What is a PPO plan?

What is a PPO Plan?

A preferred provider organization (PPO) is a type of health care plan that offers lower out-of-pocket costs to members who use doctors and other providers who are part of the plan’s network.

These preferred providers have signed onto the network at a lower negotiated rate than they might charge outside of the network.

PPOs also offer members the flexibility to see providers outside of the plan’s network, although they will most likely pay more in out-of-pocket costs to do so.

To learn more about PPOs, and how this type of plan compares to other health insurance options, read on.

How Does PPO Insurance Work?

When you join a PPO health plan, you’re joining a managed care network that includes primary care doctors, specialists, hospitals, labs, and other healthcare professionals. PPO networks tend to be large and geographically diverse.

If you see a preferred provider, you will likely pay a copay, or you might be responsible for a coinsurance payment (after you meet the plan’s deductible).

While you are free to see any health care provider whether or not they are in the PPO network, if you see a provider outside of the network, you may pay significantly more in out-of-pocket costs.

In return for flexibility, large networks, and low in-network cost sharing, PPO plans typically charge higher premiums than many other types of plans.

PPOs are a common, and often a popular, choice for employer-sponsored health insurance.

What are the Costs of Going Out of the PPO’s Network?

If you see a provider who is not part of the plan’s network, you will likely be expected to bear more of the cost. PPOs typically use what’s called a “usual, customary and reasonable” (UCR) fee schedule for out-of-network services.

Insurers calculate UCR fees based on what doctors in the area are charging for the same service you were provided.

If your doctor charges more than what your insurance company determines to be usual, customary, and reasonable, you most likely will be charged for the difference between the amount charged for the service and the amount covered by your insurer.

Depending on where you live and the service you received, this difference could be significant. It may also come as a surprise to policyholders who assume their medical costs will be covered and don’t fully understand the distinction between in-network and out-of-network providers.

A good way to avoid surprise charges with a PPO (or any health plan) is to talk to your provider and your insurer before you receive treatment about the total cost and what will be covered.

How PPOs Compare to Other Types of Health Care Plans

PPO plans are most often compared with health maintenance organizations (HMOs), another common type of managed care health plan.

HMOs typically offer lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs than PPOs in exchange for less flexibility.

Unlike a PPO, HMO members typically must choose a primary care physician from the plan’s network of providers. Care from providers out of the HMO network is generally not covered, except in the case of an emergency.

Also unlike a PPO, an HMO’s network of providers is usually confined to a specific local geographic area.

Another key difference between these two types of plans: HMO members typically must first see their primary care doctor to get a referral to a specialist. With PPOs, referrals are not usually required.

PPOs are also often compared to point of service (POS) plans.

POS plans are generally a cross between an HMO and a PPO. As with a PPO, POS members generally pay less for care from network providers, but may also go out of network if they desire (and potentially pay more).

Like an HMO, POS plans require a referral from your primary care doctor to see a specialist.

PPOs (as well as HMOs and POS plans) are very different from high deductible health plans, or HDHPs.

HDHPs charge a high deductible (what you would have to pay for health care costs before insurance coverage kicks in).

This means that you would need to pay for all of your doctor visits and other medical services out of pocket until you meet this high deductible. In return for higher deductibles, these plans usually charge lower premiums then other insurance plans.

You can combine a HDHP with a tax-advantaged health savings account (HSA). Money saved in an HSA can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses.

HDHPs are generally best for relatively healthy people who don’t see doctors frequently or anticipate high medical costs for the coming year.

What are the Pros and Cons of PPO Insurance?

As with all health insurance options. PPOs have both advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few to consider.

Advantages of PPOs

•  Flexibility. PPO members typically do not have to see a primary care physician for referrals to other health care providers, and they may see any doctor they choose (though they may pay more for out-of-network providers).
•  Lower costs for in-network care. Out-of-pocket costs, such as copays and coinsurance, for care from in-network providers can be lower than some other types of plans.
•  Large provider networks. PPOs usually include a large number of doctors, specialists, hospitals, labs, and other providers in their networks, spanning across cities and states. As a result, network coverage while traveling or for college student dependents can be easier to access than with more restricted plans.

Disadvantages of PPOs

•  High premiums. In return for flexibility, PPO members can expect to pay higher monthly premiums than they may find with other types of plans.
•  High out-of-pocket costs for out-of-network care. Depending on where you live, the treatment you receive, and how your insurer calculates “usual, customary and reasonable” fees, you may find you are responsible for a large portion of the bill when you receive care outside of the PPOs network.
•  Might be more insurance than you need. If you rarely see doctors and wouldn’t mind potentially switching doctors, you may be able to save money by going with an HMO or a HDHP.

The Takeaway

PPOs are a popular type of health plan because of the flexibility, ease of use, and wide range of provider choices they offer.

Patients with a chronic disease or other illness who have a close relationship with their doctors and specialists may find a PPO is the most appealing choice because they can likely continue to see their current doctors.

PPO networks tend to be large and varied enough to include a patient’s existing doctors. If not, members still have the option of going out-of-network and receiving at least some coverage from a PPO.

PPO members pay for this flexibility, however. PPOs typically come with higher premiums, along with extra costs associated with out-of-network care. That can be prohibitive for many consumers.

Your employer’s benefits department or an experienced insurance agent or broker can help you compare PPOs to other types of health care plans and determine which choice is right for your health care needs and your budget.

Before choosing a plan, it can also be helpful to track your spending for a few months to see how much you are currently spending on medical care. This can help you ballpark costs for the coming year and make it easier to compare plans.

You can do this by saving all of your medical receipts and logging them with pen and paper. Or, you could use a budgeting app, such as SoFi Relay.

SoFi Relay allows you to see all of your accounts on one mobile dashboard and makes it easy to categorize and track your medical (and all your other) monthly spending.

Learn how SoFi Relay can help you manage your healthcare spending today.


SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
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.
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.
SOCO21016

Read more

What is an HMO Plan?

A health maintenance organization, or HMO, is a type of health insurance plan that typically offers lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs in exchange for members using the plan’s network of providers.

That network is usually confined to a certain city or geographic area.

An HMO can be a good choice for healthy people who don’t anticipate needing a lot of specialized care in the coming year.

However, these plans tend to offer less flexibility in where you can go for care than other types of health plans, such as preferred provider organizations (PPOs).

Read on to learn if an HMO could be the right plan for you and your family.

How Do HMOs Work?

HMOs contract with a group of doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers within a certain area for a negotiated fee.

In return for accepting lower payments, HMOs offer providers a steady stream of patients. Insurers can then pass the savings onto patients in the form of lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

To take advantage of these lower costs, HMO members must, for the most part, receive care only from network providers.

This starts with your primary care physician (PCP). HMO members typically should choose a PCP from the plan’s network. Your PCP takes care of annual check-ups and other medical needs that require an office visit.

In an HMO, your PCP is typically also the gatekeeper for your other health needs. To see a specialist, such as a podiatrist or a dermatologist, you would likely need to first visit your PCP to get a referral to a specialist within the network.

There are often some exceptions to network-only care, however. Emergency care received out-of-network is usually covered. And, with some preventive care services, such as mammograms and gynecological visits, you may be able to see a network doctor without first getting a referral.

In cases where you may have a serious health condition requiring a specialist not included in the network, the HMO may cover that treatment as long as you request pre-approval.

In addition to low premiums, there are often low or no deductibles with an HMO. Instead, the plan will typically charge a copayment, or copay, for each clinical visit, test, or prescription.

How Do HMOs Compare With Other Types of Health Insurance?

Another commonly available health plan offered by employers and health insurance companies is a preferred provider organization, or PPO. These plans have many features in common with HMOs, but also a few key differences.

As with an HMO, members of a PPO plan have access to a network of providers. When they use providers within that network, they will typically pay less out-of-pocket costs, such as copays.

Unlike an HMO, however, care outside of the network is usually also covered, but at an additional cost.

How much the PPO will pay for an out-of-network doctor may be capped at what the PPO deems the “customary and usual” payments for providers in your area.

Depending on where you live, that could mean a small or potentially large additional out-of-pocket cost.

Another key difference between these two types of plans: With a PPO, you typically do not need a referral to see a specialist, either within or outside of the network.

In addition, PPO plans usually have deductibles, while some HMOs do not. PPO plans also typically have more expensive premiums than HMOs.

However, not having to see your PCP (and pay a copay) to get a referral to a specialist can be a cost saver for members of PPOs.

The Pros and Cons of HMOs

It can be a good idea to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of HMOs before you choose a plan, just as you would with any other option.

Here are some of the most common pros and cons.

Advantages of HMOs

•   Lower costs. Premiums, deductibles, and copays are usually lower with an HMO compared to other types of health care plans. Some plans even have no deductible. Your out-of-pocket costs will also likely be lower for your prescriptions.
•   Less paperwork. Because your care is managed through your PCP and you are receiving care through the HMO network, billing tends to be less complicated for those with an HMO.
•   Care is often high quality. Because preventive services are generally fully covered and because your PCP can act as your advocate for early intervention medical care, many people find HMOs provide good quality of health care.

Disadvantages of HMOs

•   Provider Restrictions. With an HMO you must choose a primary care physician from the plan’s network. This doctor will manage your care and refer you to specialists within the network. If your current doctor is not in the HMO network, you would likely need to switch.
•   Restricted emergency care. Emergency care is usually covered even if it is received from out of network providers. But HMOs often have strict rules on what constitutes an emergency and which emergency providers will be covered.
•   Geographic restrictions. Because HMO networks are usually located within one geographic area, your network of providers will only be available within that location. That means if you’re travelling and you need medical care, those bills may not be covered, unless it is an emergency. Also, dependent college children who attend school out of state are usually not covered.

The Takeaway

HMO plans can be a very efficient, low-cost way to manage your health care needs. These plans can foster a close relationship with your primary care physician who can help you navigate both preventive and specialty care.

Some consumers feel the restrictions on receiving care from out-of-network providers and the hassles of getting a referral can be an obstacle to optimal care.

HMOs are often compared to PPOs, which generally allow members more freedom to see out-of-network providers (though going out of network may cost more). PPOs typically don’t require referrals to see specialists.

To determine which type of health plan is best for you, you’ll likely want to weigh the costs and plan offerings against your budget and health needs.

Before choosing a plan, it might also be helpful to track your spending for a few months to see how much you are currently spending on medical care.

You can do this with pen and paper, or by using a budgeting app, such as SoFi Relay.

SoFi Relay allows you to see all of your accounts on one mobile dashboard and makes it easy to categorize and track all of your monthly expenses.

Learn how SoFi Relay can help you manage your healthcare spending today.



SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
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.

SOCO21015

Read more
What Is An HDHP Plan?

What Is An HDHP Plan?

A high deductible health plan, or HDHP, has a higher deductible than other types of insurance plans, as the name implies.

In return for higher deductibles, these plans usually charge lower premiums than other types of health plans.
You can combine a HDHP with a tax-advantaged health savings account (HSA). Money saved in an HSA can be used to pay for out-of-pocket, qualified medical expenses before the deductible kicks in.

An HDHP can be a good, affordable health insurance option for people who are relatively healthy and don’t see doctors or receive medical services frequently.

But these plans may not be the best choice for everyone. Read on for important things to know about HDHPs.

How Does a High Deductible Health Plan Work?

When you sign up for an HDHP, you will pay most of your medical bills out of pocket until you reach the deductible (with some exceptions, explained below).

Your deductible is the amount you’ll pay out of pocket for medical expenses before your insurance pays anything.

Under current law, in order to be considered an HDHP, the deductible must be at least $1,400 for an individual, and at least $7,000 for a family.

But deductibles can be significantly higher than these minimums, and are allowed to be as high as $2,800 for an individual and $14,000 for a family.

As with other insurance plans, HDHPs come with out-of-pocket maximums. This is the most you would ever have to pay out of pocket–that includes your deductible, copayments, and coinsurance (but exclude premiums and medical costs not covered by your plan).

Out-of-pocket maximums for HDHP plans can’t exceed $2,800 for an individual and $14,000 for a family.
Despite the high deductible with HDHPs, some health care costs may be covered 100 percent even before you meet your deductible.

The government requires all HDHPs sold on the federal insurance marketplace and many other HDHP plans to cover a fair number of preventive services without charging you a copayment or coinsurance, even if you haven’t met your deductible.

You can find a list of those covered services for adults , specifically for women , and for children at HealthCare.gov.

How Does an HDHP Work With a Health Savings Account?

When you purchase a high deductible health plan, whether it’s through the federal marketplace, an employer, or directly through an insurance company, you may also open a health savings account (HSA).

You can put aside pre-tax income in the HSA to help pay your deductible or other qualified health care expenses. However, HSA funds typically can not be used to pay for health insurance premiums.

Earnings also grow tax-free in an HSA account, and withdrawals used to pay for qualified healthcare expenses are not subject to federal taxes. As a result, HSAs can result in significant tax savings.

Currently the maximum you can save in an HSA each year and receive the tax benefits is $3,600 for an individual and $7,200 for a family. Some employers make contributions to employee HSA accounts as part of their benefits package.

HSAs are also portable, meaning you take your HSA with you when you change jobs or leave your employer for any reason. Your HSA balance rolls over year to year, so you can build up reserves to pay for health care items and services you need later.

You may contribute to an HSA only if you have an HDHP.

What are the Pros and Cons of HDHPs?

As with any health insurance plan, there are both advantages and disadvantages of HDHPs. Here are some to consider.

Advantages of HDHPs

•  Lower premiums. In exchange for the high deductible, HDHPs typically charge lower premiums than traditional healthcare plans like PPOs.
•  You can combine an HDHP with an HSA. This can help you cover out-of-pocket medical expenses with pre-tax dollars, which make these costs more affordable. And, these accounts never expire.
•  You get the same essential benefits and no-cost preventive care as other plans. HDHPs are required to cover the same types of healthcare expenses as other plans (after you meet the deductible). And, they offer the same no-cost preventive services as their more expensive counterparts.

Disadvantages of HDHPs

•  High out-of-pocket costs due to high deductibles. You will need to pay for medical expenses out of pocket (because of the high deductible), while also paying your monthly premiums.
•  A disincentive to receive care. You might be inclined to skip doctor visits because you’re not used to having such high out-of-pocket costs. Forgoing treatment, however, could cause more serious health problems down the line.
•  Emergencies can be expensive. If you need unexpected care or go to the hospital, an HDHP will not pay anything until you have met your high deductible. This can mean having to come with a significant amount of cash to cover your medical bills.

HDHPs vs. PPOs

A preferred provider organization, or PPO, is a traditional type of health plan that usually has a lower deductible than an HDHP, but charges higher premiums.

With a PPO, you will typically only have to pay a copayment, or “copay,” when you see a doctor or fill a prescription.

For other medical services and treatments, you will likely have to pay out of pocket until you reach the deductible, but that will happen sooner than it would with a HDHP.

Both PPOs and HDHPs typically have a network of providers you can work with to get the best rates.

In a PPO, however, the provider list may be smaller than it is with an HDHP. To get the best rate on your care, members of either type of plan will want to be sure they are sticking to that list.

A PPO may be advantageous if you go to the doctor a lot and/or run into unexpected medical expenses, since you start to get help from the health plan much earlier in the year than you might with an HDHP.

A PPO could end up costing you more, however, if you end up having a year with low medical expenses.

The Takeaway

So are HDHPs worth it?

With an HDHP, you will likely pay a lower monthly premium than you would with a traditional health plan, such as a PPO, but you will have a higher deductible.

If you combine your HDHP with an HSA, you can pay that deductible, plus other qualified medical expenses, using money you set aside in your tax-free HSA.

If you are young and/or generally healthy with no chronic or long-term conditions, an HDHP may be the most affordable option for you.

On the other hand, if you have a medical condition and you make frequent doctor visits, you may find you need coverage that kicks in sooner than it would with an HDHP plan.

It can be a good idea to estimate your health expenses for the upcoming year and get a rough idea of how much you will be responsible for out of pocket with an HDHP before you sign up.

If you have several months before you need to pick a plan, or you’re anticipating next year’s open enrollment, you may also want to start tracking your medical expenses. This can make estimating future expenses and evaluating health plans easier.

You can keep tabs on your healthcare spending by saving all of your receipts and logging everything with pen and paper.

Or, you might want to use a budgeting app, such as SoFi Relay, which makes it easy to categorize and track all of your expenses in one mobile dashboard.

Learn how SoFi Relay can help you manage your healthcare spending today.


SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
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.
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.
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.

SOCO21017

Read more
Beginners Guide to Good and Bad Debt

Beginners Guide to Good and Bad Debt

As anyone who has ever watched their bank account balance decline after paying bills knows, owing money is no fun. But debt often serves an important function in people’s lives, putting things that can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more—a college degree, a starter home—within reach.

Such cases aren’t quite the same as racking up a high credit card balance on restaurant meals and shopping trips, underscoring that when it comes to owing money, there can be good debt and bad debt.

What Is Debt Exactly?

It’s a simple four-letter word, yet debt is often not as straightforward as it may appear. Carrying a credit card balance? That’s debt. Have a student loan or car lease? Also debt.

When individuals owe money, they generally have to pay back more than the amount they borrowed. Most debt is subject to interest, the borrowing cost that is applied based on a percentage of money owed.

Interest accrues over time, so the longer consumers take to pay off their debt, the more it may cost them.

Across people and households, debts add up. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, by the end of 2020, total household debt climbed to $14.56 trillion.

Housing debt—specifically mortgages and mortgage refinancing—accounted for the majority of money owed, more than $10 trillion. Nonhousing debt such as credit card balances and school and car loans composed the rest.

For individuals in mid-2020, average debt amounted to $89,300, according to the credit reporting company Experian. While some types of debt were down—average credit card and home equity line of credit balances shrank by 14% and 7%, respectively, from the year before—other types, including amounts owed on personal loans, car loans, student loans, and mortgages, all increased from the year before, according to Experian.

Good Debt vs. Bad Debt

When you have debt, not only do you have to repay the money borrowed, but you also usually incur ongoing costs—specifically interest—which increase the amount you have to pay back.

While incurring more debt probably isn’t the most attractive proposition, there are occasions when taking on debt can be necessary or even beneficial in the long term. This is where good debt vs. bad debt comes in.

Though the idea of good vs. bad debt might seem complicated (and is often subject to some misconceptions), as a rule of thumb, the difference between good debt and bad debt usually has to do with the long-term results of borrowing.

Good debt is seen as money owed on expenditures that can build an individual’s finances over time, such as taking out a loan for school in order to increase one’s earning potential, or a mortgage on a house that is expected to appreciate in value.

Bad debt is money owed for expenses that pose no long-term value to a person’s financial standing, or that may even decrease in value by the time the loan is paid off. This can include credit card debt and car loans.

While owing money may not feel great, debt can serve some helpful functions. For starters, your credit score is used by lenders to determine eligibility and risk level when it comes to borrowing money.

Your credit score is based on your history of taking on and paying off debt, and helps to inform a lender about how risky a loan may be to issue. Your credit score can play an important role in determining not only whether a credit card or loan application will be approved but also how much interest will be charged.

With no credit history at all, it may be harder for a lender to assess a loan application. Meanwhile, a solid track record of paying off good debt on time can help inspire confidence.

While there are no guarantees, good debt can also mean short-term pain for long-term gain. That’s because if paid back responsibly, good debt can be an investment in one’s future financial well-being, with the results ultimately outweighing the cost of borrowing.

Conversely, with bad debt, the costs of borrowing add up and may surpass the value of a loan.

What is Considered Good Debt?

Mortgages

Like other lending products, mortgages are subject to annual interest on the principal amount owed.

In the United States, the average rate of a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has seen a prolonged period of lows, averaging 2.97% nationally in February 2021, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Meanwhile, data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency showed that home prices grew 10.8% from the end of 2019 to the fourth quarter of 2020, marking a steady increase since late 2011.

This illustrates how the potential appreciation of a home might outweigh the cost of financing. But it’d be best to not assume that taking on a mortgage to buy a house will increase wealth. Things like neighborhood decline, periods of financial uncertainty, and the individual condition of a home could reduce the value of a given property.

Personal or home equity loans used to improve the condition of a home may also increase its value, and in such instances may also be considered “good” debt.

Student Loans

Forty-three percent of Americans who attended college incurred some kind of education debt, according to the Federal Reserve, with most outstanding loans in a recent year coming in between $20,000 and $25,000. This translates to average monthly payments between $200 and $300.

But higher education can be linked with greater earnings, and cumulative income gains may eclipse the cost of a student loan over time.

An analysis by Northeastern University found that the median weekly earnings for a bachelor’s degree holder, $1,248, are more than $500 greater than the median weekly pay of someone with a high school diploma only.

Comparing earnings of someone with an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree holder equates to a stark difference—more than $750,000 over the course of 40 years, the analysis found.

But just as taking out a mortgage is not a sure-fire way to boost net worth, student debt is not always guaranteed to result in greater earnings. The type of degree earned and area of focus, unemployment rates, and other factors will also influence an individual’s earnings.

What is Considered Bad Debt?

Credit Card Debt

Credit cards can be useful financial tools, helping people track expenses and align payments with their individual pay periods. They may even provide cash back or other rewards. And because interest is generally not charged on purchases until the statement becomes due, using a credit card to pay for everyday purchases needs not be costly.

However, credit cards are often subject to high interest rates. According to the Federal Reserve, the average annual interest rate for credit cards is 14.65%—but some charge 20% or higher.

This interest adds up, making that takeout dinner or pair of jeans far more costly than the amount shown on its price tag, if a balance is carried over. For example, if you were to charge $500 in takeout food to a credit card with a 20% APR but only pay the $10 minimum each month, it would take nine years to pay off the full balance. The total amount paid—including interest—would be $1,084. That’s more than double the cost of those takeout meals!

Recommended: Credit Card Interest Calculator: How Much Will Interest Cost You?

Car Loans

Cars famously start to lose value the second you drive them off the lot.

A new vehicle loses 20% of its value in the first year of ownership, according to Carfax. After five years, a car purchased for $40,000 will be worth $16,000, a decrease in value of 60%.

But a car may also be necessary for getting around. For some individuals, owning a car can also help to earn or boost income, reducing or negating depreciation.

The Takeaway

Both good debt and bad debt can be stressful—and both types of debt can be more costly than they need to be if you don’t stay on top of what you owe and pay back loans efficiently. A digital tracker could be the remedy.

SoFi Relay gives you the information you need to manage debt, providing real-time financial insights and tracking so you can stay on top of what you owe.

Get spending breakdowns, credit score monitoring, and more—at no cost.

Track all your money in one place with SoFi Relay.


SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
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.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
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.
SOCO21009

Read more
What are the different types of debt?

What Are the Different Types of Debt?

Debt may seem like something you want to avoid. But having some debt can actually be a good thing, provided you can comfortably afford to make your payments each month.

A good payment history shows lenders that you can be responsible with borrowed money, and it will make them feel better about lending to you when the time comes for you to make a big purchase, like a home.

But not all debt is created equal. Consumer debt can generally be broken down into two main categories: secured and unsecured. Those two categories can then be subdivided into installment and revolving debt.

Each type of debt is structured differently and can affect your credit score in a different way.

Here are some helpful things to know about the different types of debt, plus how you may want to prioritize paying down various balances you may already have accumulated.

Secured vs. Unsecured Debt

The first distinction between types of debt is whether it’s secured or unsecured. This indicates your level of liability in the event you fall behind on payments and go into default on the loan or credit card.

Secured Debt

Secured debt means you’ve offered some type of collateral or asset to the lender or creditor in exchange for the ability to borrow funds. If you go into default on the loan, the lender may seize the property or asset used to secure the debt.

The benefit is that you improve your odds for approval by offering collateral, and you may also receive a better interest rate compared to unsecured debt. But you also risk losing your asset. The lender is typically allowed to seize the asset securing the debt and sell it to offset the loan balance.

There are many types of secured debt. Auto loans and mortgages are common examples. Your auto loan is typically secured by the vehicle–it can be repossessed if you default on payments.

Similarly, your home is used to secure your mortgage. If you fall behind on your payments, the lender can eventually start the foreclosure process to sell the home and keep the proceeds of the sale.

Not only is your property repossessed in both of these situations, but your credit score can also be severely damaged, which could make it difficult to qualify for any type of financing in the near future.

A foreclosure, for instance, generally stays on your credit report for seven years, beginning with the first mortgage payment you skipped.

Unsecured Debt

Unsecured debt comes with much less personal risk than secured debt since you don’t have to use any property or assets as collateral.

Common types of unsecured debt include credit cards, student loans, some personal loans, and medical debt. Since you don’t have to put up any type of collateral, there may be stricter requirements in order to qualify. Your lender will likely check your credit score and potentially verify your income.

With unsecured debt, you are bound by a contractual agreement to repay the funds, and if there is a default, the lender can go to court to reclaim any money owed.

However, doing so comes at a great cost to the lender, and, for this reason, unsecured debt generally comes with a higher interest rate than secured debt.

This kind of debt can pile up quickly if you’re not careful. With secured debt, you’re more motivated to make payments because you might lose your car, home or something you use every day.

With unsecured debt, it’s not as easy to see where the money you’re borrowing is going, but because of high interest rates, you will likely want to pay off the debt as quickly as you can.

Installment vs. Revolving Debt

The difference between secured and unsecured debt is one way to classify financing options, but it’s not the only way.

Both secured and unsecured debt can be broken down further into two additional categories: installment debt and revolving debt.

Installment Debt

Installment debt is usually a type of loan that gives you a lump sum payment at the beginning of the agreement. You then pay it back over time, or in installments, before a certain date.

Once you’ve paid the loan off, it’s gone, and you don’t get any more funds to spend. Examples of this type of debt include a car loan, student loan, or mortgage.

There are a number of ways an installment loan can be structured. In many cases, your regular payments are made each month and include money going towards both principal and interest.

Less frequently, an installment loan could be structured to only include interest payments throughout the term, then end with a large payment due at the end. This is called a balloon payment. Balloon payments are more frequently found with interest-only mortgages.

Rather than actually making that large payment at the end of the loan term, borrowers typically refinance the loan to a more traditional mortgage.

Installment loans can have either a fixed or adjustable interest rate. If your loan has a fixed rate, your payments should stay the same over your entire term, as long as you pay your bill on time.

A loan with an adjustable rate will change based on the index rate it’s attached to. Your loan terms tell you how frequently your interest rate will adjust.

Provided you make your payments on time, having a mortgage, student loan, or auto loan can often help your credit scores because it shows you’re a responsible borrower.

In addition, having some installment debt can help diversify your credit portfolio, which can also help your scores.

Revolving Debt

Unlike installment debt, revolving debt is an open line of credit. It gives you an amount of available credit that you can draw on and repay continually.

Both credit cards and lines of credit are common examples of revolving credit. Instead of getting a lump sum at one time (as you would with installment debt), you only use what you need–and you only pay interest on the amount you’ve drawn.

Your available credit decreases as you borrow funds, but it’s replenished once you pay off your balance.

Revolving debt can be unsecured, as in the instance of a credit card, or it can be secured, such as on a home equity line of credit.

One downside of revolving credit is that there’s no fixed payment schedule. You typically only have to make minimum payments on your revolving credit, but your interest continues to accrue.

That can result in a much higher balance than the original purchases you made with the funds. And if you miss a payment, you’ll likely owe late fees on top of everything else

Because it’s easier to get caught in a cycle of debt, having large revolving debt balances can hurt your credit score. A balance of both revolving and installment debt can give you a healthier credit mix, and potentially a better credit score.

Debt Payoff Strategies

Whatever kind of debt you carry, the key to avoiding a negative debt spiral–and maintaining good credit–is to pay installment debt (such as your student loan and mortgage) on time, and try to avoid carrying high balances on your revolving debt.

While everyone’s financial circumstances are different, here are some debt payoff strategies that can help you prioritize your payments.

Paying off the Highest Interest Debt First

If your primary goal is to save money over the life of your loans,you may want to start by paying off your highest interest rate loan first, while making just the minimum payments on everything else.

You can then move on to the next highest and next highest until your debts are paid off. This payoff approach is often referred to as the “avalanche” approach.

Paying off the Debt with the Smallest Balance First

Paying down debt can feel never-ending, so it can be nice to feel like you’re making progress. By focusing on your smallest debts first (and paying the minimum on everything else), you can cross individual loans off your balance sheet, while quickly eliminating monthly payments from your budget.

Once paid off, you can then reroute those payments to make extra payments on larger loans, an approach often referred to as the “snowball” method.

Considering Debt Consolidation

If you don’t see a clear strategy for paying off your debt, you might consider taking out a single personal loan to consolidate your other balances.

If your credit score has increased, this may be a good way to decrease your overall interest rate. But at a minimum, this move can help streamline your payments.

Being Wary of Debt Settlement Companies

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by debt, you may look for a shortcut with a debt settlement company.

Debt settlement is a service typically offered by third-party companies that allows you to pay a lump sum that’s typically less than the amount you owe to resolve, or “settle,” your debt. These companies claim to reduce your debt by negotiating a settlement with your creditor.

Paying off a debt for less than you owe may sound great at first, but debt settlement can be risky.

For one reason, there is no guarantee that the debt settlement company will be able to successfully reach a settlement for all your debts–and you may be charged fees even if your whole debt isn’t settled.

Also, if you stop making payments on a debt, you can end up paying late fees or interest, and even face collection efforts or a lawsuit filed by a creditor or debt collector.

The Takeaway

At some point in your life you may be juggling one or more of these different kinds of debt–a student loan, a car loan, credit card debt, a mortgage, and a line of credit.

Understanding the various types of debts and maintaining a varied mix of loans (including secured, unsecured, installment, and revolving) can help you increase your creditworthiness.

You can also improve your credit by making all of your debt payments on time, and keeping balances on revolving credit (like credit cards) low.

To help make managing your debt (and all your other expenses) easier, you may want to consider getting a budgeting app, such as SoFi Relay.

SoFi Relay connects all of your counts on one mobile dashboard and allows you to track your spending, stay on top of debt payments, and also track your credit score (at no cost), with weekly updates so you’ll know when your score changes.

Get ahead of your debt with SoFi Relay.


SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
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.

SOCO21002

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender