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Life Events

7 Ways to Lower the Cost of Divorce

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.

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As a newlywed, the very last thing on your mind is probably getting divorced. But, unfortunately, divorce is something you may encounter — there were over 813,000 divorces in 2014 alone, according to the latest CDC data, compared to 2.1 million new marriages.

The cost of getting divorced can be just as expensive as getting married. Some estimate the legal fees alone can cost thousands of dollars, not to mention other costs that may be involved in changing your life post-divorce.

The difference is, when you get married you likely had time to prepare your finances. This may not always be the case when you get ready to get divorced.

So, what can you do if you can’t afford to get divorced? Here are some options that may be able to help lower the high cost of divorce.

Shop around for the right attorney

Brette Hankin, a business development manager for S&T Communications in Colby, Kan., says she visited several divorce attorneys to find one that was within her price range.

“The first lawyer I talked to said the retainer fee would be $10,000,” she says. “There was no way I could afford that.”

Eventually, Hankin visited other attorneys in her community and was able to find one who was more affordable.

“The lawyer I chose had a $5,000 retainer fee and was willing to return whatever money was not used for my case,” she says.

Ask friends and family for referrals to good attorneys in your area, or see if your state’s bar association has a way to search for attorneys specializing in divorce/family law.

Work out a “limited scope” arrangement or a payment plan

To help clients who may not be able to pay for their entire legal fees up front, some attorneys may also be willing to take payment plans, or work in a limited scope. Limited scope means they only handle certain parts of your case and you can handle the others.

“In cases where a client cannot afford traditional representation, I will sometimes represent a client in what is referred to as limited scope representation,” says Darlene Wanger, Esq., an attorney based in Los Angeles. “This means that I could represent a client for a single hearing, and then I am no longer the attorney of record.”

To cut costs even more, Wanger says she sometimes acts behind the scenes as a consulting attorney, helping clients fill out paperwork and working through the process without appearing in court.

“Never appearing in court can save a very large expense,” Wanger says.

If you still feel sticker shock at the cost of your legal fees, ask your attorney if you can work out a payment plan. This can help relieve some of the pressure to pay their fees all at once.

Reduce your filing fees

If you’re the spouse filing the divorce petition, ask about the filing fee with your local courthouse. The fee for filing a divorce petition varies based on the state and county in which you live and file your divorce. Filing fees can vary from $70 in Wyoming to $435 in California.

For simple divorces, without children or a large amount of property, you can usually fill out the petition yourself. This can save you from paying attorney fees.

Many individuals who are unable to afford a divorce don’t realize that they can get the divorce petition filing fee waived as well. A judge will review a written affidavit stating your economic hardship so the filing fee can be waived.

Keep things amicable (if possible)

When people think that they can’t afford to get divorced, it’s usually because they’ve heard about long, drawn-out court battles that cost thousands. But if you work with your spouse as much as possible, you can save a lot of money on attorney fees and court costs.

For example, after the filing of a divorce petition, the responding spouse will generally file an answer, even if they agree with everything stated in the petition.

While this can speed up the divorce process, it will cost more money. Any time an answer is filed with the court, it is subject to another filing fee. You could apply for the fee to be waived again, or if you and your spouse are in agreement, the answer could be written as a formality but not filed with the court.

Filing a joint petition for divorce can also save money as neither spouse would have to be served by a sheriff or certified mail.

Get divorced for free

Lizzie Lau, a 47-year-old travel blogger, used as many resources as she could to help her save money during her divorce. She was able to get divorced for free in California, the state with the highest filing fee.

“Initially, I assumed I would have to pay several hundred dollars in filing fees even though I had no income and no support,” Lau says. “But I went to the courthouse and talked to them. I was told that based on my income the fee would be waived, and as long as we didn’t go to court, it would be free. Although, they told me it was pretty rare for a divorce to go through without going to court. I assured them that I was going to be the exception to the rule.”

Lau got the filing fee waived for her petition. Plus, she and her spouse worked together to avoid other costs. Because they were in agreement, he didn’t file a response, and they were able to get divorced without appearing in court, saving them from paying for attorneys and other court costs.

File a pro se divorce

Part of Lau’s strategy included filling out her own legal paperwork and representing herself for her divorce case. This is called a pro se divorce, meaning you represent yourself without an attorney.

This is not a strategy that would work well for divorce cases involving disputes over child custody or property and asset division.

There are a wealth of resources online that can assist people with filing pro se divorces by explaining things in common language.

Prepare for life after divorce

One of the other overlooked costs of getting divorced is the cost to set up a new household. In Hankin’s case, her ex-husband kept the family home while she moved to an apartment.

“He offered to let me stay in the family home, but I couldn’t afford the house payment,” she says. “Instead I got an income-based apartment.”

In other cases, assets may have to be sold if neither party can afford to keep them. Hankin says she got financial help from her parents and did her best to save money and live frugally.

“You don’t think about the costs of setting up a new household until you have to do it,” Hankin says. “Getting pots and pans, furniture, restocking your pantry. All of those things you never think about. We were married for 19 years before we got divorced.”

Hankin shopped at garage sales to save as much as possible. She also got a second job and cashed in her retirement savings. “I felt that it was my only option,” she says. “Now I’m starting from scratch to save for retirement again.”

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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What You Should Know Before Using CareCredit to Pay for Medical Expenses

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.

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It’s no secret that medical expenses can be very costly in the United States. Since 2011, average family insurance premiums, even for people with employer-provided plans, have increased by 20 percent.

With out-of-pocket health care costs and insurance premiums skyrocketing, many people are turning to credit cards designated for medical expenses like CareCredit to help them pay for health care expenses over time.

But before you sign up for CareCredit to cover your next medical bill, here’s what you need to know.

A warning about those 0% financing offers

CareCredit is a credit card you can use at any of more than 200,000 health and wellness providers in the United States — from doctor’s offices to drugstores like Rite Aid.

Why turn to CareCredit instead of a regular credit card for medical expenses?

The biggest draw is the company’s frequent 0% financing specials for six to 24 months on qualifying purchases $200 or more, when you make the minimum monthly payments and pay the full amount due by the end of the promotional period.

The opportunity to put approved medical expenses on a 0% credit card and breathe easy for up to two years has huge appeal. But there’s one big caveat everyone should understand when it comes to CareCredit — deferred interest.

When you sign up for the CareCredit financing on a purchase of $200 to $999, deferred interest rate applies. This means that if you don’t have the full purchase paid off by the end of the promotional period, you will be charged retroactive interest at an APR of 26.99% from the date of your original purchase on the card. (We give an example of how the math works out below.)

Unfortunately, this is something customers could easily forget about, and it doesn’t help that the minimum monthly payment shown on your statement isn’t necessarily enough to get the entire balance paid off on or before the end of the special financing period. You should do the math yourself to make sure you’re paying enough each month to make the most of interest-free financing.

How CareCredit works

Now that you understand the risk that comes with a CareCredit account, let’s cover some of the details of what the company offers.

For larger purchases of $1,000 or more, CareCredit offers terms of up to 60 months with a reduced APR and fixed monthly payments until paid in full.

$200 to $999: Borrow at 0% for 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. Variable rate of 26.99% applies after promotional period ends.

$1,000 to $2,499: Borrow at 0% for 24, 36, or 48 months with an APR of 14.9%.

$2,500 and up: Borrow at 0% for 24, 36, 48, or 60 months with an APR of 16.9%.

How to apply

You can apply online on the CareCredit website or by phone at 1-800-677-0718. You can also apply at most health care providers’ offices if they are part of the network that accepts CareCredit to pay for services.

Like most credit card applications, you will need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, net income and housing information. But unlike most credit card applications, you will also need to specify your doctor’s name and how you plan to use your CareCredit credit card if you aren’t applying in a doctor’s office. Once approved, you can use your CareCredit credit card again and again at participating health care providers.

CareCredit approvals are usually immediate, so you can find out right away if you can pay for your medical services with CareCredit. Synchrony, the bank that issues CareCredit, did not respond to phone and email requests for information on the credit standing needed to qualify for CareCredit.

What can CareCredit be used for?

As mentioned earlier, there are more than 200,000 enrolled providers that accept CareCredit in the United States. These include many different types of medical and health care providers and procedures, such as:

  • Chiropractic
  • Cosmetic
  • Dentistry
  • Hearing
  • LASIK and Vision
  • Primary and Urgent Care
  • Weight Loss
  • Health Care Specialists

You might even be able to use CareCredit to pay for veterinary care for your four-legged family members, if your veterinarian participates and accepts CareCredit in their office.

Fine print alert

While there’s no application fee or fee for using the special financing offered by CareCredit, there are still some things you need to watch out for.

The first, which we covered previously, is the high interest rate charged if you don’t pay your balance off in full by the end of the promotional period. The interest rate of 26.99% is very high, and as mentioned, it will be charged in arrears from the time you made your purchase.

For example, if you charge $1,200 to your CareCredit at 0% for six months and only pay the minimum payment each month (between $39 and $33), your balance will be $982 at the end of the six-month period, plus accrued interest of $152, totaling $1,134. If you continue making only the minimum payment, it will take you 96 months (eight years) to pay off your balance and cost you $2,693. However, if you paid $200 a month, you’d pay off the $1,200 bill within six months at no extra cost.

Source: CareCredit

The late payment fee for CareCredit can be up to $38. Plus, paying late even once may result in you losing your promotional 0% interest rate.

Who is CareCredit best for?

Because of the fact that CareCredit will charge interest from the time of your purchase if your balance is not paid in full by the end of a promotional period, the only time you should use CareCredit to finance your medical costs is if you are 100 percent certain you can pay it off within or before the end of that time frame.

This might be a good idea if you have already saved up the cash for a medical procedure and you can continue earning interest on it in your savings account. By earning interest on your savings and paying 0% interest with CareCredit, you can actually save money on your medical bill. This could still be risky: You never know if something might happen that could cause you to no longer be able to afford to pay off your CareCredit balance as you had planned.

Alternatives to CareCredit

Ask the billing department for a payment plan

Many health care providers offer patients no-interest payment plans, but you may not know about it unless you ask. Tell the billing department what you can afford to pay monthly and see what your options are for spreading out the cost of your treatment.

Use your emergency fund

If you know you incur a lot of medical bills or don’t want to rely on credit when they come around, make saving for medical expenses or adding to your emergency fund part of your regular budget. That way, if an emergency happens, you’re much less likely to go into debt paying for it.

Open a credit card with 0% financing for purchases or balance transfers

There are many credit cards available with 0% interest rates from six months to 21 months that don’t require you to pay off your purchase in full to avoid interest from back when you first made the purchase. Even if you can’t pay off the entire purchase before the end of the 0% interest period, you could try doing a balance transfer to keep your interest rate low, but even if you leave your balance on that credit card, it probably has a lower interest rate than the 26.99% offered by CareCredit. Here are some of your best options for a 0% credit card.

Take out a personal loan

If you can qualify for a personal loan with a low interest rate, you’ll have fixed monthly payments, and you may be able to extend them longer than the terms offered by CareCredit. We’ve rounded up some of the places you can get the best personal loan rates online, and you can read about them here.

Don’t get caught at the checkout counter at your doctor’s office and end up making the wrong decision. Make sure you’ve carefully considered your options before you decide if you want to sign up for CareCredit to pay for your medical costs.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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Student Loan ReFi

Should You Refinance Your Student Loans with a Credit Card?

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.

Using a balance transfer credit card can be a great way to lower the interest rates on your debt to help you save money and pay your debt off faster. Most people only think about doing a balance transfer with high-interest credit card debt, but recently I’ve been considering a 0% interest balance transfer credit card to help me pay off my student loan.

After making my final credit card payment to be credit card debt free, I started thinking about how I could use a balance transfer offer extended by my creditor to help pay off other types of debt I still have. Since the highest interest debt I have remaining is my student loan, this is what I’m considering refinancing with a 0% interest balance transfer. My student loan only has a remaining balance of about $6,000, which means I could transfer the entire balance to the credit card and pay it off before the promotional rate expires, if I pay it off aggressively.

Of course, there are lots of reasons why you could choose to refinance or consolidate your student loans. I was curious whether or not a balance transfer could be a viable option as well.

Here are some of the pros and cons you should consider before deciding to refinance your student loans with a balance transfer credit card.

Benefits of Refinancing Student Loans with a Balance Transfer Credit Card

There are several benefits you could take advantage of by refinancing your student loans with a balance transfer credit card.

A Lower Interest Rate

One of the main reasons people choose to refinance student loans is to lock in a lower interest rate. For example, my student loans are at 6.8%. If I do a balance transfer to a 0% interest credit card, I could save hundreds of dollars on interest through the end of the 0% interest rate period on the balance transfer.

But keep in mind that not all balance transfers are created equal. You might get all kinds of different balance transfer offers from companies trying to entice you to sign up for a new credit card, or even transfer a balance to a card you already have. Some of these transfer offers will be better than others. You might encounter offers that have a 1% to 3% interest rate for a certain period of time, usually 12, 18, or 24 months. But the best balance transfer offers have a 0% interest rate, obviously saving you more on interest than the others.

Pay Off Student Loans Faster

Transferring student loan debt to a credit card can save money, but only as long as you get the balance transfer paid off before the promotional interest rate expires. This time limit is a big motivation for people to pay extra on their student loans to make sure the balance transfer is paid off before it expires. If you struggle with being motivated to make extra payments, the reality that your interest rate may spike up to 15% or more after a few months may be just the motivation you need to get serious about paying off debt. It’s worked well for me in the past when I’ve transferred high-interest credit card debt to a 0% balance transfer credit card, helping me to pay off $5,284.18 much faster than I would have otherwise.

Drawbacks of Refinancing Student Loans with a Balance Transfer Credit Card

Although using a balance transfer to help pay off your student loans sounds like a great way to save money and pay your debt off faster, there are some potential downsides you should be aware of.

Balance Transfer Fees

A lower interest rate makes balance transfer credit cards an attractive option for those looking to refinance debt, but you need to consider more than just the interest rate before deciding to refinance your student loans with a balance transfer credit card. Make sure you consider the balance transfer fee that many credit cards charge. This can eat away at the amount of money you save on interest. Luckily, some credit cards do have a cap on this fee at $50 or $75, which can be helpful if you plan to transfer a large balance that would otherwise result in a fee higher than that cap. But at that point, it could be difficult to get your student loan transfer paid off before the promotional interest rate on the balance transfer expires.

There are balance transfers without fees, but your options may be limited. If you find a no-fee, 0% interest transfer option you qualify for, it’s almost a no-brainer to use it to pay off other debt.

Potential Loss of Savings on Interest

As mentioned, it’s imperative that you pay off your entire balance transfer before the promotional interest rate expires in 12, 18, or 24 months. If you don’t, the high interest rate after the transfer expires will quickly negate any interest savings you earned by doing the transfer in the first place. In fact, you may end up paying more in interest than if you’d skipped the balance transfer in the first place.

You May Not Qualify

In order to use a balance transfer credit card to refinance your student loans, you first have to qualify for one. In order to qualify for many balance transfer credit cards you must have a credit score of at least 680.

Applying Could Ding Your Credit Score

If you don’t already have a credit card with a balance transfer offer available, you may need to apply for a new card. Anytime you apply for a new line of credit, it will ding your credit score slightly. This may or may not be an important factor depending on what your score is and if you plan to apply for any other credit cards or loans in the near future.

Loss of Federal Student Borrower Protections

A final and very important consideration to think about before you decide to refinance your student loans with a balance transfer credit card is the loss of student loan protections you may have. If you are refinancing federal student loans, you will lose the protections that are offered to you as a borrower, such as:

  • Income-driven repayment plans
  • The opportunity for student loan forgiveness
  • Deferment or forbearance
  • Discharge upon permanent disability or death

Some credit card companies may be willing to work with you in an emergency situation, but chances are high that even in those situations the flexibility offered to federal student loan borrowers is far greater. In some cases, you may be better off not refinancing your student loans in order to maintain your borrower protections.

With most low or 0% interest balance transfer credit cards, you can’t miss a payment or pay late. If you do, your promotional interest rate may be void and you will be subject to the regular interest rate, which could be 15% or more depending on the card and your credit score.

Despite these drawbacks, doing a balance transfer to help pay off your student loans can be a good idea if your goal is to get out of debt quickly while saving money on interest.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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Credit Cards, Reviews

Walmart Credit Card and Walmart MasterCard Review

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.

Walmart Credit Card®

If you are a regular shopper of Walmart, you’ve probably also seen their ads plastered in the store for the Walmart Credit Card.

Walmart offers two types of credit cards: the Walmart MasterCard offered by Synchrony Bank, which can be used wherever MasterCard credit cards are accepted; and the Walmart Credit Card, which can only be used at Walmart stores, Walmart Supercenters, Walmart Neighborhood Markets, Walmart.com, Walmart and Murphy USA gas stations, and Sam’s Clubs.

For heavy Walmart shoppers who can pay their balance in full each month, either card’s rewards might be sweet enough to justify signing up. Neither has an annual fee, and you’ll earn cash back in Walmart stores (3%). The regular Walmart Credit Card, however, can be especially appealing to those with low or fair credit scores who have trouble getting approved for other credit cards. In that case, the Walmart credit card can be a useful way to build credit, so long as you spend carefully and pay your bill in full each month.

But before you apply for a Walmart MasterCard or Walmart Credit Card, there are a few things you should be aware of as the Walmart Credit Card may not necessarily be the best choice for your spending habits.

Promotional Offers and Rewards

Dangling a sign-up bonus is a clever way to entice shoppers to sign up for the credit card at checkout. But given how high retail credit card interest rates can be, it’s never a good idea to sign up for a card because of the sign-up reward alone. The Walmart MasterCard and Walmart Credit Card are not exceptions. Unless you’re able to use and pay off your card in full each month, the cards’ painfully high interest rates (we’ll get to that later in this review) can easily eat away at any tangible cash back or sign-up bonus offers.

Walmart offers different promotional offers for cardholders and new accounts throughout the year.

Weak Sign-up Bonus

Weak Sign-up Bonus

Currently, Walmart is offering a one-time 10% discount on purchases if you are a new cardholder. Before you get too excited, there’s a caveat: it’s only good on purchases up to $250 because there’s a $25 limit on the discount. It may also be confusing to new cardholders as it says “10% discount,” but you don’t actually get a discount at the register. Instead, it’s applied later as a statement credit.

To take advantage of this discount, you must make a purchase on the same day you are approved for your new credit card. The discount cannot be used for cash advances, gift cards, money orders, or gas purchases.

If you don’t receive immediate approval at a kiosk or online at Walmart.com, but are later approved after the company does more research into your credit history, you will receive a 10% certificate in the mail with your new credit card package. This offer is valid until April 30, 2017.

3-2-1 Save Rewards Program

The 3-2-1 Save Rewards Program allows you to save 3% on Walmart.com purchases, 2% at Murphy USA and Walmart gas stations, and 1% at Walmart and anywhere your card is accepted if you are Walmart MasterCard holder.

If you’re a heavy Walmart shopper, their 3-2-1 rewards program might be just tantalizing enough to justify signing up for their credit cards. There really isn’t another credit card on the market that can get you a 3% return at Walmart; however, there are certainly other cash back credit cards for people who shop at a range of supermarkets looking for a wider range of benefits.

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The American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card, for example, has no annual fee and gets you 3% cash back at U.S supermarkets. However, if you do your grocery shopping at a store like Walmart or Target that is not specifically a stand-alone supermarket, you will only early 1% cash back. You also get 2% back at U.S gas stations and 1% on everything else. So if you’re not a heavy Walmart shopper, the Blue Cash Everyday Card may be a better idea.

Walmart Credit Card and Walmart MasterCard holders are automatically enrolled in Walmart’s 3-2-1 Save Rewards Program. Walmart Business and Community accounts are not eligible.

You are eligible to earn these rewards as long as your account is open and in good standing, and there are no limits on the rewards that can be earned. Rewards never expire, and you can check your balance by logging in to your account here.

These savings are paid as a statement credit each month on net purchases after adjusting for any possible returns. Cash advances, quick cash advances, fees, and interest do not qualify for these savings rewards. Unfortunately, these benefits also cannot be stacked with the 10% discount for the first purchase for new cardholders.

The Fine Print

The Walmart Credit Card and Walmart MasterCard do not have an annual fee. However, the interest rate on the Walmart Credit Card is where it gets scary. The current APR is 23.15% based on the prime rate plus 19.65% and is subject to change as the prime rate fluctuates. The Walmart MasterCard interest rates range from 17.15% to 23.15%, depending on your creditworthiness.
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You can avoid paying interest on your charges by paying your entire balance in full every month. Your due date will be at least 23 days after the close of each billing cycle.

Other fees are fairly standard. Late payment fees are up to $37. There is a foreign transaction fee of 3% on the Walmart MasterCard, which means you definitely don’t want to rely on this card overseas. Cash advances for the same card cost $5 or 3%, whichever is greater. The interest rate for cash advances ranges from 20.15% to 26.15%.

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Applying for the Walmart Credit Card

You can apply for a Walmart Credit Card or Walmart MasterCard at any Walmart store register or jewelry kiosk, or online at Walmart.com. When you choose to apply, Synchrony Bank will pull your credit score and look at other factors, like your income level, debt level, employment, and more.

Applying for the Walmart Credit Card is pretty simple, and most of the time you can get an instant answer. But like any other credit card application, applying for a new card does require a hard pull on your credit, which will ding your credit score.

There is no preset credit score requirement listed to qualify. But many cardholders report qualifying for this credit card with a low credit score. The high interest rate is also an indicator that those who are working to build credit may qualify.

Applying in-store and being approved means you will receive a Temporary Shopping Pass that is only good for 24 hours in that particular Walmart store location.

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Pros and Cons

Pro: There’s no annual fee to worry about.

Con: A high interest rate. Carrying a balance on your account will quickly outweigh the savings benefits of this credit card.

Pro: No cap on regular rewards. You can earn as many rewards as you want for your purchases.

Con: Rewards cannot be stacked with other offers, like the 10% discount for new cardholders.

Pro: Those with low credit may be able to qualify and use this card for everyday purchases to help improve their credit score.

Con: Because there are so many stores and so many items, having a Walmart Credit Card could be a nasty temptation if you don’t have a handle on your finances.

Other Rewards Cards

The Walmart Credit Card limits you to purchases only at Walmart stores, Walmart Supercenters, Walmart Neighborhood Markets, Walmart.com, Walmart and Murphy USA gas stations, and Sam’s Clubs. This is why store cards may not be the best choice if you are looking to earn rewards. But even if you qualify for the Walmart MasterCard so you can use it to save on purchases at locations other than Walmart, there are still better rewards credit cards available.

Citi® Double Cash Card – With the Citi Double Cash card, you’ll earn 1% cash back on purchases, just like the Walmart MasterCard. But with this card, you’ll get another 1% cash back when you pay off your credit card statement. Plus, the Citi Double Cash card has no annual fee. But, you can use this card to earn rewards at superstores and warehouse stores like Walmart and Target.

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Discover it® Cashback Match™ – With the Discover it credit card, you can earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum (which is $1,500 of purchases) each time you activate. All other purchases get 1% cash back. Also, you can get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers).

Discover it® - Cashback Match<sup>TM</sup>

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Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: The Blue Cash Everyday Card, for example, has no annual fee and gets you 3% cash back at US supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year. However, if you do your grocery shopping at a store like Walmart or Target that is not specifically a stand-alone supermarket, you will only early 1% cash back. You also get 2% back at US gas stations and 1% on everything else. If you’re not a heavy Walmart shopper, the Blue Cash Everyday Card may be a better idea.

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Who Will Benefit Most from the Walmart Credit Card?

While store cards are not usually a good idea for staying on budget, the Walmart Credit Card can be used for things like groceries and household necessities. The card may also be good for someone who is looking to rebuild their credit and can’t qualify for other credit cards as the required credit score to qualify for a Walmart Credit Card is typically low, although a specific score needed is not stated on their website.

On the other hand, it’s worth being cautious if you decide to apply for the Walmart Credit Card. With its high interest rate, carrying a balance will do more harm than good.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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Credit Cards

How to Use Your New Contactless Payment Card

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.

How to Use Your New Contactless Payment Card

If you’ve gotten a new debit or credit card lately, you might have received one that is able to be used as a contactless payment card. You’ll know you’ve gotten a new contactless card if there is a telltale contactless symbol somewhere on the card. It’s often mistaken for a WiFi signal symbol.

But before you use your new contactless payment card, there are a few things you need to know.

What Is a Contactless Payment Card?

“Tap and pay” technology isn’t new, having been around since about 2007, but it is becoming more popular worldwide with countries in Europe relying heavily on the technology more so than in the United States.

Similar to Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay, contactless payment cards are a faster way for customers to make small purchases, usually under $25 or $50, without the need for a PIN or signature. Contactless debit, credit, and prepaid cards can simply be tapped or waved on or near a payment terminal or register.

While most people might enjoy this new convenience, it can seem annoying to some. After all, you probably got a new “chip” debit or credit card after recent security breaches at major chain stores, such as the Target scandal, and now you’re being forced to learn another new system. If this seems like a hassle, keep in mind that these new security features are being introduced to help keep your money safe. As hackers learn new ways to steal your information, credit card companies are working hard to introduce new security features to thwart their attempts.

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This symbol indicates it is a contactless payment-enabled credit card.

Because the cards feature either a radio-frequency identification (RFID) signal or a near-field communication (NFC) signal to make a secure payment at close proximity, they are slightly different from the payment apps on your phone, like Apple Pay. These mobile payment apps use WiFi or cellular data and do not have to be physically close to a sales terminal to work.

Fraud and Security Concerns

According to Visa payWave questions and answers, you must wave your card within 1-2 inches of a terminal and be correctly oriented for transactions to go through, so there is no risk of contactless payment cards being accidently read from your purse or pocket.

This also cuts down on the risk of fraud from someone reading your financial information simply by passing an enabled card reader near you in a crowded street, which is a widely publicized fear internationally.

MasterCard’s website indicates that safeguards are in place to bill you only once for your purchase, even if you accidentally tap twice.

Contactless payments made by NFC are “just as secure” as payment made with chip-enabled cards, and probably more secure than payments made with stipe-enabled cards that must be swiped, according to both American Express and Visa payWave.

In fact, the risk of fraud is also reduced by using contactless payment cards because your payment device remains in your control during payment, rather than having to hand it to a store clerk to be swiped.

If you are a victim of fraud, your contactless transactions are covered by the same fraud protection as chip and PIN transactions.

Where Can You Get a Contactless Payment Card?Where Can You Get a Contactless Payment Card

Most major credit card companies, including Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, have contactless payment technology available; however, your financial institution may or may not yet offer contactless payment enabled cards. Contactless payment enabled cards do not have to be turned on or off, they are always on.

Where Can You Use Contactless Payment Cards?

Contactless payment cards can be used anywhere that has enabled terminals with the contactless symbol at checkout. This includes many popular restaurant chains, gas stations, big box stores, and more. But keep in mind that most locations have a small limit of $25 or $50 for contactless purchases. You won’t be able to make a large purchase with a contactless credit card anytime soon.

Contactless payment cards can still be used by inserting your chip or swiping if terminals are not enabled for contactless payments.

Who Can Benefit from Contactless Payment Cards?

Before you decide to get and use a contactless payment card, be certain you have a handle on your budget and finances. The ease of “tap and go” payments reduces the psychological pain you might feel if you were paying with cash or even having to sign or enter your PIN for a transaction. Merchants are counting on you using contactless payment cards to make transactions more quickly, without giving yourself time to think about your purchases.

If you are someone who’s constantly on the go, and you have your spending under control, you might benefit from contactless payment cards.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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Review: American Express Personal Savings High Yield Savings Account

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.

plants on piles of euro coins

There’s no question having a savings account is necessary to get your financial house in order. Savings accounts are great for storing your emergency fund, planning for upcoming purchases like travel or special events, and more. But it can be frustrating to earn little interest on your money while it’s sitting in a savings account at a physical bank, which is why many people have turned to online banks where interest rates on savings and checking accounts are typically higher.

Online banks are able to offer higher interest rates on savings and checking accounts because there are less overhead costs than for brick-and-mortar banks. One online savings account option to consider is an American Express Personal Savings High Yield Savings Account.

American Express Personal Savings High Yield Savings Account Overview

The American Express Personal Savings High Yield Savings Account currently offers 1.15% annual percentage yield (APY). However, this interest rate is subject to change without notice, which is pretty typical for most online banks. There is no minimum deposit required to open an account, but the funds must come from an external account under your same name held at a different bank. Your initial deposit must be sent within 60 days of being approved or your account will be automatically closed.

There are no monthly maintenance fees associated with this savings account, and you can link it to more than one financial institution or current bank account to make deposits and withdrawals.

Funds are FDIC insured up to the legal limit. 

Making a Deposit into an American Express Personal Savings High Yield Savings Account

Once your account has been opened and initially funded, you will need to link any other external checking or savings accounts to your American Express Personal Savings account in order to transfer funds electronically. External accounts must belong to you and have the same ownership as your Personal Savings account. After you have entered your account information to link it, you will be sent test deposits of small amounts to verify your information is correct.

Funds transferred electronically are generally available within five business days.

In addition to electronic transfers, you can deposit physical checks by mail. If you write a check from another bank, make it payable to American Express Bank, write your Personal Savings account number on the memo line, and mail it to:

American Express Bank, FSB

P.O. Box 30384

Salt Lake City, UT 84130

If you send a check made payable to you, sign the back and under your signature write “for deposit only in account” followed by your Personal Savings account number. However, it is more secure to send a check made out to American Express Bank. American Express does not accept cash deposits by mail.

The maximum account balance you can have in an American Express Personal Savings account is $5 million.

Withdrawing Funds from an American Express Personal Savings High Yield Savings Account

A Personal Savings account with American Express is not meant to be used for everyday spending and other transactions, and thus does not come with an ATM card, debit card, or checks. The Federal Reserve Board’s Regulation D allows a maximum of six transfers or withdrawals per statement period for savings accounts and money market accounts within any bank.

That said, withdrawing funds electronically is just as easy as depositing them. You can make transfers to your linked external accounts within your account online. Transfers to external accounts can take one to three business days, if the account is already linked to your Personal Savings account.

Keep in mind internal transfers from one American Express Personal Savings High Yield Savings Account to another will count toward the limit of six withdrawals per month.

However, if you call and request an official check by mail, this will not count toward the limit.

Pros and Cons

Overall, there are more pros than cons with this account. No monthly fees and a higher interest rate on savings is a big pro versus keeping your money in a savings account at a brick-and-mortar bank. Also, there is no minimum required to open or maintain an account. Even with a $0 balance, American Express will not close your account unless it has been inactive for over 12 months.

However, one disadvantage to keeping your money in an online savings account is the waiting period it takes to access your money. It can take one to three business days to transfer your money to an external account. This can be an inconvenience if you are facing a financial emergency, which is why it’s a good idea to always keep a buffer in your checking or savings account in your physical bank.

Alternatives to the American Express Personal Savings High Yield Savings Account

There has been a price war for online savings accounts. American Express offers an excellent yield of 1.15% APY, which is one of the highest in the market. If you want to see how Amex stacks up against the competition, you can see our list of the best savings accounts here.

Who Will Benefit Most from an American Express Personal Savings High Yield Savings Account?

Anyone looking to earn money on their savings will benefit from an American Express Personal Savings High Yield Savings Account. Just remember you are limited to no more than six withdrawals or transfers per statement period, and it can take up to three business days to receive your money in an external account.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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How Does Student Loan Deferment or Forbearance Affect Your Credit Score?

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.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance Review

According to the latest annual report from the Institute for College Access and Success, 2015 college graduates showed a 4% increase in student loan debt over 2014 graduates. Among 2015 seniors, 68% who graduated had student loan debt, with the average balance being $30,100 per borrower.

With more college students graduating with student loan debt and balances continually increasing, it’s no wonder many are seeking deferment or forbearance. But if you are considering these options, there are some things you need to know first, including how it might affect your credit score.

What Is Deferment?

Student loan deferment is a period of time when the repayment of your loan’s principal and interest is temporarily delayed.

Unlike forbearance, when your student loan is in deferment, you do not need to make payments. And in some cases, the federal government may even pay the interest portion of your student loan payment. In order to qualify, you must have a federal Perkins Loan, a Direct Subsidized Loan, or a Subsidized Federal Stafford Loan.

Interest on your unsubsidized student loans or any PLUS loans will not be paid by the federal government. You will be responsible for interest accrued during deferment (if it’s not paid by the federal government), but you don’t have to make payments during the deferment period. If you’re not paying interest during deferment, it’s important to know interest may still be added to your principal balance. This may result in higher future payments.

There are several situations in which you may be eligible for student loan deferment:

  • If you are enrolled in college or career school at least half-time
  • If you are in an approved graduate fellowship program
  • During a period where you have qualified for Perkins Loan discharge or cancellation
  • During a period of unemployment
  • During a time of economic hardship (including Peace Corps)
  • During active military duty
  • During the 13 months following active military duty

Most deferments are not automatic, and you will need to submit a request for deferment to your student loan provider. If you are still in school at least part-time, you can apply through your school’s financial aid office.

What Is Forbearance?

If you are unable to make your student loan payments and don’t qualify for deferment, your loan officer may allow forbearance. When your student loans are in forbearance, you may be able to make smaller payments or skip payments altogether for up to 12 months.

However, before you apply for forbearance, keep in mind that interest will continue to accrue on all types of loans. This means your balance will grow, increasing the amount of time and money it will take to pay off your student loans. You can choose to pay the interest-only portion during forbearance. If you choose not to, the interest may be capitalized and added to the principal balance of your loan.

According to the Federal Student Aid office at the U.S. Department of Education, there are two types of forbearance, discretionary forbearance and mandatory forbearance.

Discretionary forbearance is when you, the borrower, request forbearance from your lender due to financial hardship reasons or illness. Ultimately, the lender decides whether or not to grant your discretionary forbearance request.

With mandatory forbearance, your lender is required to grant you forbearance on your student loans if you request it. However, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You are completing a medical or dental internship or residency program, and meet specific requirements.
  • The total you owe each month for all the student loans is 20% or more of your total monthly gross income.
  • You are serving in a national service position and received a national service award.
  • You are a teacher and qualify for teacher loan forgiveness.
  • You qualify for partial repayment of your loans under the U.S. Department of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program.
  • You are a member of the National Guard and have been activated by a governor, but you are not eligible for a military deferment.
  • Similar to deferment, forbearance doesn’t happen automatically. You must apply for forbearance and may be required to show proof of these situations in order to be granted forbearance.

What Happens to Your Credit Score When Your Student Loans Are in Deferment or Forbearance?

As long as you continue making your student loan payments on time and in full until your request for deferment or forbearance is approved, your credit score should not be affected.

According to Rod Griffin, Director of Public Education at Experian, “When a student loan is in forbearance it is not in a repayment status. As a result, the late payments would not be reported. If it is reflected as current and not in repayment, it likely would not have a negative effect on credit scores.”

What Happens if You Default on Your Student Loans?

If you miss a payment between the time you apply for and are approved for deferment or forbearance, you will be considered to be in default on your student loans, and your credit score could be negatively impacted by this missed or late payment.

“Defaulting on a student loan is no different than defaulting on any other installment loan. Failing to pay as agreed will severely damage your credit history and, therefore, your credit scores,” Griffin said.

Being 60 days late or more on a student loan or credit card payment could damage your credit score as much as 100 points.

The Bottom Line

If you are unable to afford your student loan payments, deferment or forbearance may be options to consider. However, it’s important to remember that your student loans will continue to accrue interest, which could result in your paying more over the long run. Between the time of application and the time you are approved for deferment or forbearance, you must continue to make your student loan payments in full and on time in order to avoid potential damage to your credit score.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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Buxfer Review: Trying to Help You Make Wiser Spending Decisions

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.

Buxfer Review: Trying to Help You Make Wiser Spending Decisions

With all the money management apps and tools out there, it can be difficult to figure out which one might work best for you. Everyone’s situation is different, and every money management app and tool serves a different audience. That’s why we have put together a comprehensive review of Buxfer, one of the money management apps that’s gained a lot of traction.

What It Does

BuxferAccording to it’s website, Buxfer’s mission is to help people make better spending decisions. They want to provide a product that is flexible and adaptable to users’ needs, including providing actionable advice to help them plan for the future.

Like many money management tools out there, Buxfer allows you to sync data from your bank and credit card accounts. Over 10,000 financial institutions are supported. An offline feature allows you to sync without needing to store your banking username and password on the Buxfer server.

Buxfer also allows you to add manual transactions and upload bank statements and files from Quicken and Microsoft Excel.

Transactions are not automatically categorized in predetermined categories the way they are in many money management apps. Instead, Buxfer allows you to create your own tags, including attaching multiple tags to one transaction, or creating sub-tags within larger tags. After you have established these tags, you can specify automatic tagging “rules” to help new transactions be automatically tagged when accounts are synced.

When your account syncs or manual transactions are added, real-time advice and mobile alerts may be generated to help you avoid overspending, or to alert you if you’ve already gone over one of the budgets you created in Buxfer.

Buxfer can help you set weekly, monthly, or yearly spending limits and reminders for upcoming bills. And pro users can also project future expenses based on previous spending and earning patterns.

Another unique feature Buxfer offers is the ability to create IOUs to track bills and expenses between family and friends. This could be an especially helpful feature if you split bills with roommates or often split the check for meals at restaurants. It could also be used to track reimbursements for small businesses. Pro users have the ability to send money via PayPal to settle up with friends for IOUs.

How Much It Costs

A basic account on Buxfer is free and includes bank syncing for up to five accounts, unlimited transactions, shared bills and IOUs, five budgets, and five bill reminders.

The next step up is a Plus account for $3.99 per month when billed annually. This allows you to sync with unlimited accounts, an unlimited number of budgets, and unlimited bill reminders.

A Pro account is $4.99 per month when billed annually and includes advanced reports, forecasting, online payments for IOUs, and automatic backups of your information.

Pros and Cons

  • Pro: Categorization of expenses is very flexible, which is unique from many other apps and budget software options.
  • Con: Expenses are not automatically “tagged” unless users set rules.
  • Pro: The cost of a basic account to try the service is free. If you don’t need additional features, you won’t have to pay for the app.
  • Con: Upgraded accounts can cost nearly $60 per year.
  • Pro: IOUs offer the ability to split expenses with roommates, friends, or family.
  • Con: Many of the more useful features of Buxfer require a paid account.
  • Pro: Real-time alerts can help you avoid overspending your budgets.
  • Con: Many of the reports in Buxfer cannot be exported, and backing up data may be difficult if you don’t have a pro account with automatic backups.

How It Stacks Up Against Competitors

As mentioned, there are many money management apps and tools available today.

MintMint is one of the most popular apps for budgeting. It’s 100% free for users, and like Buxfer, it allows synchronization to bank accounts and credit cards. However, many users have reported problems with the syncing features over the past several months. Many of the helpful hints shown on Mint are actually ads. These ads may be promoting products and services that are not the right fit for you.

mvelopesMvelopes is another budgeting app that operates off the idea of the cash envelope system popularized by Dave Ramsey. Mvelopes allows users to create up to 25 different envelopes, which are similar to the “budgets” and “tags” in Buxfer.

Although users can have unlimited tags in Buxfer, they can only have five budgets with the free account. These budgets are how alerts are created to track spending and help you avoid overspending. Like Buxfer, the basic version of Mvelopes is free, but the premium version costs $95 per year. This is significantly more than the almost $60 per year for Buxfer’s Pro account.

Who Buxfer Is Best For

Buxfer works best if you split expenses with roommates, friends, or family on a regular basis and need a way to track these transactions. It could also work well if you only struggle with spending in a small number of categories since only five budgets with real-time alerts are available with the free account.

Buxfer’s forecasting is another great feature, but it’s only available if you have a Pro account. However, the cost of a Pro account is less expensive than some other money management apps available.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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5 Best Robo-Advisers to Help Manage Your Investments

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.

5 Best Robo-Advisers to Help Manage Your Investments

These days, individual investors have a lot more tools at their disposal to help manage their money like pros, even if they don’t have a lot of knowledge and experience with investing. One tool that has become very popular for individual investors in the past couple of years is the robo-adviser.

Because so many new robo-advisers have popped up and gained traction in the past year or two, it may be difficult to decide which one is best. This review of five major robo-advisers may help you select which one to use to effortlessly manage your investments.

Vanguard

Vanguard Personal Advisor ServicesVanguard expanded their investment services by launching Vanguard Personal Advisor Services to help customers save money and make better investment decisions. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services can help you meet goals like investing for retirement, saving for a college education, buying a home, or just basic wealth building for the future.

According to John Woerth, public relations spokesperson at Vanguard, “Vanguard Personal Advisor Services is a hybrid that offers the best of both worlds — the user-friendly online experience and sophisticated investment modeling of a robo-advisor, coupled with the judgment and coaching of a professional advisor.”

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services appoints an adviser to serve as your financial coach. Based on your goals, this adviser helps craft a custom, investing plan that is meant for the long haul, regardless of how the markets change.

Vanguard doesn’t offer automatic tax-loss harvesting, but they can help minimize your tax burden through asset allocation. This means being more efficient with both taxable and tax-advantaged accounts. They can also help create a tax-friendly distribution plan for retirement.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services requires an account minimum of $50,000.

Vanguard is known for their low-cost products, and this holds true for Personal Advisor Services, as well. The annual cost is 0.30% of the assets under Vanguard’s management. For example, if you have invested $250,000, the cost would be $750 per year.

Personal Capital

Personal CapitalMany people are familiar with Personal Capital’s robust money management dashboard, including free cash-flow monitoring, asset allocation and portfolio performance, fee analysis, investment checkup, and their retirement planner. However, you may not be familiar with Personal Capital’s wealth management services.

Although Personal Capital is sometimes lumped in with robo-advisers, they claim Personal Capital doesn’t exactly fit into this category.

According to their website, they are different because they “have a team of financial advisors based in San Francisco and Denver to work one-on-one with [their] clients.”

Last year, Personal Capital reduced their minimum asset requirement from $100,000 to $25,000, making it easier for more people to get started. Plus, their web interface is very friendly for users who enjoy managing their information online.

Your money is invested in exchange traded funds (ETFs) to leverage asset allocation, tax-loss harvesting, and rebalancing. You also have access to Personal Capital’s full suite of financial planning services and a licensed team to answer questions on college planning, estate planning, home purchases, 401(k) allocation, and more.

Personal Capital charges a flat 0.89% for the first million assets under management. After the first million, this fee is reduced by 0.10% per additional million dollars.

One nice feature of Personal Capital is the ability to see a complete overview of your finances right from their dashboard.

Betterment

BettermentBetterment Robo Adviser is another popular robo-adviser that uses software and algorithms to help manage your money based on your risk tolerance.

Betterment takes the guesswork out of asset allocation by investing your money into a fully diversified index-fund portfolio made up of 12 ETFs. They also offer fractional shares, broader diversification, and tax-loss harvesting — none of which are available when purchasing ETFs directly.

There is no minimum required deposit to open a Betterment account.

If you automatically deposit $100 per month and your balance is under $10,000, Betterment’s fee is 0.35% annually. Without an automatic deposit of $100, the fee is $3 per month.

Once your account reaches $10,000, automatic deposits are no longer required and the annual fee is 0.25% per year. If your balance is over $100,000, the fee is just 0.15% annually with no recurring deposit required.

Wealthfront

WealthfrontWealthfront and Betterment have a lot of common features, like the use of modern portfolio theory to determine your diversified portfolio of ETFs. Also similar to Betterment, Wealthfront offers automatic rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting (for taxable accounts).

Wealthfront offers several types of accounts, including taxable investment accounts, traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRAs, IRA transfers, and 401(k) rollovers.

Unlike Betterment, Wealthfront does have a minimum amount required to open an account. However, it is only $500, down from $5,000 when the service began. There is no annual fee for the first $10,000, but the fee increased to 0.25% annually above $10,000.

Wealthfront also offers tax-optimized direct indexing for accounts over $100,000. This means Wealthfront directly purchases over 1,001 securities from the S&P 500 and S&P 1500 indices and an ETF of smaller companies. This allows for further tax-loss harvesting and reducing annual fees.

Recently, Wealthfront also began offering a 529 College Savings Plan, which is also free for the first $10,000. Nevada residents get the first $25,000 for free. After these amounts are reached, the fees are 0.43%-0.46% per year.

Charles Schwab

charles-schwabCharles Schwab, the discount stock broker, now offers robo-adviser services in the form of their product Schwab Intelligent Portfolios.

The biggest advantage of using Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is their lineup of 54 ETFs, which is significantly more than Betterment and Wealthfront’s asset classes of 12 and 11, respectively.

Schwab has also attracted a lot of attention for having a low account minimum of only $5,000 and no account fees outside of the annual ETF fees.

Tobin McDaniel, president of Schwab Wealth Investment Advisory, said, “We think our service has a unique combination of features compared to similar types of products in the industry. We’re not charging any advisory fees, our portfolios are sophisticated with up to 20 asset classes using both cap-weighted and fundamentally weighted strategies, we have live investment professionals available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, and our service is backed by the security and stability of a firm with $2.7 trillion in assets and 40 years of experience working on behalf of investors.”

After you sign up with Schwab, you are given a 12-step survey to help determine things like your goals for investing, a timeline for retirement withdrawals, and your risk tolerance. This will help determine the right mix for your investments. The selection services for ETFs with Schwab tends to be more complex, and most portfolios are made up of a larger number of funds than with other robo-investing companies.

One of the problems with using Schwab Intelligent Portfolios is their fee structure. The Department of Labor’s recent fiduciary ruling says fees have to be level regardless of what you invest them in. Critics have pointed out that since Schwab doesn’t earn the same commission on all products, they are violating the Department of Labor’s new rules.

To further complicate things, a significant portion of their ETFs are allocated in cash. Because Schwab is earning money from this cash, their no account fees claim isn’t exactly accurate or transparent. Again, this doesn’t meet the Department of Labor’s fee level fiduciary rules.

Which Robo-Adviser Is Right for You?

Even with all of this information, it can still be difficult to determine which robo-adviser is right for your investing needs. The decision depends on several factors, including how much you have to invest, how much the service costs, and which features are most important to you. Whether you choose a robo-adviser, a traditional financial planner, or a combination of the two, or choose to do it yourself, the most important thing is you are planning for your future.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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4 Digital Banks That Treat You and Your Money Well

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.

4 Digital Banks That Treat You and Your Money Well

If you are still banking with a physical bank, it may be time to go digital instead. Digital banks offer several benefits and features that physical banks can’t, or don’t, offer due to the cost of operating a physical location. Because online banks don’t have these overhead costs, they can offer more benefits to help customers save money on fees, and earn more money via interest too.

There are several online banks from which financially savvy customers can choose from these days. If you are looking to go digital with your banking, here are a few good options to consider.

Ally Bank

Interest Checking Account
Ally is a digital bank with a full range of services, including online savings accounts, money market accounts, CDs, IRAs, checking accounts, credit cards, and more. It has also been named the “Best Online Bank” 5 years in a row from 2011 to 2015 by Money Magazine.

Ally has become a popular place for people to store their savings in an online savings account due to the great interest rates on savings accounts and money market accounts. These accounts offer daily compounded interest, FDIC insurance deposits, and no monthly maintenance fees.

Checking accounts with Ally Bank allow customers to earn interest on their money, which is something that is not as common with physical banks.

Customers of Ally Bank also enjoy the ability to use any of the 43,000+ Allpoint ATMs in the U.S. for free. Plus, Ally Bank reimburses up to $10 per statement cycle for fees incurred at other ATMS. It also offers exceptional customer service with 24/7 live customer care.

Charles Schwab

High Yield Investor Checking Account
Charles Schwab is another bank that started offering more digital products for its customers, including checking and savings, lending, and investing.

The High Yield Investor Checking account is a popular choice for many customers as Schwab offers this account with no ATM fees worldwide and unlimited ATM reimbursement for fees incurred each billing cycle. It also offers no account minimums or monthly services fees, and easy banking 24/7 with Schwab Mobile. The Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account is linked to your existing Schwab One brokerage account so you can manage both accounts with one login.

The interest rate on the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account is 0.06% APY no matter your balance, but you do have to open a Schwab One brokerage account in order to use a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account. There are no fees or minimum balance for the Schwab One brokerage account, and you can transfer funds between the two accounts for free.

Schwab also offers a High Yield Investor Savings account with no minimum balance or monthly service charge. The interest rate is 0.10% APY on all balances. It also qualifies for the unlimited ATM fee rebates.

USAA

USAA members USAA offers checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, and many different loan products for cars, homes, and more. According to its website, they have been rated 4.5 out of 5 stars by over 16,000 members.

USAA offers free checking with a minimum opening balance of $25. After you open a free checking account, there is no minimum balance, no monthly service fee, overdraft protection, fee bill pay, and free ATMs nationwide. USAA reimburses up to $15 in ATM fees per month.

Like most digital banks, USAA offers interest on its checking accounts, although it is lower than many competitors at only 0.01% APY. Its savings accounts offer rates of 0.05% APY to 0.15% APY depending on the balance of your account.

There is a catch: you need military affiliation to be able to open an account. This can include a connection through a family member, such as a parent or spouse.

Capital One 360

360 Checking Capital One 360 offers “no fees, no kidding” checking and savings accounts with no fees and no minimums. While it doesn’t offer ATM fee reimbursement, Capital One does offer a unique feature compared to many other digital banks: the ability to deposit cash into your checking or savings account with select Capital One ATMs in a 360 Café or Capital One Bank location.

The interest rates on a 360 Checking account range from 0.20% APY to 0.90% APY, depending on your balance.

  • $0 – $49,999.99: 0.20% APY
  • $50,000 – $99,999.99: 0.75% APY
  • $100,000 or more: 0.90% APY

The interest rate on a 360 Savings account is 0.75% APY.

If you’re a Capital One credit card customer, you can also conveniently access both your credit card information and Capital One 360 banking information with a single sign-on.

Another unique feature of Capital One 360 is the ability to create multiple savings account with any nickname you choose. You can also use their “My Saving Goals” section to make automatic savings deposits and set goals for your various savings accounts.

Which Digital Bank Is Right for You?

As digital banks become more popular, it can be difficult to determine which one might be the best fit for you. Of course, it depends on several factors, such as the features and services you most value, how you plan to use your account, and more. No matter which digital bank you choose, the important thing is that you are making the right decision for you and your money.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

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