What Is a Term Deposit?

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A term deposit is a type of investment that offers a guaranteed return over a set term or period of time.

A term deposit is a type of investment that offers a guaranteed return over a set term or period of time.

Definition and Examples of Term Deposits

With a term deposit, you choose to keep your money in a savings account for a term that may range from days to years. Generally speaking, the more you invest and the longer you’re willing to leave your funds untouched, the greater return you’ll receive.

The most common example of a term deposit is a Certificate of Deposit (CD). Unlike a traditional savings account, a CD requires you to lock away a lump sum for an agreed-upon term. While CD term lengths vary from lender to lender, they can be as short as three months and as long as 10 years.

In exchange for your commitment, you may earn a higher rate of return than you would with a savings account. In addition, a CD may offer some peace of mind because it is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to the $250,000 legal limit.

How Term Deposits Work 

Term deposits have varying timelines. A term deposit of less than one year is considered a short-term term deposit. On the contrary, a term deposit of more than one year is known as a long-term term deposit.

Also, term deposits can be redeemable or non-redeemable. With a redeemable term deposit, you can access your money before the end of your term. If you opt for a non-redeemable term deposit, on the other hand, your money will be tied up until your term is over.

You may earn interest on a monthly or annual basis, depending on the lender and type of term deposit you choose. A term deposit is flexible, as you can use the funds to meet just about any type of financial goal, like buying a house or paying for a wedding.

If you opt for a redeemable term deposit, be sure to read the fine print. With some lenders, there are caveats that may actually deter you from choosing a redeemable term deposit, including:

  • You may have to wait 30 days or more before you can touch your money.
  • You may only be able to cash in on your anniversary date.
  • You might not get the full rate if you redeem early.
  • A non-redeemable term deposit typically pays more interest than a redeemable term deposit.

Before you take out a term deposit, consult a CPA or tax professional to determine your tax burden.

Term Deposits vs. Demand Deposits

As stated, term deposits are deposits that are usually made for a few months to several years and reward you with guaranteed returns. If you’d like an investment product with greater liquidity, a demand deposit may be a better option. It’s essentially the same as a checking account. With a demand deposit, you can withdraw some or all of the money in your account whenever you’d like without paying a penalty or notifying the lender in advance.

One caveat of demand deposits, however, is that they offer lower returns than term deposits and may charge you various handling fees.

Pros and Cons of Term Deposits

  • Higher interest rates than a savings account

  • Safe investment products

  • Flexible

  • You can earn greater returns with other products

  • The money is technically under lock and key

  • The money you make is taxable

Pros Explained

  • Higher interest rates than a savings account: Compared to a traditional savings account, a term deposit comes with a higher interest rate and yields a better return—but only if you’re willing to wait for the fixed time period to expire.
  • Safe investment products: Since the market won’t take a toll on a term deposit like it would on mutual funds, for example, it’s considered a safe way to invest.
  • Flexible: There are various types of term deposits you can choose from, including short-term term deposits, long-term term deposits, redeemable term deposits, and non-redeemable term deposits.

Cons Explained

  • You can earn greater returns with other products: While they’re riskier than term deposits, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds will likely yield higher rates of return.
  • The money is technically under lock and key: Unless you go with a redeemable term deposit, which usually comes with some limitations, you won’t be able to take money out of the account until your term is over. 
  • The money you make is taxable: You’ll have to pay taxes on the interest you earn with a term deposit.

Key Takeaways

  • A term deposit ensures the money you invest will earn a certain amount of interest over a set term or period of time.
  • You can use a term deposit to save for any financial goal, such as paying for a house, car, or wedding.
  • While a term deposit will likely offer a greater rate of return than a traditional savings account, you can earn more by investing in riskier products such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

Article Sources

  1. Unify Financial Credit Union. "What Is a Certificate of Deposit?" Accessed June 14, 2021.

  2. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. "Deposit Insurance FAQs." Accessed June 14, 2021.

  3. Prospera Credit Union. "Understanding Term Deposits." Accessed June 14, 2021.

  4. IslandSavings. "Term Deposits in 2021: A Complete Guide." Accessed June 14, 2021.

  5. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "What Is the Difference Between a Checking Account, a Demand Deposit Account, and a NOW (Negotiable Order of Withdrawal) Account?" Accessed June 14, 2021.