How to Use an ATM

An automated teller machine (ATM) can be a convenient way to deposit or withdraw money, check your account balance, and conduct other aspects of your banking business. But did you know there are ways to make the process easier, faster, and perhaps less expensive?

In this guide, you’ll learn more about ATMs, including:

•   What is an ATM

•   How do you use an ATM machine?

•   How can you avoid ATM fees?

•   What are things you can and cannot do at an ATM?

•   What are tips for staying safe at an ATM?

What Is an ATM?

An ATM (short for automated teller machine) is a device that performs some of the same functions as a human teller at a bank, such as dispensing cash. ATMs made their U.S. debut in Rockville Centre, NY, in 1969, and there are currently between 520,000 and 540,000 of these devices in America.

Almost anywhere you go, you can find an ATM, providing certain banking services quickly and conveniently. For example, it is usually possible to find ATMs in major hotel lobbies, at grocery stores, in shopping centers, and in airports. (They also may turn up at convenience stores, night clubs, restaurants, and other places where cash could be needed.)

You can typically check your bank account balance and withdraw cash from ATMs. It’s likely you can deposit cash at an ATM or possibly checks (although deposits have more restrictions than withdrawals).

💡 Quick Tip: Typically, checking accounts don’t earn interest. However, some accounts do, and online banks are more likely than brick-and-mortar banks to offer you the best rates.

How Does an ATM Work?

An ATM machine gives bank customers easy access to their banking resources at various locations and around the clock. You insert your card into a reader that scans your banking information, and you can then conduct transactions. (At some locations, contactless transactions may be possible; see more on this below.)

Here are some of the main functions an ATM can usually perform:

•   Withdraw cash.

•   Make deposits, but to do so, the device typically needs to be within the same network as the customer’s bank. Often, it’s not possible to make a deposit at an out-of-network ATM or, if it is, you’ll be charged a fee.

•   Check your account balance, which can help you avoid overdrafting when making a withdrawal or using your debit card. The balance can appear on the screen or on the printed receipt. It’s usually only free to check an account balance at an in-network ATM. If the ATM is out-of-network, this service may come with a fee.

Some ATMs do make it possible to access their services without a debit card present. This is known as a cardless withdrawal. How does an ATM work without your plastic in hand? These types of withdrawals are typically supported by a smartphone app that uses technology such as a QR code in lieu of a debit card. This can provide the ATM with the account information it needs to complete the transaction.

Things You Can’t Do at an ATM

ATMs do have limitations; here are some things consumers likely can’t do at an ATM.

•   Withdraw coins or low-value bills

•   Open a new account (unless you have preselected and prescreened)

•   Close an account

•   Send a money order

•   Purchase a cashier’s check.

How Much Are ATM Fees?

It may be free to use an in-network ATM, but when there isn’t one around and you need cash (or to conduct another transaction), you’ll likely be hit with a fee for using an out-of-network device.

It’s wise to read the fine print associated with your checking account to better understand what kind of fees you may need to pay to use an ATM. It can also be helpful to make note of where some local in-network ATMs are. This can make avoiding ATM charges easier.

How much can ATM fees be?

•   The average out-of-network fee is currently $4.73. This typically includes a $1.58 fee levied by your bank and an average of $3.15 charged by the ATM’s owners.

•   Additionally, if you are traveling internationally, you may have fees of, say, $2 to $5 to make withdrawals as well as a conversion fee.

Worth noting: Several banks will waive fees when their clients use an out-of-network ATM. If you often rack up many out-of-network ATM fees, you might want to look into which banks offer this service.

Recommended: Can You Use Your Debit Card in Another Country?

How to Find an ATM

If you are hunting for cash or need to deposit a check, here are a couple of ideas for how to find an ATM:

•   You can usually use your banking app to find ATMs. There may be a map function or you may be asked to enter a zip code to see nearby devices.

•   If you bank at a traditional vs. online bank, you can visit a branch which will often have ATMs available.

•   There are third-party services that can help you access surcharge-free ATMs.

To make this process easier, you can bank with a financial institution that has a large network of ATMs you can use without a fee. Allpoint and STAR are examples of these networks.

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How to Withdraw Money from an ATM

Want to use an ATM machine to withdraw cash? Here are the standard steps.

1.    When prompted by the screen, insert your debit card into the machine.

2.    Enter your PIN number. This is the custom PIN (personal identification number) associated with the debit card linked to their checking account.

3.    Choose the transaction type. In this case, it would be a withdrawal.

4.    Pick the account to access. If you have multiple bank accounts, this will make sure the money is coming from the right place.

5.    You’ll likely be prompted to enter the dollar amount you want to withdraw (or press the option showing your choice of amounts), and you may be asked to select your bill denominations.

6.    Take the card back. Now it’s time to complete the transaction. Many ATMs say to take your card back and then the machine will dispense your cash.

How Much Money Will an ATM Let You Take Out?

There are typically limits on how much you can withdraw from an ATM. (This is often done to make sure there is enough cash in the machine to go around vs. a few customers draining the funds.)

•   Daily withdrawal limits are typically between $300 and $5,000.

Check with your bank to learn its limits and whether it determines that by calendar day or by a 24-hour period.

How to Deposit Money at an ATM

Next, take a look at how to use an ATM machine to deposit money. Keep in mind that only certain ATMs will accept deposits, so you want to be aware that depositing money may not be a possibility at the ATM closest to you.

1.    Find an in-network ATM or an ATM that allows deposits to the bank associated with your debit card.

2.    Insert your card and enter your PIN (typically a 4-digit code).

3.    Choose “deposit” as your transaction type.

4.    Type in the exact amount of the intended deposit.

5.    Insert the cash or check. If this is a check, endorse the back first; then follow the on-screen instructions to get your card back and a receipt, if desired.

Recommended: What to Do if an ATM Eats Your Deposit?

Other Transactions You May Be Able to Complete at an ATM

Now that you know how to withdraw money at an ATM and deposit as well, take a look at some of the other things banking customers can often do at these devices.

Cash Checks and Money Orders

Some ATMs may let you cash checks for free as well as money orders. These are typically in-network ATMs.

Make Bill Payments

At some ATMs (such as those in the Chase network) allow you to pay the mortgage, home equity loan, or credit card bill you have with them at an ATM.

Get a Cash Advance From a Credit Card

You may be able to get a cash advance from a credit card (though this typically carries a high interest rate, so proceed with caution).

Tips to Keep Yourself Safe at ATMs

With both in-person and online banking, security is important. When using an ATM machine, it’s important to learn how to do so safely, whether making a deposit or withdrawal. Here are some tips for staying safe:

•   Be aware of your surroundings. If there is someone loitering around an ATM that you’d like to use (especially at night), you might want to go elsewhere.

•   You may feel safer using ATMs located in bank branches.

•   Here’s what you should do before approaching an ATM: Have your card in your hand as you approach the device versus fumbling through your pockets or bag while at the ATM.

•   Cover the keypad when entering in the PIN number so no one else can see it. Some keypads are designed in such a way as to help protect your personal information as you type in those digits.

•   Review ATMs closely for misaligned card readers, skimming devices (more on that in a moment), or suspicious markings before using one.

•   If you are withdrawing cash, put it away ASAP when you receive it. Don’t walk away from the ATM with cash in your hands.

Also be aware that there are ATM scams. One common one involves card skimmers, a device that a fraudster attaches to an ATM (or gas pump card reader) in order to fraudulently collect the account information of users. Inspect card readers for signs of tampering; you may try to wiggle an ATM’s card reader to detect card skimmers.

If you have reason to be concerned, it could be wise to avoid this ATM and look for another or else get some cash back at, say, your grocery store to tide you over.

The Takeaway

ATMs can offer a convenient way to access a number of basic but essential banking services (such as withdrawing and depositing cash) without having to actually visit a branch location during business hours. It’s important to remember to pay attention to ATM fees, which are much easier to avoid when using an in-network ATM. It’s also essential to keep safety in mind to avoid theft or fraud when using an ATM.

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FAQ

What if the ATM gave me too much money?

Sorry, it’s not free cash. Contact your bank (or the owner of the ATM, if the device is out-of-network) and explain what happened. Keep your receipt, and follow the advice given.

What are the pros and cons of ATMs?

The major pro of using an ATM is probably convenience; you can access some banking services during non-business hours or wherever you may be. The cons associated with ATMs include the fact that services are limited, fees may be charged, and there’s the possibility of theft.

How many times can I use an ATM?

How many times you can use an ATM often depends on how much money you withdraw each time. Most banks limit the dollar amount someone can withdraw (usually $300 to $5,000) per day. Check your bank for its withdrawal limits.

Can I use my debit card at any ATM?

You can generally use a debit card to withdraw cash (although not necessarily to make deposits) at any ATM, even if it is out-of-network. However, making a withdrawal at an out-of-network ATM can lead to having to pay fees.

What should you do before you approach an ATM?

Before approaching an ATM, you should look around and make sure no one is loitering nearby. It’s also wise to have your debit card ready to use in your hand vs. having to dig for it at the terminal.

How much money will an ATM let you take out?

Banks typically have withdrawal limits per day. These vary among financial institutions but are usually between $300 and $5,000.


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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.

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

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Unlocking the Potential of Private Company Investments

Investing in a private company means acquiring equity in a company that doesn’t sell shares on public stock markets. Broadly speaking, there are two types of companies: public and private. And while you are likely more familiar with public-company investments — stocks traded on stock exchanges — there are also investment opportunities to be had with private companies.

There can be benefits that come with investing in privately held companies. Depending on your current circumstances, risk tolerance, and financial goals, you will likely approach the types of companies you consider investing in differently. And it’s important to understand that there are significant risks involved, and develop your expectations accordingly.

Understanding Private Companies

A private company is one that has not or does not sell shares of itself on public exchanges. Conversely, a public company has undergone an initial public offering (IPO), which means that it has publicly issued stock in hopes of raising more capital and making more shares available for purchase by the public.

As a general rule of thumb, until a company has an IPO, it’s considered private.

Classification of Private Companies

Again, private companies are those that are not publicly traded.

Unlike the world of public investing, private investing happens off of Wall Street and takes place anywhere new, buzzy ventures are cropping up.

Public companies, especially ones that are bigger, are more easily bought and sold on the stock market, and individuals are able to invest in them. These companies are also regulated by organizations like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The SEC is a government body that makes sure these businesses stay accountable to their investors and shareholders, and it requires publicly traded companies to share how they are doing, based on their revenue and other financial metrics.

In contrast, a privately held company is owned by either a small number of shareholders or employees and does not trade its shares on the stock market. Instead, company shares are owned, traded, or exchanged in private.

The landscape of investing in private companies can sometimes be mystifying, in part because private stock transactions happen behind closed doors. But even though private companies may be less visible than their public counterparts, they still play an important role in the economy and can be a worthwhile investment.

Investing in a private company can also be incredibly risky, and it’s important to understand some of the pros and cons of investing in this landscape.

The Growth Journey: Startups to Unicorns

Generally speaking, the goal of a startup (a small business with aims to grow quickly and possibly go public) is to become a “unicorn.” A “unicorn” company is a private company that’s valued at more than $1 billion. Very few companies become unicorns, and for investors, a primary goal is to find and invest in companies that will become unicorns.

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Start trading funds that include commodities, private credit, pre-IPO unicorns, venture capital, and more.


Strategic Pathways to Private Investments

There are several ways to invest in private companies, though not all of them will be available to every investor.

Early Stage Investments and Angel Investing

Early-stage investing, often called “angel investing,” involves making an investment in a very small-stage company in exchange for ownership of that company. This tends to be the riskiest stage to invest, as companies at this stage are small, young, and often unproven.

Joining Private Equity Firms

Investors can also get involved in private company investing through private equity. Private equity firms invest in private companies, like angel investors, in hopes that the equity they acquire will one day be much more valuable. Again, this is likely not an option for the average investor, as private equity is usually an area reserved for high-net-worth individuals.


💡 Quick Tip: Did you know that opening a brokerage account typically doesn’t come with any setup costs? Often, the only requirement to open a brokerage account — aside from providing personal details — is making an initial deposit.

Investing in Pre-IPO Companies

Some investors attempt to invest in companies before they go public to take advantage of any post-IPO spikes in share value. There are a few ways to invest in pre-IPO companies.

Leveraging Pre-IPO Investing Platforms

There are certain platforms that allow investors to make investments in pre-IPO companies. An internet search will yield some of them. Those platforms tend to work in one of a few ways, usually by offering investors access to specialized brokers who work with private equity firms, or by directly connecting investors with companies, allowing them to make direct purchases of stock.

You’ll need to dig in and do your own research into these platforms if this is a route you plan to pursue, but also know that there are significant risks with these types of investments.

The Accredited Investor’s Guide

For some private company investments, investors will need to be “accredited.” An accredited investor is an individual or entity that meets certain criteria, and can thus invest in hedge funds, private equity, and more.

Qualifications and Opportunities

For individuals to qualify as accredited investors, the SEC says that they need to have a net worth of more than $1 million (excluding primary residence), and income of more than $200,000 individually, or $300,000 with a spouse or partner for the prior two years.

There are also professional criteria which may be met, which includes being an investment professional in good standing and holding certain licenses. There are a few other potential qualifications, but those are the most broad.

Exclusive Markets for the Accredited Investor

Becoming an accredited investor basically means that you can invest in markets shut off from other investors. This includes private companies, and private equity. Effectively, being “accredited” comes along with the assumption that the investor has enough capital to be able to make riskier investments, and that they’re likely sophisticated enough to be able to know their way around private markets.

The Pros and Cons of Private Company Investments

There are pros and cons to investing in private companies that investors should be aware of.

Advantages of Private Market Engagement

Because private companies are often smaller businesses, they may offer investors an opportunity to get more involved behind the scenes. This might mean that an investor could play a role in operational decisions and have a more integrated relationship with the business than they could if they were investing in a large, public company.

In an ideal scenario, if you invest in a private company, you’ll get in earlier than you would when a company goes public. (Note: This is the ideal scenario.) And getting in early can potentially produce impressive results — if you’ve made a sound investment decision.

Another possible benefit of investing in a private company is that there is generally less competition for equity than with a public company. This means you could end up with a bigger slice of the pie.

Investing in a private company might also mean that you are able to set up an exit provision for your investment — meaning you could set conditions under which your investment will be repaid at an agreed upon rate of return by a certain date.

Generally speaking, investing in a private company can have some strong benefits, including increased potential for financial gain and the opportunity to become more involved in the future of a business.

Risks and Considerations

One of the biggest risks involved in investing in a private company is that you may have less access to information as an investor. Not only is it more challenging to get hold of data in order to understand how the company performance compares to the rest of the industry, private companies are also not held to the same standards as publicly-traded ones.

For example, because of SEC oversight, public companies are held to rigorous transparency and accounting standards. In contrast, private companies generally are not. From an investor’s standpoint, this means that you may sometimes be in the dark about how the business is doing.

In addition to this, many private companies may lack access to the capital they need to grow. And even though there may be an opportunity to set up an exit provision as an investor in a private company, unless you make such a provision, it could be a huge challenge to get out of your investment.


💡 Quick Tip: When you’re actively investing in stocks, it’s important to ask what types of fees you might have to pay. For example, brokers may charge a flat fee for trading stocks, or require some commission for every trade. Taking the time to manage investment costs can be beneficial over the long term.

Critical Steps for Investing in Private Companies

Just like investing in the public stock exchanges, there are some steps that investors may want to follow as a sort of best-practices approach to investing in private companies.

Conducting Thorough Research

Always do your homework — or, as much research as you can before investing in a private company. As noted, this may be difficult, as there’s going to be less available information about private companies versus public ones. You also won’t be able to research charts and look at stock performance to get a sense of what a company’s future holds.

Identifying and Assessing Potential Deals

Through the research you are able to do (perhaps as a part of a private equity or hedge fund), you’ll want to do your best to zero-in on some potential investment opportunities. Like investing in stocks, you’ll be looking for companies that appear healthy, are competitive, and that you think have a good chance of surviving the years ahead.

There’s no magic formula, of course, but investors should do as much due diligence as possible.

The Transaction: Making Your First Private Investment

Depending on how you choose to invest, making your first private company investment may be as simple as hitting a button — such as on a private crowdfunding website or something similar. Or, if you’re directly investing with the company, it may be more involved. Just know that it’ll probably be a bit different than buying stocks or shares on an exchange.

Post-Investment Vigilance

As with any investment — public, or private — investors will want to keep an eye on their holdings.

Monitoring Your Investment

Monitoring your investment in a private company is not going to be the same as monitoring the stocks in your portfolio. You won’t be able to go on a financial news website and look at the day’s share prices. Instead, you’ll likely need to be in touch with the company directly (or through intermediaries), reading status reports and financial statements, and doing your best to learn how business is operating.

It’ll be a bit opaque, and the process will vary from company to company. So, keep that in mind.

Exit Strategies and Liquidity Events

When an investor “exits” an investment in a private company, it means that they sell their shares or equity and effectively “cash out.” If an investor bought in at an early stage and the company gained a lot of value over the years, the investor can “exit” with a big return. But returns vary, of course.

Liquidity events present themselves as times to exit investments, and for many private investors, the time to exit is when a company ultimately goes public and IPOs. But there may be other times that are more favorable to investors, if they present themselves.

Investment Myths Debunked

As with any type of investment, there may be myths or misunderstandings related to private company investments.

Setting Realistic Expectations

A good rule of thumb for investors is to keep their expectations in check. In all likelihood, you’re not going to stumble upon the next Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos, desperately looking for cash to fund their scrappy startup. Instead, you may be more likely to find a company that has good growth potential but no guarantee of survival. For that reason, it’s important to always keep the risks in mind, as well as what you actually expect from an investment.

Common Misconceptions

Some further misconceptions about private investing include that it’s only for the ultra-rich (not necessarily true, but may often be the case), that every investment may offer high returns (along with high risks), and that profits will come quickly. An investment may take years to ultimately pay off — if it does at all.

Ready to Invest? Questions to Ask Yourself

If you feel comfortable with the idea of investing in private companies and are ready to take the next step, be sure to know your own preferences before making any moves.

Assessing Your Risk Tolerance

Are you okay with taking on a lot of risk? Because you’ll probably need a high risk tolerance to be able to stomach private company investing. So, be sure to take stock of how much risk you can realistically handle, as the importance of knowing your risk tolerance will become abundantly clear as you progress in your investing journey.

Aligning Investments with Personal Goals

Also think about how your investments in private markets relate or mesh with your overall investing goals. That’s to say that you don’t necessarily want to invest in private companies just for the sake of investing in private companies — instead, think about how these investments fit into your larger portfolio.

The Takeaway

Investing in private companies entails buying or acquiring equity in companies that are not publicly traded, meaning you can’t buy shares on the public stock exchanges. This often involves investing in small companies with high growth potential — but not always, and not necessarily. Because this is a risky type of investing, there tends to be high potential rewards, too.

Investing in private companies is not for everyone, and there may be stipulations involved that prevent some investors from doing it. If you’re interested, it may be best to speak with a financial professional before making any moves.

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

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

FAQ

How much capital is needed to start?

There isn’t a limit to how much capital needed to invest in private companies, but to be an accredited investor, there are income and net worth limits that may apply.

What are the time commitments and expectations?

There are no hard and fast time commitments or expectations of private investors, in a general sense. But that may differ on a case by case basis, especially if an investor takes a broader role with managing a company they’re investing in.


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

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A Guide to Tax-Efficient Investing

As the saying goes: It’s not how much you earn, it’s how much you keep. And when you make money from your investments you need to consider the impact taxes might have on your earnings.

Fortunately, there are a range of tax-efficient investment strategies that can help minimize the bite that taxes take out of your returns.

What is tax-efficient investing, and how does it work? By understanding the tax implications of different types of accounts, as well as the types of investments you choose (e.g. stocks, bonds, mutual funds), you can determine the most tax-efficient strategies for your portfolio.

The Importance of Tax-Efficient Investing

Investing comes with an assortment of costs, and the taxes you pay on investing profits can be one of the biggest. By learning how to be a more tax-efficient investor, you may be able to keep more of what you earn.

The Impact of Taxes on Returns

Investment tax rules are complicated. Profits from many stock and bond investments are taxed at the capital gains rate; but some bonds aren’t taxed at all. Qualified dividends are taxed in one way; non-qualified dividends another. Investments in a taxable account are treated differently than those in a tax-advantaged account.

And, of course, there is the process of applying investment losses to gains in order to reduce your taxable gains — a strategy known as tax-loss harvesting.

In addition, the location of your investments — whether you hold them in a taxable account or a tax-advantaged account (where taxes can be deferred, or in some cases avoided) — also has an impact on your returns. In a similar way, you can refocus your charitable giving strategy to be tax efficient as well.

Knowing the ins and outs of investment taxes can help you establish a tax-efficient strategy that makes sense for you.


💡 Quick Tip: Investment fees are assessed in different ways, including trading costs, account management fees, and possibly broker commissions. When you set up an investment account, be sure to get the exact breakdown of your “all-in costs” so you know what you’re paying.

Types of Tax-Efficient Accounts

Investment accounts can generally be divided into two categories based on how they’re taxed: taxable and tax-advantaged.

Taxable Accounts

In order to understand tax-deferred and tax-exempt accounts, it helps to first understand taxable accounts, e.g. brokerage accounts. A taxable brokerage account has no special tax benefits, and profits from the securities in these accounts may be taxed according to capital gains rules (unless other rules apply).

Taxable accounts can be opened in the name of an individual or trust, or as a joint account. Money that is deposited into the investment account is post-tax, i.e. income taxes have already been paid or will be paid on those funds (similar to the money you’d put into a checking or savings accounts).

Taxes come into play when you sell investments in the account and make a profit. You may owe taxes on the gains you realize from those investments, as well as earned interest and dividends.

With some securities, like individual stocks, the length of time you’ve held an investment can impact your tax bill. Other investments may generate income or gains that require a different tax treatment.

For example:

•   Capital gains. The tax on an investment gain is called capital gains tax. If an investor buys a stock for $40 and sells it for $50, the $10 is a “realized” gain and will be subject to either short- or long-term capital gains tax, depending on how long the investor held the investment.

   The short-term capital gains rate applies when you’ve held an investment for a year or less, and it’s based on the investor’s personal income tax bracket and filing status — up to 37%.

   The long-term capital gains rate, which is generally 0%, 15%, or 20% (depending on your income), applies when you’ve held an investment for more than a year.

•   Interest. Interest that’s generated by an investment, such as a bond, is typically taxed as ordinary income. In some cases, bonds may be free from state or local taxes (e.g. Treasuries, some municipal bonds).

   But if you sell a bond or bond fund at a profit, short- or long-term capital gains tax could apply.

•   Dividends. Dividends are distributions that may be paid to investors who hold certain dividend stocks. Dividends are generally paid in cash, out of profits and earnings from a corporation — and can be taxed as short- or long-term capital gains within a taxable account.

Recommended: How Do Dividends Work?

But the terms are different when it comes to tax-advantaged accounts.

Tax-Advantaged Accounts

Tax-advantaged accounts fall into two categories, and are generally used for long-term retirement savings.

Tax-Deferred Retirement Accounts

A 401(k), 403(b), traditional IRA, SEP IRA, and Simple IRA fall under the tax-deferred umbrella, a tax structure typical of retirement accounts. They’re considered tax efficient for a couple of reasons.

•   Pre-tax contributions. First, the money you contribute to a tax-deferred account is not subject to income tax; you owe taxes when you withdraw the funds later, e.g. in retirement. Thus the tax is deferred.

This means the amount you contribute to a tax-deferred account for a given year can be deducted from your taxable income, potentially reducing your tax bill for that year.

Speaking hypothetically: If your taxable income for a given year is $100,000, and you’ve contributed $5,000 to a traditional IRA or SEP IRA, you would deduct that contribution and your taxable income would be $95,000. You wouldn’t pay taxes on the money until you withdrew that funds later, likely in retirement.

•   Tax-free growth. The money in a tax-deferred retirement account (e.g. a traditional IRA) grows tax free. Thus you don’t incur any taxes until the money is withdrawn.

•   Potentially lower taxes. By deducting the contribution from your taxable income now, you may avoid paying taxes at your highest marginal tax rate. The idea is that investors’ effective (average) tax rate might be lower in retirement than their highest marginal tax rate while they’re working.

Tax-Exempt Accounts

Typically known as Roth accounts — e.g. a Roth IRA or a Roth 401(k) — allow savers to deposit money that’s already been taxed. These funds, plus any gains, then grow tax free, and qualified withdrawals are also tax free in retirement.

Because contributions to Roth accounts are made post-tax, there is also more flexibility on when the money can be withdrawn. You can withdraw the amount of your contributions tax and penalty free at any time. However earnings on those investments may incur a penalty for early withdrawal, with some exceptions.

Recommended: What Is the Roth IRA 5-Year Rule?

Tax Benefits of College Savings Plans

529 College Savings Plans are a special type of tax-exempt account. The contributions and earnings in these accounts can be withdrawn tax free for qualified education expenses. In some cases you may be able to deduct your contributions from your state taxes, but the rules vary from state to state.

While you can invest the money in these accounts, they are limited in scope so aren’t generally considered one of the broader investment account categories.

Tax-Efficient Accounts Summary

As a quick summary, here are the main account types, their tax structure, and what that means for the types of investments you might hold in each.

•   Generally you want to hold more tax-efficient investments in a taxable account.

•   Conversely, you may want to hold investments that can have a greater tax impact in tax-deferred and tax-exempt accounts, where investments can grow tax free.

Types of Accounts When Taxes Apply Investment Implications
Taxable
(e.g. brokerage or investment account)
Investors deposit post-tax funds and owe taxes on profits from securities they sell, and from interest and dividends. Investments with a lower tax impact make sense in a taxable account (e.g. long-term stocks, municipal and Treasury bonds).
Tax-deferred (e.g. 401(k), 403(b), traditional, SEP, and Simple IRAs) Investors contribute pre-tax money, but owe taxes on withdrawals. Investments grow tax free until funds are withdrawn, giving investors more tax flexibility when choosing securities.
Tax-exempt
(e.g. Roth 401(k), Roth IRA)
Investors deposit post-tax funds, and don’t owe taxes on withdrawals. These accounts offer the most tax flexibility as investments grow tax free and investors withdraw the money tax free.

The Tradeoffs of Tax-Free Growth

Because of the advantages tax-deferred accounts offer investors, there are restrictions around contribution limits and the timing (and sometimes the purpose) of withdrawals. Taxable accounts are generally free of such restrictions.

•   Contribution limits. The IRS has contribution limits for how much you can save each year in most tax-advantaged accounts. Be sure to know the rules for these accounts, as penalties can apply when you exceed the contribution limits.

•   Income limits. In order to contribute to a Roth IRA, your income must fall below certain limits. (These caps don’t apply to Roth 401(k) accounts, however.)

•   Penalties for early withdrawals. For 401(k) plans and traditional as well as Roth IRAs, there is a 10% penalty if you withdraw money before age 59 ½, with some exceptions.

•   Required withdrawals. Some accounts, such as traditional, SEP, and Simple IRAs require that you withdraw a minimum amount each year after age 72 (or 73 if you turned 72 after Dec. 31, 2022). These are known as required minimum distributions (RMDs).

   The rules governing RMDs are complicated, and these required withdrawals can have a significant impact on your taxable income, so you may want to consult a professional in order to plan this part of your retirement tax plan.

When choosing the location of different investments, be sure to understand the rules and restrictions governing tax-advantaged accounts.

Choosing Tax-Efficient Investments

Next, it is helpful to know that some securities are more tax efficient in their construction, so you can choose the best investments for the type of account that you have.

For example, ETFs are considered to be more tax efficient than mutual funds because they don’t trigger as many taxable events. Investors can trade ETFs shares directly, while mutual fund trades require the fund sponsor to act as a middle man, activating a tax liability.

Here’s a list of some tax-efficient investments:

•   ETFs: These are similar to mutual funds but more tax efficient due to their construction. Also, most ETFs are passive and track an index, and thus tend to be more tax efficient than their actively managed counterparts (this is also true of index mutual funds versus actively managed funds).

•   Treasury bonds: Investors will not pay state or local taxes on interest earned via U.S. Treasury securities, including Treasury bonds. Investors do owe federal tax on Treasury bond interest.

•   Municipal bonds: These are bonds issued by local governments, often to fund municipal buildings or projects. Interest is generally exempt from federal taxes, and state or local taxes if the investor lives within that municipality.

•   Stocks that do not pay dividends: When you sell a non-dividend-paying stock at a profit, you’ll likely be taxed at the long-term capital gains rate, assuming you’ve held it longer than a year. That’s likely lower than the tax you’d pay on ordinary dividends, which are generally taxed as income at your ordinary tax rate.

•   Index funds vs. actively managed funds: Generally speaking, index funds (which are passively managed) have less churn, and lower capital gains. Actively managed funds are the opposite, and may incur higher taxes as a result.

Note that actively trading stocks can have additional tax implications because more frequent trades, specifically those that fall into the short-term capital gain category, incur a higher tax rate on gains.

Typically, tax consequences will vary from person to person. A tax professional can help navigate your specific tax questions.

Estate Planning and Charitable Giving

Another important aspect of tax-efficient investing is adjusting your estate plan and establishing a strategy for charitable bequests. Because both these areas — inheritances and philanthropy — can be extremely complex taxwise, it may be wise to consult with a professional.

Taxes and Estate Planning

There are a number of ways to structure inheritances in a tax-efficient manner, including the use of gifts, trusts, and other vehicles. With a sophisticated estate-planning strategy, taxes can be minimized for the donor as well as the receiver.

For example, while there is a federal estate tax, there is no federal inheritance tax. And only six states tax your inheritance as of 2024 (Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania). Iowa is phasing out their inheritance tax for deaths after 2025.

Yet your heirs may owe capital gains if you bequeath assets that then appreciate. But if you leave stock to your heirs, they can enjoy a step-up in cost basis based on when they inherited the stock, so they’d be taxed on gains from that time, not from the original price at purchase.

Tax Benefits of Charitable Contributions

Tax-efficient charitable giving is possible using a variety of strategies and accounts. For example a charitable remainder trust can reduce the donor’s taxable income, provide a charity with a substantial gift, while also creating tax-free income for the donor.

This is only one example of how charitable gifts can be structured as a win-win on the tax front. Understanding all the options may benefit from professional guidance.


💡 Quick Tip: Newbie investors may be tempted to buy into the market based on recent news headlines or other types of hype. That’s rarely a good idea. Making good choices shouldn’t stem from strong emotions, but a solid investment strategy.

Advanced Tax-Efficient Strategies

It may also be possible to minimize taxes by incorporating a few more strategies as you manage your investments.

Asset Location Considerations

As noted above, one method for minimizing the tax impact on your investments is through the careful practice of asset location. A well-considered combination of taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-exempt accounts can help mitigate the impact of taxes on your investment earnings.

For example, with some investment accounts — such as IRAs and 401(k)s — your tax bracket can have a substantial impact on the tax you’ll pay on withdrawals. Having alternate investments to pull from until your tax bracket is more favorable is a smart move to avoid that excess tax.

Also, with multiple investment accounts, you could potentially pull tax-free retirement income from a Roth IRA, assuming you’re at least 59 ½ and have held the account for at least five years (also known as the 5-year rule). and leave your company-sponsored 401(k) to grow until RMDs kick in.

Having a variety of investments spread across account types gives you an abundance of options for many aspects of your financial plan.

•   Need to cover a sudden large expense? Long-term capital gains are taxed at a significantly lower rate than short-term capital gains, so consider using those funds first.

•   Want to help with tuition costs for a loved one? A 529 can cover qualified education costs at any time, without incurring taxes or a penalty.

•   Planning to leave your heirs an inheritance? Roth IRAs are tax free and transferrable. And because your Roth IRA does not have required distributions (as a traditional IRA would), you can allow the account to grow until you pass it on to your heir(s).

Tax-Loss Harvesting

Within taxable accounts, there may be an additional way to minimize some of the tax bill created by selling profitable investments: tax-loss harvesting. This advanced move involves reducing the taxes from an investment gain with an investment loss.

For example, an investor wants to sell a few investments and the sale would result in $2,000 in capital gains. Tax-loss harvesting rules allow them to sell investments with $2,000 in total capital losses, effectively canceling out the gains. In this scenario, no capital gains taxes would be due for the year.

Note that even though the investor sold the investment at a loss, the “wash sale” rule prevents them from buying back the same investment within 30 days after those losses are realized. This rule prevents people from abusing the ability to deduct capital gain losses, and applies to trades made by the investor, the investor’s spouse, or a company that the investor controls.

Because this strategy involves the forced sale of an investment, many investors choose to replace it with a similar — but not too similar — investment. For example, an investor that sells an S&P 500 index fund to lock in losses could replace it with a similar U.S. stock market fund.

Recommended: What Are the Benefits of Tax Loss Harvesting?

Tax-Loss Carryover

Tax-loss harvesting rules also allow an investor to claim some of that capital loss on their income taxes, further reducing their annual income and potentially minimizing their overall income tax rate. This can be done with up to $3,000 in realized investment losses, or $1,500 if you’re married but filing separately.

Should your capital losses exceed the federal $3,000 max claim limit ($1,500 if you’re married and filing separately), you have the option to carry that loss forward and claim any amounts excess of that $3,000 on your taxes for the following year.

For example, if you have a total of $5,000 in capital losses for this year, by law you can only claim $3,000 of those losses on your taxes. However, due to tax-loss carryover, you are able to claim the remaining $2,000 as a loss on your taxes the following year, in addition to any capital gains losses you happen to experience during that year. This in turn lowers your capital gains income and the amount you may owe in taxes.

Roth IRA Conversions

It’s also possible in some cases to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. This is a complicated strategy, with pluses and minuses on the tax front.

•   By converting funds from a traditional IRA to a Roth, you will immediately owe taxes on the amount you convert. The conversion amount could also push you into a higher tax bracket; meaning, you’d potentially owe more in taxes.

•   Unlike funding a standard Roth IRA, there is no income limit for doing a Roth conversion, nor is there a cap on how much can be converted.

•   Once the conversion is complete, you would reap the benefits of tax-free withdrawals from the Roth IRA in retirement.

•   According to the 5-year rule, if you’re under age 59 ½ the funds that you convert to a Roth IRA must remain in your account for at least five years or you could be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty.

Final Thoughts on Tax-Efficient Investing

Given the impact of investment taxes on your returns, it makes sense to consider all the various means of tax-efficient investing. After all, not only are investment taxes an immediate cost to you, that money can’t be invested for further growth.

Key Strategies Recap

Once you understand the tax rules that govern different types of investment accounts, as well as the tax implications of your investment choices, you’ll be able to create a strategy that minimizes taxes on your investment income for the long term. Ideally, investors should consider having a combination of tax-deferred, tax-exempt, and taxable accounts to increase their tax diversification. To recap:

•   A taxable account (e.g. a standard brokerage account) is flexible. It allows you to invest regardless of your income, age, or other parameters. You can buy and sell securities, and deposit and withdraw money at any time. That said, there are no special tax benefits to these accounts.

•   A tax-deferred account (e.g. 401(k), traditional IRA, SEP IRA, Simple IRA) is more restrictive, but offers tax benefits. You can deduct your contributions from your taxable income, potentially lowering your tax bill, and your investments grow tax free in the account. Your contributions are capped according to IRS rules, however, and you will owe taxes when you withdraw the money.

•   A tax-exempt account (e.g. a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k)) is the most restrictive, with income limits as well as contributions limits. But because you deposit money post-tax, and the money grows tax free in the account, you don’t owe taxes when you withdraw the money in retirement.

Further Learning in Tax-Smart Investing

Being smart about tax planning applies to the present, to educational expenses, to the future (in terms of taxes you could owe in retirement), and to your estate plan and your heirs as well. Maximizing your tax-efficient strategies across the board can make a significant difference over time.

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

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.


SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit 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.

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.

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs): Investors should carefully consider the information contained in the prospectus, which contains the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other relevant information. You may obtain a prospectus from the Fund company’s website or by email customer service at [email protected]. Please read the prospectus carefully prior to investing.
Shares of ETFs must be bought and sold at market price, which can vary significantly from the Fund’s net asset value (NAV). Investment returns are subject to market volatility and shares may be worth more or less their original value when redeemed. The diversification of an ETF will not protect against loss. An ETF may not achieve its stated investment objective. Rebalancing and other activities within the fund may be subject to tax consequences.


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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How Does Bill Pay Work?

Online bill pay can automate payments of one-time and recurring bills, allowing you to seamlessly transfer funds from your bank account to a payee. Using technology in this way can not only be convenient, it may reduce the odds that you’ll forget to pay a bill and end up getting hit with a late fee.

If you’re curious to know the answer to, “What is bill pay and how does it work?” and understand how it could simplify your life and possibly save you money, read on.

What Is Online Bill Pay?

Bill pay is a way of paying your bills online and automating your finances. It allows you to use your mobile device, laptop, or tablet to send money from your account to that of another person or business. No check writing required.

You specify the funds and provide details on the recipient, and the amount is automatically taken from your account and sent to the payee.

Yes, you can do this in real time, but you can also determine the “when.” That means you can schedule bills for payment in advance whenever you have time free, which can be a huge life hack.

Bill Pay vs. Autopay

You may be tempted to use the terms bill pay and autopay interchangeably, but they are actually two different processes.

•   With bill pay, you are set up one or more payments; you are establishing when and how much money will be taken out of your bank account and transferred to the payee.

•   With autopay, however, you are authorizing a creditor to take money out of your account (which can make some people feel as if they are sacrificing control) or to use your bank’s bill payment system to do so.

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What Is Online Bill Pay Used For?

When you set up online bill pay, it can be a good opportunity to review your finances and the money you have coming in and going out.

You might also decide to stagger the payment dates on your bills to enhance your cash flow. To help with this, you may be able to change due dates on your bills by contacting your creditor.

Here are some of the ways you might use online bill pay services:

•   Mortgage or rent

•   Utilities

•   Car loan payments

•   Credit card bill

•   Gym memberships

•   Streaming channel and other subscriptions

•   Student loans

•   Charity donations.

How to Set Up Online Bill Pay

While bill pay can help make managing finances simpler, it does require some initial manual set-up. But, once you’ve learned how bill pay works, this automatic feature can make keeping track of and paying bills less cumbersome. Here are some ways to get started:

1. Find a Financial Partner that Offers Bill Pay

While many financial institutions offer digital payment tools, like online bill pay, it’s worth investigating the features that are included at each before opening up an account. Online billing is free with some accounts, while some providers may charge for each transaction — either per bill or on a repeating monthly basis.

2. Determine Which Bills to Automate with Bill Pay

Next, think about which ongoing bills you want to automate.

•   Predictable expenses (or fixed vs. variable expenses) that don’t fluctuate from month to month, such as loan and mortgage payments or the internet bill, are solid candidates for recurring automated payments. You may want to schedule payment for a time each month when you know there’ll be sufficient funds in your account to cover what’s come due. Some service providers may even allow you to change the due date on certain bills.

•   Bills that change every month may be more challenging to automate. For instance, if your credit card bill might be $300 one month and $1,300 the next, it can be hard to be certain you’ll have enough money in your checking account to cover the cost.

3. Gather Together All Bills

Once you figure out which bills to pay automatically, you still might want to gather together all your regular bills in one place. (Organizing your bills can really help you see exactly where your money goes.)

While individual bills are generally due at the same time each month, bills from different businesses or providers will have different due dates. With all the bills in one place, you can be ready to enter the various billing accounts into your bank’s bill pay system.

4. Log into Your Online Financial Account

When you’re ready to make a payment with bill pay or set up recurring payments, sign onto your bank’s website or app and search for the “Pay a Bill” or “Online Bill Pay” function.

5. Add Your Billing Information

Once logged on, you might follow the prompts to add individual billing accounts, indicating for each the funds you wish to pay with.

•   You’ll likely be asked to input the name of the business or service whose payments you’re seeking to automate. You may also be asked for more specific details, such as your individual account number.

•   If you can’t find the business or service provider listed, you want to try spelling out the full name, removing abbreviations.

•   If you still can’t find the payee, it’s possible that you can still utilize online bill pay, but you may need to manually add in the payment details.

•   You’ll need to add your account number so that your payment is properly credited to you.

•   You can also add the amount and frequency of payments, selecting a specific payment date (for one-time payments) or a regular schedule (for repeat bills that get paid on the same date every month).

Some financial institutions place a cap on the amount of money that can be transferred electronically through bill pay. If an automatic payment exceeds that designated transaction limit, users may then need to pay via a physical method, such as a personal or cashier’s check.

6. Take Note of the Billing Schedule

Doing a little homework ahead of time can save a financial headache later on.

While bill pay may ease the burden of remembering when bills are due, it’s still important to stay on top of the days each payment will go out. Here’s why:

•   Knowing this ahead of time can help make sure there’s enough money in the linked accounts to cover bills paid on different days.

•   Otherwise, you may run the risk of a payment being declined (which can incur extra fees or charges) or overdrawing funds (which can incur even more fees and charges).

•   Doing a little homework ahead of time can save a financial headache later on. Check with your financial institution to find out when automated payments will begin (and how long it takes for funds to be transferred from your accounts). In some cases, funds may be drawn several days before a bill is “due” to be paid. This information will help you make sure payments are credited before any late fees can kick in.

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Understand the Cost of Overdue Bills

The Census Bureau’s most recent Household Pulse survey found that 36% of Americans said they had found it somewhat or very difficult to pay their bills over the previous week. That’s more than one in three consumers.

Many Americans occasionally, rarely, or never pay bills on time.

When bills are not paid on time, you incur late and/or overdraft or NSF fees. These can add up on multiple bills, adding to any cash flow issues you may be experiencing. Curious about the costs? A typical overdraft fee is about $35, and consumers in the US pay $14.5 billion a year in credit card late fees alone, according to the Consumer Financial Protection bureau.

Given the magnitude of this issue, it can make sense to take a closer look at your bills and use bill pay to avoid incurring unnecessary fees.

Here are more details about some of the consequences of not paying bills on time.

Imposing Late Fees

One of the ways companies or service providers enforce on-time payments is by penalizing people for, well, paying late. Whether it’s a credit card, utility bill or simply missing a payment date by a single day, submitting a late payment can result in late fees, higher interest rates, or other charges.

Accruing Interest Charges

On top of late penalties, some providers may also charge interest on the balance owed, essentially creating a double wallop of fees if you’re late paying a bill.

•   In some cases, the interest may be charged starting the day an account becomes overdue. In others, it may accrue going back to the purchase date or transaction day.

•   Depending on the interest rate charged and how frequently that interest compounds, this fee could quickly balloon to more than the initial fee assessed.

Experiencing Service Disruptions

In some cases, a provider may have the right to shut off your service if you pay a bill late. Not only are such disruptions a major interruption to daily life (ahem, no water or electricity or WiFi), but individuals may also have to pay a reinstatement fee once account has been paid just to reactivate the service.

Declining Credit Rating

Payment history on outstanding debts is the single biggest contributing factor at 35% to your FICO® credit score. And payment history reflects whether you have been paying your bills on time. So, things like overdue credit card bills, unpaid mortgage or car payments, and other late payments can erode an individual’s credit score.

Building and/or protecting your credit score can help you get approved for loans and lines of credit. Even if approved, having a lower credit score could mean you’re offered a less favorable APR (annual percentage rate) on funds you borrow or lines of credit, potentially costing you thousands of additional dollars over time.

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The Pros and Cons of Bill Pay

Now, a closer look at the benefits to automatic bill pay and the potential disadvantages:

Bill Pay Benefits

•   It’s secure. Financial institutions typically use state-of-the-art protocols to protect your account, and there’s no worry about a check getting lost or stolen.

•   Paperless transactions means there are fewer documents to manage and organize.

•   The automatic nature of bill pay means you don’t have to remember to pay bills or set up elaborate systems of alerts. (That’s also a benefit of automating your savings as well.)

•   A corollary to the above point is that bill pay can help you avoid missing payments or making them late and paying related fees.

Bill Pay Disadvantages

•   There’s the possibility that you enter incorrect details and the wrong amount gets transferred or the funds get sent to the wrong person.

•   In any form of digital financial transaction, there is a very small chance of fraud or hacking.

•   If you don’t keep very careful tabs on your money, you could risk overdraft. Say you have unusually high expenses one month; your bank balance might be lower than needed to cover your automated bill payments. This could lead to fees and headaches.

•   Payment processing times can vary. Check with your bank to make sure you understand the timelines involved with bill pay so you don’t wind up with late charges.

•   You may need extra organization to manage, say, quarterly or other irregularly occurring bills. If you pay different bills from separate accounts, paying bills can become even more tangled.

Recommended: When All Your Money Goes to Bills

The Takeaway

Bill paying is a fact of life, but there are tools that can make it quicker and more convenient. Signing up for automated online bill pay can put you in control. It can ensure that outstanding bills get paid on time or when you have more money in your accounts, reducing the likelihood of late-payment or overdraft fees. It can be a smart move to see what your bank offers in terms of this service and whether it can simplify your financial life.

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.


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FAQ

How long does bill pay take to send money?

Check with your bank about typical processing times. This may range from a couple to several days. Knowing the typical timing can help you make sure to set up payments to arrive on time..

Is bill pay the same as a check?

Online bill pay is an electronic process that moves funds from one account to another. You do not have to write a paper check, nor does the payee receive one.

Can I use bill pay to pay another person?

While many people may think of bill pay as being used to send funds to, say, a utility or other company, you can often use bill pay to send funds to an individual (say, your landscaper or babysitter).


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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 deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

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

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

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

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

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


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 .

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