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Deciding Between Ally Bank’s Savings Account And No-Penalty CD


When do you open a short-term CD instead of keeping your money in a savings account? The main advantage of the CD is the rate lock. You don’t have to worry about the rate going down until the CD matures. The downside with the CD is that you’re locked into the CD until maturity. If you need the money before maturity, you’ll be hit with an early withdrawal penalty. The important question you’ll have to ask is if the CD rate is high enough to make it worthwhile.

Ally Bank’s 11-month No Penalty CD removes most of the downsides of being locked into a CD. Since there’s no penalty, you can close the CD without a penalty anytime from 7 days to 11 months after you open the CD. I wrote about my experience opening and closing this 11-month No Penalty CD in 2011. As I explained in that blog post, this 11-month No Penalty CD makes more sense than most other short-term CDs. There’s another question: does it make more sense the Ally’s savings or money market account?

That question was asked over the weekend by the DA member hary536 in this forum thread:

Just wondering, what do the members here suggest me: Whether I should open AllyBank 11 month no-penalty CD or savings account at this time? CD rate is slightly lower than savings account at this time. Any suggestions?

I only see two advantages of the 11-mo No Penalty CD:

1) Your rate is locked for up to 11 months (less if you choose to close early). The savings account rate may go down. However, it's unlikely to go down significantly. Last year at this time, the savings account rate was 0.84% and the 11mo CD rate was 0.93%. The savings account rate actually went up in the last year before recently falling back to 0.84%. If the future follows the past, the CD will provide little or no interest rate benefit over the savings account.

2) When the 11-mo CD matures, you will likely be offered a 0.25% rate bonus if you choose to renew (you won't receive this if you close the CD early). That will likely give your 11-mo CD a clear rate advantage over the savings account. If this sounds appealing, you may want to use a 3-mo CD first, and when that matures, you can then get a 11-mo CD. Please refer to my Ally Bank's Loyalty Rewards Program review for more details.

I see three important disadvantages of the 11-month CD as compared to the savings account:

1) The rate is currently less than the savings account rate. As of 4/1/2013, the savings account rate is 0.84% and the 11-month CD rate is 0.81%. The savings account rate may fall lower during the 11 months, but as I showed above, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a large drop over 11 months. Let’s say you open the CD with a 0.81% and the savings account rate falls from 0.84% to 0.44% over the 11 months. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say the average savings account rate for 11 months is 0.64%. So the average rate spread between the CD and the savings account would be 0.17% (0.81% - 0.64%). For a $10K balance over 11 months, the difference in interest comes out to be less than $16. So even if the savings account rate declines significantly, you won’t earn much more in the CD.

2) The money in the CD is not quite as liquid as in the savings or money market account. As I described in my Ally No Penalty CD review, it can take a few days to close the CD and receive the funds. It took two business day for me to request a closure and to have access to the funds in my Ally savings account. Readers have mentioned that you may be able to expedite this funds transfer, but it’s not a sure thing. So if you think you may need quick access to your money, the savings or money market account is better. And don’t forget that with the money market account, you can write checks to access your money.

3) If you need only part of the money in your 11-month CD, you will still have to close the entire CD. Ally doesn’t allow for partial withdrawals.

Based on #2 and #3 above, you may want to consider another option. You may want to first open the savings or money market account. Once that’s opened, you can then think about some CDs to increase your interest rates. The Ally savings account makes it easy to fund your Ally CDs, and it makes it easy to receive the funds when the CD matures. And it can also be very useful if you find better CDs at other banks and credit unions.

Related Pages: Ally Bank, CD rates, savings account, money market accounts

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  |     |   Comment #1
0.25% rate bonus is the tie breaker in my mind.  But only if you don't need total liquidity.
  |     |   Comment #2
Set up a bunch of small 3-month CD's to expire every so often (like a CD ladder) so that there's always a maturing CD that you can convert to an 11-month, no penalty CD with more money in it and with the rate bonus.   Ally doesn't seem to mind people doing this.
  |     |   Comment #3
Another possible option: If you trust Ally to honor early withdrawals on
its' CD's in the near future---quite likely, at least for the next couple
of years given the low rate environment---buy a 5 year 1.54% APY Ally CD
with the intent of redeeming it early.  As you can view, via Ken's
EWP calculato
r the 11 mon effective APY (EAPY) is 1.26%; quite a bit
better than the .81% no-penalty, or .84% savings.  Even if you only hold
on to it for 5 months, the EAPY = 0.92%.

More $$$, less but still lots of flexibility, (I consider the) risk low.
  |     |   Comment #4
I did one a couple of weeks ago when a CD was expiring just to take advantage of the bonus .25%.

With the bonus, the rate is higher than their regular rate. Seems like my rate is 1.11% as I think rates dropped slightly since then.
  |     |   Comment #5
How do you open a 3-month CD at Ally? I don't see any term lower than 11-month on their website. 
  |     |   Comment #6
> How do you open a 3-month CD at Ally? I don't see any term lower
> than 11-month on their website.
It is there, you're looking in the wrong place; if all else fails
phone them, 1-877-247-2559, and they will walk you through it or
open it for you if you prefer.
  |     |   Comment #7
Ok, now I see where the 3-month CD option is. They don't advertise it on their website though. 

It's only when you start an application to open an account. Until then you don't see 3 or 6 month CDs. 


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