Top national 6-month CD rates pay 0.93%
It was a long 18 months that the top nationally available 6-month CD rate held steady at 1.05%, offered almost unwaveringly by one leading bank.
But while that finally changed in September, it wasn't in the direction we'd hoped. Instead, the leading return dropped below 1% for the first time since April 2015.
For savers seeking worthwhile short-term yields, one option is to instead sink funds into a nation-leading savings or money market account, since close to 20 banks currently pay more than the best national 6-month CD.
But if locking your investment and rate for a guaranteed six months is preferred, your best bet is to shop the local or regional deals that beat the national banks, some paying as much as 2.00% APY.
It's possible we'll see some upward movement for 6-month CDs, given the Federal Reserve's interest rate hike last week. So far, the needle hasn't moved for these short-term yields, but we'll tell you what the Fed indicated about potential additional rate hikes in 2017.
The top national deals
The previous 1.05% APY leader among nationally available 6-month CD rates was MySavingsDirect.
When it rose to the top of our rankings in spring 2015, it became the first bank to pay a 6-month yield above 1.00% in more than four years.
Indeed, from 2011 to early 2015, the top national yield had languished between 0.80% and 0.93% APY (if you don't count a few ultra-brief blips at 1.00% APY).
But in early September, MySavingsDirect abandoned the lead when it lowered its 6-month return to 0.85% APY.
The top spot is now occupied by VirtualBank and its 0.93% APY offer.
Operating solely online, VirtualBank is an FDIC-insured division of Miami-based Sabadell United Bank, which operates two dozen branches throughout Florida and is owned by Banco Sabadell, Spain's fifth-largest bank.
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TOP 6-MONTH CD RATES: Nationally Available Bank Deals
|Live Oak Bank||0.90%||$2,500|
|Colorado Federal Savings Bank||0.90%||$5,000|
|First Internet Bank||0.86%||$1,000|
|EH National Bank||0.86%||$10,000|
|Federal Savings Bank||0.80%||$10,000|
|AloStar Bank of Commerce||0.76%||$1,000|
Earning more locally
As we always say, credit union and community bank CDs are usually the best game in town for those who live in the right place or work for a certain employer.
In fact, more than a dozen currently outpay VirtualBank's 0.93% APY on CD terms of 3 to 9 months, including one that's available nationwide.
The best of these is paying 3.00% APY for savers willing to shorten to 3 months, or 2.00% for those more interested in stretching to a 9-month guarantee. For a strict 6-month term, 1.74% is the leading offer.
As always, eligibility requirements apply. So contact the bank or credit union directly to determine if you qualify.
TOP REGIONAL 6-MONTH CDS: Credit Unions & Community Banks
|Bank||States||Term (in months)||APY|
|Andrews Federal Credit Union||Nationwide||3||3.01%|
|Village Credit Union||Iowa||9||2.00%|
|Peoples Transport Federal Credit Union||New Jersey||6||1.74%|
|Boeing Employees Credit Union||Washington||6||1.50%|
|Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union||New York||6||1.41%|
|Mercantil Commercebank||Florida, Texas||7||1.20%|
|Mil-Way Federal Credit Union||Texas, Arkansas||6||1.05%|
|Star One Credit Union||California||6||1.05%|
|Down East Credit Union||Maine||5||1.00%|
|American Investors Bank & Mortgage||Minnesota||6||1.00%|
|Cardinal Bank||Virginia, Washington, D.C.||6||1.00%|
|Island Federal Credit Union||New York||6||1.00%|
|State Employees’ Credit Union||North Carolina||6||1.00%|
|Sun Community Federal Credit Union||California||6||1.00%|
|HarborOne Bank||Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont||7||1.00%|
Whether it's a local deal or a leading national CD, you'll want to take advantage of offers like these since they all pay at least five times more than the current national average of 0.19% APY, according to our weekly nationwide survey of banks and thrifts.
Waiting for a Fed impact
The national average for 6-month CDs sank to a record low of 0.14% APY in September 2013 and remained there as recently as June 2014.
Back in February 2007, before irresponsible mortgage lending led the economy over a cliff, the average return for 6-month CDs was 3.50% APY.
But after the Federal Reserve stepped in to talk the markets off a ledge by holding interest rates down to allow the economy to rebuild to full capacity, it kept them there for seven years.
That era finally concluded in December 2015 when the Fed's rate-setting committee launched what was expected to be a series of gradual rate hikes over the next several years.
But then the global and market instabilities of 2016, coupled with a still-missing healthy inflation rate, caused the Fed to downgrade its plans to wait-and-see. As 2016 concludes, the Fed's eight rate meetings resulted in just a single additional hike.
The Fed has indicated it expects to raise rates three more times in 2017, and its first meeting of the new year will conclude Feb. 1. But we, of course, know better than to assume three hikes will actually be announced in the next calendar year.
With any rate hikes potentially on the horizon, though, 6-month certificates can be a savvy buy.
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Disclaimer: The rates above were verified Dec. 20, 2016. Banks and credit unions should be contacted directly to determine eligibility for opening accounts with that institution, as well as to verify current rates.