Mobile Wallets: How They Work & Their Benefits

Guide to Mobile Wallets: What They Are and How They Work

A mobile wallet can be a great way to pay for things as you go through your day without having to carry an actual, potentially cumbersome wallet with you. Instead, an app holds digital versions of your credit, debit, loyalty, and ID cards, allowing you easy access when needed.

But you may wonder which of the mobile wallet options are best, how safe these transactions are, and whether it wouldn’t just be better to slip your debit card in your pocket on most days.

Read on to learn more, including:

•   What is a mobile wallet?

•   How does a mobile wallet work?

•   How do you set up a mobile wallet?

•   What are the pros and cons of a mobile wallet?

What Is a Mobile Wallet?

A mobile wallet is just what it sounds like: It’s a virtual wallet that lives on your mobile device (aka your cell phone). It can store credit cards and charge cards, as well as debit, loyalty, and store card information. This allows you to quickly and easily pay for goods and services with your smartphone, smartwatch, or another mobile device. No more digging through your bag or backpack for your “real” wallet and fishing out the right piece of plastic.

Mobile wallets (sometimes called digital wallets) can go a step further, too. You can also stash insurance cards, ID, coupons, concert tickets, boarding passes, and hotel key card information in them. Some digital wallets also enable you to send money to friends, as well as receive payments.

You may also be able to use your mobile wallet instead of a physical card at some ATMs for contactless withdrawals.

Recommended: What Is a Credit Card?

How Does a Mobile Wallet Work?

Here’s how a mobile wallet works:

•   You install the app and type in your personal and payment information, which is securely stored. (Unique identifying numbers are used for your details vs. your actual card or account information.)

•   When you are ready to make a payment with the mobile wallet, a technology called NFC (near-field communication) kicks in. This allows the two devices (your mobile wallet and the vendor’s reader) to communicate. Typically, you will wave your device over the merchant’s terminal or tap your device against it.

•   As the two devices communicate, your transaction will likely go through. Funds will transfer, and you will usually be pinged with a confirmation.

What Is the Best Mobile Wallet App?

The major mobile wallets are:

•   Apple Pay

•   Google Pay

•   Samsung Pay

These may come already installed on mobile devices. Although they differ in layout, these mobile wallet apps have the same basic function that allows you to pay with a phone tap.

Other ways to make payments on the go include mobile wallets you can download from app stores, including wallets from banks and merchants such as PayPal, Walmart, and Starbucks.

Deciding which mobile wallet is best will largely depend upon your own personal needs, which options are compatible with your device, how you like to manage your money, and what your financial goals are. A couple of points to keep in mind:

•   When choosing a mobile wallet app, be aware that a mobile wallet offered by your credit card company may only be accepted at certain retailers.

•   Merchant wallets will typically only work in that merchant’s store or online. For instance, the Starbucks wallet will only work at Starbucks. Enjoy that latte, but don’t expect to buy new boots at the mall with it.

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Setting up and Using a Mobile Wallet

Here’s how to set up most of the major mobile wallet apps; it’s usually quite simple:

•   You launch the app (it may be pre-installed on your device), take a photo of your card or enter its information (such as your credit card number), and follow the step-by-step instructions.

•   This process is then repeated for all other cards entered. Generally, even if you load up several credit cards into your mobile wallet, only one of them will be your default payment option. That card will be the one that is used to process a purchase. If you want to use a different card, you may need to change the default card before you make the transaction.

•   Beyond credit and debit cards, the app may also walk you through configuring peer-to-peer payments like Apple Cash or Google Pay fund exchanges. You may also be able to link your PayPal account.

•   You may be able to import retail-store rewards cards, as well as museum or library memberships cards, event tickets, and airline boarding passes. This may involve scanning a QR code or selecting the “add to wallet” button in an email or a text message from the issuer.

•   When you are ready to pay for purchases using your mobile wallet, you’ll want to make sure the merchant accepts mobile money. These businesses can typically be identified through a contactless payment indicator (usually a sideways Wi-Fi symbol).

•   To pay, open your digital wallet app if necessary, hold the phone near the wireless reader or tap your device against the terminal. This will authorize the payment. Your phone’s screen will typically confirm the transaction.

Are Mobile Wallets Safe?

Overall, mobile wallets are considered to be safe. Here’s why:

•   Unlike cash, which can be stolen, and credit cards, which can be copied, the card information you load into a mobile wallet is encrypted. That means that your actual card or account numbers are never shared with the merchant.

•   In order to make a payment, you typically have to unlock your device and also type the passcode or use your fingerprint or face recognition to unlock the mobile wallet. Or you may be able to unlock an iPhone with a double-click of a button and then authenticate with Touch ID or Face ID.These steps may be simple but they add layers of security.

•   In the case of theft, it’s not possible for anyone to use a mobile device to make a payment without providing the required security credentials.

These safeguards actually make mobile wallets more secure than carrying physical credit cards and cash, which can easily be compromised.

Recommended: Guide to Choosing a Credit Card

Pros and Cons of Using Mobile Wallets

Is a mobile wallet right for you? Here are some key pros and cons you may want to consider.

Mobile Wallet Pros

Here are some of the upsides of using a mobile wallet.

They’re convenient. If you’re out and about without your wallet or bag, you can still make purchases, as well as use your coupons and rewards cards. You may also be able to get cash at an ATM or check a book out of the library, all from your mobile device. What’s more, they’re often allow for a contactless payment, meaning they can be extra quick and easy.

They’re secure. Mobile wallets provide a layer of security you don’t get with cash or using a debit or credit card. Your payment information is saved in one protected, central location. Card numbers are never stored in the app itself but are instead assigned a unique virtual number. This protects your money even if your smartphone is lost or stolen.

They can help you track your spending. A mobile wallet can help you track and better manage your spending. All of your transaction information is stored in the app so it’s easy to see how much you’re spending and where each week. You might even wind up using a credit card more responsibly.

Mobile Wallet Cons

There are also some downsides to mobile wallets to be aware of.

They’re not accepted everywhere. There are still some industries where cash is the only currency accepted. Even in businesses that do take credit, not all of them accept mobile wallets. To accept a mobile wallet, businesses need to have payment readers that take NFC payments, and not all of them have these terminals. This can cause a problem if a mobile wallet is all you have on hand.

Your phone could die. Cell phones often run out of battery life, and if you’re without a charger, that handy mobile wallet will no longer exist. That can put a crimp in your shopping plans or become a major problem if you have important documents such as train passes or concert tickets stored in your mobile wallet.

You may end up overspending. The use of mobile wallets can be similar to that of using a credit card. Because cash isn’t physically leaving your hands, spending can feel less real, which can be a cause of overspending. If you have spending issues, a mobile wallet can make it easy to spend mindlessly and swipe or tap too often.

The Takeaway

A mobile wallet is a digital way to store credit, debit, ID, and gift cards so that purchases can be made using a mobile smart device rather than a physical card.

Mobile wallets can help simplify your financial life. They allow users to make in-store payments without having to carry cash or physical credit cards. They’re easy to use and have hefty safeguards.

However, they aren’t universally accepted. It’s worth your while to determine whether the retailers you frequent accept them to help determine if a mobile wallet is a good option for you.

Looking for more convenient ways to manage your money? With a SoFi Checking and Savings bank account, you can spend and save in one convenient place, earn a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), and pay no account fees. You can also track your weekly spending, pay bills, and send money to friends right from your smartphone using the SoFi app.

Better banking is here with up to 3.75% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

4 Tips for Using Your Mobile Wallet

To keep your mobile wallet safe and smooth transactions, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Do your research before downloading payment apps. Look for reliable brands/companies, many positive reviews, and a significant number of downloads. Avoid untested apps; they could be a kind of scam and contain spyware or malware.
  2. Know how to remotely lock and locate your phone in case it gets lost or stolen. Check your phone’s device manager capabilities before you find yourself in an emergency situation.
  3. Always have appropriate locking technology. Carrying around a phone that doesn’t lock means you could be risking loss.
  4. Review your credit and debit card statements. Make sure those purchases are yours. While mobile wallets are secure, problems can occasionally arise, and you want to be alert.

FAQ

How many places support mobile wallets?

While there isn’t a precise tally of how many retailers and other businesses support mobile wallets, a recent study found that there are 1.35 billion registered mobile money accounts globally, indicating significant adoption of and acceptance of this technology.

Do mobile wallets support all debit/credit cards?

Each mobile wallet will have its own policies, but most credit cards from major banks are supported by, say, Google Pay. Small business credit cards may also be added, and possibly some debit cards, especially those from established banks. You may find, though, that prepaid cards are not supported.

Will mobile payments replace cash?

According to a 2022 study by GSMA, the global mobile money industry saw a 31% increase in processing transactions, up to $1 trillion in value. While this might indicate that mobile payments are on track to replace cash completely, that may not happen soon or perhaps even ever: Some sources say cash still accounts for 85% of all consumer payments around the world.


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What Are The Tax Benefits of an Limited Liability Company (LLC)?

What Are the Tax Benefits of a Limited Liability Company (LLC)?

When people are starting a business, it’s likely that they’ll consider the tax benefits of different company structures. In some cases, founders may create a limited liability company (LLC) specifically for its tax benefits.

Here, we’ll delve into the tax benefits of LLCs for business owners, as well as other pros and cons.

What Is an LLC?

An LLC is a type of business structure available in the United States. A kind of hybrid, it combines some characteristics of corporations with others from a partnership or sole proprietorship.

According to the IRS, LLC owners are called “members.” Depending on the state in which you set up the LLC, members may be individual people, other LLCs, or corporations. There is no maximum number of members that a company can have, and most states allow LLCs with just one member. Check your state for specifics.

Recommended: What is The Difference Between Transunion and Equifax?

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Tax Benefits of Forming an LLC

As mentioned above, company founders may choose an LLC structure especially for its tax benefits. Here, we go into detail about what those benefits are.

Limited Liability

An LLC, as its full name implies, provides limited liability to its members. This means that, if the company fails, the owners’ and investors’ private assets are not at risk and can’t be seized to repay company debts.

Flexible Membership

As noted previously, an LLC can have one member or many, and those members can be individuals or companies. This business structure gives owners significant freedom when starting their company.

Management Structure Options

LLCs can be managed by a member (owner) or by a hired manager. A member-managed LLC may be chosen if the company has limited resources or few members. An owner may select a member with management experience to oversee the business, or they may want all members to actively participate in the company’s operations.

A hired manager is someone who is not a member but has the appropriate experience and skill sets to run the LLC. An accountant or financial advisor can go into detail about the tax benefits of member-manager vs. hired manager approaches. (Here’s what to know if you’re filing taxes for the first time.)

Pass-Through Taxation

LLC member-owners have some control over how their business will be taxed. If there is only one member, it will automatically be treated like a sole proprietorship, and if there is more than one, like a partnership. In those cases, business income will pass through the business to the member-owners, and they’ll only get taxed once. Members will report income and losses on their personal tax returns, while the LLC itself is not taxed. (Learn how business income differs from other types of income.)

Because income and losses are reported as part of members’ personal financial pictures at tax time, taxes will be owed at each member’s personal tax rate.

Alternatively, the LLC owners may decide to be taxed as a corporation. If they choose an S-Corp structure, pass-through taxation still applies.

Recommended: How Long Does It Take Taxes to Come Back?

Heightened Credibility

When someone opens an LLC, it shows that they’ve gone beyond just hanging a shingle. Instead, they went through the decision making and paper filing processes involved in setting up the LLC.

Limited Compliance Requirements

According to the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), another form of business structure — the corporation — has the strictest requirements. In contrast, LLCs have some but fewer.

In general, an LLC should maintain a current operating agreement, hold annual meetings, ensure that they have appropriate shares recorded for each member, and keep records if membership interests transfer. (Find out if you can use a personal checking account for your business.)

Disadvantages of Creating an LLC

So far, the LLC sounds like the ideal low-maintenance company structure. However, there are several caveats to be aware of.

Cost

Forming an LLC can cost a few hundred dollars, which may be more than what a small business wants to spend. The company will also need to file annual reports along with annual fees and taxes. These taxes and fees may cost a miniscule amount or several hundred dollars annually.

No Stock Ownership

When a corporation wants to raise funds, they sometimes issue shares of stock. An LLC cannot issue stock.

Recommended: How to Start Investing in Stocks

Transferable Ownership

Some states may require that an LLC be dissolved if there is a change in ownership. If the people starting the business expect to take in outside investors over the years, a corporation might be a better choice.

How to Form an LLC

Once you’ve decided to start an LLC, you’ll want to choose and reserve a company name that doesn’t conflict with currently existing ones. Typically, an LLC must have what’s called a registered agent: someone who will handle official documents for the company.

Then, you’ll need to document the nuts and bolts of the operating agreement that describes the structure of the company. This can include who owns what portion of the company and who gets to vote on which issues. You’ll detail how profits and losses will be addressed, how the company will be managed, when meetings will be held, and how to handle the business if a member leaves the company or dies. This document should also describe what should happen if the company goes out of business.

Recommended: 2022 IRS Tax Refund Dates

How LLCs Are Different From Other Business Entities

An LLC is formed to be a legal entity that’s separate from its owners and is responsible for its business debts. Here’s how an LLC differs from other company structures.

LLC vs Sole Proprietorship

Profits in an LLC are only taxed once because of the pass-through taxation structure. This is reported on and addressed through owners’ personal tax returns by filing a Form 1040, Schedule C, listing profits or losses. As an LLC owner, you may be taxed as a sole proprietor, a partnership, or a corporation.

A sole proprietorship is owned by one person and is the simplest structure available. A sole proprietorship also involves pass-through taxation with the business owner paying taxes on the business’s profit. There isn’t as much flexibility in filing as a sole proprietor as there is with an LLC.

LLC vs S-Corp

An LLC is a business structure. An S-corp, meanwhile, is a tax classification. Many businesses decide to have their LLC taxed as an S-corp. The nuances can be complicated, so it makes sense to consult your personal accountant or other professional before making this decision.

LLC for Rental Property

If you create an LLC to buy rental homes, you’ll have the benefits of no personal liability and pass-through taxation. There can be a flexible ownership structure, personal anonymity, and fairly simple reporting.

However, it may be harder to finance rental property as an LLC. There can also be significant fees to get the LLC up and running. LLCs for rentals can be more complex at tax time, and property transfers can also be more complicated.

Recommended: Does Net Worth Include Home Equity?

How to Choose the Right Business Type

Consider how simple or complex your proposed business will become. Do you plan to basically run the business yourself, or will it ideally turn into something bigger? What kind of legal protections will you need based on your business plans?

Entrepreneurs should also weigh the tax benefits of LLCs and sole proprietorships. The two structures, along with partnerships and S-corps, feature pass-through benefits, meaning that profits are taxed only when they’re paid to the company owner(s). A C-corp, meanwhile, is taxed as a company as well as when shareholder payouts are made.

Consult your accountant or financial advisor for specifics on your situation.

Recommended: Should I Sell My House Now or Wait?

The Takeaway

Limited liability companies (LLCs) come with plenty of advantages and a few disadvantages. As its name implies, the owners’ and investors’ private assets are not at risk if the company should struggle financially. Owners of the LLC are referred to as members. Membership may range from one individual to multiple individuals to other companies.

A major benefit is pass-through taxation, where income passes through the company to its members, who report it on their personal taxes. One disadvantage of LLCs for very small businesses is the startup cost and annual fees, which can run to several hundred dollars a year. Consult a professional to find out whether an LLC is the right fit for your business plan.

No matter what business structure you choose, it’s important to keep track of your finances. SoFi Insights, our spending app, provides you with an easy to use online budget planner so you can stay on top of your finances.

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FAQ

What are the tax benefits of having an LLC?

With an LLC, you’ll have flexibility in deciding the structure under which your company will be taxed. There are more tax benefits of an LLC, including pass-through taxation, which means you’ll only get taxed once at your individual tax rate.

What are the benefits of a limited liability company?

They can include limited liability, meaning that owners aren’t personally responsible for company debts; flexible structures; pass-through taxation; more credibility; and fewer compliance requirements compared to a corporation.

What is the best tax option for an LLC?

Each situation is unique, so consult your accountant or financial advisor for specifics.


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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.
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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FDIC Insurance: What It Is And How It Works

You are probably used to seeing those four little letters, FDIC, on a variety of bank materials. What’s more, you’re probably used to feeling a sense of security knowing the FDIC is doing its job and providing insurance.

But do you know what exactly the FDIC is? And how (and even whether) this insurance protects you?

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, is an independent agency of the U.S. government. In the unlikely event of a bank failure, it protects you and reimburses your deposits up to $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, per account ownership category.

People often take the FDIC guarantee for granted now, but it was created from a very real need and has kept many people and their money safe.

Here, you’ll learn more about this important aspect of banking, including:

•   What the FDIC is

•   What the FDIC does

•   How does the FDIC work

•   Which accounts are and are not eligible for FDIC protection

What Is the FDIC?

The FDIC is the shorthand way of referring to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It is an independent agency created by Congress, and while it has a board of directors, the question is, What is the FDIC vs. Who is the FDIC? Think of it as an organization, not a group of people.

It was created in 1933, after the Great Depression, when thousands of banks failed. The goal was to shore up confidence in the U.S. financial system and protect Americans from losing their cash if their bank failed.

In January 1934, the FDIC began insuring deposits, covering them up to $2,500. That number has increased through the years, of course, most recently with the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

President George W. Bush signed the act to temporarily raise FDIC insurance coverage from $100,000 to $250,000 per depositor during the financial crisis. President Barack Obama made the coverage hike permanent in 2010 with the signing of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

It’s important to note how this insurance works: The standard coverage is $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account ownership category. Joint accounts may be covered up to $500,000.

What Does the FDIC Do?

Now that you’ve had a brief history lesson, you may be curious to find out what is the FDIC and what does it do today?

For starters, since its creation, no depositor has lost any money from an FDIC-insured deposit. This means that, unlike your great-grandparents, you can put your money into an eligible financial institution, whether a savings vs. checking account or other qualifying account, and know it’s more secure than stuffing it under your mattress. (Yes, that used to be a thing for many savers.)

Also of note: Though it’s the customers’ money that’s covered by the FDIC, the agency is funded by premiums paid by the banks and from earnings on investments in U.S. Treasury securities. You do not pay for this insurance; you are automatically covered when you open an FDIC-insured account.

There are rules and limits you should know about, however, if you want to make the most of the FDIC’s coverage. Read on to learn more.

Types of Accounts Insured by the FDIC

The FDIC insures all deposit accounts at insured banks and savings associations up to the FDIC’s limits, including:

•   Checking accounts

•   Savings accounts

•   Money market accounts

•   Certificates of deposit (CDs)

•   Prepaid cards when the underlying funds are deposited in an insured bank (these funds are only insured in the instance of bank failure, not loss or theft)

•   Certain retirement savings accounts, but only when placed in certain types of investments and in accordance with all FDIC requirements.

   Deposit accounts, such as checking and savings accounts, money market deposit accounts, and certificates of deposit, can all be held in traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs and are eligible for FDIC insurance.

Recommended: Tips for Overcoming Bad Financial Decisions

How to Tell if Your Money Is FDIC-Insured

How can you tell for sure if your account is covered? While the FDIC insures deposits in most banks and savings associations, not all of them are protected. Every FDIC-insured depository institution must display an official sign at each teller window or teller station, so that’s an easy way to check if you bank at a brick-and-mortar location.

If you’re using an online bank or a mobile-first financial product, the company’s website should contain information about its coverage.

Or you can find out if your deposits are insured by using the FDIC BankFind tool .

Recommended: Comparing the Different Types of Deposit Accounts

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Types of Accounts Not Insured by the FDIC

Now, here are the kinds of funds not covered by FDIC insurance. Money held in these ways, even if purchased from an insured financial institution, is not protected:

•   Stocks

•   Bonds

•   Annuities

•   Mutual funds

•   Municipal securities

•   Life insurance policies

•   The contents of a safety deposit box

This is an important point to note as you think about your financial security.

Also, you may wonder about the FDIC vs. NCUA in terms of protecting your finances. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), created by Congress in 1970, covers federally insured credit unions in much the same way as the FDIC covers banks, including deposits up to $250,000. If your funds are held at a credit union, you may want to make sure it has NCUA coverage. The FDIC will not be protecting you.

How FDIC Insurance Works

Here’s more important intel if you’re wondering, How does the FDIC work?

The FDIC covers your holdings in certain accounts, as listed above. What amount of money is insured in a bank account? The limit is $250,000. It is calculated to cover both principal and interest earned by the depositor. If you have an account that has $200,000 in it and has accrued $20,000 in interest, you will be covered in the amount of $220,000.

As mentioned above, there is a $250,000 cap on FDIC insurance. If you have high net worth, this coverage may not be enough. As a result, you may want to keep in mind that by having money in excess of that amount in one bank or one account, you may be putting yourself at risk.

Because the $250,000 applies to each bank where you have an account, one way you may be able to increase the FDIC insurance coverage available to you is by using multiple banks.

Another option is to structure your accounts properly within a single bank. If you have any concerns about your coverage, it can be a good idea to discuss them with a representative at your bank.

What Happens if a Bank Fails?

Banks don’t fail often at all: In the most recent years studied, there were no bank failures in 2022 and 2021 and four in 2020.

If a bank were to fail, the FDIC would intervene in two ways:

•   The FDIC would pay depositors up to the insurance limit to cover their losses. So, if you had $10,500 in an insured account and the bank failed, you would be reimbursed for that amount. Typically, this happens within a few days after a bank closes.

•   The FDIC also takes responsibility for collecting the assets of the failed bank and settling its debts. As assets are sold, depositors who had more than the $250,000 limit in an insured account may receive payments on their claim.

How to Recover Your Money if a Bank Fails

Because of the FDIC safety net, you won’t likely see fearful customers lining up to get their money the way they did before deposit insurance was established.

Still, when a bank closes, it can cause depositors to worry and wonder how to get their money. Typically, there are one of two scenarios when a bank fails:

•   Most commonly, you would become a depositor at a healthy, FDIC-insured bank. You would have access to your insured funds at this new bank and could likely choose to keep your accounts there if you like.

•   If there is not a healthy, FDIC-insured bank that can step in quickly, the FDIC will likely pay the insured depositor by check within as little as a few days after the bank closes.

As for immediate next steps if you learn your bank is closing, the FDIC aims to post information as promptly as possible, or you can contact the agency at 877-ASK-FDIC or visit the FDIC Support Center website .

The Takeaway

Though it’s quite a rare occurrence, a bank can fail when it takes on too much risk. When this happens, it puts all of the bank’s customers’ assets in jeopardy.

But if your bank is covered by FDIC insurance, you can receive reimbursement up to $250,000, meaning your funds aren’t lost for good. FDIC insurance covers checking, savings, money market accounts, CDs, and other deposit accounts.

The FDIC does not cover some of the other financial products or services offered by banks, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and securities.

Putting your money in a brick-and-mortar financial institution isn’t the only way to make sure it’s protected. SoFi Checking and Savings is a mobile-first online bank account that keeps your hard-earned dollars safe; all accounts receive FDIC insurance of up to $250,000 per member.

What’s more, we offer an array of great features that can make managing your money easier, such as spending and saving in one convenient place and using savings tools such as Vaults and Roundups. Plus, you’ll earn a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) and pay no account fees, both of which can help your money grow faster.

Want security, convenience, and no account fees? Bank smarter with SoFi.

FAQ

How often does a bank fail?

Currently, banks fail very rarely. In the past two years, no banks failed in the United States. However, the FDIC was created in response to thousands of bank failures around the time of the Great Depression.

How does the FDIC differ from the NCUA?

FDIC insurance applies to qualifying accounts at banks. NCUA insurance covers qualifying accounts at credit unions.

How many banks are FDIC insured?

As of September 2022, the FDIC insured a total of 4,746 institutions. Of these, 4,157 were commercial banks, and 589 were savings institutions.

Are credit unions FDIC insured?

Credit unions don’t qualify for FDIC insurance. Instead, they may be covered by the National Credit Union Administration, or NCUA, insurance.


SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.75% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 12/16/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Roth IRA vs Savings Account: Key Similarities and Differences

Roth IRA vs Savings Account: Key Similarities and Differences

Saving is an important part of your financial health and building wealth, but it can be confusing to understand all the different vehicles out there. For instance, if you want to stash cash away for a good long while, should you open a Roth IRA or a savings account?

A Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA) offers a tax-advantaged way to invest money for retirement. Brokerages and banks can offer Roth IRAs for investors who want to set aside money that they don’t anticipate spending for the near future.

Savings accounts can also be used to hold money you plan to spend at a later date. The main difference between a Roth IRA and savings account, however, lies in what they’re intended to be used for.

If you’re debating whether to keep your money in a Roth IRA or savings account, it’s helpful to understand how they work and what sets them apart from one another. Read on to learn:

•   What is a savings account?

•   What are the pros and cons of a savings account for retirement?

•   What is a Roth IRA?

•   What are the pros and cons of a Roth IRA for retirement?

•   What are the similarities and differences between these two account types?

•   How can you tell if a savings account or Roth IRA is right for you?

What Is a Savings Account?

A savings account is a type of deposit account that can be opened at a bank, credit union, or another financial institution. Savings accounts are designed to help you separate money you plan to spend later from money you plan to spend now.

Here’s how a savings account works:

•   You open the account and make an initial deposit.

•   Money in your account can earn interest over time, at a rate set by the bank.

•   When you need to spend the money in your savings account, you can withdraw it.

Previously, savers were limited to making six withdrawals from a savings account per month under Federal Reserve rules. In 2020, the Federal Reserve lifted that restriction, though banks can still impose monthly withdrawal limits on savings accounts. Exceeding the allowed number of withdrawals per month could trigger a fee or could lead to the account being converted to a checking account.

Types of Savings Accounts

Banks can offer more than one kind of savings account. The range of savings accounts available can depend on whether you’re dealing with a traditional bank, an online bank, or a credit union.

Typically, these accounts will be insured up to $250,000 per ownership category by either the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

Generally, the types of savings accounts you can open include:

•   Traditional savings. Traditional savings accounts, also called regular, basic, or standard savings accounts, allow you to deposit money and earn interest. Rates for traditional savings may be on the low side, and you might pay a monthly fee for these accounts at brick-and-mortar banks.

•   High-interest savings. The main benefits of high-interest savings accounts include above-average interest rates and low or no monthly fees. For example, online banks can offer high-yield savings accounts with rates that are five to 10 times higher than the national savings rate, with no monthly fee.

•   Money market savings. Money market savings accounts or money market accounts can combine features of savings and checking. For example, you can earn interest on deposits but have access to your money via paper checks or a debit card.

•   Specialty savings. Some types of savings accounts are created with a specific purpose in mind. For example, Christmas Club accounts are designed to help you save money for the holidays. A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged specialty savings account that’s meant to be used just for health care expenses, though some people use an HSA for retirement.

You could also add certificate of deposit accounts (CDs) to this list, though a CD works differently than a savings account. CDs are time deposits, meaning that when you put money in the account, you agree to leave it there for a set term. If you take the funds out before then, you will likely be charged a fee.

Once the CD matures, you can withdraw your initial deposit and the interest earned. For that reason, CDs offer less flexibility than other types of savings accounts.

Quick Money Tip: If you’re saving for a short-term goal — whether it’s a vacation, a wedding, or the down payment on a house — consider opening a high-yield savings account. The higher APY that you’ll earn will help your money grow faster, but the funds stay liquid, so they are easy to access when you reach your goal.

Pros and Cons of Using a Savings Account for Retirement Savings

Savings accounts can be used to save for a variety of financial goals, including retirement. You might be wondering whether it makes a difference if you use, say, a high yield savings account vs. Roth IRA or other retirement account to save, as long as you’re setting money aside consistently.

While savings accounts can offer convenience and earn interest, they’re not necessarily ideal when saving for retirement if your primary goal. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using a savings account to plan for retirement.

Pros

Cons

Savings accounts are easy to open and typically don’t require a large initial deposit. A savings account does not offer any tax benefits or incentives for use as a retirement account.
Banks and credit unions can pay interest on savings account deposits, allowing you to grow your money over time. Interest rates for savings accounts can be low, especially if you’re saving at a traditional bank vs. an online bank.
You can withdraw money as needed and don’t have to reach a specific age in order to use your savings. Banks can impose fees or even convert your savings account to checking if you’re making frequent withdrawals.
Savings accounts are safe and secure; deposits are protected up to $250,000 per depositor, per account ownership type, per financial institution when held at an FDIC member bank. If you’re putting all of your retirement funds into the same savings account, it’s possible that your balance might exceed the FDIC covered limit.

Recommended: Different Ways to Earn More Interest on Your Money

Ready for a Better Banking Experience?

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What Is a Roth IRA?

Before diving into what is a Roth IRA, know this: There are different retirement plans to choose from, including workplace plans and IRAs. A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that is not a traditional IRA. Traditional IRAs are funded with pre-tax dollars and allow for tax-deductible contributions when doing taxes. Once you turn 72, you’re required to begin taking money from this kind of account.

If you don’t know how the Roth IRA works, these accounts allow you to set aside money using after-tax dollars, up to the annual contribution limit. That means you can’t deduct contributions to a Roth IRA, but you can get something better: tax-free qualified distributions.

You can leave money in your Roth IRA until you need, which allows it even more time to grow. Unlike traditional IRAs, there are no required minimum distributions for Roth IRAs. If you don’t use all of the money in your Roth IRA in retirement, you can pass it on to anyone you’d like to name as your beneficiary.

The IRS allows you to make a full contribution to a Roth IRA if you’re within certain income thresholds, based on your tax filing status. The full contribution limit for 2022 is $6,000, with an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution allowed if you’re age 50 or older. You can make a full contribution for 2022 if your tax status is:

•   Married filing jointly or a qualified widow(er) with a modified adjusted gross income of less than $204,000

•   Single, head of household, or married filing separately and did not live with your spouse during the year with a modified adjusted gross income of less than $129,000

Contributions are reduced once you exceed these income thresholds. They eventually phase out completely for higher earners.

Opening a retirement account like a Roth IRA can be a simple, straightforward process. It can even be done online.

Pros and Cons of Using a Roth IRA for Retirement Savings

Roth IRAs are specifically designed to be used for retirement saving. Again, that’s the chief difference between a Roth IRA and savings account. That doesn’t mean, however, that a Roth IRA is necessarily right for everyone. For example, you may need to weigh whether a Roth IRA or traditional IRA is better, based on your income and tax situation.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages associated with choosing a Roth IRA for retirement savings.

Pros

Cons

Money in a Roth IRA can be invested in stocks, mutual funds, and other securities, potentially allowing your money to grow faster. Investing money in the market is riskier than stashing it in a savings account; there’s no guarantee that you won’t lose money in a Roth IRA.
You may be able to open a Roth IRA with as little as $500 or $1,000, depending on the brokerage or bank you choose. Brokerages can charge various fees for Roth IRAs. Individual investments may also carry fees of their own.
Qualified distributions from a Roth IRA are always 100% tax-free, and you can withdraw original contributions at any time, without a penalty. Tax penalties may apply if you withdraw earnings from your Roth IRA less than five years after you opened it.
You can save money in a Roth IRA in addition to contributing money to a 401(k) plan at work. Not everyone is eligible to open a Roth IRA, and there are annual contribution limits.

Similarities Between a Roth IRA and a Savings Account

Roth IRAs and savings accounts do have some things in common. For example:

•   Both can be used to save money for the long-term and both can earn interest. So you could use either one as part of a retirement savings strategy.

•   You can open a Roth IRA or savings account at a bank and initial deposits for either one may be relatively low. Some banks also offer Roth IRA CDs, which are CD accounts that follow Roth IRA tax rules.

•   Savings accounts and Roth IRAs held at banks are also FDIC-insured. The FDIC insures certain types of retirement accounts, including Roth IRAs, when those accounts are self-directed and the investment decisions are made by the account owner, not a plan administrator.

•   It’s possible to open a savings account for yourself or for a child. Somewhat similarly, you can also open a Roth IRA for a child if they have income of their own but haven’t turned 18 yet.

When comparing the benefits of Roth IRA vs. savings account, however, Roth accounts have an edge for retirement planning. Whether it makes sense to choose something like a high yield savings accounts vs. Roth IRA can depend on what you want to set money aside for.

Roth IRA vs Savings Account: Key Differences

Comparing a savings account vs. Roth IRA isn’t that difficult once you understand how each one works and what they’re intended to be used for. Here are some important differences between a Roth IRA and a savings account:

Roth IRA

Savings Account

Purpose A Roth IRA is designed to save for retirement. Savings accounts can fund virtually any short- or long-term goal.
Who Can Open Taxpayers who are within certain income thresholds can open a Roth IRA. Adults with valid proof of ID can open a savings account, regardless of income or tax status.
Interest Money in a Roth IRA earns compounding interest based on the value of underlying investments. Savings accounts earn interest at a rate set by the bank.
Tax Benefits Roth IRAs allow for 100% tax-free qualified distributions, with no required minimum distributions. Savings accounts don’t offer any tax benefits; interest earned is considered taxable income.
Contribution Limits Roth IRAs have an annual contribution limit. For 2022, the limit is $6,000 or $7,000 if you’re 50 or older.) There are no contribution limits, though FDIC protection only applies to the first $250,000 per depositor, per account ownership type, per financial institution.
Withdrawals Generally, withdrawals of earnings are not allowed before age 59 ½ unless an exception applies. Original contributions can be withdrawn at any time without a tax penalty. Banks can limit the number of withdrawals you’re allowed to make from a savings account each month and impose a fee for exceeding that limit.
Risk Investing money in a Roth IRA can be risky; you may lose money. Savings are safe, secure places to keep up to the FDIC-insured $250,000 limit detailed above.

How to Decide If a Roth IRA or Savings Account Is Right for You

If you’re unsure whether to open a Roth IRA vs. high-yield savings account, it’s helpful to consider your goals and what you want to do with your money.

You might decide to open a Roth IRA if you:

•   Specifically want to save for retirement and earn a higher rate of return

•   Would like to be able to withdraw money tax-free to buy a home or pay higher education expenses (the IRS allows you to avoid a tax penalty for these distributions)

•   Want to supplement the money you’re contributing to a 401(k) at work

•   Expect to be in a higher tax bracket at retirement and want to be able to withdraw savings tax-free

•   Don’t want to be required to make minimum distributions at age 72

On the other hand, you might open a savings account if you:

•   Have a short- or long-term goal you’re saving for

•   Want a safe, secure place to keep your money

•   Are satisfied with earning a lower rate of return on savings

•   Need to be able to keep some of your money liquid and accessible

•   Aren’t concerned with getting any type of tax break for your savings

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between a high-interest savings account vs. Roth IRA. You can open one of each type of account to save for both retirement and other financial goals.

The Takeaway

Opening a retirement account can be a smart move if you’d like to save money for your later years while enjoying some tax breaks. A Roth IRA could be a good fit if you’re eligible to open one and you’d like to be able to make tax-free withdrawals once you retire.

Having a savings account is also a good idea if you’re building an emergency fund, saving for a vacation, or planning for another big money goal. When you open a SoFi online bank account with direct deposit, you can get checking and savings in one convenient place. You’ll earn a competitive APY and pay no account fees, which can help your money grow faster. You’ll also have access to a suite of simple tools that can make budgeting and socking away savings even easier.

Want your money to work harder for you? Bank smarter with SoFi.

FAQ

Is it better to put money in savings or a Roth IRA?

A savings account can be better for setting aside cash you know you’ll eventually need to spend. A Roth IRA, on the other hand, can be better for saving for retirement if you’d like to invest your money to earn higher returns and gain some tax benefits.

Should I use a Roth IRA as a savings account?

While you could use a Roth IRA as a savings account, that could be problematic if you need to make a withdrawal. Generally, the IRS expects you to wait until age 59 ½ to withdraw money from a Roth IRA. Withdrawing money before then could trigger tax penalties.

What is the downside of a Roth IRA?

The main downside of a Roth IRA is that not everyone can open and contribute to one. If your income is above the thresholds allowed by the IRS, you’d only be able to open a traditional IRA instead. It’s possible, however, to convert traditional IRA funds to a Roth IRA, though that can result in a tax bill at the time of the conversion.

Can I move money from savings to a Roth IRA?

You can link a savings account to a Roth IRA to transfer funds. If you’d like to move money from savings to your Roth account, you’d just log into your brokerage account and schedule the transfer. Keep in mind that Roth IRAs do have annual limits on how much you can contribute.

Are Roth IRAs Insured?

The FDIC insures Roth IRAs held at banks when those accounts are self-directed vs. a plan administrator being responsible for making investment decisions. The same FDIC insurance limits that apply to savings accounts apply to Roth IRAs.


Photo credit: iStock/dima_sidelnikov

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. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.75% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 12/16/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
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What Are Green Banks?

What Is Green Banking?

Green banking is a branch of the financial industry that focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices. Similar to sustainable investing, green banks emphasize the importance of reducing negative environmental impacts as they go about their business.

The latest data indicates that global warming is likely increasing, and, in response, so is the market for renewable energy sources and other green solutions. The emergence of green banking may also reflect this rising interest in being more eco-conscious.

This is a relatively new concept, and you may have questions about what it really means. In this guide, you’ll learn answers to:

•  What is green banking?

•  How does green banking work?

•  What are examples of green banks?

What Are Green Banks?

There is no standard way to define what is a green bank. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), green banks are financial institutions that may leverage public funding to attract private capital for clean energy projects. These can include energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other distributed energy resources), as well as other “green” investments.

In simpler terms, green banks are mission-driven. They work to further environmentally-sound goals alongside financial goals. Those objectives can include:

•  Financing projects that will create green jobs

•  Expanding solar power

•  Lowering energy costs

•  Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

•  Building green infrastructure

•  Closing funding gaps for green energy retrofitting projects

•  Advancing sustainability.

As of 2022, there were 22 financial institutions in the U.S. operating as green banks, according to the Green Bank Consortium. Collectively, those banks have helped to drive $9 billion in clean energy investment since 2011.

Recommended: Green Investing Guide

How Do Green Banks Work?

Broadly speaking, green banks work by adhering to practices that promote sustainability. Sustainable banking encompasses two different things:

•  Green banking

•  Sustainable finance

So what does that mean? When you’re talking about green banking, you’re referring to implementing practices that are designed to reduce a bank’s environmental footprint.

Sustainable finance, on the other hand, involves the use of financial products to support or encourage environmentally-friendly behavior.

Green banks work by incorporating aspects of sustainability into their operations. That spans everything from the products and services the bank offers to its IT strategy to the way it hires and retains employees. It may encompass socially responsible investing as well.

It’s important to note that it can be easy to confuse banks that are authentically green with financial institutions that engage in greenwashing. Greenwashing happens when companies have the appearance of being environmentally-friendly or sustainable, based on their marketing claims, but in reality are not. It may require a bit of consumer research to make sure you can differentiate what is a green bank and what isn’t.

Recommended: A Guide to Ethical Shopping

Sustainable Banking Examples

The number of green banks in the U.S. is still relatively low, and they don’t exist in every state yet. You may not see them among your local retail banks. However, there are some notable examples of financial institutions that are focused on sustainable banking. These include:

California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank

The California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (known as IBank) offers a variety of paths to sustainable banking. The bank offers infrastructure loans, bonds, small business financing, and climate financing in order to create jobs, bolster the economy, and improve quality of life for Californians. IBank financing accounts for more than $52 billion in infrastructure and economic development within the state.

Connecticut Green Bank

Connecticut Green Bank is the nation’s first green bank, established in 2011. The bank evolved from the Connecticut Green Energy Fund and bases its business model on the use of sustainable financing to maximize the use of public funds. As of 2022, the bank and its partners have helped $2.26 billion in capital to find its way into clean energy projects across the state.

NY Green Bank

NY Green Bank is a state-sponsored financial institution operating in New York that works with the private sector to increase investments into clean energy markets. The bank is specifically interested in projects that are both financially sound and focus on creating energy savings or clean energy that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many of the bank’s funding projects revolve around the expansion of solar energy.

Recommended: How Are Local Small Banks Different from Large Banks?

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Green Banks

Green banks and sustainable banking aim to play a role in environmental preservation. However, they aren’t the same thing as your standard traditional bank or online bank. While you may never use a green bank directly, it’s important to understand how they can still affect you. Here’s what to know about the advantages and potential downsides associated with sustainable banking.

Banking Advantages

Banking Disadvantages

•   Green banks help to advance the use of clean energy technology.

•   Clean energy projects funded by sustainable banking can help to increase job growth and promote economic development.

•   Green banking can attract large-scale private investment, which can help to accelerate clean energy projects.

•   Green banks are not widespread, and their reach may be limited.

•   Sustainable banking is still a relatively new subset of the banking industry, which can translate to higher credit risk.

•   Banks that engage in greenwashing can taint the image of sustainable banking and lead investors to look elsewhere.

Recommended: 19 Ways to Save Money While Living Sustainably

The Future of Green Banking

Predicting the future of sustainable banking is difficult, though signs indicate a growing interest in how green banks might help create a cleaner environment. At the federal level, for instance, the passage of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act notably included a provision allowing for the establishment of a national green bank.

Globally, sustainable banking is increasingly in the spotlight in emerging markets. There’s growing interest in the positive environmental gains that may be made through green banking. That said, there are still questions about how to encourage sustainable finance in economies that are still developing. This could in turn lead to more global collaboration among banks in furthering sustainable finance worldwide.

One potential result of sustainable banking: There may be greater carryover in the traditional banking sector. For example, there may be a push for banks to offer personal or small-business banking products and services that have a sustainable or green angle. Green loans and mortgages could end up being another byproduct of enhanced attention on sustainable finance.

As the spotlight on green banking grows, you may begin to notice changes at the retail banking level. For example, Citigroup issues an annual report on its ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) program results. And it’s not just traditional banks showing dedication to this topic; online banks are part of the effort, too. In March 2022, SoFi announced the launch of its ESG Committee to help formulate strategies for positive environmental, social, and governance impacts.

Recommended: Online vs. Traditional Banking: What’s Your Best Option?

The Takeaway

Many people are adopting a greener lifestyle and finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Where you choose to bank could make a difference in your efforts if you’re keeping your money at a financial institution that advocates sustainability. Green banking is the term used to describe financial institutions that try to both make their business practices more sustainable as well as invest funds towards eco-conscious goals. This segment of the market may well grow in the years ahead.

Switching to an online bank is something you might consider if you’d like to streamline the way you manage your money. Instead of driving to a bank or receiving paper statements in the mail, you could track your finances online without leaving home. When you open a checking and savings account with SoFi, you can get all the banking tools you need to stay on top of your finances. Sign up with direct deposit, and you’ll enjoy the terrific combination of an and no fees, which can help your money grow faster.

Bank smarter with SoFi today and enjoy a hyper competitive interest rate, plus zero fees.

FAQ

What is sustainable banking?

Sustainable banking encourages environmentally-friendly practices, products, and services. A sustainable bank or green bank may be committed to specific environmental goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting the advancement of clean energy, or funding green building projects.

How can banks be more sustainable?

Banks can encourage sustainability by reviewing their environmental footprint and addressing areas that could improve. The types of changes banks can implement may be large or small, but the end goal is fostering a cleaner environment. Reducing paper waste, for example, is one simple way to be more sustainable.

Which banks are green banks?

There are a handful of banks operating in the U.S. that are designated as green banks, according to the Green Bank Consortium. Whether a bank is considered “green” or not can depend on the type of certifications they hold. Examples of green banks include IBank, Connecticut Green Bank, and NY Green Bank.


Photo credit: iStock/baona

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. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.75% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 12/16/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
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