Term deposits offer a relatively simple way to secure your savings and grow your wealth over time. Similar to savings accounts in many ways, term deposits are available from most Australian banks, credit unions and other financial institutions.

If you’re already a customer of one of Australia’s “big four” banks – ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB or Westpac – you may be curious about whether a term deposit from your bank could help to maximise your savings. And if you’re not a customer of the big four, you may want to see how term deposit rates from the big banks compare with term deposits from alternative lenders.

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Learn more about term deposits

How do term deposits work?

Whether you’re a saver with one of the big four banks, or with a credit union, building society or alternative bank (an Authorised Deposit-taking Institution, or ADI), term deposits still work in the same general way. 

It starts with an agreement to invest a sum of money with the bank (the deposit) for a certain period of time (the term). The bank will then pay you interest on this amount at a predetermined fixed interest rate over time. Generally, the more money you deposit, and the longer the term length you choose, the higher the potential rate of return you may be able to enjoy on your investment - a short term deposit may not offer as high an interest rate as a longer term deposit. 

You won’t be able to easily access the money in your term deposit until it “reaches maturity” at the end of the fixed term. You then have the option to withdraw your money along with the interest you’ve earned, or you could reinvest the money for another new term to further grow your wealth (a rollover). If you want to access your money early, you may need to provide a number of days notice, and may also need to pay a fee.

The interest earned on your term deposit may be paid at maturity. Alternatively, it may be paid monthly, quarterly, or annually into another bank account to help support your household budget. Sometimes the interest can be added onto your term deposit to earn compound interest, though these term deposits may have lower interest rates.

Before you apply for a term deposit, it’s important to compare options from the big four banks as well as other banks, to make sure you choose an option with a competitive interest rate and features that should suit your financial situation.

It’s also important to compare the options when your term deposit reaches maturity, so you can decide whether it would be better for you to roll your deposit over for another term, switch to another bank, or withdraw your money and interest earnings.

Term deposits are relatively low-risk when compared to many other investments. They're also guaranteed by the Australian Government as part of the Financial Claims Scheme for up to $250,000 per account holder per ADI.

What to look for in a term deposit

Whether you’re comparing term deposits from the big four banks or other financial institutions, the features and benefits to consider include:

  • Interest rate: Indicates the potential return on your investment. Longer term deposits often have higher interest rates than shorter term deposits, meaning you can potentially earn more interest on your savings.
  • Minimum deposit: The smallest amount of money you’ll need to open a term deposit.
  • Term: How long you agree to deposit your money with the bank until your deposit reaches maturity. The longer you deposit your money with the bank, the more interest you can potentially earn.
  • Features: Extra benefits offered with some term deposits, including:
    • Automatic maturity rollover: At the end of the term, your money can be automatically deposited again for the same term.
    • Early withdrawal: Most term deposits don’t let you access your money until the term is up. However, some term deposits will let you withdraw your money early, though you’ll often need to provide advance notice, pay a fee and/or accept a lower interest rate.
    • Joint application: Open a term deposit with a partner.
    • Interest payment frequency: How often interest will be calculated and paid on your deposit. Options may include annually, semi-annually, quarterly, monthly, fortnightly, weekly or at maturity.

Why choose a term deposit from the big four banks?

If you already have an account with one of the big four banks, one of their term deposits could offer a convenient way to grow your savings. Because your bank will already have many of your details, opening a term deposit should be relatively simple. You may be able to transfer money straight from your existing savings or transaction accounts into your term deposit. Once it reaches maturity, you may be able to transfer your interest earnings straight back.

Because the big four banks offer a wide range of financial services, you may be able to not only apply for a term deposit, but any other loans and financial products you require. Plus, because these banks have branches located throughout Australia, it should be relatively simple to meet someone in person (or on the phone, or online) to manage your term deposit, no matter where you are in Australia.

How to compare bank interest rates in Australia

One quick and simple way to compare term deposit interest rates from Australia’s leading banks and other ADIs is to use a comparison website like RateCity. Enter your minimum deposit and minimum term length, and look at which term deposit products may suit your needs.

While a lot of people look for term deposits with high interest rates, there are other term deposit features to also consider. Consider checking the benefits, terms and conditions of different term deposits before choosing a term deposit account.

A quick and simple way to compare the options at RateCity without reading too much fine print is to check out the Real Time Ratings™ of different term deposits. These ratings combine the interest you could earn from a term deposit with the flexibility offered by its features and benefits, and are automatically updated if an ADI makes changes to the term deposits it offers.

If a term deposit’s Real Time Rating™ stays near the top of the RateCity Leaderboards for six months or longer, it may become eligible for one of the coveted RateCity Awards. If you see a term deposit offer with one of these badges, you can be confident it’s one of the top-rated term deposits on the market.

Frequently asked questions

How long is a term deposit?

A term deposit refers to when you lock your money in an account for a certain period of time and at a specified interest rate. You will not be able to access your money for the length of the agreed term without incurring a penalty fee.

A long term deposit generally refers to a term deposit that lasts for more than 12 months – which in some cases may be as long as 10 years.

Usually, the longer you store your money, the better the interest rate you’ll get, so a long term deposit will tend to pay higher interest than a short term deposit.

At the end of the term, you can roll over the money (plus the interest you’ve made during the term), or you can withdraw it all.

How safe is a term deposit?

You may have heard that a term deposit is a type of investment, different to a traditional savings account. All investment comes with inherent risk, so it’s important to know how safe a term deposit is before committing.

Term deposits offer a fixed interest rate which is guaranteed, so you do not have to worry about rising or falling interest rates when investing. You can add up how much interest you will earn over your fixed term, and this will be paid into your account per the conditions of your term deposit.

Term deposits with authorised deposit-taking institutions are also guaranteed for up to $250,000 by the Financial Claims Scheme, so you don’t have to worry about the bank collapsing either.

The only inherent risk of a term deposit is if you may need to break it early. If this happens, you will need to pay a breakage fee and possibly sacrifice some of your interest as a penalty. But if you know you can invest a certain amount of money for a fixed period of time, you can rest assured that a term deposit is a safe investment option.

Which bank has the best term deposit rates?

If you’ve been shopping around for a term deposit, you might be wondering which bank has the best term deposit rates.

Term deposit rates will generally be affected by the amount you choose to deposit and whether you opt for a short or long term deposit.

Longer term deposits tend to have higher interest rates than shorter terms. The trade-off for earning a higher interest rate on your term deposit is that you can’t access your funds for the duration of the term deposit.

When comparing which bank has the best term deposit rates, it pays to do your research and compare how your funds will fare over the short and long term.

Unlike home loans or savings accounts which give you the option of fixed or variable rates, term deposits are always fixed, which means you get a guaranteed amount of interest over the term of the deposit.

What is a term deposit rate?

The term deposit rate is the agreed interest rate for your term deposit. It remains fixed for the term of the deposit.

For example, if you deposit $5,000 for 12 months at a 2.5 per cent term deposit rate, that 2.5 per cent term deposit rate will be fixed for the entire 12 months and won’t change until the term matures.

The term deposit rate is one of the most important factors to consider when comparing your term deposit options. The general rule of thumb is that the longer the term, the higher the term deposit rate.

Term deposits are a popular type of investment because they’re safe and provide reliable returns.

The return you get on your term deposit will be determined by the amount you initially invest, the amount of time you choose to invest it for, and the term deposit rate.

How often do term deposit rates change?

One of the advantages of a term deposit is that this type of investment enjoys a fixed interest rate. This means that the interest rate that you have signed up for will not change during the period of your term deposit, regardless of rising or falling market interest rates.

However, it is important to be aware of the end of your term deposit. Once your term ends, whether this is in three months or three years, many banks will default to rolling over your deposit into a new term, sometimes with a lower interest rate. Once your term deposit rolls over, you will then be locked into this new fixed interest rate for another term.

Make sure to use the grace period at the end of your term to your advantage. Shop around for a competitive interest rate and reinvest your money accordingly.

How do you calculate term deposit interest?

If you’re ready to open a term deposit, there’s a lot you’ve already figured out. You’ve decided on the length of your term and found the best interest rate, but there’s something you still might be wondering. How do you calculate term deposit interest?

One of the easiest ways to calculate term deposit interest is by using a term deposits calculator. However, you can also estimate your total earnings on your own.

A fixed interest rate signifies what percentage of your original balance your term deposit will earn annually. For example, a deposit of $1,000 at an interest rate of 3 per cent will earn three per cent of $1,000 annually – meaning you’ll earn $30 of interest each year.

You can estimate your interest using three variables. Multiply together your deposit amount, interest rate, and term length and you’ll approximate the interest a deposit will earn. For example, if you invest in a term deposit for $5,000 at an interest rate of 3 per cent for two years, your interest would total $300.

Can you add money to a term deposit?

When you open a term deposit, you agree to lock your money away for a set period and earn a fixed amount of interest during that period.

Where everyday transaction accounts give you the flexibility to deposit and withdraw funds as frequently as you like, term deposits trade flexibility for higher interest rates.

Once your funds are deposited in a term deposit, they’re fixed for the length of the term, meaning you can’t add additional funds midway through the term.

When the term deposit matures, you may have the option to add additional funds and roll the funds over for another term, or you may choose to withdraw the money at that point.

If you have extra funds to invest, you could consider opening an additional short term deposit account or a high-interest savings account.

It’s worth noting that you can withdraw the funds midway through the term, but a penalty is likely to apply.

How do term deposits work?

Term deposits are flexible, low-risk, and earn you interest over time. But before you apply to open a term deposit, you might be wondering: how do term deposits work?

A term deposit is an agreement you make with a financial institution. This agreement will specify a certain amount of money that you will give the bank for a certain amount of time. In return, you’ll earn a fixed amount of interest on your deposit throughout your term.

Term deposits work as an exchange between a financial institution and an individual. You can think of your term deposit as a loan to the bank. Because you’ve loaned the bank your money, they’re willing to pay you interest on your deposit.

What is a term deposit?

A term deposit is an investment savings account. A term deposit usually pays a higher rate of interest than a regular savings account, with the interest rate fixed for the term (or duration) of the deposit.

You can open a term deposit account for one month or up to five years depending on your investment goal, and invest as little as $500 to start earning a profit.

With a term deposit, you get to decide how much you want to invest (the principal or deposit), for how long (the term or duration) and the frequency of interest payments.

A term deposit represents a secure form of investment, unlike trading in shares or purchasing real estate. And a term deposit up to $250,000 is protected by the government guarantee.

Can I break a term deposit?

One of the main components of a term deposit is your agreement that you won’t access your money until your term has expired. However, life can hand us unexpected expenses, and you might be asking yourself, “Can I break a term deposit?”

In most cases, you are able to withdraw money early from your term deposit, but it will usually come with a penalty. The penalty amount will vary from bank to bank, which is why it’s important to understand your deposit’s early withdrawal policy.

You should also be aware that some financial institutions enforce a waiting period for early withdrawals. This waiting period is typically up to 31 days and commences after you submit a request to withdraw your funds.

What is the best interest rate for a fixed term deposit?

The best interest rate for a fixed term deposit changes all the time, as interest rates move up and down and banks compete with each other to win market share.

To find the best interest rate for a fixed term deposit, it’s helpful to understand how interest rates are applied to term deposits.

There are three factors that determine the fixed interest of term deposits:

  1. The size of your deposit
  2. The duration of the term
  3. The frequency of interest paid

Term deposits vary in duration from one month to five years or more. Interest rates generally work on a sliding scale; shorter terms get a lower rate, longer terms get a higher rate.

Here are a couple of examples of how interest is applied to term deposits.

  • A $10,000 term deposit taken out over 12 months, with interest paid at maturity, might receive a fixed interest rate of 2.20 per cent.
  • A $10,000 fixed term deposit taken out over 12 months, with interest paid quarterly, might receive a fixed interest rate of 2.00 per cent.

Using the size of your deposit, the duration of the term and how often you want to be paid interest, you can shop around for the best interest rate for a fixed term deposit.

What is a term deposit account in a bank?

A term deposit account in a bank is a type of investment where you lock away a portion of your savings for a fixed period in return for earning a set amount of interest.

Opening a term deposit account in a bank is a safe way to earn a stable return on your investment of cash.

Term deposit accounts can be a good way to give your savings an extra boost without the need to actively watch or manage your funds during the term of the deposit.

Term deposit accounts in a bank are a popular type of investment because they’re safe and there’s very little risk that you could lose your money.

If you make a term deposit of up to $250,000 with an authorised deposit-taking institution, it’s guaranteed by the Australian government, which means there’s virtually no risk of losing your money and you’re guaranteed return.

Interest rates vary depending on the length of the term, the amount you deposit and the bank you choose.

Can I negotiate a fixed term deposit rate with the bank?

“Can I negotiate a fixed term deposit rate with the bank?” you may be wondering.

Many banks welcome negotiation when it comes to term deposit rates, especially with deposits of over $100,000. Even if your deposit is lower than $100,000, it may be worth a discussion with your bank.

Negotiating with your bank could secure you a higher fixed rate, which will earn you extra interest over your term. You may also discover bonuses or special offers you can acquire through your bank.

Securing the highest interest rate possible is the key to making the most of your term deposit. You may have compared deposits online or discussed your options with a financial adviser, but you also might be wondering about negotiation in order to get a better rate.

How do you break a term deposit?

If you have found yourself in sudden need of funds, you may be wondering how to break your term deposit and access your savings.

If you need to break your term deposit, your first step should be to check the terms and conditions with your bank or provider. Many banks now require 31 days’ notice before you can access the funds in your term deposit, so in many cases you should first notify your bank that you will be breaking the term.

Once you have notified the bank and know when you will have access to your funds, you will then be liable to pay a breakage fee. Check with your provider to see how much this fee will be. You may also need to sacrifice a percentage of your interest as a penalty for breaking the term early.

Once you know when you will have access to your funds, and how much you will need to pay to do so, you are in a good position to decide whether you want to break your term deposit.

Can you take a term deposit out early?

If you are considering a term deposit, you may be wondering if you can take out your money early. It is possible to break a term deposit, but it will cost you both time and money.

Many banks require 31 days’ notice if you wish to break a term deposit. This means that if you need money urgently for an unexpected expense, it may not be worth breaking your term deposit. Make sure to read the fine print to see if this wait period applies to the term deposit you are considering.

You will also most likely need to pay a breakage fee in order to access your funds, and you may also incur a reduced amount of interest. All of this information – including the fee amounts – should be available in the term deposit product disclosure statement (PDS), so ensure that you read the fine print before committing.

Are term deposits worth it?

Ultimately, whether term deposits will work for you will depend on your particular financial needs.

Term deposits can be a great way to get your money working for you. By locking it away and forgetting about it for a period of time, it can earn interest for you. If you have the interest paid on a regular basis, rather than at maturity, you can either have some extra spending money or you can reinvest it into the term deposit to compound.

Of course, locking your money in a term deposit means you cannot access it for the length of the term, without paying a penalty for early withdrawal. This can remove the temptation to spend the money, while it also earns interest.

What is a fixed term deposit?

A fixed term deposit is a safe and stable way to earn a fixed return on your cash investment.

Fixed term deposits are essentially bank accounts where you lock your money away for a fixed period and earn a fixed interest rate on those funds.

Fixed term deposits can be both short term, which is usually anything under 12 months, or long term, which can be up to 10 years.

Once the fixed term has ended, the bank or financial institution will give you back your initial deposit plus any interest you earn during the fixed term period.

Depending on the type of fixed term deposit account you open, when the term matures, you may have the option of rolling the funds over for a new term or withdrawing the funds.

Unlike other savings or transaction accounts which offer variable interest rates and flexible features, fixed term deposits offer fixed interest rates, which means the amount of interest you earn will remain the same during the term of the deposit.

Is a term deposit an asset?

The short answer is yes – a term deposit is, indeed, an asset.

Regardless that the funds are locked away for a fixed period, when it comes to the balance sheet, it’s considered an asset.

Aside from being an asset, term deposits are also cash investments which are held at financial institutions like banks or credit unions.

Term deposits work by investing a set amount of cash in a bank account for a fixed period at a fixed interest rate.

When you deposit your money in a term deposit, you’re agreeing to lock it away for a predetermined period, ranging from short-term periods of one month all the way to long-term periods of up to 10 years.

Term deposits are a popular way to boost your bottom line by investing your money and increasing the value of your asset.

Can students make term deposits?

If you are a student who has managed to save some money and are looking for a safe investment option, you may be considering a term deposit. Most term deposits (and other bank accounts) are open to anyone who is at least 18 years old.

There are also some term deposits open to younger students, some even without an age limit. These term deposits are usually opened on the student’s behalf, by their parent or guardian.

A term deposit is generally a safe investment option, especially if you want to make sure you can’t touch your savings for a set period of time. If you are 18 or older, shop around for a competitive interest rate before committing. If you are under 18, speak to your parent or guardian to get started.

Are term deposits compounded?

Term deposits can be compounded, depending on what you choose to do with the interest.

There are two ways to receive interest from a term deposit: either a lump sum at maturity; or paid on a regular basis, usually monthly. If you get your interest paid regularly, you can get it paid into a transaction account, or back into the term deposit account. By using this second option, you’re getting interest paid on your interest. In other words, it’s compounding.

Having the money paid into a transaction account means you can access it for your day-to-day spending, while compounding the interest means you get a better overall return on your investment. Both have advantages, depending on your needs, but be aware that some term deposit accounts that pay interest regularly may offer a lower interest rate to offset the effect of compounding.