. Mortgage rates are at historical lows, but even if rates do somehow go even lower, you simply refinance. You are covered either way!

According to this LendingTree study, the average downpayment across the nation’s 50 largest metros is is $46,283. The lowest is $28,000 in Oklahoma City, and the highest is $115,138 in San Jose. That’s roughly 10% of the average home prices in each area. FHA loans require a down payment of just 3.5%.

$50,000 is a lot of money (although many people drive around in cars worth more than that….) but your time horizon is very short when house shopping. Home buying is an emotional roller coaster in the best of times, and inventory is tight. There were over 30 offers on the house that we bought, and we couldn’t sleep until our offer was finally accepted. I’m not interested in the buy vs. rent debate, as there are too many personal and local variables for there to be a single answer. If I was in the market right now, I’d have all my ducks are in a row – mortgage pre-approval, downpayment documentation, income documentation, clean and orderly bank statements, and so on.

Long-term investments and short-term investments should be treated differently. For your house downpayment, don’t worry about the stock market going up another 10%. Don’t buy risky bonds chasing another 2%. Worry that messing around with your downpayment will somehow impair your ability to buy the home that you want. If earning zero interest bothers you, check out my best rates and earn 1% to 3% APY while keeping it 100% liquid and safe. Good luck!

Image credit: Imgflip

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 – September 2021 Update

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.

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Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash as of September 2021, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. I look for lesser-known opportunities to earn 2% APY and higher while still 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 9/7/2021.

Fintech accounts
Available only to individual investors, fintech companies often 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. Read about the types of due diligences you should do whenever opening a new bank account.

  • 3% APY on up to $100,000. The top rate is still 3% APY for July through September 2021 (actually up to 3.5% APY with their credit card), 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%. Due to high demand, you must currently use a referral link to join. 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 existing customers on the grandfathered 2.15% APY 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, I think every should have a separate, no-fee online savings account to accompany 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 fact is that the 1% APY is available 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. Marcus by Goldman Sachs is on that list, and if you open a new account with a Marcus referral link (that’s mine), they will give you and the referrer a 0.50% boost on top of the current interest rate for 3 months. You can then extend this by referring others to the same offer. Right now, Marcus is paying 0.50% APY, so with the offer you’d get 1.00% APY currently for your first 3 months.

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 (plan to buy a house soon, 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. CFG Bank has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 0.62% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 0.50% APY for all balance tiers. Marcus has a 7-month No Penalty CD at 0.45% APY with a $500 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 0.28% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 0.38% 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 0.23% 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 9/7/2021, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.04% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.08% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a -0.07% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a -0.09% (!) 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.
  • I removed Devon bank this month because it is now restricted only to Illinois residents (previously available nationwide).
  • 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.

  • Abound Credit Union has a special 13-month Share Certificate at 0.80% APY ($500 min), a special 47-month Share Certificate at 1.40% APY ($500 min), and a 59-month Share Certificate at 1.35% 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).
  • USALLIANCE Financial Credit Union has a special 18-month CD at 1.00% APY ($500 minimum new money) with an early withdrawal penalty of 6 months interest. You must join the credit union first, but anyone can join via American Consumer Council (ACC).
  • 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 1.05% APY. 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 1.70% APY vs. 1.37% 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 9/7/2021, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 1.91%.

All rates were checked as of 9/7/2021.

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.

Albert Banking App Review: Smart Savings, No Fee $250 Cash Advances, $75 Referral Bonus

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.

Albert is another new fintech “super app” that wants to combine your banking, budgeting, saving, and investing needs all in one place. On their paid “Genius” tier, Albert includes a team of humans that you can chat with and ask specific questions via text chat or email (not phone). More highlights:

  • Banking. No minimum and no monthly fees. Cash back offers on certain purchases through debit card. Up to $250 in cash advances until next paycheck with no interest (but up to $4.99 fee). Banking products through Sutton Bank, member FDIC.
  • Budgeting. “Smart Savings” feature analyzes your spending, income, and bills and sets aside small amounts of money into a separate account, automatically on your behalf. They will also suggest subscriptions to cancel, bills to negotiate, cheaper car insurance, etc.
  • Savings. You can set up multiple “Goals” like emergency fund, house downpayment, or vacation. Albert will give you a 0.10% to 0.25% “bonus”, which is basically interest.
  • Investing. Requires Genius upgrade. Seems like many other robo-advisors that create and manage a portfolio based on a questionnaire. $1 minimum balance. Albert Investments, LLC is an SEC Registered Investment Advisor.
  • Genius premium tier. Core banking functionality is free, but to access the financial advice of Geniuses, you must subscribe at a minimum cost of $4 per month. The official price is “pay what you think is fair”. First month is free.
  • $75 referral bonus for new users. Details below.

My experience. I opened an Albert account myself to check it out. The opening process was smooth, but immediately after I signed up for the “Smart Savings” feature, they sucked out $28 from my linked Chase checking account. I guess they preemptively analyzed my Chase account instead of the Albert account, which is not what I expected. In looking at other app store reviews, a common complaint is that the “Smart Savings” took out too much money and triggered overdraft fees on their linked accounts. I’d be careful of this feature. I’m not sure how I feel about the data mining of my non-Albert accounts.

I then tried to take advantage of their Instant Cash option with “no fees, no interest, and no credit check”. Honestly, this feature sounds like it would be very popular if it worked as smoothly as promised. Note that if you want the cash instantly, you have to pay a $4.99 fee. If you are willing to wait 3 days, then there is no fee.

Initially, I kept running into errors. I finally started the process and you do have to answer a few questions regarding your income. They will also data mine your external account to make sure you have regular direct deposits coming in. Finally, you must provide them your external debit card number, as they will charge the debit card to make sure you pay back the Instant Cash when your next paycheck arrives.

The cash back offers on the debit card are similar to those single-use offers from American Express and Chase. These may vary by user, but I received “10% off one Doordash order (max $5 discount)” and “10% off one Target purchase (max $5 discount)” with similar offers for Starbucks, Whole Foods, Lyft, Etsy, Shell, McDonalds, Walmart, and Sephora. A few bucks here and there, but it could add up.

I never upgraded to Genius, as I was not interested in their robo-advisor feature. The core features of Smart Savings and Instant Cash do not require the upgrade.

$75 referral bonus details. The Albert referral program lets you refer new users, and both the referred and referrer get $75 when the new account receives a qualifying direct deposit of $200 or more into Albert Cash within 30 days of account opening. This my Albert referral link – thanks if you use it! Here’s a screenshot of my $75 cash bonus posting the exact same day as my first direct deposit. Fast and as promised.

As noted in my Turning Small Deals into a $100,000 Nest Egg post, you can motivate yourself by treating these bonuses as a way to max out your Roth IRA. $6,000 annual limit = $500 per month = $125 per week. (Once you fund your Roth IRA, who knows how big it might grow?)

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.

Monifi Fintech Bank Bonus: $250 with Direct Deposit

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.

Monifi is a financial app that promises to blend “saving, spending and personal goals all in one place”. Right now, Monifi is also offering a $250 cash bonus (mobile browser required) for new customers that receive two direct deposits of at least $1,000 each into your Spend Balance. Must open by 8/15/21. Here is the fine print for the bonus:

*Receive $250 when you set up direct deposit to your Spend Balance and receive two direct deposits of $1,000 USD or more within 90 days of opening your Monifi Relationship. Valid for Monifi Relationships opened between June 1, 2021 and August 15, 2021. The direct deposits must be an electronic deposit of the account owner’s paycheck, pension or government benefits, such as Social Security. Limit one incentive per customer. $250 USD paid as a credit to your Spend Balance within 45 days of meeting promotion requirements. Offer may be changed or withdrawn at any time. Monifi Relationship must be open and in good standing to receive promotion incentive.

What you’ll need to set up direct deposit:
Find your account and routing numbers in the Monifi App under Account Details – from the home screen, select your Spend Balance, and tap the icon at the top right.

Here are more highlights of the Monifi product:

  • 0.60% APY on your Save balance.
  • No monthly fee.
  • Free nationwide ATMs through the Allpoint Network.
  • Works with Zelle for person-to-person payments.
  • Free debit card. Free billpay.

The new fintech holy grail is an app that takes your entire paycheck and helps you budget, save for a rainy day, save for intermediate goals, and invest for the future. I don’t know which one will win, but the bonuses do incentivize me to try them out. 😁

I usually define “fintech” as a software layer on top of a different bank’s FDIC insurance. In this case, Monifi is a division of MidFirst Bank (Member FDIC).

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 – August 2021 Update

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 August 2021, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. I look for lesser-known opportunities to earn 3% APY and higher while still 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 8/10/2021.

Fintech accounts
Available only to individual investors, fintech companies often 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. Read about the types of due diligences you should do whenever opening a new bank account.

  • 3% APY on up to $100,000. The top rate is still 3% APY for July through September 2021 (actually up to 3.5% APY with their credit card), 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 with 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. 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 0.27% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 0.37% 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 0.22% 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 8/10/2021, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.05% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.08% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a -0.07% 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 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.

  • Abound Credit Union has a special 13-month Share Certificate at 0.80% APY ($500 min), a special 47-month Share Certificate at 1.45% APY ($500 min), and a 59-month Share Certificate at 1.35% 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).
  • NASA Federal Credit Union has a special 49-month Share Certificate at 1.15% 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 1.05% APY. 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 1.55% APY vs. 1.45% 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 8/10/2021, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 1.90%.

All rates were checked as of 8/10/2021.

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.

USDC Stablecoin Reserves Breakdown July 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.

For those following stablecoin, Centre (founded by Circle) has released another breakdown of USDC reserves as of July 16, 2021. The accounting firm Grant Thornton attests that the total fair value of US dollar denominated assets held in segregated accounts are at least equal to the now $22.2 billion of USDC in circulation. Here is their breakdown of the reserves:

I honestly don’t see why they don’t just keep it all in cash. If they maintain the highest level of trust, they can make so much money elsewhere. Yet, while I am not a fan of seeing the 9% in commercial paper and 5% in corporate bonds, this breakdown is much better than Tether (USDT) reserves breakdown. Tether reported only 3% in cash and 65% in commercial paper, which would make it one of the the largest commercial paper holders in the world, yet nobody has any idea whose paper they own! I’m disappointed in USDC, but I would never actually own USDT.

Bloomberg’s Matt Levine has observed that “most of what actually happens with Bitcoin is about rediscovering financial history and re-creating the traditional financial system from scratch.” The same goes for stablecoin deposits, as we are seeing banking without FDIC insurance to even the playing field amongst big and small banks (and protect individual depositors). As in the past, since there is the chance of a “bank failure” and/or fraud, people demand higher interest for higher risk, while the safer places can get away with paying less interest. Consider the current interest rates on USDC deposits:

Although if we keep following that history model, then at some point there will be a stablecoin crisis where some portion of folks will lose money, leading to much tighter regulations about maintaining reserves, etc.

The poor transparency about stablecoin reserves and the lack of FDIC-insurance are why I don’t list these APYs in my monthly updates on the best rates on cash. You must perform your own due diligence on stablecoin risks.

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.

Kabbage Business Checking Review: 1.10% APY + Targeted $300 Bonus

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.

Kabbage offers financial solutions for small businesses, and was acquired by American Express in late 2020. On top of the very competitive interest rate of 1.10% APY, there is currently a targeted $300 bonus for their business checking account. If you have an American Express business credit card, check for an email with the subject “Meet Kabbage Checking from American Express” with the link. Thanks to Oregon Fan for the heads up. Here are the highlights:

  • 1.10% APY on balances up to $100,000
  • No monthly maintenance fees.
  • No minimum balance requirements.
  • Free ATM access. Check app for a map to the nearest in-network ATM.
  • Deposit checks for free via mobile app.
  • Deposit cash at one 90,000 participating retailers nationwide (including Walgreens, CVS, Walmart) for a variable fee up to $4.95. Check app for a map to the nearest location.
  • Need paper checks? $20 fee for one pack of 100 personal-sized checks.

Looks like if you like doing all your business banking via a mobile app, this would be a good fit. If you deal with a lot of physical cash or write a lot of checks… not so much, since you would have to pay a fee for each cash deposit and a $20 fee for every 100 checks. However, at 1.10% APY and no minimum balance requirement, you could just use this as a business savings account.

Other Kabbage products include a business line of credit and a service to send invoices and accept payments. (They also helped dole out a lot of PPP loans.)

Kabbage Checking is provided by Green Dot Bank, member FDIC. The routing number may show up as “GoBank, A Division of Green Dot Bank.”

$300 bonus details. Here is a screenshot from the e-mail that I received:

Update: A rep from American Express reached out to me and stated that this offer is targeted only to those that received the e-mail.

I do have an American Express business credit card, so if you have one as well, please go check your linked e-mail address to look for this offer. The fine print:

To be eligible to earn the $300 cash deposit, you must 1) Apply and be approved for a Kabbage Checking™ account by 9/8/2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET and 2) Successfully complete 5 debit card purchases within 60 days of account opening. Any transactions that have not cleared within 60 days of account opening do not qualify. Your Kabbage Checking account must be open at the time of fulfillment of this cash deposit. Once you have completed all the above requirements, the $300 cash deposit will be deposited into your Kabbage Checking account within 8-12 weeks from the date your account was opened. Limit one offer per new Kabbage Checking account.

Bottom line. Kabbage offers a digital-first business checking account that would work well for small businesses that don’t deal with a lot of physical cash deposits or paper checks (due to the fees involved). I get the feeling that it is only a matter of time before this becomes the “American Express business checking account”. Hopefully the interest rate stays high for a while.

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 – July 2021 Update

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 July 2021, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. You will find lesser-known opportunities to earn 3% APY and higher while still 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 7/13/2021.

Fintech accounts
Available only to individual investors, fintech companies often 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. Read about the types of due diligences you should do whenever opening a new bank account.

  • 3% APY on up to $100,000. The top rate is still 3% APY for July through September 2021 (actually up to 3.5% APY with their credit card), 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 $100 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 with 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. 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.
  • CommunityWide Federal Credit Union has a 12-month CD at 0.85% APY ($1,000 min). Early withdrawal penalty is calculated as the amount of the withdrawal times the remaining term (days) of this certificate at the rate of 2 times the APR (divided by 365) paid on this certificate. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($5 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 0.28% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 0.38% 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 0.25% 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 7/13/2021, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.05% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.07% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a -0.09% 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 1.35% 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 special 18-month Share Certificate at 0.80% APY ($500 min), a special 47-month Share Certificate at 1.45% APY ($500 min), and a 59-month Share Certificate at 1.35% 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 see a 5-year CD at 1.00% APY. 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. 1.41% 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 7/13/2021, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 1.96%.

All rates were checked as of 7/13/2021.

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.

BlockFi Promos: $250 BTC Bonus, 10% APY Interest on USDC, Bitcoin Rewards Credit Card

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: Deposit bonus, APY promo, and new credit card details. BlockFi is a cryptocurrency platform that both pays interest on crypto deposits (including stablecoins) and lets you gain liquidity by borrowing cash backed by your cryptocurrency. Two promotions going on now include the up to $250 bonus Bitcoin for new deposits and the 10% APY on stablecoin deposits.

Up to $250 in bonus Bitcoin for new clients that sign up and fund a new BlockFi Interest Account. Here are the updated bonus tiers:

  • Deposit $25 to $1,499 Get $15 in BTC.
  • Deposit $1,500 to $19,999, Get $20 in BTC.
  • Deposit $20,000 to $39,999, Get $40 in BTC.
  • Deposit $40,000 to $74,999, Get $75 in BTC.
  • Deposit $75,000 to $99,999, Get $150 in BTC.
  • Deposit $100,000+, Get $250 in BTC.

This must be your first deposit, and you must make the qualifying deposits within 30 days of account opening. The required holding period is roughly 3 months. This one is an affiliate offer and you should see the promo code partner250 auto-filled on your application.

New BlockFi clients who sign up with a specific partner referral code and fund their account during the promotion period (current calendar month ending at 23:59:59 UTC on the last day of the month) are eligible to receive a tiered bonus paid in BTC. To be eligible for the promotion, this must be your first ever deposit in the BlockFi Interest Account, and you must maintain a $100+ crypto balance through the 14th of the month at 23:59:59 UTC two and a half months from the month of eligibility in order to remain eligible. Eligible payouts occur on the 15th of every month on a rolling basis. If the 15th falls on a weekend, then the payout will occur by the end of the next business day (ex. If you participate in the promo in December, your bonus will be paid out March 15th). This offer is not valid in conjunction with any other current or past promotions and the promo code on the account will be used to determine promo eligibility for new accounts. The bonus will be paid in BTC based on the prevailing market price at the time of payment. Payout will be based on your average daily balance (USD equivalent) maintained through 23:59:59 UTC on the 14th on the month you are eligible to be paid on. Any withdrawals made before 23:59:59 UTC on the 14th of the month you are eligible to be paid out on may affect your tier. BlockFi Interest Accounts are available in most countries worldwide and all U.S. states other than NY. There is a maximum of one bonus per client. This offer is not valid in conjunction with other promotions or offers. Terms subject to change. Rates for BlockFi products are subject to change. Digital currency is not legal tender, is not backed by the government, and BIA accounts are not subject to FDIC or SIPC protections.

To fund larger amounts quickly, you can do a wire transfer from your bank account or USDC transfer from Coinbase/Coinbase Pro. BlockFi also now supports free ACH transfers direct from your bank account, with reported transfer limits of $5,000 per day. Both deposits and withdrawals are fee-free. Linking is done via the Plaid platform, which means BlockFi never sees your passwords and your info is encrypted.


As of 7/1/2021, the BlockFi Interest Account (BIA) currently pays 4% APY on up to 0.5 Bitcoin (BTC) and 7.5% APY on up to $50,000 of USDC/GUSD stablecoins (subject to change on a monthly basis). There are no trade requirements, but when you deposit USD it will be converted to the GUSD (Gemini stablecoin) by default. (You can then use it to buy USDC or something else if you wish.) You could simply hold the stablecoin and earn interest until the bonus posts. Their overall business model is to earn a spread on the difference between lending out money and paying interest.

To earn interest on crypto, we lend assets to highly vetted and audited institutional counterparties. The interest we are able to pay is based on the yield that we are able to generate from lending, which directly correlates to the market demand in the space (I.e. what rate institutions are willing to pay to borrow specific crypto assets, as it varies from asset to asset).

BIA is available in 49 of 50 U.S. states (excluding New York). One free crypto withdrawal per calendar month and one free stablecoin withdrawal per month. After that, additional stablecoin withdrawals are $0.25 each.

I find it interesting these are the current interest rates on USDC from various exchanges (subject to balance limits):

Coinbase is probably the most established and has the highest market value, followed by Blockfi and then Voyager. But the APYs are so wildly different, are they accurate reflections of the relative amount of risk involved? All are multi-billion dollar companies. Voyager is a publicly-traded company on a Canadian stock exchange.

10% APY stablecoin promo through July 31st. Blockfi is offering 10% APY on USDC/GUSD if they are new stablecoin deposits added after 4/21/21.

New and existing BlockFi clients who fund and maintain additional USD stablecoin balances (excluding Tether and DAI) during the promotion period (4/22/21 00:00:00 UTC – 7/31/21 23:59:59 UTC) are eligible to receive a rate boost to 10% APY in GUSD on those additional balances.

Only additional USD stablecoin balances will be considered for this promotion. A snapshot of your USD stablecoin balance will be taken on 04/21/2021 23:59:59 UTC, and only additional USD stablecoin balances from 04/22/2021 to 07/31/2021 will be counted towards your bonus. Trades into USD stablecoin will also count towards your balance.

Blockfi credit card. The new Blockfi Rewards Visa Signature card has is a new rewards credit card that earns BTC instead of cash back. They’ve been adding a few new perks and removed the annual fee, so that altogether it can be a good compliment for Blockfi users. You can only join the waitlist if you already have an open BlockFi BIA account, so I’d grab the deposit bonus first. Here are the highlights:

  • Earn 3.5% back in bitcoin during your first 3 months of card ownership.
  • 2% extra APY on your stablecoin holdings
  • Earn 0.25% back on all eligible trades, up to $500 in BTC each month.
  • Earn 1.5% back in bitcoin on every purchase.
  • Earn 2% back in bitcoin on every purchase over $50,000 of annual spend.
  • No annual fee.

BlockFi is definitely one of the more well-established crypto sites, but you should do your own due diligence as it is not an FDIC-insured bank account nor a SIPC-insured brokerage account. I found that they were backed by some reputable firms including Fidelity Investments and Coinbase, with over $100 million raised so far. They use Gemini as their primary custodian, which is a licensed custodian and regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services. As such, they will still require your name, address, and Social Security Number to verify the identity of all accountholders.

Bottom line. BlockFi offering up to $250 in bonus Bitcoin, depending on deposit size, for new clients that sign up and fund a new BlockFi Interest Account. They also pay interest on both Bitcoin and stablecoin.

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.