Merrill Edge + Preferred Rewards = Free Trades and Up to $900 Bonus For Moving Assets

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Merrill Edge is the self-directed brokerage arm formed after Bank of America and Merrill Lynch merged together. They are currently offering an increased cash bonus of up to $900 for moving “new money” or assets over to them from another brokerage firm. This new bonus is linked to the BofA/Merrill Preferred Rewards program, which is another reason to consider using them as it gets you free stock trades and better credit card rewards. Here’s an overview along with my personal experience as I’ve had an account with them for a few years now.

Cash bonus. Brokerage firms love to collect assets. The good news is they don’t require cash that will be earning zero interest, and Edge has no management fees if you stick with DIY. If you are holding shares of stock, ETFs, or mutual funds elsewhere, you can simply perform an “in-kind” ACAT transfer over to Merrill Edge. Your 100 shares of AAPL will remain 100 shares of AAPL, so you don’t even have to worry about price changes, lost dividends, or tax consequences. Any cost basis should transfer over too.

This specific offer is for accounts opened by April 30, 2019 and offers the following:

  • $150 bonus with $20,000 to $49,999 in new assets
  • $225 bonus with $50,000 to $99,999 in new assets
  • $375 bonus with $100,000 to $199,999 in new assets
  • $900 bonus with $200,000 or more in new assets

For comparison, here is an expired offer that was slightly better but probably the highest I’ve seen. Here is the standard offer that has been around for a while.

This offer includes both IRAs and regular taxable (CMA) accounts:

1 Offer valid for new and existing individual Merrill Edge IRAs or Cash Management Accounts (CMAs) opened by April 30, 2019. Offer is limited to one CMA and one IRA, with no more than two enrolled accounts per accountholder. Eligible Merrill Edge IRAs limited to Rollover, Traditional, Roth and owner only SEP IRA. The Merrill Edge IRA or CMA may be a Merrill Edge Self-Directed account, Merrill Edge Advisory Account or Merrill Guided Investing account. You may be eligible for a different or better offer. Please contact us for more information.

Note that last sentence! It’s not just boilerplate. After I did this bonus once with a partial transfer (just enough to satisfy the requirements), a Merrill Edge rep contacted me and offered me a custom bonus to move even more assets over. (The bonus ratios were about the same, but higher limits.) Therefore, if you are considering this and have more than $200,000 to transfer over, you may want to give them a call and see if they can offer even more money.

You can even transfer in Admiral Shares of Vanguard mutual funds that they don’t let you trade there, but you can only hold or sell them. You can’t buy more shares. You can, however, buy more shares of the corresponding Vanguard ETF if you wish.

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

At the Platinum and Platinum Plus levels, Merrill Edge will give you 30 and 100 free online stock trades every month, respectively. Bank of America’s interest rates on cash accounts tend to be quite low, 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.

Credit cards rewards. With the Preferred Rewards boost, you can get up to 2.6% cash back towards travel on all your purchases on the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card. You can also get up to 5.25% cash back (on up to $2,500 per quarter) on your choice of gas, online shopping, dining, or travel with the Bank of America Cash Rewards Card.

Keep in mind that it will take a while for your “3-month average combined balance” to actually reach the required level and officially qualify. (This may be obvious, but if you put in the minimum, it will take 3 months.)

My personal experience. In terms of Merrill Edge, I’ve had an account with them for a few years now and my lightning review is that they have a “okay/good” user interface and solidly “good” customer service. I would add that I am not an active trader and only make about 10 trades a year. I have been quite satisfied with the account. I can also move money instantly between my Merrill Edge and Bank of America checking accounts, making it easy to sweep out idle cash into an external savings account.

The biggest financial benefit to this BofA/Merrill Edge combo has probably been the 75% boost to their credit card rewards, allowing me to get 2.625% cash back on basically all my daily purchases. The second biggest benefit has probably been this cash bonus, but that’s because I don’t make 100 trades over the course of a few years, let alone a single month.

Bottom line. Merrill Edge is currently offering up to $900 if you move over a significant amount of assets to their self-directed brokerage. This can simply be mutual fund or ETFs shares currently being held elsewhere. When you keep enough assets across Bank of America and Merrill Edge, their Preferred Rewards program can offer nice perks like waived bank fees, free stock trades, and boosted credit card rewards.

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Discover Bank Bonus: 2.10% APY + $150/$200 ($15,000/$25,000 Deposit)

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disc_osaDiscover Bank has a refreshed bonus for their online savings account that equates to a solid effective interest rate. If you open a new account through this promotion link by 2/4/19 and use the offer code NPBE119, you can receive one of the following bonuses:

  • Deposit at least $15,000 by 2/18/19 to earn a $150 bonus, or
  • Deposit at least $25,000 by 2/18/19 to earn a $200 bonus.

Thanks to reader Jared for the tip. If the link above stops working, here is a similar offer expiring 1/31/19 with promo code SAVE119E1.

The Discover Online Savings Account has a current interest rate of 2.10% APY as of 1/21/19, which is a competitive rate although the highest available is currently 2.45% APY. There are no minimum balance requirements and no monthly fees. Interest is compounded daily and paid monthly.

If you deposit the minimum amount of $15k, the $150 bonus is effectively another 1% of your initial deposit. The $200 bonus on $25,000 deposited is a lower percentage, but still pretty good. There is no fixed minimum time period where you have to keep the money there after getting the bonus, so your effective ROI can be quite high. Keep in mind that you must still have an open account for the bonus to post.

Offer not valid for existing or prior Discover savings customers or existing or prior customers with savings accounts that are co-branded or affinity accounts provided by Discover. Account must be open when bonus is credited. Bonus will be credited to the account by 3/4/19. Bonus is considered interest and will be reported on IRS Form 1099-INT. Offer may be modified/withdrawn.

I already have a Discover bank account that I tried out in exchange for a previous bonus. I did not experience a hard credit pull. The rates are decent but given their limited feature set there is usually another similar savings account that is higher, so I only keep it open in case something good comes up in the future. I only keep $5 in there with a $5 transfer once in a while so they don’t close it without notice.

Bottom line. The Discover Savings account is a simple, barebones piggy-back* savings account with no minimum balance and no monthly fees. The rates are historically competitive but rarely the highest. With no monthly fees, this is a relatively low-risk bonus if you have the funds available and have never had a Discover bank account before. Note that the bonus is considered taxable interest.

(* “Piggy-back” means it is a companion account to your existing checking account.)

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content 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 supporting this independent site.”

Best Interest Rates on Cash – January 2019

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Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for January 2019, 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 1/9/19.

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 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 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. Marcus Bank has 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.35% APY with a $500 minimum deposit, Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD is at 2.30% APY with a $25k+ minimum, and CIT Bank has a 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.
  • First Internet Bank has a 1-year CD at 2.89% APY ($1,000 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 180 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 2.44% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 2.31%. 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 2.71% SEC Yield ($3,000 min) and 2.81% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so there is more interest rate risk.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 2.96% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.98% 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 1/8/19, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.40% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.60% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 2.24% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 2.16% 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 personally recommend or 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.

  • INOVA Federal CU has a 14-month CD at 3.00% APY and a 20-month at 3.15% APY ($200 minimum). 180 day early withdrawal penalty. Premier America CU has 15-month CD at 3.10% APY ($1,000 minimum). Anyone can join these credit unions with via membership in partner organization (see application).
  • United States Senate Federal Credit Union has a 5-year Share Certificate at 3.69% APY ($60k min), 3.62% APY ($20k min), or 3.56% 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 2.75% APY and a 5-year non-callable CD at 3.20% 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 3.45% 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 1/9/19, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.86%.

All rates were checked as of 1/9/19.



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Big List of Free Consumer Data Reports (1/2): See Your Confidential Credit, Banking, and Payday Lending Data

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magAll info double-checked and updated for 2019. Since these are available every 12 months, it is a good idea to check these near or around the same time each year. A lot of companies make their money by collecting and selling data – your personal data. In the past, it was often difficult if not impossible to see what they were telling prospective lenders, landlords, even employers about you. Under the FCRA and/or FACT Acts, many consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) are now legally required to send you a free copy of your report every 12 months, as well as provide a way to dispute incorrect information.

Some have an online request form, but some require snail mail with proof of identity. (Some are shady and really try to hide this option.) You probably won’t want to bother checking all of them, but if you’ve experienced any sort of rejection or adverse reaction in these areas the cause might be found inside one of these databases. Keep in mind that you may not have a file with all of these places. Requesting a copy of your own consumer reports does not hurt your credit score.

Credit-Related

Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The three major credit bureaus track your credit accounts, payment history, and other related information like bankrupts and liens. Free copy of each once every 12 months.

You can also now freeze your credit reports for free, but you must contact each bureau separately. For the contact info, please see Big List of Ways To Protect Your Identity: Free Credit Monitoring, Free Credit Locks, and Free Credit Freezes

CoreLogic Credco. One of the largest credit-related CRAs and often used by mortgage lenders, your CoreLogic Credco Consumer File can contain: previous homeownership and mortgage info, rental payment history, any reported delinquencies, and other debt obligations like child support. Free copy once every 12 months.

LexisNexis. One of the largest personal information databases that includes public records, real estate transaction and ownership data, lien, judgment, and bankruptcy records, professional license information, and historical addresses on file. Free copy, must mail in form.

Innovis. A supplementary credit report and identity verification provider. Free copy once every 12 months.

SageStream, LLC (formerly ID Analytics) Per their site, they are a “a credit reporting agency that produces credit reports and scores from our repository of consumer information contributed by a wide array of companies including leading financial services organizations, wireless providers, utilities, retailers, auto lenders and many others” Free copy, must fax or mail in a written form.

Banking-Related

Chexsystems. A consumer information database used by an estimated 80-90% of all banks to help determine the risk of opening new accounts. Think of it as the banks’ version of a credit bureau. If a person commits check fraud or overdraws their account, it will be listed here. In addition, the simple act of opening or closing a bank account may be recorded in their database. Having a negative ChexSystems record can leave you blacklisted from opening bank accounts at most major banks. Free copy once every 12 months. You can now request your report online.

CrossCheck, Inc. Provides check verification services for various industries, including automotive sales and repair, building supply, home improvement, retail, medical, dental, and veterinarian industries.

Global Payments Check Services, Inc. Provides check verification services for various industries.

TeleCheck. Per their site, they provide “industry-leading check acceptance, check processing and risk analytics services to merchants and financial institutions.” One of the major companies that protect businesses and banks from bad checks. Must order by phone or mail.

Certegy Check Services. Per their site, a “check risk management company that provides verification, guarantee and risk analytics to thousands of businesses that choose to accept checks as a form of payment for goods or services.” Clients include check-cashing stores and casinos. Free copy once every 12 months. Must order by phone or mail.

Early Warning Services. A collaboration between a group of big banks including Bank of America, BB&T, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Provides fraud prevention and risk management in relation to bank accounts and payment transactions. Must order by phone.

Subprime-Related (Payday Lending)

The following companies focus on subprime customers with clients including payday lenders, title loan lenders, rent-to-own stores, and subprime auto loan providers.

Teletrack (affiliated with CoreLogic).

FactorTrust. Free copy once every 12 months. Owned by TransUnion.

Clarity Services, Inc.

DataX Ltd.

Microbilt and subsidiary Payment Reporting Builds Credit (PRBC). Microbilt is a provider of credit data for the “approximately 110 million underserved and underbanked consumers in the United States.” Free copy once every 12 months.

Next up, I will double-check and update Part 2: Rental History, Insurance, & Employment Data.

Sources: ConsumerFinance.gov, FTC.gov, Wikipedia

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content 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 supporting this independent site.”

CIT Bank Savings Builder Account: 2.40% APY w/ Monthly $100 Deposit

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Updated. 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 2.40% APY (as of 5/1/19). 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 (2.40% APY as of 5/1/19) 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 1/3/19). 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. You can still make withdrawals out of the account at any time without affecting the rate.

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 2.40% APY as of 5/1/19. In my opinion, it is easiest to set up a $100 automated recurring deposit every month to make sure you qualify for the top rate. You can still make withdrawals out of the account at any time without affecting the rate.

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content 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 supporting this independent site.”

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

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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.

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content 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 supporting this independent site.”

EBSB Direct High Yield Savings Account 2.50% APY ($5,000 minimum)

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Update 1/10/19: Gone again! I wish they would just tell you they aren’t taking applications instead of pulling all the information down completely.

Update 12/13/18: Looks like they brought this account back and are accepting new applications again.

Update 11/4/18: Looks like this one got pulled early. Right now I only see the Money Market 3 account available at 1.80% APY.

EBSB Direct has a new High Yield Statement Savings Account that pays 2.50% APY on balances between $5,000 and $1 million. No interest is paid if your balance is below $5,000.

$50 minimum to open. If you are an existing EBSB Direct customer, to open this account you must deposit new money from another financial institution. Interest is compounded monthly and credited monthly. There is a $25 fee if you close the account within 180 days of opening.

EBSBDirect.com appears to be the nationally-available, online division of East Boston Savings Bank. However, be careful not to apply at the main bank website EBSB.com unless you are a resident of MA, RI, or NH as they will reject your application. I guess the checking accounts and branches are only for locals.

This account is notable as it is the first nationally-available savings account to reach 2.50% APY. Unfortunately, there is no rate guarantee period. I’m hesitant to open yet another bank account without a rate guarantee or a locked-in CD, but hopefully the other banks will catch up soon. As of January 2019, the second-highest rate is from CIT Bank at 2.45% APY. 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.

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content 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 supporting this independent site.”

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

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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.

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content 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 supporting this independent site.”

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

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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.

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content 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 supporting this independent site.”

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

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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.

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content 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 supporting this independent site.”

Best Interest Rates on Cash – December 2018

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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.



“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content 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 supporting this independent site.”

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

“My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of selected credit card products. My Money Blog and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and the content has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for supporting this independent site.”

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.

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