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Even if you’re not the most organized person, you should have a plan for building a good credit score.Â The good news is building credit isn’t complicated â you just need to know a few things to get started.
Know What You’re Dealing With
If you don’t know what’s broken, you’re going to struggle to fix it. If you want to improve your credit score, the first thing you need to do is look at your credit reports. You’re entitled to a free annual copy from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, and your scores will be based on the information in these reports.
Your credit report lists all sorts of information about you, from loans and credit accounts to report inquiries (when a third party requests your report) and collections accounts. It will show how much debt you have, your overall credit limit, the dates you opened accounts and if you’ve paid your bills on time â it’s a lot of information, which can be overwhelming, but everything is labeled pretty clearly.
Get It Now
Once you have your credit reports in hand, look for anything you don’t recognize. If you see an account listed that doesn’t belong to you, it could be a mix-up or a sign that someone is fraudulently using your personal information. Make sure your name is spelled correctly, that your address is right and all your payment history looks accurate. You should dispute anything that is incorrect by following the dispute directions on Experian, Equifax and TransUnion’s websites.
Assuming everything is accurate, look at what may be having a negative impact on your credit standing: Do you have late payments? Do you use a lot of your available credit? Did you apply for a lot of credit cards or loans within a 12-month period? These are all things that could lower your credit score. Your score may also be suffering if the average age of your credit accounts is less than seven years or if you only have one type of credit in your name, as opposed to a mix of loans and credit cards.
Set Goals and Track Progress
Once you’ve identified the issues, the path forward can be pretty simple: If you’re late on making payments, do whatever you can to set a streak of on-time ones. Automatic payments and calendar reminders are really helpful for that. If you notice you’re carrying a lot of debt in comparison to your available credit, try to pay it down and reduce your spending â keeping your credit utilization rate below 30% (or better yet, below 10%), will help raise your score.
The most effective strategy for improving your credit score is to watch it change over time. There are dozens of credit scoring models out there âÂ some are used by lenders and others are educational â but they all give you an idea of where you stand. There are also tools available with a free Credit.com account that allow you to gauge your credit weaknesses in addition to comparing your score from month to month.
You’ll never know which score a lender will use to assess your credit risk ahead of when you apply, so the best thing you can do is pick a score or two that you can access regularly (ideally for free), and compare the same score periodically. Your Credit.com account will show you why your score improved or fell, but you can also get a pretty good idea of that by thinking back on what you’ve done since the last time you’ve checked your score.
Awareness makes a big difference in financial behavior. Watching your score drop if you’re late on a payment or seeing it spike after cutting your debt can be a great source of motivation as you go forward, and figuring it out requires minimal effort on your part, as long as you make a habit of checking your score.
More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:
- The Credit.com Credit Score Learning Center
- Whatâs a Good Credit Score?
- How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
- How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?
- Whatâs a Bad Credit Score?
- How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life
The post The Smart Way to Rebuild Credit appeared first on Credit.com.
The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.
Â You are getting ready to send your child off to college. Before you start helping them pack their belongings, there is one thing you need to do.
You need to help them create a budget. You need to teach them how to manage their money so they can learn the tools theyâll use long after they graduate.
WHY DO COLLEGE STUDENTS NEED A BUDGET?
The truth is everyone needs a budget. It does not matter your age. If you are dealing with money, a budget is necessary.
- Allows you to control your money. Rather than your money telling you what it wants to do, you get to tell your money where it needs to go. You are always in control when you have a budget.
- It teaches financial skills. A budget helps ensure that expenses such as rent, tuition, food, insurance, transportation, and housing are paid â before spending money on the fun stuff. (It also helps to make sure you donât spend more than you make.)
- Makes you aware of where your money goes. When you use a budget, you see how you spend. It is very simple to see if too much is going toward dining out when you should be building your savings.
- Helps you track your goals. You need to cover expenses but you should also work on building savings at the same time. Your budget allows you to not only see those goals but track them in real time.
DOESNâT A BUDGET MEAN YOU CANâT HAVE FUN?
Not at all! If anything, your budget will allow you to have guilt-free fun.
For example, the budget may allow you to spend $50 a week dining out. That means you can go to dinner with friends once (possibly twice) a week and enjoy yourself. You wonât be left wondering how you are now going to make rent.
WHAT TYPE OF BUDGET SHOULD YOUR STUDENT USE?
There are various methods of budgeting such as the 50/30/20 and the zero-based budget. For most college students, the zero-based is the simplest and easiest to follow.
The reason is that you track everything. You give every penny a job. That means if you earn $1,500 for the month that you âspendâ the entire $1,500.
You will first cover the needs (food, shelter, transportation) and then your wants. If there is money âleftoverâ after this is done, it can be added to your savings.
You can use other types but if you have never budgeted before, using this method is the simplest.
WHAT SHOULD A COLLEGE STUDENT INCLUDE IN A BUDGET?
The budget will vary for each person, as the income and expense will be different. However, these are the most common categories that need to be included in a budget:
- Renterâs insurance
- Car payment
- Car insurance (also saving for annual renewal fees)
- Utilities (phone, electricity, gas, water, etc.)
- Entertainment (movies, games, concerts)
- Dining out
- Emergency fund savings
Again, you may have items that are not included above or see some that you do not need.
However, the most important thing of all is that every penny is given a job. Account for everything you will spend each month so you never have too much month and not enough money.
HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF YOUR BUDGET?
For most college students, apps or digital trackers are the best options.Â But, before you rush and sign up, keep the following in mind.
- Cost. Many apps are free and they will work perfectly fine. Other apps have a monthly fee attached to them. If you plan to use one of them, make sure you include that as one of your regular expenses. However, do not let the cost alone be a single factor when it comes to clicking the sign-up button.
- Security. Your security trumps all else. You need to make sure the app uses encryption as well as two-factor authorization.
Some of the best apps include:
- You Need a Budget (YNAB)
However, your student may also like the traditional paper and pencil method â and that is OK as well.
Find the right one that works best for your student. That is all that matters.
TEACHING THEM TO BUDGET
Knowing you need a budget and where to track it is just the beginning. You need to teach your child how to budget.
Start by looking at each category that they need on their budget. You may already know the cost for each category but if not, you may need to make phone calls or do research to know.
For example, you know the rent for the apartment is $850 a month but how much are the average utilities? Ask the manager for these costs so you can include them in the budget.
Next, decide how much they want to allow themselves to spend on food. Show them how much a meal costs for a single person at each restaurant you eat at so they can create an average.
You will then have them decide how much âfun moneyâ they want to include as well. You can base this on them wanting to go to the movies two times a month, one concert a month, or attending three events.
Now you can see the expenses for your student. Add their income to the budget and deduct the expenses. They will see if they are operating in the black (money left over) or in the red (spending more than they make).
Show them how to adjust the numbers by increasing their savings or lowering the amount they can spend on clothes â until the budget equals zero. Zero meaning they are spending every penny they earn.
And making them keep track now will help ensure they stay on track well into the future.
The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.
Itâs easy to forget about old 401(k) plans when changing to a new job. Some people simply forget about it because the company that manages it never reminds them. Others didnât forget about their old account, but theyâve been putting off the rollover because it sounds hard.
Many companies donât make the process easy for customers to roll over their 401(k) accounts from previous jobs. But it can be worth the inconvenience.
By not rolling it over, you might be losing some serious cash. Thatâs rightâlosing money, so itâs easy to miss. Here are a few key reasons to prioritize a 401(k) rollover.
3 Reasons to Transfer Your 401(k) to a New Job
There are three main reasons to rollover a 401(k):
1. To reduce fees. If the fees are too high with your previous employerâs 401(k), rolling over a 401(k) can be advantageous.
2. To maximize your money. If you arenât happy with the investment options in your old 401(k) and your new employer accepts rollover 401(k)s, you might be able to save money while investing in a broader range of investment vehicles.
3. To streamline your investments. If you leave your 401(k) where it is, you may not think about it very often. Itâs important to keep tabs on all of your investments so you can make sure they are on track and appropriate for your time horizon and goals.
You May Be Paying Hidden Fees
There are all sorts of fees that go into effect when you open a 401(k), including recordkeeping fees, maintenance fees, and fund fees. Expressed in a percentage, these fees inform the expense ratio of a plan.
Employers may cover those fees until you leave the company. Once youâre gone, that cost might shift to you without you even realizing it.
Fees matter: When you pay a fee on your 401(k), youâre not just losing the cost of the fee; youâre also losing all the compound interest that would grow along with it over time. The sooner you roll your plan over, the more you could potentially save.
You Might Be Missing Out on Better Investments
401(k) accounts grow at different rates depending on which assets you invest in. If the retirement savings plan at your new companyâor an individual retirement plan (IRA)âoffers a selection of stocks and bonds that better aligns with your financial goals, it might be time to initiate a rollover.
The money thatâs sitting in your old 401(k) could potentially grow at a faster rate if you roll it over into a new plan or into an IRAâitâs certainly worth investigating the growth rates of each. Keep in mind that investors can lose money when investing, too, so it always makes sense to consider your personal risk tolerance when deciding how to invest your retirement accounts.
You Could Lose Track of the Account
Itâs not your fault, itâs just logistics. Itâs harder and more time-consuming to juggle multiple retirement accounts than it is to juggle one. Until you retire, youâll be managing two (or more) websites, two usernames and passwords, two investment portfolios, and two growth rates for decades.
And if you leave this next job to go to a third (or a fourth, or a fifth), the 401(k) plans could pile up, creating even more tracking work for you. Plus, when youâre no longer with an employer, you might miss alerts about changes that may occur with an old retirement plan.
What to do With Your 401(k) After Getting a New Job
While itâs generally allowed to leave your account in your former employerâs plan when you switch jobs, there are other options.
• Cash out the account. If you take this route and youâre younger than 59Â½ years old, you will owe taxes and might also owe early withdrawal penalties depending on how you use the money.
• Roll over the 401(k) account. You could roll the account into your new employerâs retirement plan (if allowed) or into an IRA.
Cashing Out Early
Should you choose to cash out your 401(k), you will have to pay taxes on the money, and perhaps an additional 10% early withdrawal fee.
That said, there are some circumstances when the 10% fee is waived (but not the income tax), such as when the funds will be used for eligible education expenses, certain medical expenses, or expenses related to a first-time home purchase, among other circumstances.
Rolling Over a 401(k) to Your New Employerâs Plan
The process of rolling over a 401(k) might seem intimidating or inconvenient at first, especially if youâre moving onto your second job and this is the first time youâll be rolling over a 401(k). In actuality, the actual process of rolling over a 401(k) isnât too complicated once youâve decided where your existing funds are going to go.
Advantages of Rolling Over Your 401(k)
Rolling over your 401(k) to a new plan can be advantageous to your overall financial plan. Here are a few ways this transition might be beneficial to your financial well-being.
One Place for Tax-Deferred Money
Transferring your 401(k) to your new employerâs plan can help consolidate all of your tax-deferred dollars into one account. Keeping track of and managing one account may simplify your money management efforts.
A Streamlined Investment Strategy
Not only does consolidating your previous 401(k) with your new 401(k) make money management easier, it can also streamline your investment strategies.
Financial Service Offerings
Some 401(k) plans offer financial services, such as financial advisor consultations, to help employees achieve their retirement goals. If your previous employer didnât offer this service and your new plan does, taking advantage of this offering may help you achieve an investment plan that meets your exact goals rather than a standardized option.
Access to a Roth Option
An increasing number of employers are offering a Roth 401(k) option in addition to the traditional 401(k) option. With a Roth 401(k), the money you contribute is after-taxâit doesn’t minimize your taxable income. But when you take distributions in retirement, you won’t have to pay taxes on the withdrawal amount. As long as the account has been open for five years and you’re over 59 Â½, you can receive tax-free distributions.
A Roth 401(k) option can be appealing if you feel your income in retirement will be higher than your current income. If your new employer offers this benefit and you think it will be advantageous to your financial situation, then rolling over your 401(k) to a Roth 401(k) plan may make sense.
How to Roll Over Your 401(k)
So, how do you transfer your 401(k) to a new job? If you decide to roll your funds into your new employerâs 401(k), youâll most likely need to:
1. Contact the plan administrator to arrange the rollover. You may need to choose the types of investment you would like before you initiate the rollover. If not, you can take a lump-sum transfer and allocate the funds gradually to different investments of your choosing.
2. Complete any forms required by your employer for the rollover.
3. Request that your former plan administrator send the fund via electronic transfer or a check so you can move the funds directly to the administrator of the new plan.
Itâs possible that you might have to wait until your employerâs next open enrollment period to complete the rollover, but you might consider using that time to research the planâs investment options so youâll be ready when the time comes.
Win up to $1,000 in free
Rolling Over a 401(k) Into an IRA
If you choose to roll your 401(k) funds into an IRA thatâs not employer-sponsored, a direct rollover is the method that takes most of the guesswork out of the transfer. This means that the funds will be taken from your previous account and rolled directly into the new account.
Doing it this way should avoid your previous lender sending you a check and resulting in any unforeseen early withdrawal tax situations.
Opening a new retirement account online is fairly straightforward, but there are some steps to opening an IRA that might be worth reviewing before you start. Once your funds are rolled over, youâll be able to choose the investments that work for your retirement goals.
401(k) Rollover Rules
When requesting a transfer, you may either select a direct and indirect rollover. With a direct rollover, the check is made out to the financial institution (for your benefit). Because the funds are directly deposited into the new account, no taxes are withheld.
With an indirect rollover, the check is payable to you, with 20% withheld for taxes. Youâll have 60 days to roll over the funds (80% of your previous plan) into an IRA or other retirement plan. If you want to contribute the full amount of your previous plan, you can add money to bring the lump contribution back up to the balance before rollover. At that point, youâd be able to count the 20% withheld as taxes paid.
There are many benefits to rolling over a 401(k) after switching jobs, including streamlining your retirement accounts and directing your money so that it suits your individual financial needs and goals. While some may view it as inconvenient, itâs actually a straightforward process whether you want to roll over a 401(k) into your new employerâs plan, or into an IRA.
Not sure which rollover strategy is right for you? SoFi InvestÂ® offers retirement savings plan options. With a SoFi Roth or Traditional IRA, investors have access to a broad range of investment options, member services, and our robust suite of planning and investment tools.
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individualâs specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi canât guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term âSoFi Investâ refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated InvestingâThe Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (âSofi Wealthâ). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (âSofi Securities).
2) Active InvestingâThe Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Digital AssetsâThe Digital Assets platform is owned by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
The post How to Transfer Your 401(k) When Changing to a New Job: 401(k) Rollover Guide appeared first on SoFi.
Paying off debt may feel like a never-ending process. With so many potential solutions, you may not know where to start. One of your options may be withdrawing money from your retirement fund. This may make you wonder, âshould I cash out my 401k to pay off debt?â Cashing out your 401k early may cost you in penalties, taxes, and your financial future so it’s usually wise to avoid doing this if possible. When in doubt, consult your financial advisor to help determine whatâs best for you.
Before cashing out your 401k, we suggest weighing the pros and cons, plus the financial habits you could change to reduce debt. The right move may be adjusting your budget to ensure each dollar is being put to good use. Keep reading to determine if and when it makes sense to cash out your 401k.
How to Determine If You Want to Cash Out Your Retirement
Deciding to cash out your 401k depends on your financial position. If debt is causing daily stress, you may consider serious debt payoff plans. Early withdrawal from your 401k could cost you in
Deciding to cash out your 401k depends on your financial position. If debt is causing daily stress, you may consider serious debt payoff plans. Early withdrawal from your 401k could cost you in taxes and fees as your 401k has yet to be taxed. Meaning, the gross amount you withdraw from your 401k will be taxed in full, so assess your financial situation before making a decision.
Check Your Eligibility
Depending on your 401k account, you may not be able to withdraw money without a valid reason. Hefty medical bills and outstanding debts may be valuable reasons, but going on a shopping spree isnât. Below are a few requirements to consider for an early withdrawal:
- Financial hardships may include medical expenses, educational fees, bills to prevent foreclosure or eviction, funeral expenses, or home repairs.
- Your withdrawal is lower or exactly the amount of financial assistance you need.
To see what you may be eligible for, look up your 401k documentation or reach out to a trusted professional.
Assess Your Current Financial Situation
Sit down and create a list of your savings, assets, and debts. How much debt do you have? Are you able to allocate different funds towards debts? If you have $2,500 in credit card debt and a steady source of income, you may be able to pay off debt by adjusting your existing habits. Cutting the cord with your TV, cable, or streaming services could be a great money saver.
However, if youâre on the verge of foreclosure or bankruptcy, living with a strict budget may not be enough. When looking into more serious debt payoff options, your 401k may be the best route.
Calculate How Much of Your Retirement Is at Risk
Having a 401k is crucial for your financial future, and the government tries to reinforce that for your best interest. To encourage people to save, anyone who withdraws their 401k early pays a 10 percent penalty fee. When, or if, you go to withdraw your earnings early, you may have to pay taxes on the amount you withdraw. Your tax rates will depend on federal income and state taxes where you reside.
Say youâre in your early twenties and you have 40 years until youâd like to retire. You decide to take out $10,000 to put towards your student loans. Your federal tax rate is 10 percent and your state tax is four percent. With the 10 percent penalty fee, federal tax, and state tax, you would receive $7,600 of your $10,000 withdrawal. The extra $2,400 expense would be paid in taxes and penalties.
The bottom line: No matter how much you withdraw early from your 401k, you will face significant fees. These fees include federal taxes, state taxes, and penalty fees.
What Are the Pros and Cons?
Before withdrawing from your 401k, there are some pros and cons to consider before cashing out early.
- Pay off debt sooner: In some cases, you may pay off debt earlier than expected. By putting your 401k withdrawal toward debt, you may be able to pay off your account in full. Doing so could help you save on monthly interest payments.
- Put more towards savings: If youâre able to pay off your debt with your early withdrawal, you may free up your budget. If you have extra money each month, you could contribute more to your savings. Adding to your savings could earn you interest when placed in a proper account.
- Less financial stress: Debt may cause you daily stress. By increasing your debt payments with a 401k withdrawal, you may save yourself energy. After paying off debt, you may consider building your emergency funds.
- Higher disposable income: If youâre able to pay off your debts, you may have more financial freedom. With this freedom, you could save for a house or invest in side hustles.
- Higher tax bill: You may have to pay a hefty tax payment for your withdrawal. Your 401k is considered gross income thatâs taxed when paid out. Your federal and state taxes are determined by where you reside and your yearly income.
- Pay a penalty fee: To discourage people from cashing out their 401k, thereâs a 10 percent penalty. You may be charged this penalty in full.
- Cut your investment earnings: You gain interest on money you have stored in your 401k. When you withdraw money, you may earn a lower amount of interest.
- Push your retirement date: You may be robbing your future self. With less money in your retirement fund, youâll lower your retirement income. Doing so could push back your desired retirement date.
6 Ways to Pay Off Debt Without Cashing Out Your 401k
There are a few ways to become debt-free without cutting into your 401k. Paying off debt may not be easy, but it could benefit your future self and your current state of mind. Work towards financial freedom with these six tips.
1. Negotiate Your Credit Card Interest Rates
Call your credit card customer service center and ask to lower your rates on high-interest accounts. Look at your current interest rate, account history, and competitor rates. After researching, call your credit card company and share your customer loyalty. Follow up by asking for lower interest rates to match their competitors. Earning lower interest rates may save you interest payments.
2. Halt Your Credit Card Spending
Consider restricting your credit card spending. If credit card debt is your biggest stressor, cut up or hide your cards to avoid shopping temptations. Check in on your financial goals by downloading our app for quick updates on the fly. We send out weekly updates to see where you are with your financial goals.
3. Put Bonuses Towards Your Debt
Any time you get a monetary bonus, consider putting it towards debts. This could be a raise, yearly bonus, tax refund, or monetary gifts from your loved ones. You may have a set budget without this supplemental income, so act as if you never received it. Without budgeting for the extra income, you may feel less tempted to spend it.
4. Evaluate All Your Options for Paying Down Debt
If youâre in dire need to pay off your debts, look into other accounts like your savings or emergency fund. While money saved can help in times of need, your financial situation may be an emergency. To save on early withdrawal taxes and fees, you can borrow from savings accounts. To cover future emergency expenses, avoid draining your savings accounts entirely.
5. Transfer Balances to a Low-Interest Credit Card
If high-interest payments are diminishing your budget, transfer them to a low-interest account. Compare your current debt interest rates to other competitors. Sift through their fine print to spot any red flags. Credit card companies may hide variable interest rates or fees that drive up the cost. Find a transfer card that works for you, contact the company to apply, and transfer over your balances.
6. Consider Taking Out a 401k Loan Rather than Withdrawing
To avoid early withdrawal fees, consider taking out a 401k loan. A 401k loan is money borrowed from your retirement fund. This loan charges interest payments that are essentially paid back to your future self. While some interest payments are put back in your account, your opportunity for compounding interest may slightly decrease. Compounding interest is interest earned on your principal balance and accumulated interest from past periods. While you may pay a small amount in interest fees, this option may help you avoid the 10 percent penalty fee.
As your retirement account grows, so does your interest earned â thatâs why time is so valuable. While taking out a 401k loan may be a better option than withdrawing from your 401k, you may lose out on a small portion of compounding interest. When, or if, you choose to take out a 401k loan, you may start making monthly payments right away. This allows your payments to grow interest and work for you sooner than withdrawing from your 401k.
This type of loan may vary on principle balance, interest rate, term length, and other conditions. In most cases, youâre allowed to borrow up to $50,000 or half of your account balance. Some accounts may also have a minimum loan balance. This means youâll have to take out a certain amount to qualify. Interest rates on these loans generally charge market value rates, similar to commercial banks.
Pulling funds from your retirement account may look appealing when debt is looming over you. While withdrawing money from your 401k to pay off debt may help you now, it could hurt you in taxes and fees. Before withdrawing your retirement savings, see the effect it could have on your future budget. As part of your strategy, determine where youâre able to cut out unnecessary expenses with our app. Still on the fence about whether withdrawing funds is the right move for you? Consult your financial advisor to determine a debt payoff plan that works best for your budgeting goals.
The post Should I Cash Out My 401k to Pay Off Debt? appeared first on MintLife Blog.
You’ve probably had a checking account for most of your life and never gave it much thought. It’s just there to store your everyday cash, right? Not necessarily.
If you’re considering questions about checking accounts as you take a closer look at your current setup and explore opening a new one, it’s important to note that checking accounts are designed with different and unique features. Some may even be more beneficial to you than you realize.
For starters, most checking accounts offer a host of conveniences, providing customers the ability to set up automatic payments for routine bills, schedule electronic transfers and make all deposits and transfers via a smartphone app. Some accounts even allow you to earn cash back on your debit card purchases.
âA checking account can have a long-term impact on your financial well-being, so it’s worth taking the time to figure everything out,” says Jeff Kreisler, money expert and author of the personal finance book “Dollars and Sense.”
At this point, you might be thinking, “What questions should I ask before opening a checking account?” To help you decide which account is right for you, here are four key questions to ask yourself:
1. What types of checking accounts should I consider?
Before you open a new checking account, do a little homework to learn about the different types of checking accounts offered by banks, Kreisler says. There’s the standard personal checking account that allows you to write checks and make payments with your debit card or electronically. But when thinking about questions to ask when opening a checking account, go beyond the basic features to find an account that best fits your lifestyle and financial goals. Here are some examples:
- Online checking account: Ready to bypass the teller lines with the benefits of an online bank? Then this is the checking account for you. Doing your banking from any computer or mobile device is sweetâand since online banks don’t have brick-and-mortar locations, they can often pass their savings from overhead down to you. Just verify that the online bank or credit union supplying the checking account is backed by the FDIC or the National Credit Union Administration.
- Rewards checking account: One question to ask before choosing a checking account is if you can earn rewards or incentives for certain activity. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, lets you earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 That means your monthly cashback earnings could yield $360 in total rewards each year (finally, dinner and drinks at that new French bistro in town!). Some banks may also offer a checking account bonus just for opening a new account, while others have a variety of reward options based on certain qualifying purchases. A rewards checking account works for almost anyone looking to maximize their debit spend or a balance they regularly hold in their checking account.
Say hello to
cash back on debit
No monthly fees.
No balance requirements.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
- Joint checking account: Most checking accounts can be opened as a joint checking account, which is an account held by two or more people. This can be a convenient solution for couples, minors and their parents and even seniors and their caregivers who are trying to manage a household budget. It does require good record keeping and communication, so make sure you understand the ins and outs of joint accounts before choosing this option.
The above checking accounts are the most standard and usually have appealing benefits. But if you have more questions about checking accounts, there are options that can cater to more specific needs. However, they often have less flexibility. For instance:
- Interest-bearing checking accounts are available for those who want to earn some money while their cash is parked in the account. The rate of return is usually low and minimum balance requirements high.
- Student checking accounts are often low-cost, but they could come with limitations. Whether or not a student account is available may be a good question to ask before choosing a checking account if you’re looking for a starter account for yourself or your child.
- Second-chance checking accounts could be a fit for those who may not be able to get a standard checking account due to their banking or credit history; however, they often have higher fees.
“A checking account can have a long-term impact on your financial well-being, so it’s worth taking the time to figure everything out.”
2. Are there fees associated with the checking account?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions about checking accounts. Before choosing a checking account, be sure to research its fees, says Marc Bernstein, financial planner and strategist for MWealth Advisors. Types of fees and fee amounts can vary greatly from bank to bank, and even among accounts at the same bank.
A question to ask when opening a checking account is if the account charges fees for ATM use, automatic bill pay, monthly maintenance, ordering checks, replacing a debit card or ordering official bank checks. Banks may charge any combination of these feesâor none. Discover Cashback Debit comes with no fees. Period.2 That means you won’t be charged a fee for any of these services.
Along with including the fee topic on your list of questions to ask before choosing a checking account, you should also consider obtaining “a document outlining the fees you’ll be paying, in case you have any questions, and check the fine print,” Bernstein says. You can also typically find a list of fees (if any) on the bank’s website or in the account agreement.
3. Is there a minimum balance requirement?
According to Bernstein, among the questions to ask when opening a checking account is if it requires an initial minimum balance to open. You’ll also want to know if a minimum balance needs to be maintained to avoid a fee.
Bernstein suggests looking for an account with no minimum balance requirement if you tend to keep less than $1,000 in your account or like to have flexibility when making large withdrawals.
If you’ve asked this question about checking accounts and are still comparing accounts that have a minimum balance requirement, realistically determine how much you can keep in your account per month and what you will be charged if you can’t keep that balance.
Even if your account falls below a minimum requirement, there could be a way to save on fees. If you have multiple accounts at one bank, the bank may allow you to combine the balances to waive checking fees.
The total average cost of withdrawing cash from an out-of-network ATM is $4.68. That’s 36 percent higher than it was 10 years prior, with no signs of decreasing.
4. What ATM fees could I incur?
If you frequent the ATM to take out cash, a good question to ask before choosing a checking account is: Where are the bank’s ATMs located in relation to your home and work?
Availability of ATMs is an important question to ask when opening a checking account that can really affect your wallet. For instance, if you decide to withdraw money from an ATM that’s not in your bank’s network, you can get hit with two separate charges: a surcharge from the ATM owner (since you’re not a customer) and a fee from your own bank.
And those fees can really add up. According to Bankrate’s 2018 checking account and ATM fee study, the total average cost of withdrawing cash from an out-of-network ATM is $4.68. That’s 36 percent higher than it was 10 years prior, with no signs of decreasing.
One way to get cash without paying an ATM fee is to use your own bank’s ATMs. The more ATM locations that your bank offers that are conveniently located, the less likely you are to use one that’s out-of-network and rack up unnecessary charges. If you can’t always use your own bank’s ATM, one of the questions to ask when opening a checking account is whether your bank allows you to use a broader ATM network for no-fee transactions.
Find the best checking account for you
Opening a new checking account is an important step toward establishing, or rebuilding, your financial foundation.
Now that you can ask the right questions about checking accounts, you’re one step closer to choosing an account that fits your individual needs. And that feels like money in the bank.
1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPal, which also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
2 Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge. You may be charged a fee by a non-Discover ATM if it is not part of the 60,000+ ATMs in our no-fee network.
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