What the Fed rate hike means for bank accounts, CDs, loans and credit cards

The Federal Reserve controls only one interest rate: the federal funds rate, which is the short-term rate banks use to borrow from each other. However, the Fed raising or lowering that single interest rate filters through the financial world, impacting virtually every facet of borrowing costs or saving rates.

Rate hikes are the monetary medicine the Federal Open Market Committee uses to:

  • Slow the economy by raising interest rates in an effort to tame rising costs (high inflation) as measured by the consumer price index.

  • Or lowering interest rates as an injection of liquidity to help mount a recovery when we're at the opposite end of an economic cycle.

Slow the economy by raising interest rates in an effort to tame rising costs (high inflation) as measured by the consumer price index.

Or lowering interest rates as an injection of liquidity to help mount a recovery when we're at the opposite end of an economic cycle.

The Fed's quarter-point increase on July 26, 2023, was the 11th in 16 months, affecting interest rates for savers and borrowers. Here's how.

How the Fed rate hike affects checking and savings accounts

Your short-term liquidity depends on money in the bank. For years, that has meant Americans treading water as cash earned next to nothing. As interest rates have risen, so have deposit account rates. The latest interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve will likely float deposit account rates higher.

Checking accounts that pay interest offer the most meager returns. But you need quick access to the money, and if you manage your cash flow, the bank won't have most of that money in its hands for long.

Interest-earning checking accounts paid a national average of 0.03% monthly last year in July 2022. A year later, that rate had risen to 0.07%. On a scale of "not much interest" measured in basis points, that's from a smidge to a tad. The latest central bank move might ease that up to a whit of interest.

Let's move up the interest-paid-for-cash scale.

Short to mid-term money is best parked in a savings account. It's part of your easy-in, easy-out cash strategy. Last year, in July, the monthly average interest rate on a traditional savings account at a brick-and-mortar bank was 0.10%. In July 2023 it was 0.42% before the Fed's latest move.

High-yield savings accounts pay more — Yahoo Finance is seeing high-yield savings account APYs nearing 5%. (APY is the result of compounding your interest rate. Compounding periods can vary by bank.) This latest central bank interest rate hike might take us up to or over 5% — a great reason to open an account.

A money market account often boosts your return from a common checking account, but you'll likely need to deposit anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 to earn the raise.

Last July's national average monthly interest rate was 0.12%. One year later, it's 0.63%. In a decimal world, that's a pretty big jump. And remember, that's an average. Consider putting your second layer of cash in an above-average money market account. It's the money you want close at hand, but not checking-account close.

To do that, look for a high-yield money market account. As the Federal Reserve pushes interest rates higher, high-yield money market accounts will move higher too. Again, Yahoo Finance saw high-yield interest rates close to 5% before the latest central bank action.

What to do now: Shop rates at banks, both brick-and-mortar and online. Keep your near-term cash nimble and earning the best rate it can. Each Fed rate hike should be a reminder to keep your eye out for improving deposit rates.

What Fed policy will do for CDs

This is more good news for those who maximize their cash holdings. The Fed is pushing rates up from the bottom of the interest rate pile, and certificates of deposit will earn more.

A 12-month CD was earning 0.31% monthly interest in July 2022. Seven more rate hikes later, the same term CD was paying 1.72%. The best CDs are already topping 5% APY. Your minimum deposit and term will determine your rate.

Consider a CD ladder to surf the rising wave of interest rates.

What to do now: Use CDs to earn interest on your mid-term money. Staggering maturities, with the ladder strategy mentioned above, will allow you the flexibility to benefit from higher interest rates and access your money without locking it all up for years.

What the latest Federal Reserve move will mean for loans and mortgages

Now to the other side of the asset/liability ledger. Higher interest rates influenced by the Federal Reserve's tightening of the money supply mean you pay lenders more to borrow.

Interest rates on personal loans have risen from 9.39% at the beginning of the Fed rate hikes in March of 2022 to 11.48% in May 2023. That higher trend is expected to continue until monetary policy officials believe the fight against inflation is won.

With forbearance ending and payments apparently becoming due again in October, student loans are rising top-of-mind again for those who still owe. Most federal loans have fixed interest rates, so Fed policy doesn't impact them. Private student loans may have a variable rate, and Fed rate hikes can be a factor.

To learn the interest rate on an existing loan, contact your lender or loan servicer.

The latest plan from the Biden administration, SAVE IDR, could allow lower payments to those who qualify as the program rolls out. Over 800,000 borrowers are being notified of loan forgiveness related to income-driven repayment plans.

Meanwhile, interest rates on new student loans are rising.

If you've been looking to buy a home in the past two years, you know this story. Home loan rates have soared. When the Fed hikes began, lenders were pricing 30-year fixed-rate mortgages around 4%, according to Freddie Mac. After peaking at 7% last October, home loan interest rates eased slightly but have bubbled back up.

The Fed doesn't directly influence current mortgage rates, they're a function of lenders tracking financial markets. However, if high inflation continues to ease, it's likely that home loan rates will soon follow. It won't be a diamond run descent. It took nearly 20 years for mortgage loan rates to fall from 7% in 2001 to an annual percentage rate under 3% in 2020. And homebuyers may not see lenders price home loan rates that low again anytime soon. The 50-year average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is over 7%.

What to do now: Borrowers should carefully consider taking on any additional debt as interest rates remain elevated. If the Federal Reserve is nearing the end of its tightening cycle, as policymakers and Chair Jerome Powell have indicated, short-term interest rates aren't likely to move lower until next year. If you do initiate a new loan, budget your monthly payment for rates to remain mostly stable. Then if interest rates do head lower and you get a refinancing opportunity, it will be a welcome budget surprise.

How a Fed interest rate hike impacts credit cards

Credit card interest rates have moved from an average of 16.65% to well over 22% during the Fed's latest rate-raising cycle. No doubt, those interest rates will continue to increase as long as the current monetary policy is extended.

What to do now: Pay off the credit cards you can and consider balance transfers to lower-rate cards as your credit score allows.

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