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Understanding the Penalty for Withdrawing a GIC Early

6 min read

Understanding the Penalty for Withdrawing a GIC Early

Written By

Meghana Agashe
Meghana Agashe

Reviewed By

Clay Shiffman

Find yourself considering an early GIC withdrawal? You’re not the only one—as lucrative as this investment option is, many people find themselves in a pickle when faced with the need to access their funds immediately due to unforeseen circumstances.

But hold on a moment! Before you make any hasty moves, let's navigate through the intricacies of penalties. Together, we'll uncover the important details you need to know before you hit that “withdraw” button.

What is a GIC?

Let's start with the basics. A Guaranteed Investment Certificate, or GIC, is a financial product offered by banks and credit unions. It's a secure investment option that offers a fixed interest rate and guarantees the return of your initial investment at the end of a predetermined period. GICs provide stability and predictability to investors, and are lucrative investment options when interest rates are going up.

Predetermined period: That’s the keyword to remember when considering an early withdrawal from your GIC. Predetermined period clause of a GIC ensures each GIC comes with a fixed maturity date that represents the point at which your investment reaches its full term. Withdrawing funds before this date may result in penalties because it disrupts the original agreement between you and the financial institution. To maximize the potential benefits of GICs, they are typically intended to be held until maturity.

Early Withdrawal from a GIC

When you invest in a GIC, you're essentially lending your money to a bank or financial institution for a predetermined period, ranging from a few months to several years. In return, your money earns interest over that time. The longer you keep your money invested in the GIC, the more interest it accumulates. Once the term ends, you receive your initial deposit along with the interest earned.

Now, it's important to understand why GICs come with specific withdrawal conditions. The nature of GICs is designed to provide stability and predictability for both the investor and the financial institution. When you commit to a GIC, you are essentially making an agreement to keep your money invested for the agreed-upon term. This commitment allows the bank or financial institution to plan and allocate funds for various purposes, such as lending or investment activities.

By maintaining a consistent term and withdrawal conditions, GICs enable financial institutions to effectively manage their operations and offer competitive interest rates to investors. However, it's essential to note that these withdrawal conditions mean that accessing your funds before the maturity date may result in penalties or limitations. These penalties aim to discourage early withdrawal and preserve the integrity of the agreement.

Now coming to the million dollar question: Is it possible to withdraw money from a GIC before its maturity date—without having to pay a penalty? Technically, you can. But there’s a catch: Actually scratch that, there’s several catches. Let’s take a look at the factors which influence how early withdrawal would work for your GIC.

Factors Influencing the Penalty

GIC Types and Features

The first and foremost thing to consider while thinking of an early withdrawal is what type of GIC have you invested your funds in. If you have a redeemable or cashable GIC, you will be able to withdraw your funds, without paying a penalty, provided you do so after the initial lock-in period, which is usually between 30-90 days (more on that later). On the flipside though, if you have a non-redeemable GIC, it will be very hard to withdraw money before your term is up—and will result in a penalty.

You might be wondering, if non-redeemable GICs come with such strict lock-in terms, why would you want to invest in one in the first place. The answer is simple: higher interest rates. That’s the trade-off between lack of liquidity for the term of the non-redeemable GIC and earning more interest upon maturity.

While cashable and redeemable GICs come with more flexibility and liquidity, they also tend to have much lower interest rates than other GIC options. If you do foresee any big expenses coming your way and would feel more at peace having liquidity, cashable GICs would be your best bet. But if you’re saving for a big expense down the road, such as buying a house or going back to school, a high-interest non-redeemable GIC that locks your money in for a fixed term could be the way to go.

GIC Terms and Conditions

Understanding the terms and conditions associated with early GIC withdrawal is important as it ensures you are fully aware of the potential consequences before making any decisions. Let’s start by getting to know the important terms related to GICs—this will help you make informed choices about your investments and consider whether the benefits of a GIC align with your immediate financial goals and needs.

Maturity term: The maturity term in a GIC refers to the duration your money remains invested. It's a commitment between you and the financial institution, allowing effective fund allocation.This is perhaps the most important factor you need to be aware of because it determines when you can access your funds penalty-free. At the maturity date, you can withdraw your initial investment and earned interest.

Waiting period: Also known as the closed period or the lock-in period, the waiting period is the timeframe when your money is essentially "locked in" and cannot be accessed without incurring penalties or restrictions. This holds true even in the case of cashable GICs where the waiting period is usually 30 days. If you withdraw your cashable GIC before 30 days have passed, you won't earn any interest. Some GIC providers may have a longer lock-in period of up to 90 days. This shouldn’t be confused with the maturity term—maturity term is when your GIC contract ends while the waiting period is a part of the maturity period in a cashable GIC after which you can access your funds.

Withdrawal conditions: Withdrawal conditions are set by the financial institution and typically outline the rules regarding the timing and consequences of withdrawing funds before the maturity date. Some GICs may have more lenient terms, allowing partial withdrawals or providing options for early redemption with reduced penalties. Conversely, other GICs may have stricter terms that impose significant penalties for any early withdrawal. It’s critical to carefully review and understand these terms before investing in a GIC.

Calculating the Penalty

Alright, if you’ve made it this far in the article, chances are you have a non-redeemable GIC (or are looking to invest in one) and want to know how much the penalty would be if you were to withdraw funds before your maturity date.

Essentially, there are two ways your financial institution may impose a penalty on you for early withdrawal:

Percentage-Based Penalties

Some institutions impose penalties as a percentage of the interest earned on the GIC at the time of withdrawal. Alternatively, the penalty may be a percentage of the withdrawn principal amount. The specific percentage may vary depending on the terms and conditions of your GIC.

To provide a clearer understanding, let's consider a practical example. Imagine you have a GIC with a 2% penalty for early withdrawal, and you decide to withdraw your GIC after holding it for one year. If the accrued interest on your GIC during that year is $1000, the penalty would be 2% of that amount, resulting in a penalty of $20.

Interest Rate Adjustment

Another method used to calculate the penalty is the interest rate adjustment. In this approach, the financial institution adjusts the interest rate applied to your GIC based on the length of time you held the investment before early withdrawal. For instance, if you withdraw your GIC before a predetermined minimum period, the institution may lower the interest rate applied to your investment, reducing the overall return.

Let's say you have a GIC with an initial interest rate of 3% and a maturity period of two years. However, after holding the GIC for only six months, you find that you need to withdraw your funds due to an unforeseen financial obligation.

In this scenario, the financial institution may apply an interest rate adjustment as a penalty for the early withdrawal. Let’s assume that the interest rate adjustment reduces the rate to 1.5%, which is half of the initial rate. As a result of the interest rate adjustment, the total interest earned on the GIC also decreased by 50%. This reduction reflects the penalty imposed for withdrawing the funds before the maturity date.

Alternatives to Withdrawing a GIC Early

Before deciding to withdraw your GIC before its maturity date and potentially incurring penalties, it's worth considering alternative options that can help you avoid or minimize these penalties while maintaining your investment. Let's explore a couple of common alternatives:

GIC Transfers or Rollovers

If you need to access your funds before the GIC's maturity date, one option is to explore the possibility of transferring or rolling over your GIC. Some financial institutions may offer options to transfer your GIC into another GIC product with more favorable withdrawal conditions. By doing so, you may be able to avoid penalties and maintain the continuity of your investment. It might be worth checking with your financial institution regarding their policies and any potential fees or restrictions associated with GIC transfers or rollovers.

Negotiating with the Financial Institution

As a last resort, consider reaching out to your financial institution to discuss the possibility of reducing or waiving the penalty for early GIC withdrawal. Explain your situation respectfully and clearly, emphasizing extenuating circumstances and a strong relationship with the institution. While negotiation outcomes can vary, some institutions may be willing to find a mutually beneficial solution. Keep in mind that not all institutions are open to negotiation, but it's worth exploring this option to see if you can reach an agreement that works for both parties.

Lastly, if you’re evaluating whether to get a GIC, but probably need more liquidity, a High Interest Savings Account or HISA might be a better alternative. This will save you any trouble down the road if you need to access funds in a short span of time.

Conclusion

In conclusion, withdrawing funds from a GIC before its maturity date can result in penalties due to the disruption of the agreed-upon terms. It's important to understand the type and features of your GIC, such as redeemable or non-redeemable, to determine the flexibility and potential penalties involved. Familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions, including the maturity term, waiting period, and withdrawal conditions, to make informed decisions. If early withdrawal becomes necessary, explore alternatives like GIC transfers or rollovers, or consider negotiating with your financial institution to potentially reduce or waive the penalty. Remember, careful consideration and understanding of your options will help you navigate the complexities of early GIC withdrawal effectively.

Note: KOHO product information and/or features may have been updated since this blog post was published. Please refer to our KOHO Plans page for our most up to date account information!

Meghana Agashe

Meghana is a content strategist with experience writing for companies in the technology sector. Originally from India, Meghana has been living in Canada since 2019, where she continues to explore her passion for content marketing.

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