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State Employees’ Credit Union Review: Checking, Savings, CD, Money Market and IRA Accounts

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

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State Employees’ Credit Union’s checking account options

Checking

As long as you keep your balance above $4,800, you’ll earn enough interest from this account to cover the monthly fee

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.25%

$0

  • Minimum opening deposit: $0
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $1
  • ATM fee: CashPoints® ATMs are free. If you use an ATM within the PLUS® network, you’ll pay $0.75 for a successful transaction or balance inquiry, or $0.35 for an unsuccessful transaction or balance inquiry. You may also have to pay ATM surcharge fees when using out-of-network ATMs; these are determined by the ATM’s owner.
  • ATM fee refund: None.
  • Overdraft fee: You won’t be charged any overdraft fees for the first two days that your account is overdrafted each year. After that, you’ll pay $0.50 per overdraft transfer if you have a linked share or money market account, or $12 per overdraft if you don’t have overdraft transfer set up, or you have exceeded the six-transaction monthly limit for your linked share accounts.

State Employees’ Credit Union’s checking account earns a small amount of interest, and it’s not free. Each month you’ll have to pay a $1 fee, which SECU will donate to its SECU Foundation, a local community development program, unless you tell them not to do so. There is no way to avoid paying the fee by meeting certain requirements like with most banks. But it’s not that high of a fee to begin with, and it goes to a good cause, so this may not be too much of an issue for you.

If you open this account, you can write up to 50 checks per month for free. That’s a lot of checks, but if you do go over that amount, you’ll pay a $0.20 processing fee for each additional check. Similarly, you can make up to 50 free payments each month through State Employees’ Credit Union’s BillPay service. If you somehow manage to exceed that, you’ll pay an extra $0.20 fee per BillPay transaction.

How to get State Employees’ Credit Union’s Checking account

You can apply for a checking account online or by visiting a local branch. First, you’ll need to make a minimum $25 deposit into one of State Employees’ Credit Union’s share accounts to establish your membership (this money will need to stay in the account to keep your membership open).

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Z-Checking

State Employees’ Credit Union’s checking account for teenagers will cost them, but it comes with some good benefits too.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.25%

$0

  • Minimum opening deposit: $1
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $1
  • ATM fee: CashPoints® ATMs are free. If you use an ATM within the PLUS® network, you’ll pay $0.75 for a successful transaction or balance inquiry, or $0.35 for an unsuccessful transaction or balance inquiry. You may also have to pay ATM surcharge fees when using out-of-network ATMs; these are determined by the ATM’s owner.
  • ATM fee refund: none
  • Overdraft fee: You won’t be charged any overdraft fees for the first two days that your account is overdrafted each year. After that, you’ll pay $0.50 per overdraft transfer if you have a linked share or money market account, or $12 per overdraft if you don’t have overdraft transfer set up or have exceeded the six-transaction monthly limit for your linked share accounts.

This account is one of two different bank account programs for kids and teens. The FAT CAT program is available to children under age 12, while the Zard program is for teens ages 13-19. SECU doesn’t offer a checking account for its FAT CAT program, but if you’re a teenager, you can open the Z-Checking account through the Zard program.

The Zard program comes with a few benefits. Teens get access to the Zard financial education website, and while it looks like it was designed in 1999, it does offer some other nice features: this includes discounted theme park tickets, help with buying your teen’s first car and the Money Matterz newsletter. In addition, your teen can get a free term life insurance policy for $1,000.

Other than that, this account works in much the same way as State Employees’ Credit Union’s normal checking account. Teens can write up to 50 checks per month for free ($0.20 per check thereafter) and pay a $1 monthly fee, although this won’t be donated to the SECU Foundation. Teens can also only make $1,000 in purchases each day, and withdraw up to $205 in cash from an ATM. Once your teen reaches age 20, this account will be converted into a normal checking account.

How to get State Employees’ Credit Union’s Z-Checking account

To open a checking account, you’ll need to deposit at least $25 into a Z-Share account (and leave it there) to establish your membership with the credit union. You can open an account online or in person at a local branch.

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How State Employees’ Credit Union’s checking accounts compare

We’re a bit so-so about these accounts. On one hand, State Employees’ Credit Union charges a monthly fee and there is no way to get out of it, although it is a very small monthly fee and it goes to a good cause (this only applies to the regular Checking account; the Z-Checking account fees are not donated). On the other hand, these accounts each offer a small amount of interest, and they come with a small overdraft fee, especially compared to some of the big banks.

However, if you’re looking to earn the most money possible and don’t care where your bank is based, try checking out these top-yielding online checking accounts instead.

State Employees’ Credit Union’s savings account options

Share  Savings

You’ll need to open this Share Savings account first before you can open any other State Employees’ Credit Union accounts.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.40%

$25

  • Minimum opening deposit: $25
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $25
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $1 if your account balance drops below $25.
  • ATM fee: CashPoints® ATMs are free. If you use an ATM within the PLUS® network, you’ll pay $0.75 for a successful transaction or balance inquiry, or $0.35 for an unsuccessful transaction or balance inquiry. You may also have to pay ATM surcharge fees when using out-of-network ATMs; these are determined by the ATM’s owner.
  • ATM fee refund: none
  • Overdraft fee: You won’t be charged any overdraft fees for the first two days that your account is overdrafted each year. After that, you’ll pay $0.50 per overdraft transfer if you have a linked share or money market account, or $12 per overdraft if you don’t have overdraft transfer set up or have exceeded the six-transaction monthly limit for your linked share accounts.

If you plan on opening any account at State Employees’ Credit Union, you’ll need to open this account first (unless you’re in the FAT CAT program, in which case you can open a FAT CAT share account with as little as $5 to establish membership). Luckily, it comes with a good interest rate, especially compared to most credit unions.

You’ll receive monthly interest payments with this account, and in addition, you can also use this account as collateral against a SECU loan, which may help to lower your interest rates.

There are a few limitations with this account. Just like with any savings account, you are allowed up to six certain withdrawals per month (not including ATM or in-person withdrawals), per federal Regulation D. If you exceed that limit for multiple months, State Employees’ Credit Union may restrict your account. You also can’t set up ACH transfers out of this account.

How to get State Employees’ Credit Union’s Share (Savings) account

In order to open this account and establish your membership, you’ll have to visit a local branch to sign paperwork. You cannot open this account online. However, once open, you can open any other account online through your Member Access portal.

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Z-Share

This account for teens is very similar to State Employees’ Credit Union’s regular Share accounts, with a few additional perks.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.40%

$25

  • Minimum opening deposit: $25
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $25
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $1 if your account balance falls below $25.
  • ATM fee: CashPoints® ATMs are free. If you use an ATM within the PLUS® network, you’ll pay $0.75 for a successful transaction or balance inquiry, or $0.35 for an unsuccessful transaction or balance inquiry. You may also have to pay ATM surcharge fees when using out-of-network ATMs; these are determined by the ATM’s owner.
  • ATM fee refund: None.
  • Overdraft fee: You won’t be charged any overdraft fees for the first two days that your account is overdrafted each year. After that, you’ll pay $0.50 per overdraft transfer if you have a linked share or money market account, or $12 per overdraft if you don’t have overdraft transfer set up or have exceeded the six-transaction monthly limit for your linked share accounts.

Teenagers ages 13 to 19 are eligible to open this account alongside the Z-Checking account — in fact, they’re required to open either this account or a regular Share account first in order to establish membership.

Once it’s open, it comes with a few extra perks, as compared to the regular Share accounts. Teens are eligible for a free $1,000 term life insurance policy, help with buying their first car and access to auto loans and a special Zard financial literacy website just for account holders.

Teens are not able to make more than six withdrawals per month (not including ATM or in-person withdrawals). If they go over this limit for several months, they could have their account restricted. Additionally, teens with the Zard accounts are limited to withdrawing up to $205 in cash from an ATM per day or making $1,000 in purchases with their card.

How to get State Employees’ Credit Union’s Z-Share account

Your teen has two options for opening this account: they can open it in a branch, or go online. This is probably the easiest option.

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FAT CAT Share

State Employees’ Credit Union’s savings account for kids under 12 offers fair policies and a good interest rate for a kids’ savings account.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.40%

$5

  • Minimum opening deposit: $5
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $5
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: CashPoints® ATMs are free. If you use an ATM within the PLUS® network, you’ll pay $0.75 for a successful transaction or balance inquiry, or $0.35 for an unsuccessful transaction or balance inquiry. You may also have to pay ATM surcharge fees when using out-of-network ATMs; these are determined by the ATM’s owner.
  • ATM fee refund: None.
  • Overdraft fee: You won’t be charged any overdraft fees for the first two days that your account is overdrafted each year. After that, you’ll pay $0.50 per overdraft transfer if you have a linked share or money market account, or $12 per overdraft if you don’t have overdraft transfer set up or have exceeded the six-transaction monthly limit for your linked share accounts.

Just like with SECU’s Zard program, the FAT CAT program for kids under 12 is designed to help teach them about financial literacy while helping them save. State Employees’ Credit Union has lowered the account opening requirement for this program: your kids can get started saving with just a $5 minimum opening deposit. Once they reach $25, however, that amount needs to stay in their account to keep membership open.

When your child opens this account, they’ll receive a goody bag and a savings account passbook. They’ll also get access to a special website with educational games, the “Paw Prints” newsletter and $1,000 in free term life insurance.

How to get State Employees’ Credit Union’s FAT CAT Share account

In order to open this account, you’ll need to visit a local branch in person. You — or another responsible adult who is also a member — will need to sign up as a joint owner of the account.

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Summer Cash account

This unique account helps teachers bridge the gap between the unpaid summer months when school is out of session.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

2.05%

$0

  • Minimum opening deposit: $0
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None

If you’re a teacher who struggles during the unpaid summer months when you’re not working, this might be just the account for you.

Here’s how it works: you can make one single deposit (or none at all) to open the account. When you open the account, you tell State Employees’ Credit Union how much you want them to take from each of your paychecks. State Employees’ Credit Union offers a calculator to help you determine what amount is right for you. You can’t make any additional deposits or withdrawals outside of these scheduled paycheck deductions.

Then, during the months when you’re not working, State Employees’ Credit Union will divvy up your account balance and deposit it into your checking, money market or share account once per month to tide you over until you start receiving paychecks again.

How to get State Employees’ Credit Union’s Summer Cash account

You can easily open this account online through the Member Access portal. You can also sign up for this account in person at a credit union branch.

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Holiday Cash Club

State Employees’ Credit Union’s Holiday Cash Club account helps you save for the holidays more easily.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.40%

$0

  • Minimum opening deposit: None
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $0
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: None
  • ATM fee: CashPoints® ATMs are free. If you use an ATM within the PLUS® network, you’ll pay $0.75 for a successful transaction or balance inquiry, or $0.35 for an unsuccessful transaction or balance inquiry. You may also have to pay ATM surcharge fees when using out-of-network ATMs; these are determined by the ATM’s owner.
  • ATM fee refund: None.
  • Overdraft fee: You won’t be charged any overdraft fees for the first two days that your account is overdrafted each year. After that, you’ll pay $0.50 per overdraft transfer if you have a linked share or money market account, or $12 per overdraft if you don’t have overdraft transfer set up or have exceeded the six-transaction monthly limit for your linked share accounts.

Holiday savings accounts aren’t as widespread, but you can still find them at places like State Employees’ Credit Union. They’re very helpful for people who have trouble saving for the holidays, and find themselves going into debt each year.

When you open SECU’s Holiday Cash Club account, you can make deposits into the account at any time up until October. On the last business day of this month, any interest you’ve earned will be tacked onto the account (so, interest does not accumulate monthly) and distributed into your Share, Checking or Money Market account on the last business day in October — just in time to start holiday shopping.

State Employees’ Credit Union has designed this account so that it’s easy to put money in, but difficult to get it out again outside of the normally-scheduled automatic distribution at the end of October. If you want to withdraw the money, you can only withdraw the entire balance to close the account, and you can only do so by visiting a local branch or through its Member Services phone line.

How to get State Employees’ Credit Union’s Holiday Cash Club account

If you log into your online Member Access portal, you can easily open this account online.

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How State Employees’ Credit Union’s savings accounts compare

We like the savings accounts State Employees’ Credit Union offers for two reasons: it offers relatively high interest rates especially when compared to most credit unions, and it offers a diversity of unique accounts that help people save for tough situations.

For example, the Summer Cash account can help teachers who already have a hard enough time making ends meet these days. The very high savings account rate offered on this account combined with the forced savings plan and automatic distribution can help make it just a bit easier on North Carolina’s educators.

Still, there are online savings accounts that offer much better interest rates, and it’s worth checking out these options as well before settling on a parking space for your money.

State Employees’ Credit Union’s CD rates

Share Term Certificate

You can open either a one-off CD, or take advantage of State Employees’ Credit Union’s laddered CD option to create a laddered CD chain for you.

Term

APY

6 months

0.75%

12 months

0.80%

18 months

0.80%

24 months

0.85%

30 months

0.90%

36 months

0.95%

48 months

1.00%

60 months

1.00%

  • Minimum opening deposit: $250
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: No minimum balance to earn APY. However, if you drop the balance below $250, you will have to make a deposit to bring it back to $250 within 30 days or the account will be closed.
  • Early withdrawal penalty: Either one of the following two penalties will apply, whichever is smaller:
    • 90 days’ worth of interest
    • The amount of interest you’ve already earned

When you open this CD, you’ll have to make few decisions. First, you’ll have to tell State Employees’ Credit Union whether you want the money transferred into another account or renewed at maturity. Then, you’ll have to tell them what to do with any interest if you have either a 6 month or 12 month CD (it can either be rolled back into the CD or paid out to another account). Any interest you earn for other CD terms will be automatically transferred into another SECU account and not rolled back into the CD.

When your CD matures and if you’ve chosen to have the CD renew, you’ll get a seven-day grace period to add money or close the CD account.

One unique feature that State Employees’ Credit Union offers is the ability to easily ladder CDs. With this program you’ll need to open five separate CDs (12 month, 24 month, 36 month, 48 month and 60 month), each with a $250 minimum deposit. Then, when they mature, they’ll automatically renew into 60 month CDs without you having to do anything.

How to get State Employees’ Credit Union’s CDs

You can open these CDs online by visiting your Member Access portal or by visiting a local branch. Either way, you’ll need to be a member of the credit union first, which requires a minimum $25 deposit into a Share savings account to establish membership.

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How State Employees’ Credit Union’s CD rates compare

The rates that State Employees’ Credit Union offers for its CD products are not bad  — however, they’re also not great. We do like its CD laddering program, although it’s not unique to State Employees’ Credit Union. You can ladder CDs in any which way you want at any bank, as long as you’ve got a plan. If you want to find the best CDs to make a CD ladder with or just to earn extra money with on their own, we recommend these current best CDs.

State Employees’ Credit Union’s money market account options

Money Market Share

State Employees’ Credit Union’s Money Market Share account offers a just-OK return on your money.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

0.70%

$250

  • Minimum opening deposit: $250
  • Minimum balance to earn APY:  $250
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $2 if your account balance falls below $250
  • ATM fee: CashPoints® ATMs are free. If you use an ATM within the PLUS® network, you’ll pay $0.75 for a successful transaction or balance inquiry, or $0.35 for an unsuccessful transaction or balance inquiry. You may also have to pay ATM surcharge fees when using out-of-network ATMs; these are determined by the ATM’s owner.
  • ATM fee refund: None.
  • Overdraft fee: You won’t be charged any overdraft fees for the first two days that your account is overdrafted each year. After that, you’ll pay $0.50 per overdraft transfer if you have a linked share or money market account, or $12 per overdraft if you don’t have overdraft transfer set up or have exceeded the six-transaction monthly limit for your linked share accounts.

If you want to earn more money on your deposit but don’t want to lock it away for a long period of time like in a CD, consider a money market account instead. This money market account is currently earning more than State Employees’ Credit Union’s savings accounts, and these accounts aren’t really all that different. In fact, unlike most money market accounts, you can’t write checks with this account nor make ACH withdrawals, making it almost indistinguishable from State Employees’ Credit Union’s regular Share account.

You’ll still be subject to the same federal Regulation D limitations, up to six certain withdrawals out of the account per month (not including in-person or ATM withdrawals). Additionally, you can’t use the money in this account as collateral for a SECU loan.

How to get State Employees’ Credit Union’s Money Market Share account

You can open this account online through SECU’s Member Access online portal.

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How State Employees’ Credit Union’s Money Market Share account compares

State Employees’ Credit Union offers good rates on its Money Market Share account. It’s really strange that you can’t write checks, however, since that’s usually the functional defining factor between these two accounts. If you need the ability to write checks from your money market account, or want to earn a higher interest rate, these top money market accounts might be just the ticket for you.

State Employees’ Credit Union’s IRA account options

IRA

State Employees’ Credit Union’s version of an IRA savings account actually does earn a decent interest rate.

APY

Minimum Balance Amount to Earn APY

1.01%

$25

  • Minimum opening deposit: $25
  • Minimum balance to earn APY: $25
  • Monthly account maintenance fee: $1 if your account balance falls below $25
  • ATM fee: CashPoints® ATMs are free. If you use an ATM within the PLUS® network, you’ll pay $0.75 for a successful transaction or balance inquiry, or $0.35 for an unsuccessful transaction or balance inquiry. You may also have to pay ATM surcharge fees when using out-of-network ATMs; these are determined by the ATM’s owner.
  • ATM fee refund: None.
  • Overdraft fee: You won’t be charged any overdraft fees for the first two days that your account is overdrafted each year. After that, you’ll pay $0.50 per overdraft transfer if you have a linked share or money market account, or $12 per overdraft if you don’t have overdraft transfer set up or have exceeded the six-transaction monthly limit for your linked share accounts.

Most financial advisors will tell you that the best place to grow your money long-term is in the stock market. But if that’s not an option for you (or if it makes you too leery), finding an IRA account at a bank can be a good secondary option — especially one that offers a good interest rate like this one. You can open this account as a Roth, Traditional or SEP IRA.

Interest on your account will be tallied up and applied to your account each month. Unfortunately, you can’t use your State Employees’ Credit Union IRA account as collateral for a SECU loan — but why would you risk your retirement savings, anyway? Finally, you are allowed up to six certain withdrawals per month out of your account due to federal Regulation D, and any withdrawals you do make are subject to the same IRA withdrawal rules as any other IRA account.

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Overall review of State Employees’ Credit Union’s banking products

Even though State Employees’ Credit Union generally doesn’t offer the highest of interest rates, we do like its bank accounts, especially for people who are interested in banking with a local credit union. The overdraft and ATM fees with these accounts are reasonable, there are a variety of different accounts that can really help people in financially-tricky situations, and the credit union donates its checking account fees to a local foundation for bettering the community.

If you want to earn the highest interest rates possible, we suggest looking elsewhere. Otherwise, you won’t be sacrificing too much on interest rates by working with a great bank like State Employees’ Credit Union.

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.

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Auto Loan, Reviews

LightStream Auto Loan 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.

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Reviewed By

If you’re in the market for a quick, affordable and hassle-free way to finance your next car, a LightStream auto loan should definitely be on your radar. It’s particularly well-suited for deal-seekers with good credit who don’t mind working with an online company when it comes to financing their cars. If you’d rather work with a local company that can offer in-person support, however, you might want to skip this lender.

How LightStream auto loans work

LightStream offers a wide range of options for financing your next ride, including:

  • Purchase of a new or used car, either from a dealer or an individual
  • Auto loan refinance (except it does not refinance its own loans)
  • Auto lease buyouts
  • Loans for motorcycles, as well as boats and RVs
  • Classic car loans

Auto loans at a glance:

  • Starting APR range: 3.49%–9.49%
  • Fees: None
  • Loan amounts: $5,000–$100,000
  • Terms: 24–84 months
  • Credit requirements: Minimum 660 credit score
  • Mileage or vehicle restrictions: None

LightStream offers the same starting rate whether you’re buying a new or used car from a dealer, something you don’t see at other lenders. But keep in mind that the lowest rates go to those with the best credit who opt for the shortest loan terms possible and use autopay to make their car payments.

Satisfaction guarantee

If you see a lower rate elsewhere, LightStream will beat any verified offer with a rate that is .10 percentage points lower. It also promises a $100 guarantee within 30 days if you aren’t satisfied with your loan experience.

How to apply for a LightStream auto loan

The only way you can apply for a LightStream auto loan is through its online form. It is an online lender, after all, so you should be comfortable with handling your business details — including the loan application — online. You’ll need to:

  1. Acknowledge receipt of LightStream’s statement on the use of electronic records.
  2. Agree to receive electronic records.
  3. Agree to use electronic signatures to sign your loan documents.

You’ll also need to have a Visa or Mastercard credit card to apply, which LightStream uses during the verification process.

You will be asked to provide:

  • The purpose, term and amount of desired loan
  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security number
  • Employment information
  • Annual income
  • Total amount of assets and equity in your home

From there, LightStream may contact you for more details and documentation. If approved, you’ll need to sign your loan documents electronically and provide LightStream with your bank account details. The money will then be deposited into your bank account, which means you’ll need to pass it along to the seller, whether that’s a dealer or private seller. LightStream will not send the money to the seller directly.

It’s important to note that LightStream doesn’t offer any preapproval options, but if you apply and are approved for a loan, you are under no obligation to accept the loan.

How to qualify for the best rates

LightStream requires good credit at a minimum, but looks for excellent credit when giving the best rates. It defines excellent credit as:

  • Five or more years of significant credit history.
  • A credit history with a variety of account types such as major credit cards (for example, Visa, MasterCard, Amex), installment debt (vehicle loans) and mortgage debt if applicable.
  • An excellent payment history with no delinquencies or other problems repaying debt obligations.
  • A proven ability to save as shown by some or all of the following: liquid assets (stocks, bonds, bank deposits, etc.), cash down payments on real estate, retirement savings and little, if any, revolving credit card debt.
  • Stable and sufficient income and assets to easily repay current debt obligations and any new loan with LightStream.

Pros and cons of LightStream auto loans

LightStream offers the convenience of an online lender with the backing of a brick-and-mortar bank as the online arm of Truist, the bank created by the merger of  SunTrust Bank and BB&T. But it’s important to weigh all of your options carefully when choosing an auto loan. It’s one of the biggest purchases you’ll make, after all.

Pros

  • Wide variety of loans: New, used, refinance and lease buyouts loans are available on a wide range of vehicles. Unlike other lenders, LightStream doesn’t place restrictions on your vehicle’s age, make, model or mileage.
  • Decent rates: We’ve seen lower starting rates at credit unions, but you’ll have to meet membership requirements. LightStream has no membership requirements and provides the same starting rates for new and used vehicles as well as refinance loans.
  • No down payment required: LightStream finances up to 100% of the car’s cost. Of course, it’s always best to put down as much as you can afford on an auto loan. This will help you save money over the life of your loan and avoid becoming underwater on that loan.
  • Quick funding: If you complete the application process and are approved by 2:30 p.m. EST, you could receive funds the same day.
  • Good reviews: LightStream auto loan reviews are generally positive.

Cons

  • Good credit required: To qualify for a LightStream auto loan you’ll need a credit score of at least 660 or better.
  • No preapproval process: Unlike many lenders, you’ll have to complete a full application in order to see your rates and terms. Still, the process is fast, and if you complete your rate shopping within a certain time period, multiple applications should not impact your credit any more than a single application.
  • No face-to-face service: If you’re the type of person who likes to seal the deal with a handshake after signing the documents, you’ll want to stick with some place local.

LightStream vs. Capital One

If you’d like a bit more of a guided approach to the car-buying process,  Capital One’s Auto Navigator loan options might be better for you. Rather than sending you cash directly that you can use on whatever car you want to buy, Capital One’s Auto Navigator service lets you first get prequalified for financing, and then shows you which dealers in your area may offer based on the type of car you want to buy and the financing you can afford.

If any of the offerings pique your interest, you can then finish the application and buy the car. It’s still a good idea to compare the offer with other new and used car loan rates.

LightStream vs. Carvana

Carvana works similarly to Capital One Auto Navigator in that you can prequalify for financing and browse real cars in your area that you may then be able to buy. It’s important to remember that Carvana only sells used cars and its financing is only available on Carvana cars. But it is possible to finance here with poor credit — Carvana requires borrowers to be 18 years old, have no active bankruptcies on their credit report and earn at least $4,000 per year.

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.

Advertiser Disclosure

Credit Cards, Reviews

CreditStacks Mastercard 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 credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

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The CreditStacks Mastercard offers a unique opportunity for individuals with little or no U.S. credit history – such as recent college graduates or professionals relocating to the U.S. for employment – to be approved for a credit card.

That’s because instead of requiring a Social Security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) as most traditional credit cards do, the CreditStacks Mastercard allows applicants to apply using a valid passport or U.S. government-issued ID, a U.S. visa or a permanent resident “green” card (if applicable), as well as proof of income. The CreditStacks Mastercard also allows you to apply up to 60 days prior to starting your new job in the U.S.

We break down the pros and cons of the CreditStacks Mastercard, and show how it compares to the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, which is also designed to help individuals establish or rebuild credit.

CreditStacks Mastercard pros

No credit history required. With the CreditStacks Mastercard, you can apply without a Social Security number and with little or no U.S. credit history. Once you obtain your Social Security number, you must provide it within 60 days of account opening. At that point, CreditStacks will begin reporting your credit activity to the Equifax and TransUnion credit bureaus.

Note, if you have been living in the U.S. for more than one year, you will be required to provide a Social Security number when applying for the card. A credit check may also be performed.

Decent credit limit. The CreditStacks Mastercard offers a credit line of up to $5,000 – which is a generous amount for an unsecured credit card that doesn’t require credit history.

Your credit limit will be determined by the proprietary underwriting procedures of CreditStacks, which will consider your current employment situation and additional factors, instead of your credit score.

No annual fee. The CreditStacks Mastercard comes with a $0 annual fee.

Additional CreditStacks Mastercard benefits:

  • Mastercard ID Theft Protection(™). Access free identity theft resolution services, as well as Mastercard ID Theft Alerts(™).
  • Extended warranty. Receive an extended warranty of up to one year past a manufacturer’s warranty of 12 months or less.
  • Purchase protection. If you are dissatisfied with a purchase, you may be eligible to receive a full refund for up to 60 days from the date of purchase.
  • Price protection. Get reimbursed for the difference if you find a lower price for an eligible new item within 60 days of purchase using your CreditStacks Mastercard.
  • Purchase assurance. Cardholders receive coverage if an item is lost, damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase.
  • Travel protections. The CreditStacks Mastercard offers a MasterRental(R) collision damage waiver, lost or damaged luggage insurance, travel accident insurance, baggage delay insurance and trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance. Plus, receive access to exclusive experiences and offers through Priceless Cities and special travel offers through Mastercard’s online booking tool.
  • Cellphone insurance. If you use your CreditStacks Mastercard to pay your monthly cellphone bill, you can receive coverage against theft or damage of up to $600 per claim and up to $1,000 per 12-month period.

CreditStacks Mastercard cons

No rewards program. The CreditStacks Mastercard does not offer a sign-up bonus or rewards on the purchases you make using the credit card. That said, when trying to build or rebuild credit, it’s best to focus on paying your bill on time and in full (when possible) each month, rather than racking up rewards.

No intro APR on purchases. The CreditStacks Mastercard does not offer a 0% intro APR on purchases – meaning, if you don’t pay your balance in full each month, you will be subject to interest charges at a rate of 15.49% Variable APR.

That said, the card’s ongoing APR for purchases is reasonable – considering that some cards designed for individuals with little or no credit come with APRs upwards of 26.99% (variable).

Compare it to the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Similar to the CreditStacks Mastercard, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is designed for individuals with little or no credit. However, because it is a secured credit card, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® requires a refundable security deposit of $49, $99 or $200, for an initial credit line of $200.

If you deposit more money before your account opens, you may be eligible for a higher credit line, up to $1,000. Additionally, you can be given access to a higher credit line after demonstrating responsible card usage by making your first five monthly payments on time.

While the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® does not require U.S. citizenship to apply, it does require a valid SSN or ITIN, as well as a residential address in the U.S. or a U.S. military location.

See how the cards compare side-by-side in the table below.

CreditStacks Mastercard vs. Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

 CreditStacks MastercardCapital One® Secured Mastercard®
Annual fee$0$0
Rewards rateN/AN/A
Credit lineUp to $5,000$200-$1,000
Deposit requiredNone$49, $99 or $200
Regular purchase APR15.49% Variable26.99% (Variable)

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® also comes with a number of benefits, including auto rental collision damage waiver, travel accident insurance, extended warranty and 24-hour travel assistance services. As a Capital One member, you will also have access to virtual card numbers and account alerts from Eno, as well as access to your credit score and fraud monitoring through CreditWise.

But if you plan to carry a balance on your card, you’ll be better off with the CreditStacks Mastercard, since the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® comes with a substantially higher APR of 26.99% (Variable).

Read our: Capital One Secured Mastercard review

Which credit card is best for me?

If you haven’t yet established credit in the U.S., the CreditStacks Mastercard could be a good fit. In addition to not requiring a Social Security number for approval, the card helps build your credit by reporting to two major credit bureaus.

But if you’re in the market for a secured credit card and already have a SSN or ITIN, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is a good alternative. While the card offers a much lower credit line than the CreditStacks Mastercard, it does offer a variety of useful benefits that aren’t common for a secured credit card.

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