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Certificate of deposit
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Certificate of deposit

A certificate of deposit or CD is, in the United States, a familiar financial product, commonly offered to consumers by banks, thrift institutions, and credit unions.

Such CDs are similar to savings accounts in being insured—by the FDIC for banks or by the NCUA for credit unions—and thus virtually risk-free; they are "money in the bank." They are different from savings accounts in that the CD has a specific, fixed term—often three months, six months, or one to five years—and, usually, a fixed interest rate. It is intended that the CD be held until maturity, at which time the money may be withdrawn together with the accrued interest.

Table of contents
1 CD rates
2 How CDs work
3 CD deposit insurance
4 CD terms and conditions
5 Other CDs and CD-related financial products
6 External Links

CD rates

In exchange for keeping the money on deposit for the agreed-on term, banks usually grant higher interest rates than they do on accounts from which money may be withdrawn on demand. For example, as of 2004 one well-known bank offers 0.40% annual interest on savings accounts from which withdrawals may be made on demand, 0.80% on a 3-month CD, and 2% on a 2-year CD.

Fixed rates are common, but some banks offer CDs with various forms of variable rates. For example, in mid-2004, with interest rates expected to rise, many banks began to offer CDs with a "bump-up" feature. These allow for a single readjustment of the interest rate, at a time of the consumer's choosing, during the term of the CD.

How CDs work

The consumer who opens a CD may receive a bankbook or paper certificate, but as of 2004 it is common for CD to consist simply of a book entry and an item shown in the consumer's periodic bank statements; that is, there is usually no "certificate" as such.

At most institutions, the CD purchaser can arrange to have the interest periodically mailed as a check or transferred into another account. This reduces total yield because there is no compounding.

Commonly, banks mail a notice to the CD holder shortly before the CD matures requesting directions. The notice usually offers the choice of withdrawing the principal and accumulated interest or "rolling it over" (depositing it into a new CD). In the absence of such directions, it is common for for the bank to "roll over" the CD automatically, once again tying up the money for a period of time. A holder who actually wishes to withdraw the money must be alert for for the maturity notice, and communicate his wishes to the bank in advance of maturity.

Withdrawals before maturity are usually subject to a substantial penalty, often the loss of six months' interest. These penalties ensure that it is generally not in a holder's best interest to withdraw the money before maturity.

CD deposit insurance

The amount of insurance coverage varies depending on how accounts for an individual or family are structured at the bank. The level of insurance is governed by complex FDIC and NCUA rules, available in FDIC and NCUA booklets or online.

Some institutions use a private insurance company instead of, or in addition to, the Federally-backed FDIC or NCUA deposit insurance.

CD terms and conditions

By law, the Federally-required "Truth in Lending" booklet, or other disclosure document that gives the terms of the CD, must be made available before the purchase.

Some of the major variations in the terms of CDs include:

Other CDs and CD-related financial products

This article has described the familiar FDIC-insured or NCUA-insured CDs which are usually purchased by consumers directly from banks or cerdit unions. There are also "certificates of deposit" issued by various entities that do not carry insurance, and there are various CD and CD-backed products offered by investment houses and "CD brokers." These are more complicated, and the purchaser needs to research and carefully understand the terms and conditions that apply.

External Links