ACH vs. EFT: What Is the Difference?

ACH vs EFT: What Is the Difference?

Given all the automated payments that are used today, you may hear the terms ACH and EFT used interchangeably, but there’s actually a difference: ACH is one kind of EFT.

To understand this better, let’s get some terms defined first: Automated Clearing House (ACH) is a nationwide network that links all U.S. financial institutions, allowing them to electronically debit money from one account and credit it to another. ACH payments, which can include direct deposit and autopay for bills, are a type of electronic fund transfer, or EFT. The term EFT more broadly encompasses other ways of electronically moving money, such as wire transfers.

The main difference between EFT and ACH is that ACH is one type of EFT. That is, all ACH payments are classified as EFT, but not all EFTs are ACH.

Still feeling a little confused? Read on. Below, you’ll learn:

•   What qualifies a payment as ACH?

•   What are other EFT payment methods?

•   How do ACH vs. EFT vs. wire transfers compare?

ACH Transfers

ACH stands for Automated Clearing House, a network governed by Nacha (National Automated Clearing House Association). The first ACH association appeared in 1972 in California; by 1974, multiple regional networks joined together to form Nacha, which has since overseen the ACH network nationally.

But what is ACH? Put simply, ACH is a type of electronic fund transfer (EFT) that allows individuals, corporations, and even the government to electronically move money from one bank account to another. It can be thought of as a hub that keeps funds flowing.

ACH payments work domestically; that is, among banks and credit unions within the United States. You may be able to send money via international ACH transfers, but other countries will have their own networks and governing bodies. Some countries do not have an equivalent network at all.

Funds first go to the Automated Clearing House, which then reviews the payments and releases them in batches throughout the day. For this reason, ACH transfers are not immediate. How long ACH transfers take can vary: Traditional ACH transfers can take one to two business days, but in recent years, Nacha has enabled same-day transfers for eligible transactions.

How Is ACH Used?

Consumers and businesses can use ACH for a variety of purposes. For example, employers often use the ACH network for direct deposit. This enables them to deposit paychecks directly into employees’ bank accounts. When an entity, like an employer or the government, initiates the ACH process to send funds, this is classified as an ACH credit.

Individuals can provide bank account information to businesses, such as mortgage lenders and utility companies, to enable ACH debit transactions. This means those companies are able to directly debit funds from the individual account using ACH as a form of electronic bill payment. Businesses and individuals may utilize ACH debit for autopay (recurring payments) or for one-time payments.

Even peer-to-peer (P2P) payment methods like PayPal and Venmo can utilize the Automated Clearing House network for electronic transfers. (When such services offer instant payments, they may charge a fee and use your credit card instead, so proceed carefully in these situations.)

What Is EFT?

Electronic fund transfers (EFTs) refer to a much broader range of electronic payments. ACH is a type of EFT, but EFT can also include payments like wire transfers, debit card payments, credit card payments, local bank transfers, instant P2P payments, and even ATM transfers. Electronic fund transfers can be domestic or international in scope.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau refers to electronic fund transfers as “any transfer of funds that is initiated through an electronic terminal, telephone, computer, or magnetic tape.”

Note: Another common term in finance is ETF (exchange-traded fund). The acronyms are similar, so it’s important to recognize that an ETF is an investment security, not a payment method.

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More EFT Payment Methods

EFT payment is a broad category, including common transfers like ACH and wire transfers. Here is just a short list of payment methods that can be classified as EFT:

•   ACH transfers

•   Wire transfers

•   Peer-to-peer payments (often done through ACH)

•   Debit card transactions (in person or online)

•   Credit card transactions (in person or online)

•   ATM transfers

•   E-checks

•   Telephone orders

What Is the Difference Between ACH and EFT?

We’ve established that the key difference between ACH and EFT is that an ACH is a type of EFT. This table further breaks down the distinction:

ACH

EFT

Availability Traditional ACH is available domestically (in the U.S.). Various types of EFTs can be used internationally.
Security Transfers pass through the ACH, which provides an added level of security over paper checks and debit card transactions. While ACH and wire transfers are less prone to fraud, other forms of EFTs (like debit and credit cards) can be susceptible.
Speed Can be same-day but never instant; may take multiple days. Can be instant.

ACH vs EFT vs Wire Transfers

When banking, you’re likely to hear about different ways to move money, including ACH, EFT, and wire transfers. Here’s a closer look: ACH is a type of EFT, but another common type of EFT is a wire transfer. Wires can be both domestic and international and often have a fee for both the sender and the receiver, depending on the banks or transfer service agencies (like Western Union) involved. Wire transfers allow you to make an electronic payment “by wire,” such as through SWIFT, the Clearing House Interbank Payments System, or the Federal Reserve Wire Network. Wire transfers can take up to two days to fully process.

Should You Use Electronic Transfers?

Electronic transfers are common in modern banking. It is likely that you already utilize some form of electronic transfer, whether you receive a direct deposit from your employer like 96% of American workers, have your utility bills on autopay, pay for groceries with a debit card, or use peer-to-peer transfer apps to split the dinner bill or pay a friend for concert tickets. When you buy a house, the mortgage company may even ask you to wire funds in time for the closing.

The Takeaway

Automated clearing house (ACH) transfers are a type of electronic funds transfer (EFT), which allows for the direct debiting and crediting of funds from one bank account to another. Common examples of ACH include direct deposit from an employer into your bank account or an automatic bill payment debited from your account. ACH is only one type of EFT, however; other types include wire transfers and debit and credit card payments, among others. These kinds of payments are commonly used today to keep funds flowing quickly and securely.

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FAQ

Is EFT the same as direct deposit?

A direct deposit is a type of ACH, which is a type of EFT. More specifically, direct deposit is a type of ACH transfer (an ACH credit), whereby an employer deposits an employee’s salary directly into that employee’s bank account. (Other forms of direct deposit include Social Security benefits and tax refunds.) The term EFT (electronic funds transfer) includes ACH and other ways to move funds from account to account. So it’s not a matter of EFT vs. ACH or EFT vs. direct deposit. One form of EFT is ACH, and one type of ACH is direct deposit.

Is ACH a wire transfer?

A wire transfer is not the same as an ACH transfer. Instead, ACH and wire transfers are two different types of electronic fund transfers.

What is the difference between ACH and autopay?

When you set up bills for autopay using your bank account information, the company you are paying is using ACH debit to take money from your account. In that case, autopay is a form of ACH debit. However, you can also set up autopay with a credit card; in those instances, the automatic bill payment is an EFT, but not an ACH transfer.

Is ACH the same as direct deposit?

Not exactly. Direct deposit is one type of ACH (which stands for Automated Clearing House) payment, whereby an employer or the government directly deposits funds into an individual’s or company’s bank account.

What is the best EFT payment method?

Different types of EFT payments have their own sets of pros and cons, and often, you won’t have a choice regarding which one is used. For example, direct deposits from your employer will come through ACH. However, you may receive a wire transfer from a mortgage company or bank when you sell your house. If you do have the choice between ACH or debit and credit card options for an electronic payment, you should consider things like speed and security of payment, as well as any associated charges, to make the right decision for your situation.


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SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 1.50% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 0.90% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 1.50% APY is current as of 06/28/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
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.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products 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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Guide to Letters of Credit

Guide to Letters of Credit

A letter of credit is a business-to-business document guaranteeing that the provider of goods or services to a buyer will receive payment. As part of a sales agreement, a seller may require the buyer to deliver a letter of credit before a deal takes place.

More specifically, letters of credit are often vital in international trade where the two parties involved are not yet familiar with one another. Letters of credit facilitate new trade and prompt payments.

Read on to learn more, including:

•   What a letter of credit is

•   How a letter of credit works

•   What the different types of letters of credit are

•   The pros and cons of letters of credit

•   How to get a letter of credit.

What Is a Letter of Credit in Banking?

Here’s what a letter of credit in banking is: It’s a document that a bank issues to a seller that guarantees payment from their customer for an order or service. The bank where the buyer’s business account is held usually assumes responsibility for the payment for the goods. However, the conditions laid out in the letter of credit must be fulfilled. The bank or financial institution charges the buyer a fee for guaranteeing the payment and issuing the letter.

Letters of credit are common in international trade situations because various factors can affect cross-border transactions. It’s not necessarily a matter of the buyer having a bad credit score. Rather, the deal may involve different legal frameworks, a lack of familiarity between the parties involved, and geographic distance.

How a Letter of Credit Works

When used properly, letters of credit can work to minimize credit risk and smooth international trade. A vendor selling products or services overseas may want assurance that a buyer of their products or services will pay. Perhaps the buyer is new to them or just a new business, period.

So how does a letter of credit work? It serves as a guarantee from a bank that it will pay the vendor once the requirements are met. The letter lays out the conditions of payment, such as the amount, the timing of the payment, and the delivery specifications. The letter can help the business placing the order build their credit, too.

The bank charges the buyer a fee for issuing a letter of credit (often around 0.75% to 1.5% of the amount of the deal), but it also does the due diligence to assure creditworthiness. The bank requires collateral or security from the buyer for the payment guarantee. In essence, the bank acts as a third party facilitating the deal.

Recommended: Why is Having a Good Credit Score Important?

Types of Letters of Credit

The following are four types of letters of credit.

•   Commercial Letter of Credit: The issuing bank pays the seller directly. For a stand-by letter of credit, the bank only pays the seller if the buyer cannot transfer funds.

•   Revolving Letter of Credit: The bank guarantees payment for a number of transactions within a set period.

•   Traveler’s Letter of Credit: Travelers can make withdrawals in a foreign country. The issuing bank guarantees to honor any withdrawals.

•   Confirmed Letter of Credit: A seller using a confirmed letter of credit involves a secondary bank, typically the seller’s bank. They guarantee payment if the first bank fails to pay.

You may also hear an irrevocable letter of credit mentioned; this is a letter of credit that can’t be changed or canceled unless all parties agree.

There is also a stand-by letter of credit which may be used when deal requirements are not initially met; see below for more details.

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Letter of Credit Example

Here’s an example of a letter of credit: Wells Fargo provides commercial letters of credit and stand-by letters of credit within two weeks. The funds are secured through deposits at Wells Fargo, and the terms are renewable. These documents can help reassure parties doing business internationally, with new-to-them businesses or clients who have recently started a business.

The Money Behind a Letter of Credit

When it comes to letters of credit, you may wonder, Where do the payment funds for a letter of credit originate? The party paying for the goods or services typically deposits funds in advance to the bank that issues the letter of credit to cover the payment. Alternatively, the amount might be frozen in the payer’s account or the payer might borrow from the bank using a line of credit.

When Does Payment Happen?

Payment usually occurs when the seller has completed all the stipulations in the letter of credit. For example, the seller might have to deliver the goods to a specific address or onto a ship for transportation in the case of international trade. In the latter case, shipping documents would serve as proof that the requirements for payment have been fulfilled. They might trigger the payment transaction.

What to Watch Out for

Here are some common mistakes sellers may make when relying on a letter of credit for payment.

•   Failing to check all of the requirements in the letter of credit.

•   Failing to understand the documents required for the deal.

•   Failing to confirm whether the time limits for delivery and payment are reasonable.

•   Failing to meet the time limits.

•   Failing to get the necessary proof of delivery documents to the bank.

Letters of Credit Terminology

Here are some terms and phrases to know if you may be using letters of credit.

•   Advising bank: This is the bank that informs the seller that the letter of credit has been completed. The advising bank is also called the notifying bank.

•   Applicant: The party or the acquirer of products or services who applies for the letter of credit from the bank.

•   Beneficiary: The party, or seller, who will receive payment. The seller usually requests a letter of credit to guarantee payment.

•   Confirming bank: The bank that guarantees the payment of the required funds to the seller. If a third party is involved, the confirming bank is the bank most familiar to the seller.

•   Freight forwarder: A shipping company that provides the transportation documents to the seller.

•   Intermediary: These are companies that link buyers and sellers and may use letters of credit to ensure transactions are executed.

•   Issuing bank: The bank that issues the letter of credit.

•   Negotiating bank: If a third party is involved, the negotiating bank works with the beneficiary and the other banks involved. They likely determine the letter of credit requirements to complete the transaction.

•   Shipper: The transportation company that ships goods.

•   Stand-by letter of credit: A subsequent letter of credit that’s used when a deal requirement has not been met. For example, if payment does not occur within the specified timeframe, a stand-by letter of credit would then be used to help guarantee that the deal goes through.

Pros and Cons of Letters of Credit

A letter of credit provides security for both parties involved in a trade, but it can also add costs and time to business transactions.

Pros

Cons

•   Reduces the risk that payment will not be made for goods or services, thereby providing security

•   Allows for additional requirements to be built into a letter of credit, such as quality control and delivery stipulations

•   Provides transaction security for both the buyer and the seller

•   Forges new trade relationships

•   Incurs bank fees for the letter of credit, which increases the cost of doing business

•   Adds time by preparing a letter of credit; transactions can be delayed

•   May require a separate letter of credit for each transaction

•   Demands that the buyer usually provide collateral to the bank

How to Get a Letter of Credit

Getting a letter of credit typically requires a few steps. It’s wise to get the necessary paperwork together first. Various documents will usually be listed as requirements for a trade, such as a shipping bill of lading, a commercial invoice, insurance documents, a certificate of origin, and a certificate of inspection.

Here are the steps typically taken to obtain a letter of credit.

1.    The buyer and seller come to agreement on the sale terms and the use of a letter of credit.

2.    The buyer contacts their bank where they have a checking account and requests a letter of credit and provides necessary documents.

3.    The issuing bank prepares the letter based on the terms of the sales agreement and sends it to the confirming bank or advising bank, which is typically in the seller’s home country.

4.    The confirming bank verifies the terms and forwards the letter to the seller.

5.    The goods can then be shipped, and the exporter sends documentation to the advising or confirming bank.

6.    Document verification and settlement of payment can then occur.

When to Use a Letter of Credit

A letter of credit is beneficial for sellers entering into a new trade relationship or an international trade relationship. It can provide assurance that the seller will receive payment because the issuing bank guarantees payment once the requirements have been met. Sellers may also use the guarantee of payment to borrow capital to fulfill the buyer’s order.

The Takeaway

A letter of credit is usually requested by an exporter or seller to minimize credit risk. The buyer of the goods or services applies to a bank and requests a letter of credit based on the sales agreement. This document helps guarantee that payment will be made. It can provide priceless peace of mind when conducting international trade or doing business with a new customer.

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FAQ

How much does a letter of credit cost?

A typical fee for a letter of credit is typically 0.75% percent to 1.5% of the amount of the deal, but the rate will vary depending on the country and other variables.

How do you apply for a letter of credit?

Once the terms of a trade are agreed upon between the buyer and the seller, a buyer contacts their bank to request a letter of credit. They then gather the required documentation and fill out an application with that bank.

Why do you need a letter of credit?

The parties involved in a trade typically use a letter of credit to minimize risk. For the seller, a letter of credit can guarantee payment for goods once certain requirements have been met and the buyer confirms their creditworthiness as a trade partner.


SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 1.50% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 0.90% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 1.50% APY is current as of 06/28/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
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.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products 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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Authorized User on a Credit Card: Everything You Need to Know

Understanding exactly what it means to be an authorized user on a credit card account is important for both the cardholder and the credit card authorized user. There are some rules and restrictions involved, but in general, becoming an authorized user on a solid cardholder account can help build an authorized user’s credit history and potentially boost their score.

Here’s what you need to know, from what an authorized user on a credit card is exactly to the process of adding an authorized user to a credit card.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

What Is an Authorized User?

An authorized user is someone that the primary cardholder — the individual who owns the credit card account and is responsible for charges to the card — has authorized to use their card.

Unlike a primary cardholder, an authorized user on a credit card is not subject to credit checks and other credit card issuer requirements in order to use the card. However, the individual — who is often a spouse, child, or other family member — must meet the card issuer’s age requirements. The primary cardholder may also have to pay a fee to add the authorized user. The number of authorized users allowed on each card varies depending on the credit card issuer.

An authorized user may get a card with their name and the primary cardholder’s account number on it that they can then use. Or, they can simply use the primary cardholder’s card to make purchases.

Additionally, authorized users may have access to the cardholder’s account information, such as their credit limit, available balance, and fees. They can make payments, report lost or stolen cards, and initiate billing disputes.

That said, any charges made by an authorized user are ultimately the responsibility of the primary cardholder. Authorized users also generally can’t close an account, add another authorized user, or change the card’s PIN, credit limit, or interest rate.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Responsibilities of an Authorized User

Even though authorized users are allowed to make monthly payments, they’re not responsible for payments — no matter how much they may have spent on the card. Rather, the responsibility of making on-time monthly minimum payments always falls to the primary cardholder.

In many cases, primary cardholders will work out some type of payment system under which an authorized user can reimburse the primary cardholder for their share of the bill. With this system, the primary cardholder can keep track of credit card charges and more easily spot unusual or potentially fraudulent activity on the card as well as credit card chargebacks. Additionally, a system can ensure payments are made on time and that any spending on the credit card is done responsibly.

In other cases, authorized users may make their payments directly to the credit card issuer. With this arrangement, however, the primary card holder still holds the ultimate responsibility of making the minimum monthly payment on time.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Authorized User vs. Joint Credit Card

It’s easy to confuse authorized users with joint credit card holders. But there are some key differences between the two.

With a joint account, both cardholders are legally responsible for making payments. Joint cardholders also must meet credit card issuer requirements, such as a minimum credit score, and go through the application process in order to get the card.

Joint accounts are commonly used by partners who share their finances. Not all credit card issuers allow joint accounts though, and they are becoming less common.

Benefits of Having an Authorized User on Your Credit Card

There are compelling reasons why you may want to either become an authorized user or add an authorized user to your credit card account. Here are the benefits for both parties involved.

Benefits for the Authorized User

Becoming an authorized user can help someone to establish their credit and boost their credit scores if the primary cardholder has a history of on-time payments and low credit utilization (in other words, not charging cards to the max). This can be especially helpful for teenagers and young adults who may not yet have had the opportunity to establish a credit record.

Most credit card issuers will report authorized user credit activity to the credit bureaus, thus building a credit history for the authorized user. The primary cardholder can check with their credit card issuer to see if authorized user’s activity is being reported and if the card issuer has all of the relevant information necessary to do the reporting. If the issuer does report, all of the details of the card will be included in the authorized user’s credit history, including the credit limit, the amount of credit being used, and payment history.

By the same token, if the primary cardholder misses payments or makes late payments, this could negatively impact the authorized user’s credit score.

Benefits for the Primary Cardholder

Building credit for the authorized user can also benefit the primary cardholder who’s looking to help a child or other family member establish themselves financially. By helping the authorized user establish a good credit record, the authorized user will be more likely to qualify for their own credit card sooner and potentially secure lower interest rates and access to better rewards.

Plus, cardholders have the benefit of knowing that a child or other user has access to a credit card in an emergency or other situation where funds are immediately necessary.

Adding or Becoming an Authorized User on a Credit Card

Only a primary cardholder can add an authorized user to their card. To do so, you’ll generally go through the following steps:

1.    Notify your credit card issuer. Let your card issuer know that you would like to add an authorized user to your card. In most cases, you can do this over the phone or by filling out a form online.

2.    Have the necessary information on hand. You may need the name, Social Security number, date of birth, and contact information for the authorized user you intend to add to the card.

3.    Check what will get reported to the credit bureaus. It’s important to find out if the card company will report credit information about the authorized user to the credit reporting bureaus. This will help the authorized user to establish a credit history.

4.    Determine if you’ll get a card for the authorized user in their name. If so, this second credit card will get sent to you. From there, you can decide if you want to give the card to the authorized user or only have them use your card.

Removing an Authorized User on a Credit Card

A primary cardholder can remove an authorized user from their card at any time. Simply call or go online to request a change.

Keep in mind that the authorized user may see a change in their credit score if they are removed. This is because credit score calculations take into account both the age of credit accounts and the number of open accounts, both of which may decrease when an authorized user drops off the card of someone with a more established credit history.

What Are the Next Steps After Becoming an Authorized User?

As mentioned above, authorized users and primary cardholders will want to come up with a solid plan. Specifically, they’ll want to discuss how the card can be used, how much the authorized user can spend, and when and how the authorized user will make payments (either to the cardholder or directly to the card issuer). Making payments on time is extremely important to help avoid late fees and credit score dings for both the primary cardholder and the authorized user.

How to Monitor Your Credit as an Authorized User

If you’re an authorized user eager to build credit, it can be helpful to monitor your credit report to make sure your activity is being accurately reported. You can retrieve a free copy of your credit report each year from all three credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — through AnnualCreditReport.com.

It’s also important for both the authorized user and the primary cardholder to be cautious and mindful about how their activity can affect one another’s credit, which is something credit monitoring can help keep in check. Irresponsible credit usage by either party can have implications for the credit of both the primary cardholder and the authorized user.

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

The Takeaway

Authorized users are typically added to an account held by a family member or other responsible adult. held by a family member or other responsible adult. However, it’s important for both parties to keep in mind that while their credit usage has the potential to improve their credit, it can also cause damage if payments are late or credit is maxed out.

Once the authorized user builds up enough of a credit history, they may be able to start shopping for a credit card of their own. With the SoFi credit card, you can earn up to 2% cash back rewards when you redeem to save, invest, or pay down an eligible SoFi loan. Cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards when redeemed for a statement credit.1 If you’re ready for a new card, apply for a 2% cash back credit card today with SoFi.

FAQ

How many authorized users can I add to a single card account?

Each credit card issuer has different rules concerning the number of authorized users permitted. You’ll find this information in the terms and conditions for your credit card. Some credit card issuers charge a fee for each authorized user added on your account.

Is credit activity reported to the credit bureau for an authorized user?

In most cases, credit card issuers report activity to the credit bureaus for an authorized user as well as the primary card holder. Building or improving credit in this way can be a benefit of becoming an authorized user. Check with your credit card issuer to find out if authorized user credit activity is reported.

Does adding someone as an authorized user help their credit?

Building or improving your credit record can be a big benefit of becoming an authorized user, especially if the primary cardholder has a good credit rating and continues to make on-time payments. In order to boost your credit record, however, the credit card issuer needs to report your activity to the credit bureaus.


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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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Credit Card Rental Insurance: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Whether you’re renting a car to use while on vacation or because your usual vehicle is temporarily out of commission, you might have been asked if you’d like to purchase additional car rental protection. If you paid for your car rental reservation using a credit card, your card may already offer some form of rental protection. However, not all credit cards offer this benefit, and those that do provide varying car rental insurance benefits.

Learning the requirements and limits of your credit card’s car rental insurance coverage — if any at all — can help you make an informed decision when booking or picking up your car rental.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

What Is Credit Card Rental Car Insurance?

Rental car insurance through a credit card is also called an “Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver.” It generally states that if a rental car that was purchased using the card sustains damage due to an automobile collision or theft, you can file a reimbursement claim through your credit card issuer.

This might include a range of damage, from a smashed window due to theft to a car accident involving another vehicle. An Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver typically covers damage-related costs of the vehicle itself, but it doesn’t cover stolen personal items resulting from the theft, like a laptop, or costs related to bodily injury. Knowing these ins and outs can be especially helpful given the recent rental car rebound.

Understanding Your Credit Card’s Coverage for Rentals

Not all credit card car rental insurance terms offer the same level of coverage. For example, some credit card rental car insurance only kicks-in after your personal auto insurance coverage and with reimbursement limitations.

Credit card car insurance generally falls into one of two categories: primary or secondary coverage.

Related: How Much Auto Insurance You Need.

Primary Coverage

Certain issuers offer credit card rental car insurance as primary coverage. Primary coverage means that, in the event of damage or theft, you can file a claim directly through the card issuer for reimbursement. You’re not required to file a claim through other insurance sources, like your personal auto insurance company, before the primary credit card car rental insurance benefit applies.

Secondary Coverage

Unlike primary coverage, secondary coverage rental car insurance protection through a credit card offers supplemental reimbursement. With secondary coverage, you’ll first need to file a claim through your personal insurance coverage policy or other sources, such as supplemental insurance through the rental company.

Let’s say you’ve reached your maximum reimbursement through other insurance sources, but you have a remaining reimbursable amount. In this scenario, your credit card rental car insurance benefit can then be used to claim the remaining amount.

How Does Credit Card Rental Insurance Work?

If you’ve rented a car using a credit card that offers rental insurance benefits, you’ll need to follow certain steps to claim a reimbursement. Requirements might vary slightly between card issuers, but below are the general steps you can expect to follow:

1.    Use a credit card with rental insurance protection. The first question you’ll need to answer is, does my credit card cover rental car insurance? If it does, put the entire cost of the rental on your credit card. Keep that card on file with the rental company in case any eligible damage occurs.

2.    Opt out of the car rental company’s collision insurance coverage. If you purchase coverage through the rental company, that becomes the primary source of coverage instead of your credit card issuer.

3.    Pay for damages out-of-pocket. If an incident occurs involving the rental vehicle, your credit card will be charged. You’ll then file a reimbursement claim for the amount of any applicable repair costs through your credit card rental car insurance coverage. Some card issuers allow claim payments to go directly to the rental company, upon request.

4.    Maintain documentation. This includes police reports, if available, as well as rental receipts, damage charges from the car rental agency to your credit card, towing receipts, and any other documentation or proof of expense as a result of the incident.

5.    Submit your claim ASAP. File a Auto Rental Collision Damage reimbursement claim as soon as possible, as it can take weeks to settle a claim. If your card issuer’s benefits administrator reaches out for additional information or documents, submit those details within their designated timeline to avoid issues or possible denial of your claim.

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Questions to Ask Your Credit Card Issuer

In addition to learning what your own car insurance covers, it’s important to know your credit card’s rules around its Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver benefit. If you’re unclear about how your card can protect you while using a rental car, contact your issuer’s customer support number. Here are some important questions to ask:

•   Does the rental car insurance benefit offer primary or secondary coverage? The answer to this question can help you choose the best payment option to use for your next rental car. It will also give you a sense of what to expect if you need to file a claim.

•   What is included and not included in the coverage? In addition to reimbursements for damage, you’ll want to know if the card’s rental car insurance covers loss-of-use charges from the rental company, for example. Be clear on what isn’t eligible for reimbursement, too.

•   What are the coverage timelines? Depending on your credit card issuer, the number of days when your rental coverage is in effect might be limited.

•   Are there any countries in which the coverage is ineligible? Rental car insurance coverage might not be offered if the incident occurred in certain countries.

•   What do I need to do to ensure I’m covered? Ask what you can do on your end to ensure your rental car is covered by the credit card’s insurance benefit. This may include putting the entire purchase on the card, declining supplemental rental insurance coverage from the rental company, or other requirements stipulated by your insurer.

•   What’s the process for filing a claim? Knowing how to swiftly file a claim after an incident can offer some peace of mind during an already stressful situation.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Guide to Choosing the Right Credit Card for Car Rental Insurance

If you have multiple credit cards in your rotation that offer differing levels of credit card car insurance protection, consider using the card that offers primary coverage. This helps you avoid the added step of going through your own auto insurance company before being able to successfully file a claim through the card issuer.

The next factor for consideration is coverage amounts. Your maximum reimbursement amount will vary between insurance coverages, so be mindful about how high or low this limit is. Also, pay attention to the exclusions for coverage, including ineligible countries, activities (e.g. off-roading in the rental vehicle), and restrictions on vehicle type.

Other Ways Your Card Can Protect You When You Travel

When a credit card is used responsibly, it can offer many travel-related benefits. In addition to rental car insurance coverage, some credit cards provide protection for lost luggage expenses and trip interruptions. Credit card travel insurance is especially useful if your travel plans are canceled due to reasons like severe weather or illness.

Keep in mind that many premium travel credit cards will have higher credit score requirements, which is another reason why good credit is important if you’re interested in accessing these benefits.

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

The Takeaway

If your credit card covers rental car insurance, in many cases, you can decline the duplicative car rental company’s offer for collision coverage. However, it’s worth learning whether your credit card car rental insurance coverage is primary or secondary and what its coverage limits are in case you need to file a claim

If you’re comfortable using a credit card strategically when renting a car, compare the rental car insurance credit card benefits offered by different credit cards. Depending on your credit card, you might even be able to earn cash back rewards on your next car rental.

For example, the SoFi credit card offers cardholders 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. Cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards when redeemed for a statement credit.1 Plus, the SoFi credit card offers cell phone protection, and the incentive to lower your APR by 1% when you make on-time payments of at least the minimum amount that’s due for 12 months.

FAQ

Do you need a credit card to rent a car?

No, you generally do not need a credit card to rent a car through many national car rental companies, like Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis. Major car rental companies often accept a debit card to secure your rental. Depending on the rental company, your debit card may need to have the logo of a credit network, such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express.

Do all credit cards have car rental insurance?

No, not all credit cards provide car rental insurance benefits. However, many credit cards offer this protection to some extent, whether as a primary or secondary coverage. If you’re interested in accessing this benefit, make sure to familiarize yourself with what credit cards cover rental car insurance.

How do I know if my card comes with primary or secondary insurance?

You can refer to your credit card’s terms and conditions to learn whether your credit card offers car rental insurance protection, and if it does, whether it’s primary or secondary coverage. You can also contact the customer support phone number listed on the back of your credit card to speak to a representative about your specific card’s car rental insurance benefits.


Photo credit: iStock/g-stockstudio

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
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 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.
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
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Credit Card Refunds: Everything You Need to Know

Getting a credit card refund is usually a straightforward process, whether you’re asking for one because a product is defective or you’ve simply changed your mind. When you get a refund on a credit card, you’ll receive a credit on your account for the amount you paid for returned goods that you’d charged to your card.

Although credit card refunds are routine, there are some important things to know about the process. Read on to learn more about how credit card refunds work.

What Is a Credit Card Refund?

A credit card refund is the money you get back when you return something that you’d paid for with your credit card. Rather than getting cash back for the full amount of the returned item, you’ll receive a credit to your credit card account for that amount. The process of a credit card refund is started when you go to return the item, and it can take a few days or longer to see the money credited to your account.

How Do Refunds on Credit Cards Work?

When using a credit card to make a purchase, there’s a third party involved in your transaction. The store or other merchant at which you swipe or tap your card to buy something requests their payment from the credit card issuer. When your credit card issuer pays the charge, it adds the amount of the purchase to your account balance. Then, you pay your credit card bill to pay back the credit card issuer for the purchase you made.

When you return a purchase, the merchant issues a refund to the credit card issuer, not directly to you. In turn, your credit card company posts the credit to your account. This process is why credit card refunds aren’t immediate like cash refunds.

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Types of Credit Card Refunds

There are two basic types of credit card refunds. It can be helpful to know the difference between the two and how a refund to a credit card works in each instance.

Refund at the Point of Sale

This is when you return an item, either by going to the store in person or sending back an online purchase. The retailer then credits you for the return when the item is received.

Disputed Transaction

Disputed transactions are different from straightforward returns. With a disputed transaction, you’re making a complaint about the purchase as opposed to just making a return. For instance, you might dispute a credit card charge for an online purchase that never arrived. Or, you might dispute a charge for a canceled event.

In most cases, you must file a dispute within 60 days of the transaction. From there, your credit card company has 90 days to investigate the issue and resolve the issue. Especially because of the investigation and the documentation that you’re asked to provide, falsely disputing a credit card charge isn’t something to try to do.

While it’s best to start with the merchant when you have an issue with the goods or services provided, you do have options if the merchant will not grant you a credit card refund. In this instance, you can request a credit card chargeback, which reverses your original charge after you have filed a claim with your credit card company. With a chargeback, the refund process is initiated by the credit card company, whereas with a credit card refund the merchant initiates the process.

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How Long Does a Credit Card Refund Typically Take?

The amount of time it takes to receive a credit card refund depends on the retailer and the type of refund you’re requesting. It typically takes about three to seven business days to see your refund from a routine return you make in person, and sometimes it’s even faster than that.

Online merchants may take a bit longer to issue a credit card refund because you need to allot time for shipping and processing the returned merchandise. As mentioned above, chargeback or disputed charge refunds can take much longer — sometimes as long as 90 days due to the time allowed to file and investigate a disputed charge.

Do Credit Card Refunds Count Toward Payments?

No, credit card refunds are not considered a payment or partial payment, and they do not automatically go toward that month’s minimum payment on your card.

Instead, you’ll see a credit in the amount of the refund in your account statement and, depending on where you are in the billing cycle, this could reduce the total amount you owe by the amount of the refund. You will still need to make your monthly minimum payment while you’re waiting for a refund credit to appear on your account. In fact, one of the cardinal credit card rules is to always make your minimum payment on time.

Keep in mind that interest will continue to accrue on your charge until the refund credit appears. Depending on how much the purchase is for and where you are in the billing cycle, this can affect your overall balance.

How Credit Card Refunds May Affect Your Credit Score

To understand how credit card refunds work when it comes to your credit score, it’s important to understand something called credit utilization ratio. This term refers to the percentage of your total credit limit that you are currently using. Credit utilization can be an important factor in calculating your credit score — the lower your credit utilization ratio, the better.

In some situations, a refund may give your credit score a boost if the refund reduces your balance and lowers your credit utilization ratio. On the other hand, a delayed refund could hurt your credit score if the amount of the purchase pushes your credit utilization too high during a certain billing period.

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What to Do With a Negative Account Balance

Sometimes a refund will give you a negative balance, meaning your available credit is more than the amount you owe on the card. This can often happen with cardholders who pay their balance in full each month.

If you have a negative balance, it’s usually not a problem. The negative balance will be applied to the next purchase you make on that card, eventually bringing your balance back to $0 or above. A negative balance will not affect your credit score because that’s something that credit card companies report to credit bureaus.

However, a negative balance can be problematic if you’re receiving a large refund and don’t often use that credit card. In these instances, you can ask your credit card company to issue a refund via check, money order, or direct deposit. Your credit card issuer may require this request in writing in order to issue the refund.

How Credit Card Refunds Affect Your Rewards

Any credit card rewards you earned on a purchase that was returned, such as cash back rewards or miles, will not be awarded after your refund is processed.

If you decide that it makes more sense to keep the rewards, you can ask the merchant or service to refund you in the form of a merchant credit. However, that means you will still have to pay for the purchase on your credit card.

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The Takeaway

Knowing how credit card refunds work will help you manage both your budget and your credit rating. Credit card refunds are usually straightforward transactions. But they can take longer than a purchase made with cash, and they can affect your credit score. Additionally, you usually won’t be able to hang onto the rewards you’d earned from the purchase you returned.

Given many credit cards offer valuable rewards, this may be a disappointment. With the SoFi credit card, for instance, you can earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. Cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards when redeemed for a statement credit.1 Learn how to apply for a credit card with SoFi today.

FAQ

Do credit card refunds affect your credit

Yes, refunds can affect your credit score. A refund can lower your credit utilization — or the total amount of credit you’ve used compared to your overall credit limit. Credit utilization is something credit rating agencies look at closely when determining your credit score. A delayed refund could hurt your credit score because it may increase your credit utilization ratio, thus negatively impacting your store. On the other hand, when you receive a refund, that may lower your credit utilization, helping your credit score.

Do credit card refunds affect the rewards earned from a refunded purchase?

In most cases, you will not receive the rewards that you may have earned from a purchase you’ve returned. You may want to consider getting a store credit for your refund if you want to keep your rewards, but you will then have to pay for the full amount of the purchase on your credit card.

What happens if I have a negative balance after a credit card refund?

Sometimes you’ll get a refund credit and it will exceed the balance you have on your card. This is usually not an issue, as the amount of the credit will be applied to the next purchase you make on the card. If the refund is quite large and you don’t use the card often, you may want to ask your credit card issuer for a refund via check or direct deposit.


Photo credit: iStock/Amax Photo

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