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How to Get Your Security Deposit Back from Your Landlord

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.

This blog does not provide legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

Here’s how I almost lost $900 — and my sanity — to a malicious New York City landlord. Without warning or reason, he refused to return my security deposit. It’s not a completely unique story, however.

“Calls about landlords and security deposits are one of the most common calls we get,” said Andrea Shapiro, Program Manager at Metropolitan Council on Housing, a tenants’ rights membership organization and hotline in New York City. “Mainly the landlord is just refusing to return it, but often people call because they are concerned it’s going to happen to them.”

In the end, I was able to get my security deposit back thanks to a lot of research and hard work. So if you find yourself in this same tricky situation, I hope that my story below, plus a walk through the steps you can take and some attorney tips, can help smooth the road ahead for you.

How I got my security deposit back from my landlord

It was my first time moving apartments, and I was new to the world of renting in New York. When I moved in, I had been told I would get my security deposit back 45 days after the end of the lease. Knowing that I had left my room in pristine condition, I naively believed that with processes seemingly already in place, my deposit would be returned to me promptly and smoothly.

But 45 days passed me by without a word from my landlord, and all my emails had gone unanswered. After 90 days, I started to get anxious. Finally I received an email from someone at the management company with whom I had never spoken. They did not know I had contacted them before, which apartment I’d lived in, my move out date, or the deposit amount. They were clearly grasping at straws trying to find a reason to not return the deposit.

Fed up, I visited the office in person to demand my deposit back. I still believed that the issue could be resolved civilly and smoothly. After a few phone calls and much shuffling of paperwork, the management company’s representative told me it was because I had moved out early (I hadn’t). She added that it was also because the current tenants hadn’t given their deposit (they had). I left the office, desperately wishing I had yelled “I’ll see you in court!” on my way out.

Left with no other choice, I filed a claim in small claims court and proceeded to gather all the documents related to my lease and apartment.

Then one afternoon, I received an email from the management company: “The landlord has instructed me to write you a check for your deposit amount and he would like for you to end the court case immediately.”

I knew I hadn’t won yet — I would wait until that check was deposited and cleared to celebrate. But after one two-hour-long office visit, six emails and several incompetent mix-ups later, I finally had my security deposit check in my hand, 10 months after I originally moved out of the apartment.

If you’re going through a similar ordeal, know that you’re not alone. There are plenty of resources available to help you get your security deposit back, too.

Here’s how to get your security deposit back from your landlord, from the innocent start to the tired finish.

How to get your security deposit back from your landlord

Confirm the legal deadline

State laws dictate how long landlords have to return a security deposit. For example, in New York, a landlord has 14 days after a tenant vacates the property, while Maryland landlords have 45 days after the lease ends.

To streamline the process, ask your landlord how they’ll return your deposit and give them a return address at the same time you tell them you’re moving out. Hopefully, that will prevent any further delays when it comes time to return the deposit.

Note, however, that in order to receive the full deposit back, there must not be any additional damage to the property, other than normal wear and tear. Otherwise, your landlord may choose to return only a portion of the deposit, if at all.

Communicate with your landlord directly

Contact your landlord directly to discuss the matter, especially if you disagree with their decision regarding your deposit.

“Written correspondence, either by mail or email, is almost always best,” said Ann O’Connell, attorney and Legal Editor at Nolo. “If you have pictures or video of the rental’s condition at move-in and move-out, or if you filled out a walk-through checklist, consider sending those to support your argument.” Start collecting receipts, invoices and pictures around now; they’ll be crucial evidence throughout this process.

O’Connell also recommended reminding landlords of the consequences they could face for wrongfully withholding a deposit such as severe fines, damages and/or court costs.

File a complaint with the attorney general

If you can’t reach an agreement or if your landlord stops responding, but don’t want to take it to court, try filing a complaint with your state’s attorney general first. The AG’s office can review the case and intervene on your behalf if your landlord has violated state law.

What you’ll need to get your security deposit back

Unfortunately, landlords can be tricky and may try to keep that deposit no matter what. This is where your evidence — receipts, pictures, emails — comes in handy. Collect any documentation that shows the deposit amount and that you paid the deposit, like a bank statement, invoice or receipt. O’Connell also suggested bringing a few copies of your lease or rental agreement to court, too. Print out all your correspondence with the landlord, especially relating to the security deposit. Make sure the print outs show the date and who sent the message.

In my case, I also had a letter of recommendation from the management company to my new landlord. It stated that I had made every rent payment on time and had left the apartment in good shape.

You may have the chance to bring witnesses to court. This isn’t always necessary, but if you have witnesses willing and ready to help you out, this could be a valuable asset. For example, if someone helped you move in and move out, they can testify to the property’s condition on both ends. Be sure to notify witnesses beforehand, so they’re not surprised by a court subpoena.

How to get your security deposit back from your landlord in small claims court

Typically, small claims court is the place to take your security deposit dispute, as it’s often for claims around $5,000 to $10,000.

File your claim

Small claims forms are either online or at your county’s small claims offices (see an example of New York City’s form here). You’ll typically need to provide your own information, including your name and full address, as well as the landlord’s full and correct name and address on the form, which you should confirm with the county clerk or your state’s secretary of state website before submitting. You’ll also indicate on the form the amount you’re suing for and the nature of the claim (your security deposit). You can either mail in your form or drop it off in person to the appropriate offices.

Once you file your claim, the court will serve the landlord with court documents. If your landlord is like mine, he’ll be scared of having a court case on his record and will hopefully pay up before you even make it to court.

“Most landlords don’t want to end up in court,” O’Connell agreed. “If you’ve been a good tenant and have at least a plausible argument, it’s likely you’ll be able to reach a compromise outside of court. Many times all it takes is a formal demand.”

Some states require you to serve the papers yourself or get someone to serve them for you. If you’re organizing it, make sure you follow all the court’s rules carefully.

“Serving the landlord with the correct documents and in the correct manner is very important,” O’Connell cautioned. “Failure to follow proper procedure can result in the court dismissing your case.”

You can serve papers through the U.S. Postal Service, courier service or a process server. A process server can be a proper officer, like a sheriff or marshal, or anyone not related to the case who is 18 years or older. Always obtain confirmation of delivery, especially if you’re using the post office or courier service.

Prepare for court

In addition to gathering evidence, O’Connell suggests sitting in the audience of a few small claims court trials, which are often open to the public. Observing a trial or two can give you an idea of what to expect.

If you plan to bring a witness or two, make sure you know what they’re going to say. You don’t want to be surprised by anything they say in court, especially if it weakens your argument.

Finally, you have one chance to sue your landlord, so know the facts of your situation inside and out. Perhaps create notecards with your main points for clarity and conciseness for when you speak to the judge. Organize your papers in order of how you’ll present them and make sure there are enough copies to go around.

Do I need a lawyer for small claims court?

Small claims courts are designed to be affordable with relaxed rules, making it easier for the everyday person to present their own case.

“Lawyers are rarely the right approach when it comes to small claims court,” said Michael Vraa, managing attorney and hotline director for HOME Line, a free tenant hotline in Minnesota. “They’re really designed for people, not attorneys.”

Some courts even make it hard for a lawyer to appear on someone’s behalf. So unless you have access to a free or low-cost lawyer, it’s probably not worth your time or money to hire a lawyer.

If you require a lawyer or extra legal help, several housing advocacy groups provide free or low-cost services to tenants, like HOME Line, Housing Rights Center (Los Angeles) and The Legal Aid Society (New York City).

Present your case in court

Show up to your court date prepared and on time. Check the posted schedule and wait for your case to be called. Once it’s your turn, you (as the plaintiff) will present your case first. Start with the basics of the case: the amount being pursued and the reason for the case. For example, start with something like, “This case is about the landlord’s failure to return my $900 security deposit without reason.” That way, the judge knows up front exactly what the case is about.

The judge will question you, the landlord and any witnesses. During your case, both you and the landlord will have time to speak. It’s best to not interrupt when someone else is speaking, even if they say something false or outrageous. Your case is stronger when you’re cool, calm and collected and presented with facts and evidence.

What happens if you win your case?

Congrats! Now what? “If you do end up in court and you win, as long as the landlord is reasonably professional (or cares about his or her reputation), they will most likely return the deposit as directed by the court order,” O’Connell said.

If the landlord still does not return the deposit, you might have to pursue collection efforts. This can get pretty involved, O’Connell said, and opens up another whole can of worms.

What happens if you lose?

You can usually appeal the decision, but it will depend on the law where you live. “You’ll have to do some serious evaluation about whether it’s worth your time and money to appeal or otherwise continue to pursue the matter,” O’Connell said. You may need to rework your argument, or perhaps you were in the wrong. Plus, as O’Connell added, “the chances of being successful on appeal are usually low.”

How to get your security deposit back from your landlord in mediation

Mediation is a lower-level alternative to presenting your case in court, especially if emotions or an informal agreement are involved. You can choose mediation ahead of your court date, or even sometimes day-of. Small claims court may automatically send some cases to mediation, as well. It requires both parties to sign a consent form and acknowledge that it is confidential and voluntary.

Instead of presenting your evidence to an unbiased party, like a judge, mediation focuses on hearing both sides and coming to a decision together. “Often, the people we see in mediation are just looking for more time to be heard,” said Samantha Adler, Program Manager for Civil Court Diversion, Community & Lemon Law at the New York Peace Institute. “We make sure there’s never a power imbalance in a room to even the playing field.”

Both sides get ample, uninterrupted time to provide their perspective. Throughout, the mediator doesn’t tell either side what to do, and often they don’t even make a decision. “Our model is to try to get parties to make a decision for themselves,” said Nick Schmitt, who also serves as a program manager at the New York Peace Institute.

If you reach a mutual decision, both parties sign a settlement agreement. If not, the case goes back to small claims. If you missed your scheduled court time, you’ll adjourn that date (which might have happened anyway if the court ran out of time, Schmitt said). Your mediator can provide further legal referrals and resources if you ask. Usually, though, “people end up leaving pretty content with what happened,” both Adler and Schmitt noted. Mediation allows both parties for more room to find areas for some give and take.

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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Bank of America vs. Citibank: How Do They Compare?

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.

Huge, multinational banks like Citibank and Bank of America used to be the primary go-to for nearly all banking customers. Though competition from online banks has taken some of their customers, they still remain industry stalwarts that many customers think of as their first choice when it comes to banks.

Both of these institutions offer nearly any banking service a customer could desire, and both boast an international reach. This is one of the main advantages that large banks such as Bank of America and Citibank have over online banks and credit unions — global reach and support, coupled with the ability to access your money and even talk to a banker in person nearly anywhere in the developed world.

When it comes to a head-to-head comparison of these two banking behemoths, the main difference is in CD and savings rates, where Citibank has the edge, and access to ATMs and branch locations, where the verdict is a split decision.

Bank of America vs. Citibank: A brief overview

In many ways, Bank of America truly is “America’s bank,” as the company traces its roots back 240 years. As Bank of America’s website says, its heritage banks helped grow the whaling industry in Nantucket, rebuild Chicago after the Great Fire and develop the first nationally licensed credit card, which ultimately grew to become Visa. In 1998, BankAmerica merged with NationsBank to become the country’s first coast-to-coast bank, and on Jan. 1, 2009, the bank acquired brokerage firm Merrill Lynch, making it the biggest bank in America at the time. Today, Bank of America serves one out of every two American households, with nearly $2.4 trillion in assets.

Not to be outdone, Citibank traces its roots back to 1812, when it helped finance the U.S. government during the War of 1812. City Bank, as the bank was originally named, later played a role in some of the most important developments in American history, including financing the Union Army in the Civil War, aiding in the creation of the Panama Canal and supporting the financing for the Marshall Plan. The bank currently safeguards over $1.9 trillion in customer assets and is the world’s largest credit card issuer.

Both firms are global powerhouses, offering everything from basic banking services to advanced financial planning internationally. The two banks have been competitors for over 200 years, and as survivors in the industry, they both share a number of the same capabilities and services. However, there are some important differences between the two.

Bank of America vs. Citibank: How they compare on rates

Bank of America and Citibank both have a bewildering array of rates for their products, particularly in the checking account and savings account categories. Customers making larger deposits or paying additional monthly fees are entitled to better rates, as they move toward the designation of being “preferred” customers.

At the end of the day, however, rates for checking and savings accounts at both institutions are extraordinarily low and a far cry from even the national average rates — even for those with the largest deposits. The incremental gains earned by moving up the “preferred customer” ladder are negligible.

For example, at Bank of America, the savings account rate at the Platinum Honors Tier for deposits of $500,000 or more is 0.06% APY, which is not much more than the standard 0.03% APY for those who aren’t Preferred Rewards clients. Savings rates at Citibank peak at 0.15% APY for Citigold package customers depositing at least $500,000. Plus, there’s no interest-earning checking account at all for basic accounts at Citibank, and even interest checking with the top-tier Citigold banking package pays just 0.03% APY.

There is one huge and notable exception, however. In 2019, Citibank unveiled the high-yield version of its Citi Accelerate Savings account, which has a very high 2.05% APY. This type of account is more in line with what online competitors currently offer. However, the Citi Accelerate Savings account is not available in several states, including California, New York and Texas.

When it comes to CD rates, Citibank asserts itself as well. For both 1-year and 5-year CDs, Citibank’s rates are considerably above Bank of America’s. In the case of 1-year CDs for deposits of at least $25,000, Citibank’s rates are even quite a bit above the national average.

In a head-to-head comparison, there’s really no winner when it comes to basic checking and savings rates. Both banks offer abysmally low rates that will hardly make a difference to the average customer. For example, a standard customer with a $100,000 savings deposit will earn just $30 per year in interest at Bank of America. Things aren’t much better at Citibank, where a Basic Banking customer with a $100,000 savings deposit will earn just $60 per year. However, Citibank’s CD rates — and its Citi Accelerate Savings rate, for those who can access it — make the bank a much better option overall when it comes to rates.

One thing to note is that with both banks, rates vary slightly based on where you’re located. While we used rates for Los Angeles, rates were slightly higher in New York, for example. However, the change in rates based on customer location are minimal overall, with the exception that some states do not have access to the higher Citi Accelerate Savings rates.

 Bank of AmericaCitibankNational Average
CheckingBelow $50,000: 0.01% APY

$50,000 - $99,999: 0.02% APY

$100,000 and over: 0.02% APY
0.00% APY*0.202% APY
SavingsBelow $2,500: 0.03% APY

$2,500 and over: 0.03% APY
2.05%**0.284% APY
1-year CDBelow $10,000: 0.05% APY

$10,000-$99.999: 0.05% APY

$100,000 and over: 0.05% APY
Below $10,000: 0.25% APY

$10,000 - $24,999.99: 0.25% APY

$25,000 - $49,999.99: 2.00% APY

$50,000 - $99,999.99: 2.00% APY

$100,000 - $499,999.99: 2.00% APY

$500,000 - $999,999.99: 2.00% APY

$1,000,000+: 2.00% APY
1.365% APY
5-year CDBelow $10,000: 0.75% APY

$10,000 - $99,999: 0.75% APY

$100,000 and over: 0.75% APY
Below $10,000: 1.25% APY
$10,000 - $24,999.99: 1.25% APY

$25,000 - $49,999.99: 1.25% APY

$50,000 - $99,999.99: 1.25% APY

$100,000 - $499,999.99: 1.25% APY

$500,000 - $999,999.99: 1.25% APY

$1,000,000+: 1.25% APY
2.159% APY
*Rates vary based on the type of banking relationship customers have.
** Rates may vary based on location; this rate is only available in certain states. Rates pulled are based on the location of the bank’s headquarters.

Bank of America vs. Citibank: What account options are available?

Both Bank of America and Citibank offer a wide range of product options. Each bank offers checking, savings and CD accounts; both also offer money market accounts, though they are only available within an IRA. Though retirement money market accounts typically earn low rates of interest, they also tend to be low-risk, providing stability.

If anything, both of these banks offer too many account types, as there are an incredible number of subdivisions of accounts based on the size of your account and your customer status at the bank. For example, when you open a standard savings account at Citibank, it’s opened as part of one of five banking packages: the Access Account, Basic Banking, The Citibank Account, Citi Priority or Citigold. Depending on which banking package you open, your rate on your savings account will vary. Generally, the more money you have on deposit with Citi, the higher your interest rate, but again, the increase in rates is minimal at best. The Citi Accelerate Savings is the logical choice for most savers, but again, it is not available in all states.

Bank of America operates in a similar fashion. Interest rates vary based on how much you deposit and if you are a member of the Preferred Rewards Program, which has three tiers: Gold, Platinum and Platinum Honors. You qualify for these tiers based on your account size, with the top tier requiring an average three-month balance of at least $100,000. These tiers qualify you for interest rate boosts of 5%, 10% or 20% (depending on tier), along with other perks like fee-free withdrawals from non-Bank of America ATMs and free stock and ETF trades through the firm’s self-directed brokerage platform, Merrill Edge.

Figuring out what type of banking package you should have and how much you should deposit to earn the highest rates and pay the least amount of fees can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a variety of account types to choose from, you’ll certainly have a wealth of options at both Bank of America and Citibank.

 Bank of AmericaCitibank
Checking account
Savings account
Certificates of deposit
Money market account
*Money market account only available within an IRA.

Bank of America vs. Citibank: How they stack up on fees

Fees are the bane of most large, traditional banks, and to a large part, it is these fees that have accounted for the rise of numerous online banking rivals. Although there are ways around the fees charged by Bank of America and Citibank, there are numerous ways you can be tripped up by them.

At the time of publishing, Citibank, for example, charges $12 per month for its regular checking account if you’re in a Basic Banking package, but that fee goes all the way up to $30 if you’re a Citi Priority member. If you choose to have a standalone savings account, those fees range from $4.50 per month to $25 per month. These fees seem excessive in an era when countless online banks — and even credit unions and larger banks — offer fee-free checking accounts. With the Basic Banking package, the bank does waive the typical $2.50 charge for out-of-network ATM withdrawals for account holders age 62 or older.

Bank of America is no better than Citibank when it comes to basic account fees. Although waivable with a $1,500 balance, a qualifying direct deposit of $250 or Preferred Rewards client status, the Advantage Plus Banking account charges $12 per month, at the time of writing. Though there is an account option with a $4.95 monthly maintenance fee, Advantage SafeBalance Banking is a very basic account that does not offer checkwriting.

Overdrafts at Bank of America are a whopping $35, and the bank will charge that fee up to four times per day. Even overdraft protection costs $12. A standard savings account will set you back $8 monthly, although this is waivable as well with a minimum balance of $500, a linked Relationship Banking account or Preferred Rewards client status.

 Bank of AmericaCitibank
Standard checking account$12, waivable$10-$30, waivable
Standard savings account$8, waivable$4.50-$25, waivable
ATM fee$0 for in-network ATMs
$2.50 for out-of-network ATMs
$0 for in-network ATMs
$2.50 for out-of-network ATMs (can be waived in specific circumstances)
Overdraft fee$35, charged no more than 4 times per day $34, charged no more than 4 times per day

When to choose Bank of America

  • You want access to more physical branches.
  • You have a Merrill Edge investments account.

If you need to visit a physical branch, Bank of America should be your choice over Citibank. Although Citibank has an impressive 700 domestic and 1,800 international branches, they are dwarfed in number by Bank of America, which boasts 4,300 retail financial centers in the U.S. alone.

If you want the convenience and control of an online brokerage account while still banking with a brick-and-mortar giant, Bank of America has the answer for you with its Merrill Edge brokerage platform. Consistently rated among the best of its kind, Merrill Edge allows you complete control of your investment portfolio via low-cost trading while still offering access to financial advisors, if you so desire.

When to choose Citibank

  • You want easy access to customer service.
  • You want a larger ATM network.
  • You want higher rates on 1-year CDs and savings.

Many customers choose large, traditional banks for their customer service, and Citibank delivers in this regard. Citibank has so many divisions that there are separate toll-free phone lines depending on which department you need and what type of banking relationship you have. The important thing is that you can reach a live person 24/7. You can also live chat, visit a branch or connect by mail. Bank of America phone lines are only open for 15 hours during the week, and 12 hours on weekends.

The ATM network for Citibank is vast, with more than 60,000 surcharge-free ATMs available for use. This is considerably more than Bank of America, which lists about 16,000 ATMs.

While Citibank won’t get any medals for its basic checking and savings account rates, it does actually offer a few bright spots in its rate lineup. Citibank’s 1-year CD rates for those depositing at least $25,000 are actually quite good, and well above those offered by Bank of America. And if you live in a state with access to the Citi Accelerate Savings account, you’ll get one of the higher savings rates in the nation.

The bottom line: Is Bank of America vs. Citibank better?

Both Bank of America and Citibank have the best and the worst features of a large bank. On the plus side, you’ll never be too far away from a branch or ATM with either bank. Both banks have long-established reputations and trillions of dollars in customer assets, so you’re likely to find bankers that understand any financial problem you have and can offer a number of financial products to solve them.

On the downside, the interest rates that these banks pay on basic accounts are anemic. For the long haul, neither of these banks is generally a good place to park your money if you’re looking for a decent interest rate. Citibank’s new Citi Accelerate Savings account is definitely a step in the right direction, and an indication that the bank desires to compete with online banks for savings dollars. Again, however, you must be in a state that offers the account. So far, Bank of America hasn’t added such an option to remain competitive.

Citibank also steps up on its current 1-year CD rates, where a deposit of at least $25,000 will earn you a rate well above the national average and close to the best rates offered by online banking competitors.

On a head-to-head basis, the odds generally tilt towards Citibank over Bank of America. Although Bank of America has a much larger number of physical branches, Citibank has a much wider ATM network, and its high 1-year CD and Citi Accelerate Savings rates outgun anything offered by Bank of America.

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.

John Csiszar
John Csiszar |

John Csiszar is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email John here

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Review of EvoShare: Get Cash Back Toward Your Retirement

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.

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EvoShare is a web browser extension that you can use to get cash back for your 401(k) plan when you make purchases online at participating vendors. You can also earn cash back from some local stores.

Unlike other cashback extensions, your EvoShare earnings can only go toward your retirement fund, student loan or college fund.

One drawback is that you can’t enroll directly as an individual unless your employer is signed up for EvoShare. But EvoShare is a good option with little hassle.

What is EvoShare?

EvoShare, founded in 2015, provides you with cash back for purchases from certain online and brick-and-mortar retailers when you link your credit and/or debit cards.

The money comes from the retailers, who pay an additional cash back percentage as a referral fee to EvoShare to draw business to them. EvoShare simply shares a portion of this commission with its users, resulting in cash back.

EvoShare partners with more than 1,300 online businesses, including Target, eBay and Walmart, and over 8,700 restaurants, bars and stores across the country. Note that just because you can earn cash back from an online business doesn’t mean that you can earn cash back from the same brick-and-mortar store.

If you’re shopping online, the web browser extension will tell you how much you can earn from making purchases on a given website. Say, for example, you’re looking to buy a dress online from Macy’s. When you click on the Macy’s website, the EvoShare browser extension will show you that you can earn 3% of your purchase as cash back. Once you check out and pay for your purchase, you’ll see a notification that you’ve earned your 3% back.

Notably, EvoShare is only available as a web browser extension with Chrome or Safari, and not with other browsers such as Firefox.

For shopping in a participating brick-and-mortar location, any purchase you make with a linked credit or debit card will work similarly. You won’t get a web notification since you’re in a store, but you can check the website to see how much you can earn from various retailers.

Using EvoShare doesn’t cost you anything as a user, and it can be a good way to accumulate extra savings for doing the normal shopping you would do anyway. Unlike direct contributions to a savings account, you don’t have to worry about allocating any of your own funds to save using EvoShare, as everything is automated.

EvoShare earnings can be used for student loan payoff, as well as retirement or college fund savings. However, to get any cash back from EvoShare, you must use it in conjunction with a participating employer.

Earnings will flow directly to your bank account, via either an Automated Clearing House (ACH) transaction or physical check, and your employer will withhold the same amount from your next paycheck. Then, your earnings will be contributed to your account of choice.

Thus, if your selected account was your 401(k) plan, for example, your earnings would be treated just as if you made your own pretax contributions to your retirement plan. You can also use the earnings to save for your child’s student loan.

But you don’t need to have an active retirement plan or student loan account to begin saving. When you sign up, EvoShare will save your money until you direct it to make deposits into your new account.

How to use EvoShare

EvoShare is simple to use, but unless you’re hooked up with a participating employer, you won’t be able to sign up. Here’s the process for those who are eligible.

Step No. 1: Sign up online

You can sign up online with EvoShare, but first you’ll need a designated sign-up link from your employer. If your employer is not linked to EvoShare, you’ll have to contact them and encourage them to join.

Step No. 2: Link debit or credit cards

EvoShare only processes cashback payments when you use a linked credit or debit card. If you don’t register one of your cards, you won’t get any credit from EvoShare for your purchase. EvoShare accepts Mastercard, Visa and American Express. You can also register your debit card, but be aware that when you make a purchase, you must select credit as your payment type. If you provide a PIN and use your card as a debit card, you won’t receive credit from EvoShare for your purchase.

Step No. 3: Shop online and locally

EvoShare is partnered with more than 1,300 online businesses and more than 8,700 bars, restaurants and stores. The network is always expanding, so this number may continue to grow.

Retailers linked up with EvoShare include Macy’s, Kohl’s, Barnes & Noble and Nordstrom. You can search for any store on the EvoShare website to see if, and how much, EvoShare pays for that retailer. Similarly, you can search for local stores near your location, a process made easier if you let Google Maps know your location.

Step No. 4: Put money toward a retirement account, student loan or college fund

After you make a purchase, earnings from local retailers take anywhere from a few minutes to seven business days to appear in your account. Online purchases take from one to 10 business days to appear. These are just general guidelines, however.

Certain merchants, such as airlines, may not process your cash back until you take your flight. Other retailers may not process your payment until the return policy has expired, ensuring that you don’t get credit for a purchase that you later return. Earnings from online purchases are only automatically redeemed once you’ve earned at least $20. The maximum you can earn from any cashback transaction is $250.

Once your earnings are processed, you can only deposit them in a student loan account, a college savings account or your employer-sponsored retirement account, such as a 401(k) or 403(b) plan. Employer participation is also mandatory, as payments are ultimately made through the employer. After your cashback is processed, you’ll receive either a check or an ACH deposit from EvoShare. Then, your employer will hold back those earnings from your next paycheck and deposit them toward your designated account.

Pros of EvoShare

EvoShare‘s benefits are clear and straightforward.

  • No fees
  • Earn up to 20% cashback online or up to 10% in stores
  • “Forced” savings into student loan, retirement plan or college funding plans
  • Easy to use
  • Data not stored on site but through Empyr, using industry-standard safety protocols

Cons of EvoShare

There’s not much wrong with getting free cash back, but here are some of the drawbacks to using EvoShare.

  • No mobile app
  • No cash back in your own pocket; must go to savings vehicle
  • Can only sign up with a participating employer
  • Third-party delivery services are ineligible
  • Limited number of retailers

Some of these pros and cons are common with competitors in the industry, but some are unique to EvoShare, such as the requirement to work with an employer and the ability to deposit into retirement accounts.

How EvoShare stacks up to the competition

EvoShare is not the only cashback web browser extension available, but it is the only one with this unique configuration. Traditional cashback extensions send cash directly to users, which can be a plus, but they don’t offer the forced savings feature of EvoShare, in which the cashback goes into a designated savings account. Here’s a look at some of EvoShare’s most popular competitors.

Rakuten (formerly Ebates)

Rakuten operates in a similar fashion to EvoShare, with a built-in web extension that alerts you when you can receive cash back from shopping at particular stores. Just like with EvoShare, you can use your linked American Express, Visa or Mastercard credit cards to earn cash back, or debit cards as long as you select credit when making a purchase. Rakuten also charges no fees, just like EvoShare.

Rakuten has a bit of an edge over EvoShare when it comes to size, as it partners with over 2,500 stores online, including Amazon, Expedia and Macy’s. However, its in-store cashback options are limited, as it only partners with 80 or so brick-and-mortar retailers.

Rakuten does have a mobile app, something EvoShare is lacking. It also pays out quarterly via PayPal or a physical check, as long as your cashback balance is at least $5.


TopCashback is nearly a carbon copy of Rakuten, with a few additional benefits. Like Rakuten — and EvoShare — TopCashback pays cash directly to customers that use linked credit and debit cards to make purchases at participating websites.

However, TopCashback has no minimum payout threshold, and you can request your cash as often as you would like. TopCashback also typically pays users the entire cashback amount it earns from merchants rather than holding some back for its profit, as is the case with EvoShare and Rakuten. It earns money from clicks on merchandising banners and other referral deals it makes with participating merchants.

TopCashback also has cashback deals with more online businesses than either EvoShare or Rakuten, numbering over 4,400, including Walmart, eBay and Best Buy. However, TopCashback works with online merchants only. You cannot receive cash back for in-store purchases.

The bottom line: Is EvoShare right for me?

For some users, the decision whether to use EvoShare is moot. Unless your employer participates in EvoShare, you’re out of luck. However, if you work for a participating employer, EvoShare may be a good option for you.

The question as to whether EvoShare is right for you has many layers. Beyond the participating employer hurdle, you’ll have to decide if you’re comfortable with providing your debit and credit card numbers to an online service.

Although EvoShare doesn’t store your credentials, it does use Empyr, which keeps your information on record. Empyr uses industry-standard safety protocols, including 128-bit SSL encryption and MD5 encryption, and it’s Verisign certified. If you’re comfortable storing your payment information with other online retailers, you should be comfortable with Empyr as well. However, for some customers, this may be a dealbreaker.

The second question is whether EvoShare is a better option than some of the alternative cashback services that are out there. This choice will primarily come down to whether you want cash in your own bank account or you’d rather use this “found money” as an easy way to either pay down student loan debt or save for college funding or retirement. If it’s the former, the scales might tilt toward an option such as Rakuten or TopCashback. If you prefer the latter, EvoShare might be the better choice.

At the end of the day, EvoShare is a great way to earn money for activities you’re already doing. As time passes, you can earn money toward your savings by using EvoShare on some (or all) of your purchases.

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John Csiszar
John Csiszar |

John Csiszar is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email John here