How GIC interest rates work – MoneySense

GICs are particularly safe because they give you a guaranteed return, unlike other investments that have variable returns, such as stocks and bonds. And when you invest in GICs at a financial institution that is a member of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC), your deposits are eligible to be protected by government-backed insurance up to $100,000 per eligible account.

The low-risk nature of GICs makes them ideal when saving for a big goal with a deadline, like a down payment on a home or a big vacation, as well as when you want to protect your capital—for example, if you’re approaching retirement or already retired.

Recently, GIC rates have risen significantly. Let’s take a look at how GIC interest rates are determined.

What affects GIC interest rates? 

GIC rates are primarily affected by the Bank of Canada’s (BoC) policy interest rate (also referred to as the target overnight rate or benchmark interest rate) and by market competition among banks for your deposits.

When the BoC raises the policy interest rate, banks must pay more to borrow money from each other. This cost is passed on to consumers in the form of higher rates for mortgages and lines of credit, but it also incentivizes banks to pay higher interest rates for deposits, including investments in GICs.

It’s a game of supply and demand. The more a bank needs deposits, the more interest it will be willing to pay. This often manifests as special offers, where a bank will pay above-market rates on some of its GICs. This not only creates better opportunities for investors but puts upward pressure on GIC rates as a whole.

The recent trend of rising rates has pushed GIC rates up significantly. At this time last year, Scotiabank paid 0.60% interest on an 18-month non-redeemable GIC. Scotiabank is now offering 4.8% interest on the same investment (as of March 6, 2023).

Rates are also affected by a GIC’s features. You can usually earn higher interest rates by committing to longer terms, like five or 10 years, for example. You can also earn more interest for selecting a non-redeemable GIC, which may not be withdrawn early. Generally speaking, the less access you have to your funds before the GIC’s maturity date and the more committed you are to leaving your money in the GIC, the more interest you will receive.

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