Best Interest Rates on Cash – June 2019

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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. Thank you for your support.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for June 2019, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. Things are pretty dull this month – mostly small rate drops on CDs due to the inverted yield curve. 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 6/2/19.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks like to get away with 0.01% APY, 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 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)
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. Purepoint Financial has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.50% APY with a $10,000 minimum deposit. Marcus Bank 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.35% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Comenity Direct has a 12-month CD at 2.86% APY ($1,500 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 6 months of interest. If you have a military relationship, Navy Federal Credit Union has a 10-month special at 2.75% APY with add-on option.

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 difference 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 2.40% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 2.33%. 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 2.61% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 2.71% 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 2.71% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.69% 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 6/1/19, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.35% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.22% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 2.30% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 2.24% 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 May 2019 and October 2019 will earn a 1.90% 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 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. 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, 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 right now is Orion FCU Premium Checking at 4.00% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet make $500+ in direct deposits and 8 debit card “signature” purchases each month. The APY goes down to 0.05% APY and they charge you a $5 monthly fee if you miss out on the requirements. There is also the TAB Bank 4% APY Checking, which I don’t like due its vague terms. Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
  • If you’re looking for a high-interest checking account without debit card transaction requirements then the rate won’t be as high, but take a look at MemoryBank at 1.60% APY.

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.

  • Hanscom Federal Credit Union has a 19-month CD special at 3.00% APY ($1,000 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 6 months of interest. WebBank has a 3-year CD at 3.00% APY ($2,500 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 9 months of interest.
  • 5-year CD rates have been dropping at many banks and credit unions, following the overall interest rate curve. A good rate is now about 3.25% APY, with Connexus Credit Union offering 3.40% APY ($5,000 minimum) on a 5-year CD with an early withdrawal penalty of 12 months of interest. Anyone can join this credit union by joining a partner organization for a $5 fee.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. You must now log in to see the rates. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable fixed early withdrawal penalties. Nothing special right now. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 2-year non-callable CD at 2.50% APY and a 5-year non-callable CD at 2.70% 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 not showing any available 10-year CDs. 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 6/1/19, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.39%.

All rates were checked as of 6/2/19.



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

Best Interest Rates on Cash – May 2019

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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. Thank you for your support.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for May 2019, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. There hasn’t been much movement recently, and the rate curve is still pretty flat with long-term rates only slightly higher than short-term ones. 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 5/1/19.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks like to get away with 0.01% APY, 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 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)
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. Purepoint Financial has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.50% APY with a $10,000 minimum deposit. Marcus Bank 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.35% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • CD Bank has a 12-month CD at 3.00% APY ($10,000 minimum) but with a big early withdrawal penalty of 12 months of interest. If you have a military relationship, Navy Federal Credit Union has a 10-month special at 2.75% APY with add-on option.

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 difference 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 2.36%. 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 more interest rate risk.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 2.74% 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 5/1/19, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.42% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.39% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 2.30% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 2.24% 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 May 2019 and October 2019 will earn a 1.90% 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 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. 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, 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 right now is Orion FCU Premium Checking at 4.00% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet make $500+ in direct deposits and 8 debit card “signature” purchases each month. The APY goes down to 0.05% APY and they charge you a $5 monthly fee if you miss out on the requirements. There is also the TAB Bank 4% APY Checking, which I don’t like due its vague terms. Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
  • If you’re looking for a high-interest checking account without debit card transaction requirements then the rate won’t be as high, but take a look at MemoryBank at 1.60% APY.

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.

  • CD Bank has an 18-month CD at 3.10% APY ($10,000 minimum) but with a big early withdrawal penalty of 12 months of interest. Hanscom Federal Credit UnionBank has a 19-month CD special at 3.00% APY ($1,000 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 6 months of interest.
  • 5-year CD rates have been dropping at many banks and credit unions, following the overall interest rate curve. A good rate is now about 3.25% APY, with First National Bank of America offering 3.35% APY on a 5-year CD with an early withdrawal penalty of 1.5 years (!) of interest..
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable fixed early withdrawal penalties. Nothing special right now. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 2-year non-callable CD at 2.45% APY and a 5-year non-callable CD at 2.75% 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 3.00% 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 5/1/19, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.74%.

All rates were checked as of 5/1/19.



qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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.

Savings I Bonds May 2019 Interest Rate: 1.40% Inflation + 0.50% Fixed Rate

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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. Thank you for your support.

sb_poster

Update 5/1/19. The fixed rate will be 0.50% for I bonds issued from May 1, 2019 through October 31st, 2019. This is the same as it was for the last 6 months. The variable inflation-indexed rate for this 6-month period will be 1.40% (as was predicted). The total rate on any specific bond is the sum of the fixed and variable rates, changing every 6 months. If you buy a new bond in between May 2019 and October 2019, you’ll get 1.90% for the first 6 months. See you again in mid-October for the next early prediction for November 2019.

Original post 4/11/19:

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

New inflation numbers were just announced at BLS.gov, which allows us to make an early prediction of the May 2019 savings bond rates a couple of weeks before the official announcement on the 1st. This also allows the opportunity to know exactly what a April 2019 savings bond purchase will yield over the next 12 months, instead of just 6 months.

New inflation rate prediction. September 2018 CPI-U was 252.439. March 2019 CPI-U was 254.202, for a semi-annual increase of 1.16%. Using the official formula, the variable component of interest rate for the next 6 month cycle will be 1.40%. You add the fixed and variable rates to get the total interest rate. If you have an older savings bond, your fixed rate may be very different than one from recent years.

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

Buying in April 2019. If you buy before the end of April, the fixed rate portion of I-Bonds will be 0.50%. You will be guaranteed a total interest rate of 2.82% for the next 6 months (0.50 + 2.32). For the 6 months after that, the total rate will be 0.50 + 1.40 = 1.90%.

Let’s look at a worst-case scenario, where you hold for the minimum of one year and pay the 3-month interest penalty. If you theoretically buy on April 30th, 2019 and sell on April 1, 2020, you’ll earn a ~2.06% annualized return for an 11-month holding period, for which the interest is also exempt from state income taxes. Comparing with the best interest rates as of April 2019, you can see that this is lower than a current saving rate or 12-month CD.

Buying in May 2019. If you buy in May 2019, you will get 1.40% a newly-set fixed rate for the first 6 months. The new fixed rate is unknown, but is loosely linked to the real yield of short-term TIPS. In the past 6 months, the 5-year TIPS yield has dropped from 1% to about 0.5%. My best guess is that it will be 0.20%. Every six months, your rate will adjust to your fixed rate (set at purchase) a variable rate based on inflation.

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

Buy now or wait? In the short-term, these I bond rates will definitely not beat a top 12-month CD rate if bought in April, and most likely won’t if bought in May either unless inflation skyrockets. Thus, if you just want to beat the current bank rates, I Bonds are not a good short-term buy right now.

If you intend to be a long-term holder, then another factor to consider is that the April fixed rate is 0.5% and that it will likely drop at least a little in May in my opinion. You may want to lock in that higher fixed rate now.

Honestly, I am not too excited to buy either in April or May, but if I really liked the long-term advantages of savings bonds (see below), I would consider buying now in April rather than May due to my guess of a higher fixed rate. You could also wait, as things might change again during the next update in mid-October. For my own accounts, as I am now semi-retired and thus no longer a big saver looking for any tax-deferred space possible, I will probably just buy TIPS in other accounts instead since the real yield is similar.

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

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

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

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

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

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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.

TAB Bank Kasasa Cash Checking Review: 4% APY (Up to $50k) w/ Activity Requirements

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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. Thank you for your support.

TAB Bank has a Kasasa Cash Checking account that offers 4% APY on balances up to $50,000 if you meet certain deposit activity and debit card transaction requirements. However, they include some vague language that lets them withhold your interest based on their subjective opinion. Details below.

FDIC confirmation and eligibility. I was able to find TAB Bank at FDIC.gov under “Transportation Alliance Bank, Inc. D/B/a Tab Bank” with FDIC certificate #34781 and domain tabbank.com. Since this isn’t a credit union, you don’t need to worry about joining a member organization or maintain a share savings account. Anyone nationwide can apply online and fund using ACH transfer. They also say that they won’t perform a credit inquiry for a checking account.

Monthly requirements. To qualify for the 4% APY on balances up to $50,000 and up to $15 in ATM fee rebates per month, you must have the following during each monthly qualification cycle:

  • At least 1 direct deposit, ACH payment, or bill pay transaction.
  • At least 15 debit card purchases, and each must be $5 or more. When using your card, choose the credit option and bypass using your PIN.

If you don’t meet these requirements, there is no monthly fee but you lose the ATM rebates and your interest rate is only 0.05% APY.

Potential catch? Vague fine print. If you read through their Truth-in-Savings disclosure ], you will find the following vague assertions:

Purpose and expected use of accounts – The Kasasa Cash account is intended to be the accountholder’s primary checking account in which payroll transactions and day-to-day spending activities including but not limited to grocery, gasoline, apparel, shopping, dining, sporting and entertainment transactions are posted and settled.

[…] You will automatically qualify for the account’s rewards during your account’s first statement cycle. If the account is closed before rewards are credited, you will forfeit the rewards.

[…] Commensurate with the spending activities identified above, we expect the account’s debit card to be used frequently throughout each month and for transaction amounts to reflect a wide dollar range. Small debit card transactions conducted on the same day at a single merchant and/or multiple transactions made during a condensed time period particularly near the end of a Monthly Qualification Cycle are not considered normal, day-to-day spending behavior. These types of transactions appear to be conducted with the sole purpose of qualifying for the account’s rewards and thus will be deemed inappropriate transactions and will not count toward earning the account’s rewards.

[…] TAB Bank reserves the right to determine if the Kasasa Cash account is being maintained for a purpose other than day-to-day, primary use. Accountholders who persist in making debit card transactions in a calculated and limited fashion in order to meet their monthly qualifications may have their accounts converted to a different checking account or closed altogether.

Basically, they reserve the right to change up the requirements to whatever they want. We know that banks make money when we use your debit card. However, if you want your customers to use it more, then just make your requirements higher. You already added the $5 minimum per transaction. Just say you want 15 transactions with a combined total of $1,000 or similar. Make the rules fair, clear, and transparent.

Good deal? The interest rate is good, but the vague rules make this account not worth the bother. They are allowed to judge what I am “supposed” to buy on a day-to-day basis as a “normal” person? Pass! If you put in a sizable balance, that’s $100+ of monthly interest that they can withhold for no solid reason (and are actually incentivized to do so as it saves them money).

For now, I would compare with the Orion FCU 4% APY checking account, which doesn’t play such games, is more upfront and understandable. If they make the rules transparent (even if more restrictive), I would reconsider.

Bottom line. TAB Bank has a rewards checking account called Kasasa Cash Checking that offers 4% APY on balances up to $50,000 if you meet certain deposit activity and debit card transaction requirements. However, they hide in the fine print that they can withhold your interest based on their subjective opinion. If they judge you ineligible, you will earn virtually no interest (0.05% APY).

Here are the rest of the Best Interest Rates on Cash.

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

Best Interest Rates on Cash – April 2019

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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. Thank you for your support.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for April 2019, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. The big news is that we are starting to see some slight rate drops in CDs! Folks who locked in at 4% APY may end up pleased they did. 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 4/3/19.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks like to get away with 0.01% APY, 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 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)
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. Purepoint Financial has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.50% APY with a $10,000 minimum deposit. Marcus Bank 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.35% APY with a $500 minimum deposit, Ally Bank 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.30% APY with a $25k+ minimum, and CIT Bank 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.05% APY with a $1,000 minimum. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Colorado Federal Savings Bank has a 12-month CD at 2.86% APY ($5,000 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 3 months 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 difference 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 2.46% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 2.36%. 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 2.84% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.80% 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 4/3/19, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.42% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.41% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 2.30% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 2.25% 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. 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, 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 right now is Orion FCU Premium Checking at 4.00% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet make $500+ in direct deposits and 8 debit card “signature” purchases each month. The APY goes down to 0.05% APY and they charge you a $5 monthly fee if you miss out on the requirements. Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
  • If you’re looking for a high-interest checking account without debit card transaction requirements then the rate won’t be as high, but take a look at MemoryBank at 1.60% APY.

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.

  • Hanscom Federal Credit UnionBank has a 19-month CD special at 3.00% APY ($1,000 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 6 months of interest. If you have a military relationship, Navy Federal Credit Union has a 6-month special at 3.00% APY and 17-month special at 3.25% APY.
  • 5-year CD rates have been dropping at many banks and credit unions, following the overall interest rate curve. A good rate is now about 3.25% APY, with The Federal Savings Bank offering 3.30% APY on a 5-year CD.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, 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 2.45% APY and a 5-year non-callable CD at 2.80% 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 3.10% 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 4/3/19, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.75%.

All rates were checked as of 4/3/19.



qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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.

Marcus Bank $100 Bonus: Both New and Existing Customers

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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. Thank you for your support.

Update: This offer has expired.

I’m never really sure what to call it, but Marcus (formerly Goldman Sachs Bank) is offering a $100 bonus if you deposit $10,000+ in new funds into their online savings account within 10 days of enrollment at this special offer page. You must enroll by 11:59pm EST on 3/18/19 and maintain the new $10,000+ deposit for 90 days. They will deposit $100 into your account within 14 days, after those 90 days (got it?). Both new and existing customers are eligible, which is nice.

Offer available to new and existing customers. Each customer is limited to one bonus offer, which can only be applied to a single account. For eligibility purposes, each joint owner will be treated as a separate customer. For example, if you apply the bonus offer to a joint account, the remaining joint owner(s) may apply this offer to another account they own if they have not done so already. Offer not available to customers who are currently enrolled in a different bonus offer on an existing savings account. […] The bonus will be treated as interest for tax reporting purposes.

Basically a 1% bonus on $10,000 if you keep it there for 90 days, which makes it roughly 4% APY annualized. The bonus is on top of the standard interest rate, currently 2.25% APY as of 3/10/19. This combination makes it a great 3-month rate at that balance size when compared to my last monthly update of best interest rates.

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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 – March 2019

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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. Thank you for your support.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for March 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 3/4/19.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks like to get away with 0.01% APY, 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 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.

  • Redneck Bank offers 2.50% APY on balances up to $50,000. CIT Bank Savings Builder is now up to 2.45% APY with a $100 monthly deposit (with no balance limit). There are several other established high-yield savings accounts at 2% APY and up.
  • Got a lot of friends or followers? You can 4.30% APY on up to $50,000 for 30 days via the Empower app, another 30 days for each friend that you refer to the. First month is free + 11 referrals = 4.30% APY for a year.

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.

  • Purepoint Financial has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.60% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. Marcus Bank 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.35% APY with a $500 minimum deposit, Ally Bank 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.30% APY with a $25k+ minimum, and CIT Bank 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.05% APY with a $1,000 minimum. 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. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Hyperion Bank has a 13-month CD at 3.20% APY ($500 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 3 months 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 2.46% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 2.34%. 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 2.87% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.93% 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 3/4/19, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.44% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.54% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 2.30% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 2.21% 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. 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, 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 right now is Orion FCU Premium Checking at 4.00% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet make $500+ in direct deposits and 8 debit card “signature” purchases each month. The APY goes down to 0.05% APY and they charge you a $5 monthly fee if you miss out on the requirements. Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
  • If you’re looking for a high-interest checking account without debit card transaction requirements then the rate won’t be as high, but take a look at MemoryBank at 1.60% APY.

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.

  • Hyperion Bank has a 19-month CD at 3.50% APY ($500 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 6 months of interest.
  • Mountain America Credit Union has the following certificate rate: 2-year at 3.25% APY 3-year at 3.35% APY, 4-year at 3.25% APY, 5-year at 3.51% APY ($500 minimum deposit). MACU can be joined via a partner organization for a one-time $5 fee, usually right on the online application. Note: The 2-year and 3-year certificates have an early withdrawal penalty of 180 days of interest, and the 4-year and 5-year certificates have an early withdrawal penalty of a full year (!) of interest.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, 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 2.60% APY and a 5-year non-callable CD at 3.00% 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 3.25% 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 3/4/19, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.93%.

All rates were checked as of 3/4/19.



qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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.

Orion FCU Premium Checking Review: 4% APY (Up to $30k) w/ Activity Requirements

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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. Thank you for your support.

Orion Federal Credit Union (FCU) has a Premium Checking account that offers 4% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet certain direct deposit and debit card transaction requirements. However, if you don’t meet the requirements, you’ll get basically no interest and be charged a monthly fee. Their membership requirements are now open nationally, which is newsworthy. Thanks to reader Bill for the tip. Details below.

Membership eligibility. Orion FCU is based in Memphis, Tennessee and has a field of membership open to nearby residents and employers of local companies. However, you can also join as a “volunteer” for one of their affiliated nonprofit organizations:

Volunteers for Orion Gives Back organizations are eligible for membership in Orion. You can qualify as a volunteer fundraiser simply by choosing an organization and asking us to make a $10 donation.

Yes, you read that right – they will even make the donation for you. Choose from Habitat for Humanity Greater Memphis, Hope House, Porter-Leath, Ronald McDonald House, and Wolf River Conservancy.

Note that the application states that you will need your Social Security number and Driver’s License number. In addition, reader Bill reports that they will perform both a ChexSystems inquiry and a hard credit check through Equifax.

Premium Checking requirements. To qualify for the 4% APY on balances up to $30,000 and up to $10 in ATM fee rebates per month, you must have the following:

  • Electronic deposits totaling at least $500 per month. Electronic deposits include: direct deposit, mobile deposit, and electronic transfers from another financial institution.
  • Perform at least 8 signature-based card transactions per month. When using your card, choose the credit option and bypass using your PIN.

Note that amounts in excess of $30,000 will only earn 0.05% APY. If you meet these requirements, there is no monthly fee. If you don’t, then there is a $5 monthly fee and your rate goes down to 0.05% APY.

It is nice that the deposit requirement is not restricted to “payroll direct deposits”. You can set up an automated monthly transfer from another bank account.

Good deal? In my opinion, the relatively easy requirements, high interest rate, and moderate qualifying balance make this the best nationally-available “Reward Checking” account currently available. (“Rewards Checking” = requires a minimum number of debit card transactions + other activity each month.) While it is indeed a solid offer, the main question is how long it will last.

At the same time, I will not be joining. First, I don’t like accounts where I have to keep jumping through hoops (that I can’t easily automate like CIT Savings Builder) without being hit by a penalty of lost interest and a monthly fee. Second, I have gone ahead and opened accounts like this in the past, only to have them shut down shortly thereafter. I am concerned that this account won’t last longer than 6 months from today.

I’d rather open a credit union CD where I know the rate is guaranteed for a fixed period (i.e. past offers from Andrews FCU, Sharonview FCU, and Garden Savings FCU, etc.) These certificates just keep earning interest each month and I don’t have to do anything at all.

Bottom line. Orion FCU has opened up their Premium Rewards checking account to anyone nationwide. You can get 4% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet certain direct deposit and debit card transaction requirements. However, if you don’t meet those requirements, you will earn virtually no interest and be subject to a $5 monthly fee. If this interests you, I recommend creating a reliable system where you satisfy the requirements early on in the month.

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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.

Building a CD Ladder: Fidelity Auto vs. DIY vs. Treasury Bonds

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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. Thank you for your support.

Building a “CD ladder” means funding a combination of certificates of deposit (CDs) with different maturities so that you have always have a portion of your funds maturing soon (providing liquidity) but you also increase your interest rates (more $$$). Here are two common CD ladder types:

  • 2 Year Ladder: Four maturity “rungs” – 6-month, 12-month, 18-month, and 24-month CDs
  • 5 year Ladder: Five maturity “rungs” – 1, 2 ,3 ,4, and 5-year CDs

You start out by funding a CD for each rung (i.e. a $5,000, 5-year ladder would have $1,000 in each maturity). Then, after a year, you can keep the ladder going by buying another rung at the longest maturity (i.e. the 5-year ladder would buy another $1,000 5-year CD after one year has passed).

Fidelity has a CD ladder service where they will build a CD automatically for you using brokered CDs from their inventory. They will even re-invest, or “Auto Roll”, your maturing funds into a new rung if you wish. The service itself is free, but the CD rates aren’t necessarily the absolute highest available, especially when you include credit unions.

Alternatively, you could move around your own funds and build your own ladder (DIY) using certificates from various banks and credit unions. Finally, you could also buy Treasury bill and bonds of similar maturities, as they are also backed by the government so you can be confident that you’ll get your principal back.

I decided to run a quick survey today (February 13, 2019) to see what your average interest rates would be for the three different methods:

  • Fidelity Auto – Fidelity will construct using the highest rates in their brokered CD inventory.
  • DIY – Picking the highest rate at any FDIC or NCUA-insured institution that is open to anyone nationwide.
  • Treasury – Buying individual Treasury bonds on the secondary market (bond desk, alternative rates).

(Fidelity CDs were issued by State Bank of India, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs. DIY banks used in this comparison are Ally Bank/Limelight Bank, NASA FCU, and Georgia Banking Company. Rates as of 2/13/19.)

The chart shows that currently DIY you would gain an average of 0.40% annually on your cash invested over the automatic Fidelity service. If you had a $5,000 ladder, that would be $20 in extra interest per year. If you had a $50,000 ladder, that would be $200 a year. If you had a $500,000 ladder, that would be $2,000 a year. You would have to balance the extra work of DIY with the added convenience of the Fidelity service. This number is only a snapshot and will change over time.

Right now, Treasury bonds don’t really offer much of a premium above the top DIY CD rates in this scenario. Even if you had state income tax of 10%, your effective average APY would still only be about 2.8%. That is about break-even with the Fidelity automatic service.

This is one reason why I track the top CD interest rates each month.

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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.

NASA Federal Credit Union Application and Certificate Opening Review

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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. Thank you for your support.

I recently joined the NASA Federal Credit Union to take advantage their current certificate rate specials (as mentioned in my monthly list of best interest rates). NASA FCU has had some good specials over the last year or so, and I finally decided to go through the extra effort to open an account last week since I had some funds available. Here are my notes on the application and certificate opening process that might be helpful to others.

Membership eligibility. NASA FCU’s field of membership is open to affiliated people as noted in their membership page, but you can also join a special group to become eligible:

If none of the above apply to you – we’ll provide a complimentary membership to the National Space Society (NSS) which entitles you to full NASA Federal membership benefits

Free and instant! Just click the proper option during the application process.

Application process. You will need to provide the usual personal information – name, address, SSN, driver’s license, etc. I uploaded a scanned image of my driver’s license. They also asked a few identity verification questions, I believe based on my Experian credit report.

Note: Based on online reports, I was expecting that applying for account would result in a hard credit inquiry, likely to my Experian credit report. This tends to be common practice amongst credit unions. However, it has been a week since my application and none of my credit monitoring services (which covers all 3 bureaus) have indicated that a credit check was done, including the one that tracks Experian. It might show up later, but nothing so far.

My account was approved later in the same day as my application. I also read some online reports about NASA FCU asking for additional documentation (i.e. Social Security card), but I was not asked for anything additional.

Tip: When you get the account approval e-mail, you need to open up the secure message to see your new NASA FCU account number. Write down this number as it is the account number of your share savings account.

Initial funding. As with nearly all credit unions, you must fund a share savings account with at least $5 and keep the $5 there. I was given the option to fund with credit card (up to $500) or bank account. I tried to fund it with $500 from a rewards credit card (to get some cash back), but the transaction was rejected. I’m not sure if it was because it was trying to go through as a cash advance, or some other reason. I later funded it with a bank account instead.

Opening the certificate special. This time around, I opened their special 15-month certificate at 3.20% APY via this page. After doing so, there was a message directing me to fund it with a mailed check to a specific address with 10 days:

There may be other options like walking in a check or using a credit union shared deposit network, but I like to do things online whenever possible. My usual process is to link my new credit union with my Ally savings account hub. First, I used the account number from the approval message (see above) and the NASA FCU routing number of 255077833. I had to use the 2 small test deposit method for verification, so that took a day. Then, Ally let me push funds with a 1-day transfer into the savings account. Finally, I used the NASA FCU Live Chat feature to have them fund my special certificate using the funds in the share savings account. Here’s my timeline:

  • Day 1 – Started application and got approval. Initiated link via Ally Bank.
  • Day 2 – Verification deposits arrived at NASA FCU. Verified link via Ally Bank. Initiated transfer.
  • Day 3 – Funds arrived at NASA FCU. Used Live Chat to fund certificate.
  • Day 4 – Certificate open and funded.

The share certificate now shows up on my online banking page, right next to the share savings account. I didn’t have to mail in anything, like a signature card. I hope that NASA FCU keeps up their trend of offering top certificate rates.

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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 – February 2019

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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. Thank you for your support.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for February 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 2/3/19.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks like to get away with 0.01% APY, 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 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.

  • Redneck Bank offers 2.50% APY on balances up to $50,000. CIT Bank Savings Builder is now up to 2.45% APY with a $100 monthly deposit (with no balance limit). There are several other established high-yield savings accounts at 2% APY and up.
  • Got a lot of friends or followers? You can 4.30% APY on up to $50,000 for 30 days via the Empower app, another 30 days for each friend that you refer to the. First month is free + 11 referrals = 4.30% APY for a year.

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.

  • 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. 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. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Sallie Mae 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 2.48% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 2.32%. 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 2.73% SEC Yield ($3,000 min) and 2.83% 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 2.97% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 3.07% 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 2/1/19, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.41% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.56% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 2.30% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 2.19% 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 “credit” 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)
CDs offer higher rates, but some with a 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.

  • NASA Federal CU has a 15-month certificate at 3.20% APY and a 25-month at 3.25% APY ($10,000 minimum). 182 day early withdrawal penalty. Anyone can join this credit unions with via membership in partner organization (see application). Ally Bank has a 14-month CD at 2.85% APY (no minimum). 60 day early withdrawal penalty.
  • United States Senate Federal Credit Union has a 5-year Share Certificate at 3.53% APY ($60k min), 3.47% APY ($20k min), or 3.41% 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 2.65% APY and a 5-year non-callable CD at 3.10% 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 3.35% 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 2/3/19.



qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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.

Bank of America Free Museum Tickets 2019 Dates

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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. Thank you for your support.

bofa_musBank of America is running their Museums on Us program again for 2019, which offers cardholders free admissions to 200+ museums, science centers, and botanical gardens nationwide on the first full weekend of every month (Saturday and Sunday). Each person just needs to show their valid Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card and photo ID for free admission.

Each cardholder gets one free general admission for themselves only, so be sure everyone with their own cards brings them. If you have a BofA credit card, you may consider adding family members (of any age) as a free authorized user. Another option is to open a Kids Savings Account with no monthly fee and also comes with a debit card. You may need to open this in a physical branch.

2019 Calendar Dates (Check specific museum for hours)

  • January 5th & 6th
  • February 2nd & 3rd
  • March 2nd & 3rd
  • April 6th & 7th
  • May 4th & 5th
  • June 1st & 2nd
  • July 6th & 7th
  • August 3rd & 4th
  • September 7th & 8th
  • October 5th & 6th
  • November 2nd & 3rd
  • December 7th & 8th

Here is the full list of participating locations ]. One of the available museums is the Thinkery in Austin, Texas. We found it to be a fun and interactive children’s science center. The admission was $12 per person including kids (23 months and under free), which means this could have saved our family of give between $24 and $60 for that one day. I’ve seen other museums on their list with $20 admission prices.

While I wouldn’t open a new bank or credit card account for this feature, it is a nice perk if you already have such accounts. You can also sign-up for a free text reminder before each free weekend. I signed up and haven’t gotten any spam texts from BofA, just the reminders.

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings 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.

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