Understanding How Student Loan Consolidation Works

Understanding How Student Loan Consolidation Works

Student loan consolidation works similarly to other types of debt consolidation. Borrowers can combine multiple student loans into one new loan with new terms and a new interest rate.

The amount you borrow for the new loan covers the principal balance on all of the student loans you consolidated. You’ll have one bill to pay to one lender, as opposed to making multiple payments to different lenders each month.

What Is Student Loan Consolidation?

So what does it mean to consolidate student loans exactly? Consolidation involves combining multiple student loans into one loan, but there are different options depending on whether you consolidate with the federal government or with a private lender.

Federal student loans can be consolidated through the Direct Loan Program. Direct Loan consolidation allows borrowers to combine different federal loans into a single loan. The new interest rate is a weighted average of all your federal loan rates, rounded to the nearest eighth of a percent.

Student loan refinancing is an option available for both private and federal loans. Refinancing also allows borrowers to streamline their repayment with a single lender and qualifying borrowers could secure a more competitive interest rate. When you refinance a federal loan with a private company through refinancing, however, you lose access to federal benefits and protections.

Here’s what to know about student loan consolidation.

Recommended: Types of Federal Student Loans

Why Would You Consolidate Federal Student Loans?

Borrowers with federal student loans generally have the option to consolidate their federal loans through the Direct Consolidation Loan program. These are some of the reasons you might consider a Direct Loan consolidation:

To Simplify Your Repayment Plan

If you have multiple federal student loans from different loan servicers, consolidation can simplify your student loan repayment plan. Borrowers are eligible to consolidate their federal student loans once they graduate or leave school, or if they are enrolled in school less than part-time.

To Qualify for Loan Forgiveness

Consolidation can give you access to federal loan programs you may not be eligible for if you have other types of federal loans as opposed to Direct Loans. These programs can include additional income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

To Secure a Fixed Interest Rate

A Direct Consolidation Loan typically gives you a single loan at a fixed interest rate that’s guaranteed throughout the life of your loan. As mentioned earlier, the new rate is a weighted average of your previous federal loans.

To Lower Your Monthly Payment

Consolidation also allows borrowers to change the duration of their student loan. For example, you may start off with a 10-year payment plan, but when you consolidate you might choose to lengthen the life of your loan.

Consolidating isn’t the only way for federal student loan borrowers to change their repayment plan, however. Borrowers with federal student loans are able to adjust the repayment terms on their loans at any time without incurring a fee. Keep in mind if you lengthen your loan term, you may have lower monthly payments, but you’ll pay more interest over time.

Private student loans are not eligible for consolidation through the Direct Consolidation Loan program, but private lenders do offer student loan refinancing. Refinancing can allow borrowers to consolidate their debt by combining all of their loans into a single loan.

Recommended: Guide To Private Student Loans 

How Do You Consolidate Federal Student Loans?

Federal student loan borrowers interested in consolidating their federal loans into a Direct Consolidation loan can apply online or by mail, and there are no fees for applying.

If you’re wondering, “Can I consolidate my federal loans?” the answer is likely yes if you have federal loans. There are a few cases where borrowers are ineligible, but for the most part, this option is available to those who are currently in the process of repaying their federal student loans.

When choosing to consolidate student loans with a Direct Consolidation Loan, borrowers may choose a new repayment plan that extends the life of the new loan up to 30 years.

Borrowers can typically select any of the federal repayment plans, which include a standard repayment plan with fixed monthly payments, a Graduated plan with graduated payments that increase over time, and income-driven repayment plans. Direct Consolidation Loans are still eligible for federal loan forgiveness programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Possible Drawbacks of Student Loan Consolidation

While federal student loan consolidation can potentially give you a lower monthly payment, borrowers could end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan if they extend their repayment timeline. In some cases, lower monthly payments now can mean an extra year or two of repayment later.

If you want a lower monthly payment without making extra payments, refinancing your student loans with a private lender could be an option to consider.

While refinancing with a private lender means you lose all the benefits and protections offered for federal student loans, qualifying borrowers could secure a more competitive interest rate, lowering how much interest owed over the life of the loan.

However, if you work in a public service field, as a teacher or social worker, for example, student loan refinancing will cause you to lose access to federal student loan repayment benefits you can get through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Can You Consolidate Student Loans When You Have Private Loans?

With federal student loan consolidation, you can only consolidate federal student loans. No private student loans can be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

If you have private student loans, you can consolidate those student loans through refinancing. Both federal and private student loans can be refinanced into one new loan.

When you refinance, a private lender gives you a new loan (which is used to pay off your private and federal student loan balances), and then you have to pay back that one loan.

In addition to combining multiple student loans into a single loan, you may also qualify for a lower interest rate depending on many personal financial factors, including your credit score. Refinancing at a lower interest rate may reduce the money you spend in interest over the life of your loan.

Recommended: How Do Student Loans Affect Your Credit Score?

What Is the Difference Between Consolidating and Refinancing Student Loans?

Programs like the federal Direct Consolidation Loan do exactly what they say: consolidate all of your federal student loans into one loan.

But you might not actually save on interest payments, because the new loan is a weighted average of your old interest rates, slightly rounded up. So your average interest rate will likely be slightly higher than what you paid before.

In contrast, refinancing student loans with a private lender could result in a lower interest rate for qualifying borrowers. And unlike the federal loan consolidation program, it is possible to refinance both federal and private student loans.

When you refinance with a private lender, you’ll lose the borrower-friendly benefits that federal student loans have, like income-driven repayment plans, or deferment, forbearance, and loan forgiveness programs. These borrower protections include the emergency relief measures enacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These protections, currently set to expire at the end of August 31, 2022 , have temporarily set interest rates on all federal loans at 0% and paused payments on federal loans.

Be sure you review any and all of the special features of your loans before committing to any changes.

The Takeaway

Student loan consolidation allows borrowers to combine their existing student loans into a new loan. For federal loans, this can be done through the Direct Consolidation Loan program.

Student loan refinancing is a similar process, where a borrower pays off their existing student loans and borrows a new loan with a private lender. The interest rate on this new loan is determined by the lender based on factors like the borrower’s credit score and history.

Refinancing to a lower interest rate could help borrowers spend less money in interest over the life of their loan. If you’re considering refinancing your student loans, SoFi offers flexible terms, competitive rates, and no fees.

Learn more about student loan refinancing and see why it may be a smart option for you.

FAQ

Is consolidating student loans worth it?

While it may not save you money, consolidating federal student loans with a Direct Consolidation Loan can make repayments simpler, since you will only have one payment. You can also secure a fixed interest rate or change your repayment term, and you may become eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness or additional income-driven repayment plans. Student loan refinancing with a private lender may save you money if you qualify for a lower interest rate or you change to a shorter repayment term, but you will lose access to federal loan benefits and protections if you refinance a federal student loan with a private lender.

How long does it take for a student loan consolidation to go through?

The length of time it takes for a student loan consolidation to go through varies by lender and whether you are planning to consolidate federal loans with the government or refinance with a private lender. As a general ballpark, federal loan consolidation can take up to two to three months. Refinancing with a private lender may only take a few weeks.

What are the advantages of student loan consolidation?

There are different advantages of student loan consolidation, depending on whether you consolidate federal student loans or refinance with a private lender. As mentioned earlier, a federal Direct Consolidation Loan can simplify payments, give you a fixed interest rate, and help you qualify for certain federal programs. You can also lower payments if you lengthen your repayment term, but you will end up paying more interest over time. Refinancing federal or private loans with a private lender can save you money if you qualify for a lower interest rate or shorten your repayment term, but you’ll lose access to federal benefits and protections.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL SEPTEMBER 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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What Is a Governance Token?

What Is a Governance Token?

A governance token is a cryptocurrency that gives its holders a right to vote on proposed changes to a blockchain network. This innovation is seen as a necessary step toward keeping certain crypto projects, particularly those within the decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem, decentralized. The idea is that rather than a single person or group controlling the direction of a platform, a community of users can influence decisions in a process known as governance.

While not unique to DeFi, governance tokens have become a key attribute of the DeFi ecosystem. Stick with us in this crypto guide to learn more about the question “what is a governance token.”

What Are Governance Tokens Used For?

Governance tokens give users of a particular blockchain protocol certain rights — such as the right to vote on proposed changes to the network. This could include granting token holders the ability to create new proposals or to spend tokens in an attempt to alter an existing proposal.

Other examples of uses for governance tokens might include:

•   Voting for changes to a network’s fee structure

•   Implementing changes to a project’s user-interface

•   Changing a network’s reward structure

•   Revising the amount of funding that developers receive

Governance tokens can have other functions in addition to granting voting rights to holders. Most DeFi tokens have governance features built into them, and most of them can also be used for things like staking crypto and yield farming.

Examples of Governance Tokens

As mentioned, most governance tokens are involved in the DeFi space in one way or another. Community governance is a key function that helps to keep DeFi decentralized. Most DeFi protocols run on the Ethereum blockchain.

Here are some examples of popular governance tokens.

Compound

Compound (COMP) is an ERC-20 utility token running on Ethereum. The protocol is a DeFi lending/borrowing platform. COMP holders have a chance to vote for changes to the network via the compound governance dashboard.

💡 Recommended: What Is Compound Finance (COMP)?

Yearn.finance (YFI)

Yearn.finance (YFI) is also a DeFi protocol hosted on Ethereum that offers lending, borrowing, and trading services. The platform has different products like Earn, Zap, Vaults, and APY. Users can earn YFI tokens by locking up crypto funds in smart contracts that run on Curve and Balance (other DeFi trading platforms). This allows users to participate in what’s known as yield farming.

Yield farming is the act of locking up funds in a DeFi protocol to earn interest. The more value that users lock up, the more tokens they earn as rewards.

Maker (MKR)

Based on Ethereum, Maker is responsible for creating the DAI stablecoin. MKR holders can vote on new proposed changes to the Maker DAO network inside the Maker Voting Dashboard. DAI has been praised for being one of the few stablecoins that are intended to be decentralized. It has also been integrated into some games, wallets, and DeFi apps.

💡 Recommended: What Is Maker (MKR) Cryptocurrency?

Synthetix Network Token (SNX)

Synthetix is a decentralized exchange (DEX) for synthetic assets. Also known as “synths,” these are tokens that are designed to mirror the price of a real-world asset. Whether it be bonds, stocks, commodities, or fiat currencies, users can trade synths in an effort to gain exposure to the price of a particular asset. This can be beneficial for those who might not have access to traditional capital markets.

SNX, the native token of the Synthetix Network, functions like a stablecoin in that it is pegged to an external asset at a one-to-one ratio. However, rather than being tied to a single currency, Synthetix allows users to mint a synthetic asset that will be backed by SNX. SNX holders can also influence the direction of the platform going forward.

Aave (AAVE)

Aave is a DeFi platform for borrowing, lending, and earning interest on crypto. Much like its peers, Aave runs on a series of smart contracts that manage the platform’s financial operations. Users can borrow funds and pay interest, or lock up crypto to earn interest. AAVE is the network’s native token, and it gives holders a say in the platform’s future development.

Governance Token vs Utility Token

When trying to answer the question “what is a governance token,” it’s useful to think of it as an improved type of utility token. Utility tokens usually have a single specific use case only.

For example, Binance coin (BNB) is used to give discounts on trading fees to traders who use the Binance crypto exchange. Holders may get to vote on which tokens they’d like to see listed on the exchange, but that’s very different from voting on a fundamental change to the protocol of a specific blockchain; which is a function of a governance token.

A governance token offers the best of both types of tokens. It can be used for various purposes, while also giving a share of network governance to those who hold it. In fact, many governance tokens adhere to the ERC-20 token standard, which is a set of criteria that utility tokens minted on the Ethereum network must abide by.

Governance Tokens: Potential Advantages and Disadvantages

While the idea of a governance token may sound almost perfect in theory, in practice governance tokens have their advantages and disadvantages.

Potential Advantages:

•   Decentralization. Governance tokens allow developers to keep projects decentralized. Without this type of governance structure in place, DeFi platforms would be only collections of smart contracts that no one could control.

•   More effective and inclusive development processes. Developers can arrive at conclusions and implement changes after receiving guidance from the community, instead of needing to figure out everything on their own.

•   Community involvement. Governance gives a project’s community a reason to come together to help improve the platform.

Potential Disadvantages:

•   Potential for a takeover. Individuals or groups with large amounts of capital can sometimes acquire enough governance tokens to make unilateral decisions affecting the network. This can defeat the whole purpose of a governance token, which is to keep decision-making decentralized and democratic.

•   Selfish decisions. Just because people have the ability to vote doesn’t mean they will always act in the best interest of their own community. A real-time example: In 2020, Maker experienced a flash crash that caused many of its investors to lose large sums of cash. Initially, the Maker community — represented by current holders of MKR governance tokens — voted to reimburse investors. Six months later, the community rescinded the vote; none of Maker’s investors could reclaim any of the money they lost.

•   No real accountability. Ultimately, there’s no legitimate accountability when it comes to democratic crypto governance. If a decision is deemed to be wrong or appears to go against the best interest of many users, there’s no clear person or party to blame or hold accountable.

The Takeaway

A governance token is not a unique type of token. Rather, a governance token may be any token that gives its holder a share of influence over how a crypto network is governed. In addition to their use in the decentralized finance sector, governance tokens may also be utilized on social media platforms that are decentralized.

SoFi Invest makes it easy to buy and sell cryptocurrency. On a single safe and secure platform with low fees, you can buy and sell your favorite cryptocurrencies in addition to stocks and ETFs.

Open an Invest account today and start trading crypto.


Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments. Limitations apply to trading certain crypto assets and may not be available to residents of all states.
Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.
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The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
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Secured vs. Unsecured Personal Loans — What’s the Difference?

Personal loans can be either secured or unsecured. A secured personal loan has collateral that backs the borrower’s promise to repay the loan. An unsecured personal loan does not require collateral, and the only thing backing the borrower’s promise to repay is their creditworthiness.

The collateral requirement is the main difference between secured and unsecured personal loans, but there are other differences that may inform your decision about which type of loan is best for your financial needs.

What Is a Secured Personal Loan?

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a lender in possession of funds must be in want of a borrower who is able to repay a loan.

Literary jest aside, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that lenders appreciate security. When they lend money, they fully expect to be repaid in money — or an asset of some value.

Enter the secured personal loan.

A secured personal loan is a loan for which the borrower pledges collateral that the lender can take possession of if the borrower fails to repay the loan. Put in simpler terms: If you default on your car loan, for example, the bank can repossess your car. For the lender, collateral equals a certain level of security.

Collateralized loans are common for mortgage and auto loans. A home is collateral for a mortgage, and a vehicle is collateral for an auto loan. They are somewhat less common for personal loans, though.

A personal loan isn’t tied to a particular asset in most cases, so there’s not an obvious item to pledge as collateral. The asset pledged must be owned by the applicant, and the lender will evaluate its value to be sure it’s equal to the amount of money being loaned. In some cases, a physical asset such as a vehicle is put up as collateral, but the collateral could also be an asset like a savings account or certificate of deposit.

Pros of Secured Personal Loans

While it may seem like the lender benefits more with a secured personal loan, there may also be advantages for the borrower.

•   Lenders typically see secured personal loans as less risky than their unsecured counterparts because there is an asset to back the loan if the borrower defaults.

•   Borrowers may get a lower interest rate on a secured personal loan than they might on an unsecured personal loan.

•   Secured personal loans can be a good way for borrowers to build credit, as long as they make regular, on-time payments.

Cons of Secured Personal Loans

Things that a borrower might see as a drawback to a secured personal loan might be a benefit to the lender. But each party to the loan agreement takes risks.

•   The lender is able to recoup its losses by seizing the collateral if the borrower defaults on their secured personal loan. However, it may take awhile to liquidate that asset. If the collateral is a physical asset, such as a vehicle, it may take some time to find a buyer willing to pay the price the lender has set.

•   For the borrower, the main drawback to a secured personal loan is the possible loss of the asset pledged as collateral if they default on their loan.

•   The application and approval process may include more steps for a secured personal loan than an unsecured one because the asset’s worth will need to be valued.

What Is an Unsecured Personal Loan?

A personal loan that is backed mainly by the creditworthiness of the borrower is an unsecured personal loan. Sometimes called a signature loan, an unsecured loan does not require any collateral to guarantee the loan.

Defaulting on an unsecured personal loan can certainly have a negative effect on the borrower’s credit, but there wouldn’t be an asset to lose in addition.

Pros of Unsecured Personal Loans

Like their secured counterparts, unsecured personal loans can have benefits for both lender and borrower.

•   Lenders may be able to charge a higher interest rate on an unsecured personal loan because there isn’t any collateral to secure the loan. (This is a drawback for the borrower — see below.)

•   The borrower won’t lose an asset if they default on an unsecured personal loan.

•   The application process for an unsecured personal loan is generally much quicker than for one that’s secured because there is no asset to be valued.

•   Funds may be disbursed the same day or within a week, depending on the lender.

Cons of Unsecured Personal Loans

It may be relatively easy to find lenders who offer unsecured personal loans, but there are aspects that may be considered drawbacks.

•   Interest rates on unsecured personal loans may be higher than for secured personal loans because there is no asset backing the loan.

•   Some lenders may have minimum credit score requirements for approval of an unsecured loan, so applicants with poor credit may not qualify.

•   If the borrower defaults, their credit score may be negatively affected.

•   Applicants with lower credit scores may not qualify for loan amounts as high as those with higher credit scores.

Choosing Between Secured and Unsecured Personal Loan

There are lots of reasons for considering a personal loan in general, but choosing between a secured and an unsecured personal loan means taking some specifics into account.

Do You Have Collateral?

One of the main things to consider when thinking about applying for a secured personal loan vs. an unsecured personal loan is whether you have an asset of value that you’d be willing to risk.

If you do have such an asset, you may want to compare lenders who offer secured personal loans. Some online lenders offer secured loans, but they’re more commonly available through banks or credit unions.

Lenders may offer higher loan amounts for a loan backed by collateral than for one that isn’t, so if you need to borrow a large amount, it might be worth looking into a secured personal loan.

What Are You Planning To Use the Funds For?

Personal loan funds can generally be used for a wide variety of things, like debt consolidation, unexpected medical expenses, home improvement costs, and more.

If you need funds to pay multiple vendors or contractors — common in the case of wedding or home improvement costs — or you plan to consolidate other high-interest debt, an unsecured personal loan might be the right choice for you.

If you plan to purchase a specific item that might be considered an asset, however, the lender may want to attach that asset as collateral on the loan, thus making it a secured loan. Examples of this might be a secured personal loan to purchase land or to buy a boat.

What Type of Lender Is Right for the Loan You Need?

Another factor to consider when choosing between a secured or unsecured personal loan is the type of lender you’d rather work with.

Unsecured loans may be available through banks, credit unions, or online lenders. Not every financial institution offers unsecured loans, however. Secured loans are more commonly offered by banks and credit unions — it’s less common to find one through an online lender.

If you have a savings account or certificate of deposit at your bank that you’d be willing to put up as collateral, it might be worth looking into a secured loan with your current bank.

Qualifying For a Personal Loan

There are different factors that go into qualification for a personal loan.

Each lender may have its own credit score, income, or debt-to-income ratio requirements, in addition to other factors. If you’re applying for a secured personal loan, each lender may have its own requirements for valuation of collateral.

It’s a good idea to compare lenders so you’ll have an idea of what they commonly require for an applicant to qualify for a personal loan. With that knowledge you can better evaluate your own credit for the likelihood of being approved — or not.

Reviewing Your Credit Report

You can get a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax™, Experian™, and TransUnion™. It’s a good idea to check all three because not all lenders report payment history to all three bureaus. The credit bureaus don’t share information with each other, so getting a complete picture of your credit may mean looking at all three reports.

Your credit report contains personal information about you and information about past and current credit accounts in your name.

Personal information includes:

•   Name, current as well as any other names you may have gone by in the past.

•   Addresses, current and previous.

•   Birthdate.

•   Social Security number.

•   Employer.

Lenders typically report:

•   The total amount of the installment loan or line of credit.

•   Your record of on-time payments.

•   Any missed payments.

If you’ve had any bankruptcies, foreclosures, or repossessions, they will likely be included on your credit report, as well.

If there is missing, incomplete, or incorrect information on your credit report, you can file a dispute with the credit bureau. It’s a good idea to clear up any errors before you start applying for a loan so you don’t have any unexpected roadblocks on the way to qualification.

If, in the process of reviewing your credit report, you find that you don’t have much of a credit history or your credit isn’t up to qualification standards, you may decide to take some time to work on improving your credit situation. That could mean increasing your income, lowering your expenses, paying down or consolidating existing debt, or just learning how to better manage your overall finances.

The Takeaway

There are situations where an unsecured personal loan might be the right financial tool for you, and there may be others that would be better suited to a secured personal loan. The main difference between the two types of loans is that one requires collateral — a secured personal loan — and the other doesn’t — an unsecured personal loan. Deciding between the two depends on the borrower’s willingness to risk the loss of collateral, as well as their overall creditworthiness.

If you decide that an unsecured personal loan is the right type of loan for you, a SoFi Personal Loan might be a good choice. There are a variety of loan terms available with competitive, fixed rates and no fees, so there may be an option that works for your budget.

Find a SoFi Personal Loan to fit your financial needs


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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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What Is ACH Debit Block? And Why Is It Important?

What Is ACH Debit Block? And Why Is It Important?

An ACH debit block is a fraud protection tool: Companies can opt into it to prevent any ACH debits and credits from their bank account. If you suspect that your business is a victim of fraud, an ACH debit block is an easy way to protect your money until you’ve resolved the issue. It can also be a good general practice to discourage unauthorized debits.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

•   What ACH blocks are and how they work

•   The benefits of an ACH debit block for small businesses and enterprise companies

•   An alternative solution to ACH debit blocks

How ACH Debit Block Works

Before you dive into how an ACH debit block works, it’s important to understand some of the basic concepts related to this process, such as the ACH system in general and debit blocks.

What Is ACH?

ACH (Automated Clearing House) is a common payment method that works like a digital check, transferring money from one bank account into another. A common example of an ACH transfer is a direct deposit from an employer into an employee’s checking account.

As an individual consumer, you may also make ACH payments yourself. For example, you might be using ACH when you utilize peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo, pay your bills online, digitally file and pay your income taxes, or even transfer money over to an investment account like SoFi Invest.

What Is a Debit Block?

Businesses use ACH payments as well, to collect funds and pay expenses. But these can be a target for criminal activity. Scammers can try to pull funds out of your bank account without your approval. If you want to prevent money from leaving a business account via ACH because of this potential risk, an ACH debit block might be a good move.

When enabled, a debit block would impede your company from being able to use the funds in the account in all ACH use cases. It’s important to understand the ramifications of a debit block — and only request one from your bank if your company has alternative methods (or accounts) for making payments.

How Does an ACH Debit Block Work?

An ACH debit block is very straightforward. When this fraud management tool is implemented on a bank account, no one will be able to withdraw funds from the account via ACH.

If you have a debit block on a business account and need to make an ACH payment from that account, you’ll need to take action to make sure it goes through. It’s important to contact your bank to authorize that specific payment before the payment recipient begins the ACH debit process. Otherwise, you will need to make all future payments with paper or electronic checks, debit cards, credit cards, cash, or wire transfers.

Recommended: Understanding ACH Returns

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Benefits of ACH Debit Block

ACH debit blocks can make payments difficult, so why would your business ever get one? It’s all about fraud — and not wanting to be a victim. Here’s a closer look at the advantages of using an ACH debit block.

Reduces Electronic Payment Fraud

One reason to enact an ACH block on a business account is if you suspect your account has been compromised. An ACH debit block can prevent fraudsters from being able to debit money electronically from an account.

An ACH debit block is just one fraud tool available to businesses. Other actions to take if you believe your bank account has been compromised might include contacting business credit bureaus and filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Individual consumers who are victims of identity theft can also do more than contact their bank. If you believe your identity has been stolen, other steps to consider include filing a police report, reporting the fraud to the FTC, notifying the consumer credit bureaus, and contacting your creditors.

Offers an Additional Security Layer

Debit blocks are sometimes a reactive solution. That is, once a business suspects fraud, they can contact their bank to implement an ACH debit block on the account.

However, some companies — those that don’t need to make electronic payments from a specific business account — may prefer to proactively set up a debit block as an additional security layer. If you do so, just understand that you’ll need to contact your bank every time you want to authorize an electronic payment from your account.

Recommended: How Long Does Direct Deposit Take?

Setting Up an ACH Debit Block

Setting up an ACH debit block is easier than setting up direct deposit. Just call your bank, provide your credentials, and request that they set up debit block immediately. If you are doing this in response to fraudulent account activity, mention that on the call to determine what additional steps you should take.

Removing the debit block or authorizing a one-time payment will follow the same process. Contact your bank over the phone and explain exactly what you need.

Positive Pay vs ACH Debit Block

While an ACH debit block can be a good way to protect your business checking account, it does have its drawbacks. As an alternative, you may be able to implement positive pay.

Positive pay is an ACH filter that allows you to create a list of payees or vendors that will be automatically approved when they initiate an ACH debit from your company’s account. Certain criteria for these funds transfers can also be established. For example, you might put a cap on how much they can debit in a single transaction.

If any other individuals or businesses attempt an ACH withdrawal from your account, you will receive an alert. You can then review the request and approve or deny the ACH transfer.

Positive pay is more hands-on than ACH debit block but can be helpful if you have a list of recurring ACH payments. Positive pay may also be useful because it allows your company to review any unauthorized requests instead of having your bank flat-out reject them without a review, as with ACH debit block.

Worth noting: Because each bank’s offering is different, there might sometimes be an overlap between a debit block and positive pay. Some banks, for example, allow you to review and approve vendor payments when you have an ACH debit block enabled.

Recommended: Understanding ACH Fees

The Takeaway

ACH debit blocks are a secure way to prevent fraudulent electronic transfers from your company’s bank account. If you suspect that your bank account information has been compromised, contact your bank to initiate an ACH debit block and ask what other fraud prevention resources they can provide.

When thinking about your bank’s security, don’t forget about your personal accounts. SoFi is one great option to keep your money safe. Our online banking app is a fee-free option. You’ll earn a very competitive 1.25% APY and get you early access to your paycheck (up to two days). We also offer several security and fraud protection features, including in-app debit card freezes, suspicious activity monitoring, chip card technology, travel notices, and two-factor authentication.

Bank better and super securely with SoFi.

FAQ

Can ACH payments be blocked?

A business can block ACH payments with a feature called ACH debit block. This prevents anyone from electronically withdrawing money from its bank account. You may also be able to set up positive pay, which allows you to approve a list of electronic payments and review all other ACH requests.

How do I stop unauthorized ACH payments?

Set up an ACH debit block (typically, this is for business accounts) to prevent any electronic withdrawals from an account. If you want to allow expected ACH payments to process uninterrupted, set up positive pay, allowing only approved payments to go through. For your personal accounts, you may be able to set up alerts every time an ACH debit occurs in your account. If you notice any unauthorized activity, report it to your bank immediately.

What happens if an ACH transfer fails?

If the initial ACH transfer is not processed, some companies may attempt it a second time. Ultimately, if the ACH debit from your personal account fails, the business expecting the funds can hold you responsible for additional fees, such as late fees. If a bill continues to go unpaid, the company may send it to a collection agency, which will likely have a negative impact on your credit score.

How long does an ACH payment take to clear?

ACH payments are not immediate. In fact, they can take up to three or four business days. However, many banks have moved to next-day ACH transactions, which could mean funds are transferred in just one or two business days.


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 1.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 0.70% APY on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 1.25% APY is current as of 4/5/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet

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What Is Regulation T (Reg T) & What Does It Do?

Regulation T (Reg T): All You Need to Know

Regulation T, or Reg T for short, is a Federal Reserve Board regulation governing the extension of credit from brokerage firms to investors (also called margin accounts).

In margin trading, Regulation T is used to determine initial margin requirements. An investor who fails to meet the initial margin requirements may be subject to a Reg T call, which is one type of margin call.

Understanding Regulation T and Regulation T calls is important when trading securities on margin. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is Regulation T?

Regulation T is issued by the Federal Reserve Board, pursuant to the 1934 Securities Exchange Act. The purpose of Reg T is to regulate how brokerage firms and broker dealers extend credit to investors in margin trading transactions. Specifically, Regulation T governs initial margin requirements, as well as payment rules that apply to certain types of securities transactions.

Margin trading means an investor borrows money from a brokerage to make investments. This allows the investor to potentially increase their investment without putting up any additional money out of pocket. For example, an investor may be able to put up $10,000 to purchase 100 shares of stock and borrow another $10,000 on margin from their brokerage to double their investment to $20,000.

Regulation T is central to understanding the inner workings of margin accounts. When someone is buying on margin, the assets in their brokerage account serve as collateral for a line of credit from the broker.

The borrowed amount is repaid with interest. Interest rates charged on margin accounts vary according to the brokerage and the amount borrowed.

Trading on margin offers an opportunity to amplify returns, but poses the risk of steeper losses as well.

How Reg T Works

Regulation T works by establishing certain requirements for trading on margin. Specifically, there are three thresholds investors are required to observe when margin buying, one of which is directly determined by Regulation T.

Here’s a closer look at the various requirements to trade on margin:

•   Minimum margin. Minimum margin represents the amount an investor must deposit with their brokerage before opening a margin account. Under FINRA rules, this amount must be $2,000 or 100% of the purchase price of the margin securities, whichever is less. Keep in mind that this is FINRA’s rule; some brokerages may require a higher minimum margin.

•   Initial margin. Initial margin represents the amount an investor is allowed to borrow. Regulation T sets the maximum at 50% of the purchase price of margin securities. Again, though, brokerage firms may require investors to make a larger initial margin deposit.

•   Maintenance margin. Maintenance margin represents the minimum amount of margin equity that must be held in the account at all times. If you don’t know what margin equity is, it’s the value of the securities held in your margin account less the amount you owe to the brokerage firm. FINRA sets the minimum maintenance margin at 25% of the total market value of margin securities though brokerages can establish higher limits.

Regulation T’s main function is to limit the amount of credit a brokerage can extend. It’s also used to regulate prohibited activity in cash accounts, which are separate from margin accounts. For example, an investor cannot use a cash account to buy a stock then sell it before the trade settles under Reg T rules. Here are more details about leveraged trading.

Why Regulation T Exists

Margin trading can be risky and Regulation T is intended to limit an investor’s potential for losses. If an investor were able to borrow an unlimited amount of credit from their brokerage account to trade, they could potentially realize much larger losses over time if their investments fail to pay off.

Regulation T also ensures that investors have some skin in the game, so to speak, by requiring them to use some of their own money to invest. This can be seen as an indirect means of risk management, since an investor who’s using at least some of their own money to trade on margin may be more likely to calculate risk/reward potential and avoid reckless decision-making.

Example of Reg T

Regulation T establishes a 50% baseline for the amount an investor is required to deposit with a brokerage before trading on margin. So, for example, say you want to open a margin account. You make the minimum margin deposit of $2,000, as required by FINRA. You want to purchase 100 shares of stock valued at $100 each, which result in a total purchase price of $10,000.

Under Regulation T, the most you’d be able to borrow from your brokerage to complete the trade is $5,000. You’d have to deposit another $5,000 of your own money into your brokerage account to meet the initial margin requirement. Or, if your brokerage sets the bar higher at 60% initial margin, you’d need to put up $6,000 in order to borrow the remaining $4,000.

Why You Might Receive a Regulation T Call

Understanding the initial margin requirements is important for avoiding a Regulation T margin call. In general, a margin call happens when you fail to meet your brokerage’s requirements for trading in a margin account. Reg T calls occur when you fall short of the initial margin requirements. This can happen, for instance, if you’re trading options on margin or if you have an ACH deposit transaction that’s later reversed.

Regulation T margin calls are problematic because you can’t make any additional trades in your account until you deposit money to meet the 50% initial margin requirement. If you don’t have cash on hand to deposit, then the brokerage can sell off securities in your account until the initial margin requirement is met.

Brokerages don’t always have to ask your permission to do this. They may not have to notify you first that they intend to sell your securities either. So that’s why it’s important to fully understand the Reg T requirements to ensure that your account is always in good standing with regard to initial margin limits.

The Takeaway

Margin trading may be profitable for investors, though it’s important to understand the risks involved. Specifically, investors need to know what could trigger a Regulation T margin call, and what that might mean for their portfolios. Regulation T is used to determine initial margin requirements — i.e. the amount of cash an investor must keep available relative to the amount they’ve borrowed.

An investor who fails to meet the initial margin requirements may be subject to a Reg T call, which is problematic because they are restricted from making additional trades until they deposit the 50% initial margin requirement. If the investor doesn’t have cash on hand to deposit, then the brokerage can sell off securities in the account until the initial margin requirement is met.

Margin trading may increase the potential for gains, but it can also increase the risk of steeper losses. If you’re up for the risk, SoFi offers margin loans. When you open a SoFi Invest brokerage account, using margin can help you increase your buying power, take advantage of more investment opportunities, and potentially increase your returns while borrowing at one of the most competitive rates in the industry.* Once your account is set up, you can trade stocks, ETFs, and crypto.

Start Trading on Margin


*Borrow at 2.5% through 5/31/22 and 5% starting 6/1/22. Utilizing a margin loan is generally considered more appropriate for experienced investors as there are additional costs and risks associated. It is possible to lose more than your initial investment when using margin. Please see SoFi.com/wealth/assets/documents/brokerage-margin-disclosure-statement.pdf for detailed disclosure information.
SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).
2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal. Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.


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