Does Couponing Save You Money?

Nearly 90% of consumers in the U.S. report that they have used coupons. That’s a lot of ketchup, laundry detergent, hotel rooms, and other stuff grabbed at a discount.

Most of us love getting something for nothing (or for less), and couponing can deliver just that. Using coupons can help you stick to your budget. If you get a favorite brand of cereal or pet food at a discount, it can help stretch your weekly supermarket budget — provided you were going to buy those things anyway.

But if coupons entice you to buy things you don’t want or need, they can do damage to your budget. For instance, is a $1 Chips Ahoy! coupon a smart move if you must buy three packages to use it and you already have cookies at home? In this case, it might be wise to take a step back.

Here, you’ll learn the ropes of smart couponing, including:

•   Different types of coupons

•   Why people coupon

•   The benefits of couponing and the drawbacks

•   Whether coupons are worth it and will ultimately save you money.

What Is Couponing?

Couponing means redeeming discounts on goods and services, which can seem like an easy way to save money. Coupons are created by businesses and retailers as a customer acquisition tool (that is, they encourage people to try a product for the first time) or they could be a customer loyalty device (a way of rewarding steady consumers with a discount).

Coupons take several forms, including:

•   The old-fashioned way; paper coupons clipped from newspapers, store ads, and mailers

•   The instant way, via apps for discount codes on everything from dinner out to Target finds (20% off dresses, anyone?).

Coupons tug at a person’s budget-wise motivation to save money. But read on to learn if coupons are worth your time and energy.

How Does Couponing Work?

Merchants want you to shop for their brands, so they dangle discounts. When these arrive in the mail or email, on a cash-register receipt, or in a print publication, you will likely need to clip them out and bring them with you to a retail location or enter the pertinent information when purchasing online.

In terms of digital coupons, you will often have to create an account with your email address and a password to get coupons or discount codes. This is an important trade — you get, say, a 10% off welcome code and in exchange, the merchant gets your contact information to potentially reel you in with more deals.

Both paper and virtual coupons typically have expiration dates. More and more often, online merchants do “flash sales” and short-term offers with a tight time window to get you to click spend your money without much pause. This can lead to impulse purchases.

Keep in mind, the business goal behind coupons is to get you to spend money, not keep it.

Recommended: How to Coupon for Beginners

Are Coupons Used Today?

Coupons are still quite popular today. According to the 2022 Retail TrendWatch Report, 38% of consumers use coupons, discounts, or deals to plan their shopping lists. Downloading coupons on your phone is quicker than using scissors to cut along the dotted lines.

But however you coupon, merchants are motivated to keep these offers coming. A full 81% of retailers say consumers want more deals and discounts.

How Many People Use Coupons?

To give you an idea of just how popular coupons are, consider this: An estimated 145.3 million U.S. consumers reported using digital coupons in 2021. The research forecast for 2022: Total digital coupon redemption will top $91 billion, up from $47 billion in 2017.

But using coupons isn’t always super simple or convenient. One-fourth of grocery shoppers say they avoid shopping online because they can’t use the coupons they can present to an in-store cashier.

Types of Coupons

Merchants are getting more inventive with the kinds of coupons and discounts they offer shoppers. Here are some of the popular ways you can likely access deals.

•   Set up a user account with email and password on favorite shopping sites. By joining the rewards club, if there is one, they can also unlock digital codes and get merch rebates.

•   Download your grocery chain’s app and link weekly digital coupons to your account.

•   Follow brands on Instagram and Facebook to watch for discount and free shipping codes on social media.

•   Download coupon apps (SnipSnap, for instance) that allow you to photograph a printed coupon and find or create a mobile coupon to redeem in-store. The app scans the text, images, logos, and barcodes in the photo and offers features such as expiration-date reminders.

•   Use couponing and discount sites that add an extension to your browser and then let you know about coupon codes available when you shop online. Check reviews and ratings of these before downloading, however. Many have mixed reviews.

•   Look for the physical coupon with purchase. Yes, some companies still do coupons the old-fashioned way. Boxes of powdered laundry detergent may come with coupons inside, or frozen pizzas may have stickers on the pack that you peel off to get a discount.

Why Do People Coupon?

Consumers coupon to save money or get things free. A discount or freebie can inspire a person to try a new product or a brand other than the one they usually buy. In this way, the company issuing the coupon may build their customer base and their sales.

A bit of history: The first coupon reportedly came out in 1887, when Coca-Cola offered them, good for a free sample.

Benefits of Couponing

Couponing has its pros, for sure. These include:

•   Trimming your expenses, and using the money saved to reach other financial goals.

•   Having fun. Couponing has some aspects of a game, which can make it feel like a fun way to save money.

•   Sharing the wealth with your family and finding better deals, thanks to coupons, on such expenses as school supplies and uniforms, sneakers, electronics, and home furnishings.

•   Scoring discounts on lodging, car rental, and other travel expenses.

Recommended: Why Saving Money Is Important

Drawbacks of Couponing

The chase for discounts can, however, have downsides, such as:

•   If you scoop up items you would not have otherwise bought just so you use a coupon, you could wind up buying things you don’t need or even really want. Do you need tropical fabric softener, or are you just eager to use the coupon?

•   Coupons can encourage over-buying. For example, if you need to purchase four boxes of cereal to reap a discount, you may have food sitting unused. (That said, buying in bulk to save money can be an effective tactic if done properly.)

•   Consumers may feel under pressure to use coupons before they expire in order to be a “good shopper.” It’s a misconception that not using a coupon is losing “free” money. It’s not free; you’re still spending your dough to get the discount.

•   Coupons can be inconvenient. Remembering to carry and use paper coupons requires financial discipline. Plus, it’s too easy to forget to redeem coupons attached to products in-store. Customers and cashiers often don’t detach the manufacturer coupon and scan it.

•   Ironically, you might be tempted to overspend on other things after saving with a coupon. For instance, a 50% discount code on a clothing site may prompt you to buy other items you didn’t plan to purchase or really need.

Recommended: How Much Money Should I Save a Month?

Do Stores Lose Money by Couponing?

In general, stores do not lose money from offering or accepting coupons. In fact, they are more likely to profit.
Coupons encourage people to shop by offering an incentive: free merchandise or lower-cost goods. These offers entice people to try new products (and hopefully become loyal customers) and buy items that they might not have otherwise considered.

In addition, for bricks-and-mortar stores, coupons encourage foot traffic. They tempt shoppers to come inside, where they might find more than just the coupon item that catches their eye. In these ways, coupons actually build sales.

Does Couponing Ultimately Save You Money?

Couponing can save you money if you are offered a discount on an item you were already planning to buy. Or perhaps offers you free shipping from an online retailer you love.

However, you could end up losing money in the long run if you’re not careful. If you spend two hours a week combing through coupon fliers just to save a dollar, it’s probably not worth it. Your time is valuable. Also, gas prices are high, and if you need a car to get to a store to use a coupon, it may not be a great deal.

Lastly, coupons can lead to price creep. For instance, did you really save money if you budgeted, say, $50 for a skirt and got waylaid by a coupon for $25 off a purchase of $100? You went in planning to spend $50, not $75 (that is, $100 minus the $25 discount).

Recommended: Guide to Practicing Financial Self-Care

Banking With SoFi

Couponing and discount codes can be a smart, frugal move if you stick to buying products and services you would have purchased anyway and don’t get sucked into getting unnecessary items just to save a buck (or a few). But the coupon game takes time, patience, and organization.

If you want to track your spending and save money with minimal effort, see how SoFi can help. When you open a bank account online with direct deposit, you’ll earn a competitive APY and pay no fees. Plus, with SoFi Checking and Savings, you’ll have a single convenient place to save and spend, along with tools to help you organize your money, which can help you meet your financial goals.

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

FAQ

Can you go to jail for couponing?

The typical act of redeeming a coupon is not illegal. However, Illegally creating, copying, or using coupons can land you in jail. A Virginia couple went to prison in 2021 for a combined 19 years after the FBI uncovered one of the largest coupon fraud schemes in U.S. history. Retailers and manufacturers lost more than $31 million when the couple used social media sites such as Facebook to sell counterfeit coupons to groups of couponers.

Is extreme couponing possible?

Yes, extreme couponing, in which people save a huge percentage off their costs, is real. Everyday people have saved hundreds of dollars in grocery stores. When the final numbers are crunched at the cash register, the top extreme couponers have shaved more than 90% off their bills, bringing them close to zero. But this is a serious endeavor demanding much time, energy, and planning, plus you might end up stuck with items you don’t want, need, or will ever use.

Is extreme couponing stealing?

No, extreme couponing is not stealing, but it’s not uncommon for stores to resent it if a shopper brings in a stack of coupons and spends very little money in the end.


Photo credit: iStock/monkeybusinessimages

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

SOBK0722020

Read more
Roadside Assistance vs Emergency Towing Services: How They’re Different

Roadside Assistance vs Emergency Towing Services: How They’re Different

When something goes wrong with your car out on the road, most people have two options: Call an emergency towing service, or contact your roadside assistance program. Those two choices may sound like the same thing, but there are important differences.

Read on for a breakdown of what you can expect from each of these services, including pros and cons, and average costs.

Recommended: Does Auto Insurance Roadside Assistance Cover Keys Locked in a Car

What Is Roadside Assistance?

Roadside assistance comes to your aid when your car breaks down or some other mishap keeps you from using your car. If you find yourself stranded, roadside assistance will send help (a mechanic, locksmith, tow truck) to get your car back on the road, to a repair shop, or back home.

Roadside assistance packages vary from one provider to the next, but most include the following:

•   Flat tire change

•   Battery jump-starts

•   Fuel delivery

•   Lockout assistance

•   Winching/extrication

•   Quick-fix services

Any benefits you receive on top of these basics are determined by the roadside assistance plan you sign up for. For example, some plans include trip interruption coverage or a guaranteed arrest bond if you’re charged with a traffic violation. Plans may also offer savings on car maintenance costs, car rentals, hotels, and other perks. Extra benefits may come at an extra cost, however, so it’s important to compare plans carefully.

There are a few different ways you can get a roadside assistance plan, including:

•   Many insurance companies offer some type of roadside assistance coverage, usually as an add-on to your auto insurance policy. If you’re concerned about cost, there are other ways to lower car insurance premiums.

•   Another option is to pay for an auto club membership that’s separate from your car insurance.

•   Your car manufacturer may include a roadside assistance package as part of your warranty or as a limited free trial for a service you can later purchase.

•   Some credit card companies offer access to roadside assistance as a perk to cardholders.

Recommended: Why Personal Insurance Planning Is Important

What Can You Expect When Calling Roadside Assistance?

One of the benefits of participating in a roadside assistance program is that you’ll know exactly who to contact if you need help with your car. You can program the customer assistance number into your phone or download the program’s app, or you can tuck your membership card into your wallet or glove compartment.

Here’s what to expect when you call roadside assistance:

Recommended: How to Get Car Insurance

Calling for Help

First things first: If your child is locked in the car or you’re in a situation where you feel unsafe, you may want to make your first call to 911. The 911 dispatcher will determine whether to send an officer to help.

If you feel safe, you can go straight to calling roadside assistance. You may be asked to verify that you have an account or that the car is yours; so it can help to be ready with your license and registration, proof of insurance, and your roadside assistance plan’s membership card.

Your roadside assistance dispatcher will send the appropriate help from a network of service providers to your location. A technician may try to fix your car onsite, but if that isn’t possible, you can have your vehicle towed to a repair shop or your home, if that’s your choice and it’s within your plan’s mileage limit.

Getting Home

If your car needs to be towed to a repair shop, you probably will be able to ride with the tow truck driver. Once you’re finished there, it’s up to the tow truck driver (or company policy) if you can get a ride home. During busy times, you may be responsible for getting home on your own.

If you’re out of town when your car breaks down, roadside assistance coverage will sometimes pay for an overnight stay in a hotel. (If you travel a lot, you may want to see if this benefit is available when you’re comparing plans.)

Wait Times

Many roadside assistance programs work with a network of providers, so when you call, there may be someone nearby who can get to you quickly and offer the services you need. Generally, you can expect help to arrive in less than an hour.

Several factors can impact your wait time, however. If there’s heavy rain, wind, or a snowstorm, for example, you may have a longer wait. It can also take a while to get help if you’re in a rural location that’s far from a locksmith, mechanic, or towing service — or if you’re in a busy city at rush hour.

Some plans provide updates through texts or an app, so callers can track their current wait time.

Payment

How the service provider who comes to your aid is paid depends on the plan you’re enrolled in. With some programs, if you use the toll-free number or an app, and the dispatcher sends a technician to help, you may not have to pay anything upfront for covered services. But if you contact a tow service, mechanic, or locksmith directly, you will likely pay out of pocket, then submit receipts to your plan for reimbursement.

Some plans don’t have a central dispatcher. In that case, you’d call a provider directly, pay for the services, and then file a reimbursement claim. No matter how your plan handles payments, it’s a good idea to keep a credit card on you when driving.

There is no deductible for roadside assistance. Most programs have very specific limits on what they will cover. For example, if a service technician delivers fuel to your car because you’ve run out of gas, the delivery may be free, but you may have to pay for the gas.

Recommended: How to Lower Car Insurance

What Is the Average Cost of Roadside Assistance?

The price of a roadside assistance plan varies based on several factors:

•   how many vehicles or drivers you want to cover

•   where you live

•   whether coverage is through your auto insurance or another source

•   the level of coverage you choose

Some plans charge less for annual coverage and more for services received, and vice-versa. It can be useful to compare online insurance benefits and quotes to get a sense of what’s available and at what cost.

Generally, you’ll pay less for a plan that’s an add-on to your auto policy versus a stand-alone membership. Allstate, for example, offers a roadside assistance insurance add-on for as little as $25 per year for one vehicle. Without an Allstate policy, the cost of a roadside assistance membership starts at $79 for the first year.

If your insurer doesn’t offer 24-hour roadside assistance, or you don’t like your insurer’s plan, you may want to check out what other insurance companies are offering.

Recommended: How Much Does Insurance Go Up After an Accident?

Pros and Cons of Roadside Assistance

One of the biggest pros of roadside assistance coverage is that you know you’ll have someone to contact any time you’re in need. You can call for advice or hands-on assistance, and someone will be there to help.

As noted above, some plans will post a bond if you’re charged with a traffic violation or reimburse you (within limits) if you need to stay in a hotel overnight. Plans may also include benefits that go beyond roadside breakdowns, such as discounts on travel and entertainment.

If you have to call roadside assistance even once, you may save enough on the services rendered to cover your cost for the year.

Still, no one likes the idea of paying for something they may never use. If you have a newish car that’s well-maintained or you seldom drive far from home, you may decide roadside assistance isn’t for you.

Coverage limits can also be disappointing. Enrolling in a roadside assistance plan doesn’t mean you’ve got a blank check that will cover any cost you incur. You may have to pay something for a tow if you go beyond the mileage limit, for example, or you may have to pay for a new battery or tire if yours needs replacing. There also may be an annual limit on the number of calls for service you can make.

Also, not all costs are covered upfront. Your plan may require you to submit receipts for reimbursement in some or all instances. If you’re averse to paperwork, that may be something to consider.

What Is an Emergency Towing Service?

The main purpose of emergency towing services is to move a vehicle when the driver can’t get back on the road without help. There are several circumstances that might require calling for an emergency tow, including:

•   When you’re in an accident, and either your car can’t be driven or you’re in no shape to drive

•   If your car isn’t running and it’s blocking traffic or putting you and other drivers in danger

•   If you’re pulled over by law enforcement and the officer determines you can’t drive

There are a couple of circumstances in which your car insurance may pay for a tow, even if you don’t have roadside assistance coverage:

•   After an accident and you have collision coverage

•   If your car is damaged — in a flood, fire, etc. — and you have comprehensive coverage

But in most cases, if you don’t have roadside assistance or “towing and labor” coverage through your auto insurance policy, an auto club membership, or a car warranty, you may be on your own when it comes to paying for your vehicle to be towed away.

What Can You Expect When Calling an Emergency Towing Service?

If your car breaks down close to home, you may be able to directly call a reliable repair shop or towing service you’ve worked with in the past. Having that connection can be a benefit if you want to choose the company that will come to your aid quickly.

But if you’re far from home and unfamiliar with the service providers available, you may have to cross your fingers and hope for the best when you call for a tow.

Here’s what you can expect when you call for emergency towing without a roadside assistance plan:

Calling for Help

If your regular mechanic or garage has the right equipment for your needs (a tow truck, a flatbed truck, a winch, etc.), you may be good to go. They can come pick up your car and get you the help you need.

But if you can’t call your favorite repair shop — because you’re out of town or it’s after hours — you may have to make a few calls before you find the appropriate help.

Some companies don’t require a subscription to use their towing and roadside assistance network, so you can try contacting them for help. But if their network doesn’t include services where you are, you may have to try your luck dialing local tow truck companies.

When a tow truck comes to your location, the driver may be able to offer onsite assistance with a flat tire, dead battery, or other problem — but you can’t necessarily count on getting the same help you’d get with a roadside assistance plan. The driver may be equipped only to tow your car back to your house or to a repair shop. And you can expect to pay in full for every service you receive if you don’t have roadside assistance coverage.

No matter who you call, it’s important to be clear about what you need. And of course, if you’re in an accident or feel as though you’re in danger, you should call 911 first.

Getting Home

You may be able to get a ride home from the tow truck driver after they take your car to the garage. But just as with a roadside assistance plan, it will likely be up to the individual driver’s discretion or company rules. If you aren’t sure if there will be a cost for the ride, you may want to ask before you get in the truck. And if you’re far from home, you also may want to ask for hotel recommendations.

Wait Times

Response times for tow trucks generally are determined by availability. If you call a tow company directly and there’s a truck close to your location, you may be able to get faster service than you would calling a roadside assistance plan because you’re eliminating the middleman.

But the same things that can hold up a truck coming through a roadside assistance dispatcher can slow down a company you call directly, including inclement weather, rush hour traffic, and distance.

Payment

If you call a tow truck directly, you can expect to pay the bill out of pocket. Depending on why you’re calling and the type of insurance coverage you have, you might be reimbursed for some costs. But if you’re calling about an overheated engine, dead battery, or flat tire, and you don’t have roadside assistance coverage, your insurance company typically won’t reimburse you for your costs.

What Is the Average Cost of Emergency Towing Services?

According to J.D. Power, towing rates in the U.S. can range between $2.50 and $7 per mile, and the average cost of a tow is about $109. But besides distance, several factors can affect the overall cost of a tow.

It may cost less to have your car towed after a breakdown than if you’ve been in an accident. And if the tow company needs to use special equipment — because your car is stuck in mud, snow, or a deep ditch, for example — that can also increase the price.

Many tow companies also include a base charge or “hook-up” fee that can range from $35 to $100. Some tow companies have a list of basic charges on their website, but if you can’t find pricing, you may want to ask so there aren’t any surprises.

Pros and Cons of Emergency Towing Services

One of the biggest upsides to using emergency towing service may be that you’re eliminating the middleman. You don’t have to wait for the dispatcher to find a network-approved provider to come and get you; you can call any company you like.

Of course, this can also be a drawback if you’re far from your favorite mechanic or repair shop. You may have to make multiple calls to find a tow truck that can come to your rescue.

Another plus to consider is that you won’t have to worry about paying for roadside assistance coverage every year whether you use it or not. You’ll only pay for services you actually use.

But if you do end up calling a tow truck even once and you don’t have coverage, it can mean a whack to the wallet. You can end up paying more for that one tow than you would for a year of roadside assistance coverage — and you won’t be getting the perks.

How To Decide Between Roadside Assistance and Emergency Towing Services

Because there are pros and cons to both roadside assistance coverage and emergency towing services, here are some things you may want to look at when you’re trying to decide between the two:

Your Comfort Level

Are you someone who likes having a plan when things go wrong, or are you OK with winging it? If you like the security of knowing you’ll have just one call to make if you need help on the road, you may prefer roadside assistance coverage.

Your Car

If your car is new or it’s well-maintained and the chances of a breakdown are slim, you may decide you don’t need to pay for roadside assistance coverage.

The cost of some roadside fixes may be covered if your car is still under warranty. And if you have collision or comprehensive coverage through your auto insurance policy, towing costs may be paid in some circumstances.

Your Family’s Needs

Maybe your car is an older model that isn’t exactly reliable. Or maybe you have some first-time drivers in the family, and you want to feel confident they’ll know who to call (besides you) if they run into trouble on the road. You might want to look into what it would take to get new drivers roadside assistance coverage for the whole family.

Value

You may want to list side-by-side the costs of having a roadside assistance plan versus what you might end up paying for a tow or other services out of pocket. Can you afford a plan that fits your needs and budget? Can you afford to not have coverage? (Keep in mind that if you use your plan just once, it may pay for itself for the year.)

Recommended: Auto Insurance Terms, Explained

The Takeaway

When the unexpected happens on the road, you can wing it and call for a tow truck. Or you can contact roadside assistance and feel confident that someone will come help you out ASAP. And some or all of the cost of getting your car back on the road could be covered under your plan. Many drivers consider roadside assistance a good deal for the money: The cost of just one tow is often more than the annual cost of roadside assistance. If you travel a lot, or have young children or new drivers in the family, roadside assistance may be what you need.

If roadside assistance sounds like something you could use, SoFi can make it easy and convenient to find the best auto insurance policy with the right benefits for your needs. SoFi can help you compare auto insurance policies today.

FAQ

What is emergency roadside assistance good for?

Roadside assistance coverage can help you deal with and pay for a range of unexpected costs you might run into while on the road — from fixing a flat tire onsite to towing you to a repair shop for major repairs.

Is emergency roadside assistance worth it?

No one likes paying for something they may never use. But if your car breaks down just once, the convenience and savings you get through your roadside assistance plan may make it worth paying the annual cost.

What is the difference between emergency towing and roadside assistance?

Roadside assistance coverage is meant to help you get the service you need when you have car trouble — on the road or at a repair shop. Depending on the problem, roadside assistance may cover all or a portion of the costs. On the other hand, emergency towing is meant to get your car off the road and to a repair shop where it can be fixed. Generally, you can expect to pay for all the costs related to this service.


Photo credit: iStock/sefa ozel

Insurance not available in all states.
Gabi is a registered service mark of Gabi Personal Insurance Agency, Inc.
SoFi is compensated by Gabi for each customer who completes an application through the SoFi-Gabi partnership.


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

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

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.

SOPT0722005

Read more
24-Hour Roadside Assistance for Cars and Trucks

24-Hour Roadside Assistance for Cars and Trucks

Think of 24-hour roadside assistance coverage for your truck or car like having another tool in your emergency kit. Roadside assistance can provide the services you need to get you back behind the wheel ASAP. Services include changing flat tires, fuel delivery, jump-starts, and lockout assistance. The national average cost for roadside assistance when added on to an auto insurance policy is $20/year.

Before you sign up for roadside assistance, it can be useful to know some basics. In this guide, we’ll look at what you can expect when you enroll in a roadside assistance program.

Recommended: Does Auto Insurance Roadside Assistance Cover Keys Locked in a Car

What Is 24-Hour Roadside Assistance?

Roadside assistance plans cover a range of problems that commonly affect motorists. Whether you’re stuck on a busy highway or a lonely roadside, in a mall parking lot or your own driveway, you can ask for help with a dead battery, flat tire, being locked out, and more. These programs not only cover cars and trucks but also motorcycles, RVs, and boat trailers.

Since problems can happen at any time, roadside assistance programs make their services available around the clock. There is no deductible for service calls. Depending on your plan, any costs you incur in an emergency may even be reimbursed.

Recommended: Ways to Save on Car Maintenance

What Are Some Benefits of 24-Hour Roadside Assistance?

Roadside assistance is designed to cover all drivers, but it can be especially useful for parents of young children, first-time drivers, and people with physical limitations. Probably the top benefit of having 24-hour roadside assistance coverage is that there’s a number to call any time you’re in need. You can keep that number programmed in your phone or put it in your wallet or glove compartment — or your provider may offer an app.

You can call for advice or hands-on assistance, and someone will help you get what you need. Some plans may even post bond if you’re charged with a traffic violation, or reimburse you if you need to stay in a hotel overnight because your car broke down. Some plans include other benefits, such as travel discounts and rewards points.

Recommended: How to Get Car Insurance

What Does 24-Hour Roadside Assistance Cover?

Assistance programs vary significantly depending on the service provider, the coverage level, and what you’re willing to pay. So when you’re comparing roadside assistance for cars and trucks, it’s important to understand the details of what each plan covers. Roadside assistance is not intended for use after an accident. In that case, 911 will arrange for help to arrive.

Most companies that offer roadside assistance programs set limits on what they will and won’t pay for. A provider may offer to deliver fuel to your vehicle for free, for example, but you can expect to be charged for the gas you receive. Similarly, roadside assistance may offer free lockout assistance, but there may be a charge if you need to have a new key made. If your car needs a tow, there may be a limit on how many miles you can go for free. There may also be a limit on how many service calls you can make in a year.

Plans have different rules on whether a particular driver or vehicle qualifies for a service call. With some plans, you must be driving your own car when you call for assistance. Other plans will cover you even if you’re the passenger or driver in someone else’s car.

Programs generally include some type of coverage for:

Vehicle Towing

If your vehicle can’t be safely repaired or restarted onsite, roadside assistance can tow it to a nearby repair shop.

Battery Jump-Start or Replacement

Roadside assistance can give your dead battery a jump and, if that doesn’t work, install a new battery onsite or give you a tow.

Changing a Flat Tire

If you have a usable spare tire, your service provider likely can change a flat or blown-out tire onsite. If not, they can tow you somewhere for help.

Lockout Assistance

If you’ve locked your keys in your car, roadside assistance can get a locksmith to help. Even if you’ve lost your keys, the service may be able to get you back in your vehicle and back on the road.

Winching Service

Stuck in snow, mud, sand, or water? Your service provider may bring in a winch to extricate your car or truck.

Fuel Delivery

If you run out of gas, your provider can deliver fuel to your location. And if the battery in your electric car needs a charge, you can ask for a tow to the nearest charging station.

Quick Fix First-Aid

If you have a minor mechanical problem that can be fixed quickly, it may be possible to do so onsite. If not, the service can tow your car to a nearby repair shop.

Recommended: 10 Tips for the Cheapest Way to Rent a Car

What Are Some Ways Drivers Can Get 24-Hour Roadside Protection?

There are few different ways you can get roadside assistance coverage for yourself and your family members. For individuals who set aside time for personal insurance planning, consider adding roadside assistance to your list.

Auto Club Membership

Probably the best-known way to get 24-hour roadside assistance is through an auto club like AAA (pronounced “triple A”). The company will issue you a membership card with numbers to call for service. You may also be able to download an app or send a text to get service.

Plans range from $50 to $160 per year. Your price will depend on how many family members are covered, your location, and the services you’ve selected.

Credit Card Company Benefits

You may be able to access roadside assistance through one of your credit cards. Again, the cost for your overall coverage or a specific service will vary depending on the plan. For example, one credit card provides the service for free to its members but charges $69.95 for a standard service call, including 5 miles of towing.

Vehicle Manufacturer

Some car and truck manufacturers also offer roadside assistance as a perk for new car buyers. Your vehicle may come with protection that lasts for a few years or the length of your limited warranty, or it may be available for only a few months as a free trial for a service you can later purchase. Your sales agreement should provide the details on what your plan covers, or you can ask the dealership.

Car Insurance Company

Many car insurance companies make some type of roadside assistance coverage available to their customers. Some plans provide only the basics, while others may offer two or three different levels of coverage. Costs range from $2 to $5 a month, or $15 to $60 a year.

When you’re considering cost, keep in mind that you may be able to lower your car insurance cost by bundling it with other types of insurance coverage.

Recommended: How Much Does Insurance Go Up After an Accident?

Which Insurance Companies Offer 24-Hour Roadside Assistance?

Insurance companies that provide 24-hour roadside assistance typically offer the service as an add-on to an auto policy. However, in some instances you may be able to access a roadside protection membership without being a policyholder.

If you aren’t sure if you already have roadside protection, contact your agent or log in to your account on your insurer’s website to get information about your coverage. You may also view benefits via online insurance comparison sites. The information also may appear on your insurance card.

Here are a few companies that offer roadside assistance:

Allstate

Allstate offers its 24-hour roadside assistance programs to both policyholders and non-policyholders. Costs and limitations will vary based on the plan you choose.

Geico

Geico’s roadside assistance program is available to policyholders as an add-on, and it covers most of the basics other plans offer. The cost is determined by the number of vehicles you want to cover.

Liberty Mutual

To access Liberty Mutual’s 24-hour assistance program, which offers basic roadside services, you must purchase optional towing and labor coverage as an add-on to your policy.

Nationwide

Nationwide offers roadside assistance as an optional add-on for policyholders. The plan covers the same basic services offered by other insurers, but optional features and program details vary by state.

Progressive

Emergency roadside assistance is available as an optional add-on for Progressive auto insurance policyholders. Progressive’s program covers service basics such as towing, jump-starts, lockout assistance, etc.

State Farm

State Farm’s roadside assistance program is an add-on for policyholders. If you have this coverage and need assistance, State Farm will be billed directly for any basic services you receive, so you won’t have to worry about waiting to be reimbursed.

(The above coverages are accurate as of the writing of this article but may differ in the future.)

What Is the Average Cost of 24-Hour Roadside Assistance for Cars?

When added to your car insurance policy, roadside assistance coverage costs an average of $20 per year. The price of a roadside assistance plan can vary based on how many vehicles you want to cover, where you live, whether your coverage is through your auto insurance or some other source, and the level of coverage you choose.

Some plans charge less for coverage and more for services, and vice-versa. It’s a good idea to compare several different plans and choose the one that works best for your individual needs and budget.

Recommended: How to Lower Car Insurance

What Is the Average Cost of 24-Hour Roadside Assistance for Trucks?

The cost of roadside assistance for a pickup truck is similar to the cost for a car. If you have an RV or another large vehicle, however, you’ll need to check out a plan tailored for the problems you might encounter.

How Much Does 24-Hour Roadside Assistance Cost Without Insurance?

The national average cost of a tow without roadside assistance coverage is $109, or between $2.50 and $7 per mile.

What Makes 24-Hour Roadside Assistance Different from Other Coverage?

Standard car insurance is designed to protect car owners against financial losses when they’re in an accident, or if their car is damaged, stolen, or vandalized. But a standard auto policy doesn’t typically include roadside assistance for something like a flat tire or running out of gas. That’s a different kind of coverage, and it usually costs extra to add it to a car insurance policy.

Another difference: In most states, you are required to carry minimum required car insurance. You aren’t required to carry roadside assistance coverage. It’s your choice.

How Do You Choose a 24-Hour Roadside Assistance Program?

There are a few points you should consider when you’re shopping for a roadside assistance program:

Do You Already Have Protection?

If you aren’t sure, check your car warranty, credit cards, and your car insurance policy. Even if you are covered, it can be a good idea to compare your coverage to what’s available to make sure you have everything you need.

What Are the Coverage Limits?

Read the fine print for details and coverage limits before you sign up for a plan. Be sure you’re getting the services you expect and want most.

What Will It Cost?

Plans are generally low-cost, ranging from $20 to $150 per year. Compare the costs of different plans and determine which works best with your budget.

Does the Provider Get Good Reviews?

Don’t forget to check the provider’s reputation. Reliability is important when you’re stuck on the side of the road waiting for a tow or jump-start. An important part of researching different plans includes reading customer reviews.

The Takeaway

A 24-hour roadside assistance plan provides drivers with whatever help they need to get back on the road as soon as possible. Drivers typically get roadside assistance through their auto insurance, but you can also find it via credit card benefits, car manufacturers, and auto clubs like AAA. Prices vary from $20/year as an auto insurance add-on, to $50-$150/year through an auto club. Considering that the cost of a single tow without coverage can be over $100, many people say the cost of roadside assistance is well worth it.

If you’d like to check out roadside assistance options, you can start by going online to compare your current auto insurance plan and benefits with other major companies. SoFi makes comparing auto insurance policies and rates quick and convenient, so you can get the coverage you need at a price that feels right.

Wondering if you have the car insurance coverage you need? Get started with SoFi Protect today.

FAQ

Does using roadside assistance increase your premium?

If you make only one or two claims a year, utilizing roadside assistance is unlikely to affect your insurance premium. But if you make more than 4-5 roadside assistance claims in a year, your insurance company may want an explanation.

What does roadside assistance cover?

Every plan is different, but most include basic coverage for lockout assistance, changing a flat tire, jump-starting a battery, fuel delivery, using a winch to extract a stuck vehicle, minor engine fixes, and towing.


Photo credit: iStock/nopponpat

Insurance not available in all states.
Gabi is a registered service mark of Gabi Personal Insurance Agency, Inc.
SoFi is compensated by Gabi for each customer who completes an application through the SoFi-Gabi partnership.


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

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

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.

SOPT0722004

Read more
5 Reasons to Switch Bank Accounts

5 Reasons to Switch Bank Accounts

When it comes to changing bank accounts, inertia seems to set in. According to SoFi research from February 2021, a third of 1,600 respondents said they feel no benefit to switching their bank or financial institution. Another 20% said they feel loyal to their current bank.

But is it wise to sit tight with your current banking situation? Big banks may count on you to do so. They know that once you start a relationship with them, it’s hard to change. Maybe you’ve signed up for direct deposit or you’ve had your account since college. You may like that there’s a bricks-and-mortar branch near you and are reluctant to switch to online banking. Or maybe you have an online bank and figure they’re all about the same.

Whatever the case, now may be the time to rethink your banking relationship. Rising interest rates have encouraged some banks to offer more attractive rates as well as plenty of features and services with low or no fees.

Take a look at these five reasons why you may benefit from switching banks.

Smart Reasons to Switch to a New Bank

1: Higher Rates

The Federal Reserve has raised the federal funds rate — a key borrowing benchmark — several times this year and is expected to continue to do so. Some, but not all, banks have increased the annual percentage yield (APY) they pay on their savings and checking accounts. That means some banks out there, usually online banks, are offering rates closer to 2% or possibly more after years of near zero interest rates. An increase like that can add up over time and boost your savings.

It’s important to remember that your bank won’t automatically raise rates in line with the Fed. Some banks find that an increase doesn’t fit with their business plan. Or they may figure they won’t lose many customers if they don’t offer an increase.

Online banks, with lower overhead costs and more incentive to attract new customers, often offer much higher rates than traditional banks. It makes sense to check what APY vs. interest rate you’re currently earning on your bank account and see how that compares with other banks. That’s a tip for both checking accounts and savings accounts; there’s no reason not to earn top dollar.

Recommended: All About Interest Rates and How They Work

2: Low or No Fees

You may also want to make sure any extra interest you’re earning isn’t eaten up by fees. In fact, avoiding the usual fees can be a good reason to switch banks. Minimum balance fees, maintenance fees, paper statement fees, savings withdrawal fees, out-of-network ATM fees, and overdraft and NSF fees (that last one is for non-sufficient funds) can add up over time and take a chunk of your savings.

Fees you pay will depend on the way you bank. People who have a high monthly balance or who link their checking and savings accounts may never incur fees. Or, if your bank offers a wide network of ATMs in your area, out-of-network ATM fees will hardly ever apply. That said, many institutions, particularly online banks, offer no-fee banking with competitive APYs, so you can avoid paying any account fees at all. This can be a wise move if you are being charged costly banking fees.

3: Better Online and Mobile Banking

When it comes to how to manage a bank account, consumers want it to be fast and simple. Many have gotten accustomed to 24/7 banking. It used to be that online banks offered the most advanced electronic services. To compete, many bricks-and-mortar banks have improved their websites and mobile apps. But whether it’s an online or traditional bank, not all portals are the best they can be.

Make sure the banks you’re considering offer a secure, easy-to-use, state-of-the-art platform. Can you pay bills, scan mobile deposits, check your real-time balance, change your password, report possible fraud, and complete other functions at any time and almost anywhere you have a secure connection? Is there a chat or phone function available to get help if you need it? If possible, talk to other customers to see if they’ve experienced any glitches or compromised security.

If you are lacking the convenience of online and mobile banking, you may want to rethink where you bank for these reasons. There are many pros to online and mobile banking, and you should be enjoying them.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

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


4: More Banking Features

Many banks offer lots of extras when you open a new account or agree to maintain a certain minimum deposit. Waiving fees is common. So is a monthly reimbursement for out-of-network ATM fees. Some banks may offer a limited amount of no-fee overdraft protection coverage.

Also available: Connected checking and savings accounts with combined interest, discounts on personal loans from the same institution and budgeting tools included in the banking app. In addition, many banks offer incentives for setting up direct deposit and early pay options that offer faster access to your paycheck.

Once you’ve created a list of banks with favorable APYs, compare the various features each bank offers to help determine which is the best fit for your needs.

Recommended: Checking vs. Savings Accounts: Which is Better for You?

5: Sign-Up Incentives

How to switch banks isn’t necessarily complicated, but it’s probably not a good idea to do so solely because of a temporary sign-up promotion. If the fees are high or the bank lacks other features you need, you may find no bonus or other incentive is worth the trouble.

That said, if you’re shopping for a new bank, whether it’s a small or a large bank, and all other things are equal, it may make a lot of sense to take advantage of special promotions. Who wouldn’t want some extra cash or a higher interest rate?

Recommended: 8 Ways to Make Your Money Work for You

The Takeaway

How to switch banks does entail some time and paperwork. It’s easy to understand why consumers often avoid this task. But additional banking features, low or no fees, and a higher interest rate are some of the reasons why making the switch can make sense. Choosing a bank that’s a better fit can help improve your overall financial picture.

If the signs are pointing you in a new direction, you might consider trying SoFi Checking and Savings. Open an online bank account with direct deposit, and you’ll enjoy a competitive APY, no fees, and the Allpoint network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs. What’s more, there’s the convenience of spending and saving in one simple place, plus SoFi recently announced that deposits may be insured up to $2 million through participation in the SoFi Insured Deposit Program1.

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


Photo credit: iStock/NicolasMcComber

1SoFi Bank is a member FDIC and does not provide more than $250,000 of FDIC insurance per legal category of account ownership, as described in the FDIC’s regulations. Any additional FDIC insurance is provided by banks in the SoFi Insured Deposit Program. Deposits may be insured up to $2M through participation in the program. See full terms at SoFi.com/banking/fdic/terms. See list of participating banks at SoFi.com/banking/fdic/receivingbanks.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


SOBK0822049

Read more
10 Examples of Terrible Financial Advice to Avoid

11 Examples of Terrible Financial Advice to Avoid

These days, there’s no shortage of people spouting financial advice. The problem is, not all of it is good. Following unsound financial advice, without doing your due diligence, can lead to poor decisions and serious financial mistakes.

When it comes to money guidance, it’s important to realize most people aren’t experts and learn to decipher the difference between solid and terrible advice. By doing so, you can prevent a future financial fiasco.

Read on to learn:

•   Why the worst financial advice gets passed along

•   How to recognize terrible financial advice

•   Examples of bad financial advice and how to avoid it

Money Advice That May Be Bad (for Your Situation)

Financial advice isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some people may think they know what’s best for you, but chances are, their pointers don’t pertain to your personal circumstances.

When they offer advice, what they suggest may have worked great for them but won’t for you. Staying savvy whenever you get unsolicited counsel is key to protecting your financial health.

Here’s 11 examples of money tips you should take with a grain of salt at and quite possibly avoid at all costs.

1. Renting is A Waste of Time

While it may be the American dream to own a home for many people, not everyone can or even wants to take on the expense and burden that comes with it. When you own a home, you’re in charge of paying for property taxes, homeowners insurance, maintenance costs, and more. All of these expenses can add up to cost more than monthly rent.

Owning also means if anything breaks or gets damaged, paying for home repairs will come out of your pocket. When something goes wrong with a rental, it’s your landlord’s responsibility. Renters also typically have lower utility bill payments because things like heat, water, and electricity are often included in your rent. Depending on where you live, you may also have access to amenities such as a gym, pool, or parking garage.

2. Follow Your Passions

Although it sounds nice, following your passions professionally rarely pays the bills. And it can also put you into a very competitive and crowded field, if your passion is one of the common ones; say, acting, singing, cooking, or creating art.

Passion might fuel you for a while, but unless you’re lucky enough to turn it into a profitable full-time career, you’re probably juggling a day job, various side hustles, or living with roommates. There’s nothing wrong with having a passion, but if it’s not your main source of income, it might be more sensible to switch to a plan B. Then you can focus on your strengths, build on your skills, and maximize your potential. Doing so raises the likelihood, you’ll be better able to financially support yourself.

3. Your Credit Score Does Not Matter

This bit of advice should sound the alarm bells. A subpar credit score can hold you back from achieving important goals and even gaining employment. Having positive credit helps lenders to recognize your creditworthiness and overall trustworthiness.

Your three-digit score impacts whether you’ll get approved for credit cards, mortgages, and other types of loans. A high credit score also can help you snag the best terms and interest rate for a loan once you are approved. Landlords, insurance companies, and employers may also do a credit check when you’re applying for an apartment, car insurance, and even a job.

4. You Cannot Be Financially Successful with a 9-5 Job

There’s a lot of advice out there to say avoid being “chained to a desk” and pursue more entrepreneurial ways to be successful. People can certainly achieve financial success without a 9-to-5, but the majority of individuals need a steady paycheck, medical coverage and paid sick days.

Working 9-to-5 also offers you the chance to build a nest egg if your job offers a 401(k)plan. If there’s a company match offered by your employer, that’s akin to free money and well worth nabbing, too.

5. Never Use a Credit Card

Be wary of someone who tells you to avoid getting or using a credit card. Their bad advice may stem from their own experience as an irresponsible card holder. Despite the warnings and horror stories you hear, credit cards don’t always lead to trouble or financial ruin.

Rather, credit cards can offer you one of the best ways to establish credit and show you’re fiscally responsible, especially if you pay your balance in full every month. Having credit cards help in times of an emergency and when your cash reserves are low. Other benefits include valuable perks that card companies offer such as points, cash-back rewards, and airline miles.

Recommended: How Does a Credit Card Work?

6. You Don’t Have to Worry About Retirement Until Later

When you’re in your 20s or 30s, retirement may seem too far off to make it a priority. Friends, family, and acquaintances may tell you to enjoy your youth and not to worry about your old age until later.

However, the sooner you start to save, the more money you’ll have later on thanks to compounding interest, which builds earnings on your investment and on that investment’s interest. Putting off saving until midlife can put you behind the eightball, causing you stress and anxiety as you try to make up for lost time. Start early by taking advantage of your employer-sponsored 401(k) or contributing to a Roth IRA. Imagine how much better off you’ll be if you’re 65 with 40 years of savings versus only 15 or 20 years.

Recommended: 10 Personal Finance Basics

7. The Best Way to Save Is Through a Savings Account

Back in the day, putting money in a savings account was often considered the gold standard for safely socking away your money. Talk to an older relative and you’ll hear about how 40 years ago or so, they managed to live off their savings account interest, when rates around 10% weren’t uncommon.

Today, on the other hand, you might get around 1% to 2% back on your savings, if you get the top interest rate (typically found at online banks vs. traditional banks). While a savings account is a solid place to put your money for near-term goals (like an emergency fund), it can be wise to look further afield as well. You might want to take on more risk by investing in stocks, which historically gives you the chance to garner greater returns.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

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


If you’re not sure where to start, talk to a certified financial planner or financial advisor who can help set you up with an investment portfolio. Financial advisors and planners do charge for their services, so shop around. If you’re concerned about the cost of a financial advisor, you might want to try getting investment recommendations from a less costly automated robo advisor.

Recommended: Robo Advisor vs. Financial Advisor: Which Should You Choose?

8. YOLO (You Only Live Once)

YOLO, or “you only live once,” can be the rallying cry to spend freely; say, to lease a pricey convertible or take that trip to Cancun. While it’s true you only have one life to live, engaging in irresponsible, unmoderated spending can lead to consequences down the road.

Going overboard with the YOLO mantra now can catch up with you when you’re older, leaving you without any financial cash cushion or safety net or perhaps saddled with high-interest debt. It’s not a pretty picture.

Bottom line: Your YOLO-inspired shortsightedness and poor money management habits could leave you wishing you’d reined in spending and had focused on managing your money better.

Recommended: Tips for Creating a Financial Plan

9. College Is a Waste of Time

Gaining knowledge and education is currency, literally. Research has found having a college degree significantly increases a person’s job prospects and earning potential. For instance, a landmark Georgetown University study found that bachelor’s degree holders earn a median of $2.8 million during their career, 75% more than if they had only a high school diploma. Workers with more education may also benefit from greater economic stability throughout their careers.

College not only gives you the knowledge you need for a chosen profession, but it can also help develop important soft skills (character traits and interpersonal attributes) as well. For example, communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and decision-making are all soft skills that college students develop and employers pay close attention to when hiring.

10. You Only Have to Pay the Minimum Every Month

Some of the worst financial advice you can get is to only make minimum credit card payments. It’s better to pay your balance off in full when the statement comes. Why? Otherwise, you’ll end up paying interest that will keep your bill increasing and making it all the harder to whittle down your debt.

Credit card interest rates are notoriously high (currently, typically between 15% and 19%), and paying only the minimum can keep you in debt for years. There are helpful credit card payoff calculators online that can help you find the best schedule to get rid of your debt.

11. File for Bankruptcy

It may be tempting to follow the “Why not just file for bankruptcy?” suggestion if your financial problems seem insurmountable. Some people will tell you bankruptcy is the best way to get out of financial difficulty and make a fresh start.

Although the starting over idea may have some appeal, declaring bankruptcy involves many drawbacks. For example, filing for bankruptcy results in long-term damage to your credit, which will stay on your report for seven to 10 years, becomes part of the public domain, and makes it much harder to qualify for a mortgage, among other loans. Bankruptcy also doesn’t cover certain debts, such as student loans, child support, or government-owed taxes. So declaring bankruptcy may relieve some but not all financial hardship.

Before seriously contemplating bankruptcy, try seeking other alternatives including consulting a credit counseling agency, consolidating your debt, and negotiating with creditors. These steps can help address the issues you’re having without taking that more drastic step that should be considered a last resort.

Recommended: Understanding Bankruptcy: Is it Ever the Right Option?

How Bad Advice Leads to Bad Decision-Making

Taking someone’s money advice as gospel without careful thought and research is one reason why people may make poor financial decisions. Emotions are another. Debt can bring on feelings of helplessness, low self-esteem, and loss of hope. It’s also linked to depression and anxiety. When these emotions overwhelm you, you might feel desperate enough to follow bad financial advice, just to know you are doing something.

Tips for Avoiding Bad Advice

There are ways you can protect yourself from the traps of bad financial advice. Consider these suggestions:

•   Carefully assess whether the advice someone gives you makes sense for your lifestyle and money goals. If you have any doubts about what they’re touting, trust your gut and don’t follow it.

•   Educate yourself on the basics of personal finance by listening to podcasts or reading books written by credible money experts. You can also find accurate information and finance articles online on sites such as consumerfinance.gov .

•   Avoid taking money advice from random people on social media. Many of the social influencers who tell you how to get rich aren’t always legitimate and often make claims that are too good to be true.

•   When in doubt, seek out a qualified professional. Make sure you’re seeing a certified financial advisor or certified financial planner. Although they’re not licensed to give you the same type of financial advice that a planner or advisor does, a financial coach can help you understand the fundamentals of finance, attain goals, and develop better money management skills.

The Takeaway

There’s no shortage of bad financial advice out there, and some of it might even sound good. It can encourage reckless financial behavior, whether that means overspending on YOLO moments or not worrying about saving for retirement until it’s too late. It’s wise to remember that solid money advice will come from trusted sources and be tailored to your specific situation, needs, and goals. Do due diligence before letting someone else’s advice sway your money management plans. You could dodge some serious financial risks.

One bit of financial advice that most experts will agree on is that earning high interest on your money and paying low fees is a win-win combination. You’ll find that when you open an online bank account with SoFi. Sign up with direct deposit, and you’ll earn a competitive APY, pay no account fees, and have access to a network of 55,000+ fee-free Allpoint ATMs. These perks can help your money grow faster. Plus, our Checking and Savings provides a quick and convenient way to manage your finances 24/7 while spending and saving in one place.

See the difference that banking smarter with SoFi can make.

FAQ

How do I know if my financial advisor is bad?

A good financial advisor takes into account your individual circumstances and doesn’t offer non-personalized, cookie-cutter advice. First and foremost, a good advisor should spend time getting to know you, your needs, and your goals. Signs of a bad financial advisor include pressuring you to make decisions; not letting you know how they’re paid; not being able to explain things in a way you can understand; encourages you to put all your money into one investment, and doesn’t return your calls or emails.

Who should I listen to for financial advice?

As mentioned above, a certified financial professional can be a good bet, but there are other places to go for financial information. Bank or credit union officers, your employer’s human resources department, and credit counseling agencies may be able to answer questions or make referrals. There are also government websites.

Can I sue my financial advisor if they give bad advice?

Yes. If you’ve lost money because your advisor misled you, gave you bad counsel, mismanaged your investments, or took other unlawful or unethical actions, you can sue for damages. Keep in mind though that it’s not a slam dunk. The merits of your case need to be strong and your claims provable. An experienced investment fraud attorney can help to recoup your losses.


Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub

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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

SOBK0822028

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender