What Is a No Penalty CD?

By Lauren Ward · June 13, 2023 · 8 minute read

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What Is a No Penalty CD?

If you are searching for a place to park your cash for a short period of time and earn a good interest rate, certificates of deposit (CDs) can be an option to consider.

On the plus side, a CD may earn more than a standard savings account, helping your money grow faster.

A traditional CD, however, has a downside: Your cash will be tied up until the CD matures, and that could be several months to several years. If you need your money before that maturity date, you will likely pay a penalty for early withdrawal.

A no penalty CD is similar to a traditional CD, except that there is no fee charged for making a withdrawal before the CD matures. However, no penalty CDs may not be easy to find. What’s more, they may have a lower interest rate than you’ll find for traditional CDs.

Here’s what you need to know to decide if a no penalty CD is the right option for you and how they stack up to other high-interest savings options.

No Penalty CDs Explained

A no penalty CD is a type of deposit account that’s structured like a traditional certificate of deposit (CD) in that money is placed into the account for a set period of time — usually around a year.

During that period, interest accrues, often at a higher rate than a standard savings account.

That rate is locked in until the end of the CD term, also known as its maturity date.

Unlike traditional CDs, there is no fee or loss of earned interest if the money is withdrawn before the account matures.

Funds usually need to be kept in the account for at least a week before they can be withdrawn. But as long as that short milestone is met, a no penalty CD is a very flexible option.

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No Penalty CDs versus Traditional CDs

Opening one or more CDs can be an effective way to house your savings. It’s one of several ways to earn more interest than you might in a traditional savings account.

But before deciding which CD to choose, it helps to understand the intricacies involved in each type.

With a traditional CD, money can’t be withdrawn from that account without incurring a penalty fee.

Early withdrawal penalties for a CD vary, depending on the individual financial institution, but the penalty typically involves losing a certain number of days or months’ worth of interest.

The length of time varies by each bank or credit union, but depending on how early you withdraw your funds from a CD, you could possibly lose some of the principal or initial deposit.

For example, a bank may charge a CD early withdrawal penalty as 120 days (or four months) of interest payments.

If the CD has only been open for three months, you’d not only lose the account’s accumulated interest but an additional month of daily interest would also be deducted before the cash could be withdrawn.

Generally, the farther away you are from the CD’s maturity date, the higher the penalty will be.

That’s why long-term CDs aren’t typically recommended to house short-term emergency savings. When that surprise expense pops up, it could end up costing money to access the funds.

Of course, every bank has different terms and conditions. Before opening any account, it’s important to understand all of the details to avoid getting caught off guard with unexpected charges.

Recommended: Different Ways to Earn More Interest

Pros and Cons of a No Penalty CD

All savings accounts come with both risks and benefits. A no-penalty CD may not be right for everyone, so let’s dive into some of the pros and cons.

Like all CDs, no penalty CDs come with a fixed interest rate until it matures. No matter what happens to rates within the market, that original APY is guaranteed.

A high-yield savings account, on the other hand, can drop the rate at any time based on market conditions.

Another benefit of a no-penalty CD is that cash continues to be kept liquid.

Whether it’s intended for an emergency fund, a down payment on a house, or to pay for a wedding, this type of CD can be a useful tool that balances both flexibility and setting money aside for a financial goal with a specific timeline.

On the flip side, this type of account may offer a lower interest rate compared to traditional CDs.

While no penalty CDs may pay a higher APY than a traditional bank savings account, these CDs may not pay as high an APY as some online savings accounts.

Also keep in mind that although a no-penalty CD does allow you to access funds, it’s usually a one-time event.

Banks typically require all of the funds in the no-penalty CD to be withdrawn that one time and will then close the account, which means the rate lock is out the window.

Another limitation of a no-penalty CD (as well as a traditional CD) is that once you invest, you can’t add to it. You can, however, open another no penalty or traditional CD.

Finding a No Penalty CD

No penalty CDs aren’t as common as their traditional counterparts. But they can be found through several online banks, making it convenient to open, fund, and manage the account.

Some local banks and credit unions may also offer this type of CD.

Shopping for a no-penalty CD is the same as evaluating any other financial product.

In addition to comparing interest rates, it’s also a good idea to look for account minimums, as well as the minimum time after depositing your money before withdrawals are allowed (typically around a week, but this can vary).

Some banks also offer tiered interest rates for no deposit CDs, with higher rates offered for higher deposit amounts.

Whatever no penalty CD you are considering, it’s smart to read the fine print.

Some banks may advertise a “no penalty CD” but are really offering something quite different, such as a 12-month CD that only allows you to withdraw your money penalty-free in the event of an emergency, such as a job loss.

Alternative Options

A no-penalty CD can be a great way to earn higher interest on your savings than you would get in a standard savings account, yet still, maintain flexibility.

It’s not the only option, however. Here are some others to consider.

High-yield checking account

An interest-bearing checking account helps earn some extra cash on the money used on a day-to-day basis.

It’s one of the most flexible options because there are no transaction limits and both a checkbook and debit card can be linked to the account.

However, some banks charge a monthly account fee or require a certain minimum balance in order to qualify for this extra incentive. And interest rates on these accounts tend to be lower than other short-term savings options.

High-yield savings account

High-yield savings accounts, which are offered by many banks and credit unions, typically come with a higher interest rate than a checking account or traditional savings account.

It’s easy to transfer money between accounts, but withdrawals may be limited to six per month and there may be fees for dropping below a minimum balance.

High-yield savings accounts are also offered by online banks. Because these banks only operate online (and, as a result, tend to have lower operating costs), online savings accounts often offer higher interest rates than high-yield savings options at brick-and-mortar banks.

Online savings accounts typically allow you to deposit checks and move money back and forth between accounts but may have limits on how many withdrawals you can make per month.

Recommended: Different Types of Savings Accounts

Money market account

A money market account (MMA) is a low-risk investment account (deposits may be placed in government bonds, CDs, or commercial paper) that tends to offer higher interest rates than a traditional savings account.

Depending on what’s happening in the market overall, an MMA may be in line with that of an online-only bank account.

Money market accounts often allow you to write checks and may also come with a debit card, but there may be limitations on how often you can write a check or withdraw your money.

These accounts may also require a high minimum balance to avoid monthly fees, especially for higher yield tiers.

Cash management account

A cash management account (CMA) is a cash account offered by a financial institution other than a bank or credit union.

CMAs are designed to merge the services and features of checking, savings, and investment accounts, all into one offering.

Generally, when you put money into a CMA, it earns money (often through low-risk investing that is done automatically), while you can also access it for your daily spending.

This allows CMAs to function similarly to a traditional checking account, yet pay interest that is often higher than most savings accounts.

Some brokerage firms require a large minimum deposit to open a CMA, or may charge monthly fees for anyone under that minimum.

For people who are interested in streamlining their accounts, as well as saving for a short-term goal, a CMA can be a good option.

The Takeaway

If you’re looking for a higher return on your savings than you’re getting at the bank, but still want some liquidity, a no-penalty CD could be the right choice for your financial goals.

These CDs may offer lower interest rates, however, than you would get with a traditional CD. So it’s a good idea to shop around for rates to see which bank is offering the best deal.

Other ways to help your savings grow, yet still keep it liquid, include a high-yield checking or savings account, an online savings account, a money market account, and a cash management account.

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As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

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