No-penalty CDs vs. high-yield savings accounts: Understanding the key differences

No-penalty CDs vs. high-yield savings accounts: Understanding the key differences

When it comes to parking your money for better returns while retaining liquidity, there are various options to consider. Two particular choices are among the stand-outs in the field of savings products: no-penalty CDs and high-yield savings accounts. But what sets them apart? Let's delve into the nuances of both to help you make an informed decision tailored to your financial objectives.

Understanding no-penalty CDs

No-penalty CDs offer a unique twist on traditional certificates of deposit. Unlike regular CDs, which penalize early withdrawals, these CDs allow you to withdraw your funds before the maturity date without incurring any penalties. Let's explore this further.

What is a no-penalty CD?

A no-penalty CD, also known as a penalty-free CD, is a type of certificate of deposit that enables you to withdraw your funds at any time after a certain period without facing penalties. Typically, these CDs have terms ranging from six months to a year.

What are no-penalty CD rates?

Interest rates for penalty-free CDs are typically higher than those offered for high-yield savings accounts, but lower than those offered for similar fixed-term CDs. For current top rates on the Raisin platform, please click here.

Are CDs liquid?

Fixed-term CDs are typically considered less liquid than a high-yield savings account, with funds subject to early withdrawal penalty fees when accessed prior to maturity. In contrast, no-penalty CDs offer many of the same benefits as fixed-term CDs without these early withdrawal fees. 

Can you withdraw interest from a CD without penalty?

Some institutions may allow for interest-only withdrawals from a CD without paying any penalty fees. This is not the case for all CDs, however. It is important to understand a specific fixed-term or penalty-free CD’s terms before opening an account.

What is the difference between a fixed-term CD and a no-penalty CD?

Fixed-term CDs, also known as high-yield CDs, require you to lock in your funds for a predetermined period, usually with penalties for early withdrawals. In exchange, you receive a fixed interest rate for that entire period of time, allowing you to accurately predict returns and not run the risk of interest rates dropping during your term.

No-penalty CDs are similar to fixed-term CDs: you agree to deposit an amount of money for a set period of time at a fixed interest rate. They offer greater flexibility, however, by allowing you to close your CD prior to maturity without any penalty fees. In exchange, they typically offer interest rates that are lower than those offered by fixed-term CDs.

Having a greater understanding of the differences in these CDs can allow you to make better decisions when it comes to you which product is right for you. Let's explore the differences between fixed-term CDs and no-penalty CDs in more detail:

1. Flexibility

  • Fixed-term CDs: Fixed-term CDs require you to lock in your funds for a predetermined period, ranging from as short as one year up to several years. During this time, you cannot withdraw your money without incurring penalties, except under specific circumstances outlined in the CD agreement.

  • No-penalty CDs: In contrast, no-penalty or penalty-free CDs offer greater flexibility. While they still have a fixed term like traditional CDs, they typically allow you to withdraw your funds before the maturity date without facing penalties. This flexibility makes them an attractive option for individuals who may need access to their money before the CD’s term ends.

2. Withdrawal options

  • Fixed-term CDs: With fixed-term CDs, early withdrawals are generally subject to penalties, which can vary depending on the financial institution and the terms of the CD. These penalties often include forfeiting a portion of the interest earned or paying a percentage of the withdrawn amount.

  • No-penalty CDs: As the name suggests, these penalty-free CDs generally allow you to withdraw your funds at any time after a specified period without incurring penalties. There is typically a period of time after opening the CD during which funds cannot be accessed, after which a one-time withdrawal can be made without penalty.

3. Interest rates

  • Fixed-term CD rates: Fixed-term CDs typically offer fixed interest rates for the duration of the CD’s term. These rates are determined when opening the CD and remain constant regardless of any changes in market interest rates during the term.

  • No-penalty CD rates: Similarly, no-penalty CDs also offer fixed interest rates. However, since they provide greater flexibility in terms of withdrawals, the interest rates may be slightly lower compared to traditional fixed-term CDs. Financial institutions may offer lower interest rates for no-penalty CDs to account for the added flexibility they offer depositors.

4. Risk factors

  • Fixed-term CDs: Fixed-term CDs are considered low-risk investments, particularly when obtained from reputable financial institutions. In the case of CDs opened through the Raisin platform, they are offered by FDIC-insured banks and NCUA-insured credit unions, providing up to $250,000 in insurance per depositor, per institution.

  • No-penalty CDs: Like fixed-term CDs, no-penalty CDs are also typically considered to be low-risk investments. In the case of no-penalty CDs opened through the Raisin platform, they are offered by FDIC-insured banks and NCUA-insured credit unions and have the same $250,000 per depositor, per institution coverage as fixed-term CDs..

Can you lose money on a fixed-rate CD?

Investing in fixed-rate CDs, whether a traditional CD or a no-penalty CD, is generally considered a low-risk financial strategy. However, there are a few scenarios where you might earn less than you anticipated, potentially leading to a loss of purchasing power. Let's explore these scenarios in more detail:

  • Inflation risk: Inflation risk is one of the primary risks associated with fixed-rate CDs. When you invest in a fixed-rate CD, you lock in a specific interest rate for the duration of the CD term. If inflation rates rise during this time, the purchasing power of your CD's interest earnings may decrease.

  • Opportunity cost: Another potential way you might "lose" money on a fixed-rate CD is through opportunity cost. Since fixed-rate CDs tie up your funds for a predetermined period, you miss out on the opportunity to invest in other potentially more profitable ventures that may arise during the CD’s term.

  • Early withdrawal penalties: While not technically a loss in the traditional sense, early withdrawal penalties associated with fixed-rate CDs can diminish your earnings if you need to access your funds before the CD matures. Most financial institutions impose penalties for withdrawing funds from a fixed-rate CD before the agreed-upon term, typically ranging from a portion of the interest earned to a percentage of the withdrawn amount.

  • Mitigating risks: While fixed-rate CDs carry these potential risks, you can employ strategies to mitigate them, such as diversifying your investment portfolio, staying informed about inflation trends, adjusting your investment strategy accordingly, and assessing your short-term and long-term financial goals.

What is the downside of a no-penalty CD?

No-penalty CDs offer a unique blend of flexibility and stability compared to traditional CDs. However, like any financial product, they come with their own set of drawbacks. Let's explore some of the downsides of penalty-free CDs:

  • Lower interest rates: One of the primary drawbacks of no-penalty CDs is that they often come with lower interest rates than fixed-term CDs. Financial institutions typically offer slightly lower rates for no-penalty CDs to compensate for the added flexibility they provide to depositors. As a result, while you may benefit from the ability to withdraw your funds without penalties, you may sacrifice potential earnings in the form of lower interest rates.

  • Withdrawal window: Although no-penalty CDs allow you to withdraw your funds without penalties after a specified period, there may be a period of time after account opening during which funds are effectively locked up. It is important to be aware of this lock-up period, which can range from a few days to a few weeks after opening the CD, before opening an account.

  • Potential impact on returns: While the ability to withdraw funds without penalties may seem advantageous, it can also affect your overall returns. If you withdraw funds from a no-penalty CD before the maturity date, you may miss out on potential interest earnings that you would have accrued if you had kept your money invested for the full term.

  • Opportunity cost: Investing in a no-penalty CD ties up your funds for a specific period, limiting your ability to take advantage of other investment opportunities that may arise during that time.

  • Limited availability: No-penalty CDs may not be as readily available as traditional CDs, particularly at brick-and-mortar banks. They are more commonly offered by online banks and credit unions, which may limit access for individuals who prefer to conduct banking transactions in person.

  • Potential impact on liquidity: While no-penalty CDs offer greater liquidity compared to traditional CDs, they may still tie up your funds for a certain period until the no-penalty window opens.

Understanding savings accounts

Savings accounts are another popular option for individuals seeking returns on their spare cash while maintaining liquidity. These deposit accounts generally offer very moderate interest rates and may have limits on transactions to encourage savers to keep their money deposited. Savings accounts differ from high-yield savings accounts generally in the interest rates offered.

What is a high-yield savings account?

A high-yield savings account is a type of savings account that offers a higher interest rate compared to traditional savings accounts. Online banks and credit unions typically offer these accounts and provide competitive interest rates to help your savings grow faster.

No-penalty CDs vs. high-yield savings accounts

No-Penalty CDs
Interest rates are fixed for the duration of the term


High-Yield Savings Accounts
Interest rates can fluctuate over time
No-Penalty CDs
Typically only allow for a one-time penalty-free withdrawal of the complete balance


High-Yield Savings Accounts
May have monthly withdrawal limits (accounts on Raisin do not), but generally considered more liquid
No-Penalty CDs
More flexible than traditional CDs but less liquid than high-yield savings accounts


High-Yield Savings Accounts
Greater liquidity
No-Penalty CDs
Typically considered low risk when covered by FDIC or NCUA deposit insurance


High-Yield Savings Accounts
Typically considered low risk when covered by FDIC or NCUA deposit insurance
  • Interest rates: One of the significant factors to consider when choosing between a no-penalty CD and a high-yield savings account is the interest rate offered. High-yield savings accounts often provide variable interest rates that can fluctuate over time, while no-penalty CD rates are fixed for the duration of the term.

  • Withdrawal flexibility: High-yield savings accounts offer greater flexibility when it comes to accessing your funds. You can typically withdraw money from your account at any time without facing penalties. Some high-yield savings accounts may have monthly transfer maximums, however all accounts offered through Raisin have no transfer limits. You may wonder, "Can you withdraw interest from a CD without penalty?" The good news is that, yes, no-penalty CDs typically allow for penalty-free withdrawals. However, this is usually a one-time complete withdrawal, effectively closing the CD.

  • Liquidity: Liquidity refers to how quickly and easily you can access your funds. High-yield savings accounts are known for their high liquidity since you can withdraw money whenever needed without restrictions. So, are CDs liquid? While no-penalty CDs do offer flexibility compared to traditional CDs, your funds may be tied up for a certain period until the no-penalty window opens.

  • Risk factors: Both no-penalty CDs and high-yield savings accounts are considered low-risk investments. However, it's essential to note that they are not entirely risk-free. While the FDIC or NCUA typically insures your deposits up to certain limits, there is always a possibility of losing purchasing power due to inflation.

CD or high-yield savings account: Choosing the option that's right for you

  • Financial goals: Consider your financial goals when choosing between a no-penalty CD and a high-yield savings account. If you anticipate needing access to your funds in the near future or prefer the flexibility to make withdrawals without penalties, a high-yield savings account may be the better option. On the other hand, if you're comfortable locking in your funds for a fixed period and want to take advantage of potentially higher interest rates, a no-penalty CD could be more suitable.

  • Time horizon: Your time horizon also plays a crucial role in determining the right choice for your needs. A high-yield savings account may be more appropriate if you have a short-term savings goal and need access to your funds within a year. However, a no-penalty CD might offer better returns if you're saving for a longer-term goal and can afford to lock in your funds for a longer period of time.

Both no-penalty CDs and high-yield savings accounts have their pros and cons. Understanding the key differences between these financial instruments can help you make an informed decision based on your financial goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. Whether you prioritize flexibility or higher interest rates, there's an option that aligns with your needs. Evaluate your options carefully and choose the one that best suits your financial situation.

Finding top no-penalty CD and high-yield savings account rates

Whether you’re looking to store your savings in a high-yield savings account or a no-penalty CD, Raisin lets you find, fund, and manage savings products from an exclusive network of federally insured financial institutions. Signing up takes just a few minutes and all products on the platform have just a $1 minimum deposit to open.

Ready to get started? Click below to view the current top no-penalty CD offers.

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