Certificate of Deposit (CD)

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Last Updated: 8/17/2023
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A certificate of deposit (CD) is a savings instrument into which you put a set sum of money for a predetermined period, known as the term. In exchange for the term commitment, banks and credit unions typically offer a higher interest rate compared to regular savings accounts. CDs are considered low-risk because they offer a guaranteed rate of return and are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to the maximum allowed by law. This makes CDs an appealing choice for individuals who have a lump sum of money that they wish to save securely without needing immediate access to it.


How Certificates of Deposit Work

A CD is essentially a two-way promise between you and a bank or financial institution. When you invest in a CD, you give a certain amount of money to the bank for a specific period of time (the term). In return, the bank promises to pay you back your original investment plus interest. The important point is that you agree to leave your money with the bank for the entire term. If you withdraw your money before the term ends, you'll likely have to pay a penalty. But if you leave your money in for the full term, you're guaranteed to get back your original investment plus the agreed-upon interest.

The Bank’s Role in Issuing a Certificate of Deposit

Banks and financial institutions are the primary issuers of CDs. When someone decides to invest in a CD, the bank accepts their money and agrees to pay interest for the CD term. The bank sets the terms and conditions of the CD, including the interest rate, term length and penalties for early withdrawal. In addition to the issuer, banks simultaneously act as risk managers, financial intermediaries and regulatory compliance officers, ensuring that CDs serve the needs of both the customers and the banks themselves.

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    The money deposited in CDs allows banks to manage their liquidity risk with a stable source of funds that they can use for lending to other customers. This is beneficial for the bank because the funds from CDs are fixed and typically committed for a longer period than regular savings accounts, providing the bank with more predictability and stability.

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    Banks act as financial intermediaries. They use CD funds to provide loans to other customers, such as homebuyers or businesses. This is a key aspect of the banking model, where customer deposits are transformed into loans, generating a profit from the interest rate differential.

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    Finally, banks are responsible for ensuring that CDs are compliant with regulatory requirements. They must adhere to the regulations set by the FDIC and other regulatory bodies, which include maintaining certain reserve requirements and submitting regular reports.

Certificate of Deposit Interest Rate

The interest rate will determine your return on investment. A higher interest rate means more earnings. However, rates can vary based on the term length and the bank's offerings. Comparing interest rates across different banks and CD terms is an important step in maximizing returns from a CD investment.

Banks set interest rates based on various factors, including market conditions, term length, liquidity needs and competition.

  • Interest rates may be based on market conditions, the overall state of the economy and the federal funds rate set by the central bank. If the central bank's rates are high, banks usually offer higher interest rates on CDs to attract more deposits.

  • Generally, the longer the term of the CD, the higher the interest rate. This is because the customer is agreeing to leave their money with the bank for a longer period, and the bank is willing to pay a premium for that commitment.

  • If a bank needs to increase its liquidity (its amount of readily available funds), it might offer higher interest rates on CDs to encourage more deposits.

  • Banks also look at what their competitors are offering and may adjust their rates accordingly to attract customers.

Although banks have some discretion in setting their rates, they are still subject to market forces and regulatory constraints. Therefore, the rates offered on CDs can vary from bank to bank and over time.

How to Calculate Certificate of Deposit Interest

The interest on a Certificate of Deposit (CD) can be calculated using the formula for compound interest. The formula is:



  • A is the amount of money accumulated after n years, including interest
  • P is the principal amount (the initial amount of money)
  • r is the annual interest rate (in decimal form, so 5% would be 0.05)
  • n is the number of times that interest is compounded per year
  • t is the time the money is invested for, in years

To calculate the interest earned, you can subtract the initial principal (P) from the final amount (A). The result will be the interest earned on the CD.


Remember that the rate and the number of compounding periods can vary depending on the terms of the CD. Some CDs compound interest annually, while others do it quarterly, monthly or even daily. Always check the terms of your CD for accurate calculations.

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Use MoneyGeek’s Compound Interest Calculator during your CD search to calculate your yield!

Certificate of Deposit Maturity Date

The maturity date of a Certificate of Deposit (CD) is when the term of the CD ends. On this date, the money you have deposited in the CD, along with the accrued interest, becomes available for you to withdraw.

The bank sets the maturity date when you open the CD depending on the term length of the CD that you choose. CD terms can range from a month to several years. Common term lengths include six months, one year, 18 months, two years, three years and five years, but the available terms can vary depending on the bank.

Withdrawing money before the maturity date can result in early withdrawal penalties, typically a loss of some or all of the interest that has been earned. The exact penalties can vary depending on the bank and the CD term.


Longer CD terms generally have higher interest rates. This is because when a customer commits their money for a longer period, the bank gains more certainty and stability in its funds, which it can then use for lending or other investment purposes. To incentivize customers to commit their money for longer periods, banks offer higher interest rates as a form of reward.

Certificate of Deposit Principal

The principal of a Certificate of Deposit (CD) refers to the initial sum of money that a customer deposits into the CD. The principal does not include the interest that accumulates over the term of the CD. At the end of the term, the customer receives back the principal along with the accrued interest unless they choose to reinvest it in another CD.

The minimum principal balance can vary widely depending on the financial institution. A common minimum deposit for many banks and credit unions is $500 or $1,000. Some institutions (particularly online banks) may offer CDs with no minimum deposit requirement, whereas others (especially for special types of CDs or for higher interest rates) may require a minimum deposit of $10,000 or more.

Advantages and Disadvantages of CDs

As with any investment vehicle, CDs come with their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. CDs can be a valuable part of a diversified investment portfolio, offering low-risk options for investors seeking a guaranteed return. However, they may not equally meet the needs or goals of all investors.

Key Takeaways

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  • Guaranteed Return: CDs offer a fixed interest rate for the term of the deposit, guaranteeing a certain return on your investment.

  • Low Risk: Considered low-risk investments, CDs are typically insured by the FDIC up to the maximum allowed by law, protecting your investment even if the bank fails.

  • Term Flexibility: CDs offer a range of term lengths, from one month to five years or more, allowing you to choose a term that suits your financial goals.

  • Higher Interest Rates: CDs often offer higher interest rates than regular savings accounts, particularly for longer term lengths.

  • No Fees: Most CDs do not have monthly fees, allowing your money to grow unhindered.

  • Discourages Impulsive Spending: Since early withdrawal from a CD usually incurs a penalty, CDs can help discourage impulsive spending and encourage longer-term saving.

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  • Limited Liquidity: Money invested in a CD is tied up for the term of the CD. If you need to withdraw your money before the term ends, you'll likely face an early withdrawal penalty.

  • Lower Returns Compared to Other Investments: While CDs are low-risk, they also typically offer lower returns compared to riskier investments like stocks or mutual funds. That said, this scenario is dependent on economic conditions.

  • Inflation Risk: If the interest rate of your CD is lower than the rate of inflation, the purchasing power of your money could decrease over time.

  • Interest Rate Risk: If market interest rates rise after you've purchased your CD, you'll be locked into the lower rate until the CD matures.

  • Potential for Fees: Although most CDs do not have monthly fees, some may charge penalties for early withdrawal, which can eat into your earned interest.

How to Invest in a Certificate of Deposit

Investing in a CD is a process that involves several key steps and considerations.


Identify Your Financial Goals

Before investing in a CD, it's important to understand your financial goals. Are you saving for a short-term goal, like a vacation or a down payment on a car, or are you looking for a safe place to park your money for a few years? Your goals will help determine the term length and type of CD that is best for you.


Research Different Banks and Credit Unions

Not all banks and credit unions offer the same terms and interest rates on their CDs. Spend some time researching different institutions to find the best rates. Don't forget to check online banks, which often offer competitive rates.


Choose the Right Term Length

CDs come in a variety of term lengths, from one month to five years or more. Generally, the longer the term, the higher the interest rate. Choose a term length that aligns with when you'll need access to your money.


Consider CD Strategy

When investing in a CD, it's beneficial to consider a CD strategy like a laddering or barbell strategy. These strategies can help optimize returns, manage liquidity and align with your financial goals, making your investment more effective.


Decide on the Amount to Invest

Determine how much money you want to invest in the CD. Keep in mind that you won't be able to access these funds without penalty until the CD matures.


Open the CD

Once you've chosen a bank, term length and investment amount and strategy, you can open the CD. This process can usually be done online, over the phone or in person at a branch. You'll need to provide some personal information and the funds for your initial deposit.


Wait for Maturity

After you've opened the CD, your job is to wait for it to mature. During this time, your money will earn interest. Most banks will send you a notice as your maturity date approaches.


Decide What to Do at Maturity

When your CD matures, you'll have a few options. You can withdraw your money, renew the CD or roll it into a different CD. If you don't make a choice, many banks will automatically renew the CD for the same term.

Certificate of Deposit Types

Choosing between different types of CDs is an important step in the investment process. The type of CD that's best for you depends on your financial goals, your need for liquidity and your risk tolerance. Here is a list of the many available CD products.


Traditional CD

A traditional CD is a fixed-term deposit where you earn a fixed interest rate on a specific amount of money.

Bump-Up CD

A bump-up CD allows you to increase your interest rate to the current rate offered by the bank if rates rise during your term.

Step-Up CD

A step-up CD automatically increases your interest rate at specific intervals over the term of the CD.

Liquid (No-Penalty) CD

A liquid or no-penalty CD allows you to withdraw funds before the maturity date without incurring a penalty.

Zero-Coupon CD

A zero-coupon CD is purchased at a discount to its face value, and no annual interest is paid out, but the full face value is received at maturity.

Callable CD

A callable CD can be "called" or terminated by the bank before the maturity date, usually when interest rates fall.

Brokered CD

A brokered CD is purchased through a brokerage firm, often offering higher rates, but may come with additional risks.

Jumbo CD

A jumbo CD requires a larger initial deposit, typically $100,000 or more, and often offers a higher interest rate in return.


An IRA CD is a CD that is held within an Individual Retirement Account, offering tax advantages for retirement savings.

Add-On CD

An add-on CD allows you to make additional deposits to the CD after the initial purchase, often with a lower minimum deposit requirement.

Foreign Currency CD

A foreign currency CD is a CD that is denominated in a foreign currency, offering potential gains from foreign exchange rates, but also additional risks.

Certificate of Deposit Investing Strategies

Investing in CDs can be more than just a one-time transaction. By employing certain strategies, investors can maximize their returns and manage their liquidity needs more effectively. Here are a few common CD investing strategies.

CD Laddering

This strategy involves purchasing several CDs with different maturity dates. For example, instead of investing $15,000 in a single five-year CD, you could invest $3,000 in a one-year CD, $3,000 in a two-year CD and so on up to a five-year CD. When each CD matures, you reinvest the funds in a new five-year CD. This strategy provides regular access to funds, reduces the risk of locking in a low rate for a long period and generally results in a higher average return over time.

CD Barbell Strategy

In this strategy, you invest in short-term and long-term CDs, but not in medium-term CDs. The idea is to take advantage of higher interest rates on long-term CDs while keeping some funds accessible in short-term CDs. If rates rise, the short-term CDs can be reinvested at the higher rate sooner.

CD Bullet Strategy

This strategy involves investing in several CDs that all mature at the same time. For example, in the first year, you could buy a three-year CD. In the second year, you buy a two-year CD, and the following year, you buy a one-year CD. After three years, all CDs will mature at the same time. This strategy can be useful if you have a specific future cash need.

Comparing Certificates of Deposit With Other Investment Options

CDs are just one of many investment options. Here's how they compare with some common alternatives.

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    CDs vs. Savings Accounts

    Both CDs and savings accounts are low-risk options that offer a return on your investment. However, CDs typically offer higher interest rates in exchange for committing your money for a specific term. Savings accounts, on the other hand, provide more flexibility, allowing you to deposit and withdraw funds at any time, but they usually offer lower interest rates.

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    CDs vs. Money Market Accounts (MMAs)

    Money Market Accounts are similar to savings accounts but typically require a higher minimum balance and offer higher interest rates. Like savings accounts, MMAs offer more flexibility than CDs because you can usually make a limited number of withdrawals each month. However, the interest rates for MMAs can be lower than those for CDs.

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    CDs vs. Bonds

    Bonds are another type of fixed-income investment. When you buy a bond, you're essentially lending money to a corporation or government entity, which agrees to pay you back with interest. Bonds can offer higher returns than CDs, but they also come with higher risk, especially if the issuer defaults on its payments.

Frequently Asked Questions

About Nathan Paulus

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Nathan Paulus is the director of content marketing at MoneyGeek. Nathan has been creating content for nearly 10 years and is particularly engaged in personal finance, investing, and property management. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of St. Thomas Houston.