ATM Withdrawal Limits: What You Need to Know

ATMs can be a quick, easy solution when you need a fast cash infusion, but banks typically impose a limit on how much money you can withdraw in one day. If you are planning to withdraw a certain amount of cash, it can be wise to know whether you’ll actually be able to get the money you need from the nearest ATM. The typical amount is between $500 and $1,000.

Here, you’ll learn how much money you can likely withdraw from an ATM and how to get around these ATM maximum limits.

What Is an ATM Withdrawal Limit?

An ATM withdrawal limit sets a maximum amount of cash you can withdraw per day from these machines. The limits vary widely, from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Often, those with premium checking accounts may have higher limits than those with standard accounts.

The kind of ATM you’re using (in-network or out-of-network) can make a difference, too, with in-network often having higher limits.

💡 Quick Tip: Don’t think too hard about your money. Automate your budgeting, saving, and spending with SoFi’s seamless and secure mobile banking app.

Why Do Banks Have ATM Withdrawal Limits?

While ATM withdrawal limits can be frustrating, they exist for two important reasons:

•   Cash availability: Banks want to make sure there is enough money available for all ATM users. But ATMs can only hold so much cash, and banks only have so much cash on hand at any one given time. Say you go to an ATM on the Friday before a long holiday weekend to get some spending money and find that there is no cash left. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s a possibility. Capping the amount of money that can be withdrawn at an ATM helps ensure that customers can’t clean out ATMs or drain the bank’s cash reserves.

•   Security: ATM withdrawal limits also protect consumers. If someone were to get hold of your debit card and PIN number, the ATM withdrawal maximum would prevent that fraudster from immediately draining your entire checking or savings account.

How Much Can I Withdraw From an ATM per Day?

The answer depends on the specific bank’s rules around withdrawals, with some capping at $300 and others going as high as $5,000 a day. A limit of somewhere between $500 and $1,000 is common.

In some cases, a withdrawal limit depends on a specific customer’s banking history or account type. A new customer with a basic checking account may have a lower withdrawal limit than an established customer with a premium checking account. If you have a student or a second chance account, your max ATM withdrawal might be lower than if you had a standard checking account.

Whether you are withdrawing from checking vs. savings can also make a difference. In some cases, how savings accounts work is to have a higher cap on how much you can withdraw at any one time. In others, you will find that you can pull more cash from an ATM using your checking account.

One thing to be aware of: You may be limited to how many withdrawal transactions you can make per month from your savings account. Check your financial institution’s policies for specifics.

You may also find that how much you can withdraw will depend on the type of ATM you are using. For example, you may be able to withdraw more from an in-network machine than an independent one at a gas station.

Here’s a chart showing the range of withdrawal limits for some popular banks:

Bank

Daily ATM Withdrawal Limit

Ally $1,000
Bank of America Varies; typically up to $1,500
Capital One Varies; typically $200 to $5,000
Chase Varies; typically $500 to $3,000
Citi Typically $1,500
PNC Varies; often $500 and up

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 Work Around ATM Withdrawal Limits

If you need more cash than an ATM will allow you to withdraw, there are a few workarounds that can help as you manage your money.

Ask for Cash Back While Shopping

In some stores (like grocery stores), it’s possible to ask for cash back at checkout when making a purchase. While cash back may count toward your debit card’s daily purchase limit, it typically doesn’t count toward a daily ATM withdrawal limit.

The store will likely also have a cash back limit that applies on a per-purchase basis. That could mean you’ll need to make multiple purchases to withdraw the full amount of cash needed.

Withdraw From Savings

If you have both a checking account and savings account, you can withdraw money from a savings account when using an ATM. This can help avoid the daily checking account withdrawal limit.

There may, however, still be some limitations on ATM savings withdrawals, and this may vary with the kind of savings account you have.

Withdraw at the Window

If you bank at a brick-and-mortar location and the branch is open when you need more money, head inside. You can withdraw the amount you need by seeing a teller.

Contact Your Bank to Increase Your Limit

You may be able to negotiate a higher ATM withdrawal limit simply by contacting your bank’s customer service department and asking for a boost.

Recommended: ATM Cards vs Debit Cards: What’s the Difference?

The Takeaway

ATM withdrawal limits are there for your protection as well as the bank’s, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t inconvenient at times.

If you regularly need cash, you may want to find out your bank’s daily ATM withdrawal limits and plan ahead. Or, you can work around the maximums in place and get cash from other sources. By using a bit of smart strategy, you can make sure you have the cash you need on hand.

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

Can you withdraw $1,000 at an ATM?

The amount you can withdraw will vary based on a number of factors, including your account type (standard or premium) and the type of ATM you are using (in-network or out-of-network).

Which ATM lets you withdraw the most money?

You may find you can withdraw more cash at an in-network than out-of-network ATM.

What is the maximum amount I can withdraw from an ATM at one time?

The amount you can withdraw from an ATM may range from $300 to $5,000 a day, depending on the financial institution and your particular account. Somewhere between $500 and $1,000 is typical.


Photo credit: iStock/RgStudio

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.


*Awards or rankings from NerdWallet are not indicative of future success or results. This award and its ratings are independently determined and awarded by their respective publications.

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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Budgeting Tips for High School Students and Those Entering College

Budgeting Guide for Teens: 7 Tips to Build Better Money Habits

As a teenager, you may think you don’t have enough money to worry about coming up with or sticking to any kind of budget. But, in truth, you don’t need a lot of money to benefit from budgeting. In fact, coming up with a plan for how to spend your money (which is what budgeting is) can be particularly helpful for teens who don’t have much in the way of income or savings.

While creating a teen budget might sound intimidating or complicated, it simply involves looking at what you have coming in and going out, setting aside some money for future goals (say, getting a new phone), while also allocating funds for having fun right now.

Whether all you have is allowance and odd jobs or you earn steady income from a part-time job, here’s how to do more with the money you have.

How to Build a Budget for Teens

Learning how to budget as a teen helps set the foundation for financial success later in life. It includes tracking income and expenses, setting savings goals, and making wise spending decisions. Below we break it all down.

1. Determine How Much You Earn

The first step in creating a budget is figuring out your income. As a teenager, your income might come from various sources, such as a part-time job, an allowance from your parents, or occasional gigs like babysitting or mowing lawns. If you have a checking account, all of your deposits represent your income.

List all of your regular income sources and calculate the total amount you receive each month. If your income fluctuates, you can estimate a monthly average. Alternatively, you might find it easier to break up your budget on a weekly cycle. If you have a job where you’re paid every two weeks, just divide that amount in half.

This step will give you a clear picture of how much money you have to work with.

2. Figure Out How Much You Usually Spend

So where does all your money go? To find out, come up with a list of spending categories and roughly how much you spend weekly or monthly on each.

If you typically make purchases using a debit card or payment app, you can see your spending by looking at your transactions for the past month. If you normally spend cash, however, you may need to track your spending for a few weeks or a month. You can do this by keeping every receipt and jotting down your spending at the end of each day.

Next, you’ll want to categorize your spending into different areas, such as food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, etc. This exercise will help you understand your spending habits and identify where you might be overspending.

3. Divide Spending Into “Needs” and “Wants”

Once you have a clear idea of your spending, it’s time to differentiate your spending categories into “needs” vs. “wants.”

Needs are required or necessary spending like your cell phone bill, car insurance, gas money, and any other expenses that your parents have asked you to be responsible for. Wants are nonessential items like eating out, video games, and trendy clothes.

By dividing your expenses into these two categories, you can prioritize your spending. This can help ensure that your needs are met before you start spending money on your wants.

4. Set Some Money Goals

Saving money is a crucial part of budgeting. Whether you want to save for a new pair of sneakers, a car, or college, having a goal in mind can motivate you to save consistently.

It’s helpful to set specific, achievable savings goals. For example, if you want to save $300 to make a purchase in six months, you’ll need to save $50 each month. Having clear goals helps you stay focused and disciplined. When you make your monthly or weekly budget, you can make sure to set aside money for your short-term and long-term goals, whatever they may be.

If you don’t have a savings account, now may be a good time to open one. Even if you open an account with a very small amount, your balance will grow as you add funds over time and earn compound interest (which is when the interest you earn on your balance also earns interest). Many banks and credit unions offer teen savings accounts that are designed to help young people earn a competitive yield on their money, while avoiding maintenance fees and minimum balance requirements.

5. Make Your Teen Budget

Now that you have a clear understanding of your income, expenses, and savings goals, you can create your budget. You can do this using a budgeting app, pen and paper, or simply the “notes” app on your phone.

Start by putting your income at the top. Next, you’ll want to list your fixed expenses (needs), variable expenses (wants), and savings goals and what you will spend on each.

Once you have a list of all your spending categories, it’s time to figure out how much money to use for each one. You’ll want to make sure that your total expenses and savings do not exceed your income. If they do, you’ll need to adjust your spending habits by cutting down on spending in the “wants” categories or finding ways to increase your income.

6. Start Using Your Budget

Creating a budget is only the first step; sticking to it is where the real challenge lies. It helps if you start tracking your spending. You can do this by collecting receipts and writing down what you spend at the end of each day. Or, if you use a debit card or payment app, you can just look at your bank account or app transaction history to see how much you’re spending in a given day or week.

Recording your expenses daily or weekly can help you stay within your budget and prevent you from overspending. If you’re not able to meet your savings goals, you may need to make some adjustments in your spending.

7. Revisit Your Budget

Your financial situation and priorities can change, so it’s important to reevaluate your budget regularly. You may want to review your income and expenses at least once every few months to ensure your budget still aligns with your goals.

If you find there are certain areas where you are consistently overspending or underspending, you can adjust your budget accordingly. If you no longer ride the bus or you have a new source of income, for example, you may be able to spend more on “wants” or put more toward saving (aka, future “wants”).

Regularly updating your budget helps you stay in control of your finances and ensures that you’re always working toward your goals.

Recommended: 50/30/20 Budget Rule: What It Is and Tips on Using It

Why Getting Started Young Is Important

Budgeting is a key financial literacy skill, and starting to budget as a teenager sets you up for lifelong financial success. Here are some reasons why it’s crucial to develop good money habits early on.

•   Builds discipline: Learning to manage money requires discipline and a sense of responsibility. These traits are beneficial not just for financial management but for all aspects of life.

•   Prepares for future financial independence: The skills you develop now will help you manage larger sums of money in the future. Whether it’s paying for college, buying a car, or renting an apartment, budgeting will always be essential.

•   Helps achieve long-term goals: Starting early allows you to develop a habit of saving, which can help you achieve long-term financial goals like buying a house or starting a business.

•   Builds an appreciation for money: When you budget, you become more aware of the value of money and the effort it takes to earn it. This awareness can lead to more mindful spending and better financial decisions.

The Takeaway

Budgeting for teens might sound intimidating or even pointless if you don’t have much money to work with. But doing the simple steps listed above can help you take control of your finances and build better money habits.

By determining your income, tracking your expenses, setting savings goals, and regularly reevaluating your budget, you’ll be able to make your money go farther and be well on your way to financial success.

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 should I spend money on at 15?

At 15, you’ll want to focus on spending money wisely, balancing things you need to spend money on, things you want to spend money on, and saving up for things you want to buy or do in the future. Common teens expenses include:

•   Transportation (bus / train fare, gas)

•   School supplies

•   Extracurricular / sports supplies or equipment

•   Clothing

•   Takeout

•   Entertainment

•   Saving for a car

•   Saving for college

What is a good budget for kids?

A good budget for kids is simple and easy to manage, ensuring a balance between spending, saving, and sharing/giving. Here’s one framework to consider:

•   Income: Allowance, gifts, and earnings from small jobs.

•   Expenses: Essentials (school supplies, clothing), savings, and fun spending.

•   Breakdown: 50% for essentials, 20% for savings, 20% for fun, and 10% for giving/charity.

This budget helps teach kids to manage money wisely, save for future needs, and understand the importance of generosity.

What is the savings rule for kids?

You can apply the general guideline for adults — which is to save around 20% of your income/paycheck — to kids. Whether a child/teen earns money through an allowance, doing chores, or a part-time job, they can start putting 20% of their weeking income toward saving. This gives them money for the unexpected, as well as things they want to buy or do in the future. It also builds a great habit that can serve them well throughout their lives.


Photo credit: iStock/SDI Productions

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.


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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Do You Need Overdraft Protection? The Pros and Cons

Do You Need Overdraft Protection? The Pros and Cons

When a checking account is overdrawn, which can happen when a check bounces, an individual may wonder, “Do I need overdraft protection?” The answer is: It depends. Overdraft protection may suit your financial habits, but it will most likely cost you. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Americans paid more than $9 billion in overdraft fees in 2023 alone.

What Is Overdraft Protection?

Overdraft protection is a set of measures put in place to ensure you have enough money in your bank account to conduct transactions such as debit purchases and bill payments.

An overdraft on your account means the bank is attempting to make a withdrawal — like an electronic payment or ATM withdrawal — and there aren’t enough funds to cover the amount requested.

If you opted into overdraft protection, the bank authorizes the withdrawal instead of declining it and pays the difference. This can be beneficial in certain situations that crop up — say, you get paid tomorrow but don’t have the funds today for a purchase you really need, or if there’s a lag between your current vs. available balance. You’ll usually be charged a fee in addition to repaying the amount of the overdraft. In other words, you’re borrowing money from the bank to cover the transaction. You’ll need to pay it back by making a deposit to your bank account to get your account balance to zero or above.

This kind of protection gives you a safety net in a couple of ways. It can prevent you from defaulting on or making a late payment of bills, while also ensuring that you won’t have your debit card declined.

Overdraft is not the same as non-sufficient funds (NSF). This is when the bank will decline rather than cover the transaction due to the fact that there isn’t enough money in your account. You could be charged a fee for this event as well.

How Much Does Overdraft Protection Cost?

Overdraft fees currently average around $35. However, some banks allow you to link a checking and savings account from the same financial institution so that you have no-fee overdraft coverage when money transfers between these accounts.

In some cases, you may pay overdraft fees multiple times in a day, though many banks limit the number of times you may be charged. For example, if you went to the grocery store and your bill came to $35 and you only had $10 in your bank account, you’ll be slapped with an overdraft fee. Later in the day, if your recurring utilities auto payment was processed, you’d face an additional fee for the bank covering that payment — that is, unless your bank limits the number of times you may be charged.

Keep in mind that you generally need to opt into overdraft protection in order for a bank to overdraft your account. That being said, it can depend on the type of transaction — check or recurring electronic payments may not require opt-ins. It’s best to check with your bank if you’re not sure whether you’ve opted for overdraft protection.

It’s important to be aware that in January 2024, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau introduced a new proposal to reduce overdraft fees to as low as $3. If the proposed rule passes, it could go into effect on October 1, 2025.

💡 Quick Tip: Banish bank fees. Open a new bank account with SoFi and you’ll pay no overdraft, minimum balance, or any monthly fees.

Pros of Overdraft Protection

To help figure out whether you should opt in or not, carefully consider the pros and cons of overdraft protection. It has several benefits, including:

•   Access to funds when an emergency occurs or during an unexpected event. You can write a check, say, for more than you have available, and it will be paid.

•   May expedite transactions, especially when you’re making a necessary purchase like at the grocery store or gas station.

•   Could potentially save you from being embarrassed when a transaction is declined.

•   May help you avoid fees if you link checking and savings accounts from the same bank.

•   Prevent returned check or payment fees from companies, such as utilities companies.

•   Can also prevent late bill payment by covering costs.

Cons of Overdraft Protection

Although there are perks to opting into overdraft protection, there are also drawbacks, such as:

•   Paying overdraft fees, possibly multiple charges per day

•   Could encourage you to overspend, knowing the bank will step in and cover you, rather than becoming motivated to get better with your money

•   Your bank account may not be in good standing if you have a history of overdrafts

Should I Get Overdraft Protection?

Whether you should get overdraft protection depends on what your priorities are.

It can help to prevent transactions from being declined, especially when you have recurring automatic payments or when you’re paying for necessities, like a tank of gas. It may offer you peace of mind since you don’t have to wonder whether creditors are going to come knocking on your door because of failed payments.

However, this convenience does come at a price. Being charged an average of $35 per transaction can really add up. It can become downright problematic if your account frequently overdrafts. Most people want to avoid paying bank fees, especially when they are this high.

If you’re concerned about making sure you have enough money to cover transactions, you can take measures to prevent your balance from sinking too low. It’s a smart idea to adopt these measures, described below, whether or not you opt into overdraft protection.

What Happens When You Don’t Have Overdraft Protection?

When you don’t have overdraft protection, your bank will typically decline a transaction if you don’t have the funds to cover it. So a check you write would not be paid or a debit card transaction would not go through if the cash isn’t in your checking account.

However, each bank will determine what action to take depending on the amount overdrawn and the type of transaction. For instance, if you pay someone a small amount via check and there isn’t enough money in your account, your bank might choose to overdraw your account and charge a fee. Or if you’re swiping your debit card to buy something not too costly, some banks may allow the overdraft and not charge a fee as long as you can cover that amount within a certain amount of time.

Tips for Avoiding Overdraft Fees

Your best bet to not pay any overdraft fees is to take measures to avoid your bank balance dipping below zero. Here are a few best practices to avoid overdraft fees:

•   Turn on bank account alerts to monitor your balance and notify you — either via text, email or push notifications — when your balance is at a certain amount.

•   Download a budgeting app and set up alerts for when you’re overspending.

•   Set reminders for when automatic payments go through or when bills are due so you can deposit funds before those dates.

•   Link your savings and checking account together (make sure your bank won’t charge you a fee for this type of protection).

The Takeaway

Overdraft protection could be useful, but you don’t want to rely on it too frequently. Otherwise, you might end up paying hundreds of dollars in fees that could go towards other goals. Think carefully about your cash flow and spending habits to decide whether or not it’s right for you.

Luckily, there are financial institutions that don’t charge overdraft fees. This could help you earn, save, and spend responsibly — and work toward achieving financial fitness.

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

Should I have overdraft protection on or off?

Whether you should opt into overdraft protection is a personal choice. You should weigh some of the factors such as how often the balance in your account is likely to be close to zero, how many fees you are willing to pay, if you are comfortable with declined transactions, and how often you are able to check your bank account balance.

Does overdraft protection hurt credit?

Overdrafting your bank account generally doesn’t hurt your credit score because this activity isn’t reported to the credit bureaus. However, if you link your bank account to a credit card account (for automatic payments, for instance) and you fail to make a payment, your score might be affected.

Do you have to pay back overdraft protection?

Yes, you’ll need to pay back the amount that’s overdrawn, plus an overdraft fee if the bank charges you one.


Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

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.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©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.


4.60% APY
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.


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 .

*Awards or rankings from NerdWallet are not indicative of future success or results. This award and its ratings are independently determined and awarded by their respective publications.

SOBK-Q224-1927505-V1

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Guide to Commercial Banking

Guide to Commercial Banking

Commercial banks provide financial services for small and large businesses, including checking and savings accounts, loans, lines of credit, letters of credit, underwriting, and payment processing. These services enable businesses to operate in domestic and international markets. What’s more, financing from commercial banks may help businesses grow, which could potentially help drive the domestic economy.

What Is Commercial Banking: A Definition

Commercial banking involves financial institutions that are dedicated to serving businesses. This differs from retail banking, which provides personal banking services to individuals, such as checking and savings accounts.

Typically, a commercial bank offers businesses everything from deposit accounts, loans, and lines of credit to merchant services, payment processing, international trade services, and more. In these ways, a commercial bank can be a vital partner in helping a business succeed and grow.

While commercial banks offer a suite of services for medium and large businesses, small and new business owners can also take advantage of their offerings. Sometimes, people starting an enterprise use their personal accounts for banking. However, it is typically better to seek out commercial banking and open separate accounts for business vs. personal finances. This simplifies record keeping and the payment of taxes, and it also helps keep these two realms separate in case of any legal action.

How Commercial Banking Works

Commercial banks serve small- to large-sized businesses. You may be familiar with their names, as many of them also have retail banking divisions. Three examples of commercial banks in the United States are JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co. All are regulated by the United States Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

One very important function of commercial banks: providing financing to businesses. Before a commercial bank extends a loan to a business, it assesses the creditworthiness of the borrower by looking at its assets, profitability, and size.

In addition, commercial banks provide an array of services, supporting businesses with transfers from one account to another, lines of credit, lockbox services, payment processing, and foreign exchange services. Here is a closer look at what a commercial bank may offer:

Deposit Accounts

Commercial bank deposit accounts function like retail bank checking and savings accounts. They enable businesses to pay suppliers and employees by holding cash and, in some cases, account holders may earn interest on the balance.

There are three main types of deposit accounts: demand, fixed, and savings.

•   Account holders can use demand deposits or current account deposits for business transactions. They typically do not earn interest and are subject to service charges.

•   The bank holds fixed deposits for a specific term. Deposits likely earn interest, and the account holder can make withdrawals.

•   Savings deposits function as both fixed deposit and current accounts. Depositors can withdraw cash from these accounts, but the amount may be limited. Savings accounts earn interest but probably less than a fixed deposit.

Loans

Businesses need capital to thrive. Whether hiring staff, renting office or manufacturing space, or buying materials and supplies, operating a business and growing it takes cash. Commercial banks extend business loans vs. personal loans and charge interest on the loans. That’s one of the key income streams for banks. The bank likely turns a profit on lending, and the business gets the funds it needs to launch its enterprise or to expand or buy real estate or new equipment.

Lines of Credit

Commercial banks usually provide businesses with lines of credit. A line of credit is short-term funding that can help a company manage its obligations while it waits for cash flow to improve. For example, a company may have to wait for receivables’ payment in order to meet this month’s payroll. A line of credit can help bridge that gap.

Letters of Credit

A business may need to request a letter of credit from a commercial bank to show creditworthiness and to secure goods or services from an overseas trading partner. A letter of credit can serve as a guarantee from the issuing bank of payment for the goods once the letter’s requirements are met. The requirements might include the shipping date and the address the goods should be shipped to. In this way, a commercial bank can smooth international trade and help its clients’ business grow.

Lockbox Services

Lockboxes facilitate faster payments for businesses. Bank customers can send payments to a post office box near the bank, and the bank deposits the payments or funds to the customer’s account. This helps expedite the receipt of deposits and subsequent payments from the client to its providers. It can be a helpful cash flow tool for commercial enterprises.

Payment and Transaction Processing

Commercial banks typically facilitate the payments that businesses receive from their customers through electronic checks, paper checks, and credit card payments. Commercial banks may also provide services such as chargeback management fraud protection. All of these services can help keep a business humming along.

Foreign Exchange

Cross-border payments are complex because of exchange rates and the fact that each country has a different legal system. Commercial banks can provide foreign exchange services so that a company can do business overseas with a minimum of time and effort. This can streamline operations for a business enterprise so they can focus their attention on other activities.

The Significance of Commercial Banks

Commercial banks play a vital role in the financial life of the U.S. They help support the country’s economy by providing capital and services to businesses. By providing loans, they likely allow businesses to increase production and potentially expand, which may, in turn, boost the economy, lower unemployment, and encourage consumer spending. In addition, commercial banks support cross-border trade and transactions (say, by issuing revolving letters of credit) so that businesses can operate in international markets.

Commercial Banking vs Investment Banking

When considering the definition of commercial banking, it can be helpful to compare and contrast it to other kinds of banking. For instance, investment banking is a subset of banking that is focused on creating capital for companies, governments, and other organizations.

While some financial institutions may combine commercial and investment banking, because of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, the two kinds of banking serve different markets. Here’s more detail of what investment banks do:

•   Underwriting

•   Overseeing mergers and acquisitions and initial public offerings (IPOs)

•   Facilitating reorganizations

•   Aiding in the sale of securities

•   Brokering trades for institutions and private investors

Commercial Banks vs Retail Banks

Another important distinction is how commercial banks differ from retail ones. Some banks will offer both sets of services, but here’s what retail banks typically offer in terms of personal banking services:

•   Savings accounts and checking accounts (you can often open these bank accounts online)

•   Mortgages

•   Personal loans

•   Debit cards

•   Certificates of deposit (CDs)

There are also alternatives to traditional banking that can assist with personal finance transactions.

Examples of Commercial Banks

It can be helpful to have specific examples of commercial banks to better understand what they do and how they work. There are three types of commercial banks: public sector banks, private banks, and foreign banks.

•   A public sector bank is one where the government owns a major share. Public banks provide funding for projects that benefit the local public and community, which could include infrastructure projects or affordable housing. The Bank of North Dakota (BND) is the only active public bank in the United States.

•   Most of the banks in the United States are private banks run by individuals or limited partners. Examples are JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo.

•   A foreign bank is any bank headquartered in another country but doing business in the United States. Two examples are Barclays Bank PLC, headquartered in the United Kingdom, and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

Benefits of a Commercial Bank Account

There are several reasons for a business to consider opening a commercial bank account.

•   Clients are likely to feel more confident making payments for services rendered to a business rather than an individual. Simply put, it’s more professional and may be perceived as more trustworthy.

•   Having separate bank accounts for business and personal transactions can simplify accounting and taxes (business expenses are more easily deducted).

•   If a business owner faces legal or financial challenges with their business activity, their personal liability could be limited and protected.

•   A business can apply for business loans from a commercial bank and finance expansion or costly equipment purchases with favorable lending terms.

•   Business accounts are FDIC-insured in the event the bank fails.

Is My Bank a Commercial Bank?

If your bank provides services to businesses, such as checking accounts, financing, lines of credit, and international trade services, it is likely a commercial bank. A retail bank, on the other hand, will provide services to individuals (joint vs. separate accounts, debit cards, personal loans, and more) and could be a department within a commercial bank.

The Takeaway

Commercial banking differs from retail banking in terms of the clientele it serves. Retail banks provide checking and savings accounts, loans, and other services to individuals to manage their day-to-day finances. Commercial banks help businesses launch, operate, and potentially grow with services like deposit accounts, loans, lines of credit, payment services, and more.

If you are hunting for personal banking services, explore what different retail banks have to offer, such as direct deposit, low or no account fees, and mobile banking, to find the best option for your financial needs.

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 difference between commercial banking and retail banking?

Retail and commercial banking serve different clients. Retail banking provides checking and savings accounts, financing, lines of credit, credit cards, and other services to individuals. Commercial banking usually provides checking and savings accounts, financing, underwriting, letters of credit, lines of credit, and other functions to businesses.

Is my money safe in a commercial bank?

Your money is essentially as safe in a commercial bank as it can be. It is generally protected from loss due to bank failure by federal insurance up to $250,000.

What role does a commercial bank play in the economy?

Commercial banks may support the economy by providing capital and services to organizations. These, in turn, could stimulate the economy by doing business, growing, and employing more workers. Commercial banks may also facilitate cross-border payments so that businesses can move into international markets.


Photo credit: iStock/Passakorn Prothien

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.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©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.


4.60% APY
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.


*Awards or rankings from NerdWallet are not indicative of future success or results. This award and its ratings are independently determined and awarded by their respective publications.

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Guide to Prize-Linked Savings Accounts (PLSA)

Guide to Prize-Linked Savings Accounts (PLSA)

Everyone likes to win big. So what if saving money could offer the potential to win more money? Such a scenario is possible, thanks to prize-linked savings accounts that combine a normal savings account with an opportunity to win prize money.

What Is a Prize-Linked Savings Account?

A prized-linked savings account is essentially a savings account that gives account holders the opportunity to win prizes. In addition to their presence in the U.S., are found in other countries, including Germany, Argentina, and Japan.

The way that prize-linked savings accounts work is they allow account holders to enter raffles to earn cash prizes. If you have one of these prize accounts, how would you enter? By making deposits into a savings account. Currently, these types of accounts are offered by financial institutions such as credit unions in more than 30 different states.

These savings accounts earn a nominal amount of interest and aren’t a solid replacement for a traditional savings account or a high-yield savings account in the long run.

However, prize-linked savings accounts may be good for short-term savings. They’re designed to encourage people with low- or moderate-income levels to save more.

Recommended: Checking Accounts vs. Savings Accounts: Key Differences to Know

Types of Prize-Linked Savings Accounts

To make it easier to understand how prize-linked savings accounts work, here are a few real-life examples of these savings accounts that are available domestically.

Save to Win

Save to Win allows participating credit unions to hold savings promotion raffles. Every qualifying $25 an account holder deposits into a Save for Win account earns them an entry into a drawing for cash prizes. Save to Win says it awards more than $200,000 in prizes every year.

Lucky Savers

Lucky Savers is designed to motivate New Yorkers to save by rewarding smart savings habits. This program is exclusive to credit unions and is formatted as a 12-month share certificate with unlimited deposit capabilities. Opening this account requires a $25 initial deposit. Then, for every $25 in month-over-month balance increase, account holders earn one entry into monthly and quarterly prize drawings.

WINcentive

WINcentive® Savings is another credit union-exclusive program. This program in Minnesota offers prize drawing entries for every $25 an account holder saves for up to four entries each month. Prize drawings occur monthly, quarterly, and annually. In 2023, $100,000 in cash prizes were awarded to account holders.

Are Prize-Linked Savings Accounts (PLSAs) Legal?

Prize-linked savings accounts are legal in approximately 32 states that have enacted legislation to allow these types of accounts. In response to concerns surrounding prize-linked savings programs, Congress passed the American Savings Promotion Act which authorizes banks and thrifts (a financial institution specializing in savings accounts and mortgages) to conduct savings promotion raffles. It also excludes these raffles from the prohibition against financial institutions dealing in lotteries.

Pros of Opening a Prize-Linked Savings Account

Depending on your circumstances and financial goals, a prize account can offer a number of advantages. The pros of these savings accounts are:

•   Prize-linked savings accounts can incentivize individuals to save more money. Programs have found the amount of savers and savings amounts increase when there is a prize incentive.

•   It’s possible to win money that can help offset monthly expenses or may be large enough to be the equivalent of a small lottery prize.

•   It’s possible to win prize money without any of the typical risks that come with gambling or buying lottery tickets. These accounts are designed so that the account holder gets to keep their savings whether they win a prize or not.

Cons of Opening a Prize-Linked Savings Account

Along with the benefits, there are disadvantages to prize-linked savings accounts. These include:

•   Prize-linked savings accounts earn little to no interest. The chance of winning money may not be worth forgoing a bank account with a higher yield.

•   Winning any prize money at all is not guaranteed and not predictable, like a steady stream of interest earnings is.

•   These prize-linked savings accounts are often cheaper for financial institutions to offer than traditional savings accounts. For this reason, they might not promote the better savings options an account holder might have.

Opening a Prize-Linked Savings Account

If you want to open a prize-linked savings account, these are the steps you’ll generally take.

1.    Find a credit union that offers prize-linked savings accounts. These accounts aren’t available in all states and are more commonly found at credit unions.

2.    Apply to open a prize-linked savings account. The applicant will usually need to provide two forms of identification during the application process.

3.    Make a deposit. Most prize-linked savings accounts have small initial minimum-deposit requirements.

Are There Taxes on PLSAs?

There are tax requirements surrounding prize-linked savings account winnings. Sure, you can go and spend money from your savings account that’s been plumped up thanks to a cash prize. However, anyone who wins money from one of these accounts should be prepared to pay taxes on their winnings according to state and federal laws.

Alternatives to a Prize-Linked Savings Account

Because there’s no guarantee that you will win any money with a prize-linked savings account, you may want to consider these other savings options that can offer a more guaranteed return.

•   High-yield savings accounts. High-yield savings accounts are savings accounts with high interest rates. Often, high-yield savings accounts are found at online banks. Because online banks don’t have to spend a lot of money on brick-and-mortar banking locations, they may be able to offer higher interest rates, lower fees, or other bank account bonuses. High-yield savings accounts also allow consumers to take advantage of compound interest.

•   Money market account. Money market accounts are savings accounts that tend to have a higher annual percentage rate (APY) than traditional savings accounts do, but they may have withdrawal limits. Check with your financial institution to see if there is a cap on the number of withdrawals you can make per month.

•   Certificate of deposit. A certificate of deposit (CD) generally has a minimum deposit requirement. It also has a set timeframe during which you can’t withdraw your money from the CD without having to pay a penalty fee. CDs may have higher interest rates than both savings accounts and money market accounts.

The Takeaway

The potential to win prize money through a prize-linked savings account can make saving more appealing for some consumers. That being said, these accounts tend to have much lower interest rates than traditional savings accounts, and there is no guarantee the account holder will ever win any money. Before opening one, carefully consider if a prize-linked savings account can meet your needs or if you would be better off with a different financial vehicle, such as a high-yield savings account instead.

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

Are prize-linked savings accounts legal?

Yes, prize-linked savings accounts are legal in about 32 states. Congress passed the American Savings Promotion Act in 2014, which authorizes banks and thrift banks to conduct savings promotion raffles.

Is a lottery account safe?

Lottery accounts are generally a safe way to save money. There is no actual gambling involved with a prize-linked savings account. These accounts are designed so that account holders get to keep all of their savings whether or not they win prize money.

How do I open a lottery account?

The process of opening a prize-linked savings account is the same as opening a normal savings account. Once someone finds a credit union that offers this type of savings account, they will apply and provide all of the information and identifying documentation required during the application process. Then they will make an initial deposit.


Photo credit: iStock/Tevarak

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.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©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.


4.60% APY
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.


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

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.

*Awards or rankings from NerdWallet are not indicative of future success or results. This award and its ratings are independently determined and awarded by their respective publications.

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