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ACH Transfers: Explained

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

ACH transfers in action
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You may have come across the term ACH when looking at different banking options or making certain banking transactions.

ACH stands for Automated Clearing House, which is a network and processing system that financial institutions use to transmit funds electronically between banks and credit unions. ACH transfers help to cut down on costs and processing times.

ACH transfers can include depositing funds directly to your account (transfers in, or credits to you), or transferring money out of your account to make payments (debits to you). For example, when your employer deposits your paycheck to your bank instead of handing you a paper check, that is an ACH transfer. Other direct deposits made by ACH transfer can include income tax refunds or other types of refunds. ACH direct payments (transfers out) often are used when you pay credit card or retailers’ bills (either one-off or recurring).

How long does it take for an ACH transfer to process?

ACH debit and credit transactions tend to process pretty fast. The National Automated House Clearing Association (NACHA) has operating rules that specifically require ACH credits — when you receive money — to settle within one-to-two business days. ACH debits — when you pay money — will settle the next business day. In most cases, all ACH transfers are settled within the same business day. But that doesn’t mean that money will land in your bank account that quickly. It could take as long as a few days, depending on your bank or credit union’s rules and regulations.

ACH money transfers — rules and fine print

Most financial institutions don’t charge a fee for incoming or outgoing ACH transfers. However, you are limited to six withdrawals per month for a savings account based on the Regulation D rule. So, if you go over that limit, your bank or credit union may charge you what’s known as an excess transaction fee.

Another fee you may encounter is a non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee — when you don’t have enough funds to cover the amount you’re transferring. Whether this fee is charged at all, and its amount, depends on the financial institution, so it’s best to check with yours.

Also depending on the financial institution, the limits on transfer amounts will differ. NACHA imposes a $25,000 daily limit on individual transactions. In other words, if you make multiple transactions, each one is limited to $25,000 in a single day. If you go over that amount, then your transfer will be processed the next day.

Wire transfers vs. ACH transfers

Both wire and an ACH transfers involve one financial institution sending funds to another one. Although both are electronic transfers, wire transfers use a different network, called Fedwire, and can involve transfers within the U.S. or internationally. Wire transfers are sent directly from one physical place to another, whereas ACH transfers are sent through a network.

In addition to making a wire transfer at a bank, you may make it at a nonbank provider — companies specifically designed to help you send money domestically or abroad. These companies may not require you to give your bank information. Instead you’ll need the receiver’s name, your personal details and the cash upfront that you intend to send. With an ACH transfer, on the other hand, don’t have this option.

Free and fast ways to transfer money

ACH transfers aren’t the only way to send or receive money. There are many other options that allow you to get almost instant access to funds with no fees involved. Two of these are cited below.

Zelle

Zelle is a peer-to-peer payment service where users can receive, send or request money to and from other bank accounts by using either an email address or phone number. This works even if the sender and receiver use different banks. Zelle claims that it can send money within minutes for no fee.

Many banks already offer Zelle via their existing online platform or mobile banking app. So, you may access it that way. However, if your bank does not have Zelle embedded in its system, then you may download Zelle’s own mobile app, create an account and use it to send and receive money.

Popmoney

Similar to Zelle, Popmoney is is a payment service that may be available at your bank (via their mobile or online banking services) for free. All you need is the recipient’s email address or phone number and you can send money. If you decide to use the service via PopMoney’s website, you’ll be charged $0.95 per transaction. There is also a monthly limit of $5,000 if transfering from a bank account and $1,000 if doing so with a debit card. If you’re using PopMoney via your financial institution, you’ll need to check with them to see what their limits are.

Tips for sending money safely

When sending money online, you want to be sure that you’re sending the money to the right person and that your own personal details are protected. Sounds obvious, but for example, double check your Wi-Fi connection to make sure that it’s secured. Of course you don’t want hackers to steal your sensitive information.

You’ll also want to ensure that you are sending money to a reputable place. NACHA created a booklet to help consumers spot scams and fraudulent behavior, such as merchant impersonations — that is, when someone pretends to be a company and states that you owe money on a purchase or a bill.

If you find fraudulent activity in your account, notify your bank as soon as possible. Sometimes you can reverse your ACH transfer if you accidentally sent the wrong amount or you suspect that there’s been an error.

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.

Sarah Li Cain
Sarah Li Cain |

Sarah Li Cain is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Sarah Li here

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Banking

How to Get Your Paycheck in Advance

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

It can be tough when you’re stuck between paychecks, anxiously waiting for the next one so you can pay the bills. If this scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. According to a 2017 CareerBuilder survey, 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

It’s important to know that there are ways to get your paycheck early. No, we’re not talking about payday loans. A number of banks and financial services companies can help you get your pay in advance by cutting out the electronic limbo between an employer issuing a paycheck and it showing up in your bank account.

We’ll explore different types of bank accounts and prepaid cards, and provide a great alternative option — and also talk about whether these services are safe.

Bank accounts where you can get your paycheck in advance

The following bank accounts are breaking the traditional mold to bypass the paycheck waiting period. They’re full-service, low-fee accounts, too, which means you can make purchases, withdrawals, deposits and more without worrying about extra charges.

Chime online spending account

You can get your paycheck up to two days early by setting up direct deposit on a Chime Spending Account. Chime even sends you a prefilled direct deposit form when you open an account. That way, your employer can start your direct deposit as soon as possible.

This mobile-first bank account is a pretty great option all around. There’s no minimum balance to open or keep the account. Chime promises no hidden fees, meaning there are no monthly service charges, or fees for overdrafts or foreign transactions. It does charge a fee for out-of-network ATM usage, though it partners with the MoneyPass network to give you access to more than 38,000 fee-free ATMs. Avoiding extra charges can come in handy when you’re already depending on your next paycheck for help.

The account allows you to deposit cash at 60,000+ Green Dot retail locations. You’re limited to $1,000 per 24 hours and $10,000 per month. Chime won’t charge you for these deposits, but third parties might. The Chime Spending Account limits you to spending $2,500 per day, capping ATM withdrawals and point-of-sale transactions at $500 per day.

Varo online checking account

Varo is a fee-free, mobile-friendly checking account that can get your paycheck direct deposited up to two days early. Once your employer submits payroll files to the Federal Reserve, the Fed notifies Varo of the amount owed to you. Varo then deposits the money into your account as soon as it receives the notification. For example, for most Friday paydays, Varo gets the Fed notification and pays you on Wednesday. This also applies to your tax refund.

The Varo account includes several perks that make banking easier and more affordable than traditional banking. There are no fees for monthly service, foreign transactions and transfers, nor is there a minimum balance requirement. You can use more than 55,000 Allpoint ATMs to withdraw cash from your account for free — up to $500 per day. You can use Green Dot locations to deposit cash; Varo doesn’t charge a fee, but the store will charge up to $4.95. You can deposit up to $1,000 per day and up to $10,000 per month.

Prepaid debit cards where you can get your paycheck in advance

If bad credit or banking history is preventing you from opening a bank account, you can still get your paycheck early with these prepaid debit cards.

RushCard prepaid debit card

The RushCard Prepaid Visa can deposit your paycheck into your account as soon as it is notified of the deposit — up to two days sooner than other services. There is no charge for direct deposits, covering employer paychecks, government benefits and tax refunds.

You can deposit cash on the card at thousands of partner locations, including CVS and Rite Aid. RushCard won’t charge a fee, but third parties might.

You can open a RushCard online, where you’ll be prompted to choose one of two payment plans. The Pay As You Go Plan works if you’ll use the card occasionally, charging a $1 fee per purchase. If you’ll be using the card more regularly, the Unlimited Plan costs either $5.95 a month with direct deposit or $7.95 a month without direct deposit. It doesn’t cost anything to open the card account, but there is a $3.95 or $9.95 fee when you first fund your card depending on the card design you choose.

Green Dot prepaid debit card

The Green Dot Prepaid Card can get you your paycheck up to two days in advance when you set up direct deposit. The service is free. Plus, if you deposit at least $1,000 in a month, that waives the card’s $7.95 service fee the following month. You can also deposit cash, but this can cost up to $5.95 in third-party fees.

You cannot open a Green Dot Prepaid Card online. You’ll need to buy one at a participating store, either as a Mastercard or Visa, whichever you prefer. A card costs up to $1.95 depending on where you buy it.

Netspend prepaid debit card

The Netspend Prepaid Card allows you to get paychecks and government benefits direct deposited up to two days early at no extra cost. In fact, it’s cheaper to set up direct deposit than it is to make cash reloads, which cost $3.95 each.

The Netspend Prepaid Card may also charge a service fee, depending on the payment plan you choose. The Monthly Plan charges a flat fee, which is as high as $9.95 a month depending on the issuer. Direct deposit is beneficial here, too, as depositing at least $500 each month upgrades you to Netspend Premier and almost cuts the monthly fee in half.

Looking for a paycheck advance app? Here’s an alternative

Earnin (previously branded as Activehours) works differently than the options above. Designed to help you pay your bills and avoid overdraft fees, it doesn’t wait for your employer to deposit your paycheck. Instead, using the employment information you provide, it can pay you on the day that you work for the portion you choose. For example, if you worked six hours today, Earnin will log those hours and you can receive the wages in your bank account immediately. Then when your paycheck comes in, Earnin will debit back the amount you logged.

If you’re an on-demand worker or are paid hourly, you are required to upload a photo of your timesheet to demonstrate how long you’ve worked. However, if you don’t receive a timesheet at work, Earnin is able to track your earnings automatically as long as you provide a work address.

You can cash out a maximum of $100 per day of money you’ve already earned. This might make it difficult to get a full day’s wages in advance, unless you made $100 or less in that day.

Earnin doesn’t assess any fees for monthly service or transactions, nor does it charge interest. Since Earnin is not a bank account itself, you will need to have a separate, supported checking account to use Earnin. You must also have direct deposits from your employer into that account, a regular pay schedule and a fixed work location or an online timekeeping system at work to qualify. Earnin does not check your credit history.

Without fees and interest, Earnin depends on optional tips from its clients to make money. So you never need to worry about paying Earnin for its services, especially when you’re short on money. If you do have some extra cash you’d like to give to Earnin, you can do that, too.

Check out this MagnifyMoney roundup for other apps that will help you ahead of payday.

How do paycheck advances work?

Signing up for direct deposit allows you to get your paycheck much faster than with a standard paper check. It takes the hassle out of collecting your check from payroll, depositing the check into your account and waiting for the money to clear.

Still, there’s a bit of a delay even through direct deposit. Once your bank sends your paycheck to your bank, the funds aren’t usually available right away. Instead, the money has to clear the Automated Clearing House before landing in your bank account. Your bank (or credit union) must make the funds available the next business day after the business day your paycheck is received.

However, banks and other financial entities are moving toward faster, more convenient transactions. A newer Nacha rule — Same Day ACH — makes payroll direct deposits available to consumers by 5 p.m. local time on the same day, depending on the time of transfer.

Are these services safe?

Absolutely. It’s easy to be wary of new companies that go against the status quo. But each of these options — except for Earnin — provide Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insurance for your money. Since Earnin is not a bank account, it cannot obtain FDIC insurance, but it keeps all your information, including your linked bank information, secure and encrypted.

Plus, these paycheck advance services are much safer for your money in the long run than payday loans. Payday loans allow you to borrow money quickly. However, you’re getting money that must be repaid.

If you’re constantly in between paychecks, you can get stuck in a cycle of borrowing all too easily. All the while, your loan is accruing interest.

So instead of helping your financial situation, payday loans can land you in a worse spot than where you started. These alternative services can give you earlier access to your own money — without interest or extra fees in most cases.

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

Citibank vs. Chase: Which Bank Is Better?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Debating whether Chase or Citibank is a better bank resembles a dispute over which fast-food franchise is better, Wendy’s or McDonald’s. Either side may offer menu items that are superior, but at the end of the day, they both succeed equally because of their ubiquity and reliability, rather than their mind-blowing quality (excepting the McRib, naturally).

Neither Chase nor Citibank offer amazing deals on their savings or checking accounts, but chances are you live within a 20-minute drive of a local branch of one or the other. And both have products that more than adequately meet your banking needs.

But just as McDonald’s partisans would blanch at the thought of eating Wendy’s fries, Chase customers claim superiority over Citi with some products, and vice versa. Let’s take a closer look at what each bank offers and help you make an unbiased decision about which big bank is right for your bucks.

Citibank vs. Chase: Location and availability

Citibank and Chase have a huge number of branches and ATMs, but Chase holds the clear advantage with 5,300 branches in 29 states (including the District of Columbia) and 16,000 ATMs.

While Citibank is hardly a boutique bank, it only maintains around 700 branches in 12 states, including D.C. International travelers may be interested to know that Citi has more than 1,800 branches overseas, but homebodies are more likely to see a Chase branch.

While Chase can claim to have more physical branches than Citibank, the latter provides its customers with more than 30,000 ATMs (either directly owned by Citi or through its partnerships with the MoneyPass ATM network) they can use without surcharges. If your main concern is access to ATMs that won’t charge a fee, your best bet is to bank with Citi.

Citibank vs. Chase: How their rates compare

The heart of any bank comparison lies with the rates each offer their customers, so let’s take a look at Citi and Chase’s benchmark accounts and compare them with the national average and the average offered by online-only banks.

 

Citibank

Chase

National bank average***

Online bank average***

Savings*0.04%

APY on
balances up to $24,999.99, 0.06%

APY on balances $25,000 and up.
0.01% APY0.276% APY1.52% APY
Checking**NoneNone0.196% APY0.52% APY
1-year CD0.25% APY on initial deposits below $25,000, 2.50% APY on deposits $25,000 and up0.02% APY on initial deposits up to $99,999.99, 0.05% on initial deposits $100K and up1.384% APY2.00% APY
5-year CD1.50% APY1.40% APY on initial deposits up to $9,999.99, 1.50% APY on initial deposits from $10K to $99.999.99, 1.55% APY on balances $100K and up2.242% APY2.55% APY

*Citi’s Basic Banking Savings Account and Chase Savings Account
**Citi’s Basic Banking Checking Account and Chase Total Checking Account
***National and online bank averages are accurate as of the publish date of this article

While both Citibank and Chase offer piddling interest rates on their checking and savings accounts when compared with the national average and the online bank average, the former emerges as the clear winner.

One caveat (which will be addressed in greater detail below) is that Citibank doesn’t strictly offer stand-alone accounts — you must sign up for packages that typically contain a checking, saving and specialized savings account. You can close the accounts in the package you don’t care about, but the fact that you sign up for a bundle may annoy some customers.

Citibank vs. Chase: Which has better account options

The differences between the bread-and-butter savings and checking accounts from Citibank and Chase are slight, at best. Citi takes a holistic view: Your savings account balance automatically counts toward the minimum checking account balance required to avoid a monthly maintenance fee. Chase blunts Citi’s edge by allowing you to link a Chase Premier Savings account with a Chase Premier Plus Checking or Chase Sapphire Checking account to achieve the same effect.

Citi does offer more variations of a checking and savings account — five different tiers compared with Chase’s three — with the standout difference being Citi’s Access Account package. The Access Account is a bare-bones package consisting of a checking account with no ability to write paper checks and a basic savings account. However, it’s easier to dodge the $10 monthly maintenance fee for the Access Account — either by making an online bill pay from the account, having a direct deposit paid into the account or by maintaining an average monthly balance of at least $1,500 — than the $12 monthly fee charged by Chase’s basic Total Checking Account. For that product, you must either have at least $500 in direct deposits paid into the account, maintain a daily balance of $1,500 (or more) or maintain a combined minimum balance of $5,000 across qualified Chase accounts.

It’s also worth noting that Citi offers as part of all five of its account packages a high-yield savings account (separate from the basic savings account already in the package) called Citi Accelerate Savings. It earns an APY of 2.36% no matter what the balance in the account, which is better than Citi’s 5-year CD APY. If your Accelerate Savings account isn’t linked to any other accounts in your Basic Banking package, you must maintain an average monthly balance of $500 to avoid a $4.50 monthly fee.

Citibank vs. Chase: How they compare on fees

Apart from attractive interest rates, bank account fees may be the factor that really determines who you bank with. Citibank and Chase don’t vary much on this front, but in general, Citi offers more opportunities for you to beat certain fees, especially monthly maintenance fees. Here’s how the fees for each bank’s basic accounts stack up:

 

Citibank

Chase

Savings account$4.50 a month if you only opt for the savings account portion of the Basic Banking Account package$5 a month
Checking account$12 a month for the entire Basic Banking Account package$12 a month
ATM fee$2.50 for any withdrawals from non-Citi ATMs, both foreign and domestic$2.50 for any inquiries, transfers or withdrawals with domestic non-Chase ATMs

$5 for withdrawals and $2.50 for any inquiries and transfers using non-Chase ATMs abroad
Overdraft fee$34 per charge, with a maximum of 4 per day (after which transactions will be declined)$34 per charge, with a maximum of 3 per day (after which transactions will be declined)

The fees are accurate as of the publish date of this article

One of the biggest differences you’ll notice is that Chase makes it very expensive to use a non-Chase ATM when venturing beyond America’s borders. The $5 additional charge they tack on might be enough for frequent international travelers to think twice before banking with Chase.

The monthly fee for a savings account at Citi is also 50 cents cheaper than the savings account at Chase, but both of these accounts (as well as the checking accounts) offer ways to avoid fees. For example, the Chase Savings account requires at least $300 in the account each day to waive the fee, as opposed to the $500 average monthly balance required with a stand-alone Citi savings account.

Seniors should note that Citi will waive the monthly service fee on its Basic Banking Account package, as well as the non-Citi ATM fee, for customers aged 62 and older.

Who should bank with Citibank?

If you’re looking for a big, national bank, you can’t go wrong with either Citi or Chase. However, those eager to earn interest on the money they deposit should stroll down to the closest Citi branch, if possible. The interest rates Citi offers on its CDs and savings account trump those from Chase, even if neither of them hold a candle to the national average or what online banks offer.

Given the hefty fee Chase charges for using a non-Chase ATM while abroad, international travelers may want to go with Citi instead of Chase. And seniors 62 and older should remember that Citi waves out-of-network ATM fees and monthly maintenance fees for the Basic Banking Account package.

Who should bank with Chase?

There’s one metric that Chase absolutely crushes Citi on: branch availability. With 5,300 physical locations in 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, and 16,000 ATMs, Chase is seemingly everywhere. And sometimes that’s enough to make it your bank of choice, especially if you just need a place to perform basic banking and believe convenience trumps higher interest rates and (slightly) lower fees.

Alternatives

Looking at the numbers, neither Citibank nor Chase cover themselves with glory when it comes to fees and interest rates when compared with the competition. If you’re willing to give up the convenience and personal touch of physical banking, online banks can offer some terrific rates for minimal fees (though since they usually lack the brand-name recognition of a big bank, you’ll want to do your research before depositing your money with an unknown entity). Local banks and credit unions can also provide competitive rates while still giving you a warm, fuzzy feeling from knowing the person behind the teller window.

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.

James Ellis
James Ellis |

James Ellis is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email James here

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