Secured vs. Unsecured Personal Loans — What’s the Difference?

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

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

What Is a Secured Personal Loan?

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

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

Enter the secured personal loan.

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

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

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

Pros of Secured Personal Loans

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

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

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

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

Cons of Secured Personal Loans

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

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

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

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

What Is an Unsecured Personal Loan?

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

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

Pros of Unsecured Personal Loans

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

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

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

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

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

Cons of Unsecured Personal Loans

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing Between Secured and Unsecured Personal Loan

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

Do You Have Collateral?

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

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

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

What Are You Planning To Use the Funds For?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Qualifying For a Personal Loan

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

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

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

Reviewing Your Credit Report

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

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

Personal information includes:

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

•   Addresses, current and previous.

•   Birthdate.

•   Social Security number.

•   Employer.

Lenders typically report:

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

•   Your record of on-time payments.

•   Any missed payments.

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

Find a SoFi Personal Loan to fit your financial needs


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

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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How Refinancing Credit Card Debt Works

The pandemic may have slowed consumer spending over the last few years, but spending is on the rise again — along with consumer debt. Americans carry, on average, three credit cards and have $5,525 in credit card debt. Overall, U.S. credit card debt is $71 billion higher than it was one year ago.

That amount of debt can be a challenge to pay down along with regular monthly household expenses. Some people may choose to refinance their high-interest credit card debt in an effort to secure a lower interest rate or a lower monthly payment. Refinancing credit card debt can be one way to make progress toward eliminating it completely.

What Is Credit Card Debt?

If you’re putting more purchases on credit cards than you can pay off in a monthly billing cycle, you have credit card debt.

Interest will accrue on the balance that carries over to the next billing cycle. If you don’t pay at least the minimum amount due, you’ll likely also be charged a late fee. Since credit cards use compound interest, you’ll be charged interest on accrued interest and fees. That can add up quickly and make it more difficult to get out of debt.

Carrying a balance on more than one credit card can make the debt even more difficult to manage. If your goal is to be free of credit card debt, refinancing can be one way to achieve that.

What Are Some Benefits of Refinancing Credit Card Debt?

Credit cards are revolving debt and typically have variable annual percentage rates (APRs).

Refinancing credit card debt with an installment loan that has a fixed interest rate, such as a personal loan, will mean you’ll have a fixed end date to your debt and will have the same APR for the entire term of the loan.

If you’re refinancing multiple credit card balances into one new loan or line of credit, you’ll have fewer bills to pay each month. That could potentially make monthly budgeting a simpler task.

Consolidate your credit card
debt with a personal loan from SoFi.


How Might Debt Refinancing Affect Your Credit Score?

Something to keep in mind when your goal is to pay down debt is that it’s a long game.

That being said, in the short term your credit score can decrease slightly when you apply for new credit and the lender looks at your credit report. During the formal application process, the lender will perform a hard inquiry into your credit report, which may result in a slight temporary drop of your credit score.

If you’re comparing multiple lenders, and they offer prequalification, they’ll do a soft inquiry into your credit report, which won’t affect your credit score.

Building your credit — or rebuilding it — through refinancing credit card debt can be possible if you make on-time, regular payments on the new loan. Reducing your credit utilization can be another positive result of refinancing credit card debt. Both of these can potentially increase your credit score.

It’s important not to overuse the credit cards you refinanced into a new loan, however, or you might accumulate even more debt than you started with.

Will Canceling My Unused Credit Cards Affect my Credit Score?

After you’ve refinanced your existing credit card debt into a new loan, you might be tempted to cancel those credit cards. But that strategy could negatively affect your credit score.

Whether it’s a good idea to cancel a credit card really depends on the card. If you’ve had the credit card for a long time, closing it would shorten your credit history, which could result in a credit score drop. But if it’s a card you genuinely don’t have a reason to keep, such as a retail card for a store you no longer shop at or a card that has a high annual fee that can’t be justified with your current spending habits, closing the account might be the right step for you.

If you plan to keep a credit card open, it may be a good idea to use it for a small, recurring charge so the card issuer doesn’t close it for inactivity. Setting up autopay can make this a convenient way to ensure the card stays open but is paid in full each month.

What Are Some Options for Refinancing Credit Card Debt?

Your overall creditworthiness will be a determining factor in finding available refinancing options. Lenders will look at your credit report and credit score, paying attention to how you’ve handled credit in the past and how much total debt you have in relation to your income.

Balance Transfer Credit Card

If you can qualify for a low- or no-interest credit card, you could use it to transfer a balance from another credit card. You’ll typically be charged a balance transfer fee equal to a percentage of the balance you’re transferring. The promotional rate on these types of cards is temporary, sometimes lasting up to 18 months or so, but can be as short as 6 months.

If you pay the transferred balance in full within the promotional period, you may not pay any interest at all, or a minimal amount. However, if you still have an outstanding balance on the card when the promotional period is over, the APR will revert to the card’s standard rate for balance transfers.

Home Equity Loan

A potential source of refinancing funds might be your home, if you have equity in it. Funds from a home equity loan can be used for just about anything, even things unrelated to your home. You can calculate how much equity you have in your home by subtracting the amount you owe on your mortgage from the current market value of your home.

In addition to the amount of equity you have in your home, lenders will typically also look at your income and your credit history to determine how much you might qualify for. It’s common for lenders to limit a home equity loan to no more than 80% to 85% of the equity you have in your home. There are typically closing costs with a home equity loan including appraisal fee, title search, origination fee, or other fees, and can be between 2% and 5% of the loan amount.

A home equity loan is a second mortgage secured by your home. If you fail to repay the loan, the lender can foreclose on your home.

Debt Consolidation Loan

Some lenders offer loans specifically for debt consolidation. These are actually personal loans, the funds from which can be used to pay off your existing credit card debt. Then, you’ll be responsible for repaying the debt consolidation loan. There may be fees charged on this type of loan, so be sure to look over the loan agreement carefully before signing it.

For a credit card consolidation loan to be as effective as possible at reducing your debt, it will ideally have a lower APR than you’re paying on your credit cards. In this way, you would be paying less in interest over the life of the loan. If a lower monthly payment is your goal, you may opt for a longer-term loan, but may pay a higher interest rate.

The Takeaway

Have you resumed pre-pandemic spending habits? If your credit card debt is piling up and you’re finding it challenging to pay it down, you may be considering refinancing. Some credit card refinancing options include balance transfer credit cards with a promotional APR, a home equity loan, or a debt consolidation loan.

A SoFi Personal Loan for debt consolidation may be one option to consider. Personal loans offered by SoFi have competitive, low fixed rates and no fees. You can see the rate you qualify for in just one minute without affecting your credit score.*

View your rate on a SoFi Personal Loan


*Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

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Margin Trading: What It Is and How It Works

Investing can seem like a foreign language sometimes. There are myriad acronyms and much lingo to learn, even if you’ve been at it a while.

There are IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, stocks, bonds, common stock, preferred stock, index funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), real estate investment trusts (REITs), and a lot more. And that does not even touch all the ways you can invest, like selling short and fractional sales; or the various order types like limit orders, stop orders, and stop-limit orders.

Then there’s margin trading, which can be confusing because it comes with a lot of rules — and a lot of specialized words and lingo. Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe the term is wholly new, or maybe you’re thinking about getting into margin trading yourself.

What is margin, actually? How is it different from the way you might be buying stocks, ETFs, index funds, and other investments now? What are the potential benefits? What might some be of the risks associated with margin trading? And how do you get started?

Margin trading might seem a more complicated than some other ways to invest in the stock market, but it’s a method that many investors favor — especially by experienced investors.

What Is Margin Trading?

Margin trading is an advanced investment strategy in which you trade securities using money that you’ve borrowed from your broker to magnify your return. Margin is essentially a loan where you can borrow up to 50% of your security purchase, and as with most loans, a margin loan comes with an interest rate and collateral.

Trading on margin is similar to “buying on credit.” Using margin for a trade is also known as leveraging.

The margin interest rate depends on how much you borrow and your relationship with the broker. Cash and stock are popular forms of collateral typically used by margin traders and are based on the account’s size and type of security being traded. Traders must also maintain a margin balance, known as the maintenance margin, in their accounts to cover potential losses. We cover the topics of interest, maintenance margin, and other details in the section, “How Does Trading on Margin Work?”

Margin trading is a bit more complicated (and risky) than some other ways to invest in the stock market, but it’s a method that numerous traders favor — especially the more experienced ones.

Below, we dive into how using margin is different from other ways of investing. We explore the potential advantages and risks of margin trading, along with the regulations and other ins and outs of margin trading. And, if you feel ready to use this technique, we discuss how to get started.

How Does Trading on Margin Work?

There are different ways to buy stocks, funds, bonds, and other securities. You might buy one share of a company at its full price. You might buy a fractional share, which means you purchase a portion of a share of stock, not the entire share. Or, you might put $10 a week into an ETF that’s comprised of stocks from a particular industry or sector that you like.

Margin trading is a little different from these approaches. Trades are made using some of your money and someone else’s, usually a brokerage firm’s. Here’s how it works.

•   As the investor, you take out a loan from your broker on an investment that you hope will rise in value, with the aim of seeing a return. When you sell the investment, you return the borrowed funds to the broker, and you keep the profits. Or, you may short stocks on margin, in which case you hope that the value declines,

•   For example, say you wanted to buy $5,000 worth of stock in an asset that you believe has had a big year in revenue. You could use $2,500 of your own money. The brokerage firm might lend you $2,500 to make up the difference; so the total investment would be $5,000 for an initial cost to you of only $2,500.

•   To execute such a trade, you’d need to open a margin account with a brokerage firm. The broker, as well as FINRA, generally require a minimum deposit to open a margin account, and the account balance acts as collateral against the loan.

•   In addition, the loan typically includes interest. The person borrowing the money for the margin trade is responsible for the amount owed plus interest. If the stock drops in value, the investor would still be responsible for the $2,500 plus any interest on the loaned amount.

•   On the flip side, if the stock goes up instead of down, and you used a margin account, then your purchasing power and potential could increase.

You can also use a margin account for shorting stock. This means that you sell a security you do not own. An investor can borrow a security, then sell it; then buy it back later for less money. A short-seller is betting on, and profiting from, a drop in a security’s price.

Margin exposes the investor to potentially greater gains or losses and is a riskier way to invest than not using margin.

The Language of Trading on Margin

As we said above, margin trading is slightly different from some other ways to invest; such that, it’s developed its own set of related terms. Before you embark upon margin trading, it might help to familiarize yourself with some of them.

Margin Account

This is the type of brokerage account you’ll need to begin trading on margin. It means the brokerage firm will lend funds for stock purchases.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is a nonprofit agency organized by Congress. This organization oversees margin trading by writing and enforcing rules that govern the industry, ensuring brokerage firms’ compliance with those rules, and educating investors. FINRA’s goal is to help protect investors and regulate brokerages to ensure that they’re working in the best interests of American investors.

Minimum Margin

FINRA rules set a dollar amount that must be deposited based on the kind of margin trading to be executed. The amount may vary depending on the purchase amount of the investment and brokerage firm policies. And, it’s possible that brokerages might set higher minimums than FINRA does.

Initial Margin

The initial margin for new accounts is set at 50% by Regulation T of the Federal Reserve Board . Under FINRA rules, this amount must be $2,000 or 100% of the purchase price of the margin securities, whichever is less. This means that a $10,000 trade, for example, would require an initial margin of $5,000. Some brokerages might even ask for more than 50% as part of the initial margin. Keep in mind that this is FINRA’s rule; some brokerages may require a higher minimum margin.

Maintenance Margin

The maintenance margin specifies the amount of money that investors are required to keep in their margin accounts. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), “FINRA rules require this ‘maintenance requirement’ to be at least 25 percent of the total market value of the securities purchased on margin (that is, ‘margin securities’).” This might mean investors might need to add cash to their margin accounts if the price of their investment drops significantly. For short sales, the minimum requirement is $2,000.

Margin Call

A margin call happens when the value of an investor’s margin account dips below the brokerage’s maintenance margin. The “call” is a request for the investor to meet the maintenance margin and usually happens when a security the investor purchased decreases in value. If you get a margin call, you may bring the account up to the minimum amount by depositing more funds, or assets, into the account, or selling off some securities in the account.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with margin trading lingo and some basic stock market terms, it might be helpful to understand some potential benefits and risks of margin trading.

Potential Benefits of Margin Trading

•   Potential to enhance purchasing power. A primary benefit of margin trading is the potential expansion of an investor’s purchasing power, sometimes exponentially. This could possibly help boost returns if the price of the stock or other investment purchased with a margin trade goes up.

•   Possible lower interest rates. Benefits of margin loans might include lower interest rates — than other types of loans, such as personal loans — and the lack of a set repayment schedule. Margin loans are meant to be used for investing and generally should not be used for other purposes, although they can be.

•   Diversification. You could also use margin trading to diversify your portfolio.

•   Selling short. Another potential advantage might be a complicated trading method called short selling. Margin trading might make it possible for you to sell stocks short. Short selling differs from most other investment strategies in that investors make a bet that a stock’s price will fall.

•   The rules for short selling with a margin account can get even more complicated than a traditional margin trade. For instance, Regulation T of the Federal Reserve Board requires margin accounts to have 150% of the value of the short sale when the trade is initiated.

While the benefits of being able to buy more investments — and potentially make more money — might seem appealing to some investors, there are also some potential risks to using margin. It might be worth considering these before you decide if trading on margin is right for you.

Potential Risks of Margin Trading

•   Possible loss beyond initial investment. While a primary benefit of margin trading may be increased buying power, investors could lose more money than they initially invested. Unlike a cash account, the traditional way to buy stocks or other investments, losses in a margin account can actually extend beyond the initial investment.

   For example, if an investor purchases $20,000 worth of stock with a cash account, the most they can lose is $20,000. If that same investor uses $10,000 of their own money and a margin — essentially a loan — of $10,000 and the stock loses value, they may actually end up owing more money than their initial $10,000.

•   Possibility of margin call. Another potential negative aspect of margin trading is getting a margin call. Investors might need to put additional funds into their account on short notice if a margin call is triggered because the investment lost value. Moreover, a drop in value might mean an investor needs to sell off some or all of the investment, even at an inopportune time.

•   The SEC warns investors that they must sell some of their stock, or deposit more funds to cover a margin call. If you get a margin call, it is your responsibility to deposit more funds, add securities or sell holdings in your account. If you don’t meet the margin call after a number of warnings from your broker, then the broker has the right to sell all or some of the current positions to bring the account back up to minimum value.

How to Get Started With Margin Trading

Typically, the first step to getting started with margin trading is to open a margin account with a brokerage firm.

Even if you already have a stock or investment account, which are cash accounts, you still need to open a margin account because they are regulated differently. First-time margin investors need to deposit at least $2,000 per FINRA rules . If you’re looking to day trade, this dollar figure goes up to $25,000 according to FINRA rules. This is the minimum margin when opening a margin trading account.

FINRA defines a day trade as “the purchase and sale, or the sale and purchase, of the same security on the same day in a margin account.” These higher dollar amounts could be associated with what some have called the “greater risk of day trading.”

Once the margin account has been opened and the minimum margin amount supplied, the SEC advises investors to read the terms of their account to understand how it will work.

The SEC advises investors to protect themselves by

•   Understanding that your broker charges you interest for borrowing money,

•   Knowing how the interest will affect the total return on your investments,

•   Recognizing that not all securities can be purchased on margin,

•   Comprehending the details about how a margin account works, and

•   Being aware of possible outcomes should the price of assets purchased on margin decline.

Does Margin Trading Work for Your Goals?

That’s the question most investors will probably need to answer for themselves once they’ve learned the lingo, weighed the pros and cons, and figured out how margin trading works.

As with most investing strategies and vehicles, margin trading comes with a unique set of potential benefits, risks, and rewards.

Margin trading can seem a little more complicated than some other approaches to investing. As the investor, it is up to you to decide if the potential risks are worth the potential rewards, and if this strategy aligns with your goals for the future.

Want to explore what investing options might work with your goals? Check out automated or active investing with the SoFi Invest investment app today.

See how SoFi margin trading may work for you.

FAQ

What is a margin call?

A margin call occurs when the investor does not keep the minimum amount in their margin account. If the account balance falls below the minimum amount, the broker typically will ask the account owner to deposit more funds, or assets, in the account to meet the minimum requirement.

What is a margin rate?

A margin rate is the interest rate that applies when an investor trade on margin. Margin rates can vary from broker to broker. Many brokerages use a tiered rate schedule based on the amount of the margin loan.

How popular is margin trading?

Margin trading as an investment strategy is not particularly popular; but neither is it unpopular. It’s just risky. Because of the potential risks involved, professional traders tend to use it more than individual investors. And it is generally not recommended for beginners.

What happens if you don’t have the money to meet a margin call?

If you get a margin call, it is your responsibility to deposit more funds into your account. If you don’t meet the margin call after a number of warnings from your broker, then the broker has the right to sell all or some of the current positions to bring the account back up to minimum value.


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

Cash Management Accounts (CMAs) vs Brokerage Accounts: How They Compare

Investors need a brokerage account to buy and sell securities, but they can also take advantage of a cash management account (CMA), which is offered by a brokerage firm. It can be easy to confuse the two types of accounts, even though they are quite different.

To provide some clarity about the difference between a brokerage account vs cash management, this article will examine some of the pros and cons of each. Let’s start with some definitions.

What Is a Cash Management Account?

Cash management accounts can offer similar features as the traditional checking or savings accounts that banks offer. CMAs allow you to deposit money and earn a set interest rate. Most provide access to your money via debit cards, in addition to checks.

What Is a Brokerage Account?

Brokerage accounts allow customers to deposit money which can then be used to buy and sell investments such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and other securities.

There are three main types of brokerage accounts.

•   A full-service brokerage firm usually provides a range of financial services including financial advice and automated investing.

•   A discount brokerage offers lower fees in exchange for fewer financial planning services.

•   Online brokerages allow you to trade via the internet and often charge the lowest fees.

Recommended: How Does a Brokerage Account Work?

Similarities Between a Cash Management Account and Brokerage Account

Although brokerage and CMA accounts work in different ways, there are some similarities.

Both Offered by Brokerages

Both types of accounts are offered by brokerage firms. When you open a brokerage account and link it to a CMA at the same firm, it can provide a convenient way for customers to transfer assets from one account to another when they buy and sell securities.

The Potential to Earn Returns

When considering a brokerage account vs a cash management, remember that they both offer customers the potential to earn money on deposits or investments.

In a self-directed brokerage account you have the potential to earn returns from your investments, although you also face the risk of loss that likewise comes with investing in stocks, bonds, and other securities.

A cash management account is generally a safer place to keep your money. The risk of losing money is lower than putting your money into securities, and you’ll earn interest on your deposits. But those rates are generally lower than the gains you might see from other investments.

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The Brokerage Account vs Cash Management: What Are the Differences?

Cash management accounts and brokerage accounts work in different ways. CMAs mirror traditional savings and checking accounts and brokerage accounts are strictly for investments. Here are the details:

Earnings Come From Different Places

In a brokerage account, potential earnings come from the gains you might see when investing in stocks, bonds, and other investments. Investing in securities also comes with the risk of losses.

Earnings in cash management accounts come from the interest rate paid on your balance. Usually, these rates are similar to the rates paid in traditional savings accounts.

CMAs also act like traditional checking accounts because you can use checks or a debit card for purchases. But traditional checking accounts don’t usually pay interest, or if they do the rate is often lower than a CMA.

Earnings on Brokerage Accounts Are Potentially Higher Over Time

Over time, the average return of the stock market has substantially outperformed what you can earn from interest in a savings account. With those potential earnings comes market risk, meaning you may experience losses too, especially in the short-term.

To manage a brokerage account or work with a broker, you need to take into account your tolerance for market risk and what combination of stocks and bonds is right for your financial goals.

Insurance Is Provided by Different Sources

When you open a new bank account, up to $250,000 of your cash deposits are covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Most brokerage accounts, however, are insured by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) in the event of theft, fraud, or if the broker fails. The SIPC offers up to $500,000 of coverage total, per person, if such a loss were to occur. The SIPC does not cover investment losses.

Cash management accounts have so-called sweep accounts, which are insured by the FDIC. Here’s how it works: CMAs sweep funds into a variety of FDIC-insured banks. If you make a $200,000 deposit, for example, your money may be split into four $50,000 deposits in four different bank accounts. (The CMA provider manages this process — you only see your total CMA balance.)

Before your money is moved into the different accounts, your deposit is protected by SIPC insurance if the brokerage is an SIPC member.

What Money in These Accounts Can Be Used for

Because CMA accounts have checking and/or debit cards, you can use that money for purchases or bill paying or ATM withdrawals.

Money kept in a brokerage account is strictly used for trading securities. But by linking a CMA to your brokerage account, you can easily transfer cash from one to the other, for investing purposes.

The Takeaway

When considering a brokerage account vs cash management, it helps to know what makes these accounts different, and how they can work together. While a brokerage account is for trading securities, and comes with the risks associated with investing in securities, a cash management account (CMA) is similar to a traditional checking or savings account. There’s almost no risk of losing money, and your deposits can earn interest. Because both are offered at brokerage firms, you can have both, and use your cash management account as a place to keep funds you don’t wish to invest.

To determine which account is right for you or if you should have both, it’s best to look closely at your financial goals and determine what type of returns and account features suit your aims.
SoFi Checking and Savings is an all-in-one account that blends the features of checking and savings accounts. With the special “vaults” feature you can separate your savings from your spending, earn competitive interest on your total balance (account holders with direct deposit can earn 1.25% APY), and you won’t pay account fees or monthly fees.

Create a SoFi Banking account today and bank better.

FAQ

Are brokerage accounts and cash management accounts the same?

No. Brokerage accounts are used to buy and sell securities. Cash management accounts act more like traditional bank savings and checking accounts, but are provided by brokerage and other non-bank financial institutions. Sometimes the accounts may be linked. But the accounts earn money from different sources.

Can you keep cash in a brokerage account?

No. You can use cash deposits in your brokerage account only to purchase securities. A cash management account, on the other hand, is similar to a traditional savings or checking account, so cash balances are welcome (and earn interest).

Do cash management accounts and brokerage accounts work together?

In most cases, yes. If you have a CMA and a brokerage account at the same brokerage firm and the accounts are linked, you can use your CMA to move cash into your brokerage account in order to execute trades. You can also transfer the money from sales of securities into your CMA for safekeeping. The combination gives you the ability to purchase stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other securities, but also offers the flexibility, liquidity and interest earnings of traditional bank accounts.


Photo credit: iStock/Aja Koska

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 1.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 0.70% APY on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 1.25% APY is current as of 4/5/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
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.
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.
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Tips for Voiding a Check

Tips for Voiding a Check

If you’re asked to void a check, your response might be “Huh?” Checks are being used less often these days, what with the advent of online banking and shopping. Back in the olden days of pre-internet life, people widely used checks for everything from buying groceries to paying utility bills. But now, an increasing number of people are conducting transactions by card, autopay, or P2P platforms.

Although checks are becoming less common, there are still times when you may need a voided one. But how do you void a check?

Voiding a check is simple. All it takes is to write “VOID” on the face of a blank one with a permanent pen. However, there are some subtleties to the process that it’s wise to understand. Here, you will learn:

•   How to void a check

•   Reasons for voiding a check

•   How voided vs. canceled checks compare

•   What to do if you don’t have checks.

How Do You Manually Void a Check?

To manually void a check, all you need is a blank check and a pen. Sure, your personal checkbook may seem like an ancient relic from a bygone era, but there are circumstances when life may request that you open it to void a check.

If you’ve never done it before, here’s how to write a void check:

•   Take a blank check from your checkbook.

•   Grab a blue or black pen or marker.

•   Write “VOID” across the face of the check. Do not cover the account numbers at the bottom.

•   Note the check number, recipient, and date in your checkbook so you don’t get confused by a skipped check when you go to balance your funds.

•   You could also write “VOID” in the payee line, amount line, amount box, or the signature line. That’s all there is to writing a void check; you’re done.

Reasons for Voiding a Check

There are several reasons why you might need to make a void check. Blank checks in the wrong hands can be financially dangerous. Writing “VOID” across your check renders it useless. A thief will not be able to use it to take money out of your account.

But there are practical uses for voiding a check that go beyond protecting your money, including setting up direct payments or deposits, and automatic bill payments. Here’s a closer look at how voided checks work.

Setting Up Direct Payments

If you or your business needs the ability to pay your vendors electronically, providing a voided blank check may be part of the process in the steps to set that up. The voided check provides your bank’s routing and your account number, which are needed to get ACH funds flowing.

Direct Deposits

Direct deposits have become the preferred way for employees to quickly get their hard-earned dollars into their checking accounts. Your employer may ask for a voided check along with the paperwork in order to get you enrolled. Again, this voided check allows for the capture of your account details.

Recommended: How to Verify a Check

Regular/Automatic Bill Payments

You can set up monthly autopay payments with utility companies, student loan entities, landlords, and others by providing a voided check. The amount owed will automatically be withdrawn on a set date.

Any Mistakes Made When Writing a Check

If you accidentally write the wrong amount, or make an error in the recipient’s name, you’ll want to void the check and write a new one. Doing so will prevent a person or business from cashing the check.

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Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account and start earning 1.25% APY on your cash!


Voided vs Canceled Check

You may wonder what the difference between a voided and a canceled check is. When you make a void check, you are canceling a physical check you have in your possession. After all, you can’t write “VOID” on a check you don’t have. If you’ve lost a check (especially a blank one) or have sent out a check in error, that’s a different situation. You can contact your bank about stopping payment on the check.

Worth noting, as it can complicate matters a bit: When banks and credit unions talk about canceled checks, however, they are likely referring to ones that have already been used to transfer funds. The work of these checks is done, so to speak, so they are considered canceled.

The differences between a voided check and a canceled check (in both senses) are:

•   You can void a check yourself. To cancel a check, however, a bank or credit union has already been involved.

•   Voiding is quick and free. If you seek to cancel a check by stopping payment, it will involve time (to speak to your bank), and there may be a fee charged to stop payment.

•   To void a check, all you need is a pen to write the word “VOID.” Typically, banks cancel checks after processing them. If you want to execute a stop payment so a bank doesn’t pay a check, you’ll need your check number, account number, the date you filled it out, and the exact amount of the check.

•   When you void a check, you can forget about anyone ever using it. When a check is canceled by a bank, it is no longer valid; it has been paid and no longer has value. However, if you issue a stop payment on a pending check, you may want to keep an eye on your account to make sure no funds were withdrawn as the stop was being initiated.

Recommended: How Travelers Checks Work

What if You Don’t Have Checks?

This discussion about voiding checks may not do you a lot of good if you don’t have any checks. Obviously, the first step to getting a checkbook is to open a new bank account. Many banks will give you pre-printed “starter checks” to use until your personalized ones arrive.

If you already have a checking account but no checks, you can contact your bank or credit union about ordering checks. They can usually be ordered online, via a mobile app, over the phone, or in person.

If you can’t provide a voided check, there are plenty of other ways to set up direct deposits, automatic bill payments, and perform other financial transactions.

Using Deposit Slips

A deposit slip is a check-sized form you can fill out whenever you need to deposit money into your checking or savings account. They are usually found at the back of your checkbook or at a bank.

Since a deposit slip in your checkbook will have your name and account information, you may be able to use the pre-printed slip to authorize auto-pay or direct deposits.

Electronic Images of Checks

In place of an original check, you could print out an image of your check if you have one, void it, and use that instead. When you sign up for checks online, some banking entities can provide an image of your check with your account information.

Submitting Bank Details Online

In this day and age, you usually don’t need a voided check to sign up for automated payments and direct deposits. Most companies offer the option to register for these services online by typing in your checking account and bank routing number.

Asking the Bank for Counter Checks

If you don’t have checks and need one, you can ask your bank for what’s known as a counter check. This is not unlike the temporary “starter checks” you receive when you first open a checking and savings account. You can get a counter check from a teller behind the counter at the bank (thus the name). The counter check will have the bank’s routing number, and either you or the teller will fill in your account information.

Getting Documentation from the Bank

If you can’t get a hold of a check to void, an electronic check image, or a pre-printed deposit slip, a last resort solution could be getting proof of your account from a bank. This should be a letter written on a bank’s letterhead, verifying your routing number, account number, and account type.

The Takeaway

In the world of financial transactions, checks may be used less and less these days. But they still have their time and place, and sometimes you need a voided check. It can help you sign up for speedy modern services like autopay and direct deposit. Knowing how to void a check is a good skill to have, and it’s part of becoming a savvy financial customer.

At SoFi, we are all about helping you bank smarter. Open our Checking and Savings with direct deposit, and you’ll receive free paper checks. Plus, your money will grow faster with our top-notch 1.25% APY and no account fees.

Get your checks and other SoFi account perks today.

FAQ

How do I void a blank check?

To void a blank check, take a blue or black pen or marker and write “VOID” across the face of the check. You could also write “VOID” in the payee line, amount line, amount box, or the signature line.

How do I void a check for direct deposit?

You void a check for direct deposit by writing “VOID” across the face of the check with a blue or black pen or marker. Or you could fill that in on the payee line, amount line, amount box, or the signature line.

How do I void a check I’ve already sent?

You can’t void a check you have already sent. You’ll have to cancel the check. To do this, first make sure the check hasn’t cleared yet. Then, make sure you have your account number, check number, dollar amount, and date you wrote on the check. Contact your bank or credit union to stop payment. This action may require a fee.


SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 1.25% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Members without direct deposit will earn 0.70% APY on all account balances in their Checking and Savings accounts (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. Rate of 1.25% APY is current as of 4/5/2022. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
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.

Photo credit: iStock/AsiaVision
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