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Best of, College Students and Recent Grads, Credit Cards

Best Student Credit Cards March 2019

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

Getting a credit card while you’re in college can set you up for financial success, provided you avoid racking up unnecessary charges. If you are over 18 and have a steady income, applying for a card now will kick start your credit history, and you can start building that all-important credit score.

Learning how to choose and use the right student credit card is relatively simple. Make sure you avoid annual fees and go with a bank or credit union you can trust. When you get the card, make sure you use it responsibly and pay the balance in full and on time every month. If you do these things consistently over time, you can leave school with an excellent credit score. And if you want to rent an apartment or buy a car, having a good credit score is very important.

Our Top Pick

Discover it® Student Cash Back

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Rates & Fees

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Discover it® Student Cash Back

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Regular APR
15.24% - 24.24% Variable
Credit required
fair-credit
Fair

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Good Grades Reward program: Did you study extra hard this year? If you’ve gotten a 3.0 GPA or higher for an entire school year, Discover will reward you with an extra $20 statement credit. You can get this reward for up to five years in a row as long as you’re still a current student when you apply.
  • Free FICO® score: Just like how you have grades for your classes, your FICO® score is your “grade” for your credit. Credit cards have a huge effect on your FICO® score. You can watch how your new credit card affects your score over time with a free FICO® score update on your monthly statement.
  • 5% cash back : You can earn up to 5% cash back at different places that change each quarter, on up to $1,500 in purchases every quarter that you activate. Past categories have included things like Amazon purchases, restaurants, and ground transportation. Even if you don’t buy something in the bonus category, you’ll still earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Cash back match at end of your first year: In addition to rotating 5% cash back categories, new cardmembers will also get an intro bonus. When your first card anniversary comes around, Discover will automatically match your cash back rewards you earned during your first year.

Cons Cons

  • Remember to sign up for bonus places: Even though this card comes with a great cash back rewards program, it comes with a catch: you’ll need to manually activate the bonus places each quarter. You can do this by calling Discover or logging in to your account online. If you forget, you’ll still earn 1% cash back if you make any purchases in the qualifying categories.
  • Gift certificates only available at certain levels: You can redeem your rewards for many things such as Amazon purchases, a statement credit, or a donation to a charity, to name a few. But, if you’d like to get a gift card instead, you’ll need a cash back balance of at least $20 saved up in your account.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Discover it® Student Cash Back offers great perks for college students, such as a rewards program for good grades and a free FICO® score so you can learn about your credit firsthand. Its cash back rewards program is our favorite. No other card for students (that we could find) offers the opportunity to earn up to 5% cash back. And with no annual fee, this is our top pick.

Read our full review of the Discover it® Student Cash Back

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

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Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% Cash Back on all purchases; 0.25% Cash Back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time
Regular Purchase APR
26.96% (Variable)
Credit required
bad-credit
Average/Fair/Limited

Magnify Glass Pros

  • 1.25% cash back if you pay on time: Each purchase you make earns a flat-rate 1% Cash Back on all purchases; 0.25% Cash Back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time. This makes it handy for people who want as simple a card as possible. And it rewards great behavior.
  • Higher credit lines after on-time payments: If you’re approved for this card, you’ll receive a credit line of at least $300. If you make five on-time payments in a row, you can call Capital One and ask them to increase your credit line.
  • No foreign transaction fee: This is a great card to take overseas, because you won’t have to pay any foreign transaction fees. Most cards charge an average 3% foreign transaction fee, but Journey allows you to use your card abroad without being charged extra fees.

Cons Cons

  • High APR: This card carries an APR of 26.96% (Variable). That’s almost twice as high as some other student credit cards, such as the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card with a rate as low as 13.40% - 23.40% Variable APR. It’s just one more incentive to pay off your bill in full each month.
Bottom line

Bottom line

We really like this card because it actively rewards you for developing good credit-management behavior by offering a small cash back bonus for on-time payments. In addition, the cash back program is straightforward with no confusing categories to remember or opt into, making this card a good option for students who want a simple, flat-rate card.

Read our full review of the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Best Intro Bonus

Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases
Regular Purchase APR
13.40% - 23.40% Variable
Credit required
excellent-credit
Good/Excellent

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Interest rates as low as 13.40% - 23.40% Variable APR: Depending on your credit, your interest rate could be between 13.40% - 23.40% Variable APR, but there is no guarantee you’ll receive the lower rate. This is a lower variable APR range than most student cards, and can help if you aren’t able to pay your balance in full one month.
  • Intro Rewards Bonus: 3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases
  • Access to credit education: Wells Fargo provides you with all sorts of tools and information to learn about things like credit, budgeting, and expense tracking. While this is a nice feature, it’s not exclusive to Wells Fargo. You can get this information from free tools such as Mint, or even reading books and blogs. But it is pretty handy having it right at your fingertips when logged in to your account.

Cons Cons

  • Need to be a Wells Fargo member to apply online: You can go into any one of the 6,000+ branches and apply for the card. You can also apply online, but you’ll need to be an existing Wells Fargo customer. However, anyone can open a checking account online with a minimum deposit of $25.
  • High bars for some cash back redemption options: There are a lot of redemption options available through Wells Fargo’s own online cash back rewards mall. However, if you’d just like straight cash, you have a few options. You can request a direct deposit into your Wells Fargo checking account, savings account, or Wells Fargo credit card (if applicable) in $25 increments, or request a paper check in $20 increments. That can take a long time to accumulate if you’re not spending much with your card.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card is a relatively simple card with a great intro bonus of 3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other purchases In addition, the low variable APR is handy for those who think they’ll be carrying a balance on their credit card from month to month at some point in the future. This is generally something we recommend against, but if you can’t avoid it, the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card is your best bet.

Read our full review of the Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card

Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa® Credit Card

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Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa® Credit Card

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
Earn double Reward Points on every dollar of purchases in the first 60 days after opening your new account, then 1 point per dollar spent.
Regular Purchase APR
15.65% Fixed

Magnify Glass Pros

  • $20 reward for good credit card usage: If you can maintain your account in an “exceptional way” for your first year, you’ll get a bonus $20 reward on your card’s anniversary. All you have to do is not have any late payments, don’t charge over your card’s limit, and use your card for at least six out of twelve months.
  • Up to $500 random winner each quarter: It’s like playing the lottery, except you don’t have to buy a lottery ticket. Each quarter Altra will choose one student cardholder at random and pay back all of their purchases from the previous month, anywhere between $50 to $500.
  • Earn rewards: For the first 60 days after you open your account, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent. After that you’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent. You can redeem these points for cash back, merchandise through their online rewards mall, or travel.
  • Redeem points for a lower interest rate: If you’ll need a car in the future, this might be a good credit card to get. You can trade in 5,000 points for a 0.25% reduction, or 10,000 points for a 0.50% reduction on an auto loan through Altra Federal Credit Union. That could end up saving you a ton of cash in the long run.

Cons Cons

  • 1% foreign transaction fee: This is definitely one card to leave at home if you’ll be traveling or studying abroad. Most credit cards charge a 3% foreign transaction fee, so this is on the low side. Still, it’s not too hard to find a student credit card with no foreign transaction fee, such as the Discover it® Student Cash Back or the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® card.
  • Must join Altra Federal Credit Union: Luckily, anyone can join, but it might take a bit of legwork on your part compared to a bank. If you don’t meet certain membership eligibility criteria, you can join the Altra Foundation for $5. Then you’ll need to open a savings account with a minimum $5 deposit that must remain in the account while you have your card open.
Bottom line

Bottom line

If you’re a student who doesn’t mind working with a credit union, Altra provides a card that has several rewards benefits. This card is a good option if you may be taking out an auto loan in the next few years, since you’ll benefit from a reduced interest rate by trading in your rewards points. In addition to earning rewards, using this card responsibly can help you build credit.

Read our full review of the Altra Federal Credit Union Student Visa® Credit Card

Best Secured Card

Discover it® Secured

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Rates & Fees

Read Full Review

Discover it® Secured

Annual fee
$0
Minimum Deposit
$200
Regular APR
25.24% Variable
Credit required
bad-credit
Poor/New

Magnify Glass Pros

  • Cashback program: This card has a feature uncommon to other secure cards — a cashback program. You earn 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases.
  • Cashback Match™: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched (new cardmembers only). This is a great added bonus that increases your cash back in Year 1.
  • Automatic monthly reviews after eight months: Discover makes it easy for you to transition to an unsecured card with monthly reviews of your account starting after eight months. Reviews are based on responsible credit management across all of your credit cards and loans.

Cons Cons

  • Security deposit: You need to deposit a minimum of $200 in order to open this card. This will become your credit line, so a $200 deposit gives you a $200 credit line. If you want a higher credit limit, you need to increase your deposit. The security deposit is refundable, meaning you will receive your deposit back if you close the card, as long as your account is in good standing.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Discover it® Secured is great for students who want to build credit. This card easily transitions you to an unsecured card when the time is right, and you can earn cash back. With proper credit behavior, you’ll soon be on your way to an unsecured card.

Read our full review of the Discover it® Secured

Best for No Credit History

Deserve® EDU Mastercard

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on Deserve’s secure website

Deserve® EDU Mastercard

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases
Regular Purchase APR
20.99% Variable
Credit required
bad-credit
Fair/Good Credit or No Credit

Magnify Glass Pros

  • No credit history required: You can qualify for this card without any credit history, making this a great option for students new to credit. You don’t even need a Social Security number when applying.
  • Reimbursement for Amazon Prime Student*: This card will reimburse you for the cost of a year of Amazon Prime Student (valued at $49). You need to charge your membership to this card to qualify, and you will not be reimbursed for subsequent years’ membership fees.
  • No foreign transaction fee: Whether you travel abroad or study abroad, you can rest easy: There are no foreign transaction fees with this card.

Cons Cons

  • Low cash back rate: The rewards program has a subpar 1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases. You can do better with some of the other cards mentioned in this post. Though as a student, rewards shouldn’t be your primary focus — instead, build your credit so you can qualify for better non-student cards.
Bottom line

Bottom line

The Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students is a great choice for students who are looking to build credit. Deserve markets their cards for those who may have trouble qualifying for credit, and students who fall into this category may more easily qualify for this card than for cards from traditional banks. You can earn cash back, and receive a great promotional offer of a year of Amazon Prime Student for free*.

Also ConsiderAlso Consider

Golden 1 Platinum Rewards for Students

Golden 1 Credit Union Platinum Rewards for Students:

This credit card offers a snazzy rewards program: rather than accumulate points, you’ll get a cash rebate instead. All you have to do is make a purchase. At the end of the month, you’ll get a rebate of 3% of gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases, and 1% of all other purchases deposited back into your Golden 1 savings account at the end of the month. Anyone who lives or works in California is eligible for credit union membership.

What should I look for in a student credit card?

The most important thing to consider when looking for a student credit card is that it charges no annual fee. You should never have to pay to build your credit score. Fortunately, most student cards don’t charge you an annual fee, but it’s still something to watch out for.

The second most important thing you should keep an eye out for are tools that help you learn about credit or even promote good credit-building habits. For example, some student credit cards will give you a free monthly FICO® score update. You can use this freebie to see in real time how your credit score changes as you build credit history by keeping the card open, or paying down your credit card balance, for example.

The last thing you should be considering when picking out a student credit card is the rewards program. I know, I know, it seems counterintuitive. But stick with me — I’ll show you why in the next question.

Why shouldn’t I be concerned about maximizing my rewards while in college?

Rewards cards are nice to have. But if you’re a college student, here’s the truth: you probably won’t spend enough to earn meaningful rewards.

Why? With a good rewards program, you can earn points or cash back. A small percentage of your monthly spending can add up quickly. However, given the tight budget that most college students live on, it will probably take a while to earn meaningful rewards. For example, if you earn 1.25% cash back and spend $300 a month on your card, you would earn $45 of cash back during the year.

College students are very good at making good use of $45. And our favorite card offers a great cash back rewards program. Just don’t expect to earn a lot of cash back, given the tight budget of a college student.

Why should I get a credit card as a college student?

There are a lot of great reasons why you should get a credit card, as long as you can commit to using it responsibly.

The single biggest reason why you should get a credit card as a college student is because you can start establishing a credit history now. When you graduate from college, you will need a good credit score to get an apartment. And your future employer will likely check your credit report. Building a good credit history while still in college will help prepare you for life after graduation.

Getting a credit card while in college can also train you to develop good credit habits now. But you need to be honest with yourself. If you find that you can’t avoid the temptation of maxing out your credit card, you might want to switch to a debit card or cash.

Finally, getting a credit card now can be the motivation you need to start learning about credit. These skills aren’t hard to learn, and they could save you thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars later in life (when you want a mortgage, for example).

What is the CARD Act and why should I care about it?

Many years ago, credit card companies would market on college campuses. You could get a free beer mug or t-shirt in exchange for a credit card application. And you would be able to qualify for a credit card without having any income. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act was signed into law in May 2009 to change a number of practices.

How did the CARD Act change student credit cards?

The CARD Act made a lot of changes in how credit card issuers do business with students. One of the biggest changes was requiring students to be able to demonstrate an ability to pay. If you are under 21 and do not have sufficient income (a campus job, for example), you would need to get a co-signer.

In addition, colleges must now limit the amount of credit card marketing on campus. The days of free t-shirts and pizzas in exchange for credit card applications are gone. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible for a college student to get a credit card. Some highly reputable banks and credit unions still offer student cards. And building a good credit score while still in college is still highly recommended.

How can I protect myself from racking up debt?

When used properly, credit cards are a very convenient method of repayment. However, when not used properly, you can end up deep in credit card debt. It is important to establish a healthy relationship to credit now, with your first credit card.

You should try to ensure that you pay off your credit card bill in full and on time every month. Ideally, you should set up an automatic monthly payment. And to keep yourself on track, take advantage of alerts offered by most credit card companies. You can even get daily text messages reminding you of your balance.

How can I automate my credit card usage?

If all of this sounds confusing, don’t worry. There’s actually a way you can automate your payments so you never even have to bother with the hassle of using a credit card. All it takes is a few minutes of upfront work.

First, you’ll need at least one recurring monthly bill of the same amount, such as Netflix or Spotify. Log in to your account and set up an automatic payment each month using your credit card. Make a note of how much your monthly bill costs.

Next, log in to your bank account. Set up a second automatic payment to go to your credit card each month for the same amount as the bill. If your bank doesn’t offer the option to set up automatic payments, you may also be able to set up your credit card to automatically withdraw the amount of the bill from your bank.

Because you know this bill will be for the same amount each month (barring any price increases), you can literally just leave this running in the background each month on autopilot. You don’t even have to carry your credit card in your wallet if you don’t want to. Then, when you graduate, you’ll automatically have an improved credit score!

What happens to my student credit card when I graduate?

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the finish line. But what about your student credit card? You will have a few options once you graduate and we detail them here.

Here is a summary of our favorite cards:

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.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

Lindsay VanSomeren is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lindsay here

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Best of

Best Checking Accounts With No Overdraft Fees

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.

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If you’ve ever spent more money than you had in your checking account and got slammed with overdraft fees, you know how quickly they can drain your wallet. You might not even realize you’ve overdrawn your account and keep racking up additional charges before it hits you.

Tired of worrying about overdraft fees? We’ve combed our database to find seven banks that either don’t charge overdraft fees, provide a simple, no-charge method of overdraft protection, or decline transactions so you don’t overdraw in the first place.

Here are the best banks we can find with no overdraft fees:

Axos Bank Rewards Checking

Rewards Checking - 3 QualificationsThis rewards checking account from Axos Bank — formerly known as Bank of Internet USA — has no overdraft or non-sufficient funds fees. Beyond that, the account grants up to 1.25% APY so long as you meet the following requirements:

  • Monthly direct deposits of $1,000 or more earns 0.42%
  • Using your debit card 10 times per month (provided those transactions are at least $3 each) earns an additional 0.42%
  • Using the debit card 15 times per month earns yet another 0.42%

The account’s APY, combined with its lack of maintenance fees and required minimum monthly balance, makes it an attractive option for high-frequency users.

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on Axos Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

nbkc bank Personal Account

Personal AccountBased in the Kansas City metro area, this bank offers customers nationwide online access to its Personal checking account. For a mere $5 opening balance, you get a checking account with complimentary online banking, a box of paper checks, bill pay, e-statements and more — and most importantly for this list, there’s absolutely zero overdraft fees.

While using any of the approximately 32,000 ATMs in the bank’s network is free, you will have to pay whatever ATMs outside of its network charge per use. But nbkc commits to reimbursing $12 of those fees every month, so that should take some of the sting out.

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on nbkc bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Simple’s Safe-to-Spend checking features

Simple Checking AccountLike Axos Bank, Simple’s checking account doesn’t charge for overdraft fees or returned item fees. There are no minimums, no monthly fees, and you get access to 40,000 fee-free ATMs.

Simple’s an online-only bank built with mobile in mind, meaning that while you can access most of its features from your computer, the bank recommends you conduct your business via its smartphone app.

Overall, Simple offers a different kind of banking experience, as it provides tools to help you manage your money. With its “Safe-to-Spend” program, Simple takes into account any upcoming bills or scheduled transfers you have, and does the math and tell you what you can afford to spend. You can also track your financial goals within its mobile app.

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Chime spending account

Checking AccountAnother online mobile bank, Chime doesn’t charge customers overdraft fees for a very simple reason — it doesn’t allow people to overdraw their accounts in the first place. Like some of the other banks on this list, Chime will decline a transaction that would plunge a customer’s account into a negative balance.

As with other online-only banks, you sacrifice the convenience of being able to stroll strolling into a local branch for the elimination of fees charged by traditional banks. The lone exception is a $2.50 for over-the-counter cash withdrawals or using an ATM not part of its 38,000 machine network.

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on Chime’s secure website

Member FDIC

Aspiration Spend and Save Account

Aspiration AccountIf you’re willing to take a risk on a non-traditional bank that charges zero fees, then look no further than the Aspiration Spend and Save account. Online-only bank Aspiration markets itself as a financial institution for the globally-conscious client, and as part of their ethos refuses to charge fees for anything — including overdrafts.

You do need to deposit an initial $10 to open the account, but once you’re set up the only fees you pay are the ones you voluntarily give to Aspiration, 10% of which are donated to charity. Even better, the account boasts a 2.00% APY and free access to every ATM in existence.

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Ally Bank Interest Checking Account

Interest Checking AccountThere is no overdraft fee when you have an Ally Interest Checking account, if you enroll in overdraft protection. You can enroll in overdraft protection by linking an Ally savings or money market account to your checking account, and funds will be moved from the linked account to the checking account in $100 increments.

If you chose not to enroll in overdraft protection, Ally charges a once-a-day overdraft fee of $25. That means if you have more than one overdraft item in a single day, the most you’ll be charged is $25 – you won’t get charged a fee every time an overdraft occurs. Of course, Ally will continue to charge you this $25 fee each day your account balance remains negative, so it’s in your best interest to rectify the overdraft as soon as possible.

On the plus side, there aren’t any maintenance fees, there’s no minimum to open an account, and there are no fees incurred when transferring money to a non-Ally bank account.

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on Ally Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Fidelity Cash Management Account

Cash Management AccountThe Fidelity Cash Management Account promises “all the features you need from a traditional checking account, without the bank fees.” Fidelity holds true to this promise with no overdraft fees, and opts to decline transactions that would put you in overdraft by default.

However if you enroll in the account’s free Cash Manager program, you can link a savings or brokerage account to your cash management account. Funds will automatically be transferred (up to $99,999.99 per day) to cover a pending transaction if you don’t have enough in your account, but there’s no option to open a line of credit (an overdraft option we’ll discuss later).

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on Fidelity’s secure website

Member FDIC

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What happens if you incur multiple overdraft fees in a day?

At many banks, overdraft fees aren’t always a simple one-time charge. If you aren’t paying attention, you could keep charging your debit card for multiple transactions before realizing you’ve been spending money you don’t have. Depending on the bank’s policy, each overdraft instance may incur its own fee, and there are varying limits on how many fees a customer can get hit with in a single day. Wells Fargo, for example, charges an overdraft fee of $35, with a cap of three charges per day, meaning a customer could be on the hook for up to $105 in fees in one day.

Avoid paying triple-figure fees by knowing when your checking account is running low or by taking swift action once you realize you’re in overdraft territory. The best way to do this is to sign up for account alerts with your bank. Many financial institutions will alert you via email or text (or both) if your account’s balance falls below a certain amount.

Remember, you may think you’re safe but have failed to take into account automatic payments set up for expenses such as utility bills, Netflix, etc. Make sure you keep more than you think you need in your checking account, if possible.

Why you might want to opt out of overdraft protection

Plenty of banks provide overdraft protection services to help provide support to customers who find themselves in an overdraft situation. These banks usually offer protection in one of the following ways:

  • Linking another account to your checking account. Some banks, including Axos and Ally on this list, offer an overdraft protection service where you link a savings or money market account to your checking account. If you make a transaction that would cause an overdraft, money from this backup account would transfer to your checking account to cover the cost.
  • Offering an overdraft line of credit. If you make a purchase that exceeds the amount of money in your account, the financial institution will cover the amount you owe and treat that sum as a loan, on which you’ll have to pay interest and (probably) a fee.

Of the two methods, linking your checking account to another account presents less risk. Taking an overdraft line of credit means paying interest, and if you can’t correct the overdraft in a timely matter, you could find yourself owing more than you originally bargained for, thanks to snowballing interest payments.

While overdraft protection allows you to make your purchases and provides a way to cover the difference, it often comes with a price. Banks can charge fees for transferring funds between linked accounts, for example, which you may want to avoid.

By opting out of overdraft protection, most banks will simply decline to process transactions that your account balance can’t cover. That’s great if you’re trying to buy a pair of sneakers and don’t want to get hit with fees, but if you need to make an emergency purchase, you could find yourself in trouble.

The bottom line

Overdraft fees are expensive and annoying. Buying an item that costs $5 and getting hit with a $27 fee is a pointless expense. Incurring bank fees like this means you’re essentially throwing money out of the window. If you’re prone to overdrawing your account, plug that leak by signing up with one of these seven no-overdraft-fee checking accounts.

promo-checking-wide-v2

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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Best of

The Best No-Penalty CD Rates

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.

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CDs, or certificates of deposit, work under an easy-to-understand premise: You agree to place your money with a bank or credit union for a set amount of time, during which it will earn interest. At the end of the period, you get your money back plus a nice chunk of interest earnings. But if you withdraw money from your CD before the term expires — or before the CD “matures,” in financial parlance — the institution will charge you a penalty fee for breaking the terms of your agreement.

Generally depositors understand that they can’t touch their funds while they’re in the CD account. But the accounts below are special CDs that let customers withdrawal money from a CD account with no penalty charge at whatever time they want. No-penalty CDs aren’t generally widespread, but we’ve selected the best of these accounts available nationwide, based on the following criteria:

  • An APY of at least 1.8%
  • No penalties for early withdrawal of funds
  • Available across the nation

The best no-penalty CD rates in March 2019

1. PurePoint Financial

TermAPYMinimum balance to earn the APY
11-month2.15%$10,000
13-month2.60%$10,000
14-month2.25%$10,000

The online arm of Union Bank offers the best APY among the no-penalty CD accounts reviewed, which makes it a no-brainer — assuming you have the $10,000 needed for the minimum deposit. PurePoint’s sweet spot is the 13-month term no-penalty CD account, which offers an APY of 2.60% that trounces the 2.35% offered by its closest competitor in this space.

This no-penalty CD accounts come with the usual caveats — you can’t make any partial withdrawal of funds, and you have to wait seven days after your initial deposit before withdrawing. However, if you have the sizable chunk of change needed to open one of these accounts, you’ll earn some of the highest APY for your money.

LEARN MORE Secured

on PurePoint Financial’s secure website

Member FDIC

2. Marcus by Goldman Sachs®

TermAPYMinimum balance to earn the APY
7-month2.25%
$500
11-month2.30%
$500
13-month2.35%
$500

Marcus by Goldman Sachs stakes a strong claim to offering the best no-penalty CDs around, requiring a mere $500 deposit for customers to start earning APYs well above 2%. As with almost every CD, the longer the term the higher the APY, which is why the 13-month CD earns 2.35% as opposed to the 7-month CD’s 2.25%.

Interested customers should be aware, however, that like other no-penalty CDs on this list, the accounts offered by this bank lock in your money for seven days after you deposit. You can’t open a 7-month no-penalty CD on Monday and take out your money on Wednesday (if you needed to for whatever reason).

In addition, these accounts don’t allow any partial withdrawals of the principal. If you deposited $1,000 in an account and want to withdrawal money before that CD matures, you won’t be hit with any penalties — but you have to take out all $1,000 and your account will then be closed.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Goldman Sachs Bank USA’s secure website

Member FDIC

3. My eBanc

TermAPYMinimum balance to earn the APY
11-month2.30%$10,000

This Florida-based online savings bank may go by a somewhat generic name, but it’s a division of BAC Florida Bank, a financial institution with more than 45 years of history. The no-penalty CD offered here is called the Flex Time Deposit, and if customers have the $10,000 to open an account, they can earn an APY of 2.30%, which ranks among the best of the accounts on this list.

Where this account truly shines is that it allows for two partial withdrawals of your funds without having to close your CD account entirely (as long as the balance still remains at $10,000 or more). All of the other no-penalty CD accounts on this list require you to withdrawal all of the principal and any interest earned. The flexibility offered by My eBanc’s account, coupled with its competitive APY, make it one of the top choices for no-penalty CD accounts.

4. Ally Bank

TermAPYMinimum balance to earn the APY
11 months1.80%Up to $5,000
11 months2.15%$5,000
11 months2.30%$25,000

Online-only bank Ally offers a single no-penalty CD account with an 11-month term that earns more APY depending on how much you deposit. Because it has a low minimum balance requirement, this account will attract consumers without a lot of money to spare who still want a no-penalty CD. Of course with modest minimum balances comes an APY to match — the 1.80% earned in this account’s bottom tier is among the lowest listed in this roundup.

Similar to all of the other products listed, this Ally no-penalty CD account makes you wait for the seventh day after the initial deposit to withdraw your funds, and the bank doesn’t allow for partial withdrawals. The bank also offers what it calls its 10 Day Best Rate Guarantee, promising that if depositors fund this CD within 10 days of opening it, Ally will make sure the account earns the highest rate available should the bank change its rate within that 10 day period. It’s by no means a game-changer, but a nice bonus to avoid feeling left out if you deposit a pile of money in your CD on Thursday, only to discover on Friday that Ally hiked its rates.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Ally Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

5. Chartway Credit Union

TermAPYMinimum balance to earn the APY
12-month share certificate2.20%
$500

This credit union may be based in Virginia Beach, Va., but you can potentially become a member, so long as they meet one of the following conditions:

  • You reside or go to school or a place of worship in one of the areas served by a local branch of the credit union. Currently, Chartway Credit Union operates branches in the states of Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
  • You have a family member who’s already a Chartway member
  • You or someone in your immediate family works at a company that utilizes Chartway’s financial services for its employees
  • You make a $10 donation to the We Promise Foundation, a charity founded by the credit union.

Once you’re a member, you can open a 12-month share certificate. Doing so requires a minimum deposit of $500, on which you’ll earn an APY of 2.20%. As with all the other no-penalty CD accounts listed, you can’t make a partial withdrawal of your funds — it’s all or nothing.

LEARN MORE Secured

on Chartway Federal Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

6. CIT Bank

TermAPYMinimum balance to earn the APY
11-month 2.05%$1,000

If you have the $1,000 minimum deposit for this no-penalty CD account, CIT Bank will give you a rate of 2.05% APY on an 11-month term. While that’s not as much as the 2.30% earned with the comparable CD at Marcus by Goldman Sachs, the deal offered by CIT could provide a decent alternative.

Still, despositers determined to save with CIT Bank may want to look at some of its non-CD products, particularly its Savings Builder savings account. Customers can earn 2.45% APY by opening the account with a $100 deposit and making an additional deposit of at least $100 every month. Alternatively, if you have $25,000 to park in a savings account, you can just deposit it in the account and reap the same APY.

LEARN MORE Secured

on CIT Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Honorable mention: AgFed

TermAPYMinimum balance to earn the APY
6 months1.80%
$1,000
12 months2.55%
$1,000
18 months2.65%
$1,000
24 months2.85%
$1,000
36 months2.95%
$1,000
48 months3.05%
$1,000
60 months3.15%
$1,000

AgFed offers a range of CDs whose estimated APY rates vary depending on term. Terms range from six to 60 months, and the minimum initial deposit is $1,000.

AgFed’s CDs do levy substantial early withdrawal penalties, but there’s a loophole: a single withdrawal can be made during the original term of the certificate without a penalty being imposed. Any additional withdrawals will, however, be subject to their penalties, which vary based on the term of the CD but sometimes mean forfeiting all of your interest earnings.

LEARN MORE Secured

on AgFed Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Learn more: Is a no-penalty CD worth it?

According to Ken Tumin, our in-house savings expert and founder of LendingTree-owned DepositAccounts.com, no-penalty CDs aren’t a bad option since there isn’t really much risk to trying one out. Just aim to find the longest term no-penalty CD deal you can since the rates will generally be higher.

“When the bank has your money for longer, they’ll usually offer a higher interest rate — and that interest will have more time to compound,” Tumin says. “So if you open a no-penalty CD, you should go for the one with the longest term possible. The rates will likely still be higher, and after all, if you decide to take the money out early, it’s no problem.”

Also, look for no-penalty CDs that offer the benefit on full withdrawals. Some banks only allow penalty-free partial withdrawals, Tumin warns.

Building a CD ladder to avoid withdrawal fees

If you’re interested in using CDs while still maintaining access to your funds, there’s another approach you could consider: building a CD ladder.

It’s can be a complicated strategy, but in short, you split your deposit up into smaller chunks and open several CDs with various term lengths. When the CDs reach maturity, you can renew the account and lengthen the term or withdraw the money if you need to. This way, you can take advantage of higher interest rates while still avoiding early withdrawal fees.

For a step-by-step guide to building a CD ladder, check out our guide linked above. And for even more savings strategies and tactics, keep your eye on the blog. We’re always reviewing the latest financial products and accounts to help you find the best solutions for your money.

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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