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Strategies to Save

6 Strategies to Keep Your Holiday Spending Low

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Santa Claus purchasing online

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and with it comes the temptation to overspend, over-indulge and regret it later. In fact, according to a recent study, 57% of American parents are willing to go into debt to make their children happy for the holidays. We all seem to have the same annual ritual: indulge in December, and repent in January, promising to spend and eat less next year.

We want to make our children, family and friends happy. Unfortunately, savvy marketers are very good at exploiting that desire. Here are six tips to keep holiday spending low, avoid temptation, and save money in the process. You can still have an amazing time with your family, and you will be grateful in January.

1. Set a budget for presents in advance

Walking into a store without a number in mind just invites disaster. But how do you decide the appropriate number? At the end of the day, money is time. How many hours of your life are you willing to work to pay for the gifts and food that you want to purchase? That is a personal decision, but it is one you should make consciously by doing the math.

To put things in perspective, I do a really simple equation. I divide my net after tax paycheck by the number of hours that I work. That is my net hourly salary. Now, think about how many hours you want to spend working to pay for the holidays. That should give you a good sense of your total budget.

When I think back upon the holidays I spent with my family growing up, I have forgotten 99 percent of the gifts that I received. But I remember the family dinners and the time we spent together. If my parents would have cut my gift allotment in half, I would have been just as happy – and I would still have fond memories today. Time is much more valuable than money. But by spending money you don’t have, you are giving up your time in the form of more hours at work to recoup the losses.

2. Beware of credit cards offered at the checkout counter

Have you been offered 10% off your bill if you open a credit card at the checkout counter? These offers can be a great way to save money. However, they can also be big, expensive traps.

The 10% discount is great if you can pay the balance in full when you receive the first statement. However, if you end up paying the balance over time (revolving), than you will likely end up paying far more interest than you received as a discount. Most store credit cards charge interest rates above 20%. That means if you pay only the minimum due, it could take 10 to 20 years to pay off the balance, and you would end up paying more than twice the purchase price, when you include the interest payments.

3. Shop early, and compare

I still know far too many people who wake up, get in the car and drive to the mall (without a budget, or a sense of how much something should cost). In fact, I used to do that with my father every year. It became a tradition. It was fun, but it was expensive.

Plan in advance, and make sure you compare prices across multiple sites. Amazon.com is always a great place to start, but also think about sites like ebay.com (it is not just for auctions), Google Shopping (google.com/shopping) and Pricegrabber.com.

But you should also look at the two big-box retailers: Target and WalMart. Especially this holiday season, they will be very aggressive in their discounting. In fact, a recent Wells Fargo study showed that Target and Wal-Mart consistently beat Amazon in low prices over the last year.

In order to do this, you need to spend some time, and you need to plan in advance so that you can get deliveries and compare prices.

4. Think about giving gifts after the 26th

For many families who celebrate Christmas, Santa Claus has to deliver presents for the 25th. However, for adults, that really doesn’t need to be the case. Years ago I agreed with my wife and my mother that we would exchange something personal on Christmas Day (which would include a card and a low-cost item). We would then exchange more gifts a few days later, enabling us to buy items that are sometimes up to 70% off, just by waiting one day.

You will surprise yourself. As much as you like the material gifts, you will probably find the personal gifts even more exciting and memorable.

And just remember your hourly salary. If waiting two days to give gifts to the adults in your life cuts the number of hours you have to work by 80%, than it is probably worth it.

5. If you are traveling, you should start the research now

Holiday travel can be very expensive, and you should start researching your fares now, if you haven’t already done so. The best place to compare prices is www.kayak.com, where you can even see the likelihood of the fare increasing. Kayak will give advice, which includes advising you to wait or to make your purchase. The site also offers the opportunity to receive alerts, informing you of the far changes.

 6. If you do get into trouble, don’t ignore it

If you do end up spending more money than you planned, don’t ignore the credit card bills or hope that the debt will magically disappear. Make sure that you look around for the way to refinance the debt at the lowest possible interest rate. We keep the best offers on our balance transfer and personal loan tables.

The holidays can be a wonderful time. And memories are always more important than things. To make sure you don’t spend all of your time in 2015 working hard to pay back the debt from this holiday season, just make sure that you set your budget, do comparison shopping in advance and say no to the offers that try to get you to spend more money. You will be glad you did once January comes around.

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Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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Review of Live Oak Bank’s Deposit Rates

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Review of Live Oak Bank
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Chances are you haven’t heard of Live Oak Bank. After all, this lender, based mostly on the web, has only been around since 2008, and it mostly focuses on giving out small business loans to businesses in specific industries, such as veterinary practices or craft breweries.

That’s no reason to pass it up for your personal banking needs, however. In fact, this little gem of a bank has one of the best-kept secrets in the personal banking world: it has one of the highest savings account interest rates you’ll find from an online bank. (More on that below.) And, most of its other personal deposit accounts offer relatively high rates as well.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at its deposit accounts to see if they’re right for you.

How do Live Oak Bank’s savings accounts compare?

APY

Minimum Deposit

1.60%

Up to $5 million

(but only up to $250,000 is FDIC-insured)

Rates current as of Jan. 17, 2018.

When it comes to the best savings accounts with high interest rates, Live Oak Bank currently has the highest rate. This means that Live Oak Bank is lowering the bar and allowing anyone to take advantage of these high interest rates, no matter how much is in his or her pocket right now.

What else do I need to know about Live Oak Bank’s savings account?

Live Oak Bank wants you to use your savings account, and use it often, which is one reason why it has no monthly maintenance fee. If there is no activity on your account for 24 months and your balance is less than $10.01, Live Oak Bank will take the remainder of your balance as a Dormant Account Fee and close your account.

Getting money into a Live Oak Bank savings account from an external bank account can take a little bit of time depending on how you do it. If you request the money through Live Oak Bank’s online portal, the funds won’t be available for up to five or six business days. But if you opt instead to send the money to Live Oak Bank from your current bank, the money will be available as soon as it’s received. Your Live Oak Bank savings account will start earning interest as soon as the money posts to your account.

You can easily withdraw your money at any time via ACH transfer. Simply log into your Live Oak Bank savings account and electronically transfer it to whichever bank account you wish. It’ll be available in two to three business days.

You are limited to making just six transactions (deposits or withdrawals) per month with this savings account. That’s not a Live Oak Bank thing; that’s a federal regulation imposed upon savings accounts in the U.S. If you absolutely can’t wait until next month to make another deposit or withdrawal past your allotted six per month, you’ll be charged a $10 transaction fee for each additional action.

How Live Oak Bank CD rates compare?

Live Oak Bank currently offers the highest CD rates.

This bank’s minimum deposit requirements also seem to be right on par with other bank’s minimum deposit requirements. The current best CDs out there have minimum deposit requirements both above and below Live Oak Bank’s $2,500 benchmark.

Term

APY

Minimum Deposit

6-month CD

1.55%

$2,500

1-year CD

2.10%

$2,500

18-month CD

2.20%

$2,500

2-year CD

2.30%

$2,500

3-year CD

2.35%

$2,500

4-year CD

2.40%

$2,500

5-year CD

2.55%

$2,500

Rates current as of Jan. 17, 2018

What else do I need to know about Live Oak Bank’s CDs?

Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to open these accounts. It’s a relatively straightforward process to open a CD: Simply complete the forms online, provide any needed documentation (such as your current bank account details), and wait for an account approval. Once your account is open, you can transfer over your deposit, where it will be held for five days before officially launching your CD.

If you need to take out your deposit early, bad news: As with many CDs, you’ll face an early-withdrawal penalty at Live Oak Bank. If your original CD term was for six months, one year or 18 months, you’ll be charged 90 days’ worth of interest. If your original CD term was for longer than that, you’ll be charged a higher rate of 180 days’ worth of interest.

If you are able to resist the urge to withdraw your money early, congratulations! Your CD will automatically renew into a second CD with the same term length. However, don’t panic if that’s not what you want: You have up to 10 days after the CD has matured to withdraw your money penalty-free and park it in your own bank account (whether it’s with Live Oak Bank or not).

Overall review of Live Oak Bank

It’s easy to overlook Live Oak Bank for other larger, more established consumer banks like Ally or Discover Bank. But Live Oak has some of the best CD rates around, and the best savings account available on the market today.

Lest you be scared away by its smaller name, consider this: This tiny-but-growing bank is getting rave reviews from customers and employees alike. It carries an “A” health rating, and has a top-notch online banking portal. About the only thing missing is a checking account to let you seamlessly do all of your daily banking with this great company.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

Lindsay VanSomeren is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lindsay here

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Review of Chase Bank’s CD Rates

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Review of Chase CD rates
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Chase Bank is a consumer and commercial bank operated by JPMorgan Chase & Co., an international business firm dating back to 1799 that currently has $2.6 trillion in assets and operations worldwide. The bank, insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), has 5,100 branches and 16,000 ATMs across the United States. Its products include credit cards; checking, savings and CD accounts; and auto and home equity loans.

But Chase’s CDs are the subject of this article; they can be opened at a branch or completely online at term lengths ranging from one to 120 months.

How Chase CD rates compare with those of other banks

We compared Chase’s CD offerings with entries on our current list of the Best CD Rates. On the positive side, you’ll need less money to qualify for a Chase CD than you might at other banks. Chase allows customers to open their CDs with a minimum deposit of $1,000, which is slightly lower than qualifying amounts at some other institutions. Chase CDs are also open to applicants who do not bank with Chase, in contrast with the practices of some banks and credit unions that require member checking or savings accounts.

However, Chase CD rates are far from the most competitive rates out there. You can easily get find better APY rates at other institutions, particularly for one-year CDs. If you decide to go with Chase, look into so-called “relationship rates” with a higher APY. Relationship rates are offered to customers who link their CDs to a Chase personal checking account.

On a 12-month CD for under $10,000, for example, you’ll currently draw twice the percentage rate offered on the standard CD.

As mentioned, a minimum of $1,000 is required to open a Chase CD account, and interest is compounded daily. Depending on the term, your earned interest may be paid monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually — and at maturity.

Here’s an overview of the rates Chase currently offers on its CD products. All rates were reviewed at Depositaccounts.com, another LendingTree-owned company, and are current as of Jan. 2, 2018.

CD term

APY

Min. deposit amount

1-Month

0.01%

$1,000

2-Month

0.01%

$1,000

3-Month

0.01%

$1,000

6-Month

0.01%

$1,000

9-Month

0.01%

$1,000

12-Month

0.01%

$1,000

15-Month

0.01%

$1,000

18-Month

0.05%

$1,000

21-Month

0.05%

$1,000

24-Month

0.05%

$1,000

30-Month

0.05%

$1,000

36-Month

0.05%

$1,000

42-Month

0.10%

$1,000

48-Month

0.10%

$1,000

60-Month

0.25%

$1,000

84-Month

0.25%

$1,000

120-Month

0.70%

$1,000

Source: DepositAccounts.com, Jan. 2, 2018

Chase CD relationship rates

Chase CD relationship APY rates are extended to customers who have a linked Chase checking account. You can apply online and if you use a transfer from your account to open the CD, the account can be opened the same day. The minimum deposit is, again, $1,000.

CD term

$0 - $9,999

$10K - $24,999.99

$25K - $49,999.99

$50K - $99,999.99

$100K - $249,999.99

$250K+

1-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

2-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

3-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

6-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

9-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

12-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.05%

0.05%

15-Month

0.05%

0.15%

0.15%

0.15%

0.20%

0.20%

18-Month

0.15%

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0.30%

0.30%

21-Month

0.15%

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0.30%

0.30%

24-Month

0.15%

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0.30%

0.30%

30-Month

0.15%

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0.30%

0.30%

36-Month

0.15%

0.35%

0.35%

0.35%

0.65%

0.40%

42-Month

0.25%

0.45%

0.45%

0.45%

0.50%

0.50%

48-Month

0.25%

0.45%

0.45%

0.45%

0.50%

0.50%

60-Month

0.35%

0.55%

0.55%

0.55%

0.60%

0.60%

84-Month

0.35%

0.55%

0.55%

0.55%

0.60%

0.60%

120-Month

0.90%

1.01%

1.01%

1.01%

1.05%

1.05%

Source: DepositAccounts.com, Jan. 2, 2018

Here’s a sample comparison between the APY on standard and relationship CDs on new accounts. To calculate on earnings at maturity, we assumed an account balance of $5,000.

Chase standard CD APY

Earnings at maturity

Chase relationship CD

Earnings at maturity

12 months at 0.01%

$.50

12 months at 0.02%

$1.00

24 months at 0.05%

$5.00

24 months at 0.15%

$15.01

48 months at 0.10%

$20.03

48 months at 0.25%

$50.19

120 months at 0.70%

$361.23

120 months at 0.90%

$468.67

Important information about Chase CDs

Fees

There are no monthly service fees, however there are $15 fees for inbound domestic and international wire transfers (waived if from another Chase account) and outbound domestic wire transfer fees. Accounts can be opened online. Deposits of more than $100,000 must be opened at a Chase branch office.

Non-Chase customer access

You do not need to have a Chase checking or savings account to open a standard Chase CD account. You’ll need to provide a Social Security number, driver’s license and contact information. Deposits must be made from a checking or savings account through your existing bank.

Maturity date and grace period
Law requires banks to alert consumers before the maturation date on CDs. Chase considers the maturity date as the last day of the term. It offers a 10-day grace period on all CDs with terms 14 days or longer. During the grace period, you can withdraw the funds without penalty or roll over the account to another term.

Automatically renewable CDs versus single-maturity CDs

Account holders have the option of opening an automatically renewable or single-maturity CD account.

With an automatically renewable CD, the account renews on the maturity date for the same term as the original one, making the new maturity date the last day of the new term. The standard rate will apply unless the owner qualifies for a relationship CD.

The single-maturity CD does not automatically renew and earns no interest following the maturity date. You may want to see if Chase is offering any promotional rates during the 10-day grace period if you plan to invest in another Chase CD using a ladder strategy.

Earning interest on a Chase CD

Interest on Chase CDs begins to accrue on the first business day of deposit into your account and is calculated on a daily balance, 365 days a year. Paid or credited interest can be withdrawn during the term or at maturity without incurring penalties. For maturities of more than one year, interest will be paid at least annually, according to the bank. If the CD matures and automatically renews, the interest in the account is rolled over into the new principal.

Early-withdrawal penalties and fees
According to Chase, early-withdrawal penalties are deducted from your principal and do not exceed the total amount of earned interest. The penalty is 1 percent of the amount withdrawn if the term of the CD is less than 24 months. The early-withdrawal penalty is 2 percent for terms of 24 months or more.

Chase CD early-withdrawal penalties can be waived upon:

  • Death of a CD owner
  • Disability of a retirement CD owner
  • Retitling of a CD
  • A court ruling that the CD owner is incompetent

The bottom line:

Chase’s CD rates are likely best for customers who link the CD to their personal checking accounts because they can qualify for those juicier relationship rates. The rates improve for longer terms and larger deposit amounts. Chase’s online tools allow you to apply for relationship CDs and track your investments. The minimum amount to open a standard CD account ($1,000) is on par or slightly lower than those required by other institutions. Overall, the APY rates are not as good as you can get from some competing banks and credit unions.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Chase’s secure website

Gabby Hyman
Gabby Hyman |

Gabby Hyman is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Gabby here

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BB&T CD Rates and Review

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Trying to find BB&T CD rates
Source: iStock

As you may know if you’ve done a search for BB&T CD rates, their website is not a helpful place to turn for information. Beyond a basic overview of their CDs on their website stating that they have CDs with terms ranging from seven days to five years, they do not give details on their current rates. BB&T did not respond to email and phone inquiries from MagnifyMoney asking why the bank does not publish its CD rates online. When we called their customer service number, a representative said BB&T’s CD rates change on a daily basis and said the best way to learn about CD rates is to call or visit a local branch.

So that’s what we did.

We called BB&T branches on January 2nd. After conducting this research, it’s not surprising BB&T makes their CD rates hard to find — they’re terrible.

BB&T CD rates and products

BB&T offers CD terms ranging from as short as seven days to as long as five years. They have eight CD options, each with different investment goals.

7-day to 60-month

For short-term investments, BB&T offers CDs ranging from seven days to 60 months. These personal CDs offer a fixed rate of return along with the flexibility to focus on developing either a short- or long-term investment.

BB&T CD Term

APY

Minimum Deposit Amount

3 Months

0.03%

$1,000

6 Months

0.05%

$1,000

1 Year

0.10%

$1,000

18 Months

0.15%

$1,000

2 years

0.20%

$1,000

3 Years

0.40%

$1,000

4 Years

0.45%

$1,000

5 Years

0.50%

$1,000

Rates as of Jan. 2, 2018

Not only can you find better CD rates at other banks and credit unions for each of the terms BB&T offers, you can get those better rates with smaller minimum deposits. BB&T’s offerings are far from the best in every term length above — you can see some of the top options in our monthly roundup of the best CD rates.

With the seven-day to 60-month BB&T CDs, there are no penalty-free options for withdrawing your funds prior to the CD reaching maturity. The early withdrawal penalty is the lesser of $25 or 12 months of interest for longer-term CDs. So with smaller initial deposits, early withdrawal penalties will negate any interest you may have earned.

Can’t Lose

As the name of this CD implies, whether rates go up or down, you can’t lose. Well, actually, you can: The APY is so low, you’re almost certainly going to lose money to inflation.

At the 12-month mark of the CD’s term, you may make one withdrawal without paying any fees. So if the market rate is higher than what you’re currently getting, simply withdraw the money and reinvest at the higher rate.

If, however, the interest rate you’re receiving is better than what’s currently available, you also have the option of making a second deposit into the Can’t Lose CD, up to $10,000. This locks in the rate for the new investment amount for the remainder of the term. So whether rates go up or down, you’ll lock in the higher rate.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

30-month "Can't Lose"

0.25

$1,000

No penalty for one
withdrawal after 12 months

As of Jan. 2, 2018

Still, you can find many CDs with better APYs than BB&T’s Can’t Lose, whether you’re looking for a 12-month investment or longer.

Stepped Rate

Laddering is a way to stagger your CD investments so you’re able to take advantage of increasing rates. With the Stepped Rate option from BB&T, laddering is built into the CD product. The initial CD starts out at a lower rate and increases each year. For example:

Months

APY

12

0.30%

24

0.40%

36

0.55%

48

0.75%

As of Jan. 2, 2018

This product also allows you to make an additional deposit each year (up to $10,000). So if the interest rate you’re receiving is better than the market, you can invest more money into your existing CD to make a higher return. But if the current CD market is offering better rates than your existing CD, you can simply take advantage of that offer and still make a higher return.

In addition, you may make a withdrawal from what you initially deposited into your Stepped Rate CD after two years. So, again, if the market changes dramatically, you may withdraw your money with no penalty and reinvest in a better option.

Or you could create a CD ladder on your own, choosing CDs with better rates than BB&T’s — higher rates are certainly available.

Add-on

The Add-on CD option from BB&T offers a 12-month CD at 0.10% and an opening deposit of $100. You’ll need a BB&T checking account and a $50/month automatic deposit from your checking account into the CD. To get a personal account, you’ll just need to set up direct deposit or maintain a $1,500 balance.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

12-month Add-on

0.10%

$100

Greater of $25 or
6 months’ interest

As of Jan. 2, 2018

Home Saver

If you’re in the market for a new home, and you want to earn a little more interest on the money you’re saving, consider the Home Saver CD. Starting with as little as $100, you’ll be able to deposit money earmarked for your new home every month and earn 0.40% APY. With this CD, as long as you’re withdrawing the money for use toward the purchase of your new home, you won’t pay any penalties for the withdrawal. But you will need a BB&T checking account set up for a monthly deposit of $50 into your Home Saver CD.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

36-month Home Saver

0.40%

$100

No penalty for
home purchase

As of Jan. 2, 2018

College Saver

Similar to the Home Saver CD, the College Saver CD is meant for parents or students saving for college. It offers the benefit of starting at a higher APY (0.40%) with the flexibility of withdrawing the money up to four times per year to pay for the cost of attending school. As with the Home Saver, you’ll need to have a BB&T checking account with an automatic monthly deposit of $50. The College Saver offers terms of 36, 48, and 60 months.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

36-month College Saver

0.40%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

48-month College Saver

0.45%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

60-month College Saver

0.50%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

As of Jan. 2, 2018

Treasury

This CD offers the ability to make additional deposits of at least $100 into your CD at any time and one monthly withdrawal without penalty. The CD has a six-month term with a variable interest rate tied to the U.S. Treasury Bill — if the rate goes up, you’ll make more money, but if the rate declines, you’ll make less. Right now, rates start at 0.05% and adjust quarterly. Throughout 2016, Treasury Bill rates increased almost every month and have continued to rise in 2017, reaching 1.035% in August. So this is a great option if you have the $5,000 minimum deposit amount and want a short-term investment with the option to add or remove funds from the CD.

CDARS

CDARS stands for Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service and protects your principal and interest by making sure your money is placed into multiple CDs across a network of banks to keep your CDs insured by the FDIC (maximum limit for each CD is $250,000).

Other things to know about BB&T CDs

Does BB&T allow customers to take advantage of rising rates once they’ve opened a CD?

BB&T has two CD options that allow you to take advantage of rising rates: the 30-month Can't Lose CD and the 48-month Stepped Rate CD. Both allow you to make a withdrawal before the CD comes to maturity in case rates increase (terms apply). They also allow additional deposits in case rates drop and you want to invest more at the existing rate of your CD. However, the current rates on those products are very low, negating the value of their flexibility.

About BB&T

BB&T (Branch Banking and Trust Co.) is a North Carolina-based bank with locations in 16 states and the District of Columbia, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

BB&T offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android. While their website is easy enough to use, finding specific information, particularly about rates, is impossible. Their customer service number isn’t much help in that regard either, with most questions answered with a suggestion to visit a branch location. As a result, if you don’t live in an area with a branch, we don’t recommend using BB&T’s CDs. To find the BB&T branch closest to you, use their branch locator.

Pros and cons of CDs

A certificate of deposit (CD) may offer a higher return than you’ll get with your savings accounts, without the risk of loss that accompanies other investment options with higher return rates. The drawbacks associated with CDs are the inability to access your funds during the term of the investment without suffering a penalty and the risk of interest rates increasing while your money is locked into a CD for a specified term.

The bottom line: Are BB&T CDs right for you?

BB&T does offer some flexible deals to its customers, but in general, better CD rates can be found at both banks and credit unions with comparable terms. You can find them on our list of the best CD rates, which we update every month.

Ralph Miller
Ralph Miller |

Ralph Miller is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Ralph here

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The Ultimate Guide to CD Ladders

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The Ultimate Guide to CD Ladders

Certificate of Deposits (CDs) are some of the highest-yielding deposit accounts offered at most banks and credit unions. But, they come with a catch: your money is locked away for a certain period of time, and generally you can’t unlock it without paying an early withdrawal penalty.

It’s also no secret that interest rates are changing these days. That can also affect the returns you get from saving with CDs.Things only get more complex if you’re attempting to create what is called a CD Ladder, which can be used to take advantage of higher APYs while staggering investments so all your cash isn’t tied up for a very long time.

If you want to save money by creating your own CD ladder, you need to juggle your own financial goals with shifting interest rates and early withdrawal penalties. It’s possible that CDs may not even be the right investment tool for you. How are you supposed to decipher what’s the best course of action when there are so many competing possibilities? Fear not. We’ll help you decide whether CD ladders are the right investment tool for you and how to get the most out of them in this guide.

What is a CD ladder?

A CD ladder is a series of several CDs that are structured with varying terms. By staggering the terms, you ensure that each CD finishes its term at regular, predictable intervals. That way, you’ve got access to a steady stream of cash while still earning higher rates than you might through a regular savings or checking account.

The main disadvantage of CD ladders is that your money is locked away for a certain length of time. This differs for each CD and is called its term. CD terms can range all the way from one month to ten years. Generally, the longer the CD term, the higher the interest rate you can get.

Logically, you’d think that the best thing to do would be to put all your money in long-term CDs, right? Unfortunately, doing so has two specific risks.

You could miss out on rising rates. If the Federal Reserve raises interest rates (as they have been doing for the past two years), many banks and credit unions soon follow by raising the rates on their own deposit accounts. But, if you’re locked into a long-term CD, you could be stuck in a high-interest rate environment with the poor interest rates from yesteryear. That means you won’t be earning the maximum amount of interest possible.

It’ll be hard to tap into your savings in a pinch. Secondly, what if something happens and you need access to that cash? Can you predict what’ll happen in five years—a home purchase, major medical bills, or some other unexpected large expense? If your money is locked away in long-term CDs, you could be out of luck unless you pay a potentially-substantial early withdrawal penalty.

Luckily, there’s an easy solution that lessens these two risks: a CD ladder.

How to create a CD ladder in 3 easy steps

A CD ladder is a pretty intricate strategy. You split your money up into equal parts and match each pot of cash to a partnering CD. Then, you line them all up in a precise order and wait for the interest to accumulate.

Sound confusing? Let’s break it down with an example to show you exactly how it works with a basic five-year, five-CD ladder.

To start, let’s assume that you have $5,000 that you want to invest in a CD ladder (although this will work with any amount of money).

Step 1: Open up five separate CDs

Divide your cash into five equal parts. What we’re going to do is open five separate CDs. So, divide your cash into five equal pots of $1,000 each.

Search and compare to find banks with the best rates on CDs. Go to your bank of choice, either in-person or online. It’s possible to open up accounts at different banks or credit unions if they offer better rates on some CDs, but keep in mind that that will increase the complexity of this strategy. Open up five separate CDs with each pot of cash all at once and on a staggered schedule. Here’s what you’ll have when you leave the bank:

  • $1,000 in a one-year CD
  • $1,000 in a two-year CD
  • $1,000 in a three-year CD
  • $1,000 in a four-year CD
  • $1,000 in a five-year CD

Mark the date that you open all of these CDs on your calendar so that you can keep up with the CDs' maturity dates.

Step 2: Each year when a new one-year CD matures, renew it ....and convert it into a five-year CD

Every year on your CD maturity date, one of your CDs' terms will be up. For example, if you open a CD on May 26, 2018, then your one-year CD will come due on May 26, 2019. Your two-year CD will come due on May 26, 2020, and so on.

With most banks, when a CD becomes due, it will automatically roll over into another CD of the same term length (a one-year CD will automatically roll over into another one-year CD when it matures, for example). After it automatically rolls over, you will have a grace period of around one to two weeks where you can withdraw the money, add more money, and/or change the CD to a different term length — penalty-free.

Instead of letting your CD roll over into another one-year CD, you’re going to want to switch it up. Before the grace period ends, you'll want to renew it into a five-year CD instead. Then, in 2020, you’ll do the same thing: you’ll renew the now-mature two-year CD into a five-year CD, and so on.

If you open up all of your CDs in 2018, it’ll look like this:

  • 2019: renew the one-year CD into a five-year CD
  • 2020: renew the two-year CD into a five-year CD
  • 2021: renew the three-year CD into a five-year CD
  • 2022: renew the four-year CD into a five-year CD
  • 2023: renew the five-year CD into another five-year CD

The reason we do this is because the five-year CDs pay out vastly higher rates of interest than the shorter-term CDs. If you can keep all of your money in the highest-earning CDs, you’ll get the maximum amount of cash possible.

Step 3: Decide whether you need to pull the money out or not

The other reason we do this strategy is because if we need to withdraw the money, we get free access to one new CD per year on our CD maturity date. In our example, that means you can withdraw $1,000 (plus whatever interest the CD earned) once per year without paying an early-withdrawal penalty.

Each time a CD becomes due, you should ask yourself: Do I need to withdraw this cash for any reason? If the answer is no, then keep your money in a CD ladder. If it’s not already invested into a five-year CD, then go ahead and renew it into a five-year CD. If it already is invested into a five-year CD, then just let it auto-rollover into another five-year CD. As long as you don’t want to withdraw the cash, your CD ladder will be fully on autopilot from this point forward.

Mini CD ladders: Explained

The five-year CD ladder sounds great, but if you’re like a lot of other people, you might need more frequent access to your money than once per year. That’s where a mini CD ladder might come in handy.

Rather than setting it up so that a new CD becomes due once per year, you can choose shorter term CDs and stagger them so that they mature every few months instead.

Let’s look at another example—the three-month, four-CD ladder.

You would divide your cash into four equal pools and open up four new CDs with these terms:

  • Three-month CD
  • Six-month CD
  • Nine-month CD
  • Twelve-month CD

One new CD will become due every three months. When it does, you would renew it as a 12-month CD with a higher rate. That way, you can access your money once every three months instead of once every year.

If you want even more frequent access to your money, it might be possible to restructure this in a different way. Some banks have one-month CDs, although they’re not as common as three-month CDs. If you open 12 one-month CDs and renew each of them into 12-month CDs, then you could even get access to your cash every single month instead of every three months. The downside of the mini CD ladder is that you won’t earn as much, because five-year CDs carry better rates than a twelve-month CD.

What is the best CD ladder strategy for me?

CD ladders are already pretty straightforward. Open CDs of different lengths, and renew them to longer-term CDs when they come due.

But, it might surprise you to know that there are a lot of different CD ladder strategies. Whichever strategy works best for you depends on your individual situation, and what financial possibilities keep you up at night.

For example, do you worry that you’ll make a mistake by locking your money away in low-rate, long-term CDs if interest rates start to rise (a fair concern, given recent decisions by the Federal Reserve)? Or are you the type of micro-manager who optimizes every little decision so that they can maximize their monetary returns?

If so, good news. These are some of the best CD ladder strategies for different people.

Best if you don’t need frequent access to cash:

The five-year, five-CD ladder

This is the baseline CD ladder strategy we outlined above. You open up five CDs with staggered term lengths so that one new CD comes due each year, and then renew it into a five-year CD. After four years, all of your CDs will be in five-year CDs earning the maximum amount of interest.

This type of CD ladder strategy works best for folks who know they won’t need very frequent access to their money. If you choose this strategy, it’s a good idea to keep a separate emergency fund of three to six months’ worth of expenses tucked away in a high yield savings account. You definitely don't want to find yourself in a situation where you can't access money for a year when you really need it.

Best if you need frequent access to your cash:

The five-year CD ladder with low early withdrawal penalties

One of the main reasons to invest in CD ladders is so that you don’t have to pay steep early withdrawal penalties. These penalties are typically tallied up as a certain number of months of interest depending on the term of the CD. For example, TD Bank will charge you 24 months’ worth of interest if you take your money out early from a five-year CD

These early withdrawal penalties are pesky enough, but high fees like this could actually eat into the principal you’ve deposited into the account, especially if you haven’t earned enough interest to at least cover the early withdrawal penalty. This means you might actually end up with less money than you deposited into the account at the end of the day—not to mention how it’ll hurt your returns even if you have earned enough interest to cover the penalty.

One way to get around this is to search for CDs with low early withdrawal penalties. What exactly is a low early withdrawal penalty? According to Ken Tumin, founder and editor of DepositAccounts.com (also a LendingTree-owned company), a below-average early withdrawal penalty for a five-year CD is six months or less.

Searching for CDs with low early withdrawal penalties is the best strategy if you want to earn the most money possible but also think that there’s a high likelihood you might need to break into one of your five-year CDs outside of the once-yearly maturation date. With this strategy, you will minimize your loss if and when you need to withdraw the money early.

Maximum work for higher yields:

Juggling CDs at multiple banks

It’s very possible that the top prize for highest CD rate for each term length in your CD ladder is held by a different bank. For example, Bank A might have the highest rate for one and two-year CDs, while Bank B might have the highest five-year CD rate.

If you’re an intrepid optimizer, it’s possible to earn the most money by splitting up your CDs among different banks, according to Tumin.

If it sounds a bit complicated, it is. “Each year, you'll have to worry about transferring the money to the [bank with the] best five-year rate,” says Tumin. It also requires a lot of organization to remember the details of your many accounts. But, there is a way to limit the chaos.

Tumin’s recommendation is easy. “Choose at least two or three internet banks, but no more than three to keep things simple,” he says. “If one bank no longer becomes competitive, you can easily keep the CD ladder going with the other banks.”

It’s also a good idea to maintain a savings or money market account at the same bank for each of your CDs — as long as the account has no minimums and no monthly fees, since it will probably be empty much of the time. This bank account is strictly meant to be a temporary holding account for the CD money you hold within the same bank.

“If you need to access the money before maturity, it's much easier to have the CD funds (minus the early withdrawal penalty) transferred to a savings or money market account that is at the same bank,” Tumin advises. “Once it's in the savings/money market account, it's easy to open a new five-year CD at another bank.”

Hedging your bets against rising interest rates:

The barbell CD ladder

The barbell CD ladder is the best CD strategy if you’re worried about rising interest rates while most of your money is locked away into lower-rate CDs. With this strategy, you divide your money yet again: half into a high yield savings account (a separate savings account from your emergency fund), and half into a five-year CD ladder.

The advantage of keeping your money in a high yield savings account is that if interest rates rise, you can immediately withdraw that cash when you see fit and invest it into CDs.

Of course, the trick is knowing when to pull the trigger and move your money from the savings account into a CD. If you do it too soon, interest rates may rise again, and if you’re too slow, you may lose out on potential gains. It’s a balancing act and since it’s impossible to predict the future, there’s no way you can really know when the right time is for sure. You just have to do it and hope for the best.

How do CD ladders hold up to other investments?

CD ladders are just one of many investment choices you can make. To see how they stack up compared to other common options, we’ll show you what you can theoretically earn in 10 years with a $10,000 deposit using each of the following choices: a five-year, five-CD ladder, the stock market, a high yield savings account, and just keeping the cash stuffed under your mattress.

Five-year, five-CD ladder

For this scenario, let’s assume that you start out with the standard five-year, five-CD approach. You will start by putting $2,000 each into five CDs of the following term lengths: one year, two years, three years, four years, and five years. Each year when a CD comes up for renewal, you renew it into a five-year CD.

After the fifth year, we’ll assume that you continue keeping all of the CDs in five-year terms for another five years. According to Ken Tumin, the average yield on a 5-year CD ladder is about 2%, so we are using that as the hypothetical return on investment. Of course, rates ebb and flow all the time, so this is merely an estimation.

Risk:

One of the safest options. The FDIC and NCUA insures your money up to $250,000 at each bank or credit union, respectively.

Reward:

$1,290

The stock market

For long-term investments (retirement, for example), the stock market remains the gold standard for investing. Over the last six decades, the S&P 500 (one of the most common measures of the stock market as a whole) has returned about 7% per year.

We can’t predict the market’s returns, obviously, but we’re going to assume that someone investing in a broad-based S&P 500 stock market index fund would earn 7% on their investments each year for 10 years. Here’s how they would fare.

Risk:

Very high. People can and do lose significant amounts of money in the short term while investing in the stock market.

Reward:

$9,671.51

High yield savings account

High yield savings accounts offer the maximum amount of liquidity. If you might need your cash at any moment, it’s a good idea to keep it in a high yield savings account. The tradeoff is that you’ll earn less interest than you might with the five-year, five-CD ladder.

We used the highest rate (1.50% APY; current as of 12/12/17) for personal savings accounts available nationwide that were listed on DepositAccounts.com. We assumed a $10,000 deposit saved up over a 10-year period.

Risk:

Very safe. Anything you keep in a bank (including CDs or savings accounts) is insured up to $250,000 by the FDIC or NCUA for banks and credit unions, respectively.

Reward:

$1,605.41

Under your mattress

Who hasn’t heard stories from their grandparents about saving up their extra cash in a hidden mason jar or under their mattress? Back in the days when banks failed in the Great Depression, losing your life savings was a real concern. Thankfully, these days the FDIC and NCUA programs make your deposits safe at each bank or credit union up to $250,000.

Now, the danger lies in not earning any interest on your money. Inflation eats away your money’s value at a rate of around 3% or more per year. That means if you’re not earning at least 3% interest, your money is probably losing value rather than gaining value.

If you started out with $10,000 in 2007 and kept it stuffed away in your home for ten years, here’s what would happen.

Risk:

Very unsafe. That money could easily be stolen or lost in a fire, not to mention what’ll happen as inflation erodes its value.

Reward:

$1,805.67

Is creating a CD ladder worth it?

Whether or not a CD ladder is worth it depends on your individual situation and what your goals are.

According to Tumin, there are four things you need to keep in mind when deciding if a CD ladder is worth it for you: liquidity (how easy it is to access your cash), simplicity (how much work do you want to put into pulling off a master-CD-ladder?), maximizing your yield, and your investment time frame (do you want to invest indefinitely, or complete the CD ladder at a certain point in time?).

We’ve outlined several CD ladder strategies above that you can use to meet your goals. Compare them to your other options: will keeping your money in a high interest savings account, the stock market, or some other investment option work better for you?

In general, CDs today are earning far below what they used to. In July 1981, for example, you could get a one-month CD on the secondary market (i.e., buying it from an individual who has a CD, rather than a bank or credit union) with a whopping interest rate of 17.68% APY. Today the rates for a similar three-month CD are averaging 0.240% APY—quite a difference!

That means that today, CDs are generally not going to be your highest-earning option. This is especially true if you hold a large number of short-term CDs, as the mini CD ladder strategy calls for.

“I don't think other CD ladders with shorter-term CDs are worth it,” says Tumin. “They don't really provide much more liquidity,” especially if you opt to invest in five-year CDs with low early withdrawal penalties.

In fact, almost all CDs except for five-year CDs earn even less than a high yield savings account. Currently, banks are offering as high as 1.50% APY on high yield savings accounts—just under the current average interest rate for five-year CDs (1.57% APY).

If your CD investing strategy involves anything other than holding long-term five-year CDs (not counting the start of the CD ladder strategy when you hold CDs of several term lengths), then CDs may not be worth it when compared to a high yield savings account.

FAQ: CD ladders

If you really are terrible at saving money, CD ladders can be a great way to keep you disciplined. The extra sting with the early withdrawal penalty might be enough to help you overcome the urge to pull the money out before its term has ended.
Yes. CD ladders work well as a savings strategy for large purchases. You will need to do a lot of planning, however, to start the CD ladder and make sure all of your cash is outside of the CDs by the time you need it.
Yes. The money you earn in interest from your CD ladders is taxable. Your bank or credit union will issue you a Form 1099-INT at the end of the year for you to report on your tax return.

A grace period is the amount of time you have to withdraw, add funds, or change the CD to a different term length after it has matured. You typically have a one to two-week grace period after your CD matures.

It’s called a “grace” period because usually your CD will automatically roll over into another CD of the exact same term length. Normally this means you would then owe early withdrawal penalties if you take the money out early. Instead, banks offer you a “grace” period where you can withdraw the money without paying any early withdrawal penalties.

There are several other types of CDs:

  • Callable CDs offer higher interest rates, but the banks may cash them out for you at any time if they desire.
  • Bump-rate CDs offer staggered, increasing interest rates over time.
  • No-penalty CDs have lower interest rates, but no early withdrawal penalties.

It is possible to use them in your CD ladder, however you need to choose these CDs carefully. For example, what kind of monkey wrench would be thrown into your plan if you invest in a callable CD and it is indeed cashed out by the bank early? Or, would a no-penalty CD really offer rates that beat out a high yield savings account?

A jumbo CD is just a regular CD, but for a very large amount of money. Each bank or credit union has their own definition of what a “jumbo” CD is. For example, to invest in a USAA jumbo CD, you’ll need to bring at least $95,000 to the table. CIT Bank, on the other hand, requires a slightly larger minimum deposit of $100,000 to qualify for a jumbo CD.

Jumbo CDs typically offer much higher rates than regular CDs and can help you earn even more money in a CD ladder if you’re able to take advantage of them.

It depends on the type of CD ladder you use, and the savings account you’re comparing it with. In general, though, the five-year, five-CD ladder strategy will beat out even a high yield savings account in the long run.

For most people, no. We compared the outcomes from a five-year, five-CD ladder above with the typical returns you could expect from a stock market. A hypothetical $10,000 investment in a CD ladder earns $1,531.11 in interest over a 10-year period.

Compare that to typical stock market returns for the same amount of time and money: $9,781.51. The stock market far, far outperforms the CD ladder. If you’re saving for a very long-term goal like retirement, it makes more sense to grow your money in a high-yielding investment like the stock market, even if it is riskier.

This post has been updated. It was originally published Dec. 19, 2016.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

Lindsay VanSomeren is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lindsay here

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Think Twice Before You Max Out Your 401(k)

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Financial planners can’t emphasize the importance of saving for retirement enough: The earlier you start saving and the more you contribute, the better. But should you max out your retirement account? And if so, how do you do it? 

Unfortunately, there’s no solution suitable for all; every individual has a different financial situation.  

But let’s start with the basics: The maximum amount of money you can contribute to your 401(k), the retirement plan offered by your company, is currently $18,000 a year if you are under age 50, and $24,000 if you are 50 or older. If you were starting from scratch, you would have to tuck away $1,500 a month to max it out by year’s end.  

This is a big chunk of money. And although there are multiple benefits to saving for retirement, you may want to think twice before hitting that maximum.  

Remember, this is money that, once contributed, can’t be withdrawn until age 59.5 without incurring penalties (with some exceptions).  

What’s more, putting away a significant portion of their savings to max out their retirement fund doesn’t make much sense for some workers.  

If you are fresh out of college and your first job pays $50,000 annually, you’d need to save 36 percent of your paychecks to max out your 401(k) for the year.   

“Everyone needs to save for retirement, and the more dollars you could put in, the earlier, the better, but you also need to live your life,” says Eric Dostal, a certified financial planner with Sontag Advisory, which is based in New York. “To the extent that you are not able to do the things that you want to accomplish now, having a really really robust 401(k) balance will be great in your 60s, but that would cost now.”  

A few things to consider BEFORE you max out your 401(k)

  1. Do you have an emergency fund for rainy-day cash? If not, divert any extra funds to establish a fund that will cover at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses.  
  2. Do you have high-interest debt, such as credit card debt? High-interest debts, like credit cards, might actually cost you more in the long run than any potential gains you might earn by investing that money in the market.  Still, if you can get a company match, you should try to contribute enough to capture the full match. It never makes sense to leave money on the table.  
  3. Do you have other near-term goals? Are you planning to buy a house or have a child anytime soon? Do you want to travel around the world? Do you plan to pursue an advanced degree? If so, come up with a savings strategy that makes room for your nonretirement goals as well. That way you can save money for those big-ticket expenses and will be less likely to turn to credit cards or other borrowing methods. 

Maximize your 401(k) contributions

If your emergency fund is flush, your bills are paid and you’re saving for big expenses, you are definitely ready to beef up your retirement contributions.   

First, you’ll want to figure out how much to save.   

At the very least, as we said above, you should contribute enough to qualify for any employer match available to you. This is money your employer promises to contribute toward your retirement fund. There are several different ways a company decides how much to contribute to your 401(k), but the takeaway is the same no matter what -- if you miss out on the match, you are leaving free money on the proverbial table. 

If you are comfortable enough to start saving more, here is a good rule of thumb: Save 10 percent of each paycheck for retirement, though you don’t have to get up to 10 percent all at once.  

For instance, try adding 1 percent more to your retirement fund every six months. Some retirement plans even offer automatic step-up contributions, where your contributions are automatically increased by 1 or 2 percent each year. 

Larry Heller, a New York-based certified financial planner and president of Heller Wealth Management, suggests that you increase your contribution amount for the next three pay periods and repeat again until you hit your maximum.  

“You will be surprised that many people can adjust with a little extra taken out of their paycheck,” Heller said.   

Once you’re in the groove of saving for retirement, consider using unexpected windfalls to boost your savings. If you get an annual bonus, for example, you can beef up your 401(k) contribution sum if you haven’t yet met your contribution limit.  

A word of caution: If you’re nearing the maximum contribution for the year, rein in your savings. You can be penalized by the IRS for overcontributing. 

If your goal is to save $18,000 for 2017, check how much you’ve contributed for the year to date and then calculate a percentage of your salary and bonus contributions that will get you there through the year’s remaining pay periods.  

Shen Lu
Shen Lu |

Shen Lu is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Shen Lu at shenlu@magnifymoney.com

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