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Ally Bank's 5-Year CD as an Alternative to Reward Checking?


Reward checking is one way savers can still get a decent interest rate for their savings. Many reward checking accounts continue to pay between 3% and 5% APY. This is higher than most long-term CD rates these days. However, there are several downsides with reward checking such as balance caps and debit card usage requirements. Is there an easier way to get similar returns with less work?

One strategy is to use a combination of Ally Bank's 5-year CD and its money market account. The 5-year CD provides a rate that's close to reward checking rates. The money market account gives you checking-like liquidity. If you need to make more than 6 withdrawals per month, you can open Ally's Interest Checking Account. In this strategy, you would keep most of your savings in multiple 5-year CDs. The money market account would be used for money you need for monthly expenses.

Unfortunately, Ally Bank's 5-year CD rates have been falling in the last couple of months. Earlier this year the yield was over 3.00%. It's now 2.69% APY as of 9/20/2010. However, once you open the CD, you don't have to worry about rate cuts for 5 years. It's easy to beat this rate with reward checking. However, there's no guarantee reward checking rates will last. As we've seen in the last year, rates have been falling, and this may continue as new regulations take effect.

You do lose a little liquidity with Ally's 5-year CD. However, it's not that much thanks to Ally's very mild early withdrawal penalty of 60 days of interest. If you need the money before 5 years, you can close the CD with the penalty. The annual return net of the penalty is better than any short-term CD rates. The following shows these estimated annual returns if the 5-year CD is closed at year 1, 2, 3 and 4:

  • 2.24% if closed after 1 year
  • 2.46% if closed after 2 years
  • 2.54% if closed after 3 years
  • 2.58% if closed after 4 years
  • 2.69% if kept to the full 5-year maturity

One important thing to note regarding the Ally Bank CDs is that Ally does not allow a partial withdrawal of principal. The whole CD must be closed. So it make sense to open multiple small CDs rather than one large CD. If you need some of the money, you can just close one of the small CDs. Please refer to my Ally Bank CD review for more details. Some have been worried about the chance that Ally could increase the early withdrawal penalty. There should be no risk of this for existing CDs (see post).

The main downside with the Ally Bank strategy is that the rate is now far below 3.00%. Some credit unions still offer 5-year CD rates of 3% APY, and if you go to a 7-year CD, you can get yields up to 3.49% APY. However, these CDs have early withdrawal penalties much higher than 60 days of interest. A penalty of 1-year of interest is more common for 7-year CDs. So these long-term CDs can provide you with a little higher returns than Ally, but you'll have less liquidity. Please refer to this post to see how Ally's 5-year CD compares to PenFed's 7-year and 5-year CDs.

Related Pages: Ally Bank, CD rates

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Previous Comments
  |     |   Comment #1
Note also that once you have an account open making a transfer is equivalent to opening a CD. I figured that once I opened the account I could transfer the money and then open a bunch of smaller CDs. That 2-month penalty takes effect from day 1 so before 2 months you are actually out money if you withdraw (say to reopen a bunch of smaller CDs).
  |     |   Comment #2
You've lost me #1.

Yes, the transfer to open a CD counts against your six for the Ally savings or money market account, as required by law.  That's not different than anywhere else.  You can also ACH from outside accounts, or transfer from the checking account, which would not have this limitation.

Why would you open a CD, withdraw early with a penalty, and then open more of the same CD?
  |     |   Comment #3
#2 said: "Yes, the transfer to open a CD counts against your six for the Ally savings or money market account...."

That is actually not true. Ally's deposit agreement states, under Online Savings Account, that "Certain withdrawal transactions, including transfers between accounts with the same owners, do not count toward the six withdrawal transactions limit." I questioned this recently, as they had just counted transfers to another Ally account with the same ownership toward the 6 withdrawal limit. I was told that they have not yet added this consideration to their online system, but that it was in the works. They said that, should the limit of 6 be exceeded due to transfers between accounts of the same ownership, they would refund the resulting fees.
  |     |   Comment #5
I would like to point out that for the Bank of The Internet, USA--they allow unlimited transfers between accounts of the same vesting.  So I can make in excess of 6 from my money market account with them to the senior checking or high yield savings products.  These transfers are called intra-bank transfers (between accounts within the same bank).  Not all banks or CU's are aware that this is allowable under the Federal banking regulations.

OC Steve
  |     |   Comment #6
yes the multiple CDs is the way to go

it does make managing the finances a bit tougher if you are working a home spreadsheet, but if ever a situation occurs where you just need the money (aka hurricane) you have to break the whole CD and it can really be painful


i had to break a pendfed 6% CD, about gave me and the bank phone rep a hernia just contemplating it. you know you have a good bank we they try to help you not lose money when its their gain....


note: some banks, the penfed rep offered me this, will let you take a collateral loan against the CD;

this could be helpful for someone with a large longterm high rate CD and you only need part of the money temporarily. you pay the extra finance charge, and pay it off quickly. time like now, rates are so low that the fee is peanuts shortterm.
  |     |   Comment #7
Unless there's been a change in Regulation D, I don't see how they could allow you to violate the six-transaction limit.  Such withdrawals through the Internet do not count as "in person."

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