Tag: Military

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Earning Interest

Review of USAA CD Rates

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

USAA CD rates
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Founded and based in San Antonio, USAA is an FDIC-insured bank, insurance and financial services company that serves current and former military members and their families. Started by 25 U.S. Army officers, USAA has since grown to more than 11 million members. Most of their products are only available to USAA members, who are military members or their families.

USAA won a number of awards in 2016, including the title World’s Most Ethical Company from the Ethisphere Institute. It scored top rankings in the bank, insurance, and credit card categories in the Temkin Customer Service Ratings from 2013 to 2016.

Looking beyond high customer service standards, USAA CD rates are pretty comparable to the national average, though with some products they are significantly lower. Minimum deposit requirements are lower than with many similar products, though there are CDs out there with better rates and lower minimum deposits than USAA’s CDs. If you’re a member of the military (or a family member of military member) and looking for a bank that offers a wide variety of products as well as excellent customer service, USAA could be a good bet if you’re will to make the tradeoff for lower CD rates.

USAA Fixed-Rate CDs

A USAA fixed-rate CD is for those who intend to make one deposit to get a guaranteed rate of return over the agreed-upon term. Once you make your initial deposit (which differs depending on the type of CD you choose), your interest rate is set for the duration of the CD term. You are not allowed to make any additional deposits into your CD account after the initial amount.

Interest accumulates daily, and you have the choice to keep any interest earned in the CD until it matures (the interest will compound monthly) or have it paid out monthly to an account of your choosing. The CD will not be renewed automatically once it matures, though you have the option to do so if you want. If not, all the money in the account will be paid into an investment account until you withdraw it or invest it in another type of account.

Early-withdrawal penalties apply depending on the term of your CD:

  • Terms of 30 days or less: 30 days’ worth of interest
  • 30 days to 364 days: 90 days’ interest
  • 365 days to five years: 180 days’ interest
  • Five years or more: 365 days’ interest

Also, if you make a withdrawal within six calendar days of a deposit or another withdrawal, you’ll have to pay at least seven days’ worth of interest.

Standard rates

A standard CD requires a minimum deposit of $1,000 and up to a maximum of $95,000. This type of account is best for those who do not have a large amount of money to invest and want a guaranteed rate for their savings.

CD Term

APY

91 days

0.30%

182 days

0.56%

7 months

0.56%

270 days

0.66%

1 year

0.71%

15 months

0.95%

18 months

0.76%

2 years

0.81%

30 months

1.26%

3 years

0.91%

4 years

1.46%

5 years

1.06%

7 years

1.06%

As of Dec. 1, 2017

USAA fixed jumbo CD rates

Fixed jumbo CDs require a minimum deposit of $95,000 and a maximum amount up to $175,000.

CD Term

APY

30 days

0.22%

91 days

0.35%

120 days

0.45%

150 days

0.50%

182 days

0.61%

7 months

0.61%

270 days

0.71%

1 year

0.76%

15 months

1.00%

18 months

0.81%

2 years

0.86%

30 months

1.31%

3 years

0.96%

4 years

1.51%

5 years

1.11%

7 years

1.11%

As of Dec. 1, 2017.

USAA fixed super jumbo CD rates

Fixed super jumbo CDs require a minimum deposit of at least $175,000 with no maximum amount. However, FDIC only insures up to $250,000.

CD Term

APY

30 days

0.22%

91 days

0.35%

120 days

0.45%

150 days

0.50%

182 days

0.61%

7 months

0.61%

270 days

0.71%

1 year

0.76%

15 months

1.06%

18 months

0.81%

2 years

0.86%

30 months

1.36%

3 years

0.96%

4 years

1.56%

5 years

1.11%

7 years

1.11%

As of Dec. 1, 2017

USAA Adjustable-Rate CDs

Like the fixed-rate CDs, the interest rate is locked for the entirety of the agreed term with an adjustable-rate CD. All interest is compounded daily starting on your settlement date (the actual date when your deposit goes into your account) and the interest either paid out monthly or kept in the account until your CD matures. Your CD will not be automatically renewed. Instead the money will be put into an investment account until you decide to put it back into another CD account or withdraw the entire balance.

Unlike with the fixed-rate CD, however, you can adjust your rate once during your CD term as well as make one other deposit when you request a rate adjustment. If rates go up, you can make an adjustment up to a 2 percent increase. The additional deposit needs to be a minimum of $25.

Early-withdrawal penalties are the same as with the fixed-rate CD:

  • Terms of 30 days or less: 30 days’ worth of interest
  • 30 days to 364 days: 90 days’ interest
  • 365 days to five years: 180 days’ interest
  • Five years or more: 365 days’ interest

In addition, you will be required to pay at least seven days’ worth of interest if you withdrawal money within six calendar days of either a deposit or another withdrawal from your account.

Standard rates

The minimum opening deposit for an adjustable standard CD account is $1,000. You’re allowed up to a maximum of $95,000. Otherwise, you will need to open an adjustable jumbo CD account.

CD Term

APY

3 years

0.12%

4 years

0.31%

5 years

0.43%

7 years

0.43%

As of Dec. 1, 2017

Jumbo rates

Adjustable Jumbo CDs need a $95,000 minimum deposit and rates are applicable up to $175,000.

CD Term

APY

3 years

0.17%

4 years

0.36%

5 years

0.48%

7 years

0.48%

As of Dec. 1, 2017

Super jumbo rates

Adjustable super jumbo CDs have a minimum deposit of $175,000 with no limits on how much you can keep in your account. Keep in mind that FDIC insures up to $250,000 in your account.

CD Term

APY

3 years

0.17%

4 years

0.36%

5 years

0.48%

7 years

0.48%

As of Dec. 1, 2017

USAA variable-rate CDs

This type of CD account is best suited to those who want the ability to make more than one deposit any time they choose. The rate tends to be lower than the other CDs of the same term length, but you are allowed to make as many additional deposits as you like without extending the maturity date, as long it’s $25 or more each time. This could help you earn more on your deposits than you would with a traditional savings account, though there are better rates to be had among those products, as well.

Unlike the fixed- and adjustable-rate CDs, the interest rate on a variable-rate CD may fluctuate daily so earnings may be affected. However, interest is compounded daily and just like the other CD accounts and you can either keep earned interest with the CD balance and allow the interest to compound, or you can have it paid out to another account every month.

There are also early-withdrawal penalties with a variable rate CD. You’ll be charged 30 days’ worth of interest if you take your money out before the maturity date.

CD Term

APY

Minimum Deposit Amount

182 days

0.46%

$250

1 year

0.46%

$250

As of Dec. 1, 2017

Overall review on USAA’s CD rates

Above all, it’s important to remember that only USAA members can get its products, so if you’re not eligible for membership, USAA CDs aren’t an option for you.

USAA’s CD rates are not as competitive as other institutions’ products (you can see the best CD rates in our monthly roundup). While the $1,000 minimum deposit requirement is lower than some other banks that offer higher APYs on their CDs, you can get a better CD rate on accounts with deposit requirements as low as $500. While the rates for jumbo and super jumbo CDs are better than its standard offers, you can find better rates.

One of the main advantages of opening a CD with USAA is the ability to bump up your rate with an adjustable-rate CD, as other banks don’t always offer this option.. It’s important to note that a rate increase is not guaranteed. However, you are given an opportunity to make another deposit into your account before maturity.

As for USAA’s variable-rate CD, you may be better off opening a high-interest savings account if you’re looking for an account with a good APY and some liquidity.

Overall, if you want a bank with excellent customer service and the ability to choose from a wide variety of services, USAA is a good option. USAA may be your best choice if you want your CDs at a bank that understands needs specific to military members and their families. But if high yields are your priority, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Sarah Li Cain
Sarah Li Cain |

Sarah Li Cain is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Sarah Li here

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Small Business

How to Find Your Best VA Business Loan Options in 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.

Source: iStock

Veteran-owned businesses make up just under 10 percent of all businesses in the U.S., according to a 2017 report by the Small Business Administration. Despite veterans’ propensity toward entrepreneurship, funding options for veteran-owned business can be difficult to find. According to the same report, nearly 60 percent of veterans’ startup or acquisition capital comes from personal or family savings, while less than 10 percent comes from loans from federal, state, or local government, government-backed business loans from banks, or business loans from banks or other financial institutions.

Obtaining startup financing is always a challenge, but veterans may have an especially difficult time. Because their housing, transportation, and many other daily necessities are handled by the military, they may not have built credit while actively serving.

Fortunately, many organizations, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) have stepped up to provide resources for veteran entrepreneurs. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the options available for current veteran business owners and veterans looking to start their own business.

Traditional bank loans

Borrowers who bank with a financial institution that caters to military members should talk to a loan officer at their bank first.

Navy Federal Credit Union provides small business financing of up to $50,000 through a combination of term loans, business credit cards, vehicle loans, and business checking lines of credit. A four-page application is available on their website and can be submitted online.

Fort Knox Federal Credit Union, which is available to active duty military, reserve, National Guard, and civil service employees and retired military or civil service members, provides SBA-backed commercial real estate loans. You can request more information by filling out a Commercial Loan Request Form online.

Tammy Everts, a certified business adviser with the Spokane Small Business Development Center, says borrowers with a good credit score seeking a loan of less than $150,000 may be able to qualify for a loan based on their credit score alone. “Talk to your commercial banker where you already have a relationship,” Everts says. “If you’re denied there, then you can expand your search.”

SBA-guaranteed loans

Neither the VA nor the SBA loan money directly to veteran entrepreneurs, but the SBA does guarantee small business loans for veterans. This means that should the business default on the loan, the government will pay a portion of the remaining balance back to the lender. This guarantee encourages banks to lend to applicants that might otherwise be considered too great a risk.

Everts says veterans, unfortunately, have fewer options than they did a few years ago. Prior to 2013, the SBA offered the Patriot Express Loan targeted at helping veterans and active duty military with loans up to $500,000. That program ended, but Everts says it was rolled into the SBA Express Program under the name SBA Veterans Advantage

To qualify, the business must be owned and controlled (51 percent or greater) by a veteran.

The SBA defines a veteran as:

  • Veterans (not those dishonorably discharged)
  • Active-duty military participating in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP)
  • Reservists and National Guard members
  • Current spouses of any veterans, active duty service members, reservists, or National Guard members and widowed spouses of any service members who die while in service or of a service-connected disability.

To document eligibility, the borrower must provide a copy of Form DD 214 or other documentation as outlined in SBA Information Notice 5000-1390. Eligible veterans have four options under the Veterans Advantage Program:

SBA Express loans of $150,001 to $350,000

  • No upfront fees
  • Two-page application and response within 36 hours
  • The SBA guarantees 50 percent of the amount borrowed

SBA 7(a) loans $150,000 and under

  • No upfront fees through 9/30/17 (typically 1.5 percent of the guaranteed portion)
  • Terms up to 10 years for equipment and up to 25 years for real estate
  • The SBA guarantees 85 percent of the amount borrowed

Non-SBA Express loans $150,001 to $500,000

  • The upfront fee is 50 percent less than the fee charged to non-veteran owned small businesses as follows:
    • Loans with terms greater than 12 months: fee is 1.5 percent of the guaranteed portion
    • Loans with terms of 12 months or less: fee is 0.125 percent of the guaranteed portion

Loans of $500,001 to $5 million

  • For loans of $500,001 to $700,000, upfront fee is 3 percent of the guaranteed portion
  • For loans of $700,001 to $5 million, upfront fee is 3.5 percent of the guaranteed portion up to $1 million, plus 3.75 percent of the guaranteed portion over $1 million

Note that for all but the Express Loan, the reduced fees are applicable only for loans made until September 30, 2017. The fee waiver has been extended in the past, but there is no guarantee it will be extended again.

Interest rates on all SBA loans are negotiated between the lender and the borrower.

How to apply

To apply for an SBA-backed loan, borrowers can use the Lender Match tool available on the SBA’s website. Everts says qualifying for an SBA Veterans Advantage loan isn’t really different from other bank loans. “The bank will expect a 15 percent cash contribution from the business owner and a good credit score,” Everts says. “With a credit score over 700, the borrower may be able to get a loan with very little paperwork.

Nonprofit lenders

Nonprofit lenders can often provide small business funding when traditional banks won’t.

CDC Small Business Financing VetLoan Advantage

CDC Small Business Financing’s VetLoan Advantage Program is available to veterans looking to purchase commercial or industrial buildings and equipment.

The VetLoan Advantage loans are backed by the SBA, but they offer lower down payments (typically 10 percent). Mike Owen, Chief Credit Officer and Director of Business Development for CDC Small Business Finance, says CDC provides a cash rebate of up to $3,000 to help veterans offset loan expenses. Borrowers can prequalify for a loan online.

The Jonas Project

provides startup funding, training, and mentorship for veteran women. To qualify, applicants must be a U.S. military veteran with honorable discharge verification, demonstrate knowledge or skill in their desired field of business, and pass an extensive interview and qualification process. Applications are available online.

Veterans Business Fund

Veterans Business Fund (VBF) was established to assist veterans by providing them with the supplemental capital required to satisfy the equity requirements for a small business loan. VBF loans are non-interest bearing.

Currently, the VBF is not accepting applications until their necessary fundraising is complete, but borrowers should check back in the future to find out more about the application process and requirements.

Microloans

If your borrowing needs are modest, a microloan may be the way to go. Microloans typically range from $500 to $100,000, although the definition of a microloan varies by lender.

Kabbage, a microlender that has provided over $3 billion in funding to more than 100,000 businesses, has a microloan program designed specifically for veteran-owned businesses. Borrowers can apply online or through the Kabbage mobile app for a line of credit up to $150,000.

Angel investment groups

Angel investors are affluent individuals who provide capital for a business startup, usually in exchange for ownership equity in the business. Some angel investors organize themselves into angel investment groups to share research, pool their investment capital, and provide advice to their portfolio companies.

Hivers and Strivers is a Great Falls, Va.-based angel investment group that focuses on investing and supporting startups founded and run by graduates of U.S. military academies. The group concentrates on investing $250,000 to $1 million in a single round, although they can work with other investment groups when larger financing rounds are needed.

Their investors, most of whom have also served in the military and have a broad range of experience in different industries and business models, will also serve as board members and advisers to the businesses they finance. Borrowers can submit their idea for consideration online.

Online lenders

Online lending platforms (sometimes referred to as peer-to-peer lending) are online services that match lenders with borrowers. Because they typically run with lower overhead, they often provide loans with better terms than traditional financial institutions.

StreetShares is an online lending platform that focuses on connecting veteran-owned and -run businesses with investors. They offer three different funding solutions:

Term loans

  • Loan amounts from $2,000 to $100,000
  • Terms of three to 36 months

Patriot Express line of credit

  • Lines of credit from $5,000 to $100,000
  • Terms of three to 36 months

Contract financing

  • Based on future earnings
  • No limit on contract amount

StreetShares only loans to borrowers who have been in business for at least one year and have “reasonable” credit. Borrowers can get pre-approved in minutes, and there is no application fee.

Grants

Grants are attractive to entrepreneurs without a lot of cash available to start or grow a business because, unlike a loan, the funds do not have to be repaid.

StreetShares Foundation

The StreetShares Foundation awards $10,000 in business grants to veterans and military spouses each month. Applicants must be a veteran, reserve, or active duty member of the U.S. armed forces or a spouse of a military member or veteran. Selection criteria are based on the business idea, use of funds and potential impact, product-market fit, team and company history, and influence of the business on the military and veterans community.

Applicants must qualify for the award by downloading or viewing educational materials, then complete an online application that includes writing a 300-word summary of the business and submitting a short video about the project or company.

USDA Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (a.k.a The 2501 Program)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides small business grants, education, training, outreach, and other forms of support to veterans and minorities looking to begin or expand agricultural operations. Funding opportunities are closed for 2017.

Veterans can also search for additional grant opportunities through grants.gov; however, Everts says her office typically counsels people to bootstrap their business because the process of searching and applying for grants can take a significant amount of time.

Other small business financing options for veterans

While funding is important, it’s often not the only resource veterans need to successfully start or grow a business. Here’s a look at some other great resources:

Boots to business

The Boots to Business entrepreneurial program is offered by the SBA. The curriculum includes a two-day classroom course on entrepreneurship as well as an eight-week online course with in-depth instruction on preparing a business plan and starting a business.

At the end of the eight-week online course, participants will have the tools and knowledge they need to identify business opportunities, draft a business plan, and launch a small business.

Veteran’s Business Outreach Center

Also funded by the SBA, Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers are a resource for service members, veterans, and military spouses looking to start, purchase, or grow a business. Centers are located in 17 states.

Business counselors at the outreach centers provide mentorship and work with veteran entrepreneurs on business plans, feasibility analysis, and provide training on franchising, marketing, accounting, and more.

Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families hosts conferences and provides training for veterans transitioning to civilian life. Their initiatives include:

Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities

Available to post-9/11 veterans with a service-connected disability. The boot camps feature a 30-day online program, nine days of live training, and 12 months of post-program support.

Bootcamp for Veterans Families

Available to military families who serve in a caregiver role to a veteran with a service-connected disability. The boot camps feature a 30-day online program, nine days of live training, and 12 months of post-program support.

Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship

Women veterans and female military spouses can receive entrepreneurship and small business management training through Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship. This three-phase program includes a 15-day online course, a three-day entrepreneurship training event, ongoing mentorship, training, and support opportunities for graduates launching or growing a business.

There is a one-time $75 registration fee for the program, but the SBA covers a two-night hotel stay for event attendees and all meals and educational materials during the conference. Veterans can view the program calendar and apply online.

VetFran

The International Franchise Association created VetFran, a strategic initiative to teach veterans about becoming a franchise business owner. Veterans and their spouses can get help figuring out whether franchising is right for them and search a of franchises, many of which offer discounts or grant free franchises to veterans.

American Corporate Partners

connects post-9/11 veterans to corporate mentors from companies such as Deloitte, Morgan Stanley, AT&T, Coca-Cola, and Intel for year-long, one-on-one corporate mentoring. Mentors help veterans with small business development, professional communication and leadership skills, and career development.The program is open to service members, veterans, and spouses who meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Currently serving and recently separated veterans who have served on active duty orders for at least 180 days since 9/11.
  • Surviving spouses and spouses of severely wounded post-9/11 veterans.
  • Service members who served less than 180 days of active duty since 9/11, but who were injured while serving or training.

Applications can be completed online.

SCORE Veteran Fast Launch Initiative

SCORE (previously known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a nonprofit association of thousands of volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S. Their Veteran Fast Launch Initiative provides mentoring and training to veterans transitioning to entrepreneurs. The program is a package of free software combined with mentoring aimed at helping veterans and their families start and succeed as small business owners.

In addition to templates and tools to help veterans plan and operate their businesses, veterans also receive five hours of free financial advice from a CPA.

National Veteran-Owned Business Association

The National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) doesn’t provide funding for veteran-owned small businesses, but it does provide networking opportunities for veteran entrepreneurs, encourages the federal government to spend their contract dollars with veteran-owned businesses, and advocates with state governments to pass laws creating opportunities for veteran-owned businesses.

The Bunker

The Bunker is an incubator for veteran-owned technology startups. They have local chapters throughout the U.S. that provide educational programming, resources, and networking for military veterans and their spouses interested in starting and growing a business. Their EPIC Entrepreneurial Program is a 12-week course designed to help participants launch a business.

The exact information you’ll need and qualifications to be approved for a loan depends on the funding option you’re interest in and the bank you’re working with. Some have simple applications and quick approval processes. Others will want to see collateral, business plans, personal financial statements, bank statements, and credit scores. Whatever funding opportunity you pursue, Everts recommends taking some time to prepare before applying. “Get your numbers in a row and know how much you can contribute to the business,” she says.

Janet Berry-Johnson
Janet Berry-Johnson |

Janet Berry-Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Janet here

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College Students and Recent Grads

8 Student Loan Repayment Options if You Join the Military

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.

Student Loan Repayment Options

Several military programs offer scholarships and grants in exchange for your prior military service, or a promise of service in the future. But, what if you already have a degree and are working to pay off your student loans? You may want to consider one of the military’s student loan repayment programs.

In 2013, CNN reported on Thomas McGregor, an attorney who enlisted in the Army to help pay off his $108,000 student loan debt. Between his income and a loan-assistance program, he was student loan free within four years.

Military service isn’t for everyone, and you should seriously consider the potential impact of signing up for a multi-year commitment. It was a good fit for McGregor, who decided to stay on after his three-year service ended. However, he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and some of his friends were injured or died in combat.

If you decide joining the military is a good choice for you and are paying down student loans, the loan assistance programs could guide your decision to choose one branch over another. While the different programs sometimes share similar names, the qualifications, requirements, and award amounts can vary from one branch’s program to another.

Make sure the loan-repayment guarantee is in your contract before enlisting and double-check your loan’s eligibility for repayment through the program. For example, a program may pay off some types of federal student loans, but not state or private loans. Restrictions also apply based on which position you enlist in, your length of service, and whether or not you have prior military experience. In some cases, the loan payments count as income for tax purposes.

The military’s loan repayment programs and offers can change based on government funding and a branch’s need for new recruits. You can find an overview of the programs below, and you should follow-up with a local recruiter to clarify specifics and find out whether or not you’ll qualify.

Air Force

  • JAG Corps Student Loan Repayment ProgramEligible attorneys can receive up to $65,000 in student loan repayments, payable over three years following the completion of your first year of service. The payments can go towards undergraduate, graduate, or law school loans and payments will go directly to your lender. If you stay on past four years, then you can qualify for a $60,000 in cash bonuses: $20,000 for two more years of service and another $40,000 for four more. That’s not specifically earmarked for your loans, but you can use them to pay off your debt. That would be $125,000 over 8 years, in addition to your salary and other benefits.

Army

  • Healthcare Loan Repayment ProgramsThe Army offers special pay and incentives to doctors, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals. Depending on your profession and specialty, you may be eligible for up to $120,000 in student loan repayments over three years of active-duty service in addition to salary, bonuses and special pay. Reserve-duty servicemembers may receive up to $50,000 for three years of service for loans.
  • College Loan Repayment ProgramThe Army also offers some highly qualified Military Occupational Specialists (MOSs) student loan assistance if they enlist for at least three years of service. At the end of each of the three years, you’ll receive the greater of $1,500 or 33.33 percent of your outstanding principal loan balance, less taxes. There’s a maximum potential payout of $65,000.

Army National Guard and Reserves 

  • College Loan Repayment Program The Army National Guard and Army Reserves have similar student loan payments for some highly qualified Military Occupational Specialists (MOSs). You could receive the greater of $1,500 or 15 percent of your outstanding loan principal at the end of each year of service, up to a maximum of $20,000. To qualify, you must enlist and serve for at least six years. Parent PLUS loans can be covered. 

Coast Guard

  • College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative Student Loan Repayment ProgramThe Coast Guard offers recent college graduates who are 19- to 27-year-olds up to $10,000 per year, for six years, in student loan aid. The program requires candidates to complete a series of trainings, including basic training and leadership training, and enlist for five years as a commissioned officer. There are some interesting catches: you can’t have more than two dependents and if you’re single, you can’t have sole or primary custody of dependents. Online degrees also don’t qualify.

Navy

  • Health Professions Loan Repayment ProgramThe Navy pays select health care professionals up to $40,000, minus approximately 25% for federal income tax, in student loan payments each year in exchange for agreeing to continue, or begin, active duty service. The hefty tax portion will be taken out prior to sending the payment along to your lender.
  • College Loan Repayment Program Pays up to $65,000 in student loan payments if you’re serving in your first enlistment.

National Guard

  • Student Loan Repayment ProgramYou could receive the greater of $500 or 15 percent of your initially disbursed loan amount each year, with a maximum $50,000 payout and minimum six-year service agreement. You must have at least one disbursed Title IV federal loan.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program isn’t military specific, instead it’s a federal loan-forgiveness program contingent on your employment with a qualified government or non-profit organization. Only federal student loan that are part of the Direct Loan program qualify for PSLF. However, you may be able to consolidate non-qualifying federal loans (such as a Perkins loan) into a qualified Direct Consolidation Loan.

With PSLF, your remaining loan balance will be forgiven after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments (10 years’ worth) while employed full-time. The 120 payments don’t need to be consecutive, and some, or all, of the employment, could be within the military. You currently won’t have to pay income taxes on the forgiven amount.

Additional Military Benefits

In addition to the loan repayment programs, your federal student loans may be eligible for a capped 6-percent interest rate during active duty, and up to five years of no interest if you’re serving in qualified hostile areas. You may also be able to postpone payments during active duty, but the loans will still accrue interest.

Bottom line

The military’s student loan forgiveness programs may be able to help repay your loans, but don’t take the decision to enlist lightly. Other employers offer loan repayment programs, and potentially less-dangerous jobs qualify for the PSLF. If you do decide to enlist, compare the loan repayment programs and be sure to get the loan repayment included in your contract.

Louis DeNicola
Louis DeNicola |

Louis DeNicola is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Louis at louis@magnifymoney.com

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College Students and Recent Grads, Student Loan ReFi

5 Options for Enlisting in the Military to Pay for College

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.

Student Loan Mod_lg

Lacey Langford was taking classes at a local community college when she realized she’d rather work full-time to save money for school. “My father was an Army officer, and I decided I wanted to join like him,” says Langford, now 38, who lives in Summerfield, NC. “He convinced me to at least talk to the Air Force recruiter. That was it. I realized it would be better for me and I committed to the Air Force.”

Three years into her active duty, Langford started taking classes at night, using the Air Force’s Tuition Assistance program and the GI Bill. She later separated from the Air Force and completed her degree at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She estimates that the GI Bill paid for 100 percent of her tuition, 85 percent of her books, and about 40 percent of her room and board expenses. “I am happy with the way it worked out, walking out of school with zero student loan debt,” says Langford, who today is a financial planner. “I also gained valuable work experience and discipline. The discipline alone has reaped major rewards.”

With the average 2015 graduate coming out of school with more than $35,000 in student loans, being able to get a degree without all the debt is appealing, to say the least. Langford’s path to tuition coverage is one way to do it, but the military offers a variety of ways to pay for schooling or even to pay back student loans. Here are a few options:

1. ROTC Scholarships

Some schools offer the opportunity to apply for a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program that could pay for nearly all of your tuition, fees and books charges for four years of school, in exchange for a commitment to enter the service as a commissioned officer when you graduate. You generally promise to serve for at least four years post-graduation. There are also two- and three-year scholarships available, depending on how many years you have left in school. Each branch of the military has their own information and program.

2. Montgomery GI Bill

During basic training, recruits get the chance to sign up for this GI Bill plan, paying for it with $100 a month during their first year in the service. Once enrolled, however, eligible members can receive a monthly stipend while attending classes, based on their active duty status and how long they’ve served. For instance, effective October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016, those who have completed an enlistment of three years or more and enrolled in full-time school qualify for a monthly stipend of $1,789. Rates generally go up every year.

3. 9/11 GI Bill

Any veteran with at least 90 days of active duty after September 11, 2001, with an honorable discharge, is eligible to take advantage of this benefit. The biggest benefit goes to those with at least three years of active duty service. For those with three years of active duty service and attending a public school, the 9/11 GI Bill will pay up to 100% of tuition and fee payments for an in-state student. For private or foreign school attendees, payment is up to $21,970.46 per academic year.

4. Tuition Assistance

Each branch of the military also offers its own tuition assistance program, in which active duty members can get money toward tuition and fees for qualified programs. The Air Force, Army and Marines offer up to $4,500 per fiscal year with caps on credit hour costs, and the Navy offers up to $250 per semester credit hour or $166 per quarter credit hour. The Coast Guard offers up to $3,375 per fiscal year. This may also be an option for you if you belong to one of the service’s Reserve units.

5. Student Loan Repayment

If you’ve already incurred student loans, you may be able to enlist in the military and have them paid off over time. Each branch offers its own program for this. The Army and Navy, for example, will repay up to $65,000 of a soldier’s qualifying student loans, and the Air Force will repay up to $10,000. Generally, after each year of completed active duty, your service will pay 33-1/3 percent or $1,500, whichever is greater, of your total unpaid balance.

There are other programs that may assist with school costs or loan repayment, depending on your position, active duty status and career field. You can get more information on all programs at military.com/education, or find specific information from the military branch you’re interested in.

A word of caution

Although these are all valid pathways to an education without massive student loan debt—or any debt at all in some cases—experts advise that students shouldn’t join the military for the tuition assistance alone. “There are people for whom the military is great, but for some people, the military is just not for them,” says Ryan Guina, founder of TheMilitaryWallet.com, who used the military’s Tuition Assistance program to get his degree while on active duty with the Air Force. “If you’re going to join for a specific benefit, make sure all the other aspects are in line with your values and what you’re looking for out of life. I encourage people to look at the military as a whole and not just a means to an end.”

Kate Ashford |

Kate Ashford is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kate at kateashford@magnifymoney.com

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Banking On Our Military: Protecting Service Members from Abusive Financial Practices

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Uncle_Sam_(pointing_finger)

Today we honor the men and women who defend our freedom. In this country, we are extremely fortunate that so many brave Americans volunteer to serve in our armed forces. At incredible personal sacrifice, they go to some of the most dangerous corners of the world to make sure that we remain safe here at home.

My father served in the Army, and I have quite a few extended family members who have also served. I often think about my cousin, who is a nurse in the Navy. I very rarely see her, because she is constantly being sent all over the world. She has served in Afghanistan a couple of times, and often disappears without being able to tell us where she has been. I have so much respect for her willingness to drop everything and do what is asked of her. And, when I thank her, she tells me it is no big deal. And in her mind, it is not a big deal because so many other people who are ready to risk their lives, without hesitation, surround her.

On behalf of the entire team at MagnifyMoney, I want to thank all of the men and women of the armed forces for their service.

Although so many of us show our gratitude for the service of our veterans, there are some people who take advantage of our men and women in uniform, particularly in financial services. Some of the worst offenses include:

  • Debt collectors, who engage in illegal and abusive practices, targeted particularly at service members
  • Payday loan companies, who often use patriotic imagery and set up shop near bases, and charge extortionate prices
  • Banks, particularly targeting service members, with outrageous overdraft fees (a form of payday lending)
  • Mortgage companies (particularly servicing companies) that deny service members the protections that they deserve under the law
  • Large banks that make it too difficult to receive the protections of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
  • Any financial organization that doesn’t give our service members the benefit of the doubt

Uncle Bill 2Some businesses make a strategy out of exploiting our men and women in uniform, and their unique living situation. Fortunately, the CFPB has created an Office of Servicemember Affairs, led by Holly Petraeus. If you have experienced difficulties or unfair treatment from a financial organization, you can complain online to the CFPB, by clicking this link. They have a dedicated team that deals with service member complaints, and to-date have helped return $200 million to men and women in uniform.

We will deal with each of the biggest issues below.

Debt Collectors

Service members are uniquely at risk: credit defaults (failure to pay your bills) can result in having your security clearance revoked under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And collection agencies know that.

Some collection agencies are particularly aggressive, and they will:

  • Contact your chain of command, trying to humiliate you into payment
  • Contact your spouse, making threats
  • Demanding payments from widows immediately, trying to get their hands on the death benefit

This happens far too often, and it is repulsive.

Remember that you have rights, and you do not have to tolerate abusive and illegal debt collection actions. Our recommendation:

  1. Make sure, particularly before a deployment, you have a power of attorney given to someone who can negotiate on your behalf with the debt collection agency. Typically this is a spouse or a parent.
  2. Immediately report any illegal contacts from the agency to the CFPB. Remember: they cannot contact your chain of command. They can only speak to you or someone you designated about your debt
  3. Restrict their ability to contact you, in writing. Below is a sample letter that you can use:

Dear [Debt collector name]:

I am responding to your contact about collecting a debt. You contacted me by [phone/mail], on [date] and identified the debt as [any information they gave you about the debt].

You can contact me about this debt, but only in the way I say below. Don’t contact me about this debt in other way, or at any other place or time. It is inconvenient to me to be contacted except as I authorize below.

You can only contact me at:

[Mailing address if you want to get mail]

[Phone number and convenient times if you want to be contacted by phone]

[If correct, include the following] My employer prohibits me from receiving communications like this at work.

Thank you for your cooperation,

[Your name]

Payday Loans

It is very easy to get stuck in a payday-lending trap. Although a payday loan may feel like an easy solution when you have an immediate need for money, it can become an expensive debt trap that becomes impossible to escape.

Fortunately, there are alternatives for service members. PenFed (a credit union), has a foundation. They have created a program: ARK (Asset Recovery Kit). This is basically a way to escape a payday loan: PenFed will lend you $500 for a $5 fee. No credit report is pulled, no interest is charged, and it is confidential and fast. However, in order to receive the money you need to sit with a consumer credit counselor. I believe this is a good requirement.

You can learn more about this program, and apply here.

Banks – and their Overdraft Fees

Payday lending companies typically charge $15 to $20 for every $100 that you borrow for 2 weeks.

Overdrafts on basic checking accounts can be even more expensive: they can be over $35 per incident. And some of the worst banks are the ones that target the military. When we recently reviewed the fees charged per branch, the absolute worst performer was Fort Hood National Bank, which targets the military. It makes $1.3 million per branch on banking fees – which is outrageous.

Given the mobile nature of a service member’s life, we recommend considering:

  • An internet-only bank, like Ally. They have no monthly charge (with no minimum balance requirement), and completely free ATM usage (including the reimbursement of other bank ATM charges anywhere in the US). In addition, there is no overdraft fee if money is transferred from your savings account to your checking account, and the overdraft fee is capped at $9 per day. You can compare that to other options on our checking account page.

There are certain financial organizations that target the military, and understand your unique needs. However, their overdraft fees are not always good deals, and their ATM networks are more limited.

  • Navy Federal Credit Union: The Active Duty account is great if you can link a savings account or a line of credit. If you link a savings account, there is no fee for an overdraft transfer. And, if you need to borrow money, they offer a reasonable overdraft line of credit that is much cheaper than a payday loan or overdraft at a traditional bank. However, if you don’t have a line of credit or a savings account, you can be charged up to $60 per day in fees, similar to the large banks. In addition, you do receive $20 worth of ATM rebates per month (for active duty). If you go to the ATM 1 time per week, that should cover you.
  • USAA: they also offer decent alternatives. If you have money in a linked savings account, there is no fee for the transfer. However, if you do not have a linked account, there is a $25 overdraft fee and a $29 NSF fee. The ATM network is more limited than other banks, offering access to AllPoint ATMs and select ATMs around the country. USAA refunds up to $15 in other banks’ ATM usage fees each month and does not charge a fee for the first 10 ATM withdrawals. Subsequent transactions will be charged $2.00 each. USAA is also known for their amazing service.

Mortgage Companies 

Here is a common story: your house in underwater (you owe more money on your mortgage than your home is worth), and you receive a PCS (Permanent Change of Station). You feel stuck. When you call your mortgage company, they tell you that you don’t have any options.

They are wrong.

If you are in active duty (or just left), if you or your spouse have been injured in active duty, of if you have received a PCS, then you may be able to qualify for a military hardship on your mortgage.

Fannie Mae has created an entire resource guide here.

Freddie Mac has created a resource here.

I would recommend the following steps:

  1. Tell your mortgage company that you may qualify for military hardship, and you want to talk to a specialist. If you do not receive what you need, then
  2. Contact Fannie or Freddie (depending upon which one owns your mortgage). If your mortgage is not Fannie or Freddie, or you still don’t receive what you need, then
  3. Contact the CFPB Complaint Office.

Don’t wait to reach out. With mortgages, the earlier you reach out for help, the better.

In addition, you have certain protections from foreclosure. If you obtained your mortgage before you entered military service, than the lender is required to get a court order before they foreclose – even in states that do not require a court order. If the lender does receive a court order, and you can prove that you are unable to meet your financial obligations because of military service, the foreclosure must be stopped (or the mortgage adjusted).

Your SCRA Rights

When you join the military, you have certain protections under the SCRA (Servicemembers Civil Relief Act). Namely:

  • Any debt that you had before entering military service (including mortgages, student loans, credit cards and other loans) cannot charge an interest rate higher than 6% while you are in the military. That can be a massive reduction (especially on credit cards), and you should make sure you take advantage of it. Call your lender and tell them you are eligible for SCRA interest rate relief. (Some banks, like Chase, will reduce the interest rate further. Others, like Bank of America, charge the full legal max)
  • You cannot be evicted if your monthly rent is less than $3,047.45 per month.
  • You have protection from foreclosure (as detailed above)

There are some additional rights – which are summarized well here.

Common Decency

Sometimes banks just lack common sense. When my cousin was deployed, she ended up paying her credit card bill a week late. (She couldn’t pay earlier because she was on a ship in the Pacific, called at a moment’s notice). The credit card company charged her a late fee and increased her interest rate. When she explained that she was in the Navy, they didn’t budge.

Everyone is rushing to wave the red, white and blue on Veteran’s Day. But real patriotism is not taxing our service members with obscene charges. That ranges from the small (nickel and diming on late fees) to the outrageous (harassing a widow, illegally, within 24 hours of her husband’s death to collect on a payday loan).

To all service members: I thank you for your service. I encourage you to reach out to us (info@magnifymoney.com) if we can be of any help. And I urge you to complain to the CFPB if you run into trouble. You make too many sacrifices on our behalf; banks and lenders should not have the ability to take advantage of you.

Uncle Sam image taken from Creative Commons.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

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

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