What to Know about Credit Card Cash Advances

What to Know about Credit Card Cash Advances

Sooner or later, most of us hit that moment where we need some cash — and fast. Maybe a major car repair or medical bill arrives, you get laid off, or you simply overspend for a period of time: All are ways that you can unfortunately find yourself in a hole financially.

A particularly expensive (or unlucky) month might make a credit card cash advance seem appealing. But before you go ahead and get a bundle of bills from your credit card issuer, read up on the consequences of doing so.

Here you’ll learn:

•   How to get a cash advance from a credit card

•   Why people use cash advances

•   The costs involved in getting cash from your credit card

•   How personal loans vs. cash advances compare

Can You Get Cash Back from a Credit Card?

Yes, it’s possible to get a cash advance on a credit card. But just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should.

A credit card cash advance is a stopgap for a financial emergency that can come with high costs to a person’s immediate financial situation. Furthermore, if not paid back quickly, it may also affect their credit history in the long term.

While a cash advance is certainly easy (it’s similar to making an ATM withdrawal), there are typically better and more affordable options for most financial needs.

A credit card cash advance is used to get actual cash against a credit card account’s cash limit, which might be different from the credit limit. It’s essentially a loan from the credit card issuer. Here’s how it usually works:

•   You put your credit card into an ATM, enter the card’s PIN, and choose an amount to withdraw. The cash is then dispensed for you to use as you see fit.

•   If you don’t know the card’s PIN, a cash advance can be completed by going into a bank or credit union with the credit card and a government-issued photo identification.

•   A cash advance check directly from the credit card company — sometimes included with mailed monthly billing statements — can also be used to get a cash advance.

Recommended: How to Increase Your Credit Limit

Why Do People Use Cash Advances?

Why use a cash advance from a credit card? The bottom line: convenience and speed. ATMs are plentiful in most towns, and it takes just a few minutes to complete the process of getting a cash advance at an ATM. There’s no approval process required either.

Some people may assume they don’t have enough time to access other kinds of credit. This isn’t always true, however. For instance, funds obtained through an unsecured personal loan are sometimes available in just one to five days after approval of the loan.

As fast and simple as a credit card cash advance may seem, however, there are significant costs involved. We’ll go into those costs next. Realizing the financial impact of these withdrawals may encourage a person to look elsewhere for funds.

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Cost of Withdrawing Cash from a Credit Card

A cash advance is an expensive way to borrow money. To put it in perspective, they’re just a step up from payday loans (which typically have much higher interest rates than credit card cash advances, extra fees, and short repayment terms).

The cost of getting a cash advance from a credit card can be quite high because they are treated differently than regular credit card purchases. Here’s a closer look at how these expenses can pile up.

Cash Advance Fee

It’s typical for credit cards to have a fee specifically for cash advances. This fee can be anywhere from 3% to 5% of the total amount of the cash advance. This fee is added to the account balance immediately — there is no grace period.

Higher APR

The average APR, or annual percentage rate, a credit card issuer typically charges for a cash advance is quite a bit higher than normal purchase charges. Currently, the average credit card interest rate on purchases ranges from 15% to 19%. But what is the APR for a cash advance? The rate is likely to be between 17% and a whopping 29%, according to recent research.

What’s more, unlike interest charged on regular purchases, there is no grace period for the interest to start accruing on a cash advance. It starts accumulating immediately and increases the account balance daily.

ATM Fee

Getting a credit card cash advance from an ATM may also mean incurring an extra fee charged by the ATM owner, if that’s not the financial institution that issued your credit card. These fees can range from $1.50 to $3.50 or even up to $10. As you see, the ATM fee can increase the charges for a cash advance, which often add up quickly.

Payment Allocation Rules

If you’re thinking that a cash advance can be paid off first and then the interest rate will revert to the lower rate charged on regular purchases, guess again. While federal law dictates that any amount more than the minimum payment made must go toward the highest interest rate debt, the minimum payment amount is typically applied at the credit card issuer’s discretion. This might well work in the card issuer’s favor, not yours.

A Hypothetical Scenario

You might be wondering just what a cash advance looks like in actual dollars and sense, so let’s consider this scenario. Say a person is carrying a credit card balance of $1,000 with an APR of 20%.

Perhaps they are trying to financially survive a layoff and need funds, so they find out how to get a cash advance on their credit card and take out $1,000 with a 25% APR. When they receive the billing statement, they pay $1,000 toward their credit card balance.

The minimum payment due amount of $35 is applied to the regular purchases that are accruing interest at a rate of 20%. The remainder, $965, is applied to the cash advance balance that’s getting charged a 25% interest rate.

In order to completely get rid of that 25% APR, the account holder would have to pay the full $2,000 balance.

The cash advance will only be paid off when the entire credit card balance is paid in full, which means they could be setting themselves up with higher interest charges for a long time to come.

Waiting until the next monthly statement is available will just increase the amount due. Every day the cash advance accrues interest, it costs the cardholder more money. The faster the balance is paid off, the less interest will accrue.

Using a credit card interest calculator can be enlightening when figuring out how much purchases or cash advances will really cost with interest applied and how much time it might take to pay them off.

Personal Loans vs Cash Advances

Now you understand how to get a cash advance from a credit card and the expenses involved. So what are the alternatives to this kind of a cash advance? Ask friends or family for a loan? Find ways to make money from home?

While those options are certainly acceptable, an unsecured personal loan might also be an option for some people. These loans can allow you to get funds at a lower interest rate that you can use to pay off your high-interest debt. Here’s how they usually work:

•   An application for a personal loan online can typically be completed in minutes and, if approved, the borrower may possibly get the funds within a couple of days. Personal loans can be used for a variety of reasons.

•   Some common uses for personal loan funds are debt consolidation, wedding expenses, unexpected medical expenses, and moving expenses, to name a few. It’s even possible to use a personal loan to pay off that credit card cash advance, which may cost you a lot less in the long run.

There are several benefits to personal loans that are worth knowing about:

•   Personal loans are likely to offer a more manageable interest rate on the money borrowed than the typical interest rate on a credit card cash advance. Of course, the personal loan’s interest rate will depend on the borrower’s creditworthiness, but it’s likely to be lower than the one tied to a credit card cash advance.

•   When personal loans are used to pay off a cash advance, they can simplify a person’s debt. With a single personal loan, there is only one interest rate to keep track of, as opposed to juggling two high interest rates: one for the cash advance and one for regular purchases charged to the credit card.

•   Credit card debt is revolving debt, which means that the borrower’s credit limit can be used, repaid, then used again, as long as the borrower is in good standing with the lender. A personal loan, however, is installment debt, and has fixed payments and a fixed end date. Unlike the revolving debt of a credit card, the funds from a personal loan can only be used once, and then they have to be repaid.

Personal Loans and Credit Scores

Another upside of choosing a personal loan over a credit card cash advance is that responsibly managing a personal loan might positively impact the borrower’s credit score.

One factor that goes into calculating a FICO® Score is the percentage of available credit being used, the credit utilization ratio, and it accounts for 30% of a person’s total score.

In the hypothetical scenario above, if the borrower had a $3,000 credit limit on their credit card, by using $2,000 of their total available credit, their credit utilization rate would be a whopping 66% (if that one credit card was the only account appearing on their credit report).

It’s fairly typical that credit card users continue to make charges on their accounts, which is likely to keep their credit utilization ratio high.

Installment debt, such as a personal loan, is looked at in a slightly different way in credit score calculations. Making regular payments on an installment loan may carry slightly greater weight than might someone’s credit utilization rate in calculating their credit score. Thus, making regular payments on a personal loan is likely to demonstrate responsible borrowing as the balance is paid down.

As you’ve now learned, considering a variety of funding sources when you need money fast is a smart money move. When you do so, a credit card cash advance may well be seen as a last-resort maneuver.

The Takeaway

Life can certainly deliver some unexpected financial challenges now and then — moments when you need cash quickly, for instance, but don’t have any available. While a cash advance from your credit card may seem like a fast, simple solution, tread carefully. There are significant costs associated with this withdrawal which could leave you with more long-term debt than you’d like. It’s probably wise to explore your options first.

While money management can be tricky at times, partnering with the right financial institution can help improve your financial life. For example, when you open an online bank account with SoFi, you’ll find convenient tools to track your spending and grow your savings (which might help you build an emergency fund). What’s more, when you open a Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll enjoy a competitive APY and you won’t have to pay any account fees.

Better banking is here with up to 3.25% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What is a credit card cash advance?

A credit card cash advance is a quick, convenient way to access cash using your credit card. You insert it into an ATM or visit a bank branch to obtain the cash. However, this will likely involve your owing significant fees and being assessed a considerable interest rate on the money you have borrowed.

What are the costs of a credit card cash advance?

A credit card cash advance will involve a fee that’s typically 3% to 5% of the total loan amount. In addition, there may be an ATM fee of several dollars. The money that you are advanced begins to accrue interest right away, and this usually is at a higher rate than your rate on purchases. What is a cash advance APR usually? Between 17% and 29%.

What is the difference between a credit card cash advance and checking account withdrawals?

A credit card advance is significantly different from a checking account withdrawal. With a credit card advance, you are quickly getting access to cash from your credit card issuer. It is a form of a loan, and your interest rate will likely be between 17% and 29% until it’s fully repaid. With a checking account withdrawal, you are accessing your own money, so there’s no interest fee involved, though you might be charged a few dollars if you use an out-of-network ATM for the transaction.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 11/3/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s
website
.

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How Long Do Late Payments Stay On a Credit Report?

One of the most important factors in your credit score is your payment history. New lenders want to make sure that you’ll pay them back on time, and your past payment history is an indicator that many lenders look at. Because of this, in most cases, credit bureaus will keep any late payments on your credit report for seven years.

Late payments only make it onto your credit report if they’re late for more than 30 days. Once a payment is late for 30 days, the creditor will likely report it to the credit bureau, where it will stay for seven years from the date of the first delinquent payment. Because late payments can have a negative impact on your credit score, it’s best to avoid them when possible.

What Is Considered a Late Payment?

Most accounts have a grace period after the due date where the lender will accept payment without any penalty. The exact length of a grace period will depend on the terms of your credit card or other account, but 15 days is common.

After the grace period, your lender may charge a late fee or make other changes to your account. Once your account is 30 days or more past due, your lender will typically report it to the major credit bureaus.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

When Do Late Payments Fall Off a Credit Report?

In most cases, it will take seven years for a late payment to fall off a credit report. Even if you bring your account current after the late payment has already been reported to the credit bureaus, it will still show up on your credit report for seven years after the first late payment. This is why one of the top credit card rules is to make payments on-time whenever possible.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

How Late Payments Affect Your Credit Score

One of the consequences of a credit card late payment is that it will have a negative impact on your credit score.

Your past payment history is one of the biggest factors in what affects your credit score. As such, if you have a significant amount of late payments on your credit report, it will be tough to have an outstanding credit score.

How to Remove Late Payments From a Credit Report

It’s difficult if not impossible to remove a late payment from your credit report — unless it was reported in error.

However, the only way to find out if a late payment is reported in error is if you regularly review your credit report. If you have documentation that shows that you made the payment on time, you can contact the credit bureau and ask them to update your credit score and credit report.

What Can You Do to Minimize the Impact of a Late Payment?

If you’re willing to do the legwork, there are a couple steps you can take that could potentially minimize the impacts of a late payment.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Negotiate

One option you have for minimizing the impact of a late payment is to negotiate with your credit card issuer. This will generally be more effective if it’s only been a short time since your payment was due or if you have not had late payments previously. For example, your lender may be willing to waive any late fees or penalty interest if you enroll in autopay and/or pay any past-due balance.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Dispute Errors on Your Credit Reports

If it’s been more than 30 days and your lender has already reported the late fee to the credit bureaus, it can be difficult to remove it from your credit report. However, if you have documentation that you made the payment on time, you can contact the credit bureaus to have them update and correct your credit report.

This is why it is important to understand how checking your credit score affects your rating — generally when you are reviewing your own credit report, it does not impact your credit score. Regularly reviewing your credit report for errors and discrepancies is a great financial habit to have.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

Guide to Avoiding Late Payments

Since it is difficult if not impossible to remove late payments from your credit report once they’re there, the best course of action is to avoid late payments in the first place. Here are a few tips on some of the best ways to avoid late payments.

Set Up Autopay

One great way to avoid late payments is to set up autopay from a checking or savings account. That way, you know that your payments will be made each and every month.

You can customize your autopay payments to cover the minimum amount, the full statement balance, or anywhere in between. You’ll just want to make sure you have enough funds in the attached account to cover the balance.

Set Payment Reminders

If you can’t or don’t want to set up autopay on your accounts, another option is to set up payment reminders. That way, you can get an email or text message a few days before your payment is due. Getting a reminder can help you remember to make the payment on or before its due date.

Change Your Payment Due Date

Sometimes the due date for a particular loan or credit card doesn’t line up conveniently with when you have the money to pay it. You might find that your due date always seems to come a day or two before payday. If that’s the case, many lenders allow you to change your payment due date to one that’s more convenient for you.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

The Takeaway

Paying your credit card and other debts on time is one of the best ways to ensure that your credit score stays strong. Late payments can be reported to the credit bureaus as soon as 30 days after the due date. Once they’re on your credit report, they will stay there for seven years from the date of the first late payment.

If you’re looking for a credit card with great cash back rewards and other features, consider applying for the SoFi Credit Card. With the SoFi Credit Card, you can earn unlimited 2% cash back rewards that you can use to redeem for cash or fractional shares, or other financial goals you might have. For a limited time, new credit card holders who also sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings with direct deposit can start earning 3% cash back rewards on all eligible credit card purchases for 365 days*. Offer ends 12/31/22.

Earn cash back rewards with the SoFi credit card.

FAQ

Can I get late payments removed from my credit report?

Typically, once they’ve been reported to the credit bureaus, you can only get late payments removed if you didn’t actually pay late. If you have documentation that shows that you made the payment on time, you can submit that to each credit bureau and ask that they update your credit score.

Is it true that after 7 years your credit is clear?

Late payments and some other negative factors do remain on your credit report for seven years. That means that if you have not had any negative marks or late payments for seven years, you’ll be starting with a fresh slate.

Is payment history a big factor in your credit score?

Yes, payment history is a big factor in how your credit score is determined. While each credit bureau calculates your credit score differently, payment history is typically listed as one of the biggest factors in what affects your credit score.


Photo credit: iStock/tommaso79

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s
website
.

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri (TBOM) (“Issuer”) pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
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New and existing Checking and Savings members who have not previously enrolled in direct deposit with SoFi are eligible to earn a cash bonus when they set up direct deposits of at least $1,000 over a consecutive 25-day period. Cash bonus will be based on the total amount of direct deposit. Entry into the Program will be available 10/1/22 to 12/31/22. Full terms at sofi.com/banking. SoFi Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. Member FDIC.

SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 11/3/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet

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Bank Guarantee vs Letter of Credit: What’s the Difference?

Bank Guarantee vs Letter of Credit: What’s the Difference?

A bank guarantee and a letter of credit are quite similar. With both instruments the issuing bank accepts a customer’s liability if the customer defaults on the money it owes, is a promise from a lending institution that ensures the bank will step up if a debtor can’t cover a debt.

Bank guarantees are often used in real estate contracts and infrastructure projects, while letters of credit are primarily used in global transactions.

Bank guarantees represent a more significant contractual obligation for banks than letters of credit do.

With a guarantee, the seller’s claim goes first to the buyer, and if the buyer defaults, then the claim goes to the bank. With letters of credit, the seller’s claim goes first to the bank, not the buyer. Although the seller will likely get paid in both cases, letters of credit offer more assurance to sellers than guarantees generally do.

What Is a Bank Guarantee?

Bank guarantees serve a key purpose for businesses. The bank, through their due diligence of the applicant, provides credibility to them as a viable business partner in a particular business dealing. In essence, the bank puts its seal of approval on the applicant’s creditworthiness, co-signing on behalf of the applicant as it relates to the specific contract the two external parties are undertaking.

A bank guarantee is an assurance from a bank regarding a contract between a buyer and a seller. Essentially, the bank guarantee acts as a risk management tool. A bank guarantee provides support and assurance to the beneficiary of the payment, as the bank guarantee means that the bank is assuming liability for completion of the contract.

This means that if the buyer defaults on their debt or obligation, the bank makes sure the beneficiary receives their payment.

Any business can benefit from a bank guarantee, but especially small businesses that would be more affected if a payment from a business partner or customer falls through.

Bank guarantees only apply to a certain monetary amount and last for a set period of time. There will be a contract in place that dictates in which scenarios and at what point in time the guarantee is applicable.

Before taking on a bank guarantee, the bank does research on the applicant to make sure they are credible and will act as a reliable business partner. In a way, a bank guarantee serves as a seal of approval as the bank has good reason (they’re on the hook for the money) to only accept creditworthy applicants.

Types of Bank Guarantees

There are a few different types of bank agreements, here’s a closer look at the main ones.

Financial Bank Guarantee

With a financial bank guarantee the bank guarantees that the buyer repays all debts they owe to the seller and if they fail to pay those various types of debts, the bank has to assume responsibility for the money owed. The buyer will need to pay a small initial fee when the guarantee is issued.

Performance-Based Bank Guarantee

When it comes to a performance-based guarantee, the beneficiary has the right to seek reparations from the bank if contractual obligations aren’t met due to non-performance. If the counterparty doesn’t deliver on promised services, then the beneficiary will have the choice to claim resulting losses caused by the lack of performance.

Foreign Bank Guarantee

Foreign bank guarantees can apply to unique scenarios such as international export situations. In this case, there may be a fourth party involved — a correspondent bank operating where the beneficiary resides.

What Is a Letter of Credit?

A letter of credit (sometimes referred to as a credit letter) is a document provided by a financial institution such as a bank or credit union that guarantees a payment will be made during a business transaction. The bank acts as an impartial third party throughout the transaction.

When the bank issues a letter of credit, they are assuring that the purchaser will in fact pay for any goods or services on time and in full. If the buyer doesn’t make their payment on time and in full, the bank that issued the letter of credit will guarantee that they will make the payment instead. The bank will cover any remaining overdue balance as long as it doesn’t surpass the full purchase amount.

Letters of credit are commonly used in international trade (but can be used domestically as well) where, understandably, companies require more certainty when making deals across borders. A letter of credit can provide security and confidence to importers and exporters since they know the issuing bank guarantees the payment.

Applicants for letters of credit need to work with a lender in order to secure this backing. The applicant will need to provide a purchase contract, and a copy of the purchase order or export contract (among other documents) during the application process. Applicants will pay a fee to obtain the letter of credit and it usually equates to a percentage of the amount the letter of credit backs.

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Types of Letters of Credit

There are multiple types of letters of credit, with some being more common than others, and some applying to unique situations. Here’s a look at the main types.

Commercial Letter of Credit

This type of letter of credit applies to commercial transactions and is commonly used for international trade deals. In this case the bank makes a direct payment to the beneficiary.

Standby Letter of Credit

A standby letter of credit acts as a secondary payment method. The bank will pay the beneficiary if they are able to prove they didn’t receive the promised product or service from the seller.

Revolving Letter of Credit

A revolving letter of credit can help secure multiple transactions when two parties anticipate doing multiple deals.

Traveler’s Letter of Credit

With a traveler’s letter of credit, the issuing bank guarantees to honor letters of credit signed at certain foreign banks.

Confirmed Letter of Credit

This type of letter of credit specifies that the seller’s bank will be the party to ensure that the seller receives payment if the buyer and their issuing bank default on the agreement.

Special Considerations

Bank guarantees and letters of credit differ slightly, but both serve the same purpose — to give confidence and protection during transactions. Because the financial institutions that back these guarantees confirm that the buyer is creditworthy in the case of a bank guarantee or a letter of credit, the seller can be confident that the transaction should go through as planned if they have one of these agreements in place. If it does not, they know they’ll still receive payment from the institution that backed the agreement.

Key Differences between a Bank Guarantee and Letter of Credit

These are the most important differences to know about a bank guarantee vs. a letter of credit.

Liability

With some letters of credit the bank pays the seller directly so they take on the primary liability.

With a bank guarantee they only pay if the buyer fails to do so, so they take on a secondary liability.

Risk

The bank takes on more risk with a letter of credit as they take on the primary liability, but that means the seller and customer take on more risk with a bank guarantee.

Number of Parties Involved

At least three parties are involved in letters of credit and bank guarantee transactions. To start there is the buyer, seller, and a bank or other type of financial institution. With a letter of credit, a lender also gets involved. Sometimes two banks (more common in foreign transactions) are involved in a letter of credit or bank guarantee.

Payment

With a bank guarantee, the bank only makes payment if the buyer fails to do so. With a letter of credit this is also usually the case, but the bank can be more involved in the transaction, so disputes tend to be resolved faster.

The Takeaway

When considering a letter of credit versus bank guarantee, both can help two parties involved in a transaction feel more confident that the seller will be paid and the buyer will receive the goods or services promised — or they will be reimbursed by the bank that issued the agreement. Each type of agreement is especially helpful when conducting business across borders.

Before setting up a business, it helps to put your personal affairs in order. SoFi’s all-in-one bank account can help get you financially organized. There are no account fees and no minimums. And when you set up an account with direct deposit, you can qualify for a competitive APY.

Better banking is here with up to 3.25% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

How is a letter of credit different from a bank guarantee?

When it comes to a bank guarantee vs. a letter of credit, both letters of credit and bank guarantees function very similarly. The main difference is that with a letter of credit the bank takes on more risk than they do with a bank guarantee.

What is a bank guarantee and how does it work?

Essentially a bank guarantee is an assurance from a bank that a contract between a buyer and a seller will be executed or they will reimburse the wronged party accordingly.

What is the primary difference between a standby letter of credit and a bank guarantee?

The main difference between a letter of credit and a bank guarantee is risk level. With a bank guarantee the bank takes on less risk than they do with a letter of credit.


Photo credit: iStock/fizkes

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 11/3/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
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What's the Difference Between a Hard and Soft Credit Check?

What’s the Difference Between a Hard and Soft Credit Check?

The main difference between a soft vs. hard credit check is that each hard check knocks a few points off your credit score, whereas soft checks don’t affect your score. Both hard and soft checks pull the same financial data but for different purposes. Hard checks are typically done when you apply for a loan or credit card; soft checks are conducted for most other purposes, such as pre-screening for credit card offers.

It’s important for consumers to understand this difference because too many hard checks — also known as hard pulls and hard inquiries — can significantly lower your credit score. This in turn can hurt your chances of getting the best offers on credit cards and loans. Keep reading to learn more about credit checks and how to prevent unnecessary hard checks of your credit file.

What Is a Soft Credit Inquiry?

As noted above, a soft credit check pulls most of your financial data:

•   The number and type of all your credit accounts

•   Credit card balances

•   Loan balances

•   Payment history for revolving credit (credit cards and home equity lines of credit)

•   Payment history for installment loans (auto loans, mortgages, student loans, and personal loans)

•   Accounts gone to collections

•   Tax liens and other public records

Soft inquiries are not used during loan or credit card applications. Instead, they’re used for most other purposes that require a background check, and do not require the consumer’s permission or involvement. Reasons for a soft check can include:

•   Employment pre-screening

•   Rental applications

•   Insurance evaluations

•   Pre-screening for financial offers by mail

•   Loan prequalification

•   Checking your own credit file

•   When you’re shopping personal loan interest rates or credit cards

Soft credit checks do not affect your credit score, no matter how often they take place. Some soft checks appear on your credit report, but not all — you may never find out they took place.

When they are listed, you might see language like “inquiries that do not affect your credit rating,” along with the name of the requester and the date of the inquiry. Only the consumer can see soft inquiries on their report; creditors cannot.

What Is a Hard Credit Inquiry?

A hard credit inquiry typically takes place when you apply for a credit card, mortgage, or car loan, and give permission for the lender or creditor to pull your credit file.

Each hard pull may lower your credit score — but only by less than five points, according to FICO® Score. All hard inquiries appear on your credit report. While they stay there for about two years, they stop affecting your credit score after 12 months.

Not all loans require a hard credit inquiry — but consider that a red flag. Some small local merchants offer short-term loans, high-interest unsecured personal loans. Borrowers must show proof of income via a recent paycheck, but no credit check is required. The risks of these “payday loans” are so great that many states have outlawed them.

Recommended: How to Get Approved for a Personal Loan

Avoiding Hard Credit Inquiries

Consumers should carefully consider if they really need new credit before applying for an account that requires a hard credit check.

For example, department stores and some chains like to entice you to apply for their store credit card by offering a generous discount on your purchase as you’re checking out. In that situation, ask yourself if it’s worth a credit score hit (albeit a small one).

Another way to minimize hard inquiries is to ask which type of credit check a company intends to run. If, for example, a cable company usually requires a hard credit inquiry to open an account, you might ask if a hard pull can be avoided. Other situations where there may be some flexibility include:

•   Rental applications

•   Leasing a car

•   New utility accounts

•   Requesting a higher credit limit on an existing account

•   Opening a money market account

Disputing Inaccurate Hard Inquiries

A good financial rule of thumb is to review your credit reports every year to check for common credit report errors and signs of identity theft. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees consumers the right to access their credit reports each year for free. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to order reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

To check for inaccurate hard inquiries, look for a section on your credit report with any of these labels:

•   Credit inquiries

•   Hard inquiries

•   Regular inquiries

•   Requests viewed by others

You can dispute hard inquiries and remove them from your credit reports under certain circumstances: if you didn’t apply for a new credit account, you didn’t give permission for the inquiry, or the inquiry was added by mistake.

That said, under federal law, certain organizations with a “specific, legitimate purpose” can access your credit file without written permission. They include:

•   Government agencies, usually in the context of licensing or benefits applications

•   Collection agencies

•   Insurance companies, when certain restrictions are met

•   Entities that have a court order, as in child support hearings

Even so, if you didn’t give permission for a hard credit pull, it’s worth filing a dispute to request that the credit check be removed from your report.

Consumers may dispute hard inquiries online through AnnualCreditReport.com, or by writing to the individual credit reporting agencies.

Recommended: Fixed vs Variable Rate Interest Loans

Hard Credit Checks and Your Credit Scores

As mentioned earlier, hard inquiries appear on your credit report, and each hard pull may lower your credit score by five points or less. Here we’ll go into a bit more detail.

Why Hard Inquiries Matter

Multiple hard inquiries within a short time frame can do significant damage to your credit score. For instance, a 20-point hit from four or five hard inquiries could be enough to move you from the Good credit range down to the merely Fair. Someone in a Fair credit range can pay substantially more over a lifetime in interest and fees than someone with a Good score or higher.

How Many Points Will a Hard Inquiry Cost You?

As noted above, each hard pull will lower your credit score by less than five points. One or two hard inquiries per year may not matter, especially if you’re not planning on applying for a loan.

However, consumers should keep in mind that the impact on their credit score remains for 12 months. The real concern is when you’re shopping around for the best interest rate on a loan, and too many hard inquiries over a short period combine to pull down your score in a significant way.

How Long Do Inquiries Stay On Your Credit?

Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for two years. But their impact on your credit score lasts only 12 months.

Soft inquiries may remain on your credit report for one or two years, but only the consumer can see them.

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The Takeaway

Soft credit inquiries do not affect a credit score, while hard credit inquiries usually cost you less than five points. In both cases, businesses pull information from your credit reports. Checking your own credit report counts as a soft pull, as do most other situations where the consumer hasn’t given written permission. Hard pulls are typically done only when you’re applying for a loan or new credit account.

If you’re thinking of opening a new credit card or raising your credit limit on an existing account, consider a personal loan instead. With a SoFi Personal Loan, you can borrow between $5,000 and $100,000 for home improvements, credit card consolidation, medical costs, and more. And you can check your rate in 60 seconds without affecting your credit score.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2022 winner for Best Personal
Loan for Good and Excellent Credit and Best Online Personal Loan overall.


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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s
website
.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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How To Get a Refund That Was Sent to a Canceled Credit Card

How to Get a Refund That Was Sent to a Canceled Credit Card

When a refund goes to a canceled credit card, it may seem like that cash is lost for good. In fact, getting your money back just requires a few calls to the credit card company and the merchant, and a little patience.

However, there are ways to avoid a refund going to a canceled credit card and methods to recover the cash if it’s stuck in limbo between the retailer and the credit card company. Keep reading to learn how to avoid this situation, and what your options are.

Can You Stop a Refund From Going to a Canceled Credit Card?

To avoid a refund going to a canceled credit card, the easiest approach is to reach out to the merchant before starting the refund process.

Ask the business if it’s willing to refund the purchase differently. That’ll likely mean store credit or a gift card. In some instances, it could mean receiving cash back or refunding the purchase to a different credit card.

Going to the business first may involve calling customer service or visiting a bricks-and-mortar location. If the business is willing to refund the purchase differently, you’ll avoid the long process of getting back a refund that went to a canceled credit card.

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Recommended: Common Credit Report Errors and How to Dispute Them

Steps for Getting a Refund on a Canceled Credit Card

When a refund is going to a canceled credit card, you have a few options to ensure the credit doesn’t go to waste. It can help to know a little about how credit cards work, but it’s not essential.

1. Check if Your Canceled Card Account Is Still Open

In the event that a credit card was canceled due to theft or loss, don’t worry. If the account is still open under a new card number, the refund from the merchant will be credited back to the new card.

Recommended: How to Report Identity Theft

2. See if the Refund Was Accepted by the Card Issuer

When there’s no longer a credit card associated with the account, things get trickier. What happens next will vary based on how long ago the cardholder closed the account.

If the customer can still log in to their account, they may see the refund reflected online. But if the account is long closed and can’t be accessed online, first the customer should reach out to the merchant and ask for the Acquirer Reference Number. Armed with this info, they can then talk to the credit card company.

3. Request the Refund

If the merchant says the refund was posted to the old account, call the credit card company and request a refund via check. This is when the Acquirer Reference Number can come in handy. In some cases, the credit card company or bank may ask for a written request.

4. Be Patient

A standard refund usually takes a week or so, but getting a refund from a canceled credit card can take longer, depending on merchant policy, credit card company policy, and even the returned item or service.

Generally, expect a refund between seven and 14 business days after your request. If 30 business days elapse with no refund, it’s time to follow up with the merchant.

5. Return Directly to the Merchant for the Refund

If 30 days pass without a refund, it may be time to return to the store to track down the refund.

In some cases, the card issuer may reject a refund to a closed account and send it back to the store. Reach out to the store’s customer service, and ask if it received a bounce back from the credit card issuer. If the store did, customers might be able to request a refund in the form of store credit or cash.

This process can be complicated or tedious, depending on the retailer’s size and bookkeeping system. An independent retailer is unlikely to have a customer service department, so going to the store with receipts and reference numbers could help speed up the process.

How To Avoid a Refund Going to a Canceled Card

Asking for an alternative refund method is one way to avoid a refund going to a canceled card, but here are a few other ways to steer clear of the lengthy process.

•   Conduct an audit of transactions before canceling a credit card. Are there any purchases you plan to return? Keeping the card open until the refund is processed could make sense.

•   Keep an eye on finances. A money tracking app can help you keep tabs on your spending, avoiding the confusion of which refund goes on what card. Some services also offer free credit monitoring and a debt payoff planner.

•   Think long and hard before canceling a credit card. Canceling a credit card can harm your credit score, and canceling one out of the blue may lead to more issues than benefits. Closing a card without thinking it through could lead to refunds on a canceled card.

Recommended: What is The Difference Between Transunion and Equifax

The Takeaway

The simplest way to avoid a refund going to a canceled card is by going straight to the merchant and asking them to refund the amount through an alternative means. That could mean getting store credit, but it’ll sidestep the credit card company and get your money back faster. If a refund does go to a canceled card, it’s not lost for good. It’ll just take a few steps to get the refund.

Tracking refunds and spending can be overwhelming with multiple accounts. That’s where SoFi Relay comes in. SoFi Relay tracks spending all in one place, ensuring you’ll never miss a refund.

Track your money like a champion.

FAQ

Can I get a refund that was sent to a closed credit card?

Yes, but getting the refund will depend on if the account is still open, how long the card has been closed, and the credit card company’s policies.


Photo credit: iStock/MBezvodinskikh

SoFi’s Insights tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
*Terms and conditions apply. (Must click on the link to be eligible.) This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the Rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed into SoFi accounts such as cash in SoFi Checking and Savings or loan balances, Stock Bits, fractional shares and cryptocurrency subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.

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