Guide to Commercial Banking

Guide to Commercial Banking

Commercial banks provide financial services for small and large businesses, including checking and savings accounts, loans, lines of credit, letters of credit, underwriting, and payment processing. These services enable businesses to operate in domestic and international markets. What’s more, financing from commercial banks may help businesses grow, which could potentially help drive the domestic economy.

What Is Commercial Banking: A Definition

Commercial banking involves financial institutions that are dedicated to serving businesses. This differs from retail banking, which provides personal banking services to individuals, such as checking and savings accounts.

Typically, a commercial bank offers businesses everything from deposit accounts, loans, and lines of credit to merchant services, payment processing, international trade services, and more. In these ways, a commercial bank can be a vital partner in helping a business succeed and grow.

While commercial banks offer a suite of services for medium and large businesses, small and new business owners can also take advantage of their offerings. Sometimes, people starting an enterprise use their personal accounts for banking. However, it is typically better to seek out commercial banking and open separate accounts for business vs. personal finances. This simplifies record keeping and the payment of taxes, and it also helps keep these two realms separate in case of any legal action.

How Commercial Banking Works

Commercial banks serve small- to large-sized businesses. You may be familiar with their names, as many of them also have retail banking divisions. Three examples of commercial banks in the United States are JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co. All are regulated by the United States Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

One very important function of commercial banks: providing financing to businesses. Before a commercial bank extends a loan to a business, it assesses the creditworthiness of the borrower by looking at its assets, profitability, and size.

In addition, commercial banks provide an array of services, supporting businesses with transfers from one account to another, lines of credit, lockbox services, payment processing, and foreign exchange services. Here is a closer look at what a commercial bank may offer:

Deposit Accounts

Commercial bank deposit accounts function like retail bank checking and savings accounts. They enable businesses to pay suppliers and employees by holding cash and, in some cases, account holders may earn interest on the balance.

There are three main types of deposit accounts: demand, fixed, and savings.

•   Account holders can use demand deposits or current account deposits for business transactions. They typically do not earn interest and are subject to service charges.

•   The bank holds fixed deposits for a specific term. Deposits likely earn interest, and the account holder can make withdrawals.

•   Savings deposits function as both fixed deposit and current accounts. Depositors can withdraw cash from these accounts, but the amount may be limited. Savings accounts earn interest but probably less than a fixed deposit.

Loans

Businesses need capital to thrive. Whether hiring staff, renting office or manufacturing space, or buying materials and supplies, operating a business and growing it takes cash. Commercial banks extend business loans vs. personal loans and charge interest on the loans. That’s one of the key income streams for banks. The bank likely turns a profit on lending, and the business gets the funds it needs to launch its enterprise or to expand or buy real estate or new equipment.

Lines of Credit

Commercial banks usually provide businesses with lines of credit. A line of credit is short-term funding that can help a company manage its obligations while it waits for cash flow to improve. For example, a company may have to wait for receivables’ payment in order to meet this month’s payroll. A line of credit can help bridge that gap.

Letters of Credit

A business may need to request a letter of credit from a commercial bank to show creditworthiness and to secure goods or services from an overseas trading partner. A letter of credit can serve as a guarantee from the issuing bank of payment for the goods once the letter’s requirements are met. The requirements might include the shipping date and the address the goods should be shipped to. In this way, a commercial bank can smooth international trade and help its clients’ business grow.

Lockbox Services

Lockboxes facilitate faster payments for businesses. Bank customers can send payments to a post office box near the bank, and the bank deposits the payments or funds to the customer’s account. This helps expedite the receipt of deposits and subsequent payments from the client to its providers. It can be a helpful cash flow tool for commercial enterprises.

Payment and Transaction Processing

Commercial banks typically facilitate the payments that businesses receive from their customers through electronic checks, paper checks, and credit card payments. Commercial banks may also provide services such as chargeback management fraud protection. All of these services can help keep a business humming along.

Foreign Exchange

Cross-border payments are complex because of exchange rates and the fact that each country has a different legal system. Commercial banks can provide foreign exchange services so that a company can do business overseas with a minimum of time and effort. This can streamline operations for a business enterprise so they can focus their attention on other activities.

The Significance of Commercial Banks

Commercial banks play a vital role in the financial life of the U.S. They help support the country’s economy by providing capital and services to businesses. By providing loans, they likely allow businesses to increase production and potentially expand, which may, in turn, boost the economy, lower unemployment, and encourage consumer spending. In addition, commercial banks support cross-border trade and transactions (say, by issuing revolving letters of credit) so that businesses can operate in international markets.

Commercial Banking vs Investment Banking

When considering the definition of commercial banking, it can be helpful to compare and contrast it to other kinds of banking. For instance, investment banking is a subset of banking that is focused on creating capital for companies, governments, and other organizations.

While some financial institutions may combine commercial and investment banking, because of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, the two kinds of banking serve different markets. Here’s more detail of what investment banks do:

•   Underwriting

•   Overseeing mergers and acquisitions and initial public offerings (IPOs)

•   Facilitating reorganizations

•   Aiding in the sale of securities

•   Brokering trades for institutions and private investors

Commercial Banks vs Retail Banks

Another important distinction is how commercial banks differ from retail ones. Some banks will offer both sets of services, but here’s what retail banks typically offer in terms of personal banking services:

•   Savings accounts and checking accounts (you can often open these bank accounts online)

•   Mortgages

•   Personal loans

•   Debit cards

•   Certificates of deposit (CDs)

There are also alternatives to traditional banking that can assist with personal finance transactions.

Examples of Commercial Banks

It can be helpful to have specific examples of commercial banks to better understand what they do and how they work. There are three types of commercial banks: public sector banks, private banks, and foreign banks.

•   A public sector bank is one where the government owns a major share. Public banks provide funding for projects that benefit the local public and community, which could include infrastructure projects or affordable housing. The Bank of North Dakota (BND) is the only active public bank in the United States.

•   Most of the banks in the United States are private banks run by individuals or limited partners. Examples are JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo.

•   A foreign bank is any bank headquartered in another country but doing business in the United States. Two examples are Barclays Bank PLC, headquartered in the United Kingdom, and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

Benefits of a Commercial Bank Account

There are several reasons for a business to consider opening a commercial bank account.

•   Clients are likely to feel more confident making payments for services rendered to a business rather than an individual. Simply put, it’s more professional and may be perceived as more trustworthy.

•   Having separate bank accounts for business and personal transactions can simplify accounting and taxes (business expenses are more easily deducted).

•   If a business owner faces legal or financial challenges with their business activity, their personal liability could be limited and protected.

•   A business can apply for business loans from a commercial bank and finance expansion or costly equipment purchases with favorable lending terms.

•   Business accounts are FDIC-insured in the event the bank fails.

Is My Bank a Commercial Bank?

If your bank provides services to businesses, such as checking accounts, financing, lines of credit, and international trade services, it is likely a commercial bank. A retail bank, on the other hand, will provide services to individuals (joint vs. separate accounts, debit cards, personal loans, and more) and could be a department within a commercial bank.

The Takeaway

Commercial banking differs from retail banking in terms of the clientele it serves. Retail banks provide checking and savings accounts, loans, and other services to individuals to manage their day-to-day finances. Commercial banks help businesses launch, operate, and potentially grow with services like deposit accounts, loans, lines of credit, payment services, and more.

If you are hunting for personal banking services, explore what different retail banks have to offer, such as direct deposit, low or no account fees, and mobile banking, to find the best option for your financial needs.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What is the difference between commercial banking and retail banking?

Retail and commercial banking serve different clients. Retail banking provides checking and savings accounts, financing, lines of credit, credit cards, and other services to individuals. Commercial banking usually provides checking and savings accounts, financing, underwriting, letters of credit, lines of credit, and other functions to businesses.

Is my money safe in a commercial bank?

Your money is essentially as safe in a commercial bank as it can be. It is generally protected from loss due to bank failure by federal insurance up to $250,000.

What role does a commercial bank play in the economy?

Commercial banks may support the economy by providing capital and services to organizations. These, in turn, could stimulate the economy by doing business, growing, and employing more workers. Commercial banks may also facilitate cross-border payments so that businesses can move into international markets.


Photo credit: iStock/Passakorn Prothien

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


4.60% APY
SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

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.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


*Awards or rankings from NerdWallet are not indicative of future success or results. This award and its ratings are independently determined and awarded by their respective publications.

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All You Need to Know About IRA Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

All You Need to Know About IRA Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

An IRA CD is simply an individual retirement account (IRA) in which the investor has opened one or more certificates of deposit (CDs).

This may provide tax advantages and be a smart long-term move for some savers. Keep reading to learn how an IRA CD works and its pros and cons.

What Is an IRA CD?

An IRA CD is an IRA where your money is invested in certificates of deposit. In other words, an IRA CD is a traditional, Roth, or other type of IRA account where the funds are invested at least partly in CDs.

Investing in CDs can offer some tax advantages and may be a good option for long-term savings. As you may know, a CD, or certificate of deposit, is a time deposit. You agree to keep your funds on deposit for a certain amount of time, typically at a fixed interest rate.

💡 Quick Tip: Don’t think too hard about your money. Automate your budgeting, saving, and spending with SoFi’s seamless and secure mobile banking app.

How Do IRA CDs Work?

If you choose to put your retirement money in an IRA, you have the chance to choose investments that might include stocks, mutual funds, bonds — and also CDs. By investing in CDs within an IRA, you can add to your portfolio’s diversification. Unlike equities, CDs can offer a predictable rate of return.

By investing in an IRA CD, you no longer have to pay taxes on the interest gains, and the money can grow taxed-deferred.

But if you withdraw funds prior to the CD’s maturity date, you will face an early withdrawal penalty. Once the IRA CD matures, you can either renew it or take your money and invest it in the stock market for potentially higher returns.

How much can you contribute to an IRA CD? It depends on the type of IRA account you choose. Traditional and Roth IRAs have contribution limits of $7,000 per year as of 2024, or if you are 50 or older, the contribution limit is $8,000 per year. The contribution limits for SEP IRAs are typically higher.

If you choose an IRA CD with a bank or credit union backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., or FDIC, your money in the IRA CD is insured for up to $250,000 per depositor, per account ownership category, per insured institution. This means that if the bank goes under for any reason, your retirement funds are covered up to that amount.

CD Basics

A CD or a certificate of deposit is a type of savings or deposit account that usually offers a fixed interest rate for locking up your money for a certain period of time, known as the term. An investor deposits funds for the specified terms (usually a few months to a few years), and cannot add to the account or withdraw funds from the account until the CD matures.

In exchange, for keeping your money in a CD, the bank will offer a higher interest rate compared with a traditional savings account. But the chief appeal for retirement-focused investors is that CDs can provide a steady rate of return, versus other securities in a portfolio which may entail more risk.

You may be able to find variable-rate and promotional-rate CDs as well.

Recommended: How Investment Risk Factors into a Portfolio

IRA Basics

An IRA or individual retirement account is a tax-advantaged account designed for retirement planning. There are different IRA types to choose from, such as a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP IRA. By contributing to this type of account, you can have your money grow tax-free or tax-deferred, depending on the type of IRA you open.

Think of an IRA as a box in which you place your retirement investments. With an IRA, investors have the flexibility to invest in a variety of securities for their portfolio.

For this reason, it might make sense for some investors to include CDs as part of their asset allocation within the IRA.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


Pros and Cons of IRA CDs

IRA CDs have unique characteristics that can benefit account holders as they think about how to handle their retirement funds. The upsides include:

•   Compared to investing in the stock market where investment returns can be volatile and unpredictable, IRA CDs are low-risk cash investments.

•   CDs guarantee a fixed return.

•   With an IRA CD, there are similar tax benefits that come with a traditional IRA. Investors can enjoy tax benefits such as growing your account with pretax dollars while having your earnings accumulate tax-deferred until you reach retirement.

There are some cons associated with IRA CDs to keep in mind:

•   With an IRA CD, you have to keep your money locked away for a period of time that varies depending on the maturity date you choose. During this time, you cannot access your funds in the event you need capital.

•   If you decide to withdraw cash prior to the IRA CD’s maturity, you will incur early withdrawal penalties. After age 59 ½ there is no penalty for withdrawing cash.

•   While putting your retirement funds in an IRA CD is a safer and lower-risk option than investing in the stock market, the returns can be quite low. If you are in retirement and are concerned about the stock market’s volatility, an IRA CD could be a safer option than other securities. But if you are many years away from retirement, an IRA CD may not yield enough returns to outpace inflation over time.

Pros of IRA CDs

Cons of IRA CDs

Low-risk investment Money is locked away until maturity
Guaranteed return Penalty for early withdrawal
Tax-deferred growth Returns can be low vs. other retirement savings options

Who Should and Should Not Invest in an IRA CD?

IRA CDs are a safe way to invest money for retirement. However, they are best suited for pre-retirees who are looking for low-risk investments as they approach retirement age.

If you are many years away from retirement, an IRA CD is probably not the best option for you because they are low-risk and low-return retirement saving vehicles. In order to see growth on your investments you may need to take on some risk.

If you decide an IRA CD is the right option for you, you also must determine if you are comfortable with keeping your money stowed away for a period of time. Account holders can choose the length of maturity that best suits them.

How to Open an IRA CD

The first step is to open an IRA at a bank, brokerage, or other financial institution. Decide if a traditional, SEP, or Roth IRA is right for you. You can set up the IRA in-person or online. Once you open an IRA account, you can buy the CD.

Choose the CD that fits your minimum account requirements and length of maturity preference. Typically, the shorter the CD maturity, the lower the minimum to open the account. When considering maturity, you also should compare rates. Often, the longer the maturity, the higher the rate of return.

The Takeaway

If you’re looking to add diversification to the cash or fixed-income part of your portfolio, you might want to consider opening an IRA CD — which simply means funding a CD account within a traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA. Bear in mind that CDs typically offer very low interest rates, though, and your money might see more growth if you chose other securities, such as bonds or bond funds.

If you’re thinking about how to earn a steady rate of return on your savings, consider an account with SoFi.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What is the difference between an IRA CD and a regular CD?

A standard CD is a separate account you open at a bank or credit union. An IRA CD is where the CD is funded within the IRA itself.

Can you withdraw from an IRA CD?

With a regular CD, you withdraw the funds penalty-free when the CD matures. With an IRA CD, however, you can withdraw the funds penalty free starting at age 59½, per the rules and restrictions of the IRA.

What happens when an IRA CD matures?

Once your IRA CD matures, you’ll receive the principal plus interest. Then you can either leave the IRA CD as is or renew it. You cannot withdraw the funds from an IRA CD until age 59 ½, as noted above.

Are IRA CDs safe?

Yes, IRA CDs are considered low-risk. If you open an IRA CD with a federally insured institution, your funds can be covered up to $250,000 per depositor, per account ownership category, per insured institution.

Who offers IRA CDs?

IRA CDs can typically be found at traditional and online-only banks as well as credit unions and brokerage firms.


Photo credit: iStock/LeszekCzerwonka

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

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.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


*Awards or rankings from NerdWallet are not indicative of future success or results. This award and its ratings are independently determined and awarded by their respective publications.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi Invest®

INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE

SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Income Investing Strategy

What Is an Income Investing Strategy?

An income investing strategy focuses on generating income from your principal rather than growth, i.e. capital gains. Income investors typically seek out investments that provide a regular income stream, such as dividends from stocks, interest from bonds, or rental payments from a property.

Investors might be interested in income investing in order to create an additional income stream during their working years. Other investors may focus on generating monthly income during retirement. Income investors need to take into account several factors, including the tax implications of different types of income.

How Income Investing Works

Income investing can be a way to generate a passive income stream that supplements ordinary income as well as retirement income. Rather than creating a portfolio that’s solely focused on capital gains, i.e. growth, an income investing strategy is geared toward setting up one or more sources of steady income.

Again, dividend-paying stocks, interest-bearing bonds, and real estate proceeds are common types of income investments that may provide steady cash flow. While many people associate investment income with retirement, many investors seek to establish other income streams long before that.

That said, these two aims — growth and income — are not mutually exclusive. In fact, an income-generating portfolio must also have a growth component, in order to keep up with inflation.

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*Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

Types of Income Investing Strategies

There are a range of income investing assets and strategies that investors can adopt, depending on their goals and preferences. For example, when creating an income-focused portfolio, it’s important to consider your risk tolerance, as different income investments may have different risk profiles.

1. Dividend Stocks

Dividend stocks are stocks that pay out regular dividends to shareholders. Not all companies pay dividends. Companies that do usually pay dividends quarterly, and they can provide a reliable source of income for investors.

Income investors are generally attracted to companies that pay out reliable dividends, like the companies in the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats index. Companies in this index have increased dividends every year for the last 25 consecutive years.

•   Dividend Yield

One metric that income investors should consider is the dividend yield. While dividends are a portion of a company’s earnings paid to investors, expressed as a dollar amount, dividend yield refers to a stock’s annual dividend payments divided by the stock’s current price, and expressed as a percentage.

Dividend yield is one way of assessing a company’s earning potential.

While a high dividend yield might be attractive to some investors, risks are also associated with high-yield investments. Investors who want regular and consistent income tend to avoid stocks that pay high yields in favor of dividend aristocrats that may pay lower yields.

Recommended: Living Off Dividend Income: Here’s What You Need to Know

2. Bonds

Bonds are a debt instrument that normally make periodic interest payments to investors. Also known as fixed-income investments, bonds are typically less risky than stocks and can provide a steady stream of income. The bond’s yield, or interest rate, determines the interest income payment.

There are various bonds that fixed-income investors can consider. For example, government bonds are debt securities issued by a government to support government spending and public sector projects. Government bonds — like U.S. Treasuries and municipal bonds — are generally less risky than other types of bonds and can provide tax-advantaged income and returns.

Investors can also lend money to businesses through corporate bonds, which are debt obligations of the corporation. In return for money to fund operations, companies make periodic interest payments to investors. Corporate bonds carry a relatively higher level of risk than government bonds but also provide higher yields.

However, not all bonds offer yield to investors interested in generating regular income. Some bonds, called zero-coupon bonds, don’t pay interest at all during the life of the bond.

The upside of choosing zero-coupon bonds is that by forgoing annual interest payments, it’s possible to purchase the bonds at a deep discount to par value. This means that when the bond matures, the issuer pays the investor more than the purchase price.

Recommended: How to Buy Bonds: A Guide for Beginners

3. Real Estate

Real estate may be a great source of income for investors. Rents paid by tenants act as a regular income payout. Real estate may also offer long-term price growth, in addition to some tax benefits.

There are several ways to invest in real estate, including buying rental properties and investing in real estate investment trusts (REITs).

Recommended: Pros & Cons of Investing in REITs

4. Savings Accounts

Savings accounts are a safe and easy way to earn interest on cash. Savings accounts and other cash-equivalent saving vehicles like high-yield savings accounts or certificates of deposits (CDs) are often considered very low risk. But they also typically offer lower interest rates than you might see with other investments. Because these interest rates are typically lower than the inflation rate, inflation can erode the value of the money in these savings accounts longer term.

In addition, when you purchase a CD it may have more stringent minimum deposit requirements, as well as keeping your money locked up for a specific period of time. Still, they can be a low-risk way to earn income.

5. Money Market Accounts

A money market account (MMA) is an FDIC-insured deposit account that typically pays higher interest rates than a traditional savings account. However, MMAs may be more restrictive than a savings account, often only allowing a certain number of withdrawals each month using checks or a debit card.

Also, money in a money market account can be invested by the bank in government securities, CDs, and commercial paper — which are all considered relatively low-risk investments. With a traditional savings account, money is not invested.

But unlike most investments, money market accounts at most banks are FDIC-insured up to $250,000 for an individual, or $250,000 per co-owner in the case of joint accounts. In some cases investing in a money market account may earn a higher interest rate while still maintaining FDIC-insurance protection.

6. Mutual Funds and ETFs

Investors who don’t want to pick individual stocks and bonds to invest in can always look to mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that have an income investing strategy.

There are many passively and actively managed funds that invest in a basket of securities that provide interest and dividend income to investors. These funds allow investors to diversify their holdings by investing in a single security with high liquidity.

Understanding the Tax Implications of Income Investing

Another important aspect of investing for income is to consider the tax implications of different income-producing assets. Here are a few key considerations to be aware of:

•   Dividends. Most dividends are considered ordinary dividends and are taxed as income. Qualified dividends are taxed at the lower capital gains rate. Be sure to know the difference.

•   Real estate. Income from a rental property is generally taxed as income (although business deductions may apply). Dividend payouts from owning shares of a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) are typically higher than traditional equity dividends; these are also taxed as income. However, if there are profits from a REIT, these are taxed at the capital gains rate.

•   Bonds. Bond income may be taxable, or not, depending on the issuer. Some municipal bonds are tax free at the federal and state level (if you live in the state where the bond was issued). Corporate bond income is taxed at the state and federal levels. U.S. Treasuries are generally taxed at the federal level, but not the state.

You may also owe ordinary income or capital gains tax if you make a profit when selling a bond.

As you can see, tax issues can be complex and it’s often necessary to consult a tax professional.

Example of an Income Investing Portfolio

When building a portfolio for any investing strategy, investors must consider their financial goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. As with any investment portfolio, it’s possible to have lower or higher exposure to risk.

Here are some examples of hypothetical income investment allocations.

Lower Risk Tolerance

Asset type

Percent of holdings

Bonds (government and corporate) 60%
Dividend stocks 20%
Rental property or REITs 10%
Cash (savings account, money market account, and CDs) 10%

This is an illustrative portfolio and not intended to be investment advice. Nor is it a representation of an actual ETF or mutual fund. Please consider your risk tolerance and investment objective when creating your investment portfolio.

Moderate Risk Tolerance

Asset type

Percent of holdings

Bonds (government and corporate) 35%
Dividend stocks 30%
Rental property or REITs 30%
Cash (savings account, money market account, and CDs) 5%

This is an illustrative portfolio and not intended to be investment advice. Nor is it a representation of an actual ETF or mutual fund. Please consider your risk tolerance and investment objective when creating your investment portfolio.

Higher Risk Tolerance

Asset type

Percent of holdings

Bonds (government and corporate) 25%
Dividend stocks 30%
Rental property or REITs 45%
Cash (savings account, money market account, and CDs) 0%

This is an illustrative portfolio and not intended to be investment advice. Nor is it a representation of an actual ETF or mutual fund. Please consider your risk tolerance and investment objective when creating your investment portfolio.

Benefits and Risk of Income Investing

Like any investing strategy, there are both advantages and drawbacks to focusing on earning income through investments.

Benefits

The potential benefits of income investing include receiving a steady stream of payments, which can help to smooth out fluctuations in the market. In other words, even with a certain amount of market volatility, an income-generating strategy may produce income that provides a certain amount of ballast.

If an investor reinvests some or all of the income generated from a certain assets, whether bonds or dividend-paying stocks, this can add to the overall growth of the portfolio, thanks to compounding.

An income investing strategy may also provide diversification. For example, investing in REITs is considered a type of alternative investment strategy. That means, REITs don’t move in tandem with conventional assets like stocks, which may provide some protection against risk (although REITs can have their own risk factors to consider).

Risks

Investors who are pursuing an income investing strategy should be aware that investments that offer high yields may also be more volatile. The income from these investments may be less predictable than from more established investments, like blue chip stocks that pay out reliable dividends.

For example, a company with a high dividend yield may not be able to sustain that kind of payout and could suspend payment in the future.

When investing in bonds, investors need to know about the potential risks associated with fixed-income assets:

•   Credit risk is when there is a possibility that a government or corporation defaults on a bond.

•   Inflation risk is the potential that interest payments do not keep pace with inflation.

•   Interest rate risk is the potential of fixed-income assets fluctuating in value because of a change in interest rates. For example, if interest rates rise, the value of a bond will decline, which could impact an investor who intends to sell some of their bond holdings.

Additionally, if investors take the income from their investment for day-to-day needs rather than reinvesting it, they may miss out on the benefits of compound returns. Investors could reinvest the income they earn on certain investments to take advantage of compounding returns and accelerate wealth building.

Factors to Consider When Building Your Income Investing Strategy

Building an income investing strategy takes work and time. Before creating a portfolio, you need to define your financial goals and consider your timeline for when you need the income streams. Below are some additional steps you could follow to create an income investing strategy:

•   Assess your risk tolerance: It’s important to determine whether you want to invest more heavily in riskier assets, like dividend-paying stocks that may fluctuate in share price, or relatively safer securities, like interest-paying bonds.

•   Choose your investments: As mentioned above, potential options for income investors include bonds, dividend stocks, and real estate investment trusts (REITs).

•   Be mindful of taxes: Different types of income-producing assets may be taxed in different ways. It’s generally desirable to keep your portfolio tax efficient.

•   Monitor your portfolio: It’s critical to regularly check in on your investments to ensure they are still performing according to your expectations.

•   Rebalance as needed: If your portfolio gets out of alignment with your goals, consider making adjustments to get it back on track.

The Takeaway

An income investment strategy is, as it sounds, focused on using specific assets to provide income, not only growth (although income and growth strategies can work in harmony). Investing in dividend-paying stocks, interest-paying bonds, and other income-generating assets allows you to get the benefits of regular income streams and potential capital appreciation.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

FAQ

What’s the difference between income investing and growth investing?

The goal of income investing is to create a certain amount of steady income from different types of assets. Investing for growth is focused on the potential gains of the securities in a portfolio. In a sense, income investing can be more present focused, while growth investing may be oriented toward the longer term.

What is the best investment for income?

There are various income-generating investments, each with its own risk profile and tax considerations. When choosing the best income investments for you, be sure to consider how different factors might impact your plan.

What investments give you monthly income?

While it’s possible to obtain monthly income from various types of investments, even dividend-paying stocks (dividends are often paid quarterly), a common source of monthly income is property. If monthly income is important to you, be sure to select assets that can meet your goal.


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SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
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For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors should carefully consider the information contained in the prospectus, which contains the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other relevant information. You may obtain a prospectus from the Fund company’s website or by email customer service at [email protected]. Please read the prospectus carefully prior to investing.
Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.


Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.

Disclaimer: The projections or other information regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Guide to Zero-Coupon Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

Guide to Zero-Coupon Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

A zero-coupon certificate of deposit or zero-coupon CD is a type of CD that’s purchased at a discount and pays out interest at maturity. Zero-coupon CDs can offer higher yields than standard CDs for investors who have the patience to wait until maturity to collect their original deposit and the interest earned.

Zero-coupon certificates of deposit are similar to bonds in that both are considered lower-risk, fixed-income instruments, but they serve different purposes in a portfolio. Understanding how a zero-coupon CD works can make it easier to decide if it’s a good investment for you.

What Is a Zero-Coupon CD?

To understand zero-coupon CDs, it’s important to know how a regular certificate of deposit works. A CD account, also referred to as a time-deposit or term-deposit account, is designed to hold money for a specified period of time. While the money is in the CD, it earns interest at a rate determined by the CD issuer — and the investor cannot add to the account or withdraw from it without penalty.

CDs are FDIC or NCUA insured when held at a member bank or credit union. That means deposits are insured up to $250,000.

CDs are some of the most common interest-bearing accounts banks offer, along with savings accounts and money market accounts (MMAs).

A zero-coupon certificate of deposit does not pay periodic interest. Instead, the interest is paid out at the end of the CD’s maturity term. This can allow the purchaser of the CD to potentially earn a higher rate of return because zero-coupon CDs are sold at a discount to face value, but the investor is paid the full face value at maturity.

By comparison, traditional certificates of deposit pay interest periodically. For example, you might open a CD at your bank with interest that compounds daily. Other CDs can compound monthly. Either way, you’d receive an interest payment in your CD account for each month that you hold it until it matures.

Once the CD matures, you’ll be able to withdraw the initial amount you deposited along with the compound interest. You could also roll the entire amount into a new CD if you’d prefer.

Remember: Withdrawing money from a CD early can trigger an early withdrawal penalty that’s typically equal to some of the interest earned.

How Do Zero-Coupon CDs Work?

Ordinarily when you buy a CD, you’d deposit an amount equal to or greater than the minimum deposit specified by the bank. You’d then earn interest on that amount for the entirety of the CD’s maturity term.

With zero-coupon CD accounts, though, you’re purchasing the CDs for less than their face value. But at the end of the CD’s term, you’d be paid out the full face value of the CD. The discount — and your interest earned — is the difference between what you pay for the CD and what you collect at maturity. So you can easily see at a glance how much you’ll earn from a zero-coupon CD investment.

In a sense, that’s similar to how the coupon rate of a bond works. A bond’s coupon is the annual interest rate that’s paid out, typically on a semiannual basis. The coupon rate is always tied to a bond’s face value. So a $1,000 bond with a 5.00% interest rate has a 5.00% coupon rate, meaning a $50 annual payout until it matures.

Real World Example of a Zero-Coupon CD

Here’s a simple example of how a zero-coupon CD works. Say your bank offers a zero-coupon certificate of deposit with a face value of $10,000. You have the opportunity to purchase the CD for $8,000, a discount of $2,000. The CD has a maturity term of five years.

You wouldn’t receive any interest payments from the CD until maturity. And since the CD has a set term, you wouldn’t be able to withdraw money from the account early. But assuming your CD is held at an FDIC- or NCUA-member institution, the risk of losing money is very low.

At the end of the five years, the bank pays you the full $10,000 face value of the CD. So you’ve essentially received $400 per year in interest income for the duration of the CD’s maturity term — or 5.00% per year. You can then use that money to purchase another zero-coupon CD or invest it any other way you’d like.

💡 Quick Tip: Typically, checking accounts don’t earn interest. However, some accounts do, and online banks are more likely than brick-and-mortar banks to offer you the best rates.

Tips When Investing in a Zero-Coupon CD

If you’re interested in zero-coupon CDs, there are a few things to consider to make sure they’re a good investment for you. Specifically, it’s important to look at:

•   What the CD is selling for (in other words, how big of a discount you’re getting to its face value)

•   How long you’ll have to hold the CD until it reaches maturity

•   The face value amount of the CD (and what the bank will pay you in full, once it matures)

It’s easy to be tempted by a zero-coupon certificate of deposit that offers a steep discount between the face value and the amount paid out at maturity. But consider what kind of trade-off you might be making in terms of how long you have to hold the CD.

If you don’t have the patience to wait out a longer maturity term, or you need the money in the shorter term, then the prospect of higher returns may hold less sway for you. Also, keep in mind what kind of liquidity you’re looking for. If you think you might need to withdraw savings for any reason before maturity, then a standard CD could be a better fit.

Comparing zero-coupon CD offerings at different banks can help you find one that fits your needs and goals. You may also consider other types of cash equivalents, such as money market funds or short-term government bonds if you’re looking for alternatives to zero-coupon CDs.

Recommended: How to Invest in CDs: A Beginner’s Guide

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Pros of Zero-Coupon CDs

Zero-coupon CDs have some features that could make them more attractive than other types of CDs. The main advantages of investing in zero coupon certificates of deposit include:

•   Higher return potential than regular CDs

•   Guaranteed returns, since you’re unable to withdraw money before maturity

•   Suited for longer-term goals

•   Can be federally insured

Zero-coupon CDs are lower-risk investments, which can make them more appealing than bonds. While bonds are considered lower-risk investments generally, if the bond issuer defaults, then you might walk away from your investment with nothing.

A zero-coupon certificate of deposit, on the other hand, does not carry this same default risk because your money is insured up to $250,000. There is, however, a risk that the CD issuer could “call” the CD before it matures (see more about this in the next section).

Cons of Zero-Coupon CDs

Every investment has features that may be sticking points for investors. If you’re wondering what the downsides of zero-coupon CDs are, here are a few things to consider:

•   No periodic interest payments

•   No liquidity, since you’re required to keep your money in the CD until maturity

•   Some zero-coupon CDs may be callable, which means the issuer can redeem them before maturity, and the investor won’t get the full face value

•   Taxes are due on the interest that accrues annually, even though the interest isn’t paid out until maturity

It may be helpful to talk to your financial advisor or a tax professional about the tax implications of zero-coupon CDs. It’s possible that the added “income” from these CDs that you have to report each year could increase your tax liability.

How to Collect Interest on Zero-Coupon CDs

Since zero-coupon CDs only pay out at interest at the end of the maturity term, all you have to do to collect the interest is wait until the CD matures. You can direct the bank that issued the CD to deposit the principal and interest into a savings account or another bank account. Or you can use the interest and principal to purchase new CDs.

It’s important to ask the bank what options you’ll have for collecting the interest when the CD matures to make sure renewal isn’t automatic. With regular CDs, banks may give you a window leading up to maturity in which you can specify what you’d like to do with the money in your account. If you don’t ask for the money to be out to you it may be rolled over to a new CD instead.

How to Value Zero-Coupon CDs

The face value of a zero-coupon CD is the amount that’s paid to you at maturity. Banks should specify what the face value of the CD is before you purchase it so you understand how much you’re going to get back later.

In terms of whether a specific zero-coupon CD is worth the money, it helps to look at how much of a discount you’re getting and what that equates to in terms of average interest earned during each year of maturity.

Purchasing a $10,000 zero-coupon CD for $8,000, for example, means you’re getting it at 20% below face value. Buying a $5,000 zero-coupon CD for $4,500, on the other hand, means you’re only getting a 10% discount.

Of course, you’ll also want to keep the maturity term in perspective when assessing what a zero-coupon CD is worth to you personally. Getting a 10% discount for a CD with a three-year maturity term, for example, may trump a 20% discount for a five-year CD, especially if you don’t want to tie up your money for that long.

The Takeaway

Investing in zero-coupon CDs could be a good fit if you’re looking for a lower-risk way to save money for a long-term financial goal, and you’d like a higher yield than most other cash equivalents.

Zero-coupon CDs are sold at a discount to face value, and while the investor doesn’t accrue interest payments annually, they get the full face value at maturity — which often adds up to a higher yield than many savings vehicles. And because the difference between the discount and the face value is clear, zero-coupon CDs are predictable investments (e.g. you buy a $5,000 CD for $4,000, but you collect $5,000 at maturity).

As with any investment, it’s important for investors to know the terms before they commit any funds. For example, zero-coupon CDs don’t pay periodic interest, but the account holder is expected to pay taxes on the amount of interest earned each year (even though they don’t collect it until they cash out or roll over the CD).

If you’re eager to earn a higher rate on your savings, you’ve got a lot of options to explore — including a high-yield bank account or a regular CD.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What is a coupon on a CD?

The coupon on a CD is its periodic interest payment. When a CD is zero coupon, that means it doesn’t pay out interest monthly or annually. Instead, the investor gets the full amount of interest earned paid out to them when the CD reaches maturity.

Is a certificate of deposit a zero-coupon bond?

Certificates of deposit and bonds are two different types of savings vehicles. While a CD can be zero-coupon the same way that a bond can, your money is not invested in the same way. CD accounts also don’t carry the same types of default risk that bonds can present.

Are CDs safer than bonds?

CDs can be safer than bonds since CDs don’t carry default risk. A bond is only as good as the entity that issues it. If the issuer defaults, then bond investors can lose money. CDs, on the other hand, are issued by banks and typically covered by FDIC insurance which generally makes them safer investments.


Photo credit: iStock/Joyce Diva

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

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.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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Guide to Callable Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

Guide to Callable Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

A callable CD is a certificate of deposit that pays interest like a regular CD, but can be “called” or redeemed by the issuing bank before the maturity date, limiting the return for the investor.

Regular CDs are designed so that investors get back their principal, plus a fixed amount of interest, when the CD matures. But those who own callable CDs may not get the interest they expected if the bank calls the CD early.

Callable CD interest rates tend to be higher because of this potential risk.

What Is a Callable CD?

A callable CD, like a callable bond, means that the bank has the power to terminate the CD before the maturity date. This may happen if there is a drop in interest rates.

For example, if an investor opens a bank account and buys a 2-year callable CD, the bank could close it out as soon as six months after it’s opened, or any time after that, generally at six-month intervals; it depends on the terms of the CD. The investor would then get back their principal and the amount of interest earned up to that point.

It’s important to note that only the issuer has the ability to call the CD early. The investor must leave their money in the CD until it’s called or reaches maturity, or they will likely face an early withdrawal penalty.

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How Does a Callable CD Work?

Callable CDs are similar to regular CDs, which are time-deposit accounts offered by banks, credit unions, and brokerages. These accounts provide a fixed interest rate on the funds the account holder has deposited for a specific term (usually a few months to a few years).

Callable CDs generally offer higher interest rates. But unlike a regular CD, a callable CD has a “call” feature which allows the financial institution to decide whether it wants to stop paying the account holder the higher interest rate. This typically occurs when interest rates begin to drop. At that point, the issuer can close out the CD and return the funds to the investor, plus any interest earned up to that point.

The bank typically offers a premium interest rate to account holders in exchange for the risk that the CD might be called.

Recommended: APY vs. Interest Rate: What’s the Difference?

Callable CD Example

Let’s say an account holder decides to deposit $10,000 into a callable CD that has a three-year maturity with a 5.00% interest rate. The bank, however, decides to call the CD after a year because interest rates dropped, and the bank can now offer CDs at a 4.00% interest rate.

In this case, the account holder would get their $10,000 back along with the interest accrued prior to the bank’s redemption of the CD. That would be about $500 versus more than $1,500 the investor might have earned if they had been able to hold the CD to maturity.

Are Callable CDs FDIC Insured?

Callable CDs, like most types of CDs, are insured up to $250,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or the National Credit Union Association (NCUA) if the CD is issued by a credit union. If there is a bank failure, federal deposit insurance protects the money held in a callable CD up to that amount.

If the CD was issued by a brokerage, which is generally known as a brokered CD, the CD is not technically FDIC-insured. However, the brokerage’s underlying purchase of the CD from a bank typically is FDIC-insured (though it’s a good idea to check to make sure before you open a brokered CD).

Maturity Date vs Callable Date

The maturity date is when the certificate of deposit reaches maturity and the investor can redeem the CD for the principal plus interest accrued during the length of the CD. They can choose to take the earnings or renew the CD.

The callable date is the earliest date at which the CD issuer can close the CD. The first callable date can generally be as soon as six months after the CD was opened, and can typically occur any time after that, at six-month intervals (for example, one year, 18 months, two years, and so on).

Be sure to read the terms of any CD, but especially callable CDs, as the callable date can vary. For example, you could buy a callable CD with a 5-year maturity date and a one-year callable date (the earliest date the issuer can call the CD). That means, at the very least, your money would earn a year’s worth of interest.

Pros of Callable CDs

There are several advantages that may come with opening a callable CD.

•   Callable CDs typically pay higher interest rates compared to regular CDs. Since account holders are taking on the risk of the bank redeeming the callable CD prior to its maturity, the account holder gets a higher interest rate in exchange for taking on this risk.

•   Like most CDs, callable CDs are generally considered lower-risk investments. If the bank decides to terminate the CD before its term, you will typically still receive the original deposit amount as well as the interest that accumulated until that time.

•   In the event of a bank failure, your money is federally insured up to $250,000.

Cons of Callable CDs

While there are positives to callable CDs, these saving vehicles can have some downsides.

•   If the account holder needs access to capital and has to withdraw their money prior to the callable CD’s date of maturity, they are subject to early withdrawal penalties which can eat up some or all of the interest earned.

•   In the event that interest rates decline, there is a possibility that the bank could call the CD early, in which case the account holder would not receive the same return they would have if the callable CD were to finish its full term.

Where to Open a Callable CD

You can open a callable CD with a bank or credit union, or with some brokerages. The financial institution should be FDIC-insured or National Credit Union Administration-insured so your money is protected.

With a brokered CD, the CD should be insured through the bank the brokerage purchased the CD from, but be sure to check that this is the case before opening the CD.

The Takeaway

If you are looking for investments that are generally lower risk, provide predictable returns, and are protected by federal insurance, callable certificates of deposits might fit the bill. Callable CDs could build your savings by paying a higher fixed interest rate for a specific period of time. However, the account holder takes the risk that the bank might exercise the call option, and close the account before the CD matures.

If you’re interested in earning a higher rate on your savings, you may want to consider other savings vehicles as well, such as a high-yield savings account with a competitive APY that’s higher than the rate offered by traditional savings accounts. Explore the options to choose what best suits your needs.

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FAQ

What is a callable vs a non-callable CD?

Callable CDs are certificates of deposits that pay interest for a specified term like a traditional CD does, but the callable CD rate tends to be higher because the bank can redeem the CD before it reaches maturity. A regular CD does not have a call feature.

Why would a bank call a CD?

Usually, a bank would call a CD in the event of falling interest rates. The bank redeems the CD because with a drop in rates, it can then pay lower rates to its CD holders.

Can you lose money on a callable CD?

Generally, you cannot lose money on a callable CD, but you might get less of a return than you’d hoped. In the event that the CD is called, the account holder receives the principal along with interest that was accumulated up to that point in time, instead of receiving the return for the full term of the CD.


Photo credit: iStock/hallojulie

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4.60% APY
SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

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.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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