As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

avatar You are viewing an archive of articles by Michael Pruser.

Michael Pruser

We track the best 12 month CD rates of 2017. You’ll find information on fees, penalties, and minimum deposits for these certificates of deposit, too.

best 12 month cd rates

If you compare today’s best 12 month CD rates with historical rates, they may not be impressive. With the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates low for the near future, deposit accounts will not command the interest rates that were common before the recession.

Therefore, it may not make sense to lock in a rate for a long period of time. Once you agree to a term like five years, you’ll be stuck with it. Even if rates rise in the meantime.

This is a good approach in an environment where rates are high and possibly falling, but not a great idea when rates are low and possibly increasing. Nevertheless, you can often find better rates for CDs than for savings and money market accounts. So if you know you won’t need your savings for three months, six months, or a year, you might be able to achieve slightly higher interest payments from the bank. One drawback is there is often a penalty for accessing your cash before your term is up.

For the uninitiated, a certificate of deposit (CD) is considered a “time deposit.” CDs are generally considered cash or savings when it comes to asset allocation, but the “time” requirement presents a maturity date like a bond. This probably doesn’t matter for most individual savers and investors. But it does carry an important distinction for businesses whose investments are reported to regulatory authorities.

Like savings accounts, CD interest rates are compared using APY, annual percentage yield.

Best 12 Month CD Rates

Synchrony Bank Savings AccountSynchrony Bank just made a few shock waves by offering a 15 month CD at a 1.65% APY.  Yes, that’s three months more than the standard 12 month CD, but the 1.65% APY is as good a rate as you’ll find anywhere. Especially for any CD under 24 months.  They require a $2,000 minimum deposit to open the 15 month CD and Synchrony even  increased their savings rate to a robust 1.30% (just a week ago).

Synchrony Bank also has a 12 month CD with a term of 1.50% APY.  As you can see from our list below, that’s still the best of the best so you can’t go wrong with either CD term.

Discover Bank CDDiscover Bank offers a hassle-free banking experience. I am a current, happy customer. Discover offers a rate of 1.35% APY for their 12-month CD.  Discover Bank also offers up a cash back checking account and high yield online savings account.

Ally Bank CDAlly Bank offers two unique types of CDs in addition to a traditional CD. The Ally Bank Raise Your Rate CD has a feature that mitigates the risk of CD rates increasing while you’re locked in. You’ll have one opportunity during the term of the CD to lock in the market interest rate. The shortest term offered is two years, though, not 12 months. The rate for this 2-year product is 1.50% APY as of June 21, 2017.

Ally Bank also offers a No-Penalty CD, where you can withdraw your money at any time without a penalty. This term is slightly less than a year at 11 months, and the current rate is 1.50% APY for balances of greater than $25,000.  For balances between $5,000 and $25,000 the rate is 1.25% APY and for balances less than $5,000, the rate is 1.00% APY.

The standard 12 month high yield CD nets an APY of 1.35%.  There is no minimum balance required

GS Bank – Goldman Sachs recently threw their hat into the consumer deposits ring and are offering a 12 month CD at a great 1.50% APY.  GS Bank also has an online savings account which offers an APY of 1.20%.  There is a $500 minimum to open a CD and no minimum deposit to open a savings account.

GS Bank was recently named the best Stand-Alone Account for Savings by MONEY magazine.  It’s rates are always in the top 1% of banks. However they do not offer any deposit products beyond savings and CD’s.

American Express Bank CDCapital One 360, the brand that emerged from Capital One’s acquisition of ING DIRECT, remains a mainstay of online banking and continues to set the standard for all other online banks. Like ING before it, Capital One 360 offers state-of-the-art banking products and delivers excellent customer service. The interest rate for Capital One 360’s 12-month CD is 0.90% APY

American Express Bank CDAmerican Express is a relative newcomer to online banking, but their products are compelling to offer here. I like my account with American Express. This bank offers a wide range of terms for CDs from six months to 60 months, with many intermediate terms. The interest rate American Express offers on their 12 month CD is 0.55% APY.

Sallie Mae CDSallie Mae Bank is also new to offering banking products, having been established in 2005. My account with Sallie Mae was the easiest to open. My only criticism is the lack of integration with Quicken and online tracking tools. Sallie Mae offers a strong 1.50% APY on the 12 month certificate of deposit.

Sallie Mae also offers a variety of other deposit options, including a Upromise Goal Saver account which allows you to save for college! (For yourself or one of your children).

One Year CD Rates vs. Online Savings Accounts

You may notice that a lot of CD rates above are better than the rates that a high yield online savings account can provide.  So why not simply take your money and invest in a 12 month CD?  Well there are two main reasons that banks can provide you a slightly higher APY.

  1. CD terms are absolute.  Once you open a CD and deposit your money, you cannot withdraw the funds until the CD comes to full term.  You stand to lose up to six months worth of interest by withdrawing early.
  2. Interest rates are locked.  When a bank knows exactly what it’s paying you, it can lend your money for a better rate somewhere else.  Savings accounts have fluctuating rates, so the rate you receive today may not be the one you get tomorrow.

If time deposits aren’t right for you and you’d like the ability to withdraw your money as needed, consider a high yield savings account from one of the best online banks. If you do like the idea of saving with CDs, consider creating a CD ladder to make the most of the highest CD rates.

Do you have a favorite bank, offering a compelling CD product, you’d like to see added to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment below.


Let’s get this out of the way. There is no one best online discount broker for everybody. What will be the best choice for you will depend on many factors. And what works for you may not be the ideal option for somebody else.

best online brokers

We’ve used a number of brokers, including Scottrade, Ally Invest, OptionsHouse, Motif, Vanguard, and several robo advisors. We’ve compiled this list of the best online brokers based on personal experience.

Best Discount Brokers

Let’s start with our top picks by category. Then we’ll look at each option in more detail.

Discount Broker
Stock Trading Cost
Sign-Up Link


Betterment Review


Ally Invest Review


E*Trade Review


Fidelity Review


TradeStation Review


TD Ameritrade Review


Cap One Investing Review

Betterment – Betterment is not your typical discount broker.  They’re a robo advisor that advertises a simple free structure to your investments.  The fee to invest with Betterment is 0.25% annually of your money up to the first $100,000.  Beyond that, the fee is 0.40% annually.  For example, if you invest $200,000 with them, you’ll be charged $250 for the first $100,000 and $400 for the next $100,000.  That means a $650 annual fee; which is substantial for high dollar accounts.

However, there are no trading fees or other fees associated with your account.  Experts choose the investments and Betterment is confident in average annual returns much greater than the fees they charge.  As a bonus, Betterment is offering new account holders some time without fees. The length of time depends on the dollar amounts invested

  • one month free for $10,000 deposited
  • two months free for $25,000 deposited
  • three months free for $50,000 deposited
  • six months free for $100,000 deposited
  • nine months free for $250,000 deposited
  • One full year free for $500,000 deposited

Ally Invest – Ally recognized that TradeKing was one of the greatest online discount brokers and decided to gobble them up.  Not only can you trade with Ally, but you can also open up an online savings, check and CD accounts with the big bank.  Stock trades cost a very low $4.95 per trade and contracts will run you $0.65.  Ally Invest also offers a robo-advisor service for those who aren’t looking to invest themselves.

Unfortunately, Ally Invest does not currently offer any sign-up incentives.  They also do not offer a fee free ETF’s. So while this is a terrific option for low cost trades and robo investing, it lacks a few of the finer details you can find elsewhere on this list.

E*Trade – One of the few online discount brokers that offer volume based pricing, E*Trade was the very first online broker I used back in 2005.  If you’re a high volume trader, trading 30 or more times per quarter, a stock trade is $4.95.  Low volume traders will pay the rate of $6.95 per trade. Options contracts also offer volume pricing, with contracts costing $0.75 a piece at the low volume threshold and $0.50 a piece at the high volume threshold (again, 30 trades per quarter).

There is a $500 minimum to open your E*Trade online discount brokerage account and for a limited time, new accounts can trade commission free for 60 days on a deposit of $10,000 or more.  For those wondering why OptionsHouse didn’t make our list; that platform was sold to E*Trade last year.  The conversion is now complete, so anyone who owned an OptionsHouse account is now a proud member of E*Trade.

Fidelity Investments – If you can make at least 36 trades per rolling 12 month period, Fidelity Investments offers my favorite trading platform -Active Trader Pro.  It has the most advanced trading features for both mobile and desktop users.  You’ll also have access to dedicated trading specialists.  The minimum to open a Fidelity Investments account is $2,500 which is a bit high compared to the $500 minimum most others require.  Their costs are simple: $4.95 per stock trade and $0.65 per option contract.

Fidelity Investments kicks off new account holders with the promise of free trades.

  • Deposit $50,000 and earn 300 free trades for the first TWO years
  • Deposit $100,000 and earn 500 free trades for the first TWO years

Fidelity also offers a wide variety of other accounts, including deposits, credit cards and bill pay.

TradeStation – Straight forward, discount pricing is what you can expect with TradeStation.  All stock trades are $5 and all options contracts cost $0.50.  There are no software fees, no additional trading fees to speak of.  TradeStation includes a top notch trading platform, mobile app and Radar Scanner.  With Radar Scanner, you’ll have the ability to look through a thousand ticker symbols at once, real-time to find patterns and trading opportunities.

One feature that stands out is that for customers who open an account with $500,000 or more, TradeStation will pay a 0.40% APY on the balance of your account.  Most every other discount brokers offers little to no APY on your deposited funds (I could find none greater than 0.01%).  This interest-sharing program is set to expire on December 31st, 2017.

Beyond this feature, there is currently no up-front incentive to open a TradeStation account.

TD Ameritrade – TD Ameritrade offers it’s clientele stock trades for $6.95 a piece.  Options trades will cost $0.75 and if you’re in need of a broker, assisted trades run the rate of $44.99.  Perhaps the greatest feature of owning a TD Ameritrade account is use of their Trade Architect technology.  You’ll have access to streaming news, trading specialists and level two quotes using this platform.

TD Ameritrade offers a great up front bonus for new account holders.  Depending on the amount of your initial deposit, you’ll be rewarded with:

  • Free trades for 60 days on a deposit of $3,000
  • $100 + free trades for 60 days on a deposit of $25,000
  • $200 + free trades for 60 days on a deposit of $100,000
  • $300 + free trades for 60 days on a deposit of $250,000

Capital One Investing – What used to be known as ShareBuilder is now Capital One Investing.  After their purchase of ING, Cap One has launched itself into the online discount broker space with a terrific sign-up bonus. Depending on how much you’re willing to open your account with, you stand to earn between a $50 and $600 cash bonus.  The breakdown of the bonuses (with promo code GET600M17) earned are as follows:

  • $5,000 deposit earns a $50 bonus
  • $15,000 deposit earns a $100 bonus
  • $50,000 deposit earns a $200 bonus
  • $100,000 deposit earns a $300 bonus
  • $200,000 deposit earns a $600 bonus

If however you cannot meet any of those initial deposit amounts, fear not.  Capital One is also offering a free $50 for new account holders after they make their first trade.  When signing up, use promo code M50FT17.

There is no minimum to open a Capital One Investing account and the cost per trade is a play $6.95.  Options contracts will run you $0.75 per contract plus the base commission and if you dare, they’ll offer you a margin rate of 7.75%.  Capital One Investing trading account has no account fees or annual fees.

How to Pick A Discount Broker

Here are the seven key factors to consider:

  1. Cost: The cost of trades is crucial for active traders. Here you want to find the lowest cost broker for the types of trades you make. For those who trade infrequently, like me, the cost is less important.
  2. Trading Frequency: This relates to cost, but it also relates to ease of use. Frequent traders spend a lot of time on their broker’s website. It should be easy to use.
  3. Tools: For technical traders, tools are critical. This is where it’s important to understand the type of investor you are. So you can be sure to get the tools that are most useful to you.
  4. Simplicity: This is the most important feature in my view. You want an online broker that’s easy to use.
  5. Types of Investments: Here it’s important to understand the types of investments you’ll be making. Do you want to invest in mutual funds and ETFs? Or will you be doing a lot of options trading? The answer to questions like these will often dictate which broker is best for you.
  6. Control: Simplicity and control are often mutually exclusive. A robo advisor gives you limited control, but wonderful simplicity. Interactive Brokers, in contrast, gives you wonderful control but far more complexity. There is no “right” answer here. It again depends on the type of trader you are.
  7. Account Type: Most brokers offer all of the basic account types, including various retirement accounts. If you are a small business, be sure to make sure they offer the account type you need. Examples include SEP IRAs and Solo 401ks.

Since I am not an active trader, I don’t actively seek out new discount brokerages. If you have experiences you’d like to share, please leave comments below.


Americans are spending more time than ever on their cell phones.  Ironically, the time is not spent talking. Rather, its spent online and texting friends and family. This means that the more important part of your cell phone plan isn’t the talk time, but the data and the reliability.

Earlier this year Verizon decided to launch Unlimited Data plans.  Verizon did this because, in the six weeks prior to this launch, they lost almost 400,000 customers to other carriers.  Verizon was the last of the four major cell phone providers to do so. I’d like to take a few moments of your time to dig into the value (or lack thereof) of these plans.

Does Unlimited Really Mean Unlimited?

The short answer is no.  This is how the Verizon Unlimited Data Plan breaks down:

  • Call Minutes – Unlimited
  • Texts – Unlimited
  • Video – Unlimited
  • Data – 22 GB of LTE data.  After this point, you’ll be throttled as priorities are used elsewhere.
  • Hotspot – 10 GB of LTE data.  After this point, connection speed moves to 3G

Take my three year old daughter Everleigh for example.   She absolutely loves ABC Mouse.  More specifically, she loves to listen to the songs they have about the letters of the alphabet.  These two minutes songs played 100 times consecutively saps your data at lightning speed (and also tests your willpower to live).  After just a week or two of normal use and one or two of these adventures, your 22 GB of LTE data can vanish.  For the next couple of weeks, you’re at the mercy of Verizon.

Compared to Sprint, AT&T and T Mobile, everything outside of the unlimited data plan is the same.  However, 22 GB of LTE data is on the low end for what a provider will allow you before they begin to throttle the data.  Here’s a handy chart of what each offers in their unlimited data plans.

Cell Phone Provider / Plan Name
"Unlimited" Data Package
AT&T Unlimited Choice / Plus
22GB of LTE Data, then reduced speeds
Sprint Unlimited
23GB of LTE Data, unspecified speeds thereafter
T-Mobile ONE
30GB of LTE Data, 3G speeds thereafter
Verizon Unlimited
22GB of LTE data, then reduced speeds

Verizon Unlimited Costs and Packages

Verizon offers just one Unlimited package. But they have a variety of line options depending on what you need.  For example, if you were to purchase just a single line, your cost breakdown would be as follows:

  • $65 per month for Unlimited Data
  • $20 per month for a smartphone access fee
  • $5 discount per month for auto-pay and paper free billing
  • Total Cost – $80 + taxes and fees (comes out to about $86 per month).

Verizon offers up to 10 lines for your unlimited needs.

Number of Lines
Total Cost (w/ Auto Pay Discount)
Cost Breakdown Per Line
1 Line
$80 Per Line
2 Lines
$70 Per Line
3 Lines
$54 Per Line
4 Lines
$45 Per Line
5 Lines
$40 Per Line
6 Lines
$37 Per Line
7 Lines
$35 Per Line
8 Lines
$33 Per Line
9 Lines
$31 Per Line
10 Lines
$30 Per Line

Verizon Coverage Map

If you live in a highly populated area, the chances are Verizon has you completely covered.  Outside of the mountainous areas of the west, you can see from the map above that the areas of white are limited.  Sorry to Alaskans … unless you live above Anchorage or in Fairbanks, Verizon is not the provider for you.

You can enter your zip code into their coverage locator to find out if your area is blanketed.  If the map comes up completed red, then the chances of finding a strong signal day in and day out are great.  If you find areas of white and light pink, your calls have a higher chance of being dropped (and your data slowed).

Verizon Unlimited Added Perks

Canada & Mexico – When signing up for a Verizon Unlimited plan, you’ll also have access to unlimited calls and texts in Canada and Mexico.  In those countries, your data limits become 500MB per day, then after that 2G speeds apply.  Don’t get too comfortable, however. Verizon makes it clear that if more than half your calls, texts, and data come from these countries over a 60 day period, they have the right to cancel your service.

My Verizon App – All Verizon members can manage their account with a few taps of their finger.  The My Verizon app allows you to manage your account from anywhere in the world.  From this app, you can change plans, pay your bill or check on your data usage.

Verizon Unlimited Prepaid – Everything you see above is also included inside of a Verizon Unlimited Prepaid plan except for tethering, HD video (standard definition instead) and mobile hotspot access.  The cost of the plan is the same $80 and no contract in required.

Is There Value in Verizon Unlimited?

Absolutely. When compared to its competition, Verizon fits in nicely with everything that isn’t Sprint.  For the next full year, Sprint is offering a heavy discount on their Unlimited packages for up to 5 lines of service.  The chart below shows you how Verizon matches up.

Yes, you can do better both on price and on data (before throttling) but not by much.  If you’ve been a Verizon customer and enjoy their coverage and customer service, then sticking with Verizon is easy.  For new customers, take comfort in knowing Verizon excels in customer service and coverage as proven by the following two awards:

  1. Highest wireless network quality performance in all six regions from J.D. Power
  2. Ranked #1 overall network in the US

More information on Verizon Unlimited Plans

{ 1 comment }

Aspiration Summit checking account offers a unique blend of features. From an excellent interest rate to virtually no fees, Aspiration is ideal for consumers looking to be treated fairly by a bank. Read our Aspiration Summit checking account review for all the details.

In the world of cash back and interest rates, I try to make as many purchases as I can with a good cash back credit card. Utilities, groceries, clothing, merchandise . . . the list of what I use my credit card for is endless.

And yet, as much as I try, I still end up spending more using my checking account and debit card than I do with my credit card. This means I’m missing out on cash back opportunities.

Yes, a good checking account is vitally important to a healthy financial lifestyle. But paying unnecessary fees is the easiest way to drain your checking account, especially without the benefit of a great interest rate. Plus, there are way too many banks out there willing to provide such a disservice to you and your account.

Well, the Aspiration Summit Checking Account is the antithesis of those high fee accounts. It offers its customers a fantastic interest rate without the detraction of a single fee.

Here’s how it works.

Aspiration Summit Checking Account

Aspiration Summit Checking Account review

The Aspiration Summit Checking Account is backed by Radius Bank and is FDIC-insured.

After being approved, you’ll receive a Radius Bank debit card. You can use the card just about anywhere. Unlike other checking accounts, it requires no minimum amount of debit transactions in order to receive the fee-free account. There is also no minimum balance requirement.

Even more intriguing, 10% of all revenue that Aspiration generates goes to charity. So, how can they offer all of this?

Well, oddly enough, it’s not available to everyone. In order to become an Aspiration Summit Checking Account holder, you must receive an invitation.

While that may sound daunting, all it takes is a short form with personal information. Soon after, you’ll receive an invitation asking you to join (I received my invitation 4 days after requesting an invite). Any U.S. citizen or permanent resident over the age of 18 with a Social Security Number and a checking or savings account can request an invitation.

There are three primary benefits to owning this checking account. They are:

  1. The current interest rate for accounts with more than $2,500 is 1.00 APY. (It’s 0.25% APY for less than $2,500.)
  2. There are no fees and no minimum balance requirements to maintain. The minimum starting balance to open an account is $10.
  3. Aspiration will never charge you a fee to use an ATM.  Not in the United States or around the globe. Not ever. (The ATM operator may charge you their own fee, though, so be aware.)

To my knowledge, no other account in the country offers all three benefits above. It’s rare enough to find a checking account that offers a high interest rate. When combined with absolutely no fees or ATM fees worldwide, I had no choice but to sign up for an account for myself.

Now my mortgage, electric bill, and every other non-credit card purchase flow through my Aspiration Summit Checking Account.

Aspiration Summit Checking Mobile App

For mobile users, there’s an available free app in the iTunes store. The app allows you to manage your Aspiration Summit Checking Account. Aspiration does a good job of keeping the app updated, too. In fact, the new 1.4.5 version was just updated June 23rd, 2017.

Current features of the mobile app include:

  • Deposit a check with your phone’s camera. No more searching for your bank or an ATM!
  • The only money Aspiration makes are the “tips” you choose to pay them — and you’re free to choose zero
  • Easy transfers between Aspiration and your other accounts
  • Pay your bills, or send a check to a friend
  • To-the-minute balance & transaction tracking
  • Touch ID lets you sign in with your fingerprint (on supported devices)
  • 3D Touch QuickActions (on supported devices)
  • Aspiration works with Apple Pay, Mint, Venmo, & Paypal
  • Two-factor authentication for stronger security

The only time your checking account has the potential to lose money to fees is when it is overdrafted. The bank charges $25 overdraft fee anytime it attempts to draw funds from your account and you do not have them.

Related: 5 Most Annoying Banking Fees

If your account remains negative for five consecutive days, a $5 daily overdraft fee charge kicks in. This will be charged until the account balance is brought back up to the black. Because you cannot also own a savings account, there is no overdraft transfer protection service. So, please do whatever is necessary to keep proper track of your debits.

Rarely do I come across a financial product that I have a hard time finding fault with. Whether a high annual fee, a limited set of circumstances, or some other catch, financial companies that want you as a customer do so to make money. However, the Aspiration Summit Checking Account holds none of these negatives.

For anyone in need of a checking account or looking to upgrade their current checking account, start here:


Capital One Spark Business Checking Account Review

by Michael Pruser

I created my small business in 2010. One of the very first things I did was sign up for a business checking account. Living in Miami at the time, there was a brick-and-mortar Citi location just a half block away. So, that is the bank I signed on with. The “green” business checking account was […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Are You Earning 1.12% On Your Savings? SmartyPig Members Are

by Michael Pruser

If you’ve been paying attention to high yield savings rates over the past few months, you may have noticed they’re on their way up. No, not to the 4 percent – 5 percent levels we saw about a decade ago. But, slowly, interest rates are creeping in a positive direction. SmartyPig is one of the high yield […]

0 comments Read the full article →

How the New AHCA Bill Will Affect Your Healthcare

by Michael Pruser

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Health Care Act (or as many are calling it, “Trumpcare”) by a vote of 217 to 213. Initially, it was determined by Republican House leadership that the bill was not strong enough to pass a vote. The discussion appeared to be tabled indefinitely. However, after […]

3 comments Read the full article →

Everything You Need to Know About Donald Trump’s Proposed Tax Plan

by Michael Pruser

I’ve been fortunate enough to live on this wonderful earth for 32+ years. During that time, I’ve come to realize two things as certainties.  First, the New York Jets are never going to win a Superbowl in my lifetime and second, taxes are unbearably complicated. One day, I hope to vote for a President who […]

6 comments Read the full article →

Overbooking Flights is Good for the Consumer – Let Me Explain

by Michael Pruser

As the entire world has likely seen by now, United Airlines removed Dr. David Dao from his Sunday evening flight, by selecting him at random and then dragging him off the airline. While the United apology tour took a good 48 hours to get started, they finally came around and said they were very sorry […]

2 comments Read the full article →

The Impact of the Philadelphia Soda Tax

by Michael Pruser

Earlier this year, I wrote an article discussing the new Philadelphia Soda Tax that had just been put into effect. At the time, the discussion focused on the possibilities the law would present: from having more people drink water and getting more funding for the school system, to Americans losing money to the tax and companies […]

0 comments Read the full article →
Page 1 of 212