Advertiser Disclosure

Reviews, Student Loan ReFi

Review: Citizens Bank Private Student Loan

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

college-grad (1)

Are Federal student loans not enough to cover your education? Then you’re probably looking at taking out private student loans to bridge the gap. Your goal should be to get as close to Federal rates as possible to make your loans more affordable. Let’s see how the private student loan from Citizens Bank compares.

Details of Citizens Bank’s Private Student Loan

You can borrow a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $170,000 depending on the level of education you’re attaining:

  • Undergraduates are allowed to borrow up to $120,000 of federal and private student loan debt combined, or $90,000 just from Citizens Bank.
  • Graduates can borrow a limit of $150,000 of federal and private student loan debt combined, or $110,000 exclusively from Citizens Bank.
  • Business and Law graduates can borrow a maximum of $225,000 of federal and private student loan debt combined, or $180,000 only from Citizens Bank.
  • Medical and Dental graduates can borrow a maximum of $180,000 or $350,000 depending on degree of federal and private student loan debt combined, or $180,000 straight from Citizens Bank.

Borrowers can choose a 5, 10, or 15 year term to repay their loans, and they can do so on three different types of repayment plans:

  • Immediate Repayment: Repayment begins as soon as the loans are disbursed, meaning borrowers are required to make payments while attending school. This option will likely save you the most money in the long run, but might be unrealistic if you don’t plan on working during the semester.
  • Interest Only Repayment: Similar to immediate repayment, borrowers are responsible for making payments while in school, but only have to pay enough to cover the interest on the loan. This will likely give you a slightly lower payment and will still save you money on interest. According to Citizens Bank, the average monthly payment is between $53.08 and $91.30, depending on your interest rate.
  • Deferred Repayment: This is essentially the same repayment plan federal loan borrowers are on. You’re not required to make payments while in school, and are entitled to a grace period after you graduate.

[7 Things You Need to Know about Private Student Loans]

APRs vary depending on what level of education you’re obtaining and whether you choose a variable rate or a fixed rate. There are four different types of loans: undergraduate, graduate, business and law and medical and dental loans.

Variable APRs are lower than fixed APRs, but they give you less stability as your interest rate can increase at any time (it’s limited to once per month, in this case). Additionally, immediate and interest only repayment plans will give you a lower interest rate than deferred repayment – sometimes 0.50% less. Lastly, choosing a shorter repayment period is going to give you a lower rate as well.

Be aware that if you opt into automatic payments, you’ll receive a 0.25% interest rate discount. If, at the time of applying, you also have an existing account with Citizens Bank, you’ll be eligible for another 0.25% interest rate discount.

A payment example looks like this: if you borrow $10,000 as an undergraduate student and choose to repay the loan in 10 years under an interest only repayment plan, depending on your APR (example APR: 6.25%-10.75%), your monthly payment will be $112.26 to $136.29. The total amount you’d pay is $15,972.44 to $20,657.77. Contrast that with the deferred repayment plan, in which you’d pay a total of $18,085.08 to $23,900.11.

Lastly, earlier in 2015, Citizens Bank introduced its “Multi Year Borrowing Option” specifically for student loans. If you qualify (you must meet certain credit standards), you won’t have to fully re-apply for funds each year. Instead, you’ll lock in the term you’re approved for the first time around, and you can request that the amount you need be sent to the school you’re attending. It’s a much more streamlined process.

How Does the Citizens Bank Private Student Loan Compare to Federal Student Loans?

While the private student loan from Citizens Bank offers a lot of options, you should exhaust your Federal options first. Make sure you fill out the FAFSA and take advantage of the aid you’re offered, as Federal student loans come with repayment assistance options that private loans don’t. They typically have lower interest rates, too.

If you’ve already done that and still need extra financing to cover the cost of tuition or books, then Citizens Bank could be a good option to go with. For the 2015-2016 academic year, the Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans have a fixed interest rate of 4.29%.

That’s lower than the starting point of 6.39% for Citizens Bank fixed-rate student loans and depending on your credit (or your co-signers credit), you may not qualify for an interest rate that low. Direct Loans also have an origination fee of 1.068% for the same academic year, whereas the private student loan from Citizens Bank doesn’t have an origination fee.

Direct Loans for graduate students have a fixed interest rate of 5.84%, and in most cases, Citizens Bank has that beat. Direct PLUS Loans have a fixed interest rate of 6.84%, again making the loans from Citizens Bank more attractive.

Overall, Citizens Bank isn’t the worst choice you could go with, especially if you’re eligible for the 0.50% interest rate reduction, or you’re a graduate student. Keep in mind that variable rates can be volatile; they’re not locked in like fixed rates are. While the lower rate may be tempting, consider that having fluctuating student loan payments might make budgeting harder down the road.

[How to Tell if Your Loans are Federal or Private]

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to apply for a private student loan with Citizens bank, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
    • OR be an international student with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident that can co-sign your loan
  • Must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible institution and working toward obtaining a degree
  • Be age of majority in your state (otherwise you’re required to have a co-signer)
  • Have a “reasonably strong credit history” (it’s recommended that younger borrowers apply with a co-signer)

Application Process and Documents Needed

You can easily apply online within minutes. All you need is:

  • Your personal information
  • A recent pay stub for proof of income
  • Your employer’s information
  • The name of the school you’re attending
  • The total amount of financial aid you’ve already received
  • The amount of funds you’re requesting
  • Personal references

If you’re applying with a co-signer, you’ll need to provide their name and email address so they can fill out the application as well. If you apply by yourself and you’re denied, Citizens Bank allows you to add on a co-signer and it will reevaluate your application with your co-signers information taken into account.

The first step of the application is selecting the school you want to attend, so you’ll know right away if your school is an eligible institution.

The second step of the application is accepting the general terms of the loan. Citizens Bank actually gives you access to the loan agreement, so you can review the fine print yourself if you wish.

From then on, you fill out your personal information. Citizens Bank will conduct a hard pull of your credit during the application process. If you’re approved and choose to move forward with the loan, you choose the loan option you like best, upload any documents that are requested, sign your loan electronically, and Citizens Bank will send the payment directly to your school.

[Student Loan Disbursement 101]

The Fine Print

There are no application fees, origination or disbursement fees, and no prepayment penalty associated with this loan. However, a late fee will be assessed if 15 days pass without a payment. The late fee is 5% of the outstanding balance. Additionally, if there’s a returned payment, you’ll be charged $15.

Citizens Bank will give borrowers with an existing Citizens Bank account a 0.25% interest rate discount. In case you were thinking of opening one before applying, know that its checking and savings accounts are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. However, if you have another loan under Citizens Bank, that counts toward your eligibility.

Co-signer release is allowed after making 36 consecutive payments of principal and interest (so interest only payments don’t apply). Additionally, if you applied for forbearance or deferment, your payment period will reset, so you’ll need to make another 36 consecutive payments to qualify. If you’re denied a release, you’ll have to wait another year from your application date to apply.

Repayment Assistance Options

Citizens Bank doesn’t make a direct reference to repayment assistance, but deferment and forbearance are mentioned in the fine print, so it might be offered on a case-by-case basis. This is something you should inquire about as you want to make sure you have options in case your loans become too big of a burden.

Pros and Cons of Citizens Bank Private Loan

Pro: Flexible repayment terms. You can choose a 5, 10, or 15 year term, and choose whether to make immediate payments, interest only payments, or to defer payments.

Pro: Citizens Bank is the first to come out with a “Multi Year loan” product. If you can qualify, it would be nice to lock your terms in for all years of your college education.

Pro: There are no fees associated with the loan, save for late payment and returned payment fees, which is standard.

Pro: APRs, especially for graduate and medical loans, are quite low when compared to the federal options borrowers have.

Con: Repayment assistance options aren’t emphasized, and this may be a concern for some borrowers worried about their ability to repay their loans.

Con: Citizens Bank places a lot of importance on credit score and history, which many younger borrowers lack. Co-signers are almost a necessity.

Citizens Bank (RI)

APPLY NOW Secured

on Citizens Bank (RI)’s secure website

Private Student Loan Alternatives

Not eligible for a private student loan with Citizens Bank? There are a few other worthy alternatives:

SunTrust Custom Choice Loan Fixed APRs are slightly lower than what Citizens Bank offers, though the variable APRs are higher. SunTrust also has repayment terms of 5 and 10 years – you have to borrow over $5,000 for the 15 year term. As a bonus, SunTrust offers borrowers a 2% principal balance reduction if they graduate with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

SunTrust Bank

APPLY NOW Secured

on SunTrust Bank’s secure website

LendKey: This isn’t a lender; it’s a platform that aggregates private student loans offered by community banks and credit unions. As a result, it offers a variety of loans from lenders that typically have lower interest rates than big banks. You only need to enter your information once, and all the loans you’re eligible for will pop up.

LendKey

APPLY NOW Secured

on LendKey’s secure website

Conclusion

It always pays to shop around, and you should. Credit bureaus will count all inquiries made within a 30-day window as one inquiry, so your credit won’t be harmed as much as you might think. Take advantage of this and see which lender can offer you the best rates. Your future self will thank you for it when you’re paying back your loans.

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.

Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at [email protected]

Disclaimer

Private Student Loan

Need a student loan?

Apply in as little as 3 minutes or less with College AVE.

earnest

Advertiser Disclosure

Reviews

Review of Green Dot Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Get rewarded for your spending with the Green Dot Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account. The account earns unlimited 3% cash back earned from online or in-app purchases, but unlike most cashback programs, this one prevents you from enjoying your earned rewards immediately. The catch: You can only access and redeem your cashback rewards if your account is in good standing a year after registration. In addition, there is a $7.95 monthly fee, although it’s simple to get around the fee.

While you wait for your account registration anniversary, you can use this account’s other features to your advantage. For one, Green Dot Bank can get you your paycheck up to two days in advance through direct deposit. You can also use the 3%* APY Green Dot Bank High-Yield Savings Account to stash and grow your money.

Green Dot doesn’t have any branch locations of its own, so it relies heavily on its app and participating stores to offer its services to customers. This makes it slightly tricky for users who need quick and easy ATM access.

Read on to learn more about the FDIC-insured Green Dot Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account and its rewards requirements, fees and fine print.

How does the Green Dot Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account work?

 

The Green Dot Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account’s biggest draw is the unlimited 3% cash back earned from online or in-app purchases. There’s no limit to how much cash back you can earn, so long as you’re using your card for online and in-app purchases (there’s more on how Green Dot identifies those purchases in a section below)

Getting access to your cash back is a little trickier, however. While you’ll see the cash back earned on each purchase reflected almost immediately, you’ll have to wait for each anniversary of your account registration to redeem the funds. On each anniversary date, you can transfer your cash back rewards into your Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account. Your registration date is the date you actually register your card no matter where you got it, either at a store or online.

On your registration anniversary, your account must be in good standing. This means it must have a positive balance and cannot be blocked or flagged for any reason. If you have a negative balance, you must bring it to a positive balance before you can redeem your rewards.

Depositing cash into your Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account is also a little unorthodox, as Green Dot doesn’t have any of its own branches or ATMs. To deposit cash, you need to visit a Green Dot participating retailer, including CVS pharmacies and Walmart stores. Cash deposits are free when you initiate the deposit on the Green Dot app and complete them at a retail store. You can also initiate a cash deposit by swiping your Green Dot debit card at a participating retailer, who may charge a cash deposit fee of their own.

As for withdrawals, you can locate free ATMs through the bank’s app. Otherwise, you’ll face an out-of-network ATM fee, in addition to a potential ATM owner surcharge.

Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account features

  • Earns unlimited 3% cash back on eligible online or in-app purchases
  • Get your paycheck up to two days earlier with ASAP Direct Deposit™
  • Links to 3%* APY Green Dot Bank High-Yield Savings Account
  • No overdraft fees

Along with its competitive cash back rate, another big perk of banking with Green Dot Bank is that you can get your direct deposit paychecks up to two days in advance. Typically, employers deposit paychecks into employees’ banks two days before actual payday. So instead of letting your paycheck sit in the Automated Clearing House (ACH) limbo, where payments like these are processed, Green Dot deposits your paycheck on the same day the bank receives it. Exact timing and availability of your direct deposit will depend on when your employer submits your payment information and deposit verification.

Also included with the Green Dot app is the Green Dot Bank High-Yield Savings Account. There is no fee, and the account earns 3%* APY on balances up to $10,000. Once you’ve redeemed your cash back rewards and deposited them into your Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account, you can then transfer those funds into your High-Yield Savings Account for better savings.

As you’ll read below, the Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account is rife with fees, depending on how you use your account and manage your money. But a certain perk of the account is its lack of overdraft fees. So when you make a purchase that your balance cannot cover, Green Dot will decline the transaction, but they won’t charge a fee like most other banks do.

Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account fees and fine print

Unlimited Cash Back fees
Unlimited Bank Account purchase — online $0
Unlimited Bank Account purchase — in store$1.95 or less
Monthly fee$7.95, waived when you spend $1,000 or more in the previous monthly period
Deposit cash with Green Dot app & participating locations$0
Direct deposit$0
Out-of-network ATM withdrawal$3 per transaction
Teller cash withdrawal$3 per transaction
Out-of-network ATM balance inquiry$0.50
Foreign transactions3% of total transaction amount
Paper checks (pack of 12 checks)$5.95

There are quite a few fees to keep an eye out for when you have a Green Dot Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account. For starters, note that there is a fee when you open the account in a store. You can easily avoid this fee by opening the account online instead.

The account charges a $7.95 monthly fee. This can be waived when you spend at least $1,000 in the previous monthly period. This excludes transactions like ACH payments or prepaid card purchases. This may be easier if you do much of your shopping online, since you’re more likely to reach the minimum balance. If you’re betting the cash back you earn will offset this monthly fee, you’d have to spend $3,180 in a year to earn enough to pay off a year’s worth of the monthly fee. Plus, you’d have to wait for each anniversary to take advantage of that cash back bonus.

It also helps to keep your account activity online. You can initiate the deposit through the Green Dot app then depositing cash at a participating retailer at no charge. However, if you want to deposit cash without the app by swiping the debit card at a participating retailer, then the retailer may charge a service fee for cash deposits. Note that direct deposits are free.

As for the fine print, there is some room for error when it comes to determining which purchases are eligible for the 3% cashback. Green Dot identifies online and in-app purchases through unique merchant category codes (MCC) and “other identifying information,” according to the Green Dot website.

However, Green Dot acknowledges that sometimes online or in-app merchants use an MCC that does not properly identify themselves as online or in-app. On Green Dot’s part, the bank states that it “does not determine which MCC a merchant chooses to classify itself as and has no way of changing a merchant’s identifying information.” So if merchant misidentification is the case, your purchase won’t register as online or in-app and won’t earn 3% cash back.

Cash back also does not apply to airline tickets or to products and services that are redeemable for cash, such as gift cards, online funding of accounts, credit card cash advances, P2P funding, prepaid cards, money orders and traveler’s checks.

Opening an Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account

You can open an Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account either online or in-store at Green Dot participating retailers. When you open an account online, you’ll need to provide your full name, address, email address, phone number, Social Security number and date of birth. If you open an account in store, you’ll need to register your new debit card online or through the Green Dot app. There, you’ll need to provide your personal information.

Who is the Green Dot Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account best for?

The Green Dot Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account seems to be a better option for those who aren’t chasing a quick reward. Green Dot requires you to wait a year after account registration to redeem your cash back rewards, which may not be much of a reward for some. It’s more of an added perk than a real primetime feature since you have to wait so long.

The Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account may also be better for those who are tech savvy enough to manage their accounts largely online and in the app. Accounts are more easily opened and registered online and even cash deposits work best when done through the app.

That said, this account could be a potential hassle who want the ease and speed of ATM access. Green Dot requires you to visit a participating store to deposit cash, whether you use the app or not. For many, navigating a physical store just isn’t as convenient. When it comes to withdrawals, it may be difficult to find a free ATM nearby in order to avoid the out-of-network ATM fee.

In all, the Green Dot Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account seems to hold a lot of promise. But there’s a few hoops to jump through to earn rewards and use the account efficiently that detract from the eye-catching 3% cash back.

*Rate accurate as of August 21, 2019

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

Advertiser Disclosure

Reviews

Fitness Bank Savings Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Fitness Bank’s savings account option

Fitness Savings Account

This unconventional savings product offers customers the chance to earn an outstanding APY when they are physically active. The daily average number of steps you took in the previous month determines the APY you earn on your account balance. The table below outlines the five earning tiers that this bank currently offers:
APY Tiers*Minimum Balance to Earn APYSteps Required
0.50%$1000-4,999
1.25%$1005,000-7,499
1.75%$1007,500-9,999
2.50%$10010,000-12,499
3.00%$10012,500+

If you are a US citizen age 65 or older, you qualify for a different rate schedule:

APY Tiers*Minimum Balance to Earn APYSteps Required
1.25%$1000-4,999
1.75%$1005,000-7,499
2.50%$1007,500-9,999
3.00%$10010,000+
  • Minimum opening deposit: $100
  • Minimum daily balance to earn APY: $100
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $10, waived by maintaining the minimum daily balance.
  • ATM fee: N/A
  • ATM fee refund: N/A
  • Overdraft fee: $40

These rates truly are outstanding if you live an active lifestyle. The first month, everyone gets highest APY regardless of number of steps they take. After that, your APY will be assigned based on your daily average number of steps over the course of the prior month. Needless to say, if you don’t live a very active lifestyle, or if you have a health condition that would prevent you from meeting the step requirements, this may not be the best account for you.

This bank charges a $10 monthly maintenance fee if you don’t maintain a minimum average daily balance of $100. If you’re not confident you can maintain this minimum, you may want to look at a checking account rather than a savings account — keep in mind, however, that Fitness Bank only offers a savings account. If you meet the minimum balance requirement, the monthly maintenance fee will be waived.

This savings account does not come with an ATM card or checks. You are limited to six certain withdrawals and/or transactions per month, per Regulation D, which is enforced by the federal government, although banks do have some flexibility in allowing more than six per month in certain cases. At Fitness Bank, if you make more than six withdrawals per month you will be charged a $10 fee for each additional withdrawal.

If you want to go above and beyond achieving the highest APY available from this account, you can join one of Fitness Bank’s challenges. Every month, there is a step challenge where you can compete with all other participating Fitness Bank members to get the highest number of average daily steps. Top competitors will be awarded with prizes at the end of the month. You can also set up challenges just for your family or friend group, or for a group of employees participating in a workplace challenge.

How to get Fitness Bank’s savings account

Opening a savings account at Fitness Bank is a straightforward process. The bank boasts account setup will take you less than two minutes.

You’ll fill out a quick online application, supplying basic information like your name, address and Social Security number, along with documentation of your driver’s license or passport. Then you’ll need to provide funding information, namely your bank account number, credit card or debit card.

LEARN MORE Secured

on FitnessBank’s secure website

Member FDIC

magnifying glass

How Fitness Bank’s savings account compares

This bank offers phenomenal rates. At the time of writing, they offer the highest savings account rate in the market — if you can rack up the steps needed to earn it. In addition, you will have to be comfortable doing your banking 100% online with this savings account. You will not receive a checkbook or ATM card – all of your withdrawals and deposits will be completed via electronic transfer. If you’d prefer ATM access or the ability to visit a physical branch, Fitness Bank is not the right match for you.

The minimum deposit required to open and maintain an account without incurring a monthly maintenance fee isn’t outrageous. But you can find savings accounts offering somewhat competitive rates without these requirements. And to repeat, you’ll have to meet the step requirements; if that challenge goes unfulfilled, the advantages of saving with Fitness Bank wane. Its rates get progressively less competitive the fewer steps you take.

Overall review of Fitness Bank’s banking products

This bank offers a unique financial product aimed at promoting wellness. Its minimum balance and deposit requirements are fairly average for the industry, as are its fees. While its offerings are fair and get more generous as you take more steps, you will likely find better rates elsewhere if you cannot realistically meet these specific fitness standards. If you can, though, you’re in for some of the best rates on the market.

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.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne here