Advertiser Disclosure

News

Senate Tax Reform vs. House Tax Reform

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

iStock

Update: The Senate’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is moving on to its next stage. The Senate Committee on Finance approved the Senate’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act late November 16 with a 14-12 vote along party lines.

The Senate’s bill will go to the full Senate for a vote the week following the Thanksgiving holiday. At least 52 senators must vote in favor of the bill’s passing to move it forward. If no Democrats vote for the bill, Republicans can only stand to lose two votes.

The vote was made only hours after the House version of the tax bill passed by a 227-205 chamber vote, just before the chamber’s Thanksgiving holiday. No Democrats backed the bill.

From the looks of it, the Senate isn’t exactly on the same page with their colleagues in the House of Representatives. The plan bears the same name as the House’s bill, but the Senate’s version of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act diverges from the House’s plan on a number of individual and business tax reforms.

Most notably, the proposed Senate Republican plan would delay cutting the corporate tax rate by one year, include more tax brackets than the House plan and retain the mortgage interest deduction, among a few other popular tax breaks.

The bills do share some things in common. For example, neither version calls for any changes in workers’ 401(k) tax contribution limits. And both tax plans would repeal the alternative minimum tax and maintain the charitable contribution deduction. Both plans also repeal personal exemptions, but double the standard income tax deduction for individuals, married couples and single parents.

Complying with a Senate rule known as the Byrd rule is an issue. Under that rule, during the legislative reconciliation process, senators can move to block legislation if, among other reasons, it would possibly mean a significant increase in the federal deficit beyond a 10-year term.

If the Senate is able to pass its tax bill, the differences between the two plans may lead to clashes over tax policy as a pressured Congress tries to get a single tax reform bill to President Donald Trump’s desk by Christmas.

Here is a quick breakdown of the major differences between the two plans. Read beyond the table for further detail.

Income tax brackets

The Senate’s plan maintains the tax system’s seven tax brackets—10%, 12%, 22.5%, 25%, 32.5%, 35% and 38.5% — as opposed to the House’s four. The senate plan notably maintains the lowest tax rate at 10 percent and modifies all but one other. The proposal also adjusts qualifying income levels.

The Senate plan would reduce the income tax on the nation’s highest earners to 38.5% from the current 39.6%. Individuals and heads of households earning more than $500,000, and married couples earning more than $1 million would pay the highest rate. The proposed income thresholds for the Senate’s plan are pictured below.

Alternatively, the House bill proposes four income brackets of 12%, 25%, 35%, and 39.6%.

The state and local tax deduction

The Senate plan fully eliminates the State and Local Tax, or SALT, deduction. Nearly one third of Americans took the deduction in 2015, according to the Tax Policy Center, so the repeal is likely to ruffle some feathers. While the House tax plan reduced deductions for state and local taxes, it still allowed Americans to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes. The senate plan would completely get rid of the SALT deduction, including the deduction for property taxes.

Some critics fear eliminating the SALT deduction would disproportionately affect earners in states with high taxes, like New York and California. Across the nation, just six states— California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, and Pennsylvania— comprised more than half of the value of all state and local tax deduction claims in 2014.

The mortgage interest deduction

Nothing would change under the Senate’s plan. Americans would still be able to deduct the amount of interest paid on up to the first $1 million of mortgage debt under the Senate tax plan. The House tax plan, on the other hand, had proposed to lower the threshold for the mortgage interest deduction to $500,000.

Only about six percent of new homes are valued at more than $500,000, according to an August 2017 report by the United for Homes campaign. The group argues lowering the cap would have “virtually no effect on homeownership rates.”

Corporate tax rate

The Senate plan still reduces the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, but corporations won’t get a break until 2019, when the Senate plan phases in the reduction. On the other hand, the House Plan would have initiated the reduced rate in 2018.

The decision to phase in the cut was likely made because a delayed corporate tax cut would make it easier for the Senate to reach its goal of passing a tax bill that does not increase the deficit by more than $1.5 trillion over the next decade.

The estate tax

The estate tax exemption is doubled from $5.49 million in assets ($10.98 million for married couples) onto heirs under both the Senate and House bills.

The House plan doesn’t get rid of the estate tax immediately. The House’s proposal also doubles the exclusion amount to $10 million, but eliminates the estate tax after 2023. The estate tax affects only the estates of the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities.

Adoption and child tax credits

Unlike the initial House tax plan, the Senate plan proposes keep some popular tax breaks. The plan proposes to retain the Adoption Tax Credit, which allows families to receive a tax credit for all qualifying adoption expenses up to $13,570. The Senate plan also slightly bumps up a proposed child tax credit compared to the House plan. While the House plan increased the credit from $1000 to $1600, the Senate plan proposes raising the credit slightly more, to $1650.

Student loan interest and medical expenses deduction

Under Senate plan, students will still be able to deduct interest paid on student loans up to $2500. Furthermore, taxpayers would still be able to claim medical expenses as a deduction if they account for over 7.5 or 10% of their income. This is a departure from the House plan, which would have eliminated both.

Pass through business

The Senate tax plan establishes a 17.4 percent deduction for pass through businesses like sole proprietorships, S corporations, and partnerships.The HIll reports the deduction would lower the effective tax rate on the highest earning small businesses to just over 30 percent, according to a Senate Finance aide. The deduction would only apply to service businesses based in the U.S

The House plan establishes a 25 percent tax rate for pass-through companies. But only 30 percent of the business’s revenue is subject to that rate. The remaining 70 percent would be taxed at the individual tax rate. The House amended the bill Thursday to create a new 9 percent tax rate for the first $75,000 of income of a married active owner with less than $150,000 of pass-through income.

What’s next for GOP tax reform?

The future is unclear for either proposed tax plan. The two chambers will likely need to compromise over differences in the coming weeks to get a bill passed and to the President’s desk by year’s end.

Thursday’s news came just as the House Ways and Means Committee finalized its own bill after announcing two amendments, with a vote expected next week.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

News

Does Western Union Owe You Money? Company Settles FTC Lawsuit for $586M

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

western union settlement
iStock

By now, many consumers know to automatically delete suspicious emails or social media messages requesting wire transfers from Nigerian princes or scammers posing as long-lost relatives. 

Even so, people have lost millions of dollars to fraudsters via wire transfer scams. If you’ve fallen victim to a wire transfer scam involving Western Union, you might want to pay attention to this news.  

Consumers now can file claims to recoup money lost when scammers told them to pay via Western Union’s money transfer system, as part of a $586 million federal settlement with the company that was announced this week.  

The deadline to file claims with the U.S. Department of Justice is Feb. 12, 2018. The settlement applies to scams executed through Western Union between Jan. 1, 2004, and Jan. 19, 2017. 

“American consumers lost money while Western Union looked the other way,” Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen said this week in a press release. “We’re pleased to start the process that will get that money back into consumers’ rightful hands.”  

The settlement stemmed from a January 2017 complaint against the company by the FTC, which said that lax security policies have made the popular money transfer service a way for scammers to defraud consumers.   

The case was investigated with the assistance of the Department of Justice, the Postal Inspection Service, the FBI and several local law enforcement agencies.  

“Returning forfeited funds to these victims and other victims of crime is one of the department’s highest priorities,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco, of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said in a Nov. 13 statement. 

Western Union also has agreed to implement an antifraud program and enhance its policies on federal compliance obligations.  

What kinds of scams are covered?

variety of scams may be covered by this settlement, according to the FTC, including but not limited to the following: 

  • Internet purchase scams: You paid for, but never received, things you bought online. 
  • Prize promotion scams: You were told you won a sweepstakes and would receive your winnings in exchange for payment, but you never received any prize. 
  • Family member scams: You sent money to someone who was pretending to be a relative in urgent need of money. 
  • Loan scams: You paid upfront fees for a loan, but did not get the promised funds. 
  • Online dating scams: You sent money to someone who created a fake profile on a dating or social networking site.  

How do I submit a claim?

If you’ve already reported your losses to Western Union, the FTC or a government agency, you may receive a form in the mail from Gilardi & Co., the claims administrator hired by Justice to handle refunds. This form will include a claim ID and a PIN that you’ll need when filing your claim online at www.ftc.gov/wu 

You also can file a claim if you did not receive a form in the mail. Visit www.ftc.gov/wu and click on the link indicating that you did not receive a claim form and follow the instructions to complete your filing. 

If you sent money to a scammer via Western Union, file a claim even if you don’t have any paperwork, according to the Justice Department. You may still be eligible for a refund. 

You can file more than one claim, if you were a scam victim more than once. 

Will I definitely get my money back?

Hard to say. Each claim will be verified by the Justice Department. If your claim is verified, the amount you get will depend on how much you lost and the total number of consumers who submit valid claims.  

If verified, you’re only entitled to a refund of the actual amount you transferred through Western Union, according to the Justice Department. Other expenses, like fees or transfers sent through other companies, will not be included in your refund. 

It could take up to a year to process and verify your claim. The best way to stay in the loop is to bookmark the FTC page for the Western Union settlement or westernunionremission.com and check frequently for updates.  

KaToya Fleming
KaToya Fleming |

KaToya Fleming is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email KaToya here

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

News

4 Ways the House Tax Bill Could Affect College Affordability

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Congress is working around the clock to get a new tax bill to President Trump’s desk before the year is out. In addition to a host of tax cuts, both the Senate and House GOP tax plans include several proposals that could make saving and paying for higher education more costly for families. Considering Americans hold a collective $1.36 trillion in student loan debt and 11.2 percent of that balance is either delinquent or in default that’s not-so-good news for millions of Americans.

Both plans  include proposed ideas that could impact how students and families finance higher education. The House plan, for instance, includes proposed provisions that would affect the benefits parents, students and school employees like graduate students receive, which could ultimately impact the price students pay.

In a Nov. 6 letter to the House Ways and Means Committee opposing the provisions, the American Council on Education and 50 other higher education associations states that  “the committee’s summary of the bill showed that its provisions would increase the cost to students attending college by more than $65 billion between 2018 and 2027.” They reaffirmed their opposition in a Nov.15 letter.

The council and other higher education associations weren’t satisfied with the Senate’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, either. In a Nov. 14 letter, the council says it’s pleased the Senate bill retains some student benefits eliminated in the House version, but remains concerned about other positions that it says would ultimately make attaining a college education more expensive and “erode the financial stability of public and private, two-year and four-year colleges and universities.”

Where are the bills now?

The House version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by a 227-205 vote on Nov. 16, just before the chamber’s Thanksgiving holiday. No Democrats backed the bill.

The Senate Committee on Finance approved The Senate’s version of the bill late November 16 with a 14-12 vote along party lines. The bill will go to full Senate for a vote the week following the Thanksgiving holiday. At least 52 senators must vote in favor of the bill’s passing to move it forward. If no Democrats vote for the bill, Republicans can only stand to lose two votes.

If the Senate is able to pass its tax bill, the two chambers would need to hash out many differences between the proposed tax plans before sending legislation to the president’s desk.

In its plan, the Senate committee says the goal of tax reform in relation to education is to simplify education tax benefits. MagnifyMoney took a look at a few of the major proposed changes to the tax code that would impact college affordability most.

Streamline tax credits

The House tax bill proposes to repeal the Hope Scholarship Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit while slightly expanding the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The new American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) would credit the first $2,000 of higher education expenses (like tuition, fees and course materials) and offer a 25 percent tax credit for the next $2,000 of higher education expenses. That’s the same as it is now, with one addition: The new AOTC also offers a maximum $500 credit for fifth-year students.

The bigger change is the elimination of the other credits. Currently, if students don’t elect the American Opportunity Tax Credit, they can instead claim the Hope Scholarship Credit for expenses up to $1,500 credit applied to tuition and fees during the first two years of education; or, they may choose the Lifetime Learning Credit that awards up to 20 percent of the first $10,000 of qualified education expenses for an unlimited number of years.

Basically, in creating the new American Opportunity Tax Credit, the House bill eliminates the tax benefit for nontraditional, part-time, or graduate students who may spend longer than five years in the pursuit of a higher-ed degree. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, consolidating the AOTC would increase tax revenue by $17.5 billion from 2018 to 2027, and increase spending by $0.2 billion over the same period.

The Senate bill does not change any of these credits.

Make tuition reductions taxable

The House bill proposes eliminating a tax exclusion for qualified tuition reductions, which allows college and university employees who receive discounted tuition to omit the reduction from their taxable income.

A repeal would generally increase the taxable income for many campus employees. Most notably, eliminating the exclusion would negatively impact graduate students students who, under the House’s proposed tax bill, would have any waived tuition added to their taxable income.

Many graduate students receive a stipend in exchange for work done for the university, like teaching courses or working on research projects. The stipend offsets student’s overall cost of attendance and may be worth tens of thousands of dollars. As part of the package, many students see all or part of their tuition waived.

Students already pay taxes on the stipend. Under the House tax plan, students would have to report the waived tuition as income, too, although they never actually see the funds. Since a year’s worth of a graduate education can cost tens of thousands of dollars, the addition could move the student up into higher tax brackets and significantly increase the amount of income tax they have to pay.

The Senate bill doesn’t alter the exclusion.

Eliminate the student loan interest deduction

Under the House tax bill, students who made payments on their federal or private student loans during the tax year would no longer be able to deduct interest they paid on the loans.

Current tax code allows those repaying student loans to deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest paid each year. To claim the deduction, a taxpayer cannot earn more than $80,000 ($160,00 for married couples filing jointly). The deduction is reduced based on income for earners above $65,000, up to an $80,000 limit. (The phaseout is between $130,000 and $160,000 who are married and filing joint returns.)

Nearly 12 million Americans were spared paying an average $1,068 when they were credited with the deduction in 2014, according to the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan policy institute. If a student turns to student loans or other expensive borrowing options to make up for the deduction, he or she could  experience more financial strain after graduation.

The Senate tax bill retains the student loan interest deduction.

Repeal the tax exclusion for employer-provided educational assistance

Some employers provide workers educational assistance to help deflect the cost of earning a degree or completing continuing education courses at the undergraduate or graduate level. Currently, Americans receiving such assistance are able to exclude up to $5,250 of it from their taxable income.

Under the House tax plan, the education-related funds employees receive would be taxed as income, increasing the amount some would pay in taxes if they enroll in such a program.

A spokesperson for American Student Assistance says if the final tax bill includes the repeal, it may point to a bleak future for the spread of student loan repayment assistance benefits, currently offered by only 4 percent of American companies.

Take care not to confuse education assistance with another, growing employer benefit: student loan repayment assistance. The student loan repayment benefit is new and structured differently from company to company, but generally, it grants some employees money to help repay their student loans.

The Senate plan does not repeal the employer-provided educational assistance exclusion.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

News

House Passes Tax Reform Bill: What It Means for You

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

iStock

Update: House Republicans have passed a sweeping tax bill that would cut both corporate and income taxes by $1.5 trillion, bringing the country one step closer to the biggest taxation overhaul in decades.

The House passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in a 227-205 vote, bringing President Trump nearer to his first major legislative accomplishment since he took office in January.

“Today’s vote brings America one step closer to historic tax cuts that will allow Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money,” Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement shortly after the vote. “President Trump and Republicans in Congress are keeping their promise to give workers a raise, support American businesses and grow our economy.”

Some experts say the whopping $1.5 trillion tax cut will benefit many taxpayers. But will some lose out? And what does it all mean for you?

As expected, in order to pay for the tax cuts, lawmakers chose to get rid of or limit many key tax breaks. Some of the items on the chopping block under the Republicans’ plan, which include personal exemptions, deductions for medical expenses, paid student loan interest and paid mortgage interest, could impact millions of Americans.

“It really depends on the individual situation whether they’ll be more helped or hurt,” Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer, told MagnifyMoney. You can read the entire bill here.

What happens next?

The bill will move for a vote in the Senate, which hasn’t yet voted on its own version of a tax cut plan. Trump has called for lawmakers to pass one cohesive bill by Christmas. Republican lawmakers would like to see the reforms take effect in 2018.

But the tax overhaul has a long way to go. The House and Senate proposals differ on a number of major provisions, which will make it tough for the two bills to be reconciled and spur clashes over tax policy. To see what the Senate has in store, check out this post.

Keep reading for a summary of the tax changes to come and how they might affect your bottom line:

How individual tax brackets will change

The bill compressed the current seven-tier tax system into four tax brackets: 12 , 25, 35 and 39.6 percent. The top individual tax rate remains unchanged at 39.6 percent.

The new bottom bracket of 12 percent is higher than the current bottom bracket of 10 percent but replaces the 15 percent bracket as well. The proposal will also push some in the current 33 percent bracket into the 35 percent. So there will be some shuffling, and its impact on you depends on your earnings picture.

Here’s the breakdown of brackets for married filers:

The income threshold for the 25 percent bracket moves to $90,000, up from $75,900 for married couples. The 35 percent bracket starts at $260,000, and the top tax rate starts at $1 million.

Next, let’s look at tax deductions. Under the plan, some would increase.

Deductions that would be increased

Standard deduction

Under the House plan, the standard deduction would be almost doubled. The standard deduction is a dollar amount that reduces the amount of income on which you are taxed.

For individuals, the standard deduction would rise from $6,350 to $12,000. For married couples, it would go up from $12,700 to $24,000.

But personal exemptions, currently $4,050 per person, would now be included in the standard deduction, so the actual increase isn’t as big as it seems at first blush. Under the current tax code, taxpayers could claim one personal exemption for themselves and one for a spouse.

The change in personal exemption will likely offset the benefits from the standard deduction for many to some extent. “If they are doubling the standard deduction but eliminating the personal exemption, a single parent with a number of kids could actually be hurt by that on a net basis,” Luscombe said.

Child tax credit

The House bill also proposes to expand the child tax credit, which allows parents to offset expenses of raising children, from $1,000 to $1,600.

The bill also will provide a credit of $300 for each parent with a dependent who is not a child, such as a grandfather or a college student. Those $300 credits expire in five years.

Those credits are seen by advocates as helping some families make up for the loss of personal exemptions.

401(k) contribution limits

Unlike what was suggested in an earlier round of rumors, the Republicans did not call for reducing the contribution limits for 401(k) accounts. Phew.

For 2018, workers under age 59.5 can contribute $18,500 to a 401(k) on a pre-tax basis.

But still, more changes are proposed, with some deductions changed or ended under the proposal.

Deductions that will be eliminated or altered

Mortgage-interest deduction

The House bill keeps the home mortgage interest deduction for existing mortgages. But for newly purchased homes, the home mortgage interest deduction is lowered to $500,000 from the current $1 million debt limit.

It could well put a damper on higher-end home purchases, where half of a $1 million mortgage is not eligible for interest deduction, Luscombe said.

Medical expenses

Medical-expense deductions are going away. Right now, individuals can deduct qualified medical expenses that exceed 10% or 7.5% of their adjusted gross income (depending on age). Households with outstanding medical costs and are eligible for the deductions will feel significant effects from the repeal. The provision could have big implications for families with high medical costs during the year.

Student loan interest

The deduction for student loan interest could also be eliminated under the Republican tax reform.

Under current rules, borrowers may deduct up to $2,500 in interest payments on student loans on their federal income tax returns. The loss of the deduction would put a heavier financial burden on hundreds of thousands of college graduates grappling with significant education debt.

The state and local income tax deduction

The Republicans are further calling for an end to the deduction for state and local income/sales taxes.

The IRS allows those who make payments for state and local income taxes to deduct them on their federal tax return. The loss of the deduction is seen by some critics as hurting people in high-income tax rate states, such as New York and California.

But the proposal would keep in place the state and local property tax deduction, although capping it at $10,000.

The estate tax

Republican lawmakers proposed to double the estate tax exemption from $5.49 million to nearly $11 million and eventually do away with it. The estate tax is the tax you pay to inherit property or money from a deceased person.

This means families don’t have to pay taxes on any inheritance under $11 million. The bill calls for repealing the estate tax after six years.

In addition to reducing or eliminating several tax breaks, Republicans hope that the tax cuts will boost the economy, foster business growth, make the U.S. business environment more competitive with other countries’ in terms of tax rates, and even spur wage growth. This, in, turn, would bolster tax revenue, supporters say. But critics fear a surge in the budget deficit, with implications for future generations.

Shen Lu
Shen Lu |

Shen Lu is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Shen at shenlu@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

News

What Happens if Republicans Repeal the Obamacare Individual Mandate?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

obamacare Affordable Care Act paper family
iStock

Senate Republicans on Tuesday proposed to repeal the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act by 2019 as a part of their tax reform plan.

With open enrollment for 2018 Obamacare coverage well underway, and after two failed attempts earlier this year to repeal the ACA, the Senate’s proposal has reignited feelings of uncertainty over the health care law’s future.

The Senate’s proposal also came a couple of days before House Republicans’ planned Thursday vote on their own tax reform bill. (The House’s version does not propose to touch the insurance coverage requirement.)

Part of the reason behind the Senate’s proposal to cut the individual mandate is to help free up federal dollars and partially offset a sweeping $1.5 trillion tax cut proposal. Without the mandate, fewer people would likely sign up for coverage and that would mean less money the government would need to spend on the tax subsidies it offers to balance out the cost of premiums for millions of Obamacare enrollees.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the individual mandate is eliminated, it will save the federal government $338 billion, and 13 million more people — mostly the young and healthy — will be uninsured by 2027.

Here is what you need to know about the individual mandate and what it means if it goes away:

What is the individual mandate?

The individual mandate is a provision under the ACA that requires most U.S. citizens and noncitizens who lawfully reside in the country to have health insurance. It was signed into law in 2010. Consumers who can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it have to pay tax penalties unless they are otherwise insured or meet certain exemptions.

The purpose of the mandate was partially to ensure that even healthy and young Americans would sign up for health coverage, balancing the so-called insurance risk pool and helping to keep premiums affordable.

Why is the mandate unpopular?

The provision has been widely unpopular since its introduction. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest poll suggests that 55 percent of Americans supported the idea of removing the individual mandate as part of the Republican tax plan.

More than 27 million people in the United States remained uninsured in 2016, the foundation reported, down from 47 million prior to the implementation of the ACA.

How does the individual mandate work?

The tax penalty for nonexempt individuals who do not sign up for health coverage is calculated as a percentage of household income or as a fixed amount per person. You’ll pay whichever is higher.

For 2017 the penalty was either:

  • $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, up to $2,085 per family, or
  • 2.5 percent of household income

The maximum penalty can be no more than the national average price of the yearly premium for a Bronze plan (the minimum coverage available in the individual insurance market) sold through the insurance marketplace.

HealthCare.gov hasn’t yet published the 2018 guidance, but Kaiser has launched a calculator using 2018 projections from Bloomberg BNA. For 2018, the calculator estimates the amount of penalty is $3,816 for a single person and $19,080 for a family of five or more, according to the foundation.

2018 Individual Mandate Penalty Calculator

Some people are exempt from the penalty

You meet exemptions if coverage is considered unaffordable based on your income — under the ACA, “unaffordable”’ is if you would have had to pay more than 8.05 percent of your household income for the annual premium amount for health coverage in 2015 or 8.13 percent last year.

If you have experienced economic hardships or difficult domestic situations, such as homelessness, the death of a family member, bankruptcy, substantial medical debt or the toll of a disaster that damaged your property badly, you may apply for a hardship exemption.

People who are ineligible for Medicaid because their state hasn’t expanded that program also qualify for a hardship exemption. Those whose incomes are at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for Medicaid. That 138 percent means a little over $16,600 every year for a single person and nearly $34,000 for a family of four.

See more examples of people who qualify for penalty exemptions at IRS.gov.

You can find out if you are exempt from health care coverage using this tool:

What does it mean if the individual mandate is lost?

The immediate concern is that without fear of a tax penalty, not enough young, healthy people would get covered. When these low-risk people drop out of the market, coverage is skewed toward older, sick people who really need coverage. And that can lead to rapid increases in premium costs and even induce some insurers to drop out of the market.

Larry Levitt, senior vice president for special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation and senior adviser to the foundation president, summarized his thoughts on the loss of the mandate in a series of tweets Wednesday, saying he’s “doubtful” insurers would remain in the marketplace if the mandate were removed:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., defended the proposed repeal in a statement on Wednesday.

“We can deliver even more relief to the middle class by repealing an unpopular tax from an unworkable law,” he wrote. “It just makes sense.”

Shen Lu
Shen Lu |

Shen Lu is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Shen at shenlu@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

News

A New Housing Bubble? Some Cities Might Already Be on the Cusp

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

iStock

The housing market is heating up again. Home prices have risen faster than income growth in the past five years, and the combination of low housing supply and increasing demand is driving home values ever higher.

Could we be in danger of another housing bubble?

Economists don’t seem to be too worried about the national housing market.

Across the U.S., increases in home prices have outpaced income growth by 34 percent since 2012, driven by economic expansion. However, this percentage is less than half the pace seen between 1997 and 2006, according to a recent Urban Institute study.

For the most part, homes are still affordable relative to household incomes, experts say.

According to the Urban Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank that carries out economic and social policy research, a median-income household can afford a house that is $70,000 more expensive than the price of the median house sold on the market. In contrast, in 2006, there was a $22,000 shortfall between what the median household could afford and the median sales price.

“Yes, prices are high, yes, the market is expensive, and yes, housing is unaffordable for some people, but that does not mean we are in a bubble yet,” Nela Richardson, chief economist at  Redfin, a Seattle-based real estate and technology company, told MagnifyMoney. “Those attributes of a classic bubble are missing.”

By “classic bubble” attributes, Richardson is pointing to telltale signs of trouble, such as lax mortgage lending standards, rapidly rising mortgage rates and the levels of speculation in the housing market we experienced 10 years ago.

Even as home prices were skyrocketing, soft underwriting practices allowed a record number of people to purchase homes with very low down payments. As the crisis intensified, housing prices began to nosedive and borrowers who bought more home than they could afford eventually defaulted on mortgages.

In the wake of the Great Recession, the federal government implemented stricter mortgage lending regulations that have made it much harder for financially unstable borrowers to qualify for a mortgage loan.

“Any of the mortgages made today [are] just super clean” and there is a historically low default rate, Bing Bai, an Urban Institute researcher, told MagnifyMoney. “We are not in that kind of risk like the risk we had before in previous bubble years.”

Mortgage default rates have fallen to 3.68 percent for single-family homes, not quite as low as pre-recession levels but much better than the peak of 11.53 percent in 2010.

10 Metros at Risk of a Housing Bubble

 

So, the nation as a whole might not be facing an imminent bubble. However, Urban Institute economists have put certain cities of the country on the “bubble watch” list.

In the study, they analyzed 37 metro areas across the U.S. to find how much housing prices have gone up since their lowest point following the financial crisis and how affordable homes are based on the median income for that city. Below are the top 10 cities in danger of a housing bubble.

#1 San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, Calif.

#2 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

#3 Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, Fla.

#4 Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, Calif.

#5 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash.

#6 Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash.

#7 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.

#8 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.

#9 (tie) Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.

#9 (tie) Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, Calif. 

California snags five of the top eight spots, led by the San Francisco metro area.

In San Francisco, for example, a family earning the median income for the area needs to dedicate at least 70 percent of income for a typical 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, Bai said. The median home sales price is $1.2 million in the Bay Area, according to Redfin and Trulia, an online real estate resource for homebuyers and renters.

The overheated housing situation in the Silicon Valley and Seattle is largely a result of the tech boom during the years of economic recovery, Richardson said. Yet demand is still going strong with healthy job increases despite stunning home prices.

“There’s a lot of money looking for a place to land,” Richardson added.

Some other cities seeing swelling housing prices are in Florida and Texas. Not coincidentally, the coastal real estate markets are where international investors have been pumping in large sums of money in recent years, pushing demand even higher. The Urban Institute reported that California, Florida and Texas are the top U.S. destinations for foreign buyers.

“It’s not just about the local economy in these markets,” Richardson said. “It’s about the global economy.”

Advice for home buyers in super expensive cities

The truth is, experts don’t see a sign of price decline in hot markets any time soon.

“Demand is still there, with low supply, [and] it’s just going to keep prices high,” Cheryl Young, senior economist at Trulia, told MagnifyMoney.

If you are looking to buy in cities where home prices are sky-high and competition is extremely fierce, here is what pros suggest you can do to bid for a desirable house:

Time it right

“Home buying is all about timing,” Young said. “We always say you shouldn’t rush to enter the housing market if you are not ready.”

If you’ve definitely decided to buy, the best time to start looking might be during the fall. Young said home prices are, in general, at their nadir in the wintertime, so you may want to start looking in the fall when prices started to dip as home supply is higher than they are at other times of the year.

Check out our story on why October’s the best time to start looking for your first home.

Come to the table prepared

When you are ready to start looking, you also need to save up for a down payment, Young said.

A good rule of thumb for a down payment is 20 percent. That way you could avoid paying for the additional cost of private mortgage insurance. But the reality is that it’s tough for buyers to put down that much money, especially if you are in a super-expensive market. It’s fine if you can’t save up for 20 percent, but of course the more you can scrounge up, the better.

Also recommended: Have all your financial statements ready and compare mortgage rate offers from several financial institutions to be sure you’re getting the best deal. Avoid these common mistakes homebuyers make before they apply for mortgages.

“Working with someone who knows the local area, who knows how to strategize how to make an offer that is as good as cash or almost as good as cash if you are in a competitive market is very important,” said Richardson.

If you can get preapproved for a mortgage, it will give you a competitive advantage.

“It’s really about showing the seller that you are ready when the opportunity comes up so that you can lock in the purchase,” Young said.

Shen Lu
Shen Lu |

Shen Lu is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Shen at shenlu@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

News

Where Americans Cashed In the Most Wealth

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

These are the places where the most capital gains have been realized

Just a few years ago, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Americans were constantly reading about how home ownership had let Americans down.  There was red ink everywhere: Not only had stocks lost nearly half of their value between 2007 and 2009, but home prices had declined in virtually every real estate market in the country.

That trend has long since been reversed. Last year, incomes grew an average of 4.7 percent. When adjusted for inflation, they have finally fully recovered to levels seen before the 2007-08 financial crisis. But even better, their investments have been paying off.  Stocks, as based on broad market indexes, have more than tripled in value from their 2009 lows. And in most local markets, home prices have also since recovered.

So, who’s cashing in?

MagnifyMoney analyzed five years’ worth of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data — from 2012 to 2016 — to see where American taxpayers are getting the most return on their investments. In particular, we focused on capital gains: a tax on the sale of appreciated assets like real estate and stocks.

For the 100 largest American metros, we looked at two facets of capital gains: How much in gains, per resident, were realized; and, to get a sense of the breadth of wealth being realized and taxed, the percentage of individuals who filed federal taxes that cited a capital gain.

We ranked each metro on these metrics and weighted them evenly to create a Cashing In Score, from 0 to 100 (with 100 representing a metro that would rank first in both capital gains per resident and the percentage of returns with capital gains).

Topping the list were Fort Myers, Fla.; San Francisco; and Sarasota, also in Florida. Others in the top 10 include tech-heavy places like Seattle and Austin, Texas.

#1 Fort Myers, Fla.
Cashing In score: 98 (Scores are rounded in this list.)

By far, the place with the most cashing-in was Fort Myers, on Florida’s west coast. With a relatively small population of well-off retirees, the city and surrounding area realized nearly $103,000 in capital gains per resident, easily eclipsing other American cities. Moreover, with a capital gain appearing on nearly one in four returns over the past five years, there’s been significant activity in the region.

#2 San Francisco

Cashing In score: 94

The City by the Bay is famous for both its tight real estate market as well as Silicon Valley, and the data bear this out. Even with a significantly large population, San Francisco realized more than $76,000 in capital gains per resident, many of the realized gains likely the result of selling stocks which have greatly appreciated in value.

#3  Sarasota, Fla.

Cashing In score: 75

Sarasota has the distinction of having a higher proportion of federal tax returns with a capital gain than any other metro in the nation, including its Fort Myers neighbor to the south. The capital gains per resident, at more than $56,000, are less than those realized in Fort Myers (as well as No. 9 Miami).

#4 New York

Cashing In score: 70

The nation’s largest metro also sports large gains: more than $60,000 in capital gains per resident over the five-year period we examined. One in five returns included some sort of capital gain. And where the average price of a home in Manhattan has now exceeded $1 million, a healthy percentage of the gains realized were from real estate sales.

#5 Boston

Cashing In score: 63

Another metro with a hot real estate market, Boston realized more than $48,000 of capital gains per resident from 2012-2016, while, as in New York, 20 percent of federal filings from the Boston area included some sort of capital gain.

What is a capital gain?

According to the IRS, a capital gain can arise from a sale of stock, a private business, real estate or art. In other words, it’s the money that you earn on an investment after you sell it, less the cost of the initial investment. And while these assets are taxed at differing rates, all may be subject to federal taxes, if they are sold for more than the original purchase price.

Homes are still how most Americans typically accumulate wealth. Overall, 64 percent of American households are homeowner households, according to the most recent Census data . The median value of the primary residence of Americans still exceeds the median value of the stocks and bonds they hold outside of retirement accounts and other managed assets like annuities. And homeowners have a net worth of nearly $230,000, versus an average of about $5,000 for renters.

But housing markets are still local, which may in part explain the variance among the 100 largest metropolitan areas we examined for the most capital gains realized from 2012 to 2016.

The second-home factor

Not all home sales will result in a capital gains tax.  Currently homeowners only pay a capital gains tax on gains that exceed $250,000 ($500,000 for couples filing jointly), if it’s their primary residence.

But other property – such as vacation homes and rental properties – aren’t afforded the same protections from capital gains as a primary residence.

Thus, all the gains from these sales may be subject to capital gains tax, which may explain why we found that many of the cities that top our list s are in vacation spots like Florida and Lake Tahoe (considered part of Reno, Nev., by the Census Bureau).

Stocks still likely result in some significant realization.

It’s probably not a surprise that both New York and San Francisco are near the top of the list. Not only do both have tight residential real estate markets, but both Wall Street and Silicon Valley are homes of dozens of public corporations with thousands of employees. Stocks, whether in the form of compensation given to employees or simply bought and sold on the open market, may also result in significant capital gains.

Local economies still a factor.  

Finally, local economies may also be a factor in how much in capital gains are realized. Consider two major cities in Texas: Houston and Austin. Despite being fewer than 200 miles apart, Austin ranks significantly higher than Houston on our scale. One explanation: Austin’s tech-heavy economy continues to flourish, while the energy centric economy of Houston is slogging through a period of depressed energy prices, weighing on the residential real estate market there

Methodology

MagnifyMoney analyzed IRS Statistics of Income data for tax returns filed January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2016, covering five years of tax filings, along with U.S. Census Bureau 2016 population data to create a ‘Cashing in score.’

The 100 largest metros in the U.S. were ranked by the % of returns that declared capital gains, as well as the total capital gains reported per resident over the five year period. These rankings were weighted evenly to create the score for each metro, with 100 the highest possible score for a metro that ranks #1 for both metrics.

MagnifyMoney
MagnifyMoney |

Have a question to ask or a story to share? Contact the MagnifyMoney team at info@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Reviews

PNC Bank Reviews: Checking, Savings, CD, Money Market, and IRA Rates

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

pnc bank reviews
iStock

PNC Bank is one of the oldest and largest banks in the country, founded shortly after the American Revolution. Although it is based out of Pittsburgh and its 2,600 branches are mostly located across the Eastern U.S., that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you’re in the western U.S.

PNC Bank offers a robust online banking platform with plenty of helpful features. But is it the right bank for you? How do its rates compare with those of other banks? Let’s walk you through the different types of PNC Bank account offerings.

It’s important to note that PNC Bank charges different rates across the country. To keep things consistent for comparison purposes, we’ll present you with the rates closest to their headquarters in Pittsburgh using the ZIP code 15222. To see rates for your local area, click here.

PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet®

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a super-easy holistic account package when you decide to switch banks? That’s what PNC Bank aims to offer with its Virtual Wallet® kit. It’s a complete set of accounts for everything you need to do, including:

  • Spend : An everyday checking account.
  • Reserve : A savings account for short-term goals, like a vacation or Christmas gifts.
  • Growth : A savings account for long-term goals, like a down payment on a house.

Virtual Wallet® accounts also come with different tiers of interest rates, depending on whether you meet certain qualifications. We’ll do a deeper dive on that later.

What’s really neat about PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet® is that it comes with all sorts of tools to help you manage your money better. Within the checking account, you can take advantage of the following tools:

  • Calendar : Allows you to see scheduled bills and amounts due.
  • Online bill pay : Will pay your bills for you automatically on their due dates.
  • Danger Day : Shows you when you might run out of money for the month.
  • Spending Zone : Allows you to set up and track your spending in a budget.
  • Money Bar : Shows you how your money is divvied up: savings, scheduled for bills, or free to spend.

The Virtual Wallet® even makes it easier to save in Reserve and Growth savings accounts with the following features:

  • Punch The Pig : Gamifies your savings when you hit a pig icon to transfer money to your Growth account.
  • Wish List : Allows you to set up and track individual savings goals separately from each other.
  • Early closure fee: $25 if you close the account within 180 days of opening.
  • Savings Engine : Automatically puts money into savings when you’re paid, or if you pay a bill.

PNC Checking Accounts

PNC Bank’s checking accounts are, overall, pretty lackluster. The only advantage of using them is that you get access to the Virtual Wallet® account package, which actually does offer some nice money management tools. But you can still get access to budgeting tools and savings apps elsewhere that can do all the same jobs as the Virtual Wallet®.

The rewards structure for these checking accounts is confusing. There’s no way to know whether you’ll earn good rewards, since you have to log into a portal and manually activate them ahead of time. Furthermore, once you do earn those rewards points, you have to redeem them through another portal. Some checking accounts do come with discounts, but they’re mostly on more obscure banking products you probably aren’t going to use much anyway, like cashier’s checks or safety deposit boxes.

These accounts carry a lot of red tape and fees. They also don’t pay much interest, if any. If earning the highest interest rates possible (with the least amount of fine print and fees) is your goal, there are much better checking accounts elsewhere.

Read on to find out more about all of PNC’s checking account offerings:

Checking accounts with Virtual Wallet®

Virtual Wallet® Basic

A basic account for lower-income earners who want to use Virtual Wallet® features to manage their money.

If you’re looking to take advantage of PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet® account package but don’t earn a huge income, this basic account is where you’ll want to start.

Just beware of fees; there are plenty that come with this product, including the following:

  • Minimum opening deposit : $25
  • Interest rate : The Spend account does not earn interest. The Reserve and Growth accounts earn 0.01% APY. If you meet qualifications (such as making at least five debit transactions per month from your Spend account), you can earn up to 0.10% APY with your Growth account.
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : $7
  • How to waive the account maintenance fee :
    1. Keep at least $500 in your Spend and/or Reserve accounts
    2. Have at least $500 direct-deposited into your Spend account
    3. Be 62 or older
    4. Provide proof of active enrollment in a qualifying education institution (expires six years after the account is enrolled in the student banking program).
  • ATM fees : No charge at PNC Bank ATMs. $3 for every domestic non-PNC Bank ATM transaction, and $5 for every international non-PNC ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds:None.
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5. They will not charge you if you set up Overdraft Protection Transfer from your Reserve or Grow accounts.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if you close the account within 180 days of opening.

This checking account does come with a rewards program, but we’ll be honest: it is confusing.

To earn rewards points, you’ll need to log into the PNC Bank Rewards Portal to see and manually activate customized offers just for you, based on your spending history.

You can redeem your rewards through the online rewards catalog or receive cash back directly into your account. If you link up a PNC Points Visa credit card with your account, you can also earn 25 percent more rewards points for your purchases.

Because of the complexity of assessing the value of the rewards program before you sign up, we think that this is a nice bonus feature but not one you should base your decision on. If you’re looking for cashback rewards, there are many better, more transparent options for you.

If you decide to open a basic Virtual Wallet® account with PNC Bank, the process is relatively straightforward.

You can do it online, over the phone, or in a local branch if one is nearby. Simply provide some basic information (name, address, Social Security number and the like), have a government-issued photo ID ready, and a way to make an opening deposit with your existing bank’s routing and account numbers, or with a debit or credit card.


Virtual Wallet® with Performance Spend

A low-interest-earning account for those who earn a higher income and want to use the Virtual Wallet® package.

The Virtual Wallet® with Performance Spend works exactly like the basic Virtual Wallet® accounts, albeit with some extra threshold levels for higher rewards.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $25
  • Interest rate : 0.01% APY on balances over $2,000 for your Spend account or $1 for your Reserve account. Up to 0.35% APY on balances on your Growth account if you meet certain qualifications (such as making at least five debit purchases per month).
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : $15
  • How to waive the account maintenance fee :
    1. Keep at least $2,000 in your Spend and/or Reserve accounts
    2. Have at least $15,000 in another PNC Bank account or loan
    3. Have at least $2,000 direct-deposited into your Spend account each month ($1,000 for military members).
  • ATM fees : No charge at PNC Bank ATMs. It’s $3 for every domestic non-PNC Bank ATM transaction, and $5 for every international non-PNC Bank ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds : Two refunds per statement. However, ATM surcharges from the originating financial institution ATMs may not be refunded.
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5. You won’t be charged if you set up Overdraft Protection Transfer from your Reserve or Grow accounts.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if you close the account within 180 days of opening.

The rewards program is structured the same way as with the basic Virtual Wallet package. You’ll need to log into a portal to view and activate different rewards offers for purchases you make. When you’ve accumulated enough rewards, you can redeem them for an unknown amount of cash back or other rewards.

The Performance Spend also adds in a few extra rewards: You get up to two ATM fee refunds per month. You’ll also get discounts on check designs, an annual safe deposit box rental,`free cashier’s checks, and higher rates on certain CDs and IRA CDs You do have the potential to earn slightly higher (but still paltry) interest rates on your savings accounts.


Virtual Wallet® with Performance Select

A low-interest-earning account for high earners who want to take advantage of Virtual Wallet® features.

This Virtual Wallet® package is built to be used by high-income earners. After all, you do not want to be paying a $25 monthly account fee, especially when you can get a much better rates at another bank.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $25
  • Interest rate : 0.01% APY on balances over $2,000 for your Spend account or $1 for your Reserve account. Up to 1.00% APY on balances over $1 on your Growth account if you meet certain qualifications (such as making at least five debit purchases per month).
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : $25
  • How to waive the account maintenance fee :
    1. Keep at least $5,000 in your Spend and/or Reserve accounts
    2. Have at least $25,000 in another PNC Bank account or loan
    3. Have at least $5,000 direct-deposited into your account each month.
  • ATM fees : None for PNC Bank ATMS and non-PNC Bank ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds : Up to $10 per month in non-PNC Bank surcharges (i.e., the fees the ATM owner tacks on).
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5. They will not charge you if you set up Overdraft Protection Transfer from your Reserve or Growth accounts.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if you close the account within 180 days of opening.

The Performance Select package comes with added bonus perks. In addition to all the perks from the Performance Spending package, you also will have fees waived for more obscure services, such as Stop Payment and ATM statements. You’ll also be eligible for savings on home equity lines of credit and personal lines of credit, and up to $10,000 in identity theft protection reimbursement.

Overall, though, we’re left feeling underwhelmed by the bonus perks that this account offers for all of the requirements.

Bonus: New checking account offer

PNC Bank is currently offering sign-up bonuses with the Virtual Wallet® account package. If you open a new account and meet the requirements, you could be eligible for a lucrative sign-up bonus.

The bonus amount and the requirements depend on which account tier you open.

For a basic-level Virtual Wallet account, you’ll need to set up at least $500 of direct deposits into the account and make at least 10 purchases with your debit card. If you do those things, you’ll earn a $50 sign-up bonus.

The next level up is the Performance Spend account. To get the $200 sign-up bonus for this account, you’ll need to set up $2,000 of direct deposits and also make 10 purchases with your debit card.

Finally, you can earn a $300 sign-up bonus by opening a Virtual Wallet package with the Performance Select level. To earn this hefty bonus, you’ll need to schedule a $5,000 direct deposit into your account and make 10 debit card purchases.

PNC checking accounts without Virtual Wallet®

Performance Select Checking

A basic interest-earning checking account for high-income earners who don’t need all the fancy Virtual Wallet® features.

The Virtual Wallet® account package is nice for people who want an all-inclusive money management experience. But what if you’re a high-income earner who just wants a simple, no-frills checking account?

That’s where the base Performance Select Checking account comes in. It has the same fees, reward program, requirements and interest-earning structure as the Virtual Wallet®’s Performance Select, just without the extra two Reserve and Growth savings accounts.

Signing up for the Performance Select checking account is easy and takes just a few minutes. You can go to a local branch if you’re near one, call or sign up online. You’ll need that photo ID, a way to fund your new account, and all the basic info, like Social Security number.


Performance checking

A basic interest-earning checking account for medium-income earners who don’t want Virtual Wallet® features.

PNC Bank’s Performance checking account is its lowest-requirement interest-earning checking account. But with an interest rate of 0.01% APY that only applies to balances over $2,000, the amount of money you’ll earn with this account will be peanuts.

Furthermore, if you don’t meet all the same requirements (keeping at least $2,000 in your account, having $2,000 of direct deposits, or having $15,000 in another PNC Bank account or loan) as the Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend, you’ll have to pay a $15 monthly account fee.

This account does come with the same reward structure and banking discounts as the Virtual Wallet® with Performance Spend account, however. If this sounds like the right account for you, you can easily sign up online, via phone or by visiting a local branch.


Standard checking

A basic-reward checking account for lower-income or retired consumers.

If you’re not interested in taking advantage of PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet® money management features but still want a reward checking account without all the red tape, the Standard account might be for you.

This non-interest-earning account, which carries the same fee, reward, and requirement structure as the basic Virtual Wallet® account package, is easy to sign up for. All you need is a photo ID, basic personal information and a way to fund your account. You can sign up in just a few minutes online, over the phone or at a local branch.


PNC Savings Accounts

While you can save money with PNC Bank’s savings accounts, they’re not an effective way to earn interest. Their rates are well below the national average of around 0.20% APY and there are many hidden fees that can trip you up if you aren’t a model customer.

The “S” is for Savings account for children is an exception if you’re looking to teach your youngsters about money, however. With its neat interactive interface and “Sesame Street” characters, it can get any child excited about savings.

That doesn’t mean it’s the best tool for the job, though. There are many other savings accounts that offer better rates for both you and your children.

Read on to learn more about PNC’s savings account offerings.

Standard savings

Low interest rates for a fee-heavy savings account.

PNC Bank’s basic savings account does technically earn interest — but that’s about all we can say about it. Though national savings account rates average around 0.19% APY, the best you can hope for with this account is 0.10% APY—-and only if you have more than $2,500 in your account and qualify for relationship rates.

To do this, you can set up a direct deposit into another account in one of the following amounts:

  1. $500 to a Standard checking account
  2. $2,000 to a Performance checking account
  3. $5,000 to a Performance Select checking account

Alternatively, you can also qualify for the higher rates by making at least five purchases with your PNC Bank credit or debit card.

If you’re not able to meet these requirements for the higher relationship interest rates, you’ll only earn a measly 0.01% APY on your savings. That’s as low as you can go while still technically saying it does earn interest.

Furthermore, there are many hidden-fee traps with this account. For example, if you don’t meet another set of requirements to waive the monthly account fee, you’ll pay a $5 monthly account fee.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $25
  • Interest rate : 0.01% APY on balances over $1.00
  • Relationship interest rate : 0.05% APY on balances between $1.00 and $2,499.99. 0.10% APY on balances over $2,500.
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : $5
  • How to waive the account maintenance fee :
    1. Keep $300 in your savings account
    2. Be under age 18
    3. Transfer at least $25 from this account to an Auto Savings account
  • ATM fees : No charge at PNC Bank ATMs. $3 for every domestic non-PNC Bank ATM transaction, and $5 for every international non-PNC Bank ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds : None
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if closed within 180 days of opening
  • Regulation D violation fee : You get six free transactions per month, as per Federal Regulation D. After that, you’ll pay $15 per transaction.

At least the bank does make it easy to open an account if you decide you want to go this route. You can do it online, over the phone, or at a local branch. You’ll need just a few minutes of your time along with a photo ID, basic personal information and a way to fund your new account.

“S” is for Savings

Fun savings tools for children, but don’t expect to teach them about earning interest.

It can be tough to teach young ones about money, but this savings account can help in a few ways. Children can set savings goals for things like a new bike or a toy.

When money is deposited into the account, children are presented with a visual of three buckets that they can choose to put the money in:

  1. Saving (for later)
  2. Sharing (to be given to charity or other people)
  3. Spending (to be spent right away)

Even cooler is an interactive learning center where young savers can learn about basic money management from “Sesame Street” characters.

These features are great for teaching basic financial concepts, except for one thing: how compound interest works. This account earns a rock-bottom interest rate of 0.01% APY. Since your child probably isn’t going to be saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in this account, he or she won’t really be able to see compound interest in action.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $25
  • Interest rate : 0.01% APY on balances over $1
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : $5
  • How to waive the account maintenance fee :
    1. Be under age 18
    2. Keep at least $300 in this account
    3. Transfer at least $25 from this account to an Auto Savings account each month
  • ATM fees : No charge at PNC Bank ATMs. $3 for every domestic non-PNC Bank ATM transaction, and $5 for every international non-PNC Bank ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds : None
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if you close the account within 180 days of opening.

Luckily, this account is pretty easy to open. All you need is a photo ID for yourself (not your child), a way to fund the account, and your child’s personal information. It only takes a few minutes to complete an application, which you can do online, in person at a local branch or over the phone.

PNC CD Rates

PNC Bank offers a diverse set of CDs, which is great because it provides you with the most flexibility for your personal situation. Not everyone is able or willing to use a one-size-fits-all CD.

The rates offered for these CDs fall well short of national averages, however. If you’re looking to maximize the amount of return for your money, there are many better options.

Read on for more on PNC’s CD offerings:

Fixed-rate CDs

Large amounts of cash needed for below-average returns.

To get started with a PNC Bank Fixed Rate CD, you’ll need a deposit of at least $1,000. The bank will notify you and give you a 10-day grace period when your CD term is due to allow you to decide what to do with it (withdraw, or renew?). If you do nothing, the CD will automatically renew with the same term.

Although PNC Bank does allow CDs with a deposit of as little as $1, there’s a hidden catch: deposit amounts between $1 and $999.99 are only available for CDs that are being renewed — which means you can’t start out at this level with your first deposit amount.

Furthermore, the rates offered for their CDs are again very low.

For example, the average national rates for a 1-year and 5-year CD are 0.63% APY and 1.56% APY with a $1,000 deposit, respectively. But PNC Bank? They’re just 0.13% APY and 0.60% APY, respectively—less than half the national average.

Standard CD rates

 

$1.00 - $999.99

$1k - $9,999.99

$10k - $24,999.9

$25k - $99,999.99

$100k - $499,999.99

$500k +

1 month

0.04%

0.05%

0.05%

0.05%

0.05%

0.05%

3 months

0.04%

0.05%

0.06%

0.07%

0.08%

0.09%

6 months

0.04%

0.06%

0.08%

0.10%

0.12%

0.14%

12 months

0.04%

0.13%

0.15%

0.18%

0.20%

0.22%

18 months

0.04%

0.18%

0.25%

0.28%

0.30%

0.35%

24 months

0.04%

0.25%

0.30%

0.35%

0.38%

0.43%

36 months

0.04%

0.30%

0.35%

0.38%

0.40%

0.45%

48 months

0.04%

0.50%

0.55%

0.65%

0.70%

0.75%

60 months

0.04%

0.60%

0.70%

0.90%

0.95%

1.0%

84 months

0.04%

0.90%

0.95%

1.05%

1.15%

1.25%

120 months

0.04%

1.10%

1.20%

1.30%

1.40%

1.50%

Promotional rates

$1.00 - $999.99

$1k - $9,999.99

$10k - $24,999.99

$25k - $99,999.99

$100k - $499,999.99

$500k +

9 months

0.04%

0.06%

0.08%

0.10%

0.12%

0.15%

Rates as of Nov. 10, 2017

  • Minimum deposit amount : $1,000
  • Interest compounded : Monthly
  • How interest is paid : Deposited into your CD account monthly
  • Grace period : 10 days to decide whether to renew or withdraw the CD
  • Early withdrawal penalties : For CDs with terms between 3 months and one year, you’ll lose the amount of interest you would have earned. For CDs with terms over one year, you’ll lose six months’ worth of interest.

If you do decide to open a Fixed Rate CD, you’ll need a bit more information than with a standard checking or savings account. You’ll need current personal and employment information, and a photo ID. You can apply online, at a local branch, or over the phone.

Ready Access CDs

A better option to earn higher interest rates and skirt around the rules of PNC Bank’s savings account.

CDs can be tough to invest with. On one hand, they offer higher rates than a savings account. But, if something comes up and you need the cash, you generally can’t withdraw it without paying an early withdrawal fee that could wipe out your earnings.

You can withdraw the money from this CD at any time penalty-free after the account has been open for at least seven days. These CDs will also automatically renew, meaning they’re a great option to store your emergency savings to earn a higher interest rate. In a worst-case scenario, you won’t be able to pull the money out within a brief seven-day period each year without incurring an early withdrawal fee.

Otherwise, it’s a great way to skirt around the rules and fees of their savings account while still earning a higher rate.

Term

APY

Minimum Balance Amount

3 months

0.05%

$1,000

12 months

0.15%

$1,000

Rates as of Nov. 10, 2017

  • Minimum deposit amount : $1,000
  • Interest compounded : Monthly
  • How interest is paid : Deposited into your CD account monthly
  • Grace period : 10 days to decide whether to renew or withdraw the CD
  • Early withdrawal penalties : You will forfeit any interest earned.

You can open a Ready Access CD online, over the phone or in-person at a local branch. You’ll need a photo ID, employment and personal information, and a way to fund your new account.

Callable CDs

Higher rates that still underperform national averages with added fine print.

If the rates of PNC Bank’s Fixed Rate CDs left you feeling a bit underwhelmed, you do have an opportunity to earn a slightly higher rate with Callable CDs. Still these rates are around half of what national averages are for these CD term lengths.

The way it works is a little confusing. PNC Bank has the right to call back its CD if it decides the interest rate isn’t working in its favor. This just means that it’ll pay out what you’ve already earned instead of paying a higher interest rate for the full term length of the CD. It can only call back the CD after you’ve had it open for 12 months (for a 36-month Callable CD), or 24 months (for a 60-month Callable).

If this happens, you’ll get an advance notice of the actual “call date” of the CD. After this date, you’ll have 10 full days to decide whether you want to withdraw the cash or renew it into another CD. If you do nothing, the bank will automatically roll the funds over into a 12-month fixed-rate CD.

Term

APY

Minimum Balance Amount

36 months

0.50%

$10,000

60 months

1.10%

$10,000

Rates as of Nov. 10, 2017

  • Minimum deposit amount : $10,000
  • Interest compounded : Monthly
  • How interest is paid : Deposited into your CD account monthly
  • Grace period : 10 days to decide whether to renew or withdraw the CD
  • Early withdrawal penalties : Six months’ worth of interest.

Getting a Callable CD is relatively straightforward, but you’ll need a few pieces of information. You can open an account over the phone, in person at a local branch or online. You’ll need a photo ID, employment and personal information, and a way to fund your new CD.

Variable-rate CDs

Earn fair rates through a changing interest rate environment.

You’ve probably heard all the kerfuffle surrounding the Federal Reserve changing interest rates. That can cause banks to change their own CD rates, and if you’re locked into a long-term CD, that change might not be in your favor.

Instead, PNC Bank offers an option for these scenarios. You can choose from just one term length — 18 months — and the interest rate you earn will be tied to the current price of a three-month Treasury Bill. Right now, as of November 2017, that’s running at 1.17% APY.

After the 18-month period is up, your variable-rate CD will renew into another CD of the same type.

  • Minimum deposit amount:$1,000
  • Interest compounded: Monthly
  • How interest is paid: Deposited into your CD account monthly
  • Grace period:10 days to decide whether to renew or withdraw the CD
  • Early withdrawal penalties:You’ll lose six months’ worth of interest.

To open a Variable Rate CD, you’ll need a few things. You’ll need to provide personal information and employment history, as well as a photo ID. You can apply in person at a local branch, over the phone or online.

Step-rate CDs

Frequent access to your cash with an unknown earning potential.

If you want more frequent access to your money but don’t want to commit to a Ready Access CD, then a step-rate CD might be right for you. This CD is available in 36-month term lengths, which are further subdivided into six six-month terms.

Every six months you’re given a 10-day period where you can withdraw your cash penalty-free if you wish. If you choose to leave it in the account, the interest rate will be bumped up a notch each time.

The downside of this CD is that the lender won’t tell you what the interest rates for each step are until you sign up for an account. So, it’ll be a surprise!

  • Minimum deposit amount : $2,500
  • Interest compounded : Monthly
  • How interest is paid : Deposited into your CD account monthly
  • Grace period : 10 days to decide whether to renew or withdraw the CD
  • Early withdrawal penalties : You’ll lose six months’ worth of interest.

To open a Step Rate CD, simply go online, call PNC Bank, or visit them in person if you live near a local branch. You’ll need to provide them with basic personal and employment information, and a photo ID.

PNC Bank Money Market Accounts

For most products, PNC Bank offers below-average rates. Its money market account is one exception — if you can meet the added requirements. Otherwise, you’ll earn measly rates and might actually lose money if you have to pay the monthly account fee.

The higher rates offered for customers who qualify are actually right on par with national averages. But, as with the rest of their products, you can still find better account rates and terms with other banks.

PNC Bank’s basic money market account isn’t anything to write home about on its own. But, if you can take advantage of the higher rates offered if you have a Performance Checking or Performance Select Checking account, you can actually earn decent returns on your savings.

To qualify for these higher interest rates, you’ll need to meet at least one of these other requirements in addition to having the extra checking account:

  1. Set up a monthly direct deposit amount ($2,000 to a Performance Checking account, or $5,000 to a Performance Select Checking account)
  2. Make at least five purchases a month with your PNC credit or debit card

Just be sure to watch out for the hidden fees, especially the monthly account maintenance fee. If you’re not able to keep $5,000 in your account, it’ll be a $12 fee each month.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $100
  • Maximum opening deposit : $10,000
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : $12
  • How to waive the account maintenance fee : Keep at least $5,000 in your account.
  • ATM fees : No charge at PNC Bank ATMs. $3 for every domestic non-PNC Bank ATM transaction, and $5 for every international non-PNC Bank ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds : None
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if closed within 180 days of opening
  • Regulation D violation fee : You get six free transactions per month, as per Federal Regulation D. After that, you’ll pay $15 per transaction.

Balance to earn interest

Standard APY

APY when linked to Performance Checking

APY when linked to Performance Select Checking

$1.00 - $9,999.99

0.03%

0.25%

0.60%

$10k - $24,999.99

0.09%

0.27%

0.60%

$25k - $49,999.99

0.11%

0.30%

0.70%

$50k - $99,999.99

0.13%

0.32%

0.80%

$100k - $249,999.99

0.15%

0.35%

0.85%

$250k - $499,999.99

0.15%

0.35%

0.85%

$500k - $999,999.99

0.17%

0.35%

1.00%

$1M and above

0.17%

0.35%

1.00%

Rates as of Nov. 10, 2017

To sign up for a PNC Bank Money Market account, you’ll need to apply either online, in person at a local branch, or over the phone. You’ll need a photo ID, and be able to provide bank account or credit card numbers to provide an opening deposit. Finally, you’ll also need to provide PNC Bank with basic personal information.

PNC IRA CDs

Unfortunately, PNC Bank falls short of the mark for Fixed Rate IRA CDs as well. The rates offered are measly compared with those of competitors, even when you look at the longest-running CDs with the highest deposit amounts. If you’re looking to grow your money, you can find better rates and terms for IRA CDs elsewhere.

Furthermore, there are fees to watch out for with this account. Unless you come to the table with a $2,000 minimum deposit, you’ll have to pay an annual account fee. If you ever want to transfer your money out of the bank, you’ll need to pay another fee. These fees could really eat into your already-tiny earnings.

Fixed-rate IRA CD account

Low rates for high-fee retirement savings.

This is one of the safest options around for growing your savings. PNC Bank offers multiple term lengths and rate tiers depending on how much money you want to invest and for how long.

Although it does offer IRA CDs in amounts from $1.00-$999.99, you actually can’t start your account with these. You can only renew existing IRA CDs in this amount, meaning that you’ll need to bring at least $1,000 to the table if you want to open an account.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $1,000
  • Annual custodian fee : $25
  • How to waive the annual custodian fee : Keep at least $2,000 in your account.
  • Interest compounded : Monthly
  • How interest is paid : Deposited into your CD account monthly
  • Transfer fee : $25 if transferring money to another PNC savings or checking account, or to another bank.
  • Grace period : 10 days to decide whether to renew or withdraw the CD
  • Early withdrawal penalties : For Fixed Rate IRAs with terms between three months and one year, you’ll lose the amount of interest you would have earned. For CDs with terms over one year, you’ll lose six months’ worth of interest.

Standard rates

 

$1.00 - $999.99

$1k - $9,999.99

$10k - $24,999.99

$25k - $99,999.99

$100k - $499,999.99

$500k +

6 months

0.04%

0.06%

0.08%

0.10%

0.12%

0.14%

12 months

0.04%

0.13%

0.15%

0.18%

0.20%

0.22%

18 months

0.04%

0.18%

0.25%

0.28%

0.30%

0.35%

24 months

0.04%

0.25%

0.30%

0.35%

0.38%

0.43%

36 months

0.04%

0.30%

0.35%

0.38%

0.40%

0.45%

48 months

0.04%

0.50%

0.55%

0.65%

0.70%

0.75%

60 months

0.04%

0.60%

0.70%

0.90%

0.95%

1.00%

84 months

0.04%

0.90%

0.95%

1.05%

1.15%

1.25%

120 months

0.04%

1.10%

1.20%

1.30%

1.40%

1.50%

Rates as of Nov. 10, 2017


Promotional rates

9-month fixed term

Fixed rate only

Fixed rate with Choice/Premium plan

Fixed Rate with Performance/Performance Select/VW Performance

$1.00 - $999.99

0.04%

0.24%

0.29%

Rates as of Nov. 10, 2017

If you’d like to open a fixed-rate IRA CD account with PNC Bank, you’ll need to block out about 15 minutes of time from your day. You can apply over the phone, online or in person at a local branch.

New IRA account offer

PNC Bank is offering a nice promotion when you sign up for a new IRA Account until Dec. 31, 2017. First, you’ll need to sign up to receive the sign-up bonus coupon. After that, you’ll need to call up PNC Bank or visit a local branch in-person to open your account. You cannot take advantage of this sign-up bonus by signing up for an account online.

You’ll also need a hefty deposit amount to be able to take advantage of this offer. You’ll earn the following sign-up bonus based on your deposit amount:

  • $50 sign-up bonus for a $20,000 deposit
  • $100 sign-up bonus for a $50,000 deposit
  • $200 sign-up bonus for a $100,000 deposit
  • $600 sign-up bonus for a $250,000 deposit
  • $1500 sign-up bonus for a $500,000 deposit

PNC Bank’s Student Virtual Wallet® Review

Great account package for young adults to learn money management skills.

PNC Bank offers all the functionality and perks of its regular Virtual Wallet® package (Spend, Reserve, and Growth accounts) with added bonuses for students. One of these great features is parental alerts, so parents can also see, along with students, when the account balance is low.

This account package also comes with helpful financial education. It provides in-person financial education seminars if you’re lucky enough to have a local branch on your campus.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $25
  • Interest rate : The Spend account does not earn interest. The Reserve and Growth accounts earn 0.01% APY. If you meet qualifications (such as making at least five debit transactions per month from your Spend account), you can earn up to 0.10% APY with your Grow account.
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : None if you provide proof that you’re actively enrolled in an educational institution. Status expires 6 years from when you open the account.
  • ATM fees : No charge at PNC Bank ATMs. $3 for every domestic non-PNC Bank ATM transaction, and $5 for every international non-PNC Bank ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds : Two per month. ATM surcharges (i.e., the extra fee the ATM’s owner tacks on) are not refunded.
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5. They will not charge you if you set up Overdraft Protection Transfer from your Reserve or Grow accounts.
  • Overdraft fee courtesy pay : Your first overdraft fee within 12 months of account opening will be refunded.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if you close the account within 180 days of opening.
    Opening an account is the same as for the regular Virtual Wallet® accounts. In addition, you’ll need some way to prove that you actually are a student for this particular account.

Overall review of PNC Bank

We’ll be honest. PNC Bank really does offer some neat money management tools, especially with its Virtual Wallet® and “S” is for Savings® accounts. These accounts come with seamless tools that help you to simplify your hectic financial life.

But that doesn’t mean these are the only places you can get these tools. Other financial products such as Mint or FamZoo can also do just about everything that the Virtual Wallet® does. You’ll have to do research and piecemeal these tools together to create a custom package for you, but it is possible to replace all the functionality of the PNC offerings with other products.

Furthermore, PNC Bank offers rock-bottom rates and super-high fees for most of its banking products. Unless you’re a model customer, these fees have the potential to wipe out your meager earnings.

Instead, you can search for higher-earning, more transparent checking and savings accounts elsewhere and finding your own budgeting and savings tools to help you manage your money. That way, you’ll have the best of both worlds: custom ways to simplify your finances and, with luck and due diligence, the highest-earning accounts possible.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

Lindsay VanSomeren is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lindsay here

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

News

Confessions of a Thanksgiving Caterer  

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

thanksgiving caterer
iStock


Using a caterer to prepare a holiday meal can cost a pretty penny — up to $150 per person for a party with 18 to 20 guests, according to the National Association for Catering and Events.

The beauty of outsourcing your holiday feast, however, is the countless hours you’ll save on shopping, cooking and cleanup. 

If you hire a full-service caterer, you’re not just paying for someone else to cook the perfect turkey and stuffing. Catering services can include setup, cleanup, utensils,  flatware and servers.  

We asked professional caterers to share insights about their job and tips that even budget-conscious holiday hosts can use to make holiday catering more affordable.   

“Host Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday — or earlier.”

Choosing to have your Thanksgiving meal catered before Thanksgiving could help you save on labor costs, says Lisa Carruth, a spokeswoman for the National Association for Catering and Events 

Many caterers charge a minimum amount based on the number of guests or the amount of food. Paying to have staff for a catering event can cost m 

ore because they are working on holidays, when companies typically provide extra pay. 

Your food is going to cost the same no matter the day, but caterers may require that you meet a higher spending minimum to book events on certain days, says Carruth, who also is the director of catering at Braeburn Country Club in Houston. The higher minimums offset the cost of paying staff.  

For example, events held on holidays and weekends generally have higher minimums. 

“Buffets aren’t always the best way to save.”

The common perception is that a buffet is less expensive, but plated meals can sometimes be cheaper, depending on the caterer and the size of an event. A carving station for your turkey or ham also will increase your cost because of the labor required, so consider cutting that to save money. 

“With a buffet, if you have a 100 people, you have to prepare 110 of everything because you have to assume that everyone’s going to take one of everything,” Carruth explains. “Whereas, with a plated dinner, portion sizes are controlled.”  

Buffets typically have more options—such as two entrees—than a plated meal, too, which also can lead to additional costs. When deciding between a buffet and a plated meal, check with your caterer’s pricing before making a wrong assumption about the cheapest option.  

“Heavy hors d’oeuvres sometimes cost as much as plated meals.”

A heavy hors d’oeuvres party can cost as much, if not more, than both plated meals and buffets because they can be labor-intensive affairs, Carruth says. First, they require making tiny bites by hand and making enough pieces to satisfy appetites. You need to make enough hors d’oeuvres to replace what people would typically eat for an entire meal.  

They also often require servers on hand to make sure the small bites are passed around the room and that platters are refilled as they empty.  

But if you want to do an hors d’oeuvres-heavy party and save money, you can have the food set up on tables without a wait staff. 

“So while you’re spending more money on the catering itself, you’re not going to pay for so much labor because everything can just be dropped off, set up and you can typically take care of it based on the size of your group,” she says. 

“To-go will always win over on-site service.”

Picking up your food for Thanksgiving can help significantly reduce your total bill.  

According to the NACE, pickup catering averages $45 per person because staff or service item charges are not included. 

“Many restaurants and caterers offer Thanksgiving meals to go, and allow you to bring your own dishes, so it looks like you cooked,” says Carruth.  

You can save generally 20-30 percent on the total bill because you won’t have to pay for staffing or delivery, she says. Many of these “Thanksgiving to-go” meals are cost effective because everything is done in bulk, and then portioned out for individual orders. 

“Don’t rent your utensils from us.”

Providing your own items, such as flatware, glassware and plates, can save you money. You can buy them for less at a discount online or at party supply stores. 

NACE says utensils can be rented from anywhere, at 15 cents apiece and up, but  when the caterer supplies utensils, it takes on the liability and the time and money spent to set up, deliver and clean them. The minimal price is offset by the convenience factor, according to NACE. 

The majority of caterers include the dinnerware and build the cost into the per-person pricing structure, according to NACE. If they do charge separately, they typically line-item it out so you can see the costs. 

“Book your caterer early and be upfront about your budget.”

You typically need to book your caterer three months in advance, but Thanksgiving catering can often be booked more short-term because it is less in demand than Christmas or New Year’s Eve. 

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, for a lot of companies, that’s what called the season. We’re pretty much crazy-busy from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve,” says Carruth.  

When booking a caterer, it’s easier for caterers to first know your budget, and then come up with creative ideas of what they can do with it. “Say, ‘Here’s what I have. What can you do for me?’ ” she says. 

Melanie Fincher
Melanie Fincher |

Melanie Fincher is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Melanie at melanie+mandi@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

News

Are Braces Really Worth the Cost?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

iStock

Whether it’s for themselves or their children, many people are at some point forced to decide if braces are a worthy investment. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children have their first orthodontia checkup by age 7.  

Orthodontic treatment is becoming increasingly more commonplace, leading to industry growth, more patients and more money for practitioners. Worldwide, the industry has reached $11 billion in revenue, according to a 2016 market research report by IbisWorld. (Though this represents only a modest pace of revenue growth, demand is soaring, the report found.)  

An estimated 5.41 million patients in North America sought orthodontic treatment in 2014, according to the most recent data from the AAO. Annual salaries for orthodontists in the United States have increased to $228,780 annually in May 2016, up from $186,320 in May 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Still, the debate over braces remains largely a financial one, as parents have to consider if the long term effects justify the expense, or if their their children’s dental problems aren’t severe enough to warrant the cost. 

How expensive are braces?

Comprehensive treatment for children ranged from $4,685 to $6,500, and adults ranged from $4,800 to $7,135, according to data from the American Dental Association cited by the AAO. BracesInfo.com offers a free calculator tool that lets you estimate prices based on location 

Still, prices can vary widely based on location, with practices in larger cities tending to charge more. Rates are also dependent on the length of the treatment itself, which on average lasts about 24 months. With these variables in mind, ValuePenguin, a financial site, estimates the entire process could range from $3,000 to $10,000.  

Dr. Nahid Maleki, president of the AAO, says many orthodontists offer initial consultations for little to no cost. 

Learning the costs beforehand is the only way to make a truly informed decision, says Dr. Dawn Pruzansky, the administrative director of the Arizona School of Dental and Oral Health postgraduate orthodontic program in Mesa, Ariz. 

“When you look at the overall price, it does seem to be a bit daunting,” says Pruzansky, who owns a practice in Glendale, Ariz. “Just go get the consultation and don’t automatically think that it can’t be done.” 

When are braces worth the price?

While some parents may want to take a “wait and see” approach to braces, Maleki says there are certain dental problems that should be resolved before a child gets too old, as many irregular bone structures can’t be fixed after a person gains all their permanent teeth. Additionally, an improper bite can cause permanent damage to the teeth, making some damage irreversible after adolescence. 

“We can prevent problems from developing fully,” but a child cannot “un-grow” undesirable growth in their bones, says Maleki, who has a practice in Washington, D.C. 

However, there are problems that may not require immediate action. While Pruzansky notes that issues such as overcrowding won’t resolve themselves, she says dental problems that don’t inhibit a person’s ability to speak or eat properly — for example, minor spacing flaws — don’t normally justify braces.  

In these cases, it may be feasible to wait until adulthood to re-evaluate the situation. Pruzansky says holding off on treatment can be beneficial because adults can be more compliant, meaning they’re usually more likely than children to do what it takes to get the most out of having braces.  

“Sometimes it’s hard to get kids to understand the importance of braces,” she says, “or to get them to wear their retainers afterward.” 

This decision to wait seems to be growing in popularity. The number of adults receiving orthodontic care throughout North America increased by 67 percent from 1989 to 2014, the most recent data available, and 27 percent of all patients — 1.46 million people — were adults, according to AAO estimates from its membership of 19,000 orthodontists. The increase may  be due in part to the price difference between age groups, as ValuePenguin estimates that, on average, braces for adults cost only about $150 more than they do for children.  

What if I can’t afford braces?

There are a number of payment plans available, most of which involve making consistent monthly payments on a low-interest loan, typically giving you around five years to pay off the total.  

There also are no-interest plans, typically in the form of medical expense credit cards that have to be paid off in less timeCareCredit, which has financing options ranging between six and 24 months, is a popular example. Just watch out for deferred interest clauses, which can result in hefty fees if you don’t pay off the debt before the 0 percent intro period is over.  

Pruzansky says she also has seen patients use their Health Savings Account (HSA) — a special pretax account — to pay for braces. HSAs can typically be used to pay for orthodontic treatment, but check with your bank.  

Additionally, getting braces through a dental school could help save on certain fees, as some schools will charge only for materials and equipment 

While the most cost-effective solution may differ from situation to situation, Pruzansky says people are often surprised by the number of affordable options they actually have at their disposal.  

“I never want someone not to start simply because they can’t afford it,” Pruzansky says. “I don’t know any private practice that doesn’t offer some kind of interest-free financing.” 

Dillon Thompson
Dillon Thompson |

Dillon Thompson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Dillon here

TAGS: ,

Do you have a question?