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Vulnerable Groups Most Likely to Not Have Enough Food Amid Coronavirus Crisis

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Nearly 11% of Americans reported sometimes or often not having enough to eat in the past seven days, according to Census Bureau estimates from mid-September.

Food insecurity is a national issue, but it varies significantly among demographics, with Black Americans, 25- to 39-year-olds, households with incomes of less than $25,000 and those without high school diplomas facing the biggest obstacles to putting food on the table. These statistics reflect the broader trend of rising income equality in the U.S.

To get a close look at this phenomenon, MagnifyMoney researchers analyzed regional data to find which states have the highest percentage of adults going hungry.

Key findings

  • In Mississippi, 17.3% of residents report not having enough food at least sometimes, the highest rate in the country.
  • The rest of the top 10 is dominated by Southern states. Louisiana ranks second, the District of Columbia ranks third, Kentucky ranks fourth and Arkansas ranks fifth. The top seven places where Americans are most likely to suffer from food insecurity are in the South.
  • Western states tend to have the lowest likelihood of residents reporting food insecurity. Though Vermont has the lowest share at 4.3%, five Western states (Utah, Montana, Hawaii, Washington and Idaho) were among the bottom 10.
  • Black Americans are more than twice as likely to say they sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat as white Americans.
  • Nearly a quarter of Americans without a high school degree report food insecurity. That is more than seven times the level of food insecurity reported by those with a bachelor’s degree.
  • Food insecurity and general economic insecurity go hand in hand. People with lower incomes are the most likely to report food insecurity issues. Just under 40% of people who said they used money borrowed from friends and family to make ends meet over the past seven days reported not having enough to eat.
  • Nearly 51% of people who say they have no confidence in making their next rent or mortgage payment say they sometimes or often don’t have enough food to eat.

Food insecurity rate by age, race, education and household income

Looking at each state’s data tells a story of hunger from coast to coast. However, food insecurity rates look starkly different when you break them down by age, race, education and household income. Below, you can see the percentage of people in each demographic who said they sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat.

Age

  • 18 to 24: 12.7% sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat
  • 25 to 39: 13.8%
  • 40 to 54: 12.8%
  • 55 to 64: 9.4%
  • 65 and above: 3.8%

Those ages 25 to 39 are struggling the most, with 13.8% saying they don’t always have enough to eat. Previous MagnifyMoney research found that 63% of this age group who have tapped into retirement savings amid the coronavirus pandemic used the funds to pay for groceries.

Next were those ages 40 to 54, 12.8% of whom are facing food insecurity. Those ages 18 to 24 were right behind at 12.7%. Eighteen- to 24-year-olds have been hit particularly hard by unemployment during the pandemic, which could be making it difficult for them to pay for food.

Race

  • Latino: 17.6% sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat
  • White: 7.3%
  • Black: 18.7%
  • Asian: 5.7%
  • 2 or more races: 16.0%

Nearly 19% of Black Americans reported they sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat over that seven-day period — more than triple the rate of Asian Americans and more than double the rate of white Americans who lacked food.

Substantial job losses among people of color during the coronavirus crisis may explain why higher rates of Black and Latino Americans haven’t been able to stock their pantries easily. Black and Latino Americans had August 2020 unemployment rates totaling 13.0% and 10.5%, respectively.

Education

  • Less than high school: 24.8% sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat
  • High school or GED: 13.9%
  • Some college: 10.8%
  • Bachelor’s degree: 3.4%

Just about 1 in 4 who haven’t graduated high school said they didn’t have enough to eat, compared with 3.4% who’ve received a bachelor’s degree and reported the same. Just under 14% of those who finished high school (or earned a GED) were experiencing hunger at least sometimes, if not often, while the same was true for about 1 in 10 who had some college education.

This amplifies how education affects income. According to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data, those who’ve earned a bachelor’s degree take home $24,388 more yearly on average than those who haven’t earned a degree beyond high school, potentially giving them more budgetary flexibilities for expenses.

Household income

  • Less than $25,000: 28.3% sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat
  • $25,000 to $34,999: 17.0%
  • $35,000 to $49,999: 12.8%
  • $50,000 to $74,999: 9.3%
  • $75,000 to $99,999: 4.9%
  • $100,000 to $149,999: 2.1%
  • $150,000 to $199,999: 1.0%
  • $200,000 and above: 0.6%

It should come as little surprise that wealthier Americans can more easily put food on the table than low-income families. Among those earning less than $25,000 a year, 28.3% were food insecure, compared with 9.3% of people making $50,000 to $74,999 and 0.6% of those earning at least $200,000 and above.

While food insecurity levels varied quite a bit among people of different household incomes, the amount of money they spend on food didn’t fluctuate as much. People in households with incomes less than $75,000 spent between $188.76 and $202.91 on food prepared and eaten at home in the previous seven days. For food outside the home in that same period, those earning less than $75,000 spent between $74.84 and $78.91, or about $50 less than what was spent by households earning $200,000 and up.

Food insecurity rate when going into debt to make ends meet

  • Used credit cards or loans to meet spending needs: 14.9% sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat
  • Borrowed from friends or family to meet spending needs: 39.3%

Access to financing also helps paint a picture of who’s facing the biggest difficulties getting enough to eat. Nearly 4 in 10 who have turned to friends or family for money recently are food insecure.

While government programs are available for those in need, they don’t always provide enough money to cover food expenses. Just about 32% of people who’ve used benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the seven-day period said they lack enough food sometimes or often. Among people relying on unemployment insurance to cover expenses, 17.7% haven’t had enough to eat.

Lastly, 14.9% who’ve had to use money from savings or selling assets to meet their spending needs sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat.

Food insecurity rate and confidence around paying rent/mortgage

  • No confidence 50.6% sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat
  • Slight confidence 28.6%
  • Moderate confidence 13.4%
  • High confidence 2.9%
  • Payment is/will be deferred 12.7%

Some families are finding that they need to choose between keeping a roof over their head and eating amid the pandemic — if they can afford either. More than half of those who are certain they can’t pay their rent or mortgage don’t have enough to eat.

The food insecurity rate drops to almost 29% among people who have a slight confidence in covering housing. But even a small number (7.9%) who are caught up on rent or mortgage payments still have a hard time putting enough food on the table.

5 options for consumers when they don’t have enough food

Go to a local food pantry

State government websites, community groups and religious organizations often provide information on food pantries, where consumers can get free groceries. Some food pantries also provide other items, such as notebooks and pencils, that can help families reserve more of their budget for other essentials, including rent and utilities.

Get a hot meal at a soup kitchen

Many soup kitchens offer nutritionally-balanced hot meals for those in need. Some even provide delivery service, which can come in handy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Apply for SNAP

SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides participants with an electronic benefit card they can use to pay for food. The benefits may be used at participating businesses, including grocery stores and farmers’ markets, as well as for online grocery orders at certain retailers. A household’s gross monthly income usually needs to be at no more than 130% of the poverty line to be eligible for SNAP. Contact a local SNAP office to apply.

Apply for WIC

WIC, short for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, helps new or expectant moms, as well as their children up to age 5, get nutritious food, either with an electronic benefit transfer card or via checks or vouchers. Eligible consumers must meet certain income guidelines, residency requirements and be at “nutritional risk,” as determined by a health professional. Consumers can apply for WIC through state agencies.

Get kids’ meals at school

Children from low-income households can get free or reduced-price meals at schools and child care centers through the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. As part of its COVID-19 pandemic response, the U.S. has extended its summer meal program through as late as the end of 2020 and made it more flexible, allowing parents and guardians to pick up meals for kids from nearly 80,000 sites across the U.S.

Methodology

Researchers analyzed data from the Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey conducted Sept. 2 to 14, 2020, to track the number of people who reported either sometimes or often not having enough to eat in the past seven days.

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Venmo Debit Card Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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If you’ve ever wished you could spend your Venmo balance at your favorite lunch spot, you’re in luck — the money-sharing company offers a Mastercard debit card that you can use to make purchases or get cash. Even better, when you use the Venmo debit card at select merchants, you can earn some cash back.

The card lets you use money available in your Venmo account when you need it, instead of waiting to transfer it to an external account. Still, its limitations on international use and the fact it doesn’t earn interest may not make it worth your while.

Venmo Debit Card features

  • Connected to your Venmo account balance
  • Earn cashback rewards with select merchants
  • Make purchases anywhere Mastercard is accepted in the U.S.
  • Free access to MoneyPass ATM network
  • Ability to reload card with a linked bank account
  • No credit check or application fee

The Venmo Debit Card is connected to your Venmo account, giving you a physical way to spend your balance. This balance can come from money your friends have sent you via Venmo, or through money transfers from an external bank account you’ve linked to Venmo.

You can use the Venmo Debit Card to make purchases at any business or website within the U.S. that accepts Mastercard. It has the technology you’d expect to find in a debit card, including an EMV chip and the ability to make contactless payments.

You might be wondering what happens if you try to use your Venmo Debit Card for a purchase that exceeds your balance. If you’ve turned on “reload,” Venmo will automatically pull money from your linked bank account in increments of $10 to cover the difference. But even if you’ve disabled that feature, there’s no need to worry about getting slammed with an overdraft fee — the purchase will simply be declined.

Need cash? You can hit up any MoneyPass ATM (available in the U.S. and Puerto Rico) for free with your Venmo debit card. For a fee, customers can get cash from any ATM with the Mastercard, Pulse or Cirrus mark. You can also get cash back at some merchants.

The Venmo app keeps track of all your card activity. It will give you the option to split recent purchases (say, last Sunday’s brunch) with your friends, making it easier to get paid back. You can also share your purchases in the Venmo feed, if you wish.

If your card happens to get lost or stolen, you can disable it immediately within the Venmo app.

Venmo Debit Card rewards

Once you have a Venmo Debit Card, you’re automatically enrolled in Venmo Rewards. That means you can use your card to earn cashback rewards at select merchants, including Dunkin, Wendy’s, Sam’s Club and Sephora. This includes online purchases, although Venmo suggests you double check an offer’s details since each cashback offer is different.

You can find the complete list of current merchant offers in the Venmo app’s Venmo Card section. It’s important to check this list before making a purchase, as these offers can rotate out and expire. You should also check offers for any potential limits to the rewards you can earn.

Venmo Rewards post to your Venmo balance once the merchant completes your purchase. Once they’re there, the cash rewards are yours and won’t expire.

Venmo Rewards are powered by a third-party called Dosh, which checks whether your purchases are eligible for a cashback reward offer and pays out the reward when it is. Venmo says it shares “the minimum amount of data necessary” with Dosh to complete these transactions.

Venmo Debit Card fees and fine print

The Venmo Debit Card doesn’t have any major fees, like a monthly service charge or a purchase fee. However, customers should watch out for out-of-network ATM surcharges and fees and try to only use free ATMs through the MoneyPass network.

Venmo Debit Card Fees
ATM withdrawalsFree at MoneyPass ATMs
$2.50 per ATM withdrawal within U.S. (plus any amounts charged by the ATM owner).
ATM balance inquiry (in-network or out-of-network)$0
Interest charge$0
Over-the-counter withdrawal $3 per withdrawal at a bank or financial institution when signature is required
Overdraft feesNone, but transactions that exceed your available
balance will be declined
Electronic withdrawal of Venmo balance$0 for standard withdrawal
1% for Instant withdrawal (min. $0.25)
Sending money$0 via balance, debit or bank account
3% via credit

There are no requirements to make a minimum deposit or maintain a specific balance. However, withdrawal limits might be something to keep an eye on if you plan to spend more than a few hundred dollars per day.

Venmo Debit Card Limits
Withdrawals maximum$400 per day for ATMs, over-the-counter withdrawals and cash back with purchases
Purchase amount maximum$3,000 per purchase

As for the fine print, remember that Venmo works with third-party company Dosh to run its rewards system. Essentially, Dosh creates a wallet in its system to determine and pay out your rewards. Dosh collects personal identifying information, as well as anonymous information that may be identifying when combined with personal information. You can find out more about this partnership in both Dosh’s terms of service and Venmo’s privacy policy.

Venmo Debit Card pros and cons

  • No monthly fee
  • No overdrafts
  • Cashback reward opportunities
  • Not for international use
  • Automatic reload can trigger overdrafts on linked account
  • Doesn’t earn interest

It won’t hurt you to sign up for a Venmo Debit Card and use it for the occasional purchase. After all, it’s free, and there’s the opportunity to earn some extra cash back in rewards. But if you need a card to use as your primary payment method for all your purchases, keep looking; this card is best left for Venmo enthusiasts who need quick access to their Venmo balance. Venmo already allows you to transfer your money to an external account for free — it just takes a day or three.

No Venmo overdraft fees may be appealing to many customers. However, you might end up with fees from your other bank if the card’s automatic reload feature accidentally overdraws from that account. Keep a careful eye on the balance in both of your accounts if you enable automatic reloads.

The inability to use the Venmo Debit Card at international merchants (even if you’re shopping online from within the United States) is a huge limitation. Frequent travelers and people who order products from stores overseas will need to rely on another card for their purchases. Many other debit cards will work abroad, as long as you give your bank a heads up.

The Venmo Debit Card offers no interest, so there’s little incentive to hold a high enough balance to cover the average person’s regular purchases. Essentially, the Venmo Debit Card is a free workaround for the small fee you would otherwise have to pay to have instant access to your Venmo funds. Other than that, it’s just extra weight in your wallet.

Opening a Venmo Debit Card

Apply directly through the app. Got a Venmo account? Then you’re eligible to apply for a Venmo debit card. The process is as simple as you’d expect from a company that prides itself on easy payments.

Simply open the menu in the Venmo app and tap “Venmo Card.” The app will then prompt you to enter your legal name, date of birth and last four digits of your Social Security number.

You’ll also choose from one of six colors for your debit card, giving you some control over your debit card design.

There’s no credit check or application fee, so once you finish the application, you’re done. Look out for the debit card in your mailbox in five to seven business days after you’re approved. You’re also automatically enrolled in Venmo Rewards, so there’s no extra step involved there, either.

Once you’ve got the card in hand, you can activate it in the app. It’ll be ready for immediate use, as long as you have money in your Venmo account. Keep in mind, though, that if Venmo hasn’t yet verified your identity, your rolling weekly spend limit on the card will be $299.99. Venmo may ask you to submit extra proof of identity, such as your driver’s license or passport, in the app before it gives you the full features of the card.

Is the Venmo Debit Card safe?

The card offers about the same level of protection as a typical debit card. Mastercard’s zero-liability protection means you won’t be responsible for unauthorized transactions if your Venmo Debit Card (or any other Mastercard) is reported as lost or stolen. The ability to disable the card from within the app does offer some peace of mind, but this feature is widely available in other debit and credit cards.

Since the debit card is attached to your Venmo account, it’s worth brushing up on how to protect your financial safety on the peer-to-peer (p2p) payment app. Only send money to people you know and trust. While Venmo will cover 100% of unauthorized transactions (with a few limitations), it does not offer protections for purchases of faulty products, so you should only make purchases from authorized merchants.

Who the Venmo Debit Card is best for

This debit card could work well for someone who regularly receives a lot of money through Venmo and wants access to those funds right away. People who don’t spend a lot on a daily basis or need to make purchases at international merchants could find this card somewhat useful.

An ideal customer might be a college student who relies on Venmo to receive money for books and groceries from their parents. It could also work well for people who regularly pick up the tab when they go out with friends, since Venmo makes the process of getting paid back quick and easy.

Otherwise, this debit card probably won’t add a lot of value to your life since it doesn’t earn interest, can’t be used abroad and earns limited rewards.

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.

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Being Healthy Can Cost You — But It Doesn’t Have To

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With the price of gym memberships, specialty foods and medical care, a healthy lifestyle can seem unachievable when you’re on a budget.

However, making the investment in your health can pay off in ways that go beyond feeling well. Studies show that healthy people earn significantly higher wages and accumulate more wealth than unhealthy people. And the good news is that being healthy doesn’t have to strain your finances.

In this article, we break down the costs of being healthy and how you can save money on food, fitness and medical expenses.

The cost of healthy living

Costs can be a barrier to managing our health. American families consistently point to the cost of healthcare as one of their biggest financial problems in polls conducted by Gallup.

“I hear from patients all the time that they feel pressure to go broke trying to stay healthy,” said Libby Pellegrini, a certified physician assistant and medical expert for RxSaver, a site that helps people find ways to save money on prescription drugs.

Here’s what you should know about the price of health-related expenses, like maintaining a nutritious diet, getting in shape and obtaining medical services.

Food

A diet rich in nutritious foods, like vegetables, fruits, lean meats and nuts, can reduce your risk of heart disease and other conditions — potentially saving money on health care costs in the long run.

However, stocking your pantry with good-for-you ingredients can be pricey. A 2013 meta-analysis published in the journal BMJ Open found that the healthiest diet costs around $1.50 per day more than the least nutritious diet. That means making the switch to a healthy diet could cost nearly $550 per year more for just one person, and push into the thousands for an entire family.

A 2012 study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which analyzed 4,439 foods, also found that healthy food can be more expensive on a per-calorie basis than “moderation foods,” such as those with added sugar and high quantities of saturated fat. Vegetables and fruits in particular cost a lot per calorie. While study authors acknowledge that healthy food can actually be cheaper than junk food by other measurements, like average portion price, the cost per calorie may play a role in some people’s dietary choices.

Fitness

Exercising regularly not only reduces your risk of serious health conditions, it can also help you avoid costly medical expenses. The American Heart Association reported in 2016 that people who exercised regularly spent around $2,500 less per year on health care costs than inactive people. But what does it cost to get in shape?

Gym memberships cost an average of $58 per month across the country. In some cities, the monthly expense of joining a health club can top $100. Expenses on fitness can add up even higher when you consider other costs of staying in shape. A survey of 1,350 Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 found that people spend a monthly average of $55.95 on supplements, $34.34 on gym apparel and accessories, and $13.83 on personal training services and workout plans.

While exercise can eat up a substantial portion of your budget, it doesn’t have to. In the section below, we’ll offer some tips on how you can get in shape for free.

Medical

Health care costs are a hot-button issue for people in the U.S., and for good reason — the country spends around double on health per person than other wealthy countries. Spending on health care across the nation climbed to $11,172 per person in 2018, an increase of 4.6% from the previous year.

While a portion of those costs may be covered by third parties, like private health insurance and Medicare, Americans often need to cover the rest out of pocket. On average, 8.1% of an American household’s monthly expenses went to health care in 2018, totaling $4,968 per year. Medical bills can take a financial toll on families and even drive some people to bankruptcy.

9 ways to stay healthy on a budget

If cost feels like an insurmountable barrier to getting and staying healthy, take a second look.

“You will spend far less money making small investments in your health today than you will spend mitigating the undesired outcomes of poor health tomorrow, but being health conscious doesn’t have to break the bank,” Pellegrini said.

Plus, there are some ways to reduce and even eliminate some of the upfront costs of staying healthy. Here are some tips.

Food

Buy canned or frozen produce, unless it’s in season
The cost of some fresh fruits and vegetables can vary significantly throughout the year. Strawberries, for example, generally cost the least from May through August, when there’s a large supply of them on the market, and the prices increase sharply later in the year. You might be able to save money on healthy groceries by avoiding fresh produce when it’s not in season, said Jessi Holden, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Canned and frozen produce is an excellent way to maintain a healthy diet and a healthy budget,” Holden said.

Embrace generic brands
Before you toss brand-name products into your shopping cart, scan the shelves to see if there’s a generic equivalent, Holden said. Stocking your pantry with less expensive alternatives to popular health foods may help you save money.

“Most of the time, [generic brands are] cheaper, and when you compare nutrition labels, they’re almost identical,” Holden said. “If you compare what you’d spend on name brands to what you could spend on generic, you’ll find your budget for food expands and your ability to purchase more things like produce increases.”

Try meal planning
When you don’t have a plan for dinner, it’s all too easy to rely on take-out. You may end up blowing both your budget and your intent to eat healthy.

“Meal planning helps us utilize the food we have on hand and the food that we’ve purchased for the week or month,” Holden said. “I always encourage people who want to meal plan to start by checking their pantry, fridge and freezer and plan at least one meal using ingredients they have on hand.”

Fitness

Walk as much as possible
Walking regularly can help ease you into fitness — and it costs nothing.

“Park a few blocks farther from the office to add a natural brisk walk into your morning and evening routine. Take a phone call while you walk around the hallway,” Pellegrini said.

You can also check out this 12-week walking schedule from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Work out with free online videos
YouTube is filled with workout videos that can help you work up a sweat without the expense of a gym or a personal trainer.

“Want to do a 20-minute yoga video on the beach in Nicaragua? There’s a free YouTube video that has you covered,” Pellegrini said. “Want someone to yell at you while you do squats, pushups and burpees in your living room? Same.”

Strength train at home
No barbells? No problem. Heavy items around your home can double as weights, allowing you to strength train at no cost. Consider using bottles filled with sand or water and canned goods during your home workout.

Medical

Switch to generic prescription drugs
If you’re paying a lot for a brand-name medication, ask your doctor if there’s a generic version that could work for your needs.

“Sometimes there may be a slightly different formulation that will be at a radically different price point,” Pellegrini said. “There may also be a way to combine two medications to achieve the same desired effect.”

Open an FSA or HSA
Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) give you the ability to cover certain medical costs with pretax money. Like a checking account, FSAs and HSAs often include a debit card that you can use for eligible expenses, such as doctor’s co-pays, eyeglasses and acupuncture.

“Before you hit the store to load up on necessities, take a quick look around an FSA store website [such as FSAStore.com] to see if any items on your list are reimbursement eligible,” Pellegrini said. “You may be surprised by how much is covered, from contact lens cleaning solution to sunscreen.”

Make preventative care appointments
Seeing your doctor for a preventative care appointment could help you catch potential health issues before they turn into something worse, Pellegrini said.

“A prime example of this that we see all the time is the corporate executive with a high-profile job who comes in for routine preventative blood work and discovers that she has prediabetes,” she said. “With a few modifications, we can easily reverse her prediabetes, virtually eliminating the possibility that she will ever become a diabetic. This will help save on future health expenses in a huge way.”

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.