Advertiser Disclosure

Banking

Ultimate Guide to Understanding Annuities

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

Annuities are a popular way for Americans to build their savings and then generate income after they retire. Annuities are a massive market: According to data from LIMRA, in 2018, total annuity sales were over $233 billion and the total amount of money held in deferred annuities was over $3 trillion.

But despite their popularity, annuities also have their fair share of critics, and there is no shortage of opinion pieces online calling them a bad investment. We asked David Haas, a Certified Financial Planner and president of Cereus Financial Advisors, whether annuities deserved this criticism.

“Annuities have a bad reputation because they are sold for the wrong reasons and some of them come with significant fees or are designed not to perform the way investors expect (and were promised),” he said. “The insurance industry also has used very poor sales practices in the past to earn this reputation.”

With that in mind, Haas still does think annuities have value. “Annuities can be useful tools in your financial strategy as long as you understand what they can do and what they can’t.”

To help you understand annuities, we’ve put together this guide to cover the key elements of saving through an annuity and spoke with multiple financial experts to get their advice.

How do annuities work?

Before we get into the specific types of annuities, let’s review the basics of how they work. First off, what are annuities? Annuities are investment contracts typically offered by insurance companies. They are not deposit accounts, and as a result are not covered by federal deposit insurance. This can make them a little riskier than deposit accounts like certificates of deposit, according to Ken Tumin, founder of LendingTree-owned DepositAccounts.com.

“CDs typically have federal deposit insurance up to coverage limits. Annuities do not have federal insurance guarantees,” he said. “Annuities do have state guarantees, but these are not as automatic as federal deposit insurance.”

However, annuities do have some advantages over deposit accounts which are split over the two phases of the contract: accumulation and distribution.

Annuity accumulation phase

To open an annuity, you’ll need to deposit money with the company selling the contract. This can be a single lump sum, multiple payments over time, or a transfer of money from another retirement/insurance account. If you aren’t ready to start spending down your savings, you can keep all your money in the account so it grows for the future. This is known as the accumulation phase.

Your money will grow over time, using the investment strategy picked by the type of annuity: fixed, variable or index. See the next section for more specifics on how these strategies work.

So long as your money stays in the annuity, you will not owe income tax on your investment gains. Tumin pointed out that this is one of the benefits of annuities versus CDs. “Earnings from annuities are tax deferred. CDs are not, unless they’re in an IRA.”

Once you are ready to spend down your savings, you ask the company to switch your contract to the distribution phase.

Annuity distribution phase

The distribution phase is when the annuity starts paying you back your contributions. You have a few different options. First, you could spread the payments over a set amount of time, like monthly payments over 10 years or 20 years. The company will tell you how much you’d receive per month based on your balance, age and expected investment return.

Another option is to set up your annuity so that it makes guaranteed payments over your entire life. The company is responsible for making sure it can keep up with all those payments, no matter how long you live. This is another key benefit, according to Tumin. “Unlike CDs, income annuities provide longevity insurance. Payments from an annuity can last until one dies. There’s no risk of your savings running out.” Finally, you can take some or all money out as a lump sum.

Your payouts are taxable income, but the amount that’s taxed depends on how you purchased the annuity. If you bought the annuity using pre-tax money, like through a 401k, then all your annuity income counts as taxable income. If you bought your annuity using regular, after-tax funds, then you only owe tax on your annuity earnings. You get your deposit back tax-free.

Additionally, if you take out a lump sum withdrawal of your earnings and/or pre-tax contributions before you turn 59½, the IRS will charge a 10% early withdrawal penalty on that amount. This is because annuities are supposed to be used to save for retirement. The penalty does not apply when you withdraw your after-tax contributions, though when you make a withdrawal, the IRS assumes your earnings are coming out first. If you schedule payments over time for at least five years or the rest of your life, you can also receive money from your annuity before you turn 59½ without the penalty.

Are there fees with annuities?

Annuities charge a number of fees. First, the company may charge several annual fees to cover the costs of running the annuity. These can be labeled as administrative fees, mortality fees, distribution fees and/or general fees. Altogether, the company may deduct between 0.3% to 2% from your annuity balance each year for these fees.

The investments in your annuity may also charge an annual fee and deduct it from your balance. Typical investment expense ratios range from 0.6% to 3% a year. These are similar fees you’d owe for making the investment outside of an annuity. Once again, the company will deduct the fee from your balance.

When you buy your annuity, you have the option to add extra benefits to your contract known as riders. For example, you can set up your annuity payments to grow based on inflation or to have a contract that pays your heirs a death benefit after you pass away. You would need to pay an extra fee each year for setting up these riders.

Finally, annuities are meant to be long-term investments and may have a fee if you cancel or withdraw your money early, known as a surrender charge. These can be quite expensive and go as high as 7% of your account balance. As time goes by, the surrender charge will decrease in size before ending completely after seven to 10 years, when you can take your money out penalty-free.

Are annuities liquid?

Annuities are not liquid investments because of the surrender charge. If you want to withdraw some or all of your balance, especially during the first few years after setting up your contract, you can expect to pay a steep penalty to cash out a lump sum.

Some companies offer a little extra flexibility with taking money out penalty-free. For example, they may allow you to withdraw up to 10% of your balance without the surrender charge. But even in this case, annuities are nowhere as liquid as a bank account or a regular brokerage account, where you can cash out your money without owing a penalty.

Three main types of annuity: Fixed, indexed and variable

In terms of investment strategies, there are three main categories of annuities: Fixed, indexed and variable.

 

Fixed annuity

Indexed annuity

Variable annuity

Rate of return

3% to 5% per year

Stock market returns with limits to your potential loss and gain. Usually comes with some small guaranteed return.

Based on your investments

Typical fees

Administrative expenses and surrender charges, but no investment management fees

Administrative expenses, surrender charges and investment management fees

Administrative expenses, surrender charges and investment management fees

Regulation

Only by state insurance commissioners

By the SEC and state insurance commissioners

Usually only by state insurance commissioners. In some cases, may be regulated by the SEC as well.

Taxation

Gains are tax deferred. Payouts are 100% taxed when the annuity was purchased with pre-tax money. Only gains are taxable if the annuity was purchased with after-tax money.

Gains are tax deferred. Payouts are 100% taxed when the annuity was purchased with pre-tax money. Only gains are taxable if the annuity was purchased with after-tax money.

Gains are tax deferred. Payouts are 100% taxed when the annuity was purchased with pre-tax money. Only gains are taxable if the annuity was purchased with after-tax money.

Fixed annuities

Fixed annuities pay a set return on your money. For the first few years, the company may guarantee a minimum return and after that, what you earn could change depending on market interest rates. With a fixed annuity, you cannot lose money because of your investment. It’s similar to putting your savings into a CD.

When it comes to generating retirement income, Haas noted that a fixed annuity can be more predictable. “Fixed annuities provide a simple guaranteed income stream, which is fixed for the payout period selected,” Haas said.

Variable annuities

With a variable annuity, you put your money into market-based investments, typically mutual funds with combination of stocks, bonds and money market accounts. The amount you earn will then depend on the market, so this can change dramatically year after year and your account balance can fall during market downturns.

Depending on your return, this can impact your monthly income during the annuity payout period. Haas pointed out that there are ways to get at least some stability to your payments though. “Variable annuities can attach guarantees for the income stream but come with increased expenses and restrictions on the investments,” he said.

Indexed annuities

Indexed annuities pay out a return that follows the stock market, with some additional safeguards and limits. When you sign up, you pick a market index that you want to track, like the S&P 500. Indexed annuities typically guarantee a minimum annual return — even if the market ends the year in the red, your funds still grow, usually around 2%.

In exchange, these annuities set restrictions on how much you can earn during good years. The annuity may cap your maximum possible return like you can earn no more than 6% per year. Another possibility is the indexed annuity only allows you to earn a portion of the total gains. For example, you keep 70% of your total investment earnings while the company keeps the rest. As a result, indexed annuities are safer than variable annuities but their upside is not as high.

Deferred annuities vs. immediate annuities

The insurance industry also classifies annuities as deferred versus immediate. Like the name implies, an immediate annuity starts paying you money back right away. There’s no accumulation period so the payout period begins right after you purchase the contract. They are also known as income annuities because they immediately turn your savings into a series of future income payments.

Deferred annuities do not start paying out right away. Instead, they have an accumulation period to build your savings for some point in the future.

Brandon Renfro, a financial planner and professor of finance at East Texas Baptist University, thinks immediate/income annuities can be a good choice for retirees. “Income annuities are simple and easy to understand. You exchange a lump sum of money for a guaranteed payment stream.”

Deferred annuities on the other hand may be a better fit before retirement, when you don’t need extra income and your goal is to build your nest egg so you have a larger future payout.

Cost-of-living adjustments for annuities

Some companies allow you to add an extra benefit to your contract called a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) rider. When you buy a contract with this rider, you pick a percentage for how much your annuity payments will increase each year. If you selected 3%, your monthly payments will grow by 3% every year.

You could also buy a CPI-rider which adjusts your monthly payment based on the inflation rate. When inflation is high, your income will go up and when there is no inflation, your payments will stay the same.

With these riders, you protect your retirement income against rising prices from inflation. Over the past decade, inflation has been about 2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If your payments stayed the same throughout retirement, you would see your purchasing power fall by the inflation rate over time.

Renfro warned that the cost of this feature can be prohibitive. “Some annuity payments will automatically include COLA provisions, but this is very rare,” he said. “Chances are, the price you’ll pay for an annuity with an inflation-adjusted payment will be considerably higher.”

The way this works is that for the same deposit, you’ll start out at a lower monthly income for an annuity with a COLA or inflation rider versus a regular annuity. In exchange, your payments will increase over time while the regular annuity will always pay out the same amount. You need to decide whether the inflation protection is worth the lower starting income.

Who insures and regulates annuities?

All annuities are regulated at the state level through the insurance commissioner’s office. Insurance companies and their representatives must register with the insurance commissioner in every state where they want to sell these contracts. The insurance commissioner will verify that the company is financially stable enough to meet its obligations and that it is following the rules for managing these plans. They also collect and investigate complaints against annuities.

In addition, the federal government regulates variable annuities through the SEC as these agencies oversee any investments based on the stock market. The federal government does not oversee fixed annuities and it rarely oversees indexed annuities.

Annuity bankruptcy

Despite these regulations, there is always the chance that your insurance company could go bankrupt and may not be able to pay you back according to the terms in your annuity contract. Annuities are not deposit accounts and not covered by the FDIC, so you are not guaranteed to get your money back.

Every state has its own insurance guaranty fund for when companies go bankrupt, but there’s a limit to how much they will pay out, typically $250,000 for annuities. If you are owed more than that, you can file a legal claim against the insurance company and try to collect as it liquidates its assets through bankruptcy, but there is no guarantee you’ll get the rest of your money. It can also take time to get your money through the court process.

In the end, while annuities are partially insured against, your best defense is to avoid getting into this situation in the first place. As part of your research, you should also check the credit rating of any insurance company through agencies like Standard & Poor’s or Moody’s. Consider only signing up with companies that have a strong rating to make sure they can safely pay you back.

Are annuities right for you?

To figure out whether an annuity is the right fit for you, you need to closely understand the rules and different types available. But figuring this out isn’t always easy for non-financial experts. For help with this decision, consider reaching out to a financial advisor.

As you interview candidates, you may want to ask whether the advisor gets a commission from selling the annuity. A common theme throughout our interviews was that annuities have a bad reputation because salespeople can get a large commission from selling them, so some bad actors pushed contracts that were not a great match for their clients. If you hire a fee-only advisor who is paid for their time and advice rather than a commission for selling products, that can help you avoid a conflict of interest.

In the end, annuities remain one of the few options to set up guaranteed retirement income that lasts your entire life which is why even with their potential drawbacks they are worth considering. By using the information in this guide and working with a trusted advisor, you can decide what role if any annuities will play in your financial plan.

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.

Advertiser Disclosure

Banking

COVID-19 Relief Package: What Congress and Banks Are Offering

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

American taxpayers can finally expect some relief heading their way, thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law two months after the coronavirus (COVID-19) first appeared in the U.S. This $2 trillion financial relief package seeks to provide assistance to affected taxpayers as well as small businesses and corporations.

In addition to the government’s efforts, banks across the country have also stepped up. To help you navigate these challenging times and make sure you’re aware of all potential resources, we’ve compiled the latest information on the government’s relief packages and relief plans from the big banks.

We will continue to update this page as the situation evolves.

One-time stimulus checks

Taxpayers’ long-awaited direct payments, or recovery rebates, will be determined by their most recent tax return. For many, this will be your 2019 tax return, since we have yet to file taxes for 2020. If you have not yet filed your 2019 tax return, the government will turn to your 2018 return instead.

How much you’ll get: For individuals, the plan will provide one-time direct payments of $1,200 ($2,400 for joint returns) to those with an annual income of $75,000 or less. Payments will decrease incrementally for those who made more than $75,000 and will stop altogether for individuals who earned more than $99,000. Individuals will also receive an additional $500 per child.

To find the estimated amount of your recovery rebate check, drag your cursor along the line below to your corresponding income amount. We also have a stimulus check calculator you can use to determine your payment amount.

How to sign up: For most taxpayers, there’s no need to sign up for this. All you need is a valid Social Security number to receive these relief rebates. The IRS will distribute these payments based on information from your most recent tax return.

If you receive Social Security benefits or do not typically file a tax return, the IRS will use the information on your 1099 Social Security forms (Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099) to determine your payments. Individuals who qualify with these forms will not receive additional payments for dependents, as the forms do not disclose dependent information. The IRS includes senior citizens, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees in this group. If that does not include you but you typically don’t file a tax return, you may want to file a simple tax return as soon as possible to receive the economic impact payments.

In conjunction with the IRS, the U.S. Treasury Department has plans to create an online portal where individuals can submit their most recent banking information to the IRS. Check back here or the IRS’s coronavirus information page for updates.

How you’ll get the check: Depending on what you requested on your tax return, the IRS will send the payment either via direct deposit or a paper check. If your address or bank account information has changed since 2018, file your 2019 tax return as soon as possible, if you haven’t already.

When the checks will come: As of now, taxpayers can expect to see payments sometime in April.

Are the checks taxed? These recovery rebates are considered advanced tax credits for 2020 and should not be taxed for most. Since the payment amounts are determined based on your previous tax returns, however, the payments could be subject to adjustment if you earned more or less this year compared to prior years.

For example, if you received too large of a rebate proportionate to your most recent income, you could end up owing back the excess. However, it is so far expected that taxpayers will not have to return or pay tax on any portion of these rebates, regardless of income changes. If you receive a payment that is too low, you also may be able to receive a tax credit from your 2020 taxes to make up the difference.

Expanded unemployment benefits

For starters, individuals who have found themselves unable to work as a result of COVID-19, including those who are sick, quarantined or taking care of family members, will be able to collect unemployment, extending those benefits beyond those who were fired or laid off.

The stimulus bill will also add $600 on top of existing unemployment benefits (currently averaging about $300 a week) for four months and extend unemployment insurance by 13 weeks. The bill will also ensure that workers maintain their full salaries if they lose their job due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This additional funding will come from the federal government rather than from states and employers, who typically fund unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are still taxable under current law, which the stimulus bill does not account for.

Eased penalties around retirement account withdrawals

The bill also allows those affected by COVID-19 to withdraw up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts, including your 401(k) and IRAs, without facing the 10% early withdrawal penalty that typically applies when you make withdrawals when you are under the age of 59 ½. You will still have to pay income taxes on your withdrawals, though these taxes will now be due over the course of three years instead of immediately. Additionally, the bill waives required minimum distributions (RMDs) for select retirement plans for this year.

Qualified individuals include those who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or have a spouse or dependent who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, as well as those who have been laid off, quarantined, furloughed or faced reduced hours due to the pandemic. This applies through Dec. 31, 2020.

Even though the bill allows it, withdrawing from your retirement accounts before you’ve actually hit retirement is generally not the best plan — especially if you’re already close to retiring. By doing so, you run the high risk of hurting the nest egg that you’ve worked hard to build for retirement. Still, this may be the only source of money available to many right now.

Small business relief

The stimulus plan includes $425 billion for the Federal Reserve to leverage for emergency loans to distressed companies and $75 billion for industry-specific loans. Despite previous claims from President Trump that he alone would choose which businesses received aid, this lending system will fall under oversight by an inspector general and a congressionally-appointed panel.

The spending package also provides $350 billion that will go toward lending programs for small businesses, but only those that keep their payrolls steady through the crisis. There is also a reward for small businesses that keep their workers in the form of federally-guaranteed loans that will be forgiven if the employer continues to pay its workers throughout this time of crisis.

Additionally, the plan allocates $130 billion for hospitals and $150 billion for state and local governments.

Banks’ responses to COVID-19

In the meantime, millions of Americans are struggling with changes to their work hours and incomes. Some banks are offering relief packages of their own, often waiving certain fees or offering expedited services. Certain banks, like Ally Bank, are providing more robust aid than others, while several big banks have not committed to providing widespread support. Although not listed below, community banks may offer a stronger support system to those financially affected.

Many banks also warn customers about keeping their information and money safe from fraudsters. Unfortunately, scams and phishing attempts are cropping up to take advantage of this crisis. Be wary of phone calls, emails and texts from suspicious senders who ask for personal or account information, and avoid clicking on links in emails and texts. When in doubt, head to your institution’s official website to verify the bank’s contact information or log into your account to access its secure messaging system.

Wondering whether your bank is offering a relief package? Here’s what some of the biggest banks are offering.

American Express

American Express has not released any specific COVID-19 relief plans to help its Personal Savings banking customers at this time.

Customers of the online-only bank can continue to access their accounts online. They can also call customer service at 1-800-446-6307 — just beware that wait times may be longer than usual.

Ally Bank

Online-only Ally Bank currently has an expansive COVID-19 relief plan, especially in comparison to other banks. The bank has outlined measures to help customers, employees and communities.

Until July 16, 2020, Ally Bank deposits customers can benefit from waived overdraft fees; free expedited checks and debit cards; and waived excessive transaction fees on your savings or money market accounts.

Transfers and online payments remain uninterrupted. Plus, Ally Bank has made it faster to deposit checks of $50,000 or less online with Ally eCheck deposit. You can still use mobile deposit via the Ally Mobile app.

Bank of America

Bank of America’s COVID-19 response so far is encouraging its customers to turn to mobile and online banking first, both of which allow you to check your account statuses, pay bills and deposit checks.

However, Bank of America financial centers remain open. The bank’s locations are open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time, while Saturdays maintain regular hours, which vary from branch to branch. Branches that remain open undergo “enhanced, daily cleanings” and “other measures to limit the risk of exposure, based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

As for relief in light of the coronavirus outbreak, Bank of America urges any customers who are facing financial hardship to contact a representative who will “work with you to create a solution tailored to your particular situation” or use its virtual assistant, Erica, to get answers to any questions. For banking customers, relief solutions can include waiving certain fees, such as overdraft fees.

Capital One

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Capital One is waiving its out-of-network ATM fee. It won’t reimburse you for a third-party surcharge, though.

If you are facing financial difficulties, you can contact Capital One and a representative can help to find a solution for you. Note that customer service wait times are likely longer than usual right now.

Capital One has temporarily closed select branches that do not have drive-thru tellers or protective glass at teller counters. Branches that do have those features will remain open via those outlets and are being disinfected per CDC guidelines. Tellers may still assist customers in the lobby in special circumstances. Capital One ATMs remain open 24/7. Capital One also strongly encourages its customers to use the Capital One mobile app or online banking to make payments, check balances and deposit checks.

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab has no specific measures in place to provide relief aid to its banking customers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Schwab branches are temporarily closed as of March 20 and will remain so until local, state and federal government recommendations indicate it is safe to reopen. Still, you can contact a branch directly by phone to reach a representative. Schwab also encourages customers to go digital by completing tasks online or via its mobile app, which includes check-depositing capabilities.

Chase

In light of the pandemic, Chase Bank customers are encouraged to use the Chase Mobile app and online banking to complete their account-related tasks. Chase asks that those who need help because of COVID-19 reach out to a representative, though you may experience wait times that are longer than usual.

Several Chase branches are temporarily closed, while other branches’ hours and services have been adjusted. You can check the status of your branch on the Chase Mobile app or online. Chase branches and ATMs are being cleaned with EPA-approved disinfectants.

On a wider scale, JPMorgan Chase has pledged $50 million to nonprofit organizations to help support “healthcare, food and other humanitarian relief” efforts globally; community partners; and small businesses in the U.S., China and Europe.

Citibank

For at least 30 days starting March 9, Citibank will waive monthly service fees and penalties for early withdrawals from CDs. Citibank also asks that those affected by COVID-19 contact the bank for assistance, although wait times may be longer than usual. If you already work with a personal banker or financial advisor through Citibank, you can contact them directly during their regular business hours.

Select Citibank branches are closed and those that are open are undergoing “daily cleaning procedures … on high-touch surfaces,” providing hand sanitizer and practicing CDC recommendations like social distancing. You can also access your accounts and funds via the Citi Mobile app, the Citibank website and Citi ATMs on a 24/7 basis.

Discover

Discover has “support in place for qualified Discover customers who experience hardship” due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although it is unclear what qualifies customers to receive this support, a Discover representative adds that “Discover customers may receive assistance related to payments, fees and interest.”

Discover Online Banking customers can call 1-800-347-7000 (TTY/TDD 1-800-347-7454) any time to reach a Discover representative for assistance. You also can continue to access your accounts online or via the Discover mobile app.

Goldman Sachs Bank USA

Customers of Marcus by Goldman Sachs can make penalty-free withdrawals from regular CDs at this time, as a direct response to COVID-19. You can do so by calling 1-855-730-7283. Marcus contact centers are operating virtually, with temporary hours of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.

You can still access your Marcus accounts online. Apple device users can also benefit from the Marcus mobile app.

PNC Bank

PNC Bank customers who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 should call 1-888-762-2265, which is available 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.

If you are eligible for assistance, a PNC representative will discuss your options with you, which include waiving or refunding fees on deposit accounts (and other products). Qualified customers can also take out an emergency hardship loan “at a low rate.” PNC did not make it clear how it determines eligibility for assistance, but it stressed that customers should call for help.

As of March 20, select PNC branches are closed. Others remain open with limited hours and access, with some are operating via drive-up window only. You can use PNC’s branch locator to check the status of a branch and to find a branch that offers essential appointments, made available for safe deposit box access, loan closings or other banking services that you cannot make otherwise. PNC is also still widely accessible via online, mobile and voice banking.

TD Bank

TD Bank encourages customers affected by COVID-19 to call 1-888-751-9000 to see how the bank can support you as it says it “may be able to provide some financial relief.” Of course, wait times are uncharacteristically long at this time.

Assistance options offered by TD Bank will depend on your situation and request but may include fee refunds, early, penalty-free access to CDs and payment extensions. The bank’s customer assistance offers continue to evolve as well, according to a bank representative.

Select TD Bank branches are temporarily closed, while others remain open at either full-service or drive-thru only status. Branches that are open also have reduced hours, including closure on Sundays. TD Bank is also reserving the first hour of full-service branches and customer appointment bookings for seniors and those most at risk for the virus. You can check the status of branches by state on TD Bank’s COVID-19 updates page.

TD Bank ATMs are still accessible, as is its website and banking app.

Truist (formerly BB&T and SunTrust)

Truist, the result of a recent merger between BB&T and SunTrust, is offering its deposits customers temporarily-waived ATM surcharge fees.

For further assistance, Truist encourages heritage BB&T clients to call 1-800-226-5228 and heritage SunTrust clients to call 1-877-820-2103. Watch out for long wait times, however, which customers have reported on social media.

Local BB&T and SunTrust branch hours and services are temporarily moving to drive-thru teller services only, appointment-only in-person visits and select branch closures. Customers still have 24/7 access to ATMs as well as online, mobile and telephone banking.

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank maintains that it is “actively looking for ways to help customers” who have been impacted. Deposits customers who have been financially affected by COVID-19 should call the bank at 1-888-287-7817.

U.S. Bank branch operations are temporarily reduced, and the bank encourages customers to use drive-up windows instead of going inside a branch. You can check your local branch’s hours and status online. Otherwise, you can still access your U.S. Bank accounts on the bank’s mobile app, by phone or on its website.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo has said it will offer fee waivers for customers who contact the company. On a larger scale, the Wells Fargo Foundation has pledged up to $6.25 million in donations “to support domestic and global response to the COVID-19 and to aid public health relief efforts.” This includes funding “at the local level,” as well as for the national CDC and the International Medical Corps.

Select Wells Fargo locations are temporarily closed, while the branches that remain open have temporarily reduced hours. You can check the status of a Wells Fargo branch here. If you need a service that can only be completed in a branch, you can make an appointment. Wells Fargo call centers still remain open, though they are experiencing higher-than-normal call volume and longer wait times.

You can also access your accounts online and on the Wells Fargo Mobile app, where you can deposit checks, move money and more. Wells Fargo also reminds customers that they can use contactless cards or digital wallets for payments.

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.

Advertiser Disclosure

Banking

How Much Will My Stimulus Check Be? Calculate Your Payment

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

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to batter the economy — prompting the stock market to plummet and unemployment claims to spike — the U.S. federal government is throwing taxpayers a life raft, in the form of stimulus checks.

Congress has passed a $2 trillion relief bill that aims to provide emergency assistance to individuals, families and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including one-time payments made to individuals. The amount of money you can expect to see from Uncle Sam, though, is based on a number of factors, ranging from how much money you make to how many children you have.

Who qualifies for a stimulus check?

Under the relief bill — dubbed the CARES Act — most adults who have a valid Social Security number will be able to qualify for a stimulus check, with the size of that check based on your 2019 or 2018 tax return.

You also qualify for a stimulus check if you receive Social Security benefits for disability, retirement or Supplemental Security Income, according to the AARP. Social Security recipients will not need to file 2019 taxes to receive their check as previously stated — instead, information will be based on 1099 forms.

In order to qualify, you need to meet the following requirements:

You must fall below income thresholds: The bulk of those who do not qualify for a stimulus check will likely be high-earners: Under the CARES Act, if you’re an individual with no children who earns over $99,000 or are a married couple that filed jointly and are making more than $198,000, you are not eligible to receive a stimulus check.

You cannot be claimed as a dependent of someone else: Additionally, in order to receive a stimulus check, you cannot be claimed as a dependent of someone else. That’s noteworthy, and may mean that millions of dependents who are not children under the age of 17 could end up missing out on relief checks. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, filers only receive an additional $500 for each child under 17, which could be problematic for people who support dependents like the elderly, adults with disabilities and college students.

You must have a valid Social Security number: To receive a rebate check, each member of the household (including children) is also required to have a valid Social Security number. Per the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, this may mean that households of certain immigrant families with children who are U.S. citizens could still be denied a stimulus check.

How much are the stimulus checks?

The amount of your stimulus check is based off of your adjusted gross income, as well as how many children under the age of 17 you have. Here’s how the one-time, non-taxable payments break down:

  • Up to $1,200 per adult
  • Up to $2,400 for couples filing joint returns
  • $500 per child under the age of 17

However, the checks start to decrease by $5 for every additional $100 of income beyond the following income thresholds:

  • $75,000 for individuals
  • $112,500 for head of households (typically single parents)
  • $150,000 for couples who filed a joint return

Certain individuals with higher adjustable gross incomes aren’t eligible to receive a stimulus check at all. The checks completely phase out at the following income thresholds:

  • $99,000 for individuals with no children
  • $198,000 for married couples with no children

How does the government determine how much I get?

The government will determine the size of your cash payment based on the adjusted gross income (or your total gross income minus certain deductions, such as 401(k) contributions) and information reported on your 2019 tax return. For those who have not filed a 2019 tax return, tax returns from 2018 may be used instead to determine your check amount.

If you don’t typically file taxes and have no income — and instead rely on Social Security benefits — you are still eligible to receive a stimulus check. Instead of using information from your 2018 or 2019 taxes, the IRS will use information from Social Security beneficiaries’ 1099 documents.

“Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

When will I get my stimulus check?

According to the CARES Act, the cash payments should be made as “rapidly as possible.” On March 30, the IRS announced that the distribution of the payments will begin within the next three weeks.

It’s also worth noting that if you have signed up for direct deposit with the IRS and have chosen to have your tax refunds deposited electronically — as opposed to receiving your tax refunds by mail as a paper check — you will likely receive your stimulus check faster, too.

Still, experts have been critical of that timeline, and have instead said the payment process could take months, not weeks. In 2009, for example, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) took three months to send out checks to households as a cushion during the Great Recession.

How will I receive my stimulus check?

You can expect your stimulus check from the IRS to be either directly deposited into your bank account or mailed to you, based on the method in which you requested to receive your tax refund. However, the IRS also announced that in the coming weeks, the Treasury Department plans to open a web-based portal in which people can share their banking information with the IRS, enabling them to receive their payments via direct deposit as opposed to waiting for a check in the mail.

If you have filed your 2019 or 2018 taxes, there is no action needed from you, and the IRS will issue your payment automatically. In fact, the IRS is actually asking consumers not to contact them about the stimulus checks, stating it will make details available on its website.

Determine how much you will get from your stimulus check

To find out how much you can expect to receive from your stimulus check, reference the table below.

What you should do with your stimulus check

As many Americans face furlough or unemployment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a recent survey by MagnifyMoney found that most people intend to use their stimulus checks on necessities, like paying bills and buying groceries.

Many experts recommend keeping the money you receive from your rebate liquid, like in an emergency savings account, which should have enough funds to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

For more information on the rest of the stimulus package, refer to our hub page.

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.