What Are Brokered Certificates of Deposit (CDs)?

Definition & Examples of Brokered CDs

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Brokered certificates of deposit (CDs) are CDs you buy through a financial intermediary instead of directly through your bank or credit union.

What Are Brokered Certificates of Deposit (CDs)?

Brokered CDs, as the name suggests, are brokered. It means someone (you or your financial adviser, for example) surveys the marketplace to find the best CD rates available. You agree to keep your money in the CD for a specified term, and a bank agrees to pay you a certain amount of interest.

In some cases, brokered CDs are long-term investments with maturities that are much longer than standard bank-issued CDs. Although those products may have their merits, customers sometimes don’t understand what they’re getting into, or a salesperson misleads them. 

Con artists have used brokered CDs to steal money from investors, so you need to use caution. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. What’s more, brokers might not deceive you, but they may fail to fully explain what you’re getting into—leading to unpleasant surprises down the road.

Research the person you’re working with and ask detailed questions about how and when you get your money back from a brokered CD.

Financial advisors, brokerage houses, financial planners, and financial consultants may offer brokered CDs. Simply put, any person who can shop around for securities can probably find you a brokered CD. You can also do it yourself at some online investing providers.

How Brokered CDs Work

Brokered CDs have several unique features. First, you open your investment choices to a broad universe of banks. Contrast this with a situation where you contact your bank or credit union and ask about CDs. Banks typically offer only their own CDs. Brokered CDs provide access to CDs from a variety of different financial institutions. Sometimes this can work to your advantage if local banks are limiting new deposits by keeping rates relatively low.

With some brokered CDs, you buy and sell as if you’re using other fixed-income investments. There is typically a limited supply, and there may be a minimum required order size (such as $10,000). You can potentially trade brokered CDs in the secondary market, but the volume and demand may be extremely limited. This makes it difficult to get a good price.

In many cases, your cost comes out in the Annual Percentage Yield (APY) that you earn on your money. It is similar to a bank: Banks don’t usually charge you a well-defined fee to invest in a CD. Instead, banks choose how much to pay in interest, and they attempt to earn more than they’re paying out. The same is true for brokered CDs—your APY often depends on how much any intermediaries want to earn on the deal.

Some intermediaries (like your broker or financial adviser) may charge you a modest transaction fee to buy brokered CDs. It may be a ticket-charge they have to pay for placing your order, and it could be a flat fee (or a fee for each $1,000 you invest).

Finally, you may be paying a fee under another arrangement, perhaps based on assets-under-management or a flat-fee agreement. If you choose to pay ongoing fees, it should happen only if the CD broker handles all of your rate shopping, research, and renewals for you (or provides other valuable services). 

Potential Risks

  • Selling at a loss: A significant risk of brokered CDs is market risk, which may come from interest rate risk. This is the risk that you’ll sell your CD on the secondary market for less than you paid. Ideally, you’ll keep your CDs until maturity and eliminate that risk. However, life is uncertain, and you may need to cash out if your plans change. CDs can act like bonds: If interest rates rise, buyers in the secondary market may not want to pay face value for an instrument paying a relatively low amount.
  • Bank failures: Another risk of brokered CDs is the risk that you’ll lose your money. Verify that any issuing banks are safe and FDIC-insured. You might be tempted by attractive CD rates that are much higher than you can find locally, but the tradeoff is that you need to assume more risk. For most CD buyers, the idea is to avoid risk.

Key Takeaways

  • Brokered CDs are purchased through a brokerage, not directly from a bank or credit union.
  • This gives the investor access to CDs from many different sources.
  • A benefit is that it can lead to a higher interest rate.
  • Be wary of scams or the risk of losing money if you have to sell early.