When interest rates start to climb, will these be the CD to own?
Step-up certificates of deposit (also called rising-rate CDs) are fixed-income investments with a bit of wiggle room. When you have CDs with a step-up provision, you have a chance to exchange the initial yield for a better one as interest rates rise. Given currently underwhelming long-term CD yields, what CD owner wouldn’t want that option in the future?
As an example, let’s say you buy a 48-month, rising-rate CD today offering an initial yield of 0.6%. Let’s say that two years from now, the interest rate on that CD moves north to 1.6%. The step-up arrangement allows you to get the 1.6% yield.
This is different from a traditional laddered CDs strategy, in which you buy multiple CDs of varying maturities in an attempt to get higher rates of return with liquidity. Since interest rates have been so low right now, a CD laddering strategy would not have the same effectiveness. Step-ups give you the potential for at a better long-term return with the same CD.
On some of these CDs, the step-up kicks in at predetermined intervals or when interest rates move up. Other banks and credit unions allow you to voluntarily request the step-up; these variants are sometimes called bump-up CDs. In both cases, there is usually a restriction that you are only allowed so many step-ups during a specific interval or during the term of the CD.1
If you believe CD rates will rise frequently in the near future, then an automatic step-up may make a lot of sense to you. On the other hand, if you only get one automatic step-up per eight months or year, you may grow frustrated at not getting them frequently enough. If you only get one step-up per CD term and you can choose when you want it, it might be better to wait than to leap at the first opportunity.
It’s also worth noting that relatively few banks offer step-up CDs. Check with your financial professional if you are interested in going further.
Conservative investors who fear being stuck with subpar yields in the near future might want to take a close look at step-up CDs. They do offer the potential for CD investors to keep pace if inflation accelerates.
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