Making Sense of Interest Rates

Learn the essentials of interest rates — from the difference between simple and compound growth to maximizing savings account earnings. 

Interest plays a big role in your financial life. Whether you're earning interest in a savings account or paying interest on a loan, rates impact your money. Let's break down the basics so you can make interest work for you.

Decoding Interest Terminology

With savings accounts, you'll see terms like "nominal rate" and "annual percentage yield" (APY). What do they mean?

  • Nominal rate - This is the baseline percentage rate your bank pays you to keep money with them.
  • APY - This shows how much you'll earn over a year as a percentage of your deposit. The APY factors in compounding to show your total earnings.

For example, say you put $1,000 in an account with a 5% nominal rate. In one year, you'll earn about $51, making your APY around 5.12%.

Understanding APY infographic

Banks set rates based on what they earn from loans versus what they pay to borrow from other banks. The Federal Reserve also influences rates.

Simple vs. Compound Interest: What's the Difference?

The interest you earn can be simple or compound.

  • Simple interest is calculated once a year on your original deposit amount.
  • Compound interest gets added to your deposit, creating a new larger base for the next round of interest.

Let's see compounding in action. If you put $1,000 in an account at 5% interest compounded yearly, here's what would happen:

  • Year 1: You earn $50 interest on $1,000. Your total is now $1,050.
  • Year 2: You earn 5% of $1,050, which is $52.50. Your new total is $1,102.50.

While compound growth starts slowly, over time it can really boost your earnings!

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The Power of Compounding in Investments

You've probably heard the saying, "The sooner you start investing, the better." But have you ever wondered why that is? It's all about the magic of compound interest.

Compound interest is like a snowball rolling down a hill, getting bigger and bigger with every roll. With each round of compounding, your interest earned gets reinvested. This forms a new, larger base for your future earnings to grow from. And as this base expands, so does the potential for your wealth to increase.

That's why starting early is key. The longer your money has to compound, the more it can grow. So, if you've been thinking about starting an investment, there's no better time than now!

Variable Rates: Maximizing Your Savings

Some savings accounts have interest rates that vary based on your balance. This includes:

  • Tiered Rates - The interest rate increases as your account balance grows. The more you save, the better rate you can earn.
  • Blended APY - Different segments of your balance earn different interest rates. Typically, you'll earn the highest rate only on the top portion of your total balance. The majority earns lower rates.

For example, an account with a $10,000 balance could offer:

  • 3% on the first $1,000
  • 2% on the next $4,000
  • 1% on the remaining $5,000

This would calculate to a blended APY of around 1.5% earned across your full $10,000 balance.

The takeaway? Pay attention to variable and tiered rates so you understand how to maximize earnings on your savings.


The Hidden Interest Cost of Credit Cards

Interest can be a bit of a game-changer when it comes to using your credit card. It's like the invisible cost that can make your purchases more expensive than if you'd paid with cash.

Here's the deal: If you pay off your credit card bill in full and on time every month, you won't have to worry about interest. It's as if you're borrowing money for free!

But, if you only pay a part of your outstanding balance, things start to change. You'll owe interest on the amount you didn't pay off. Plus, any new purchases you make during the month will start racking up interest from the day you buy them.

So, while credit cards can be super convenient, it's important to keep an eye on that interest.

CCCU: Your Ally in Understanding Interest and Loans

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Whether you're navigating the complexities of interest rates on your savings account, figuring out the impact of interest on your credit card usage, or decoding the intricacies of loans, remember that CCCU is here to help.

Our team is here to answer your questions and connect you to the ideal accounts, loans, and rates for your needs. Let's start a conversation today!

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