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What they Are
GICs are generally one to five-year deposits with a bank or other financial institution like a trust company.

How they Work
GICs are issued in your name and can't be sold except to the institution that issued them. You agree to keep the money in the GIC for a set period in return for a set rate of interest. Compound GICs pay you interest on your interest. Instead of paying the interest to you outside the GIC, the interest is added to your original deposit. This means you'll get more money in subsequent interest periods. A $1,000 deposit in a three-year compound GIC that pays interest of 10% per year will earn you $100 (10% of $1,000) the first year, $110 the next year (10% of $1,100) and $121 in year three. At the end of the term your money will have grown to $1,331. If you need to get your money before the end of the GICs term, you will likely be penalized by getting less interest on your money than was initially agreed.

The Risk
GICs are relatively safe investments. An important risk is that you'll need to access your money before the GIC matures. If this happens, you'll likely lose some of your interest. There's also a risk if you lock in your money in a five-year GIC and interest rates go up two years later. You'll have missed an opportunity to earn more on your money.

The Rewards
GICs mostly pay higher rates of interest than bank savings accounts, but less than many other investments. Rates are higher for longer term GICs and for larger deposits.