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CNote Review 2019

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.

In recent years, finding stable, reasonable yield has been difficult for savers. A traditional savings account rarely offers an attractive yield and the bond market has been somewhat anemic in recent years. This is where CNote comes in.

CNote is a company that takes your money and invests it in community development financial institutions (CDFIs). Basically, these lenders issue loans to local governments, nonprofits and businesses owned by minorities and women. CNote invests your money with its partners and offers you a return.

CNote
Visit CNoteSecuredon CNote’s secure site
The Bottom Line: CNote offers you the chance to earn relatively stable yields that beat traditional savings accounts while allowing you to make a positive social impact in communities across the country.

  • Annual return beats that of most traditional savings accounts.
  • Investments are used for social impact.
  • CNote has no fees, but it does come with liquidity restrictions.

Who should consider CNote

CNote is meant as a savings account or bond market alternative. It’s not designed to offer inflation-beating potential returns like those seen in the stock market. Instead, it’s more likely to be appropriate for savers who are frustrated with their current yields and want a relatively stable way to boost what they’re earning each year.

Additionally, the social impact aspect of CNote could make it attractive to those looking for socially conscious ways to put their money to work. CNote’s CDFI partners invest in small businesses and community development projects, so for those who like the idea of doing good while their money earns interest, this can be an option.

However, CNote comes with limited liquidity. There are only four times a year that CNote allows for withdrawals (with 30 days’ notice), and at those times you’re limited to withdrawals of $20,000 or 10% of your balance, whichever is higher. (CNote does consider special circumstances and may allow larger or unscheduled withdrawals at their discretion.)

Those who need access to their money for goals in the medium term (four to seven years out) could benefit from CNote, but withdrawals require planning. As a result, it likely doesn’t make sense to use CNote as an emergency fund where immediate liquidity is needed.

CNote fees and features

Amount minimum to open account
  • $1
Commission$0
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $0 full account transfer fee
  • $0 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Trust
Customer supportPhone, Email

Strengths of CNote

CNote offers an interesting twist on social investing with the expectation of relatively stable returns.

  • Yield that beats traditional savings accounts: One of the stand-out features is CNote’s advertised return of 2.75% APY (or more). This is much better than most traditional savings accounts. In fact, as of this writing, CNote offers returns higher than the five-year Treasury yield. That means you could see a higher yield for medium-term savings than what’s available with other savings options.
  • No fees: CNote doesn’t charge any fees. Instead, the service makes money on the difference between what they pay you in yield and what they receive from investments made with CDFI partners.
  • Social impact investing: If doing good is important to you, CNote offers a way for you to do that. Your money goes toward helping provide affordable financing to underserved communities for projects like affordable housing, community development and minority-owned businesses.
  • Trust and business accounts: You can open a CNote account as part of a trust or use it for business purposes. Depending on your needs, this can be helpful in your asset management plan.

The service is fairly straightforward and comes with no costs, but it has the potential to help you earn a higher yield on money that might otherwise be sitting in a low-yield savings account.

Drawbacks of CNote

While CNote offers an innovative way to maintain a stable yield, there are some issues that you need to be aware of before you invest.

  • Limited liquidity: This isn’t a deposit account and your money doesn’t remain immediately accessible to you. CNote isn’t simply holding your money; instead, it’s investing your money with its partners. As a result, you need to provide advance notice before withdrawing your money — and you can only withdraw at certain times during the year.
  • Yield is still too low for long-term wealth building: Even though the yield is higher than a traditional savings account, it’s still not high enough for effective long-term wealth-building. If you’re looking for a way to build your nest egg, consider Stocks, Mutual funds and ETFs.
  • No tax-advantaged options: CNote doesn’t offer you the opportunity to invest with tax advantages. There aren’t IRA or 529 options.

If you decide to use CNote, it’s important to understand how you want to use it in your overall portfolio, since there are limitations to when you can access to your money and limited usefulness as a long-term investment vehicle.

Is CNote safe?

It’s important to note that CNote isn’t a depository institution and it isn’t protected by the FDIC. That means if CNote fails, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back. However, the loans made by its CDFI partners to community and municipal projects are generally considered low-risk with stable returns, on par with high-quality Bonds. Most of the projects funded by CDFIs are usually vetted heavily and CDFIs impose their own requirements on borrowers.

CNote also uses what it calls Triple Protection to limit potential losses. Because CNote isn’t a holding company, they don’t keep your money; instead, it goes to CNote’s CDFI partners. CNote only contracts with partners that use government-guaranteed programs, which offer a layer of protection. CNote’s partners are also contractually obligated to repay the loans they receive from CNote, even if something goes wrong. Finally, CNote has a loan loss reserve to help cover potential losses.

However, like any investment, there is still a risk, and you could lose capital in addition to missing out on returns.

Final thoughts

If you’re interested in boosting your yield on a chunk of capital that isn’t doing much, CNote could be an interesting place to park your cash. The returns could be fairly stable and may beat what you’ll get at with a savings account. Plus, you get the added bonus of feeling good about making a positive social impact.

However, you do need to be aware of the liquidity limitations and understand that pre-planning is needed before you access the money you invest using CNote.

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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.

Miranda Marquit
Miranda Marquit |

Miranda Marquit is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Miranda here

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Pay Down My Debt

Your Guide to Refugee Travel Loans — And How to Repay Them

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.

refugee travel loans

Getting to the United States as a refugee when you have practically nothing, can be a daunting endeavor. As a result, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) offers travel loans designed to defray the cost of plane tickets and other transportation costs.

Because these are refugee travel loans and not a free gift, those coming to the United States are expected to begin repaying the loans soon after they arrive. Here’s what you need to know about getting and repaying a refugee travel loan.

Refugee travel loans: The good and the bad

So, how does someone without credit or income get a loan? Loans are funded by the State Department and administered through the International Organization for Migration (IOM). There is no credit check. All that happens is that, when someone is cleared for resettlement in the United States, the IOM approaches them and begins the process with paperwork.

“Getting the travel loan is simpler because it’s done overseas,” says Zeze Rwasama, the director of the Refugee Center located at the College of Southern Idaho (CSI), in Twin Falls, Idaho. “American requirements don’t apply.”

Rwasama points out that the refugees sign a promissory note that details the repayment schedule for the loan. “They have to begin repaying the loan within six months. Hopefully by then they have a job.”

Travel loans can range between three and nine years, depending on how much is borrowed. Just the cost of plane tickets can be more than $1,000 and if a family is coming over together, it’s not uncommon to have bigger loans. The average note, according to the State Department, is about $2,740.

What happens when you can’t repay a refugee travel loan

Most refugee travel loans are eventually repaid. The State Department reports that 75.4% of IOM travel loan amounts are repaid within 15 years. Rwasama says that, for refugees coming through his resettlement center, the default rate is extremely low.

However, the fact that most refugee travel loans are ultimately repaid doesn’t mean that some people don’t have problems. The average monthly repayment amount is $84. That might not seem like a lot to average Americans, but to refugees struggling to start over again, that can seem like more than they can handle.

Refugees who come to the U.S. basically have a blank slate. Each time you make a move with a loan or other type of credit, it’s recorded in your credit history. The items in your credit history are used to create a credit score, which is checked when you want to move into a new home, get insurance, buy a car or even purchase a new smartphone.

Loans made through the IOM aren’t subject to the same credit requirements, but once you have the loan and are settled in the United States, the story changes. Rwasama warns that, even though you don’t need credit to get a refugee travel loan, your payment history will be reported to the credit bureaus in the United States. “Missing payments can lead to credit problems and cause more challenges for refugees,” he says. Not paying on the travel loan immediately results in lower credit scores, making it difficult to access other financial resources later.

On the flip side, though, the travel loan provides a way for refugees to establish a credit history. As you make your loan payments, you start building a good credit history, resulting in a higher score that can be beneficial later. Rwasama points out that in the United States, it’s practically impossible to advance financially without a credit history. “When you make your loan payments, you can begin building credit so you can buy other things,” he says.

How to deal with a travel loan you can’t repay

When you can’t make your loan payments, you do have options. First of all, says Rwasama, it’s possible to get an extension on loan repayment. Some of the factors that allow for a deferral or restructuring of terms include:

  • Unemployment
  • Temporary medical disability
  • Full-time school attendance

If you meet the requirements, you might receive more time to start repaying your loan, rather than being forced to begin making payments right at six months, according to Rwasama. Additionally, if something comes up after you’ve started repayment, you can stop payments for a while or have the repayment schedule changed.

On top of that, there are times the IOM is willing to cancel your refugee travel loan, including bankruptcy, permanent disability or to care for an orphaned child. Additionally, if you’re repatriated to your home country, the IOM might cancel your debt. Finally, the IOM can cancel the loan if you die so that your heirs aren’t saddled with the debt.

No matter your situation, though, Rwasama points out that it’s vital to remain in contact with your resettlement agency. You shouldn’t just stop making payments because you can’t. Talking with a contact at the agency can help you understand your options and reduce the negative impact on your credit history.

“All refugees are assigned to a resettlement agency, and it’s important to check in,” says Rwasama. “They can help you navigate all of these issues and help you get an extension if you need it.”

Other struggles refugees face after migrating

It’s not just the money, though. While repaying a refugee travel loan provides challenges on its own, refugees are dealing with a number of other hurdles.

“The biggest challenge is the language,” says Rwasama. “Many refugees don’t speak English, and many have no schooling. How can you have school when you’ve been in a refugee camp for 15 years or more?”

Rwasama points out that his refugee center focuses a great deal on helping those who come through learn the language. “Without knowing the language, it’s hard to get a job,” he says.
Because a job is key to self-sufficiency, that’s one of the main focuses refugee centers have. Rwasama says the CSI Refugee Center provides a number of services designed to help refugees get a solid start. Basic but necessary lifestyle activities and tasks can present difficulties to refugees, Rwasama points out, including:

  • Transportation: Getting to work or to the grocery store can be difficult without transportation. The CSI Refugee Center provides transportation for a limited number of months, until refugees can get their own car or become proficient at public transit.
  • Financial system: It can be confusing to learn the banking system in the U.S. Navigating account setup, understanding how it works and then using it to one’s advantage can be frustrating. It’s easy to make mistakes when paying off debt because of the complexity of the system.
  • Grocery shopping: It’s not just the language that makes this difficult, Rwasama points out. The concept of shopping in large supermarkets with check out lanes and using a debit card to pay is different than what many refugees are used to.

Even understanding the postal system can be a challenge. “We have to teach them everything,” says Rwasama. “It’s so different from what they’re used to. We help as much as we can so they can be self-sufficient faster.”

Resources for refugees: From financial to emotional support

It’s possible to find help as a refugee. Rwasama emphasizes the importance of using the resources available at refugee resettlement agencies. Because each refugee is assigned one, it’s important for you to go there for additional help, whether you need emotional support or help with navigating the financial system.

The CSI Refugee Center offers orientations and provides the basic necessities so refugees can move forward as quickly as possible.

“We are in an area where the cost of living is low and wages are okay,” says Rwasama. “It’s harder in bigger places that are more expensive.”

In addition to refugee resettlement centers, there are other organizations that provide different levels of support to refugees. Some places to consider include:

  • Office of Refugee Resettlement: This office is located within the Administration for Children & Families at the Department of Health & Human Services. You can find help accessing various resources, as well as see state-by-state programs.
  • International Rescue Committee: Nonprofit organization that helps refugees navigate the legal system and find resources to help them thrive.
  • Refugees Helping Refugees: This nonprofit focuses mainly on refugees in Western New York. They provide classes, training and other resources to help refugees.
  • International Refugee Assistance Project: Focuses on providing legal assistance and other help to refugees.

Also, many states also have their own refugee resources. Check with your state to see what’s available. For example, Washington offers cash and medical assistance to refugees during their first eight months. You can also check to see if your state has a specific program for refugees. Idaho’s Office for Refugees isn’t affiliated with the state’s government, but it offers community meetings, various resources and ways to get involved.

Getting help and access to resources is important, and many refugees integrate in their communities. Being able to participate and have the help can provide refugees with a feeling of belonging to their adopted communities. In fact, on average, labor force participation rates rise to or exceed native-born rates, according to the Urban Institute.

Results from well-supported refugees also include:

  • Reduced reliance on public assistance
  • U.S. citizenship
  • Improved English language proficiency
  • High educational attainment for refugee youth
  • Community contribution
  • Homeownership
  • Establish businesses

“Most of our refugees are supposed to be self-sufficient by the time they’ve been here eight months,” says Rwasama. “We provide a lot of support and it pays off.”

Bottom line

While paying off refugee loans can be a daunting task, it is possible. And, if you need help, it’s possible to find it. Start with your assigned resettlement center, and look for resources beyond those. Many communities offer resources aimed at low-income residents — not just refugees — and it’s possible to look to those resources as well as using what’s available through refugee programs.

“In my five years at the CSI center, every family who has come through has become self-sufficient,” Rwasama says. “There are a lot of resources if you know how to ask for them.”

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.

Miranda Marquit
Miranda Marquit |

Miranda Marquit is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Miranda here

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Investing

J.P. Morgan You Invest Review 2019

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.

Chances are you’ve heard of J.P. Morgan Chase. It’s one of the major players in the financial space, and it’s long had a brokerage arm in addition to providing global banking services. Now, though, J.P. Morgan is getting into the online brokerage space with You Invest.

You Invest is an online trading platform that allows you to buy and sell individual stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without the need for a human broker. This You Invest review will look at what’s offered and provide you with the information you need to decide if it’s right for you.

You Invest offers a way for you to seamlessly connect your Chase bank account to your brokerage account. Additionally, you end up with access to plenty of educational materials and the ability to understand your total portfolio.

J.P. Morgan You Invest
Visit J.P. MorganSecuredon J.P. Morgan You Invest’s secure site
The bottom line: You Invest offers a fairly standard online brokerage experience with the perks of low-cost trading fees and a wealth of investor education.

  • Pay just $2.95 per trade after receiving 100 free trades.
  • Enjoy a large selection of investments, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs.
  • Manage investments according to goals with the Portfolio Builder tool.

Who should consider You Invest

You Invest is ideal for beginning investors, especially those looking for education and assistance building a portfolio that will help them reach their goals. Intermediate and advanced investors also can benefit, but the educational tools and resources are especially helpful for novice investors.

Additionally, You Invest connects to your other Chase accounts, making it easy for you to move money from your bank account to your brokerage account and vice versa. If you already bank with Chase, using You Invest to manage your portfolio might not be a bad choice.

While $2.95 per trade is a low cost, this product might not be the best choice for active traders. For traders who can keep their trade volume low, this can be an excellent brokerage since you receive 100 free trades in the first year after an account is opened — with the opportunity to qualify for more free trades in subsequent years.

J.P. Morgan You Invest fees and features

Current promotions

Up to 100 free trades

Stock trading fees
  • $2.95 per trade
  • $0 per trade for Chase Private Client, Chase Sapphire Banking, J.P. Morgan Private Bank and J.P. Morgan Securities clients
Amount minimum to open account
  • $0
Tradable securities
  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $75 full account transfer fee
  • $75 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Commission-free ETFs offered
Offers automated portfolio/robo-advisor
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Rollover Roth IRA
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS, Android
Customer supportPhone, Chat, 5,100 branch locations
Research resources
  • SEC filings
  • Mutual fund reports
  • Earnings press releases
  • Earnings call recordings

Strengths of You Invest

The educational tools and insights provided by You Invest are where this offering shines. With tools that allow you to see how a mutual fund might fit into your portfolio and screeners that allow you to find specific Stocks, it’s possible to get the help you need to learn your investing style.

  • Low trading fees: To start, you get 100 free trades from You Invest. After you use your allotment, trades cost only $2.95. Among online brokers that charge trading fees, this is one of the lowest. If you’re not an active trader, you might be able to avoid paying fees fairly easily. You can get more free trades each year if you use certain Chase banking products, such as Premier Plus Checking.
  • Educational resources: You Invest offers a number of helpful articles about investing, strategy and more. It’s possible for you to learn the basics and then apply them to your portfolio.
  • Portfolio Builder: If you have at least $2,500 in your account, you can take advantage of this tool designed to help you choose the right investments for your portfolio. You’ll receive guidance on putting together a portfolio based on your answers to questions designed to gauge your risk tolerance, investment goals and time horizon.
  • Powerful screening tools: You can use these tools to set parameters and then find assets that fit your requirements. A list of options appears, and when you’re looking at Mutual funds , You Invest also includes Morningstar ratings and analysis of where they might fit into your portfolio.

Drawbacks of You Invest

A review of You Invest wouldn’t be complete without a look at some of the downsides. In many ways, You Invest is a typical online brokerage option. Other than some of the educational and portfolio building tools, there’s not a lot to distinguish You Invest from other brokers.

  • No standalone app: Rather than offering a standalone app, you access You Invest through J.P. Morgan Mobile. Until you get used to it, it can be somewhat disconcerting to navigate to your trading app within the regular app.
  • Limited account types: There are only two account options with You Invest: taxable and IRA. You can get a Joint taxable account as well as an individual account, and there is a Roth option with the IRA. However, if you’re hoping for a custodial account or 529, you won’t find it with You Invest.
  • No managed portfolios: Right now, you won’t find managed portfolios, but they are supposed to be coming in 2019. So if you’re more of a hands-off investor, you might want to wait until there are more options available.

Is You Invest safe?

Any investment comes with the risk of loss. However, You Invest is insured by the SIPC for up to $500,000. Additionally, J.P. Morgan is a member of FINRA. As a result, you’re reasonably protected — especially when you consider that this is a company with more than $1 trillion in assets under management. It’s not likely to fail.

Just make sure you understand your own risk tolerance before you invest. While insurance protects you from failure, you’re not protected from market losses.

Final thoughts

You Invest can be a great option for middle-of-the-road investors who want a little more flexibility in their portfolios but still need some guidance. There are a number of assets to choose from, and the educational tools and resources allow you to build a portfolio based on your long-term goals and expectations.

Depending on your goals, there might be other products that work for you. For those more interested in a hands-off approach, Betterment might be a more suitable choice. You also can make trades for less with a service like Robinhood. However, you might not get the same level of educational tools with Robinhood, and Betterment won’t let you personalize your portfolio to the same degree.

If you want a low-cost, personalized way to invest — learning as you go — and if you’re already a Chase customer, opening a You Invest account might be a good way to move forward.

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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.

Miranda Marquit
Miranda Marquit |

Miranda Marquit is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Miranda here

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