If you’re investing for retirement, you need to figure out how to diversify your investments and maintain a balance of stocks, bonds, and alternative investments. Alternatives can be crowdfunded real estate, the crypto, or gold and silver bullion. However, it may also involve high minimum investments, long lock-up periods, low liquidity, or high volatility. Tellus is looking to change that.
Tellus created an investment product that behaves like a high-yield savings account, with yields that are powered by short term, single family home loans. You’ll earn a steady rate of return and you can pull money out of your account as quickly as you can transfer money from a bank account. The interest you earn on the account is paid out daily.
But unlike a bank account, the money you invest in Tellus is backed by real estate - specifically single family home loans. It is the interest from these loans that power Tellus’ business, and enable the company to provide high yields to savers in the amount of 3.95% to 5.50% annual percentage yield (APY). Although Tellus provides a low volatility investment, there are also risks to consider. Find out the benefits and risks in connection with Tellus below.
- Earn 3.95% to 5.50% APY backed by residential mortgages
- No monthly maintenance fees
- Interest compounds daily and is paid into your account every day
- Minimum deposit of $125 to open
3.95% to 5.50%
Use code "Affiliate" and get 6.70% APY for 7 Days
What Is Tellus?
Tellus is a financial technology company seeking to modernize and democratize wealth-building for everyday users. The company operates more like an investment firm, not a bank.
The company, which is based in Cupertino, California, focuses on developing tools and income producing investment products in the real estate space. The company offers a wide range of non-FDIC savings and income products powered by residential real estate lending. In 2022, Tellus has launched two zero-fee products designed to give everyday people access to the wealth-creating power of real estate.
According to Tellus, the company is on a mission to “unlock the power and durability of real estate, enabling everyone to save for home purchase and reach their financial goals with the highest levels of access, simplicity, transparency and trust.”
In addition to its high yield savings products, Tellus provides fee-free property management software that allows landlords to communicate with their tenants, collect rent, and connect with their team. Apart from optional payment processing fees (charged to renters who choose to use credit or debit cards to pay their rent), this software is free to landlords and renters.
What Does It Offer?
For the sake of this review, we’re focusing on Tellus’s Savings and Income product.
Earn 3.95%+ on Investments Backed By Real Estate Debt
Tellus aims to make passive income accessible to everyone. To start investing, you simply open an account, deposit money, and start earning.
With Tellus, all the money you deposit is used to fund short term, single family home loans. Tellus earns a predictable return on these loans. And this, in part, is what allows Tellus to offer such impressive yields to its savers.
Right now, investors can earn between 3.95% to 5.25% per year on their investments.
Unlike many asset-backed investments, Tellus doesn’t require a lockup period. You can access deposited funds whenever you want, even if it’s the day after they hit the account.
For those who don’t care as much about liquidity, there are Vaults. Vaults gives you the option of locking in a higher interest rate than you might be able to access using the company’s liquid products, and locking that higher rate in for a set period of time. These act like a traditional bank CD, where you lock your money up for a set duration.
And just like a CD, if you need to withdraw your funds early (which you're allowed to do), you simply forfeit the interest.
Right now, Tellus’ highest earning product is the 24-month Vault currently paying 5.25% APY.
Not FDIC Insured
Although Tellus looks like a regular savings account, it is an investment account, not a bank. You could lose money by investing through Tellus, and the returns are not guaranteed.
If an FDIC-insured bank goes out of business, its customers will get their money back. If Tellus goes out of business, its customers may get some money back, but it is not guaranteed.
Interest Paid Daily
Tellus pays out interest every single day. There are no complicated formulas based on starting and ending balance. If you have at least $125 in your account, then you’ll see a fresh interest payment in your account, every day.
The annualized yield on Tellus investments ranges from 3.95% to 5.25%. Daily payouts are much closer to 0.01% of the amount in the account (4.00/365 = 0.01).
Are There Any Fees?
Tellus does not charge any fees. It has no monthly maintenance fees, balance fees, or usage fees, and it doesn’t charge any money to deposit or withdraw money from the account. If you prefer to wire funds rather than use ACH or Zelle, Tellus also refunds wire transfer fees for deposits greater than $9,999, up to $15.
How Do I Contact Tellus?
When you download the Tellus app, you can access live chat support directly in the app. You can also email Tellus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The company doesn’t advertise an address or phone number that you can use to reach them.
The company claims that their customer service team is US-based in California.
How Does Tellus Compare?
Doorvest is one of the first companies to make buying mortgage debt accessible to the everyday person. Groundfloor allows investors to buy specific real-estate-backed debts, and investors may see higher yields from it. However, Tellus offers more liquidity and doesn’t require any specific investment strategy.
If you’re looking for a simple real estate option may want to consider Concreit which has a similar structure as Tellus. The main difference is that Concreit invests your money directly in real estate projects instead of in mortgages.
Investments that you buy through Fundrise and other crowdfunding platforms tend to have higher yields than those offered by Tellus, but these investments carry a higher risk of loss, and it can be hard to get your money out of these investments early.
No investment vehicle is perfect. As an investor, you have to weigh the pros and cons of each option to decide what fits your investment strategy.
Open To Non-Accredited Investors?
How Do I Open An Account?
To create an account, download the Tellus app. Sign up by providing an email address, your legal name, and your phone number.
To deposit money into the account, provide your social security and connect your bank account using Stripe, a third-party integrated service. Tellus needs your Social Security Number (or another Tax ID) because all money earned through the platform is taxable.
Is It Safe And Secure?
The safety and security of Tellus can be broken into two categories. First, investors should understand the safety of Tellus’s underlying collateral. Tellus holds mortgages against single-family real estate in US markets that have a minimum loan-to-value on 20% (on origination).
According to Tellus, there is at least a 30% protective buffer around your deposits. This safety margin consists of approximately 20% real estate mortgages, and 10% cash held in reserve (as of November 2022).
The company receives a steady stream of income based on payments collected from these loans. Every dollar that Tellus lends is backed by at least $1.30 worth of property (according to their estimates of the value, which could change over time). The company has its largest concentration of loans in the Pacific Northwest.
If property values in the Pacific Northwest decline by 25%, your account at Tellus would still be safe. If property values in this area declined more than 35%, then Tellus would be underwater on its portfolio. Assuming borrowers also stopped paying on their loans, your investment in Tellus would decline in value and you'd likely early less interest since the cashflow wouldn't be coming in to pay it.
A massive drop in real estate values seems unlikely, but few people anticipated that the real estate market would decline in 2006 to 2008. If an event of a similar magnitude happened again, the investments could lose value.
For context, the average home value in the United States declined 13% in the Great Recession. However, as many know, each market is different, and while some areas were mildly impacted during the Great Recession, other areas saw 30-40% declines in home value.
The other side of safety and security to consider is digital security. Tellus uses bank-level encryption, requires multi-factor authentication, and works with digital leaders to manage money movement and transactions. You’ll have to provide personal information to Tellus, but the company has tons of precautions in place to mitigate risks of hacks or identity theft.
Is It Worth It?
Tellus offers a simple way to get exposure to real estate income in your portfolio. This can be a useful way to boost your investment yield while keeping your investment tactics simple. However, we believe that Tellus tends to understate the risk inherent in real estate cash flows and values. If the real estate market tanks, you could lose some or all of your money.
You may also want to be mindful about the yields that Tellus advertises. A 3.95% is a good rate for a savings account, but remember that Tellus isn’t a savings account. It’s an investment and it carries risks.
The bottom line is that the rate that Tellus offers may not be worth the potential risk, especially as rates rise on risk-free products like savings accounts and CDs.
3.95% to 5.25%
None, you can withdraw whenever you want
Customer Service Email Address
21580 Stevens Creek Blvd. Ste 210
Cupertino, CA 95014
Mobile App Availability
Web/Desktop Account Access
Tellus Review: A Tool To Help You Reach Super High-Yield Savings
Pricing and Fees
Diversification and Risk Management
Ease of Use
Products and Services
Tellus is a savings tool backed by mortgages and pays out a decent yield.
- No investment lock-up periods
- Interest paid daily into your account
- Not FDIC Insured
- $125 Investment Minimum
- Currently pays out less than the rate of inflation
- Yields may decrease
- Tends to understate the risk associated with holding investments backed by debt
Hannah is a wife, mom, and described personal finance geek. She excels with spreadsheets (and puns)! She regularly explores in-depth financial topics and enjoys looking at the latest tools and trends with money.
Editor: Claire Tak