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Surveys consistently show that no credit card reward is more popular than cold, hard cash. Indeed, cash back cards came out well ahead of other types of rewards cards in a recent CreditCards.com survey, which found that close to half of U.S. adults own a cash back credit card.
And for good reason: Instead of having to decipher a complex redemption scheme, you can opt for a simple, straightforward reward and use it in the way that fits you best.
Here we take a look at some of the most common types of cash back redemption, along with some of the restrictions you may encounter when redeeming your rewards.
How cash back cards work
Cash back cards come in a variety of flavors, but they all fundamentally work the same way: As you make purchases with your card, you earn cash rewards at a set rate. There are three major types of cash back cards.
Flat-rate cash back cards offer the same percentage of cash back for all purchases, usually between 1% and 2%.
Bonus category cash back cards typically reward some purchases, like groceries or dining, at a higher rate, while rewarding general purchases at 1%.
Rotating bonus category cash back cards have dynamic bonus categories that automatically change or allow you to select a different bonus category after a certain length of time.
See related:Â What is cash back?
Ways to redeem cash back
Depending on your card and issuer, you may have a variety of choices in how you redeem your cash back rewards. Some issuers even allow you to set up an automatic redemption, meaning your redemption would automatically initiate after a set number of days or after you earn a certain amount in rewards.
The most common ways to redeem cash back are:
A statement credit
A direct deposit to a bank account
Redeeming cash back as a statement credit
One of the most common ways to redeem cash back is as aÂ statement credit. A statement credit is money credited to your account that reduces your card balance. For example, if you were to spend $1,000 with a card that offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase, youâd earn $15 in cash back rewards; and if you were to redeem this cash back as a statement credit, your balance would decrease by $15 to $985.
Blue Cash PreferredÂ® Card from American Express, for example, requires you to have earned $25 in cash back before you can redeem as a statement credit.
TheÂ Chase Freedom UnlimitedÂ®card lets you redeem rewards as a statement credit in any amount, anytime.
Once youâve met your cardâs redemption requirements, you can simply choose a statement credit as your preferred cash back redemption.
Redeeming cash back as a check or direct deposit
A slightly smaller number of credit card rewards programs let you redeem your rewards for âtrueâ cash back in the form of a check or direct deposit to your bank account. Claiming your cash back in this way gives you a bit more leeway since you can save or spend your rewards however you like instead of having them âlockedâ into a particular card account.
As with statement credits, the requirements for requesting a check vary from card to card, with some issuers requiring you to have earned a minimum amount of cash back before you can request a check and others imposing relatively few restrictions.
Direct deposits tend to be a bit trickier across the board, especially if you donât already have a banking relationship with your credit card issuer.
TheÂ Bank of AmericaÂ® Cash Rewards credit card, for example, will only let you redeem cash back as direct deposit if you have a checking or savings account with Bank of America.
TheÂ CitiÂ® Double Cash Card lets you redeem your cash back as a direct deposit only if you have a linked Citi account or a checking account from which youâve paid a Citi credit card bill at least twice. While the Double Cash card requires you to have earned at least $25 in cash back to redeem as a statement credit, thereâs no minimum to redeem as a direct deposit.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise VisaÂ® cardÂ lets you claim your cash back via an ATM (in $20 increments only) if you have a Wells Fargo Bank account.
Automatic cash back redemption
Along with manually requesting a statement credit, check or direct deposit, a number of cards allow you to set up automatic cash back redemption. If your card allows automatic redemption, your cash back is generally distributed at set times or after youâve earned a certain amount.
TheÂ Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card and, for example, allow you to schedule automatic cash back redemption via statement credit or check at a set time once per year or once youâve reached a cash back earnings threshold ($25, $50, $100, $200, $500 or $1,500).
Even some cards designed for credit-builders, like theÂ Credit One Bank American ExpressÂ® Card, allow automatic redemption as a statement credit, offering those looking to improve their financial habits a âset-it-and-forget-itâ cash back savings tool that will periodically knock off a chunk of their credit card balance.
Travel, gift cards and merchandise on an issuerâs online portal
Most credit card issuers also give you the option of redeeming your cash back through a rewards portal for online shopping or as gift cards to select department stores, restaurants, video streaming services and more.
TheÂ Discover itÂ® Cash Backcard, for example, lets you redeem your cash back for gift cards from shopping partners once youâve earned $5 in cash back (gift cards range from $5 to $200, in increments of $5).
TheÂ Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card*lets you redeem your points for purchases on Amazon.com, as a statement credit or deposit, or for gift cards and travel â all at a rate of 1 cent per point.
Having the option to use your rewards for travel allows you to enjoy the benefits of travel rewards with a cash back card and is especially common among cash back cards that use points or allow you toÂ choose between cash back and points.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great example. You can earn unlimited cash back at a rate of 5% cash back on every purchase, which translates to 1.5 points per dollar if redeemed for travel in theÂ Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Similarly, the Citi Double Cash Card lets you transfer your cash back toÂ Citi ThankYou Rewards and redeem for travel rewards, as well as gift cards, merchandise and other purchases through the Pay with Points program.
Cash back redemption options on popular rewards cards
As you can see, cash back redemption options vary considerably from issuer to issuer and card to card. Hereâs a closer look at how cash back redemption breaks down with some of the most popular cash back credit cards.
Redeem as a statement credit?
Redeem as a check?
Redeem as a direct deposit?
Blue Cash PreferredÂ® Card from American Express
Yes (once youâve earned $25 in cash back)
Bank of AmericaÂ® Cash Rewards credit card
Yes (once youâve earned $25 in cash back)
Yes (once youâve earned $25 in cash back)
Yes (into a Bank of America checking or savings account, once youâve earned $25 in cash back)
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Chase Freedom UnlimitedÂ®
CitiÂ® Double Cash Card
Yes (once youâve earned $25 in cash back)
Yes (once youâve earned $25 in cash back)
Yes (to a linked Citi savings or checking account or to a checking account from which youâve paid your Citi credit card bill at least twice)
Discover itÂ® Cash Back
Best cash back redemption options
With all those options for redeeming for cash, which one is best?
The key point to consider is whether your rewards lose any value when redeemed in a certain way. You want to make sure you are getting the most value back, so be careful if you redeem for merchandise, which can be worth less than rewards redeemed for straight cash.
That said, unless your issuer offers a bonus for claiming your rewards as a statement credit instead of âtrueâ cash back, you should simply stick to whichever option is most convenient.
One drawback to cash rewards is they often donât feel like actual rewards because they get swept up into your ongoing finances. If that bothers you, you might consider taking note of how much you are receiving in cash rewards, then rewarding yourself by spending that amount on something you want, so that you feel like youâre getting a reward.
Either way, thatâs the best aspect of cash back rewards: Itâs your decision.
Choosing the best cash back credit card for you
Your redemption options are just one consideration when choosing a credit card. Consider these factors:
When shopping around for cash back cards, find the card that will work the hardest for you, not the other way around. In other words, a cash back rate of 5% at restaurants is great, but not if you rarely eat out. Bottom line: Find a credit card that matches the largest portions of your budget.
Also, be honest about how much thought you want to give to your credit card. If you prefer a âset and forgetâ approach, a flat-rate card is a better choice than a rotating bonus category card.
With so many great no annual fee cards, you might wonder why you would ever get a card with an annual fee. But often, the rewards rates are so much better that it actually makes sense to get the card with the annual fee. For example, comparing the Blue Cash EverydayÂ® Card from American Express and the Blue Cash PreferredÂ® Card from American Express, we found that consumers who spend more than $3,200 annually at U.S. supermarkets ($267 per month) were actually better off with Blue Cash Preferred, which has a $95 annual fee.
From redemption options to bonus categories, each cash back card is designed for a different type of consumer. If you havenât found your perfect match yet, try our CardMatchâ¢ tool, which can deliver personalized credit card offers in seconds with no impact on your credit score.
All information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuers did not provide the content, nor are they responsible for its accuracy.
Working from home has its perks. Thereâs the money saved from skipping the commute, and just think about all of that time you get back by avoiding crowded freeways or public transit during rush hour. As far as workplace attire goes, few employees would trade âwork-from-home casualâ for dress slacks.
But while working from home affords some new freedoms, it also creates new challenges. One of your biggest tasks is to create a productive, ergonomically correct workplace in your home without breaking the bank. If this sounds familiar, youâre probably asking yourself, âHow can I set up a home office on a budget?â
Whether youâve always worked from home as a freelancer or started during the pandemic, these expert tips will help you get started as you design your home office on a budget:
Strive for an ergonomically correct home office
Being home all day creates an unexpected obstacle: pain. Many workers find that transitioning from a well-equipped office to a makeshift setup at home leads to discomfort. Thatâs because many of them go from having a spacious desk, comfortable chair, and monitor and keyboard in their office building to working from a laptop in their living room.
If you suffer from neck pain or eye strain when working from home, you may be feeling the effects of poor ergonomics. Ergonomics, commonly known as the science of work, aims to optimize productivity and health in a workspace.
As a physical therapist with more than 25 years of experience, Karen Loesing, owner of The Ergonomic Expert, knows this issue all too well. Loesingâs company performs ergonomic assessments for businesses and home offices. Over the years, she has seen countless clients suffering from neck, back or other health issues due to poorly designed workspaces. But it doesnât have to be that way, Loesing says.
âHaving an ergonomically correct workstation enhances productivity and generally overall happiness at work.â
There are relatively easy ways to transform an ergonomic nightmare into a well-functioning home office on a budgetâeven if youâre stationed at the kitchen table, she says. And the investment is worth it.
âHaving an ergonomically correct workstation enhances productivity and generally overall happiness at work,â Loesing says. âFor those who are able to designate a certain space in their home where they can work without distractionsâmaybe even a window with a view and the flexibility to work at your own paceâit has been proven this makes for a happier employee.â
Who doesnât want to boost their health, productivity and happiness in one fell swoop?
Find the optimal location for your at-home workspace
When setting up a home office for remote work, location should be your first decision, says design consultant Linda Varone, author of âThe Smarter Home Office.â Depending on your living situation, there may be an obvious answer, such as that spare room youâve always thought could become an office space.
If you donât have a dedicated office, donât despair. While you design your home office on a budget, think creatively about where it can be.
Varone once visited a clientâs home to help reconfigure her workspace. The client was running a business from a table in the hallway. âAt the end of each workday, she had to pack everything up and store it in the closet in the guest room,â Varone says.
But as Varone learned, guests only stayed over two weeks a year, leaving the room empty the rest of the time. It hadnât occurred to the business owner, but turning the guest room into a home office for most of the year was the perfect solution.
âThere are some simple, simple ways that people can rethink their home office without a big investment and make that space really work for them,â Varone says.
In addition to using a guest room, a dining or living room can also function as a home office on a budget.
Establish the ideal setup for your workstation
Once youâve decided on the room, determine the location for your workstation, Varone says. As you plan your home office, consider placing your desk or table near a window, allowing for natural light and an occasional glimpse of nature. Donât face directly outside; instead, aim for a line of sight thatâs perpendicular to the window, Varone says. Thatâs because, even on an overcast day, youâd be looking into too much bright light if youâre facing the window.
âWhatâs happening is your eyes are adjusting back and forth between the bright sunlight that youâre facing and the darker light of your computer screen,â Varone says. âAnd that ends up being really fatiguing for the eye.â
If you live with others, the biggest challenge will be privacy. Try to clearly define the boundaries of your âofficeâ if you can, such as with an area rug, she says. Then ask your roommates or family members not to enter your space while youâre working, apart from an emergency.
If you use a multipurpose space, be sure to tidy everything up at the end of the day, Varone says. Taking the 10 minutes or so to clean up your âofficeâ will reduce clutter. Ultimately, a clutter-free space can reduce your stress and boost your productivity.
âThat also has a benefit of becoming a little ritual and helping you say, âAll right, my workday is over,ââ Varone says. ââNow I can focus on my personal life.ââ
Choose your furniture wisely
Now that youâve found the perfect location for your home office on a budget, focus on finding the perfect work surface. Maybe itâs a traditional desk. Or it could be your dining room table or kitchen counter.
If you do need to buy a desk or chair, donât feel like you need to spend a fortune. Try looking for a used office furniture store or liquidator in your area, Varone recommends. You could even try searching online marketplaces for a gently used model.
When planning a home office and considering your work surface, what matters most is the height.
The average desk is 29 inches high, Loesing says. This will likely accommodate someone whoâs 5â8â, she acknowledges, but for everyone else? It will take some adjusting to make it fit for them.
Thatâs where your chair comes in. Most people donât need a high-end office swivel chair to work comfortably. As long as you can adjust the height of your chair to fit you and your desk, youâll have a comfortable setup.
Itâs important to adjust the height of your chair to achieve a neutral position, Loesing says. If you donât have the instructions from the manufacturer on how to adjust your model, try searching for videos online, she adds.
One more chair takeaway from Loesing?
âIf you canât spend a dime, at least get as comfortable as you can where youâre sitting, and sit all the way back in your chair,â Loesing says. âWhen you donât sit so your back is against the backrest, youâre using your back muscles all day long instead of them being at rest.â
Adjust your furniture and equipment
As you continue planning a home office, youâll likely find that your computer is your most important piece of equipment. But it can also lead to neck strain. Whether itâs a laptop or an external monitor, Loesing says screen placement is key. In fact, she says itâs the single most important feature to addressâas well as the most commonly disregarded one.
While you plan your home office, Loesing recommends keeping the following ergonomic guidelines in mind to help avoid neck strain:
Align your monitor so your eyes are level with the screen. (Thatâs typically about 4â from the top of the monitor.)
Place your feet flat on the floor and your knees at about a 90-degree angle with the ground.
Place your arms at about a 90-degree angle from the writing surface so your shoulders are relaxed.
If you only have a laptop, and no monitor, you still have options for raising your screen to eye-level. âThere are budget-friendly laptop risers on the market,â Loesing says. âIf you donât want to spend any money, you can place books or reams of paper to bring the screen up to eye level.â
When setting up a home office for remote work and thinking about your arm placement, note that Varone is a strong advocate for an external keyboard. If youâre working at a desk that has a keyboard tray built into it, thatâs a great way to keep your arms at about a 90-degree angle, she says. If you donât have a built-in tray, she says you can improvise by placing your keyboard on an inexpensive laptop table situated directly under your desk.
While the exact adjustments will vary depending on your equipment, height and budget, the focus is on acquiring a neutral position or a position where thereâs no strain on anything, Loesing says.
âWith the addition of standing desks, which encourage movement, employees often find they have significantly more energy at the end of the day.â
Stand if it suits you
If youâre intrigued by the idea of a standing desk, youâre not alone. Standing desk sales have soared over the last decade, buoyed by reports of the dangers of too much sitting.
âStatic postures (e.g., sitting all day in front of a computer) present more fatigue than dynamic working,â Loesing says. âWith the addition of standing desks, which encourage movement, employees often find they have significantly more energy at the end of the day.â
You donât have to buy an official standing desk to reap the benefits when planning a home office. âThe least expensive way would be to take a laptop and place it up high on a built-in high counter using a compact wireless keyboard and mouse,â Loesing says.
Even if you donât have a standing deskâmakeshift or otherwiseâyou can still incorporate movement and circulation into your workday. Set a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch every 20 minutes, Loesing suggests.
For an even better boost, combine this with a popular guideline known as the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, give your eyes a break by looking out a window at something at least 20 feet away, and do so for at least 20 seconds.
Donât forget the ambience and accessories
Your desk, chair and computer are the major players when youâre setting up a home office for remote work. But there are a few additional items to consider, like lighting, plants and sound.
Your overhead light fixture likely isnât enough, as it will create shadows and can be too weak by the time it reaches your workspace, Varone says. She recommends investing in a table lamp that creates a wider spread of light in your area. Pick one with a translucent shade that will softly diffuse the light and make it easier on your eyes.
As youâre planning your home office, Varone also recommends incorporating a potted plant or flower into your workspace. Not only can it help purify the air and boost your mood, a natural element can contribute to a restful atmosphere.
Working from home means working with home noisesâespecially if youâre in an environment with roommates, a partner or little ones. To keep the noise down, consider noise-canceling headphones for a quieter workspace and clearer meetings. Other budget-friendly options? Try placing a towel under the door to block out noise from other rooms, Loesing says. Consider curtains instead of blinds, since theyâre better at blocking out sound. Even pillows or large cushions can help reduce noise, she adds.
After youâve taken care of the essentials and if you have the space and money, think about adding a reading chair to your home office. You can use this as a space to review documents or do some deep thinking, Varone says. It can be a welcome respite from your desk while keeping you in the office area, she adds.
One last tip? Add a personal touch, whether itâs a framed family photo or a souvenir from your travels. Itâs your home office, after all. Let your personality shine.
Set up a home office for remote work that allows you to thrive
Now that you know how to create a home office on a budget, youâre ready to make a space that works well for you. Whether youâre an experienced remote worker or a newbie, you can apply these expert tips to set up an office thatâs functional and keeps you motivated day in and day out.
Ready to break in your new home office? Keep that motivation going by learning how to increase your earning potential this year.
The post Planning a Home Office? Check Out These Budget-Friendly Tips appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Prepping for a new baby’s arrival might kick your nesting instinct into high gear, as you make sure everything is just right before the big day. One thing to add to your new-baby to-do list is figuring out how to financially prepare for maternity leave if you’ll be taking time away from work.
Lauren Mochizuki, a nurse and budgeting expert at personal finance blog Casa Mochi, took time off from work for the births of both her children. Because she had only partial paid leave each time, she says a budget was critical in making sure money wasn’t a source of stress.
“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time,” Mochizuki says.
But the question “How do I budget for maternity leave?” is a big one. One thing’s for sureâthe answer will be different for everyone, since not everyone’s leave or financial situation is the same. What matters most is taking action early to get a grip on your finances while there’s still time to plan.
Before you get caught up in the new-baby glow, here’s what you need to do to financially prepare for maternity leave:
1. Estimate how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last
To financially prepare for maternity leave, you need to know how long you plan to be away from work without pay.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave from work per year for certain family and medical reasons, including for the birth of a child. Some employers may also offer a period of paid leave for new parents.
When estimating how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last, Mochizuki says to consider how much unpaid leave you plan to take based on your personal needs and budget. For example, you could find you’re not able to take the full period offered by FMLA after reviewing your expenses (more on that below) and how much you have in savings.
Even if your employer does offer paid maternity leave, you may decide to extend your time at home by supplementing your paid leave with unpaid time off, Mochizuki says.
Keep in mind that despite all of your budgeting for maternity leave, your health and the health of your baby may also influence how much unpaid time off you take and how long your maternity leave budget needs to stretch.
As you’re financially preparing for maternity leave, make sure your spouse or partner is also considering what benefits may be available to them through their employer. Together you should know what benefits are available for maternity or paternity leave, either paid or unpaid, and how to apply for them as you jointly navigate the budgeting for maternity leave process. You can then decide how to coordinate the amount of time each of you should take and when that leave should begin.
Contact your HR department to learn about your company’s maternity leave policy, how to apply for leave and whether there are any conditions you need to meet to qualify for leave. Ask if you’re able to leverage sick days, vacation days or short-term disability for paid maternity leave.
2. Babyproof your budget
When budgeting for maternity leave, make sure you review your current monthly budget to assess how budgeting for a new baby fits in.
In Mochizuki’s case, she and her husband added a category to save for maternity leave within their existing budget for household expenses (e.g., mortgage, utilities, groceries).
“We treated it as another emergency fund, meaning we had a goal of how much we wanted to save and we kept working and saving until we reached that goal,” Mochizuki says.
As you financially prepare for maternity leave, consider the following questions:
What new expenses need to be added to your budget? Diapers, for instance, can cost a family around $900 per year, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. You may also be spending money on formula, bottles, wipes, clothes and toys for your new one, all of which can increase your monthly budget. And don’t forget the cost of any new products or items that mom will need along the way. Running the numbers with a first-year baby costs calculator can help you accurately estimate your new expenses and help with financial planning for new parents.
Will any of your current spending be reduced while you’re on leave? As you think about the new expenses you’ll need to add when budgeting for maternity leave, don’t forget the ones you may be able to nix. For example, your budget may dip when it comes to commuting costs if you’re not driving or using public transit to get to work every day. If you have room in your budget for meals out or entertainment expenses, those may naturally be cut if you’re eating at home more often and taking it easy with the little one.
3. Tighten up the budgetâthen tighten some more
Once you’ve evaluated your budget, consider whether you can streamline it further as you financially prepare for maternity leave. This can help ease any loss of income associated with taking time off or counter the new expenses you’ve added to your maternity leave budget.
Becky Beach, founder of Mom Beach, a personal finance blog for moms, says that to make her maternity leave budget workâwhich included three months of unpaid leaveâshe and her husband got serious about reducing unnecessary expenses.
Cut existing costs
As you budget for maternity leave, go through your existing budget by each spending category.
“The best tip is to cut costs on things you don’t need, like subscriptions, movie streaming services, new clothes, eating out, date nights, etc.,” Beach says. “That money should be earmarked for your new baby’s food, clothes and diapers.”
Cutting out those discretionary “wants” is an obvious choice, but look more closely at other ways you could save. For example, could you negotiate a better deal on your car insurance or homeowner’s insurance? Can you better plan and prep for meals to save money on food costs? How about reducing your internet service package or refinancing your debt?
Find ways to earn
Something else to consider as you budget for maternity leave is how you could add income back into your budget if all or part of your leave is unpaid and you want to try and close some of the income gap. For example, before your maternity leave starts, you could turn selling unwanted household items into a side hustle you can do while working full time to bring in some extra cash and declutter before baby arrives.
Reduce new costs
As you save for maternity leave, also think about how you could reduce expenses associated with welcoming a new baby. Rather than buying brand-new furniture or clothing, for example, you could buy those things gently used from consignment shops, friends or relatives and online marketplaces. If someone is planning to throw a baby shower on your behalf, you could create a specific wish list of items you’d prefer to receive as gifts in order to offset costs.
4. Set a savings goal and give every dollar a purpose
When Beach and her husband saved for maternity leave, they set out to save $20,000 prior to their baby’s birth. They cut their spending, used coupons and lived frugally to make it happen.
In Beach’s case, they chose $20,000 since that’s what she would have earned over her three-month maternity leave, had she been working. You might use a similar guideline to choose a savings goal. If you’re receiving paid leave, you may strive to save enough to cover your new expenses.
As you make your plan to save for maternity leave, make sure to account for your loss of income and the new expenses in your maternity leave budget. Don’t forget to factor in any savings you already have set aside and plan to use to help you financially prepare for maternity leave.
Once you’ve come up with your savings target, consider dividing your maternity savings into different buckets, or categories, to help ensure the funds last as long as you need them to. This could also make it harder to overspend in any one category.
For instance, when saving for maternity leave, you may leverage buckets like:
Planned baby expenses
Unexpected baby costs or emergencies
Mother and baby healthcare
“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time.”
Budgeting for maternity leaveâand beyond
Once maternity leave ends, your budget will evolve again as your income changes and new baby-related expenses are introduced. As you prepare to go back to work, review your budget again and factor in any new costs. For example, in-home childcare or daycare may be something you have to account for, along with ongoing healthcare costs for new-baby checkups.
Then, schedule a regular date going forward to review your budget and expenses as your baby grows. You can do this once at the beginning or end of the month or every payday. Take a look at your income and expenses to see what has increased or decreased and what adjustments, if any, you need to make to keep your budget running smoothly.
Budgeting for maternity leave takes a little time and planning, but it’s well worth the effort. Knowing that your finances are in order lets you relax and enjoy making memoriesâinstead of stressing over money.
The post What You Need to Know About Budgeting for Maternity Leave appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
You’ve probably had a checking account for most of your life and never gave it much thought. It’s just there to store your everyday cash, right? Not necessarily.
If you’re considering questions about checking accounts as you take a closer look at your current setup and explore opening a new one, it’s important to note that checking accounts are designed with different and unique features. Some may even be more beneficial to you than you realize.
For starters, most checking accounts offer a host of conveniences, providing customers the ability to set up automatic payments for routine bills, schedule electronic transfers and make all deposits and transfers via a smartphone app. Some accounts even allow you to earn cash back on your debit card purchases.
âA checking account can have a long-term impact on your financial well-being, so it’s worth taking the time to figure everything out,” says Jeff Kreisler, money expert and author of the personal finance book “Dollars and Sense.”
At this point, you might be thinking, “What questions should I ask before opening a checking account?” To help you decide which account is right for you, here are four key questions to ask yourself:
1. What types of checking accounts should I consider?
Before you open a new checking account, do a little homework to learn about the different types of checking accounts offered by banks, Kreisler says. There’s the standard personal checking account that allows you to write checks and make payments with your debit card or electronically. But when thinking about questions to ask when opening a checking account, go beyond the basic features to find an account that best fits your lifestyle and financial goals. Here are some examples:
Online checking account: Ready to bypass the teller lines with the benefits of an online bank? Then this is the checking account for you. Doing your banking from any computer or mobile device is sweetâand since online banks don’t have brick-and-mortar locations, they can often pass their savings from overhead down to you. Just verify that the online bank or credit union supplying the checking account is backed by the FDIC or the National Credit Union Administration.
Rewards checking account: One question to ask before choosing a checking account is if you can earn rewards or incentives for certain activity. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, lets you earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 That means your monthly cashback earnings could yield $360 in total rewards each year (finally, dinner and drinks at that new French bistro in town!). Some banks may also offer a checking account bonus just for opening a new account, while others have a variety of reward options based on certain qualifying purchases. A rewards checking account works for almost anyone looking to maximize their debit spend or a balance they regularly hold in their checking account.
Say hello to cash back on debit card purchases.
No monthly fees. No balance requirements. No, really.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
Joint checking account: Most checking accounts can be opened as a joint checking account, which is an account held by two or more people. This can be a convenient solution for couples, minors and their parents and even seniors and their caregivers who are trying to manage a household budget. It does require good record keeping and communication, so make sure you understand the ins and outs of joint accounts before choosing this option.
The above checking accounts are the most standard and usually have appealing benefits. But if you have more questions about checking accounts, there are options that can cater to more specific needs. However, they often have less flexibility. For instance:
Interest-bearing checking accounts are available for those who want to earn some money while their cash is parked in the account. The rate of return is usually low and minimum balance requirements high.
Student checking accounts are often low-cost, but they could come with limitations. Whether or not a student account is available may be a good question to ask before choosing a checking account if you’re looking for a starter account for yourself or your child.
Second-chance checking accounts could be a fit for those who may not be able to get a standard checking account due to their banking or credit history; however, they often have higher fees.
“A checking account can have a long-term impact on your financial well-being, so it’s worth taking the time to figure everything out.”
2. Are there fees associated with the checking account?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions about checking accounts. Before choosing a checking account, be sure to research its fees, says Marc Bernstein, financial planner and strategist for MWealth Advisors. Types of fees and fee amounts can vary greatly from bank to bank, and even among accounts at the same bank.
A question to ask when opening a checking account is if the account charges fees for ATM use, automatic bill pay, monthly maintenance, ordering checks, replacing a debit card or ordering official bank checks. Banks may charge any combination of these feesâor none. Discover Cashback Debit comes with no fees. Period.2 That means you won’t be charged a fee for any of these services.
Along with including the fee topic on your list of questions to ask before choosing a checking account, you should also consider obtaining “a document outlining the fees you’ll be paying, in case you have any questions, and check the fine print,” Bernstein says. You can also typically find a list of fees (if any) on the bank’s website or in the account agreement.
3. Is there a minimum balance requirement?
According to Bernstein, among the questions to ask when opening a checking account is if it requires an initial minimum balance to open. You’ll also want to know if a minimum balance needs to be maintained to avoid a fee.
Bernstein suggests looking for an account with no minimum balance requirement if you tend to keep less than $1,000 in your account or like to have flexibility when making large withdrawals.
If you’ve asked this question about checking accounts and are still comparing accounts that have a minimum balance requirement, realistically determine how much you can keep in your account per month and what you will be charged if you can’t keep that balance.
Even if your account falls below a minimum requirement, there could be a way to save on fees. If you have multiple accounts at one bank, the bank may allow you to combine the balances to waive checking fees.
The total average cost of withdrawing cash from an out-of-network ATM is $4.68. That’s 36 percent higher than it was 10 years prior, with no signs of decreasing.
4. What ATM fees could I incur?
If you frequent the ATM to take out cash, a good question to ask before choosing a checking account is: Where are the bank’s ATMs located in relation to your home and work?
Availability of ATMs is an important question to ask when opening a checking account that can really affect your wallet. For instance, if you decide to withdraw money from an ATM that’s not in your bank’s network, you can get hit with two separate charges: a surcharge from the ATM owner (since you’re not a customer) and a fee from your own bank.
And those fees can really add up. According to Bankrate’s 2018 checking account and ATM fee study, the total average cost of withdrawing cash from an out-of-network ATM is $4.68. That’s 36 percent higher than it was 10 years prior, with no signs of decreasing.
One way to get cash without paying an ATM fee is to use your own bank’s ATMs. The more ATM locations that your bank offers that are conveniently located, the less likely you are to use one that’s out-of-network and rack up unnecessary charges. If you can’t always use your own bank’s ATM, one of the questions to ask when opening a checking account is whether your bank allows you to use a broader ATM network for no-fee transactions.
Find the best checking account for you
Opening a new checking account is an important step toward establishing, or rebuilding, your financial foundation.
Now that you can ask the right questions about checking accounts, you’re one step closer to choosing an account that fits your individual needs. And that feels like money in the bank.
1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPal, which also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
2 Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge. You may be charged a fee by a non-Discover ATM if it is not part of the 60,000+ ATMs in our no-fee network.
The post 4 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Checking Account appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
CIT Bank is an online only-bank, so, unfortunately, they do not have any physical locations.
However, if you’re looking to know how to open a CIT Bank account beyond wondering if they have a location what are their current products and offers, then you have come to the right place.
*TOP CIT BANK PROMOTIONS*
CIT Bank Money Market
CIT Bank Savings Builder
CIT Bank CDs
0.75% APY 1 Year CD Term
CIT Bank No Penalty CD
CIT Bank Locations
CIT Bank has one office. It’s their headquarters located in southern California in Pasadena.
The address is: 75 North Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, California 91103. However, you cannot just walk in there to do business, opening an account, etc.
There is also no ATMs. Everything is done online.
With their “echecking” account, CIT Bank will provide you with a card where you can use it at another bank’s ATM.
However, CIT bank does not charge you any ATM fee. And if the bank charges you a fee, CIT Bank will reimburse you up to $15 every month.
CIT Bank’s Products & Current Promotions
While CIT Bank has no physical locations, it’s a great bank for those who are willing to have their savings online.
So, if you’re looking to have access to branches, then CIT Bank is not for you.
CIT Bank offers high yield savings accounts, money market accounts and CD accounts. They also have an “echecking” account.Â
CIT Savings Builder – Earn 0.85% APY. Here’s how it works: Make at least a $100 minimum deposit every month. Or Maintain a minimum balance of $25k. Member FDIC. Click Here to Learn More.
They offer competitive APYs, especially on their Savings Builder account, which is almost 20 times more than what a typical savings account would offer.
The money market account is also very competitive, but it does not offer checking-writing privileges or a debit card.
Their CDs also provide higher yields, offering both a fixed and variable-rate, including a no-penalty CD.
CIT Bank Savings Builder
Because CIT Bank has no locations, CIT Bank Savings Builder accounts are offered online, where you can earn a competitively high yield.
The CIT Bank Savings Builder will allow you to earn 0.85% APY, but only if you make at least one monthly deposit of $100 or more.
Or, if you keep a balance of at least $25,000. Interest in this high-yield savings account compounds daily to boost your earning.
Click here to learn more about CIT Bankâs Savings Builder.
CIT Bank Money Market Account
The CIT Bank money market account is one of the best ones out there. Currently, the money market account offers a 1.0% APY.
This is very competitive comparing to other MMAs. Moreover, CIT Bankâs MMA has a required account minimum of only $100.
Open a CIT Bank Money Market Account.
CIT Bank Certificate of Deposits (CDs)
CIT Bank has several terms CDs, which range from 6 months to 5 years.
There is also a no penalty 11-month term, where customers can withdraw money with no penalty.
CIT Bank also offers jumbo CDs, ranging from two to five years. You can open a term CD, including the no-penalty CD, with a minimum of $1,000.
The Jumbo CDs require a minimum of $100,000.
Click here to learn more about CIT Bank CDs.
Contacting CIT Bank
Given that CIT Bank has no locations, the best way to speak with a representative is by telephone or online.
For online, simply go through their homepage.
By telephone, call 1) 855-462-2652 (within U.S.) and 626-535-8964 (outside U.S.).
Customer service is available from Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET; on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 pm ET.
They closed on Sunday.
Advantages and disadvantages of CIT Bank Savings Accounts
No monthly fees on deposit accounts;
a minimum deposit requirement of $100;
Refunds ATM fees â because the bank does not have ATMs, it does not charge customers who use another bankâs ATMs. And if there is a fee, CIT will refund you up to $15 per month.
No CIT Bank physical locations or ATM;
No 24/7 customer support â as with all high yield savings accounts, most inquiries are handled online. While live telephone is available, hours are limited.
How to open a CIT Bank Savings account?
As mentioned above, CIT Bank has no physical locations. So to open an account, simply go online through the CIT Bank homepage, and create the account there.
Youâll need to provide your name, address, phone number, and ID. Youâll also need to provide your social security number.
Note that CIT does not have any branches. Everything must be done online.
If youâre opening a CIT Bank Builder Savings account, you will need to make an initial minimum deposit of $100.
CIT Bank has no locations. So, everything is done online. CIT Bank offers competitive rates on its products. Its Saving Builder account is one of the most popular accounts out there, offering a 0.85% APY. This yield is 15 to 20 times higher than what a regular savings account offer.
Speak with the Right Financial Advisor
If you have questions beyond CIT Bank locations, you can talk to a financial advisorÂ who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs withÂ SmartAssetâs free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals,Â get started now.
*TOP CIT BANK PROMOTIONS*
CIT Bank Money Market
CIT Bank Savings Builder
CIT Bank CDs
0.75% APY 1 Year CD Term
CIT Bank No Penalty CD
The post CIT Bank Locations? Where Are They? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.
Last fall, I received an email that appeared to be from my web host. The email claimed that there was a problem with my payment information and asked me to update it. I clicked on the link in the email and entered my credit card number, thinking that a recent change I’d made to my site must have caused a problem.
The next morning, I logged onto my credit card account to find two large unauthorized purchases. A scammer had successfully phished my payment information from me.
This failure of security is pretty embarrassing for a personal finance writer. I know better than to click through an email link claiming to be from my bank, credit card lender, or other financial institution. But because the email came from a source that wasn’t specifically financial (and because I was thinking about the changes I had made to my website just the day before), I let myself get played.
Thankfully, because I check my credit card balance daily, the scammers didn’t get away with it. However, it’s better to be proactive about avoiding credit card theft so you’re not stuck with the cleanup, which took me several months to complete.
Here’s how you can protect yourself from credit card theft.
Protecting your physical credit card
Stealing your physical credit or debit card is in some respects the easiest way for a scammer to get their hands on your sweet, sweet money. With the actual card in hand, a scammer has all the information they need to make fraudulent purchases: the credit card number, expiration date, and the security code on the back.
That means keeping your physical cards safe is one of the best ways to protect yourself from credit card theft. Don’t carry more cards than you intend to use. Having every card you own in a bulging wallet makes it more likely someone could steal one when you’re not paying attention and you may not realize it’s gone if you have multiple cards.
Another common place where you might be separated from your card is at a restaurant. After you’ve paid your bill, it can be easy to forget if you’ve put away your card (especially if you’ve been enjoying adult beverages). So make it a habit to confirm that you have your card before you leave a restaurant.
If you do find yourself missing a credit or debit card, make sure you call your bank immediately to report it lost or stolen. The faster you move to lock down the card, the less likely the scammers will be able to make fraudulent charges. Make sure you have your bank’s phone number written down somewhere so you’re able to contact them quickly if your card is stolen or lost. (See also: Don’t Panic: Do This If Your Identity Gets Stolen)
Recognizing card skimmers
Credit card thieves also go high-tech to get your information. Credit card skimmers are small devices placed on a legitimate spot for a card scanner, such as on a gas pump or ATM.
When you scan your card to pay, the skimmer device captures all the information stored in your card’s magnetic stripe. In some cases, when there’s a skimmer placed on an ATM, there’s also a tiny camera set up to record you entering your PIN so the fraudster has all the info they need to access your account.
The good news is that it’s possible to detect a card skimmer in the wild. Gas stations and ATMs are the most common places where you’ll see skimmer devices. Generally, these devices will often stick out past the panel rather than sit flush with it, as the legitimate credit card scanner is supposed to. Other red flags to look for are scanners that seem to jiggle or move slightly instead of being firmly affixed, or a pin pad that appears thicker than normal. All of these can potentially indicate a skimmer is in place.
If you find something that looks hinky, go to a different gas station or ATM. Better safe than sorry. (See also: 18 Surprising Ways Your Identity Can Be Stolen)
Protecting your credit card numbers at home
Your home is another place thieves will go searching for your sensitive information. To start, you likely receive credit card offers, the cards themselves, and your statements in the mail. While mail theft is relatively rare (it’s a federal crime, after all), it’s still a good idea to make sure you collect your mail daily and put a hold on it when you go out of town.
Once you get your card-related paperwork in the house, however, you still may be vulnerable. Because credit card scammers are not above a little dumpster diving to get their hands on your credit card number. This is why it’s a good idea to shred any paperwork with your credit card number and other identifying information on it before you throw it away.
Finally, protecting your credit cards at home also means being wary about whom you share information with over the phone. Unless you’ve initiated a phone call of your own volition — not because you’re calling someone who left a voicemail — you should never share your credit card numbers over the phone. Scammers will pose as customer service agents from your financial institution or a merchant you frequent to get your payment information. To be sure, you can hang up and call the institution yourself using the main phone number.
Keeping your cards safe online
You should never provide your credit card information via a link in an email purporting to be from your financial institution or a merchant. Scammers are able to make their fake emails and websites look legitimate, which was exactly the reason I fell victim to this fraud.
But even with my momentary lapse in judgment about being asked for my payment information from my "web host," there were other warning signs that I could’ve heeded if I had been paying attention.
The first is the actual email address. These fake emails will often have a legitimate looking display name, which is the only thing you might see in your email. However, if you hover over or click on the display name, you can see the actual email address that sent you the message. Illegitimate addresses do not follow the same email address format you’ll see from the legitimate company.
In addition to that, looking at the URL that showed up when I clicked the link could’ve told me something weird was going on. Any legitimate site that needs your financial information will have a secure URL to accept your payment. Secure URLs start with https:// (rather than https://) and feature a lock icon in the browser bar. If these elements are missing, then you should not enter your credit card information. (See also: 3 Ways Millennials Can Avoid Financial Fraud)
Daily practices that keep you safe
In addition to these precautions, you can also protect your credit cards with the everyday choices you make. For instance, using strong, unique passwords for all of your online financial services, from shopping to banking, can help you prevent theft. Keeping those strong passwords safe — that is, not written down on a post-it note on your laptop — will also help protect your financial information.
Regularly going over your credit card and banking statements can also help ensure that you’re the only one making purchases with your credit cards. It was this daily habit of mine that made sure my scammers didn’t actually receive the computer they tried to purchase with my credit card. The fact that I check my balance daily meant I was able to shut down the fraudulent sale before they received the goods, even though I fell down on the job of protecting my credit card information.
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This article is from Emily Guy Birken of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:
Oprah Asks A Great Question; What Can You Live Without?
Do You Need Credit Monitoring to Protect Your Credit?
Debit Or Credit? Which One Should You Choose At The Checkout?
Children grow up. Fast. One day you’re buckling them into a car seat, and the next you’re handing them the keys. Like learning to drive or taking on a first job, managing a checking account is a big milestone that teaches responsibility and will help your child learn important financial habits.
Parents often ask: How do I open a checking account for kids? Many checking accounts, including Discover Cashback Debit, are for adults aged 18 and up, so you can help your child set up their own account when they are heading off to college or starting their career. If you’re interested in opening your child’s first checking account when they are younger, you could consider opening a joint checking account that you share with your youngster. Note that for some checking accounts, like Discover Cashback Debit, you have to be at least 18 years old to be added to the account as a joint accountholder.
“Is your teen interested in managing money, saving for different goals and spending on their own?” asks Kimberly Palmer, a banking expert for NerdWallet. If so, a checking account can be a great way to flex those skills and practice money management, she adds.
If you’re interested in setting up a checking account for kidsâwhether it’s a joint account you help manage or a solo account for your older teenâconsider the following four tips:
1. Factor in fees
When opening your child’s first checking account, it’s important to understand all of the fees associated with the account and who is responsible for paying them, says Mia Taylor, an award-winning financial journalist who writes for The Simple Dollar and other finance sites. Your child may think you are covering the fees if you have a joint account, for example, so be clear on the parameters when you open the checking account.
If you’re wondering how to open a checking account for a kid going to college or starting their first job, “look for an account with no minimum balance fees or monthly balance fees,” Palmer says. That way, your child won’t have to worry about being penalized for having a low balance or stress about fees eating into earnings and spending money.
If you’re setting up a checking account for a kid heading off to college or moving to a new city, you’ll also want to consider the fees associated with withdrawing cash from out-of-network ATMs. You can use a bank’s ATM locator to ensure there are no-fee ATMs near their college campus or apartment.
2. Focus on features
Choosing the right checking account for your child’s lifestyle may mean finding an account that has features that support their needs and goals, as well as your preferences.
If you are opening your child’s first checking account and they are younger and sharing the account with you, you may want the ability to set limits on spending and the number of withdrawals. “Parents and teens may have different preferences for each of these features, so it’s important to talk about what you’re looking for ahead of time and compare the different options together,” Palmer says.
If you have a joint account with your child, you could also consider setting up email or text alerts for every transaction or every “large” transaction over a certain dollar amount. This may help you keep better track of your child’s spending habits and could help you have conversations about how to create a budget. Setting up a low balance notification may also be wise when opening your child’s first checking account to help avoid overdraft and insufficient funds fees.
âParents and teens may have different preferences for each of these features, so it’s important to talk about what you’re looking for ahead of time and compare the different options together.â
When choosing a checking account, you may want to find a checking account that offers rewards. Discover Cashback Debit, for example, offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1 If your child is 18 or older, you can let them decide how the cashback should fit into their budget and financial goals.
3. Make mobile a priority
It’s no shock that today’s kids are experts at navigating a smartphone. As you make plans to set up a checking account for kids, be sure to consider whether the checking account has a mobile app for making deposits and tracking funds, Taylor says.
“Mobile deposits are a huge convenience factor for teens” since it allows them to deposit funds with the snap of a photo, Taylor says. Be sure to also research the app’s functionality (the easier, the better) and security, Palmer adds.
Tracking spending with a pen and paper may feel tedious to digital natives, so talk with your child about how they can sync their checking account with other budgeting and spending apps. Exchanging money with friends via digital wallet apps may also be of interest to your child, but you may want to consider providing guidelines when opening your child’s first checking account.
“Only send money to people you know, not to strangers,” Palmer suggests.
Even though digital wallets can be convenient for older teens, Taylor says you may not want to overcomplicate a checking account for a younger child. “Keep it simple in the beginning,” she says. “As teens get older, they can add those features on their own.”
4. Use the account as a teaching tool
Good financial habits are learned early and remembered for decades. That’s why the most important thing parents can do when opening your child’s first checking account is to use the account to have discussions about money, Palmer says.
“Ask them what they want to save for, what kinds of items they hope to buy and whatâif anyâmoney they would like to donate to a cause that is important to them,” Palmer says. “A checking account is a useful way to plan for future expenses and savings goalsâall lessons that carry into adulthood.”
âSit them down and show them what you’re doing with your own checking account so that you can pass on good values early on. The earlier you start with kids, the wiser they will be.”
A great way to pass on money management lessons is to show your children how you manage your own account.
“Sit them down and show them what you’re doing with your own checking account so that you can pass on good values early on,” Taylor says. “The earlier you start with kids, the wiser they will be.”
1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as VenmoÂ® and PayPalÂ®, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Venmo and PayPal are registered trademarks of PayPal, Inc.
The post 4 Considerations for Opening Your Child’s First Checking Account appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Before the coronavirus reached the U.S., unemployment was low and few could have anticipated a global pandemic. However, as the pandemic and ensuing recession took hold, a record-breaking number of people filed for unemployment benefits to stay financially afloat.
âCOVID-19 led to an incredible number of American workers being without work,â says Julia Simon-Mishel, an unemployment compensation attorney. âAnd itâs caused a huge need for individuals to file for unemployment insurance.â
Unemployment insurance, or unemployment benefits, can offer an essential lifeline. But if youâve never accessed these benefits before, you may have questions about how they work. You might also be asking: What do I do when my unemployment benefits run out and Iâm still unemployed?
This article1 offers tips about what you need to know about filing an unemployment claim. It also addresses the following questions:
How do you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits?
Can your unemployment benefits be extended?
What can you do when unemployment runs out?
Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?
If youâre just getting ready to file or need a refresher on the basics of unemployment benefits, read on to have your questions answered.
If youâre already collecting benefits and want to know what happens once you reach the end of the benefit period, skip ahead to âSteps to take before your unemployment benefits run out.â
Common questions about unemployment benefits
Experiencing a job loss is challenging no matter what. Keep in mind that youâre not alone, and remember that unemployment benefits were created to help you.
While theyâre designed to provide financial relief, unemployment benefits are not always easy to navigate. Hereâs what you need to know to understand how unemployment benefits work:
What are unemployment benefits?
Unemployment insurance provides people who have lost their job with temporary income while they search for and land another job. The amount provided and time period the benefits last may vary by state. Generally, most states offer up to half of a personâs previous wages in unemployment benefits for 26 weeks or until you land another full-time job, whichever comes first. Requirements and eligibility may vary, so be sure to check your stateâs unemployment agency for guidance.
How do you apply for unemployment benefits?
Depending on where you live, claims may be filed in person, by phone or online. Check your state governmentâs website for details.
Who can file an unemployment claim?
This also may vary from state to state, but eligibility typically requires that you lost your job or were furloughed through no fault of your own, in addition to meeting work and wage requirements. During the coronavirus pandemic, the government loosened restrictions, extending unemployment benefits to gig workers and the self-employed.
When should you apply for unemployment benefits?
Short answer: As soon as possible after you lose your job. âIf you are someone who has had steady W2 work, itâs important that you file for unemployment the moment you lose work,â Simon-Mishel says. The longer you wait to file, the longer youâre likely to wait to get paid.
When do you receive unemployment benefits?
Generally, if you are eligible, you can expect to receive your first benefit check two to three weeks after you file your claim. Of course, this may differ based on your state or if thereâs a surge of people filing claims.
2020 enhancements to unemployment benefits for freelance and contract workers
In early 2020, the U.S. government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. In addition to other benefits, the CARES Act created a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This program provides unemployment benefits to independent contractors and other workers who were typically ineligible. That means that if you donât have steady W2 incomeâfor instance, freelance and contract workers, those who file 1099s, farmers and the self-employedâyou still may qualify for unemployment benefits.
âThat program is a retroactive payout,â Simon-Mishel says. âIf youâre just finding out about that program several months after losing your job, you should be able to file and get benefits going back to when you lost work.â
Because legislation affecting unemployment benefits continues to evolve, itâs important that you keep an eye out for any additional stimulus programs that can extend unemployment benefits. Be sure to regularly check your stateâs unemployment insurance program page for updates.
“Itâs really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you.”
Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out
In a perfect world, your job leads would become offers long before you reached the end of your unemployment benefits. But in reality, thatâs not always the case.
If youâre still unemployed but havenât yet exhausted your benefits and extensions, you may want to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits as early as possible so you donât become financially overwhelmed. Here are four tips to help you get through this time:
Talk to service providers
Reaching out to your utility service providers like your gas, electric or water company is one of the first steps John Schmoll, creator of personal finance blog Frugal Rules, suggests taking if youâre preparing for the end of unemployment benefits.
âA lot of times, either out of shame or just not knowing, people donât contact service providers and let them know what their situation is,â Schmoll says. â[Contact them to] see what programs they have in place to help you reduce your spending, and basically save as much of that as possible to help stretch your budget even further.â
Save what you can
To help prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, a few months before your benefits end, Schmoll suggests cutting back spending as much as possible, focusing only on necessities.
âIf you can try and save something out of the benefits that youâre receiving while youâre receiving themâit doesnât matter if itâs $10 or $20âthatâs going to help provide some cushion,â Schmoll says. Keep those funds in a separate account if you can, so youâre not tempted to spend them. That way youâre more prepared in case of an emergency.
If you hunkered down during your period of unemployment and were able to save, try to resist the urge to splurge on things that arenât necessary.
âThere might be temptation to overspend, but curtail that and focus on true necessities,â Schmoll says. âThat way when [or if] you receive an extension on your benefits, you now have that extra money saved.â
Seek additional financial aid
If you find that your savings and benefits arenât covering your expenses, and youâre reaching a point where you no longer qualify for benefits, look into other new benefit programs or features designed to help during times of crisis.
For example, there are programs across the country to assist people with rent or mortgages, Simon-Mishel says. Those programs are generally designed to keep those facing financial hardship from losing their home or apartment. You may need to show that you are within the programsâ income limits to qualify, or demonstrate that your rent is more than 30 percent of your income. These programs vary widely at the state and even city level, so check your local government website to see what might be available to you.
As you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, explore which government benefits or government agency may be best suited for your needs.
Keep up with the news
During economic downturns, government programs and funds often change to keep up with evolving demand.
âItâs really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you,â says Simon-Mishel. âYou should closely pay attention to the social media of your state unemployment agency and local news about other extension programs that might be added and that you might be eligible for.â
Options for extending your unemployment benefits
If youâre currently receiving benefits, but theyâll be ending soon, youâre likely wondering what to do when your unemployment runs out and asking if your unemployment benefits can be extended. Start by confirming when you first filed your claim because that will determine your benefit end date.
If youâre wondering, âCan you refile for unemployment after it runs out?â the answer is yes, but youâll have to wait until your current âbenefit yearâ expires. Note that a benefit year is 12 months from when you file a claim. If you filed at the beginning of June, for example, you generally can’t file again until the beginning of the following June.
You may get 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, depending on your stateâs rules at the time. Most states extended the payout period to 39 weeks in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Check your stateâs website for the particulars on what to do when your unemployment runs out.
If your claim is still active but youâll be in need of additional financial relief after your unemployment benefits run out, here are your options:
File for an unemployment extension
During extraordinary economic times, such as the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government may use legislation like the CARES Act to offer people more benefits for a longer period of time, helping many people concerned about whether unemployment benefits can be extended.
For example, in 2020, for most workers who exhaust, or receive all of, their unemployment benefits, a 13-week extension should automatically kick in, Simon-Mishel says. This would bring you up to 39 weeks total. However, if more than a year has passed since you originally filed and you need the extension, you will likely need to file a short application provided by the government. Details vary by state.
As youâre determining what to do when your unemployment runs out, reach out to your unemployment office. Itâs important to do this before your benefits expire so you can avoid a missed payment. You can also confirm youâre eligible and that you can refile for unemployment after it runs out.
Ask about the Extended Benefits program in your state
Can unemployment benefits be extended beyond that? In periods of high unemployment, you may qualify for a second extension, depending on your state.
âAfter those [first] 13 weeks, many states have added a new program called Extended Benefits that can provide another 13 to 20 weeks of unemployment when a state is experiencing high unemployment,â Simon-Mishel adds. This means you may be able to receive a total of up to 59 weeks of unemployment benefits, including extensions. The total number of weeks of unemployment you may receive varies based on your state and the economic climate.
Itâs hard enough keeping up with everything as you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, so donât worry if you donât have your stateâs benefits program memorized. Visit your stateâs unemployment insurance program page to learn more about what benefits are available to you.
Beyond unemployment benefits
While life and your finances may seem rocky now, know that youâre not alone. Remember that there are resources available to help support you, and try to take things one day at a time, Schmoll says.
âRealize that at some point your current situation will improve.â
If you find that your benefits arenât covering all of your expenses, now may be the time to dip into your cash reserve. Explore these tips to determine when itâs time to use your emergency fund.
1 This article is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Eligibility for unemployment benefits may be impacted by variations in state programs, changes in programs, and your circumstances. If you have questions, you should consider consulting with your legal counsel, at your expense, or seek free assistance from your local legal aid organization.
Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.
The post How to Prepare for the End of Your Unemployment Benefits appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
Maybe you want to lose those stubborn 10 pounds, score a big promotion or run your first marathon. Whatever your priority, it all starts with setting a goal.
Financial priorities are no different. Whether you want to save for your child’s college education or get yourself out of debt, budgeting to help reach your financial goals allows you to determine what’s most important to you, make a plan to attain those goals and hold yourself accountable for success.
Still, when it comes to managing your money, knowing how to set financial goals and sticking to them can feel like opposite sides of the same coin. You might even find yourself asking, “How do I create a simple budget to reach my financial goals?” If you follow these three steps, you could be crossing the finish line in record time:
1. Pick a day to get started
Sometimes the hardest part of tackling a new project is simply getting started, especially if your to-do list feels like it’s never ending. There’s always tomorrow, or the day after that… right? To create a simple budget to help you reach your financial goals, pick a day and time to get started. Consider picking a time when you do your best thinking, are most focused and least likely to get interrupted. Maybe it’s Sunday morning over breakfast and coffee before kicking off a day of chores or on a weeknight after the kids go to bed.
Once you’ve landed on the best time to sit down and create a simple budget, add it to the calendar and schedule reminders on your computer or phone to hold yourself accountable.
2. Create a simple budget, however complex your finances
Chances are your finances are pretty complicated, with lots of moving parts. Things seem to be moving along nicely with your regular expenses like rent, groceries, transportation and entertainment… and then your carburetor goes kaput in your car and you must replace it right away. Or that toothache has become unbearable and requires a root canalâand you’ll have to cover some of the expense out of pocket. Just when you’re finally making a dent in paying down your debt and getting your finances on track, life throws you some curveballs. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create a simple budget.
One of the easiest ways to create a simple budget and stay on track is to follow the 50-20-30 rule:
50 percent of your income should address your needs, such as housing, utilities, healthcare and transportation;
20 percent should be put toward your financial goals, like building your savings and paying off debt;
30 percent should cover your wants or discretionary expenses, like shopping, entertainment and dining out.
Managing your finances with the 50-20-30 is a good first step when you’re first learning how to create a budget, but trying to deal with multiple financial goals within that 20 percent bucket can be overwhelming. When it comes to budgeting to help reach your financial goals, certified financial planner Jim White suggests taking your financial goals one step at a time.
“Make a simple plan to tackle debtâor maybe just one debtâthen when that goal is accomplished, work on a simple plan for the next debt,” White suggests. “A bunch of small victories goes a long way to changing your financial discipline and gives you a boost to keep moving forward,” White adds.
Similar to how you picked a day to begin the budgeting process, make a habit out of managing your finances by picking one day of the week and checking in with yourself at a scheduled time. After about two months, budgeting to help reach your financial goals can become habit forming. “When you focus on your goals on the same day every week, you are creating a habit, and a pattern, to follow,” says Karen Ford, financial coach and motivational speaker.
Budgeting to help reach your financial goals becomes even more effective when you’re reviewing your priorities every seven days and making adjustments to your spending and saving as needed.
“Make a simple plan to tackle debtâor maybe just one debtâthen when that goal is accomplished, work on a simple plan for the next debt. A bunch of small victories goes a long way to changing your financial discipline and gives you a boost to keep moving forward.”
3. Automate your financial plan
Now that you know how to set financial goalsâwhether it’s paying down debt, saving up for a car or putting money away for retirementâwhat’s next? Time to get moving! One way to do that is to automate your finances. By setting up automatic bill pay and account transfers, it will be easier to stick to your plan for paying monthly expenses and contributing to savings.
When it comes to paying your bills and learning how to set financial goals, consider automating the bills that you pay regularly, especially those that fall within the 50 percent budget category that covers your living essentials. To gain momentum with your savings progress, set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account for the amount you wish to save each month. If your financial goal is retirement, you could even set up automatic transfers to an individual retirement account (IRA) so you’re consistently making progress. You could also arrange to have a portion of your paycheck automatically go into savingsâbefore you even have time to miss it.
By making automatic contributions to your savings accounts, you are “subscribing to the idea of paying yourself first,” says Riley Adams, CPA and blogger for Young and the Invested, a professional’s guide to financial independence. “By doing this, it removes the temptation to spend and takes any lack of discipline out of the picture,” Adams says.
Keep in mind that any time you automate your finances as part of creating a simple budget, you should monitor your accounts regularly. Check in to make sure your automated settings are up to date, that you always have the funds available in your accounts to cover your expenses and transfers and that your savings are growing according to your plan.
How to set financial goals in 3 steps
Once you find time to focus on your finances, create a simple budget and automate your payments and transfers, budgeting to help reach your financial goals is one habit that is sure to stick. By following these three rules and keeping yourself on track, you’ll be ready to build a solid foundation for your financial future.
The post How to Set Financial Goalsâand Crush Them appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
If you’re looking for a new bank account that allows you to easily store as well as access your cash, you might be thinking about opening a money market account or checking account. But how do you know which to choose? Decisions, decisions. Both types of accounts have unique advantages, depending on your savings and spending goals.
âThink about how you will be using the money within the account,” says Jill Emanuel, lead financial coach at Fiscal Fitness. “Is this money for daily, weekly or monthly use? Or is it money that will not be needed regularly?”
You’ll probably need a little more to go on before answering the question, “How do I decide between a money market account or checking account?” No worries. Our roundup delves into the features of both types of accounts to help you determine which one could be right for your financial plans, or if there’s room for both in your money mix.
Get easy access to your funds with a checking account
In simple terms, a checking account allows you to write checks and make purchases with a debit card from the money you deposit into the account. That debit card can also be used to withdraw cash from the account via an ATM.
When deciding between a money market account or checking account, Emanuel says most people use a checking account for the primary management of their monthly income (i.e., where a portion of your paycheck is deposited) and daily expenses (often small and frequent transactions). âA checking account makes the most sense as the account where the majority of your transactions occur,” she adds. This is because a checking account typically comes with an unlimited number of transactionsâwhether you’re withdrawing cash from an ATM, transferring money to a savings account or swiping your debit card.
While a checking account is a good home base for your finances and a go-to if you need to easily and quickly access your funds, this account type typically earns little to no interest. Spoiler: This is one key difference when you compare a money market account vs. a checking account.
âIf you plan to use your account for monthly bill payments and day-to-day transactions, you would be better suited with a checking account, as these support daily and frequent use.â
Grow your balance with a money market account
When you’re comparing a money market account vs. a checking account, think of a money market account as a savings vehicle that allows you to earn interest on the balance you keep in the account.
“A money market account is an interest-bearing bank account that typically has a higher interest rate than a checking account,” says Bola Sokunbi, certified financial education instructor and founder of Clever Girl Finance.
With some money market accounts, you can even earn more interest with a higher balance. Thanks to its interest-earning potential, a money market account can be the way to go if you’re looking for an account to help you reach your savings goals and priorities.
If you’re deciding between a money market account or checking account, you may think that a money market account seems like a typical savings account with your ability to earn, but it also has some features similar to a checking account. With a money market account, for example, you can withdraw cash from an ATM and use a debit card or checks to access money from the account. There are no limits on ATM withdrawals or official checks mailed to you.
Before you decide to use this account for your regular bills and your morning caffeine habit, know that federal law limits certain types of withdrawals and transfers from money market accounts to a combined total of six per calendar month per account. If you go over these limitations on more than an occasional basis, your financial institution may choose to close the account.
Don’t need regular access to your funds and want your money to grow until you do need it? Then the benefits of a money market account could be for you.
Deciding between a money market account or checking account
Still debating money market account or checking account? Here are some financial scenarios to help you determine which account may best suit your current needs and goals:
Go with a checking account if…
You want to keep your funds liquid. If you’re thinking money market account or checking account, know that a checking account is built for very regular access to your funds. âIf you plan to use your account for monthly bill payments and day-to-day transactions, you would be better suited with a checking account, as these support daily and frequent use,” Sokunbi says. Think rent, cable, utilities, groceries, gas, maybe that morning caffeine craving. You get the idea.
You want to earn rewards for your spending. When you’re comparing money market account vs. checking account, consider that with some checking accountsâlike Discover Cashback Debitâyou can earn cash back for your debit card purchases. The best part is you are earning cash back as you keep up with your regular expensesâno hoops to jump through or extra account activity needed. Then put that cashback toward fun things like date night, lunch at your favorite spot or a savings fund dedicated to something special.
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You want to deposit and withdraw without the stress of a balance requirement. If you do your research when comparing money market accounts vs. checking accounts, you’ll find that some checking accounts don’t require a minimum balance (or much of one). However, you may be required to maintain a minimum balance (and potentially a higher one) with a money market account in order to avoid a fee. If you’re accessing your money frequently and need to make large withdrawals, a checking account with no minimum balance requirement is a convenient option.
Go with a money market account if…
You want to earn interest. âIf your money is just sitting there, it should be earning money,” Emanuel says of the money market account or checking account question. âI spoke with a woman recently who told me she’d had around $50,000 sitting in her checking account for at least the last 10 years, if not longer. If that money had been in a money market account for the same period of time, she would have earned thousands of dollars on it. Instead she earned nothing,” Emanuel says.
You want to put short-term savings in a different account. If you have some short-term savings goals in mind (way to go!), you may benefit from keeping your savings separate from your more transactional checking account so you don’t dip into them for a different purpose. That whole out of sight, out of mind thing. âA money market account is the perfect place for money that will be accessed less frequently, such as an emergency fund [a.k.a. rainy day fund], a vacation fund or a place to park money after you’ve received an inheritance or proceeds from selling a home,” Emanuel says.
You need an account to fund your overdraft protection. If you’re comparing money market account vs. checking account, consider that a money market account could also cross over to support spending goals. One way is in the form of overdraft protection. If you enroll in overdraft protection for your checking account, for example, you could designate that funds be pulled from your money market account to cover a balance shortfall.
âA money market account is the perfect place for money that will be accessed less frequently, such as an emergency fund [a.k.a. rainy day fund], a vacation fund or a place to park money after you’ve received an inheritanceÂ or proceeds from selling a home.â
Using both accounts to achieve your financial goals
Speaking of crossover. Both spending and saving are vying for your attention, right? Consider leveraging both types of accounts if you have needs from the checking and money market account lists above.
“Personally, I use my checking account for bill payments, my day-to-day spending, writing checks and for any automatic debits I have each month,” Sokunbi says. She’s added a money market account to the mix “because of the higher interest rateâto store my savings for short-term goals, for investing or for money I’ll be needing soon,” she explains. Maybe it’s not about deciding between a money market account or a checking account, but getting the best of both worlds.
Before opening a money market account or checking account, do your research and compare your options to see which bank offers the best package of low or no fees and customer service, in addition to what you need from an interest and access to cash perspective.
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