How to Get a Travel Visa, and Where You Need One

Sometimes, travel involves more paperwork than just your passport and boarding pass. Travel visas are documents that grant you the privilege to travel to a given country. Depending on where you’re coming from, where you’re headed, and why, you may or may not need a visa to get there — but it’s important to find out whether you do as part of your travel planning.

If you need a visa, you’ll have to apply for one with the country you’re planning to visit. What’s more, the application will likely come with a fee.

To help you figure out the wide world of visa requirements, read on, and learn:

•   What the different types of travel visas are

•   Which travel destinations require a visa

•   How to get a visa

•   How long it takes to get a visa

Types of Travel Visas


While there are dozens of visas available for different purposes, they can be broken down into four categories: tourist, immigrant, student, and work.

•   Tourist visas are for travelers visiting a country for a short time. This is most likely what you’re looking for if you’re planning a vacation. Some countries don’t require United States citizens to apply for this type of visa ahead of time, but there may still be restrictions that apply to your travel.

For example, as long as you have a valid U.S. Passport, you can travel to most parts of Europe without applying for a visa beforehand. But you can only stay within the borders of the Schengen Zone for 90 out of 180 consecutive days. The passport stamp you receive on arrival is your visa. (The Schengen Zone encompasses most of the EU countries, some Scandinavian ones, and a few others.)

•   Immigrant visas are for people who are hoping to establish permanent residence in their destination country. Applying for this type of visa can be a lengthy, multi-step process, and getting a visa doesn’t guarantee you’ll be granted citizenship. Still, it’s an important first step toward emigrating to a different country.

•   Student visas are for those studying in a foreign country. To apply for one, you’ll need to prove that you’re enrolled in a legitimate, qualified school in the destination country.

•   Work visas allow their holders to accept employment in a country outside of their citizenship. These visas are usually temporary but can be renewed if the employment continues.

Many visas can be applied for online; these are known as e-visas. Increasingly, many countries are moving toward online visa applications. Exceptions are made for those who can’t apply online due to a disability or other extenuating circumstance.

Recommended: Guide to Saving Money on Hotels

How to Apply for a Travel Visa


If you are planning a trip and realize you need a travel visa, here’s how to spring into action. You’ll want to apply for it with your destination country’s government travel agency. During the application process, you’ll be asked to provide basic identifying information and, if applying online, you may be asked to upload a photo of your passport. The U.S. Department of State is a great resource for up-to-date information on which countries require a visa and how to apply for them.

Seems simple, right? It is, but with a couple important caveats when contemplating how to get a visa.

•   Having a valid passport isn’t always enough to enable travel. Many countries require your passport to have at least six months left before the expiration date at the time of your trip.

•   Applying for a passport in the first place can be a somewhat lengthy process; it may take as long as 11 weeks to get your passport in the mail after you apply. Even expedited processing, which comes with an additional fee, starts at five weeks of lead time. All of which is to say, make sure you have your passport ducks in a row well before you’re getting ready to actually apply for your visa.

Which Countries Require a Visa for U.S. Citizens?


Visa requirements change regularly. A case in point: The United Kingdom, which has long allowed U.S. citizens to travel without a visa, will soon require visitors to go through an online application system.

For the most up-to-date information — and before you lock in flights for a family vacation — check with the U.S. Department of State or your destination country’s travel agency to make sure you have everything set up for success before you head to the airport. At that time, you can also find out how long it will take to receive your visa. For e-visas, it may take just a couple of days.

That said, here are a few popular travel destinations that do require visas for U.S. travelers, along with notes to help you plan.

Country Application Process Fee Duration of Visit
Australia Apply online with the Australian Department of Home Affairs AUD20 processing fee Up to 3 months at a time over 12 months
China China requires U.S. citizens to apply for a visa ahead of travel. Regular processing takes 4 days, and express service takes 3. You must have at least 6 months of validity on your passport and may need to meet other requirements, such as providing proof of round-trip air travel. $140 Single, double, and multi-entry visas are available over the course of 6 months, and 12 months or more
India You can apply for a visa online; processing may take 5 business days or longer $25-$80, depending on visa duration Not more than 180 days of any calendar year
Kenya E-visa required, along with proof of yellow fever vaccination $51 Visa is valid for three months from the date of issue and may be extended for 90 days
Russia The U.S. Embassy calls Russia’s visa program “restrictive and complicated,” and it can take up to 20 days to get an exit visa if your visa expires during your visit. Still, it’s possible to apply for a visa ahead of time if you have your heart set on a visit, though the process will take research, time investment, and several steps. $160 90 days in any 180-day period
United Kingdom As mentioned above, the U.K. will soon require an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) of U.S. travelers. This is different from, but similar to, a visa. Processing will take a few days, but the application only takes a few minutes. Free 180 days
Vietnam You must apply for an e-visa online before arrival. Urgent processing is available, but normally processing takes 2 business days. $17-$65 depending on visa duration One-month single and multiple entry, and 3-month single and multiple entry visas available

Visa-Free Places for U.S. Passport Holders


To repeat the caveat again: The best way to know for sure if a visa is required is to research your specific destination ahead of time. That said, here are some popular destinations that are currently visa-free for U.S. passport holders. Note: This list is not exhaustive, and time restrictions may still hold.

•   American Samoa

•   Antigua and Barbuda

•   Argentina

•   Aruba

•   Belize

•   Bermuda

•   Brazil

•   Botswana

•   Canada

•   Chile

•   Colombia

•   Costa Rica

•   Curacao

•   Ecuador

•   Europe: Much of Europe allows visa-free entry for up to 90 days

•   Dominican Republic

•   Haiti

•   Honduras

•   Jamaica

•   Japan

•   Mexico

•   Morocco

•   Namibia

•   Nicaragua

•   Panama

•   Peru

•   Puerto Rico

•   Philippines

•   Scandinavia: Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway don’t require visas for stays of 90 days or less

•   Singapore

•   Senegal

•   South Africa

•   Thailand

•   Trinidad and Tobago.

Recommended: Where to Keep Your Travel Fund

Tips to Help Your Travel Plans Run Smoothly


Making sure you have the visa you need is only one part of travel planning. While you’re getting organized, here are a few more things to think about:

•   See if your furbaby needs a visa. Those traveling with pets may need to bring certain documentation in order to get their crate past customs. Otherwise, you might be unpleasantly surprised by a lengthy quarantine requirement.

•   Make sure your money is ready to travel, too. For international travel, it’s pretty key to have a travel credit card or cash back rewards credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

•   Get rewarded for air travel. If you usually fly with a specific airline, applying for an airline credit card could help you stack miles — and fly further for less.

•   Find ways to save. No matter how you slice it, international travel is expensive. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to save on everything from lodging to rental cars — so you don’t eat through your travel fund all in one go.

The Takeaway


U.S. nationals are lucky to have a long list of countries that don’t require a visa for them to visit. However, some countries do (including popular destinations), so it’s important to research requirements. Find out if you need a visa for your trip well before your travel dates so you don’t run into unexpected delays.

SoFi Travel is a new service exclusively for SoFi members. Through a partnership with Expedia, we make it easy to find the lowest rates and book your reservations — for flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, and more — all in one place. Earn 2x rewards when booking with your SoFi Mastercard or debit card. And when you redeem your SoFi rewards for travel, you get a 25% bonus: $100 of reward points are worth $125.


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1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

**Terms, and conditions apply: The SoFi Travel Portal is operated by Expedia. To learn more about Expedia, click https://www.expediagroup.com/home/default.aspx.
When you use your SoFi Credit Card to make a purchase on the SoFi Travel Portal, you will earn a number of SoFi Member Rewards points equal to 3% of the total amount you spend on the SoFi Travel Portal. Members can save up to 10% or more on eligible bookings.
Eligibility: You must be a SoFi registered user.
You must agree to SoFi’s privacy consent agreement.
You must book the travel on SoFi’s Travel Portal reached directly through a link on the SoFi website or mobile application. Travel booked directly on Expedia's website or app, or any other site operated or powered by Expedia is not eligible.
You must pay using your SoFi Credit Card.

SoFi Member Rewards: All terms applicable to the use of SoFi Member Rewards apply. To learn more please see: https://www.sofi.com/rewards/ and Terms applicable to Member Rewards.
Additional Terms: Changes to your bookings will affect the Rewards balance for the purchase. Any canceled bookings or fraud will cause Rewards to be rescinded. Rewards can be delayed by up to 7 business days after a transaction posts on Members’ SoFi Credit Card ledger. SoFi reserves the right to withhold Rewards points for suspected fraud, misuse, or suspicious activities.
©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).


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 cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. 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.

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.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

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What Does Annual Income Mean When Applying for a Credit Card?

When you apply for a credit card, the credit card issuer will ask you for your annual income. They want to be sure you have the means to pay your bills on time. Issuers may ask you to calculate your income in specific ways. For example, they may ask for net income or gross income when filling out an application.

If you’re single and work a salaried job, this may be fairly easy to figure out. However, for many people, income can be complicated and comes from a wide variety of sources. It also might be shared with a spouse.

Here’s a look at what you need to know about what annual income means on a credit card application, and how to know what types of income to include if you have multiple sources.

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Track your credit score for free. Sign up and get $10.*


What Counts as Income?

For the most part, any money that is paid to you directly and that you have reasonable access to counts as income. This includes money you received from an employer or, if you’re self-employed, from clients. It can also come from other sources, such as investments or retirement benefits. Note that income tends to vary by age, and it is not the same as net worth.

The following are some examples of types of income credit card issuers may consider:

•   Salary and wages

•   Commissions

•   Tips

•   Bonuses

•   Income from a spouse or partner

•   Pension benefits

•   Social Security benefits

•   Public assistance

•   Alimony and child support payments that you receive

•   Interest

•   Dividends

You may not have to include alimony or child support payments as income on a credit card application. The reason? Credit card issuers understand that those payments may already be earmarked for the support of an individual.

Recommended: What’s the Difference Between Income and Net Worth?

What Is the Difference Between Gross and Net Income?

When it comes to calculating income, it’s helpful to know what gross income and net income mean.

Your gross income is the total amount of money you make before any other deductions are taken from it. Deductions may include things like taxes, 401(k) contributions, and health insurance premiums. Your gross income represents income from all sources.

Your net income, on the other hand, represents how much money you have once all deductions have been made. For individuals, this is their “take-home” pay, which can be considerably smaller than gross income. Credit card issuers may ask for net income as it represents money that you can access and isn’t earmarked for other purposes.

Tools such as spending apps can help you organize and manage the money you earn.

How to Calculate Your Gross Annual Income

Calculating gross income is relatively simple. You’ll need to add up income from all sources. For tax purposes, this will include wages, tips, bonuses, commission, capital gains, dividends, alimony, pension payments, interest, and rental income. You can find your adjusted gross income by subtracting above-the-line tax deductions, such as contributions to 401(k)s and traditional IRAs.

Credit card issuers can look at other income that’s not necessarily taxed, such as life insurance payouts of gifts. So be sure to include that in your calculation for a credit card application.

How to Calculate Your Annual Net Income

Calculate your net income by taking your gross income and subtracting deductions, including taxes, such as income taxes, capital gains tax, and employment taxes. You’ll also need to subtract contributions to retirement accounts and insurance premium payments.

If you receive a paycheck, there may be a line that spells out net income.

Recommended: How to Calculate Your Net Worth and Wealth

What Types of Income Don’t Count on a Credit Card Application?

There are some types of income that you can’t include on a credit card application. Generally, these are forms of income that you don’t have access to. For example, if your wages are being garnished to pay off a debt, you cannot include that amount of the garnished wages as income, as that money belongs to your creditor. Similarly, you can’t include money that goes toward alimony or child support payments or that you need to use to pay off tax debt.

What Happens If I Lie About My Income on a Credit Card Application?

It may be tempting to fudge your income on a credit card application. After all, tacking on a few thousands dollars to your income may be the difference between being approved for a credit card and being rejected. That said, you should never lie about your income on a credit card application. If you do, you’re committing fraud, and it’s a federal offense. So while it may not seem like a big deal to give your income a little boost, if you’re caught, you could face up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

What Other Information Does a Credit Card Application Require?

In addition to income, you can expect a credit card issuer to ask for the following information on a credit card application:

•   Legal name and a valid U.S. address

•   Housing costs, which help the issuer determine how much debt you can afford to pay back

•   Your Social Security or Individuals Taxpayer Identification Number, which is needed for the credit card issuer to make a hard pull on your credit report to check your credit score

Issuers consider your credit score when they determine whether to extend credit to you. A high credit score shows lenders that you have a history of responsibly managing debts and paying your bills on time. Lower credit scores indicate that a borrower is less likely to make on-time payments, and lenders may be less likely to approve them for a card.

The best way to maintain a healthy credit score is to always pay your bills on time. You can receive a free credit report each year from the three major credit reporting bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Check your credit report regularly to ensure there are no mistakes that could be dragging down your score. Report mistakes to the credit bureaus immediately.

The Takeaway

Credit card companies look at your annual income to determine how much credit you can afford and to assess their risk in extending you credit. Some may specify how they wish you to calculate your annual income, frequently asking for gross or net income. Gross income is the total amount of money you make before any other deductions are taken from it. Net income represents how much money you have after deductions have been made.

To calculate either figure, you’ll need to gather information about all your income sources. A money tracking app can help you keep tabs on your finances. The SoFi app connects all of your accounts in one dashboard so you can get a bird-eye view of your finances, track income and spending, and monitor your credit score.

Stay up to date on your finances by seeing exactly how your money comes and goes.

FAQ

What does it Mean when a credit card application asks for annual income?

Credit card companies may specify how they want you to report your annual income. They may ask for gross income, which includes all income before taxes and deductions, or net income, which is income after taxes and deductions have been subtracted.

What counts as annual income?

Annual income includes all money that you can say you reasonably have access to. This typically includes salary and wages, commissions, tips, bonuses, income from a spouse or partner, pension benefits, Social Security benefits, public assistance, alimony and child support payments, interest, and dividends.

What doesn’t count as annual income?

You cannot include income that you don’t have access to, such as garnished wages, alimony and child support payments you’re required to make, or money that must be used to pay off tax debt.


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SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi 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. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. 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 is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

*Terms and conditions apply. 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 towards active SoFi accounts, such as your SoFi Checking or Savings account, 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.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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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3 Father-Son Trip Ideas

Travel isn’t the only way to strengthen your relationship with your dad. You can spend quality time together more easily and cheaply on the couch or in the backyard. But those routine interactions probably won’t become lifelong memories.

Exploring places together, from the Grand Canyon to a cool urban landscape, can take you out of your comfort zone and pull you closer. Discovering new sights, sounds, and tastes as a unit can be a wonderful way to reconnect.

Whether you’re the parent or an adult child, here are some inspiring ideas for creating an unforgettable trip:

•   How to plan a father-son trip

•   Ways to afford a father-son trip

•   Great destinations for father-son travel

Recommended: Apply for an Unlimited Cash Back Credit Card

Tips for Planning Your Trip

A little planning can help create a meaningful father-son trip that avoids the usual travel hiccups.

•   Set up a travel fund: The first step in planning any father and son trip is establishing a budget. Add up all the projected expenses, such as flights, hotel, attractions, food, entertainment, and incidentals. Once you have that figure, divide it by the number of months until your trip.

Then start contributing that amount each month. But don’t keep the money under your mattress: Set up a travel fund. The fund can be saved in a separate savings account or a short-term CD. Setting up automatic transfers or adding “found money” (say, a tax refund or a bonus at work) can speed up your savings’ growth. Look for a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) as well to help your money grow more rapidly. Online banks tend to offer the best rates.

•   Book now and pay later: Another easy way to manage your father-son trip costs is to book now and pay later. Many travel companies, airlines, and hotels offer payment plans, so you can book your trip and spread the costs over time. This can be helpful if you want to take advantage of early booking discounts or offers. And you may be able to avoid the steep interest fees that can accrue when you put everything on your credit card.

•   Consider travel insurance: Part of smart planning can be recognizing that sometimes things don’t go your way. Events may happen before or during your father-son trip (someone gets sick, your car decides to conk out) that may cost you additional money. Did you know that your favorite rewards credit card may already include travel insurance?

Your credit card travel insurance can cover things like lost luggage, new hotels, family emergencies, and other-last minute changes. You’ll want to learn what your specific card provides. If the coverage doesn’t meet your needs, you can look into additional travel insurance if you’re worried about things going awry.

•   Reward yourself. Reward points are available from all sorts of sources, such as credit cards, airlines, car rental agencies, hotel chains, bus and train lines, and more. Do your research to see what’s available, and you may be able to whittle your costs down or even score some freebies, such as a no-pay night at a hotel. Or you might score a free flight or an upgrade. Sometimes, when it comes to credit card miles vs. cash back, you may find that the travel bonus is better than the dollar bills.

Recommended: Traveling with a Pet

Popular Destinations for Fathers & Sons

Beaches, baseball games, breweries, and big cities: Those are just a few of the places that can make for a terrific father and son trip. The best destination for you will depend on your shared interests and budget. And also your timing: If it’s summer travel you’re planning, heading to Orlando may be too hot for some folks.

If your family tree goes back to Ireland, a long weekend in Dublin might make an incredible experience for you two to explore your roots. Closer to home, you might rather visit sites from the Revolutionary War if you’re history buffs.

Some fathers and sons might love to go camping; others prefer to stay at a swanky hotel in a big city and eat their way through some of the town’s best restaurants. It’s really all about what makes the two of you and your relationship tick while getting you out of your usual element.

3 Sample Getaway Itineraries

Need some help figuring out where to go? Here are a few itineraries for a father-son trip that may spark some ideas or even help you get booking.

1. Natural Wonders: National Parks

National parks are an excellent, affordable choice for a father-son trip, especially if you love the outdoors. With 63 national parks in 30 states, there’s no shortage of options to choose from. Purchasing a national park pass in advance will grant you access to all parks for one year. Expect to pay between $20 (seniors) and $80 for an annual pass. One idea:

•   Utah is a popular destination for those looking to explore the jaw-dropping natural wonders of the United States. The state is home to Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion National Parks, which all have awesome, unusual vistas.

•   Whether you are renting a car or using your own wheels to take a road trip through Utah, Zion National Park is a great option for a multi-day father and son trip. You can reserve a campsite at Watchman Campground; a free shuttle bus can take you to one of the many trails, where you can spend quality time birdwatching one of the 200 species at the park. Father and son evenings can be spent stargazing, as Zion is certified as an International Dark Sky Park.

•   Other activities include hiking the Emerald Pools Trail and driving 90 minutes to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, which is known for its unique, otherworldly rock formations called hoodoos. You can explore the park by foot or even by horseback.

2. Hit a Grand Slam: Stadium Trip

For fathers and sons who share a love of sports, a baseball trip can be an excellent choice. With over 2,400 MLB games per season played at 30 ballparks, there are plenty of opportunities to catch a couple of games and try some tasty stadium foods.

If you want to catch a couple of games at different stadiums, look no further than a father and son trip to Kansas City and St. Louis. (Bonus: With St. Louis being a travel hub, you’ll have many opportunities to use your favorite airline credit card and earn points.)

•   Start in St. Louis. After getting settled at your hotel, go visit the renowned Gateway Arch, where you can ascend inside and catch views of St. Louis.

•   Head down to Ballpark Village for a little pregame snack (maybe a Bratzel, a bratwurst wrapped in pretzel dough) and watch highlights on their many outdoor screens. Then enjoy the game at the adjacent Busch Stadium as well as the amazing cityscape views inside the stadium.

•   Another highlight of a father-son trip could be the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum which celebrates the rich history of African-American baseball while touching on the league’s social impact.

•   Hop behind the wheel and drive 250 miles to catch another game at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. With its unique Crown scoreboard and 1970s architecture, it is recognized as one of the game’s best experiences.

•   You can hit up fan favorite Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que for their famous, finger-lickin’-good food.

3. Make Family History: A Historical Father-Son Trip

For the history buffs, consider a historical father and son trip to Washington, D.C. With its abundance of museums, monuments, and government buildings, this city has something for everyone.

•   After you’ve checked into your lodging, you might take an evening monument tour that showcases the city’s stunning landmarks under glamorous lighting. There are both guided and self-guided tours, which are a great, affordable way to visit the sites without a lot of driving.

•   The next day, start with one or more of the city’s world renowned museums, such as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Holocaust Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, or the National Museum of Asian Art.

•   You might spend an afternoon at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. Both self-guided and guided tours are available where you can learn about the life of our first President.

•   Another great stop on a father-son trip would be driving a little more than two hours to Gettysburg, PA, for their annual Civil War Reenactment. Walk through the different camp sites, explore the battlefield, and take in the sights and sounds of this historically accurate event.

Recommended: How to Save Money on Hotels

Accessible Ideas for Less Mobile Dads

For fathers and sons who may be less mobile, there are still plenty of trip options.

•   There are cruises and riverboat vacations that let you relax on board your ship and take in the sights.

•   Train travel can be another option, especially historic scenic railroads along the West Coast or through the Carolinas and Great Smoky Mountains.

•   Tours in your area can make for a fun father-son trip, too. The Oregon Fruit Loop, near the Hood River, brings visitors to 30 farms with fruit stands and wineries. This unique experience allows you to choose the time and pace you spend at each stop while spending quality time in the car together.

What About Father-Daughter Getaways?

Family bonding doesn’t have to be just for the guys in the family. For those looking for fun father-daughter getaways, as with father-son trips, it’s all about your shared interests. Beach lovers can spend a couple of days by the shore. Or if snowboarding is more your speed, head to the mountains. Can’t resist a musical or some other live theater? Try a visit to NYC and some Broadway shows.

For dads of younger daughters, Disney vacations can be a treat, or a weekend that revolves around a visit to one of the nine American Girl stores can be a great bonding experience.

The Takeaway

A father-son trip can be a fantastic way to have some quality time and make amazing memories. What’s more, by planning ahead, budgeting wisely, and knowing how to find good deals, you can have an experience that’s as affordable as it is unforgettable.

Whether you want to travel more or get a better ROI for your travel dollar, SoFi can help. SoFi Travel is a new service exclusively for SoFi members that lets you budget, plan, and book your next trip in a convenient one-stop shop. SoFi takes the guessing game out of how much you can afford for that honeymoon, family vacation, or quick getaway — and we help you save too.


SoFi Travel can take you farther.


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1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.

**Terms, and conditions apply: The SoFi Travel Portal is operated by Expedia. To learn more about Expedia, click https://www.expediagroup.com/home/default.aspx.
When you use your SoFi Credit Card to make a purchase on the SoFi Travel Portal, you will earn a number of SoFi Member Rewards points equal to 3% of the total amount you spend on the SoFi Travel Portal. Members can save up to 10% or more on eligible bookings.
Eligibility: You must be a SoFi registered user.
You must agree to SoFi’s privacy consent agreement.
You must book the travel on SoFi’s Travel Portal reached directly through a link on the SoFi website or mobile application. Travel booked directly on Expedia's website or app, or any other site operated or powered by Expedia is not eligible.
You must pay using your SoFi Credit Card.

SoFi Member Rewards: All terms applicable to the use of SoFi Member Rewards apply. To learn more please see: https://www.sofi.com/rewards/ and Terms applicable to Member Rewards.
Additional Terms: Changes to your bookings will affect the Rewards balance for the purchase. Any canceled bookings or fraud will cause Rewards to be rescinded. Rewards can be delayed by up to 7 business days after a transaction posts on Members’ SoFi Credit Card ledger. SoFi reserves the right to withhold Rewards points for suspected fraud, misuse, or suspicious activities.
©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).


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.

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. 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.

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.

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Credit Card Returned Payment Fees

Credit Card Returned Payment Fees

It goes without saying that getting hit with a credit card fee isn’t anyone’s preferred way to spend their money. If possible, you probably want to dodge those charges so you can use that cash elsewhere, perhaps putting it towards the bill itself or buying yourself a great meal.

One common type of credit card fee is a returned payment fee. This is when you get charged with a fee because your credit card payment doesn’t go through and is returned by the bank.

Fortunately, this charge can easily be avoided. Read on to learn the ropes, including:

•   What is a returned payment fee?

•   What happens if a credit card payment is returned?

•   Who charges a returned payment fee?

•   What are tips for avoiding a returned payment fee?

What Is a Returned Payment Fee?

A returned payment fee is a one-time penalty a credit card issuer charges you when a credit card payment you make online or via phone or check gets declined by the bank.

How much is a returned payment fee? If you don’t have enough funds in your bank account to cover the bill or the credit card issuer isn’t able to process your transaction for a number of reasons, you might be charged a returned payment fee of anywhere from $25 to $40 by the credit card issuer.

How Credit Card Returned Payment Fees Work

Here’s how credit card returned payment fees work: Say you set up a $200 autopay for your next monthly credit card bill, which is due on the 21st of the month. If when that date arrives, your account only has $185 in it (perhaps you had an emergency car repair to pay for), the autopay to your credit card will not go through properly since you don’t have enough money in the linked bank account. That’s when you get charged a returned payment fee, in addition to still owing the credit card company your monthly payment.

Typically, a credit card returned payment fee will be included in your next credit card statement.

Worth noting: You may well incur other fees. Your bank might charge you a separate non-sufficient funds fee. The average non-sufficient funds fee is $34.

Generally, this could impact your credit score if a returned payment doesn’t go through before your statement due date, which results in you being late on your payment or missing it altogether.

What Happens If a Credit Card Payment Is Returned?

If your credit card payment doesn’t go through due to lack of funds in your bank account or for some other reason, the credit card issuer will charge you with a returned payment fee. In some instances, they will make a second attempt to collect your payment before assessing you for this kind of fee.

What happens if the payment goes through after you are charged a returned payment fee? The credit card issuer might still charge you and collect the fee.

How Long Does It Take for a Returned Payment to Be Refunded?

You may be able to get a returned payment fee waived. This is most likely to occur if this is the first time you have missed an on-time payment.

Another scenario: Mistakes happen, and if you believe that you are wrongly or incorrectly charged for a returned payment, you can contact your credit card issuer to discuss and/or dispute the charge.

Typically, any credit card refunds appear on your statement in three to seven business days.

Recommended: What Is Credit Card Processing?

Who Charges a Returned Payment Fee?

The credit card issuer typically charges a returned payment fee. This is a separate and different charge than a non-sufficient fee, which is charged by the financial institution where you hold your account.

Types of Returned Payment Fees

In many cases, you can get hit with a returned payment on a credit card. The credit card issuer will charge this fee if there’s not enough funds in your bank account to cover the payment or if the transaction fails to go through for some other reason.

The other main type of returned payment fee is charged by a financial institution when your check bounces or you don’t have enough money in your bank to cover a transaction on your debit card. This is also known as a non-sufficient funds fee.

Beyond those fees, you might also be assessed a returned payment fee on other kinds of accounts, such as a gym that charges a recurring fee, a streaming service, or a car leasing company.

Recommended: Guide to Choosing a Credit Card

Tips for Avoiding Credit Card Returned Payment Fees

Here, some tactics to help you avoid returned payment fees from your credit card:

•   Always double-check that you have enough money in the bank to cover the payment. Some people like to keep a cash cushion in your account to help prevent overdrafts.

•   It might be wise to have a separate checking account to use on discretionary spending and another one for recurring monthly bills, such as credit card payments.

•   To make sure you stay in the green, consider moving money from your main checking account to a sub account whenever you make a charge on your credit card. For instance, if you spend $30 on dinner, then move $30 into the sub account. That way, when it’s time to make a credit card payment, the money will be ready.

•   If you’re having trouble with autopay on a credit card payment, consider making several manual payments throughout the billing cycle. For instance, split the payment in half and make two separate, manual payments.

Other Credit Card Fees

Here are other common credit card costs and fees:

•   Interest fees. If you keep a balance on your credit card, you’ll be charged interest on the outstanding balance. Your balance, plus the APR (annual percentage rate), which is the interest rate plus any tacked-on fees, can fluctuate in tandem with the prime rate, impacting how much you pay on interest on a card.

That interest (and other fees) are among the key ways that credit cards make money.

•   Annual fee. Some cards might charge an annual fee, which is billed on your anniversary month. So if you opened a credit card in March, then you’ll be charged an annual fee every March as long as you keep the card open. Some issuers might waive the credit card annual fee the first year you open your card.

•   Late fees. If you’re late on making a payment, you could get charged a late fee on your credit card. This fee depends on the credit card issuer and can be anywhere from $15 to $35 for a single charge.

•   Foreign transaction fee. If you use your card in another country or make a purchase from a company that’s not based in the U.S., you might be charged a foreign transaction fee. These fees are anywhere from 1% to 3% of the amount. Some travel cards and international credit cards don’t have a foreign transaction fee.

You might also opt for a conventional credit card that doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees, which can help you save when you’re abroad.

•   Balance transfer fee. If you’re moving the balance from one credit card to another, there’s likely a balance transfer fee. This is a one-time fee that is either a flat fee or a percentage of the transfer amount, which is anywhere from 3% to 5%. Balance transfers are usually a tactic to save on interest fees, so you’ll want to make sure the savings is greater than any fees.

The Takeaway

A credit card returned payment fee can feel like a nuisance at best and a financial strain at worst. Fortunately, with a bit of vigilance and planning on your part, returned payment fees — and credit card fees in general — can be avoided.

When shopping for a credit card, you’ll also want to see what the card offers in terms of perks. With the SoFi Credit Card, you’ll enjoy 2% unlimited cash back rewards, which you can use in a variety of ways to meet your personal and financial goals.

Spend smarter with the SoFi Credit Card.

FAQ

What happens when a payment is returned?

When a payment is returned and your card card issuer is unable to process a payment, they usually charge you with a returned payment fee. In some cases, they might make a second attempt to collect the money before hitting you with a fee.

Is a returned payment a late payment?

A returned payment and a late payment are two different things and, in the case of fees, two different kinds of charges. A returned payment fee is charged when there is an issue with your payment and the payee is unable to receive the funds. If you are able to make a payment to a payee but it happens after the due date, it could result in a late payment fee on your account.

What should I do about returned credit card payments?

If a credit card payment gets returned, then you should aim to make your payment as soon as possible. Or, contact your credit card issuer if they might be able to waive it, especially if it’s your first time having this problem. Also take steps to avoid this scenario in the future.


Photo credit: iStock/FreshSplash

1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

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.

The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. 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.

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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Guide to Canceling a Pending Transaction

If you spot a pending credit card transaction that isn’t correct or isn’t even yours, canceling it will likely be your top priority. And for good reason: It’s often wise to act quickly when dealing with this kind of financial situation rather than waiting to see how things work out. You want to take action so that the charge gets canceled before it’s posted to your credit card account.

Otherwise, it may take a few more steps to dispute the transaction or navigate the refund process with the merchant. Which could wind up changing your available credit for a period of time. Also, there could be the shadow of credit card fraud hanging over this kind of situation.

Here, you’ll learn how to spring into action if you’re in this situation, including:

•   What are pending charges on a credit card?

•   How can I cancel a pending transaction?

•   When do I contact my credit card issuer or bank?

•   Are there consequences to canceling a pending transaction?

What Are Pending Charges?

Pending charges or transactions are purchases on your credit (or debit card) that have not yet officially been posted to your account. When you use plastic to pay for something, the retailer will issue a charge which can take time to clear. Or, if there’s a pre-authorized payment (say, you’re paying a deposit at a hotel to cover any incidental charges), it may show up on a credit card as a pending transaction.

These charges may then stay pending until posted, which can take up to several days. It could take longer if the merchant needs to complete tasks such as shipping the item you’ve purchased or adding the tip amount on a meal.

While these charges are pending, they won’t accrue interest if you’re using a credit card, nor will it count as part of the outstanding balance. However, it can affect your overall available balance and how much you can spend.

Not familiar with pending charges? No worries. In many cases you may not see pending transactions since credit and debit card issuers process them fairly quickly.

Can I Cancel Pending Transactions?

In many cases, you may not be able to stop a pending transaction because they haven’t been posted yet. That’s an aspect of how credit cards function; there can be a lag time as the charge works its way through processing.

Credit card issuers tend to help their cardholders dispute a transaction once it’s posted. So if you see a pending charge that looks incorrect, you may have better luck contacting the retailer in question to resolve the matter. This might yield the best results in terms of how to cancel a pending charge on your credit card.

However, there may be some scenarios when it may make better sense to talk to your bank or credit card company instead, such as unfamiliar or unauthorized transactions. In this case, you might be dealing with fraud, and your financial institution or the card issuer should be able to offer guidance.

Recommended: Guide to Canceling a Credit Card Payment

When to Contact the Merchant

You just read that, in general, it’s better to contact the merchant first if you want to cancel a pending transaction. But now, consider some of the reasons why you might want to get those charges struck from your account:

You Were Accidentally Charged Twice

Sometimes mistakes happen, and a merchant can process a purchase twice. It could even be a tech glitch where you pressed the “purchase” button on an online order and wound up with two orders (or more) instead of one.

If you notice two identical transactions on the same day and from the same merchant, you’re most likely double charged. In this case, it’s better to contact the merchant immediately so they can cancel the extra charge and don’t ship you excessive products.

You Changed Your Mind

Whether it’s buyer’s remorse or you suddenly realize you already have the item you just bought, it’s not unusual to change your mind. The sooner you can contact the merchant, the more likely the pending transaction can get canceled. That way, you don’t have to worry about going through extra steps, like receiving the item, then returning it, and waiting for how long a credit card refund takes.

You Haven’t Gotten the Item Yet

Perhaps you purchased an item a while ago, and it still hasn’t arrived. Maybe you no longer want it or aren’t interested in waiting any longer. (Maybe you bought a gift for a friend’s birthday which is coming right up.) If the merchant hasn’t sent it by the time you contact them, you may be able to get the pending change canceled.

How to Contact the Merchant

If you find yourself in any of these situations, here are some suggested next steps:

•   Have all relevant information ready when you contact the merchant, such as the total purchase amount, transaction date, and the order number. If you have a receipt, have that handy as the merchant may request to see it or ask for any information on that receipt. Don’t forget to note down what you said on the phone as a record or in case you need to escalate the situation.

•   Even if the merchant grants your request, hold into any relevant documentation until you don’t see the pending transaction anymore.

•   If your request is denied or ignored, you can wait until the credit card transaction is posted to request a refund or dispute it with your credit card company or bank.

When to Contact Your Credit Card Issuer or Bank

Though you generally won’t be able to dispute a pending transaction, there are several scenarios in which you may be able to do so.

You Don’t Recognize a Transaction

It’s a bad feeling when you see a pending charge that’s for an item or service you know isn’t yours. If you believe the pending transaction is due to fraud, it’s better to contact your credit card company or bank immediately to get it resolved.

The Amount of the Transaction Is Suspicious

What if you do recognize a transaction but there’s something off about the details? For instance, say you went to a flea market and swiped your card to buy yourself a necklace, but the pending charge is $100 higher than what you know the merchant said they were charging you. This might be a time to reach out to your bank or card issuer.

You Weren’t Able to Cancel a Recurring Purchase With The Merchant

If you had a recurring payment (say, a monthly gym membership) and canceled the agreement, the merchant should honor your request if you’ve followed their terms. In the unfortunate situation that you’ve done this but still see a pending transaction and the merchant is nonresponsive, it’s probably better to cancel it through your credit card company or bank. They will likely be able to show you how to stop a pending transaction.

Recommended: Guide to Choosing a Credit Card Company

How to Contact Your Credit Card Issuer or Bank

Each company may have its own method for handling requests for pending transactions. Some pointers:

•   To start, you might call your bank or credit card company and let them know your situation. They can then transfer you to the relevant department or customer representative. Email and chat with a customer service representative are often other convenient methods.

•   Jot down a record of whom you speak with and when.

•   As with disputing a pending transaction with the merchant, you will need to provide information such as receipts, interactions you’ve tried to have with the merchant, and the transaction amount you’re disputing.

•   Be prepared to create a paper trail. You may need to file a formal dispute which you will either fill out and send in or a representative can do so for you and then send you a copy. Additional steps may be taken to secure your account or to close it and open a new one if there’s been credit card fraud.

•   If you have had fraudulent activity, you may want to set up fraud alerts with the big credit reporting agencies. That way, you can be on alert if anyone tries to open an account in your name.

Consequences of Canceling a Pending Transaction

Even if you successfully cancel a pending transaction, it could still take several days for it to be removed from your account. In the meantime, it could affect your overall available balance.

Those using a credit card will want to watch what their available balance is when making purchases to ensure they’re not at risk of going over their credit card limit.

If you’re waiting for a pending transaction to be canceled on your debit card, don’t count on that money being available in your bank account just yet. It can be better to err on the side of caution. For instance, should you spend money you think you have and there isn’t enough in your account, you could have your transaction denied. Or you could go into overdraft and face paying a fee.

The Takeaway

When paying with plastic, there may be times that your account shows a pending charge that you want to cancel. In some situations, it’s best to reach out directly to the merchant who charged you; in others, contacting your financial institution or the card issuer will be your best move. It’s wise to stay aware of charges on your account so you can spot anything that’s amiss and deal with it swiftly.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

How do I stop a pending debit transaction?

You can stop a pending debit card transaction by contacting the merchant and canceling the purchase. Or you can try contacting your bank if you don’t recognize the transaction, you suspect fraud is involved, or the merchant is unresponsive.

Can you cancel a payment while it’s pending?

You may be able to cancel a pending payment transaction in some cases. Contacting the merchant directly can be the best route. Many credit card companies may have you wait until the payment is posted before allowing you to dispute it.

Can I tell my bank to stop a pending transaction?

You can tell your bank to stop a pending transaction if you have a legitimate reason to do so, such as if the merchant ignores or denies your request or you suspect fraudulent activity.


Photo credit: iStock/Lemon_tm

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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