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Should I choose a high interest savings account or term deposit?


Interest rate rises are great news for savers. But should you put your money in a high interest savings account or term deposit?

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  • Finance
  • Read Time: 7 mins

Although the Reserve Bank this month decided against a further rise, we've seen a long series of interest rate rises. This has meant that savings accounts and term deposits are now offering higher interest rates than they have over the past few years, which is good news for savers.

So how do you decide whether a term deposit or high interest savings account is the right option for you?

What is a high interest savings account?


Key Points


  • Term deposits and high interest savings account balances are both part of the cash asset class, which is one of the lowest risk investment types.

  • Determining if a term deposit or high interest savings account is right for you will depend on your financial goals.

  • Term deposits can be more beneficial over the medium term and savings accounts can be more beneficial over the short term.

A high interest savings account is a bank account that usually pays a higher rate of interest on your savings than other transaction accounts.

They sometimes have minimum deposit requirements to open an account and can include bonus interest rates if certain conditions are met (such as depositing a minimum amount or not making withdrawals).  

The interest rate offered on this kind of account is a standard variable rate, which means it can increase or decrease depending on what happens with the market and interest rates.  

If the RBA resumes raising the official cash rate over coming months, this is likely to be passed on to high interest savings accounts in the form of higher interest rates. However if the rate is lowered, high interest savings accounts will likely see their interest rates lowered too. 

What is a term deposit account?


A term deposit account is a type of savings account which offers a fixed interest rate for a set period of time (this can be between one month to five years). Your savings will be locked away for the term you select and you can’t add or remove funds in that time without financial penalty.

The benefit of a term deposit is that it offers certainty with your interest rate, so if the market changes and variable interest rates decrease, your interest rate will remain locked for the length of your term. Conversely, if interest rates rise then you won’t see that applied to your interest rate until your term ends.

If you don’t need to access your money for a period of time and want to earn a greater interest rate on it, a term deposit can often help you achieve that. This is especially true if you are worried you might be tempted to spend the money if it were held in a transaction account instead.

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Cash assets and investment strategy


The balances of savings accounts and term deposits are both part of the cash asset class, which is widely considered one of the lowest-risk asset classes. This is because it is backed by the federal government’s Financial Claims Scheme, which means in the unlikely event of your financial institution failing, deposits of up to $250,000 per account holder, per authorised deposit-taking institution will be guaranteed by the government.  

While cash is considered a low-risk asset class, it is also a low-growth asset class. Interest rates typically lag behind the rate of inflation, which means your money will be losing value over time. That said, it is still an important asset class to have in your portfolio alongside growth assets such as property, stocks, or even commodities.  

How you choose to distribute your wealth across asset classes will depend entirely on how much risk you’re willing to take on. You may choose a more conservative portfolio which will contain a higher percentage of low-risk assets like cash and bonds, or you may choose a high-growth portfolio which will contain a higher percentage of higher risk assets like stocks and property.  

Speaking to a financial adviser can help you better understand how you should invest your wealth based on your values, goals, and risk profile.

Cash and your financial goals


How much of your wealth you choose to invest into cash depends a lot on your financial plans and goals for the next few years.  

For shorter term financial goals, financial advisers generally recommend keeping the money you will need in liquid assets like high interest savings accounts, term deposits or short-term bonds, as they are easy to access when required and generally hold their value during periods of market downturn.  

However, if your plans are longer term and you have time to wait out the market fluctuations, you may want to consider balancing your wealth across other asset classes as well. A good rule of thumb for investing is don’t invest what you aren’t willing to risk potentially losing.

Should I invest in a term deposit or high interest savings account?


Term deposits and high interest savings accounts offer slightly different benefits, depending on whether your goals are short, medium, or long term.

Setting short-term, mid-term and long-term financial goals can help you plan and stick to a budget and ensure you’re more likely to achieve the outcomes you’re aiming for.

Short-term goal

These are usually accomplished in the next few months to a year. Short-term goals could include saving up an emergency fund, paying down debts, saving for a holiday, or even upgrading your car.

The best place to store your wealth needed to achieve these goals is in a liquid asset like cash. While term deposits can be used for this purpose, a high interest savings account allows you instant access to your cash at any time and may offer a better interest rate than a shorter-length term deposit. 

Medium-term goals

These are goals you are planning to accomplish within the next one to five years.

A term deposit can be a useful way to grow your cash for medium-term goals, but just keep in mind you won’t be able to add or withdraw funds during your term.

Interest rates offered for term deposits are usually higher if your term is longer. As the interest rate is fixed, this will protect your interest rate over the term, even if variable rates decline during that time.

Long-term goals

These are for goals that are at least 5 to 10 years in the future. As longer-term goals are much further away, it can often make sense to invest in higher growth assets like stocks or property, as these have historically outperformed cash assets over the long term, and you have more time to recover from any market losses and benefit from market gains.

It is usually less beneficial to keep the bulk of your wealth in cash over the long term as cash loses value over time due to inflation (interest rates for savings and term deposit accounts usually lag behind inflation, meaning your money loses purchasing power over time). However, this depends entirely on how much risk you are willing to take on and whether you will need this money to live on in the future.

It is strongly recommended to speak with a financial adviser before you make any big financial decisions to get advice tailored to your personal circumstances, values, and goals. This will help ensure you make the right decision for you.

Useful tools and resources


National Seniors Term Deposit


With no fees and flexible terms, the National Seniors Term Deposit allows you to lock in a competitive interest rate that's protected for your fixed term.

You can earn competitive interest rates up to 5.00% per annum.

Learn more

There are lots of useful calculators and guides that can help you plan your budget and calculate the interest you could potentially earn including:  

Contact our Deposits team on 1300 342 149 between 8:30am and 5pm AEST weekdays or complete the form here to send an online enquiry and we will respond as soon as we can.

Sources: Moneysmart Source 1, Moneysmart Source 2, Moneysmart Source 3, Investopedia  

Terms & conditions: 

National Seniors Australia Ltd ABN 89 050 523 003 arranges deposits as an authorised representative (AR 282736) of Auswide Bank Ltd, ABN 40 087 652 060 Australian Financial Services Licence 239686. We do not provide any advice based on any consideration of your objectives, financial situation or needs. A target market determination can be obtained at auswidebank.com.au/tmd. Before making a decision to invest, please consider the Terms and Conditions. If you make a deposit, we will receive a commission from Auswide Bank. For more information about our relationship with Auswide Bank please read the Financial Services Guide contained in the Terms and Conditions.*This account is protected by the Australian Government deposit guarantee. Up to $250,000 of deposits in ‘protected accounts’ held by an entity with Auswide Bank are covered under the Financial Claims Scheme. Information on the Financial Claims Scheme is available at www.fcs.gov.au.

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