What Is a Term Deposit?

What Is a Term Deposit?

5 Min.

A term deposit is a financial product offered by banks and other financial institutions. It is a deposit account where money is held for a fixed period, ranging from one month to several years. Unlike traditional savings accounts, where customers can withdraw money anytime, term deposits are locked up for a specified term. In return for keeping the money locked up, the financial institution usually offers a higher interest rate than what is available on savings accounts.


Term deposits represent fixed-term investments where funds are deposited into a financial institution account. Typically featuring short-term maturities, ranging from one month to several years, these investments have varying minimum deposit requirements.

Investors should know that withdrawal is only possible upon the term's completion. Some accounts may permit early termination with advance notice, but this incurs a penalty. Common term deposit types encompass certificates of deposit (CDs) and time deposits.

Exploring Term Deposits

Banks utilize deposited funds for lending to individuals or businesses, compensating depositors with interest. Traditional accounts allow unrestricted withdrawals, posing challenges for the bank's lending predictions. To address this, banks offer term deposit accounts, where customers agree to a fixed period without withdrawals for a higher interest rate. This elevated rate reflects the limited access during the deposit term.

Term deposits attract risk-averse investors for their safety. Banks, thrift institutions, and credit unions sell these financial instruments, with FDIC insuring bank-sold deposits and NCUA covering credit union-sold ones.

Optimizing Term Deposits in Banking

When customers allocate funds to term deposits, banks leverage these resources to invest in higher-yielding financial products, surpassing the interest paid to depositors. Simultaneously, the bank may extend loans to clients at an interest rate exceeding what is paid to term depositors.

For instance, a 2% interest rate on a two-year term deposit contrasts with loans offered at a 7% interest rate. This 5% differential constitutes the bank's net return. The net interest margin is the difference between the interest rates charged to borrowers and the interest rates paid to depositors. It is a key profitability measure for banks.

As businesses, banks seek to minimize term deposit rates while maximizing loan interest rates to bolster margins. Striking a delicate balance, they aim to attract both depositors and borrowers, avoiding the pitfalls of unattractive rates for either party.

Interest Rates and Term Deposits Dynamics

Amidst escalating interest rates, consumers gravitate towards term deposits due to heightened borrowing costs, rendering savings more appealing. Elevated market interest rates compel financial institutions to offer investors higher interest rates, augmenting investor returns. Conversely, during interest rate declines, consumers are incentivized to borrow and spend, fostering economic activity. In a low-interest environment, term deposit demand may wane as investors explore alternative, higher-yielding investments.

Ideally, interest rates align with maturity periods and minimum principal amounts lent to credit unions or banks. A shorter six-month term deposit typically yields less interest than a two-year counterpart. Investors secure elevated rates for prolonged deposit commitments and substantial principal amounts. Notably, a jumbo CD, exceeding $100,000, commands a higher interest rate than a $1,000 CD.

Term Deposit Management

Termed certificates of deposit (CDs), these financial instruments present essential details through a comprehensive paper statement, encompassing the minimum principal, interest rate, and agreed-upon duration. Initiating an early closure of a term deposit incurs penalties, potentially leading to the forfeiture of accrued interest until that point.

Penalties for premature withdrawals align with the Truth in Savings Act, disclosed during term deposit initiation. In instances of significant interest rate hikes, customers may find value in early closure, notwithstanding associated penalties, if reinvestment opportunities offer a more favorable rate, offsetting initial rates and penalties.

As maturity approaches, the bank issues a notification, presenting the option to renew the deposit at a potentially different rate or explore alternative financial products. For investors with retirement CDs, consulting a financial planner or tax advisor is crucial due to the distinct regulations governing early withdrawals.

Term Deposits in the Face of Inflation

Regrettably, term deposits fall behind inflation rates. The inflation rate reflects annual price escalations. When a term deposit offers a 2% rate and the U.S. experiences a 2.5% inflation rate, customers theoretically fail to accrue sufficient returns to offset the economic price surges.

Laddering Investment Approach

The laddering strategy involves diversifying funds across multiple-term deposits with staggered maturities. By evenly distributing investments over a predefined period, this approach secures varied interest rates, with longer-term CDs offering higher rates. As CDs mature, investors can opt for withdrawals or reinvest in new CDs, maintaining access to maturing funds.

For instance, depositing $3,000 in five, four, three, two, and one-year term deposits allows yearly flexibility for withdrawals or reinvestment. 


  • Term deposits offer a fixed interest rate over the investment's life.
  • Term deposits are low-risk investments backed by the FDIC or NCUA.
  • Investors can create an investment ladder by using bonds with different maturities, which enables them to stagger end dates.
  • Term deposits typically have a low minimum deposit requirement.
  • Term deposits pay higher rates for larger initial deposit amounts.


  • Term deposit interest rates are typically less attractive than fixed-rate investments.
  • Term deposits can't be withdrawn early without penalty or losing all of the interest earned.
  • Interest rates don't keep up with rising inflation.
  • Investors face interest rate risk when locked in low-rate deposits during rising rates.

Term Deposits Example

Wells Fargo Bank (WFC), a major U.S. consumer bank, provides diverse term deposit options. As of November 2023, selected CDs and their corresponding interest rates for depositors are as follows:

  • Six-month CD with a $2,500 minimum deposit: 2.50% APY
  • One-year CD with a $2,500 minimum deposit: 1.50% APY

It's important to recognize that these interest rates are subject to change for new CDs and may vary based on the branch's state location.


Term deposits offer fixed-term investment options, with factors like interest rates, inflation, and laddering strategies influencing their management. The Wells Fargo example highlights the importance of staying informed about current rates and terms. Despite drawbacks, term deposits provide stability and low-risk features for strategic financial planning. Investors should navigate these nuances with a prudent understanding of market dynamics and individual financial objectives.

Term Deposit
Certificates of Deposit (CDs)