Pentagon Federal Credit Union came out with its August CD and IRA CD rates. Rates for most terms stayed the same. However, the 7-year CD rate increased from 3.51% APY to 3.75% APY which makes this one of the best nationwide CD rates. The 2-year CD rate also increased, but the new rate of 1.75% APY is still not a top rate. Minimum deposit is $1,000. These rates are listed in the PenFed's Money Market Certificates page as of 8/02/2010. PenFed typically maintains its CD rates through the month, but note that there's no guarantee.
The main downside with this 7-year CD is a hefty early withdrawal penalty. According to the CD application (disclosure on 2nd page), the early withdrawal penalty for the 7-year certificate is:
a) If redeemed within 365 days of the issue date or any renewal date, all dividends will be forfeited;
b) If redeemed thereafter, but prior to the maturity date, dividends for the most recent 365 days will be forfeited.
In short, the penalty is 1-year of interest for an early withdrawal after the first year. You lose all interest for an early withdrawal before the first year. The penalty for the shorter terms is only 180 days of interest.
Special Early Withdrawal Feature for PenFed IRA CDs
PenFed has a nice feature for its IRA CDs. If you have reached the age of 59½, you can avoid an early withdrawal penalty if you only take a partial withdrawal. A partial withdrawal just requires that you leave at least the minimum balance of $1,000 in the IRA CD. So for large IRA CDs, this effectively eliminates the early withdrawal penalty. I described the details of this feature in this PenFed IRA CD review.
Do Long-Term CDs Make Sense?
It might seem unwise to lock into a long-term CD when rates are so low. If rates do go up in the next year or two, you may be able to get much higher rates. So it may seem better to stay in a savings account or short-term CDs until rates improve. The risk is that if rates don't go up, you'll earn much less interest than what you could have earned with the long-term CD. You also have to take into account the early withdrawal penalty. If rates go up substantially, you can break the CD with the early withdrawal penalty and reinvest the money into higher paying accounts. You could make more money in this approach than you could if you kept your money in a savings account or short-term CDs.
Below is a comparison of the approximate annualized yields that would result if you closed PenFed's 7-year CD at year 1, 2 and up to year 6. The yield is approximated by removing one year of interest and then computing the new effective average yield for that time period. The yield at year 2 is easy to compute since you essentially cut the amount of interest that you earn in half. So you just divide 3.75% by 2 which is approximately 1.88% APY. As you can see, this is a pretty competitive yield for 2-year CDs.
For comparison, I included PenFed's 5-year CD and Ally Bank's 5-year CD. PenFed's 5-year CD's early withdrawal penalty is 180 days of interest (only half of the 7-year CD penalty). Ally Bank's 5-year CD has only a 60-day interest penalty. The rates are as of 8/02/2010.
Average Yields After Early Withdrawal Penalties
|Year of Early Withdrawal||PenFed's 7-year 3.75% CD||PenFed's 5-year 3.00% CD||Ally's 5-year 2.94% CD|
As you can see in the table above, you will earn more with the 5-year CDs if you take an early withdrawal before 3 years. After 3 years, the 7-year CD starts to outperform the PenFed 5-year CD, and after 4 years, the 7-year CD starts to outperform Ally's 5-year CD. Fore more details about Ally Bank's CDs and early withdrawal penalty, please refer to my Ally Bank CD review.
PenFed makes it easy for anyone to join and open accounts online. If you don't qualify based on military, employer or family, you can become eligible by joining the National Military Family Association (NMFA). Please refer to How to Join Overview Page for details. Joining NMFA and PenFed can be done at the same time all online. The yearly membership for NMFA is $20, but your membership in the association does not need to be maintained to continue as a PenFed member.
Accounts can be opened online, but for those who prefer branches, PenFed has branches in several parts of the country including Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Colorado, North Carolina, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Missouri and Texas.
PenFed's ratings for safety and soundness continue to be strong: 4 stars (excellent) at BauerFinancial, 4 stars (sound) at Bankrate.com and an overall health score of 4 out of 5 at DepositAccounts.com (see our financial overview of Pentagon FCU). PenFed is one of the largest credit unions in the US with $14.2 billion in assets and $11.51 billion in deposits. It's federally insured by the NCUA (Charter # 227).