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The Lure of the Long-Term CD Rates - iGObanking vs Ally Bank

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The Lure of the Long-Term CD Rates - iGObanking vs Ally Bank

With short-term rates being so low, long-term CD rates are tempting. Even long-term CD rates are not great, but they can be 2x and 3x the levels of short-term rates. The worry is that rates will eventually rise, and when they start to rise, they could shoot up.

If things continue as they have in the last two years, a sharp rise in interest rates doesn't seem likely. However, things can change quickly when there's a crisis, and there's concern that a crisis from a failure to raise the debt ceiling could be one that causes big hikes in interest rates.

There's also a risk that the interest rate environment that we've seen in the last 30 months will continue for several years.

No one knows when interest rates will rise or by how much they will rise. This is one reason for CD ladders. You don't have to guess when to invest in long-term CDs. You just invest a portion of your savings in the longest term in regular intervals of time. It gives you some protection if rates stay low and also if rates start to rise.

The early withdrawal provisions of CDs can reduce the risks of being stuck in a low-rate long-term CD if rates shoot up. However, there is a concern that in such an environment, banks and credit unions will make it more difficult for customers to make early withdrawals. One way could be to refuse an early withdrawal request. Another way is to increase the penalty for early withdrawal on existing CDs. Either possibility increases the risk of being stuck in the low-rate CD and missing out on much higher CD rates.

I've covered one case in which a credit union raised an early withdrawal penalty on existing CDs. I'm still waiting on the NCUA ruling on this. The NCUA Consumer Compliance Analyst has been investigating this issue, and I was told they are in the final review process.

Long-Term CDs from Ally Bank and iGObanking.com

There are currently two noteworthy banks that have competitive long-term CD rates and reasonable early withdrawal penalties.

We have long known about Ally Bank's very mild early withdrawal penalty of 60 days of interest. Even though Ally's 5-year CD has never had the best rates, this small early withdrawal penalty makes this CD a good deal (and now Ally Bank has IRA CDs).

Many have been concerned if this small penalty will hold on existing CDs. Last year I investigated this, and received assurance from Ally Bank's public relations director that Ally would not change the early withdrawal penalty on existing CDs (see post). Of course, this doesn't eliminate the risk.

iGObanking.com has joined Ally Bank in this issue after they launched their new 7-year and 10-year CDs with very competitive rates (see post). iGObanking.com's early withdrawal penalty is larger than Ally's, but it's mild for 7-year and 10-year CD terms. The CD details are described in the bank's disclosure page. According to this disclosure:

If your account has an original maturity of one year or greater: The fee we may impose will equal six months simple interest on the amount withdrawn subject to penalty.

This 6-month interest penalty is mild. Most 7-year and 10-year CDs have EWPs of at least 1 year of interest.

As I pointed out last week, iGObanking.com had a disturbing sentence in their disclosure regarding early withdrawals:

You may make withdrawals of principal from your account before maturity only if we agree at the time you request the withdrawal.

So this could keep you stuck in a low-rate CD if rates shoot up.

One interesting thing happened in the last week. iGObanking.com removed this sentence from their online disclosure.

That removal is definitely nice to see. But does the disclosure still have clauses that may restrict our ability to make an early withdrawal? One reader found the following two clauses in the disclosure:

Withdrawals from a time account prior to maturity or prior to any notice may be restricted and may be subject to penalty. See your notice of penalty for early withdrawal.
[...]
We may change any term of this Agreement. Rules governing changes in interest rates are provided separately. For other changes, we will give you reasonable notice in writing or by any other method permitted by law. We may also close this account at any time upon reasonable notice to you and tender the account balance to you by mail.

In addition to restricting early withdrawals, it appears the last clause could be used by the bank to close a CD early before maturity. Last year I reported on one bank that did this. This would not be an issue in a rising rate environment, but it would be an issue if rates continue to fall.

Comparing Ally Bank's CD with iGObanking.com CDs

As you can see, the strategy of depending on early withdrawals of long-term CDs does have some risks. I can't say how big these risks are. Nevertheless, if you understand the risks, this strategy is something to consider.

To help you make the trade-off analysis, I did another early withdrawal yield table. I compared iGObanking.com's 7-year and 10-year CDs with Ally's 5-year CD. I listed the effective yields when the CDs are closed early for each year after account opening. The yields take into account the early withdrawal penalties. As you can see, Ally Bank's 5-year CD only has the best rate at year 1. After the first year iGObanking.com's 10-year CD takes the lead.

The early withdrawal yields listed below are based on the spreadsheet developed by Bogleheads forum members. It's available from the Bogleheads Wiki: Comparing CDs. It should be noted that the following simple formula comes very close to this spreadsheet:

Post Penalty APY = (Full APY) x (D - P) / D

D = days into term when the CD was closed.
P = days of the early withdrawal penalty

These CD rates are based on the rates listed at the institutions' websites as of 7/11/2011:

Approximate Yields After Early Withdrawal Penalties

Year of Early Withdrawal iGObanking's 10-yr 3.5% CD iGObanking's 7-yr 3.1% CD Ally's 5-yr 2.33% CD
Early Withdrawal Penalty 6 months 6 months 2 months
year 1 1.73% 1.54% 1.94%
year 2 2.61% 2.32% 2.13%
year 3 2.91% 2.58% 2.20%
year 4 3.06% 2.71% 2.23%
year 5 3.14% 2.79% 2.33% (no penalty)
year 6 3.20% 2.84% n/a
year 7 3.25% 3.10% (no penalty) n/a
year 8 3.28% n/a n/a
year 9 3.30% n/a n/a
year 10 3.50% (no penalty) n/a n/a

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To search for nationwide CD rates and CD rates in your state, please refer to the best CD rates section of DepositAccounts.com.


  Tags: iGObanking, Ally Bank, CD rates

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Comments
14 Comments.
Comment #1 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
For me, I think I'll pass on the iGO 7 and 10 year offerings....they simply have to much of a free hand to change the accounts as they may please from time to time, and I doubt if any of the changes would be to the depositors benefit. No thanks.

As a side note, I found a newspaper add by a Savings and Loan Association that my Dad had clipped from a local newspaper sometime during the 70's. The add was advertising a 6-month Money Market Certificate at 15.7% and a 30-month Premier Certificate at 12%. So, no, I would not look forward to the constant gut wrenching if my money was tied up for 10 years at 3.5% and there was no way to cash it out and reinvest it.  

11
Comment #2 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Regarding Ally Bank's abilty to change their 60-day interest penalty for early withdrawal of an existing CD: 
I think they can change the terms for an existing CD someday if they choose to: in their Deposit Agreement, section C. General Rules Governing Deposit Accounts, item 33 Change in Terms, it says "We reserve the right ... to convert your existing accounts into new accounts and services. You may not get advance notice of this. We may change this Agreement, and we may add to or delete from this Agreement, and the updated Agreement will supercede all prior versions. We will provide notice of changes ... as required by law. ... you may close your account before the effective date of the change"

So unless there's some law requiring Ally to notify you of changes to your existing CD terms before the change's effective date and you get the notice and close your CD account before that date your existing CD account's terms could change.

I'm ignorant of the laws governing such changes and notifications.

8
Comment #3 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
The language quoted by #2 is why I've never been comfortable relying on assurances by Ally representatives that the withdrawal penalty will not be changed retroactively for existing CDs.  The Truth in Savings Act would require 30 days prior written notice of such a change, though.

4
Comment #4 by Bozo posted on
Bozo
With respect to the "lure" of long-term rates, I can only encourage all to ladder. If you have a ladder, your rungs will do well (or not), but it's akin to dollar-cost-averaging in stocks or bonds. I'm not exactly thrilled by the fact my USAA 5 year CD (yielding 5.91 % APY) is about to mature on August 31 of this year, but there's not a heck of a lot I can do about it. My options are limited, if I wish to keep it in cash (which I do, given my age-in-bonds/cash allocation). I suspect I will carve it up, plopping some in PenFed (at 2.75%) and some in Alliant (at around 2.45%), so as to stay below the NCUA-insured limits. It's not great, but it's the fixed-income market. I'm not going to whine, I've had a pretty good run these past few years in fixed-income. Saved a few acorns from the  flush years to tide me over in the lean years, so to speak.

Bozo

3
Comment #5 by moneysaver posted on
moneysaver
iGOBanking: "We may also close this account at any time upon reasonable notice to you and tender the account balance to you by mail."

That language essentially makes their 7 and 10 year CD's "callable CDs," even though they're absolutely not calling them that or using that language anywhere. Whether or not the bank intends to exercise that language, the fact is that their account terms give them the right to... And that's a callable CD...

I wouldn't open that kind of an account. And I don't believe that kind of language is a common feature in other banks' and CU's terms documents for their CDs...

iGO deserves a boot in the butt for false and misleading advertising and account offerings.

8
Comment #6 by pearlbrown posted on
pearlbrown
@Moneysaver, was the disclosure of the callable clause readily available on their website?

1
Comment #7 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
moneysaver makes a valid point.  If the CD is, in effect, callable by the bank, the bank should disclose that fact in its Truth in Savings disclosure and pay a rate appropriate for a callable CD.  Unfortunately, I think I've seen account closure language similar to iGO's in a number of other bank deposit agreements.  I just checked Nationwide and MetLife, and it's there. 

4
Comment #8 by Bozo posted on
Bozo
I guess this issue of "callable" CDs just points out why we all need to read the fine print. Kudos (times squared) to "moneysaver" for rooting out this fine print. I think myself a somewhat knowledgeable saver, yet I seldom scour the fine print for the "gotchas". Just another example of why we must be on guard. I guess the old axiom "if it seems too good to be true, there's a gotcha" is correct. Perhaps if this idiocy in their terms floats around enough on the internet, they might be a tad more honest.

Bozo

1
Comment #9 by Anon #1 (anonymous) posted on
Anon #1
This is an extremely interesting and worthwhile thread. Although iGO is the primary target of this discussion, apparently the same negative, small print implications apply to many other institutions as well. Probably, if we took a close look at any and all of them, there would not be a dimes worth of difference in the provisions of most of them. Anyway, thanks to all for your contributions to the thread.

1
Comment #10 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I would not do  along term cd. many banks' terms and conditions state that they don't even have to give you your money early if you request it.....and I doubt many would if they have you locked in a low rate for several years.......and then rates go up.

1
Comment #11 by eric2 posted on
eric2
I imagine almost all banks do have some language in their T&C allowing them to close any account at any time, if not for business reasons then certainly for the Patriot Act. I'm sure if the Bank Secrecy folks came to a bank and showed them that a large long-term CD account was from the proceeds of money laundering or illegal activity, the bank wouldn't want to be in the position of being unable to close the account due to their T&C not allowing them to do so. Ergo, I don't think it is realistic to look for an institution that doesn't have such language in their T&C. A better option is simply to buy bonds rather than long-term CDs as bonds clearly are or are not callable.

2
Comment #12 by moneysaver posted on
moneysaver
This is the web address for IGoBanking.com's CDs:

https://www.igobanking.com/cds/online-cds.aspx

There's nothing on that page that even alludes to the bank having the right to unilaterally close issued CDs at any time of their choosing, nor is there any language about "callable." Instead, they talk at great length about their "guaranteed" rate for the term of the CD (unless they decide to shorten the term, of course).

FWIW, I reviewed my PFCU CD T&C's today, and they have absolutely no language that could be interpretted as allowing the CU to unilaterally decide to close a CD sometime during its term.

4
Comment #13 by moneysaver posted on
moneysaver
At the bottom of that web page, they have a web link for a "Disclosures" page at:

https://www.igobanking.com/disclosures.aspx

If you read down, you'll find a section entitled: Amendments and Termination

As of today, it reads:

We may change any term of this Agreement. Rules governing changes in interest rates are provided separately. For other changes, we will give you reasonable notice in writing or by any other method permitted by law. We may also close this account at any time upon reasonable notice to you and tender the account balance to you by mail. Notice from us to any one of you is notice to all of you.

6
Comment #14 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
A number of banks include language in the CD agreement that gives them the right to "break" it at  their discretion.

Just because one is unaware of such a contractual loophole does not mean it isn't there, however rarely applied.

Read the contract, and strike the language you object to, and then see if the bank will accept the revision.

Doesn't hurt to try.

1