Looking for better CD rates? Sign up for a checking account.

Some banks and credit unions are giving a little extra boost on CD rates to checking account customers. And in such a dismal rate environment, every little bit helps.

Take Wachovia, for example. Wachovia pays 0.6 percent on an 18-month CD and 0.7 percent on a 24-month CD. Wachovia checking account customers are eligible for slighter sweeter deals, 1 percent on a 19-month CD and 1.64 percent on a 25-month CD as long as they make a minimum deposit of $5,000.

And plenty of smaller, community banks and credit unions are rewarding checking account customers with higher CD rates as well.

Checking account customers at United Central Bank in Dallas are eligible for a special year-end bonus CD. This 14-month CD, paying 2 percent annual percentage yield, requires a minimum deposit of $1,000.

Cecil Bank, a community bank serving Cecil and Harford counties in Maryland, is paying 2.25 percent APY on any CD with terms of 12 months and less for its checking account customers. This CD special requires a minimum deposit of just $500.

At PrimeWay Federal Credit Union in Houston, premier checking and elite checking account customers receive an additional 25 basis points on any of the credit union’s certificates of deposit with a minimum deposit of $500.

“We are a firm believer in giving those members who use us as their primary financial institution the best rate,” Michelle Oshinski, vice president of marketing at PrimeWay Federal Credit Union, explained in an e-mail.

So if you’ve been a longtime checking account customer with a bank or credit union, keep your eyes peeled for CD specials targeted especially to you.

Worth the hassle?

Is it worth signing up for a new checking account to rev up a dismal CD deal? It can be, but be sure to do the math. This calculator from Bankrate.com will help crunch the numbers.

“Do the math first of all to see what the benefit is to you in money,” says Patricia Seaman, director of marketing and communications for the National Endowment for Financial Education. “For small amounts of money it may not make sense.”

How much will that increased CD rate pay you in actual dollars? Is it $25, $50, $100 or more?

And is the extra money that you’d earn on the CD worth the hassle of opening an additional checking account?

Don’t forget to weigh in the cost of any fees associated with the new account.

“You really have to look at the whole picture,” says Frank Boucher, a Certified Financial Planner in Reston, Va. “That checking account may have some fees associated with it that you don’t want to pay.”

What are the overdraft fees? Do you have to pay for your checks? Is there online bill pay? What is the minimum deposit required for opening the account? Are there fees for inactivity?

Even an advertised free checking account may not be completely cost-free.

“Some banks require one electronic deposit a month to get free checking,” Boucher says. “Make sure you understand all the provisions of the account.”

Before you park your cash in any CD, you’ll want to be sure to shop around. Bankrate.com makes it easy to compare CD rates on the best national CD offers as well as CD deals available in your local area.

An Internet-only bank may have just the deal you’re looking for, without the checking account requirement.

“Don’t overlook the Internet banks,” Boucher advised in an e-mail. “Their rates are usually higher than their brick-and-mortar cousins and they are FDIC-insured.”

And don’t write off that community bank or credit union up the street. Their CD specials could surprise you.

“Call around to your local banks and see what they have to offer,” says Joy Slabaugh, a Certified Financial Planner in Delmar, Del., and member of the Financial Planning Association. “If a bank is running a special, you could get a significantly higher rate than anywhere else.”

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