Debit Card Fraud: How It Works and How To Prevent It

Credit card scams have been well publicized in recent years, but you may not be aware of the uptick in debit card scams. According to FICO®, the total number of compromised debit cards in 2023 was up 96% over the last year surveyed, and more than 315,000 cards were impacted.

Whether swiping your debit card in person or while shopping online, you’ll want to be vigilant. Here, learn the ins and outs of debit card fraud, plus how to protect yourself.

What Is Debit Card Fraud?

Debit card fraud occurs when an unauthorized third-party or individual uses your debit card to take out cash or make purchases without your permission. Scammers can use sensitive financial details — your card number, PIN, CVV code, and expiration date — to make purchases that drain your bank account.

If left undetected, debit card fraud could potentially wipe out your bank balance. You’ll need to go through a process to dispute the charges and/or withdrawals to try to get your money back.

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Common Debit Card Fraud Tactics

Debit card scams can take many forms. Here are some of the most common types of debit card fraud.

Skimming Devices

Fraudsters install skimming devices on ATMs and payment terminals. These devices can look as if they are simply part of the machine; they fit over the slot where your card usually goes. If you unwittingly insert your debit card, the skimmer can scan the microchip on your card. Your card’s details can then be downloaded, stored, and used without authorization. Skimming can happen at any payment terminal, but it tends to be most common at gas station pumps and ATMs.

Phishing Scams

A phishing scam occurs when scammers create fake sites, and/or send bogus emails or text messages in hopes of luring you to reveal your debit card details. Then, your financial credentials can be used by criminals.

These fraudsters often pretend to be an individual or company with a too-good-to-be-true offer or an urgent situation that spurs you to take action. For instance, they might offer a new laptop at a remarkably low price, or they could tell you your bank account has been compromised and you need to update your credentials immediately.

The goal is to get you to click on a fake site and input your debit card information. While less common, you might get a phone call with an offer that requires your card info on the spot.

Card Theft

Another common way fraudsters can use your debit card to make purchases or take out cash is to steal your physical card. Once they have their hands on your card, they might try to guess your PIN by taking a stab at what your PIN might be — for instance, your birth year. (This information may also be gleaned from social media accounts or the dark web once they have your name.)

Scammers might also figure out your PIN by “shoulder surfing” or subtly peering over your shoulder as you punch in your PIN at an ATM. Once they have that information, they could steal your card and use it to empty your checking account.

Recommended: When Were Debit Cards Invented?

Preventing Debit Card Fraud

Here are steps you can take to safeguard your personal and financial card data from would-be thieves:

Secure Your Card

You can secure your card by signing the back of your debit card, keeping your PIN private, and changing your PIN regularly.

You might also want to consider using a credit card for online purchases and when paying for gas at the pump. Credit cards typically have greater fraud protection than debit cards.

Monitor Accounts Regularly

By monitoring your accounts, you can spot any suspicious debit card activity more quickly. For instance, set text or email alerts for debit card transactions and aim to check recent activity through your bank’s mobile app.

Many people find checking their bank accounts once or even a few times a week is a wise move. It’s also a good idea to comb through your recent banking statements for anything that seems out-of-the-ordinary, such as:

•   Purchases you didn’t make, including micro payments of a dollar or so

•   Unauthorized big-ticket transactions

•   Multiple purchases from the same store you didn’t authorize

Use Chip Cards and Digital Wallets

Chip cards use EMV technology, which involves a tiny embedded computer chip that makes it harder for fraudsters to skim and access your debit card’s details. They can be less susceptible to fraudulent activity than those with the standard magnetic strip.

Digital wallets have greater protections, too. They employ security features such as encryption and tokenization, which add a wall of protection against fraudsters trying to access your card data. Additionally, because digital wallets are stored on your phone, they’re usually safeguarded by biometric screening, multi-factor authentication, and passwords.

What To Do if Fraud Occurs

Should you fall victim to hackers, know that it can (and does) happen to anyone. With more sophisticated tactics and greater technology, fraudsters are getting better at finding ways to snag your debit card data. Here’s what to do should you find yourself a victim of debit card fraud.

Report It Immediately

If your debit card has been lost or stolen or you suspect fraud, the first step is to report it to your bank immediately. Reporting the fraud as soon as possible limits your financial responsibility and can halt the damage the scammer can do. Contact your bank ASAP if you notice unusual activity and request guidance. Depending on your particular situation, you may also have to take steps to report identity theft.

Dispute Fraudulent Charges

If the issue is a fraudulent charge on your debit card, try contacting the merchant to see if you can resolve the issue on their end.

At the same time, you’ll also want to dispute fraudulent charges by contacting the bank or credit union, as mentioned above. It’s important to do this ASAP (and no more than 60 days after the problem occurs). Once you dispute a charge, the financial institution can take up to 90 days to investigate and resolve your dispute.

You can also request a “chargeback” on debit card transactions. Essentially, a chargeback occurs when you dispute a transaction and reverse it. The money that got charged goes back into your account as the financial institution investigates the issue. When it’s resolved, you either keep the credit or, if the bank decides there wasn’t fraud, the funds are taken out of your account.

Get a New Debit Card

When you report fraudulent charges, the bank or credit union can freeze your account, which blocks anyone — including yourself — from using it. If they aren’t already sending you a new debit card, ask for one. Your old card is compromised, so you’ll want a new one.

Also, if you lose your debit card, that’s another reason to call your bank about freezing your account and getting a new one sent to you. Your missing card could be in the hands of a criminal.

Recommended: What Is An ATM Card?

Debit Card Fraud Protections

Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA), if you let your financial institution know within two business days after you notice suspicious activity, you are typically only liable for up to $50. If you inform them after that 48-hour period but within 60 days, you could be liable for up to $500. If you don’t notify them until more than 60 days has passed since the incident, you could face unlimited losses.

Tips for Safer Debit Card Use

Next, delve into best practices to keep your debit card and its details secure.

Avoid Unsecured Wifi

Hackers will go to great lengths to try to tap unsecured networks and steal private information, including personal details, passwords, and data about your checking and savings accounts, plus other financial intel.

To avoid making your banking data vulnerable to thieves, don’t use public or unsecured wifi. Instead, make sure you’re on a secure network. Secure networks have protective measures in place to ward off unauthorized access and theft.

Update PINs and Passwords

Make it a habit to update your debit card and app PIN and banking passwords regularly. Make sure you use unique, strong passwords. In other words, alphanumeric passwords that also contain special symbols. You’ll also want to steer clear of using weak passwords that can be easily guessed, like your date of birth.

Use Credit Cards for More Protection

Credit cards can offer greater protection than debit cards. When a hacker uses your credit card for fraudulent purchases, they’re not using your money but your credit. So you won’t risk having your bank account wiped out.

Plus, most credit cards provide zero liability protection for unauthorized charges. And, if you notice any suspicious activity, you can likely freeze your card to prevent any additional credit card scams from occurring.

The Takeaway

While debit card fraud is on the rise and scammers are more sophisticated in their tactics, you can take steps to prevent debit card fraud from happening. Monitoring your accounts regularly, keeping your credentials private, and being wary of skimmers are among those moves that can help you keep your bank account secure.

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FAQ

What are common debit card fraud red flags?

Red flags for credit card debt include multiple transactions from the same retailer, unusually large purchases, or purchases made in a place you haven’t visited. It’s always a good idea to check your transactions and monitor your banking activity regularly, at least once a week.

Are debit or credit cards safer?

Credit cards offer greater fraud protection and are generally safer to use than debit cards. Many major card issuers offer zero liability fraud protection. However, you can accrue interest on your purchases, while debit cards simply tap funds you have on deposit.

Can a bank reverse fraudulent debit charges?

Yes, a bank may be able to reverse fraudulent debit card charges. You can request a chargeback, for example, when a transaction goes awry. If your card was lost or stolen and there has been suspicious activity, let your financial institution know ASAP. If you alert them within two business days after discovering the fraudulent charges, you generally won’t be held accountable for more than $50. If it’s been more than two days but less than 60 days, you can be liable for $500. If you wait more than 60 days, you could endure unlimited losses.


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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.

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

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What Is a Silver IRA? How Do They Work?

A silver IRA follows the basic rules of an ordinary IRA account, but it has a special designation as a self-directed IRA that allows you to invest in precious metals like silver.

It’s important to note that you don’t need to open a specific silver IRA. Instead, you set up a self-directed account with a qualified broker that specializes in precious metals or other types of alternative investments (e.g. real estate, commodities, private placements, and others).

That said, not all brokers offer self-directed IRAs. And investing in silver within an IRA may be more expensive owing to the cost of storing a physical commodity like silver.

Introduction to IRAs Invested in Precious Metals

An IRA invested in silver assets is one way to invest in precious metals. There are a few kinds of precious metal IRAs you can invest in, including a platinum IRA, a gold IRA, or a palladium IRA.

While alternative investments can be illiquid, volatile, or subject to other risk factors, investors interested in alts may be curious about the potential for greater diversification since these assets typically don’t move in tandem with conventional markets. In the case of precious metals, they can be an inflation hedge.

How a Self-Directed IRA Works

Again, it is important to note that these are not separate types of IRAs. Rather, investors interested in investing in silver or other types of alternative investments can set up what’s known as a self-directed IRA (or SIDRA) in order to choose investments that aren’t normally available through a traditional IRA account.

While the brokerage administers the SDIRA, the investor typically manages the portfolio of assets themselves. These accounts may also come with higher fees than regular IRAs owing to the higher cost of storing physical assets like silver.

That said, these accounts follow the same rules as ordinary IRAs in terms of withdrawal restrictions, income caps, taxes, and annual contribution limits (see details below). A self-directed IRA can be set up as a traditional, tax-deferred account, or a self-directed Roth IRA.

Recommended: Alternative Investments: Definition, Examples, Benefits and Risks

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Establishing a Silver IRA

If you’re ready to start investing in precious metals and you’ve found a broker or IRA custodian that will allow you to open a SDIRA and purchase silver in your account, you must fund it, either by depositing cash or by transferring money from an existing 401(k) or IRA account. Then your custodian will purchase the physical silver bullion and store it for you.

Requirements for Silver Investments

When comparing a commodity vs. a security, the IRS has specific rules for investing in commodities like silver in an IRA.

One of the most important is that any physical silver bullion held in your IRA must be at least 99.9% pure. This includes coins such as the Australian Silver Kangaroo, American Silver Eagle or Canadian Maple Leaf. Make sure that you work with a reputable precious metals IRA custodian that can ensure you are only investing in approved investments.

Be sure to check that the company is registered both with FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) as well as the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission).

Recommended: Portfolio Diversification: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Managing a Silver IRA Portfolio

The guidelines for managing a silver IRA portfolio are similar to the rules for any other type of IRA.

When you open a silver IRA, you will issue instructions to your broker to buy and sell physical silver, just as you would if you were buying stocks in a regular IRA. The value of your silver IRA portfolio will vary according to the price of silver in the market.

You don’t hold onto or store the silver yourself while it’s an asset in your IRA. If you want to take possession of the physical assets in your silver IRA, you would need to make a withdrawal from your IRA — which is subject to standard rules governing IRA withdrawals.

An early withdrawal before age 59 ½ may result in taxes and/or penalties, so make sure you understand the terms of investing in any IRA before you take a withdrawal from a self-directed IRA.

Tax Advantages and Drawbacks of Silver IRAs

Remember that a silver IRA still follows the basic structure and tax rules of traditional and Roth IRAs. The annual contribution limit for a regular, Roth, or self-directed IRA is $7,000 for tax year 2024, or $8,000 for those 50 and older.

•   With a self-directed traditional IRA, you save pre-tax money for your retirement, similar to a traditional IRA. The assets grow tax deferred over time. You pay taxes on the money when you withdraw it, which you can do without a penalty starting at age 59 ½.

•   With a self-directed Roth IRA, similar to a regular Roth IRA, you make after-tax contributions. Your assets also grow tax free over time. And in the case of a Roth account, qualified withdrawals are tax free starting at age 59 ½, as long as you have had the account for at least five years, according to the five-year rule.

In addition, investors who want to set up a Roth SIDRA must meet certain income requirements. These are the same as the income caps on an ordinary Roth account. In order to contribute the full amount to a Roth IRA you must earn less than $146,000 (for single filers) or $230,000 (if you’re married, filing jointly), respectively. See IRS.gov for more information, or consult a tax professional.

One of the drawbacks of a silver IRA is that the assets in your IRA are intended for retirement. That means that if you withdraw the money in any IRA before you reach 59 ½, you may have to pay additional taxes and/or a 10% penalty.

The Takeaway

A silver IRA is a common name for a self-directed IRA that invests in and holds physical silver bullion. You can open either a traditional silver IRA or a Roth silver IRA, each of which comes with its own tax advantages.

Only certain brokerages support investing in silver in a self-directed IRA, so make sure that you have found a reputable company that offers this option. It’s also important to know that the IRS has certain regulations about investing in a silver IRA, such as a requirement that any silver be at last 99.9% pure.

Ready to expand your portfolio's growth potential? Alternative investments, traditionally available to high-net-worth individuals, are accessible to everyday investors on SoFi's easy-to-use platform. Investments in commodities, real estate, venture capital, and more are now within reach. Alternative investments can be high risk, so it's important to consider your portfolio goals and risk tolerance to determine if they're right for you.

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FAQ

What types of silver investments are eligible for a silver IRA?

If you are looking to invest in gold, silver or other precious metals, it’s important to understand that there are certain IRS requirements and regulations for the types of silver you can hold in an IRA. Only silver that is 99.9% pure is allowed to be held in a Silver IRA. This includes popular coins such as the Canadian Maple Leaf, Australian Silver Kangaroo, or American Silver Eagle.

How does the process of establishing and funding a silver IRA work?

The first step in opening up a silver IRA is to find an IRA custodian that allows you to self-direct (or manage) your investments. Once you’ve opened a self-directed IRA at a brokerage that supports it, you can deposit money or transfer it from an existing 401(k) account or IRA. Your custodian will then purchase the silver bullion based on your instructions.

What are the potential tax advantages and drawbacks of a silver IRA?

The tax advantages of a silver IRA depend on whether it is structured as a traditional or Roth self-directed IRA. With a traditional IRA, you may be eligible for a tax deduction in the year that you make your contributions. With a Roth IRA, you pay tax on your contributions in the year you make them, but you don’t pay capital gains on withdrawals; qualified withdrawals are tax free.

One potential drawback is that, in most circumstances, you will have to pay additional taxes and/or penalties if you withdraw money from your IRA before you reach retirement age.


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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.
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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.

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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.


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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.

Disclaimer: The projections or other information regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results.
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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Average Checking Account Balance in the USA

Your checking account plays an essential role in your financial life. It allows you to receive your payroll direct deposits, pay bills, write checks, make debit card purchases, withdraw cash at ATMs, even send money digitally to friends and family.

But since these accounts generally pay little to no interest, it can be tricky to figure out exactly how much to keep in your checking account. If you keep the balance too low, you risk overdrafts, bounced checks, and account fees. But if you keep the balance too high, you give up the opportunity to earn a better interest rate elsewhere.
So how much money should you keep in your checking account? Below, we’ll explore the average checking account balance — and the factors that can affect the average amount of money in a checking account.

What Is Considered a “Normal” Balance?

There’s no one ideal amount to keep in checking, since everyone’s financial situation is different. A common rule of thumb, however, is to keep around one to two months’ worth of living expenses in either a traditional or online checking account.

So, for example, if your monthly expenses are $4,000, you’d want to keep around $8,000 in checking. This helps to ensure you’re able to cover your short-term expenses and don’t accidentally overdraft your account or dip below the minimum balance required to avoid a monthly fee.

While a “normal” checking account balance will vary by income and expenses, we can get a sense of the average checking account balance in the U.S. by looking at the Federal Reserve’s most recent Survey of Consumer Finances (which is based on 2022 data). According the the Fed, Americans hold a median balance of $8,000 in transaction accounts (which include both checking and savings accounts).

Recommended: Reasons to Balance Your Checking Account Every Month

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Average vs Median

Government data on the average amount of money in checking accounts includes two different figures: the median and the mean (or average). For example, Americans hold a median balance of $8,000 in transaction accounts, but a mean balance of $62,410.

Why such a large disparity? The mean, or average, number is skewed by people holding high balances. As a result, it doesn’t paint a realistic picture of how much money the average American is really keeping in the bank.

Think back to math class where you learned about the difference between mean and median. The average balance in a checking account is determined by adding together every single checking account balance and dividing by the number of checking accounts. Extremely high and low balances can really skew that number.

The median balance, on the other hand, is the middle value when a data set is ordered from least to greatest. For instance, if you were analyzing five checking accounts, ordered by lowest to highest to balance, you’d look at the balance of the third checking account to get the median:

•   $300

•   $500

•   $2,000

•   $10,000

•   $20,000

Here, the median checking account balance is $2,000. However, the average balance of the checking accounts is $6,560.

Recommended: Current vs. Available Balance in a Checking Account

Factors Impacting Balances

There are a number of things that can impact the average amount in a checking account, from income to age to geographical location. Here’s a look at three key factors that can lead to keeping different amounts in a checking account.

Income Levels

As you might expect, income level can have a significant impact on checking account balances. People who make more money tend to spend more on things like rent, food, shopping, and entertainment. And when your living expenses are higher, you generally need to keep more money in your checking account.

Based on the Fed’s data, for example, Americans who earn less than $20,000 a year have a median transaction account balance of $900. For those who earn between $90,000 and $100,000, however, the median balance rises to a whopping $111,600.

Savings Rates

Interest rates on savings rates can also impact how much people keep in their checking account. When annual percentage yields (APYs) for savings accounts are especially high, it’s natural to want to take advantage of that and keep more in savings and less in checking.

These days, keeping only as much as necessary in checking and moving your extra cash in savings can really pay off. While the average checking account interest rate is 0.08%, you can now find high-yield savings accounts offering APYs as high as 4.00% to 5.00% or more.

High vs Low Cost of Living Areas

If you live in an area of the country where the cost of living is relatively steep, you’ll need more money available in checking to cover everyday expenses like rent, utilities, groceries and gas. If you live somewhere with a relatively low cost of living, on the other hand, you can likely keep a lower-than-average checking account balance without running the risk of dipping into negative territory and, in turn, triggering fees or bouncing checks.

Balances by Age Group

Age also has a significant impact on the average checking account balance. As we get older, we tend to build wealth and, in turn, keep more money in transaction accounts like checking accounts. Here’s a closer look at how checking account balances vary by age.

Average for Millennials/Gen Z

According to the Fed’s data, Millennials and Gen Z’s keep somewhere between $5,400 and $7,500 in their transaction accounts.

Age

Median Value of Account Holdings

Under age 35 $5,400
Age 35 to 44 $7,500

Average for Gen X

The Fed’s survey shows that adults aged 45 to 54 (who are considered “Gen Xers”) have a median balance of $8,700 in their transaction accounts.

Recommended: What Is the Average Savings by Age?

Average for Baby Boomers/Retirees

Baby Boomers and retirees have the highest average amount of money in their checking and other transactional accounts. Depending on their age, Boomers and retirees typically have median balances somewhere between $8,000 and $13,400. Interestingly, account balances tend to start decreasing in adults 75-plus.

Age

Median Value of Account Holdings

55-64 $8,000
65 to 74 $13,400
75+ $10,000

Balances by Household Income

Government data shows large disparities in account balances between low-, mid-, and high-earners in the U.S. Here’s a detailed look at how household income affects how much Americans keep in their transaction accounts.

Income Range

Median Value of Holdings

Less than $20,000 $900
$20,000 to $39,900 $2,550
$40,000 to $59,900 $7,400
$60,000 to $79,900 $15,760
$80,000 to $89,900 $33,800
$90,000 to $100,000 $111,600

Typical Emergency Fund Recommendations

Personal finance experts generally recommend keeping at least three to six month’s worth of living expenses in the bank to help cover the unexpected, such as an expensive car or home repair, medical emergency, or loss of income. So, for example, if your monthly living expenses are $4,000, you would want to keep $12,000 to $24,000 in your emergency fund. If you’re self-employed or work seasonally, however, you may want to aim for closer to six to 12 months’ worth of expenses.

That said, your emergency savings is generally not part of your checking account balance. Instead, you’ll want to keep that money in a savings account at a traditional or online bank or credit union. For one reason, you’ll be less tempted to spend your emergency fund on nonessential purchases if it’s a little further out of reach. For another, the interest rate for a savings account is typically higher, which will help your emergency grow over time.

The Takeaway

The average or normal checking account balance varies by age, income, lifestyle, and other factors. Ideally, you want to have enough in checking to cover one to two months’ worth of living expenses. This can help you avoid accidentally overdrafting the account or dipping below any required minimums. You can then move any additional cash to a vehicle that offers a higher return, enabling your money to grow faster.

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

How much does the average person have in their checking account?

The average checking account balance can vary significantly depending on age, income level, spending habits, and other factors. According to the Federal Reserve’s most recent Survey of Consumer Finances, Americans have a median balance of $8,000 in transaction accounts (which include checking and savings accounts).

Can you have too much money in your checking account?

Yes. Keeping too much money in a checking account can be inefficient because these accounts typically offer low or no interest. A good rule of thumb is to keep enough money to cover one to two months’ worth of expenses in checking, and move excess cash to an account where you can earn higher returns, such as a high-yield savings account, investment account, or individual retirement account (IRA).


Photo credit: NIKOLA ILIC PR AGENCIJA ZA DIZAJN STUDIOTRIPOD SURCIN

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.


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.


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.

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

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Money Market vs Checking Account

Money market and checking accounts can both offer a safe place to store your cash, easy access to your funds, and the ability to earn a bit of interest. However, they are not identical. Money market accounts generally offer higher interest rates, but may require higher minimum deposits and balances, and they may also restrict how many transactions you can make per month.

Understanding the differences between these two accounts, and the pros and cons of each, can help you determine which is the best choice for your needs.

What Is a Checking Account?

A checking account is a deposit account where you can keep your money, safely storing your earnings and managing your everyday spending. A deposit account, for those who aren’t used to the term, is a type of bank account that lets you deposit and withdraw funds.

Unlike a savings account (which is often designated for an emergency fund and future goals, like a new car), a checking account is designed for frequent use, such as paying for your living expenses and basic purchases.

Checking accounts typically feature unlimited transfers, deposits, and withdrawals. If the checking account is with a bank, the funds are likely protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to $250,000 per depositor, per account ownership category, per insured institution. If the account is with a credit union, the money is likely insured up to the same limits by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


💡 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.

What Is a Money Market Account?

A money market account (MMA) is also a deposit account. If you’re putting different deposit accounts on a spectrum, a money market account leans more toward the savings account end of the range. They tend to have higher interest rates than a checking account and are typically better suited to storing your funds for future goals.

Money market accounts are protected by the FDIC and NCUA in the same way as checking accounts. However, these accounts often have limits on withdrawals and transfers. Another feature to note: They frequently have higher minimum deposit and balance requirements than checking accounts.

Recommended: Money Market Account vs Certificate of Deposit (CD)

Key Differences

Here are some key differences when comparing money market vs. checking accounts.

Interest Rates

You have a better chance of scooping up a higher interest rate on a money market account vs. a checking account. (Some checking accounts offer no interest at all.)

The national average interest rate for money market accounts is 0.67%, but you’ll likely find higher rates than that. Some financial institutions offer money market accounts with annual percentage yields (APYs) of 5.00% and higher. On the other hand, the national average rate for checking accounts is 0.08%.

Accessibility of Funds

As checking accounts are made for everyday purchases, they feature unlimited transactions — transfers, deposits, and withdrawals. A money market account will likely provide similar forms of access to your money, such as check writing privileges, debit card transactions, and ATM withdrawals. However, how often you can conduct these transactions with a money market account may be limited, as you’ll learn in the next point.

Transaction Limits

With a checking account, you typically can access your funds as often as you like. With money market accounts, this may not be the case. While the Federal Reserve lifted previous caps on monthly limits for withdrawals, deposits, and transfers set by Regulation D, a bank or credit union might still set limits. You could find yourself restricted to, say, six transactions of a certain kind per statement period. It’s therefore important to read the find print on your account agreement or to ask a customer service rep for details.

Opening Deposit Requirements

Another key difference between a money market account and a checking account is the opening deposit requirements. Money market accounts typically have higher minimum opening deposits than their checking counterparts.

Plus, you might need to maintain a higher monthly balance. Stashing a larger sum of cash (say, $2,500) in your money market account may be necessary to snag a higher interest rate and lower account fees. Standard checking accounts typically don’t have these conditions, although some premium accounts do require higher balances.

Pros of Checking Accounts

When comparing these two financial products, ponder the pros and cons of checking accounts. First, consider their advantages:

Low opening deposit. You can open a checking account with no initial deposit at some financial institutions. Others may require $25 to $100.

Convenient access. As previously noted, you can typically access the funds in a checking account as often as you like via a debit card, an ATM, electronic transfers, or checks. There may be an unlimited number of transactions you can make in a given month.

Pay bills. You can usually set up automatic bill pay so your financial institution sends funds to payees on your behalf. Plus you can set up autopay with different companies so that they can deduct funds from your checking account to pay for bills each month, such as utility bills, insurance premiums, and credit card payments.

Debit card. When you open a checking account, you typically receive a debit card for everyday purchases, whether in-person and online, and for withdrawing cash at an ATM.

Cons of Checking Accounts

Now, consider some of the downsides of a checking account:

Low interest. Checking accounts aren’t designed to grow your savings; they’re designed to pay bills, make everyday purchases, and constantly move money in and out. As such, they don’t feature high interest rates. Some may not earn any interest. It’s likely that any interest earnings on a checking account will be outpaced by inflation.

Monthly service fees. A checking account might come with a monthly service fee. However, you might be able to opt out of these fees by maintaining a minimum balance or receiving a certain amount in direct deposits in a statement cycle.

Other fees. You might also find yourself paying out-of-network ATM fees, overdraft fees, bounced check or returned payment fees, and paper statement fees with a checking account.

Pros of Money Market Accounts

Here are some advantages to opening a money market account:

Higher interest rates. You will typically enjoy a higher rate with a money market than a standard checking account, though perhaps not as much as a savings account. The rates vary depending on where you do your banking.

Access to cash. Unlike certificates of deposit (CD), your money isn’t locked in your money market account for a specific term. Instead, you can access your money and use a linked debit card to make purchases or ATM withdrawals.

Cons of Money Market Accounts

Next, review some potential drawbacks to money market accounts:

Transaction limits. Depending on the financial institution, monthly transaction limits on electronic transfers and outgoing checks may be in place. For example, you might be limited to six withdrawals and transfers per statement period. If you exceed these limits, you might be on the hook for paying a fee or receiving a lower interest rate.

Opening deposit. Money market accounts typically require a larger chunk of change for the opening deposit. The amount depends on the bank but usually starts at roughly $2,500.

Fees. As with checking accounts, you may find yourself paying a number of fees that can eat away at the interest you earn.

Which Account Is Right for You?

When comparing a money market account to a checking account, a checking account may be a better fit if you intend to keep the funds for everyday use. Most people (82% or more of Americans) have a checking account, and it can be the hub of one’s daily financial life. Think of it as a well from which you’re constantly drawing water — you’ll enjoy unlimited access to withdrawals, transfers, and debit card spending.

It might also be a stronger fit if you’re looking for an account that requires a low minimum opening deposit and monthly balance thresholds.

If you have a larger sum of money to keep in an account, want to earn more interest, and don’t anticipate needing to make a lot of transactions, a money market account could be a better fit. It’s also important to look at the initial deposit requirement and monthly balance minimum before making your decision.

Using Both Account Types

Consider using both a checking and a money market account. For instance, you can use your checking account for your everyday spending and to set up autopay on some of your recurring monthly bills.

Your money market account can be linked to pay a few of your bills. If you don’t touch your money market account otherwise, you can stay within any monthly transaction limits that may exist and earn a higher rate of interest, perhaps even an APY that’s competitive with high-yield savings accounts.

The Takeaway

While checking and money market accounts do share some similarities, they have important differences. A money market may offer higher interest, but it could have higher opening deposit and balance requirements, as well as transaction limits. Which kind of account works best for you will depend on your preferences and your unique financial situation.

If you’re considering where to keep your checking and savings account, 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

Can a money market account replace checking?

It depends: A money market account can have limited monthly withdrawals. Plus, there might be a higher minimum opening deposit and monthly balance needed. That said, it could potentially replace your checking if you don’t typically make a lot of transactions with your checking account and the potential requirements mentioned don’t bother you.

Do money market accounts have debit cards?

Yes, money market accounts typically come with debit cards, which can make spending easier. Money market accounts might have monthly caps on the number of withdrawals and transfers, however. The limit, if it exists, can vary depending on the bank or credit union.

How do money market rates compare to savings?

Money market rates can be comparable to those of some savings accounts. To get the most competitive rate, you might find a money market that’s offering around what you’d earn with a high-yield account at an online bank (currently around 4.00% or even 5.00%).


Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

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.

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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How to Invest in Wine

Wine investing may appeal to investors seeking exposure to alternative asset classes. Owning wine as an investment can add diversification to a portfolio, which can act as an inflationary hedge and a buffer against market volatility.

And while investing in a tangible asset has its own risks, wine can potentially offer returns over time. Online platforms have made it easier to invest in wine, though some investors may prefer to build a physical collection of their own. There are pros and cons to both approaches to investing in wine.

The Rise of Wine as an Alternative Investment

Wine holds some attraction for investors, and it’s gained popularity as an alternative investment in recent years. Fine wine assets recorded an average growth of 146% during the 10 years ending in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Technology has also reshaped the wine investing landscape. Investors are no longer limited to setting up their own wine cellar; online platforms offer access to diversified portfolios of fine wines and premium whiskies. The barrier to entry can be lower in some cases, making wine a more accessible investment overall.

In addition, investing in wine is an opportunity to explore your passions. If you consider yourself a wine connoisseur, holding wine as an investment could be a natural fit. As with any type of investment, it helps to be engaged in the assets you own.

Alternative investments,
now for the rest of us.

Start trading funds that include commodities, private credit, real estate, venture capital, and more.


Is Wine a Good Investment Option?

Wine offers some unique advantages for investors who are interested in adding something different to their portfolio. Historically, investment-grade wine returns an average compound annual growth rate of 10%. As a point of comparison, since its inception the S&P 500 has also delivered historical returns of about 10% annually.

To better track the wine market, investors may want to become familiar with benchmarks like the London International Vintners Exchange (aka, the Liv-ex). Similar to how the S&P 500 index is the benchmark for U.S. equities, the Liv-ex tracks the international wine market.

While it’s possible to debate whether wine should be considered a commodity vs. a security, there’s no question that many investors turn to wine as an investment. Following are some of the reasons investors find it to be an attractive option:

•   Investing in wine allows for diversification with little to no correlation to stocks, bonds, and other traditional asset classes.

•   Like real estate and other alternatives, wine is generally less susceptible to disruptions in the market that may result in increased volatility.

•   Wine investments may hold steady during periods of rising inflation or market downturns, including recessionary periods.

•   Fine wines can be an effective risk management tool when held alongside more traditional assets.

Risks and Considerations of Wine Investing

Before exploring wine investments, it’s helpful to consider the potential risks. For example:

•   Wine may require a sizable initial investment if you’re purchasing individual bottles or buying into a private placement wine fund.

•   Similar to the risks of investing in art, transporting and insuring physical wine collections can be expensive, and you face the risk of bottles being damaged or spoiled.

•   Wine generally requires a longer holding period than other investments, which may not be ideal if you don’t want to be “locked in” for a certain time frame.

•   Wine investment requires thorough due diligence to ensure that you’re working with a reputable platform, auction house, exchange, or private seller.

•   Supply and demand, weather and climate conditions, and geopolitical events can all influence the value of fine wines.

Lastly, remember that nothing is guaranteed with wine or any other alternative asset class, like gold or real estate. While it’s certainly possible to generate substantial returns through wine investments, it can be just as easy to lose money.

Building a Portfolio

There are several ways to build a portfolio that includes wine investments. Your options for investing in wine include:

•   Purchasing physical bottles of wine

•   Investing in wine funds

•   Buying wine stocks

•   Investing in wine futures

The first step in building a wine portfolio is deciding which investment option makes the most sense.

Buying Fine Wine

Owning physical wine assets can be time-consuming and expensive, as you’ll need to research the wines you want to buy, arrange for their purchase and delivery, and ensure they’re stored appropriately to prevent spoilage. You may need to insure the wine you buy.

If you’re interested in collecting wines, you may use online or in-person auctions or wine exchanges to seek out your preferred vintages.

Wine Funds and Wine Stocks

Investing in wine funds may be more appealing if you don’t want the burden of maintaining a physical collection, or you want exposure to a diversified mix of wines. Investors can trade mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that include alcohol-producing companies, as well as companies in the wine sector.

It’s also possible to buy individual shares of stock in wineries and wine companies. Getting to know the wine industry, various technologies, and the relevance of different companies and products is key, as it would be when investing in any type of stock.

Wine Investing Platforms

Private placements are another option. Wine investing platforms allow access to actively managed portfolios of fine wines and premium spirits through private placement. One thing to note is that you may need to be an accredited investor to pursue private wine investments. The SEC defines accredited investors as individuals who have:

•   Net worth exceeding $1 million (not including their primary residence), OR

•   Income over $200,000 individually ($300,000 for married couples) in each of the two prior years, with a reasonable expectation of the same income in future years, OR

•   A valid Series 7, Series 65, or Series 82 securities license

Wine Futures

If you’re comfortable with speculative investments, you might consider investing in wine futures. Similar to investing in commodities futures, this strategy involves investing in wines before they’re bottled. You can purchase specific vintages via futures contracts before they’re released, which may allow a competitive edge in the market if those vintages are highly sought after upon release.

As with commodities futures, there can be substantial risks to this strategy. Futures are derivative investments, meaning their value is determined by the price of the underlying asset, i.e., the wine you’re agreeing to trade. And outcomes rely largely on investors making correct assumptions about which commodity prices will move. It’s possible to lose money on futures contracts if you’re expecting prices to increase but they decline instead.

Managing a Wine Investment Portfolio

How you manage wine investments can depend largely on how you own them. If you’re collecting physical bottles, for instance, then your primary considerations include:

•   Storage

•   Transport, if you need to move your collection or are ready to sell at auction

•   Timing and when it makes sense to sell, once a wine matures

•   Wine insurance to protect your investment against losses stemming from theft, damage, and other covered perils

With wine funds and stocks, you’ll need to consider diversification and what you’re gaining exposure to, as well as the overall cost of owning those investments. It’s also important to look at the minimum investment required, as well as the holding period where wine funds are concerned.

Wine typically requires longer holding periods than stocks or bonds and you need to be comfortable with how long you may have to wait to sell your investment.

How much of your portfolio should you dedicate to wine investments? The answer can depend on how much money you have to invest, the degree of risk you’re comfortable with, and your goals for investing in wine. There’s no fixed rule of thumb for deciding how much of a portfolio to invest in alternatives. For some investors, 5% is more than enough while others may be comfortable with 10% or more.

Reviewing the entirety of your portfolio, your time horizon for investing, and your goals can give you a better idea of how much to invest in wine.

Explore Alternative Investments With SoFi

Wine is just one way to diversify a portfolio. If you’re ready to explore alternative investments, SoFi Invest offers access to a range of choices, including commodities, private credit, and real estate. Almost anyone can invest, and high net worth isn’t a requirement.

Ready to expand your portfolio's growth potential? Alternative investments, traditionally available to high-net-worth individuals, are accessible to everyday investors on SoFi's easy-to-use platform. Investments in commodities, real estate, venture capital, and more are now within reach. Alternative investments can be high risk, so it's important to consider your portfolio goals and risk tolerance to determine if they're right for you.

Invest in alts to take your portfolio beyond stocks and bonds.

FAQ

What factors make wine a viable alternative investment?

Wine is considered an alternative investment thanks to its low correlation with traditional asset classes like stocks and bonds. Investing in wine can act as an inflationary hedge and provide some protection against market volatility. It’s also an opportunity to invest in something you’re passionate about if collecting or enjoying wine is one of your hobbies.

What are the potential risks of investing in fine wines?

The main risks associated with wine investing center on changing valuations and the potential for damage or spoilage of physical wine collections. Changing supply and demand or poor weather can influence wine prices while maintaining a wine inventory has its risks. If you plan to own wines, it’s wise to purchase wine insurance to protect your investment.

How can investors build and manage a diversified wine portfolio?

Building a diversified wine portfolio begins with deciding how you’d prefer to own wines. Physical ownership has its pros and cons and some investors may choose to invest in alt funds, wine stocks, or wine futures instead. Managing your wine investments requires regular review of performance and asset allocation to ensure that you’re maintaining a diversified mix that aligns with your risk tolerance.


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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.


An investor should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of the Fund carefully before investing. This and other important information are contained in the Fund’s prospectus. For a current prospectus, please click the Prospectus link on the Fund’s respective page. The prospectus should be read carefully prior to investing.
Alternative investments, including funds that invest in alternative investments, are risky and may not be suitable for all investors. Alternative investments often employ leveraging and other speculative practices that increase an investor's risk of loss to include complete loss of investment, often charge high fees, and can be highly illiquid and volatile. Alternative investments may lack diversification, involve complex tax structures and have delays in reporting important tax information. Registered and unregistered alternative investments are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as mutual funds.
Please note that Interval Funds are illiquid instruments, hence the ability to trade on your timeline may be restricted. Investors should review the fee schedule for Interval Funds via the prospectus.

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.


Investment Risk: Diversification can help reduce some investment risk. It cannot guarantee profit, or fully protect in a down market.

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

Disclaimer: The projections or other information regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results.

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