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Consumer Watchdog

The Truth About ‘Obama Student Loan Forgiveness’

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.

Source: iStock

The average 2016 college graduate carries $37,000 worth of student loan debt today according to an analysis of student loan debt by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Cappex.com. Kantrowitz tells MagnifyMoney he expects that number to rise for 2017 graduates.

It’s no wonder that those drowning in debt can get desperate. And scammers have come up with a clever way to dupe these borrowers into spending money on services that promise to erase their debt. One of the most popular student loan scams today involves companies that charge borrowers to sign up for the so-called “Obama Student Loan Forgiveness” program.

The only problem is that there is no such loan forgiveness program.

The truth about “Obama Student Loan Forgiveness”

So-called student “debt relief” companies use “Obama Student Loan Forgiveness” as a blanket term for the various flexible federal student loan repayment programs implemented over the last decade by the Bush and Obama administrations.

What they don’t tell unwitting consumers is that these programs, which include income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, among others, are free to borrowers and do not require paying for any special services in order to enroll.

Promising relief to indebted college graduates, these companies lead people to believe that enrolling in these programs requires special assistance — which they may offer for a sizable upfront fee and/or recurring monthly payments. Rather than getting the help they need, borrowers are duped into paying for something they could easily accomplish for free with a simple phone call to their student loan servicer.

While there are multiple ways you can get scammed by debt relief companies claiming to offer you “Obama Student Loan Forgiveness,” there are some red flags that can help you spot a scam.

6 ways to spot a student debt relief scam

It’s important to note that it’s not illegal for a company to charge a borrower to enroll them in a program that’s free to them. These companies are arguably taking some of the work out of getting enrolled, even if that “work” could easily be accomplished with a phone call to your student loan servicer.

Nonetheless, some debt relief firms take things a bit too far, and it’s important to be aware of scams out there. After all, student loan forgiveness scams are really only one part of a broad range of debt relief scams. Debt relief scams share many of the same qualities and employ similar tactics to mislead consumers into paying for their services.

Here are some red flags to watch out for:

  1. They ask for fees upfront. By law, debt relief services are not allowed to ask for payment until they have performed services for their customer. A legitimate debt relief service may ask for a fee upfront, but they will place that payment in an escrow account, and they will not officially receive the payment until they complete the work.
  2. They charge fees for free government services. This one is a bit tricky. So long as a company makes it clear that it is possible to gain access to a government debt relief program for free, it’s not illegal for them to charge consumers for their help in enrolling in those programs. However, the worst actors out there will keep that information to themselves, leading consumers to believe they need to pay a professional for access.
  3. They claim to be affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. The Department of Education, which manages the federal student loan system, does not partner with any debt relief services. Any company claiming to be associated with the Department of Education is a scam.
  4. They “guarantee” that your debt will be forgiven. Services will try to entice customers by promising total loan forgiveness or a reduction in their student loan payments. But monthly payments for borrowers enrolled in federal student loan repayment programs are established by law and cannot be negotiated. Also, the legitimate loan forgiveness programs out there usually require making payments for several years, and there is no company that can promise loan forgiveness unless you meet those payment requirements first.
  5. They advertise “pre-approval” for debt relief programs. There is no “pre-approval” for federal income-driven repayment or loan forgiveness programs. They are free for borrowers, and so long as your loans are in good standing, it’s a matter of the types of loans you have when you took them out that qualifies you for the different programs. To see if you qualify for a given program, contact your loan servicer directly.
  6. They offer to make your student loan payments for you. You should be the only person submitting payments to your loan servicer. The Department of Education has contracted these loan servicers to manage federal student loans, and loan payments should be made directly through their websites. Never send your payment to a debt relief firm, even if they promise to pay your loans for you. The exception here is if you’re working with a debt relief firm to settle a debt with a lump-sum payment. In that case, they are legally required to hold your cash in an FDIC-insured account until they officially settle the debt. And if their client decides they no longer want their services, they have to return the funds to them in full.

Do your due diligence before working with any debt relief service, by keeping an eye out for these red flags, as well as checking sites like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Better Business Bureau for complaints against the company.

What to do if you’ve fallen for a student debt relief scam

If you’ve been scammed by a debt relief company, there are certain steps you need to take to prevent further financial damage. However, know that it is possible you may never get your money back.

Submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. Reporting scams, can not only help others from losing their money, but if an investigation by the CFPB or FTC results in suit and judgment, then the debt relief company may be required to issue refunds, cease business, and ensure borrowers do not miss out on important repayment benefits.

Track your credit reports with all three credit bureaus to ensure your personal information is not used fraudulently. You can get one free credit report each year at annualcreditreport.com or use these free services to monitor your report for suspicious activity. If you fear a debt relief scammer has your Social Security number and other financial information, you might want to consider a credit freeze. That will stop anyone from being able to open a new line of credit without you knowing.

Contact your loan servicing companies and have any power of attorney authorizations removed. Some companies will ask borrowers to give them power of attorney so they can negotiate directly with their loan servicers. You don’t want to leave any company with this privilege because they will be able to make decisions about your loans without you knowing.

Contact your bank or credit cards to stop payment to the debt relief company and see if they can work with you to try and get your money back. It is common for debt relief services to charge monthly recurring fees for their services.

Change your Federal Student Aid password. Every federal student loan borrower has a unique login for the https://studentloans.gov site, where you can track all of your federal loans. If you gave a company your FSA information, consider that information compromised and change your FSA password immediately.

9 Legitimate Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

While there is no such program called “Obama Student Loan Forgiveness,” there are several legitimate student loan repayment programs that offer student loan forgiveness.

These programs have a wide range of requirements and payment terms, some as short as five years, others as long as 25 years, and can be available based on the types of federal student loans you have as well as your chosen career.

In addition to loan forgiveness programs, there are programs that offer loan repayment assistance or loan discharge. How much can be discharged and the amount of repayment assistance varies greatly depending on the program.

9 examples of legitimate loan forgiveness programs, loan repayment assistance programs, and loan discharge programs

What to do if you can’t afford your student loan payments

If you are struggling to afford your student loan payments, there are some actions you can take to ensure your loans remain in good standing and you avoid a default that could negatively impact your credit score.

Enroll in an income-driven repayment plan

If you are unable to afford your current payment, you can apply to change repayment plans. For example, if you are on a Standard Repayment Plan for your federal student loans, you could request to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan. If you are already on an IDR plan and your income has changed significantly, you can request to have your payment amount recalculated.

Ask for a deferment or forbearance

If you are going through a temporary financial hardship, you can ask your loan servicer to apply a deferment or forbearance, which would not require you to make payments during the deferment or forbearance. While both a deferment and forbearance offer you relief from making payments, with a forbearance you will be required to eventually pay back the interest that accrues during that time. Also, it’s important to note that while you are in deferment or forbearance, you aren’t making payments, which means you might be missing out on forgiveness programs like PSLF if you are working in public service or for a nonprofit.

Consider refinancing or consolidating your loans

Refinancing involves taking out a new loan from a private lender and using that loan to pay off your old loan. The pros of refinancing include a reduced interest rate and the ease of having just one payment. If you refinance a federal student loan, you will lose all of the benefits that federal student loans offer.

Alternatively, you could consolidate your federal loans. A Direct Consolidation Loan combines all your loans using the average weighted interest rate into one loan. So instead of dealing with multiple loan servicers and multiple loan payments each month, you only have one student loan payment to make each month. You can apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan at no cost through the government’s Federal Student Aid website.

Work with your loan servicer

If you have private loans, your lender may not offer as many repayment options as federal loans. Reach out and work with your lender anyway. They may offer a financial hardship program that would lower your payments. Your loan servicer would much rather work with you to ensure they get paid.

Consider bankruptcy if you can pass the “hardship test”

While it is highly unlikely you will be able to discharge your student loans in bankruptcy, it isn’t impossible. You must either show that your loans would impose an undue financial hardship that will not go away or that the loan was not a qualified student loan in that it did not fit the definition or was in an amount that exceeds the school’s cost of attendance. An example of where this argument has been successful would be a private bar loan, a loan taken out to cover the expenses of taking the bar exam.

Liz Stapleton
Liz Stapleton |

Liz Stapleton is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Liz here

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College Students and Recent Grads

Student Debt Confessions: How I Got Kicked Off My Income-Driven Repayment Plan

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.

Liz Stapleton wrote about her experience getting kicked off her income-driven repayment plan for MagnifyMoney. Overnight, her monthly student loan payment skyrocketed from $365 to nearly $2,000.

I graduated from college at the onset of the recession in 2008 and graduated from law school just in time for the recession to hit the legal market in 2011. By the time I finished with both my degrees I had $193,000 of federal student loan debt, which has since grown to over $250,000. Needless to say, I’ve never been financially able to make student loan repayments under the standard repayment plan.

Once my six-month student loan grace period ended in 2011, I immediately signed up for an Income-Driven Repayment Plan with each of my three loan servicers.

Every borrower enrolled in one of these plans has to renew their eligibility through their loan servicer every year. Since I have three servicers, that means at this point I have been through the renewal process 18 times. The first 17 recertifications went off without a hitch.

So I was stunned when I found out my 18th and most recent submission for recertification through one of my three loan servicers was denied. That was it — I was kicked out of the program. Suddenly, my monthly payments of $362 were going to balloon to nearly $2,000.

I got on the phone with the lender right away, determined to find out why I was booted from the program. In the end, I was able to successfully re-enroll.

Why my income-driven repayment renewal was denied

It turns out my status as a self-employed worker was to blame.

After I was laid off from my job as a solutions consultant at the end of 2016, I started a business as a freelance writer in 2017. One of the requirements to recertify your eligibility for income-driven repayment plans is to submit proof of income. When I was working full time, that was no problem. I just used records of my pay stubs to verify my income.

But now that I was self-employed, I didn’t have pay stubs. Early in 2017, when my deadline to recertify with one of my loan servicers was approaching, I called them and asked what documents I could use to verify my income.

I was told that all I needed was a self-certifying letter stating that I’d been laid off and was now self-employed as a freelance writer. I also needed to include my gross monthly income. I wrote the letter and stated what my approximate monthly income was thus far, and my submission for recertification on the Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan was approved, no problem.

But remember that I have three different loan servicers. So I had to go through the same process with the other two as well. Unfortunately, when I tried to use the same strategy to renew my certification with my second servicer, I was denied.

I was shocked and stressed out, to say the least.

Resubmitting my application

I called this loan servicer and asked why I had been denied. At first, the representative I spoke with told me there wasn’t sufficient documentation of income. When I asked why my self-certifying letter wasn’t enough, the representative on the phone explained that it usually was enough. I pressed her to find out what exactly was wrong with my letter that had resulted in a denial. It turns out, they didn’t like that I used the word “approximate” when stating my gross monthly income. They needed a firm number. Additionally, they wanted a work address.

I rewrote the letter to take out the word “approximately” and explained that as a self-employed freelance writer I worked from home and had no additional company address. I submitted my forms again and crossed my fingers.

In the meantime, my loan servicer agreed to put my loans into deferment for one month. That would ensure that I wouldn’t get hit with my new larger payment the following month.

Here’s what the application looks like to re-certify your enrollment in an income-driven repayment plan. Download a copy at https://studentaid.ed.gov.

The long wait for news

After I resubmitted my IDR Plan recertification application, I was told I would hear back within 10 days. It was nearly a month before I heard back from them in June. It was good news – my documents were approved, and I would be enrolled in my new IDR Plan starting in August.

But the celebration was short-lived.

Since I had only been granted a one-month deferment, which covered me for June, and my new IBR Plan wouldn’t kick in until August, that meant I would have a gap in July. And I’d have to pay my new, larger monthly payment. I couldn’t afford the payment of nearly $2,000 and to miss it would mean defaulting on my loans. Defaulting on federal loans could mean losing access to the income-driven repayment plans as well as forbearance and deferment options, not to mention it would wreak havoc on my credit.

Once again I was caught off guard and stressed out. And, once again, I called my loan servicer to find out why the new plan wasn’t being applied sooner. Apparently, the billing cycle had already passed for July.

To solve the problem, I requested another month of deferment for July, which I was granted.

Asking for a forbearance or deferment is never fun, but it is always better than defaulting on your loans and losing access to those options and flexible repayment plans.

What to do if your recertification is denied

  1. Be proactive. One of the biggest lessons I learned from this ordeal is that it pays to be proactive. Don’t count on the loan servicer sending the paperwork you need to fill out; you can find a recertification document here. If you are struggling with payments, you have to take action. Ask your loan servicer questions to find out what might work best for you, a new payment plan or a temporary forbearance or deferment. If your loan servicer is being stingy with answers, persist, do not hang up the phone until you have the answers you need.
  2. Don’t be shy about requesting deferment or forbearance. Loan servicers won’t necessarily anticipate that you may need a deferment or forbearance if your repayment plan is denied. So be sure to ask.
  3. Resubmit your application. It isn’t unusual to have your recertification denied for a number of reasons. For example, if you are a salaried employee, paid biweekly, and only submit one pay stub, you could be denied for not demonstrating an entire month’s worth of income. But remember, you don’t have to accept that denial as final; you can usually resubmit if something was wrong with your original submission.

The Bottom Line: Not all loan servicers are created equally

As I learned the hard way, some loans servicers are pickier about the language you use on your renewal forms than others.

“For those that are self-employed, some [servicers] will have specific requirements in the phrasing of the documents used to certify income,” says Columbus, Ohio-based financial advisor Natalie Bacon. “What works for one loan servicer may not work for another.”

The biggest lesson I learned was not to assume that just because one loan servicer accepted my documentation, the other loan servicer would as well. It’s always important to communicate with each of your student loan servicers.

Liz Stapleton
Liz Stapleton |

Liz Stapleton is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Liz here

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Balance Transfer, Reviews

Review: Alliant Credit Union Visa Platinum Card Balance Transfer

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.

If you have credit card debt, you are probably paying a high (double-digit) interest rate. One of the best ways to get out of debt faster is to use a 0% balance transfer offer. At MagnifyMoney, our favorite balance transfers have no balance transfer fee. Alliant Credit Union — a credit union that anyone can join — is offering a no-fee 0% balance transfer for 12 months. Although there are longer 0% balance transfers on the market, this is a solid no-fee option that can help you save money and become debt-free faster.

One added perk: Once you become a member of the credit union to take advantage of the balance transfer offer, you will also be able to take advantage of Alliant’s other competitive products. They offer a savings account that pays 1.05% APY. They offer 2.5% cash back on a new credit card. And their mortgage and auto loan rates are some of the lowest in the country. Alliant, one of our favorite credit unions in the country, provides the value you expect from a credit union with the user interface and digital tools that you would expect from a bank.

Visa® Platinum Card from Alliant CU

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Visa® Platinum Card from Alliant CU

Intro BT APR
0%

promotional rate

Balance Transfer Fee
0%
APR
10.24%-22.24%

Variable

Duration
12 months
Credit required
fair-credit

Average

How the Card Works

The Alliant Visa Platinum Card is a very simple, straightforward credit card. There is no annual fee, and there are no rewards. You will probably be given a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months that you have the card (more on that later). Even better — there is no fee for the balance transfer. After 12 months, the APR will range from 10.24% to 22.24%, depending upon your credit score.

Unfortunately, there is one part of this card that is a little complicated — and could lead to disappointment. You are not guaranteed the 0% interest rate for the 12 months. Depending upon your credit score, the interest rate during the 12-month promotional period could be as high as 5.99%. While a 5.99% rate (especially for someone with a less than perfect credit score) could be a good deal — it is certainly not the 0% intro APR being advertised.

In order to get the credit card, you will need to become a member of the credit union. There are a number of ways that you can become a member. Some of the ways are free (for example, you live in a community in Illinois that is covered). But for most people, the easiest way to join is to make a $10 donation to Foster Care to Success. This is an organization that serves foster teens across the U.S. that are “ageing out” of the system. Once you make that contribution, you will be eligible to join the credit union and get the credit card (along with other credit union products). The application process is easy — you just need to select “not a member” at the beginning of the process, and it will walk you through the membership process as part of your credit card application.

The credit card does offer some standard credit card perks, like $0 fraud liability and rental car insurance. However, the real value is the low interest rate that can help you become debt-free fast.

If you want to earn rewards, Alliant does offer another card — the Visa Platinum Rewards Card. This card has the same balance transfer offer (0% for 12 months with no balance transfer fee). But with this card, you also earn rewards. You can earn 2 points for every $1 spent on the card. However, the APRs (after the balance transfer period) will be higher. In general, we advise people to separate their spending from their borrowing. Cards that offer no rewards tend to have lower interest rates, and cards with rewards have higher interest rates — as we see in this case. If you are looking to become debt-free, it is probably better to ignore rewards and get the lowest interest rate possible.

How to Qualify for the Card

Alliant targets people with good or excellent credit. In general, that means you have a decent chance of being approved if your score is in the mid-600s, but you have a much better chance of being approved if your score is above 700.

In addition, Alliant (like all lenders) will need to be comfortable that you will be able to afford your payments. That means you will need to have a steady source of income. In addition, the lender will likely look at your total debt in relation to your income. If you have too much debt, you will find it more difficult to get approved.

What We Like About the Card

No fee for the balance transfer.

There is nothing better than free. And with no balance transfer fee and no interest for 12 months, that is exactly what you get. Pay down as much of the debt as possible during the promotional period — because every dollar of every payment will go toward principal.

It is from a credit union.

At MagnifyMoney, we like credit unions — in theory. As member-owned organizations, credit unions do not need to worry about shareholders and should be able to offer better value and lower interest rates. Unfortunately, far too many credit unions have websites that look like they were designed in the 1990s. With Alliant, we finally have a credit union that has made the application process easy, and has a great website. Alliant is delivering on the true potential of a credit union.

What We Don’t Like About the Card

It is not the longest balance transfer.

There are a number of longer no-fee balance transfer options on the market. You can get a no-fee balance transfer for as long as 15 months from some of the leading banks in the country.

You are not guaranteed a 0% intro offer — the rate could be higher.

In the fine print, Alliant makes it clear that you might not get a 0% intro rate. The intro rate could be as high as 5.99%, depending upon your credit score. The only silver lining: Alliant is willing to give intro rates to people with less than perfect credit. But we still find it a bit annoying that you could apply for a 0% intro rate and end up with a 5.99% rate instead.

Joining the credit union costs money.

If you can’t find a free way to join the credit union, you will have to make a $10 donation. We certainly like the cause that you would be supporting. However, it is still additional money that you would need to spend in order to get access to the product.

How to Complete a Balance Transfer

Completing the balance transfer is easy. During the application process, you can provide the credit card number of your existing credit cards (where the debt is located now). Alliant will then make a payment to your existing credit card companies.

Alternatively, you can call Alliant once you have the card to complete the balance transfer on the phone.

Just remember these tips:

  • If you start the balance transfer close to the payment date, you might want to make the minimum payment to ensure you don’t get hit with any late charges. Although balance transfers usually process quickly — they can take a couple of weeks. And you would not want to get stuck with a late fee.
  • Get the transfer done as quickly as possible. The 0% is for 12 months from when you open the account — not from when you transfer the debt. The faster your transfer the debt, the more money you can save.

Who Benefits Most from the Card

If you have credit card debt that you think you can pay off in a year, this is a great option. With no balance transfer fee and 0% interest for one year — you can pay down your debt quickly. If you think it will take longer to pay off your debt, you might want to consider a longer balance transfer from a more traditional bank.

FAQs

Yes, anyone can join. During the application process, you will be asked if you are already a member of the credit union. Just select “not a member” and you can join during the application process.

Once the introductory period is over, interest will start to accrue at the standard purchase interest rate on a go-forward basis. Interest during the introductory period is waived — so you do not need to worry about a retroactive interest charge.

In the short term, your credit score will probably take a small hit (5-10 points) because you applied for new credit. However, over time, a balance transfer can increase your credit score with proper practices. This is because while new credit makes up 10% of your credit score, the amount you owe accounts for 30%. By using a balance transfer, you will reduce your interest rate. That should help you get out of debt a lot faster.

Liz Stapleton
Liz Stapleton |

Liz Stapleton is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Liz here

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Balance Transfer, Reviews

Citi Simplicity Review: Now 0% Balance Transfer for 21 Months

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.

Citi Simplicity has one of the longest 0% balance transfer offers on the market. If you transfer credit card debt to Simplicity, you will get a 0% intro APR for an incredible 21 months. There is a 3% balance transfer fee. You should do the math (and we will help you later in this post) — but for most people the fee is worth paying. As the name implies, Citi has tried to make this card “simple.” That means no late fees, no annual fee, and no penalty APR. It also means no rewards. If you have credit card debt at a high interest rate, Simplicity can help you save a lot of money and become debt-free faster if you use it wisely.

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

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Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Intro BT APR
0%

promotional rate

Balance Transfer Fee
3%
APR
14.99%-24.99%

Variable

Duration
21 months
Credit required
good-credit

Excellent/Good

How the Card Works

The card gets its name, Citi Simplicity, from its effort to keep things simple. There is never an annual fee, late fee, or penalty rate. There is an introductory offer of 0% for 21 months which includes balance transfers made within the first four months of opening the card and all purchases made during the 21-month period. After 21 months your rate will depend on your creditworthiness. Additionally, after the introductory rate ends, you will see the same interest rate for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances.

The Introductory Offer

This is the longest 0% purchase offer that we have found on the market. If you need to finance a purchase, it will be hard to find a better deal. What we particularly like about this 0% APR is that the interest is waived, not deferred. Most store credit cards only defer the interest (and for far fewer than 21 months), and you would be hit with a big penalty if you don’t pay the balance in full before the promotional period is over. That is not the case with Citi Simplicity.

In addition to the 0% purchase offer, there is also a very strong 0% balance transfer offer. You will pay no interest for 21 months, but will need to pay a 3% balance transfer. If you think you can pay your debt in full within 6 months, a balance transfer is usually not worthwhile. However, if you think it will take longer than 6 months, the fee is usually worth it and you can use this calculator to see how much you can save.

Here is an example to help understand the math. If you are making a monthly payment of $300 on $10,000 of credit card debt at a current interest rate of 17% and you transfer it to the Citi Simplicity card, you will be charged a $300 upfront fee. However, during the 21-month promotional period you would save over $2,000 — making the $300 fee worthwhile.

What Happens After 21 Months

Even if you still have a balance at the end of the 21 months, interest will start to accrue on your remaining balance on a go-forward basis. There is no penalty, and no retroactive interest will be applied.

No Late Fee

Most credit cards charge a late fee of around $30 when you miss paying at least the minimum payment by the deadline. However, the Citi Simplicity does away with this fee and will let you choose your payment due date when you sign up.

However, just because Citi doesn’t charge a late fee doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for making a late payment. If your payment is more than 30 days late, Citi would report that information to the credit bureau. This can have a negative impact on your credit score that can result in higher interest rates when you later apply for new lines of credit.

No Penalty Rate

Most credit cards in addition to charging a late fee will penalize you with an increased interest rate when you are late with a payment. This rate could be somewhere in the 30% range for purchases moving forward. The Citi Simplicity Card promises no penalty rate, meaning even if you are late with a payment, after all mistakes happen, you won’t be gouged with your credit card interest rate. However, if you bounce a check for payment, then you can be charged $35.

Same Interest Rate No Matter What You Use Your Card For

The Citi Simplicity card, keeping things simple, makes the interest rate for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances all the same. Many other credit cards will have different interest rates for each.

Price Protection

It’s already been mentioned that the Citi Simplicity card does not offer any rewards programs. However, they do offer some price protection. It’s called Citi Price Rewind. After you make a purchase with your card, you can register that purchase with Citi. Then Citi will search for lower prices across hundreds of online retailers. If Citi finds it at a lower price within 60 days, you will receive the difference between what you paid and the lower price found, up to $500 per purchase and $2,500 per year.

The only downside is this benefit only applies to certain purchases. For example, it doesn’t apply to purchasing a car, but can apply for tires purchased. You can view the full list of what qualifies here. If you find a lower price yourself, then you can submit a Price Rewind Benefit Request.

How to Qualify for the Card

You need to have good or excellent credit in order to be approved for the credit card.

In addition to a strong credit score, you will also need to demonstrate your ability to repay the debt. Citi will look at your total debt relative to your income to ensure that you are not too deep into debt. This product is not a way for people in trouble to get a lower rate — it is a way for Citi to get borrowers with a good profile who want a lower interest rate.

What We Like About the Card

A very long 0% period.

At a 3% balance transfer fee, this is the longest balance transfer on the market. Time is money — and every additional month at 0% can represent considerable savings.

Fewer “gotcha” fees.

Although we hope you never need to take advantage of these benefits, the card has no late fees and no penalty APR. In order to avoid even the risk of a late fee, we strongly recommend that you automate your monthly payments. However, mistakes can happen — and we do applaud Citi for removing some of the most annoying fees.

Price Rewind — it is actually a nice feature.

Price Rewind is a feature that is not used enough. Citi will look for a better deal — and give you the difference if you overpaid. This isn’t just a promise — we have spoken with people who have benefited from this feature.

What We Don’t Like About the Card

There is a balance transfer fee.

In most cases, and for most people, the fee will more than pay for itself. However, there are other balance transfer deals on the market that don’t have a fee. Just make sure you do the math to ensure that the fee is worth paying in your situation.

The rate after the 0% intro offer is not low.

After the intro period is over, the go-to purchase APR is not low. It ranges from the teens to the 20s, depending upon your credit risk. Hopefully, the 21-month period is long enough to eliminate your debt completely.

How to Complete a Balance Transfer

After receiving your card, you should call the number on the back of your card to initiate the balance transfer. You will need to give the credit card number of the credit card that has the debt. You cannot transfer debt from another Citi credit card (including its co-brand cards).

Although it can take less time, Citi warns that a balance transfer takes at least 14 days to complete. And you will remain responsible for making all payments on your card until the transfer is complete. We recommend paying close attention so that you do not end up with any late fees on your existing cards.

Who Benefits Most from the Card

If you have a lot of credit card debt that will take a long time (more than 15 months) to pay off, this card is a great option. Over 21 months, the savings can be incredible. Just make sure you take advantage of the 0% period to attack your debt as quickly as possible.

FAQs

No — you do not need excellent credit. Citi will approve anyone with good or excellent credit.

Once the introductory period is over, interest will start to accrue at the standard purchase interest rate on a go-forward basis. Interest during the introductory period is waived — so you do not need to worry about a retroactive interest charge.

In the short term, your credit score will probably take a small hit (5-10 points) because you applied for new credit. However, over time, a balance transfer can increase your credit score with proper practices. This is because while new credit makes up 10% of your credit score, the amount you owe accounts for 30%. By using a balance transfer, you will reduce your interest rate. That should help you get out of debt a lot faster.

Liz Stapleton
Liz Stapleton |

Liz Stapleton is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Liz here

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Balance Transfer, Credit Cards, Reviews

Review: Aspire Credit Union Platinum MasterCard Balance Transfer

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.

When you have a less than stellar credit score, and you’re battling credit card debt, it can seem like a steep uphill battle. You want a balance transfer, but finding a card that you qualify for and that has a low introductory rate for balance transfers can be tough. This is where the Aspire Platinum MasterCard (from a credit union) comes into play.

It offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first six months. It also doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee during the introductory period. There is no annual fee, and the standard purchase APR is much lower than the competition. This is the best balance transfer for fair credit that we could find on the market.

MasterCard Platinum from Aspire FCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on Aspire Credit Union’s secure website

MasterCard Platinum from Aspire FCU

Intro BT APR
0%

promotional rate

Balance Transfer Fee
2%
APR
8.90%-18.00%

Variable

Duration
6 months
Credit required
fair-credit

Average

How the Card Works

In order to apply for this credit card, you need to open a savings account and maintain a minimum deposit of $5, and you will need to be a member of the credit union. Fortunately, anyone can join the credit union. During the credit card application process, you can elect to join the American Consumer Council (at no cost), which will make you eligible for all credit union products.

The credit card itself is relatively simple. The Platinum MasterCard has been created for people with fair to good credit. The card has a good intro balance transfer offer and much lower ongoing interest rates than traditional credit card companies.

The balance transfer offer is relatively simple. You will get a 0% introductory APR for six months with no balance transfer fee during this period. Although there are much longer balance transfer offers in the market, most of those are not available to people with fair credit. So, although this is a relatively short balance transfer, it might be the best offer for someone with fair credit.

The card has no annual fee. After the 0% intro offer the interest rate will revert to the standard purchase APR, which is from 8.90% to 18%. Most credit card issuers tend to start in the teens and end in the 20s (14%-24%, for example). These are very good rates — and for people with fair credit, these could be excellent rates.

Just remember: You can only transfer debt from other credit card issuers. That is probably not an issue (because you most likely do not already have debt with Aspire), but it is something to remember. Also, the 0% offer lasts for six months from the date you open the card, not six months from the date you transfer the debt. So you should get the transfer done as soon as possible.

How to Qualify for the Card

The Aspire Platinum MasterCard is designed for those with a fair to good credit score, somewhere between 600 and 700. If you fall in this range, you are likely to qualify.

Just remember that credit score is only part of the underwriting decision. Most credit card issuers, including this credit union, will want to know that you can afford to repay the debt. That means you will need to have a job and sufficient income.

What We Like About the Card

Finally, a balance transfer for people with fair credit.

If you have fair credit, it can be impossible to get approved for a balance transfer offer. This is one of the only (and by default, best) deals that we could find to get a 0% balance transfer. Just remember: This offer is for people with fair to good credit. If you have good credit, you can find a much better deal with someone else (with a longer balance transfer). But if you have fair credit (low 600s), this is probably one of the best deals out there.

Low ongoing APR.

Because this balance transfer offer is only for six months, you will probably still have debt remaining after the balance transfer is over. Fortunately, Aspire offers credit union rates. There are no rewards on the card — but that helps to keep the interest rate low.

What We Don’t Like About the Card

Short introductory period.

The Aspire card has a very short introductory period of only six months. This is low compared to other cards that have intro periods around 15 months and can be as many as 21 months (or more). If you have good credit, you can find better deals elsewhere.

No rewards program.

You might also take note that the Aspire Platinum MasterCard does not include any rewards program. Aspire offers the Platinum Rewards MasterCard and World Rewards MasterCard as rewards card options. However, they both require a good to excellent credit score.

How to Complete a Balance Transfer

To transfer your existing credit card debt to a new balance transfer credit card, you need to call your new credit card company and give them your old account number. Then they will pay off that credit card for you and tack that debt onto your new card. There are a few things to make note of before you complete a balance transfer to ensure the most benefit:

  • Note that you can’t transfer balances between cards from the same bank.
  • Make sure you request a balance transfer within six months of receiving your new credit card or receiving an offer.
  • Check to make sure the terms of the balance transfer match the offer you received.
  • Make sure you always pay your bill on time or you may lose your balance transfer offer.

Alternatives to the Card

If you have fair credit (low 600s), this might be one of your only options. However, if you have good or excellent credit, there are much better balance transfer deals on the market.

Many cards offer an introductory period of at least 12 months, and some offer introductory periods of 21 months or longer. These cards also do not charge an annual fee or new member fee.

If You Want a Longer Intro Period (And Are Willing to Pay a Transfer Fee)

The Citi Simplicity Credit Card has a 0% introductory period for 21 months. This is one of the longest intro periods we have seen and can be extremely beneficial. There is a 3% balance transfer fee that isn’t waived during the intro period, unlike Aspire. However, the length of the intro period may save you money if you have a large amount of debt and need time to pay it off. Besides no annual fee, Citi Simplicity boasts no late fees and no penalty rate. The APR for Citi is higher than Aspire, ranging from 14.49% to 24.49%, but if you plan on paying off your debt before the end of the intro period and pay each statement on time, the APR won’t be a major point.

Who Benefits Most from the Card

The short introductory period makes the Aspire Platinum MasterCard a good option for people with a fair credit score who have a debt to pay off. Not only do you get a nice low intro rate, but the ongoing APR will likely be lower than your current credit card.

However, if you have good credit, then you could easily get a balance transfer card with a longer introductory period.

FAQs

Yes, anyone can join at no cost. When you apply for the card, you will also be asked to register as a member of the credit union, at no additional cost. All that is needed is for you to deposit $5 in a savings account. Note that the $5 must remain in the account during the length of time you have the credit card.

Once the introductory period is over, interest will start to accrue at the standard purchase interest rate on a go-forward basis. Interest during the introductory period is waived — so you do not need to worry about a retroactive interest charge.

In the short term, your credit score will probably take a small hit (5-10 points) because you applied for new credit. However, over time, a balance transfer can increase your credit score with proper practices. This is because while new credit makes up 10% of your credit score, the amount you owe accounts for 30%. By using a balance transfer, you will reduce your interest rate. That should help you get out of debt a lot faster.

Liz Stapleton
Liz Stapleton |

Liz Stapleton is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Liz here

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Credit Cards

How to Request a Credit Limit Increase With Wells Fargo

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.

Wells Fargo Bank

If you want to continue to increase the amount of credit available to you without constantly applying for more credit cards or loans, requesting a credit limit increase is a reasonable solution. However, like most things in life, there are pros and cons to requesting a credit limit increase.

The pros of requesting a credit limit increase:

There are at least two reasons why requesting a credit limit increase may be a good idea for you. First, since you have already proven yourself as a valued customer, it can be easier and faster to request and receive an increased credit line as opposed to applying for a brand new line of credit. Second, if approved, it can increase the total amount of credit available to you, which can potentially improve your credit score. That’s because your utilization rate — how much credit you’re using vs. how much credit you have access to — makes up 30% of your credit score.

The cons of requesting a credit limit increase:

There are also some downsides to requesting a credit limit increase. First, the request will likely trigger a hard check on your credit, which can lower your credit score by a few points. Second, if you are requesting the increase so that you can spend more each month, the advantage of lowering your credit utilization to improve your credit score would disappear. Additionally, it becomes a slippery slope; the more you spend, the harder it can become to pay off the credit card each month, which could lead to credit card debt.

How a credit limit increase can help raise your credit score even if it initially dips

Any hard checks on your credit will likely result in your credit score dropping a few points temporarily. However, the benefit of an increased credit limit and its impact on your credit score will make up for the few points it dropped from the hard credit check.

The number of hard credit checks on your account is not a huge factor in determining your credit score. What is a huge factor in determining your credit score? Credit utilization. In other words, how much of the credit available to you are you using? Ideally, you want to keep your credit utilization under 20%. An increase in your credit limit will immediately lower your credit utilization percentage. However, this will only be the case if you don’t increase your spending with the increased credit line.

Since your credit utilization has a larger impact on your credit score than the number of hard checks, requesting the credit limit increase is likely to help raise your credit score. As improving your credit utilization will do more to improve your credit score than the hard check would lower your credit score, it’s worth it to ask for a credit limit increase.

How to request a credit limit increase with Wells Fargo

Before asking for a credit limit increase with Wells Fargo, you should make sure you meet the minimum requirements of having an account that is at least a year old. If you don’t satisfy these requirements, then your request is likely to be denied. If they do a hard check on your credit and ultimately deny your request, you will still see the negative impact of a few points from having the hard credit check without the benefit of increasing your credit utilization.

Unfortunately, unlike many other banks these days, Wells Fargo does not have a simple online process to request a credit limit increase. According to the Wells Fargo FAQ, if you want to ask for a credit limit increase, you will need to call 1-800-642-4720. As with any request for a credit limit increase, be prepared to have them run a hard check on your credit and to answer questions regarding your current income level.

You can find the information on the Wells Fargo website by going to the “Loans and Credit” section and then clicking “Credit Cards.”

Then click “See credit card FAQs.”

 

The information on how to increase your credit limit by calling the number mentioned above is listed toward the bottom.

How to improve your chances of getting the credit limit you want

 

While ultimately the decision to increase your credit limit is up to the bank, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances. According to credit card expert Jason Steele, banks like Wells Fargo will “look at your reported income, which would demonstrate your ability to repay the loan. They would also look at the length of your relationship with Wells Fargo, and how long your account has been opened. Finally, they might also look at your payment record, and of course, your current credit utilization.” So by ensuring you have an excellent repayment record and a good relationship with the bank and the accounts you have with them, you can give yourself a better chance of being approved.

When looking at those who received the credit line increase they wanted and those who didn’t, the biggest difference appeared to be how active a customer was with Wells Fargo. Meaning they regularly used their credit card and paid it off, and they also often had another type of account with Wells Fargo, such as a mortgage.

Liz Stapleton
Liz Stapleton |

Liz Stapleton is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Liz here

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Credit Cards, Featured, Pay Down My Debt

Guide to Credit Counseling: 7 Key Questions to Ask

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.

Guide to Credit Counseling: 7 Key Questions to Ask

It’s no secret that financial education is sorely lacking in the U.S. However, this does not mean that you can’t seek financial education from reputable sources. If you have little to no knowledge on the topic of personal finance and are struggling with your finances, then you may consider credit counseling.

Credit counseling can involve a variety of services including educational materials and real-world application to your finances. Credit counselors can help you to set a budget and advise you on how to manage debt and your money in general.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), reputable credit counseling organizations have certified counselors who are trained in consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Credit counselors will work with you to come up with an individualized plan to address the money issues you are facing.

Seeking credit counseling is typically voluntary but can be required when filing for bankruptcy. In this guide, we’ll answer some key questions you might have about credit counseling and whether it’s right for you.

How Do You Find a Credit Counselor?

Before settling on a credit counseling organization, do your homework to make sure they are not only reputable but will also be the most helpful for your particular financial circumstances. Check with your state’s attorney general and the consumer protection agency present in your state to see if there have been any complaints filed.

When looking for a good credit counseling agency, first ask about what information or educational materials they provide for free. Organizations that charge for information are typically more interested in their bottom line than helping you. Also, ask about the types of services they offer. Limited services can be a red flag. The fewer services they offer, the fewer solutions they may provide you.

You do not want to be pushed into a debt management plan simply because that is their top service. And make sure you understand the organization’s fee system, not only how much services will cost but also how employees are paid. If employees make more based on the number of services you receive, look for another credit counseling organization.

MagnifyMoney has come up with a list of some of the best credit counseling options, which are a great place to start. If you are looking for credit counseling as a pre-bankruptcy measure, the U.S. Trustee Program has a list of approved credit counseling agencies that can provide pre-bankruptcy counseling.

How Much Does Credit Counseling Cost?

Credit counseling can involve both start-up and monthly maintenance costs. The Department of Justice has said that $50 per month is a reasonable fee. Further, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) has suggested that a start-up fee should not exceed $75 and monthly maintenance fees should not be more than $50 per month.

Credit counseling agencies may offer fee waivers or fee reductions, depending on your income levels. Where credit counseling is required, the DOJ requires that if the household income is less than 150% of the poverty line, then the client is entitled to a fee waiver or reduction. While the poverty line varies depending on household size, it ranges from $11,880 for a single person family household to $24,300 for a family of four.

Other regulations, such as when fees can be collected and circumstances that would warrant fee reduction or waiver, may also be set forth by your state.

How Long Does Credit Counseling Last?

While the length of your credit counseling session depends on the complexity of your financial problems, sessions typically last 60 minutes. After the initial session, credit counselors will then follow up to ensure you understand the actions you needed to take and that you have been able to get started on the plan they developed. Another session may be necessary if you see a significant change to your financial situation.

What Do You Accomplish with Credit Counseling?

According to the NFCC, reputable counseling involves three things. First, a review of a client’s current financial situation. You cannot move forward unless you know where you are starting. Second, an analysis of the factors that contributed to the financial situation. You don’t want bad habits to undermine your progress. Lastly, a plan to address the situation without incurring negative amortization of debt. This gives you a place to start in improving your financial situation.

What Is the Difference Between Credit Counseling and Debt Management Programs?

A debt management plan is just one solution a credit counselor may recommend based on your financial situation. Having a debt management plan is not the same as credit counseling.

A debt management plan involves the credit counseling organization acting as an intermediary between you and your creditors. Each month you will deposit an agreed upon amount of money to your credit counseling agency, which will, in turn, apply it to your debts. The credit counseling agency works with your creditors to determine how the amount will be applied each month as well as negotiates interest rates and any fee waivers. It’s important to call your creditors directly to check whether they are open to negotiating interest rates or offering waivers for fees. In some cases, a credit counseling firm may promise to negotiate those things for you but be stonewalled when they discover a creditor isn’t even open to the discussion.

Before agreeing to a debt management plan, make sure you understand any fees associated with the debt management plan and any choices you might be giving up. For example, some debt management plans may have you agree to give up opening up new lines of credit for a specified period of time. Remember that a debt management plan is just one of many solutions a credit counselor may advise you to consider.

How Does Credit Counseling Impact Your Credit Score?

Not directly. While the fact you are in credit counseling may show up on a credit report, that fact does not affect your score. The actions you take as a result of credit counseling can impact your score. For example, if you don’t choose a reputable credit counseling agency, the agency may submit the payment on your behalf late to your creditors, which can damage your credit score. So even though you submitted your payment on time to the credit counseling agency, it is possible that the credit counseling agency will issue a late payment on your behalf. This is why it is important to make sure you use a reputable credit counseling agency.

Who Should Consider Credit Counseling and When?

While credit counseling is sometimes required, like in instances of bankruptcy, you always have an ability to seek credit counseling. Bankruptcy attorney Julie Franklin, based in Boston, Mass., explains, “For bankruptcy purposes, there are two course requirements — a debtor must complete the first credit counseling course prior to filing and obtain a certificate that is filed with the court in their initial bankruptcy petition documents. Post bankruptcy filing, the debtor is required to take a second course, and upon completion, the certificate that is issued must be filed with the court in order for the debtor to obtain an order of discharge.”

Anyone struggling with personal finance should consider credit counseling as a viable option so long as they use a reputable credit counseling agency. Franklin also notes that “the first credit counseling course is a tool for debtors as it compels the individual taking the course to closely examine the household assets, income, liabilities, and spending habits to determine if there’s a way to ‘save’ the debtor from having to file bankruptcy.” If you are considering bankruptcy, you will have to attend some credit counseling anyway, but it could also help you to avoid filing for bankruptcy.

Voluntary credit counseling might not help if you are already being sued to have a debt collected. However, you may be able to negotiate terms with the debt collector that result in a withdrawal of the suit if you agree to enroll in credit counseling and possibly a debt management program. Not all creditors will agree to such terms, but it is possible.

Liz Stapleton
Liz Stapleton |

Liz Stapleton is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Liz here

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Reviews

Ally Bank Review: One of the Best Banks for Low-Fee Checking, High-Yield Savings

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.

Ally Bank Review

Ally Bank boasts some of the most competitive savings rates and lowest fee checking accounts on the market today.

The bank offers a variety of checking as well as savings products including high-interest savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs). Recently, Ally broke into the credit card space with the introduction of the Ally CashBack Credit Card.

Ally’s Interest Checking Account

Ally’s interest checking account is very convenient if you’re comfortable with online banking. However, if you’re not used to online banking, you may be disappointed that you are unable to make cash deposits and cannot go to a physical location if you prefer in-person customer service.

Account Details

It’s easy to open an interest checking account with Ally. Currently, accounts with under $15,000 earn 0.10% annual percentage yield (APY), while accounts with a minimum balance of $15,000 earn 0.60% APY. Ally’s user-friendly app makes it easy to deposit checks on the go and transfer money. There are no physical bank locations. All banking is done digitally through the website or app.

Fees

One of the benefits of Ally’s interest checking is there are no monthly maintenance fees. There are no fees for an ACH transfer to a non-Ally bank, no fees for incoming wires, and unlimited free standard and cashier’s checks. If you overdraft, there is a $25 overdraft fee per item, but this fee is limited to once per day. This $25 overdraft fee can be avoided by using Ally’s overdraft transfer service. You connect your Ally savings account to your checking account to automatically transfer funds if you overdraw your checking account.

Customers can use any Allpoint ATM for free and get reimbursed up to $10 each month for fees associated with other ATMs.

Pros and Cons

Pro: Up to $10 reimbursement of ATM fees. If an Allpoint ATM is not convenient, you can use other ATMs and be reimbursed for any fees they might charge you, up to $10 each month.

Con: Unable to make cash deposits. Since Ally banking exists entirely online, there is no way to deposit cash into your account.

Pro: No minimum starting balance. You are not required to have any minimum amount of money to open an account.

Con: No physical locations. As is typical with online banks, there are no physical bank branches, which can be an adjustment for those more comfortable with traditional banking.

Pro: No monthly maintenance fee. There is no fee or requirement to maintain a certain amount of money in your account.

Con: While Ally does strive to provide excellent customer service, many customer reviews have complained about the bank’s poor communication. A slowness in clearing deposits and lack of notification of changes or closing of accounts have topped the list of complaints.

How Ally’s Checking Compares

The online checking experience Ally provides is not very different from other online banks. The biggest differences are apparent when comparing Ally to traditional brick-and-mortar banks.

Online Savings and Money Market Accounts

Ally’s online savings and money market accounts have competitive interest rates. However, like other savings and money market accounts, Ally limits the number of transactions you can make each month, and these accounts come with a hefty fee if you exceed the number of allowed transactions.

Account Details

Although the interest rate on Ally’s money market account is slightly lower, it offers some benefits not available with their online savings accounts. The money market account includes a free debit card and checks, plus unlimited deposits and ATM withdrawals.

Fees

Pros and Cons

Pro: No minimum opening deposit. You can open an account with any amount of money.

Con: Limited transactions. You are only allowed six transactions per statement cycle and frequently exceeding this amount can result in the closing of your account.

Pro: Unlimited deposits. Deposits do not count toward your six transactions each month.

Con: No cash deposits. Again, the fact that Ally is an online bank means you will not be able to make cash deposits.

Pro: Debit card is available for money market accounts. Having a debit card makes it easier to access the money in your account, and ATM withdrawals do not count toward the transaction limit.

Ally’s CashBack Rewards Credit Card

Ally’s cash back rewards are average, but this credit card may be a good option if you want to simplify your finances by keeping all your banking in one place.

Read our full review of the Ally CashBack Credit Card here.
ally cashback

LearnMore

 

Account Details


Ally’s CashBack Credit Card
is a logical next step if you are already banking with Ally. Ally currently offers a 10% bonus when you deposit cash back rewards into your Ally account. However, if you are not already banking at Ally, the card offers only average rewards.

Rewards Program

Ally’s CashBack Credit Card has no annual fee and has unlimited rewards, earning 2% cash back at gas stations and grocery stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases. They are also currently offering a $100 bonus when you spend $500 on eligible purchases during the first three months. The drawback is their 2% cash back is dependent on merchant codes that stores themselves determine.

Interest Rates and Fees

While there is no annual fee, there are balance transfer fees (the greater of $10 or 4% of each transfer), cash advance fees (the greater of $10 or 5% of each transfer), and foreign transaction fees of 3%. There is also a minimum interest charge of $1 for cards carrying a balance.

Your card’s interest rate will vary based on your creditworthiness and ranges between 13.24% and 23.24%.

How the Ally CashBack Card Compares

No limit on cash back earnings can be significant if you are putting all your regular spending on the card. Their 10% deposit earnings also really help to boost the rewards of this card. However, if you don’t already have an account or don’t want to open a new account with Ally, then you may want to look at other cash back rewards cards.

The Power of Linking Ally’s Checking and Savings Accounts

While Ally’s checking and savings accounts are strong on their own, having linked checking and savings accounts provides a number of added benefits. You can keep all of your money in your Ally savings account and have free, automated transfers from savings to checking to cover any potential overdrafts. This linking and the free transfer would prevent a potential $25 fee for each day that you overdraft.

Your ability to transfer funds between accounts and have immediate access to your money is another perk. This means you can easily withdraw money using your ATM card, making the savings account much more accessible.

How Ally’s Online Savings and Money Market Accounts Compare

With their high-interest rates and easy access, Ally’s online savings and money market accounts rank among the best savings accounts available. These accounts become even more attractive when linked with an Ally checking account. Having the accounts linked means you have access to overdraft protection and free transfers between accounts. This allows for immediate access to money in your online savings and money market accounts.

Ally’s IRA and Certificate of Deposit Options

While the early withdrawal fees are what you would expect with IRAs and CDs, Ally’s CDs stand out for their 10-day rate guarantee that ensures you are earning the highest rate regardless of which day you fund the account.

Account Details

Ally offers a variety of IRA and certificate of deposit (CD) products at various rates. Ally offers three different IRA options, including an IRA High Yield CD with APYs from 0.3% to 1.75% depending on the initial deposit amount and the term length. Ally also offers an IRA Raise Your Rate CD with 1.3% – 1.4% APY based on term length. However, the Raise Your Rate IRA also allows you to change your rate once (2-year term) or twice (4-year term) if Ally’s rate for your term and balance tier goes up. In addition, Ally offers an IRA online savings account with a 1% APY.

Ally’s CD offerings are very similar to their IRA options. There are three CD products, the High Yield CD, Raise Your Rate CD, and No Penalty CD. The APYs currently available for the High Yield CD and Raise Your Rate CD match those of their IRA counterparts, ranging from 0.3% to 1.75%. The No Penalty CD has an APY of 0.87%, which is less than the IRA online savings account, but there is withdrawal flexibility, which is not the case for IRAs.

Fees

Ally does penalize early withdrawals if you withdraw before the maturity date; the fee for early withdrawal depends on the term of the CD or IRA CD and ranges from 60 to 150 days’ loss of interest. Also, an early IRA withdrawal will be taxed by the Internal Revenue Service. There is no monthly maintenance fee, and the terms will automatically renew upon the maturity date with a 10-day grace period allowing you to withdraw your money at no charge.

Pros and Cons

Pro: Easy access banking app. The ability to see your CD balance and be notified of rate changes (so you can change your rate) provides great peace of mind.

Con: Automatic renewal. If you aren’t keeping track of your CD’s maturity date, you might find yourself unable to access your money for another few years.

Pro: Best rate guarantees. This is available for all CD and IRA products except for the IRA online savings account. Ally’s best rate guarantee ensures you receive their highest available interest rates when you fund your accounts within 10 days for a CD or 90 days for IRA CDs.

Con: Early withdrawal penalties. If you need access to your money within the next 1-5 years, the no-penalty CD may be your best option as all other products have a penalty fee for early withdrawal.

How Ally’s IRA and CD Products Compare

The rates are very competitive, but what puts Ally ahead is their CDs’ 10-day best rate guarantee, as well as the Raise Your Rate CD and IRA that allow you to opt into a higher rate that becomes available during the term. The fact that they also don’t have a required minimum opening deposit makes these accounts accessible to more people and extremely convenient for those already banking with Ally.

Liz Stapleton
Liz Stapleton |

Liz Stapleton is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Liz here

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