Questions to Ask Before You Buy Something

Questions You Should Ask Before Making an Impulse Buy

Money can’t buy happiness, it’s true, but knowing how to spend your money on purchases that are truly worthwhile can definitely improve your life. To make sure you’re making the best decisions about what to buy, not just buying on impulse, it can help to ask yourself some questions first.

When you pause to reflect on why you’re about to buy something, not just what you want to buy, it can help you to think clearly about the real value of the item at hand: Is it really worth taking money out of your budget to spend on X, Y, or Z? This will not only help save money it can add to your enjoyment of life, research has found.

So while money itself can’t buy you happiness, knowing how to spend your money the right way for you and your values certainly can.

Making a Purchase While Budgeting

Can you buy yourself things when you’re on a budget. Of course! That’s what a budget is: It’s a plan for spending (and saving) money. Even if you don’t follow a particular budgeting system, you only have so much money to spend once you’ve covered your bills and basic expenses. So you need a balance. By building a monthly budget, you’ll have a basic plan in place for your spending that gives you a framework for how much you have to spend — and how much you don’t.

If you’re new to a budget, you can look at this article on making a budget for beginners. It can help you run some numbers so you get used to knowing how much you have to spend on essentials, and how much is left over for fun.

There are several types of budgeting techniques you can use to make a plan for your money each month. Try them out as an experiment to see which one works best for you.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Something

Knowing a few good questions to ask yourself before you buy something can help you spend according to your values, and cut down on purchases you’ll regret later. After all, the last thing you want is to spend money on things that don’t really enhance your life — and may add to your debt (especially if you’re already paying off some debt).

Is It Okay to Make an Impulse Buy While Budgeting?

Yes. Disciplined spending is an important part of budget management, but if your budget is too restrictive, it may backfire. You need some wiggle room. Some may call it “fun money” or “blow money,” but an important element of your budget can also be setting aside money you can spend with a clear conscience.

When your fun money is planned for, it makes it both gratifying to spend it and less likely than you’ll blow your budget altogether on impulse purchases. Plus, setting aside a small stash of money that’s explicitly earmarked for impulse buys means that you can definitely splurge now and then — without guilt!

Is This a Want or a Need?

This is one of the important questions to ask before buying anything. You’ve probably heard that you need to distinguish between wants and needs when spending. One budget option you can consider is the 50/30/20 rule. Advocates of this rule suggest that 50% of your budget can go toward needs (or essentials), 30% toward wants, and 20% toward savings.

By asking yourself if the item you want to purchase is a want or need, you can plan for it appropriately. Making this distinction is an important step for long-term financial planning.

What Do I Gain From Buying This?

Research shows that when people spend money on things or experiences that mean something to them, that reflect their values, they’re more satisfied. So one of the questions to ask before buying a product is what you’ll gain from it. Some items bring more convenience to your life. Others bring comfort, enjoyment, and others are just plain essential.

If an item won’t bring anything additional or important to your life, do you really need it? When you’re learning how to control your spending habits, focusing on your goals and priorities can be effective.

Is This Something That Will Sell Out?

More often than not, the items that you’re thinking of buying will still be available at a later date. You might feel the urgency to buy from a salesperson, or because the price is so low, or the item seems particularly special.

But often you can postpone purchasing something and either find it again (if you really want it), or you may discover it doesn’t matter. Sometimes, when you wait, the desire for something fades, and you may realize it wasn’t as vital as you thought.

Taking time to weigh a purchase can save you a lot of money, and possibly some regret (and clutter).

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Can I Get It Used or on Sale?

“Never pay full price” is the rallying cry of a certain type of savvy shopper. And there are a couple of ways to accomplish this.

Buy Used

Buying used consumer goods can save you 90% or more. While it doesn’t always make sense to buy used, there are a plethora of goods on the market that are in like-new condition at a fraction of the cost. New-to-you goods in excellent condition can include everything from cars to ski equipment to clothes and accessories.

Take baby gear, for example. For many, baby gear is only needed for a short time before it’s outgrown. This includes changing tables, cribs, strollers, car seats, jumpers, bouncers, feeding supplies, clothing, and more. Buying all of these items brand new will put a hefty dent in your budget. However, these items are widely available at super-low prices. Many people give away used baby gear when their children outgrow it — and it’s often in good shape.

And you’re not limited to second-hand stores and yard sales. These days there are national chains of consignment shops and Good Will stores that maintain higher standards.

Find Discounts

While buying used is not everyone’s cup of tea, buying on sale should be. These days there are websites and apps that can help you do price comparisons to find the best price for items. Some apps may help you find items where the price has just dropped.

Deciding to “never pay full price” isn’t always possible. But if you try to follow that mantra even half the time when you shop, you could end up with better quality goods and spending a lot less for them.

Do I Own Something Similar?

If you take a look at what you already own, you might be surprised to find duplicates of several items. Buying the same or similar items is totally understandable. We all know what makes us comfortable, what we tend to wear or like — so we gravitate to similar-looking placemats, sandals, and so on.

Fortunately, this misstep is easy to prevent. Before you shop, or think you might be in a shopping environment, glance through your closet, your linens, your garage. If you already have several coffee mugs that are similar, or jean jackets, or if you know you have a weakness for PJs or storage baskets — reminding yourself in advance of your blindspots can help you save.

Why Do I Want to Buy This Now?

Sometimes there is a clearcut reason to make a purchase, even an impulse purchase. You might be at a store and remember you need bandaids. Or you might decide to buy a tool to make a repair that’s been on your mind. But if there isn’t a clear reason, it’s time to examine your state of mind.

Are you buying out of boredom or anxiety? Are you being influenced by your friends or what you see on social media? Being aware of why you want to buy something can help you decide whether or not it adds enough value to your life.

How Often Will I Use This, Really?

Something that will get used often may be more valuable in your life than something that is used infrequently. Sometimes, impulse purchases look really cool, but if it’s not something you’re going to use on a regular basis, you may want to re-think buying it.

Will I Regret This in the Future?

Try to picture the item you’re wanting to buy after a few years of use. Is it of good quality and will it hold up? Will it go out of style quickly? Some items are not worth it in the long run, and you don’t want to regret spending money that you can’t get back.

Would It Be Better to Put the Money Elsewhere?

If you can ask yourself this question, then you’ve arrived. You’re wondering about things that are more important than what’s in front of you. You’re considering how to control spending habits, and also what’s really important for you and your family.

You’re on your way to better budgeting!

The Takeaway

Pausing to ask yourself a few questions before buying something you want can help you spend within your budget and, most important, align your values with your spending. Simple questions like: How often will I use this? or What do I get from buying this? are simple ways to refocus on what’s really important to you. After all, time and money are limited. You want to be careful with how you spend, and balance the pleasure of buying things you need or want with equally important concerns: Does this purchase make sense right now or can it wait?

One question should be easy to answer: Do I have the money for this? Everyone deserves a little fun money, so set up an account that helps you save for things you want — without breaking your budget. When you open an online bank account with SoFi, you can enjoy an all-in-one Checking and Savings with no fees, automatic saving features, and when you set up direct deposit you qualify for no-fee overdraft coverage and a competitive interest rate of up to 2.00% APY.

Take a look at SoFi banking options today.

FAQ

How do you determine if you should buy something?

Ask yourself a few pointed questions, including whether you have the money (and whether you could find a better price); what this particular purchase would really add to your life; and whether you could do something better with the money.

Should a budget include flexibility for impulse purchases?

Yes. Some experts would argue that having some type of allowance for impulse purchases can help you stick to your budget. Building in flexibility to your spending plan can help you stick with it.

Is it OK to buy yourself something nice?

Yes, but it will feel better if you’ve budgeted for it ahead and time and pay for it with money you’ve already set aside. Also consider adding a “fun money” category in your budget so you always have a little stash of cash for a spontaneous splurge.


Photo credit: iStock/Talaj

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 2.00% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 1.00% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 2.00% APY is current as of 08/12/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
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Guide to Shared Branch Credit Unions

Guide to Shared Branch Credit Unions

Shared branch credit unions allow members to access banking products and services at other credit union branches that belong to a wider network. Joining a shared branch credit union can make managing your financial accounts more convenient if you live, work, or study in an area where your home credit union doesn’t have branches.

The types of transactions that can be carried out via shared branching are typically the same as those allowed by the home branch. There are, however, a few things you may not be able to do, so here’s a closer look.

Read on to learn:

•   What is shared branch credit union and how does it work?

•   What can members do at a shared branch?

•   What can’t members do a shared branch?

•   Pros and cons of shared branching.

What Is Shared Branching?

Shared branching is the practice of allowing members of one credit union to carry out financial activities at branches of other credit unions that are all located within the same branch network.

Here’s one example: The Co-Op Shared Branch managed by Co-Op Solutions, for example, offers access to more than 5,600 shared branches in the U.S. and over 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs. This shared branching network includes credit unions in all 50 states. This can be very convenient in terms of being able to bank at a variety of locations.

As long as your home credit union, meaning the credit union where you maintain your accounts, is part of a shared branching network, then you can access your accounts at other credit unions within the network. You don’t need to be a member of multiple credit unions to benefit from this sharing system.

Shared branching is a significant departure from traditional banking. If you have checking and savings accounts at Chase Bank, for example, you likely wouldn’t be able to walk into a Bank of America and conduct business.

How Can I Use a Shared Branch?

To use a shared branch credit union, you first have to determine whether your home credit union belongs to a sharing network. Co-Op Solutions, for instance, simplifies this process. It offers a shared branch and ATM locator tool that you can use to find shared credit union branches near you.

Once you find a shared branch, you can visit in-person to manage your accounts. You’ll need to bring a form of photo identification to verify your identity. You may also need to provide your phone number and the last four digits of your Social Security number. And of course, you’ll need the name and account number for your home credit union.

Generally, you can use a shared branch credit union much the same as your home credit union. That means you can use the ATM to make withdrawals or check account balances. If you need to make a deposit or complete other transactions, you can do those through a teller either inside the branch or at the drive-thru.

What Can Members Do at a Shared Branch?

For the most part, shared branch credit unions allow you to carry out the same range of transactions as you would at your home branch. If you’re not sure what a particular shared branch credit union allows, you may be able to find a list of services on the credit union’s website.

Here are some of the most important transactions you can complete via shared branching.

Deposits and Withdrawals

Credit union members can deposit funds to their accounts and make withdrawals through a shared branch credit union. That’s convenient if you need to deposit cash or withdraw money from your accounts. You may also choose to make deposits in-person if you’re concerned about mobile deposit processing times. (And if you’re wondering, “Is mobile deposit safe?”, the answer is yes.)

Transfer Money Between Accounts

Shared branching also allows members to move money between accounts. For example, you may want to shift some of your savings to checking or to a money market account at your credit union.

Can you move money from one bank to another via shared branching? Yes, if you have accounts at more than one credit union. If you need to transfer money from your credit union to a financial institution that’s not part of a shared branch network, then you’ll need to link the external account to schedule an ACH transfer or wire transfer.

If you need to send funds overseas, keep in mind that not all credit unions participate in the SWIFT banking system, which is used to facilitate international wire transfers.

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Make Loan Payments

Credit union members can make payments to auto loans, personal loans, mortgages, and other loans through shared branches. You’ll need the loan number to make your payment. Being able to pay through a shared branch credit union could help you to avoid missed due dates.

What Can Members Not Do at a Shared Branch?

While shared branch credit unions allow for flexibility, there are some things members cannot do. If you belong to a shared branch credit union network, here are some of the things that are typically prohibited.

Open a Bank Account

If you’re visiting a co-op shared branch credit union, you can’t open a new account with your home credit union. Instead, you’d need to go to one of your home credit union’s branches or visit the credit union’s website to open the accounts. Of course, you could ask how to open a business bank account or personal bank account options at the shared branch if you’re interested in being a member of that credit union.

Access Deposited Funds Immediately

Just like banks, credit unions process transactions according to a set schedule. When you deposit money at a shared branch credit union, you can’t expect to be able to withdraw it right away. The deposit hold time or processing time can vary by the credit union. You may be able to expedite processing if the credit union allows it, but you may pay a fee for that.

Withdraw an Unlimited Amount of Money

Shared branch credit unions can impose limits on the amount of money members can withdraw each day. For example, members of the Co-Op Solutions Shared Branch Network limit members to $500 per day in withdrawals when accessing funds at shared branches. That limit may be higher or lower than the limit imposed by your home credit union.

Open an Individual Retirement Account

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) offer a tax-advantaged way to save money for retirement. Credit unions can offer IRAs to savers, though you typically cannot open one through a shared branch. Instead, you’ll need to go to your home credit union to open an IRA either in-person or online.

Benefits of Shared Branching

If you prefer credit unions to traditional banks, then belonging to a shared branch credit union can offer some advantages. Remember, you don’t have to do anything special to enjoy the benefits of shared branching, other than belonging to a credit union that’s part of a sharing network. You don’t have to open multiple bank accounts to have privileges at more locations.

Convenience

Shared branch credit unions make it convenient to access your money wherever you are, as long as there’s a shared branch location nearby. So whether you’re traveling for business, taking a family vacation, or planning a move, you don’t have to worry about leaving your credit union accounts behind.

Flexibility

Doing business at a shared branch credit union allows for flexibility since you can do most of the things you’d be able to do at your home branch. Again, the main things you wouldn’t be able to do include opening new checking or savings accounts, opening an IRA, or applying for a loan. You’d only be able to do those things if you also choose to become a member of the shared branch credit union.

Avoid Fees

How do banks make revenue? By charging fees for the services they provide. Being part of a shared credit union may help you avoid some fees. If you use a shared-branch credit-union ATM network while you’re traveling, you may be able to avoid out-of-network ATM surcharges. While shared branch credit unions may charge fees for certain services, others may be provided free of charge.

Drawbacks of Shared Branching

While shared branching does have some advantages, there are some potential downsides to consider. Here are some of the main cons of using shared branch credit unions.

Availability

Credit unions are not obligated to join a shared branch network. If your home credit union isn’t part of a sharing network, then you’ll be limited to using only that credit union’s branches. That could make managing your accounts more challenging if you regularly travel for business, school, or pleasure.

(However, many people today are used to banking without bricks-and-mortar locations, which is a key difference between online banking versus traditional banking. This availability issue may not be a big concern to some who do their money management online or via an app.)

Withdrawal Limits

As mentioned, credit unions that are part of the Co-Op Solutions network can limit you to cash withdrawals of $500 per day. If you need to withdraw a larger amount in cash, you’d need to find a branch of your credit union to do so, assuming your credit union has a higher daily cash withdrawal limit.

Use Limitations

Shared branch credit unions can be used to do quite a few things but they’re not all-encompassing. There are some transactions that you’ll only be able to do at your credit union’s branch or via the credit union’s website or mobile app.

The Takeaway

Deciding where to keep your money matters. Shared branch credit unions can make banking easier. With shared branches, you don’t have to be limited to a certain geographic area when managing bank accounts in person or via ATM. You can avoid fees by being part of a large network of connected credit unions. While there are some drawbacks, the benefits of convenience and cheaper banking costs can be very appealing to some consumers.

Of course, there’s a lot to be said for online banking and its associated benefits. You can also save money on fees, earn higher interest rates on deposit accounts, and be able to complete many transactions via an app.

SoFi, for example, offers online banking with competitive rates (currently 2.00% APY) and no fees when you sign up with direct deposit. You can access your money fee-free at more than 55,000 Allpoint network ATMs too.

Open an online banking account with SoFi today.

FAQ

Should I join a credit union or a bank branch?

It depends on your needs. Joining a credit union could make sense if you’re looking for lower interest rates on loans and fewer fees, provided you meet the credit union’s requirements to join. If you do choose to join a credit union for those benefits, you can still open an account at a traditional or online bank and enjoy the benefits those offer.

Is it good to be part of a credit union?

Credit union membership can offer certain perks that you may not always get at a bank. For example, credit unions may charge lower interest rates for loans while offering higher interest rates on deposit accounts. You may also be able to get access to discount programs and other special incentives for being a member.

Can I withdraw money from any bank branch?

You can withdraw money from any branch of your bank, either by seeing a teller or using the ATM to access your accounts. However, you wouldn’t be able to walk into a branch of Bank A to withdraw cash from accounts held at Bank B.


Photo credit: iStock/Marco VDM

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 2.00% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 1.00% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 2.00% APY is current as of 08/12/2022. Additional information can be found at http://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 or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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Business Check vs. Personal Check: What's The Difference?

Guide to Business Checks vs Personal Checks

While business checks and personal checks may seem like the same thing, there are actually some important differences. Sure, all checks can be used to pay bills or cover other expenses using funds in a linked checking account. But the main difference between a personal check and a business check is the source of funds. Personal checks are drawn on personal accounts; business checks are drawn on business checking accounts.

Each sort of check has its time and place. To understand how business checks vs. personal checks work in more detail, here you will learn:

•  What is a business check and how does it work

•  What is a personal check and how does it work

•  When to use a business check vs. a personal check

•  The differences between business checks and personal checks.

What Is a Business Check?

A business check is a check that’s written from a business checking account. Banks and credit unions can offer business checking accounts to sole proprietors, limited liability companies (LLCs), and other kinds of businesses that need a safe, secure place to keep their money. Business checks are often one of the features included with these accounts.

Business bank accounts can also offer a debit card for making purchases or cash withdrawals. They typically allow for ACH transfers of funds to pay bills or vendors. But there are some instances where it could make sense — or even be necessary — to use business checks instead. For example, you may need to write or print paper checks to cover payroll for employees.

How Does a Business Check Work?

When someone opens a business bank account, the bank may give them a set of business checks and a checkbook. If you are wondering what a checkbook is, they are simply a small folder or book that contains your checks and a check register, which is where you’ll write down deposits and credits for your account. Check registers can help you balance your checkbook.

To use a business check, you’d simply make the check out to the payee, then fill in the required information. That includes the date and amount of the check, as well as a signature. Business checks typically have a memo line where you can record what the check is being used for.

The payee can then take that business check to their bank to deposit it or cash it. The amount written on the check is then deducted from the business checking account on which the check is drawn. When the check is deposited, it typically takes two days to clear (or for the funds to become available).

What Does a Business Check Look Like?

Business checks look much like personal checks, in terms of the type of information they include. On the front of a business check, you should see the following:

•  Business name and address

•  Check number (in the upper right hand corner)

•  Payee name (where it says Pay to the Order of)

•  Date

•  Dollar amount, in numbers

•  Dollar amount, in words

•  Payer’s signature

•  Memo line

•  The bank’s routing number

•  The account number

•  Bank’s name and address

Business checks may also include room to include the business logo or a watermark.

There may be an attached transaction stub on the left hand side of the check. You can use this stub to record the details of the transaction, including the date the check was written, the amount, and to whom it was paid.

Business checks can be hand-written like personal checks, or they can be filled digitally and printed out.

What Is a Personal Check?

A personal check, on the other hand, is a check that’s drawn against a personal checking account. Most but not all checking accounts offer checks and check-writing; some even offer free starter checks to new customers.

Personal checks are paid using personal funds. So you might write a personal check to repay a friend you borrowed money from, for example, or to pay your rent. Likewise, you could receive a personal check made out to you that you could deposit into your bank account or cash it. In terms of where to cash personal checks without a bank account, the options include check cashing services, supermarkets, and convenience stores.

Personal checks are not the same as other types of checks, including certified checks and traveler’s checks. (If you’re unfamiliar with how to use travelers checks, these are paper certificates that can help you pay for things overseas without having to exchange hard currencies.)

How Do Personal Checks Work?

Personal checks work by allowing individuals to pay bills or make other payments to individuals, businesses, and other organizations. When you open a checking account, the bank may give you paper checks with your name and account number printed on them. You can then use these checks to make payments.
When someone receives a personal check and deposits it in their account, their bank requests the transfer of funds from the bank on which the check was drawn. These transfers are processed electronically. Processing times can vary, though it typically takes a couple of business days for a check to clear.

If someone writes a personal check and doesn’t have sufficient funds in their account to cover it, that check will “bounce”. When a check you write bounces, your bank can cover the amount for you but they can charge overdraft or non-sufficient funds fees for that convenience.

Bounced checks typically don’t show up on consumer credit reports or affect credit scores, though banks may report them to ChexSystems. A consumer credit reporting agency, ChexSystems collects information about closed checking and savings accounts.

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Can I Use a Personal Check for a Business Account?

Personal accounts and business accounts are separate banking products. That being said, you could use personal checks to pay for business expenses. For example, you could write out a personal check to pay a business lease or make payments to a business loan. And you could use funds in a business account to pay for personal expenses.

If you’re using personal checks for a business account or business checks for personal expenses, it’s a good idea to maintain good records of what expenses you’re paying. That can make it easier to add up your deductible business expenses when it’s time to file taxes. Also, if you ever need to review your business or personal account (say, for legal reasons or an audit), it can be hard to remember which funds were used where. This is a good reason to keep the accounts separate or make sure your record-keeping is very thorough.

Using Business Checks vs. Personal Checks

When you need to write a business check vs. personal check can depend on the circumstances. For instance, some of the most common uses for business checks include:

•  Employee payroll

•  Federal and state tax payments

•  Making payments to vendors

•  Paying operating costs, such as rent or utilities

•  Repaying a business loan

•  Making any large purchases that are necessary for the business.

Personal checks can be used to meet a different set of needs. Examples of when you might write a personal check include:

•  Paying utility bills, rent, or the mortgage

•  Buying groceries

•  Repaying personal debts

•  Making payments to loans

•  Covering school-related expenses if you have kids (like lunch money or PTA fundraisers)

•  Paying college tuition

•  Covering doctor bills.

You can also sign over a personal check you receive to someone else. That’s a type of third-party check.

Recommended: How do I sign over a check to someone?

Whether you need business checks or personal checks, it helps to know where to order checks safely. You can get checks online from check-printing companies or order them through your bank.

Differences Between a Business and Personal Check

Whether you’re using business checks or personal checks, one thing is true: They can be a dependable, convenient alternative to using a debit card, credit card, ACH transfer, or wire transfer. But if you’re still wondering how are business checks different from personal checks, here are a few other noteworthy distinctions.

Size of the Check

Personal checks are usually somewhere around 6″ x 2″ x 3″ in size. Business checks, on the other hand, may be larger in size. For example, they may be 8″ x 2″ x 3″ instead. The larger size allows for easier printing and more room for writing out checks by hand.

Security of the Check

Check fraud can threaten a business’s bottom line. For that reason, many check printers include built-in security measures to minimize the chances of a business check being stolen or otherwise used fraudulently. Those measures can include watermarks, thermochromatic ink, fluorescent fibers, chemical sensitivity indicators, and special security on the back of the check. These features all help to verify check authenticity.

How Much Each Check Costs

As mentioned, banks can sometimes offer starter checks for free when you open a new checking account. This benefit may not be included with business checking accounts, which means you’ll need to buy checks yourself. The amount you pay can depend on the type of check, any added features you choose to include, and the number of checks printed. You might pay three cents per check or a quarter or more per personal check, depending on where you order from, the features you want, and how quickly you want them printed and delivered.

Business checks range from about $28 for 600 checks (barely a nickel each) to 20 cents or more per check.

There can be other charges associated with checks. For example, you may also pay separate fees when purchasing cashier’s checks for a business or personal account. Cashier’s checks are drawn against the bank’s account, not yours. In terms of what does a cashier’s check look like, they’re similar in appearance to personal and business checks. However, they’ll typically have the words “Cashier’s Check” printed on the front in an area that’s easily visible.

Check Conversion Protection

Check conversion is a process in which paper checks are converted to electronic ACH debits. Both consumer and business checks can be converted in this way. Converted checks usually clear faster, but it’s possible that you may not want this for checks written from a business account. In that case, you could order business checks that include an optional Auxiliary On-Us field to exclude them from conversion.

Why to Consider Having Separate Checks

Using one bank account for business and personal expenses might seem less stressful, since you’re moving money in and out of the same place. Having a business checking account and a separate personal checking account can offer some advantages, however.

Here are some of the most notable reasons for having a separate checking account for your business:

•  Writing checks with your business name can add credibility to your venture, since it looks more professional.

•  Maintaining separate accounts can make it easier to keep track of business finances and expense reporting for tax purposes.

•  Establishing a business checking account could make it easier to get approved for business loans or lines of credit if you have a good banking history.

You may also prefer to have separate business and personal checking accounts as an added protection against creditor lawsuits. Depending on how your business is structured, money in a personal checking account may be safe from collection efforts if you’re sued by a creditor.

The Takeaway

Business checks and personal checks serve similar functions; they both transfer funds from one account to another. However, they do have some important differences, and knowing when to use a business check vs. personal check can help keep your finances organized.

When you open an online bank account with SoFi, paper checks are included at no charge with our Checking and Savings. If you sign up with direct deposit, you’ll also be rewarded with no fees and a super competitive 2.00% APY, which is 41 times the national checking-account interest rate.

Bank smarter with SoFi.

FAQ

Can you cash a business check?

You can cash a business check if your bank allows it. You’ll need to endorse the check properly and show proof of identification to cash it, the same as you would with any other type of check.

What should be on a business check?

A business check should include the business name and address, the payee’s name, the amount of the check, the date, and the payer’s signature. The check will likely be pre-printed with the bank’s name and address, a routing number and account number, as well as a check number. A business check may also include a memo line to record the purpose of the check.

Do checks need to say LLC?

Checks do not need to say LLC unless your business is structured as an LLC. If your business operates as a sole proprietor, partnership, S corporation, or anything other than an LLC, then you wouldn’t need to include that designation.


Photo credit: iStock/fizkes
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 2.00% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 1.00% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 2.00% APY is current as of 08/12/2022. Additional information can be found at http://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 or products 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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Guide to Micro Savings Accounts

Guide to Micro Savings Accounts

Saving money can be a challenge, especially for those with a lower household income. To help individuals and families with lower incomes save, some financial institutions offer a type of bank account known as a micro saving account. A micro savings account works similarly to a traditional savings account, but it’s designed for consumers who can only make small deposits. It can also be helpful for anyone else who finds that stashing away small amounts suits them. Regardless of your income, if micro saving suits your financial style, it can be a win-win.

Here, you’ll learn:

•   What is a micro savings account?

•   How are micro savings accounts used?

•   The pros and cons of micro savings accounts.

•   Alternatives to a micro savings account.

What Is a Micro Savings Account?

A micro savings account (also sometimes seen written as microsavings account) is a savings account that can help meet the financial needs of consumers with smaller household incomes. It can also suit any saver who likes to tuck away small amounts here and there.

A micro savings account works a bit differently from how a savings account works at most financial institutions. Micro savings accounts typically don’t have a minimum deposit requirement, don’t charge service fees, and are more flexible regarding the possible amount of withdrawals.

Many financial institutions that offer micro savings accounts do so to incentivize consumers to save $1,000 a year by encouraging them to save just $20 a week. They often have educational initiatives in place to help guide micro savings account holders towards meeting this goal.

Benefits of Micro Savings Accounts

The following benefits are typically associated with micro savings accounts:

•   Low-risk savings account that can earn interest

•   Little to no upfront costs

•   No credit checks required for new account holders

•   Additional microfinance services such as microloans may be available for account holders

•   Lower or fewer fees or no fees at all

•   No minimum account balance requirements

•   More flexible withdrawal limits

Disadvantages of Micro Savings Accounts

There aren’t any real disadvantages associated with micro savings accounts. That said, here are a few small downsides worth considering:

•   Savings accounts tend to have a smaller return than other forms of investing (such as a CD vs. a savings account)

•   Micro savings accounts can be harder to find than normal savings accounts

Ready for a Better Banking Experience?

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account and start earning up to 2.00% APY on your cash!


What Are Micro Savings Accounts Used For?

Let’s take a closer look at what micro savings accounts are used for. The reasons why people tend to open them include:

•   Creating a regular savings habit

•   Saving money consistently in smaller amounts

•   Keeping savings separate

•   Managing money through a mobile app

Here’s a closer look.

Creating a Regular Savings Habit

Micro savings accounts can help savers boost their liquid assets at an incremental level while giving them the chance to earn interest on their savings. Financial institutions offer micro savings accounts to help encourage good saving habits. These accounts can help remove barriers to saving for those who can’t afford to put away a lot of money. They can also suit those who like to save a little money here and there.

Saving Money Consistently in Smaller Amounts

One of the ideas that drives micro savings accounts is the concept that consistently saving small amounts of money can add up and make an impact. It may not seem that worthwhile at first glance, but setting aside $10 a week can help make a difference. That sum can begin to build a savings fund that can help consumers meet their financial goals or avoid taking on debt when unexpected expenses arise.

Keeping Savings Separate

Storing money in a checking account makes it a lot harder to ignore when spending temptations arise. By keeping money safely stored in a savings account (where it can grow slowly but surely if not touched) can make it easier to keep it separate from spending money. Maybe you are saving for a vacation or you need a new washer/dryer. Whatever your goal is, when the time comes that you are wondering, “Can I spend money from a savings account?” the funds will be there for the taking.

Managing Money Through a Mobile App

Today, lots of people love the convenience of using apps for P2P transfers and other activities. That ease is available with the many micro savings accounts that can be managed through mobile banking accounts. These can make it simpler to monitor spending and saving.

There are also micro savings apps (like Acorns and Stash) that have automated savings features that make it easier to save small amounts of money.

Alternatives to Micro Savings Accounts

If you don’t find a micro savings account that meets your needs, there are alternative saving options that can offer similar benefits. Here are two options worth considering.

•   Credit unions: Because credit unions are member-owned, unlike not-for-profit financial institutions such as banks, they tend to charge less fees and offer higher interest rates on savings. Applying to a credit union where you can consider opening a checking vs. savings account (or perhaps both) may be able to replace the purpose of a micro savings account.

•   High-yield savings accounts: High-yield savings accounts work the same way that normal savings accounts do but they tend to have a much higher interest rate on deposits. A high-yield savings account is a great way to take advantage of the power of compound interest and help your money grow faster.

   These savings accounts can often be found through online banks. Because these institutions don’t have the overhead of bricks-and-mortar locations, they may be able to afford to offer higher interest rates.

   You don’t have to do anything differently than you would with a normal savings account to earn this extra interest. You can add small deposits as funds become available.

Recommended: A Guide to High-Yield Savings Accounts

The Takeaway

Saving money is hard and requires a lot of discipline. Micro savings accounts are designed to help those with lower incomes or who simply like to save little by little. These accounts typically allow you to make small contributions, charge fewer (or no) fees, and have lower minimum balance requirements. Having the right savings account can make it easier to meet your financial goals. These “slow but steady” savings tools can help you progress on the path to financial wellness.

Another way to save successfully: Open a new bank account with SoFi. When you sign up for Checking and Savings with direct deposit, you’ll earn 2.00% APY on savings, and don’t have to pay any account or overdraft fees. (If you direct-deposit $1,000 or more monthly, you’ll be able to access your paycheck up to two days early.)

Bank smarter with SoFi.

FAQ

How do I create a micro savings account?

Creating a micro savings account works the same as opening any type of savings account. First, you will need to open a bank account or just the savings account by filling out an application and providing the necessary identifying information and documentation. Once you’ve opened the account, you can start making contributions to the micro savings account.

What are the advantages of micro savings?

The main advantages of micro savings accounts are rooted in accessibility: These accounts tend to have no or lower account fees, have smaller or no minimum account balance requirements, and have more flexible withdrawal options. They make it easy to save with small contributions. Many financial institutions that offer micro savings accounts also offer educational initiatives and mobile banking apps that make it easier to learn how to save more money.

Are micro savings apps worth it?

Yes, micro savings apps are worth downloading, as they can make it a lot easier to achieve savings goals. Alongside making it easier to track spending and saving habits, micro savings apps even have automated savings features that make it easier to stash away small amounts of money.


Photo credit: iStock/princessdlaf

SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 2.00% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 1.00% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 2.00% APY is current as of 08/12/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products 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 Are the Differences Between FDIC and NCUA Insurance?

What Are the Differences Between FDIC and NCUA Insurance?

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) are independent federal agencies that insure their customers’ deposits. The FDIC insures deposits at banks up to $250,000; the NCUA offers the same insurance and consumer protection but at credit unions.

Account holders don’t have to apply or qualify for this coverage; it comes with different deposit accounts, assuming the institution is a FDIC or NCUA member. The coverage is meant to cover deposits if the institution were to fail; it doesn’t cover investment products or losses.

While these two entities serve similar purposes for consumers, they operate a little differently, with slightly different benefits for account holders. Before setting up a bank or credit union account, it may help to know how they each operate, and how to maximize your coverage.

What Is the FDIC?

FDIC stands for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation when he signed the Banking Act of 1933 amid the Great Depression.

The main purpose of the FDIC is to “maintain stability and public confidence in the nation’s financial system.” As part of that remit, the FDIC insures consumer deposits and is “backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.”

The FDIC insures $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for every account ownership category. “Account ownership category” refers to single account holders, joint accounts, and other accounts like revocable and irrevocable trusts. (See table below.)

According to the FDIC, a depositor has not lost a single penny of FDIC-insured deposits because of a bank failure.

What Is the NCUA?

NCUA stands for National Credit Union Administration. Though the first credit union opened in the United States in 1909, and there were nearly 10,000 credit unions in the U.S. by 1960, Congress did not create the National Credit Union Administration until 1970.

Like the FDIC, the purpose of the NCUA is to insure deposits made by credit union members and protect those members who own credit unions. (Credit unions are not-for-profit and are owned by the members.)

Also like the FDIC, the NCUA is “backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government,” and insures deposits up to $250,000 per share owner, per insured credit union, for each account ownership category, share accounts, and some IRAs and trusts.

Rivaling the FDIC’s track record, the NCUA states that no member has ever lost a cent from accounts insured through the NCUA.

All federally chartered credit unions are a part of the NCUA while state-chartered credit unions adhere to state-specific regulations. That said, many state-chartered credit unions are also insured by the NCUA.

Recommended: Understanding the Marginal Propensity to Save Theory

FDIC vs. NCUA Insurance: Similarities and Differences

So what’s the difference between the FDIC and NCUA? The biggest difference regarding FDIC vs NCUA is the customers they protect. The FDIC insures deposits for bank customers while the NCUA insures deposits for credit union members. As a customer of a financial institution, you will not likely notice a difference in your day-to-day banking.

In fact, it’s easier to talk about all the ways the FDIC and NCUA are similar. The table below explores these similarities (and minor differences).

FDIC NCUA
Year Created 1933 1970
Applicable Financial Institution Banks Credit Unions
Insurance Amount $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account ownership category $250,000 per share member, per insured credit union, for each account ownership category
What Is Insured Checking accounts
Savings accounts
Money market accounts
Time deposits (like CDs)
Other deposit accounts
Share draft (checking) accounts
Share savings accounts
Money market accounts
Certificate accounts (like CDs)
Other deposit accounts
What Is Not Insured Stocks
Bonds
Mutual funds
Annuities
Treasury securities
Life insurance policies
Safe deposit boxes (or contents)
Stocks
Bonds
Mutual funds
Annuities
Life insurance policies
Safe deposit boxes (or contents)
Ownership Types Single ownership
Joint ownership
Revocable trust account
Irrevocable trust account
Certain retirement accounts (like IRAs)
Employee benefit plan accounts
Corporation/Partnership/Unincorporated Association Accounts
Government Accounts
Single ownership
Joint ownership
Revocable trust account
Irrevocable trust account
Certain retirement accounts (like IRAs, KEOGHs)
Employee benefit plan accounts

What Does NCUA Coverage Protect?

NCUA coverage comes from the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). The following account types are insured via the NCUSIF:

•   Share draft accounts (checking accounts)

•   Share savings accounts

•   Money market deposit accounts

•   Share certificates (like certificates of deposit)

Recommended: The Benefits of a High-Interest Savings Account

What Isn’t Covered by NCUA?

If your credit union carries insurance through the NCUA, you can depend on coverage up to $250,000 for common accounts like a checking or savings account. However, NCUA insurance does not cover:

•   Stocks

•   Bonds

•   Mutual funds

•   Annuities

•   Life insurance

•   Safe deposit boxes (or their contents)

What Does FDIC Coverage Protect?

Insurance through the FDIC covers account types that are comparable to those covered by the NCUA.:

•   Checking accounts

•   Savings accounts

•   Money market deposit accounts

•   Time deposits (like certificates of deposit)

The FDIC also notes that its insurance covers Negotiable Order of Withdrawal (NOW) accounts, cashier’s checks, money orders, and other local items issued by a bank.

Ready for a Better Banking Experience?

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account and start earning up to 2.00% APY on your cash!


What Isn’t Covered by FDIC?

The FDIC has coverage exclusions similar to those of the NCUA. Insurance through the FDIC does not extend to:

•   Stocks

•   Bonds

•   Mutual funds

•   Annuities

•   Treasury securities

•   Life insurance

•   Safe deposit boxes (or their contents)

Treasury securities like bills, bonds, and notes are, however, “backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.”

How to Know if Your Institution Is Insured by the FDIC or NCUA

Because the FDIC and NCUA insure deposits up to $250,000 for standard checking and savings accounts, it’s important to know when selecting a new financial institution that it is insured by one of the two organizations.
So how do you know if a bank is insured by the FDIC? The FDIC provides a few easy options:

•   Call and ask. Calling the FDIC is toll-free. You can reach them at 1-877-275-3342.

•   Search online. The FDIC has a database called “Bank Find” that allows you to search for insured banks.

•   Look for the sign. When you enter a brick-and-mortar (aka physical) bank location, look for official FDIC signage.

•   Search the bank’s website. If you fall on the digital side of the traditional vs. online banking debate, you can scour a bank’s website instead. Usually you can find language like “Member FDIC” in the footer if the bank is insured. In fact, you can try it on this page; you’ll see that SoFi’s Checking and Savings account is FDIC-insured.

Determining whether a credit union is insured by the NCUA is just as easy:

•   Check online. Visit the NCUA’s agency website to search a complete directory of federally insured credit unions.

•   Look for the sign. Similar to the FDIC, the NCUA requires federally insured credit unions to place NCUSIF signage in their advertisements, offices, and branches to indicate insurance coverage.

•   Search the credit union’s website. Credit unions that are federally insured will include NCUA verbiage in the footer of their websites, just like banks do for the FDIC.

Remember, some state credit unions may not be federally insured. A credit union that includes “federal” in its name should automatically be insured by the NCUA. If you aren’t sure about a state credit union’s insurance, you can ask a credit union representative on site or over the phone for more information.

Recommended: Where to Store Short-Term Savings

Are All Banks FDIC Insured?

Nearly all banks are FDIC insured — but not all of them. Any bank that is not insured federally through the FDIC likely carries insurance through its state, so your deposits are typically still safe. However, it is a good idea to thoroughly research a bank and its insurance policies before storing any money in an account at the institution.

Are All Credit Unions NCUA Insured?

Not all credit unions are NCUA insured. All federal credit unions are automatically insured by the NCUA, but state credit unions must opt into NCUA share insurance. Those that don’t are typically insured through the state. As with banks, it is a good practice to understand a credit union’s insurance status and how it can affect your money before opening any account.

How to Maximize FDIC and NCUA Insurance

Both the FDIC and NCUA are very clear on how much they insure — $250,000 — careful to use specific terminology like “per depositor” or “per share owner”; “per insured bank” and “per insured credit union”; and “for each account ownership category.”

Knowing that, there are a few ways you can maximize your insurance coverage:

Open Accounts at Multiple Financial Institutions

You receive $250,000 of insurance coverage at each institution with applicable accounts. That means you could open up accounts at multiple banks and credit unions, spread your wealth across those accounts, and wind up with coverage on much more than $250,000.

Use Account Ownership Categories to Your Advantage

Another way to maximize FDIC and NCUA insurance is to utilize multiple account ownership categories. For example, at one bank, you could have a single ownership certificate of deposit with $200,000 and share a joint savings account holding another $200,000 with a partner. Even though you’d be above the $250,000 threshold, these separate account ownership categories each qualify for the max insurance coverage.

Open Accounts for Various Family Members

You, your spouse, and your children could each open a single ownership savings account at the same bank and each deposit $250,000 in your own account. Because each account has a different depositor, each is protected fully for $250,000.

Consider a Revocable Trust

If you and a partner want to put money together and save it as a potential nest egg for a family member, you can create a revocable trust (a type of trust fund). Then you can name beneficiaries for that money should you and the other account owner die. For each beneficiary, the account is insured for $250,000. If you name three beneficiaries, you can deposit $750,000, and it will all be insured.

Recommended: Where to Store Your Mortgage Down Payment

The Takeaway

The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) and NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) are government agencies that protect consumers’ deposits at banks and credit unions. The two agencies operate similarly and protect the same kinds of accounts up to $250,000. The key difference? The FDIC only insures money at banks while the NCUA only insures credit unions.

As a customer of a financial institution, it’s important to know which, if any, of your accounts are insured. A final caveat: While it is rare, not every bank is insured by the FDIC, and not every credit union is insured by the NCUA.

Looking for a checking or savings account that is insured by the FDIC? Check out the new all-in-one Checking and Savings account, where your deposits are insured up to $250,000 and earn a very competitive rate of 2.00% APY, with direct deposit. Consider opening a bank account with SoFi, getting early access to your paycheck, and receiving up to 15% cash back at local establishments with your Sofi Debit Card — all for no monthly fees.

Open an FDIC-insured bank account with SoFi today.

FAQ

What does the NCUA not cover?

The National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, which operates under the NCUA, does not cover stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, life insurance policies, or safe deposit boxes and their contents.

How are the FDIC and NCUA similar?

Both the FDIC and NCUA are government agencies created by Congress to insure consumers’ deposits, including savings accounts, checking accounts, and CDs, up to $250,000 per person, per financial institution, and for each account ownership category. The main difference between FDIC and NCUA is that the FDIC insures banks and the NCUA insures credit unions.

Why are credit unions not FDIC insured?

Credit unions are not FDIC-insured because the FDIC insures banks. Federal credit unions (and many state credit unions) are instead insured by the NCUA.

How much of your money is protected by FDIC or NCUA?

The FDIC insures $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each category of ownership. In theory, you could have more than $250,000 across different account types at different banks, and it would all be insured by the FDIC.

The same is true of the NCUA. The NCUA insures $250,000 per share owner, per insured credit union, for each category of ownership.


Photo credit: iStock/Talaj

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 2.00% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 1.00% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 2.00% APY is current as of 08/12/2022. Additional information can be found at http://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.
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