When you put money in a deposit account, beating inflation is an important goal. Series I U.S. savings bonds are designed to do just that by paying both a fixed interest rate and one that changes with the inflation rate.
Currently, certificates of deposit (CDs) are challenging I bonds for their own inflation-beating seat at the savings table for the first time in decades. Because both savings vehicles require you to set money aside without touching it for a year or more, deciding between these options involves attempting to predict the future and the other factors you must consider.
- In today’s economic climate, both I bonds and the highest-yielding CDs are in competition to provide some of the best inflation-beating returns available in savings vehicles.
- Choosing between the two involves comparing current and expected future interest rates, time to maturity, and early withdrawal penalties.
- Ultimately, your personal financial situation and goals will be the deciding factors when it comes to what’s best for you.
Comparing I Bond and CD Rates
Current CD returns are the highest in 15 years. On a daily basis, Investopedia tracks the best-paying CDs with terms from 3 months to 10 years and posts them in our online rankings to help you obtain the highest interest rate available.
As of June 16, the highest rate on a CD of any length is 5.65% APY, offered on a term of 6 months. In addition, multiple options are paying at least a fixed 5.00% APY, for terms ranging from 3 months to 3 years.
Interest rates on I bonds are set for six months at a time, with the U.S. Treasury announcing new semiannual rates every May 1 and Nov. 1. The term “I bond” refers to the fact the rate is set using both a fixed rate and a variable rate based on the latest inflation rate, as measured in the U.S. by the consumer price index (CPI).
I bonds currently pay 4.30% and will continue to do so for any bonds purchased through Oct. 31. Importantly, purchasing an I bond will pay the current rate for the next six months, beginning on the first day of the month you purchase it. This means, if you buy an I bond today (June 16) it will pay 4.30% to Dec. 1, 2023, then the November 2023 rate to June 1, 2024. This is despite new rates being announced on Nov. 1, 2023, and May 1, 2024.
By law, you can’t withdraw funds from an I bond until 12 months after the purchase date.
An I bond purchased today can’t be redeemed until June 16, 2024. Alternatively, you could purchase a one-year CD paying 5.50% APY then cash in that CD on June 16, 2024, or purchase another CD at the then-prevailing rate. Other options would include opening a 6-month CD with an APY of 5.65%—if you believe rates will rise—and then opening another 6-month CD when the first one matures on Dec. 16, 2023.
To choose from among this somewhat dizzying array of options will require your best estimate of what interest rates will do in the future. This is why a simple comparison of interest rates today isn’t enough to complete the selection process.