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The Best Tax Software of 2017

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’re like most Americans, you dread filing your taxes. You have to track down the right forms, deal with the IRS, and try to remember all your deductions and credits. That’s why so many people turn to online tax software to help file taxes. Great tax software simplifies the filing process without draining your pocketbook. But choosing the right software can be as much work as filing your taxes.

To help you choose the right software, we’ve tested 11 of the leading online tax software packages. We’ve ranked each software on the following criteria: usability, helpfulness of support articles, availability of audit support, and accessibility of tax and technical support. Then, we compared these criteria to the price to determine which software package is best for your situation.

Which tax software fits your needs? Find out below.

Best Tax Software of 2017

Best Free Filing Service

Of the 11 tax software packages we reviewed only two allow all users to file state and federal taxes for free.

Best Software: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Credit Karma Tax features an outstanding user interface with easy interview questions. The built-in calculators make Credit Karma appropriate for even complex filers. You can’t import information, and Credit Karma doesn’t have robust help, but it’s easily the best software you can use for free.

Runner-up: DIY Tax

DIY Tax DIY Tax is a joint partnership between Liberty Tax Services and eSmart Tax. Their user interface is clunky, but it has all the functionality you need. Their software interface allows you to import prior tax returns, and they have excellent support articles.

Best for Simple Filing

Simple filers are W-2 employees who claim the standard deduction. You typically file as Single or Married Filing Jointly. You don’t have dependents, and you earn less than $100,000.

Best Software: TaxAct, free edition

TaxAct TaxAct offers completely free state and federal filing options for simple filers. However, they do charge $10 for prior year import. The user experience is easy, and TaxAct offers free tax and technical support.

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Credit Karma Tax offers free filing for all users, and they have an easy-to-use interface. While they only offer email tech and tax support, Credit Karma allows simple filers to explore more complex credits and deductions for free.

Best for Maximizing Deductions and Credits

Charitably inclined people, most homeowners, parents who pay for child care, and people who qualify for the earned income tax credit may want to maximize deductions and credits.

Best Software: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Most software packages require you to upgrade to itemize deductions or claim credits. With Credit Karma Tax you can claim them for free. The only problem with Credit Karma Tax? If you fail to qualify for a credit, they don’t offer great explanations.

Runner-up: TaxSlayer Classic

TaxSlayer Classic TaxSlayer Classic offers federal filing for $17 and state filing for $22. The software is easy to use and intuitive. It even allows you to upload your W-2 form. For maximizing deductions and credits, you won’t find a better software for the price. TaxSlayer gives you access to technical support, but you need to upgrade to ask tax-related questions.

Easiest for New Filers

We assume that new filers have simple forms to file, but they want a clear user interface and ready access to tax and technical support.

Best Software: 1040.com EZ

1040.com EZ 1040.com offers free federal filing, and state filing for $9.95. Normally, we don’t recommend paying for a service that you can get for free elsewhere, but new filers will love 1040.com’s user interface and live chat support. Their tax and tech professionals can quickly guide you if you get stuck.

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Credit Karma Tax has an excellent user interface that you can use for free. Even new filers can use the interview questions to determine whether they qualify for credits or deductions. Unfortunately, Credit Karma only offers email support.

Best Audit Protection

The IRS has the right to audit anyone, but people with complex taxes run a greater audit risk. No tax software (or accountant) can prevent you from getting audited. However, some tax software will give you access to a tax specialist or accountant if you undergo an audit. These are the software services that can lend a hand if you need it.

Best Software: FreeTaxUSA Deluxe

FreeTaxUSA Deluxe FreeTaxUSA Deluxe costs $6.99 for federal filing and $12.95 for state filing. FreeTaxUSA does not feature an intuitive user interface, but they have built-in calculators that most complex filers need. They also promise to give you personal assistance if you’re audited. If you can stand the software, it’s the best price for audit protection.

 

Runner-up: TaxSlayer Premium

TaxSlayer Classic TaxSlayer Premium costs $35 for federal filing and $22 for state filing. At the Premium level, trained tax professionals will help you if you’re audited after using the TaxSlayer software. The software is generally easy to use. However, the amortization and depreciation calculators can be confusing.

Why H&R Block and TurboTax didn’t make the cut

Historically, H&R Block included audit assistance with all of their paid programs. This year, you can only get that protection if you purchase the desktop software. If you purchase H&R Block online, you can pay an additional $79.99 for a “Best of Both” package. In this package, a tax professional reviews your filing, and they offer in-person support if the IRS audits you.

In the past, TurboTax included audit assistance with their paid package. This year, if you want audit assistance from TurboTax, you have to pay for the $44.99 “MAX” package. They give some additional security measures and access to in-person support if you’re audited.

Because of the increase in price, these historic powerhouses didn’t make the cut for best audit protection.

Best Interface for Health Care Premium Tax Credit

Health insurance isn’t only confusing during open enrollment. Tax time means that you’ll need to figure out how much of the premium tax credit you qualified for during the year. If you were on an Obamacare health plan for any part of the year, you’ll need to look for software that can handle this credit.

Best Software: OLT.com

OLT OLT.com offers free federal filing and $9.95 state returns. It’s got a poor user interface, but their Affordable Care Act section offers excellent support articles, and it’s easy to use. You can’t import forms, but it’s easy to copy data from your 1095-A onto the software.

This software is only appropriate for simple filers with a marketplace plan. Everyone else should look elsewhere.

Runner-up: TurboTax Deluxe

TurboTax Deluxe TurboTax Deluxe costs $34.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state filing. This is a steep price if you want to itemize deductions and maximize credits. However, TurboTax offers the best Affordable Care Act information on the market. They even allow you to upload your 1095-A form to the software.

Best for Investors

If you buy and sell stocks, bonds, or options outside of your tax-advantaged retirement accounts, you need a tax software that can handle all your information. Tax software for investors needs to handle dividends as well as short-term and long-term capital gains.

Best Software: H&R Block Premium - Online version

H&R Block Premium H&R Block Premium online software costs $54.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state filing. But the price is well worth it in this case. H&R Block allows you to import all major forms from many financial institutions. If you actively trade, you need this capability. H&R Block also has accurate accounting for short-term gains and losses, which will help investors minimize the tax they owe. H&R Block also has helpful community forums and unlimited real-time chat support if you need help.

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Credit Karma Tax offers a free solution for all kinds of investors. You must manually enter all your trading information, but Credit Karma calculates capital gains and losses and the appropriate tax rate. It’s a decent (and free) solution for less active investors.

Best for Real Estate Investors

Real estate investors need to calculate depreciation. They need to amortize certain expenses and deduct others. This can be confusing for DIY tax preparers. The best tax software for real estate investors needs to feature helpful support articles, intuitive depreciation and amortization calculators, and as many import features as possible.

Best Software: TurboTax Premier

TurboTax Premier costs $54.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state. The real estate portion of TurboTax is second to none. If you use QuickBooks software to manage your real estate accounting, you can connect it directly to TurboTax. If you don’t, you can still upload a Schedule E or use the robust calculators.

Runner-up: H&R Block Premium

H&R Block Premium H&R Block Premium also costs $54.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state. The software allows users to import many documents including an entire Schedule E. The depreciation and amortization calculators offer standard inputs, but they are flexible enough for special events. H&R Block also makes it easy to import last year’s tax return. Most real estate investors need this to accurately report depreciation.

Best for Self-Employed People

Are you a freelancer or contractor? If so, you know that you can deduct many business-related expenses. This means that taxes can get messy in a hurry. The best tax software for self-employed people makes it easy to claim business deductions. It will also offer robust explanations that will help you understand amortizing equipment expenses and whether you qualify for a home office deduction.

Best Software: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Credit Karma Tax makes it easy for you to find and deduct appropriate expenses if you’re self-employed. Their built-in amortization calculators are easy to use, and Credit Karma offers helpful explanations. Outside of the most complex self-employment situations, Credit Karma is a simple filing solution.

Runner-up: Jackson Hewitt Basic

Jackson Hewitt Basic Jackson Hewitt Basic software offers one of the lowest cost Schedule C-EZ forms if you’re self-employed. The cost is $19.95 for federal returns and $36.95 for state returns. Their extensive support articles and helpful interface mean that you can find the help you need at the right price. Plus, you can get unlimited live chat support from technical assistants. If you need help from tax experts, you will have to pay for a consultation at a local Jackson Hewitt office.

Best Bargain for Self-Employed People

When you’re self-employed, you don’t always have the luxury of choosing the best-value product. Sometimes, you just need the cheapest product that will get the job done. If that’s you, these are the software products you should consider.

Best Software: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Credit Karma Tax is the best 100% free option if you’re self-employed. It offers all the functionality you need.

Best Software: FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSA FreeTaxUSA allows free federal filing and $12.95 state filing. Their calculators and website are adequate for self-employed people. This software allows you to deduct mileage, amortize expenses, and categorize meals and entertainment. FreeTaxUSA isn’t beautiful, but it gets the job done at a low price. If you upgrade to Deluxe, you’ll even get audit assistance.

Best for Small Businesses

Sole proprietors and single member LLCs can also use tax software for self-employed people. As long as the software supports a Schedule C, it will work for your small business needs.

If you’re part of a partnership, a corporation, or a multi-member LLC, then you need more than the standard tax software that we reviewed above.

Corporations need software that supports Form 1120. S Corporations (with more than one member) need tax software that supports Form 1120S. Partnerships and multi-member LLCs need software that supports Form 1065.

If you need business tax software consider one of these options.

TurboTax Business

TurboTax Home & Business $149.99 federal (up to five federal e-files); $49.99 per state + $24.99 per state e-filing fee.TurboTax Business offers the same interview style interface that consumers love, but it offers increased functionality. Small business owners will especially love that they can use it to create unlimited W-2 forms and 1099-MISC forms.

H&R Block Premium and Business

H&R Block Premium and Business $79.95 federal (up to five federal e-files); first state software free, after that: $35 per state + $19.95 per state e-filing fee. H&R Block offers an excellent interview style user interface with increased functionality such as creating employee forms. This software supports the major forms for businesses, plus the form for nonprofit organizations.

TaxAct for Small Businesses

TaxAct TaxAct bundles federal and state filing and software for a total of $100. You can purchase federal filing only for $60. TaxAct has a slightly more stripped-down user interface than H&R Block or TurboTax, but business owners can easily complete everything. You can even create as many employee tax forms as you need.

 

Tax Software Pricing, Plans, and Insights

Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Credit Karma Tax offers free federal and state filing for all users. With a robust and easy-to-use interface, it’s an excellent default choice for most filers. Their guided path through the tax software is as good as the most expensive tax software on the market. But it has a few shortfalls. You can’t import your prior year’s taxes. This makes year-to-year comparisons impossible within the software. You also can’t import any forms, which can be a pitfall for active traders and real estate professionals.

Credit Karma offers tax and tech support via email. They currently have at least a 3-day wait time for answers. Credit Karma doesn’t offer audit support either.

Superlatives: Best Free Filing Service, Best for Maximizing Deductions and Credits, Best for Self-Employed People, Best Bargain for Self-Employed People, Runner-up Best for Simple Filing, Runner-up Easiest for New Filers, Runner-up Best for Investors

DIY Tax

DIY Tax DIY Tax offers 100% free federal and state filing for everyone. Their user interface is a bit clumsy, but it proves accurate and usable. They even allow you to import your prior year’s taxes for your reference. Real estate investors and small business owners need to be careful with this platform. The depreciation and amortization calculators can be confusing. Their software offers technical support, but they push Liberty Tax Service offices for tax support. The software doesn’t come with an audit support guarantee.

DIY Tax is sponsored by Liberty Tax, and you will see ads for their offices in the software. Remember, filing in a Liberty Tax office isn’t free.

 

Superlatives: Runner-up Best Free Filing Service

eSmart Tax

eSmart Tax eSmart Tax and DIY Tax are the same software package. However, you have to pay for eSmart Tax. Why would you pay? The Deluxe and Premium packages offer unlimited phone or email support from tax specialists, which can prove helpful. But in most cases eSmart Tax isn’t a great option.

 

Free Basic Deluxe Premium
Price $0 Federal $29.95 State $14.95 Federal
$29.95 State
$19.95 Federal
$29.95 State
$34.95 Federal
$29.95 State
Best For 1040EZ Homeowners, people with dependents, sole proprietors Stock market investors without capital gains or losses Freelancers, real estate investors, people who sold a home in the previous years

Superlatives: None

TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer TaxSlayer has an incredible user interface and helpful support articles. When it comes to itemizing deductions or finding credits, it is one of the easiest to use tax software packages on the market.

Unlike most tax software, TaxSlayer supports all forms on its second-tier Classic level. This means that anyone could complete their entire tax return at a relatively low price. Their Premium level gives you access to live chat support, audit protections, and help from tax professionals.

However, TaxSlayer has two demerits. First, you cannot import a prior year’s tax return from a competitor. The only tax information you can use is information you entered into TaxSlayer during a previous tax year. Second, TaxSlayer doesn’t allow you to see internal calculations for depreciation and amortization. That makes TaxSlayer inappropriate if you’re a real estate investor or self-employed.

 

Simply Free Classic Premium
Price $0 Federal
$0 First State ($22 each additional)
$17 Federal
$22 State
$35 Federal
$22 State
Best For 1040EZ All others (itemizers, stock market investors, real estate investors, self-employed, etc.) Comes with audit assistance, ask a task professional, and live chat support

Superlatives: Runner-up Best Audit Protection, Runner-up Best for Maximizing Deductions and Credits

TaxAct

TaxAct When does free really mean free? When it comes to simple tax filing through TaxAct. People who file a 1040 or 1040EZ can file federal and state taxes for free through TaxAct. Even if you don’t qualify for free filing, TaxAct usually represents an excellent value. At any level, you can receive phone and email support from tax and technical professionals. TaxAct doesn’t offer audit support, but it is priced accordingly.

For the most part, TaxAct simplifies tax filing. It uses simple questions, helpful knowledge articles, and easy navigation to help you complete your taxes. They even make it easy to import your prior year’s taxes into their software. TaxAct also offers some of the best guidance if you’re a stock market investor or self-employed.

Despite all these praises, the software stumbles somewhat on its real estate coverage. The depreciation calculator seems clumsy in certain areas. Outside of this flaw, TaxAct offers tremendous value for the price.

 

Free Plus Premium
Price $0 Federal
$0 State
$27 Federal
$33 State
$37 Federal
$33 State
Best For 1040EZ, 1040A (no dependents, claiming standard deduction) Itemizers, stock market investors Self-employed, real estate investors

Superlatives: Best for Simple Filing

OLT.com

OLT OLT.com offers bargain basement pricing, but it shows in the interface. You have to pay $7.95 for tax and technical support. Nonetheless, the $7.95 also brings audit support, which offers some value.

Their clumsy user interface only allows you to import prior year tax forms from its own database. Their support articles send you to the even more confusing IRS website.

However, OLT.com offers a few bright spots. The health insurance coverage is easy and accurate. It is the only tax software that makes it easy to claim the premium tax credit for part of the year. Also, the real estate depreciation calculators are flexible enough to deal with complex circumstances.

In most cases, we don’t recommend OLT.com, but a few people may benefit.

 

Free Premium
Price $0 Federal
$9.95 State
$7.95 Federal
$7.95 State
Best For All major schedules supported Anyone who wants audit support

Superlatives: Best Interface for Health Care Premium Tax Credit

1040.com

1040.com EZ According to 1040.com, tax filing should be smart and simple. If you’re a new filer or a freelancer with basic expenses, 1040.com delivers. 1040.com offers free live chat and email technical support. They also have support articles that are approachable and informative.

In fact, their entire software is friendly and informative. New filers are likely to appreciate the high-quality and low-cost support from 1040.com, but other simple filers can find better deals elsewhere. Their friendly interview style interface starts to falter if you’re a real estate or stock market investor. You will need to add forms that don’t have built-in calculators. This means that 1040.com is best for people with less complexity in their filing.

 

Free $19.95 $39.95
Price $0 Federal
$9.95 State
$19.95 Federal
$14.95 State
$39.95 Federal
$19.95 State
Best For 1040EZ Stock market investors Self-employed, real estate investors, itemizers

Superlatives: Easiest for New Filers

H&R Block Online

H&R Block Premium H&R Block is one of the biggest names in tax software for good reason. People with complex tax returns will love the value that H&R Block offers. H&R Block offers unlimited technical support to all filers, and phone and chat tax support for those who pay. The only disappointment is that H&R Block online filing customers do not get a free in-person audit support. This is reserved for those who purchase a $79.99 “Best of Both” upgrade or who download H&R Block’s software.

However, the H&R Block interface offsets this disappointment. H&R Block offers easy navigation, helpful interview questions, and robust articles that can help you untangle even the most complex filing situation. H&R Block’s built-in calculators are flexible enough to deal with uncommon filings. Plus, you can import most major forms, including prior year’s tax returns from competitors. This makes H&R Block ideal for anyone with complex filings.

Their software isn’t quite as easy to use as TurboTax, but it’s quite a bit less expensive. In particular, freelancers and self-employed people with basic expenses will see huge value since they can purchase the Deluxe edition.

 

Free Deluxe* Premium*
Price $0 Federal
$0 State
$34.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$54.99 Federal
$36.99 State
Best For New filers, basic filers (allows for earned income tax credit), homeowners Stock market investors, self-employed with basic expenses, other itemizers Real estate investors, self-employed with more complex expenses

*Deluxe and Premium filers can upgrade to a $79.99 “Best of Both” package. This means that a CPA will review your return and you’ll receive in-person audit assistance.

Superlatives: Best for Investors, Runner-up Best for Real Estate Investors

TurboTax

TurboTax Deluxe If you’re looking for the Cadillac of tax software, TurboTax emerges as the winner. Their interface is easy to use and navigate. TurboTax even allows you to import last year’s taxes from any of their competitors. 1040EZ filers will even get to file federal and state returns for free. After that, the price climbs quickly. But for many filers the high price is well worth the cost.

The interview style format makes tax filing simple, even if you’re facing a complex situation. Paying customers who get stuck can get help from tax or technical professionals. TurboTax takes their support seriously. With your permission, support staff can “draw” on your screen to guide you through tough situations.

Real estate investors, self-employed people, and small business owners will appreciate TurboTax’s robust interface. The one thing they won’t appreciate? The price of audit support. TurboTax’s MAX costs $44.99. This is the only way to get audit support from TurboTax this year.

 

Free Deluxe Premium Self-Employed
Price $0 Federal
$0 State
$34.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$54.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$89.99 Federal
$36.99 State
Best For 1040EZ/ 1040A Itemizers Investors, real estate investors Self-employed

*Anyone can upgrade to TurboTax’s MAX for $44.99.

Superlatives: Best for Real Estate Investors, Runner-up Best Interface for Health Care Premium Tax Credit

FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSAand TaxHawk offer the same tax software at the same price. They are owned by the same parent company, and you can even move your profile from one site to the next. The websites aren’t pretty, but experienced filers will find everything they need to complete their taxes. You can even upload prior year’s tax returns from competitors. This is a huge value given the bargain basement pricing.

FreeTaxUSA offers two pricing tiers. Both levels support all major tax forms. You can also access chat support from tax and technical specialists from both levels. However, upgrading will give you priority access to specialists. Upgrading also gives you access to a tax specialist if you’re audited.

The name might lead you to believe you’re getting free tax filing, but you’ll have to pay at least $12.95 for state filing. Nonetheless, FreeTaxUSA is a great bargain — especially if you have a complex filing situation.

 

Free Premium
Price $0 Federal
$12.95 State
$6.99 Federal
$12.95 State
Best For All major schedules supported Anyone who wants audit support

Superlatives: Best Audit Protection, Best Bargain for Self-Employed People

Jackson Hewitt Online

Jackson Hewitt Basic Jackson Hewitt brings the neighborhood tax filing office online. They feature excellent knowledge articles and easy interview style tax filing. It’s easy to import your taxes from any major competitor or from Jackson Hewitt. This makes switching to Jackson Hewitt Online easy.

Built-in calculators make depreciation and amortization easy. However, Jackson Hewitt doesn’t offer many import options. This makes their relatively high pricing difficult to justify. Simple filers (1040EZ) and self-employed people with basic expenses may see high value in the Jackson Hewitt software. After all, they offer live chat tech support to all their customers. If you need tax support, you’ll have to upgrade to Premium to get the phone support.

Jackson Hewitt also allows online filers to pay extra for an in-person tax consultation. Prices for these meetings vary by location.

It’s important to note that this review is only for the online Jackson Hewitt software package. Magnify Money did not review Jackson Hewitt office preparations.

 

Free Basic Deluxe Premium
Price $0 Federal
$0 State
$19.95 Federal
$36.95 State
$34.95 Federal
$36.95 State
$54.95 Federal
$36.95 State
Best For 1040EZ Freelancers Investors, families with dependents, homeowners, itemizers Small business owners, real estate investors

Superlatives: Runner-up Best for Self-Employed People

 

Tax Software FAQs

Is online tax software safe?

Tax-related identity theft is the number one reported form of identity theft. However, most theft isn’t the direct result of using online software. Any time you apply for a credit card or use online banking, your information enters the digital world. If this information gets stolen, you’re at risk. Nobody can eliminate the possibility of identity theft, but you can work to protect yourself.

Part of protecting yourself involves only giving out your information on trusted websites. When you file your taxes, you provide all your personally identifiable information to a software service. You need to know whether or not that information is safe.

Every software company that we reviewed is an Authorized IRS e-File provider. This means that these sites comply with the security and business standards set forth by the IRS.

None of the software packages we reviewed will sell your personal information to a third party. Each of the software packages we reviewed requires you to use multi-factor authentication. This makes it difficult for hackers to access your personal information. These websites are as secure as possible, but they are not 100% safe.

If you think you’ve been the victim of tax fraud, contact the IRS immediately at 1-800-908-4490 to work with their resolution specialists. You will need to file an identity theft affidavit that explains that someone filed taxes in your name.

What if I don’t want to use tax software?

If you don’t want to use tax software, you can choose a paper filing option. Each state requires you to mail your check to a different office.

You can also use the IRS’s free electronic fillable forms. However, these offer limited guidance and can be difficult to use. With so many other free options, these should be a last resort.

Finally, you can hire a professional tax preparer to do your taxes for you. Be sure that the person you hire is in the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.

Should I hire an accountant?

An accountant can save you time, headache, and in some cases, money. Tax professionals must follow the tax code, but their specialized knowledge helps them pick up on deductions or credits that you might miss on your own.

In general, the more complex your tax return, the more you may want to hire an accountant. If you choose to hire an accountant, be sure that they are an authorized tax return preparer. They should sign your return as an authorized preparer.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah at hannah@magnifymoney.com

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Advertiser Disclosure

Best of

The Best Business Savings Account Rates in 2018

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.

Are you looking to start or grow a business? Opening a business savings account can offer federal protection for the funds you deposit (up to $250,000) and provide a source of liquidity should inevitable expenses arise. You can earn interest while setting aside money for capital improvement or income taxes. A commercial savings account can add credibility to your business, arm you with a business debit card and help your cash flow.

The best way to choose an account that fits your needs is to start by comparing the annual percentage yield offered by banks and credit unions. Then look for benefits that might make the account attractive based on your needs. Is there a monthly maintenance fee or a minimum deposit to open? Does the bank provide ample access to ATM and online account services?

Deciding which business savings account is best for your needs can be a difficult process, but hopefully this roundup of our picks for best savings accounts will help give you a head-start.

The best business savings account rates — January 2018

Institution

APY

Minimum balance amount

First Internet Bank of Indiana

1.11%

None

BofI Federal Bank

1.06%

$25,000

Live Oak Bank

1.05%

None

Community Bank of Pleasant Hill

1.05%

None

Community Bank of Raymore

1.05%

None

Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU)

1.00%

$25,000

Presidential Bank (Maryland)

0.50%

$5,000

UniBank

0.35%

$2,500

Signature Federal Credit Union

0.30%

$100

SaviBank

0.30%

None

Source: Deposit Accounts, Jan. 17, 2018

1. First Internet Bank of Indiana, 1.11% APY up to $250,000, ATM services

First Internet Bank offers an FDIC-insured savings option for businesses with a relatively good 1.11% APY. However, if you have more than $250,000 to put in their business savings account, they'll award you with a 1.36% APY. Unfortunately, the FDIC only insures up to $250,000. So, if you deposit more than $250,000 into the savings account, the excess deposit amount will not be insured by the FDIC.

It costs $100 to open your business account and you must maintain an average daily balance of $1,000 to avoid a $2 monthly maintenance fee.

There is no minimum balance to open or maintain the account. Unlimited deposits can be made each month and six transfers or withdrawals are allowed without charge.

The First IB ATM cards are offered to sole proprietors only. There is no charge for ATM transactions or electronic statements. Founded in 1999 by the First Internet Bancorp, First IB offers remote banking in all 50 states.

Fine print: Only six preauthorized, automatic, PC, or telephonic transfers are allowed each month. This restriction is common among most of these institutions, however, First Internet Bank will charge you $5 per item if you go beyond the allotted six.

Restrictions on joining: none.

LEARN MORE Secured

on First Internet Bank Of Indiana’s secure website

2. BofI Federal Bank: 1.06% APY, $25,000 minimum balance, ATM access

BoFI Federal Bank offers one of the top APY rates in the DepositAccounts nationwide survey of business savings accounts. The bank’s Business Premium Savings Account with a high-yield 1.06% APY can be opened with a $25,000 minimum deposit.

There is no monthly maintenance fee for the account and no average daily balance requirement.

BoFI also makes it easy to access your funds when you need it. Customers have ATM access to their accounts along with free online banking. However, ATM withdrawal limits are $1,010 per day and there’s a daily purchase limit of $5,000. BofI is an FDIC-insured bank based in San Diego and publicly traded online. Other products include Business Interest Checking and Business Money Market accounts.

LEARN MORE Secured

on BofI Federal Bank’s secure website

3. Live Oak Bank, 1.05% APY, No minimum balance

Live Oak Bank awards 1.05% APY on its business accounts are eight times the national average. There is no minimum opening balance or deposit required to open a business savings account.

The business savings account is open to deposits of up to $5 million and is free of monthly maintenance fees. You may make up to 6 withdrawals from your Live Oak Bank Savings account per statement cycle, including preauthorized, automatic and telephone transfers. After that there’s a $10 fee per withdrawal. Live Oak Bank, established in 2008, holds assets of $2.12 billion.

The bank is in Wilmington, N.C., and is a member of the FDIC. Learn more about business savings at Live Oak Bank.

Small Print: The bank may verify credit and employment history at its discretion, meaning you may receive a pull against your credit report.

Restrictions on joining: none.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Live Oak Bank’s secure website

4. Community Bank of Pleasant Hill, 1.05% APY, No minimum balance

With its 1.05% APY, the Business Premier Money Management Account at Community Bank of Pleasant Hill offers highly competitive rates to explore. You need only put down $25 to open the account and maintain a minimum balance of $10,000 to avoid a $10 monthly service charge and $4 paper statement fee.

ATM access is offered surcharge-free when using ATMs in the MoneyPass® network. Community Bank began operations on Dec. 6, 2006, and is a member of the FDIC. Members can search for partner ATMs online or through mobile access.

Fine print: Just watch out for hefty withdrawal fees. You can make free withdrawals on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month; on other days, there’s a $25 withdrawal fee. If you plan to make regular in-person withdrawals, this probably isn’t the best account for your needs.

Restrictions on joining: none.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Community Bank Of Pleasant Hill’s secure website

5. Community Bank of Raymore, 1.05% APY, $25 minimum deposit to open

The Community Bank of Raymore created its Premier Money Management Account specifically for business customers who carry high balances and are looking for security. It costs $25 to open your account but you’ll earn a solid 1.05% APY.

You must maintain a balance of at least $10,000 or you’ll be assessed a monthly $10 charge. You may only make free withdrawals on the second and fourth Wednesdays or face a $25 fee.
Electronic statements are free of charge. Nationwide ATM service without charge is available through the MoneyPass® network.

The Community Bank of Raymore was chartered in Missouri in May 15, 1979. According to the bank website, the idea of the bank originated at a community meeting at Raymore Elementary School in 1976.

Fine print: You’ll be restricted to two days a week for making free withdrawals in Raymar, too, on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month. Other days, you’ll have to cough up $25.

Restrictions on joining: none.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Community Bank Of Raymore’s secure website

6. Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU), 1.00% APY, $25,000 minimum balance

Digital Federal Credit Union offers a solid 1.00% APY rate through its Business DCU Ltd Savings Account with a minimum $25,000 balance.

Businesses participating in the DCU Ltd Savings Account receive 24/7 online banking, mobile banking through the DCU Mobile Banking App, access to DCU ATMs, deposits, transfers or balance verification. Watch out for their ATM fees, though. They charge $0.75 per withdrawal from a non-DCU ATM, which will surely add up if you make regular withdrawals. Created by the Digital Equipment Corporation in 1979, DCU is the largest credit union in Massachusetts by assets. Federally insured by NCUA, DCU is based in Marlborough, Mass.

Restrictions on joining: To join, you must meet eligibility requirements within the field of membership for employers, organizations, participating communities or condominium associations.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU)’s secure website

7. Presidential Bank (Maryland), up to 0.50% APY, $5,000 to open, ATM services

Presidential Bank’s Commercial Premier Savings account offers 0.50% APY for balances up to $35,000, making it a decent — if not extraordinary — bet for business owners.

Business customers are not required to maintain a minimum balance on the account in order to receive all ATM privileges. So long as you use one of their ATMs you won't incur fees, but there is a $0.75 ATM fee for non-network ATMs. Free online banking, mobile banking and ATM card come with the account.

Established in 1985, Presidential Online Bank was one of the first lenders to offer online banking. Located in Bethesda, Md., it currently lists assets in excess of $550 million.

Restrictions on joining: none.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Presidential Bank’s secure website

8. UniBank, 0.35% AYP, $25,000 minimum balance, $500 to open, ATM services

The Business Regular Savings account at UniBank currently pays out 0.35% AYP for all accounts starting at $2,500. It costs $500 to open your business account and the monthly service fee is $12.

You can have that service fee waived by maintaining a $2,500 minimum daily balance. Customers have online, telephone and ATM access to their business accounts. There are more than 25,000 surcharge-free UniBank ATMs available through the MoneyPass® network.

Established in 2006, the bank is located in Lynnwood, Wash. While its business savings account rates leave much to be desired, the bank’s strength may lie in its current money market rates, which Deposit Accounts says are 70 percent higher than the national average.

Restrictions on joining: none.

LEARN MORE Secured

on UniBank’s secure website

9. Signature Federal Credit Union, 0.30% APY, $100 minimum deposit to open

The Business Convention Savings account at Signature Federal Credit Union offers a 0.30% APY. You can open the account with as little as $100 and the account will begin earning the APY once the account is funded with the minimum deposit amount.

The account comes with zero monthly fees and doesn't require a minimum balance amount to earn the APY as long as you open the account with $100.

Signature Federal Credit Union was founded in 1970 and is currently headquarterd in Alexandria, VA. The credit union has assets over $296.6 million and has partnered with National Shared Branching to allow their customers to conduct business nationwide without the restriction of a Signature Federal Credit Union location.

Restrictions on joining: $5 fee to join the credit union. The $5 will be deposited into a basic savings account.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Signature Federal Credit Union’s secure website

10. SaviBank, 0.30% APY, $250 minimum daily balance, $100 to open, ATM services

Rounding out the top 10, the business savings accounts at SaviBank offer a decent 0.30% APY. It costs $100 to open the account. If you keep a minimum daily balance of $250, the bank dismisses a $5 monthly service charge.

Checks and third-party withdrawals are limited to six for each calendar month.

Established in Burlington, Wash., in 2005 as Business Bank, SaviBank offers 24-hour access to accounts through online banking and surcharge-free ATM locations nationwide over the MoneyPass® network.

Restrictions on joining: none

LEARN MORE Secured

on SaviBank’s secure website

Learn more about business savings accounts

How we ranked the best business savings accounts

To come up with this list, we first used data from DepositAccounts.com, which tracks rates on a range of deposit accounts across thousands of banks in the U.S. Note: DepositAccounts is also owned by MagnifyMoney’s parent company LendingTree.com.

We eliminated any institutions that were given a health rating below a B by DepositAccounts. We also weeded out any credit unions that have very restrictive membership requirements. From there, we chose the top 10 business savings accounts with the highest APY. And lastly, all the banks on our list offer FDIC or NCUA insurance.

Business savings accounts vs personal savings accounts

Business and regular savings accounts may offer many of the same features ,such as 24/7 online banking, free electronic reporting, debit cards, fund transfers and ATM machines.

The trade-off in choosing a business account is that you’ll get services focused on business planning and spending in exchange for a less-desirable APY.

When you compare the interest earned on a business savings account with the best APY rates offered on savings accounts, it may not look like opening a business account is a wise strategy. The top business savings account APY right now is 1.11%. The top APY among personal savings accounts is 1.60% with no minimum deposit and ATM access. You can weigh the services, charges and minimum account fees between the top business and top personal savings accounts to decide which is best for you.

There are other benefits to offset any differences in earnings, particularly if your business is incorporated. It’s considered sound business practice to separate your personal saving and checking accounts from your business saving and checking accounts. A business account can help you manage cash flow, accounting, recordkeeping and working capital. At income tax time, separate accounts can help you differentiate business from personal expenses.

Paired with a business checking account, your business savings account can add professional branding, since all payments and correspondence with clients will bear your business name.

Or you can create savings in your business account to pay quarterly income taxes or purchase equipment.

Finally, business savings accounts are secure when you open accounts with banks and credit unions that are insured up to $250,000 per account by the FDIC or the NCUA.

North Shore Bank of Brookfield, Wis., says that a business savings account can boost your credit ratings and make it easier to obtain a business loan, since the lender can see you have an account dedicated to your company.

Choosing the right business savings account

When evaluating a financial institution for your business, there’s more than just finding a good APY.

Many of the banks on our Top 10 list look great on the APY front but carry fees that can eat into any of the returns you might make. Particularly, watch out for fees for ATM or bank withdrawals, monthly service fees and ATM fees.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has identified the key factors to consider when searching for the right bank or credit union. These include:

  • Customer service reputation
  • Access to branches or no-surcharge ATMs
  • Benchmarks to have fees waived
  • Automatic FDIC insurance
Gabby Hyman
Gabby Hyman |

Gabby Hyman is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Gabby here

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The Best Airline Credit Cards

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. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

best airline credit cards
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If you have taken a recent flight, you are probably very well aware of all the rewards airline credit cards promise. Earn enough miles and you could nab a free flight or even a free upgrade. Simply signing up for a airline card in many cases can grant you perks like priority boarding and free checked luggage.

Most airline credit cards rewards are specific to that airline’s offerings — it’s their way of rewarding frequent fliers for their brand loyalty and enticing other fliers who might not yet favor any particular airline.

Best for United Airlines

United MileagePlus® Club Card

United MileagePlus® Explorer Card from Chase Bank

Annual fee

$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95

Rewards

2X miles on tickets purchase from United, 1 mile on everything else

Regular Purchase APR

17.24%-24.24%

Variable

What we like about it:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months from account opening. But don’t get too excited about this offer if you’ve nabbed a bonus from this card before — this offer is not available to either current cardmembers of this credit card, or previous cardmembers of this credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months.
  • The United MileagePlus® Club Card is the only one that gives you a full membership into the United ClubSM. This means you can visit any United lounge at the airport regardless of what airline you are flying, and some Star Alliance® lounges when you fly on those airlines.
  • Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all purchases; earn 2 miles total for each $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly from United.
  • You also get great perks when flying aboard United, including Premier Access® travel services and free first and second checked bags — that can easily shave a couple hundred bucks off your cost of flying.

Who is the card best for?

If United is your primary airline and you plan to take more than one international trip every year, the United MileagePlus® Club Card is your best bet. Getting United ClubSM membership from the card is $100 cheaper than buying membership without top tier status. And getting two checked bags on United and some lounge benefits when flying Star Alliance airlines can add up to good long-term value.

Best Cards for American Airlines

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard<sup>®</sup>

Annual fee

$95, waived for first 12 months

Rewards

2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines® purchases and for every $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications, car rental merchants and at gas stations*, 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases*

Regular Purchase APR

16.99%-24.99%

Variable

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on Citibank’s secure website

What we like about it:

  • Bonus offer: Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. This is a limited time offer.
  • In addition to offering a first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines® itineraries and preferred boarding on American Airlines® flights, this is the only American Airlines co-branded offer from Citi that offers bonus points on everyday spending.
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines® purchases; 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on purchases at select businesses, including telecommunications, car rental merchants, and at gas stations; and earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases. Terms apply.

Who the card is best for?

If you have a small business and American is your primary airline, this card could earn you the most AAdvantage® miles over time. Earning 2 AAdvantage® miles on telecommunications, car rental merchants, and gas stations are among the most generous categories for airline cards, granting many opportunities to earn bonus miles at the places you spend money weekly.

AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® from Barclaycard

Annual fee

$95 For First Year

$95 Ongoing

Rewards

Earn 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, earn 1X miles on all other purchases

Regular Purchase APR

17.24%-26.24%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on Barclaycard’s secure website

What we like about it:

  • Through Jan. 31, 2018 you can earn 60,000 bonus miles when you make your first purchase in the first 90 days and pay the annual fee. You may not qualify for this offer if you have owned the card before or are a previous cardmember with accounts closed in the past 24 months.
  • Receive your first checked bag free for the primary cardmember and up to four companions on eligible bags when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines®. Conditions apply.
  • Preferred boarding for the primary cardmember and up to four companions on the reservation for all American Airlines operated flights.
  • You can also earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars when you spend $25,000 on purchases each calendar year, and receive 25% in-flight savings on food and beverages in the form of a statement credit. Terms apply.

Who the card is best for?

If you are loyal to American Airlines® and want to earn extra credit towards elite status every year, the AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard® is your best bet. With the bonus miles, free checked luggage and ability to earn elite qualifying dollars toward status, using this as your primary credit card could yield good value over time if you fly American Airlines® often.

Best for Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines® Visa Signature® Card

Alaska Airlines® Visa Signature® Card

Annual fee

$75 For First Year

$75 Ongoing

Rewards

3 miles for every $1 spent directly with Alaska Airlines and Virgin America purchases, 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases

Regular Purchase APR

13.49%-20.49%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

What we like about it:

  • Alaska Airlines® Mileage Plan™ miles are among the most flexible available and can be used on more than a dozen different airlines, ranging from American Airlines® to international carriers Air France/KLM, British Airways, and Qantas.
  • The card also offers a generous new account bonus: get 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days.
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 on all purchases; earn 3 miles per $1 on Alaska Airlines® and Virgin America purchases. Terms apply.
  • Every year on your account anniversary date, you can qualify for Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™. If you buy one ticket, you can get a second one and pay just the taxes and fees ($0 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening. There are no blackout dates.

Who the card is best for?

Even if you don’t live in a city served by Alaska Airlines® or Virgin America®, this card is good for flexible rewards across carriers. Alaska Airlines® Mileage Plan™ awards can be cheaper for flying American Airlines® than using AAdvantage® miles, with good partnerships for travel to Europe and Asia. If you are looking for a card with a lower annual fee and award availability across multiple airlines, this card may be the best for you.

Best for JetBlue

JetBlue Card

JetBlue Card from Barclaycard

Annual fee

$0

Rewards

3x points on JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores, 1x points on all other purchases

Regular Purchase APR

13.24%-26.24%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on Barclaycard’s secure website

What we like about it:

  • Although you could transfer Membership Rewards® or ThankYou® Points to JetBlue TrueBlue, the JetBlue Card comes with no annual fee and lets you earn extra points at the places where you shop the most.
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
  • You can earn 3X points on JetBlue purchases, 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1X points on all other purchases and there are no blackout dates.
  • You can also pool points together as a family, which means all miles earned by your household can go toward JetBlue award flights faster.

Who the card is best for

If you are just entering the world of airline miles and live near a JetBlue airport, the JetBlue Card is a great beginner option. With no annual fee and 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores, this card can help you earn real miles towards discounted travel. This card is also great for those who use JetBlue as a secondary airline: Because there is no annual fee, you won’t have to worry about justifying rewards by holding this card.

Best for Delta

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

 Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card From American Express

Annual fee

$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Rewards

2 miles on Delta purchases, 1 mile on everything else

Regular Purchase APR

16.99%-25.99%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

What we like about it:

  • The welcome offer: Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new card within your first three months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first three months.
  • This card also offers a generous checked luggage fee waiver for cardholders: The fee waiver is available to those traveling on the same reservation as the primary card member, with a maximum of nine waivers per reservation.
  • You earn 2 miles on every dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta
  • You’ll also earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on all purchases with no cap.
  • The card also offers priority boarding for cardholders.

Who the card is best for?

If you fly Delta regularly with a family or business colleagues, this is the best card you can hold that balances the annual fee with good benefits. The checked luggage fee waiver covers more companions on the same itinerary than any other card, while the priority boarding allows you to get access to overhead bin space before other flyers. But if Delta is the only airline you fly, you may consider getting a higher credit card that offers more benefits and opportunities to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles, including the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.

Best credit union airline card

American Airlines Credit Union Visa® Platinum Rewards Credit Card

Visa Platinum Rewards Credit Card from American Airlines CU

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Rewards

1 Connection Point for every $1 spent on purchases

Regular Purchase APR

9.75%-15.49%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Airlines Credit Union’s secure website

What we like about it:

  • With this no-fee card, you’re eligible to earn Connection Points™ for every dollar spent on signature-based purchases. But you also get the added bonus of being able to earn points when you use an American Airlines Credit Union Visa Debit Card — one Connection Point for every $3 spent on signature-based purchases.
  • You’re not beholden to using your points only for American Airlines flights with this card; you can redeem your Connection Points™ for air travel on any airline.
  • You’ll earn 5,000 bonus Connection Points™ when you make your first purchase within 60 days of account opening. This is a limited time offer only available until March 31, 2018.
  • There’s no balance transfer fee, however, there is a foreign transaction fee of 1%. That is on the low side for foreign transaction fees, which are typically 3%.

Who the card is best for:

You’ll have to be a professional in the air transportation industry or related to someone who is in order to qualify to become a member of the AACU. If you’re looking for a card where you can use your points for multiple airlines instead of just one single airline, this card could be great for you. However, you can certainly earn better rewards if you opt for an airline credit card tied to a single airline, as they typically offer richer rewards and other perks.

Learn More

To find the best airline credit cards, we looked at several different features. First, we looked at which cards had specific airline partnerships, not just perks for specific airlines. From there, we narrowed down our picks to focus on non-premium cards, so this article could be more accessible. Finally, we looked for which cards had the best rewards programs, balancing it against annual fees and the APRs on balances.

As a secondary measure, we looked at all the other perks that come with a card, including free checked bags, no foreign transaction fees, and rental car and trip insurances. These benefits can help to offset the annual fee, or provide you even more value than a more stripped-down card.

Although earning airline miles sounds great for free travel, there are situations that can prevent you from flying. With all credit cards, you should watch out for these downsides:

  • Points devaluation: Miles aren’t a good long-term investment, because their value is constantly subject to change. If you aren’t planning to use your miles regularly, you could be better served with a cash-back credit card.
  • Hidden fees: Even when using credit card miles, hidden fees for redeeming miles, cancelling trips, or transferring miles to other people can cut your overall value quickly. Be sure to understand all the fees you may face before you decide if a card is right for you.
  • Blackout dates and reward restrictions: Airlines often place restrictions on the number of seats available on flights, while some dates are completely closed off for awards and companion passes. Unless you can use your airline miles on the dates you want, an airline credit card may not be your best option.
  • Partner carrier rules: Although you can book flights with miles on partner airlines, their prices are often higher and come with more restrictions on dates and routes. Before you commit to one airline program, be sure you understand how to use miles for partner flights — both the number required and special rules for using them.

Extra perks are all well and good, and airline credit cards can be rewarding for many frequent flyers, but they aren’t the best choice for everyone.

If you are thinking about applying, ask these four questions first:

  1. Am I loyal to one airline?
    If you primarily fly one airline and want to maximize your miles towards free flights, a airline credit card could make sense. If not, consider a card that earns bank points or cash back instead.
  2. Do I want miles specifically for flying?
    If your goal is to fly more often for a lower price, airline credit cards can help you achieve that plan by earning miles for your everyday spending. Most miles can’t be used for anything outside flying, however, so it’s important to carefully consider how many miles you need for a flight.
  3. Are frequent flyer perks right for me?
    Most credit cards offer a number of airport bonuses, including priority boarding, checked luggage fee waivers and lounge passes. If you find value in checking luggage for free or stopping at a lounge for a beverage, then an airline credit card is the right choice for your spending.
  4. Will I get the value of the credit card annual fee in return every year?
    Many airline credit cards come with annual fees. If your airline rewards (from perks and free flights) add up to more than the annual fee, then you’re getting a good value from your credit cards.

MagnifyMoney has plenty of options to help you find the right credit card for you. If you want to compare airline credit cards on your own, consider the following:

  • Point values: Not all miles are equal in value. It’s important to understand how many miles you need to take a flight, and if an airline credit card will help you get there.
  • Foreign transaction fees: While most airline credit cards offer no foreign transaction fees, many charge fees of 3%. If you plan on traveling abroad, a card with no foreign transaction fees is a must.
  • Free checked bags: Although most cards come with one free checked bag for cardholders, high-end cards may allow two free checked luggage pieces. Additionally, the number of available pieces varies between cards and airlines, with some offering up to nine people on the same itinerary.
  • Extra benefits: Annual free lounge passes and priority boarding are two of the luxuries offered to most airline credit card holders. In turn, these perks can help you justify the value of credit cards.
  • Point flexibility: Although you often can’t use miles for hotel rooms or rental cars, some programs allow more flexibility than others. If you want to use your miles for other rewards, be sure to understand how much those values would cost.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

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Best of, Earning Interest

The Top IRA CD Rates – January 2018

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.

Top IRA CD rates
Source: iStock

Perhaps you’ve decided to build a CD ladder within your IRA, or maybe you’re looking for a safe way to store your retirement cash for a specific period of time. Whatever the reason, you’re interested in getting an IRA CD and, understandably, want to know what products will give you the best rate of return.

You can get an IRA CD with terms ranging from three months to more than six years, with interest rates generally increasing with the term length. There are lots of options, so we’ve rounded up the top IRA CD rates that are available right now for a variety of terms. You’ll select your IRA CD terms based on your CD-ladder master plan or whenever you’ll need access to your money.

Every month, we choose the top IRA CD rates using data from another LendingTree company DepositAccounts.com, a database of offerings at more than 17,100 banks and credit unions. On Jan. 8, 2018, we sorted the products by APY, then eliminated institutions with a health rating below a B. We then eliminated products that are not available nationwide. From there, we chose the IRA CD with the highest APY among products with a minimum deposit no greater than $5,000. Here are the best options. (Average CD rates referenced below are based on DepositAccounts.com data as of Jan. 8, 2018.)

The top IRA rates in January 2018

3 Month IRA CD – EverBank, 3 Month Yield Pledge IRA

EverBank-3 Month IRA CD Three-month IRA CDs typically offer the lowest interest rates of any IRA CD term. EverBank offers the best rate of 1.01% APY and a minimum deposit of $5,000. That rate is well above the national average.

6-Month IRA CD - Nationwide Bank, 6-month IRA

6 Month IRA from Nationwide Bank Six-month IRA CDs typically earn a little bit better, but they’re still not great. Nationwide Bank offers the highest interest rate at 1.20% APY for deposits less than $100,000. That translates into an earning of $5.98 on a $1,000 deposit. Compare that to the average of all regular 6 month CDs, at 0.42%.

1-Year IRA CD Rates – Synchrony Bank, 12 Month IRA CD (Traditional, Roth)

12 Month IRA CD from Synchrony Bank Regular one-year CDs earn an average interest rate of 0.66% APY. Synchrony Bank, however, is offering a one-year IRA CD at 2.00% APY. You’ll need a $2,000 minimum deposit to earn $40 in interest once the CD matures.

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Member FDIC

18-Month IRA CD Rates – Service Credit Union, 18 Month IRA Certificate Special (Traditional, Roth, CESA)

18 Month IRA Certificate Special from Service Credit Union 18-month regular CDs earn an average interest rate of 0.81% APY. Service Credit Union, on the other hand, is currently offering 2.00% APY on a 18-month IRA CD. This would translate into an earning of $30.15 with a minimum $1,000 deposit.

2-Year IRA CD Rates – American Heritage Federal Credit Union, 24 Month IRA Certificate (Traditional, Roth)

24 Month IRA Certificate from American Heritage Federal Two-year regular CDs earn an average interest rate of 0.92% APY. American Heritage Federal Credit Union, on the other hand, is currently offering 2.01% APY on a 2-year IRA CD. This would translate into an earning of $40.60 with a minimum $1,000 deposit.

3-Year IRA CD Rates – EverBank, 3-Year Yield Pledge IRA (Traditional, Roth)

EverBank -  3-Year IRA CD Rates Three-year regular CDs are earning an average interest rate of 1.13% APY currently. EverBank is nearly doubling that, with an interest rate of 2.20% APY with their 3-Year Yield Pledge IRA CD. With those interest rates and a $5,000 minimum deposit, you would earn $337.21 when the certificate matures.

4-Year IRA CD Rates – EverBank, 4 Year Yield Pledge IRA (Traditional, Roth)

4-Year Yield Pledge IRA from EverBank Four-year regular CDs are currently earning an average interest rate of 1.32% APY. GTE Financial again claims the top interest rate for these IRA CDs, with an interest rate of 2.30% APY. You would earn $476.11 on this CD with a $5,000 minimum deposit.

5-Year IRA CD Rates – United States Senate Federal Credit Union – 60 Month IRA (Traditional, Roth, SEP)

60 Month IRA from United States Senate Federal Credit Union Five-year IRA CDs hold the top spot for interest rates out of any category on our list. National averages for a regular 5-year CD is 1.59% APY, however United States Senate Federal Credit Union outperforms the average with a 2.63% APY on its 5-year IRA CD for members. The minimum deposit is $1,000 to earn this APY, but you can earn an APY of 2.70% if you deposit a minimum of $20,000 and an APY of 2.76% if you deposit a minimum of $60,000.

LEARN MORE Secured

on United States Senate Federal Credit Union’s secure website

6+ Year IRA CD Rates – Air Force Federal Credit Union, 7 Year IRA

Air Force FCU-6 Year IRA CD Rates Interestingly, these very-long-term IRA CDs don’t offer higher interest rates than the shorter-term five-year IRA CDs. Air Force Federal Credit Union offers the highest term for their seven-year IRA CD, at 2.50% APY. That’s still a lot less than United States Senate Federal Credit Union which offered a 2.63% APY for a five-year IRA CD. Still, with Air Force Federal Credit Union’s seven-year IRA CD, you would earn $471.71 on a minimum deposit of $2,500 when the IRA CD matures.

3 questions to consider before opening an IRA CD

Opening an IRA CD generally requires filling out a form or talking to a banker. You’ll have to have a way to fund your IRA CD, whether that’s rolling over an existing retirement account into an IRA CD or depositing cash into the product. The same limits that apply to IRA contributions apply to IRA CDs: $5,500 per year ($6,500 if you’re over age 50) of your own money across all your IRA accounts each year, and you can do a rollover once per year.

Unless you’ve invested in a bump-up IRA CD, you won’t be able to take advantage of a higher rate until your CD matures. Withdrawing funds from an IRA CD before they mature will result in a stiff penalty. Bump-up IRA CDs give you a chance to increase your interest rate to a higher level if it’s available, but you’re generally only allowed to do this once or twice during the life of the CD.

You can either use the the direct-transfer method or the indirect-transfer method. The direct transfer method requires setting up your new IRA account filling out a form authorizing the bank or credit union to transfer money from the old account into the new account. The indirect transfer method involves you asking for a check from your old IRA account. You have up to 60 days to deposit that check into your IRA CD to avoid incurring a penalty.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

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

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The Top 6 Month CD Rates for January 2018

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.

The top 6 month CD rates
Source: iStock

Short-term certificate of deposit (CD) accounts offer investors a safe opportunity to squirrel away money for a future expense. If you’re looking for a brief solution for storing your cash and want to earn more interest than a typical savings account will offer, a 6 month CD can make a lot of sense. (It’s also a good place to start if you’re building a CD ladder.)

Using information from DepositAccounts.com, another LendingTree company and a database of offerings at more than 17,100 banks and credit unions, we found the five banks and five credit unions with the top 6 month CD rates. If there was a tie, we chose the institution with the smaller minimum-deposit requirement. We pulled these rates on Jan. 5, 2018, and we excluded promotional offerings. The national average APY on 6 month CDs (among banks and credit unions) is 0.42%, according to the DepositAccounts.com database. These options outperform that average by a long shot. (You may also want to view our picks for the overall best CD rates.)

Banks with the best 6 month CD rates

Live Oak Bank

Live Oak Bank

6 month CD APY: 1.55%
Bank information: Live Oak Bank is located in Wilmington, NC, but serves customers nationwide through online banking. While their initial focus was to help small businesses acquire funding, they now help all individuals through personal banking.
Where to open CD account: Online
Minimum balance to open: $2,500
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: 90 days’ interest

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Member FDIC

DollarSavingsDirect

DollarSavingsDirect

6 month CD APY: 1.50%
Bank information: DollarSavingsDirect is an online division of Emigrant Bank, which is located in New York.
Where to open CD account: Online
Minimum balance to open: $1,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: 90 days’ interest

Limelight Bank

Limelight Bank

6 month CD APY: 1.44%
Bank information: Although Limelight Bank is located in Utah, they are an online bank that serves customers nationwide. They are environmentally conscious and originate loans for solar projects from customers’ various deposit accounts.
Where to open CD account: Online
Minimum balance to open: $1,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: Determined by bank.

First Internet Bank of IN

First Internet Bank of Indiana

6 month CD APY: 1.48%
Bank information: A subsidiary of First Internet Bancorp, this online bank founded in 1999 has no branch locations, but offers service online in all 50 states.
Where to open CD account: Online
Minimum balance to open: $1,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: 90 days’ interest

M.Y. Safra Bank - deposite services

M.Y. Safra Bank

6 month CD APY: 1.42%
Bank information: M.Y. Safra Bank has been around since 2000, offering a wide variety of banking products to their customers. Although their physical location is in New York, they provide online banking to customers located outside of New York.
Where to open CD account: Online
Minimum balance to open: $5,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: Credited interest or 90 days’ interest — whichever is greater

Credit unions with the best 6 month CD rates

Service Credit Union

Service Credit Union

6 month CD APY: 1.30%
Credit union information: Founded in Portsmouth, N.H., in 1957, Service Credit Union originally served employees of Pease Air Force Base. Today, it has grown to serve over 200,000 people throughout New Hampshire, North Dakota, Massachusetts, and even Germany.
Membership details: To become a member, you must live or work, or have family members that live or work in New Hampshire or Falmouth, Bourne, Mashpee, and Sandwich, Mass. Current members of the military, veterans, retirees, and reservists of the U.S. Armed Forces along with their families are also eligible for membership.
Where to open CD account: You can open an account online or at one of their many branches.
Minimum balance to open: $250
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: Determined by credit union.

CapEd Federal

CapEd Credit Union

6 month CD APY: 1.25% (must be under 25 years old to earn APY)
Credit union information: CapEd Credit Union focuses on supporting teachers in Idaho, but is open to almost anyone.
Membership details: To become a member, you must work, volunteer, or have retired from the educational industry in Idaho. If you have a family or household member who works, volunteers, or has retired from Idaho’s educational system, you can also qualify for membership. Finally, if you have a family or household member who is already a CapEd member then you are eligible for membership.
Where to open CD account: Online
Minimum balance to open: $500
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: The lesser of 90 days’ interest, interest earned within the number of days between opening the account to the date of withdrawal, or seven days’ interest if withdrawn before seven days.

Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union

Evansville Teachers Credit Union

6 month CD APY: 1.10%
Credit union information: Headquartered in Evansville, Ind., Evansville Teachers Credit Union was created in 1936 by teachers who wanted to help their colleagues get back on their feet after the Depression. Decades later, this credit union has continued to live by their “People Helping People” philosophy by extending their financial services to groups and organizations outside the educational realm.
Membership details: If you are employed, retired from, or have a relationship with someone affiliated with their eligible groups, you are eligible for memberships.
Where to open CD account: Open an account online or one of their branches.
Minimum balance to open: $1,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: The credit union imposes penalties based on withdrawals made before maturity.

Oklahoma Central

Oklahoma Central Credit Union

6 month CD APY: 1.10%
Credit union information: Oklahoma Credit Union mainly serves the city of Tulsa.
Membership details: Anyone who is already a member of any other credit union is eligible to join Oklahoma Credit Union. Employees and retirees of over 1,100 companies that are affiliated with this credit union are also able to join. And, of course, you also qualify if you have family who are already members of this credit union.
Where to open CD account: Branch locations and online
Minimum balance to open: $1,000
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: Determined by credit union.

United States Senate Federal Credit Union

United States Senate Federal Credit Union

6 month CD APY: $60,000-$99,999.99, 1.10%; $20,000-$59,999.99, 1.06%; $1,000-$19,999.99, 1.02%
Credit union information: Founded during the Great Depression, the United States Senate Federal Credit Union initially strived to provide Senate workers with quality financial services. However, the credit union has since evolved to provide services to individuals outside of the Senate.
Membership details: In addition to providing membership to those who are employed, or have family members who are employed, by one of the many organizations listed on the United States Senate Federal Credit Union’s website, individuals can become eligible for membership by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council with a $10 donation. Individuals can also qualify with a $50 donation to the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.
Where to open CD account: At a branch location, via email, or over the phone
Minimum balance to open: $1,000, $20,000, and $60,000.
Maintenance fees: $0
Early withdrawal penalties: 90 days’ of interest

Pros and cons of using 6 month CDs

Pros:

  • The CD rates offered by banks and credit unions are generally higher than those on savings accounts.
  • The rates are fixed and guaranteed for the length of their term.
  • The discipline of keeping the funds in the CD means the money will be available upon maturity. (Note: Most banks offer a seven-day grace period to reinvest or withdraw the investment, after which the funds will roll over into a new CD. However, you are not guaranteed the same rate.)

Cons:

  • Six-month CD rates are lower than those offered on longer CD investment terms.
  • To tap into the CD funds — even for emergencies — consumers must accept a loss through penalties, which can include a percentage of the funds, a percentage of the earned interest, or a combination of both. A typical penalty on a short-term CD is between 30 and 90 days’ worth of interest earnings.
  • If you’re not confident you can do without access to the funds for six months, you may be better off putting your money in a traditional savings account, which is likely to earn less interest than a CD.
  • Since CD rollovers may reset at a different percentage rate, consumers must speak with the bank before the grace period ends to ensure they are getting the best deal.

Using a 6 month CD for laddering

A CD ladder comprises small-amount CDs with varying terms and respective interest rates that contribute to a long-term investment strategy. After the 6 month CD matures, investors can withdraw the funds for a predetermined expense. Or, they can reinvest the money into a longer-term CD with a better rate. By staggering the maturity dates on short-term CDs, consumers have access to their cash on a regular, predictable basis.

Where can you open a CD account?

Consumers can open 6 month CD accounts (or longer) from banks and credit unions. Bank and credit union CD rates are based on Federal Reserve rates, and there may be strategic times to pursue these short-term instruments following a rate increase.

Gabby Hyman
Gabby Hyman |

Gabby Hyman is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Gabby here

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Best of, Earning Interest

The Best Credit Union CD Rates – January 2018

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.

The top credit union CD rates
Source: iStock

Certificates of deposit (CDs) are a great way to safely store your savings at a financial institution, as they offer a guaranteed rate of return, and CD rates tend to be higher than those on traditional savings accounts. Maybe you’ve even heard that credit union CD rates offer higher returns—but is that really the case?

On average, yes. As of September 2017, the average one-year credit union CD had a 0.63% annual percentage yield (APY), compared to the 0.51% APY average among one-year bank CDs. (You may also want to view our picks for the overall best CD rates.)

Using data from DepositAccounts.com, another LendingTree company, we identified the top one-year credit union CD rates, as of Jan. 5, 2018. We then eliminated any credit union with a health rating lower than a B and identified the top three offerings in three categories: restricted, no cost, and best banking app. If there was a tie by APY, we went with the product with the lower minimum deposit. Here are the best one-year credit union CD rates.

Best CD rates for credit unions with no cost to join

The thing about credit unions is that they’re not usually just open to anyone. You usually need to meet some membership criteria in order to get in and get access to all of their really nice products. These credit unions, however, will let you in for free regardless of your personal details. (Note: Only two credit unions met our criteria for this list.)

Unify Financial Credit Union - 1-Year Share Certificate, 1.00% APY, min. deposit $1,000

UNIFY Financial Credit Union
Unify FCU offers the highest interest rates on CDs (which it calls share certificates) of any credit union with no cost to join. The interest rate on their 12-month CD, for example, is 1.00%, compared to the national average of 0.64% in August. You would earn $8.50 on a $1,000 deposit. If you withdraw your money early, however, you’ll face a penalty of 90 days’ worth of interest.

NASA Federal Credit Union - 1-Year Share Certificate, 0.65% APY, min. deposit $1,000

NASA Federal Credit Union
If the rigid inflexibility of CDs makes you leery, NASA FCU might be your best bet. They have a lot of flexible certificates, such as add-on certificates that let you start with as little as $250, and bump-rate certificates that let you opt for a one-time interest rate increase if rates go up. You can even take out a loan from your certificate should you need the cash before it’s matured. You can join NASA FCU with a complimentary membership to the National Space Society.

If you do need to make an early withdrawal, you will face a penalty of 180 days’ worth of interest.

Best credit union CD rates with restricted memberships or membership fees

Each of these credit unions have restricted membership criteria, but don’t let that scare you away. If you don’t meet their membership criteria, it’s possible to make a small donation to their charity of choice in order to become eligible for membership. Furthermore, these credit union CD rates offer some of the highest-returning share certificates out of any category.

USAlliance Financial – 12 Month CD, 1.87% APY, min. deposit $500

USALLIANCE Financial
Membership to USAlliance Financial is open to anyone who lives, works or worships in certain counties of Massachusetts, the city of West Haven, Conn., and a few districts in New York. However, if you don’t qualify by location, you can qualify by giving USAlliance authorization to make you a member of various organizations, including the American Consumer Council, if you aren’t already a member of these organizations. Keep in mind that these organizations may request fees.

Once you’re a member of USAlliance Financial, you can open a 12-month CD with a minimum of $500. Their early withdrawal penalty equals 180 days’ worth of interest earned on the amount you withdraw.

CapEd Credit Union – 12 Month CD, 1.75% APY, min. deposit $250

CapEd Credit Union-Certificate accounts
CapEd Credit Union supports teachers in the state of Idaho, but they don’t just serve teachers. Those who are willing to support education with a one-time $20 donation to the Idaho CapEd Foundation can become members of the credit union. Also, if you live in the state of Idaho and work for, volunteer with, or are retired from the industry of education, you are qualified for membership.

After becoming a member of CapEd Credit Union, you may open a 12 month CD with a minimum deposit of $250. Just make sure that you can afford to keep your money in the CD for one year because the early withdrawal penalty is 90 days’ worth of interest.

PenFed Credit Union – 1-Year Money Market Certificate, 1.61% APY, min. deposit $1,000

PenFed Credit Union
PenFed tops this list with an APY of 1.61%. With a minimum deposit of $1,000, you could earn $16.10 in one year. Interest is compounded daily and posts to accounts monthly. However, be aware of the steep early withdrawal penalty. If you withdraw funds before the year is up, you may forfeit all interest accrued up to that point.

Eligibility for this credit union is mainly based on military status, governmental employment status, affiliation with certain associations and organizations or relation to eligible members. However, if you don’t qualify through those criteria, getting a membership to this credit union is not difficult if you’re willing to pay a one-time fee of $17 to either Voices for America’s Troops or the National Military Family Association.

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NCUA Insured

Alliant Credit Union – 12-17 Month Share CD, 1.60% APY, min. deposit $1,000

Alliant Credit Union
With a minimum deposit of $1,000, you could earn an APY 1.60% on a 12-17 month CD. If you deposit $25,000 or more, you may be able to earn an APY of 1.65% with the same term. An early withdrawal penalty of 90 days’ worth of interest may be imposed if you withdraw funds prior to the CD’s maturity date.

With a $10 donation to Foster Care to Success, you can easily become a member of Alliant Credit Union. You can also become a member if you are an employee or retiree of certain organizations, related to existing Alliant members, or live or work in qualifying communities.

Air Force Federal Credit Union – 1-Year Certificate, 1.56% APY, min. deposit $1,000

Air Force Federal Credit Union
Members and family members of the military, civilian contractors, and certain employees are eligible to join the Air Force FCU, along with anyone willing to join the Airman Heritage Foundation ($25 annual membership fee).

This credit union comes in first place overall for highest interest rates for 12-month CDs. You can earn $15.60 by depositing a minimum of $1,000 in a 12-month CD, with an APY of 1.56%. You can also use your CD as collateral to earn a lower interest rate on a loan, and membership comes with a host of discounts for parks and businesses in the San Antonio, Texas area. Watch out for the early withdrawal penalties, however, worth half of whatever you would have earned between when you withdrew the funds and when it would have matured.

Best CD rates for credit unions with the best mobile apps

By their very nature, CDs aren’t something that require constant attention, poking, and prodding. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it kind of a deal, so you won’t need any spiffy banking apps to use CDs.

But, if you’d like to switch all of your banking to the same institution that holds your CDs, it might be a wise idea to consider one of these credit unions if you’re a digital junkie. Most credit unions lag behind their bank compatriots in terms of mobile banking apps, but these credit unions offer top-notch mobile apps, according to MagnifyMoney’s 2017 mobile banking app analysis.

Wright-Patt Credit Union - 1-Year Certificate, 2.16% APY, min. deposit $500

Wright-Patt Credit Union
Unlike many credit unions, you can’t just make a simple donation to join Wright-Patt CU if you fail to meet their membership criteria. You need to live in certain areas of Ohio, be associated with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, or be an employee of their select employer group, among other options.

You can earn $10.80 on a 12-month CD with just a relatively small $500 deposit. Early withdrawal penalties vary depending on the original term of your CD, however they’ll be anywhere between 5-12 months’ worth of dividends.

Redstone Federal Credit Union – 12 Month MemberPlus Regular Share Certificate, 1.61% APY, min. deposit $1,000

Redstone Federal Credit Union
Similar to Wright-Patt CU, you can’t just make a simple donation to join to Redstone Federal Credit Union if you fail to meet their membership criteria. You need to be a government employee or contractor, a member of the military, reserve, or National Guard, or affiliated with a number of organizations listed on their website among other options.

However, if you do qualify for membership, you could earn an APY of 1.61% with a minimum deposit of $1,000. This could earn you an additional $16.10 at the end of the 12 month term. Redstone FCU has compounding and non-compounding certificates, which allow you to have the option to withdraw interest earned or not throughout the term of the certificate.

Eastman Credit Union - 1-Year Investment Certificate, 1.40% APY, min. deposit $1,000

Eastman Credit Union
Eastman Credit Union also has pretty restrictive membership requirements. You’ll have to be an employee (or a family member of an employee) of one of their select employers, or live in certain parts of Tennessee, Texas, or Virginia.

Eastman CU is another one of the rare credit unions that allow you to withdraw your dividends penalty-free before the maturity date, although again, doing so will lower your total returns. Currently, you can earn an interest rate of 1.40% on a 12-month CD. With a minimum deposit of $1,000, that translates into earnings of $14.00 after one year. If you withdraw your money before the CD matures, you’ll owe a penalty fee of anywhere between seven days’ worth of dividend earnings or all of your dividend earnings.

Delta Community Credit Union – 1-Year Certificate, 1.00% APY, min. deposit $1,000

Delta Community Credit Union
There are many ways to join Delta Community CU, such as living in certain parts of Georgia, being a member of one of their select employers, or being a member of one of their partner organizations. Interestingly, citizens of many countries like Argentina, France, and Peru are also eligible to join.

Delta Community CU used to be the lowest-earning credit union on our list, but recently increased the APY on this product from 0.75% to 1.50%. The early withdrawal penalty is 90 days’ worth of interest on a 12-month CD.

3 questions to consider before opening a credit union CD

Banks are more likely to call their products certificates of deposit, while credit unions often refer to them as share certificates. Aside from the name, the biggest difference between the two is that credit unions have higher average annual percentage yields (APYs), as of September 2017. That’s good news: It means more money back in your pocket when the CD matures (i.e., reaches the end of its term and is available for withdrawal).

There really is no difference in safety between depositing money in a CD with a credit union versus a bank, as long as they participate in either the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) for credit unions, or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for banks.

According to Neal Frankle, a Los Angeles-based Certified Financial Planner with Wealth Pilgrim, deposits of up to $250,000 per financial institution are “backed by the full faith and credit of United States Government, so it's pretty solid.”

For the most part, choosing a CD at a bank or a credit union boils down to your preference as a consumer: Do you want to be a bank customer or a member of a credit union? Here’s a primer on the differences.

The biggest advantage of credit union CDs over bank CDs is that you can likely earn more interest. But with both products, the longer the CD term, the more interest you will earn. And with a CD laddering strategy, you can have the best of both worlds: frequent access to your money, yet you can still keep it locked away in high-interest, long-term CDs.

Beyond that, the disadvantages of opening a credit union CD are the same as if you’re opening a CD with a bank. You can’t access that money without paying an early withdrawal penalty until the CD matures. While CDs do offer some of the highest rates for any financial product you’re likely to come across at a bank or credit union, they still don’t really earn great interest. If you’re investing for the long-term (like retirement savings), your money is better invested in the riskier (but higher-earning) stock or bond market.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

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

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7 Best Cash Back Credit Cards for Dining Out in January 2018

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

iStock

If you’re someone who frequently dines out, cashback credit cards that reward you for it are a great way to put money back in your pocket. Cashback cards for dining can earn you rewards for purchases made through restaurants, bars and takeout establishments. This is a great way for foodies to reap extra rewards just by doing what they love — eating!

We picked the following cards because they offer competitive cashback rates above 2% for dining-related purchases, as well as have low or no annual fees. As with most rewards credit cards, you may lose your cashback rewards if your account is not in good standing.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card - up to 5.5% cash back

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Annual fee

$0

Cashback Rate

Up to 5% cash back on eligible purchases. Spending limits may apply.

Regular Purchase APR

15.24%-24.24%

APPLY NOW Secured

on US Bank’s secure website

The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card offers a three tiered cash back program that allows you to choose the categories you want to earn the higher cash back rates in, such as restaurants, gym/fitness centers and department stores. Here’s a breakdown of the cash back rates you can earn:

  • 5.5% for the first year on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases each quarter. After that point, the cashback rate drops to 5%. You can only earn this high rate on two categories of spending.
  • 2.5% cash back for the first year, on one everyday category. Once that year has passed, you’ll earn 2%.
  • 1.5% cash back for the first year on all other eligible net purchases, with subsequent years earning 1%.

Note that each quarter you must register online and choose the categories you want to earn the up to 5.5% and up to 2.5% in, because if you don’t make a selection, you will earn up to 1.5%. You can register five to 45 days before the start of the quarter. Other terms apply. A great tip is to set up calendar alerts so you remember to select your categories.

Uber Visa Card - 4% cash back

Uber Visa Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else

Regular Purchase APR

16.24%-24.99%

variable

The Uber Visa Card offers unlimited 4% back on dining purchases that will benefit the biggest foodies. Additionally, earn 3% back on hotels and airfare, including vacation home rentals; 2% back on online purchases that include Uber, online shopping and video and music streaming services; and 1% back on all other purchases. Dining purchases include those made at restaurants, fast-food restaurants, bars and UberEATS. Your rewards come in the form of points with a value of $0.01 per point (so 2,500 points can be redeemed for a $25 statement credit, for example). Another cool perk: There is a great sign-up bonus of 10,000 points (worth $100) if you spend $500 within the first 90 days of account opening. You can read our full review here.

AARP® Credit Card from Chase - 3% cash back

AARP® Credit Card from Chase Bank

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

3% cash back at restaurants and gas station purchases, 1% on everything else

Regular Purchase APR

17.24%-23.99%

Don’t be led astray by the name: This card isn’t limited to people over 50 — anyone can apply. The AARP® Credit Card from Chase offers 3% cash back at restaurants (including fast food) and gas station purchases, and all other purchases will earn 1%. There is a great sign-up bonus of $200 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

The information related to the AARP® Credit Card from Chase has been collected by MagnifyMoney.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Sam's Club Mastercard® - 3% cash back

Sams Club MasterCard

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

5% cash back on gas (on first $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 3% on dining and travel, and 1% on other purchases

Regular Purchase APR

11.65%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Sam's Club’s secure website

The Sam's Club Mastercard® offers 3% cash back on restaurant purchases (excluding purchases at wholesale clubs other than Sam's Club). You will also earn 5% cash back on gas (on the first $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 3% on travel and 1% on other purchases. From now until Dec. 31, you can receive a $45 statement credit if you open your card online and make a $45 purchase on Samsclub.com on the same day you open your account. However, you do need a Sam’s Club membership to apply, and current membership fees start at $45 per year.

Take note that you’re limited to earning a maximum of $5,000 in cashback rewards in a calendar year. Checks are issued each February for the cash back earned during the previous calendar year. You will lose any cash back you earned if you end your membership or let it lapse, or if you accumulate less than $5 cash back in a calendar year.

Costco Anywhere Visa® by Citi - 3% cash back

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Annual fee

$0

Cashback Rate

4% on eligible gas worldwide, including Costco (for the first $7,000 per year and then 1%), 3% on restaurant and eligible travel worldwide, 2% on all other purchases at Costco and Costco.com and 1% on everything else

Regular Purchase APR

16.49%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citibank’s secure website

The Costco Anywhere Visa® by Citi requires a Costco membership (currently, annual memberships start at $60) and offers 3% cash back on restaurant purchases, including at cafes, bars, lounges and fast-food restaurants. Take note that purchases made at bakeries and certain restaurants/cafes in department stores, groceries or warehouse clubs will only earn 1%. In addition, earn 4% on eligible gas worldwide, including Costco (for the first $7,000 per year and then 1%), 3% on eligible travel worldwide, 2% on all other purchases at Costco and Costco.com and 1% on everything else, including the nonqualifying purchases listed above.

Cash back comes as an annual credit card reward certificate in February billing statements, redeemable for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco Warehouses. You must maintain your Costco membership to receive rewards, and you will also lose rewards if you accumulate less than $1 in cash back or if you don’t redeem them by the end of the year.

Capital One® SavorSM Cash Rewards Credit Card - 3% cash back

The Savor℠ card From Capital One

Annual fee

$0

Cashback Rate

3% on dining, 2% on groceries, 1% on all other purchases

Regular Purchase APR

15.74%-24.49%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

The Capital One® SavorSM Cash Rewards Credit Card enables you to  earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, as well as 2% on groceries and 1% on all other purchases. Also, there is a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. (The card website specifies that the one-time bonus is available by applying through the site, and may not be available if an applicant navigates away from the page. Also, the bonus may not be available for existing or previous accountholders.)

Alternatives: Rotating Cashback Categories

Discover it® Cashback Match™ - 5% cash back

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

Annual fee

$0

Cashback Rate

up to 5% on certain categories, 1% on everything else

Regular Purchase APR

12.24%-24.24%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

The Discover it® Cashback Match™ offers 5% cash back in different places (on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter, then 1%) and 1% on all other purchases. Restaurants are slated to be a bonus category from July 1 through Sept. 30, 2018. Set a reminder to activate the bonus category. In addition to a cashback program, Discover is offering a first year cashback reward in which it will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year (new cardmembers only).

Are these deals the best for you?

Cashback rewards should only be pursued by responsible credit users who have no trouble paying off their balance on time and in full every month. If you’re a credit all-star who also has an affinity for dining out, these cards will provide the best perks.

If you’re apt to carry a balance, check out our picks for the best credit cards that can help you pay down debt faster.

As always, check the fine print on each card before signing up, taking special note of any fees. With those things in mind, decide which rewards structure best serves your typical spending activity and enjoy the cashback benefits — and the good eats.

promo-cashback-wide

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at alexandria@magnifymoney.com

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Balance Transfer, Best of, Pay Down My Debt

Best balance transfer credit cards: 0% APR, 24 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.

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Looking for a balance transfer credit card to help pay down your debt more quickly? We’re constantly checking for new offers and have selected the best deals from our database of over 3,000 credit cards. This guide will show you the longest offers with the lowest rates, and help you manage the transfer responsibly. It will also help you understand whether you should be considering a transfer at all.

 

1. Best balance transfer deals

No intro fee, 0% intro APR balance transfers

Very few things in life are free. But, if you pay off your debt using a no fee, 0% APR balance transfer, you can crush your credit card debt without paying a dime to the bank. You can find a full list of no fee balance transfers here.

Chase Slate<sup>®</sup>

15 month 0% intro APR with $0 intro transfer fee

Chase Slate® - 0% Introductory APR for 15 months, $0 Introductory BT Fee

With Chase Slate® you can save with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening, 0% introductory APR for 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. Plus, see monthly updates to your FICO® Score and the reasons behind your score for free.

You can get longer transfer periods by paying a fee (either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater), so this deal is generally best if you have a balance you know you‘ll pay in full by the end of the promotional period. And don’t expect a huge credit line with this card, so it may be best for smaller balances you can take care of quickly.

Also keep in mind you can't transfer a balance from one Chase card to another, so this is good if the balance you want to move is from a bank or credit union that's not Chase.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees

Tip: You have only 60 days from account opening to complete your balance transfer and get the introductory rate.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Chase’s secure website

BankAmericard® Credit Card

Long 0% intro APR with no intro balance transfer fee
(For Excellent credit)

BankAmericard® Credit Card - 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles, $0 Intro BT Fee

There is an introductory 0% APR for your first 15 billing cycles for purchases and for any balance transfers made within 60 days of opening your account. After that, a Variable APR that's currently 13.24% to 23.24% will apply.

You need excellent credit to get this card and you can only transfer debt that is not already at Bank of America.

You can get longer transfer periods by paying a fee, so this deal is generally best if you have a balance you know you'll pay in full by the end of the 15 month promotional period.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • No penalty APR - paying late won't automatically raise your rate (APR)
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees

Tip: You can provide the account number for the account you want to transfer from while you apply, and if approved, the bank will handle the transfer.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

0% balance transfers with a fee

If you think it will take longer than 15 months to pay off your credit card debt, these credit cards could be right for you. Don’t let the balance transfer fee scare you. It is almost always better to pay the fee than to pay a high interest rate on your existing credit card. You can calculate your savings (including the cost of the fee) at our balance transfer marketplace.

These deals listed below are the longest balance transfers we have in our database. We have listed them by number of months at 0%. Although you need good credit to be approved, don’t be discouraged if one lender rejects you. Each credit card company has their own criteria, and you might still be approved by one of the companies listed below.

Sphere® Credit Card from Santander

Longest 0% intro balance transfer card

Santander Sphere® - 24 months, 0% intro APR, 4% BT fee

If you have a big balance, or know you can’t pay off your balance quickly – go as long as you can with a good balance transfer rate, even if it comes with a fee.

At 24 months this is the longest 0% APR balance transfer card in the market right now, so you have 2 years to get the balance paid down.

There’s a $35 late payment fee and a penalty APR of 31.24% applies if you make a late payment, and will apply to your existing balances until you make 6 straight months of on time payments.

Unfortunately, this card is only available to people who live in: CT, DC, DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, or VT.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • The range of the purchase interest rate based on your credit history (13.74% - 23.74%) is more than 10%, which is a wide range.
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees.

Tip: You have 90 days after you open the account to complete the balance transfer.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Santander’s secure website

Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer

Decent 0% intro balance transfer period

Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer: Intro 0% for 18 months, 3% BT fee

This is a basic balance transfer deal with an above average term. If you don’t have credit card balances with Discover, it’s a good option to free up your accounts with other banks. With this card, you also have the ability to earn cash back, and there is no late fee for your first missed payment and no penalty APR. Hopefully you will not need to take advantage of these features, but they are nice to have.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is waived during the balance transfer period, no foreign transaction fees and no late fee for your first late payment
  • The range of the purchase interest rate based on your credit history (12.24% - 24.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR) is fairly standard
  • There is a cash advance fee

Tip: Complete your balance transfer as quickly as possible for maximum savings.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer

No late fees and long 0% intro period

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro for 21 months, 3% balance transfer fee

The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer offers a long intro period at 0% for 21 months on balance transfers made within four months from account opening. There is also an intro 0% for 12 months on purchases. After the intro periods end, a 14.24% - 24.24% variable APR applies. The balance transfer fee is typical at 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. This provides plenty of time for you to pay off your debt. There are several other perks that make this card great: no annual fee, Citi® Private Pass®, and Citi® Concierge.

Transparency Score
TRANSPARENCY SCORE
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • Interest rate is not known until you apply.

Tip: Complete your balance transfer within four months from account opening to take advantage of the 0% intro offer.

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on Citibank’s secure website

Low rate balance transfers

If you think it will take longer than 2 years to pay off your credit card debt, you might want to consider one of these offers. Rather than pay a balance transfer fee and receive a promotional 0% APR, these credit cards offer a low interest rate for much longer.

The longest offer can give you a low rate that only goes up if the prime rate goes up. If you can’t get that offer, there is another good option offering a low rate for three years.

Variable Rate Credit Card from UNIFY Financial CU

Longest low rate balance transfer card

Unify Financial Credit Union - As low as 5.99% APR, no expiration, no BT fee

If you need a long time to pay off at a reasonable rate, and have great credit, it’s hard to beat this deal from Unify Financial Credit Union, with a rate as low as 5.99% with no expiration. The rate is variable, but it only varies with the Prime Rate, so it won't fluctuate much more than say a variable rate mortgage. There is also no balance transfer fee.

Just about anyone can join Unify Financial Credit Union. They'll help you figure out what organization you can join to qualify, and you don't need to be a member to apply.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • There are late payment fees.

Tip: If you're credit's not great, this probably isn't for you, as the rate chosen for your account could be as high as 18%.

APPLY NOW Secured

on UNIFY Financial Credit Union’s secure website

Prime Rewards Credit Card from SunTrust Bank

Long low rate balance transfer card

SunTrust Prime Rewards - 4.25% variable APR for 36 months, $0 intro BT fee

If you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, D.C., or West Virginia you can apply for this card without a SunTrust bank account.

The deal is you get the prime rate for 3 years with no intro balance transfer fee. That’s currently 4.25% variable, though your rate will change if the prime rate changes, either up or down, and you have 60 days to complete your transfer with no fee. After that, it's $10 or 3% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater. Also beware the prime rate deal isn't for new purchases, so only use this card for a balance transfer.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • The range of the purchase interest rate based on your credit history (12.24% - 22.24%) is more than 10%, which is high.
  • There are late payment and cash advance fees.

Tip: You have only 60 days from account opening to get the intro $0 transfer fee.

APPLY NOW Secured

on SunTrust Bank’s secure website

For fair credit scores

In order to be approved for the best balance transfer credit cards and offers, you generally need to have good or excellent credit. If your FICO score is above 650, you have a good chance of being approved. If your score is above 700, you have an excellent chance.

However, if your score is less than perfect, you still have options. Your best option might be a personal loan. You can learn more about personal loans for bad credit here.

There are balance transfers available for people with scores below 650. The offer below might be available to people with lower credit scores. There is a transfer fee, and it's not as long as some of the others available with excellent credit. However, it will still be better than a standard interest rate.

Just remember: one of the biggest factors in your credit score is your amount of debt and credit utilization. If you use this offer to pay down debt aggressively, you should see your score improve over time and you will be able to qualify for even better offers.

MasterCard Platinum from Aspire FCU

For less than perfect credit

Aspire Credit Union Platinum - 0% intro APR for 6 months, 0% intro BT fee

Balance transfer deals can be hard to come by if your credit isn’t great. But some banks are more open to it than others, and Aspire Credit Union is one of them, saying 'fair' or 'good' credit is needed for this card. Anyone can join Aspire, but if you're looking for a longer deal you also might want to check if you're pre-qualified for deals from other banks, without a hit to your credit score, using the list of options here.

You'll be able to check with several banks what cards are pre-screened based on your credit profile, and you might be surprised to see some good deals you didn't think were in your range. That way you can apply with more confidence.

Transparency Score
Transparency Score
  • Interest is not deferred during the balance transfer period, which means if you do not pay off your balance by the end of the promo period, you will not be charged the interest that would have accrued during the deferral period.
  • The ongoing interest rate isn't known when you apply.

Tip: Only Aspire's Platinum MasterCard has this deal. Its Platinum Rewards MasterCard doesn't have a 0% offer. And if you transfer a balance after 6 months a 2% fee will apply.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Aspire Federal Credit Union’s secure website

2. Learn more

Checklist before you transfer

Never use a credit card at an ATM

If you use your credit card at an ATM, it will be treated as a cash advance. Most credit cards charge an upfront cash advance fee, which is typically about 5%. There is usually a much higher “cash advance” interest rate, which is typically above 20%. And there is no grace period, so interest starts to accrue right away. A cash advance is expensive, so beware.

Always pay on time.

If you do not make your payment on time, most credit cards will immediately hit you with a steep late fee. Once you are 30 days late, you will likely be reported to the credit bureau. Late payments can have a big, negative impact on your score. Once you are 60 days late, you can end up losing your low balance transfer rate and be charged a high penalty interest rate, which is usually close to 30%. Just automate your payments so you never have to worry about these fees.

Get the transfer done within 60 days

Most balance transfer offers are from the date you open your account, not the date you complete the transfer. It is in your interest to complete the balance transfer right away, so that you can benefit from the low interest rate as soon as possible. With most credit card companies, you will actually lose the promotional balance transfer offer if you do not complete the transfer within 60 or 90 days. Just get it done!

Don’t spend on the card

Your goal with a balance transfer should be to get out of debt. If you start spending on the credit card, there is a real risk that you will end up in more debt. Additionally, you could end up being charged interest on your purchase balances. If your credit card has a 0% balance transfer rate but does not have a 0% promotional rate on purchases, you would end up being charged interest on your purchases right away, until your entire balance (including the balance transfer) is paid in full. In other words, you lose the grace period on your purchases so long as you have a balance transfer in place.

Don’t try to transfer between two cards of the same bank

Credit card companies make balance transfer offers because they want to steal business from their competitors. So, it makes sense that the banks will not let you transfer balances between two credit cards offered by the same bank. If you have an airline credit card or a store credit card, just make sure you know which bank issues the card before you apply for a balance transfer.

Comparison tools

Savings calculator – which card is best?

If you’re still unsure about which cards offer you the best deal for your situation, try our calculator. You get to input the amount of debt you’re trying to get a lower rate on, your current rate, and the monthly payment you can afford. The calculator will show you which cards offer you the most savings on interest payments.

Balance transfer or a loan?

A balance transfer at 0% will get you the absolute lowest rate. But you might feel more comfortable with a single fixed monthly payment, and a single real date your loan will be paid off. A lot of new companies are offering great rates on loans you can pay off over 2, 3, 4, or 5 years. You can find the best personal loans here.

And you might find even though their rates aren’t 0%, you could afford the payment and get a plan that takes care of your debt for good at once.

Use our calculator to see how your payments and savings will compare.

Questions and Answers

Yes, you can. Most credit card companies will allow you to transfer debt from any credit card, regardless who owns it. Just remember that once the debt is transferred, it becomes your legal liability.

Yes, you can. Most banks will enable store card debt to be transferred. Just make sure the store card is not issued by the same bank as the balance transfer credit card.

As a general rule, if you can pay off your debt in six months or less, it usually doesn’t make sense to do a balance transfer.

Here is a simple test. (This is not 100% accurate mathematically, but it is an easy test). Divide your credit card interest rate by 12. (Imagine a credit card with a 12% interest rate. 12%/12 = 1%). In this example, you are paying about 1% interest per month. If the fee on your balance transfer is 3%, you will break even in month 3, and will be saving money thereafter. You can use that simplified math to get a good guide on whether or not you will be saving money.

And if you want the math done for you, use our tool to calculate how much each balance transfer will save you.

With all balance transfers recommended at MagnifyMoney, you would not be hit with a big, retroactive interest charge. You would be charged the purchase interest rate on the remaining balance on a go-forward basis. (Warning: not all balance transfers waive the interest. But all balance transfers recommended by MagnifyMoney do.)

Many companies offer very good deals in the first year to win new customers. These are often called “switching incentives.” For example, your mobile phone company could offer 50% off its normal rate for the first 12 months. Or your cable company could offer a big discount on the first year if you buy the bundle package. Credit card companies are no different. These companies want your debt, and are willing to give you a big discount in the first year to get you to transfer.

Completing a balance transfer is easy. If you are applying for a new credit card, most credit card companies will just ask you for the account number of the credit card that has the debt. The transfer will then happen automatically. (It will look like the balance transfer credit card made a payment for you). You can also call your credit card company, and complete the transfer easily on the phone.

Automate your payments so that it doesn’t happen! If you do miss a payment, you will be charged a late fee. If you become 60 days late, you could lose your promotional interest rate and could be charge the punitive rate, which is often near 30% with most companies.

No, you can’t. Credit card companies are trying to steal balances from their competitors. So these deals are only good if you bring balances from competitors.

Many credit card issuers will allow you to transfer money to your checking account. Or, they will offer you checks that you can write to yourself or a third party. Check online, because many credit card issuers will let you transfer money directly to your bank account from your credit card. Otherwise, call your issuer and ask what deals they have available for “convenience checks.”

In most cases, you cannot. Once a balance transfer is complete, it is complete.

Yes, it is possible to transfer the same debt multiple times. Just remember, if there is a balance transfer fee you would be charged that fee every time you transfer the debt.

You can call the bank and ask them to increase your credit limit. However, even if the bank does not increase your limit, you should still take advantage of the savings available with the limit you have.

Yes. You decide how much you want to transfer to each credit card.

No. You do not earn rewards with a balance transfer. No cash back, no points and no miles can be earned with a balance transfer.

No, there is no penalty. You can pay off your debt whenever you want without a penalty.

Mathematically, the best balance transfer credit cards are no fee, 0% offers. You literally pay nothing. The best in the market is offered by Chase, which has a 15 month 0% introductory offer with a $0 introductory fee.

However, if your debt is already with Chase, or you think it will take years to pay off your debt, you should consider a longer duration offer or a personal loan. You can find 21 month offers with 3% fees and 24 month offers with 4% fees. Your savings over the two years would likely be substantial, even when you include the cost of the fee.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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Best of, College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards

Best Student Credit Cards January 2018

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.

Getting a credit card while you’re in college might seem dangerous or confusing. But if you are able to use a student credit card responsibly, you do not need to be afraid, and you can set yourself up for financial success after you leave school.

Fortunately, learning how to choose and use the right student credit card is relatively simple. Make sure you avoid annual fees and go with a bank or credit union you can trust. When you get the card, make sure you use it responsibly and pay the balance in full and on time every month. If you do these things consistently over time, you can leave school with an excellent credit score. And if you want to rent an apartment or buy a car, having a good credit score is very important.

Our Top Pick

Discover it® for Students

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Discover it® for Students

Annual fee
$0
Cashback Rate
up to 5% on certain categories, 1% on everything else
Regular Purchase APR
14.24%-23.24%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit
Fair

Best for Commuter Students

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card for Students

APPLY NOW Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card for Students

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
Regular Purchase APR
14.24%-24.24%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit

Average OK

Best Flat-Rate Card

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

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on Capital One’s secure website

Read Full Review

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Annual fee
$0
Cashback Rate
Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month.
Regular Purchase APR
24.99%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit
Average

Best Intro Bonus

Wells Fargo Cash Back College℠ Card

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
up to 3%
Regular Purchase APR
12.40%-22.40%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit
Fair Credit

Best Credit Union Card

Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa

APPLY NOW Secured

on Altra’s secure website

Read Full Review

Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Rewards
1 point per dollar spent
Regular Purchase APR
14.90%

Fixed

Credit required
zero-credit
New to Credit

Best for Studying Abroad

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students

APPLY NOW Secured

on Bank Of America’s secure website

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Rewards
1.5 points per dollar spent
Regular Purchase APR
16.24%-24.24%

Variable

Credit required
fair-credit
Fair Credit, Limited Credit history

Best Secured Card

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$200
Regular Purchase APR
24.24%

Variable

Credit required
bad-credit
Bad

Best for No Credit History

Deserve Edu Mastercard

APPLY NOW Secured

on Deserve’s secure website

Deserve Edu Mastercard

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
1% on all purchases
Regular Purchase APR
19.99%

Variable

Credit required
zero-credit
New to Credit

Also ConsiderAlso Consider

Golden 1 Platinum Rewards for Students

Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards for Students:

This credit card offers a snazzy rewards program: rather than accumulate points, you’ll get a cash rebate instead. All you have to do is make a purchase. At the end of the month, you’ll get a rebate of 3% of gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases, and 1% of all other purchases deposited back into your Golden 1 savings account at the end of the month. You can join Golden 1 by joining the Financial Fitness Association for $8 per year and keeping at least $5 in a savings account.

What should I look for in a student credit card?

The most important thing to consider when looking for a student credit card is that it charges no annual fee. You should never have to pay to build your credit score. Fortunately, most student cards don’t charge you an annual fee, but it’s still something to watch out for.

The second most important thing you should keep an eye out for are tools that help you learn about credit or even promote good credit-building habits. For example, some student credit cards will give you a free monthly FICO score update. You can use this freebie to see in real time how your credit score changes as you build credit history by keeping the card open, or paying down your credit card balance, for example.

The last thing you should be considering when picking out a student credit card is the rewards program. I know, I know, it seems counterintuitive. But stick with me — I’ll show you why in the next question.

Why shouldn’t I be concerned about maximizing my rewards while in college?

Rewards cards are nice to have. But if you’re a college student, here’s the truth: you probably won’t spend enough to earn meaningful rewards.

Why? With a good rewards program, you can earn points or cash back. A small percentage of your monthly spending can add up quickly. However, given the tight budget that most college students live on, it will probably take a while to earn meaningful rewards. For example, if you earn 1.25% cash back and spend $300 a month on your card, you would earn $45 of cash back during the year.

College students are very good at making good use of $45. And our favorite card offers a great cash back rewards program. Just don’t expect to earn a lot of cash back, given the tight budget of a college student.

Why should I get a credit card as a college student?

There are a lot of great reasons why you should get a credit card, as long as you can commit to using it responsibly.

The single biggest reason why you should get a credit card as a college student is because you can start establishing a credit history now. When you graduate from college, you will need a good credit score to get an apartment. And your future employer will likely check your credit report. Building a good credit history while still in college will help prepare you for life after graduation.

Getting a credit card while in college can also train you to develop good credit habits now. But you need to be honest with yourself. If you find that you can’t avoid the temptation of maxing out your credit card, you might want to switch to a debit card or cash.

Finally, getting a credit card now can be the motivation you need to start learning about credit. These skills aren’t hard to learn, and they could save you thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars later in life (when you want a mortgage, for example).

What is the CARD Act and why should I care about it?

Many years ago, credit card companies would market on college campuses. You could get a free beer mug or t-shirt in exchange for a credit card application. And you would be able to qualify for a credit card without having any income. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act was signed into law in May 2009 to change a number of practices.

How did the CARD Act change student credit cards?

The CARD Act made a lot of changes in how credit card issuers do business with students. One of the biggest changes was requiring students to be able to demonstrate an ability to pay. If you are under 21 and do not have sufficient income (a campus job, for example), you would need to get a co-signer.

In addition, colleges must now limit the amount of credit card marketing on campus. The days of free t-shirts and pizzas in exchange for credit card applications are gone. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible for a college student to get a credit card. Some highly reputable banks and credit unions still offer student cards. And building a good credit score while still in college is still highly recommended.

How can I protect myself from racking up debt?

When used properly, credit cards are a very convenient method of repayment. However, when not used properly, you can end up deep in credit card debt. It is important to establish a healthy relationship to credit now, with your first credit card.

You should try to ensure that you pay off your credit card bill in full and on time every month. Ideally, you should set up an automatic monthly payment. And to keep yourself on track, take advantage of alerts offered by most credit card companies. You can even get daily text messages reminding you of your balance.

How can I automate my credit card usage?

If all of this sounds confusing, don’t worry. There’s actually a way you can automate your payments so you never even have to bother with the hassle of using a credit card. All it takes is a few minutes of upfront work.

First, you’ll need at least one recurring monthly bill of the same amount, such as Netflix or Spotify. Log in to your account and set up an automatic payment each month using your credit card. Make a note of how much your monthly bill costs.

Next, log in to your bank account. Set up a second automatic payment to go to your credit card each month for the same amount as the bill. If your bank doesn’t offer the option to set up automatic payments, you may also be able to set up your credit card to automatically withdraw the amount of the bill from your bank.

Because you know this bill will be for the same amount each month (barring any price increases), you can literally just leave this running in the background each month on autopilot. You don’t even have to carry your credit card in your wallet if you don’t want to. Then, when you graduate, you’ll automatically have an improved credit score!

What happens to my student credit card when I graduate?

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the finish line. But what about your student credit card? You will have a few options once you graduate.

First, you can simply keep it. You will want to keep the credit card open, because it helps you build a long credit history. However, you might want to call your credit card company and ask if you can migrate to a standard (non-student) credit card.

But if you have been using your credit card properly, you will have an excellent credit score when you graduate – and you will be able to get any credit card that you want.

Here is a summary of our favorite cards:

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

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

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