10 Tips on How to Pay for Nursing School

Ways to Pay for Nursing School

Nurses are in demand. From 2020-2030, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts an average of 194,500 openings for registered nurses. Many of those openings come about due to nurses who switch occupations or exit the labor force, including those who retire.

Because nurses are in demand, you may want to attend nursing school. Let’s walk through 10 ways to help you figure out how to pay for nursing school.

1. Start With FAFSA

The Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA®) is a federal form that students can fill out every year that gives you access to federal and institutional aid to pay for college. Your college or educational institution will use the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for federal grants, work-study, and federal loans to attend college or career school. There is no cost associated with the FAFSA.

You can file the FAFSA starting on October 1 for the subsequent academic year that you plan to attend college. For example, if you plan to attend nursing school in the fall of 2024, you can file the FAFSA starting on October 1 in the fall of 2023.

You’ll need a FSA ID, a username and password that confirms your identity when you’re looking at or signing official financial aid documents. You’ll need two separate FSA IDs — one for you and one for your parents, if you’re a dependent student.

You can list up to 10 colleges and universities on the FAFSA using the Federal School Code search to identify each of the schools where you’d like it sent.

The FAFSA’s data retrieval tool (IRS DRT) takes most of the work out of filing the FAFSA. It pulls information directly from the IRS. After you follow the FAFSA directions, you sign with your FSA ID.

2. Nursing School Scholarships

Some colleges may offer scholarships specific to nursing students. You can also look beyond your nursing major. Do you have talents in art, music, or leadership that could qualify you for a merit-based scholarship? (Merit-based scholarships are those that are not based on financial need.) Ask the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend for more information about merit-based scholarships.

You can also take to the web to look for more scholarships. Here are a few examples:

•  The Healthline Stronger Scholarship awards four $5,000 scholarships to students who, based on their education, extracurricular activities, and career goals, are focused on both health and climate change.

•  The National Black Nurses Association, Inc (NBNA) offers several scholarships each year ranging from $1,000 to $15,000. To apply, you must be a member of the NBNA, currently enrolled in a nursing program and in good scholastic standing at the time of application with at least one full year of school remaining.

•  The FNSNA Undergraduate Scholarship awards scholarship funds based on a set of criteria established by the sponsor of the scholarship, which often outline a specific area of specialization within the nursing profession. Successful candidates can earn up to $10,000 per academic year.

In addition to looking into what your college or university can offer and searching online, take a look at local connections for specific educational or vocational programs in a particular field, such as nursing scholarships through local hospitals and privately owned doctor’s offices.

You can also look into community groups like 4-H, Kiwanis Club, and other organizations for available scholarships. Many foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also offer scholarships.

3. Grants for Nursing School

Grants are primarily need-based awards, though some grants are awarded based on merit. Like scholarships, grants do not need to be repaid once you complete your program. Filling the FAFSA will give you access to grants through programs like the Federal Pell Grant. The FAFSA automatically considers your eligibility for federal grants based on need.

You may also become eligible for state grants based on the grants available to you in your state.

Recommended: Grants For College – Find Free Money for Students

4. Federal Student Loans

Unlike scholarships and grants, you must pay back college loans. As a nursing student, you may tap into several types of federal student loans or private loans — both graduate or undergraduate loans.

Federal student loans are given to nursing students through the Department of Education, which, as mentioned, means that you must file the FAFSA in order to receive them.

Federal student loans offer flexibility in that you do not need to undergo a credit check, with the exception of the Direct PLUS Loan, which does require a credit check. Federal student loans also offer low-interest rates, various repayment plans, and forgiveness options. You could also use federal student loans to cover living expenses. For example, if you need to pay rent for an apartment while you’re attending nursing school, a federal student loan can help cover those expenses.

Types of Federal Loans

There are three main types of federal student loans: Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans.

Direct Subsidized Loans

Direct Subsidized Loans are low, fixed-rate federal loans for eligible undergraduate students to help cover the costs of college or career school. The government pays the interest while you are in school or during qualifying periods of deferment. Subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Direct Unsubsidized Loans have a low, fixed interest rate and flexible repayment terms. Undergraduate, graduate and professional students can qualify for these loans. In contrast to the Direct Subsidized Loan, the government does not pay the interest while you’re in school. Students do not need to demonstrate financial need in order to qualify for an unsubsidized loan.

Direct PLUS Loans

Direct PLUS Loans are another option available to graduate or professional students, and parents of undergraduate students. Unlike other federal loans, PLUS loans do require a credit check. Borrowers are able to borrow up to the full cost of attendance.

Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses

Student loan forgiveness for nurses means you don’t have to pay for your federal student loans in full. The federal government runs a few loan forgiveness programs that generally offer loan forgiveness after borrowers have fulfilled certain requirements. For example, the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program pays up to 85% of unpaid nursing education debt for registered nurses (RNs), nurse practitioners, and nurse faculty members. You must qualify by working in a critical shortage facility or an eligible nursing school as a nurse faculty member.

Student Loan Payment Deferrals

Federal student loans do not have to be repaid until October 1, 2022, at the earliest. In March 2020, Congress passed a bill that automatically suspended student loan payments and waived interest. The benefit was originally set to expire but has been reinstituted several times.

Current nursing students who will graduate soon will not have to make student loan payments. Depending on what the federal government does next, they may also experience another extension.

5. Private Student Loans

Private student loans come from a local bank, credit union, or another type of private student loan lender, not the federal government. Like a federal student loan, you can use private student loans to cover living expenses, tuition, and other related school costs.

Lenders evaluate an applicant’s credit history, among other factors. Students who do not have a strong credit history or score may need to add a cosigner in order to qualify or potentially qualify for a lower interest rate. If you can’t pay back the loan, your co-signer is on the hook for paying back the loan.

Private Student Loans vs Federal Student Loans

As you likely know, there are some differences between private and federal student loans, which leads many financial experts to suggest taking out federal student loans over private student loans. Here are some features of private student loans that make them less advantageous over federal student loans:

•  May need a cosigner: Private student loans often require you to have a cosigner. However, if you make a certain number of on-time payments, you can apply to have your cosigner removed from the loan.

•  No federal protections: You can’t tap into income-driven repayment programs, loan forgiveness and deferment protections with private student loans like you can with federal student loans.

Due to these differences, private student loans are typically considered an option only after all other funding sources have been depleted.

Recommended: Private Students Loans vs Federal Student Loans

6. Tuition Reimbursement Programs

Through a tuition reimbursement program, a company covers some or all of the costs of an employee’s education as long as you follow the company’s tuition reimbursement requirements. This is a major benefit because you can work at another company, possibly through a part-time job. For example, the following companies offer tuition reimbursement: Target , Starbucks , and UPS .

7. Hospitals/Employers That Pay for Nursing School

Another option may be to work at a hospital or other health care employer through a tuition reimbursement program. For example, you could get a job in the billing office of the hospital and go to nursing school during your off hours, or you may be able to work with your employer to put together the best schedule for both of your needs.

Hospitals and health care employers want to retain good workers, particularly in nursing, which has such a shortage of employees.

Learn more about the health care employer’s requirements for tuition reimbursement, including the amount they will reimburse. Note that it may not equal 100% — it might be 75% or 50% instead.

8. Getting a Nursing Degree Abroad

Completing a nursing degree abroad can take about two to three years. However, you can find short-term study abroad programs (a fall semester, summer, or a few weeks between terms) in many different countries.

You can often find free programs, scholarships or grants that will help cover the cost of your study abroad program — some countries offer various options for students. Consider looking into countries that have reputable health care programs, such as Denmark, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, or Sweden.

9. Military Service

You may have a large range of education benefits if you complete military service. For example, you can access the Post-9/11 GI Bill if you served at least 90 days on active duty (either all at once or with breaks in service) on or after September 11, 2001, or received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001 and were honorably discharged (after any amount of time), or served for at least 30 continuous days (all at once, without a break in service) on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged with a service-connected disability, or are a dependent child using benefits transferred by a qualifying veteran or service member.

Follow the rules regarding military service requirements, depending on your branch of the military. The college and university you plan to attend will have more information about your education benefits and so will your military branch.

10. Nurse Corps Program

The Nurse Corps Program is a scholarship available to eligible nursing students. In exchange for the scholarships, recipients work in critical shortage areas after graduating with their nursing credentials.

Deciding Which Route to Pursue

When you need help paying for nursing school, which option makes sense for you? Your preferences might offer you the most insight into the best option to pay for school. For example, it might make sense to avoid the military programs offered because you have no interest in joining the military. You may also not have the resources to study overseas or have a family who depends on you for financial support. Your goal may also be to learn how to pay for nursing school without loans.

Whatever your goals, one thing you can do is to meet with the financial aid office of the school you plan to attend. A financial aid professional can lay out all your options and help you choose the right option for you.

Private Student Loans From SoFi

When you’re readying yourself for nursing school, it’s good to have options. SoFi offers low fixed rates and variable interest rates to help you access the right private student loans for you and your future needs.

Our private educational loans are designed to make paying for undergraduate or graduate education easier. These loans for students can cover up to 100% of school-certified costs, which includes tuition and food, books, supplies, room and board, and other education expenses.

Learn more about your private student loan options with SoFi and through our private student loans guide.

FAQ

Can FAFSA be used for nursing school financial aid?

Yes, you can use the FAFSA in order to qualify for financial aid for nursing school. The amount of financial aid you receive depends on your level of need, year in school, dependency status, and other factors. For example, you can access Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans between $5,500 to $12,500 per year in undergraduate. In graduate or professional school, you can borrow up to $20,500 each year in Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Can an employer pay for you to attend nursing school?

Yes, an employer may pay for you to attend nursing school. Your current employer may help you pay for nursing school. Talk to the human resources office to learn more about tuition assistance, the amount you can receive for attendance, and the details about your employer’s tuition reimbursement regulations.

If you aren’t currently aware of jobs that pay for nursing school, you may want to contact the college or university you plan to attend and learn more about your employment options, including work-study opportunities.

Can you use private student loans for nursing school?

You can access private student loans to pay for nursing school. SoFi can offer private loans that cover nursing school and even living expenses. Learn more about your private student loan options with SoFi.


Photo credit: iStock/FatCamera

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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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, 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.

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What Is Credit Card Protection? How It Works

The Ultimate Guide to Credit Card Protection and How to Use It

Credit cards can offer a number of additional protections, including if you were to lose your job or otherwise become unable to pay your bills. Some credit card protections, like travel insurance, are perks of the card included in the annual fee. For others, like credit card payment protection, you may have to opt in and pay an additional fee.

Read on to learn more about the types of credit card protection you can get, how they work, and when they may be worth it.

What Is Credit Card Protection?

Credit cards may offer various forms of protection in their perks and benefits. These protections can help protect your purchases and ensure you don’t pay for charges that aren’t yours. They can also help you in a dispute with a vendor. For example, if you ordered an item that never made it to you, and the merchant won’t give you a refund, you could invoke a credit card chargeback with your credit card company.

Perhaps the most common form of protection associated with the term ‘credit card protection’ is credit card payment protection insurance. This is an insurance plan that you can opt into for a monthly fee that would offer protection if something were to happen that prevented you from paying your bills.

Recommended: Charge Cards Advantages and Disadvantages

Types of Credit Card Protection

Some of the types of protection that may be available on credit cards include:

•   Fraud protection

•   Return protection

•   Price protection

•   Purchase protection

•   Travel insurance

•   Car rental insurance

Read on for more details on each of these forms of credit card protection.

Fraud Protection

A key part of what a credit card is, fraud protection is a big reason why people use credit cards over debit cards or cash. If someone were to steal your credit card number or your physical card, fraud protection shields you from being responsible or liable for charges.

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, creditors cannot “take actions that adversely affect the consumer’s credit standing until an investigation is completed.” This means that all credit card companies will launch an investigation if fraud occurs, during which you will not be held liable (though make sure to make your credit card minimum payment so you don’t incur late fees or a ding to your credit during the investigation).

Some credit card companies may go beyond that and offer even more fraud protection, including $0 liability. (The FCBA caps liability in case of fraud at $50 if the thief presents the card. The liability is $0 if the card is not physically present, as in the case of someone stealing a credit card number and using it online).

While fraud protection can offer peace of mind, it’s also important to be proactive about recognizing fraud. If you lose your credit card, call your issuer to have the card frozen. And always let your issuer know ASAP if you notice a charge that isn’t yours.

Return Protection

Return protection is another form of purchase protection offered by some credit cards. It allows you to return an item for a set period of time defined in your membership agreement. This return window may offer more leeway than that of the merchant you made the purchase from (for example, 90 days instead of 30 days.)

There are exclusions to what can and can’t be returned. Further, there also may be a cap on the cost of the item being returned, as well as an annual cap per card, though it depends on how your credit card works specifically.

Price Protection

Have you bought something, only to see the item go on sale a few weeks later? That’s where credit card price protection comes in. With this perk, you may be able to receive a refund for the difference in price if you purchased something with your card.

Generally, it’s your responsibility to track price drops. And your issuer may have certain terms, such as limiting the protection to price drops within a set time period. Price protection also may exclude certain types of purchases, such as tickets to sporting events or concerts.

Purchase Protection

Similar to return protection, purchase protection can help protect you if purchases are lost or damaged, or services aren’t rendered or delivered as expected. Generally, you would bring the issue up with the merchant or service provider. But if they don’t initiate a refund, then you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. This process initiates what’s called a credit card chargeback.

There may be limitations and exceptions to purchase protection. It can be a good idea to talk directly with the merchant before reaching out to your credit card company.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance can be a big reason to put a trip on a credit card. In fact, some card issuers offer insurance as a perk for using the card.

The specifics of travel insurance depend on the card issuer, but it may include insurance for lost luggage, or coverage for trip interruption or cancellation. In general, these insurance policies may not be as comprehensive as a standalone policy, but they can provide some peace of mind when planning a trip.

Car Rental Insurance

Car rental insurance is another type of insurance offered as a credit card perk. If you rent a car with the credit card, the card may provide insurance protection in case of damage. Generally, this includes collision/loss damage waiver coverage.

Car rental insurance through your credit card may allow you to forego the insurance options offered by the car rental agency. However, as with any insurance policy, it’s a good idea to read the fine print to know exactly what is and is not covered.

How Credit Card Protection Works

Most protections are part of the overall perks and benefits of the card. But credit card payment protection is a little bit different. It’s generally an opt-in program that offers protection if you are no longer able to pay your credit card bill. The protection offered can be short term, such as for a life event like a change in employment, or long term, extending for 12 to 24 months in the event of a job loss or hospital stay.

Usually, credit card payment protection carries an additional monthly fee. Also note that payment protection doesn’t let you off the hook from paying the bill down the road. Rather, for a set period of time, your credit card issuer would offer a break on making payments or lower your minimum payments due, as well as pause any fees. Your issuer will continue to report your account in good standing during that time.

Tips to Keep Your Credit Card Safe

Protection programs can give you peace of mind. But losing a credit card or dealing with fraudulent activity can be stressful regardless of what protections you have in place. It can also potentially open the door to identity theft, which could potentially harm your credit.

That’s why it’s smart to set up some smart security behaviors. Read on for some tips for how to keep your credit card safe.

Practice Credit Card Protection From Day One

When you’ve applied for a credit card, keep an eye out for the card to arrive in the mail. It should come in between five and 14 days; your issuer may provide a timeline.

If you don’t receive your card within that time period, call your issuer. They will issue you a new one. And as soon as you do get your card, follow the steps to set it up for use.

Keep Your Account Number Private

Don’t write down your credit card account number. Also consider whether or not you want to save payment information online. While it can be convenient, it could leave your information vulnerable. If you are using your credit card to make a payment, make sure that you are doing so through an encrypted service.

Keep Your Information Current

Make sure that the email address, mailing address, and telephone number on file with your card issuer are up to date. That way, you are aware of any communication between you and your card issuer. Further, this will prevent a new card from being delivered to the wrong address.

Be Careful With Your Receipts

While federal law prohibits how much credit card information is on receipts, this may not be true in other countries. If you’re traveling abroad, it may make sense to be even more mindful about how you dispose of receipts.

Secure Your Devices and Networks

Being mindful of how and when you use your credit card online can help you avoid fraud. Using your own network, rather than public WiFi, can be one security step. It can also be helpful to check that a website uses encryption for payment.

Protect Yourself Online

When you’re using a credit card for payment, it’s important to be cyber-savvy. Credit card scams to try to obtain your information or your credit card number are not uncommon.

You’ll want to be on the lookout for phishing attempts. If a merchant or bank asks you to email your credit card number, call the merchant directly. Know that banks will never ask for sensitive information over email.

Additionally, pay attention to any odd links, misspellings, or emails that include a link. Instead of following the link within the email, consider manually typing in the URL of a website.

Check Your Account Often

It can be good to get in the habit of regularly checking your credit card balance. Doing so a few times a week, instead of just waiting for a statement to come out, can alert you to fraud as soon as it happens. And remember, a fraudster could steal your information even if your physical card has always remained in your possession.

Report Lost Cards and Fraudulent Activity Right Away

If you see something odd on your credit card balance, let your card issuer know right away. The same goes if you can’t find your credit card.

Even if you’re 99% sure your card is somewhere in your house or car, it can be a good idea to call your card issuer. In some cases, they can freeze your card. This means that you’ll be able to unfreeze it once you’ve found it, without getting a new card and a new card number.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

What Does Credit Card Payment Protection Cover?

In general, credit card payment protection insurance has restrictions regarding when it applies, and it may require documentation.

Some reasons you may be able to request long-term credit card payment protection may include:

•  Job loss

•  Disability

•  Hospitalization

•  Death of a child, spouse, or domestic partner

•  Leave of absence (for family or child care, or for military duty)

•  Federal or state disaster

Meanwhile, you may be able to get short-term protection for the following reasons:

•   Marriage

•   Divorce

•   Graduation

•   Childbirth

•   Adoption

•  Retirement

•   New job and job promotion

•   A move to a new residence

Situations that may not qualify for payment protection include incarceration or voluntarily leaving your job, such as to pursue higher education.

Pros and Cons of Payment Protection

Is payment protection right for you? That depends. The opt-in program usually costs an additional fee. Plus, while paying your full balance each month is ideal, you could potentially pay the credit card minimum payment if you were going through hard times to keep your account in good standing, though your annual percentage rate (APR) would still apply.

In many cases, it may make sense to focus on bringing down your balance so your minimum payment is relatively low. That way, if the worst were to happen, you might still have wiggle room in your budget to handle minimum payments.

Pros of Payment Protection Cons of Payment Protection
Gives you a breath on monthly payments Will incur an additional monthly fee, adding to your balance
Offers peace of mind May be other assistance options with no added cost
Helps protect your credit in the event you can’t make payments Generally limited to two years of assistance
Pauses your credit card’s fees Limits on what qualifies for protection insurance to kick in

Is Credit Card Payment Protection Worth It?

Weighing the pros and cons of credit card payment can help you assess whether it makes sense for you. If you carry a very high balance and are in the process of paying it down, payment protection may give you peace of mind — especially if you don’t have a good APR for a credit card. But keep in mind that you could potentially switch to minimum payments during a hard time and still maintain your payment history.

To decide whether credit card payment protection is right for you, read the fine print and assess how the fees would impact your overall financial picture. Also take into consideration your current financial situation, your savings account balance, and the general stability and security of your job and lifestyle.

Credit Card Protection Scams and How to Avoid Them

As credit cards offer protection, scammers see opportunities — and these can be tailored, beyond just credit card skimming. There are several credit card protection scams that may target card holders, including:

•   Phone scams offering loss protection for a fee. Some scammers have been calling people and telling them they may be liable for charges beyond $50 on their credit card. They then try to get people to buy loss protection and insurance programs. If you get this call, know that credit cards include fraud protection at no additional fee — plus, your liability is limited to $50 by law. Call your credit card company if you have any questions about its fraud protection programs.

•   Scams claiming your account has been compromised. In this case, the scammer will ask you to provide personal details, such as your credit card number, claiming your account has been compromised. Don’t ever give sensitive credit information over text or email. If someone calls claiming to be your credit card company, call the company directly from the number on the back of the card, instead of any number you may get during a call.

•   Fraudulent text alerts. Scammers also may send text messages asking for your CVV number on a credit card to “fix” a security problem. A real credit card company would never ask for this information.

•   Fake account protection offers. Any account protection should come directly from your credit card company, not from a third party. If you receive these offers, don’t take them up on it.

The Takeaway

Credit card protection can be one of the great benefits of using a credit card. While some credit card protections are standard, including fraud protection, it can be helpful to weigh what protection offers are important to you and what you’ll get the most use out of if you’re adding on any others. With credit card payment protection insurance, for instance, you can get protection if something were to happen that prevented you from paying your bills, but you’ll owe an added monthly fee.

FAQ

Are there limits to credit card payment protection?

There may be limits on what qualifies for credit card payment protection, and your issuer may need to see proof of hardship. Further, there may be a time limit on how long credit card payment protection is offered.

Is there a time limit on credit card payment protection?

Generally, issuers have a time limit for credit card protection policies. These vary between issuers, but may be as short as several months or as long as two years, depending on the circumstances.

Should I get credit card payment protection insurance?

Credit card protection insurance may incur an additional fee, unlike other protection options offered as part of your overall perks and benefits within your card. That fee can add to your balance. If your credit card balance is at or near $0, credit card payment protection insurance may not be necessary.


Photo credit: iStock/9dreamstudio

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Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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

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History of Credit Cards: When Were Credit Cards Invented?

History of Credit Cards: When Were Credit Cards Invented?

Curious to know when credit cards were invented? There were actually a number of early iterations of what we know and use today as a credit card, with the first versions of the concept dating back to the early and mid 1900s.

Let’s take a look at the major milestones in the history of credit cards and how this payment method developed.

Invention of Credit Cards

Who invented credit cards? As mentioned before, there were several precursors to the modern version of the credit card. Credit card history can be traced back to 1914, when Western Union rolled out the idea of “Metal Money,” which was granted to a handful of customers and allowed them to push back payment until a later date.

The next iteration of credit cards was introduced in 1946, when New York City banker John Biggins introduced the Charg-it card. These charge cards were usable within a two-block radius of Biggins’ bank. Purchases made by customers were forwarded to his bank account, and merchants were reimbursed at a later date.

Recommended: Charge Cards Advantages and Disadvantages

When Were Credit Cards First Used?

Let’s take a look at when different types of credit cards were first used, from the first store card to the first international card.

First Store Cards

The first store card that gained widespread use was the Diners Club Card. The idea for the card arose when businessman Frank McNamara misplaced his wallet and couldn’t pay for dinner at a New York City restaurant. The good news is that his wife was there to cover the tab.

In 1950, McNamara returned to the same restaurant with his business partner, Ralph Schneider, where he used a cardboard card to pay the bill. That card was the Diners Club Card, and the dinner became known as the “First Supper.”

First Bank Cards

In 1958, American Express developed its first credit card that was made of cardboard. The next year, the plastic credit card was developed and released.

Also in 1958, Bank of America mailed its credit card to certain segments of the market in California, where it was based. The bank offered a pre-approved limit of $300 to 60,000 customers in Fresno.

Then, in 1966, Bank of America’s BankAmericard became the country’s first general use credit card, meaning more places would accept credit card payments with it.

First Interbank Cards

In 1966, a cluster of California banks joined together to form the Interbank Card Association (ITC). The ITC soon rolled out the nation’s second major bank card. Initially called the Interbank card and later the Master Charge, this card became Mastercard in 1979.

First International Cards

The first international credit card is claimed to be the Diners Club card, mentioned above. It’s said to have become the first globally accepted charge card in 1953 when businesses in Cuba, Mexico, and Canada began accepting payments from those with Diners Club cards.

And in 1970, Bank of America rolled its BankAmericard on a global scale, prompting the formation of the International Bankcard Company (IBANCO).

Regulation and Litigation

Over the decades, credit cards have undergone several rounds of regulation. Let’s take a look at some of the major regulatory milestones in the history of credit cards:

1970:

•   The Fair Credit Reporting Act was passed to regulate the collection, access, and use of consumer credit report data.

•   Also this year, the Unsolicited Credit Card Act was introduced to prohibit credit card issuers from sending credit cards to customers who didn’t request them.

1974:

•   The Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974 was created to protect consumers from unfair credit billing practices. It stated that consumers have the right to dispute unauthorized charges, charges made due to errors, and charges when goods are undelivered and services not rendered.

•   The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) was passed, which prevented lenders from discriminating against credit card applicants based on gender, race, age, religion, marital status, national origin, and whether you receive benefits from a public assistance program. It also specified that a lender can’t charge higher fees or a higher than average credit card interest rate for any of those reasons.

1977:

•   The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was introduced to prevent debt collectors from using deceptive, unfair, or abusive practices in their efforts to collect debt that have gone to default and are in the hands of debt collectors. It limited calls to between the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and prohibited contact at an unusual time or place. Further, it specified that if you’re represented by a debt attorney, the debt collector must stop calling you and reach out to your attorney instead.

2009:

•   The CARD Act boosted consumer protection by “establishing fair and transparent practices related to the extension of credit.” It prohibits credit card issuers from offering credit without first gauging the consumer’s ability to pay, and introduced special rules when it comes to extending credit to consumers under the age of 21. The CARD act also limits the amount of upfront fees an issuers can charge during the first year after an account is opened, as well as the instances that issuers can charge penalty fees.

Technological Evolution of Credit Cards

Here are some of the main technological milestones and changes of credit cards throughout their history:

1980s: Magnetic Stripe
Credit card networks and banks started rolling out cards with the magnetic stripe, which became widely adopted. While it’s on the verge of being phased out, consumers still use magnetic stripe for payment today.

2004: Contactless Credit Cards
Contactless credit was used for the first time in 2004. They started to become more popular in 2008, when major credit card networks like Visa, Mastercardm and American Express started offering their own versions of contactless cards.

2010: Chip Cards
Pin-and-chip technology made its way to America in 2010. This technology offers greater security than magnetic credit cards, which can be copied. These days, the majority of credit cards in America have EMV chips.

2011: Mobile Wallets
In 2011, Google introduced the first mobile wallets, and Apple followed in its footsteps in 2012. In 2014, Apple Pay was released, followed by Android and Samsung Pay in 2015. As mobile wallets are stored on your smartphone, they grant greater security than physical cards, which can be more easily stolen. Plus, smartphones have security features, such as fingerprint recognition and passcodes, which make them more secure.

How Do Credit Cards Work?

Credit cards are a tangible card that you can use to make purchases. If you’re wondering how credit cards work, they’re a type of revolving loan, which means that you can tap into your line of credit at any given time to borrow funds up to your credit limit, which is set when you apply. Your line of credit gets depleted when you make transactions, and it gets replenished when you pay back what you owe.

Credit cards have an interest rate, expressed as annual percentage rate (APR). This represents how much interest you pay during an entire year. You’ll only pay interest if you have a remaining balance after your payment due date. When you pay the full balance that you owe on your card, your balance is zero and you will not owe interest. When you pay more than you owe, or if a merchant issues you a refund for an amount larger than your total balance, then you have a negative balance on your credit card.

Credit cards might also come with perks, such as rewards points and cashback. Cardholders may also enjoy additional benefits like travel insurance and discounts at select merchants. Credit cards also have built-in security features, such as pin-and-chip technology, fraud monitoring, and a three-digit CVV number on a credit card.

As for how to apply for a credit card, you’ll first want to know your credit score, as this will indicate which cards you may be eligible for. You may consider applying for preapproval to determine your odds of getting approved. When you’ve compared your credit card options and decided which one is right for you, then you can apply online, over the phone, or through the mail.

Credit Cards and Credit Scores

Credit cards can have a major impact on your credit score. For one, your account activity is reported to the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Making on-time credit card minimum payments can help your credit, as payment history makes up 35% of your FICO consumer credit score. On the flipside, making late payments can drag down your score.

You’ll also want to keep an eye on how much debt you rack up relative to your total amount of credit available. Your credit utilization ratio, which measures how much of your available credit has been used, accounts for 30% of your score. It’s generally recommended to keep your credit utilization below 30% to avoid adverse effects to your credit score.

Other factors related to how your credit card can impact your score include the length of your credit history, which makes up 15% of your score, and your mix of credit, which accounts for 10% of your credit score. Having an account open for longer and holding a mix of different types of credit accounts both can help boost your score.

Types of Credit Cards

Nowadays, there are a number of types of cards to choose from. Let’s take a look at the different types of credit cards in modern times.

Rewards Cards

Rewards cards feature a way to earn rewards through travel miles, cash back, or points. You usually collect rewards when you make purchases. For example, you may earn one point for every dollar spent.

You usually can redeem the rewards you earn in different ways, such as on travel accommodations, airline tickets, gift cards, merchandise, or as credit toward your balance statement.

Low-Interest Cards

As the name suggests, low-interest cards feature a low APR. Having a card with a low APR can certainly benefit you if you carry a credit card balance or plan to use your card to make a large purchase, as you may be able to save money on interest.

When looking for low-interest credit cards, you usually need to have a strong credit score to qualify.

Credit Building Cards

If you have a short credit history or less-than-stellar credit score, a credit building card can help you boost your credit. As payments made on a secured credit card are reported to the three major credit bureaus, using your card can help build your credit as long as you stay on top of your payments.

While these cards are more accessible than many other credit cards out there, they also tend to have higher interest rates and fees. They may also offer a lower credit card limit.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

The Future of Credit Cards

As demonstrated in the past few decades, credit card technology is constantly evolving to meet the needs and demands of consumers. The next time you reach your credit card expiration date, you could see an updated product in the mail.

It’s expected that contactless payments, which increased in popularity during the pandemic, will continue to proliferate. In the future, it may even become possible to make payments via voice command tools.

Additionally, the security used in credit cards will continue to evolve. It’s anticipated that magnetic stripe cards will soon fall by the wayside, getting replaced by biometric cards, which use fingerprints and chip technology to enhance security.

Looking for a new credit card?

As you can see from learning the history of credit cards, a lot has changed since the payment method was first introduced. Credit cards remain as popular a payment method as ever, and it’s expected they’ll continue to evolve as technology and consumer needs shift.

When you’re looking for a credit card, it’s important to consider what features you want it to have and how you’d like it to serve your needs. One option is to apply for a credit card with SoFi.

The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1



Take advantage of this offer by applying for a SoFi credit card today.

FAQ

Who invented credit cards?

There were several early iterations of credit cards, so it’s difficult to pin down exactly who invented credit cards. The credit may go to businessman Frank McNamara and his business partner Ralph Schneider, who invented the Diners Club Card, the first store card to gain widespread use. However, there were more limited versions of credit cards around before that.

How were credit cards first used?

While the concept of paying by credit can be traced back to ancient civilizations, the first modern day example of paying with a credit card was the Diners Club card, which could be used at restaurants. However, this card had one major difference between modern credit cards: you had to pay off the balance in full each month.

What was the first type of credit card?

The first type of credit card was most likely the Diners Club card, introduced in 1950. It was the first credit card that could be used at multiple establishments.


Photo credit: iStock/DoubleAnti

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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.

The SoFi Credit Card 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.

1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.

SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.
1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points as cash deposited into your SoFi Checking and Savings account, as a statement credit to a SoFi Credit Card account, as fractional shares into your SoFi Invest account, or as a payment toward your SoFi Personal Loan or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.

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9 Smart Ways to Pay Off Student Loans

9 Smart Ways to Pay Off Student Loans

Let’s talk about student loan payments. Woo-hoo! OK, it’s not the most thrilling topic, but know what is serotonin-boosting? Paying off that very last loan.

How to Pay Off Your Student Loans

It’s the unglamorous work that goes on behind the scenes that make or break every business owner, athlete, or creative person. It is helpful to think about student loan repayment like any other big feat worth accomplishing.

It begins with knowing that paying down student loans in a smart and effective way can take a lot of planning, budgeting, and adapting.

While there is no single smartest way to pay off student loans, because everyone’s situation is different, there are steps that will put most borrowers in a position to pay off their student loans without too much pain and on a timeline.

Another goal could be to create a financial plan that includes your loans.

Strategies to Pay Off Student Loans

Here are nine steps to consider including in your student loan repayment plan.

1. Organizing All Of Your Debt, Including Student Loans

Keeping track of your student loans and other sources of debt can be tricky, especially if you are a recent graduate. Consider listing them. Include the student loan servicer, amount of the loan, monthly payment, interest rate, and when the loan should be paid in full.

If you aren’t sure what your monthly payments will be, you can use this student loan calculator to get a rough idea, or you can call your loan servicer.

If you have credit card debt or personal loans, include them on your debt list. With all of your sources of debt, you can then mark on a calendar the date that the monthly payments are due.

While you always need to make the monthly minimum payments on all debts (unless your student loans are within their grace period or are in forbearance), listing them allows you to identify which debts you may want to pay off first.

If you have high-interest credit cards adding up each month, a credit card consolidation loan may be a great option to look at, too.

Once your credit cards are paid off, you’ll want to think about whether your goal is to pay your loans off quickly, or to simply make the monthly payments until the loans are done. The former is one way to save on interest over time.

Some folks do prefer to pay only the minimum monthly amount on their student loans so that they can save a little for other things.

2. Budgeting to Include Loan Payments

It can take time and effort to develop a monthly budgeting system that works for you, but it is doable, and totally worth it.

To get started, track your monthly cash inflows and outflows for two months. Total how much money you spent in each category, including debt payments like student loans.

Once you have a general idea of what you’re spending in each category, you can begin to build a budget framework. For example, if you spend $300 on groceries one month and $350 the next, you can now set a realistic grocery budget. Leave room for annual and quarterly expenses as well as incidentals.

With a budget that is built to include student loan payments, you’ll be more equipped to make all of your payments on time and know how much is available to spend on other wants and needs. Also, understanding how you’re spending will allow you to identify the areas where you’re overspending.

3. Setting Up Automatic Payments

Hopefully your student loan payments are set up to be automatically deducted from your bank account. If they aren’t, you can contact your student loan servicer to set up autopay. That way you won’t miss a payment because you forgot or are somewhere where you can’t access the internet.

Remember, missed or late payments will negatively affect your credit score. Damaged credit could preclude you from opportunities in the future, such as being able to refinance your loans.

Many loan service providers offer a discount if you arrange to autopay. When you sign up, ask if such a discount is available.

See how student loan refinancing could
be a smart way to help
pay off your student loans.


4. Paying More Than the Minimum Monthly Amount

Paying more than the minimum monthly payment can be a great strategy if your goal is to pay off your loan faster than the stated term. You’ll also save on interest over the life of the loan by paying it off sooner. Even small amounts can make a difference.

To do this, instruct your loan servicer to apply any extra payments to the loan principal, or adjust your automatic monthly payment to a higher amount and clarify that you want that extra money dedicated to the principal.

Make sure, after the next month’s payment, that the money was indeed put toward the loan’s principal.

Recommended: Why Making Minimum Student Loan Payments Isn’t Enough

5. Paying a Lump Sum Toward Student Loans

Increasing your monthly payment isn’t the only way to put a dent in your loans; at any point, you are allowed to make a lump sum payment toward the principal.

You could put your tax refund, holiday or birthday money, work bonuses, or inheritance money toward your student debt.

6. Adjusting Your Repayment Plan If Needed

Most federal student loans come with a 10-year repayment plan unless you choose otherwise.

Income-driven repayment plans base payments on discretionary income and family size. The plans lower monthly payments by extending the length of repayment to 20 or 25 years, after which any remaining loan balance is to be forgiven.

Even though your monthly payments are lower, you will pay more interest over time (longer loan terms mean more interest payments, after all). So it’s not a great choice if you want to pay off your student loans quickly or pay as little interest as possible, but it is available to those who are having trouble making their monthly payments.

If you are planning to use the Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program for your federal student loans, you will need to select one of the income-driven repayment plans.

7. Considering Refinancing Your Loans

When you refinance one or more student loans, a private lender like a bank, credit union, or online company pays off your current loans and issues one new student loan, ideally at a lower interest rate. A lower rate could mean substantial savings over the life of the loan.

With federal student loan consolidation, on the other hand, the government bundles your federal student loans into one, using a weighted average of the interest rates, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of a percentage point.

It’s important to note that by refinancing your federal student loans to a private student loan, you will not be able to access federal programs like income-driven repayment plans, PSLF, and government deferment or forbearance. If you don’t need any of those benefits, a lower rate gained by refinancing could be worthwhile.

Exploring refinancing with a private lender takes little time and doesn’t cost anything.

8. Knowing Your Worth and Asking for a Raise

With any pay raise, you can use the extra income toward your financial goals. This could mean increasing the monthly amount you pay toward your student loans or making a lump sum payment.

How much money you earn is an important factor contributing to your financial stability and ability to pay down your student debt. While budgeting is important, so is knowing your worth and asking for more when you deserve it.

If you haven’t already, start keeping track of your successes so that at your next compensation conversation, you have concrete examples on why you deserve a salary bump.

9. Understanding Your Employment Benefits Package

Although student loan repayment help is not as widespread as retirement or health care benefits, more employers are offering that perk to attract and retain employees.

Whenever you’re comparing job offers, it’s a good idea to compare benefits packages; although they’re not flashy like a big salary or company equity, benefits can be just as valuable.

If you’re looking for a new job, you could include student loan repayment help in your search. While it obviously shouldn’t be your only consideration, it’s great to have an idea of what you’re looking for in an employer.

Recommended: Finding Jobs That Pay Off Student Loans

Refinancing Student Loans

Refinancing is among the ways to pay off student loans, and SoFi is a standout in that field. SoFi refinances federal and private student loans with fixed or variable rates and a range of loan terms.

Take a close look at your student loan balance and the rates you’re paying, and then check your refinance rate in two minutes.

FAQ

What is the smart way to pay off student loans?

To pay off any loan, it’s smart to look at the interest rate and repayment term. If you can manage the monthly payments, a short term and a low rate is a winning combo.

If the payments are too painful and a longer term is needed, it could be smart to make extra payments of any amount whenever you can.

The PSLF program forgives any remaining Direct Loan balance after 10 years of on-time payments and qualifying employment. That could be seen as a smart way to pay off federal student loans if a graduate commits to working for a government or nonprofit employer, but the program has had a 98% applicant denial rate.

How can I pay off $100k in student loans in five years?

Say what? Well, it has been done. It might take sacrifice (moving in with relatives, no eating out, no new car), putting chunks that would normally go to rent toward student loan debt, staying motivated by watching and listening to others’ stories of debt repayment, refinancing one or more times, and getting aggressive about payments.

Most refinance lenders will offer a lower rate for a shorter loan term. Of course, the shorter the term, the higher your monthly payments will be, but the less costly the loan will be. A borrower might find that a variable rate, which usually starts lower than a fixed rate, pays off with a short-term loan.

How do I pay off a five-year loan in two years?

By paying extra toward the principal, in dribs and drabs or in a lump sum, and/or refinancing to a lower rate. Federal law prohibits prepayment penalties for federal or private student loans, so that’s not a worry.

To keep your student loan servicer from applying extra amounts to the next month’s payment, tell your servicer, by phone, mail, or online, to apply any extra payments to the loan principal.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


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

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Tips for When to Consider Refinancing Your Student Loans

Tips for When to Consider Refinancing Your Student Loans

Editor's Note: For the latest developments regarding federal student loan debt repayment, check out our student debt guide.

If you’re like most borrowers, particularly those with six figures’ worth of student loans from graduate or professional school, you might find that looking at your student debt square in the face is a downer, but repayment can be managed.

Is refinancing a good idea? It can be. When? When you can snag a lower interest rate and in a few other situations.

Student Loan Repayment Plans

Chances are you set up a student loan repayment plan after graduation and figured you’d revisit it later — when you’re making more money, when your career is more secure, when you have more time. The standard repayment plan for federal student loans is 10 years. Direct Consolidation Loans have a repayment period of 10 to 30 years.

Putting off the repayment thought is understandable. After receiving your undergraduate or graduate degree, your focus is on other things (like building a career).

But if you let that nebulous “later” turn into “never,” the repercussions can be costly. At some point, refinancing your student loans could potentially save you a significant amount of money. You just need to figure out if it is the right move for you.

When to Finance Your Student Loans

1. Your Current Student Loans Have High Interest Rates

Look at the interest rates you’re paying on your student loans, particularly federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans (graduate or professional), federal grad PLUS loans, and/or private student loans.

Depending on how high your loan balance is and how much you could reduce the interest rates by refinancing one or more loans, your cost savings may be significant.

2. Your Financial Situation Has Improved Since You Took Out the Loans

Maybe you were a starving student when you took out federal or private student loans, but ideally your financial situation has improved with time. This is great news for your bottom line, because a higher credit score and income help a borrower qualify for lower interest rates.

If you expect to stay on an upward financial trajectory, you might even consider refinancing to a variable-rate student loan, which will have a lower starting interest rate than a fixed-rate loan. Variable rates are tied to market fluctuations, though, which means rates that are very low today are likely to go up at some point.

The upshot is that a variable-rate loan could be a good option for a qualified borrower who intends to pay off the loan at a relatively fast pace.

3. You Don’t Plan to Use Certain Federal Student Loan Benefits

Borrowers who go to work in the public sector may qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Some federal programs also offer relief for borrowers who experience financial hardships (such as student loan deferment and forbearance, income-driven repayment plans, and the graduated repayment plan).

If you expect your income to be unpredictable or you’re looking into qualifying public service employment, it probably wouldn’t behoove you to refinance federal student loans. But refinancing could make sense if you don’t plan to tap into any of the federal programs listed above and you can gain a lower rate.

Recommended: Looking for more guidance on your student loans? Explore SoFi’s Student Loan Help Center for tips, resources, guides, and more!

4. You’re Going to Take Out a Large Loan

For loans like mortgage loans, lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio, among other things. DTI is your monthly debt payments per month, including your future mortgage payments, divided by your gross monthly income. A low DTI generally signals better odds of loan approval and better interest rates.

Decreasing your monthly student loan payment by refinancing, with, say, a long loan term, could lower your DTI.

It might make sense to refinance your student loans at least six months before buying a home or making any other large purchase. That will give you time to recoup the points lost after a hard credit inquiry.

Once the mortgage or other big loan has been secured, you could refinance again, this time picking the lender offering the lowest rate, not just the lowest payment. You can refinance student loans as many times as you wish.

If you think student loan refinancing may be a good option for you, the next step is to check out several refinancing providers to compare interest rates and other features.

Refinance Student Loans With SoFi

You can refinance both federal and private student loans into one new loan with SoFi in an easy, all-online process. You can get your rate in two minutes.

SoFi also offers access to an extensive member network through complementary member experiences like happy hours and dinners.

Which means you could gain more than cost savings when you refinance student loans.

Want to learn more about refinancing your student loans? See your rates in just two minutes.

FAQ

When should I refinance my student loans?

It might make sense to refinance as soon as you have a stable income and good credit that can usher in a lower rate.

Can I refinance student loans after buying a house?

Buying a home creates new debt, and that can make refinancing student loans more difficult. But by waiting several months or even a year to refinance, the dust can settle on the mortgage decision.

Is refinancing my student loans a good idea?

If you’re struggling to repay federal student loans, you might consider an income-driven repayment plan or federal student loan consolidation.

But if you can qualify, your income is stable, and you would save money by refinancing federal or private student loans, that might be a smart move.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


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

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