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Banking

Make Saving Fun with the 52-Week Money Challenge

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Everyone should treat saving money as a serious effort to accomplish serious goals. Building an emergency fund, accumulating a down payment for a home or saving up for a big purchase are all key objectives for your financial life, after all.

But sometimes it’s OK to take a more lighthearted approach to savings, like the 52-week money challenge. It’s a great way to gamify the process of stashing cash — although just because it’s fun doesn’t mean it’s an easy win. If you keep up with this unusual challenge for a whole year, you could end up saving nearly $1,400.

The 52-week money challenge explained

The 52-week money challenge — also referred to as the 52-week savings plan — makes saving a decent sum feel achievable by breaking it down into small steps.

Here’s how it works: You start by putting $1 in your savings account in the first week of the challenge. Then you stash away $2 in week two, $3 in week three, $4 in week four, all the way to $52 in the final week. At the end, you’ll have saved $1,378.

The idea is that by saving a little bit more each week, you’ll see your savings grow quickly and stay motivated to continue putting away money after the challenge is over.

“The 52-week money challenge gives you a place to start and have it all mapped out. If you can focus on it once a week, you can make it happen and know where you’re going to end up at the end of the year,” said Kelly Crane, CFP, president and chief investment officer of Napa Valley Wealth Management.

Why the 52-week money challenge works

Many people credit the 52-week money challenge with jump-starting their savings game. Here’s why:

  • It makes saving a habit: The 52-week savings plan forces you to commit to saving. When you visit your bank and transfer money from your checking account into your savings account each week for 52 weeks, saving becomes a habit.
  • You end up with a decent amount saved in the end: An abstract goal of “saving money” may not motivate everybody. For some people, the big prize at the end of the year helps them follow through with the savings habit.
  • It helps you set bigger financial goals: Your savings account balance is just a number — what you do with the money is what really matters. The balance saved in the challenge lets you think about the financial goals you’d like to accomplish, such as paying down student loans or accumulating a down payment for a mortgage.

Tips for nailing the 52-week money challenge

Ready to take the challenge? Here are a few things you can do to ensure you stick with the plan from week one through week 52.

  • Automate your savings: Most banks allow you to schedule deposits into your savings account. The simplest way to accomplish the challenge is to arrange ahead of time transfers to your savings account for the correct amount for each of the 52 weeks.
  • Don’t go in order: The order of the scheduled deposits helps make the challenge simple, but you don’t have to follow it to a tee. If you feel like you need to make deposits out of order, print out a copy of the plan and cross off different weekly amounts as you accomplish them. For example, if you get a tax return in the spring and can afford to save $52—the biggest weekly deposit—do it then and cross it off.
  • Engage in friendly competition: Find a savings buddy and start the challenge at the same time. Competition will keep you motivated to save, and maybe even open the door to sharing financial tips with each other.
  • Set reminders and smaller goals to stay on track: If you don’t want to automate your savings, set reminders on your phone, calendar or computer so you won’t forget. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the higher amounts later in the challenge, break them down into smaller goals. In week 40, you could save $20 on Monday and another $20 on a Friday to hit your weekly goal in more manageable chunks.
  • Keep the challenge going for a second year: Once you hit the end of the 52 weeks, keep the momentum going into a second year. You could even try doubling the amount you save each week in year two. Try cutting out expenses that match the amount you save in a given week. Stash the second year’s funds in a CD to boost your savings.

Who might not like the 52-week money challenge

While this 52-week savings plan has universal appeal, it might not be the right choice for everyone. For some people, there are reasons to think twice:

  • People with a large amount of high-interest debt: Saving money can feel pointless if you’ve got a lot of debt collecting interest, said Crane. You might consider using your funds to pay down high-interest debt before pursuing the 52-week money challenge.
  • People with inconsistent income: Does your paycheck fluctuate week to week? You might feel like your income isn’t consistent enough to keep up with the plan.
  • If you tap into the savings too early: As you start to see your savings grow, it can be tempting to withdraw money to cover expenses or buy something you want. But tapping the savings too early might throw you off track and undermine the driver of the whole challenge: Ending up with a full $1,378 at the end of the year.

The bottom line on the 52-week money challenge

If you want to save money but you’re not sure how to start, the 52-week money challenge can give you the structure you need to finally get your finances in order — but it’s just a tool. Don’t be afraid to modify the plan to suit your needs, or ditch it altogether in favor of a more aggressive savings strategy.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Joni Sweet
Joni Sweet |

Joni Sweet is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Joni here

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Banking

How to Ensure Your Mobile Check Deposit is Successful

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Banking on the go is one of the great conveniences of owning a smartphone. All major banks offer some form of mobile banking, and uptake among consumers is extremely strong. A 2018 Citibank ranked-choice survey found that 31% of respondents said mobile banking was their most-used app, behind only apps for social media and weather.

Not using mobile banking? Time to join the revolution. Read on for some basic tips that should help make you a mobile banking power user.

Get started with mobile banking

Mobile banking is broadly similar to logging on to your account online with a home PC or laptop. Nearly all banking apps let you check your balance, deposit checks, transfer money and set up custom account alerts. To get started, visit the app store offered by your mobile device and search for your bank or credit union. Carefully evaluate that you are selecting the correct app for your institution, then download and install the app.

Once you’ve installed the app, you will probably be required to set up a mobile account. This may be different than your existing online login, or the credentials may be the same for the standard online experience. Either way, the app should prompt you with easy-to-understand instructions.

One other point: Keep the app updated to ensure that the latest security measures are in place and bugs are fixed from previous versions. Newer versions of an app may have newer features. Many apps update automatically, but you should still check the settings on your phone to ensure you’re getting the updates you need.

Tips for a successful mobile check deposit

One of the premier features for mobile banking users is the mobile check deposit feature: Just take a photo with your device of the checks you wish to deposit, and submit them to the app. To ensure that the mobile check deposit process goes smoothly, follow these tips:

Take a clear photo

You want to make sure the photo is clear so that the information is prominently displayed. Consider putting the check on a table or a flat surface instead of holding the check. In addition, don’t have other objects in the frame such as other paperwork and use good lighting. Your mobile app may have a rectangular guide to show you how to take your photo, which makes sure you get it right.

Remove any check stubs

You want to make sure that your deposit only shows your check. If your check has a pay slip or another form of attachment like a check stub or voucher, detach it before taking a photo.

Enter the correct information

Even if your photo is clear, your deposit could get rejected if you’ve entered incorrect information. For example, your check may show an amount of $660, but if you accidentally enter $760 the deposit will be rejected. Double check all information before submitting your deposit.

Avoid redeposits

Mistakes happen. Maybe you forgot you’d already deposited a check, or someone in your family did so and never told you. If you redeposit a check, most places will either send you a notification of a duplicate deposit. Others may reject both deposits or charge you a fee. You may want to consider organizing your checks, perhaps by writing on the check itself that you deposited it, or putting it away in a separate folder.

Check to see if your mobile check deposit was successful

Your app should let you know if a mobile check deposit has gone through, and some banks also send a text or email confirmation message — but even if you receive this message, checks can still get rejected. Double-checking to see if the mobile check deposit went through is the safest bet, by looking at your account balance in your checking account. Depending on your bank, a mobile check deposit can take several business days to show up in your account.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Sarah Li Cain
Sarah Li Cain |

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

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Reviews

SoFi Money Cash Management Account Review

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

SoFi Money review
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SoFi, the financial institution known for low rates and low fees on student loans and mortgages, is making a foray into consumer cash management accounts. SoFi Money™ will offer a high-yield checking account with no account fees.

We looked at every aspect of SoFi’s new checking account offering to see how it stacks up to competitors.

What sets Money apart from the competition is that SoFi clearly wants this account to be a one-stop shop for both savings and checking. Basically, the SoFi Money account will offer an interest rate that’s much higher than the rate on most checking accounts. This means you can keep your savings in your checking account rather than a savings account. This sounds convenient, but it’s not always the best idea.

Some people may manage to save more money when they separate their money into a different account, even if the account doesn’t have a great interest rate. And you can certainly find savings accounts with higher yields than the 2.25% APY SoFi Money is offering.

We dug into the details that are available at this time to see who should consider replacing their current checking account with SoFi Money.

SoFi Money vs Ally and Simple

The SoFi Money account offers an excellent blend of low fees and high interest rates, but it won’t be perfect for everyone. We’re highlighting a few accounts that shine where the SoFi Money account is a bit weaker.

“The important thing about this account is that it’s not a checking or savings account,” said Ken Tumin, editor of DepositAccounts.com, another LendingTree-owned site. “This appears to have more risk than a checking or savings account.” Why is it riskier? Instead of providing FDIC insurance directly, SoFi sweeps your deposits into one or more partner banks for the FDIC coverage. Your money isn’t FDIC-insured until the funds arrive at a partner bank, nor is it SIPC-insured when held with SoFi.

Banking with competitor Ally provides immediate and direct FDIC insurance for your banking deposits. “Its checking account rates may be a little lower than SoFi’s account for most balances, but they also offer savings and money market accounts which offer much higher interest rates. Savings and money market rates have risen much more than checking account rates since the Fed began raising interest rates.”

Bank

APY (Checking)

APY (savings)

SoFi Money

2.25%

N/A

Pros:

  • No monthly fee
  • No overdraft fees
  • High APY on checking
  • No ATM fees and unlimited ATM fee reimbursements, worldwide (as long as the ATM accepts Visa)
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons:

  • Honestly, we can't find any! Just be sure to read the fine print to thoroughly understand everything.
Checking Account + Protected Goals Account*

2.02%

N/A

Pros:

  • Connected Savings Goal
  • Zero fees, even for non-sufficient funds and overdrafts
  • Built-in budgeting tools
  • Free Allpoint® ATM use

Cons:

  • No ATM fee refunds
  • No check-writing abilities
Online Savings Account from Ally Bank

0.10% on account balances up to $14,999.99.



0.60% on account balances of $15,000 or more.

2.20%

Pros:

  • Up to $10 ATM reimbursement
  • Free use of Allpoint® ATMs
  • High-yield savings
  • Instant transfers between checking and savings (including free transfers to protect against overdrafts)

Cons:

  • $25 overdraft fee (one per item)
  • Up to 1% foreign transaction fees
  • ATM reimbursement only available in the United States

What’s exciting about the SoFi Money account

No account fees. This will be a huge benefit to people who tend to keep low balances or live paycheck to paycheck, as fee-free accounts are few and far between among traditional big banks these days. With SoFi Money, you won’t pay a monthly maintenance fee and you won’t have to worry about paying non-sufficient funds fee (NSF) or overdraft fees either. You’ll also get free checks, free automatic bill pay and free mobile funds transfers. SoFi won’t even charge you a foreign transaction fee whenever you use your debit card to make a purchase in a foreign currency. Very few banks offer this level of “fee free,” and those that do often offer paltry interest rates.

High yield without complicated account requirements. Some high-yield checking accounts require account holders to maintain minimum balances, use their debit card a certain number of times or set up direct deposit. SoFi has no such requirements. The interest rate on the account is currently 2.25% APY, and it is a variable interest rate that is subject to change. In a rising rate environment, you could easily see that rate go up over time, as many other banks have been raising their rates in response to the rising federal funds rate.

Up to $1.5 million in FDIC insurance. One of the unique features of the SoFi Money account is in its design. Money kept in the SoFi Money account is actually “swept” into one of six program banks. All six banks give account holders up to $250,000 in FDIC insurance, so SoFi Money™ holders get up to $1.5 million in total FDIC insurance. While not many people will need that much insurance, it is a notable feature.

ATM fee reimbursement. SoFi doesn’t charge any ATM fees. Plus, SoFi will reimburse you for any ATM fees you pay worldwide when you use your Visa Debit card at any ATM with the Visa, Plus or NYCE logos. In contrast, other banks may reimburse for ATM fees up to a set dollar limit, like $10 at Ally.

Membership with SoFi. Opening a SoFi Money account makes you a member of SoFi. SoFi isn’t an exclusive club, but it provides its members with unique services like career coaching, local networking events and an entrepreneurship accelerator. If you’re looking to grow in your career, spruce up your resume, network with local career-minded individuals or just put a face with your bank, SoFi provides events that can help you out.

Digital first banking. Most people will interact with their SoFi Money account through the digital app. The app will include mobile banking features such as bill pay, photo check deposit, and mobile cash transfers. Although SoFi promises a digital-first experience, it remains to be seen if they can deliver. SoFi had a rocky update to its current app at the end of 2017, but has resolved the issues. Hopefully, the addition of SoFi Money to the SoFi app goes smoothly.

No account minimums. You do not need to maintain any particular balance to avoid fees or to earn interest.

Free checks. Plenty of SoFi Money account holders will forgo physical checks altogether, but those that need them can request checks for free.

There isn’t much not to like about SoFi Money™, to be honest. But there are a few areas where we think taking a closer look at the fine print is necessary. Although, considering that SoFi doesn’t charge any fees, plus the relatively high APY it offers, some of the items in the fine print might be okay to overlook, depending on how you use your account.

magnifying glass

What’s in the fine print?

  • Visa 1% foreign transaction fee. Although SoFi won’t charge you for making purchases in a foreign currency with your SoFi Money Visa® Debit Card, Visa will. You’ll pay a 1% fee to have the transaction converted to U.S. dollars.
  • Note that SoFi offers unlimited reimbursement on ATM fees, but only when you use your SoFi Money Visa® Debit Card at any ATM with the Visa®, Plus® or NYCE® logos. SoFi can also choose to limit or revoke ATM reimbursements at any time without notice.
  • To open up a SoFi Money account, you must be 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Accounts with better interest rates

Smaller banks that have “reward” checking accounts offer superior interest rates to the rates offered by SoFi. These banks limit their high interest rates to a subset of balances. They also require account holders to meet certain account usage requirements (such as debit card use minimums or direct deposits). Despite these requirements, these checking accounts may be superior savings vehicles.

For example, people with low checking account balances should consider an account at America’s Credit Union rather than SoFi. America’s Credit Union offers a 5.00% APY on balances up to $1,000. (After that, rates drop to 0.10% on balances between $1,000.01 and $15,000 and 0.25% on balances over $15,000.01). This account doesn’t have any monthly service fee, but it doesn’t offer any ATM refunds. Plus, earning the high interest rate requires you to meet several standards including 10 monthly uses of the debit card, at least $15,000 in loans or deposits with ACU, and at least $500 in direct deposits monthly.

Still, with a massive 5.00% APY on the first $1,000, many people can earn more interest by checking with America’s Credit Union. You can learn more about the details, requirements and limitations of America’s Credit Union here.

People with larger account balances (up to $20,000) may prefer holding their account at Consumers Credit Union. This account has no monthly service fees, unlimited ATM reimbursement and high-yield accounts. You’ll earn 3.09% APY on balances up to $10,000, 4.09% APY on balances up to $15,000 and 5.09% APY on balances up to $20,000.

Consumers Credit Union requires account holders to meet four requirements to earn interest. The requirements include making 12 point-of-sale debit purchases (without using a PIN number), having a direct deposit or bill pay, signing onto the online banking system once per month and signing up for eStatements. The requirements may be annoying, but the interest is shockingly high. Learn more about the account here.

Comparable accounts that reimburse all ATM fees worldwide

One of the huge perks to the SoFi Money account is the unlimited ATM fee reimbursements per month. If you’re a heavy ATM user (especially while abroad), this should be a huge advantage for you.

The Charles Schwab High Yield Checking account is probably the best example of a comparable account with this feature. Not only will you receive unlimited ATM reimbursements, you’ll also avoid paying any foreign transaction fees. However, a huge downside is that this account has an APY of 0.40% compared with SoFi’s 2.25% APY.

Similarly, the Save & Spend Account at Aspiration Bank has unlimited reimbursement on ATMs worldwide. This account also offers a 2.00% APY on all balances. Aspiration also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees or overdraft fees. However, SoFi’s rate is still higher.

Comparable accounts with no foreign transaction fees

The SoFi Money account doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee, which some major banks have but often waive if you meet certain requirements. Once again, the Charles Schwab High Yield Checking account waives all foreign transaction fees. It also offers unlimited reimbursements on ATM fees worldwide. This is likely the premier account for international travelers, but it offers a paltry 0.40% APY, while SoFi Money stands out with a 2.25%.

Capital One also waives all foreign transaction fees on its checking accounts. However, these accounts carry a number of other fees and a lower interest rate than the SoFi Money account. Plus, Capital One won’t reimburse ATM fees charged by other banks.

Final take on SoFi Money

SoFi Money is a cash management account that will make a lot of sense for a lot of people. It’s one of the simplest accounts, and it offers unique benefits. The blend of no fees and higher interest rates should appeal to plenty of people. It’s an account that beats out most checking accounts from large banks, and it beats out accounts from most smaller banks, too (especially on the low-fee front).

If SoFi manages to implement the account without messing up its app, this account will quickly become a favorite account among people seeking accounts that don’t charge unnecessary fees.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah here

Lauren Perez
Lauren Perez |

Lauren Perez is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lauren here

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