Tag: Banking

 

The Real Life Impact of Overdraft Fees

When you’re low on funds and waiting on your direct deposit to hit your bank account, you’re in no place to pay a hefty overdraft fee. Yet, because many big banks charge an average of $35 per overdraft, a measly five dollar charge can easily balloon into $40. Yikes.

If you’ve had to pay overdraft fees, you’re not alone. According to the FDIC, big banks with over one billion dollars in assets collected more than $11.45 billion in overdraft and non-sufficient funds in 2017. 

To get a handle on how these fees can negatively impact your financial situation, we talked to several people who gave us the low-down. Read on to learn more. 

Unfortunate events happen in threes 

When a glitch caused Ruby Escalona’s credit card bill — which was set on autopay — to be paid twice, he was dinged with three $35 overdraft fees from his bank, totaling a whopping $105.

Because Escalona had put four airline tickets on that month’s cycle, to the tune of a few thousand dollars, those overdraft charges put his bank balance in the negative. Escalona called the bank and explained the situation. 

“While the bank still deemed it was ‘my fault’ for the IT issue, the bank did waive two other overdraft fees because of the debacle,” explains Escalona, who is the founder of A Journey We Love. 

When you don’t track your expenses 

When Jerry Brown was in college, he was terrible at managing his money. He was essentially living paycheck to paycheck.

“Since I didn’t keep track of my expenses, I ended up charging my card when I didn’t have the money in my account to cover the expense,” says Brown of Peerless Money Mentor. 

One semester it got so bad that he was dinged with $200 in overdraft fees. That was quite a bit for a struggling college student.

Now, however, he avoids overdraft fees by tracking his expenses (you can do so with a money app), and setting up an emergency fund. 

When three $5 items end up costing $120 

When Riley Adams and his brother were in college, they stopped by a fast food joint on their way to the movies. Adams’ brother initially didn’t want anything to eat, so Adams ordered a single combo meal for himself. Naturally, his brother got hungry and wanted to order something as well. So, they bought another combo meal. Next, the pair had a hankering for dessert. 

Talk about an avalanche of bank fees. Those three five dollar transactions each incurred a $40 overdraft fee, adding up to $120. As it turned out – due to a holiday – Adams’ paycheck hadn’t hit his bank account yet. The direct deposit went through the next day and the bank forgave the overdraft fees.

“We ended up having all the fees waived after contacting the bank and informing them of the situation,” says Adams, who is a 30-year-old financial analyst at Google and founder of Young and the Invested. 

To avoid this from happening again, Adams reached out to his bank to establish an overdraft protection line of credit. Anytime his checking account balance falls below a certain threshold, there’s an automatic transfer from his savings account. 

Note: If you’re a Chime Bank member, you can sign up for direct deposit and get paid up to two days early. 

When rent is due 

When Michael Lacy was living paycheck to paycheck, he wrote a check to cover his rent. But, he forgot about a few purchases he made the day before: filling up his tank with gas, renting a Redbox movie, buying a hoagie, and picking up a few things at the grocery store. The charges were still pending. 

His bank cleared his rent check first, but the other charges were all hit with overdraft fees. The total damage? A hefty $128. He had enough in his account to cover the smaller purchases, so if his bank cleared the transactions in the order they were made, he would’ve only incurred a single $32 overdraft fee for the rent check. 

These days, Lacy takes 30 minutes to plan all his spending at the beginning of each month.

“Every dollar has a destination, whether that’s spending, saving, or investing,” says Lacy, a personal wealth coach and founder of Winning to Wealth

Working for a big bank

When GP (that’s her pen name) worked at a national bank right after college, she witnessed some customers who were regularly racking up overdraft fees, while others would get dinged for an occasional one. 

The worst case? When a regular customer came in to the branch to see what could be done about her overdraft fees. When GP pulled up her account, the balance was negative, and there were tons of overdraft charges.  

“At the time it happened, the bank would process large transactions first — with the thought that it would ensure mortgage and car payments had priority,” says GP, who blogs at Entirely Money

“The only problem with this is that all the subsequent small transactions would then each be hit with an overdraft fee.”

In total, the overdraft fees that hit this customer’s account added up to over $200. As the bank manager would only give a one-time courtesy credit for a few of the fees, the customer was still stuck with more than $100 in overdraft fees. 

A cluster of ill-timed events

When an overpayment and a direct deposit issue happened at the same time, Jason Vitug’s funds dropped lower than the automatic bill payment that hit the account. 

What’s more, because his bank overdrew his account with the largest amount first, it caused the three smaller payments to be overdrawn. He ended up paying $120 for four overdraft fees. 

“Basically, the bank stated I overdrew my account four times in one day, even though three of those withdrawals would’ve been covered,” says Vitug, founder of Phroogal

To avoid this from happening, Vitug suggests attaching a savings account or line of credit for overdraft protection. Or just stop banking with that bank. 

“Simply choose a bank that won’t overdraft your account, and just refuse payment,” says Vitug. 

To avoid these headache-inducing, frustrating scenarios, avoid bank fees altogether. FYI: Chime never charges fees of any kind. Never ever. 

 

How to Pay Off Debt in Collection: A Guide to Saying Goodbye to Credit Collectors

You’re in debt and you have no idea how you’re going to pay it off. 

The due date passes by. You want to pretend your debt doesn’t exist. As the days and months go on, you’re delinquent on your loans and they end up in collections. Your credit is shot. The menacing calls begin and all you want is for them to stop. 

Yet, while this is indeed a difficult situation, it’s one you can take control of and fix with the right actions. In this guide, we offer up ways you can pay off debt in collections. Take a look.

What is a Collection Agency and Why are Debt Collectors Calling?

First, let’s discuss the cast of characters involved with debt collections. 

There is the collection agency or credit collection service, which is a third-party company hired by a lender to collect an outstanding balance from a borrower. The collection agency then hires debt collectors, who are the actual people doing the dirty work and calling borrowers to get the money back

Credit card debt, student loans, medical bills, utility bills and more can all go to collections. Business debt isn’t eligible for debt collections. 

While debt collectors can take certain actions like call you at work, there are restrictions so that the hounding doesn’t become an abusive practice. For example, debt collectors can only call you during certain hours, in many cases between 8am-9pm.

How to Find out Which Debt Collection Agency You Owe Money to 

If you want to get out of debt collections, you need to pay money to the credit collection services agency. 

But how do you know exactly who to pay and who the debt collection agency is? In some cases it might be clear but if not, here are ways to find out which debt collection agency you owe money to: 

  • Contact the Original Creditor 

If you know what bill is in collections, contact the original creditor for more information about your collections account. You can then ask which debt collection agency they are using and get the contact information. Then, contact the debt collection agency and ask how to proceed to get your payment in good standing. 

  • Check Your Credit Report 

If you know you’re in debt collections but are unsure of which loans are not in good standing, you’ll want to get your credit report. Your credit report is a document that contains your full credit history, including outstanding loans that may be in debt collections. 

Many debt collection agencies report to the three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You can access all three of your credit reports once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com

Make sure you check all three as some debt collection agencies only report to one credit bureau, not all of them. 

  • Answer the Phone When Bill Collectors Call You

In some cases, your debt collection fees won’t appear on your credit report. And sometimes, the debt can be passed onto other debt collection agencies, leaving you wondering who to contact.

In this case, you will likely have to wait until the debt collector calls you to get more information. It’s not fun and no one wants to deal with debt collectors on the phone. But if you’re unsure of who the debt collection agency is, answer the phone, get the information and ask how to get your loan in good standing. You’ll also want to get a debt verification letter and check your records to make sure you’re not overpaying as debt collectors can make mistakes too.

Three Ways to Pay Off Debt Collectors 

If you want to get out of collections and repay your debt, there are a number of routes you can take. Some of them may require negotiation and whatever you do, get everything in writing. Here are three ways to pay off debt collectors:

1. Negotiate a Settlement With Your Debt Collector

In some cases, you may be able to negotiate a settlement with your debt collector. A settlement is typically less than the amount owed and is used in exchange for deleting the account from your credit report. 

You’ll need to get a letter in writing about the settlement terms before making your first payment. Make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities, and that you know the terms of the settlement. 

2. Pay Off the Debt In Full 

If you have a small bill that is outstanding and in collections, you can choose to pay off the debt in full. Under this option, the good news is that your debt will be paid off. The bad news is that the collection account will remain on your credit report. 

3. Create a Debt Repayment Plan

If you can’t negotiate a settlement or pay the debt in full, you can talk to the debt collection agency about a debt repayment plan. 

In this case, it’s important to make all of your payments on time and in full to get your loan in good standing. 

What Happens if You Don’t Pay a Collections Agency?

If you have debt collectors hounding you, you might want to bury your head in the sand. Unfortunately, if you aren’t paying off collections, your problems will only get worse. Here’s why:

  • Your Credit Score Will Take a Hit 

The debt collection agencies report to the major credit bureaus. So, if you ignore them, your credit score may go down. This can make it more difficult to get approved for loans and may result in higher interest rates if you do get approved. 

In some cases, you may be able to negotiate the mark off your credit report. If not, the negative entry will remain on your credit report for seven years. And remember: This can have a sweeping impact on every area of your financial life. 

  • You May Have Late Fees, Making the Debt Harder to Pay Off

If your debt is in collections, it’s not just the outstanding balance you have to worry about. There could be additional late fees tacked onto your balance. All of the extra fees can add to the total cost of your loan, making it even harder to pay back. 

Deal with Your Debt

Debt collectors have one job — to collect your debt. In order to do that, they will call you many times until they reach you. This can be stressful and annoying.

So, answer the phone and face the issue head on. Talk to your debt collector about your options, whether that’s a settlement, payment plan or paying it off in full. Make sure you get everything in writing.

It’s not fun and can be tough to deal with, but getting out of collections will help you breathe easier and free up stress. Once you do this, you’ll be able to focus on other financial goals like saving money and investing. 

 

4 Things You Could Afford If You Didn’t Have to Pay Bank Fees

As consumers, we accept pesky — and exorbitant — bank fees as a regular part of our everyday lives. To many of you, these fees are as commonplace as paying “service” fees when purchasing concert tickets.

So, why exactly do big banks charge fees? Besides trying to turn a major profit, banks charge fees to cover operating expenses — paying employees, developing technology, and covering other overhead costs. Yet, here’s a truth bomb: While bank fees are oftentimes considered the cost of doing business, big banks are profiting big-time off these fees. In fact, according to a 2017 analysis by CNNMoney, the three biggest banks — Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase — earned more than $6.4 billion in ATM and overdraft fees. Another sad truth: It turns out that eight percent of customers pay 75% of overdraft fees, per the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Just imagine what you could do with your hard-earned money if you didn’t have to pay bank fees. But first, let’s take a closer look at exactly how much the big banks are raking in. From there, we’ll look at all the awesome, amazing things you could do with that staggering sum instead.  

The Top 10 Biggest Banks in the U.S.

While there are about 5,800 banks in America, just 0.2% hold more than two-thirds of the industry’s assets

Ready for another jaw-dropping statistic? The 15 largest banks collectively hold a total of 13.7 trillion in assets. Here’s the breakdown

  1. JPMorgan Chase & Co.: $2.53 – $2.62 trillion in assets 
  2. Bank of America Corp.: $2.28 – $2.34 trillion in assets 
  3. Wells Fargo & Co.: $1.87 – $1.95 trillion in assets 
  4. Citigroup Inc.: $1.84 – $1.93 trillion in assets 
  5. Goldman Sachs Group Inc.: $917 – $957.19 billion
  6. Morgan Stanley: $852.86 – $865.52 billion
  7. U.S. Bancorp: $462.04 – $464.61 billion
  8. TD Group US Holdings LLC: $380.65 – $380.91 billion
  9. PNC Financial Services Group Inc.: $380.08 – $380.77 billion
  10. Capital One Financial Corp.: $362.91 – $365.69 billion

What Kinds of Fees Do Big Banks Charge Consumers?

While you most likely are familiar with ATM and overdraft fees, you might find it surprising to know that you could get dinged with other kinds of bank fees. Lest you get blindsided, here are 10 ways banks make money off you: 

1. Overdraft fees

You’re charged an overdraft fee when the amount of your transaction is greater than your bank balance. When you have overdraft protection, the bank will cover the shortfall, and charge you a fee for doing so. The most common amount for an overdraft fee is $35. 

FYI: The US Bank overdraft fee is $36 if the amount of the overdraft is greater than five dollars. The Wells Fargo overdraft fee is $35 per transaction, and you can be charged up to three times a day. Yikes.

2. ATM fees

This is a fee that banks charge for using an ATM. For example, your bank might charge you a fee if you use an out-of-network ATM. This fee can be anywhere from two dollars on up to six dollars if you’re making a withdrawal from a non-network international ATM.

Here’s a closer look at what the big banks are charging: Bank of America’s ATM fees are $2.50 and five dollars for international transactions, while Chase ATM fees are also $2.50 and five dollars respectively. Wells Fargo ATM fees are $2.50 for non-network withdrawals in the U.S., and five dollars for international ATMs. 

3. Maintenance fees

A bank might charge you a monthly fee if you don’t meet certain criteria. For instance, some banks charge fees if your bank balance drops below an amount or you fail to make the minimum number of transactions on your debit card. Bank of America and Chase both have a monthly maintenance fee of $12. In 2017, Americans spent 3.5 billion in monthly maintenance fees alone. 

4. Returned deposit charge

If there’s not enough money in your account to cover a transaction, the bank might “return” the item — usually a check — and you’ll in turn be dinged with what’s known as a returned deposit charge. The average charge is $35 per item. 

5. Lost card fee

Misplace your debit card? You might need to pay a fee to get it replaced. For instance, Bank of America charges its customers five dollars to get a replacement card, and $15 if you’d like it rushed.  

6. Minimum balance charge

If your type of bank account requires a minimum balance and you don’t meet the threshold, you could end up paying a fee. Wells Fargo charges a $10 monthly fee if you don’t keep a minimum of $1,500 in your account. 

7. Foreign transaction charge

If you’re traveling out of the country and swipe your debit card, there might be a foreign transaction charge. 

8. Inactivity fee

If your account is idle for a set amount of time (i.e., you haven’t made any deposits, withdrawals or transactions), you might need to pony up a monthly inactivity fee.  

9. Paper statement fee

If you prefer to get paper statements, you may need to pay a monthly fee. US Bank charges two dollars a month to receive statements via snail mail. IMHO, this feels like a trap. Many people are cool with receiving digital statements. They just don’t know about the paper statement fee, or forget to opt out.

10. Account closing fee

If you’re over your bank and want to close out your account, you might be dinged a fee. 

4 Things You Could Buy With Fees Instead of Paying Big Banks  

Here’s the fun part: Imagine what you could buy with the crazy high amount big banks rake in from bank fees. 

To keep things simple, let’s play around with the $64 billion that big banks made in ATM fees alone. These fees could fund a number of extravagant purchases, solve national debt problems, and achieve the unachievable. 

Here are a few examples: 

1. Student Loan Debt

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as many as 44.7 million Americans are burdened with student debt. That’s one in five Americans. As of the end of 2018, the student loan debt had climbed to a staggering $1.47 trillion. 

That cool $64 billion that banks make in ATM fees could handle 43% of the student debt crisis. 

2. Household Incomes

Per the U.S. Census Bureau, the median yearly household income in 2017 was $61,372. With those $64 billion in ATM fees, you can cover the annual income of 104,282 households in America. 

3. Avocado Toast 

We wanted to point out that millennials can have their toast and, well, save on bank fees too. Avocado toast is the latest “whipping boy” as to why millennials don’t have as much in savings and retirement as they should.

Let’s throw it back to whoever came up with this ludicrous statement, shall we? If the average cost of avocado toast is $12, ATM bank fees can pay for $5.3 million plates of avocado toast. 

4. Lattes 

Who doesn’t like a sweet beverage from Starbucks? With the average cost of a Starbucks latte at $3.45, you can buy more than 18.5 billion lattes. With 7.7 billion humans on planet earth, you can pay for each person — man, woman, and child — to enjoy 2.4 lattes. 

How Much Can You Save When You Switch to a Bank With No Fees?  

Let’s say your bank charges a monthly maintenance fee of $15, and you get dinged with an overdraft fee three times a year at $35 each. This tallies up to $285 a year. 

Here’s the good news: There are banks that don’t charge fees. That’s right. No monthly bank fees. Zip. Zilch. Nada. 

With your saved $285, you could pay off credit card debt, stash it toward an emergency fund, or put it toward something you really want.

No-Fee Banking When You Switch to Chime 

Here’s a side-by-side glance at how much fees can cost at some of the big banks:

Chime  JP Morgan Chase Wells Fargo  Bank of America 
Minimum balance requirement (to waive the monthly maintenance fee)  $0.00 $1,500  $1,500  $1,500 
Monthly maintenance fee $0.00 $12  $10 $12
Overdraft fee  $0.00 $34 $35 $35 
ATM fee (non-network, within the U.S.)  $0.00 $2.50  $2.50  $2.50 

When you bank with Chime, you’ll be a member of a bank with no fees. What’s more, we offer a handful of nifty features to help you save money. No, we’re not a unicorn bank. We’re just doing what we think should be the status quo, not the exception. 

 

What I Learned After Getting Hit with Fraud

About a month ago, I was going through my credit card statement and saw a purchase from Amazon that I didn’t make. I also got a suspicious email that included some of my personal information.

I immediately contacted my credit card company to report fraud. My card was frozen and I was reissued a new one. While this process was annoying, what happened after that was eye-opening.

Here’s what I learned after getting hit with a fraudulent charge.

We give everyone our information

I have one credit card – Chase Sapphire Preferred – which I use for everything. This card scores me rewards for dining out and travel, my top two discretionary expenses. When my card was canceled and I received the new one, I had to update my payment information on all of my accounts.

I use auto-pay for almost everything as this way I never forget to pay a bill or get hit with a late fee. So, I had to comb through all my credit card expenses and take an inventory of all the accounts associated with that card.

What I realized was astonishing. I had thought that maybe the credit card was associated with a few subscriptions. But to my surprise, I paid for tons of things automatically with this card. Think Lyft, Amazon, Starbucks, Chewy, Postmates, Quickbooks, my electric bill, my gym, Internet service, health insurance, and more.

As a millennial, I enjoy the convenience of apps, and I don’t think twice about handing out my credit card information. But when you think about it, when companies have your credit card information, you’re more vulnerable to theft and fraud. It’s no wonder data breaches are at an all-time high.

I’m spending more than I thought

One thing this case of fraud taught me is that I’m spending more than I thought on Lyft, Starbucks and other services. As I was forced to manually add my new credit card information to all of these subscriptions and services, I saw exactly how much I was spending.

It gave me a reason to pause. These apps make it so convenient to spend money without thinking about it. Yet, when you use apps to pay, you don’t even swipe! You press a few buttons and are totally removed from the payment process. That psychological disconnect can easily lead to overspending.

There’s more to manage

It took me more than an hour to manually log into all of my accounts and update my payment information. Even then I was paranoid I missed something and would be hit with a returned payment fee if one of the auto-pay subscriptions didn’t go through.

Let’s just say it took up a good half a day to manage everything. It was a pain and it made me realize that as much as I practice minimalism, maybe I wasn’t a financial minimalist. Had I sacrificed minimalism for convenience? In some ways my life is easier with all of these apps and subscriptions. In other ways, my spending has gone up and my information is out there.

I realize now that every time I give my credit card to a new app, subscription or service, it’s one more thing to manage. Even if I don’t get hit with fraud again, my current card will expire eventually. Then I’ll get a new card and have to go through the same process I just did.

What I’m doing going forward

The fraudulent charge on my credit card was annoying and a hassle. But that was actually the easiest part to deal with. Updating all of my payment information was the big eye-opener that made me realize just how vulnerable we are. It made me realize how simple it is to spend when you’re not attached to the money or the card.

As I was going through the list of items I needed to update, I assessed whether I really needed them or not. Postmates? Delete.

In the future, I am going to be more mindful of giving out my financial information. I know that data breaches are rampant and we can’t control everything, but being cautious is a good thing.

I’m also going to be more mindful of how these apps and services add to my spending and eat away at my potential savings. I’m all for convenience but I also don’t want to fall into a trap where I’m spending mindlessly when I could be saving more.

So, while this instance of fraud was a hassle, it taught me where my money is going. I also learned about how to better manage and track my finances, as well as just how vulnerable we are when it comes to using credit cards to automate your financial life.

The moral here: Stay cautious and mindful folks.

 

The Financial Benefits of Same-Sex Marriage

Since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015, more than a million same-sex couples have tied the knot.

Yet, love and marriage comes with much more than a day filled with vows, dancing and cake. It comes with a lifetime of financial considerations for the future. For example, this may be only the beginning of saving toward your retirement as a couple, setting up a joint bank account, and working toward your other money goals.

If you have questions about how to best navigate your finances as part of a same-sex married couple, you’re not alone. For example, typical questions include: Can you save money by getting married? Will your tax rate plummet once you tie the knot?

To answer your money questions, we turned to Robert Castillo, an investment advisor and accredited domestic partnership advisor at Gerber Kawasaki, an investment management firm based in Santa Monica, Ca.

Castillo talked us through the money-related aspects of married life for same-sex couples. Read on to see how walking down the aisle could affect your financial future.

Taxes

“There’s been a study done, and about a third of same-sex couples who have married between 2015 and 2018 still have questions about their taxes—whether to file joint or single, or how to file,” says Castillo.

Castillo cautions against the assumption that marriage always means lower income taxes, which he says is one of the biggest misconceptions about matrimony.

“There’s something called a marriage penalty. If two people are high-income earners, they actually end up paying more taxes than if they were single,” Castillo says.

Thankfully, the so-called marriage penalty doesn’t apply to all spouses. If one partner earns considerably less than the other, this usually leads to overall tax savings for the married couple, Castillo says.

Indeed, you shouldn’t let a tax increase deter you from getting married. There are still other financial perks of your nuptials that can make up for the uptick in income taxes, he says.

“There are over 1,100 federal benefits allotted to married couples,” Castillo says.

Retirement Planning

First, here’s the bad news: If two high-income earners get married, they may not qualify for a Roth IRA with their combined income.

A Roth IRA is a type of retirement plan that allows you to contribute money after taxes and withdraw your earnings tax-free upon your retirement. With a traditional IRA, on the other hand, you contribute pre-tax earnings, yet you won’t be taxed on any of your investment gains until you withdraw funds. For both types of IRAs, the contribution limit per person in 2019 is $6,000 if you’re under 50. However, with Roth IRAs, there are limitations on what high-income individuals can contribute. For example, married couples filing jointly cannot make Roth IRA contributions if their combined income exceeds $203,000.

Here’s something else to know: If you have both a traditional IRA and an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan, you can’t deduct traditional IRA contributions from your taxes after a certain income limit. For married couples filing jointly, that limit is a combined income of $123,000.

Now, the good news: Marriage makes it easier for one spouse to pass retirement savings to the other if one passes away. If you’re the surviving spouse, you have the option to absorb your deceased spouse’s 401(k) into your own or claim your partner’s traditional IRA as your own. If your spouse had a Roth IRA, you can also claim it as your own if you’re the sole beneficiary.

All told, marriage makes it easier to deal with the unexpected and still have a comfortable retirement nest egg, Castillo says.

Pensions and Social Security

Marriage offers big-time benefits to the spouses of pension holders. A pension is a type of retirement plan where an employer does all the contributing and investing on behalf of an employee (although some plans allow for optional employee contributions). The employee then collects payments monthly or in a lump sum upon retirement.

Pensions are rarer now than they were a generation ago, but if you’re a teacher, government employee, work in law enforcement or work in other particular professions, you may still be able to reap the benefits of this type of retirement plan. And, if your spouse has a pension and were to pass away, that pension may go to you. What does this mean? It means that you, as the surviving spouse, may be eligible for a lifetime of payouts, depending on the plan. What’s more: This benefit is not available to non-married couples in a domestic partnership.

Here’s another financial perk of marriage: It can boost your social security payments. Social security is a topical subject as many have predicted the demise of this government program. However, American workers in all industries still receive credits for every $1,260 they earn, up to four credits per year. As it stands now, upon retirement, you can start receiving monthly social security payouts. Here’s an online calculator where you can see an estimate of your future monthly social security checks. If you’re married, you stand to receive 50 percent of your spouse’s social security payments or 100 percent of your own, whichever is higher.

Writing a Will

If writing vows seems more appealing than writing a will, you’re in luck: Marriage lessens your need for a will.

In community property states like California, all assets accumulated during the marriage belong equally to both spouses. If one spouse passes, then the assets automatically go to the surviving spouse.

“If a couple isn’t married, they absolutely need not just a will, but also a living trust. It’s not cheap, but it definitely saves a lot in probate taxes later on,” Castillo says.

An Individual Choice

The financial benefits of marriage are clear, but even so, not every couple needs to rush to the altar.

“I don’t try to convince my clients to get married or not. I just give them the numbers,” Castillo says.

With the information above, you’ll have an easier time deciding whether marriage is a smart financial choice for you and your partner. But, no matter what you decide to do now or in the future, we can all celebrate marriage equality. Happy pride!

 

8 Ways to Get One Month Ahead On Your Expenses

As you can probably imagine, most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. This means they spend money as they earn it.

In fact, more than one-third of American millennials (34%) say they could not come up with $2,000 in the next month to handle an unexpected expense.

But, what if you could cover all your expenses at the start of the month – before you even get paid? Then, when you get paid, imagine how much more organized and financially prepared you’d feel. You wouldn’t actually need that money for another 30 days and it could sit in your bank account.

Getting one month ahead on your expenses is a cool concept. Here are 8 things you can do to make this happen.

1. Add Up All Your Monthly Expenses

First, you’ll want to get a good idea of how much your monthly expenses are. So, go through your budget and track your spending to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Be realistic about how much you comfortably spend in a given month. Sometimes, what you actually spend doesn’t match the amount you budgeted for. Make sure you go back to your budget and enter in how much things really cost. For example, once you know you’re spending a set amount per month, you’ll know how much you need to have in order to get one month ahead and save for the following month.

2. Use Lump Sum Payments and Windfalls

If you get windfalls like a tax refund, inheritance or a bonus at your job, you can use this money to cover your expenses for the month.

Then, you can save whatever you earn during this time for the following month. Before you know it, you’re one month ahead and no longer living paycheck to paycheck.

3. Give Up a Vacation

The average vacation can cost a family more than $1,000. It may be no fun to forego a trip, but doing so will allow you to save up the money you need – fast.

But you don’t have to sit home and do nothing. Consider taking a staycation and planning low-cost or free activities during your week home from work. Then, take all that money you would have spent traveling and sock it away into your bank account.

4. Eat Through Your Pantry

If you spend hundreds of dollars on groceries each month, see if you can challenge yourself to cut that amount in half.

This may be difficult, but you can do it by getting creative and encouraging your family to use up food in your pantry and freezer. You can also shop the sales at your local supermarket and buy generic brands. Then, eat at home for 30 days and see how much money you can save.

5. Cancel Subscriptions

Try cutting out subscriptions in order to temporarily save money. This can include things like your gym membership, cable, streaming services, subscription boxes and so on.

Consider cheaper alternatives or do without for a few weeks – or more. For example, you can likely exercise outside or at home without having a gym membership.

Once you get a month ahead on your expenses and you’re into a good rhythm of saving money, you can consider adding back in your favorite subscriptions.

6. Sell Stuff From Your Home

You may have a lot of unused items lying around your house. Stop telling yourself that you’re going to fix them or use them again someday. You know that’s probably not true.

So, sell these items on eBay, or local sites like OfferUp and the Facebook Marketplace. Go all in with decluttering your home and you can earn extra cash.

7. Try Saving Half of Your Partner’s Income

If you have a two-income household, consider saving half of one of your incomes. This may sound like a stretch, especially if you’ve struggled with saving money in the past.

However, you can achieve this with dedication and the right plan. Start by committing to save half of the lower income in the family. For example, if your partner brings home $2,000 and you bring home $3,500 a month, commit to saving half of his income which would be $1,000/month.

You may have to make several cuts, like not dining out as much, finding free and cheap entertainment, reducing your utility use, driving less to save on gas, getting new quotes for lower insurance rates, and finding a cheaper phone company. Remember: All of these changes can be temporary.

8. Hustle Like Crazy

This is an option you can consider once you’d made a solid effort to reduce your expenses. Making extra money can help you meet your goals faster without sacrificing your lifestyle for an extended time.

For example, see if you can pick up more hours at work, get a part-time job or start a flexible side hustle. You can donate plasma, apply for focus groups and panel studies, walk dogs, babysit, edit resumes, clean cars, or offer your services as a graphic designer. The sky’s the limit.

Anything extra you can do to earn more money will get you closer to your savings goal.

Focus On Big Wins

Getting one month ahead on your expenses can be intimidating. So, try to focus on big wins and make sacrifices for a short period of time.

For instance, if you need to save up $4,000 to cover one months’ worth of expenses, setting aside only $50 per month will drag out the process and you can lose motivation before you reach your goal.

Instead, go after big wins that will allow you to save larger chunks of money in a shorter period of time. For example, cutting out four subscriptions, curbing your dining out habit, and not taking a summer vacation can result in thousands of freed up dollars over just a couple of months. From there, you’ll quickly get one month ahead, which will improve your cash flow and allow you to pay for surprise expenses.

 

8 Ways to Protect Your Personal Information While You’re Banking

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While banking security has certainly improved over the years, thieves, scammers and hackers still find ways to steal your personal information and gain access to your hard-earned funds.

In fact, according to a 2018 online survey by The Harris Poll, almost 60 million Americans have been affected by identity theft. And, in 2017, $16.8 billion was stolen from 16.7 million victims of identity theft, according to the 2018 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research.

So, what can you do to safeguard your identity and finances against unscrupulous types? Here are eight steps you can follow to keep your money safe.

1. Change your passwords often

Keeping the same passwords across each of your bank, credit card, and email accounts for too long increases the risk of hackers accessing your information.

So, change your passwords frequently. Doing this at least once a month is recommended to keep your accounts safe and secure. If you find it hard to remember your passwords, try using a password generator/scrambler like Dashlane to create and organize your passwords. You can also store your passwords on a secure browser extension like LastPass.

Here’s another tip: Don’t store your passwords on your mobile device or laptop, says Nathan Grant, a credit industry analyst. While it may be convenient, if your device is stolen, your password is right there for a thief to use without having to lift a finger.

“Also, be careful not to enter any passwords or financial information on websites if the URL doesn’t have a secure lock symbol or https in the web browser address bar, especially on public networks,” says Grant.

2. Avoid using public WiFi and shared computers

Speaking of security, be careful before connecting to WiFi in a public place, say experts.

“Public WiFi is great for browsing the web, but you shouldn’t use it to log into your personal accounts and mobile banking apps,” says Adele Alligood of EndThrive.com.

“Doing so can make it easy for someone to intercept your login information and steal your financial data.”

Likewise, avoid sharing your computer or using a public shared computer (like one in a library) if you’ll be conducting banking or financial transactions. If you must do this, log off after your session is over — and, depending on your device, enable two-factor authentication when logging is.

How to tell if your connection is secure? There will be an image of a padlock next to the WiFi address or before the URL on your Web browser. And, if you have to access your bank app? Make sure the app you’re using is security encrypted — especially if you’re making payments.

3. Download anti-virus software

A computer virus is an inherent risk when using public WiFi. But even in private, you may be at risk if you don’t have a good antivirus software installed on your laptop or desktop.

“With a little research, you can choose which antivirus software is right for your computer,” says Justin Lavelle, a spokesman at BeenVerified.com.

“Antivirus software makes sure malicious software is detected and removed from your computer,” says Lavelle.

4. Use caution at the ATM

You can never be too careful at an ATM — even if you guard your debit or credit card carefully.

Lavelle says you should be mindful of criminals who use credit card skimmers. These are devices that can record your card’s information to then use that information to make unlawful purchases.

“Whenever you use a credit card reader, it is smart to inspect the device first,” he says.

“Look at the machine for scratches, ill-fitting parts or seals. Jiggle the machine as well as the PIN pad, or credit card insert. Most gas pumps, ATMs or vending machines are manufactured to be secure. Broken seals or loose parts may be an indication that the machine has been breached, and a skimmer has been installed.”

Lavelle says that most skimmers use Bluetooth technology, so one way to detect a skimmer is to use your smartphone.

“Turn on the Bluetooth pairing, and then see how many odd things pop up. It might just alert you to a skimmer.”

5. Watch out for “sidlers”

You should also exercise caution at busy public points of sale, since this is where thieves known as “shoulder surfers” are known to use stealthy methods to get the digits off your card.

“If another consumer is crowding you in line to pay, don’t be shy to ask them to please back up and give you space,” says Jim Angleton, president of AEGIS FinServ Corp.

“Yes, it seems a bit harsh; however, the vast majority of ‘sidlers’ are purposefully inching up to pretend to use their smartphone to look at email when they are really taking cellphone video of you entering your card and inserting your PIN.

Once they have the perfect photo, they go to their car and use a laptop and portable printer to create a blank card that looks just like your card. They can then go online and purchase a five dollar item to see if the card works. Once they have confirmation, they can then sell the fake card with your valid credit card number, explains Angleton.

Want to know how you can avoid this problem? Opt for merchants that accept mobile payments straight from your phone.

6. Never reveal your personal information

Guarding your bank account numbers or debit card digits isn’t just about hiding your details physically or behind passwords. Sometimes, ID theft involves revealing info to the wrong people.

“Emails and phone calls may seem official and important, but you should never give out your personal details unless you can verify, without a doubt, that it’s safe,” says Lavelle.

“Most retailers make it clear that they will never ask for your password, social security number, or other sensitive information by phone or email.”

Pro tip: Make sure your bank account offers added protection against hackers. Chime’s debit card, for example, comes with an instant block function to prevent unauthorized use of your funds. You can simply disable transactions through the Chime app.

7. Destroy your documents

In the event you want to get rid of old receipts and sensitive banking information, don’t just dispose of this in the trash. Thieves know no shame and will happily dumpster dive to find each piece of a torn-up document.

Instead, invest in a paper shredder that makes any document unsalvageable and unreadable. You can also bring your documents to a UPS, Staples or other local office supply store that offers low-cost document shredding services.

8. Check your credit report

When was the last time you checked your credit report?

Checking your credit report and score is essential so that you know where you stand with your credit. Getting a copy of your credit report will also reveal any erroneous information that could negatively impact your credit.

So, scour your report — everything from the spelling of your name, the amount of your loans and your credit accounts (both open and closed). If you find an inaccuracy, each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) have simple steps you can take to dispute anything unfamiliar on your report.

And, here’s another layer of protection: Switch to a bank account that will send you real-time alerts each time a transaction is made.

Stay Safe and Secure

Using these eight steps, you’ll be well on your way to safeguarding yourself and your finances in any scenario — whether you’re banking from your laptop at home, getting cash at an ATM, or shopping on your mobile device.

 

4 ‘Rich Habits’ Millennials Should Start Developing Now

Want to be rich? Like really rich?

Rather than scheming about winning the lottery, or getting paid to invent the next Candy Crush, you might want to take a look at the things you do every single day. Why? Since your habits are the foundation for all your actions, changing them is usually more effective than hoping for a single lucky strike.

Tom Corley would know. He spent five years studying the habits of hundreds of Americans, whom he separated into two groups: the “rich,” who had annual gross incomes of more than $160,000 and net liquid assets of $3.2 million or more, and the “poor,” who earned less than $35,000 and had a maximum of $5,000 in liquid assets.

Based on his discoveries — and the striking differences between each group’s daily activities — Corley wrote a book called “Rich Habits.” Since it was published nearly a decade ago, I caught up with Corley to ask which habits were most important for millennials today. Here are the four he chose.

1. Create Blueprints for Your Life

The most important habit, says Corley, is to begin “dream setting.” (Think: goal setting, except that dreams come first.)

Here’s how to get started:

  • Create a script: Decide what you want your life to look like in five, 10, 20 years. Picture every detail, including your job, salary, partner, house, and lifestyle. Then write it all out — Corley recommends your script be at least 1,000 words.
  • Make a list: From that script, pull each specific dream into a bulleted list. For example, your bullets might be: Earn $100,000 per year, take an annual trip to Hawaii, live in a four-bedroom house on a corner lot. “Each dream is like a rung on the ladder,” says Corley. “When you reach the top… that is the moment you are living the life of your dreams.”
  • Set your goals: For each dream, list the goals that will get you there. If your dream is to live in a four-bedroom house, your goals might be to: 1) Pay off your credit card debt within the next six months, 2) Begin saving $300 per month for a down payment, 3) Improve your credit scores, and 4) Hire a trustworthy real estate agent. Ask yourself if you possess the skills and knowledge to accomplish each goal; if not, determine how you’ll acquire them.

“The components of your life’s blueprint are all of the things that make a perfect life,” Corley explains.

“Your goals are your construction team. You need to define all of the goals that will make all of your dreams become a reality.”

By dream setting early and often, you’ll understand which goals you should be pursuing — and which roadblocks may stand in your way.

2. Devote 30 Minutes a Day to Learning

When was the last time you read a book? Or took a course? If you’re like most millennials, you probably spend more time with your face in Facebook than real books.

Corley says this is a mistake. He told Kiplinger that 96% of self-made millionaires read 30 minutes each day for education, career, or self-improvement. He also found that, while 77% of poor people spent an hour or more watching TV each day, only 33% of rich people did.

“The successful see time as the most valuable asset they possess,” says Corley.

“They are continuously engaged in some constructive project to increase their skill sets, promote their business or careers, keep their minds sharp, or expand their knowledge…The wealthy invest their time; the poor spend it on wasteful activities.”

So, instead of scrolling through social media or bingeing on Netflix, pick up a book from your local library. Listen to an educational podcast on your way to work. Attend a workshop where you’ll learn skills relevant to your career. Be like the wealthy, and invest your time in educational activities that will pay off down the road.

3. Exercise Every Day

Though exercising might seem irrelevant to gaining wealth, Corley says it’s one of the most fundamental habits for millennials to develop.

Besides the obvious physical benefits of exercise, he cites a range of reasons it could help you get rich. Specifically, Corley says exercise can:

  • Improve mental function by flooding the bloodstream with oxygen.
  • Reduce stress, as well as combat its negative effects (like a weakened immune system).
  • Increase the volume of nerve tissue in the hippocampus, improving your ability to remember and learn.
  • Elevate your testosterone level — and therefore your confidence — prompting you to pursue new and challenging opportunities.
  • Boost willpower and self-control, enabling you to make good decisions and avoid bad habits that can wreck your finances and life.

To turn exercise into a habit, you’ll need to find a regimen that appeals to you. Instead of forcing yourself to run, give yourself the freedom to try a range of options, from yoga to Zumba to Crossfit to basketball. When you make an exercise habit fun, it becomes much easier to maintain.

“Rid yourself of your demons by exercising every day. You and everyone around you will be better off for it,” says Corley.

4. Experiment With New Activities

Corley recommends experimenting with a new activity or skill every six months.

Maybe you try coding. Maybe you volunteer as a tutor for homeless youth. Maybe you take piano lessons. Whatever it is, Corley promises that, “Through experimentation, you will stumble upon something that makes your heart sing — something you will want to devote the rest of your life.”

He believes we all have innate talents that set us apart from everyone else, but that you can only discover them by veering off the typical career paths. When you finally uncover your “main purpose,” as Corley calls it, he says it’ll be easier to excel at your work (and thereby reap the financial benefits that accompany excellence).

Three Mistakes Millennials Should Avoid

In addition to building rich habits, Corley says it’s important for millennials to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Multi-tasking: Do you check your email or phone every few minutes while you’re working? Corley views these constant distractions as detrimental to the success of many millennials. To stay focused (and crush the tasks on your plate) he recommends putting your phone in do-not-disturb mode and closing your email for a two-hour chunks during the workday.
  • Allowing lifestyle creep: When you start earning more, that doesn’t mean you need to spend more. Corley told Kiplinger one of the biggest mistakes people make is increasing their standard of living to match their income. “You don’t want to supersize your life just because you’re making more money,” he said. “Stuff doesn’t make you happy.”
  • Not saving enough: In lieu of spending more, strive to save more. In Corley’s study, 95% of the wealthy people saved at least 20% of their net income each year — a practice they started “long before they became rich.” (Chime’s automatic savings feature can help.)

If you’re feeling discouraged by all the rules and advice, don’t despair. The good news, according to Corley, is that “never in the history of civilization has there been so much opportunity to become rich and successful.”

By making intentional life choices and developing these basic habits, you’ll hopefully find a way to become rich — or, at the very least, to have more money. Because, even if you feel like you’re getting a late start, now is better than never.

As Corley says: “It’s only too late when you are six feet under.”

 

What Is Financial Literacy? And Why Should You Care?

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The majority of Americans are illiterate.

Not in terms of basic reading — most of us can do that — but in terms of our finances.

When the FINRA Education Investor Foundation asked more than 25,000 Americans six simple questions about personal finance, 63% failed. Millennials fared the worst, with a passing rate of just 24%.

This lack of financial literacy is, understandably, having a huge impact on our country. Many of us are paying high bank fees, falling behind on our bills, drowning in debt, and failing to save for retirement. Clearly, something needs to change.

We’re here to help by breaking down what financial literacy means, why it matters, and how you can improve yours. Read on to learn more.

What Is Financial Literacy?

Financial literacy is the ability to understand your money.

When you’re financially literate, you have a grasp on concepts like budgeting, saving, investing, credit, debt, insurance, and interest. And, with a bit of basic knowledge, you’re able to make smart financial decisions about taxes, retirement, real estate, and college.

To Jill Fopiano, CEO of O’Brien Wealth Partners LLC, financial literacy means “the ability to understand and manage important areas of your finances so that you can meet your financial goals.”

This includes financial jargon, too.

“It is as important to be an educated consumer of financial products as it as for any other major purchase,” says Fopiano.

Knowing the difference between a Roth and traditional IRA, or compound and simple interest, for example, can significantly affect your financial future.

Why Does Financial Literacy Matter?

You may think personal finance is boring or unimportant. If you whole family is “bad with money,” you may even think you’re doomed to follow in their footsteps. But the truth is you can transform your life by learning basic financial concepts.

“Financial literacy is the foundation of a life where you feel secure and safe enough to do what you want,” explains Bobbi Rebell, a certified financial planner and host of the Financial Grownup and Money in the Morning podcasts.

“If you don’t have the information, you can’t create a path to your goals,” says Rebell.

For many, one of those goals is retirement. Whereas most Americans used to receive post-retirement benefits from their employers, fewer than 20% of today’s private sector jobs come with pensions. This means you’re responsible for your own future. And, this isn’t something that’s easy to do. In fact, the median amount of retirement savings for a working family is a paltry $5,000.

In addition to affecting your future, financial illiteracy can harm you in the present, too. Take a look:

  • In 2018, the average American lost $1,230 due to a lack of knowledge about personal finance.
  • A shocking 39% of millennial women do not pay their bills on time, resulting in costly late fees and interest charges.
  • A dearth of general financial knowledge, according to one study, cost investors $200 billion over the past 20 years.

“Financial literacy is really about empowerment,” says Fopiano.

“The more you know, the more able you are to make good decisions, avoid sketchy offers, and secure your own future.”

Four Steps to Increase Your Financial Literacy

Since only 17 states require high schools to teach personal finance, it’s important to take your education into your own hands. Here are four steps to help you get started.

1. Devour financial media

As Rebell says, “Becoming financially literate is easier than ever because of the incredible resources we all have access to.”

Feel free to consume information in a way that suits you best. Maybe you’d like to listen to podcasts during your commute; maybe you’d rather watch videos on your days off.

Here are some recommended resources:

2. Take it slowly

Financial literacy is like a tall mountain: You’re not going to reach the summit right away — or maybe ever. The best you can do is take it slowly, tackling one topic at a time.

While you should get a basic grip of personal finance as soon as possible, don’t dive deep into every topic at once. That would be overwhelming, and could discourage you from progressing further.

“Pick an area that is particularly relevant to you — say, budgeting — and commit to mastering it over the next three months. Once you have accomplished that, move on to the next area,” says Fopiano.

3. Ask for help

You probably wouldn’t try to fix your plumbing on your own. Or try to learn chemistry without a teacher. The same goes for money. Although teaching yourself is a fantastic way to get started, you may eventually need some professional assistance.

“This doesn’t have to be a self-study course,” says Fopiano.

“If you are really serious about getting your financial future in order, and could benefit from a sound financial plan, seek out a certified financial planner,” she says.

If you’re not ready for human help yet, turn to financial technology. Use Mint to create a budget and track spending, Charlie to monitor your finances as a whole, Credit Karma to track your credit scores, and Chime to save automatically.

4. Stay curious

The key to financial literacy is, of course, education.

If you dream of becoming financially secure, and stable, and maybe even wealthy, you should keep learning. You should continue your education by reading about personal finance, seeking professional help, and using technology that simplifies the process.

This is your money, after all, and it affects every single aspect of your life.

“Financial literacy is about knowing the right questions to ask. None of us have all the answers, but if we have the right questions we can get there,” says Rebell.

 

Overdraft Protection: What to Know & How to Avoid Fees

Have you ever swiped your debit card and worried that you might not have enough money in your bank account? If this sounds like you, you might want to consider signing up for overdraft protection to save you from such a predicament.

On the surface, overdraft protection may seem like the perfect solution, but the details and reality of the optional banking services leave many banking customers wondering if it’s actually worth it. Explore our handy guide to learn all about overdraft protection, and overdraft fees, and how you can clean up your finances to avoid them altogether.

What is overdraft protection and how does it work?

Overdraft protection is a safety net that helps you avoid overdrawing your account. In short, it’s a type of financial protection that will help float you money if you have insufficient funds. So if If you swipe your debit card or try to get cash out of an ATM, you may be able to do so even if you technically don’t have enough money in your account. It does this by pulling in money or credit from the account that you linked to your checking account when you set up overdraft protection with your bank.

Generally, if you make a purchase with your debit card and don’t have enough funds in your checking account, the purchase won’t go through. This is typically called an overdraft, and signifies that your account balance has dipped below zero and into negative territory. This situation can be embarrassing for you, as well as awkward for the person behind the cash register. It also can be highly inconvenient if you need whatever you’re purchasing now.

This is where overdraft protection comes in. Overdraft protection essentially protects you from overdrafting. So, instead of getting your card declined and leading to an uncomfortable situation, your card will go through like normal – even if you don’t have enough money in your account to cover that purchase.

But overdraft protection comes at a price, specifically, in the form of overdraft protection transfer which can add up quick. So, while overdraft protection, on the surface, can seem like a great solution to a temporary problem, it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be.

If you are interested in this protection, you’ll want to talk to your bank and enroll in the program. Additionally, it’s important to know all the upfront costs such as overdraft fees, credit line limits, etc.

Pros & Cons of overdraft protection

The main pro of overdraft protection is convenience. Overdraft protection allows purchases to go through, even if you don’t have enough funds in your checking account. This can save you embarrassment, inconvenience and time. You don’t have to deal with your card getting declined in public or being unable to access cash when you really need it.

However good overdraft protection seems in theory, it can cost you in the long run. The fees can vary from bank to bank and your financial institution decide what to charge, and you’re usually hit with more than one charge. You can continue getting hit with overdraft fees if your account is overdrawn for an extended period of time. These new fees are called extended overdraft fees and some are charged daily.

We found that consumers can get hit with four to six overdraft fees per day. In some cases, that number can be as high as 12. What’s more, : C consumers who frequently overdraft end up paying more fees than those who do not opt into overdraft protection. In fact, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that frequent overdrafters who opt into this coverage pay nearly $450 more in fees.

On top of that, if you accrue enough overdraft fees and stay in the negative, you’re at risk of account closure. Having your account closed by your bank is a major inconvenience. Just think about all the bills that are connected to that account, or not having access to your money for a period of time.

All of these are major cons of overdraft protection and should be considered carefully.

How Do You Use Overdraft Protection?

If you want to use overdraft protection, first make sure it’s something you’re signed up for. As noted above, your bank must get consent from you first to enroll you in overdraft protection.

Once you are enrolled, see if you have to link another account or a credit card to complete the process. Each bank may have different policies and procedures.

When it’s set up, overdraft protection will be in place if you overdraw your account. But remember: The hope is that you never have to use it! If you do, this means you’ve run out of money in your account, which is no fun.

Overdraft Fees Are Costing Americans Big Time

Overdraft fees – by and large – are a big business for many banks. In fact, the average overdraft fee is around $35. In 2017, consumers paid 34.3 billion dollars in overdraft fees in 2017, a number which has been on the rise since the Great Recession.

Even credit unions, which are often thought of as more community-minded and consumer friendly have jumped on the overdraft fee bandwagon. Overdraft fees at credit unions have nearly doubled from $15 in 2000 to $29 in 2017.

In short, overdraft fees are the bread and butter for many financial institutions. They give banks a way to make money off consumers by positioning overdraft protection as a useful service.

Does Overdraft Protection Hurt Your Credit?

As noted above, in some cases your bank may offer you a line of credit or link your overdraft protection to a credit card. If linked to a credit card, you could end up paying more. Why? Because some card issuers might consider the overdraft a form of “cash advance,” which has its own set of fees, not to mention higher interest rates.

How Do You Avoid Overdraft Protection?

Before 2010, many consumers were unaware that they were being “opted in” to overdraft protection programs. However, starting in 2010, federal regulations shifted and required that banks get consumers’ consent to opt into overdraft protection.

To make things simple, however, you can avoid overdraft protection by not signing up for it with your bank. If you’re currently enrolled in this service, you can cancel it. This way, if you don’t have enough in your account, your purchase or transaction will get declined. While you won’t be able to make the purchase, you also won’t be hit you with an overdraft fee.

Another option is to open a bank account at Chime, which has no overdraft fees.

Lastly, to avoid this problem altogether, keep a buffer of money in your checking account. This can help you avoid dipping into the negative. Check your account balances daily and monitor your bill due dates and auto-drafts. This way you’ll know when money is coming out of your account.

Final word

There are certainly pros and cons with overdraft protection.

It can be convenient, yet costly. It can save you embarrassment and time, but also take a bite out of your hard-earned money. So, weigh these pros and cons carefully.

Final tip: If you never want to worry about an overdraft fee again, consider switching to a bank that offers fee-free overdraft.

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