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Just when you think you have the GIC rate game figured out, a new wrinkle emerges.

Some surprising names have moved to the head of the list for best rates on guaranteed investment certificates. As of late this week, the online bank Tangerine led the pack on five-year GICs at 5.2 per cent. Tangerine’s one-year rate of 4.85 per cent trailed the 5 per cent offered for one year by Peoples Trust.

Do-it-yourself investors, 5.1-per-cent rates for three-year GICs were available late this week through the online fixed-income page at a couple of bank-owned online brokers. The issuers of these GICs? Bank of Nova Scotia, which happens to own Tangerine, as well as National Bank of Canada and Bank of Montreal.

If you’re nervous about dealing with a branchless online bank for GICs, now is your time. Instances of major banks at or near the top of the GIC rate chart are rare.

The lesson we learned when GIC returns jumped during the summer is that premium rates can be trimmed back quickly. While GIC rates are influenced by what’s happening in the bond market, there are also competitive considerations for the banks that issue these products. Several big banks seem keen to raise three-year money right now, so they’re temporarily offering premium rates on three-year GICs.

If you’re interested, move quickly to avoid disappointment. It’s worth noting that bond yields moved lower this week.

Prepare for logistical challenges in finding top rates from banks. The online broker TD Direct Investing offered three-year GICs from Bank of Nova Scotia and Scotia Mortgage Corp. at 5.1 per cent, but you wouldn’t have found that rate on the Scotiabank website. The featured three-year rate there late this week was 4.65 per cent.

Alternative banks are typically much clearer with their GIC offerings – the posted rate is the rate. But right now, big banks are giving alt banks a run for their money on 5 per cent GICs.

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Follow Rob Carrick on Twitter: @rcarrickOpens in a new window

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