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Banking

The Best Prepaid Debit Cards

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.

Prepaid debit cards are flexible tools that can help you manage your financial life. If you don’t have a bank account but need to pay with a card, a prepaid debit card does the trick. Tend to overdraft your checking accounts? A prepaid debit card can help you avoid nasty overdraft fees.

The best part of prepaid debit cards is that you can use them anywhere the card issuer is accepted, whether that’s Visa, Discover, Mastercard or American Express. But which to choose? There are hundreds of options, many of which charge fees — there can be several — and have balance limits.

To help you avoid fees and select the best prepaid debit card for your needs, we weighed a range of key factors and found the top options for a range of different users. We identified the best prepaid cards for low fees, which can be especially helpful if you’re already tight on money. We also found prepaid debit cards with the lowest ATM withdrawal fees to ensure you can access your cash. It’s also important to be able to fund your prepaid card without it costing an arm and a leg, so we list the best prepaid cards for cash reloads and direct deposits. Finally, we looked at the best rewards prepaid debit cards.

The best low-fee prepaid debit cards

Prepaid debit cards are great options if you don’t qualify for traditional banking products, whether because of traditional banking fees or bad credit. Either way, we’ve found the best prepaid cards without monthly fees so that you can take advantage of their benefits. We ranked the following cards by looking for the lowest monthly and activation fees.

Bluebird by American Express — $0 monthly fee, $0 activation fee

Bluebird by American ExpressBluebird by American Express is our top low-fee pick thanks to its lack of monthly, annual and activation fees. The card is free to purchase online, but it costs $5 if you buy a Bluebird Account Set Up Kit at a Walmart store.

The Bluebird card is also a low-fee favorite for its free reloading options through direct deposit, debit cards and cash deposits at Walmart. If you want to deposit cash at another participating retail location, it can cost up to $3.95 per deposit. You can withdraw money for free from any MoneyPass ATM. All out-of-network ATM withdrawals will incur an American Express fee of $2.50, in addition to a possible surcharge from the ATM owner. It doesn’t charge fees for replacement cards, foreign exchange withdrawals or account inactivity.

You can use the Bluebird by American Express card anywhere American Express is accepted. Just keep in mind that American Express isn’t accepted by merchants everywhere. Bluebird Checks are also available ($19.95 per checkbook, plus taxes and shipping) to make purchases. You must have each check pre-authorized to prevent you from writing a check for more than you have in your Bluebird account.

Your Bluebird funds are Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-insured through American Express National Bank.

Navy Federal Credit Union GO Prepaid Card — $0 monthly fee, $0 activation fee

Navy Federal Credit Union GO Prepaid Card With a promise of no hidden fees, the Navy Federal Credit Union GO Prepaid Card doesn’t charge you for opening and activating the card, or for making purchases. When you open a card, you must fund it with at least $20 initially with a Navy Federal debit card or credit card. Other payment forms are not accepted when first funding the account. You can use Navy Federal ATMs without facing a fee, but using out-of-network ATMs both domestically and internationally will incur a $1 charge from Navy Federal. Transactions made in foreign countries in U.S. dollars or foreign currency, both for purchases and at ATMs, will trigger a Visa International Service Assessment Fee of 1.0% of the transaction amount.

Navy Federal membership includes active-duty military members, veterans, retirees, select Department of Defense employees and immediate family members of eligible service members. You must be a member of the credit union who is 18 or older and listed as primary owner on a Navy Federal savings account to open a GO Prepaid Card.

MyVanilla Prepaid Card — $0 monthly fee, up to $3.95 activation fee

MyVanilla Prepaid Card You don’t have to worry about a monthly fee with a MyVanilla Prepaid Card. The card allows free direct deposit, bank transfers and MyVanilla card-to-card online transfers to fund your account. Adding funds through a Vanilla Reload network retailer can cost up to $3.95, depending on the merchant.

Using a MyVanilla Prepaid Card to withdraw cash isn’t always fee-free. Although the card’s website indicates surcharge-free MoneyPass ATM access, using any domestic ATM, including MoneyPass machines, will cost $1.95, according to customer service. International ATM withdrawals cost $4.95. To avoid setting your savings back, you’ll want to stick to using a MyVanilla card simply to make purchases.

MyVanilla Prepaid reloadable cards can be opened either as a Visa or Mastercard. There are only slight differences in retailers that accept one versus the other, so you can choose based on preference. You can open a MyVanilla Card online or at participating retailers, such as Family Dollar, Walmart and Walgreens. After purchasing the card at a store, you need to register it online to start using it.

Whether Visa or Mastercard, all MyVanilla Prepaid Cards are FDIC-insured through The Bancorp Bank.

The best prepaid debit cards for ATM withdrawals

While prepaid debit cards come with the convenience of debit and credit cards, it can still help to have cash on hand sometimes. To find the best prepaid debit cards for ATM withdrawals, we looked for those with the lowest fees for both in-network and out-of-network ATMs, while taking widespread ATM access into consideration.

Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union Visa® Reloadable Prepaid Card — $0 in-network and out-of-network ATM fees

Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union Visa® Reloadable Prepaid Card As you might expect, banks don’t often allow you to make ATM withdrawals at other banks for free. Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union does things a little differently with its Visa® Reloadable Prepaid Card: There are no fees for using both in-network and out-of-network ATMs. Also, there are no fees for account maintenance, purchases, cash deposits or inactivity.

The card costs $4.95, whether at an Affinity Plus branch or online. You can load any amount between $20 and $5,000.

Headquartered in St. Paul. Minn., Affinity Plus FCU serves the Minnesota community, with branches throughout the state. To become an Affinity Plus FCU member, you must work or volunteer at select organizations, attend or have graduated from select schools or live, work or worship in select Minnesota cities. You may also be eligible through relatives or roommates with which you live. You can also join by making a one-time $25 dues payment to the Affinity Plus Foundation.

Navy Federal Credit Union GO Prepaid Card — $0 in-network ATM fee, $1 out-of-network ATM fee

Navy Federal Credit Union GO Prepaid Card Already one of our best low-fee prepaid debit cards, the Navy Federal Credit Union GO Prepaid Card also offers one of the best out-of-network ATM fee deals — $1. Just keep in mind that the ATM owner may charge additional fees. The card also has no fees for monthly maintenance, card activation, ownership and purchases.

You’ll have to be a member of Navy Federal Credit Union who is at least 18 years old with a Social Security number and primary ownership of a Navy Federal savings account to be able to open a GO Prepaid Card. Membership is open — but not limited — to active-duty members of the military, veterans, select Department of Defense employees and immediate family members of eligible service members.

UFCU ABILITY Card — $0 in-network ATM fee, $1 out-of-network ATM fee

UFCU ABILITY CardUniversity Federal Credit Union offers ABILITY Card holders access to over 300 UFCU Alliance ATMs. But if you find yourself using an out-of-network ATM, UFCU will charge only a $1 fee for each transaction. Still, while that’s the lowest fee you’ll find, try to stick to using in-network ATMs, especially since non-UFCU ATM owners may also charge fees. Avoiding an out-of-network ATM fee pileup can be helpful since there is already a $5 monthly fee to keep the card.

To open an ABILITY Card, you’ll need at least $25, although there’s no opening fee for UFCU members. There are no fees for reloading, but you’re limited to $1,000 in withdrawals and $2,000 in purchases per day.

You’ll need to be a member of the credit union to open an ABILITY Card. You can join UFCU if you’re employed by a company, enrolled in a school or belong to an association in the credit union’s field of membership. You can also join if an immediate family member is a member or if you join the University of Texas Longhorn Foundation.

UFCU has locations and ATMs across central Texas and Galveston County, and offers members access to hundreds of National Shared Branch Network locations as well.

The best prepaid debit cards for cash deposits

You shouldn’t have to pay to keep your cash safe in an account, but many prepaid cards charge a fee when you reload the card with cash. The best prepaid cards for cash deposits are those that not only offer the service for free, but also offer the ease and convenience of being able to reload at thousands of locations.

American Express Serve® Free Reloads Card — $0 cash deposits at select locations

American Express Serve® Free Reloads Card The American Express Serve® Free Reloads Card provides access to the largest network of locations to make free cash reloads on your card. It has over 45,000 locations, including retailers like CVS, Family Dollar, Rite Aid and Walmart. Direct deposits and bank transfers are also fee-free. The card also includes Early Direct Deposit, which allows you to get your paychecks deposited on the card up to two days early.

The card costs $0 to open online, but up to $3.95 at retail locations. There is a $6.95 monthly fee unless you are a Texas, New York or Vermont customer. Also be mindful when using ATMs, as you can get charged $0.75 each time you enter an invalid PIN, exceed your ATM withdrawal limits or you have insufficient funds.

Bluebird by American Express — $0 cash deposits at Walmart

Bluebird by American Express In addition to being our top low-fee prepaid debit card, the Bluebird by American Express card is also great for cash deposits. You can add cash to your Bluebird by American Express card for free at virtually any Walmart checkout register. Having a personalized card allows you to add between $1 and $1,999. You can also add cash at other participating locations, including CVS, Walgreens and 7-Eleven, although these merchants will charge a fee up to $3.95. Other free reload options are direct deposit and from a debit card. Master Account holders can also deposit money for free with 10-day Mobile Check Capture by Ingo Money.

You can open a Bluebird account for $5 at a Walmart store, online or on the Bluebird Mobile App through the App Store or Google Play. There is no Bluebird monthly, annual or activation fee. You can use your card to make purchases anywhere American Express is accepted. To withdraw cash from the card, you can do so for free at any MoneyPass ATM or for a fee at out-of-network ATMs or through Cash Pickup Powered by Ria.

The best prepaid debit cards for direct deposits

Debit card issuers often hold paycheck funds for a few days after an employer notifies them of a direct deposit. These best prepaid debit cards for direct deposits can bypass that waiting period and get you your paycheck up to two days earlier, without charging an extra fee for this handy service.

RushCard Prepaid Visa — $0 early direct deposits

RushCard Prepaid Visa Our first pick is the RushCard Prepaid Visa, which allows free and early direct deposits. RushCard puts direct deposit funds — including employer paychecks, government benefits and tax refunds — in your account as soon as they are notified of the deposit.

You can deposit cash without a RushCard fee at thousands of retail locations, including CVS, or through services like MoneyPak. While RushCard won’t charge you for these cash deposits, there may still be a third-party fee. There may also be fees for check deposits and cashing checks.

You can open a RushCard Prepaid Visa on one of two different plans. The Unlimited Plan allows for unlimited purchases and costs either $5.95 a month with direct deposit or $7.95 a month without direct deposit. But if you feel like you won’t use the card all that much, the Pay As You Go Plan might be a better option. There is no monthly fee; instead, you pay $1 per purchase. While it advertises no activation fee, there is a $3.95 or $9.95 fee when you first fund your card or change the design (the exact fee depends on the card design you choose).

The RushCard Prepaid Visa is issued by MetaBank, which is insured by the FDIC.

Green Dot Prepaid Card — $0 early direct deposits

Green Dot Prepaid Card Making direct deposits on your Green Dot Prepaid Card is the best way to load this card. Not only are they free, but you can get access to your paychecks up to two days earlier than usual, like with the RushCard. Cash reloads, on the other hand, can cost up to $5.95 in third-party fees.

The Green Dot Prepaid Card does charge a $7.95 monthly service fee. However, loading at least $1,000 on the card in a month will waive the service fee for the following month. Setting up direct deposits can be extra beneficial here since direct deposits, unlike cash reloads, are free.

You can buy and open a Green Dot Prepaid Card for up to $1.95 only at participating stores, either as a Mastercard or Visa.

Netspend Prepaid Card — $0 early direct deposits

Netspend Prepaid Card The Netspend Prepaid Card is another great option if you’re looking to get your paychecks direct deposited early. You can get paid up to two days faster when you set up free card reloads through direct deposit. Cash deposits cost $3.95 for each reload.

The Netspend Prepaid Card is available in three different plans. The Pay-As-You-Go-Plan charges a fee per transaction instead of a monthly fee, making this choice best for occasional use only. If you’ll need the card more often, consider the Monthly Plan, which charges a flat monthly fee, which can vary depending on the issuer. You can also upgrade to Netspend Premier, which cuts your monthly fee in half by enrolling in direct deposit and having at least $500 direct deposited into your account each month.

The card is issued by either Axos Bank, The Bancorp Bank, MetaBank or Republic Bank & Trust Co.; you can check the issuing bank on the back of your card.

The best rewards prepaid debit cards

Having a prepaid debit card doesn’t mean you don’t deserve rewards. The following cards offer the best rewards programs you’ll find among prepaid debit cards.

American Express Serve Cash Back — 1% cash back on purchases

American Express Serve Cash Back — 1% cash back on purchases The American Express Serve Cash Back prepaid card earns unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases rounded to the nearest dollar. Plus, the cashback rewards are added directly to your account after each purchase, so you don’t have to wait for the end of the month for rewards.

Your rewards can help offset the card’s $7.95 monthly fee (unless you live in Texas, New York or Vermont, where there is no fee). There is also an opening fee of up to $3.95 if you don’t open the card online and a cash reload fee of up to $3.95. There are no fees for direct deposit, bank account transfers, MoneyPass ATM withdrawals or sending/receiving money.

Netspend Prepaid Card — cashback rewards

Netspend Prepaid Card Already a great option for direct deposits, the Netspend Prepaid Card is also a solid rewards prepaid card. Through Netspend Payback Rewards, you can earn cash back on your purchases, with rewards customized according to your spending habits. You activate reward offers online in your Netspend account, then use your card at selected retailers to redeem the rewards.

In addition to direct deposit, you can fund the NetSpend Prepaid Card for free via account transfers between other Netspend accounts. Reloading with cash or Mobile Check Load on the app, however, will result in a fee. Accessing cash through an ATM will also cost $2.50.

The Netspend Prepaid Card charges a monthly fee on its Monthly Plan and Netspend Premier cards. The Pay-As-You-Go Plan allows you to do just that: pay per transaction, which should be occasional so as not to lose money to fees. Regardless of your plan, be careful of the $5.95 inactivity fee that is charged per month after 90 days without transactions. The card is issued by either Axos Bank, The Bancorp Bank, MetaBank or Republic Bank & Trust Co., which you can check on the back of your card.

Walmart MoneyCard by Green Dot — 3% cash back

Walmart MoneyCard by Green Dot The Walmart MoneyCard by Green Dot works best for loyal Walmart customers. You can earn 3% cash back at Walmart.com, 2% cash back at Murphy USA and Walmart fuel stations, and 1% cash back at Walmart stores. In total, you can earn up to $75 cash back each year. While you’re spending at Walmart, you can also get cash for free at participating Walmart MoneyCenters and customer service desks.

It costs $1 to open a Walmart MoneyCard at a participating Walmart store. There is also a $5 monthly fee unless you load $1,000 or more on the card each month. You can reload your card for free with direct deposit, Walmart check cashing and online bank transfers. You can even receive your direct deposits up to two days earlier, too, with ASAP Direct Deposit™. Reloading the card with cash, however, can cost up to $5.95, depending on the retailer.

What is a prepaid debit card?

If you’re not familiar at this point, a prepaid debit card works much like it sounds. You load money on the card, whether with cash, a check or direct deposit. Unlike a regular debit card, prepaid debit cards aren’t linked to a checking account. And although prepaid debit cards are offered by the main issuers of credit cards, prepaid debit cards aren’t like credit cards at all, where you borrow money and pay it back later. With a prepaid card, you’re spending the money in real time. Plus, you cannot spend more than you have on the card, preventing messy overdrafts and fees.

Why should you use a prepaid debit card?

  • You don’t have access to a bank account: According to the FDIC, about 8.4 million U.S. households were unbanked in 2017, meaning they did not have an account at an insured financial institution. Although many banks offer prepaid debit cards, you don’t have to have a checking or savings account to have a prepaid debit card. Prepaid debit cards allow you to deposit the cash or checks you do have and use the card to make purchases or pay your bills. This comes in handy for online payments or when stores have gone cashless.
  • Prepaid debit cards don’t require good credit: If you have bad marks on your credit history, it can be difficult qualifying for a credit card or opening a bank account. Prepaid debit cards come with little risk to the issuer, so they typically won’t check your credit report. That makes it a payment option even for folks who have bad credit. If that applies to you, use the prepaid debit card as a tool to improve your spending habits. The card may not boost your credit score, but you should still be responsible when using the card.
  • Prepaid debit cards can be cheaper than alternative money services: Without a debit or credit card or checks, there aren’t many ways to send money securely. Money orders are one option, although they come with their own set of fees that can pile up. Sending and receiving remittances, and even check cashing come with their own sets of fees charged per transaction. Prepaid cards serve the middle ground, offering convenient payment and low fees. You can find the best prepaid cards for low fees and ATM withdrawals above.
  • You want to lessen the risk of online payments: While technology has made our lives a lot easier to send and spend money, it has also made money easier to steal. One wrong click, and fraudsters could have your bank account numbers in no time. Using your prepaid debit card limits exposure to your bank account. Even if the prepaid card number is stolen, the thief can use only what’s on the card at that time rather than all your savings.

Are prepaid debit cards safe?

Generally, if you obtain a prepaid debit card, your money will be FDIC-insured through the issuing or partner bank. Additionally, thanks to a new rule from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), there are more protections in place for prepaid debit cardholders. Through this rule, you can monitor your accounts online more easily and protect your money if a card is lost, stolen or incorrectly charged. The CFPB will also ensure you’re provided with honest and upfront information about card policies and fees so you can really find the best fit.

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.

Lauren Perez
Lauren Perez |

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

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Banking

U.S. Bank vs. Chase: Which is Better?

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.

Choosing the right bank for you means balancing different wants and needs. Folks who are intent on earning the highest interest rates possible might want to look toward online banks or credit unions, which tend to offer higher rates. On the other hand, big national banks like U.S. Bank and Chase offer more extensive services and a face-to-face banking experience.

When it comes to U.S. Bank vs. Chase, there’s no one right answer. However, by examining the most important factors — reputation, location, rates, account options and fees — we can help you decide whether U.S. Bank or Chase Bank will help you make the most of your money.

U.S. Bank vs. Chase: A brief overview

U.S. Bank and Chase are both large national banks with longstanding reputations; according to the Federal Reserve, Chase is the largest bank in the country, and U.S. Bank is the fifth largest.

In terms of accessibility, Chase has nearly twice as many branch locations as U.S. Bank and almost four times as many ATM locations. Both banks have middle-of-the-line customer reviews: U.S. Bank is ranked two-and-a-half stars out of five on DepositAccounts, another LendingTree subsidiary, while Chase has three stars out of five.

Finally, when it comes to comparing U.S. Bank vs. Chase rates and fees, the two banks are similar, though U.S. Bank tends to charge slightly lower fees.

U.S. Bank vs. Chase: How they compare on rates

Neither U.S. Bank nor Chase presents a clear advantage when it comes to rates. They have the same rates on their basic savings account, and their CD rates fluctuate, with the better deal depending on which CD product you’re after.

When compared to rates offered by online banks, both U.S. Bank and Chase fall far behind in this category.

 U.S. BankChaseNational Average***
Checking*NoneNone0.198% APY
Savings**0.01% APY0.01% APY0.281% APY
1-year CD0.10% APY0.02% APY on balances of $0.01 to $99,999.99

0.05% APY on balances of $100,000 or higher
1.324% APY
5-year CD0.75% APY1.40% APY on balances of $0.01 to $9,999.99

1.50% APY on balances of $10,000 to $99,999.99

1.55% APY on balances of $100,000 or higher
2.078% APY
*U.S. Bank Easy Checking Account and Chase Total Checking Account
**U.S. Bank Standard Savings Account and Chase Savings Account
***National bank averages are accurate as of the publish date of this article

U.S. Bank vs. Chase: What account options are available?

You’ll find most of the same account options at both U.S. Bank and Chase. Both banks offer non-interest bearing checking accounts and basic savings accounts, as well as a range of other checking and savings options, including premium accounts that earn higher rates and student accounts. U.S. Bank offers five different checking account options to choose from, while Chase has three choices.

You’ll also find a range of CD options at both banks, starting at 1-month CDs and including several CD specials with higher rates. However, U.S. Bank only offers up to 60-month CDs while Chase offers up to 120-month CDs. As of the date of publishing, Chase does have a $1,000 minimum opening deposit requirement on CDs, whereas U.S. Bank only requires $500.

The one major difference in product offerings is money market accounts, which are an option at U.S. Bank but not at Chase.

 U.S. BankChase

Checking account

Savings account

Certificates of deposit

Money market account

U.S. Bank vs. Chase: How they stack up on fees

The most important factor to consider when choosing a checking or savings account, according to Ken Tumin, founder of LendingTree-owed company DepositAccounts.com, is fees, and how easy it is to avoid them. He advised considering not only your present situation, but the future as well. “Sometimes you can afford a fee waiver with a direct deposit, but what if you lose your job?” he said.

Both U.S. Bank and Chase charge monthly service fees on their standard checking and savings accounts that can be waived. While U.S. Bank’s fees are slightly lower than Chase’s, you might have an easier time getting the monthly fees waived on Chase’s accounts (more on that below).

Another fee that Tumin recommends paying attention to is ATM fees. While both banks charge the same fee for out-of-network ATMs within the U.S., Chase charges more for ATM usage outside of the U.S. However, Tumin explains that it’s important to consider how big your bank’s ATM network is, because in-network ATMs are free. Chase has a much larger ATM network than U.S. Bank.

 U.S. BankChase
Standard checking account$6.95 monthly fee, waivable$12 monthly fee, waivable
Standard savings account$4 monthly fee, waivable$5 monthly fee, waivable
ATM fee$0 at U.S. Bank ATMs, $2.50 at non-U.S. Bank ATMs$0 at Chase Bank ATMs

$2.50 for inquiries, transfers, and withdrawals at non-Chase Bank ATMs within the U.S.

$5 for withdrawals and $2.50 for transfers and inquiries outside of the U.S.
Overdraft fee*$36 for each item of $5.01 or more

$0 for items of $5.00 or less
$34 for each item, not charged if item is $5 or less or if your balance at the end of the business day is overdrawn by $5 or less
*Rates apply to U.S. Bank Easy Checking and Chase Total Checking

Requirements for waiving basic checking account fees at both banks

To get the basic checking account fees waived at either bank, you must have either a certain amount of money direct deposited into your account each month or maintain a minimum balance. U.S. Bank also waives checking account monthly fees if you’re 65 years of age or older. The table below explains the exact requirements.

U.S. Bank checking account fee waiverChase checking account fee waiver
  • Receive monthly direct deposits totaling at least $1,000, OR

  • Keep an average daily balance of at least $1,500, OR

  • Be at least 65 years of age


  • Receive monthly direct deposits totaling at least $500, OR

  • Keep an average daily balance of at least $1,500, OR

  • Keep an average daily balance of at least $5,000 across your checking and other linked Chase accounts, such as deposit or investment accounts


Requirements for waiving basic savings account fees at both banks

It’s also possible to have the monthly service fees on each bank’s basic savings account waived by maintaining a minimum balance. Account holders under age 18 have their monthly fees waived automatically at both banks. Each bank also offers a third option for getting your fee waived.

U.S. Bank savings account fee waiverChase savings account fee waiver
  • Keep a $300 minimum daily balance, OR

  • Keep a $1,000 minimum monthly balance, OR

  • Be under 18 years of age


  • Keep a $300 minimum daily balance, OR

  • Set up at least $25 in monthly autosave or repeating automatic transfers into your savings account from your Chase checking account, OR

  • Have a linked Chase College Checking, Chase Better Banking Checking, Chase Premier Checking, Chase Premier Plus Checking, Chase Sapphire Checking, or Chase Private Client Checking account, OR

  • Be under 18 years of age


When to choose U.S. Bank

  • You’re not sure if you can consistently meet direct deposit or daily balance requirements.
  • You use international ATMs.
  • You’re 65 years of age or older.
  • You want to open a CD with less than $1,000.
  • You want a money market account.

If you’re not sure that you can meet any monthly direct deposit or daily balance requirements consistently — for example, if you have an unstable income or move money around frequently — you’ll probably end up paying monthly maintenance fees at least occasionally, regardless of which bank you choose. In this case, it’s best to go with U.S. Bank, as its monthly fees are slightly lower. This includes ATM fees for international travelers because, while both banks charge the same fee domestically, Chase will charge a higher ATM fee while you’re abroad.

Older customers might also want to go with U.S. Bank because fees are waived if you’re 65 or older.

When to choose Chase

  • You can consistently meet requirements to waive the monthly fee.
  • You want a bigger ATM network.
  • You travel often and need to access branch locations.
  • You already have investment or deposit accounts with Chase.
  • You’re looking for a 120-month CD.

If you think you can consistently meet requirements to waive monthly account fees, Chase would be a better option; its requirements are generally a bit easier to meet on both checking and savings accounts. If you already have deposit or investment accounts with Chase, your balance across all accounts can help you get monthly fees waived as well.

While Chase does charge more for international ATM usage, it also has far more branch locations and free in-network ATMs, so that’s worth considering. Frequent travelers who prefer having access to branch locations might want to consider this as well, as Chase’s footprint is almost twice the size of U.S. Bank’s, and the bank has a larger international presence.

U.S. Bank vs. Chase: Which is better?

Chase’s advantage is its large national and international footprint and, according to customer reviews, its slightly better customer service. However, U.S. Bank is still one of the country’s biggest banks, and it offers slightly lower fees on basic accounts.

Neither U.S. Bank or Chase come out on top in all categories. Assess your personal situation and determine which bank account will result in lower fees and higher rates. As with many financial decisions, the answer depends on your needs.

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.

Elizabeth Aldrich
Elizabeth Aldrich |

Elizabeth Aldrich is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Elizabeth here

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Banking

How to Start Saving Money

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.

Faced with an unexpected expense, like a car repair or leaky roof, many Americans might not have enough money in the bank to cover the bill. Just over half of U.S. households currently have a savings account, and 29% of households have less than $1,000 saved, according to a MagnifyMoney survey.

Whether putting money away for a rainy day or retirement, good savings habits can prepare you for emergencies and life changes. There are countless ways to build up your savings, from finding ways to cut back on spending to looking for areas where you might be overpaying. The time and discipline you invest implementing them will pay off — quite literally.

How can I start saving money?

If you’re just starting out on the path of building your savings, small changes can add up over time. A review of your budget should uncover items that can deliver larger, immediate gains. Here are more than two dozen money-saving strategies you can adopt for the short-term and the long-term.

Tips for saving money today

1. Set an intention
According to Sergio G. Garcia, associate planner for Quest Capital Management in Dallas, Texas, “saving money is tied to behavior and psychology, so it is important to find a personal focus to drive the savings behavior that works best for you.” Write down the reasons you want to save money, such as buying a house or retiring early, and put it in a place you’ll see every day.

2. Save your spare change
Collect your spare change at the end of the day and put it into a jar — you’ll be surprised at how quickly it can add up. If you use a debit card, some banks, like Bank of America, offer round-up savings plans, automatically moving the change into your savings account. For example, if you spend $19.50, the program will round-up your purchase to $20 and move $0.50 into your savings account.

3. Get a micro-saving app
Similar to saving spare change, you can also link your bank account to a money-saving app that does the savings for you. For example, Acorns automatically rounds up your purchase and moves the change into an investment account.

4. Cut the excess
To save money, you need to know where you’re currently spending it, suggested Matthew Gaffey, senior wealth manager for Corbett Road Investment Management in McLean, Va.: “List and monitor all of your expenses to get a full picture of how much you’re spending and where.” Money management habits will typically shed some light on a few areas that you could reduce or cut, such as unused magazine subscriptions or gym memberships.

5. Adopt a waiting period
The ease of online shopping can be brutal to your budget. Instead of falling for the impulse to make a purchase on the spot, implement a wait policy, such as 24 or 48 hours. You might realize you can live without that item you’re craving.

6. Don’t fall for a “great deal”
It’s hard to resist the lure of a good bargain. But saving 50%, 75% or even 90% isn’t a good deal if you don’t really need it. Instead of focusing on the discount, consider the amount you’re spending and how much you’ll really use the item.

7. Use a cash-back credit card
Some credit cards offer as much as 5% cash back in certain categories, which can add up. For example, the Chase Freedom® card offers bonus categories each quarter that give 5% cash back on up to $1,500 qualified spending, with unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. If you spend the full $1,500 each quarter in the bonus categories — which can include gas stations or grocery stores — you could earn $300 cash back a year. If you were going to make these purchases anyway, this is a good way to save money.

8. Find rebates
Before making an online purchase, check cash-back sites like Mr. Rebates or Ibotta and see if the store offers a rebate if you click through the site. You could earn a set cash-back amount or a percentage on a purchase.

Ways to start saving money every month

1. Automate monthly savings
Sign up for automatic savings withdrawals. “Direct deposit from a paycheck is great because then it happens automatically and you don’t even have to think about it,” said Amy Shepard, financial planning analyst at Sensible Money in Phoenix. In addition, she advised, “set reminders to increase your savings periodically, such as every six months or every time you get a raise.”

2. Create specific savings goals
Save for big things, like a vacation or kitchen renovation, by using a bank that allows you to set up separate savings accounts for different goals, said Bethany Griffith, senior financial advisor and partner at Abacus Planning Group in Columbia, S.C. “It can be a great way to jump start savings,” Griffith said. “The visual check-in each time you look at your accounts is a powerful driver for changing behavior.”

3. Do a 52-week money challenge
With the 52-week money challenge, you save more every week, and see clearly how savings can add up over the course of a year. Create a weekly savings challenge by saving $1 on the first week, $2 on the second week and continue until you’re saving $52 on the final week of the challenge. In a year you’ll have saved $1,378, not including interest.

4. Create a weekly meal plan
The average American household spends more than $3,400 a year on meals away from home. You’ll be less likely to eat out or order in if you’ve planned your meals for the week. Having a meal plan also helps you create a grocery list to avoid impulse purchases or food that goes uneaten.

5. Review your monthly bills
It’s irritating when your cable or cell phone bill goes up, but that extra $5 or $10 a month can add up to $60 or $120 over the course of a year. Pay attention to your monthly bills. If you see an increase, call and ask why. If you’ve been a customer for a long time, companies will often lower the rate instead of risk losing you.

6. Pay down debt
Americans pay $113 billion in credit card interest each year. If you’re among those that carry a balance, you can get an immediate return on your money by paying it down and eliminating it.

7. Adjust the thermostat
Save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by adjusting your thermostat seven to 10 degrees from its normal setting for eight hours a day. This can be while you’re at work or while you’re sleeping — or both, for even more savings. A programmable thermostat can do the work for you, easily paying for itself.

8. Use a price-drop refund app
Several retailers will give you money back if an item you bought goes on sale, but tracking that can be a chore. Use an app like Earny to do the tracking for you automatically. The app also takes care of the claim — Earny claims it saves the average user $75 each year.

Start saving money over the long term

1. Annualize your spending
A latte or vending machine habit might seem harmless, but when you multiply that daily expenditure by five days a week and 50 weeks a year (assuming you take a two-week vacation), it can add up to a substantial sum — one that might not seem worth it when you annualize your spending. Try this with your regular discretionary spending and see what you could do without.

2. Review your insurance
Make a habit to review your property and auto insurance each year. Jeffrey N. Tomaneng, director of financial planning for Sapers & Wallack in Newton, Mass., recently had an agent audit his policies and made changes to save $2,100 a year in premiums — “within a few days we were off to some much needed household savings,” he said.

3. Sell your stuff
The average American has 42 items in their home they no longer use worth an estimated $723. Sell them! Hold an annual garage sale, or list your items on eBay, Mercari or Facebook Marketplace. Someone else can use and enjoy them and you can pocket the money.

4. Shop around for higher interest rates
Your bank savings account may be conveniently attached to your checking, but if the interest rate is negligible you could be leaving money on the table. Look for higher interest-rate savings accounts that can help you build your balance.

5. Review your withholdings
Each year, review your benefits and withholdings and ensure you’re taking advantage of the benefits your company offers, such as flexible spending accounts or matching retirement. If you get a refund each year after tax season, consider adjusting your exemption amounts and stop giving the government an interest-free loan on your own money.

6. Look for discounts
If you’re a member of a professional or alumni association, you may get discounts on business services, insurance or travel. Make a point to review your benefits each year, and use them to find the best deals.

7. Review your credit card benefits
Before you buy that extended warranty or insurance on your rental car, check and see if the credit card you’re using offers it for free as a benefit of being a cardholder. You can save hundreds of dollars by knowing what you’re already offered.

8. Check your credit report
Each year you should order a copy of your credit report to make sure it’s accurate; you may find a discrepancy that could hurt your chances of getting better interest rates on a loan. You’re entitled to a free report each year from each of the reporting agencies, which you can obtain from AnnualCreditReport.com.

Bottom line

Developing any new habit requires behavior changes — changes that can be uncomfortable at first. But getting into the habit of saving money is worth it. Building a nest egg can provide peace of mind. Once you start seeing your balances grow, the numbers will give you the motivation you need to keep going and keep saving.

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Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza |

Stephanie Vozza is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Stephanie here