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A Certificate is the credit union version of a certificate of deposit (CD). They have higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts and are a safe place to keep your money. But you may pay a penalty to access funds before the Certificate matures, and there are better options for long-term investing. Read on to learn how Certificates work, the pros and cons of investing in one and alternatives to consider.

How does a Certificate work?

A Certificate works like a bank CD. You deposit money into the account for a specific amount of time or term and earn dividends on your investment, similar to the interest you’d earn on a CD.

Certificates have fixed rates and fixed terms ranging from a few months to several years. They typically have higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts. However, unlike a savings account where you can make deposits and withdrawals when needed, you can’t continue to add money to a Certificate after the term begins, and you may pay a penalty if you withdraw your money before the end of the term.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you put $10,000 into a 12-month Certificate with a dividend rate of 5%. When the certificate matures, you’ll have $10,511.62 in your account if you don’t withdraw your funds early. You can roll your money into a new Certificate or withdraw it. If you roll the funds into a new certificate, it’ll earn dividends at the rate the credit union offers at the beginning of the new term, not the original rate.

Certificates vs. CDs

Certificates work essentially the same way as CDs, but there are some differences. The biggest is Certificates are available at credit unions, and CDs are available at banks. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) insures Certificates at federally insured credit unions up to $250,000 per depositor, per institution and per ownership category. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) insures bank CDs up to $250,000 per depositor, per institution and per ownership category.

Are Certificates a good idea?

Certificates may be a good option to keep your money safe while saving for a specific goal. You’ll earn more than you would with a traditional savings account, and you can align the maturity date with your timeline for using the money. But they may not be your best bet for your emergency fund; you don’t want to pay a penalty for accessing cash to cover an unexpected expense or job loss.

Still not sure whether a Certificate is the best option? Here are some pros and cons to consider:



Alternatives to Certificates

Certificates aren’t the only place to keep your savings safe. Here are a few other options to consider, depending on your goals.

Is a Certificate right for me?

Certificates are a low-risk way to save. With a fixed interest rate and a fixed term, you know how much your investment will be worth when it matures. Plus, higher dividend rates allow you to grow your savings faster than you could with a traditional savings account. Certificates can be a good option for short-term savings goals like a down payment on a house or car.

Because you may pay a penalty for withdrawing money early, they may not be the best option for savings you’ll need access to often. Additionally, they’re probably not your best bet for long-term investing because other investments have higher earning potential.

Is a Certificate the right option for you?
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