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How to Grocery Shop on a Budget: 31 Tips

It’s not your imagination: Grocery prices are rising, having gone up 2.2% between February 2023 and 2024, after the sticker shock of an 11% increase between 2021 and 2022.

You may think there’s not much you can do about the high cost of groceries (after all, a person has to eat!), but there are many easy ways to slash your weekly spending on groceries. And, saving at the supermarket doesn’t have to mean skimping on quality, taste, or nutrition.

What follows are 31 simple tricks that can help you shop smarter and spend less whenever you visit the supermarket.

Key Points

•   Grocery prices have increased significantly, prompting the need for budget-conscious shopping strategies.

•   Planning meals, understanding pricing, and avoiding shopping when hungry are key to saving on groceries.

•   Buying in bulk, choosing generic products, and shopping in season can reduce costs.

•   Making a shopping list and sticking to it helps avoid impulse purchases and manage spending.

•   Utilizing online grocery shopping can prevent off-script purchases and facilitate price comparison.

Key Principles Behind Saving Money on Groceries

Before diving into the ideas for saving money on groceries, consider the big-picture principles at work when it comes to frugal living for food. Consider these concepts:

•   Plan your meals

•   Understand pricing

•   Don’t shop when hungry

•   Buy in bulk when possible

•   Choose generic products

•   Shop in season

•   Comparison-shop like a pro; no grabbing the first item you see

•   Stick to your list

•   Buy local or grow your own food.

💡 Quick Tip: Help your money earn more money! Opening a bank account online often gets you higher-than-average rates.

How Much Do Groceries Cost on Average?

The average household spends about $270 a week on groceries; those with kids spend more, or about $331 per week. Using Census Bureau data, the average monthly costs for groceries therefore tops $1,000.

These costs are strictly for groceries. If you eat out or grab takeout (whether a flat white or fancy salad), your total food costs will of course be higher.

How Can I Determine What My Budget Is?

It’s important to set aside an amount of money for food that fits into your overall financial planning. In terms of how to make a budget, you might try the popular 50/30/20 budget rule. With this plan, you take your after-tax income and allocate 50% to needs, such as housing, utilities, health care, minimum debt repayment, basic transportation, and food. Thirty percent is for the “wants” in life, such as travel, dining out, and cute (but not vital) clothes. The last 20% goes to savings and additional debt payment.

If you use this budget or another method, you will want to make sure that your food costs fall in line with the other necessities of life, perhaps trimming from your spending on “wants,” if needed.

Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Now, dive in and learn how to trim your grocery bill and live on a budget.

1. Make – and Stick to – a List

Impulse buys can quickly bust your budget. So before going to the supermarket it can be wise to plan out your meals and make a detailed list of all the things you will need, including any household supplies.

At the store, you’ll want to be strict about sticking to the list. Yes, those pineapples look great and they’re on sale, but are they on your list? No? Then you should probably keep walking. Otherwise, you may well wind up blowing your budget.

Shopping with a list not only helps save money but can also cut down on food waste — the items that tend to sit idle in the fridge or on the countertop are often the ones that never had an assigned meal to begin with.

2. Eat Before You Shop

If you enter a supermarket hungry, there’s no telling what you’ll end up putting into your cart because, since just about everything is going to look good. Some popcorn? Why not? Pomegranate juice? It’s healthy, so into the cart it goes. And maybe some cookies as a little treat.

Walk into the grocery store with a full stomach, on the other hand, and you might be shocked by how much lower your grocery bill is.

3. Plan for Leftovers

In America, 80 million tons of food go to waste every year. One reason that food goes to waste is that it can be difficult to buy the exact amount of food you need to make the meals we’ve planned. This can result in leftover ingredients languishing in the fridge or pantry, and then landing in the trash can.

You can help reduce wasted food (and money) by doubling your recipe and then having leftovers for lunch and/or putting some in the freezer so you’ll have a meal at the ready when you need it.

Recommended: How Much Should I Spend on Groceries a Month?

4. Grocery-Shop Online

Think you’ll be tempted to go off-script if you enter a grocery store? You might want to try online grocery shopping instead. Many local supermarkets offer online ordering, and allow you to choose either curbside pick-up or delivery.

Or, you may want to try one of the many online grocery services, such as Instacart or Amazon Fresh. You can often choose one-off delivery, as well as recurring delivery of staples (like toilet paper) so you never run out.

It can be easier to avoid the temptations when you can type everything you need into a search bar. Plus, shopping online makes it easy to compare brand prices, see what’s on sale, and watch the total tally up in real time.

5. Develop a Green Thumb

Even if you’re not much of a gardener, you might want to try growing one or two of your favorite vegetables in a container or a small garden area outdoors. You can then step outside and pick your tomato or bell pepper rather than buying them at the store.

If you don’t have any outdoor space, you might consider starting an indoor herb garden. If you have parsley, basil, or dill right on your windowsill, you can just pick what you need rather than buy a whole bunch at the market. It’s a fun and tasty way to stick to your budget.

6. Shop at Stores You Know

Having a tried-and-true grocery store may be good for your wallet. Walking into a store you’re familiar with means you already know where to get the items on your list.

Head into an unfamiliar store and you may be left wandering the aisles for what seems like an eternity trying to find your goods. That’s because grocery stores are set up to be a little confusing and to drive consumers to have to do a bit of strolling, as that’s when you’re more likely to make random purchases.

7. Bring Your Own Bags

One quick way to potentially drive down the cost of your grocery store run is to BYOB — bring your own bags. Many cities and states have imposed plastic bag bans. If you show up empty-handed, you’ll be stuck purchasing reusable bags at the checkout.

In areas where plastic bags are allowed, many stores will reward customers who bring reusable bags by reimbursing them about 5 to 10 cents a bag at checkout. BYOBing is also kinder to the environment.

Keeping some reusable bags in your car is a good way to avoid forgetting them at home.

8. Join Loyalty Programs

Many stores now offer discounts for regular shoppers and even secret sale items only for those who’ve signed up.

It’s typically quick, easy, and free to join, though some stores like Whole Foods require customers to be part of its Amazon Prime membership service (which comes with a yearly fee). Still, it may be worth it as discounts at the register can add up to real savings.

9. Embrace Meatless Mondays

Here’s another way to buy groceries on a budget: Buy and eat less meat. Reducing meat consumption and eating more plant-based meals has benefits for the environment, your waistline, and your wallet.

Chickpeas, pinto beans, peas, Brussels sprouts, quinoa, tofu, along with many other beans, whole grains, and vegetables are all excellent (and inexpensive) sources of protein without the added saturated fat that comes with animal products.

You may want to consider going meatless at least one day a week, and then building up to a few meat-free meals per week.

10. Buy Larger Containers

Buying the largest size of packaged, canned, and frozen foods can sometimes help you save money on food. That’s because some of the cost of every grocery item is in the packaging.

If your grocery store has a “bulk foods” section you might save even more by buying the amount of food you need in plastic bags.

11. Think Beyond Fresh Produce

Another way to save money at the grocery store is to buy fruits and vegetables in the frozen or canned foods aisle. The savings can add up, especially when the food is out of season.

If you’re looking to add pineapple to a recipe in the winter, for example, you can save money by opting for canned pineapple over a fresh one that’s not in season. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables also don’t go bad as quickly as fresh, so they may be less likely to get wasted.

12. Try a CSA

A Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program can help you save money on fresh produce, eggs, and herbs. You can look for one using the USDA’s CSA directory and see if they’ll deliver to your front door.

Not only will you be saving money but you’ll be supporting local farmers and eating food that’s close by helps ensure it’s fresher.

13. Clip Coupons

While it’s not rocket science, this tried-and-true technique is still one of the best ways to cut your grocery bill. You may want to consider scanning the local circulars that come in the mail to see which stores are having deals on the food items you need that week. You can also look for manufacturers’ coupons (online and in circulars inserted into Sunday newspapers).

When it comes to how to coupon successfully, however, it’s wise to make sure that you’re only buying items you need and usually buy — otherwise you could end up adding to, not shrinking, your grocery bill.

💡 Quick Tip: Want a simple way to save more everyday? When you turn on Roundups, all of your debit card purchases are automatically rounded up to the next dollar and deposited into your online savings account.

14. Shop in Season

Another way to spend wisely is to cook and shop seasonally. It’s typically cheaper to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season than ones that have been shipped to the store from a far-away place where it can be grown year-round.

Also, since in-season produce is in large supply, it tends to be sold at affordable prices to maintain demand. In-season produce also tends to be tastier.

15. Use Apps

There are a number of rebate apps you can download onto your phone for free that allow you to get cashback on items you purchased. Options include Ibotta, Checkout 51, and Fetch.

While rebates don’t give you a discount upfront (like a traditional coupon), you should see savings in the long run.

If you frequently shop at large chains like Walmart or Target for groceries, getting their apps may help you earn rewards and get discounts for being a loyal shopper. You just need to scan your mobile app when you check out.

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16. Stock up on Shelf-Stable Items

When your grocery store is having a sale on canned goods, dried goods, or other pantry items, you may want to consider buying multiples. Items like beans, sauces, soups, nuts, peanut butter, pretzels, shelf-stable snacks like unpopped popcorn won’t expire for a long time.

You’ll be able to enjoy the cost savings and will likely appreciate having them on hand when preparing meals.

17. Buy Store-Brand or Generic

You don’t have to sacrifice flavor and taste in order to save money while grocery shopping. While It’s easy to overlook no-name or store brands, in many cases these items are actually made by the brand name companies, just with a different label.

And the savings can be real. Using generic (rather than brand name) products can save as much as 40% off your grocery bill. You can put that extra cash right into your bank account.

18. Shop the Outside Aisles

The inside aisles of the grocery store are where pricier processed foods are typically stocked, The outer edges, on the other hand, is where you tend to find fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and beans.

Shopping on the edge — and filling your cart with nutrient-dense items and fresh, seasonal food — can help your wallet, as well as your waistline.

Recommended: Examining the Price of Eating at Home vs Eating Out

19. Portion Food Out Yourself

It can be tempting to buy convenience items where food is pre-portioned into single servings so you can just grab-and-go. Smaller items can also help you keep from overeating. But all of that packaging tends to increase the cost of the item.

If your kids love crackers, you may want to buy a full-size box and portion them out in zip-top bags or reusable containers. You can do the same with other favorite snacks so you won’t be tempted to eat the whole bag in one sitting. You can also spoon yogurt into small containers for school lunches and cut cheese into slices from a block for easy snacks.

20. Drink Tap Water

To avoid spending money on bottled water, you may want to get a filtered pitcher and switch to drinking tap water. Depending on how much you typically sip, you can save a bundle. By drinking from a reusable water bottle or a glass throughout the day, you’ll also reduce the amount of plastic waste you’re putting into the environment.

Getting your kids used to drinking water instead of juice or soda can also reduce your supermarket bills.

21. Use a Smaller Cart

Here’s a little swap that can help you save: If you’re not shopping for a full week’s worth of groceries, consider grabbing a small cart or, even better, a hand-held basket. This will automatically limit how much you can buy because only so much will fit.

When you have a smaller cart — or a basket that will get heavy quickly — you’re forcing yourself to ask, “Do I really need this?” every time you pick up something to buy in the store.

22. Minimize Trips to the Store

One way you can save money on your grocery bill is to only shop when you need to and to minimize the frequency that you set foot in the supermarket door.

The reason is that the less often you’re physically in the store, the less likely you’ll be tempted to buy something you don’t absolutely need. It can be all too common to go to the grocery store for “one thing” and come out with a few items.

23. Shop Off-Peak

Most of us don’t want to spend our weekends grocery shopping, right? Unfortunately, Saturdays and Sundays are the days when many of us have the time to go to the supermarket — along with everyone else in our town.

Shopping during peak times can hurt your budget in a few ways. You might try to speed through the supermarket crush and be more likely to buy an item at the end of the aisle because it’s convenient, rather than grab a similar product on the shelf a few feet away. This could mean they are buying a more expensive version of what they need.

You might also run into trouble shopping during peak times because you’re more likely to get stuck in a long line — and become tempted by miscellaneous items stocked near and along the checkout line.

24. Calculate the Bill While You Shop

Shopping with a calculator or getting out your phone and adding things up as you put them in your cart can help you stick to your spending plan<. (If you’re shopping with kids, you can give them the job to tally what’s in the cart.) By keeping a running tally of how much money is in your cart, you can save yourself from any unpleasant surprises during check-out. Plus, it can make you think twice before putting any extras in your cart.

25. Shop Your Pantry First

It’s easy to accidentally buy an extra item at the supermarket that you didn’t realize you already had stored at home. That’s why after you write your grocery list, it can be a good idea to double-check pantry shelves, spice racks, the fridge, and the freezer to make sure you truly need what’s on your list.

You may even want to shop your pantry and fridge before making your meal plan and shopping list to see if you can think of meals that incorporate foods you already have on hand.

26. Pay with Cash

Another idea for grocery shopping on a budget: A simple trick for lowering your grocery bill is to set your budget and then only bring that much money in cash, leaving the plastic at home.

This will help ensure that you stick to your list and avoid grabbing any tempting extras. You can only spend what you have in your wallet. Full stop. (A variation on the theme: Use your debit card, not your credit card, to keep your spending in line.)

Recommended: Envelope Budgeting Method

27. Make Breakfast for Dinner

Eggs are one of the most affordable protein sources out there. By making simple breakfast-style food for dinner, you’re offering your family a fun meal and using up some of your (affordable) breakfast foods.

You might consider making an omelet or frittata with eggs, cheese, and leftover vegetables or creating a bacon, egg, and cheese burrito. Not only are many breakfast recipes a delicious dinner option, but they’re affordable and often quick to prepare.

28. Avoid Eye-Level Items

Grocery stores are designed to get you to spend more money, which is why the most expensive products tend to be stocked at eye level. Brands often pay more money for their products to be displayed prominently so you’re more likely to buy them.

Searching high and low when you’re shopping may help you stop spending money (or at least more than you budgeted for). Once you start looking, you may even notice a price differential between the eye-level item cost and the one at your feet.

29. Bake Your Own Treats

Many impulse buys happen in the bakery and snack sections of the supermarket. Before you succumb, you may want to ask yourself if you could bake it at home. You may already have the baking basics on your pantry shelves and could whip up some muffin or cookies fairly quickly. Or, you might want to buy a mix to save time (you’ll still save money).

Before buying chips and snacks, you may also want to consider if there is a more affordable DIY option, like buying popcorn kernels to cook on the stove.

Asking yourself, “Can I make this?” will likely result in saving money and getting the freshest item possible. This way, you can reward yourself without breaking your budget.

30. Hit the Store on a Wednesday

When it comes to snagging good deals, shopping on a Wednesday may be beneficial. That’s because grocery stores tend to restock their shelves and make new markdowns in the middle of the week. Since they’re in the process of changing the discounts, they may still honor the price cuts from last week’s sale as well as the new ones, which could help boost your savings.

31. Do the Prep Work Yourself

Those packaged baby carrots and bagged pre-washed salads make it easier to eat healthier, but if you’re willing to do the cleaning, prepping, and chopping of fresh produce, and even meats and poultry, you can save money.

A boneless, skinless chicken breast package will cost more than buying a whole chicken. You’re paying for the convenience. By setting aside time to prep and chop your foods after you get home from grocery shopping, you’ll likely reap savings.

The Takeaway

A little planning and knowing some money-saving tricks can help you lower your monthly grocery bill and stick to your budget.

By following these budget shopping tips, you may find that you have more money left over each month to pay down debt, invest for the future, or save for something fun. And those funds can grow if you put them in an interest-bearing bank account.

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FAQ

What is a realistic budget for groceries?

The average household spends $270 a week on groceries, but how much you need to spend will vary on family size, location, and other considerations.

Which store is cheapest to buy groceries?

Which grocery store is cheapest will vary from location to location, but among the most affordable are Aldi, Lidl, Market Basket, WinCo, and Trader Joe’s.

How can I make my grocery bill cheaper?

Some ways to go grocery shopping on a budget include buying in bulk, buying generic products, planning your meals in advance, and using coupons, apps, and loyalty clubs.


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The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® 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.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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How to Use an ATM

An automated teller machine (ATM) can be a convenient way to deposit or withdraw money, check your account balance, and conduct other aspects of your banking business. But did you know there are ways to make the process easier, faster, and perhaps less expensive?

Key Points

•   ATMs provide convenient banking services like cash withdrawals and checking account balances.

•   Deposits at ATMs are possible but may have restrictions compared to withdrawals.

•   Avoiding ATM fees is easier with in-network machines and understanding account terms.

•   Cardless withdrawals are possible through mobile apps using QR codes.

•   Safety at ATMs is crucial; always be aware of surroundings and protect PIN entries.

What Is an ATM?

An ATM (short for automated teller machine) is a device that performs some of the same functions as a human teller at a bank, such as dispensing cash. ATMs made their U.S. debut in Rockville Centre, NY, in 1969, and there are currently between 520,000 and 540,000 of these devices in America.

Almost anywhere you go, you can find an ATM, providing certain banking services quickly and conveniently. For example, it is usually possible to find ATMs in major hotel lobbies, at grocery stores, in shopping centers, and in airports. (They also may turn up at convenience stores, night clubs, restaurants, and other places where cash could be needed.)

You can typically check your bank account balance and withdraw cash from ATMs. It’s likely you can deposit cash at an ATM or possibly checks (although deposits have more restrictions than withdrawals).

💡 Quick Tip: Typically, checking accounts don’t earn interest. However, some accounts do, and online banks are more likely than brick-and-mortar banks to offer you the best rates.

How Does an ATM Work?

An ATM machine gives bank customers easy access to their banking resources at various locations and around the clock. You insert your card into a reader that scans your banking information, and you can then conduct transactions. (At some locations, contactless transactions may be possible; see more on this below.)

Here are some of the main functions an ATM can usually perform:

•   Withdraw cash.

•   Make deposits, but to do so, the device typically needs to be within the same network as the customer’s bank. Often, it’s not possible to make a deposit at an out-of-network ATM or, if it is, you’ll be charged a fee.

•   Check your account balance, which can help you avoid overdrafting when making a withdrawal or using your debit card. The balance can appear on the screen or on the printed receipt. It’s usually only free to check an account balance at an in-network ATM. If the ATM is out-of-network, this service may come with a fee.

Some ATMs do make it possible to access their services without a debit card present. This is known as a cardless withdrawal. How does an ATM work without your plastic in hand? These types of withdrawals are typically supported by a smartphone app that uses technology such as a QR code in lieu of a debit card. This can provide the ATM with the account information it needs to complete the transaction.

Things You Can’t Do at an ATM

ATMs do have limitations; here are some things consumers likely can’t do at an ATM.

•   Withdraw coins or low-value bills

•   Open a new account (unless you have preselected and prescreened)

•   Close an account

•   Send a money order

•   Purchase a cashier’s check.

How Much Are ATM Fees?

It may be free to use an in-network ATM, but when there isn’t one around and you need cash (or to conduct another transaction), you’ll likely be hit with a fee for using an out-of-network device.

It’s wise to read the fine print associated with your checking account to better understand what kind of fees you may need to pay to use an ATM. It can also be helpful to make note of where some local in-network ATMs are. This can make avoiding ATM charges easier.

How much can ATM fees be?

•   The average out-of-network fee is currently $4.73. This typically includes a $1.58 fee levied by your bank and an average of $3.15 charged by the ATM’s owners.

•   Additionally, if you are traveling internationally, you may have fees of, say, $2 to $5 to make withdrawals as well as a conversion fee.

Worth noting: Several banks will waive fees when their clients use an out-of-network ATM. If you often rack up many out-of-network ATM fees, you might want to look into which banks offer this service.

Recommended: Can You Use Your Debit Card in Another Country?

How to Find an ATM

If you are hunting for cash or need to deposit a check, here are a couple of ideas for how to find an ATM:

•   You can usually use your banking app to find ATMs. There may be a map function or you may be asked to enter a zip code to see nearby devices.

•   If you bank at a traditional vs. online bank, you can visit a branch which will often have ATMs available.

•   There are third-party services that can help you access surcharge-free ATMs.

To make this process easier, you can bank with a financial institution that has a large network of ATMs you can use without a fee. Allpoint and STAR are examples of these networks.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


How to Withdraw Money from an ATM

Want to use an ATM machine to withdraw cash? Here are the standard steps.

1.    When prompted by the screen, insert your debit card into the machine.

2.    Enter your PIN number. This is the custom PIN (personal identification number) associated with the debit card linked to their checking account.

3.    Choose the transaction type. In this case, it would be a withdrawal.

4.    Pick the account to access. If you have multiple bank accounts, this will make sure the money is coming from the right place.

5.    You’ll likely be prompted to enter the dollar amount you want to withdraw (or press the option showing your choice of amounts), and you may be asked to select your bill denominations.

6.    Take the card back. Now it’s time to complete the transaction. Many ATMs say to take your card back and then the machine will dispense your cash.

How Much Money Will an ATM Let You Take Out?

There are typically limits on how much you can withdraw from an ATM. (This is often done to make sure there is enough cash in the machine to go around vs. a few customers draining the funds.)

•   Daily withdrawal limits are typically between $300 and $5,000.

Check with your bank to learn its limits and whether it determines that by calendar day or by a 24-hour period.

How to Deposit Money at an ATM

Next, take a look at how to use an ATM machine to deposit money. Keep in mind that only certain ATMs will accept deposits, so you want to be aware that depositing money may not be a possibility at the ATM closest to you.

1.    Find an in-network ATM or an ATM that allows deposits to the bank associated with your debit card.

2.    Insert your card and enter your PIN (typically a 4-digit code).

3.    Choose “deposit” as your transaction type.

4.    Type in the exact amount of the intended deposit.

5.    Insert the cash or check. If this is a check, endorse the back first; then follow the on-screen instructions to get your card back and a receipt, if desired.

Recommended: What to Do if an ATM Eats Your Deposit?

Other Transactions You May Be Able to Complete at an ATM

Now that you know how to withdraw money at an ATM and deposit as well, take a look at some of the other things banking customers can often do at these devices.

Cash Checks and Money Orders

Some ATMs may let you cash checks for free as well as money orders. These are typically in-network ATMs.

Make Bill Payments

At some ATMs (such as those in the Chase network) allow you to pay the mortgage, home equity loan, or credit card bill you have with them at an ATM.

Get a Cash Advance From a Credit Card

You may be able to get a cash advance from a credit card (though this typically carries a high interest rate, so proceed with caution).

Tips to Keep Yourself Safe at ATMs

With both in-person and online banking, security is important. When using an ATM machine, it’s important to learn how to do so safely, whether making a deposit or withdrawal. Here are some tips for staying safe:

•   Be aware of your surroundings. If there is someone loitering around an ATM that you’d like to use (especially at night), you might want to go elsewhere.

•   You may feel safer using ATMs located in bank branches.

•   Here’s what you should do before approaching an ATM: Have your card in your hand as you approach the device versus fumbling through your pockets or bag while at the ATM.

•   Cover the keypad when entering in the PIN number so no one else can see it. Some keypads are designed in such a way as to help protect your personal information as you type in those digits.

•   Review ATMs closely for misaligned card readers, skimming devices (more on that in a moment), or suspicious markings before using one.

•   If you are withdrawing cash, put it away ASAP when you receive it. Don’t walk away from the ATM with cash in your hands.

Also be aware that there are ATM scams. One common one involves card skimmers, a device that a fraudster attaches to an ATM (or gas pump card reader) in order to fraudulently collect the account information of users. Inspect card readers for signs of tampering; you may try to wiggle an ATM’s card reader to detect card skimmers.

If you have reason to be concerned, it could be wise to avoid this ATM and look for another or else get some cash back at, say, your grocery store to tide you over.

The Takeaway

ATMs can offer a convenient way to access a number of basic but essential banking services (such as withdrawing and depositing cash) without having to actually visit a branch location during business hours. It’s important to remember to pay attention to ATM fees, which are much easier to avoid when using an in-network ATM. It’s also essential to keep safety in mind to avoid theft or fraud when using an ATM.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What if the ATM gave me too much money?

Sorry, it’s not free cash. Contact your bank (or the owner of the ATM, if the device is out-of-network) and explain what happened. Keep your receipt, and follow the advice given.

What are the pros and cons of ATMs?

The major pro of using an ATM is probably convenience; you can access some banking services during non-business hours or wherever you may be. The cons associated with ATMs include the fact that services are limited, fees may be charged, and there’s the possibility of theft.

How many times can I use an ATM?

How many times you can use an ATM often depends on how much money you withdraw each time. Most banks limit the dollar amount someone can withdraw (usually $300 to $5,000) per day. Check your bank for its withdrawal limits.

Can I use my debit card at any ATM?

You can generally use a debit card to withdraw cash (although not necessarily to make deposits) at any ATM, even if it is out-of-network. However, making a withdrawal at an out-of-network ATM can lead to having to pay fees.

What should you do before you approach an ATM?

Before approaching an ATM, you should look around and make sure no one is loitering nearby. It’s also wise to have your debit card ready to use in your hand vs. having to dig for it at the terminal.

How much money will an ATM let you take out?

Banks typically have withdrawal limits per day. These vary among financial institutions but are usually between $300 and $5,000.


Photo credit: iStock/Eva-Katalin

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® 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.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://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, 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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How Many Savings Accounts Should I Have?

How many savings accounts you should have will depend on your savings goals and money management style. You may prefer the simplicity of having just one savings account. Or, you might find it helpful to have different savings accounts for different savings goals, such as an “emergency fund” and a “travel fund.”

There’s no ideal number of savings accounts to have, nor is there a limit to how many savings accounts you can open. So what’s the right number?

Read on to learn why you may want to have more than one savings account, the pros and cons of having multiple savings accounts, types of savings accounts to consider, and how to manage your savings accounts so you reach your financial goals.

Key Points

•   Multiple savings accounts can help separate and manage funds for different financial goals effectively.

•   An emergency fund should ideally be kept in a distinct account to avoid accidental use.

•   Using different accounts facilitates easier tracking of progress towards individual savings goals.

•   There are benefits to having multiple accounts, such as better organization and potentially earning more interest.

•   Managing multiple accounts might involve additional fees and requires careful monitoring to avoid errors.

How Many Savings Accounts Should You Have?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The number of savings accounts you should have depends on your financial goals and personal preferences. Some people find it helpful to have multiple accounts to separate their savings for different purposes, such as an emergency fund, a vacation fund, or a down payment on a house. Others prefer to keep all their savings in a single account for simplicity.

You might aim to have at least two savings accounts, one for your emergency fund (since you don’t want to accidentally deplete that for another purpose) and one for other savings goals. Or, you might want to further subdivide your savings. For example, you might have savings accounts for:

•   A vacation

•   A home improvement project

•   A down payment for a car or home

•   Holiday shopping

•   A wedding or other event

Earn up to 4.60% APY with a high-yield savings account from SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings account and earn up to 4.60% APY - with no minimum balance and no account fees.


Reasons to Have Multiple Savings Accounts

Here’s a look at some reasons why you may find it helpful to have more than one savings account.

Separating Your Goals

Having multiple accounts allows you to separate your savings for different goals. This can make it easier to track your progress toward each goal and avoid the temptation to dip into funds earmarked for a specific purpose.

Emergency Fund

Many financial experts recommend having enough money set aside in an emergency fund to cover at least three to six month’s worth of living expenses. This helps ensure you can pay for a sudden expense like a car repair or medical bill without having to run up expensive debt. By keeping your emergency fund in a separate account, you’re less likely to touch it until it’s truly needed.

Tracking Your Progress

If all of your savings are lumped into one account, it can be hard to tell how much you have saved up for different goals, and how much farther you have to go. For example, if your goals include building up your emergency fund, saving for a vacation next year, and making a down payment on a home within three years, it can be unclear how much you’ve put away for each purpose. If you have multiple accounts, on the other hand, you’ll have different balances attached to different goals.

Advantages of Having Multiple Savings Accounts

There are both pros and cons to having more than one savings account. Here’s a look at some of the benefits.

•   Organization: Multiple accounts can help you keep your savings organized and easily accessible for different purposes.

•   Goal tracking: Separating your savings into different accounts makes it easier to track your progress toward each goal.

•   Earning more bonuses: If you set up savings accounts at several financial institutions, you might reap an account-opening bonus (which is usually cash) from each bank or credit union.

•   Get a higher interest rate: Opening savings accounts at different banks could help you take advantage of higher interest rates. For example, your brick-and-mortar bank may pay a lower annual percentage yield (APY) for a regular savings account compared to a high-yield savings account at an online bank.

Disadvantages to Having Multiple Savings Accounts

There are also some downsides to having multiple savings accounts. Here are some to consider.

•   It may trigger fees: Some savings accounts may be fee-free, while others might charge fees if your account dips below a certain balance. If you can’t meet the minimum balance required for each account, you could end up racking up fees by having multiple savings accounts.

•   More difficult to keep track of: Managing multiple accounts can be more time-consuming and require more effort than managing a single account. You may find that monitoring multiple accounts is too much of a juggling act.

•   Potential for errors: With multiple accounts, there is a risk of forgetting about or neglecting some accounts, which could lead to missed savings opportunities.

•   You could lose out on higher interest rates: Some banks have a tiered interest rate structure for savings accounts, meaning you only earn the highest rates once your balance reaches a certain amount. If your money is spread out, you may find it hard to reach the threshold for the best rate.

Types of Savings Accounts to Consider

There are different types of savings accounts you can open, and which one is best will depend on your goals and needs. Here’s a brief look at how they compare.

•   Traditional savings accounts: These accounts are offered by brick-and-mortar banks and credit unions and are designed to be a basic savings option. They typically pay a low interest rate, and may come with a monthly or minimum balance fee.

•   High-yield savings accounts: These accounts offer a higher interest rate than the average for savings accounts. You’re more likely to find high-yield savings accounts at online banks, though some traditional banks and credit unions offer them. In addition to providing higher average APYs, online banks usually charge lower (or no) fees due to their reduced overhead costs.

•   Money market accounts: These accounts are a hybrid of a checking account and a savings account. They pay interest on your deposits and also allow you to write checks or make withdrawals and purchases using a debit card. Money market accounts typically offer higher interest rates than basic savings accounts but may have higher minimum balance requirements.

•   Certificate of Deposit (CD): Certificates of deposit, or CDs, usually pay a higher yield than traditional savings accounts because you agree to let the bank keep your money locked up for a specific term that could range from three months to five years or longer. Should you need to withdraw your money before the CD has matured, you’ll incur an early withdrawal penalty.

Tips on Managing Multiple Savings Accounts

While having more than one savings account may sound confusing, it doesn’t have to be. Here are six tips for making the most of multiple savings accounts.

1.   Use account nicknames. If your bank allows it, consider giving each saving account a title, such as “Hawaii Fund” or “New Furniture Fund.” This makes it easy to identify the account and track your progress.

2.   Look for the best rates. If you’re looking to open a new savings account, see what online banks are offering (thanks to lower overhead, online-only banks often offer the most competitive APYs).

3.   Automate your savings. Setting up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings accounts will ensure that you’re consistently saving toward your goals.

4.   Use technology to track your accounts. Many banks offer online or mobile banking apps that make it easy to track your savings goals and account balances all in one place.

5.   Resist the urge to dip into different accounts for different needs. For example, try not to touch your emergency fund to come up with cash for a home improvement project.

6.   Stay on top of your financial goals. If your goals change, you might want to adjust how much money is going into each account – and how often.

Recommended: How Much Money Should I Save a Month?

The Takeaway

Ultimately, the decision of how many savings accounts to have is an individual one. While having multiple accounts can offer benefits such as goal separation and organization, it’s important to weigh these benefits against the potential drawbacks, such as fees and complexity.

By carefully considering your financial situation and goals, you can make an informed decision about how many savings accounts are right for you.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Is it a good idea to have multiple savings accounts?

Having multiple savings accounts can be a good idea for several reasons. It can help you organize your finances by separating your savings goals, such as an emergency fund, a vacation fund, or a down payment for a house. Being able to clearly see individual goals and track progress can help you stay committed and motivated to save.

However, having multiple accounts can also mean more fees (if your bank charges them) and more effort to manage them, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons based on your individual financial situation and goals.

Can you have multiple savings accounts at the same bank?

Yes. Many banks allow customers to open multiple accounts, each with its own account number and possibly different features or benefits. This can be useful for organizing your savings for different purposes or for taking advantage of different interest rates or account types offered by the bank.

What is the cost of having multiple savings accounts?

The cost of having multiple savings accounts can vary depending on the bank and the specific accounts you have. Some banks don’t charge any fees for savings accounts. Others may charge monthly maintenance fees or only charge fees if your account dips below a certain minimum balance. Before you open multiple savings accounts, you’ll want to make sure you understand what fees (if any) may be involved.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® 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.


Our account fee policy is subject to change at any time.
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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50-30-20 budget rule

The 50/30/20 Rule: Budgeting Your Money Wisely

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a super simple way to budget; say, no more than three figures you had to keep in mind to take control of your finances? That’s exactly what the 50/30/20 budget rule (aka the 50 30 20 rule) can do for you. It’s a simple and effective way to manage your money, allocating 50% of your take-home income to “musts,” 30% to “wants,” and 20% to saving for your future.

For anyone who has ever felt that budgeting was too complicated and headache-triggering to take on, this guideline can make things clear and easy.

Key Points

•   The 50/30/20 budget rule simplifies financial planning by allocating income into three categories: needs, wants, and savings.

•   Essential expenses should take up 50% of after-tax income, covering necessities like housing and food.

•   Discretionary spending, or “wants,” should account for 30% of the budget, including entertainment and non-essential purchases.

•   Savings and financial goals should receive 20% of income, emphasizing the importance of future financial security.

•   This budgeting method was popularized by Senator Elizabeth Warren to help individuals manage finances more effectively.

What Is the 50/30/20 Rule?

The 50/30/20 budget or “rule” is a budgeting framework that can be relatively easy to create and implement. It’s one potential way to help keep your finances on track and help you work towards your goals.

The 50/30/20 numbers refer to percentages of your take-home income that you would allocate to three main categories: ”needs” or “musts” (essentials), “wants” (nonessentials), and saving (financial goals), respectively.

The primary goal of the 50/30/20 rule is to learn to prioritize saving money by making it a key part of your spending plan.

Everyone’s financial needs and goals are different, however. And, while these percentages can be a great starting point, you may find that you need to tweak these exact numbers to better suit your needs and current financial situation.

Where Did the 50/30/20 Rule Come From?

The 50/30/20 budget rule gained popularity when Sen. Elizabeth Warren explained it in her book, “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan,” which was first published in 2005.

The simplicity of the concept (and the math) contributed to its appeal. The idea of dividing one’s money into three instantly understandable buckets proved to have staying power.

How the 50/30/20 Rule Works

In the 50/30/20 budget, you allocate your take-home (or after-tax) income into three main categories or buckets according to percentages.

Recommended: Check out the 50/30/20 calculator to see a breakdown of your money.

50% to “Needs”

These are things you cannot live without and the bills you cannot avoid paying. Consider them the “musts;” the items that you need to survive or that would leave you in a difficult situation if you didn’t pay them.

Here are some examples of typical needs:

•   Rent or one of the different kinds of mortgage payments that are possible (in a nutshell, your housing costs)

•   Utilities, including electricity, WiFi, and water

•   Car payments and/or other transportation expenses (say, to get to work)

•   Groceries (but not that pricey takeout salad)

•   Basic clothing (what you need to wear in daily life, at work, and/or to stay warm; not the latest style of jeans just because they’re cool)

•   Insurance payments

•   Healthcare costs

•   Debt payment, such as the minimums on student loans and/or your credit card

The “needs” category does not include items that are extras, such as Netflix, dining out, and clothing beyond what you need for work. Those fall under the next category.

30% to “Wants”

Also known as personal, discretionary, or nonessential spending, these are the things you buy that you could technically live without. This includes:

•   Dining out or takeout food

•   Going to the movies, a show, or a concert

•   Vacation/travel costs

•   Streaming channel subscriptions (unless they are somehow vital for your work)

•   New clothes, simply because you feel like buying them

•   Electronics that are cool but not vital to your job

•   Spa treatments

•   Ubers or taxis instead of public transportation.

Wants are all the little extras and upgrades you spend money on that make life more fun.

20% to Savings

This is the money you save for future financial goals. This category often provides a means to financial security. This includes:

•   Money put into an emergency fund

•   Saving for a downpayment on a home

•   IRA or other retirement contributions

•   Extra payments to help pay off your loans sooner (minimum payments are part of the “needs” category).

Even though the budget is written as 50/30/20, the purpose of this system is to prioritize the saving aspect, this 20%. (It may be more appropriately named the 20/50/30 budget.) The goal here is to get people to save for tomorrow rather than just spend today.

The idea is to make space for the 20% without laboring over the rest. The minutiae of where your fun money is going ($5 for a latte here, $10 for an appetizer there) isn’t super important if you’re saving enough to meet your financial goals.

Another point to note: If you aren’t saving 20% of your income right now, that’s okay. The process of setting up the 50/30/20 budget will help you find out where your money is going so that you can make adjustments. After completing your budget breakdown, you can address the areas where you’d like to cut back.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


Benefits of the 50/30/20 Budget

The 50/30/20 rule may be a minimalist budget, but it can pack the same powerful benefits you would get with a more labor-intensive budget.

Some of the payoffs of setting up and following a 50/30/20 include:

•   Knowing where you stand. As a popular adage goes, “what gets measured gets improved.” It can be hard to start spending less and saving more if you aren’t clear on how much and where you are currently spending.

•   Identifying easy ways to cut back. As with any budgeting process, the 50/30/20 budget can reveal opportunities to cut back on spending. Simply going through the process – and seeing exactly where your money is going each month – can help to motivate you to make some relatively pain-free adjustments.

•   Reducing financial stress. While building a budget may seem like a stress-inducing exercise, it can ultimately relieve a lot of financial worry. It can add structure and clarity to your spending. Instead of angsting over every purchase, you’ll have built-in boundaries that allow you to spend freely within your budget.

•   Simplifying the budgeting process. By having fewer categories than a traditional monthly budget, the 50/30/20 rule of thumb can be easy to set up and to maintain. It can also be simple to track a 50/30/20 budget digitally.

•   Achieving your savings goals. By making saving a priority and setting some money aside before you start spending, a 50/30/20 budget can help you work effectively towards your financial goals. Whether that’s creating an emergency fund, making a downpayment on a home, or going on a great vacation is your decision.

Tips for Implementing the 50/30/20 Budget

Want to give the 50/30/20 budget a try? If you decide to go this route, or you’re just looking for some budgeting basics, here are some steps you can take to get started.

Gathering Your Financial Records

To get started with any kind of budget, it’s helpful to collect the last three months or so of bank and credit card statements, pay stubs, receipts, and bills.

Calculating Your Monthly Income

You can use your statements to figure out exactly how much money you are bringing in each month after taxes are taken out. You can think of after-tax dollars as the pot of money you have to siphon into the three budget categories each month.

Setting a Savings Target

You may want to begin with the most important category, which is the 20% (savings). Since the goal for this budget is to turn the 20% into a nonnegotiable part of the plan, you’d calculate 20% of your monthly after-tax income and set that figure aside for things like debt repayment, cash savings, retirement investing, and any other financial goals that you have.

Even if you don’t feel it’s realistic for you to put 20% into saving right now, you might run the exercise assuming that you will. You’ll be able to tinker with the numbers later.

Calculating Essential Monthly Expenses

Next, you may want to make a list of all of your monthly essential or fixed expenses, such as rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, and insurance.

Currently, do essential items absorb more than 50% of your take-home income each month? If so, what percentage do they comprise? And, is there any way to reduce any of these monthly expenses?

Building a Hypothetical Budget

After adding up savings and essentials, what is left over is what can be allocated towards discretionary spending, or the “wants” outline above.

It can be helpful to keep in mind that the 50/30/20 numbers are just a guideline. If the cost of living is high where you live, for example, it may not be feasible to keep essentials to 50% of your take-home income. In this case, you may need to reduce spending on wants.

Or, you may decide that at this point you can’t quite afford to put 20% into savings. There are variations on the 50/30/20 theme that accommodate these situations, such as the 70/20/10 rule, which acknowledges that for some people, a hefty 70% will be needed for the “musts” of life.

Recommended: Cost of Living by State Comparison

Once you see your numbers in black and white, you can play with the percentages and come up with a workable plan for roughly how much you can spend on nonessentials, or fun, each month.

Putting Your Plan into Action

Now that you have a basic guideline of how much money you will put into one type of savings account each month and how much cash you can spend each month on wants, it’s time to give your budget a try.

You may want to plan on tracking your spending for two to three months to start. You can do this by saving receipts and logging expenses according to the three categories at the end of the day. Or, you could use a budgeting app that makes it easy to track and categorize expenses.

Another tip: Try automating your finances and having money transferred from your checking account to your savings right after payday. That way, you won’t see the cash sitting in checking and think it’s there for the spending.

Making Some Tweaks

After tracking your spending for several months, you’ll probably have enough data to refine your original 50/30/20 budget. From there you can adjust the categories based on your actual spending, not just your projected spending.

You may also find that you need to adjust your spending. Discretionary spending is typically the easiest place to do some trimming.

You may decide you need to cook at home (rather than get takeout) a few more times a week, save on streaming services by dropping a channel you rarely watch, or ditch the gym membership and work out at home.

it may also be possible to pare back some of your fixed monthly expenses. Reducing utility bills, saving on gas, and, if possible, rent, could free up more money for fun spending.

After making some adjustments, you can execute your new and improved budget. You may want to continue to track spending in a method that works best for you until spending according to your budget becomes second nature.

The Takeaway

The 50/30/20 rule of thumb is a set of easy guidelines for how to plan your budget. Using them, you allocate your monthly after-tax income to the three categories: 50% to “needs,” 30% to “wants,” and 20% to saving for your financial goals.

Your percentages may need to be adjusted based on your personal circumstances and goals. But using this simple formula can be a good way to get a better handle on your finances, and to start working more effectively towards your goals.

You may find that technology can make sticking to a budget simpler. If you open a bank account online with SoFi, you’ll have features and perks that can help make the most of your money. Our Checking and Savings offers a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) and charges you no account fees. Plus you’ll spend and save in one convenient place, be able to track where your money goes, and use Vaults and Roundups to boost your savings.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Is the 50/30/20 rule a realistic goal?

For many people, the 50/30/20 rule is a realistic way to budget for essentials, discretionary expenses, and savings contributions. For others, it may not be realistic. If you are just starting your work life, earn a lower salary, live in an area where housing is very expensive, or have considerable debt to manage, you might do better with a different budget guideline.

Is the 50/30/20 rule weekly or monthly?

When budgeting, people typically work with their monthly expenses, since that is how housing costs, utilities, and other payments (say, student loans and credit card debt) are assessed. You could, however, apply the 50/30/20 guideline to your weekly spending and see how your finances are tracking.

What is the 60/30/10 rule budget?

The 60/30/10 budget is a different version of the 50/30/20 rule that can work well for super savers. It allocates 30% more for the “musts” of life and 10% for discretionary spending. The remaining 60% is for saving, investment, and paying off debt.

What is the 70/20/10 rule for money?

The 70/20/10 rule is a budgeting system that allocates 70% of one’s take-home income towards needs (minus debt) and “wants” (discretionary spending), 20% to saving and investing, and 10% towards debt repayment or donations.


SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® 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.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://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, 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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Guide to Direct Deposit

If you’re like most Americans, your paycheck turns up in your bank account automatically, without any check to sign or wad of cash to pocket and then get to the bank.

With direct deposit, funds are electronically transferred out of one bank account and (ka-ching!) deposited into another. It’s a convenient way to automate one’s finances, and it’s not limited to paychecks. It can streamline other financial transactions as well.

Here, you’ll learn more about this process, the pros and cons of direct deposit, and ways you might want to put it to work for you.

Key Points

•   Direct deposit is an electronic transfer of funds from one bank account to another, commonly used for payroll.

•   It was introduced in 1972 with the formation of the first Automated Clearing House (ACH) network.

•   Nearly 93% of employed Americans receive their salaries via direct deposit.

•   The process involves employers sending an electronic file to the bank, which then distributes funds to employees’ accounts.

•   Direct deposit is also utilized for government benefits, tax refunds, and other payments.

What Is Direct Deposit?

As mentioned above, direct deposit is a way of electronically transferring funds between bank accounts.

It was pioneered more than 50 years ago. In 1972, the first automated clearing house (ACH) network formed to manage electronic payments, with other networks quickly following. In 1975, the Social Security Administration (SSA) decided to test the system of direct deposit for payments they issued. Today, 99% of SSA’s payments are directly deposited.

Today, nearly 93% of employed people in the United States receive their salaries or wages this way.

What’s more, these automatic bank transfers are used today in ways beyond having paychecks directly deposited, including bill pay, retirement account contributions, and more.


💡 Quick Tip: Did you know online banking can help you get paid sooner? Feel the magic of payday up to two days earlier when you set up direct deposit with SoFi.

How Does Direct Deposit Work?

You’ve now learned a bit about what direct deposit is and how the ACH system facilitates direct deposit, allowing funds to flow seamlessly and quickly from one account to another.

Here, a bit more intel on how this process can be put to work for you and how to set up direct deposit.

Direct Deposit for Payroll

Let’s say that someone is ready to start a new job. The human resources department explains how the company either requires direct deposit or offers the option.

•  If that employee wants to set up direct deposit, they would need to share bank information with their new employer, including the bank’s name, the routing number that identifies the financial institution, and the employee’s bank account number. Sometimes, a voided check is requested.

•  This information would then be entered into the company’s payroll system and, whenever payroll rolls around, the company would send an electronic file to this employee’s financial institute. This file would share how much money should be transferred from the company’s (the “originator’s”) bank account to accounts for each of the employees whose direct deposit accounts are located at that particular financial institution.

•  If, for example, three employees of a company all share Bank A, then let’s say this bank receives an electronic transfer of $4,345. Bank A would then distribute the money appropriately into the proper bank accounts, perhaps:

◦  $2,000 in Person A’s checking account and $500 into their savings account

◦  $1,350 in Person B’s account

◦  $445 in Person C’s checking account and $50 into their savings account.

•  Then, if the employees (known as “receivers”) check their bank balances, they’ll see the deposits made through this direct deposit process. As noted in this example, money may be directly deposited to a checking account or into a savings account. Or some money can be put into a savings account with the rest in a checking account.

•  How long does direct deposit take? Typically, the funds go through like clockwork and are there waiting on payday. Some banks may offer the ability to access your direct deposit up to two days sooner.

What Are the Uses of Direct Deposit?

There are several uses for direct deposit:

•  Payroll. As noted, the vast majority of Americans get paid this way.

•  Tax refund. This can be among the quickest ways to get your tax refund. The IRS can process a direct deposit refund for an electronically filed return in as little as seven to 10 days of receipt.

•  Government benefits. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits, VA, unemployment, and other benefits can be paid via direct deposit.

•  Commissions, rental income, vendor payments and other earnings can be automated with direct deposit.

•  Dividends. Shareholders may receive dividends by direct deposit.

•  Child support. This may also be automated.

Benefits of Payroll Direct Deposits

Direct deposit has many benefits. Here’s a closer look:

•  Convenience: With a direct deposit of their paycheck, employees can skip the step of physically depositing a paycheck into their accounts, which can be a timesaver.

This can be especially true if the employee telecommutes from home, is on vacation, or is otherwise out of the office when payday comes, because that employee doesn’t have to go into the office to retrieve the paper check.

•  Speed: With direct deposit, the money is typically in an employee’s bank account at the start of the designated payment date, which gives them access to the funds that day. No waiting for checks to clear.

•  Security: With paper checks, there’s always the possibility that they will get lost or stolen. So, payroll direct deposit can add a layer of security to the process.

Many times banks will waive fees for customers who have direct deposits set up.

•  Savings: Many times banks will waive fees for customers who have direct deposits set up, although there may be a minimum deposit amount required for this to happen.

•  Better money management: If an employee puts a percentage of each paycheck automatically into a savings account, this can get them into a regular savings habit.

Downsides of Payroll Direct Deposit

Now, for the other side of the coin, the cons of direct deposit:

•  Inconvenience: When people receiving direct deposits decide to change banks, it may be a hassle. It may take workplaces a period of time to change where paychecks are sent, which means that the old account might need to be kept open longer to make sure all paychecks are received.

How long that period of time may be can vary. But, before you close your old account, ensure that all direct deposits are being put into the new account. Also make sure that all withdrawals and checks have cleared at your old bank and that any automated payments are coming out of the new bank.

•  Scheduling: With direct deposit, it’s important to make sure the correct deposit dates and amounts are recorded. Otherwise, account holders could write checks beyond what’s available, which could trigger overdraft or non-sufficient fund (NSF) fees — which can be costly, especially when they add up.

•  Lack of access: Not everybody in the United States has a bank account. If someone doesn’t but their employer requires direct deposit (more about that next), then employees without a bank account would likely receive their paychecks through a prepaid debit card. These can come with fees and, like paper checks, can be lost or stolen.

Here are the pros and cons in chart form:

Pros of Direct Deposit

Cons of Direct Deposit

Convenience receiving fundsInconvenience if you change banks
Speed (no waiting for checks to clear)Scheduling; must be sure funds arrive
Security (no carrying around cash or checks getting lost in the mail)Lack of access for those who are unbanked
Savings; banks may offer discounts or bonuses if you receive qualifying direct deposits
Better money management

Employers Requiring Direct Deposit

Just as there are benefits to payroll direct deposit for employees, there are also benefits for employers. For instance, it’s cheaper to manage payroll payments this way, versus physical checks.

Plus, they have a record of accounts, which makes it easier for companies when they’re reviewing expenses — and they don’t have to reissue a check if an employee loses one.

And, after a person’s payroll information has been entered into the system, paying employees can be faster and easier with direct deposit.

Laws governing payroll direct deposit vary by state and, if a state has no specific laws on this subject, it defaults to federal regulations. Federal law states that employers must give each employee using direct deposit a summary of rights and liabilities and must get their signature on an authorization form along with relevant banking information.

Some states allow employers to actually require direct deposit for payroll, as long as the program is administered in a way that’s consistent with federal regulations. (In some cases, the rule only applies to public sector workers.) Most states, however, still give employees the choice between direct deposit and receiving a physical check.

A handful of states have laws that are unique to them, ones that don’t fit into any of the broad categories already described.

Automating Your Finances

The concept of electronic funds transfers is at the heart of payroll direct deposits, but goes beyond that. Here are additional ways to benefit from automating your finances.

•  Automation is a tool that can also help people to build an emergency savings account. In general, traditional wisdom says this account should contain three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

That way, if an emergency arises (whether that’s a job loss, an unanticipated repair, or unexpected medical expenses), a financial cushion exists. By setting up a regular funds transfer to a savings account, this can make it easier to build up that emergency fund.

•  Another way to streamline your financial life: paying bills through autopay. In some instances, lenders may offer a discounted interest rate for borrowers who use automated payments to pay their bills. Autopay can help borrowers make their payments on time, rather than forgetting them when life gets hectic. This can mean fewer or no late fees.

Autopay can help borrowers to make their payments on time, rather than forgetting them when life gets hectic.

•  Because payment history plays a key role (35%) in a person’s FICO® Score, autopay can help you establish and maintain your credit score. By automating payments (as long as enough money is in their checking or savings account when the payment is due) you can optimize this aspect of your cash management.

•  Autopay helps to reduce the number of paper bills that need to be sent out and the number of paper checks that may be written to pay those bills. This means that automated funds transfers can therefore be an eco-friendly choice to make.

•  Whenever funds are electronically transferred, either in or out of a bank account, a digital record is automatically created. This can be helpful when balancing accounts, creating a budget, looking for tax deductible items, searching for ways to trim discretionary spending, and more.

•  Autopay might also be a good strategy to use to contribute to a retirement account. Employers may automatically deduct an amount from employee paychecks to transfer it into a retirement account that’s set up by the company. That can make saving super easy.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


Types of Accounts for Direct Deposits

For people who decide to use forms of automated funds transfers, here are some options to consider for receiving direct deposit:

•  Checking accounts

•  Savings accounts

•  Money market account

•  Investment accounts

•  Some prepaid debit cards

•  Some payment apps, such as PayPal or Cash App.

Getting Direct Deposit With SoFi

If you’re interested in opening a bank account to receive direct deposits, take a look at what SoFI offers and see if SoFi direct deposit is a good fit for you.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What is the meaning of direct deposit?

Direct deposit refers to the automated transfer of funds from one bank account to another. This means cash doesn’t need to change hands, nor does a check need to be written and then deposited.

How do you get direct deposit?

Typically, signing up for direct deposit involves sharing your bank account and routing number with, say, your employer or the government so they can direct deposit funds in your account. In some cases, you may be asked to share a voided check.

Is direct deposit only for paychecks?

Direct deposit is not only for paychecks. It can also be used for government benefits (such as Social Security), commissions, tax refunds, investment dividends, and other forms of payment.



SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® 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.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://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.

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 .

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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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