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Strategies to Save

3 Steps to Make Millennials Better Savers

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.

Millennials - large

Those who keep abreast with the latest in personal finance news have undoubtedly seen the articles reporting millennials have a savings rate of negative two percent. Yes, negative two percent. The reasons for such an abysmal ability to save includes: student loan debt, credit card debt, immediate gratification, low-incomes, distrust of banks, fear of investing and a myriad of other excuses.

Interestingly, our own study performed in May 2014 actually revealed millennials to be better savers than other generations. In fact, 74.8% of millennials surveyed saved money each month. However, our survey did show 39.5 percent of millennials went overdraft an average of 2.7 times a year (a $101 mistake). Over a third of the generation carried $8,864 in credit card debt.

Short of winning a lottery or reality-show competition, there are no quick fixes to help millennials handle their debt or pay for the fifth out-of-town wedding of the season. However, there are actionable steps to take in order to improve a negative savings rate.

1. Find a Better Bank

The Atlantic’s Bourree Lam notes the millennials generation’s distrust of banks as a reason the 18 to 35-year-olds may have an insufficient savings rate.

 “This is paired with the fact that Millennials are more skeptical than ever of banks—perhaps not surprising for a generation that came of age during the Great Recession and Occupy Wall Street. One study named the financial industry as one least liked by Millennials—with Bank of America and Citigroup being the most hated.”

Well, there’s a pretty simple solution: Ditch. Switch. Save.

First of all, no one should be housing his or her savings account with Bank of America or Citigroup. Those banks offer a whopping 0.01 percent interest rate, effectively making a savings account with these banks an interest-free loan. And let’s not forget about those $35 overdraft fees and $12 fees to move money from savings to checking in the name of “overdraft protection”.

promo-checking-halfInstead, switch to a better bank (or credit union).

Internet-only banks offer interest rates close to one percent. This may sound insignificant, but could be an extra 50 to a couple hundred bucks. A savings account with $10,000 at 0.90 percent would receive an extra $90.41 in a year. $10,000 at 0.01 percent rate would get a whole $1.00.

Internet-only banks also offer real overdraft protection. There is no charge for moving money out of savings to cover an overdraft in checking. And guess what? It doesn’t cost the bank anything to make that transaction for you. So Bank of America is making $12 of pure profit anytime a customer goes overdraft and the bank’s “protection” moves money out of savings to checking for said customer. No wonder BofA makes nearly one million in fees per bank branch.

2. Reduce Credit Card Debt

Balance transfers offer millennials a short cut to paying off debt. By taking interest rates from nearly 20 percent or higher to zero, consumers are saving hundreds to thousands of dollars and shaving years off debt repayment.

Unfortunately, balance transfers scare a lot of people who feel beaten down by the financial system.

Many people don’t want to tangle with getting another credit card or worry about how the bank is going to trap them. Banks do offer these zero percent offers to lure people in and hopefully make money off them, but knowing the playbook gives consumers the ability to use the balance transfer offer without getting whacked with fees or hiked APRs. Those who lack discipline to put a credit card in the freezer and avoid spending shouldn’t do a balance transfer. But those with self-control and a 700+ credit score can drastically reduce their interest rates.

Balance Transfer Q&A

Q: Doesn’t applying for a balance transfer hurts my credit score?
A: Your credit score will take a small dip (typically 5 to 10 points) when you apply for a new credit card. But your credit score isn’t a trophy and should be used to help you get the best financial products. If your score is in the 700s, you can afford a 30-point dip to move your debt to one or multiple cards. You will also see those points return relatively quickly.

Q: Don’t I have to pay a fee?
A: Many cards do have a fee, but this fee is nominal compared to the amount of interest you’d be paying to your bank. There are some no fee balance transfer options, which can be found here.

Q: How do I complete a balance transfer?
A: We have several step-by-step guides (with pictures) on our site. Click here to find them. Be sure to read what to do after you’ve completed a balance transfer as well.

Q: What if one card doesn’t take all my debt?
A: You can try utilizing another balance transfer offer to move all the debt over. $8,850 of debt may take two separate cards.

Millennials paying $250 a month on $8,850 in credit card debt at 18 percent interest will take 4.25 years to pay it off and shell out $3,861 in interest alone.

By utilizing balance transfers, millennials with $8,850 could reduce their interest and fees paid to $560 and pay it off in just over three years. That’s already $3,301 that could go into savings, investing or towards paying down student loan debts.

promo-balancetransfer-wide

3. Make Practical Investment Decisions

Financial reports often point to the millennial generation’s hesitation to invest as a byproduct of witnessing the fall out of the Great Recession in 2008. This type of past-negative thinking could cause millennials to stay in the workforce until well passed 65 because they were unable to save enough for retirement.

Retirement may seem a long way off for millennials, but committing to saving and investing early can be the difference between having a million or $50,000 in retirement.

Some companies force millennials into saving by creating an “opt-out” 401(k), which reduces the number of apathetic employees who feel too overwhelmed at the idea of picking investments and just avoid signing up.

Those millennials who keep procrastinating investing should consider simply putting their retirement savings in a target date fund.

A target date fund makes investing for retirement simple. Instead of needing to be hands on to balance an investment portfolio over the years, the target date fund simply transitions from aggressive to moderate to conservative as a person nears retirement.

For example, a 25-year-old who plans to retire around 65 would put all her 401(k) money into a 2055 target date fund (the funds are typically in increments of five years).

Right now, the fund would have the young millennial in a relatively aggressive portfolio with more of a focus on stocks, but as she ages towards retirement it would move from fewer stocks to more bonds and cash. This way, if the market did tank close to 2055, she would have her retirement savings in less volatile investments and not lose as much of her savings.

Millennials who don’t have a 401(k) option with an employer-match can still save for retirement through an IRA. A brokerage company like Vanguard offers a target date fund within an IRA. Retirement contributions can also offer tax breaks resulting in a higher tax refund which can either go directly into savings or towards student loan payments and other debts.

Those willing to tolerate a little more risk and with some extra money outside of an emergency savings account should also be investing outside of a 401(k) and IRA as well. Avoid the desire for individual stock picking though and focus on mutual funds and index funds.

Remember: the stock market will take dips. Don’t be overly emotional and resist the urge to start pulling money out any time there is a downturn.

Increase that savings rate

A negative two percent savings rate will cripple the millennial generation’s ability to pay for the next natural phases in life: to buy homes, purchase cars, send the next generation to college and retire. While the generation may focus on less materialistic goods and prefer to sink money into travel and life experiences, those still come with a hefty price tag. It’s time for the men and women in the 18 to 35 bracket to make tough decisions about what they can afford, focus on how to pay down their debt and get over fears of investing in the stock 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.

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Strategies to Save

Review: The Aspiration 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.

The 0.25% APY has one of the highest rates in the country. If you move both your checking account and savings account into an Aspiration Account, you would be able to earn a high interest rate on your money while avoiding the risk of overdraft and enjoying the convenience of only having one account.

Aspiration is a fairly new financial services company that aims to be “the investment firm for the middle class.” In this video (that could pass for a parody if you didn’t realize they were serious), the company proclaims that it is possible to be a “capitalist with a conscience.” Lofty goals are behind the company and the products they have designed. The CEO (Andrei Cherny) was a former Clinton White House aide, and with Aspiration he is trying to take action and create a new type of financial services firm that lives up to his ideals.

All products offered by Aspiration (which includes two investment funds and a cash management account) have the same pricing model. You decide how much to pay. Yes, the fee is set entirely by you, the customer. You can set it to $0 or you can set it to any amount below $10. You can change the fee whenever you want. They provide a service and you decide what it is worth.

Aspiration is making a big bet.

With traditional banking, people are nickel and dimed every month. Make an out of network ATM withdrawal, and you could end up spending $10 in fees. Put your money into a savings account, and earn only 0.01%. By using Aspiration, you could be much better off financially than banking with your traditional bank. And you can do your own calculation and decide how much of that savings you share with Aspiration. They are hoping that you will share enough for the business to continue.

Application Process for the Aspiration Account

Opening an account used to be a bit challenging as you needed to be invited. However, Aspiration has made it as simple as ever to open an account. Simply click on the “Get Started” button on their website and enter your email address.

 

At that point, you should be directed to a page that allows you to open your account online and apply for the account.

 

Create your password, check the box to let Aspiration know you’ve read the Terms and Conditions, and click “Let’s Go!”. Since this is an online account, there will be extensive KYC (know-your-customer) and compliance questions. I was required to provide:

  • Answers to identity verification questions. These are questions generated by a credit bureau. So, you will be asked to provide your social security number, but they ensure that they won’t “run the kind of credit check that will ding your score”. You might also be asked to answer questions about your mortgage payments, car loans, and other credit bureau items to identify yourself.
  • A link to an existing bank account. This is used to provide the initial funds in the account. I put $10 into the account for a test drive. (By doing this, Aspiration also reduces its risk, because you will have gone through the compliance checks of your existing bank).

Once you finish the account opening process, it may take a few days for the account to be open and for you to receive your debit card in the mail. Aspiration has partnered with Coastal Community Bank in a way that is similar to how Simple operated. (Simple, for those who remember, was not a bank. It created the front-end user interface, but partnered with an FDIC-regulated bank).

Aspiration Mobile App

In 2016, Aspiration joined the rest of the financial industry with the launch of their mobile app. Their app allows you to view your Aspiration Account balance and transaction history, remote deposit checks using your phone’s camera, schedule transfers between the Aspiration Account and other bank accounts, pay bills, and track the impact of your spending habits. The mobile app also allows you to use fingerprint authentication to secure the data.
There are two features that stand out:

  1. Their Payments feature
  2. Their Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) feature

Payments

Payments is Aspiration’s bill pay feature. Not only does this feature allow you to pay your bills, but it also allows you to pay your friends. However, unlike other bill pay and money transfer features (like Zelle), Aspiration’s Payments feature sends payees a paper check with your name, address, and optional memo if you choose to include one. This feature is available at no charge to the account holder.

Since this feature is sending a paper check, you can expect the payee to receive the check within 5-7 business days from the send date. Fortunately, Aspiration doesn’t limit the number of payments that can be scheduled and they don’t limit the amount of money you can send.

Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM)

AIM is a pretty unique feature as it allows you to see the impact you’re making on the planet and people based on your spending habits. This feature will provide you with a score that is determined by the types of businesses you frequent. The score is calculated by how the businesses treat their employees, customers, community, and environment. So, businesses are given a score and you’re given a score based on where you do your shopping.

Aspiration shares that they created AIM “so that we can all think about how our everyday spending can make the world a better place.” This may sound very “kumbaya”, but there’s no denying that they’ve created an innovative feature.

What We Like

  • Unlimited, global ATM fee reimbursement: With this account, you can use any ATM in the world and it won’t cost you a dime. Not only won’t Aspiration charge you a fee, but you will be reimbursed any fee charged by the other bank whether they are located in the U.S. or in another country.
  • Zero overdraft and stop payment fees: This is a huge perk as these are some of the “gotcha” fees that you’ll encounter at big banks.
  • Other fees are also fairly lower than big banks: Outgoing wire transfers and receiving an incoming wire transfer will only cost you 82 cents.
  • One of the best interest rates in the market: At a traditional bricks-and mortar bank, you would receive no interest on your checking account, and you would earn only 0.01% on your savings account. With this account, you earn 0.25% on your entire balance. The best online checking account in the market is currently paying 1.55%, but you need to maintain a balance to earn this APY.
  • You no longer need to have a separate savings account and checking account. With that, you no longer need to worry about overdrafts. At a traditional bank, you could end up paying $10 just to have money automatically transferred from your savings account to your checking account if you make a mistake. Because you can keep all of your money in one account, you will not need to worry about overdraft transfers.
  • All deposits are FDIC-insured, up to $250,000 per depositor.

What We Find Lacking

  • Bill pay functionality. While Aspiration does mention that they will be making updates and improvements to their Payments feature, they don’t seem to mention going away from the paper check method. While sending paper checks may be a good solution for a feature that once didn’t exist at Aspiration, it’s still not as efficient as most online bill pay features that other banks offer.

Who Could Benefit From the Aspiration Account Now?

The perfect profile for an Aspiration Account customer today would be:

  • You travel a lot, and frequently need to use ATMs that are outside of your bank’s network
  • You have a lot of cash that you keep in your account and would like to earn interest on that money
  • You are about the impact you make on people and the environment.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Aspiration’s secure website

Alternatives if This Account is Not Right For You

This account is going to get better over time. It won’t come as a surprise if this account starts to become much more competitive.

Depending upon what feature is most important to you, there are excellent alternatives:

  • If you want the highest interest rate, you can earn up to 1.75% with an online savings account with a moderate deposit amount requirement. You can find the best savings account here.
  • If you want to avoid ATM fees globally, but need better bill pay capabilities, you should open a Charles Schwab checking account. You can find that account, and others, on our checking account page.

This Looks Great and Will Get Better. But is it Sustainable?

One of the biggest worries we have at MagnifyMoney is the following: when something looks too good to be true, it usually doesn’t last long. The offer can last for a few years, but eventually market forces will catch up with it.

Providing unlimited reimbursement of ATM fees globally is expensive. Ally originally offered the same perk and then capped that benefit at $10 per month ($120 per year), because it was impossible for them to make money on the checking accounts otherwise. Aspiration does not have a magic formula, and eventually the business will need to make money somewhere.

Often, banks do not make money on checking accounts. Instead, these accounts serve as the foundation account and the bank cross-sells other products. Perhaps this is Aspiration’s plan.

Regardless, the product is very consumer friendly and potentially lucrative. According to CrunchBase, the business has raised over $67 million. Clearly, the business will need to raise more capital as it scales, especially given the low level of customer profitability expected. There is certainly limited risk to taking advantage of the great offer available now. At MagnifyMoney, we just hope that they find a way to make money sustainably. As Ally customers know all too well, it can be frustrating to switch accounts based upon a strong feature (unlimited ATM reimbursement), only to have that benefit taken away when it is deemed too expensive.

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Reviews, Strategies to Save

American Express® Personal Savings Account Review: A Solid Choice for Online Banking

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.

What you need to know about the American Express savings account

American Express Savings Account Features

APY (%)

1.60% variable

Minimum Deposit Amount

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Permitted Monthly Withdrawals

Up to 6

Annual Fee

$0

FDIC Insured?

Yes

Mobile App?

No

Transfer Time

Deposits will be available within five business days. Transfers from savings to a checking account take one to three business days.

In an American Express Personal Savings High Yield Savings account, your money earns 1.60% APY. It isn’t the highest APY you can currently earn from an online savings account listed on our site, but it’s still well above average. The account charges no monthly fee and requires no minimum deposit, making it an affordable account to open. You must fund your account within 60 days of applying for the account. If you’re concerned about safety, know that the FDIC insures your deposits of up to the legal limit.

The account appears to be a great option for savers who want the flexibility of earning a high interest rate on a large sum without the withdrawal restrictions of a certificate of deposit (CD).

How the American Express savings account works

The savings account compounds interest daily. It’s current APY 1.60%, and amount earned is credited to your account on your monthly cycle date. The rate is variable, which means that American Express can raise or lower the interest rate at any time without notice to you before or after the savings account is opened.

Account holders must fund the account within 60 days, which you can do by setting up a bank transfer or direct deposit to the savings account. If you prefer a physical method, you can send a check.

Federal law mandates certain types of telephone and electronic withdrawals, including transfers from savings accounts up to 6 per statement cycle. This applies consistently across savings accounts.

What we like about the American Express savings account

  • High APY: The account’s 1.60% APY is better than what you would earn by putting your money in the accounts offered by most brick-and-mortar banks. In fact, it’s within 0.3% of the highest-yielding savings accounts. While there could be higher rates available elsewhere, this account remains a solid choice based on yield.
  • Automatic savings: It’s easy to make saving automatic when you have an online savings account. With the American Express Personal Savings account, you can easily set up a recurring deposit to pull funds from an external savings or checking account. To make your saving automatic and without emotion, you can even have a portion of your paycheck directly deposited to the account.
  • Spending discouraged: With your money in an online account like the American Express Personal Savings account, you can get your cash only after making a transfer to an external checking account to which you have debit card access. The minor inconvenience could be just enough to keep you touching the account and making unnecessary withdrawals.

What we don’t like about the American Express savings account

  • No ATM card, no checks, no debit card: Not having card access is great when you need to prevent yourself from spending your savings. But the hassle of setting up and making an Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfer from your online American Express savings account can be problematic if you need immediate access to your funds. Also, the account terms state that transfers can take one to three business days for funds to become available in your checking account. If you’re worried about this, there are alternative high-yield accounts you can use that offer an ATM card linked to the account.
  • Variable APY: The annual yield American Express is offering on this savings account is high at 1.60% APY, but the bank can change that rate at any time and for any reason. If you’re looking for a more predictable rate of return, consider a certificate of deposit. CDs might not offer competitive yields, but you will know exactly what your return will be.
  • Limited withdrawals: Because this is a high-yield savings account, Federal law mandates certain types of telephone and electronic withdrawals, including transfers from savings accounts up to 6 per statement cycle. Some savers have a separate account for emergencies in case they max out their savings withdrawal but still need immediate funds.

American Express vs. top online banks

American Express Savings vs. Other Online Savings Accounts
Vio BankBarclays BankMarcus by Goldman SachsAmerican Express
APY1.75% 1.60% 1.70% 1.60%
Minimum Deposit Amount100nonenonenone
Account Minimum1000.01nonenone
Permitted Monthly Withdrawals6666
Annual Feenonenonenonenone
FDIC Insured?YesYesYesYes
Mobile App?YesYesYesNo
Deposit SpeedDeposits will be made available in two to five business daysDeposits will be made available within five business daysDeposits will be made available the next business dayDeposits will be made available within five business days

As indicated earlier, the American Express Personal Savings account offer is strong, but it’s not the best available. To see how it compares, we enlisted MagnifyMoney’s team to shed light on some national, online-only banks with a health rating of a B or better and with the highest APYs on savings accounts — as listed on DepositAccounts.com, another LendingTree site. If there was a tie, we chose the bank with the lower required deposit. Here are a few alternatives to the Amex personal savings account.

Vio Bank-MidFirst Bank – High Yield Online Savings Account, 1.75% APY, $100 to open (no ATM card)

The Vio Bank High Yield Online Savings Account is a solid choice for savers. The high APY and low minimum deposit make this account extremely attractive not only for savers but investors as well, as the interest rate outperforms most CD rates available at competitive banks.

The ACH transfers seem to take little time – between two to five business days – and you are limited to six withdrawals per billing cycle, but the positives outweigh the negatives. It isn’t commonplace to find an online savings bank with an app but Vio Bank delivers, all without charging monthly maintenance fees.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Vio Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Barclays Bank – Online Savings Account, 1.60% APY, no balance to open, no monthly maintenance (no ATM card)

Barclays Bank, one of the largest in the world, seems to offer an account that competes against the best of the other online banks. A high APY and no minimum account balance – not to mention no balance required to open – make this an attractive choice.

The Barclays landing page for this account makes it easy for you to set savings goals and open the account. The APY may only be slightly higher than the American Express Savings account, but the ease of use and customer service give Barclays a distinctive edge.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Barclays’s secure website

Member FDIC

Marcus by Goldman Sachs – High-Yield Online Savings Account, 1.70% APY, no minimum deposit (no ATM card)

Savers can earn a competitive 1.70% APY in their Marcus by Goldman Sachs® High-Yield account, making deposits up to $1,000,000 per account. The account needs to be funded within 60 days via transfer, direct deposit, check or wire. Goldman Sachs Bank USA doesn’t charge any fees or service charges.

Like with most accounts of this type, there isn’t any ATM access, and savers will need to withdraw their money via ACH transfer, wire transfer or check. Still, the account allows high balances and boasts a healthy APY, making it a smart choice – one that appears to outpace the American Express account.

SEE DETAILS Secured

on Goldman Sachs Bank USA’s secure website

Member FDIC

American Express CD Rates

These CDs are great for those who don’t have a lot of money to deposit. The rates are slightly lower than the best CD rates available, as listed on our site, but the ease of access keeps them attractive.

Term

APY

6 months

0.40%

12 months

1.85%

18 months

1.90%

24 months

1.90%

36 months

1.95%

48 months

1.95%

60 months

2.00%

CDs from American Express do not require a minimum deposit amount. You’re free to deposit as little or as much as you want to begin earning interest on any of its CD terms. This is great for individuals who don’t have a lot of money to deposit in CDs offered by other online banks. The downside is that you won’t be receiving as high of an APY as you could at other online banks.

How CDs offered by American Express work

American Express offers terms spanning from 6 months to 5 years on its CDs. Interested is credited on a monthly basis and compounds until the CD matures. You can choose to have the interest transferred out of the CD and into the American Express Personal Savings Account on a monthly basis, transferred into a linked account, or mailed to you monthly, quarterly or annually via a check. If you touch the principal, however, you’ll incur an early withdrawal penalty. The penalty is based on your CD’s term:

  • For CDs with a term of less than 12 months: 90 days’ worth of interest
  • For CDs with a term of 12 months, but less than 48 months: 270 days’ worth of interest
  • For CDs with a term of 48 months: 365 days’ worth of interest
  • For CDs with a term of 60 months: 540 days’ worth of interest

If you’re able to keep your principal and interest within the CD, you’ll receive notice, either by mail or email, that your CD is about to mature in 10 days. If you don’t tell American Express that you do not wish to renew your CD, it will automatically be renewed for the same term unless the bank no longer offers that term. You can call American Express any time before your maturity date to tell them that you do not wish to have your CD automatically renewed.

Online banks vs. brick-and-mortar banks

Online banks have been experiencing growth that outpaces that of their physical counterparts not only because of the rise in mobile banking among consumers due to convenience, but also because the online banks can offer more benefits as they don’t have to deal with as many overhead expenses as brick-and-mortar banks do.

A 2017 study by DepositAccounts.com, another subsidiary of LendingTree, showed the annual percentage yield that internet banks offer on savings accounts was more than four times of what brick-and-mortar banks or credit unions offer.

Simply put, the main benefit of putting your money in an online savings account is your money does more for you than it might in a traditional savings account. In its 2017 study, DepositAccounts provided an example based on the average APYs in certain savings categories: If a saver were to put $100,000 in a savings account and leave it alone for 10 years, he or she would earn $8,338.79 at an online bank versus $1,747.04 in a brick-and-mortar bank and $1,895.28 in a credit union. This test assumed a fixed APY.

Overall Review of the American Express Personal Savings Account and CDs

Overall, the American Express Personal Savings Account is a solid, high-yield online savings option. The interest rate it offers is high, and the features of the account are comparable to other online banks’ savings accounts. The account also carries the cachet of the American Express name. While there are certain aspects of the Personal Savings account that could be improved, other online banks appear to encounter similar obstacles.

American Express CDs, when compared against those by other banks, don’t quite measure up. The interest rates of the 6-month and 12-month CDs are nowhere near the best rates offered by other online banks, as seen in our rankings, and the rates on the 18-to-60-month CDs fall short of the other rates offered. The only feature that makes American Express stand out from most of the other online banks is that it doesn’t require a minimum deposit to open an account and start earning interest. If you’re not quite ready to deposit a huge chunk of money into a locked account, you may want to start out small with one of the CDs offered by American Express.

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.