While it's true that longer-term certificate of deposit rates tend to beat shorter-term rates, it's also true that there's a tradeoff for that higher annual percentage yield (APY)—you usually can't access your money until maturity, unless you're willing to pay an early-withdrawal penalty. For that reason, the comparison process for certificate of deposit rates and terms centers on answering some important questions:

What's your goal? When you know what purpose your money will serve, the easier it is to compare just those certificate of deposit rates that make sense.

How soon do you want to reach it? Some goals are very time-bound—your child's graduation date, for example—while others are more flexible. Either way, it helps to set a timeline so that you can set reasonable expectations about meeting your goal, even if you need to adjust later.

Can you afford to keep your money in a CD for that long? Remember: early withdrawal penalties are almost always tied to certificate of deposit rates (the Ally Bank No Penalty CD is one potential exception), so it usually doesn't make sense to access your money before maturity. In addition, you might also consider that if you choose a longer-term CD, you could potentially miss out on a better rate until your account matures.

If you had to make an early withdrawal, what would it cost? While every bank charges you an early withdrawal penalty on most certificates of deposit, there's no limit on that amount. Make sure you know what you're getting into before you open the account.

What's the minimum opening deposit? Find out if there is a minimum balance to open the CD and whether you can earn a different rate based on your initial deposit amount.

Ally Bank offers a full line of CDs to help you reach your savings goals. At Ally Bank, you can open and fund any CD with any amount and earn some of the most competitive rates in the country. Learn more at Allybank.com or call live, 24/7 customer support at 877-247-ALLY (2559) today.

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