How Do You Write a Check to Yourself?

How Do You Write a Check to Yourself?

Writing a check to yourself is one way to withdraw money from your bank account or transfer funds from one account to another. While there are other, more high-tech methods for making these transactions, writing a check to yourself is an easy option.

But it’s not the best choice for every situation. Sometimes, it’s more efficient to move funds electronically or visit an ATM to make a withdrawal. Here’s when writing a check to yourself makes sense, and how to do it.

Key Points

•   Writing a check to yourself is a way to transfer money between your own accounts.

•   Start by writing your name as the payee and the amount you want to transfer.

•   Sign the check on the signature line as the payer and write “For Deposit Only” on the back.

•   Deposit the check into your other account through a mobile banking app or at a bank branch.

•   Keep a record of the transaction for your own records and to reconcile your accounts.

How to Write a Check


If you don’t often use your checkbook, you may be wondering how to write a check. First, be sure to use a pen (that way, the information can’t be erased) and choose blue or black ink. Then, for every check you write, fill in each of the following details:

•  The date

•  Pay to the order of (the person or company the check is for)

•  The amount the check is for in numbers

•  The amount written out

•  Memo (this is optional—you can use it to note what the check is for—or leave it blank)

•  Your signature

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Recommended: Ordering Checks – A Complete Guide

How to Write a Check to Yourself


The only difference when you write a check to yourself, versus a check to someone else, is that you put your own name on the “Pay to the order of” line. Then, just like you do for every other check you write, you’ll add the date, the dollar amount written in numbers, the dollar amount written in words, an optional memo, and finally, your signature.

Be sure to record the amount the check is for in the check register that comes with your checks when you order them (you should keep this in your checkbook along with the checks themselves). In the register, write down the date, the check number, the name of the person the check is for and/or what it’s for, and the amount. This will help you balance your checkbook so you know how much money is in your account.

Why Would You Write a Check to Yourself?


Writing a check to yourself is the low-tech way of transferring money from one bank account to another, or withdrawing money from your bank account. Here is when it can make sense to write a check to yourself.

•  Making a transfer. If you’re closing one bank account and opening another, you can move funds by writing a check to yourself. You can also write yourself a check to deposit funds from one account into another at the same bank. Or, if you have accounts at different banks, you can transfer money by writing yourself a check from one bank and depositing it in the other.

•  Getting cash from your bank account. If you want to withdraw money from the bank, you can simply write yourself a check, take it to the teller at the bank, and cash it. Just be sure to endorse the check by signing it on the back.

Examples of When You Would Write a Check to Yourself

If you have money in different bank accounts and need to consolidate your funds in order to make a large purchase, you could write a check to yourself. For example, if you’re remodeling and need to transfer $20,000 from your home equity line of credit (in one institution) to your bank account (in a different institution), you can write a check to yourself to transfer the money.

Recommended: Does Net Worth Include Home Equity

When Writing a Check to Yourself Doesn’t Make Sense


Writing a check to yourself isn’t always the best, most efficient option for transferring funds or obtaining cash. Online banking, electronic transfers, and ATMs are typically faster and easier ways to get transactions done.

Transferring Money Within the Same Bank


If you have two accounts at the same bank and you want to move money from one account to the other, it’s much quicker and more convenient to transfer your money through online banking. Writing yourself a check to do this is a hassle.

Recommended: How Many Bank Accounts Should I Have?

Getting cash out of your account


If you need to withdraw cash from your account, using an ATM can be faster and easier. If you write a check to yourself, you will need to visit the bank and go through a teller in order to cash the check and get your money. Just make sure to use an ATM within your bank’s network to help avoid ATM fees.

Risks and Concerns of Writing a Check to Yourself


When writing a check to yourself, never make the check out to “Cash.” Instead, always put your own name on the “Pay to the order of” line. This helps protect you. Otherwise, if a check is made out to “Cash,” and the check is lost or stolen, anyone can cash it.

Recommended: What Is the Difference Between Transunion and Equifax

Other Ways to Move Your Money


There are several other ways to move money that are more convenient than writing a check to yourself. This includes wire transfers, ACH transfers, electronic funds transfers, and electronic banking.

Wire Transfer

Often, when people use the term “wire transfer,” they’re referring to any electronic transfer of funds, but the technical definition involves an electronic transfer from one bank or credit union to another. To make a wire transfer, you’ll pay a fee, usually between $5 and $50, and need to provide the recipient’s bank account information.

Recommended: What Credit Score is Needed to Buy a Car

ACH or Electronic Fund Transfer

An ACH is an electronic funds transfer across banks and credit unions. If you have direct deposit for your paychecks, for instance, that money is transferred to your bank account through ACH (which stands for Automated Clearing House). You can use ACH to transfer money from an account at one bank to an account at another. The transaction is often free, but check with your bank to make sure.

Electronic Banking

Online banking will allow you to move your money from one account to another within the same bank. All you need to do is log into your online account and use the “transfer” feature.

The Takeaway


Writing a check to yourself is one way to transfer money or obtain cash, but there are many methods for doing these things that are often more convenient, such as online banking or electronic transfers. Exploring all the options can help you decide what makes the most sense for you.

Take control of your finances with SoFi. With our financial insights and credit score monitoring tools, you can view all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see your various balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score. Plus you can easily set up budgets and discover valuable financial insights — all at no cost.

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FAQ

Can you legally write a check to yourself?

Yes, it is legal to write a check to yourself, as long as you’re not writing the check for more money than you have in the bank. It would be illegal to write a check for more funds than you have and then try to cash it.

Can I write a large check to myself?

Yes, you can write a large check to yourself if you have enough funds in your account to cover the amount. Never write checks for more money than you have in your bank account.

Can you write your own check and cash it?

Yes, you can write your own check and cash it at your bank or at any other location that offers this service.


Photo credit: iStock/GOCMEN

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Money Market vs Capital Market: What's the Difference?

Money Market vs Capital Market: What’s the Difference?

The money market is where short-term debt and lending takes place; the capital market is designed for long-term assets, such as stocks and bonds. The former is considered a safer place to park one’s money; the latter is seen as riskier but potentially more rewarding. While the money market and the capital market are both aspects of the larger global financial system, they serve different goals for investors.

Understanding the difference between money market and capital market matters plays a role in understanding the market as a whole. Whether you hold assets that are part of the money market vs. capital market can influence your investment outcomes and degree of risk exposure.

What Is the Money Market?

The money market is where short-term financial instruments, i.e. securities with a holding period of one year or less, are traded. Examples of money market instruments include:

•   Bankers acceptances. Bankers acceptances are a form of payment that’s guaranteed by the bank and is commonly used to finance international transactions involving goods and services.

•   Certificates of deposit (CDs). Certificate of deposit accounts are time deposits that pay interest over a set maturity term.

•   Commercial paper. Commercial paper includes short-term, unsecured promissory notes issued by financial and non-financial corporations.

•   Treasury bills (T-bills). Treasury bills are a type of short-term debt that’s issued by the federal government. Investors who purchase T-bills can earn interest on their money over a set maturity term.

These types of money market instruments can be traded among banks, financial institutions, and brokers. Trades can take place over the counter, meaning the underlying securities are not listed on a trading exchange like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or the Nasdaq.

You may be familiar with the term “money market” if you’ve ever had a money market account. These are separate from the larger money market that is part of the global economy. As far as how a money market account works goes, these bank accounts allow you to deposit money and earn interest. You may be able to write checks from the account or use a debit card to make purchases or withdrawals.

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How Does the Money Market Work?

The money market effectively works as a short-term lending and borrowing system for its various participants. Those who invest in the money market benefit by either gaining access to funds or by earning interest on their investments. Treasury bills are an example of the money market at work.

When you buy a T-bill, you’re essentially agreeing to lend the federal government your money for a certain amount of time. T-bills mature in one year or less from their issue date. The government gets the use of your money for a period of time. Once the T-bill matures, you get your money back with interest.

What Is the Capital Market?

The capital market is the segment of the financial market that’s reserved for trading of long-term debt instruments. Participants in the capital market can use it to raise capital by issuing shares of stock, bonds, and other long-term securities. Those who invest in these debt instruments are also part of the capital market.

The capital market can be further segmented into the primary and secondary market. Here’s how they compare:

•   Primary market. The primary market is where new issuances of stocks and bonds are first offered to investors. An initial public offering or IPO is an example of a primary market transaction.

•   Secondary market. The secondary market is where securities that have already been issued are traded between investors. The entity that issued the stocks or bonds is not necessarily involved in this transaction.

As an investor, you can benefit from participating in the capital market by buying and selling stocks. If your stocks go up in value, you could sell them for a capital gain. You can also derive current income from stocks that pay out dividends.

Recommended: What Is an Emerging Market?

How Does the Capital Market Work?

The capital market works by allowing companies and other entities to raise capital. Publicly-traded stocks, bonds, and other securities are traded on stock exchanges. Generally speaking, the capital market is well-organized. Companies that issue stocks are interested in raising capital for the long-term, which can be used to fund growth and expansion projects or simply to meet operating needs.

In terms of the difference between capital and money market investments, it usually boils down to three things: liquidity, duration, and risk. While the money market is focused on the short-term, the capital market is a longer term play. Capital markets can deliver higher returns, though investors may assume greater risk.

Understanding the capital market is important because of how it correlates to economic movements as a whole. The capital market helps to create stability by allowing companies to raise capital, which can be used to fund expansion and create jobs.

Differences Between Money Markets and Capital Markets

When comparing the money market vs. capital market, there are several things that separate one from the other. Knowing what the key differences are can help to deepen your understanding of money markets and capital markets.

Purpose

Perhaps the most significant difference between the money market and capital market is what each one is designed to do. The money market is for short-term borrowing and lending. Businesses use the money market to meet their near-term credit needs. Funds are relatively safe, but typically won’t see tremendous growth.

The capital market is also designed to help businesses and companies meet credit needs. The emphasis, however, is on mid- to long-term needs instead. Capital markets are riskier, but they may earn greater returns over time than the money market.

Length of Securities

The money market is where you’ll find short-term securities, typically with a maturity period of one year or less, being traded. In the capital market, maturity periods are usually not fixed, meaning there’s no specified time frame. Companies can use the capital market to fund long-term goals, with or without a deadline.

Financial Instruments

As mentioned, the kind of financial instruments that are traded in the short-term money market include bankers acceptances, commercial paper, and Treasury bills. The capital market is the domain of stocks, bonds, and other long-term securities.

Nature of Market

The structure and organization of the money market is usually informal and loosely organized. Again, securities may be traded over-the-counter rather than through a stock exchange. With the capital market, trading takes place primarily through exchanges. This market is more organized and formalized overall.

Securities Risk

Risk is an important consideration when deciding on the best potential places to put your money. Since the money market tends to be shorter term in nature, the risk associated with the financial instruments traded there is usually lower. The capital market, on the other hand, may entail higher risk to investors.

Liquidity

Liquidity is a measure of how easy it is to convert an asset to cash. One notable difference between capital and money market investments is that the money market tends to offer greater liquidity. That means if you need to sell an investment quickly, you’ll have a better chance of converting it to cash in the money market.

Length of Credit Requirements

The money market is designed to meet the short-term credit requirements of businesses. A company that needs temporary funding for a project that’s expected to take less than a year to complete, for example, may turn to the money market. The capital market, on the other hand, is designed to cover a company’s long-term credit requirements with regard to capital access.

Return on Investment

Return on investment or ROI is another important consideration when deciding where to invest. When you invest in the money market, you’re getting greater liquidity with less risk but that can translate to lower returns. The capital market can entail more risk, but you may be rewarded with higher returns.

Timeframe on Redemption

Money market investments do not require you to hold onto them for years at a time. Instead, the holding period and timeframe to redemption is likely one year or less. With capital market investments, there is typically no set time frame. You can hold onto investments for as long as they continue to meet your needs.

Relevance to Economy

The money market and capital market play an important role in the larger financial market. Without them, businesses would not be able to get the short- and long-term funding they need.

Here are some of the key differences between money markets and capital markets with regard to their economic impacts:

•   The money market allows companies to realize short-term goals.

•   Money market investments allow investors to earn returns with lower risk.

•   Capital markets help to provide economic stability and growth.

•   Investors can use the capital market to build wealth.

Money Market

Capital Market

Offers companies access to short-term funding and capital, keeping money moving through the economy.Provides stability by allowing companies access to long-term funding and capital.
Investors can try to use interest earned from money market investments to preserve wealth.Investors can try to use returns earned from capital market investments to grow wealth.
Money market investments are typically less volatile, so they’re less likely to negatively impact the financial market or the investor.Capital market investments tend to be more volatile, so they offer greater risk and reward potential.

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Deciding Which Market to Invest In

Deciding whether to invest in the money market or capital market can depend on several things, including your:

•   Investment goals and objectives

•   Risk tolerance

•   Preferred investment style

If you’re looking for investments that are highly liquid and offer a modest rate of return with minimal risk, then you may turn to the money market. On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with a greater degree of risk in exchange for the possibility of earning higher returns, you might lean toward the capital market instead.

You could, of course, diversify by investing in both the money market and capital market. Doing so may allow you to balance higher-risk investments with lower ones while creating a portfolio mix that will attempt to produce the kind of returns you seek.

Alternatives to Money and Capital Markets

Aside from the money and capital markets, there are other places you can keep money that you don’t necessarily plan to spend right away. They include the different types of deposit accounts you can open at banks and credit unions. Specifically, you may opt to keep some of your savings in a certificate of deposit account, high-yield checking account, or traditional savings account. Here’s a closer look:

High-Yield Checking Accounts

Checking accounts are designed to hold money that you plan to use to pay bills or make purchases. Most checking accounts don’t pay interest but there are a handful of high-yield checking accounts that do.

With these accounts, you can earn interest on your checking balance. The interest rate and APY (annual percentage yield) you earn can vary by bank. Some banks also offer rewards on purchases with high-yield checking accounts. When looking for an interest-checking account, be sure to consider any fees you might pay or minimum balance requirements you’ll need to meet.

Traditional Savings Accounts

A savings account can be another secure place to keep your money and earn interest as part of the bargain. The different types of savings accounts include regular savings accounts offered at banks, credit union savings accounts, and high-yield savings accounts from online banks.

Of those options, an online savings account typically has the highest interest rates and the lowest fees. The trade-off is that you won’t have branch banking access, which may or may not matter to you.

The Takeaway

There are lots of reasons why people do not invest their money. A lack of understanding about the difference between money market vs. capital market investments can be one of them. Once you understand that the money market typically involves short-term, lower-risk debt instruments, while the capital market likely revolves around longer-term ones with higher risk and reward, you will be on your way to better knowing how the global financial market works.

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FAQ

What are the similarities between a money market and capital market?

Both the money market and the capital market are intended to make it easier for businesses and companies to gain access to capital. The main differences between money markets and capital markets are liquidity, duration, and the types of financial instruments that are traded. Both also represent ways that consumers can potentially grow their money by investing.

How is a money market and capital market interrelated?

The capital market and the money market are both part of the larger financial market. The money market works to ensure that businesses are able to reach their near-term credit needs while the capital market helps companies raise capital over longer time frames.

Why do businesses use the money markets?

Businesses use the money market to satisfy short-term credit and capital needs. Short-term debt instruments can be traded in the money market to provide businesses with funding temporarily as well as to maintain liquid cash flow.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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How Are Financial Institutions Governed?

At both federal and state levels, financial institutions are governed by laws that protect consumers against unfair and unscrupulous treatment in the banking and finance sectors. In addition, guidelines are in place to combat fraud and monopolistic behavior, helping to ensure the smooth running of the free-market economy.

Granted, catastrophic historic events — such as the 2008 global financial crisis — occur despite the oversight of robust financial regulatory agencies. Because of this, laws and regulations are constantly being examined and updated to finesse the banking and finance legal framework.

Read on to understand more about finance watchdogs, their roles, and how regulations work to protect the public and the economy from fraud and illicit practices.

What Is Financial Regulation?

Financial regulation is a set of laws, rules, and policies set by governing institutions. These are designed to keep your money safer. Specifically, they aim to maintain confidence and stability in the financial system by eliminating fraud and monopolistic behavior.

In the United States, governing bodies try to balance the need for oversight with a free-market economy, which can be a challenging endeavor.

Why Financial Regulations Are Important

Without regulations, consumers have no protections. They might be subject to fraud, sold bad mortgages, and charged high interest rates and fees on credit cards. Large companies could create monopolies or duopolies, which allow them to control prices.

Laws and policies prevent companies from gaining too much market control and stifling competition, which threatens the free market economy. Regulations also prevent financial institutions from taking risks that put consumer funds in jeopardy.

Here’s a brief history lesson that shows how lack of regulation can negatively impact daily life: The 2008 financial crisis was precipitated by deregulation and the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. This allowed financial institutions to engage in risky hedge fund trading. To fund their investments, the banks created interest-only loans for subprime borrowers, which contributed to more home purchases (including to buyers who would not have otherwise qualified) and quickly rising prices. This created a housing bubble, and millions of people were left bankrupt and couldn’t sell their homes when home prices then plummeted.

But too much regulation can also be a threat to an economy. In a free-market economy, prices are largely determined by supply and demand. Competition among suppliers tends to keep prices at bay as they each try to grab market share.

If regulations become too onerous and costly, companies may use up capital to comply with federal rules. That means they aren’t using those funds to create innovative products. In some cases, specific industries or groups manage to influence regulators and persuade them to introduce or eliminate laws that benefit them and not their competitors.

Types of Financial Regulations

Different agencies focus on the safety and soundness of products and services, transparency and disclosure, standards, competition, and rates and prices for different entities. Here’s a closer look at some of the most important regulations to be aware of:

•   Stock Exchange Regulations Laws and rules for stock exchanges ensure that the pricing, execution, and settlement of trades is fair and efficient.

•   Listed Company Regulations Listed companies (public companies) are required to prepare quarterly financial statements and submit them to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and to their shareholders. Investors use this information to inform their trades.

•   Asset Management Regulation Financial advisors and asset managers must follow strict rules set by financial services regulatory bodies so that clients are treated fairly and not defrauded. Any company that provides investment advice is considered an investment advisor, and the SEC oversees investment advisors with more $110 million in assets under management (AUM).

•   Financial Services Regulation Banking and financial institutions must follow specific guidelines to ensure a functioning banking system. These rules are enforced by The Federal Reserve Board (the Fed), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Recommended: What Is a Fiduciary Financial Advisor?

Types of Financial Institutions

There are a wide variety of financial institutions in America, some of which you may be familiar with. Here’s the rundown:

•   Central banks, like the U.S. Federal Reserve, watch over the country’s monetary policy.

•   Retail banks are probably what most people are familiar with. These are banks where the general public can have checking accounts and savings accounts, loans, and other financial services.

•   Commercial banks are similar to retail banks (above) but they serve the business community. Large banks may act as both commercial and retail banks.

•   Credit unions are similar to banks but they are nonprofits, and members are part owners of them. They offer the same kind of services as banks but may tailor themselves to specific communities.

•   Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are financial institutions that work to build financial knowledge, services, and wealth in communities that are less advantaged.

•   Savings and loan associations are organizations that use savings to create housing loans.

•   Brokerages manage securities trading (say, stocks and exchange-traded funds, or ETFs), which are regulated though not insured.

•   Insurance companies help both businesses and individuals protect themselves from property loss and may provide services such as loans.

•   Investment companies function by issuing securities to both businesses and individuals who seek to raise capital.

•   Mortgage companies offer home loans and may also manage commercial real estate.

What Is a Financial Regulator?

A financial regulator is an organized governmental or formal body that has the jurisdiction to oversee other entities, such as stock markets, banks, and asset managers. Their mandate is to ensure fairness, protect the public and institutions from fraud, and to facilitate a well-functioning financial sector.

Examples of financial regulators are the Fed, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC), and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

How Are Financial Institutions Regulated?

Banks and financial institutions are regulated by the Fed, the OCC, the CFPB, and the FDIC, while asset management companies and stock exchanges answer to the SEC and FINRA. (Also worth noting: Individual stock brokers, investment bankers, and other professionals likely need FINRA securities licenses.) State agencies may enforce regulations on financial institutions, notably insurance providers.

Each of these organizations requires documentation from financial institutions and companies that show compliance with laws. For example, listed companies have to submit quarterly financial statements to the SEC. If they fail to do so, they may be charged with “Failing to Comply” and may lose the ability to trade their shares on the stock market and be forced to pay penalties.

Recommended: FINRA vs. SEC: How are they Different?

The Most Common Financial Regulatory Bodies

The following is a list of the more recognized regulatory agencies and a brief description of what each one does.

The Federal Reserve Board (FRB)

The Fed is the central bank of the United States. As such, it ensures the U.S. economy functions effectively. The Fed is in charge of monetary policy and has the power to increase or decrease interest rates or to instruct banks on the quantity of reserves they must maintain. The Fed also monitors financial systems and their impacts, facilitates efficient settlement of U.S dollar transactions, and upholds laws that protect consumers.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)

The FDIC was created by Congress to support the U.S. financial system. The FDIC insures deposits and monitors financial institutions and their compliance with consumer protection laws. The FDIC also manages bank failures, though they occur very rarely.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

The is a relatively new agency that implements and enforces Federal consumer financial law. CFPB regulations protect consumers by making sure financial products and services are “fair, transparent, and competitive.”

The National Credit Union Association (NCUA)

The NCUA was created by Congress in 1970. The association insures consumer accounts with credit unions with up to $250,000 of share insurance. Enforcement tools of the association include letters of understanding and agreement, administrative orders, and consent orders.

The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC)

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The SEC strives to maintain the public’s trust in the capital markets by insisting on fair practices. Various acts have been passed over time including the Securities Act of 1933, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)

The CFTC was created in 1974 to oversee commodity trading in the agricultural sector. Commodity trading has been subject to government regulation since the 1920s. The CFTC supervises and monitors commodity traders and market activity. The commission investigates and prosecutes wrongdoers and educates customers about their rights and how to avoid fraud.

Recommended: What Are the Difference Between FDIC and NCUA Insurance?

How Financial Regulators Help Banking in the Way We Know Today

The banking and financial systems operate well under current regulation, but what about digital banking? Digital banking is a recent innovation, and existing banking laws and regulations generally apply to digital start-ups and fintechs. However, there are some regulatory frameworks specifically for digital banking.

An example of protection for digital banking consumers is Electronic Know Your Customer (e-KYC), which is used for digital onboarding and checks that a customer is who they say they are to avoid fraud and money laundering. E-signature is a way for customers to validate transactions remotely.

Another instance is the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (Regulation E) which aims to make applicable electronic transactions compliant with regulations as well as have “readily understandable” consumer disclosures.

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

The Takeaway

Financial services regulatory bodies like the Fed, the FDIC, and the SEC oversee the banking and finance sectors in the United States. State agencies also play a role. Though many consumers are not aware of the details, these regulatory bodies have jurisdiction over stock markets, commercial and retail banks, investment banks, and asset managers. Their mandate is to ensure fairness for consumers, ensure entities comply with fraud protection rules, and to protect the financial sector and free-market economy.

Which is all good, of course. But if you are looking for a great bank for your personal accounts, see what SoFi offers.

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


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

FAQ

Who regulates financial institutions in the United States?

In the United States, financial institutions are regulated by the Fed, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the SEC, FINRA, the CFPB, the NCUA, and the CFTC. State agencies also enforce regulations on financial institutions, especially insurance providers.

What are regulators in finance?

Finance and banking regulators are state- and government-appointed bodies that protect the safety and fair treatment of consumers. They also ensure smooth operations of the finance and banking sectors, the backbone of the economy.

Who regulates investment banks?

U.S investment banks are regulated by the SEC. For regulatory purposes, investment banks were declared separate for commercial banks following the passing of the Glass Steagall Act of 1933.


Photo credit: iStock/assalve

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Are Student Loans Secured or Unsecured?

Student loans are a type of financial aid option that lets you borrow a lump sum of money upfront that you’ll repay over time later, with interest. Some students are unclear whether a student loan is a secured or unsecured debt.

Both federal and private student loans are considered unsecured debt. Keep reading to learn more on secured loans versus unsecured loans, pros and cons of each, and why student loans are considered an unsecured form of debt.

What Are Secured Loans?

A secured loan is a type of debt that requires borrowers to provide the lender with an asset of value to back the loan. This asset is called collateral. Collateral could be your home, your car, other property that has monetary value, a savings account, jewelry, and more. The type of collateral you put up is stated in the loan agreement.

If a borrower defaults on their loan and doesn’t pay it back, the lender can take actions to seize possession of the collateral. It then uses the proceeds from the sale of the collateral to recover the unpaid debt.

Common types of secured loans include:

•   Mortgage loans

•   Home equity loans

•   Auto loans

•   Some personal loans

Lenders typically view secured loans as less risky to their bottom line since the promised collateral offers them at least some financial protection. In turn, secured loans might offer lower interest rates compared to unsecured loans.

Certain secured loans are also designed as accessible financing for individuals whose credit doesn’t qualify for an unsecured loan.

What Are Unsecured Loans?

An unsecured loan is an installment loan that doesn’t require an asset or collateral upfront to secure the debt. Since this type of loan doesn’t offer an asset-based guarantee to the lender, the borrower must demonstrate a strong likelihood that they’ll repay the debt.

A positive and extensive credit history, consistent and sufficient income, and low credit utilization are some markers that lenders use to determine how risky a borrower is for an unsecured loan. Additionally, since lenders don’t have access to collateral to fall back on in the event of default, unsecured loans generally have higher interest rates.

Credit cards, some personal loans, and private student loans are considered unsecured loans.

Pros and Cons of Secured vs Unsecured Loans

Secured and unsecured loans have their own advantages and downsides. Furthermore, some benefits are only for certain types of secured or unsecured loans. Before signing a loan agreement, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each option.

Secured Loans

Unsecured Loans

Pros

•   More accessible for certain borrowers

•   May offer lower interest rates

•   Might qualify for larger loan amount

•   Certain loans might qualify for tax deductions

•   No risk of lost collateral

•   Application process might be more straightforward

•   Might offer convenient features or perks

•   Student loans might qualify for tax benefits

Cons

•   Collateral required upfront

•   Risk losing collateral if you default

•   More stringent borrowing criteria

•   Interest rates may be higher

How Federal Loans Differ From Typical Debt

Students often wonder whether federal student loans are secured or unsecured debt. Both federal loans and private education loans are unsecured debt. However, federal loans have significant perks and protections that private student loans don’t offer.

Unlike private student loans that require a minimum credit score or cosigner, most federal student loans don’t require a credit check or a cosigner to qualify for a loan. The Direct PLUS Loan is the only federal loan that requires a credit check, but borrowers with adverse credit can still access a Direct PLUS Loan by completing a few additional steps.

Federal loan rates are fixed, meaning your monthly payment won’t change throughout your repayment term. With federal subsidized Direct Loans, the Department of Education pays for interest that accrues while your loan is in deferment (e.g., while you’re in school). Conversely, other unsecured loans aren’t subsidized and might have variable interest rates that change throughout your repayment period, making it hard to anticipate your budget every month.

You’ll also have access to a range of repayment options, including income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, which are exclusive to federal student loans. Some borrowers qualify for a required payment of $0 per month while enrolled in an IDR plan. Finally, federal student loans are eligible for federal student loan forgiveness programs that cancel a portion of your student debt after meeting minimum program requirements.

Managing Your Student Loan Debt

Getting a handle on your unsecured student loan debt can feel challenging as you balance other areas of your life. Below are a few strategies to help you manage your student loans:

•   Make in-school interest-only payments. If you can afford to, consider paying off the monthly interest that accrues while your loan is on in-school deferment. This applies to both unsubsidized federal loans and private loans. Making these small but meaningful interest payments can help you avoid interest capitalization (i.e., paying interest on interest) later.

•   Track when your loan payments are due. Be aware of your loan due dates and minimum payments each month. Late payments or missing a payment altogether can have a negative effect on your credit score, since loan repayment history is reported to the major credit bureaus.

•   See if you qualify for loan forgiveness or loan repayment assistance. The Department of Education offers a few forgiveness and cancellation programs for eligible borrowers with qualifying loans, like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for government and nonprofit employees. Some states also offer loan repayment assistance programs to workers in certain professions, like health care, social work, and law.

•   Reach out to your loan servicer or lender. If you’re struggling to make your student loan payment, your loan servicer or lender is your best resource. They can guide you through relief options that are accessible to you, whether that’s getting on a different repayment plan or temporary forbearance.

The Takeaway

A student loan is unsecured debt. Having to put forward collateral to get a student loan is a roadblock that you fortunately don’t have to worry about.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

FAQ

Are student loans considered secured or unsecured?

Student loans are considered unsecured debt, meaning they don’t require collateral from you as a condition of securing the loan. Since there’s no collateral tied to the loan, if you default on the debt, the lender might choose to take you to court in an attempt to collect some or all of the debt.

Is it possible to get a secured student loan?

No. Student loans are a form of unsecured debt. No collateral is required to get a student loan, whether you’re borrowing a federal or private student loan.

How are federal student loans different from private?

Federal student loans are guaranteed and funded by the U.S. Department of Education. They offer exclusive fixed rates, established annual and aggregate loan limits, non-credit-based eligibility criteria, and access to income-based repayment plans and loan forgiveness.

Private student loans are provided by private financial institutions, like banks, credit unions, online lenders, and schools. Private lenders offer fixed or variable loan rates, which differ between lenders. Your eligibility for a private loan involves various factors, like your income and credit history, and repayment terms and plan options vary.


Photo credit: iStock/DNY59

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. 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.

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.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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

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Will I Lose My Tax Refund to Student Loans?

If you’re delinquent on your student loans, you may experience garnishment if your student loan debt is with a state or federal government or part of a federally insured student loan program. (Garnishment means withholding a tax refund by automatically sending it to your loan servicer to repay a defaulted loan.) Private creditors may also collect your tax refund to repay your student loan debt.

Obviously, garnishment is a difficult situation. Read on to learn more about your alternatives if you are potentially dealing with this scenario.

Can Student Loans Garnish My Tax Refund?

If your loans came from a state or federal student loan program, the federal government may garnish up to 100% of your tax refund if you’re in default repaying your loans. Default is defined as the failure to repay a student loan according to the terms of your promissory note.

You’re considered to be in default if you haven’t made a payment in more than 270 days. You may also experience legal consequences and will lose eligibility for more federal student aid.

However, it’s worth noting that if you are just 90 days or more behind on your payments, you are still considered to be delinquent in your payments. The three major credit bureaus (Equifax®, Experian®, TransUnion®) will likely be alerted. This information may possibly lower your credit score.

Also, only federal loans in default can result in tax refund garnishment, not private student loans, though your servicer might take other steps to get the funds they are owed.



💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.

Options for Managing Student Loans

Fortunately, you may be able to avoid default and avoid worrying about the government garnishing your refund. You can head off tax refund garnishment using a few different methods.

It can be wise to talk with your student loan servicer about all your available options. They can help you identify the right repayment strategy for your unique situation. If you have private student loans, you can also talk to your provider to determine the right course of action.

That said, here are a few options to consider:

SAVE Plan

The Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan, which replaced the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan, offers a potential alternative to tax refund garnishment of federal student loans. The SAVE Plan is an income-driven payment plan that lowers your federal student loan payments, taking your income and family size into account to determine your monthly payment.

The plan determines your payment based on your discretionary income, or the difference between your adjusted gross income and 225% of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Poverty Guideline amount for your family size.

The SAVE Plan eliminates monthly interest for both subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans if you make your full monthly payment due. The government covers your monthly interest, meaning your loan balance won’t grow due to accrued unpaid interest.

Under the original SAVE Plan, if you initially borrowed $12,000 or less, after as few as 10 years, your loans would be forgiven (meaning you wouldn’t have to continue to repay your loans after you satisfy all the requirements and guidelines of the plan).

However, it’s important to note that two U.S. district judges (one in Kansas, the other in Missouri) recently placed an injunction on the next phase of the SAVE program and blocked it from providing additional loan forgiveness. The next phase of the SAVE program was scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2024. This is a still evolving situation as of this article’s publication date and one to monitor carefully.

Recommended: Can Student Loans Be Discharged?

Offer in Compromise

You can also take a different tack and work directly with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) to avoid wage garnishment instead of approaching your student loan servicer. An Offer in Compromise (OIC) may also help your situation.

In an OIC, you pay the IRS less than your total tax debt if you owe the IRS more back taxes than you can afford to repay. If the IRS accepts your OIC, you must meet all the terms of your offer agreement — the IRS will only release your federal tax liens and levies once you fulfill those obligations.

You can fill out the OIC prequalifier tool to learn about your eligibility for an OIC.

Federal Student Loan On-Ramp

Most federal student loan borrowers began federal student loan repayment in October 2023 after the payment pause ended.

To ease borrowers into repayment, the Department of Education created an “on-ramp” period through Sept. 30, 2024, which prevents borrowers from suffering the worst consequences of missed, late, or partial payments, such as:

•   Being considered delinquent (meaning your loan payments are 90 days or more late)

•   Reports of delinquency to credit scoring companies

•   Loans going into default

Note that interest will still accrue, and not making payments means you’ll owe more money on your student loans over time. Your loan servicer may eventually have to increase your monthly payment to ensure you pay your loans off on time.

Also be aware that you can only qualify for the on-ramp if your loans were eligible for the payment pause. You don’t have to do anything to enroll in the on-ramp period.

The Takeaway

If you are not up to date on repaying your student loans, you could be in a situation in which your loan servicer can garnish, or directly take, a tax refund that was heading your way. If this could happen to you, it may be time to consider other options, such as the SAVE Plan, an “offer in compromise” with the IRS, the federal student loan on-ramp option, or another alternative. Talking to your loan servicer can be a smart move, whether you have federal or private loans.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

FAQ

Will student loans affect my tax refund?

If you continue to repay your federal student loans on time and in full, you won’t suffer any consequences to your tax refund. It’s only when your federal loans go into default (meaning they are 270 days or more late in terms of payment) that the government may garnish your tax refund to satisfy student loan debt repayment.

Can my spouse’s tax refund be garnished for my student loans?

A refund from a joint tax return with your spouse may be subject to tax refund garnishment, even though your spouse isn’t liable for your loan default. Your spouse may qualify to reclaim their portion of the refund by filing IRS Form 8379. Check with your tax preparer or search online for more information and details.

What happens if my student loans are in default?

Your federal student loans are considered in default if you don’t make your scheduled payments for at least 270 days. “Default” for private loans may be longer or shorter than the 270 days — ask your service provider for details. The consequences of defaulting on federal loans can include the entire unpaid loan balance and interest becoming due in a process called “acceleration,” lost eligibility for more federal student aid, no eligibility for deferment or forbearance, and lost ability to choose a repayment plan. Your credit score could be negatively impacted, and your wages or tax refund could be garnished.


Photo credit: iStock/MTStock Studio

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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.

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.

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

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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