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How to Make the Most of MoviePass, a Great (but Glitchy) Deal for Film Lovers

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.

moviepass home page
Screenshot of the MoviePass website.

It seems that all of a sudden all my friends got MoviePass, a subscription service that allows users to purchase one movie ticket per day for a flat monthly fee of less than $10. That’s cheaper than a single admission at some theaters!

I’m not a frequent moviegoer, but I was immediately sold, thinking it was a good deal even if it could get me through the awards season.

Three weeks in, I have to say, MoviePass is indeed a great deal when it works, but the service got me on edge when it didn’t work quite well: The app is glitchy, and its customer service is lacking — when there is any.

A rocky start

The first red flag popped up nine days after I joined MoviePass and paid my first-month subscription fee. I received an email from my MoviePass Concierge notifying me that my card should have arrived, but it hadn’t, and the company had provided me no shipping information.

The message included a link so I could report that I had not received my card — but it didn’t work. Three days later, I sent an inquiry asking about the shipping status of my card via the MoviePass app’s chat feature. I received no response. I then sent a ticket to its support center online. Silence. Meanwhile, I could not find a customer service line on the MoviePass website.

The MoviePass app, by the way, is slow and clumsy, and the GPS location finder doesn’t always work. It lets you check in for movies outside its allowed distance — 100 yards — from a theater.

My card finally arrived four days after the email said I should’ve received the card, to my excitement.

I scanned through the three-sentence instruction that came with the card, checked for available movies on the app and decided to go to a member theater, an AMC Loews in Manhattan, for the 6:15 p.m. showing of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

I didn’t notice the fine print below the check-in button saying I had to be within 100 yards of the theater to actually check in, but the app still allowed me to do so from my office, 0.4 miles away from the theater. No error message popped up.

When I arrived at the theater, my MoviePass, essentially a MasterCard debit card that’s supposed to be loaded with the money for a ticket upon checking in, didn’t go through at the kiosk. The message on the app was telling me I had already purchased a ticket that day.

moviepass app
Screenshot of the MoviePass app after I checked in too early for the movie.

That’s when the cashier told me I was supposed to swipe my card within 30 minutes after checking in on the app at the theater. The instructions I received with my card said nothing about the 30-minute time frame. Dumbfounded, I paid out of pocket for the ticket. The cashier assured me that if I contacted MoviePass, explaining the situation, they’d refund me for the ticket.

“We’ve had a lot of issues with MoviePass lately,” she shrugged. “You get what you paid for.”

Wait a minute. No, I didn’t get what I paid for — I had to pay out of pocket for a movie ticket, on top of my subscription.

moviepass
The instructions that came with my MoviePass card.

Before the movie started, I contacted the support center via the app, attaching my receipt and screenshot of the message on the app. I also sent in an inquiry via email, to no avail.

At this point, I was worried I was involved in a scam, but I decided to give it a second chance. Before trying the service for the second time, I carefully read the detailed instructions on the MoviePass website.

This time around, my card went through at the kiosk at a different theater after I used the app to check in on the spot. I was thrilled. At the same time, I was frustrated with my MoviePass experience when I had run into trouble, and it turns out, I wasn’t the only one.

Why is it so glitchy?

I ran into a fellow MoviePass holder at the second movie theater, who asked if it was the first time I was using it. I replied, “First time using it the right way.” He then went on to complain that he’d never heard back from its tech support team when he reported an issue.

I later tested the app for a third time. Knowing that I shouldn’t be able to, I once again successfully checked in from my office at the movie theater 0.4 miles away. And when I tried to cancel the purchase, the app wouldn’t let me, despite the fact that MoviePass allows you to change your mind after checking in. Even more strangely, a different movie appeared in my movie-watching history than the one I’d actually picked.

Curious if these issues were widespread, I went to the MoviePass Facebook page and its support center page, only to find they were flooded with complaints from customers who also experienced late arrivals of cards, billing and technical issues and unresponsive customer service.

In an open letter to users in August, the company explained it had seen an overwhelming increase of members that month, when it dropped the monthly fee to $9.95 from $39.99.

“An unprecedented volume of traffic” caused its system to crash, the letter reads. The issues, in turn, significantly increased incoming inquiries for assistance.

Indeed, interest in the service skyrocketed since the price adjustment. The number of MoviePass subscribers reportedly jumped from about 20,000 in early 2017 to 1.5 million as of January.

In particular, MoviePass says its membership went from 1 million to 1.5 million in a month, from December to January, a result of the company’s partnership with Costco, whose members can get a yearly deal with MoviePass for $89.99. Gabriel, a MoviePass customer support member, told me this when I called the customer line for Costco members. (I am not a Costco member, but someone posted the number on Facebook so I tried it.)

Although MoviePass has tripled the number of its support staff over the past month, they still couldn’t keep up with the demand, Gabriel said. He wouldn’t provide his last name when I asked to interview him about the issues.

“We are really happy to have so many customers,” Gabriel told me after he finished handling my refund request. “Unfortunately we just don’t have enough people at this time, but we are hiring as fast as possible. We are doing everything we can to try to prevent that from happening in the future.”

How to correctly use MoviePass

It seems that it may take a while for the company to fully staff its customer support team. We put together a step-by-step user guide with important notes, hoping that you will avoid some common mistakes and make the most out of the service without having to contact MoviePass.

Step 1: Order a MoviePass card

Download the MoviePass app from the App Store or Google Play Store. You will be asked to enter your address and credit card information upon registration. You can also sign up for the membership online. MoviePass charges your first monthly subscription fee upfront. MoviePass says your card should arrive within five to seven business days. But based on my experience and the experiences others shared online, it could take longer.

Step 2: Activate the card

My card came activated, but you may need to activate yours when it arrives in the mail. Follow the steps listed here.

Step 3: Use the card

  1. Find showtimes in your area by entering your ZIP code on the app.
  2. Pick a theater where you want to see a particular movie.
  3. Go to the theater with your MoviePass card. Choose the showtime for the movie on the app. Click “CHECK IN” to buy your ticket.
  4. The screen then shows, “SUCCESS! Go purchase your ticket.”
    If you accidentally picked the wrong movie or showing, click “Sold Out? Change Mind?” at the bottom. It didn’t work for me the first time I tried, but it allowed me to cancel a different purchase a few days later. Given my hit-and-miss experience, I’d advise you use the app with extra attention to details to make sure you get what you want.
  5. Swipe your card at the kiosk or a ticketing machine to purchase your ticket. Your MoviePass will be activated for 30 minutes for the purchase after you check in on the app, so don’t wait too long to buy your ticket.

A few things to note

  1. You can only see 2D movies with MoviePass.
  2. You can use MoviePass to see as many movies as you like in a month, but you can only see one per day. And you can only purchase a same-day ticket.
  3. You have to check in at the movie theater — you can’t book a ticket in advance at home. MoviePass may not work if you want to see a newly released box hit that may be sold out by the time you get to the movie theater. For big releases, you may have to arrive in the theater earlier to lock the ticket in for a later showing.
  4. Not every theater accepts MoviePass. The company claims MoviePass is accepted at more than 91% of theaters — more than 4,000 — nationwide. Check the theater map to make sure its service is available in your town before you sign up for it.

If you still have questions…

MoviePass recommends members use the real-time chat feature on the app or submit an email inquiry through its website. As I noted before, I had no success either way.

Head to the MoviePass Support Center online. On this page, the company lists answers to  common-user questions.

Gabriel said the company hasn’t set up a direct service line open to all customers yet; it’s work-in-progress, but Costco users can call 1-855-336-3632 for help, which I used, despite not having a Costco membership. The call center greeting message says it’s a MoviePass customer service line, not a line specifically for Costco members.

When I called it a week after my first call, another customer service worker named Jason said MoviePass had disabled the number when subscriptions skyrocketed, because the call center wasn’t able to take care of the flooding inquiries. Although the number is not listed on the MoviePass website nor on the app, Jason said the team is indeed taking MoviePass subscribers’ questions as the company beefs up the staff. MoviePass did not respond to an email request from MagnifyMoney seeking to verify the number as an official customer service line.

My refund was processed immediately when I called in, to my surprise. (Disclosure: I explained I was working on an article about MoviePass after customer service resolved my personal issue.) To add another level of complexity, I initially received a refund of $0.15, instead of the $15.19 I paid for the ticket, which prompted another call to the MoviePass customer support center.

MoviePass expects its membership to rise. It better speed up the hiring process!

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.

Shen Lu
Shen Lu |

Shen Lu is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Shen Lu at [email protected]

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How Fed Rate Hikes Change Borrowing and Savings 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.

Since late 2015, the Federal Reserve has raised the upper limit of its target federal funds rate by 2.25 percentage points, from 0.25% in December 2015, to 2.50% in 2019.

The Fed is no longer expected to raise rates. Now, the question is whether the Fed will cut the federal funds rate sometime this summer. The market is increasingly confident that at least one rate cut will occur this calendar year.

MagnifyMoney analyzed Federal Reserve rate data to illustrate how the rates consumers pay for loans and earn on deposits have changed since the Fed started raising them two and a half years ago.

  • Credit card borrowers are currently paying $113 billion in interest annually, up $34 billion from the annual $79 billion they paid prior to the first Federal Reserve interest rate hike in December 2015, making introductory 0% APR deals all the more attractive.
  • Meanwhile, depositors earned significantly more from savings accounts. In the 12 months ending in June 2018, depositors earned $26.8 billion in interest on their savings accounts, up $16.8 billion from the $10 billion they earned in 2015.
  • According to our analysis, credit card rates are most sensitive to changes in the federal funds rate, almost directly matching the rate change with a 3 percentage point increase since December 2015. Credit card rates will continue to rise in line with the Fed’s rate increases, and if the Fed raises them again, the average household that carries credit card debt month to month will pay over $150 in extra interest per year compared with before the Fed rate hikes began. MagnifyMoney estimates 122 million Americans carry credit card debt month to month.
  • Student loan and auto loan rates have also risen  — but by less than half as much as credit card rates — in part because they are long-term forms of lending that are less reliant on the short-term federal funds rate. Federal student loan rates are set based on the 10-year Treasury note rate each May.
  • Savers at big banks have seen little change, with the average savings and CD account passing through only a fraction of the rate increase. However, that masks a big opportunity for savers who shop around and move deposits to online banks. Online banks have aggressively raised rates, and now often offer rates of more than 2%, versus just 1% in 2015. That’s over 20 times what typical accounts pay.

In addition, MagnifyMoney also looked at the impact on consumer rates the last time the Fed reduced rates in 2007.

 

Generally, unsecured loans like credit cards and personal loans are more rate-change sensitive than secured loans like autos and home mortgage rates, no matter the direction of the rate change. However, savings products like Certificates of Deposit are a stark exception. Even after 3 years of fed funds rate increases, CD rates generally languished at rock-bottom rates until very recently, and then only increased modestly, relative to other financial products. Compare that to 2007, when it was the product most sensitive to interest rate cuts.

 

Let’s take a closer look at how the Fed rate hike impacts different financial products:

Credit cards

Most credit cards have a rate that’s directly based on the prime rate, for example, the prime rate plus 9.99%. As a result, card rates tend to move almost immediately in line with Fed rate changes. In the current cycle, the rates on all credit card accounts tracked by the Federal Reserve have increased 3 points, even more than the Fed’s increase of 2.25 points.

That said, consumers can still find attractive introductory rate offers.

For example, 0% balance transfer offers have continued to have long terms even as the Fed hiked rates, with offers still available for nearly two years at 0%.

Credit card issuers make up for the rate hike with the automatic rise in variable back-end rates, as well as the increasing spread between the prime rate and what consumers pay on new accounts. They can also increase other fees, like late payment fees or balance transfer fees to keep long 0% deals viable.

The Federal Reserve tends to hike up interest rates gradually over time. And people in credit card debt will barely notice the rate increase in their monthly statement. When rates are increased by 0.25%, the monthly minimum due on a credit card will increase $2 for every $10,000 of debt.
The danger of such a small increase in the monthly payment is complacency. Remember that by paying the minimum due, you could be in debt for more than 20 years.

Rates are expected to keep rising, so it makes sense for consumers to lock in a low rate today. The best ways to lock in lower rates are by leveraging long 0% balance transfer deals or by consolidating into fixed rate personal loans.

Savings accounts

On average, savings account rates haven’t changed much since the Fed started raising rates. That’s largely because big banks with the biggest deposits and large branch networks have less incentive to offer higher rates, and this skews national data on rates earned because most savers don’t shop around to find higher rates at online banks and credit unions.

Consumers who shop around can find much higher savings account rates than three years ago, and shopping around for a better rate on your deposits is one of the best ways to make the Fed’s rate hikes work in your favor.

Back in 2015, it was rare to see savings accounts pay 1% interest.

Today, many online banks are competing for deposits by offering savings account rates in excess of 2%, flowing through about half of the Fed’s rate hike into increased rates for depositors. These rates will continue to rise as the Fed hikes rates. The increases are already apparent in the data. Depositors are currently earning more than $26 billion in interest on their savings accounts annually, versus $10 billion in 2015.

CDs

CD rates have moved faster than savings rates, up 0.41 points for 12-month CDs since the Fed started raising rates. That’s in part because they are a more competitive product that forces consumers to rate shop when they expire at the end of their 6-month, 12-month or longer term.

But that rate rise doesn’t fully reflect what some smaller banks are passing through, as the banks with the largest deposits have been slow to raise rates.

The rates on 1- and 2-year CDs at online banks have been increasing rapidly, and are now well over 2%, reflecting much of the Fed’s rate increases since 2015.

The rates on 5-year CDs have also finally begun to increase, with some banks offering 60-month CDs with rates above 3.50%. As a result, the rate curve has been steepening.

Still, a reasonable strategy would be to invest in short-term (1- and 2-year) CDs. If competition on the short end continues, you can get the benefit in a year on renewal.

Student loans

Federal student loan rates are set based on a May auction of 10-year Treasury notes, plus a defined add-on to the rate. Today, rates for new undergraduate Stafford loans stand at 5.05%, up from 4.30% before the federal funds target rate began to rise.

Since student loan rates are determined by the 10-year Treasury rate, rather than a short-term rate, they are less directly related to changes in the federal funds rate than some shorter-term forms of borrowing like credit cards. Instead, future market views of inflation and economic growth play a role. Federal student loan rates are capped at 8.25% for undergraduates and 9.5% for graduate students.

For private refinancing options, rates depend on secondary markets that tend to follow longer-term rates, rather than the current federal funds rate, but in general, a rising rate environment could mean less attractive refinancing options.

Personal loans

Personal loan rates tend to be driven by many factors, including an individual lender’s view of the lifetime value of a customer, funding availability and credit appetite. Most personal loans offer fixed rates, and in a rising rate environment overall, we expect these rates will go up, making new loans more expensive, so consumers on the fence should consider shopping for a good rate sooner rather than later. Since the end of 2015, rates on 2-year personal loans tracked by the Federal Reserve have increased by 0.61 basis points.

Auto loans

Prime consumers who shop around for an auto loan can still find very low rates, especially when manufacturers are offering special financing deals to move certain car models.

But the overall rates across the credit spectrum have gone up since the Fed raised rates, in part due to the rate hikes and because of recent greater than expected delinquencies in some parts of the auto lending market.

Mortgages

Since the Fed started raising rates in late 2015, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate has increased from approximately 3.90% to 4.55% as of Dec. 27, 2018. The mortgage market tends to follow trends in longer term bond markets, like the 10-year Treasury, since mortgages are a longer-term form of borrowing. That shields them from the impact of Fed rate hikes, and it’s not unusual for mortgage rates to decline during some periods when the Fed is raising rates.

What can consumers do

Eve if rates are no longer going up, life is still expensive for debtors, and more rewarding for savers than in recent years.

If you are in debt, now is the time to lock in the lowest rate possible. There are still plenty of options at this point in the credit cycle for people to lock in lower interest rates.

If you are a saver, ignore your traditional bank and look online. Take advantage of online savings accounts and CDs to earn 20 times the rate of typical big bank rates.

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.

Nick Clements
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Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at [email protected]

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How to Pay for Transition-Related Expenses Without Going Broke

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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Once a trans person has accepted their gender identity and decided to begin transitioning, it’s an exciting and liberating time. Everyone’s transition looks different, and each person may choose varying interventions. But as soon as someone starts looking at the costs, which could include doctor appointments, bloodwork, hormones, legal name and gender marker changes, a whole new wardrobe and potentially, surgeries, the costs can skyrocket quickly.

This is an especially tough pill to swallow for the trans community, which already faces significant financial disadvantages compared to the general population, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. As revealed in their 2015 report, this is because many trans people face unsupportive families and suffer from discrimination with employment and housing, which results in financial distress and homelessness at higher rates than cisgender people.

“In the trans community, we see the highest amount of unemployment and housing insecurity,” said Emmett Schelling, executive director of Transgender Education Network of Texas. “Most trans people can’t save money because they’re worried about their day-to-day survival.” This makes it difficult to find money for binders, electrolysis or other transition-related needs when just getting by can be a struggle.

While there are some transition-related expenses that are difficult to avoid, many can be reduced or wiped out with the help of certain resources and strategies. Here’s how to save on several of the most common expenses.

How much does it cost to medically transition?

Not every trans person desires hormone therapy or surgeries. But for those who do, the costs can be high and vary greatly depending on the provider and whether you have health insurance that covers it.

For some ballpark figures, below are the costs of some of the most common transition-related surgeries at The Philadelphia Center for Transgender Surgery, including hospital and anesthesia costs. Note that this clinic and others provide a discount when multiple surgeries are done at once.

For trans women seeking hair removal, electrolysis and laser hair removal are used because they’re the most permanent methods. However, costs may vary drastically, since the number of sessions required to achieve results is unique to each individual and the amount providers charge can differ significantly.

Male-to-female confirmation surgeries and procedures

Breast augmentation

$9,000

Vaginoplasty

$25,600

Rhinoplasty

$9,000

Thyroid cartilage reduction (trachea shave)

$5,400

Female-to-male confirmation surgeries and procedures

Basic chest masculinization

$7,800

Phalloplasty

$24,900

How to finance your transition

Apply for grants

If you want a surgery or procedure that’s still beyond what you can afford, consider applying for a grant. There are several specifically for people who need assistance while transitioning.

“There are a few different nonprofit organizations out there that provide financial assistance for people seeking gender affirming surgery or electrolysis or binders,” said Ryan Sallans, a transgender author, public speaker and diversity trainer. He is also a volunteer vice president of The Jim Collins Foundation, which has an annual grant cycle that awards financial grants for gender-affirming surgery to a limited number of applicants. They offer one type of grant that pays for 100% of surgical fees.

“It makes us a unique organization,” Sallans added. “Being able to tell people that 100% of surgical fees are covered is completely life changing, because a lot of people aren’t able to even put down $1,000 or $2,000 for a surgery.”

Through a legacy donation by a trans woman, they also have a grant available that provides 50% of funding and requires the individual to put down the other 50%. “I actually really love that grant — sadly it’ll be gone in two years — because there are many people who may have most of the money,” he said. “They just don’t have that last piece.”

According to Sallans said each year, they typically receive 400 to 500 applications, and in the past, they were only able to award one to three grants annually. For the last two years in a row, they’ve been able to provide three grants that covered surgeries at 100% and two that covered 50%. The amount they can give out each year depends on how much they’re able to fundraise.

The nonprofit Point of Pride also started offering surgical grants for the trans community a few years ago, and they’ve given out more than $103,000 total in grants. They also have a program to help with the costs of electrolysis for permanent hair removal.

Get creative with fundraising

If you’re struggling to piece together enough money for transition-related expenses, you may turn to credit cards or a loan. But rather than getting into debt, consider fundraising first. Many trans people turn to GoFundMe, Schelling said, which allows them to raise money from their friends and family.

Some people also organize fundraisers; for example, working with local LGBTQ bars to have a percent of one night’s proceeds go toward their surgery. Schelling said he’s seen people in Texas do “plate sales,” where they hold an event and make food, like homemade enchiladas, and sell plates of it to raise money for their surgery. If you get creative with fundraising, he said, and combine it with any savings you do have, you can meet your goals a lot faster.

Explore your insurance

If you have health insurance, read your policy carefully to determine what types of transition-related care is and isn’t covered. If you’re not able to figure it out, call your insurer or ask your job’s human resources team to help you understand your coverage.

Be aware that under the Affordable Care Act, health insurers and medical providers are not allowed to discriminate against you because you’re trans. While this doesn’t mean they have to cover every procedure, an insurer cannot categorically exclude transition-related care, and providers aren’t allowed to deny you care simply because you’re trans — though unfortunately it sometimes still happens.

If you have faced discrimination from an insurer or medical professional, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If you need assistance, contact The Transgender Law Center Legal Helpline or call (415) 865-0176 x306.

If you’re on Medicare, know that transition-related care that’s deemed “medically necessary” is supposed to be covered. However, attempts to get surgeries covered by Medicare are not always successful, so ask your doctor about their history with the program and whether or not previous claims have been accepted.

Consider borrowing to help cover the costs

If you’re not able to pay for transition-related costs with savings, you might be able to finance them with one of these options.

Credit cards. Credit cards offer an easy way to borrow funds. Your credit limit might not be enough to pay for an entire major surgery, but it could cover smaller procedures or miscellaneous costs. If your credit card’s interest rate is high, many credit cards offer 0% interest rates for a year or longer, giving you time to make a dent in your debt. If you go that route, just make sure that if you carry a balance, you can handle the payments once the regular APR kicks in. Also keep a lookout for annual fees, and be aware that carrying a high balance can hurt your credit score since it increases your credit utilization ratio.

Personal loans. Another option to pay for transition-related costs or surgery is taking out a personal loan, which gives a lump sum that’s then repaid with interest in fixed payments. You can take out a personal loan from a traditional financial institution, like a bank or a credit union, or from an online lender. Personal loans are typically available anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000, and interest rates vary significantly depending on credit history.

Medical financing. There are also certain financing options specifically for medical expenses. One is CareCredit, a medical credit card accepted by some healthcare providers. CareCredit often offers 0% interest for certain time periods, but if you don’t pay off your balance by the end of that predetermined “promotional period,” you will owe interest retroactively, and at a very high rate. CareCredit should only be used if you know you can pay off your balance in full before interest kicks in. Another option is Prosper — the company known for peer-to-peer lending also offers a special type of healthcare loan in partnership with some doctors. If your doctor uses their system and you’re approved, you can get a loan for up to $35,000 with no retroactive interest.

Find extra work

Another way to help pay for transition-related expenses is to supplement your income. Consider turning to the gig economy, where you can give rides, deliver groceries, charge scooters and a number of other flexible jobs.

Schelling said he’s even encountered many trans people who work at Starbucks for several years. This offers a unique opportunity, he said, since it not only brings supplemental income, but Starbucks also offers extremely trans-inclusive health insurance, even to part-time employees.

3 ways to save on transition-related expenses

Find free clothing

Some trans people slowly start building their new wardrobe over time, but others don’t start purchasing attire that matches their gender identity until they begin socially transitioning. This can get expensive quickly — not to mention, many transitioning people are uncomfortable shopping in public, Schelling said.

One way to get around this is to participate in or start a clothing swap with other members of the trans community. Some organizations put these together, but if there’s nothing in your area, try to organize one yourself. Have everyone bring some clothes they no longer wear, and swap them with those who are now looking for those types of clothes. People can also bring shoes, jewelry, bags, makeup and other items they no longer need.

“In the city next to me, there was a group of trans people who were doing that,” Sallans noted. “They were collecting binders and clothes and giving it out to people when they had a social group meeting or peer support meeting.” Beyond the immediate need, he added that it also helps build a sense of community.

If a clothing swap isn’t an option for you, consider visiting local thrift stores or online marketplaces like Thredup or Poshmark to find gently used clothes at a huge discount.

Schelling added that some organizations and businesses offer free chest binders for trans people who can’t afford one. For example, Point of Pride offers a free binder program.

Look for LGBTQ-friendly healthcare

Many trans people seek out hormone replacement therapy, but if you don’t have health insurance, accessing HRT and any other basic healthcare needs can be extremely expensive. Fortunately, more and more LGBT-focused clinics are currently opening up around the nation, according to Sallans.

“There are different non-profit organizations that can subsidize costs, whether you need access to hormone therapy or general prevention care, like reproductive and sexuality care,” he said. Planned Parenthood is one such organization, he also noted; while not every location offers hormone replacement therapy, many do.

There are also individual clinics, like Kind Clinic in Austin, Texas, that focus specifically on healthcare for the LGBTQ+ community and offer discounted services.

Schelling’s organization has also observed the increase in clinics that offer trans healthcare.

“A lot of times, the upside is there’s access to competent medical care, and some of those clinics assist you with the costs of your medications,” he said. “The downside is that usually there’s a limited amount of days or evenings these clinics are open, so once people find out, the wait list can be two to three months out.” However, he noted that if you’re looking for hormone therapy, once you have your initial blood work completed, you typically only have to go in every few months.

Access free or discounted legal assistance

If you want to legally change your name and/or gender marker, you’ll have to go through your legal system to get new IDs. “Having people who are knowledgeable in this process is extremely important since it can be extremely overwhelming and expensive,” Sallans said. While using a lawyer for this is optimal, especially since laws vary by state, it can be expensive. Sallans said he did his all himself, which was much cheaper, but it was also very daunting.

Across the country, there are law clinics that offer free legal services for name and gender marker changes. For example, in San Antonio, Texas, the local LGBTQ center, The Pride Center, provides free legal gender and name changes through a legal clinic with a local law school. If there’s a law school near where you live, find out if there are any law clinics or programs available to help.

Some individual lawyers also offer free or discounted services for transr members of their community who have these legal needs. If you’re not sure where to start, and your city has an LGBTQ chamber of commerce, see if any lawyers are members. If there are any LGBTQ publications in your city, see if any lawyers advertise in them. Sallans says some nonprofits also offer these legal services for free in various areas.

Transitioning can be an expensive endeavor, but there is an ever-increasing number of resources and organizations available to help make the process more within reach.

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.

Emily Starbuck Gerson
Emily Starbuck Gerson |

Emily Starbuck Gerson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Emily here

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