No-Penalty CD vs. Savings Account: Which Is Better?

For a fixed rate, go with a no-penalty CD. For more access to funds, consider a savings account.
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Choosing between no-penalty CDs and savings accounts comes down to rates and access to money. Their rates tend to be comparable, but no-penalty CDs offer one free withdrawal while savings accounts allow greater access. Let’s dive in.

The basics

No-penalty CDs

A no-penalty CD has a fixed rate and term length like a standard CD, but lets you withdraw your money any time after the first few days without a fee. The catch is you have to withdraw the full amount as a general rule. Standard CDs, meanwhile, charge early withdrawal penalties. The best rates on no-penalty CDs tend to be comparable to those of online savings accounts.

Standard CDs

A standard CD locks money away for a specified term in exchange for a fixed rate that is typically higher than that of a no-penalty CD or a savings account, including high-yield options at online banks. As with no-penalty CDs, you can’t add more money to a standard CD over time. If you want to withdraw money from it before the term length ends, you must pay a penalty that’s generally several months’ to a year’s worth of interest.

Savings accounts

A savings account earns interest and lets you add and withdraw money over time, although there are limits. (Read more about those limits in NerdWallet’s article about Regulation D.) Savings rates are not fixed; they are variable and can change at any time. Remember: CDs have fixed rates, which work to your advantage in falling-rate environments, but you risk losing out on higher rates during rising-rate environments.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Interest rates are on the rise for certificates of deposit and savings accounts thanks to the Federal Reserve’s actions this year. See what the best CD rates are this month and what the best high-yield savings accounts are offering right now.

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Learn More

Member FDIC

CIT Bank CD

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APY

4.50%

Term

1.5 years

When to choose a no-penalty CD

You want to lock in your rate. Like other CDs, no-penalty CDs have fixed rates that can benefit you if banks drop their annual percentage yields (APYs) on savings accounts.

You want more flexibility than a standard CD but don’t need regular access to funds. No-penalty CDs usually restrict you from dipping into savings with an all-or-nothing rule: When you withdraw, you have to take out the full amount. The account would then close.

» Ready to compare? See our list of the best no-penalty CD rates

When to choose a savings account

You plan to gradually build up your savings. An important part of saving money is contributing more to an account over time, and a savings account is built for this. You can’t add more funds to a no-penalty CD after the initial deposit. (Check out NerdWallet’s article on how to make a savings plan for more details.)

You want the flexibility to make withdrawals. You don’t need to forecast when you’ll need money in the future because savings accounts let you withdraw multiple times per month, or more, depending on your bank.

» Want to see more? Check out our best high-yield savings accounts

At a glance: No-penalty CD vs. savings account

Here’s a look at rates for both no-penalty CDs and savings accounts at three online banks, as well as key differences between these account types.

No-penalty CD

Savings account

Rates at Ally Bank

3.30% APY (11-month term).

3.30% APY.

Rates at Synchrony Bank

3.00% APY (11-month term).

3.25% APY.

Rates at Marcus by Goldman Sachs

3.05% APY (annual percentage yield) as of 11/08/2022 APY (13-month term).

3.00% APY.

Key advantages

Fixed rate and no penalties.

Easy access and ability to add contributions.

Withdrawal limits

One withdrawal (which usually ends the account).

Six or more per month (see more details about Reg D).

Term length

Short-term, usually around one year.

N/A.

Withdrawal penalties

None.

None.

At a glance: No-penalty CD vs high-yield CD

Here’s another look at how no-penalty CDs differ from high-yield CDs, which are standard CDs that have some of the best rates.

No-penalty CD

High-yield CD

Rates at Ally Bank

3.30% APY (11-month term).

4.00% APY (1-year term).

Rates at Synchrony Bank

3.00% APY (11-month term).

4.15% APY (1-year term).

Rates at Marcus by Goldman Sachs

3.05% APY (annual percentage yield) as of 11/08/2022 APY (13-month term).

4.00% APY (1-year term).

Key advantages

Free to withdraw at any time, after the first week the CD is funded.

Offers the highest CD rates. (See current yields.)

Common term length

Close to a year.

From three months to five years.

Early withdrawal penalty

None.

Varies, but generally several months' to a year's worth of interest. (See penalties by bank.)

Bottom line: Choose the right balance

When considering your next savings vehicle, both a no-penalty CD and a savings account can offer you high rates and flexibility. Choose the option that can bring you closer to your goals.

Compare types of bank accounts

Your cash can go into many different bank accounts, and it’s helpful to know the pros and cons of account types. Check out these articles to help you choose the right account.

For comparing two accounts:

For deciding on where to bank:

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