If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between what shows up on your bank account as an available balance vs. current balance, you are not alone. It can be perplexing to sometimes see two different figures for the amount of cash sitting in your account.
The truth is, both are correct. A current balance reflects the amount of money in a checking or savings account at any given moment. The available balance, on the other hand, shows you the current balance, plus or minus any transactions that are pending but have not yet been processed fully.
Financial institutions share these two balances with their customers to give as detailed a picture of funds on deposit as possible. While it may be confusing at first glance, once you understand the difference, it can actually help you stay in better control of your cash.
Read on to learn more about current vs. available balances on your bank accounts.
What is Current Balance?
The current balance of an account is a reflection of the amount of funds that are moving throughout a checking account or savings account at any given time.
This is a compilation of both credits and debits — incoming and outgoing funds — within an account. It includes transactions that have been completely processed on both ends and posted to an account.
Pending transfers or payments that have been authorized but have not been fully processed yet may be listed in your transaction history but are not included in the tally. So any debit card payments, mobile deposits, or automatic bill payments that haven’t been fully processed will not be calculated into the current balance.
For example, let’s say Brian’s checking account balance is $200.
• On Monday, his employer deposits an $800 payment into his account that clears and posts on the same day, raising Brian’s current balance to $1,000.
• On Wednesday, Brian uses his debit card to pay $100 for dinner, and the restaurant places a hold on his account for the amount. Because the payment is pending and awaiting processing, Brian’s current balance is still $1,000.
• However, if on Friday the restaurant charge is fully processed and posted onto his account, his current balance would drop to $900.
What is Available Balance?
An available balance is the current balance of a checking account or whatever type of savings account you may have, minus any pending payments and deposits. In essence, it takes the total amount of all fully processed and posted credits and debits, and subtracts the total amount of any pending payments that have yet to be fully processed, providing a more accurate reflection of the money in your account that remains available to be spent.
For example, Danielle’s checking account balance is $500. She uses her debit card to pay a $100 internet bill, and her landlord cashes her $300 check for her rent — both payments appear on her account as pending.
Despite her current balance being $500, her available balance is only $100 due to the pending payments. If she were to make other payments totaling more than $100, she will risk an overdraft fee and having a negative bank balance.
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What is the Difference Between Current Balance and Available Balance?
If an account goes a week or two without any activity, its available balance and current balance will likely be in sync. However, once purchases and payments are made with a debit card, that is when the available balance is likely to fluctuate.
The key difference between a current balance and an available balance is “promised payments.” A current balance is the total amount of money in an account including money that has been promised to other people or businesses. An available balance, on the other hand, is the specific amount of money available that has not been promised to any person or business. While spending the full amount of a current balance with pending payments could result in overdraft or NSF fees, spending the full amount of an available balance should not.
Generally, when a current balance and available balance differ, here’s the likely situation:
• The available balance is the lower of the two, and it’s nearly always due to a pending payment.
• In some less common cases, an available balance may appear larger than the current balance. This could be due to receiving a refund from a purchase or the reflection of a bank overdraft protection buffer on an account. Either way, in this case, it would be wise to contact your bank for a better understanding of your current account standing.
How Long Does It Take for a Current Balance to Become an Available Balance?
The amount of time it takes for an available balance to sync back up with a current balance depends on the specific amount of processing time needed to complete each pending transaction.
Those times can vary depending on the type of transaction and how quickly the establishment processes it. The account holder’s ability to refrain from spending with their debit card and adding more pending payments to the account is also a major factor.
As a general rule of thumb, individual pending payments can take as little as 24 hours or as long as 3 days to be completely processed and posted to an account. The process requires communication and confirmation between the banks of the account owner and the establishment they purchased from.
If a transaction remains pending for up to a week, it would be wise to contact the merchant or your bank for clarity.
Which Balance Should I Rely On?
The current balance and available balance each serve their own purpose and both can be relied upon as an accurate representation of a checking or saving account. However, there are specific instances when it would be better to reference one over the other.
• If you’re planning on making a purchase or withdrawal, that is an instance where it would be more beneficial to reference the available balance on your account. It’s the best way to know exactly how much money is available to be spent without disrupting any other pending payments.
Checking the available balance will give the most exact account of what is freely available to be spent and will also help you avoid incurring any overdraft fees.
• If you’re more interested in your account balance as a whole and how much money you have flowing through your account at any given time, that is when you’ll want to reference your current balance. It accounts for every dollar entering and exiting your account at the very moment you check it.
Do keep in mind, however, that the available balance total may change quickly due to any sudden pending transactions, therefore it would be wise to check it daily for the most up-to-date tally.
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Knowing what your account balances mean and how to interpret them is a basic financial skill that can literally save you money. Even the slightest misinterpretation of the two could result in costly overdraft fees and disrupt your financial goals.
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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 deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government 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, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.
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 http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet..
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