Protecting Your Credit Card From Hackers

Protecting Yourself Against Credit Card Hacks

Protecting yourself against credit card hackers — criminals that engage in credit card fraud and identity theft — is a vital part of using your credit card responsibly. Understanding how credit card hacking works and the many ways thieves can gain access to your personal financial information can help you protect both your physical credit card and your digital credit card account information.

Read on to learn how to protect your credit card from hackers, as well as what to do if your credit card is hacked.

What It Means for a Credit Card To Be Hacked

A credit card hack occurs anytime your credit card or credit card account number falls into the wrong hands. That information is then used fraudulently to make purchases and/or to engage in identity theft.

Credit card theft can entail everything from stealing your wallet to hacking into large databases holding hundreds of thousands of credit card numbers.

Ways Credit Cards Can Be Hacked

Thieves use a variety of ways to get their hands on your credit card information. The biggest money scams in the U.S. are now done digitally through email, text messages, or fake websites. But there are still plenty of old-fashioned scammers who use snail mail, phone calls, and in-person ruses.

Here are some of the most common forms of both types of fraud:

•   Lost or stolen wallet containing credit cards. An old but still common trick for credit card thieves is to steal the physical card, then use it and the information it contains to make fraudulent purchases. In addition, if other personal information is included in your stolen wallet, such as your address and even your Social Security number, thieves can use your identifying information to set up other fraudulent credit accounts.

•   Phishing. Another common credit card hacking method is for a thief to attempt to get ahold of your credit card information through a phone call, text message, or email in which they impersonate a legitimate institution. For instance, a phishing email that appears as if it’s from your banking institution may entice you to click a link that takes you to a page where you’re then asked to enter your account information.

•   Dumpster diving. Criminals search through trash to find discarded statements, receipts, and other documents that contain your credit card number and identifying information such as your name and address. They then use that information to make fraudulent purchases or engage in identity theft.

•   Data breaches. Professional hackers can break into large retail, bank, financial, healthcare, social media, and other websites and steal reams of personal information that often include credit card and other personal financial information from thousands of users. The usual aim is to resell that data on the dark web. From there, criminal buyers use the data to commit credit card fraud and identity theft. If your data is on file at a breached site, you’re at risk.

•   Credit card skimmers. Thieves also can use gadgets that can extract your credit card information when you swipe it to pay or to withdraw money from an ATM. These most commonly are found at gas stations or on outside ATMs, though they’re becoming less common with the introduction of chip technology.

•   Inside jobs. Unscrupulous wait staff, store clerks, health-care billing workers, and others with access to credit card data may take a photo or otherwise copy your card information and use it to make fraudulent purchases. On a larger scale, sometimes these workers are part of a criminal ring that helps access financial data from thousands of individuals that’s then sold on the dark web.

•   Public Wi-Fi networks. Your credit card also may be vulnerable to a credit card hack if you use a public internet connection, which is why it’s important to follow cybersecurity tips. If someone is monitoring the network and you enter any sensitive information, such as your account information, a thief may be able to swipe it.

Protecting Your Physical Card

Although digital credit card theft is more common than ever, plenty of old-fashioned thieves are still out there and would like to get their hands on your physical card. So, it makes sense to stay diligent. Taking these steps can help:

•   Don’t reveal your physical card. Avoid giving your physical card to anyone, and never post photos on social media with your credit card showing.

•   Black out the security code on the back of your card. Instead, you can file it in your password manager or another safe place. If your card is stolen, it’s harder for thieves to use the account information for online purchases if they don’t have your security code.

•   Don’t sign your card. You can limit fraudulent in-person purchases if your stolen card is unsigned. You can write “See ID” in the blank area, then show your ID to store clerks in lieu of a signature. When a thief is asked for ID, they won’t be able to provide it, potentially preventing the transaction from going through.

•   Use a protective sleeve or wallet. These RFID-blocking layers can prevent your card from being read by a technical device.

•   Report lost or stolen cards immediately. If your card is compromised, make sure to alert your credit card issuer immediately. They will then close your card and issue a new one immediately. This is also a good idea if you’re notified that you’ve been part of a data breach.

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

Protecting Your Credit Card Account Information

In addition to your physical card, you need to protect your credit card data as well. Big credit card data hacks can mean your personal financial details and credit card account information are vulnerable. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself:

•   Only use reputable shopping sites. Often, fraudulent sites are set up as a ruse to collect credit card information. When you shop online, always buy from trusted merchants.

•   Avoid using your credit card when you’re on public WiFi. It can be easy for criminals to pick up your data when you’re using public internet networks. As such, you’ll want to avoid entering any personal or sensitive information while you’re using these networks, even if you’re on your own personal device.

•   Check your account frequently. Don’t just wait for your statement to arrive in your email every month. Get in the habit of regularly monitoring your credit card activity online, especially if you find your credit card keeps getting hacked. If you find a suspicious charge, report it immediately.

•   Be wary of phishing scams. You may get an authentic-looking email, text, or phone call asking for your credit card information. This may be a completely cold call or a data thief looking to fill in information they may not have for you, such as your expiration date or CVV security code. Never give your information to anyone asking for it. Banks, credit card companies, retailers, and other reputable places only take your information if you contact them.

•   Use smart passwords. Use strong passwords that include lowercase and capital letters, numbers, and symbols. Change your passwords frequently and remember that if it’s easy for you to remember, it’s probably easy for a thief to figure out. Password manager software can help you generate and keep track of strong passwords.

•   Sign up for two-factor authentication. With two-factor authentication, a one-time code is texted or voiced to your phone when you log into a financial account. This helps to ensure the account holder is the one logging on. Other types of secure authentication, such as face ID, are used by some organizations.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Steps to Take When Your Credit Card is Compromised

If you think you were a victim of credit card fraud and/or identity theft, it’s important to act fast. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) limits your financial responsibility for credit card fraud to up to $50, so you won’t be on the hook for more than that in the case of bogus credit card charges that have led you to request a credit card refund. Even better, many major credit card issuers offer zero-dollar liability protection.

But if the thieves go on to use your personal information to commit other types of financial fraud, you may be liable. Acting fast will also help minimize the onerous work involved in untangling identity theft.

Here’s what to do if what to do if your credit card is hacked, or you see suspicious charges on your statement or other signs of fraudulent activity:

Contact Your Credit Card Company

As soon as you spot anything, call your credit card company. Tell them you think your card and card information is vulnerable and request a new card with a new account number. Most credit card issuers will comply right away (unlike if you were falsely disputing a credit card charge). However, you may be without a credit card for a bit while you wait for the new one to arrive.

Sign Up for Fraud Alerts

If you’ve received a letter or other notification that your personal data may have been compromised, you can place a fraud alert at all three credit bureaus — Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion® — that may be monitoring your account. This stops unauthorized individuals from accessing your account information for a year, at which point you can request for it to be renewed.

Freeze Your Credit

A stronger step than setting up a fraud alert is to freeze your credit. When you ask for a freeze, the three top credit reporting agencies will make sure no one can ask for your credit report without your approval. The downside: A freeze can make it more cumbersome for you to legitimately apply for new credit.

File a Police Report

If you’re a victim of credit card fraud, you may need to file a police report. You may need that documentation as you move through different steps to report identity theft and other fraud as you try to recoup your losses. Your credit card issuer can help you determine if a police report is necessary. You can also report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission on its website.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Credit Card Security and Fraud Protection

There are a number of steps that credit card companies can take to increase credit card security and curb credit card hacks. For instance, some credit cards have two-factor authentication to protect access to your account.

Credit card companies can also offer the option to freeze your card immediately. You often can do so through their website or via their app if you notice suspicious charges or other activity.

And, as mentioned previously, some credit card issuers offer a zero-liability policy. As long as you report unauthorized or erroneous card transactions no later than, say, 60 days after the first statement on which the problem occurred, the card issuer won’t hold you liable for any fraudulent charges.

The Takeaway

Credit card hacks can be costly, onerous, and time-consuming. But you can take steps to avoid hacks by protecting both your physical card and your online credit card information.

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

FAQ

How can I protect my credit card from being hacked?

You can fight credit card hacking by checking your account regularly for any suspicious charges, being mindful of phishing scams, shopping online with caution, and keeping your physical card and your digital card information safe. If anything were to happen, make sure to report any suspicious activity as soon as possible and to use credit freezes and fraud alerts when necessary.

Can a hacker steal my credit card information?

Yes. Credit card hacks include stealing your physical card or credit card information and making fraudulent purchases directly with your account. Or thieves may use your stolen personal information to set up a new fraudulent account in your name. Credit card hacks also happen when thieves steal financial information from databases at large retailers, financial institutions, and other businesses.

Can hackers use a credit card without a CVV?

Yes, although it can be more difficult for hackers to use a credit card without a CVV. The CVV number is often requested in transactions that don’t occur in-person as an additional layer of security to ensure that the person actually has the physical card.


Photo credit: iStock/Talaj

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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Secured vs. Unsecured Credit Card: What’s the Difference?

Secured vs. Unsecured Credit Cards: What You Need to Know

If you have a thin credit profile or want to build your credit, you may come across secured credit cards when searching for a card you can qualify for. But what’s the difference between a secured vs. unsecured credit card? And how can you gauge which one is right for you?

Here, delve into how both types of credit cards work and the differences between secured cards and unsecured credit cards, so you can decide which to choose.

What Is a Secured Credit Card?

Like a traditional, or unsecured, credit card, an unsecured credit card is a type of revolving loan. This means that it offers a line of credit that you can borrow from as needed and then repay. However, with a secured credit card, you’ll need to put down a deposit, which “secures” the credit card.

The bank holds onto that money as a form of collateral if you default on payments, but it’s refundable if you close your account or upgrade to an unsecured credit card. Your secured credit card’s credit limit, an essential part of what a credit card is, usually is the same amount as your deposit. The deposit is typically at least $200 to $500, though it can range as high as $25,000 depending on the specific card and how much you can afford to put down.

A secured credit card is designed for building credit. So, if you’re working on rebuilding your credit or don’t have much in the way of a credit history because you’re young or new to the country, it could be a good option. The age requirement to get a credit card that’s secured is the same as for an unsecured credit card.

How Secured Credit Cards Work

As mentioned, you’ll need to put in a deposit to open a secured credit card. Your available line of credit is usually the same amount as your deposit. Just like how credit cards work when it’s an unsecured card, you’ll need to repay the balance, and your credit limit will get replenished as you make payments.

As with an unsecured credit card, there’s a minimum monthly payment you’re responsible for. If you carry a balance from month to month, you’ll incur interest charges. Your credit card activity, including your payment history, is generally reported to the three major credit bureaus, Experian®, Equifax®, and TransUnion®.

Your deposit on a secured credit card isn’t used to make payments should you fall behind or miss payments altogether. If you’re unable to make payments and your account goes to default, you’ll lose your deposit. Plus, it can hurt your credit. If the balance you owe is larger than the deposit, you might be on the hook for the difference owed.

Secured credit cards may offer a “graduation” option. In other words, if you make on-time payments and show a track record of responsible financial behavior, the credit card issuer might offer you an unsecured credit card.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Pros and Cons of a Secured Credit Card

Let’s look at some of the advantages and downsides of a secured credit card:

Pros of a Secured Credit Card Cons of a Secured Credit Card
May qualify with a low credit score or limited credit history Need to provide a deposit
Could be easier to get approved for than an unsecured credit card Credit limit is usually low
Can be a way to build or rebuild credit as activity is reported to credit bureaus Can have higher interest rates and more fees than secured credit cards
Offers a revolving line of credit you can use as long as you make payments Could lose your deposit if you’re late or miss payments

What Is an Unsecured Credit Card?

Also known as a traditional credit card, an unsecured credit card doesn’t require a deposit or collateral of any sort. Instead, you’re offered a credit limit based on your creditworthiness and other factors, such as your income and existing debt. The lender simply has your word that you’ll pay back what you borrow, which is why you’ll also generally need a higher credit score and a more robust credit history to qualify.

Just as with a secured credit card, the credit remaining on an unsecured credit card dwindles as you rack up a balance. Once you make a payment, your limit replenishes. For example, say your credit limit is $5,000. If your balance is $500, your credit limit goes down to $4,500. Once you pay off your balance, your credit limit goes back up to $5,000.

The annual percentage rate (APR) and terms associated with an unsecured credit card are usually better than they are for a secured credit card. Typically, the better your credit score, the better your rates and terms are for an unsecured credit card. The average credit card APR is currently 22.3%; meanwhile, many of the top secured credit cards have APRs that are close to 30%.

How Unsecured Credit Cards Work

Because an unsecured credit card is a form of revolving credit, you have access to that credit line as long as you remain in good standing and your account stays open. Unsecured credit cards also require you to make minimum monthly payments to avoid incurring late payment fees and harming your credit score. You’ll owe interest on any balance that carries over from month to month.

Sometimes, unsecured credit cards might offer perks, such as cash-back rewards and travel insurance.

Pros and Cons of an Unsecured Credit Card

Here are some of the pros and cons of traditional, or unsecured, credit cards:

Pros of an Unsecured Credit Card Cons of an Unsecured Credit Card
Higher credit limits compared to secured credit cards Can be harder to get approved for
Need at least a fair credit score to qualify (580+) Can still incur interest and fees
Can help you build your credit May entice you to spend more than you can afford due to higher credit limits
Opportunity to earn rewards and enjoy other benefits Could damage your credit if not used responsibly

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

Similarities Between a Secured Credit Card and an Unsecured Credit Card

When it comes to a secured credit card vs. an unsecured credit, there are a number of similarities:

•   Both are revolving lines of credit, so you’ll have access to those lines of credit as long as you keep the card open and your account in good standing.

•   Your payments are reported to credit bureaus. If you make on-time payments, your credit score will improve. Conversely, it can drop if you don’t use your credit card responsibly.

•   The process of how to apply for a credit card is usually similar with a secured vs. unsecured credit card. You can usually fill out an application online, in person, over the phone, via an app, or through the mail.

•   Both secured and unsecured credit cards come with interest rates and fees. Depending on the card, there might be an annual fee.

•   Both types of credit cards usually offer a grace period, which is the period between when your billing cycle ends and your payment due date. During this time, you may not be charged interest as long as you pay off your balance in full by the payment due date.

•   While it’s less common among unsecured credit cards, both types of credit cards might feature perks, such as cash-back rewards, car rental insurance, trip and travelers insurance, extended warranties, and price protection.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

Differences Between a Secured Credit Card and an Unsecured Credit Card

There are a handful of features that set these types of credit cards apart:

•   For starters, secured credit cards require a security deposit, whereas unsecured credit cards do not.

•   The credit limit for a secured credit card usually matches the deposit amount. With unsecured credit cards, the credit limit usually depends on a handful of factors, such as your creditworthiness.

•   Secured credit cards generally carry higher interest rates and fees, whereas unsecured credit cards typically have lower interest rates and fees.

•   Unsecured credit cards usually have one variable interest rate, meaning the card’s interest rate fluctuates over time based on an index. Secured credit cards can have a fixed or variable rate.

Secured vs. Unsecured Credit Card: Which Is Right for You?

Now that you know the similarities and differences between a secured and unsecured credit card, you can start to assess which one might be right for you. Here’s a high-level overview to help you better compare what sets secured vs. unsecured credit cards apart:

Secured Credit Card Unsecured Credit Card
Requires a deposit to open Does not require a deposit
Usually available for those with thin credit histories or lower credit scores Usually need at least fair to good credit to qualify
Lower credit limits, which are based on the amount of the deposit Higher credit limits, which are based on creditworthiness
Fewer card options available Variety of card options, such as cash-back cards, travel cards, business cards, and retail cards

Staying on Top of Your Credit After Choosing a Card

No matter if you decide on a secured credit card or an unsecured credit card, it’s important to stay on top of your payments. Ideally, you’ll pay the balance in full each billing cycle. Otherwise, you’ll owe interest.

At the very least, make sure to make the minimum payment each month. That way, your credit will stay intact and you’ll avoid late fees. If you’re struggling to make payments, reach out to the lender and see what they can do. They might be able to change the payment due date so it’s more in line with what’s feasible for you, or let you temporarily skip a payment to catch back up.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

The Takeaway

Whether you should apply for a secured credit card and an unsecured one may depend largely on your credit history and score. A secured card may be best if you have yet to establish credit or have a low credit score, while an unsecured card can be beneficial if your credit is more established and you want to earn rewards.

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

FAQ

Is an unsecured or secured credit card better?

Whether a secured vs. unsecured credit card is better depends on your situation. An unsecured credit card might be better if you’re having trouble getting approved for a secured card and can afford to make the deposit. On the other hand, a secured credit card may be better if you have at least an average credit score, are looking for a higher credit limit, and would like more card options.

Should your first credit card be secured or unsecured?

It really depends. If you have a thin credit history, are looking to build credit, and can afford the security deposit, a secured credit card might be the best route to take as they’re generally easier to qualify for. Note, however, that you’ll probably need to stomach a higher interest rate and a lower credit limit. While an unsecured credit card doesn’t require a deposit, it might be harder to get approved for one if your credit is less-than-stellar or you don’t have much of a credit history yet.


Photo credit: iStock/cesar fernandez dominguez

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 .

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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What Is a Savings Bond?

Savings Bonds Defined And Explained

The definition of a U.S. Savings Bond is an investment in the federal government that helps to increase your money. By purchasing a savings bond, you are essentially lending money to the government which you will get back in the future, when the bond matures, with interest. Because these financial products are backed by the federal government, they are considered to be extremely low-risk. And, in certain situations, there can be tax advantages.

Here’s a closer look at these bonds, including:

•   What are savings bonds?

•   How do savings bonds work?

•   What are the different types of savings bonds?

•   How do you buy and redeem savings bonds?

•   What are the pros and cons of buying savings bonds?

Savings Bond Definition

First, to answer the basic question, “What is a savings bond?”: Basically, it is a loan issued by the U.S. Treasury and made to the U.S. government. Purchase a savings bond, and you are loaning that money to the government. At the end of the bond’s 30-year term, you receive your initial investment plus the compounded interest.

You may withdraw funds before then, as long as the bond has been held for at least five years.

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

How Do Savings Bonds Work?

Savings bonds are issued by the U.S. Treasury. You can buy one for yourself, or for someone else, even if that person is under age 18. (That’s why, when you clean out your closets, you may find a U.S. Savings Bond that was a birthday present from Grandma a long time ago.)

You buy a savings bond for face value, or the principal, and the bond will then pay interest over a specific period of time. Basically, these savings bonds function the same way that other types of bonds work.

•   You can buy savings bonds electronically from the U.S. Treasury’s website, TreasuryDirect.gov . For the most part, it’s not possible to buy paper bonds anymore but should you run across one, you can still redeem them. (See below). Unlike many other types of bonds, like some high-yield bonds, you can’t sell savings bonds or hold them in brokerage accounts.

How Much Are Your Savings Bonds Worth?

If you have a savings bond that has been tucked away for a while and you are wondering what it’s worth, here are your options:

•   If it’s a paper bond, log onto the Treasury Department’s website and use the calculator there to find out the value.

•   If it’s an electronic bond, you will need to create (if you don’t already have one) and log onto your TreasuryDirect account.

Savings Bonds Interest Payments

For U.S. Savings Bonds, interest is earned monthly. The interest is compounded semiannually. This means that every six months, the government will apply the bond’s interest rate to grow the principal. That new, larger principal then earns interest for the next six months, when the interest is again added to the principal, and so on.

3 Different Types of Savings Bonds

There are two types of U.S. Savings Bonds available for purchase — Series EE and Series I savings bonds. Here are the differences between the two.

1. Series EE Bonds

Introduced in 1980, Series EE Bonds earn interest plus a guaranteed return of double their value when held for 20 years. These bonds continue to pay interest for 30 years.

Series EE Bonds issued after May 2005 earn a fixed rate. The current Series EE interest rate for bonds issued as of May 1, 2024 is 2.70%.

2. Series I Bonds

Series I Bonds pay a combination of two rates. The first is the original fixed interest rate. The second is an inflation-adjusted interest rate, which is calculated twice a year using the consumer price index for urban consumers (CPI-U). This adjusted rate is designed to protect bond buyers from inflation eating into the value of the investment.

When you redeem a Series I Bond, you get back the face value plus the accumulated interest. You know the fixed rate when you buy the bond. But the inflation-adjusted rate will vary depending on the CPI-U during times of adjustment.

The current composite rate for Series I Savings Bonds issued as of May 1, 2024 is 4.28%.

3. Municipal Bonds

Municipal bonds are a somewhat different savings vehicle than Series I and Series EE Bonds. Municipal Bonds are issued by a state, municipality, or country to fund capital expenditures. By offering these bonds, projects like highway or school construction can be funded.

These bonds (sometimes called “munis”) are exempt from federal taxes and the majority of local taxes. The market price of bonds will vary with the market, and they typically require a larger investment of, say, $5,000. Municipal bonds are available in different terms, ranging from relatively short (about two to five years) to longer (the typical 30-year length).

How To Buy Bonds

You can buy Series EE and I Savings Bonds directly through the United States Treasury Department online account system called TreasuryDirect, as noted above. This is a little bit different than the way you might buy other types of bonds. You can open an account at TreasuryDirect just as you would a checking or savings account at your local bank.

You can buy either an EE or I Savings Bond in any amount ranging from a $25 minimum in penny increments per year. So, if the spirit moves you, go ahead and buy a bond for $49.99. The flexible increments allow investors to dollar cost average and make other types of calculated purchases.

That said, there are annual maximums on how much you may purchase in savings bonds. The electronic bond maximum is $10,000 for each type. You can buy up to $5,000 in paper Series I Bonds using a tax refund you are eligible for. Paper EE Series bonds are no longer issued.

If you are due a refund and you want to buy I Bonds, be sure to file IRS form 8888 when you file your federal tax return. On that form you’ll specify how much of your refund you want to use to buy paper Series I bonds, keeping in mind the minimum purchase amount for a paper bond is $50. The IRS will then process your return and send you the bond that you indicate you want to buy.

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The Pros & Cons of Investing in Savings Bonds

Here’s a look at the possible benefits and downsides of investing in savings bonds. This will help you decide if buying these bonds is the right path for you, or if you might prefer to otherwise invest your money or stash it in a high-yield bank account.

The Pros of Investing in Savings Bonds

Here are some of the upsides of investing in savings bonds:

•   Low risk. U.S. Savings Bonds are one of the lower risk investments you could make. You are guaranteed to get back the entire amount you invested, known as principal. You will also receive interest if you keep the bonds until maturity.

•   Tax advantages. Savings bond holders don’t pay state or local taxes on interest at any time. You don’t have to pay federal income tax on the interest until you cash in the bond.

•   Education exception. Eligible taxpayers may qualify for a tax break when they use U.S. Savings Bonds to pay for qualified education expenses.

•   No fees. Unlike just about every other type of security, you won’t pay a fee, markup or commission when you buy savings bonds. They’re sold at face value, directly from the Treasury, so what you pay for is what you get. If you buy a $50 bond, for example, you’ll pay $50.

•   Great gift. Unlike most securities, people under age 18 may hold U.S. Savings bonds in their own names. That’s what makes them a popular birthday and graduation gift.

•   Patriotic gesture. Buying a U.S. Savings Bond helps support the U.S. government. That’s something that was important and appealed to investors when these savings bonds were first introduced in 1935.

The Cons of Investing in Savings Bonds

Next, consider these potential downsides of investing in savings bonds:

•   Low return. The biggest disadvantage of savings bonds is their low rate of return, as noted above. A low risk investment like this often pays low returns. You may find you can invest your money elsewhere for a higher return with only slightly higher risk.

•   Purchase limit. For U.S. Savings Bonds, there’s a purchase limit per year of $10,000 in bonds for each series (meaning you can invest a total of $20,000 per year), plus a $5,000 limit for paper I bonds via tax refunds. For some individuals, this might not align with their investing goals.

•   Tax liability. It’s likely you’ll have to pay federal income tax when you cash in your savings bond, unless you’ve used the proceeds for higher education payments.

•   Penalty for early withdrawal. If you cash in your savings bond before five years have elapsed, you will have to pay the previous three months of interest as a fee. You are typically not allowed to cash in a bond before the one-year mark.

Here, a summary of the pros and cons of investing in savings bonds:

Pros of Savings Bonds

Cons of Savings Bonds

•   Low risk

•   Education exception

•   Possible tax advantages

•   No fees

•   Great gift

•   Patriotic gesture

•   Low returns

•   Purchase limit

•   Possible tax liability

•   Penalty for early withdrawal

When Do Savings Bonds Mature?

You may wonder how long it takes for a savings bond to mature. The EE and I savings bonds earn interest for 30 years, until they reach their maturity date.

Recommended: Bonds or CDs: Which Is Smarter for Your Money?

How to Cash in Savings Bonds

You’ll also need to know how and when to redeem a savings bond. These bonds earn interest for 30 years, but you can cash them in penalty-free after five years.

•   If you have a paper bond, you can cash it in at your bank or credit union. Bring the bond and your ID. Or go to the Treasury’s TreasuryDirect site for details on how to cash it in.

•   For electronic bonds, log into your TreasuryDirect account, click on “confirm redemption,” and follow the instructions to deposit the amount to a linked checking or savings account. You will likely get the money within a few business days.

•   If you inherited or found an old U.S. Savings Bond, you may be able to redeem savings bonds through the TreasuryDirect portal or via Treasury Retail Securities Services.

Early Redemption of Bonds

If you cash in a U.S. Savings Bond after one year but before five years, you’ll pay a penalty that is the equivalent of the previous three months of interest. Keep in mind that for EE bonds, if you cash in before holding for 20 years, you lose the opportunity to receive the doubled value of the bond that accrues after 20 years.

The History of US Savings Bonds

America’s savings bond program began under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935, during the Great Depression, with what were known as “baby bonds.” This started the tradition of citizens participating in government financing.

The Series E Saving Bond contributed billions of dollars to financing the World War II effort, and in the post-war years, they became a popular savings vehicle. The fact that they are guaranteed by the U.S. government generally makes them a safe place to stash cash and earn interest.

The Takeaway

U.S. Savings Bonds can be one of the safest ways to invest for the future and show your patriotism. While the interest rates are typically low, for some investors, knowing that the money is being securely held for a couple of decades can really enhance their peace of mind.

Another way to help increase your peace of mind and financial well-being is finding the right banking partner for your deposit product 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 a $50 savings bond worth?

The value of a $50 savings bond will depend on how long it has been held. You can log onto the TreasuryDirect site and use the calculator there to find out the value. As an example, a $50 Series I bond issued in 2000 would be worth more than $211 today.

How long does it take for a $50 savings bond to mature?

The full maturation date of U.S. savings bonds is 30 years.

What is a savings bond?

A savings bond is a secure way of investing in the U.S. government and earning interest. Basically, when you buy a U.S. Savings Bond, you are loaning the government money, which, upon maturity, they pay back with interest.


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

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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 deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government 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, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

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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What Is Dividend Yield?

Dividend yield concerns how much an investor realizes from their investments over the course of a year as a result of dividends. Dividends, which are payouts to investors as a share of a company’s overall profit, can help investors generate bigger returns, and some investors even formulate entire strategies around maximizing dividends.

But it’s important to have a good understanding of dividends, dividend yields, and other related concepts before going too far into the weeds.

What Is Dividend Yield?

A stock’s dividend yield is how much the company annually pays out in dividends to shareholders, relative to its stock price. The dividend yield is a financial ratio (dividend/price) expressed as a percentage, and is distinct from the dividend itself.

Dividend payments are expressed as a dollar amount, and supplement the return a stock produces over the course of a year. For an investor interested in total return, learning how to calculate dividend yield for different companies can help to decide which company may be a better investment.

But bear in mind that a stock’s dividend yield will tend to fluctuate because it’s based on the stock’s price, which rises and falls. That’s why a higher dividend yield may not be a sign of better value.

How Does Dividend Yield Differ From Dividends?

It’s important to really drive home the difference between dividend yield and dividends in general.

Dividends are a portion of a company’s earnings paid to investors and expressed as a dollar amount. Dividends are typically paid out each quarter (although semi-annual and monthly payouts are common). Not all companies pay dividends.

Dividend yield, on the other hand, refers to a stock’s annual dividend payments divided by the stock’s current price, and expressed as a percentage. Dividend yield is one way of assessing a company’s earning potential.

How to Calculate Dividend Yield

Calculating the dividend yield of an investment is useful for investors who want to compare companies and the dividends they pay. For investors looking for investments to help supplement their cash flow, or even to possibly live off dividend income, a higher dividend yield on a stock would be more attractive than a lower one.

What Is the Dividend Yield Formula?

The dividend yield formula is more of a basic calculation than a formula: Dividend yield is calculated by taking the annual dividend paid per share, and dividing it by the stock’s current price:

Annual dividend / stock price = Dividend yield (%)

Dividend Yield Formula

How to Calculate Annual Dividends

Investors can calculate the annual dividend of a given company by looking at its annual report, or its quarterly report, finding the dividend payout per quarter, and multiplying that number by four. For a stock with fluctuating dividend payments, it may make sense to take the four most recent quarterly dividends to arrive at the trailing annual dividend.

It’s important to consider how often dividends are paid out. If dividends are paid monthly vs. quarterly, you want to add up the last 12 months of dividends.

This is especially important because some companies pay uneven dividends, with the higher payouts toward the end of the year, for example. So you wouldn’t want to simply add up the last few dividend payments without checking to make sure the total represents an accurate annual dividend amount.

Example of Dividend Yield

If Company A’s stock trades at $70 today, and the company’s annual dividend is $2 per share, the dividend yield is 2.85% ($2 / $70 = 0.0285).

Compare that to Company B, which is trading at $40, also with an annual dividend of $2 per share. The dividend yield of Company B would be 5% ($2 / $40 = 0.05).

In theory, the higher yield of Company B may look more appealing. But investors can’t determine a stock’s worth by yield alone.

💡 Quick Tip: How to manage potential risk factors in a self-directed investment account? Doing your research and employing strategies like dollar-cost averaging and diversification may help mitigate financial risk when trading stocks.

Dividend Yield: Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

Can help with company valuation. Dividend yield can indicate a more established, but slower-growing company.
May indicate how much income investors can expect. Higher yield may mask deeper problems.
Yield doesn’t tell investors the type of dividend (ordinary vs. qualified), which can impact taxes.

For investors, there are some advantages and disadvantages to using dividend yield as a metric that helps inform investment choices.

Pros

•   From a valuation perspective, dividend yield can be a useful point of comparison. If a company’s dividend yield is substantially different from its industry peers, or from the company’s own typical levels, that can be an indicator of whether the company is trading at the right valuation.

•   For many investors, the primary reason to invest in dividend stocks is for income. In that respect, dividend yield can be an important metric. But dividend yield can change as the underlying stock price changes. So when using dividend yield as a way to evaluate income, it’s important to be aware of company fundamentals that provide assurance as to company stability and consistency of the dividend payout.

Cons

•   Sometimes a higher dividend yield can indicate slower growth. Companies with higher dividends are often larger, more established businesses. But that could also mean that dividend-generous companies are not growing very quickly because they’re not reinvesting their earnings.

Smaller companies with aggressive growth targets are less likely to offer dividends, but rather spend their excess capital on expansion. Thus, investors focused solely on dividend income could miss out on some faster-growing opportunities.

•   A high dividend yield could indicate a troubled company. Because of how dividend yield is calculated, the yield is higher as the stock price falls, so it’s important to evaluate whether there has been a downward price trend. Often, when a company is in trouble, one of the first things it is likely to reduce or eliminate is that dividend.

•   Investors need to look beyond yield to the type of dividend they might get. An investor might be getting high dividend payouts, but if they’re ordinary dividends vs. qualified dividends they’ll be taxed at a higher rate. Ordinary dividends are taxed as income; qualified dividends are taxed at the lower capital gains rate, which typically ranges from 0% to 20%. If you have tax questions about your investments, be sure to consult with a tax professional.

The Difference Between Dividend Yield and Dividend Rate

As noted earlier, a dividend is a way for a company to distribute some of its earnings among shareholders. Dividends can be paid monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or even annually (although quarterly payouts tend to be common in the U.S.). Dividends are expressed as dollar amounts. The dividend rate is the annual amount of the company’s dividend per share.

A company that pays $1 per share, quarterly, has an annual dividend rate of $4 per share.

The difference between this straight-up dollar amount and a company’s dividend yield is that the latter is a ratio. The dividend yield is the company’s annual dividend divided by the current stock price, and expressed as a percentage.

What Is a Good Dividend Yield?

dividend yield of sp500 vs dividend aristocrats

Two companies with the same high yields are not created equally. While dividend yield is an important number for investors to know when determining the annual cash flow they can expect from their investments, there are deeper indicators that investors may want to investigate to see if a dividend-paying stock will continue to pay in the future.

A History of Dividend Growth

When researching dividend stocks, one place to start is by asking if the stock has a history of dividend growth. A regularly increasing dividend is an indication of earnings growth and typically a good indicator of a company’s overall financial health.

The Dividend Aristocracy

There is a group of S&P 500 stocks called Dividend Aristocrats, which have increased the dividends they pay for at least 25 consecutive years. Every year the list changes, as companies raise and lower their dividends.

Currently, there are 65 companies that meet the basic criteria of increasing their dividend for a quarter century straight. They include big names in energy, industrial production, real estate, defense contractors, and more. For investors looking for steady dividends, this list may be a good place to start.

Dividend Payout Ratio (DPR)

Investors can calculate the dividend payout ratio by dividing the total dividends paid in a year by the company’s net income. By looking at this ratio over a period of years, investors can learn to differentiate among the dividend stocks in their portfolios.

A company with a relatively low DPR is paying dividends, while still investing heavily in the growth of its business. If a company’s DPR is rising, that’s a sign the company’s leadership likely sees more value in rewarding shareholders than in expanding. If its DPR is shrinking, it’s a sign that management sees an abundance of new opportunities abounding. In extreme cases, where a company’s DPR is 100% or higher, it’s unlikely that the company will be around for much longer.

Other Indicators of Company Health

Other factors to consider include the company’s debt load, credit rating, and the cash it keeps on hand to manage unexpected shocks. And as with every equity investment, it’s important to look at the company’s competitive position in its sector, the growth prospects of that sector as a whole, and how it fits into an investor’s overall plan. Those factors will ultimately determine the company’s ability to continue paying its dividend.

💡 Quick Tip: The best stock trading app? That’s a personal preference, of course. Generally speaking, though, a great app is one with an intuitive interface and powerful features to help make trades quickly and easily.

The Takeaway

Dividend yield is a simple calculation: You divide the annual dividend paid per share by the stock’s current price. Dividend yield is expressed as a percentage, versus the dividend (or dividend rate) which is given as a dollar amount. The dividend yield formula can be a valuable tool for investors, and not just ones who are seeking cash flow from their investments.

Dividend yield can help assess a company’s valuation relative to its peers, but there are other factors to consider when researching stocks that pay out dividends. A history of dividend growth and a good dividend payout ratio (DPR), as well as the company’s debt load, cash on hand, and credit rating can help form an overall picture of a company’s health and probability of paying out higher dividends in the future.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.


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

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20 Mortgage Refinance Questions to Ask Before Taking the Plunge

Thinking about refinancing your mortgage? Even in a tough interest rate environment, there are scenarios where refinancing makes sense. In each instance, you’ll want to do your research to ensure the changes to your mortgage meet your financial goals.

To help clarify your goals with refinancing your mortgage, we’ve compiled the following questions to ask when refinancing a mortgage. By the end of this article, you should have a good idea of what you’ll want to change with your mortgage to help meet your financial goals.

20 Questions to Ask When Refinancing a Mortgage

1. Should I switch lenders?

It’s possible another lender could offer you better rates and terms, but it’s a good idea to check with your current lender. Your current lender will want to keep your business and may have incentives to offer you. In any case, shopping around when you’re refinancing is a good idea, and will only count as a single inquiry on your credit if you can do it within 45 days.

2. Can I switch loan types?

Changing your loan type could be an advantageous move. If you have an FHA loan, for example, you’ll always be paying mortgage insurance. A mortgage refinance to a different loan type can eliminate the mortgage insurance payment and save you money.

You do have to counter that with the possibility that the interest rate may be higher than your current mortgage rate, offsetting the savings. Be sure to do the math to make sure it’s a smart move.

3. What’s my new interest rate?

Refinancing a mortgage loan means you’ll get a new interest rate, which could be higher or lower than your previous mortgage. You may have heard it only makes sense to refinance when interest rates are lower than what you currently have. In many cases, that’s true, but if you need a large sum from a cash-out refi, need to remove a borrower from the loan, or have another situation where refinancing is necessary, you’ll still want to shop around to get the best interest rate possible.

4. What is my interest rate type?

When you refinance, you’ll have the option to change your rate type. The choice is usually between adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) and fixed-rate interest types. With an adjustable-rate mortgage, you may initially have a lower rate, but the rate can change with market conditions. A fixed-interest rate mortgage stays the same for the life of the loan.

5. What’s my new term length?

Refinancing a loan could bring a new term length. If you want to pay your mortgage off faster, a 15-year mortgage could work. If you need to keep your monthly payment low, you may want to opt for a 30-year mortgage. If you can manage a slightly higher monthly payment, the 15-year mortgage is a great way to save money long-term.

6. What’s the new payoff date?

Take a look at the proposed new payoff date. Where do you imagine yourself being in your life at that point? Are you comfortable if you have to stretch the payoff date further into the future? Or does a quicker payoff fit better with your future plans? Consider how much the change will cost and whether you’re willing to accept that.

7. Will I be paying mortgage insurance?

Mortgage insurance is one of the fees on your mortgage you should get rid of as soon as you can. It only serves the lender, and if you have 20% equity or more, you should be able to drop it (sometimes without a refinance, depending on your loan type). If you’re refinancing and don’t have 20% equity, you’ll get a new mortgage and still need to pay mortgage insurance.

8. What closing costs will I pay and how much will they be?

You might be wondering what the fees for refinancing will be, or even, “Can I refinance for free?” The best answer lies with your lender. When you’re comparison shopping, get a loan estimate, which will disclose the interest rate, monthly payment, closing costs, and estimated costs for taxes and insurance for your new loan.

There are lenders that offer no-closing-cost loans, usually in exchange for higher interest rates or by adding closing costs to the loan. Compare these expenses to closing costs to see which is a better deal.

9. What will my new payment be?

Your mortgage payment will likely change, sometimes significantly depending on the interest rate you qualify for and the term that you choose. To get a good estimate of how that could change, use a mortgage calculator.

10. Can I afford the new payment?

Evaluate how the new payment fits in your monthly budget. If it’s too affordable, you may want to consider a 15-year loan. If it’s too much of a stretch, consider whether you really want or need to make a change.

11. Will I save any money?

The only way to know if you’re going to save any money on a refinance (if that’s your goal) is to:

•   Calculate how much the mortgage is going to cost in total. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) advises consumers to look at the cost savings of your monthly payment versus how much the loan will cost you in total. Even if you can get a lower interest rate and lower monthly payment, you could end up paying more for the mortgage if the mortgage term is longer.

•   Calculate your break-even point. You can do this by dividing the closing costs by the amount you’ll save every month. If your closing costs are $4,000, and you’ll save $200 every month, then your break even point is 20 months. If you plan to stay in the home at least 20 months, then the amount is probably worth it if the total cost is also acceptable to you.

12. Can I refinance if I have less than 20% equity?

You can refinance if you have less than 20% equity, though you’ll still need to find the right loan and the right lender. You’ll have fewer options, as most lenders do look for 20% equity for refinanced loans. You may want to consider other financing methods where you can get equity out without refinancing.

13. Can I refinance without a credit check?

There are programs that offer refinancing without a hard credit check in all loan types, including: conventional, FHA, USDA, and VA. Take a look at the chart below for details on programs, qualifications, and what limitations you may encounter:

Program name

Who and what qualifies?

Limitations

FHA Streamline FHA-insured properties that are not delinquent Cash out limited to $500, may have higher interest rate
Fannie Mae RefiNow One-unit primary residences for borrowers at 100% or less of the area median income with up to 65% debt-to-income (DTI) ratio Cash out limited to $250, fixed-rate loans only
Freddie Mac Refi Possible One-unit primary residences for borrowers at 100% or less of the area median income with up to 65% DTI ratio Cash out limited to $250, fixed-rate loans only
USDA Streamline Assist USDA mortgages with no delinquent payments for 12 months prior Income limits, must reduce the monthly amount by at least $50 to qualify
VA IRRRL For existing VA loans that have been owner-occupied at one point No cash out, cannot pay off a second mortgage, may pay closing costs

14. Can I refinance multiple times?

It is possible to refinance multiple times, provided the numbers work out. You’ll need to qualify with your income, debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, and credit score each time. Keep in mind that the cost of refinancing each time may not make sense, so be sure to work out the numbers and consult with your lender on a solution that works for you.

15. How do I prepare for a refinance?

The best way to prepare for a refinance is by getting your finances in order. Check your credit score, your home’s value, and pay off debt where you can. Your personal qualifications are the biggest factor in getting a refinance with the best rates and terms.

16. What’s the purpose for the refinance?

You may be considering a refinance for any number of reasons, including to secure a lower interest rate, consolidate your debts, to take a cosigner off the loan, to pay off the loan sooner, to get rid of mortgage insurance, to change loan types, or to change interest rate types. If you are refinancing to pay for major expenses, consider that a home equity line of credit (HELOC) may be another option.

Turn your home equity into cash with a HELOC brokered by SoFi.

Access up to 95% or $500k of your home’s equity to finance almost anything.


Recommended: What Is a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage?

17. What are you sacrificing for this refinance?

Are you sacrificing a great interest rate so you can remodel the kitchen (and is that OK with you)? Are you pulling equity out of your home to give your monthly budget some breathing room? How much more will you pay over the life of the loan if you refinance? When you understand how amortization affects what you pay for the whole mortgage, it can help you make decisions that are better for your long-term financial health.

18. How does the refinance bring you closer to your financial goals?

A refinance should help you with your money or life. If there’s no benefit, you can walk away. If your goal is to separate your finances from a former partner, a refinance is essential to getting you closer to your goals. If your goal is to update your home, a refinance may be able to help you do that. Think about your goals, financial and otherwise.

19. Do I need cash out?

If you want cash refunded to you when you refinance with a new mortgage, you’ll want a type of loan called a “cash-out refinance.” You can use the cash to pay off debt, finish your basement, cover the costs of adoption, start a business, buy a boat, or nearly any other purpose you can think of. The CFPB does advise consumers to be judicious when taking cash out of their home equity.

20. Is this the right time to refinance?

There’s never going to be a perfect time to refinance, even when interest rates drop. But if your finances qualify you for a refinance and you’re ready to meet your next financial goal, then it might be a good time to refinance.

Why Asking These Questions Is Important


There are a lot of questions here, but if you’re clear on what you need and want, the refinance process will go more smoothly when you begin to work with your lender. You’ll be able to:

•   Understand what options are available to you

•   Grill your lender on important details

•   Comparison shop and get the best deal

•   Understand how a refinance will affect your finances

Deciding Whether to Refinance Your Mortgage


Refinancing your mortgage can be a great financial move, but it’s not right for everyone. Even after figuring out what you need and evaluating the options out there, you still might be worried about whether you’re making the right move or not.

That’s normal. A good lender can help answer any additional questions you have when refinancing your mortgage. They can help you see the different options available to you and what financial implications they may have.

Recommended: How to Get Equity Out of Your Home

The Takeaway


It can sometimes feel like there are as many reasons to refinance your mortgage as there are lenders willing to give you a loan. Asking yourself these questions can help you pinpoint whether a refinance is right for you, right now, given your specific financial and life circumstances.

SoFi can help you save money when you refinance your mortgage. Plus, we make sure the process is as stress-free and transparent as possible. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates on a traditional mortgage refinance or cash-out refinance.

A new mortgage refinance could be a game changer for your finances.

FAQ

What is not a good reason to refinance a mortgage?

An interest rate drop isn’t by itself a good reason to refinance a mortgage. Refinancing should help you meet your overall financial or life goals. It won’t make sense in every situation, so it’s important to evaluate how changes in your monthly payments, loan term, and overall amount paid (including closing costs) will affect your finances over the long term.

What is a good rule of thumb for mortgage refinancing?

If it helps you meet your financial goals, a refinance could make sense. You may need a cash-out refinance to pay for a new roof. Or you may want to refinance to a shorter term with a better interest rate so you can pay down the home faster. Those are examples of how refinances can improve your financial situation.

What should you look out for when refinancing a home?

When you’re refinancing a mortgage, ideally you want it to benefit you financially. Bear in mind that a new mortgage with a lower monthly payment could still cost you more over time if you extend the loan term.


Photo credit: iStock/dusanpetkovic

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¹FHA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by FHA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. FHA loans require an Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which may be financed or paid at closing, in addition to monthly Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP). Maximum loan amounts vary by county. The minimum FHA mortgage down payment is 3.5% for those who qualify financially for a primary purchase. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
Veterans, Service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserve may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by VA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. VA loans typically require a one-time funding fee except as may be exempted by VA guidelines. The fee may be financed or paid at closing. The amount of the fee depends on the type of loan, the total amount of the loan, and, depending on loan type, prior use of VA eligibility and down payment amount. The VA funding fee is typically non-refundable. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.

²To obtain a home equity loan, SoFi Bank (NMLS #696891) may assist you obtaining a loan from Spring EQ (NMLS #1464945).

All loan terms, fees, and rates may vary based upon individual financial and personal circumstances and state.

You may discuss with your loan officer whether a SoFi Mortgage or a home equity loan from Spring EQ is appropriate. Please note that the SoFi member discount does not apply to Home Equity Loans or Lines of Credit brokered through SoFi. Terms and conditions will apply. Before you apply for a SoFi Mortgage, please note that not all products are offered in all states, and all loans are subject to eligibility restrictions and limitations, including requirements related to loan applicant’s credit, income, property, and loan amount. Minimum loan amount is $75,000. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. Products, rates, benefits, terms, and conditions are subject to change without notice. Learn more at SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria.

SoFi Mortgages originated through SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Equal Housing Lender. SoFi Bank, N.A. is currently NOT able to accept applications for refinance loans in NY.

In the event SoFi serves as broker to Spring EQ for your loan, SoFi will be paid a fee.

SOHL-Q224-1838737-V1

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