Sure, it's still not great interest, but it's safe. I'm talking CDs here. Not the kind for your entertainment, but the investment kind, FDIC-insured Certificates of Deposit.

Many of us at one time or another have been down the road of stocks and other riskier investments. If you are in the position of needing to play it safe, FDIC-insured CDs probably offer the most security and peace of mind.

I'm no financial advisor. What I'm about to share is from personal experience and a lot of careful research. The bank you do business with probably offers CDs and they will most likely try and offer you one, but that may or may not be in your best interest, so to speak. But how do you find out who has the best rate?

To get a real idea of what's going on nationally, there are many Web sites that can be of help. If you go to the Daily Astorian's Web site (www.dailyastorian.com), you can link to a couple that provide a good place to start. They will not only list the current interest rates for banks and credit unions nationwide, they will also rate the institutions. They even have information about checking accounts and savings accounts as well. These sites will give you a very good feel for what is currently the best rate out there. Once you feel you have a good handle on that, it's time to go searching for the best deal.

As a side note, generally the longer the term, the better the rate, but banks do offer limited time specials on shorter term CDs, so keep an eye out for those.

What is the best institution?

Online banks very often offer better rates because they have lower overhead - they don't have to operate brick-and-mortar branches. However, their customer service probably won't equal the face-to-face service from your local bank. That said, you'll often find surprisingly good rates at your locally owned bank or credit union, be it a county or statewide institution.

But you must be willing to do some homework and understand the terms and conditions of each offer. There's always some reason one institution offers better rates than another. You might be required to live in the county, open a checking account, meet certain criteria, and in the case of a credit union, become a member, which usually requires a fee.

What is the best situation for me?

There are a lot of questions that should be answered depending upon your situation. Unless you are letting the interest compound for the term, you'll want to ask if your interest is paid monthly or quarterly. Will they mail you a check or require you to open a checking account into which they will deposit your interest? Are fees involved? Be thorough in your investigation - surprises can be both disappointing and costly.

Finding the best rates will take some diligent research on your part and some account maintenance along the way. Every bank has its own rules and mistakes can be made, so check your account monthly. That means some extra effort, but the best return on your money, and in a way that best suits your situation, will be the reward for your hard work.

Just how safe is my money?

FDIC bank-issued CDs are federally insured. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is an independent agency of the United States government that protects you against the loss of your deposits if an FDIC-insured bank or savings association fails. FDIC insurance is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Since the FDIC's creation in 1933, no depositor has ever lost even one penny of FDIC-insured funds. For more information, visit www.dailyastorian.com for a link to the FDIC Web site.

Credit union CDs are insured by NCUA, an independent federal government agency that charters and supervises federal credit unions and insures accounts in federal and most state-chartered credit unions across the country. Each member's account is insured dollar-for-dollar up to the insurance limit. For more information, visit www.dailyastorian.com for a link to the NCUA Web site.

Bottom line ... If you put some effort into it, bank- or credit union-insured CDs are safe investments with a maximum of return. Now that should pique your interest.

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