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Reviews, Strategies to Save

Monday, November 13, 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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As you may know if you’ve done a search for BB&T CD rates, their website is not a helpful place to turn for information. Beyond a basic overview of their CDs on their website stating that they have CDs with terms ranging from seven days to five years, they do not give details on their current rates. BB&T did not respond to email and phone inquiries from MagnifyMoney asking why the bank does not publish its CD rates online.

When we called their customer service number, a representative said BB&T’s CD rates change on a daily basis and said the best way to learn about CD rates is to call or visit a local branch.

So that’s what we did.

We called BB&T branches on Nov. 13 and, on the same day, compared their CD rates to other banks and the national averages. After conducting this research, it’s not surprising BB&T makes their CD rates hard to find — they’re terrible.

BB&T CD rates and products

BB&T offers CD terms ranging from as short as seven days to as long as five years. They have eight CD options, each with different investment goals.

7-day to 60-month

For short-term investments, BB&T offers CDs ranging from seven days to 60 months. These personal CDs offer a fixed rate of return along with the flexibility to focus on developing either a short- or long-term investment.

BB&T CD Term

APY

Minimum Deposit Amount

3 Months

0.03%

$1,000

6 Months

0.05%

$1,000

1 Year

0.10%

$1,000

18 Months

0.15%

$1,000

2 years

0.20%

$1,000

3 Years

0.40%

$1,000

4 Years

0.45%

$1,000

5 Years

0.50%

$1,000

Rates as of Nov. 13, 2017

Not only can you find better CD rates at other banks and credit unions for each of the terms BB&T offers, you can get those better rates with smaller minimum deposits. BB&T’s offerings are far from the best in every term length above — you can see some of the top options in our monthly roundup of the best CD rates.

With the seven-day to 60-month BB&T CDs, there are no penalty-free options for withdrawing your funds prior to the CD reaching maturity. The early withdrawal penalty is the lesser of $25 or 12 months of interest for longer-term CDs. So with smaller initial deposits, early withdrawal penalties will negate any interest you may have earned.

Can’t Lose

As the name of this CD implies, whether rates go up or down, you can’t lose. Well, actually, you can: The APY is so low, you’re almost certainly going to lose money to inflation.

At the 12-month mark of the CD’s term, you may make one withdrawal without paying any fees. So if the market rate is higher than what you’re currently getting, simply withdraw the money and reinvest at the higher rate.

If, however, the interest rate you’re receiving is better than what’s currently available, you also have the option of making a second deposit into the Can’t Lose CD, up to $10,000. This locks in the rate for the new investment amount for the remainder of the term. So whether rates go up or down, you’ll lock in the higher rate.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

30-month "Can't Lose"

0.25

$1,000

No penalty for one
withdrawal after 12 months

As of Nov. 13, 2017

Still, you can find many CDs with better APYs than BB&T’s Can’t Lose, whether you’re looking for a 12-month investment or longer.

Stepped Rate

Laddering is a way to stagger your CD investments so you’re able to take advantage of increasing rates. With the Stepped Rate option from BB&T, laddering is built into the CD product. The initial CD starts out at a lower rate and increases each year. For example:

Months

APY

12

0.30%

24

0.40%

36

0.55%

48

0.75%

As of Nov. 13, 2017

This product also allows you to make an additional deposit each year (up to $10,000). So if the interest rate you’re receiving is better than the market, you can invest more money into your existing CD to make a higher return. But if the current CD market is offering better rates than your existing CD, you can simply take advantage of that offer and still make a higher return.

In addition, you may make a withdrawal from what you initially deposited into your Stepped Rate CD after two years. So, again, if the market changes dramatically, you may withdraw your money with no penalty and reinvest in a better option.

Or you could create a CD ladder on your own, choosing CDs with better rates than BB&T’s — higher rates are certainly available.

Add-on

The Add-on CD option from BB&T offers a 12-month CD at 0.10% and an opening deposit of $100. You’ll need a BB&T checking account and a $50/month automatic deposit from your checking account into the CD. To get a personal account, you’ll just need to set up direct deposit or maintain a $1,500 balance.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

12-month Add-on

0.10%

$100

Greater of $25 or
6 months’ interest

As of Nov. 13, 2017

Home Saver

If you’re in the market for a new home, and you want to earn a little more interest on the money you’re saving, consider the Home Saver CD. Starting with as little as $100, you’ll be able to deposit money earmarked for your new home every month and earn 0.40% APY. With this CD, as long as you’re withdrawing the money for use toward the purchase of your new home, you won’t pay any penalties for the withdrawal. But you will need a BB&T checking account set up for a monthly deposit of $50 into your Home Saver CD.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

36-month Home Saver

0.40%

$100

No penalty for
home purchase

As of Nov. 13, 2017

College Saver

Similar to the Home Saver CD, the College Saver CD is meant for parents or students saving for college. It offers the benefit of starting at a higher APY (0.40%) with the flexibility of withdrawing the money up to four times per year to pay for the cost of attending school. As with the Home Saver, you’ll need to have a BB&T checking account with an automatic monthly deposit of $50. The College Saver offers terms of 36, 48, and 60 months.

CD Term

APY

Minimum
Deposit Amount

Withdrawal
Penalties

36-month College Saver

0.40%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

48-month College Saver

0.45%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

60-month College Saver

0.50%

$100

No penalty for
school costs

As of Nov. 13, 2017

Treasury

This CD offers the ability to make additional deposits of at least $100 into your CD at any time and one monthly withdrawal without penalty. The CD has a six-month term with a variable interest rate tied to the U.S. Treasury Bill — if the rate goes up, you’ll make more money, but if the rate declines, you’ll make less. Right now, rates start at 0.05% and adjust quarterly. Throughout 2016, Treasury Bill rates increased almost every month and have continued to rise in 2017, reaching 1.035% in August. So this is a great option if you have the $5,000 minimum deposit amount and want a short-term investment with the option to add or remove funds from the CD.

CDARS

CDARS stands for Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service and protects your principal and interest by making sure your money is placed into multiple CDs across a network of banks to keep your CDs insured by the FDIC (maximum limit for each CD is $250,000).

Other things to know about BB&T CDs

Does BB&T allow customers to take advantage of rising rates once they’ve opened a CD?

BB&T has two CD options that allow you to take advantage of rising rates: the 30-month Can’t Lose CD and the 48-month Stepped Rate CD. Both allow you to make a withdrawal before the CD comes to maturity in case rates increase (terms apply). They also allow additional deposits in case rates drop and you want to invest more at the existing rate of your CD. However, the current rates on those products are very low, negating the value of their flexibility.

About BB&T

BB&T (Branch Banking and Trust Co.) is a North Carolina-based bank with locations in 16 states and the District of Columbia, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

BB&T offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android. While their website is easy enough to use, finding specific information, particularly about rates, is impossible. Their customer service number isn’t much help in that regard either, with most questions answered with a suggestion to visit a branch location. As a result, if you don’t live in an area with a branch, we don’t recommend using BB&T’s CDs. To find the BB&T branch closest to you, use their branch locator.

Pros and cons of CDs

A certificate of deposit (CD) may offer a higher return than you’ll get with your savings accounts, without the risk of loss that accompanies other investment options with higher return rates. The drawbacks associated with CDs are the inability to access your funds during the term of the investment without suffering a penalty and the risk of interest rates increasing while your money is locked into a CD for a specified term.

The bottom line: Are BB&T CDs right for you?

BB&T does offer some flexible deals to its customers, but in general, better CD rates can be found at both banks and credit unions with comparable terms. You can find them on our list of the best CD rates, which we update every month.

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Ralph Miller |

Ralph Miller is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Ralph here

TAGS: BB&T, best CD rates, CD rates

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Reviews, Strategies to Save

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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If you’re working hard to stay disciplined and stash away a portion of your income, you’ll want to earn the highest interest rate possible on your money. Unfortunately, that’s difficult as bank savings accounts earn an average of 0.06% in interest annually, according to Nov. 6, 2017 data from the FDIC. The American Express® Personal Savings High Yield Savings account offers nearly 20 times that rate at 1.25% annual percentage yield (APY). What’s better, the high yield savings account does not require a minimum deposit or charge annual fees, so you don’t need anything but your personal information on hand to open the account.

What you need to know about the American Express savings account

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APY (%)

1.25% Variable

Minimum Deposit Amount

$0

Account Minimum

$0

Permitted Monthly Withdrawals

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 1.25% variable APY. It’s not the highest APY you can currently earn from an online savings account, but it’s 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 30 days of applying for the account, and the FDIC insures your deposits up to $250,000.

Overall, the account is a great option for anyone who wants the flexibility of earning a high interest rate on a sum of money you’ve stashed away (an emergency fund, perhaps?), minus the withdrawal restrictions of a certificate of deposit.

How the American Express savings account works

The savings account compounds daily at a variable 1.25% APY, and interest earned is credited to your account on your monthly cycle date. The rate is variable, so 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 30 days, which you can do by setting up a bank transfer or direct deposit to the savings account, as well as by sending a check.

You can make up to six withdrawals per month from the high yield savings account without penalty.

What we like about the American Express savings account

  • High interest rate The 1.25% variable APY is better than what you would earn putting your money in the accounts most brick-and-mortar banks offer. While there are higher rates to be had (we’ve compiled the best online savings accounts here), American Express has a good offer.
  • 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 it even easier to resist touching your savings, you can even have a portion of your paycheck directly deposited to the account.
  • Discourages spending With your money in an online account like the American Express Personal Savings account, you can only get your cash after making a transfer to an external checking account to which you have debit card access. The inconvenience makes it that much more difficult to spend your savings.

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

  • No ATM 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 ACH transfer from your online American Express savings account can be problematic in a pinch. (American Express says transfers will take one to three business days for funds to become available in your checking account.) If you’re worried about this, you can instead turn to an online bank like Synchrony Bank that makes it easier to access your savings by issuing an ATM card tied to your high yield savings account.
  • Variable interest rate The annual yield rate American Express is offering on this savings account is high at 1.25%, but the bank can change that rate at any time for any reason, as the rate is variable. If you’re looking for a more predictable rate of return, consider a certificate of deposit.
  • Limited withdrawals Because this is a high yield savings account, banks are limited by Federal Reserve Board Regulation D to a maximum of six withdrawals and/or transfers from your online savings account per statement cycle without penalty. With that in mind, before you decide how much you’ll put away each month, make sure it’s not more than you can afford to, so you aren’t repeatedly reaching into your savings.

American Express versus top online banks

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Salem Five Direct

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Live Oak Bank

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Popular Direct

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American Express

APY

1.50%

1.40%

1.40%

1.25%

Minimum Deposit Amount

$100

None

$5,000

None

Account Minimum

None

None

$500

None

Permitted Monthly Withdrawals

6

6

6

6

Annual Fee

None

None

None

None

FDIC Insured?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Mobile App?

Yes

No

Yes

No

Deposit Speed

Deposits will be made available
within five business days

Deposits will be made available
one to five business days after
the deposit is made

Deposits will be made available either the same day or the next
business day, depending on
when the deposit was made

Deposits 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 used DepositAccounts.com — another LendingTree company and a database of deposit products at more than 17,100 banks and credit unions — to look at national, online-only banks with a health rating of a B or better and the highest APY on savings accounts. 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:

Salem Five Direct – eOne Savings, 1.50% APY, $100 deposit to open (no ATM access)

Strategies to Save - Savers can earn 1.50% on their money with an online savings account offered through Salem Five Direct. You’ll need a minimum $100 to open the account, and the bank doesn’t charge any fees to open or maintain the savings account.

Salem Five Direct does not offer accountholders an ATM card, but you can transfer money from the savings account electronically, similar to what you’d have to do to get cash out of an American Express savings account.

Live Oak Bank – Savings Account, 1.40% APY, $0 deposit to open (no ATM access)

Strategies to Save - With $0 to open the account, you can earn an annual yield of 1.40% on savings account balances through Live Oak Bank. While there are no monthly fees, an account could be charged with a dormant-account fee if an account is left with a balance less than $10.01 and has not been active for 24 months straight. (That means no withdrawals, deposits, contact with a customer success manager, nor customer log-ins to the online banking website.)

Savings accounts through Live Oak Bank will start accruing interest the day your initial deposit posts to your account, and interest is compounded daily. While an ATM card is not offered through this account, you can easily transfer or deposit funds through an ACH transaction or online through your Live Oak Bank account.

Popular Direct Plus Savings Account – 1.40% APY, $5,000 deposit to open (no ATM access)

Strategies to Save - Popular Direct also offers a 1.40% APY on its savings account. However, unlike Live Oak Bank, it requires a $5,000 minimum deposit amount to open the account and asks that accountholders maintain a balance of $500 in order to avoid the $4 monthly service charge.

Fortunately, Popular Direct offers a mobile app that allows accountholders to make deposits electronically, which allows them to post the deposit on the same day it was received.

Online banks vs. brick-and-mortar banks

Online banks have been having a moment not only because of the rise in mobile banking among consumers, but also because they can simply offer consumers more benefits because they don’t have to worry about as many overhead expenses as brick-and-mortar banks.

An August 2017 study by DepositAccounts.com shows the annual percentage yield internet banks offer on savings accounts is more than four times what brick-and-mortar banks or credit unions offer. The same analysis shows annual percentage yields on internet bank savings accounts have surged 29 percent since January 2016.

Simply put, the main benefit of putting your money in an online savings account is your money does more for you. To show this, DepositAccounts provided an example, based on the average APYs in those savings categories: If a saver were to put $100,000 in a savings account and leave it alone for 10 years, they 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, assuming a fixed APY.

Overall, the American Express Personal Savings Account is a solid online savings account option, but you can do better. The interest rate Amex offers is high, but there are other online banks that offer a higher yield with a comparably small required minimum deposit, if any at all.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The Aspiration Summit Account is a new checking account that, depending upon your personal situation, can offer exceptional value. Here are the best features:

  • You earn interest on your checking account balance. You will be paid 0.25% on balances up to $2,499.99 and 1.00% on the entirety of balances of $2,500 or more.
  • You can use any ATM in the world, for free. Aspiration will not charge you an ATM fee. Even better, the account offers unlimited reimbursement of ATM fees charged by other banks within the U.S. and even overseas.
  • The monthly fee can be $0. You decide how much you pay each month, and you can set that fee at $0. (We explain this rather bizarre pricing strategy below).

The 1% interest rate is one of the best checking account rates in the country. If you move both your checking account and savings account into a Aspiration Summit 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.

However, this account is far from perfect, or free for certain situations. In particular:

  • There is an overdraft fee of $25, which rivals the “gotcha” fees of the big banks.
  • Other fees are also fairly lower than big banks. Outgoing wire transfers cost $20.
  • Receiving an incoming wire transfer will cost you $10. And to stop a payment will cost you $25.

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 checking 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 banking at 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 Summit Account

In order to open an account, you need to be invited.

We believe they have created the invitation process to make you feel like you’re joining an exclusive community. Hopefully the contrived exclusivity will be dropped in favor of an easy account opening process soon.

To apply for the account, you first have to “secure your spot.” You can do that on their website here. You simply have to enter your email and click on the Get Started button.

After you provide your email to “secure your spot,” you will receive this message:

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Immediately after, I received this message:

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At that point, I was able to create my account online and apply for the checking account. Because this is an online checking 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. Although the brand is “Summit” (the account) and “Aspiration,” (the business) it is actually Radius bank that is the bank operating your account. Aspiration has partnered with Radius 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 Summit Account Mobile App

In 2016, Aspiration joined the rest of the banking industry with the launch of their mobile app. Their app allows you to view your Aspiration Summit Account balance and transaction history, remote deposit checks using your phone’s camera, schedule transfers between the Aspiration Summit 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. If you’re not too keen on this feature, you are given the option to turn it off in the Mobile App’s settings.

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.
  • 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 the first $2,500 and 1% on everything above that amount. The best online checking account in the market is currently paying 1.50%, but only as an introductory rate.
  • 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.
  • Full FDIC insurance, up to $250,000 per account per individual.

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 Summit Account Now?

The perfect profile for a Summit 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 impract you make on people and the environment.

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 1.50% with an online savings account. 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 $20 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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Earning Interest, Reviews, Strategies to Save

Friday, November 3, 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Chase Bank is a consumer and commercial bank operated by JPMorgan Chase & Co., an international business firm dating back to 1799 that currently has $2.6 trillion in assets and operations worldwide. The bank, insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), has 5,100 branches and 16,000 ATMs across the United States. Its products include credit cards; checking, savings and CD accounts; and auto and home equity loans.

But Chase’s CDs are the subject of this article; they can be opened at a branch or completely online at term lengths ranging from one to 120 months.

How Chase CD rates compare with those of other banks

We compared Chase’s CD offerings with entries on our current list of the Best CD Rates for November 2017. On the positive side, you’ll need less money to qualify for a Chase CD than you might at other banks. Chase allows customers to open their CDs with a minimum deposit of $1,000, which is slightly lower than qualifying amounts at some other institutions. Chase CDs are also open to applicants who do not bank with Chase, in contrast with the practices of some banks and credit unions that require member checking or savings accounts.

However, Chase CD rates are far from the most competitive rates out there. You can easily get find better APY rates at other institutions, particularly for one-year CDs. If you decide to go with Chase, look into so-called “relationship rates” with a higher APY. Relationship rates are offered to customers who link their CDs to a Chase personal checking account.

On a 12-month CD for under $10,000, for example, you’ll currently draw twice the percentage rate offered on the standard CD.

As mentioned, a minimum of $1,000 is required to open a Chase CD account, and interest is compounded daily. Depending on the term, your earned interest may be paid monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually — and at maturity.

Here’s an overview of the rates Chase currently offers on its CD products. All rates were reviewed at Depositaccounts.com, another LendingTree-owned company, and are current as of Nov. 3, 2017.

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CD term

APY

Min. deposit amount

1-Month

.01%

$1,000

2-Month

.01%

$1,000

3-Month

.01%

$1,000

6-Month

.01%

$1,000

9-Month

.01%

$1,000

12-Month

.01%

$1,000

15-Month

.01%

$1,000

18-Month

.05%

$1,000

21-Month

.05%

$1,000

24-Month

.05%

$1,000

30-Month

.05%

$1,000

36-Month

.05%

$1,000

42-Month

.10%

$1,000

48-Month

.10%

$1,000

60-Month

0.25%

$1,000

84-Month

0.25%

$1,000

120-Month

0.70%

$1,000

Source: DepositAccounts.com, Nov. 3, 2017

Chase CD relationship rates

Chase CD relationship APY rates are extended to customers who have a linked Chase checking account. You can apply online and if you use a transfer from your account to open the CD, the account can be opened the same day. The minimum deposit is, again, $1,000.

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CD term

$0 - $9,999

$10K - $24,999.99

$25K - $49,999.99

$50K - $99,999.99

$100K - $249,999.99

$250K+

1-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

2-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

3-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

6-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

9-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

12-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.05%

0.05%

15-Month

0.05%

0.15%

0.15%

0.15%

0.20%

0.20%

18-Month

0.15%

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0.30%

0.30%

21-Month

0.15%

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0.30%

0.30%

24-Month

0.15%

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0.30%

0.30%

30-Month

0.15%

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0.30%

0.30%

36-Month

0.15%

0.35%

0.35%

0.35%

0.40%

0.40%

42-Month

0.25%

0.45%

0.45%

0.45%

0.50%

0.50%

48-Month

0.25%

0.45%

0.45%

0.45%

0.50%

0.50%

60-Month

0.35%

0.55%

0.55%

0.55%

0.60%

0.60%

84-Month

0.35%

0.55%

0.55%

0.55%

0.60%

0.60%

120-Month

0.90%

1.01%

1.01%

1.01%

1.05%

1.05%

Source: DepositAccounts.com, Nov. 3, 2017

Here’s a sample comparison between the APY on standard and relationship CDs on new accounts. To calculate on earnings at maturity, we assumed an account balance of $5,000.

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Chase standard CD APY

Earnings at maturity

Chase relationship CD

Earnings at maturity

12 months at 0.01%

$.50

12 months at 0.02%

$1.00

24 months at 0.05%

$5.00

24 months at 0.15%

$15.01

48 months at 0.10%

$20.03

48 months at 0.25%

$50.19

120 months at 0.70%

$361.23

120 months at 0.90%

$468.67

Important information about Chase CDs

Fees

There are no monthly service fees, however there are $15 fees for inbound domestic and international wire transfers (waived if from another Chase account) and outbound domestic wire transfer fees. Accounts can be opened online. Deposits of more than $100,000 must be opened at a Chase branch office.

Non-Chase customer access

You do not need to have a Chase checking or savings account to open a standard Chase CD account. You’ll need to provide a Social Security number, driver’s license and contact information. Deposits must be made from a checking or savings account through your existing bank.

Maturity date and grace period
Law requires banks to alert consumers before the maturation date on CDs. Chase considers the maturity date as the last day of the term. It offers a 10-day grace period on all CDs with terms 14 days or longer. During the grace period, you can withdraw the funds without penalty or roll over the account to another term.

Automatically renewable CDs versus single-maturity CDs

Account holders have the option of opening an automatically renewable or single-maturity CD account.

With an automatically renewable CD, the account renews on the maturity date for the same term as the original one, making the new maturity date the last day of the new term. The standard rate will apply unless the owner qualifies for a relationship CD.

The single-maturity CD does not automatically renew and earns no interest following the maturity date. You may want to see if Chase is offering any promotional rates during the 10-day grace period if you plan to invest in another Chase CD using a ladder strategy.

Earning interest on a Chase CD

Interest on Chase CDs begins to accrue on the first business day of deposit into your account and is calculated on a daily balance, 365 days a year. Paid or credited interest can be withdrawn during the term or at maturity without incurring penalties. For maturities of more than one year, interest will be paid at least annually, according to the bank. If the CD matures and automatically renews, the interest in the account is rolled over into the new principal.

Early-withdrawal penalties and fees
According to Chase, early-withdrawal penalties are deducted from your principal and do not exceed the total amount of earned interest. The penalty is 1 percent of the amount withdrawn if the term of the CD is less than 24 months. The early-withdrawal penalty is 2 percent for terms of 24 months or more.

Chase CD early-withdrawal penalties can be waived upon:

  • Death of a CD owner
  • Disability of a retirement CD owner
  • Retitling of a CD
  • A court ruling that the CD owner is incompetent

The bottom line:

Chase’s CD rates are likely best for customers who link the CD to their personal checking accounts because they can qualify for those juicier relationship rates. The rates improve for longer terms and larger deposit amounts. Chase’s online tools allow you to apply for relationship CDs and track your investments. The minimum amount to open a standard CD account ($1,000) is on par or slightly lower than those required by other institutions. Overall, the APY rates are not as good as you can get from some competing banks and credit unions.

You can find a range of CDs offering the best rates at

MagnifyMoney

.

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Gabby Hyman is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Gabby here

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Chances are you haven’t heard of Live Oak Bank. After all, this lender, based mostly on the web, has only been around since 2008, and it mostly focuses on giving out small business loans to businesses in specific industries, such as veterinary practices or craft breweries.

That’s no reason to pass it up for your personal banking needs, however. In fact, this little gem of a bank has one of the best-kept secrets in the personal banking world: it has one of the highest savings account interest rates you’ll find from an online bank. (More on that below.) And, most of its other personal deposit accounts offer relatively high rates as well.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at its deposit accounts to see if they’re right for you.

How Live Oak Bank rates compare

Live Oak Bank is right on par with the current highest CD rates.

This bank’s minimum deposit requirements also seem to be right on par with other bank’s minimum deposit requirements. The current best CDs out there have minimum deposit requirements both above and below Live Oak Bank’s $2,500 benchmark.

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Term

APY

Minimum Deposit

6-month CD

1.25%

$2,500

1-year CD

1.65%

$2,500

18-month CD

1.70%

$2,500

2-year CD

1.80%

$2,500

3-year CD

1.95%

$2,500

4-year CD

2.00%

$2,500

5-year CD

2.30%

$2,500

Rates current as of Nov. 3, 2017.

What else do I need to know about Live Oak Bank’s CDs?

Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to open these accounts. It’s a relatively straightforward process to open a CD: Simply complete the forms online, provide any needed documentation (such as your current bank account details), and wait for an account approval. Once your account is open, you can transfer over your deposit, where it will be held for five days before officially launching your CD.

If you need to take out your deposit early, bad news: As with many CDs, you’ll face an early-withdrawal penalty at Live Oak Bank. If your original CD term was for six months, one year or 18 months, you’ll be charged 90 days’ worth of interest. If your original CD term was for longer than that, you’ll be charged a higher rate of 180 days’ worth of interest.

If you are able to resist the urge to withdraw your money early, congratulations! Your CD will automatically renew into a second CD with the same term length. However, don’t panic if that’s not what you want: You have up to 10 days after the CD has matured to withdraw your money penalty-free and park it in your own bank account (whether it’s with Live Oak Bank or not).

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APY

Minimum Deposit

1.40%

Up to $5 million

(but only up to $250,000 is FDIC-insured)

Rates current as of Nov. 3, 2017.

How do Live Oak Bank’s savings accounts compare?

When it comes to the best savings accounts with high interest rates, Live Oak Bank is right up there. This means that Live Oak Bank is lowering the bar and allowing anyone to take advantage of these high interest rates, no matter how much is in his or her pocket right now.

What else do I need to know about Live Oak Bank’s savings account?

Live Oak Bank wants you to use your savings account, and use it often, which is one reason why it has no monthly maintenance fee. If there is no activity on your account for 24 months and your balance is less than $10.01, Live Oak Bank will take the remainder of your balance as a Dormant Account Fee and close your account.

Getting money into a Live Oak Bank savings account from an external bank account can take a little bit of time depending on how you do it. If you request the money through Live Oak Bank’s online portal, the funds won’t be available for up to five or six business days. But if you opt instead to send the money to Live Oak Bank from your current bank, the money will be available as soon as it’s received. Your Live Oak Bank savings account will start earning interest as soon as the money posts to your account.

You can easily withdraw your money at any time via ACH transfer. Simply log into your Live Oak Bank savings account and electronically transfer it to whichever bank account you wish. It’ll be available in two to three business days.

You are limited to making just six transactions (deposits or withdrawals) per month with this savings account. That’s not a Live Oak Bank thing; that’s a federal regulation imposed upon savings accounts in the U.S. If you absolutely can’t wait until next month to make another deposit or withdrawal past your allotted six per month, you’ll be charged a $10 transaction fee for each additional action.

Overall review of Live Oak Bank

It’s easy to overlook Live Oak Bank for other larger, more established consumer banks like Ally or Discover Bank. But Live Oak has some of the best CD rates around, and the best savings account available on the market today.

Lest you be scared away by its smaller name, consider this: This tiny-but-growing bank is getting rave reviews from customers and employees alike. It carries an “A” health rating, and has a top-notch online banking portal. About the only thing missing is a checking account to let you seamlessly do all of your daily banking with this great company.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

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Credit unions are known for having more flexibility in their offerings and lower rates for some financial products.

Because credit unions generally don’t pay state or federal taxes and are nonprofits, they can offer their members loans at relatively low interest rates; many people use credit unions to make big purchases like cars or home renovations.

Yet for all the benefits, credit unions remain underused. As of 2017, well over 100 million memberships are  held in credit unions based in the U.S., according to data from the Credit Union National Association. However, traditional U.S. banks still hold 91 percent of deposits versus 8.7 percent for credit unions.

The grass-roots, low-fee structure of credit unions can be appealing to consumers who want to save money on banking services. However, if you’re thinking of transitioning to a credit union, make sure you’re aware of the drawbacks, too.

Product offerings

Though credit unions can often extend lower interest rates and fees for some products, a quick look at the offerings at the largest banks and credit unions shows that some of the credit union service offerings don’t always compete with large banks. For example, if you need more sophisticated banking services — for instance, wealth management or commercial lines of credit —  a national bank might be better for you.

For instance, consider the experience of business owner AJ Saleem of Suprex Learning, which provides tutoring and other academic support in the Houston area. He says that when he was shopping for a bank that could meet his small-business needs, “I chose a large bank over a credit union because of available integrations.”

He adds, “My business uses Quickbooks, and some smaller credit unions can’t automatically connect to my accounting app.”

Rewards

Along similar lines, a credit union member might find the credit and debit card rewards underwhelming. According to a report by Credit Union Magazine, whose findings were published in early 2016, repeated surveys find rewards to be the top priority for consumers choosing where to bank. Even so, the report says, 61 percent of credit union decision-makers are unaware of this fact.

Meanwhile, large banks aggressively market their rewards programs and offer all kinds of enticing bonuses to attract new credit card customers.

The one credit card area in which credit unions come out ahead: cost. Larger banks might offer more rewards, but these rewards cards often come with annual fees. Credit unions tend to have low or no-fee offerings with lower APRs.

Eligibility

Many credit unions limit who can join based on criteria like profession, employment, alumni status or other types of associations. Credit unions will usually cite eligibility requirements somewhere on their websites. Even if you don’t meet such requirements, however, you may be able to join some credit unions by making a one-time donation or paying an annual membership fee. It’s up to you to do the research: Find out which credit unions you are eligible to join and if the benefits outweigh the potential membership costs.

Branch locations

Many times, your credit union will have only a handful of locations, if that. Branches might be limited to a corporate campus (if you’re a member of your credit union by way of your employer) or some small geographic area. In some cases, a credit union may only exist online.

Lyn Alden, an investment strategist, points out that a national bank might be more convenient for those who move around as well.

“If you move frequently and don’t want to change banks each time,” Alden says, “then a nationwide bank might be a better fit for you than a geographically limited credit union.”

ATM options

Though credit union networks like CO-OP ATM and CO-OP Shared Branch gives members access to fee-free ATM transactions and banking services at a variety of ATMs, there are a number of credit unions that aren’t in this network. Of the roughly 5,700 credit unions that exist, only about 3,500 are in this shared network. If your credit union isn’t in the network, you’ll likely pay more in ATM fees.

Operating hours

Some credit unions are pretty small. If you’ll be making frequent trips to see a personal banker, you’d definitely want to check on the hours your branch will be open. Again, not all credit unions follow this pattern, so it’s useful to look into all the possibilities and constraints involving limited operations.

Technology

Credit unions don’t have deep pockets like their big-bank counterparts. Though technology adoption at credit unions is increasing, there’s still some lag in comparison with the traditional banking industry.

Some credit unions have been slow to adopt online platforms, mobile banking and other bank-related technologies. There’s a good chance that a given credit union will have painfully arcane online access options — or perhaps none at all.

Mobile banking isn’t the only thing lacking on the technology front. As of 2015, many credit unions had not yet  fully converted to chip-enabled cards.

Autonomy and governance

Credit unions are independent and run by a member-elected board and board-appointed committees, which can change credit union policies on lending criteria and even actual loan approval, according to the Federal Credit Union Handbook, published by NCUA. Though these entities are designed to act in the best interest of members, it’s important to know that the board or committees may change policies that you’ve become familiar with.

On the flip side, rigidity in the credit union’s board structure can cause lags when it comes to making progress on policies that might benefit members, says Kirk Drake, credit union consultant and author of “Credit Union 2.0.”

“Credit union boards tend to take especially conservative attitudes toward change,” Drake says. “Board members sometimes miss the fact that growth and change (and thus some level of risk-taking) are part of maintaining a healthy institution.”

Final thoughts

While credit unions have some drawbacks, it’s also true that they are gaining membership, according to figures from the NCUA. Many credit unions are advancing in ways that make them competitive with traditional banks, but that varies by organization.

If you’d like to do more research into whether a credit union or a bank will best meet your financial needs, here are some resources that can help guide your decision:

  • You can compare a variety of bank and credit union products on DepositAccounts.com, which, like MagnifyMoney, is a LendingTree company.
  • You can find a credit union near you with this locator tool.
  • You can check out MagnifyMoney guides to an assortment of products, like the best online checking accounts, the best CD rates, the best mobile banking apps and the best rewards credit cards.

In the end, the decision to bank with a credit union comes down to individual preferences and needs. If you value high-touch customer service over convenience and ease of use, a credit union may be the answer. And if credit card rewards and accessibility are priorities, a big bank may be a better bet.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

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Financial planners can’t emphasize the importance of saving for retirement enough: The earlier you start saving and the more you contribute, the better. But should you max out your retirement account? And if so, how do you do it? 

Unfortunately, there’s no solution suitable for all; every individual has a different financial situation.  

But let’s start with the basics: The maximum amount of money you can contribute to your 401(k), the retirement plan offered by your company, is currently $18,000 a year if you are under age 50, and $24,000 if you are 50 or older. If you were starting from scratch, you would have to tuck away $1,500 a month to max it out by year’s end.  

This is a big chunk of money. And although there are multiple benefits to saving for retirement, you may want to think twice before hitting that maximum.  

Remember, this is money that, once contributed, can’t be withdrawn until age 59.5 without incurring penalties (with some exceptions).  

What’s more, putting away a significant portion of their savings to max out their retirement fund doesn’t make much sense for some workers.  

If you are fresh out of college and your first job pays $50,000 annually, you’d need to save 36 percent of your paychecks to max out your 401(k) for the year.   

“Everyone needs to save for retirement, and the more dollars you could put in, the earlier, the better, but you also need to live your life,” says Eric Dostal, a certified financial planner with Sontag Advisory, which is based in New York. “To the extent that you are not able to do the things that you want to accomplish now, having a really really robust 401(k) balance will be great in your 60s, but that would cost now.”  

A few things to consider BEFORE you max out your 401(k)

  1. Do you have an emergency fund for rainy-day cash? If not, divert any extra funds to establish a fund that will cover at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses.  
  2. Do you have high-interest debt, such as credit card debt? High-interest debts, like credit cards, might actually cost you more in the long run than any potential gains you might earn by investing that money in the market.  Still, if you can get a company match, you should try to contribute enough to capture the full match. It never makes sense to leave money on the table.  
  3. Do you have other near-term goals? Are you planning to buy a house or have a child anytime soon? Do you want to travel around the world? Do you plan to pursue an advanced degree? If so, come up with a savings strategy that makes room for your nonretirement goals as well. That way you can save money for those big-ticket expenses and will be less likely to turn to credit cards or other borrowing methods. 

Maximize your 401(k) contributions

If your emergency fund is flush, your bills are paid and you’re saving for big expenses, you are definitely ready to beef up your retirement contributions.   

First, you’ll want to figure out how much to save.   

At the very least, as we said above, you should contribute enough to qualify for any employer match available to you. This is money your employer promises to contribute toward your retirement fund. There are several different ways a company decides how much to contribute to your 401(k), but the takeaway is the same no matter what — if you miss out on the match, you are leaving free money on the proverbial table. 

If you are comfortable enough to start saving more, here is a good rule of thumb: Save 10 percent of each paycheck for retirement, though you don’t have to get up to 10 percent all at once.  

For instance, try adding 1 percent more to your retirement fund every six months. Some retirement plans even offer automatic step-up contributions, where your contributions are automatically increased by 1 or 2 percent each year. 

Larry Heller, a New York-based certified financial planner and president of Heller Wealth Management, suggests that you increase your contribution amount for the next three pay periods and repeat again until you hit your maximum.  

“You will be surprised that many people can adjust with a little extra taken out of their paycheck,” Heller said.   

Once you’re in the groove of saving for retirement, consider using unexpected windfalls to boost your savings. If you get an annual bonus, for example, you can beef up your 401(k) contribution sum if you haven’t yet met your contribution limit.  

A word of caution: If you’re nearing the maximum contribution for the year, rein in your savings. You can be penalized by the IRS for overcontributing. 

If your goal is to save $18,000 for 2017, check how much you’ve contributed for the year to date and then calculate a percentage of your salary and bonus contributions that will get you there through the year’s remaining pay periods.  

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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In 2012, Heather Vernillo, then 33, learned she had kidney cancer. The Tampa-area nurse had emergency surgery days later. While her health insurance covered 100 percent of her care, the experience left her unable to work for 15 weeks. This translated to more than four months of missed income, plus a $1,100 monthly bill for COBRA, which kept her health coverage intact during her involuntary hiatus.

Vernillo’s emergency fund turned out to be her saving grace through an ordeal that cost her roughly $7,000.

“The situation pretty much wiped out my savings, but it was worth every penny,” she told MagnifyMoney.

Vernillo’s experience underscores the vital importance of keeping a cash reserve on hand. Still, two-thirds of Americans would struggle to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to a 2016 poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Vernillo is no millionaire. As a nurse, her annual income fluctuated between $95,000 and $50,000 before her diagnosis. (She took a pay cut when she moved from New Jersey to Florida in 2012.) Nonetheless, she says her approach to building her rainy day fund was simple: She set up automatic monthly withdrawals from her checking account to her emergency fund, treating it like any other line item on her budget. It took about two years to build up a fund sufficient enough to cover the expenses she incurred during her medical crisis.

Now, she is focused on rebuilding her fund. This wasn’t always financially easy, she admits, but after her health scare, it was a top priority.

“I’ve been able to partially replenish [my savings] and currently have about two months’ worth of expenses tucked away, just in case,” she says.

Choosing your best worst option

When people don’t have cash on hand for emergencies, they’re more likely to turn to alternative borrowing methods that could wind up costing them much more down the road. (Hello, payday loans.) Sometimes, it can feel like a painful choice from an array of bad options.

If you’ve exhausted all your best options for cash — you’ve emptied your bank account and asked friends and family for loans — then it’s time to look at your next best alternative. And at this point, it’s about choosing the option that will cost you less in the long run.

If you’re overwhelmed with medical bills, for example, ask the doctor or hospital to put you on a payment plan. Or consider a personal loan or a low-interest credit card — whichever option carries the lowest APR. Check out our ranking of the 10 best options for cash when you need it fast.

“If you don’t have any other options, then using a credit card or personal loan to pay for an emergency is better than defaulting on a bill, which can negatively impact your credit score,” Natalie Colley, a financial analyst with Francis Financial, tells MagnifyMoney.  “You’ll pay more in the long run with interest, and ultimately you’re setting yourself up for financial instability and getting caught in a debt cycle.”

The key is to use these methods as a last resort and create a plan to pay down the debt as soon as possible.

Thanks to consistent monthly contributions, Marvin Fontanilla, a 35-year-old marketing professional in San Jose, had $8,000 tucked away in his emergency fund. It was enough to cover three months’ worth of expenses, and it came in handy back in August, when the battery on his hybrid car called it quits. A replacement cost $2,200, and an additional $622 for a rental car to use during the repair.

“It didn’t make a huge dent in our savings because my fiancee and I live way below our means,” Fontanilla says. “We’ve actually already replenished it by taking money we normally use to make aggressive student loan payments and redirecting it back into our savings account.”

While we certainly can’t anticipate every financial emergency that lies ahead, he adds that the death of his car battery didn’t come completely out of the blue; he knew when he bought a hybrid that the battery would likely have to be replaced once he hit 200,000 miles, so the expense was already in the back of his mind.

How much should you save?

Just as there’s no way Vernillo could have predicted her cancer, it’s impossible for any of us to really know what financial twists and turns are in our future.

“We can plan until we’re blue in the face for what lies ahead financially, but no matter how great our planning is, emergencies happen,” says Colley.

She tells her clients to live by a basic rule of thumb for savings: Save for at least three to six months’ worth of expenses.

“That’s a large number, and it’s going to take years to get there, but the important thing is to establish the habit of putting money aside every month and having it automatically transferred from your checking account to your savings account,” she says.

How much you contribute each month depends on a number of factors, not the least of which are income and expenses. After accounting for fixed bills and variable expenses like food and entertainment, what’s left should be divvied up between your financial goals. If your emergency fund is at zero, Colley suggests starting small and focusing solely on the first $1,000; a safe cushion in case of a minor setback.

Once you hit that milestone, you can begin redirecting some money toward other financial goals (like paying off  high-interest debt, dialing up your retirement contributions or saving for a down payment on a home) while continuing to build your emergency fund. Everyone’s goals are different, but the main takeaway here is that it isn’t an either/or situation. Rather, it’s all about saving for multiple goals at once.

Where to stash your savings

Where you keep your emergency fund matters. Colley likes the idea of keeping it at a bank that’s separate from a regular checking account. (Out of sight, out of mind.) She recommends going with an online, high-yield account, like Capital One 360, Ally or Synchrony. While a traditional savings account at your local bank will likely only pay 0.01 percent, these online accounts dole out 1.20 percent with no minimum balance requirement.

Another plus is that it typically takes three days to transfer money into your checking account, which reduces the likelihood of impulsive withdrawals. The idea is to build an emergency fund that’s liquid, but not so liquid that you’ll be tempted to dip into it when the mood strikes.

For smaller pop-up expenses that leave you needing cash on the spot — a flat tire or overdraft protection, for example — Colley says it’s not a bad idea to keep a few hundred dollars in a traditional savings account that can be tapped immediately.

“Having a fully funded emergency savings doesn’t happen overnight, and it also shouldn’t be your one and only focus,” Colley says. “If you do that, all your other goals will come to a grinding halt while you build your savings account.”

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Strategies to Save

Friday, August 25, 2017

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Saving money is a noble goal. It can even become addictive, like a game. But if you’re not careful, your savings strategies might lead you to spend more money in the long run.

These seven stories will help remind you to always keep your long-term savings goal in mind. That way you aren’t blindsided by short-term “savings.”

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Who hasn’t been enamored with the “Extreme Couponing” TV show, where people get carloads of groceries for free? They make coupons seem like the equivalent of cash dollars — but the only way you can use those dollars is to spend money first. This sets up a snag where overzealous consumers can easily be tricked into spending more money than they otherwise would have in the quest of using the Holy Coupon and their “savings.”

Kendal Perez, a savings expert with Coupon Sherpa, has some tips: “Coupons, Groupons, and vouchers of any kind that save you money on products, services, or experiences you wouldn’t otherwise be interested in are ones you should stay away from. Instead of clipping ‘interesting’ coupons from the Sunday circular or browsing Groupon when you’re bored, look for coupons on items you already intend to buy.”

Trying to save too much money

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Joseph Hogue, a chartered financial analyst and personal finance blogger, was in a familiar trap in his first professional job: He hated it and wanted to leave. So he tried saving up all of his cash so he could retire early.

“I fell into the financial equivalent of yo-yo dieting,” he says. He would take on as much work as possible before becoming burned out and blowing all of his hard-earned money in a spending spree.

He learned the hard way that it’s not enough just to make and save a ton of money. You also need to pace yourself, set realistic goals, and reward yourself along the way. Hogue’s advice? “Find something outside of work you enjoy doing to make all the effort and saving worthwhile.”

Growing your own vegetables

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Growing your own vegetables doesn’t seem like it would cost much money. Just throw some seeds in the ground and add water, right? Wrong.

Once you factor in everything you need to grow a garden — tools, soil amendments, fences, plants, hoses, etc. — costs can quickly spiral out of control. Still, you have to be careful about cutting corners. Joshua Crum, a personal finance blogger, found this out firsthand when he forgot to include wild-animal-proof fencing in his calculations. “I spent around $100 and tons of work on a garden. Wild animals came and ate everything I planted.”

If gardening is your thing, see if you can reduce your expenses by buying used equipment instead of new. Also consider planting cost-effective vegetables for the maximum return for your buck.

Not reading the fine print on a purchase

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There are a ton of ways to save money if you keep your eyes open. Receipt-scanning apps, rebates, sales, coupons, store loyalty cards — it’s a long list. The catch is that you have to carefully read the fine print so you can meet the requirements. Before you make a purchase with the intent of getting a rebate or some other discount, make sure you understand the terms and will actually benefit from the deal.

Mindy Jensen, community manager at BiggerPockets, recently found this out. She bought a ream of paper, expecting to use a rebate to have another free ream of paper shipped to her house. “I didn’t read the fine print, and the return was in the form of a store credit. I almost never shop there, so it was kind of a waste.”

In another incident she bought a bottle of alcohol specifically for a $5 rebate. “I have gotten in the habit of saying ‘No, thank you’ to receipts at the store, to save paper and the environment.” When she got home, she was stunned: “Guess what you need in order to get the rebate? A receipt. Of course, I felt like an idiot for not getting the receipt; having a proof that you purchased the product is a basic tenet to getting a rebate.”

Skimping on insurance

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No one likes paying their monthly insurance premium — until it comes time to make a claim.

According to Neil Richardson from the auto insurance comparison site The Zebra, getting just the minimum liability protection for your state “is simply too little financial protection to cover a number of common car insurance claims scenarios. People end up with huge bills because they wanted to save a few dollars off their premium.”

MagnifyMoney recommends checking what insurance options are available with your insurance broker. Ask yourself: Would you be able to fully cover the cost of any unfortunate events outside of the minimum coverage? If not, you might need to reconsider your insurance coverage.

Skipping doctor visits

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Going to the doctor is about as fun as stubbing your toe, not to mention being expensive. It’s pretty tempting to save some money by diagnosing yourself over the internet. Sometimes this works out, but it can have costly consequences if it doesn’t.

Abigail Perry, a personal finance blogger, once felt a urinary tract infection coming on but decided to treat it herself. It quickly turned into lower back pain, which was her signal that it was becoming more serious. She eventually ended up spending $75 to go to the emergency room, when a visit to her regular doctor would have had a $0 copay.

Perry’s advice is to “just go to the doctor. And if you can’t get an appointment there, find an urgent care clinic [rather than going to the emergency room, if possible]. Just be sure to bring a good book and a charge cord.”

Buying in bulk

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Smart shoppers know that the best way to save money is by looking at the per-unit price of each food item. This often means buying food in bulk. Even smarter shoppers know to take into account an item’s shelf life, so they can plan to use it before it goes bad.

But there’s more to it than that, like making sure you actually need what you’re buying. For example, Lisa Torres, a retired high school teacher, buys several boxes of Popsicles at a time when they go on sale during the hot New Hampshire summers. Buying Popsicles in bulk seems like a logical choice, because she’s going through a lot of them and they’ll keep for months. But Torres also likes buying fresh fruit in the summer, when some of her favorites are in season. When her family has both options as a snack, they tend to choose the Popsicles.

“The healthy fruit in the fridge goes bad because we are eating Popsicles instead of fruit,” she says. “And next week I have to buy more Popsicles.” Torres says she’s still working on making better buying decisions so she doesn’t waste food or money.

When buying in bulk, it’s always best to stop and think about whether you’ll be able to use all of the product, as well as if you have any alternatives at home. By keeping tabs on what you have at home and taking a minute to think before every purchase, you can successfully navigate these common savings pitfalls.

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TAGS: Budgeting, couponing, Insurance, savings

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Friday, August 18, 2017

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According to a 2017 survey released by the National Financial Educators Council, 54% of respondents (all 18 years and older) said a course in money management in high school would benefit their lives. Another survey — the most recent from the Program for International Student Assessment — reports that only about 10% of U.S. 15-year-olds are proficient in personal finance matters, falling in the middle among the 15 countries studied. The message is clear: Young Americans need to learn more about money and managing it wisely. One way to start them off is giving them hands-on experience with their own money. Enter the summer job.

Having a summer job can be a good introduction to adulthood for many reasons: The discipline, submission to management, team work, and a regular paycheck are just a few of the things a teenager will get used to with their first summer job.

It’s also a good way to introduce kids to the real world of money. Though the money your teen earns is technically theirs, as a parent, you should use summer job earnings as an opportunity to help your kids form good habits with money. There’s no better time to show them the value of money than in the crucial years before they’ll be saddled with obligations like student loans, car notes, and mortgages.

Here are a few ways to make sure your teen will get the most out of their money-making experience that will keep them money savvy for years to come.

Pay their fair share

Once your teen begins making money, you’ll to want consider how they can begin to cover certain expenses. You’ll be tempted, no doubt, to let your teen keep their hard-earned money for themselves. Trust this process. If the goal is to raise money-smart kids who become even savvier adults, there will have to be simulations of the real world that include actually paying for things

If your teen uses the car, consider having them cover a portion or all of their car insurance bill. Another option is to have them contribute to their cellphone bill or even some of the Wi-Fi they use.

Having expenses is a real part of life, so it’s better to help them understand that now rather than later when ignorance isn’t so blissful.

If the thought of making your child pay for expenses bothers you, consider a different approach: Teach them about the costs of everyday life by asking them to cover their portion of a bill, but take that money and put it away for them. You can save up all that money and, as a nice gesture, give it to them when they need it most, like when they go away to college or finally leave the nest to launch out into the real world.

Open bank accounts

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While many families do not have access to or elect not to participate in the traditional banking system — it’s estimated that 27% of U.S. households are unbanked or underbanked — you’d ideally want to get your teen familiar with banks and how they work. Though check use has been on the decline since the mid-1990s, it’s still important for teens to learn how to write a check, along with keeping a checkbook register. Sure, this practice probably won’t last long, as electronic payments and money management apps continue to grow, but this approach gives your kids the gist of how to keep track of their cash flow.

While your teen has a bank account, you’ll also get them used to understanding how a debit card works. They’ll get familiar with how easy it is to swipe for things they want, yet how difficult it can be to replenish their account with the money they’re making at their job.

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your teen opens a savings account. In most states, a person can open a bank account when they become 18. For younger teens, many banks have special teen or kid accounts that a child can share with their parents. Co-owned checking accounts can be opened as young as 13, while custodial savings accounts can be opened at any age.

Developing good habits around saving and managing money takes time and some getting used to. So using their summer earnings would be a perfect opportunity to get into the groove of budgeting for expenses and managing money through a bank account.

Set money goals

Once money starts to flow into your kid’s hands, seize the moment and get them to see the bigger picture. Summer money is great, but paying for life will take much more than what your teen earns from a few hours of work in a bike shop. Begin to show them the cost of things like college, cars, homes, and luxuries like vacations or hobbies.

Once you compare the costs with their summer job earnings, it should help them come to conclusions about how money works: The more you have, the more you can do. The idea is to inspire them to increase their earning potential with tools like education or savings to invest in income-producing assets.

Another result of these conversations could be your teen realizing they’ll want to start saving up for life sooner than later. They may decide to put away money for the purpose of paying for school or their first condo.

Ron Lieber, New York Times financial columnist and author of the book The Opposite of Spoiled, says parents should prompt their kids with an immediate goal like having a college fund. “The best thing to do is to use any earnings to begin a conversation with parents about college, if your teen plans on going,” Lieber says.

Lieber suggests questions to guide the conversation:

  • How much of your college expenses will be covered by parents versus the child?
  • How much have the parents saved for the child’s college expenses?
  • How much are kids/parents willing to borrow or spend out of their current income?

According to Lieber, “The answers to these questions may cause a teen to save everything, if they think it will help them avoid debt in their effort to attend their dream college.”

No matter how temporary their summer job is, you’d do well to use it as a springboard for more conversations about money. Whatever their long-term money goals are, it’s never a bad idea to start working toward them early on.

Learn compound interest

While your teen is making all of those big money goals, you could drive the point home with a lesson in compound interest. Using a compound interest calculator, you can show your teenager many scenarios where interest can either work for or against them.

Run scenarios around savings for big-ticket items versus financing them. The math will speak volumes:

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*Example APRs are used. APR will vary on factors like individual credit score, loan amount, and bank requirements.

In the above scenario, you’d end up paying a total of $226,815 in interest. That same amount ($226,815) invested for 30 years with a moderate 3.5% return yields over $636,000!

Seeing these numbers in action should motivate your teen to start a savings habit that they will maintain throughout adulthood.

If they are really excited about the prospects of compound interest working on their behalf, encourage them to open their own IRA to begin investing themselves. This way, they’ll not only understand the theory of investing but also get hands-on experience with it. After all, the time value of money works even better when you’ve got more time. Investing as a teen could set the stage for copious returns later on in life.

Create a budget

Making money can be the fun, somewhat easy part of a summer job. Figuring out how to spend it can be difficult. Make your teen prioritize needs and wants by learning to create a budget. A good practice would be to have your teen make a list of things they’ll spend money on versus how much money they will bring in. You could also introduce them to a money-management app — here are some of the best ones.

This will help them understand the finite nature of money and how their current cash flow stacks up against their current earnings.

Have fun

According to Brian Hanks, a certified financial planner in Salt Lake City, “Don’t be concerned if your teen ‘blows’ a portion of their earnings on things you consider to be worthless.” Hanks goes on to say that it’s better to make money mistakes as a youngster: “Everyone needs to learn tough money lessons in life, and learning them as a teen when the consequences are relatively small can save bigger heartache down the road.”

A summer job should be fun and low-stress, but it can also be used as a learning experience that prepares your teen for the real world. If your teen turns out to be a terrible budgeter or extreme spendthrift, give them more than a summer to learn better ways. Remember, they’ll have the rest of their lives to continue grasping and mastering money concepts.

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TAGS: kids and money, Parenting, savings, summer jobs

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