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Money market account vs. CD: The difference
Money market accounts (MMAs) and certificates of deposit are types of federally insured savings accounts that earn interest. But their rates and ease of access differ.
CDs tend to have higher rates and give no access to your money until a term ends. Funds get locked up for a set period of months or years, and withdrawing early typically results in a penalty, such as several months to a year’s worth of interest. Most often, CD rates are fixed. (Learn more about CD basics.)
Money market accounts usually offer some access and rates comparable to regular savings accounts. You can withdraw money six times a month. They generally have larger minimum balances and sometimes offer checks. MMA rates are subject to change over time. (Learn more about how MMAs work.) MMAs can also be called money market savings or money market deposit accounts, and they differ from money market funds, which are a type of investment.
When to choose a money market account over a CD
You want the option to add and withdraw money regularly. You can save money over time with an MMA. And MMAs have the same withdrawal restrictions as regular savings accounts: six per month, not counting in-person or ATM withdrawals (some banks may charge a penalty for going beyond six).
You’re looking for checking account-like perks. Some MMAs offer debit cards, ATM access and check-writing abilities — features often reserved for checking accounts.
You prefer the balance of a solid rate plus easy access. Some MMAs stand out for a strong interest rate, though it's a good idea to compare with regular savings accounts.
» Ready to open an account? Here are NerdWallet’s picks for the best money market accounts
When to choose a CD over a money market account
You want to lock in a rate. CDs tend to have the highest yields among bank accounts.
You want to minimize your risk. CDs are safe investments and carry none of the fluctuating value that stocks have.
You prefer to set aside a fixed amount of savings for a big purchase months or years away. A CD requires you to forgo any withdrawals or deposits until its term expires. This can be handy if you want a safe place to keep money designated for a big-ticket item such as a car or down payment.
» Ready to dive in? See the best CD rates this month
When to choose a savings account instead
You want a wider pool of high-yield options than MMAs tend to offer. High-yield savings accounts, particularly those offered by online banks, generally have above-average interest rates. They can be a better deal than many MMAs and still keep your money within your reach.
You don’t want to worry about the higher minimum balance requirements that MMAs and CDs can have. Savings accounts tend to have the lowest opening and ongoing balance requirements among the three banking products. Many high-yield savings options don't have monthly fees, but some may still require a certain balance to earn a top rate.