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Potential Issues of Step-Up Certificates of Deposit

A step-up CD may seem like a perfect type of CD in today's interest rate environment in which rates are very low, but there's the chance that rates could shoot up due to a surge in inflation caused by government deficits. However, there are some potential issues to consider that may make a step-up CD less useful than you think.

A typical certificate of deposit has a fixed interest rate that lasts until the CD matures. A few banks and credit unions offer a step-up CD that gives customers an option to increase the rate during the term. This is also called a bump-up CD. The bank will allow you to bump-up the rate to the current rate of the same CD. The new and higher rate will then continue until the CD matures.

There are not many banks and credit unions that offer step-up CDs. I just reported yesterday on Connexus Credit Union that offers 2-year and 3-year step-up CDs (see review). One popular bank that has been offering a step-up CD is Ally Bank which calls its step-up CD the Raise Your Rate CD. It has a 2-year term, and the current rate is 1.95% APY as of 6/02/2010.

Here's an example of how you might make use of the step-up option at Ally:

  • Open the Raise Your Rate CD on 6/02/10 with a 1.95% APY
  • Next year on 6/02/11, Ally's new 2-year CD rate has gone up to 3.95% APY
  • You call Ally, and ask for the rate bump
  • For the remaining year, the CD earns 3.95%
  • The effective annualized 2-year return is the average of 1.95% and 3.95% which is 2.95%

One potential issue with a step-up CD is if the bank doesn't maintain competitive rates. You may never get a chance to bump up your rate even though CD rates at other banks were rising.

Another issue is that you are only given one chance to bump up your rate. Some banks may give you more than one chance, but both Ally and Connexus limit it to just one. When rates start to go up, it'll be hard to know how fast they will rise. How long do you wait before you bump up your rate?

There's going to be the worry that rates will shoot up after you've bumped up the rate. If you wait too long, there won't be much time for the CD to benefit from the higher rate. For example, in the above example, if you waited 18 months into the term rather than 1 year to increase the rate to 3.95%, the 2-year annualized effective yield then becomes 2.45%.

Due to these issues, a CD with a small early withdrawal penalty may be a better choice than a step-up CD. Fortunately, Ally Bank has a very small early withdrawal penalty of only 60 days of interest for all of its terms. I compared Ally's Raise Your Rate CD with its 5-year CD in this review. Some readers have expressed concern that Ally may change the early withdrawal penalty on an existing CD. I have received assurance from Ally's public relations director that the penalty would not be changed on existing CDs.

Related Pages: CD rates
  |     |   Comment #1

It's also not uncommon to find a maximum bump rate cap of only ~0.5% increase or so buried in the fine print of many banks and CU's offers.  Buyer beware!
  |     |   Comment #2
Bump up rates CDs are for losers, since the initial start rate is always less than the competitions rates. Furthermore, you are limited on the upside potential and the penalty for early withdrawals
are higher, except may be for Ally. I have tried laddering and is a waste of time tracking the overlaps of CDs and the end result is less interest received by waiting the extra 3-6 month for the CD to mature while the rates have gone up already.
For me the most effective way to maximize the CDs is to take best interest rates out there and pay the penalty if the rates are 1% higher then your current CD rate.
  |     |   Comment #4
Also, often these bump-up CD's are for odd terms like 18 mos and the bank never offers a good rate for this odd term in future years.  Their future cd special high rates are only for other terms.
  |     |   Comment #5
Another thing I've noticed is that the bump-up CDs are in a special class.  So they will raise the rate on their regular term CD and leave the bump-up CD at the same crappy rate.
  |     |   Comment #6
I could NOT disagree more!!


In this rate environment a bump-up CD makes perfect sense!


Take the Ally; If the rate goes up, and I doubt it will very soon, but when it does, AND IT WILL, YOU the consumer will decide when to act and then get the added interest. Then when you CD matures you then could lock in the new rate if higher then what you have or shop elsewhere since rates will be higher.


A bump-up CD is one great addition to anyones saving portfolio!!!


Savers you have to work for your interest!!!!
saints preserve us
  |     |   Comment #7
work surely you jest buy bonds  at 5 percent or better but not from florida or georgia 5 thumbs up
  |     |   Comment #8
Never have bought a bump up. Have no purchase plans.   And I buy a lot of CDs.  Problem for me has always been the term dilemma.  You buy a two year bump up today and then a year from now they offer a 23 month or 25 month special, while holding their two year rate level.  This satisfies the bank's funding needs while ****ing those who bought the bump up a year prior.  And this kind of thing is just too easy for the bank to do.  It enables them to lock you in at a low rate, at their option.

Now if the bump up were keyed to some third party rate, e.g. LIBOR, uncontrollable by the bank . . . . well . . . . that would be different.  Am not aware of any bank offering those conditions.  Doubt it will happen.  After all, that approach would be fair.  Bump ups are mostly marketing hot air designed to separate savers from their money at a low rate for the bank.
  |     |   Comment #9
If rates rise in a straight line, the best time to bump up your rate is 1/2 the way through your term.

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