MagnifyMoney Transparency Score

At MagnifyMoney, our product recommendations reward simple, transparent, and sustainable products. If it's not simple, then it's probably too good to be true. So we created a grading system that rewards each products simplicity and demotes its complexity and fine print.

A+

Very transparent &
easy to use

4.5 - 5.0

A

Very Transparent & requires
little effort

4.0 - 4.49

B

Good, but requires
some effort

3.5 - 3.99

C

Difficult to reach
full value

3.0 - 3.49

F

Almost impossible to reach
full value

1.0 - 2.99

Our scoring philosophy

If a product is rated A, it's easy to understand. If it is rated F, then good luck. Because between the advertisement and the reality, there lies the fine print. And the more fine print - the harder it is to earn that 5% cashback or keep that checking account free. We're rewarding the plain talking products and the banks that provide them.

Look for the MagnifyMoney Transparency Score on all of our tables. Each score contains a list of pros and cons as to why we like (or don't like) the product. Just hover over the score to learn more.

MagnifyMoney

Rule of thumb:

If you can explain the product to Grandma, it gets an A. If you need a PhD, then it gets an F.

(although you get an A for effort)

How we calculate our scores:

Balance Transfer Cards & Low Interest Credit Cards

Fees MAX: 500 MIN: 0 (1.00 / 0.00)

Credit card products have a ton of hidden fees buried in pages of fine print. We believe that credit cards should not charge any fees. If a bank does not charge fees they get full 500 points.

If they charge fees they do not get any points.

Interest Rate MAX: 1000 MIN: 500 (2.00 / 1.00)

Credit card companies rarely like to tell you your interest rate until after you have applied (and therefore agreed to take) the credit card. We really wish that would change. If a credit card company tells you the rate you get before you apply, that card gets 500 points.

If not, and the wider the estimated APR range - the more points we take away.

Marketing MAX: 1000 MIN: 0 (2.00 / 0.00)

For this score, we look at the website that describes the credit card. If the marketing clearly states the conditions up front to be able to calculate the rewards you get, then we give them full credit.

If you have to dig through the fine print, then we give them 0 points.

Highest Rating (A+)

Financial products are overly complicated by design. Consumers are often seduced by simple marketing messages and suffer later with "gotcha" interest rates and hidden fees buried in pages of fine print. To bring transparency and simplicity to credit cards. We award our highest rating of A+ to cards that meet the following criteria:
1. No fees of any kind (including Balance Transfer, Annual, Late, Over-limit, Returned payment or Foreign transaction fees)
2. Interest rate should be within 1000 basis points of the lowest advertised rate at the time of application 

Cashback Rewards Cards

Bonus Offers MAX: 500 MIN: 200 (1.00 / 0.40)

Many credit card companies offer introductory bonus offers. Some can be very simple (spend $500 and receive a $100 bonus). Some can be very complicated and limiting (5% cashback, but only on spending in a grocery store and limited to $1,500 of spend.)

If it is simple, we give 500 points. More rules they have - more points we take away.

Interest Rate MAX: 500 MIN: 0 (1.00 / 0.00)

Credit card companies rarely like to tell you your interest rate until after you have applied (and therefore agreed to take) the credit card. We really wish that would change. If a credit card company tells you the rate you get before you apply, that card gets 500 points.

If not, and the wider the estimated APR range - the more points we take away.

Ongoing Rewards MAX: 500 MIN: 100 (1.00 / 0.20)

Sometimes the credit card company can make it very difficult for you to earn the advertised reward rate. The common ways they make it difficult is by limiting spend categories that get maximum rate or capping the maximum reward amount that you get in an year.

If there are no such limitations then we give the card 500 point. More limiations the card has - the more points we take away.

Fee MAX: 500 MIN: 0 (1.00 / 0.00)

We all hate fees. The more fees a credit card charges, the higher the chance you get stung. And it really stinks when one fee causes another fee. People in the industry call that a "pile-on."?

The more fees a bank charges, the fewer points they get. The best score is 500 points. Unfortunately, none of our banks are there yet.

Marketing MAX: 500 MIN: 0 (1.00 / 0.00)

For this score, we look at the website that describes the credit card. If the marketing clearly states the conditions up front to be able to calculate the rewards you get, then we give them full credit.

If you have to dig through the fine print, then we give them 0 points.

Secured Credit cards

APR RangeMAX: 1000 MIN: 500 (1.25 / 0.625)

Credit card companies rarely like to tell you your interest rate until after you have applied (and therefore agreed to take) the credit card. We really wish that would change. If a credit card company tells you the rate you get before you apply, that card gets 1000 points. Otherwise they get only 500 points.

RepriceMAX: 500 MIN: 0 (0.625 / 0.00)

Consumers are often seduced by credit card companies by offering a low APR upfront, only to suffer later with "gotcha" interest rate increases with complicated rules. If the card does not reprice the interest rate then they get 500 points, otherwise they get no points.

Grace PeriodMAX: 500 MIN: -1000 (0.625 / -1.25)

Credit cards were designed to make it easy for consumers to spend their money as they don’t need to carry cash with them. As a result we believe that all companies should give a minimum grace period to consumers to pay their balance each month. If the card gives grace period to consumers then it gets 500 points, if it does not then we penalize the card by taking away 1000 points.

Highest APRMAX: 1000 MIN: 0 (1.25 / 0.00)

We at magnifymoney like credit cards that charge a low single digit APR if you choose to carry a balance. If a card charges APR which is less than 10% they get 1000 points. If not the higher the APR they charge the fewer the points they get.

FeesMAX: 1000 MIN: 0 (1.25 / 0.00)

We all hate fees. The more fees a credit card charges, the higher the chance you get stung. And it really stinks when one fee causes another fee. People in the industry call that a "pile-on". The more fees a bank charges, the fewer points they get. The best score is 1000 points.

Checking Accounts

Monthly Fee MAX: 500 MIN: 0 (1.56 / 0.00)

Since banks don't pay you any interest on your checking accounts, we believe that they should be free. So if a bank does not charge any monthly fees, we give 500 points. Accounts that charge a monthly fee but have waiver conditions (for example maintain a minimum balance of $1000 or do 3 bill pays etc) get fewer points.

The more hurdles you need to cross to get the fee waiver the fewer the points they get.

ATM Fee MAX: 100 MIN: 0 (0.31 / 0.00)

You shouldn't be paying fees to access your money, yet one of the most common fees is for withdrawing money out of an ATM from another bank. In the bank mumbo-jumbo it is generally referred to as "Out of Network ATM fee".

If a bank charges this fee they get zero points otherwise they get 100 points.

Overdraft Policy MAX: 1000 MIN: 0 (3.13 / 0.00)

Overdraft occurs when you do any transaction (e.g. write a check or use a debit/ATM card) for an amount that is more than the balance in your account. Banks charge fees when this happens. They charge you an overdraft fee if they approve your transaction, or they charge you a fee for 'non-sufficient funds' if they decline your transaction. No wonder Americans paid $32 Billion (yes it's a billion with a B) in overdraft fees in 2012.

Banks shouldn't charge you anything if they cover your overdraft with money from your other accounts. If you do need to borrow money to cover overdraft they should charge a reasonable fee once per day. Finally they should not allow you to overdraft if you use an ATM or your debit card. Banks that do these get 1000 points. If not and more fees they charge - the more points we take away.

Linked Checking & Saving Accounts

Highest Rating (A+)

Financial institutions design banking products to charge a variety of fees to the consumers. In order to bring transparency and simplicity to banking products we award our highest rating to institutions that meet the following criteria:

1. Allow automatic transfer of funds from savings account to cover overdraft on checking account without any fees

2. Do not charge to use ATMs outside the network and waive fees charged by other banks as well.

3. Do not charge any monthly fees for maintaining the savings and checking account

ATM Fee

You shouldn't be paying fees to access your money, yet one of the most common fees is for withdrawing money out of an ATM from another bank. In the bank mumbo-jumbo it is generally referred to as "Out of Network ATM fee". If a bank charges this fee they get negative points otherwise they get full points.

Other Bank ATM Fee

If you withdraw money out of an ATM from another bank, other banks charge you a fee for that use. Banks that waive these fees for you get full points. The fewer the fees they waive, the fewer the points they get

Overdraft Policy

Overdraft occurs when you do any transaction (e.g. write a check or use a debit/ATM card) for an amount that is more than the balance in your account. Banks charge fees when this happens. Banks shouldn't charge you anything if they cover your overdraft with money from your savings accounts. Banks that do not charge fees get 500 points. If not they get negative points.

Monthly Fee

Since banks don't pay you any interest on your checking accounts, we believe that they should be free. So if a bank does not charge any monthly fees, we give them full points. Accounts that charge a monthly fee get negative points.

Personal Loan

Inquiry type MAX: 500 MIN: 0 (1.00 / 0.00)

Banks and Loan companies pull your credit bureau data when you apply for a loan, this process is known as an inquiry. If they do a soft inquiry than it does not impact your credit score. If bank and/or loan companies do a soft inquiry than we give them 500 points. However, if they do a hard inquiry which can impact your credit score they get 0 points.

Type of Interest Rate MAX: 250 MIN: 0 (0.50 / 0.00)

If bank and/or loan companies charge interest rate that is fixed for the duration of the loan then they get full 250 points. However, if they charge interest rate that varies (variable rate) and can go up (or down) in the future then they get 0 points.

Prepayment Penalty MAX: 1000 MIN: 0 (2.00 / 0.00)

Some banks and/or loan companies charge you a penalty if you pay off the loan earlier. If bank/personal loan company does this than they get no points. If they dont follow this rule than they get 1000 points.

Precompute Interest MAX: 250 MIN: 0 (0.50 / 0.00)

Some banks and/or loan companies calculate interest for the life of your loan at the time of making the loan. This practise is called precomputing interest and what it means is that you pay majority of interest amount even if you prepay the loan. If bank/personal loan company does this than they get no points. If they dont follow this rule than they get 250 points.

Origination Fees MAX: 250 MIN: 0 (0.50 / 0.00)

We at magnifymoney like to reward financial institutions that do not charge any fees. Origination fees act like a prepayment penalty, effectively they increase the interest that you paid if you pay the loan earlier than your term. If the loan provider does not charge any origination fees they get 250 points, otherwise they get no points.

Bonus Points MAX: 250 MIN: 0 (0.50 / 0.00)

We at magnifymoney like to reward financial institutions that go beyond what their peers are doing to make the product better for the consumers or make the product more transparent. For loans that might mean they offer unemployment benefits or they clearly outline their credit criteria. If a bank and/or loan company has a feature like this then they get 250 bonus points for the score.

Student Loan Refinance

Cap on variable rateMAX: 1000 MIN: 0 (2.94 / 0.00)

If bank and/or loan companies have a variable interest rate option. Then the interest rate can go up (or down) in the future. If there is a cap on how high the interest rate (and hence your payment) can go up to then they get 1000 points. If there is no cap then they do not get any points.

Cosigner (only if they are allowed)MAX: 500 MIN: 0 (1.47 / 0.00)

If the loan providers allow a cosigner at the time of application and allow the cosigner to be released if you meet a preset criteria then they get a full points. However if they do not allow cosigner to be released they do not get any points.

Origination FeesMAX: 200 MIN: 0 (0.58 / 0.00)

We at magnifymoney like to reward financial institutions that do not charge any fees. Origination fees act like a prepayment penalty, effectively they increase the interest that you paid if you pay the loan earlier than your term. If the loan provider does not charge any origination fees they get 200 points, otherwise they get no points.

Auto Loans

Pre- ApprovedMAX: 200 MIN: 0 (0.54 / 0.00)

Getting preapproved helps you find out how much a lender will give you, at what rate, and what the terms look like in advance. This allows the potential customers to compare all offers before making their decision.If bank/personal loan company does this than they get 200 Points and if they do not follow this rule they get 0 points.

Origination FeesMAX: 200 MIN: 0 (0.54 / 0.00)

Origination fees act like a prepayment penalty; effectively they increase the interest amount if you pay the loan earlier than your term. If the loan provider does not charge any origination fees they get 200 points, and if they charge any fees than they get 0 points

Other FeesMAX: 200 MIN: 0 (0.54 / 0.00)

We at MagnifyMoney like to reward financial institutions that do not charge any fees. When banks and/or loan companies charges fees like, Early Closer Fees, Documentation fees, Shipment fee etc. they increase the cost of your loan. If the loan provider does not charge any origination fees they get 200 points, otherwise they get no points

Bonus PointsMAX: 250 MIN: 0 (0.68 / 0.00)

We at MagnifyMoney like to reward financial institutions that go beyond what their peers are doing to make the product better for the consumers or make the product more transparent. For example there might be a financial institution that clearly outlines their credit criteria. If a bank and/or loan company has a feature like this then they get 250 bonus points for the score.

Prepayment PenaltyMAX: 1000 MIN: 0 (2.70 / 0.00)

Some banks and/or loan companies charge you a penalty if you pay off the loan earlier. If bank/personal loan company does this than they get no points. If they don’t follow this rule than they get 1000 points.

Small Business Loans

Pre- ApprovedMAX: 200 MIN: 0 (0.54 / 0.00)

Getting preapproved helps you find out how much a lender will give you, at what rate, and what the terms look like in advance. This allows the potential customers to compare all offers before making their decision.If bank/personal loan company does this than they get 200 Points and if they do not follow this rule they get 0 points.

Origination FeesMAX: 200 MIN: 0 (0.54 / 0.00)

Origination fees act like a prepayment penalty; effectively they increase the interest amount if you pay the loan earlier than your term. If the loan provider does not charge any origination fees they get 200 points, and if they charge any fees than they get 0 points

Other FeesMAX: 200 MIN: 0 (0.54 / 0.00)

We at MagnifyMoney like to reward financial institutions that do not charge any fees. When banks and/or loan companies charges fees like, Early Closer Fees, Documentation fees, Shipment fee etc. they increase the cost of your loan. If the loan provider does not charge any fees they get 200 points, otherwise they get no points

Bonus PointsMAX: 250 MIN: 0 (0.68 / 0.00)

We at MagnifyMoney like to reward financial institutions that go beyond what their peers are doing to make the product better for the consumers or make the product more transparent. For example there might be a financial institution that clearly outlines their credit criteria. If a bank and/or loan company has a feature like this then they get 250 bonus points for the score.

Prepayment PenaltyMAX: 1000 MIN: 0 (2.70 / 0.00)

Some banks and/or loan companies charge you a penalty if you pay off the loan earlier. If bank/personal loan company does this than they get no points. If they don’t follow this rule than they get 1000 points.

Savings Accounts

FeesMAX: 2000, MIN: 0 (2.86 / 0.00)

At MagnifyMoney we like to reward financial institutions that do not charge any fees. If the financial institution charges no fee then they get 2000 points. Otherwise they get no points.

Minimum Deposit RequirementMAX: 1000, MIN: 250 (1.43 / 0.36)

MagnifyMoney likes financial institutions that encourage even a small amount of savings. If an institution has a minimum deposit requirement of $5 or less it can get 1,000 points. Higher deposit requirements lower the score.

Bonus pointsMAX: 500, MIN: 0 ( 0.72 / 0.00)

We award bonus points if they have outstanding features like interest rate protection.

Credit Monitoring and Identify Theft

Credit MonitoringMax: 1500 Min: 0 (0.60 / 0.00):

We believe that any service that charges a fee should monitor your data in all 3 major bureaus.If the provider does that then they get full 1500 points.Fewer bureaus they monitor, fewer points they get on this dimension.

Recovery & Resolution ServiceMax: 500 Min: 0 (0.20 / 0.00)

If the plan provides recovery and resolution service than it gets full 500 points, else they get no points.

Legal CostMax: 250 Min: 0 (0.10 / 0.00)

Plan needs to reimburse legal costs of at least $25000 to get full 250 points, else they get 0 points.

Bonus PointsMax: 250 Min: 0 (0.10 / 0.00)

We award 250 bonus points if the plan has any standout features.

Private Student Loan

Cap on variable rateMAX: 400 MIN: 0 (0.26 / 0.00)

If bank and/or loan companies have a variable interest rate option. Then the interest rate can go up (or down) in the future. If there is a cap on how high the interest rate (and hence your payment) can go up to then they get 200 points. If there is no cap then they do not get any points.

Origination FeesMAX: 400 MIN: 0 (0.25 / 0.00)

We at MagnifyMoney like to reward financial institutions that do not charge any fees. Origination fees act like a prepayment penalty; effectively they increase the interest that you paid if you pay the loan earlier than your term. If the loan provider does not charge any origination fees they get 400 points, otherwise they get no points.

Other FeesMAX: 150 MIN: 0 (0.10 / 0.00)

Banks and/or loan companies can charge fees for a variety of reasons like Pre-Payment Penalty, Application Fee, Late Payment fee etc.These fees increase your cost of credit, especially if you pay off the loan earlier. If bank/personal loan company charges any kind of fees they get no points. If they don’tthan they get 150 points.

Cosigner ReleaseMAX: 400 MIN: 0 (0.25 / 0.00)

If the loan providers allow a cosigner at the time of application and allow the cosigner to be released based on a preset criteria then they get a full points. However if they do not allow cosigner to be released they do not get any points.

BonusMAX: 200 MIN: 0 (0.13 / 0.00)

We at MagnifyMoney like to reward financial institutions that go beyond what their peers are doing to make the product better for the consumers or make the product more transparent. For example there might be a financial institution that clearly outlines their credit criteria. If a bank and/or loan company has a feature like this then they get 200 bonus points for the score.

Budget Apps

Automatically Links to AccountsMAX: 500 MIN: 0 (0.67 / 0.00)

If the app allows you to link your bank accounts and credit cards, we give 500 points. If you cannot link your accounts or you have to pay to link your accounts, we award 0 points.

Alerts on Unusual ChargesMAX: 750 MIN: 0 (1.00 / 0.00)

If the app monitors transactions and alerts you to unusual charges, we award 750 points. If transaction monitoring is not available, we give 0 points.

Spend Analysis and Financial TipsMAX: 500 MIN: 0 (0.67 / 0.00)

If you get tips on your spending habits and warnings when you get close to your budget, we award 500 points. If none of those features are available, we don’t give any points.

Is There an App?MAX: 1000 MIN: 250 (1.33 / 0.33)

If the budget app is available in IOS and Android, we award 750 points. If the app is only available on one platform, we give 250 points. If the app is available everywhere, including Windows and Apple Watch, we award a full 1,000 points.

Absolutely FreeMAX: 1000 MIN: 0 (1.33 / 0.00)

If the app is completely free, it is given 1,000 points. If there is a free trial period, it gets 500 points. But, if you have to pay up-front, it gets 0 points.

Credit Scores, Classes and EducationMAX: 250 MIN: 0 (0.33 / 0.00)

We love apps that provide even more financial education. If the app provides a free credit score, free classes or something extra special, we award an extra 250 points.

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