Best national 3-year CDs paying most since 2011

Clear piggy bank with coins

With no rate hike from the Federal Reserve to give it a nudge, the top nationally available return on 3-year CDs hasn't changed for 11 weeks.

E-Loan claimed top billing at the end of July with its 1.85% APY yield, and that became the peak after a series of summer increases among leading 3-year returns.

Before that, the top nationally available yield fell as low as 1.40% APY two years ago and was still hanging around 1.50% APY this spring.

Then June arrived, and banks began pushing the best return slightly higher.

First 1.54% APY. Then 1.66% APY. And finally to E-Loan’s 1.85% APY — the best national deal we've seen in almost four years.

E-Loan is an online portal run by Popular Community Bank, which has almost 50 branches in New York, New Jersey and south Florida.

Popular Community is the mainland division of Puerto Rico's biggest bank, Banco Popular, and its deposits are fully insured by the FDIC.

Banking experts tell us Popular Community is a rapidly growing, well-managed bank that simply needs to attract more deposits to fund more loans.

That's why, in addition to leading the 3-year CD term, E-Loan is also the leader among 1-, 2-, 4- and 5-year rates.

TOP 36-MONTH CD RATES: Nationally Available Bank Deals

Bank APY Minimum Deposit
E-Loan 1.85% $10,000
Silvergate Bank 1.66% $25,000
Capital One 360 1.60% No minimum
Radius Bank 1.60% $500
Sallie Mae Bank 1.60% $2,500
Barclays Bank 1.55% No minimum
California First National Bank 1.55% $5,000
First Internet Bank of Indiana 1.51% $1,000
State Bank of India - New York 1.51% $5,000
Ally Bank 1.50% No minimum
American Bank 1.50% $500
AloStar Bank of Commerce 1.50% $1,000
CIT Bank 1.50% $1,000
Synchrony Bank 1.50% $2,000
Discover Bank 1.50% $2,500
TAB Bank 1.46% $1,000
Giant Bank 1.46% $2,500
State Farm Bank 1.45% $500
Nordstrom Bank 1.45% $1,000
BankDirect 1.45% $10,000
Triumph Savings Bank 1.40% $1,000
BAC Florida 1.40% $1,500
EverBank 1.40% $1,500
Colorado Federal Savings Bank 1.40% $5,000

Fortunately, many savers can do better by investing through a credit union or community bank, the best of which are paying over 2% on their 36-month certificates of deposit.

One credit union even offers its ranking-worthy 3-year CD to savers nationwide.

American Heritage Federal Credit Union is paying 2.02% APY.

Membership is open to savers in the Philadelphia area, but also to anyone in the country who makes a $15 donation to American Heritage’s Kids-N-Hope foundation.

As usual, though, it's the local deals that offer the absolutely best returns — up to 2.78% right now.

TOP 3-YEAR CD RATES: Credit Union, Community Bank Deals

Bank States Term (in months) APY
Four Corners Federal Credit Union Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah 36 2.78%
University of Iowa Community Credit Union Iowa 37 2.40%
Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union New York 36 2.33%
Collins Community Credit Union Iowa 40 2.07%
1st Gateway Credit Union Illinois, Iowa 40 2.05%
Bank Gloucester Massachusetts 36 2.02%
MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Florida 36 2.02%
San Patricio County Teachers Federal Credit Union Texas 36 2.02%
Institution for Savings Massachusetts 30 2.00%
Linn Area Credit Union Iowa 33 2.00%
Vibrant Credit Union Illinois, Iowa 33 2.00%
First Ipswich Bank Massachusetts 36 2.00%
Meritrust Credit Union Kansas 36 2.00%
Cedar Falls Community Credit Union Iowa 37 2.00%
Ascentra Credit Union Iowa, Illinois 40 2.00%
Veridian Credit Union Iowa, Nebraska 39 1.96%
Gulf Coast Federal Credit Union Texas 36 1.95%
Security Service Federal Credit Union Texas, Utah, Colorado 36 1.90%
Union Bank & Trust Nebraska, Kansas 30 1.85%

Whether you qualify for a local deal or opt for a top-paying national bank, you'll definitely want to take advantage of these offers because most of them pay three to four times more than the current average return of 0.55% APY, according to our weekly nationwide survey of banks and thrifts.

The average return fell as low as 0.43% two summers ago before beginning a slow but steady rebound.

Unfortunately, we're still a long way from February 2007 — before reckless mortgage lending plunged us into the Great Recession — when the average return on 36-month CDs was 3.8% APY.

The Federal Reserve’s subsequent efforts to rescue the economy by pushing interest rates to record lows has condemned savers to pitiful returns for almost seven years now.

The Fed has repeatedly said it plans to reverse course and begin "normalizing" interest rates sometime this year.

But its highly anticipated September meeting passed with no action, and now there are only two gatherings left — one late this month and one in December. Time is beginning to run short.

Whether that happens sooner or later, and with E-Loan holding steady, a nudge from the Fed is our only foreseeable hope for bank yields to begin increasing substantially.