ACH Return Codes (R01 - R33): Understanding What They Mean and What to Do

ACH Return Codes (R01 – R33): Understanding What They Mean

ACH return codes are generated when an ACH (Automated Clearing House) payment fails to process and therefore gets returned. ACH payments, which essentially transfer funds between financial institutions, can be a huge convenience. They allow you to set up automatic monthly bill pay and receive direct deposit of one’s paycheck, for instance. There are, however, likely to be times when a transaction doesn’t work as expected, perhaps due to incorrect coding or insufficient funds. ACH return codes indicate exactly what went wrong.

Here, you’ll learn about what ACH return codes are and what steps you can take to help complete this kind of banking transaction, especially if you are managing a business that relies upon them.

What Are ACH Return Codes?

First, know that ACH refers to the Automated Clearing House, a U.S. financial network that provides electronic transfers among banks and credit unions. If you receive your paycheck by direct deposit or set up bill pay from your checking account, you are using the ACH system. It’s considered a fast, secure, and simple way to move money.

ACH returns occur when an ACH payment can’t be completed.

There are a few reasons why these transactions aren’t successful, including:

•   The originator (the entity who requested payment) provided inaccurate or incomplete payment information or data.

•   The originator isn’t authorized to debit the client’s account with an ACH payment.

•   There aren’t sufficient funds to complete the transaction.

The ACH return code alerts the parties involved so they know there’s an issue, whether a recurring automatic bill pay suddenly stopped or a one-time payment could not go through. The specific reason can then help the situation be remedied so the payment can hopefully be sent again properly.

Here’s an example to clarify this concept: Perhaps your wifi provider is authorized to withdraw payment monthly from your checking account. If the Originating Depository Financial Institution (ODFI; the wifi provider’s bank) or the Receiving Depository Financial Institution (RDFI; the entity receiving the payment request; aka your bank) isn’t able to transfer funds, a return code will be generated to explain exactly why the transaction wasn’t completed.

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How ACH Returns Work

If an ACH payment can’t be completed, as mentioned above, a specific return code will be generated. The person or business originating the payment request can then work to resolve the issue.

A few details to note about how ACH returns work:

•   If an ACH return occurs due to insufficient funds, the consumer may be on the hook for an ACH return charge. It’s similar to when a check bounces; the end user pays a small fee; in this case, usually $2 to $5.

•   Timing-wise, most ACH returns only take about two banking days, though a few of these ACH codes involve transactions that can take up to 60 days to process.


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Common ACH Return Codes

There are 85 distinct ACH return codes. Here, you’ll learn about some of the most common ones. These return codes are typically received by the entity requesting payment and their bank.

Code: R01
Meaning: Insufficient funds (the account’s available balance isn’t sufficient to cover the funds transfer, similar to being in overdraft)
What to do: The entity requesting payment can attempt the transaction again as a new transaction within 30 days of the original authorization date (up to two times), or contact the customer for an alternate payment method.

Code: R02
Meaning: Account closed (a once-active account has been closed).
What to do: The entity requesting payment can ask the customer to correct their account information or provide a different bank account or form of payment to complete the transaction.

Code: R03
Meaning: No account exists or unable to locate account (even though the account number structure is valid, it doesn’t pass the check digit validation).
What to do: The request’s originator should contact the customer to confirm their routing number, bank account number, and the name on the bank account. If this information differs from what was originally entered, they can submit a new payment with these new details. Or request another form of payment.

Code: R04
Meaning: Invalid account number.
What to do: The entity requesting payment should check the account number, and retry the transaction. Or obtain the correct bank account number and submit a new payment with that account number.

Code: R05
Meaning: This transaction should have been processed as a consumer, not corporate, transaction.
What to do: The request’s originator should check that you have used the right codes. They can contact the customer and ask for a new form of payment. In some cases, they may need to file an appeal with Nacha (the non-profit organization that manages the ACH network) for this kind of returned transaction.

Code: R06
Meaning: Returned at ODFI’s request (ODFI requested that the RDFI return the ACH entry), often because the transaction is believed to be fraudulent.
What to do: The entity seeking payment should contact the ODFI to understand why the transaction was rejected, and then, depending on the response, resubmit or alter the request.

Code: R07
Meaning: The previous authorization for an ACH transaction was revoked by the customer.
What to do: The originator of the request should suspend recurring payment schedules entered for this specific bank account to prevent additional transactions from being returned. Then they need to address the issue with the customer, and try to resolve the issue by getting a new form of payment or asking to debit a different bank account.

Code: R08
Meaning: The customer has issued a stop payment on the item.
What to do: The entity requesting funds should contact the customer to resolve the issue, and then re-enter the returned transaction again with proper authorization from the customer. Or request a new form of payment.

Code: R09
Meaning: Due to uncollected funds, the originator can’t access enough money to cover the transaction.
What to do: The originator should try the transaction again, and re-enter it as a new one within 30 days of the original authorization date (up to two times in 60 days).

Code: R10
Meaning: The customer advised this transaction is not authorized or is improper in some way.
What to do: The entity requesting payment should check the details and authorization on the transaction to determine if an error was made. They can connect with the customer to determine why this code was triggered. If the details can be rectified, they can resubmit the transaction per ACH guidelines.

Code: R11
Meaning: An electronic check deposit was not executed correctly.
What to do: The originator of the request can correct the underlying error and resubmit the corrected electronic deposit within 60 calendar days.

Code: R12
Meaning: The branch where the account is held was sold to another DFI (development financial institution).
What to do: The entity making the request should obtain the customer’s new routing and bank account information, and submit a new transaction.

Recommended: What is Liquid Net Worth

More ACH Return Codes

The following ACH return codes are less common than those mentioned previously, but still occur and are worth knowing. Here’s a look at what makes these codes tick:

Code: R13
Meaning: Invalid routing number provided.
What to do: The request’s originator should get the correct routing number from the customer to use when resubmitting the request.

Code: R14
Meaning: The account was being managed by someone who is now deceased or can no longer continue overseeing the account (such as an account held for a minor or an incapacitated person).
What to do: This is handled on a case-by-case basis; the request’s originator might try to contact the beneficiary or new representative for the account.

Code: R15
Meaning: Beneficiary or account holder is deceased.
What to do: No further action can typically be taken.

Code: R16
Meaning: Account is frozen and funds are unavailable.
What to do: The entity making the request should obtain a new payment form.

Code: R17
Meaning: Known as a “file record edit criteria” code, this indicates that there is a discrepancy in the file code, and the transaction cannot be processed.
What to do: The fields causing the processing error need to be identified (typically by the originator of the request) in the addenda record information field of the return to complete the transaction.

Code: R20
Meaning: The receiving account is not a transaction account (aka, it’s an account against which transactions are prohibited or limited).
What to do: The entity making the request can contact the customer, and request either the authorization to charge a different bank account or a new form of payment.

Code: R21
Meaning: The ACH file contains an invalid or incorrect company identification number.
What to do: The originator of the request should double-check their information, or contact the company to obtain the correct information.

Code: R22
Meaning: The individual ID number is invalid.
What to do: The entity making the request should check their information and resubmit, or contact the customer to obtain the correct information.

Code: R23
Meaning: The account holder or their bank is refusing to accept the transaction.
What to do: The originator of the request can work with the customer to clear up the issue, or ask them to contact their bank to resolve it.

Code: R24
Meaning: Duplicate entry.
What to do: If the transaction is indeed a duplicate, there’s nothing else to do. If it isn’t, the entity making the request can contact their customer or their customer’s bank to resolve the error.

Code: R29
Meaning: The customer has notified their bank that the requesting entity is not authorized to conduct this transaction.
What to do: The originator of the request should suspend recurring payment schedules, and then address the issue with the customer. For instance, they could request new payment information from the customer or ask them to contact their bank to authorize the payment.

Code: R31
Meaning: This indicates that the receiving bank is requesting to return a certain kind of ACH transaction (a CCD, or cash concentration disbursement, and CTX, or corporate trade exchange, only).
What to do: The entity making the request can reach out to their customer to resolve this issue or request a different form of payment.

Code: R33
Meaning: There is an issue with a transaction involving a converted check (known as XCK), such as when a damaged paper check is converted to an electronic version.
What to do: The originator of the request should contact their customer for another payment form.

Recommended: Average Savings by Age

The Takeaway

ACH return codes express the reason why an electronic Automated Clearing House payment could not be completed. Knowing what each code represents can help determine what the next steps should be to keep payments flowing smoothly or get refunds completed.

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FAQ

What causes an ACH return?

ACH returns occur when an Automated Clearing House payment can’t be completed, perhaps due to inaccurate or incomplete information or insufficient funds. When this happens, an ACH return code is generated, providing a reason for the return.

What is ACH return fee?

When ACH returns occur, especially due to insufficient funds, a fee can be charged. It’s similar to how a bounced check incurs a fee. The amount is generally around $2 to $5.

How long does an ACH refund take?

Typically, an ACH refund takes about five to 10 banking days to occur, though some situations can take longer to resolve..


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What Is a Roth IRA and How Does It Work?

A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that allows you to contribute after-tax dollars, and then withdraw the money tax free in retirement. A Roth IRA is different from a traditional IRA, which is a tax-deferred account: meaning, you contribute pre-tax dollars — but you owe tax on the money you withdraw later.

Many people wonder what a Roth IRA is because, although it’s similar to a traditional IRA, the two accounts have many features and restrictions that are distinct from each other. Roth accounts can be more complicated, but for many investors the promise of having tax-free income in retirement is a strong incentive for understanding how Roth IRAs work.

Key Points

•   A Roth IRA is a retirement savings account that offers tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals in retirement.

•   Contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars, but qualified withdrawals are not subject to income tax.

•   Roth IRAs have income limits for eligibility, and contribution limits that vary based on age and income.

•   Unlike traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs do not require minimum distributions during the account holder’s lifetime.

•   Roth IRAs can be a valuable tool for long-term retirement savings, especially for individuals who expect to be in a higher tax bracket in the future.

What Is a Roth IRA?

A Roth IRA is a retirement account for people who want to make after-tax contributions. The trade-off for paying taxes upfront is that when you retire, all of your withdrawals will be tax free, including the earnings and other gains in your account.

That said, because you’re making after-tax contributions, you can’t deduct Roth deposits from your income tax the way you can with a traditional IRA.

Understanding Contributions vs Earnings

An interesting wrinkle with a Roth IRA is that you can withdraw your contributions tax and penalty-free at any time. That’s because you’ve already paid tax on that money before initially depositing or investing it.

Withdrawing investment earnings on your money, however, is a different story. Those gains need to stay in the Roth for a minimum of five years before you can withdraw them tax free — or you could owe tax on the earnings as well as a 10% penalty.

It’s important to know how the IRS treats Roth funds so you can strategize about the timing around contributions, Roth conversions, as well as withdrawals.

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Roth IRA Eligibility

Technically, anyone can open an IRA account, as long as they have earned income (i.e. taxable income). The IRS has specific criteria about what qualifies as earned income. Income from a rental property isn’t considered earned income, nor is child support, so be sure to check.

There are no age restrictions for contributing to a Roth IRA. There are age restrictions when contributing to a traditional IRA, however.

How to Open a Roth IRA

Roth IRA Annual Contribution Limits

For 2024, the annual limit is $7,000, and $8,000 for those 50 and up. The extra $1,000 is called a catch-up provision, for those closer to retirement.

For 2023, the annual contribution limits for both Roth and traditional IRAs was $6,500, or $7,500 for those 50 or older. So, there was a $500 increase in contribution limits between 2023 and 2024.

Remember that you can only contribute earned income. If you earn less than the contribution limit, you can only deposit up to the amount of money you made that year.

One exception is in the case of a spousal Roth IRA, where the working spouse can contribute to an IRA on behalf of a spouse who doesn’t have earned income.

Other Roth IRA Details

Since Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax income, contributions are not tax-deductible. One exception for low- and moderate-income individuals is something called the Saver’s Credit, which may give someone a partial tax credit for Roth contributions, assuming they meet certain income and other criteria.

Note that the deadline for IRA contributions is Tax Day of the following year. So for tax year 2023, the deadline for IRA contributions is April 15, 2024. But, if you file an extension, you cannot further postpone your IRA contribution until the extension date and have it apply to the prior year.

Roth IRA Income Restrictions

In addition, with a Roth there are important income restrictions to take into account. Higher-income individuals may not be able to contribute the full amount to a Roth IRA; some may not be eligible to contribute at all.

It’s important to know the rules and to make sure you don’t make an ineligible Roth contribution if your income is too high. Those funds would be subject to a 6% IRS penalty.

For 2023:

•   You could contribute the full amount to a Roth as long as your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) was less than $138,000 (for single filers) or less than $218,000 for those married, filing jointly.

•   Single people who earned more than $138,000 but less than $153,000 could contribute a reduced amount.

•   Married couples who earned between $218,000 and $228,000 could also contribute a reduced amount.

For 2024 the numbers have changed and the Roth IRA income limits have increased:

•   For single and joint filers: in order to contribute the full amount to a Roth you must earn less than $146,000 or $230,000, respectively.

•   Single filers earning more than $146,000 but less than $161,000 can contribute a reduced amount. (If your MAGI is over $161,000 you can’t contribute to a Roth.)

•   Married couples who earn between $230,000 and $240,000 can contribute a reduced amount. (But if your MAGI is over $240,000 you’re not eligible.)

If your filing status is…

If your 2023 MAGI is…

If your 2024 MAGI is…

You may contribute:

Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) Up to $218,000 Up to $230,000 For 2023 $6,500 or $7,500 for those 50 and up.
For 2024 $7,000 or $8,000 for those 50 and up.
$218,000 to $228,000 $230,000 to $240,000 A reduced amount*
Over $228,000 Over $240,000 Cannot contribute
Single, head of household, or married filing separately (and you didn’t live with your spouse in the past year) Up to $138,000 Up to $146,000 For 2023 $6,500 or $7,500 for those 50 and up.
For 2024 $7,000 or $8,000 for those 50 and up.
From $138,000 to $153,000 From $146,000 to $161,000 Reduced amount
Over $153,000 Over $161,000 Cannot contribute
Married filing separately** Less than $10,000 Less than $10,000 Reduced amount
Over $10,000 Over $10,000 Cannot contribute

*Consult IRS rules regarding reduced amounts.
**You did live with your spouse at some point during the year.

Advantages of a Roth IRA

Depending on an individual’s income and circumstances, a Roth IRA has a number of advantages.

Advantages of a Roth IRA

•   No age restriction on contributions. With a traditional IRA, individuals must stop making contributions at age 72. A Roth IRA works differently: Account holders can make contributions at any age as long as they have earned income for the year.

   * You can fund a Roth and a 401(k). Funding a 401(k) and a traditional IRA can be tricky, because they’re both tax-deferred accounts. But a Roth is after-tax, so you can contribute to a Roth and a 401(k) at the same time (and stick to the contribution limits for each account).

•   Early withdrawal option. With a Roth IRA, an individual can generally withdraw money they’ve contributed at any time, without penalty (but not earnings on those deposits). In contrast, withdrawals from a traditional IRA before age 59 ½ may be subject to a 10% penalty.

•   Qualified Roth withdrawals are tax-free. Investors who have had the Roth for at least five years, and are at least 59 ½, are eligible to take tax- and penalty-free withdrawals of contributions + earnings.

•   No required minimum distributions (RMDs). Unlike IRAs, which require account holders to start withdrawing money after age 73, Roth IRAs do not have RMDs. That means an individual can withdraw the money as needed, without fear of triggering a penalty.

Disadvantages of a Roth IRA

Despite the appeal of being able to take tax-free withdrawals in retirement, or when you qualify, Roth IRAs have some disadvantages.

•   No tax deduction for contributions. The primary disadvantage of a Roth IRA is that your contributions are not tax deductible, as they are with a traditional IRA and other tax-deferred accounts (e.g. a SEP IRA, 401(k), 403(b)).

•   Higher earners often can’t contribute to a Roth. Affluent investors are generally excluded from Roth IRA accounts, unless they do what’s known as a backdoor Roth or a Roth conversion. (There are no income limits for converting a traditional IRA to a Roth, but you’ll have to pay taxes on the money that goes into the Roth — though you won’t face a penalty.)

•   The 5-year rule applies. The 5-year rule can make withdrawals more complicated for investors who open a Roth later in life. If you open a Roth or do a Roth conversion at age 60, for example, you must wait five years to take qualified withdrawals of contributions and earnings, or face a penalty (some exceptions to this rule apply; see below).

Last, the downside with both a traditional or a Roth IRA is that the contribution limit is low. Other retirement accounts, including a SEP-IRA or 401(k), allow you to contribute far more in retirement savings. But, as noted above, you can combine saving in a 401(k) with saving in a Roth IRA as well.

Roth IRA Withdrawal Rules

Because Roth IRA withdrawal rules can be complicated, let’s review some of the ins and outs.

Qualified Distributions

Since you have already paid tax on the money you deposit, you’re able to withdraw contributions at any time, without paying taxes or a 10% early withdrawal penalty.

For example, if you’ve contributed $25,000 to a Roth over the last five years, and your investments have seen a 10% gain (or $2,500), you would have $27,500 in the account. But you could only withdraw up to $25,000 of your actual deposits.

Withdrawing any of the $2,500 in earnings would depend on your age and the 5-year rule.

The 5-Year Rule

What is the 5-year rule? You can withdraw Roth account earnings without owing tax or a penalty, as long as it has been at least five years since you first funded the account, and you are at least 59 ½. So if you start funding a Roth when you’re 60, you still have to wait five years to take qualified withdrawals.

The 5-year rule applies to everyone, no matter how old they are when they want to withdraw earnings from a Roth.

There are some exceptions that might enable you to avoid owing tax or a penalty.

Non-Qualified Withdrawals

Non-qualified withdrawals of earnings from a Roth IRA depends on your age and how long you’ve been funding the account.

•   If you meet the 5-year rule, but you’re under 59 ½, you’ll owe taxes and a 10% penalty on any earnings you withdraw, except in certain cases.

•   If you don’t meet the 5-year criteria, meaning you haven’t had the account for five years, and if you’re less than 59 ½ years old, in most cases you will also owe taxes and a 10% penalty.

There are some exceptions that might help you avoid paying a penalty, but you’d still owe tax on the early withdrawal of earnings.

Exceptions

Again, these restrictions apply to the earnings on your Roth contributions. (You can withdraw direct contributions themselves at any time, for any reason, tax and penalty free.)

You can take an early or non-qualified withdrawal prior to 59 ½ without paying a penalty or taxes, as long you’ve been actively making contributions for at least five years, in certain circumstances, including:

•   For a first home. You can take out up to $10,000 to pay for buying, building, or rebuilding your first home.

•   Disability. You can withdraw money if you qualify as disabled.

•   Death. Your heirs or estate can withdraw money if you die.

Additionally you can avoid the penalty, although you still have to pay income tax on the earnings, if you withdraw earnings for:

•   Medical expenses. Specifically, those that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.

•   Medical insurance premiums. During a time in which you’re unemployed.

•   Qualified higher education expenses.

Not only are the early withdrawal restrictions looser than with a traditional IRA, the post-retirement withdrawal restrictions are lesser, as well. Whereas account holders are required to start taking distribution of funds from their IRA after age 73, there is no pressure to take distribution from a Roth IRA at any age.

Roth IRA vs Traditional IRA

There are certain things a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA have in common, and several ways that they differ:

•   It’s an effective retirement savings plan: Though the plans differ in the tax benefits they offer, both are a smart way to save money for retirement.

•   Not an employer-sponsored plan: Individuals can open either type of IRA through a financial institution, and select their own investments or choose an automated portfolio.

•   Maximum yearly contribution: For 2023, the annual limit is $6,500, with an additional $1,000 allowed in catch-up contributions for individuals over age 50. For 2024 it’s $7,000, and $8,000 if you’re 50 and older.

There are also a number of differences between a Roth and a traditional IRA:

•   Roth IRA has income limits, but a traditional IRA does not.

•   Roth IRA contributions are not tax deductible, but contributions you make to a traditional, tax-deferred IRA are tax deductible.

•   Roth IRA has no RMDs. Individuals can withdraw money when they want, without the age limit imposed by a traditional IRA.

•   Roth IRA allows for penalty-free withdrawals before age 59 ½. While there are some restrictions, an account holder can typically withdraw contributions (if not earnings) before retirement.

Is a Roth IRA Right for You?

How do you know whether you should contribute to a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA? This checklist might help you decide.

•   You might want to open a Roth IRA if you don’t have access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan, or if you do have a 401(k) plan but you’ve already maxed out your contribution there. You can fund a Roth IRA and an employer-sponsored plan.

•   Because contributions are taxed immediately, rather than in retirement, using a Roth IRA can make sense if you are in a lower tax bracket or if you typically get a refund from the IRS. It may also make sense to open a Roth IRA if you expect your tax bracket to be higher in retirement than it is today.

•   Individuals who are in the beginning of their careers and earning less might consider contributing to a Roth IRA now, since they might not qualify under the income limits later in life.

•   A Roth IRA can be helpful if you think you’ll work past the traditional retirement age.

The Takeaway

A Roth IRA has many of the same benefits of a traditional IRA, with some unique aspects that can be attractive to some people saving for retirement. With a Roth IRA you don’t have to contend with required minimum distributions (RMDs); you can contribute to a Roth IRA at any age; and qualified withdrawals are tax free. With all that, a Roth IRA has a lot going for it.

That said, not everyone is eligible to fund a Roth IRA. You need to have earned income, and your annual household income cannot exceed certain limits. Also, even though you can withdraw your Roth IRA contributions at any time without owing a penalty, the same isn’t true of earnings.

You must have been funding your Roth for at least 5 years, and you must be at least 59 ½, in order to make qualified withdrawals of earnings. Otherwise, you would likely owe taxes on any earnings you withdraw — and possibly a penalty. Still, the primary advantage of a Roth IRA — being able to have an income stream in retirement that’s completely tax free — can outweigh some of the restrictions for certain investors.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).


For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.

FAQ

Are Roth IRAs insured?

If your Roth IRA is held at an FDIC-insured bank and is invested in bank products like certificates of deposit (CDs) or money market account, those deposits are insured up to $250,000 per depositor, per institution. On the other hand, if your Roth IRA is with a brokerage that’s a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), and the brokerage fails, the SIPC provides protection up to $500,000, which includes a $250,000 limit for cash. It’s important to note that neither FDIC or SIPC insurance protects against market losses; they only cover losses due to institutional failures or insolvency.

How much can I put in my Roth IRA monthly?

For tax year 2023, the maximum you can deposit in a Roth or traditional IRA is $6,500, or $7,500 if you’re over 50. How you divide that per month is up to you. You just can’t contribute more than the annual limit.

Who can open a Roth IRA?

Anyone with earned income (i.e. taxable income) can open a Roth IRA, but your income must be within certain limits in order to fund a Roth.


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.

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

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.

Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

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What is an IRA?

What Is an IRA?

What Is an IRA?

An individual retirement account, or IRA, is a retirement savings account that has certain tax advantages. Brian Walsh is a CFP® at SoFi — he says “The tax advantage part is important because it allows your money to grow a little bit more efficiently, especially over a long period of time.” An IRA allows individuals to save for retirement over the long-term.

There are different types of IRAs, but two of the most common are traditional and Roth IRAs. Both types generally let you contribute the same amount annually (more on that below). One key difference is the way the two accounts are taxed: With traditional IRAs, you deduct your contributions upfront and pay taxes on distributions when you retire. With Roth IRAs, contributions are not tax deductible, but you can withdraw money tax-free in retirement.

For those planning for their future, IRAs are worth learning more about—and potentially investing in. Read on to learn more about the different types of IRAs, which one might be right for you, and how to open an individual retirement account.

Key Points

•   An IRA is a retirement savings account that offers tax advantages and allows individuals to save for retirement over the long-term.

•   There are different types of IRAs, including traditional and Roth IRAs, each with its own tax treatment and contribution limits.

•   Traditional IRAs allow for pre-tax contributions and tax-deferred growth, while Roth IRAs involve after-tax contributions and tax-free withdrawals in retirement.

•   Other types of IRAs include SEP IRAs for small business owners and self-employed individuals, and SIMPLE IRAs for employees and employers of small businesses.

•   Opening an IRA provides individuals with the opportunity to save for retirement, supplement existing retirement plans, and potentially benefit from tax advantages.

What Are the Different Types of IRA Accounts?

There are several types of IRAs, including traditional and Roth IRAs. Since it is possible to have multiple IRAs, an individual who works for themselves or owns a small business might also establish a SEP IRA (Simplified Employee Pension) or SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees). Just be aware that you cannot exceed the total contribution limits across all the IRAs you hold.

Here is an overview of some different types of IRAs:

Boost your retirement contributions with a 1% match.

SoFi IRAs now get a 1% match on every dollar you deposit, up to the annual contribution limits. Open an account today and get started.


Only offers made via ACH are eligible for the match. ACATs, wires, and rollovers are not included.

Traditional IRA

A traditional IRA is a retirement account that allows individuals to make pre-tax contributions. Money inside a traditional IRA grows tax-deferred, and it’s subject to income tax when it’s withdrawn.

Contributions to a traditional IRA are typically tax-deductible because they can lower an individual’s taxable income in the year they contribute.

Traditional IRAs have contribution limits. In 2024, individuals can contribute up to $7,000 per year, with an additional catch-up contribution of $1,000 for those aged 50 and up. In 2023, the contribution limit was $6,500 annually or $7,500 for those 50 and older.

When individuals reach a certain age, they must start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from a traditional IRA. RMDs are generally calculated by taking the IRA account balance and dividing it by a life expectancy factor determined by the IRS.

Saving for retirement with an IRA means that an individual is, essentially, saving money until they reach at least age 59 ½. Withdrawals from a traditional IRA taken before that time are typically subject to income tax and a 10% early withdrawal penalty. There are some exemptions to this rule, however — such as using a set amount of IRA funds to buy a first house or pay a medical insurance premium after an individual loses their job.


💡 Quick Tip: Before opening an investment account, know your investment objectives, time horizon, and risk tolerance. These fundamentals will help keep your strategy on track and with the aim of meeting your goals.

Roth IRA

Unlike a traditional IRA, contributions to a Roth IRA are made with after-tax dollars, and contributions are not tax-deductible. The money can grow tax-free in the Roth IRA account. Withdrawals made after age 59 ½ are tax-free, as long as the account has been open for at least five years.

Roth IRAs are subject to the same contribution limits as traditional IRAs, but the amount an individual can contribute may be limited based on their tax filing status and income levels.

For 2024, married couples filing jointly can contribute only a partial amount to a Roth if their modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $230,000 or more. If their MAGI is over $240,000, they cannot contribute to a Roth at all. For single filers, those whose MAGI is $146,000 or more can make a reduced contribution to a Roth, and those whose MAGI is more than $161,000 cannot contribute.

Individuals with Roth IRAs are not required to take RMDs. Additionally, Roth withdrawal rules are a bit more flexible than those for a traditional IRA. Individuals can withdraw contributions to their Roth IRAs at any time without having to pay income tax or a penalty fee. However, they may be subject to taxes and a 10% penalty on earnings they withdraw before age 59 ½.

SEP IRA

A simplified employee pension (SEP IRA) provides small business owners and self-employed people with a way to contribute to their employees’ or their own retirement plans. Contribution limits are significantly larger than those for traditional and Roth IRAs.

Only an employer (or self-employed person) can contribute to a SEP IRA. In 2024, employers can contribute up to 25% of their employees’ compensations or $69,000 a year, whichever is less. The amount of employee compensation that can be used to calculate the 25% is limited to $345,000 in 2024.

If an individual is the owner of the business and contributes a certain percentage of their compensation to their own SEP IRA —for example, 15%— the amount they contribute to their employees’ plans must be the same proportion of the employees’ salary (in other words, also 15% or whatever percentage they contributed).

When it comes to RMDs and early withdrawal penalties, SEP IRAs follow the same rules as traditional IRAs. However, in certain situations, the early withdrawal penalty may be waived.

SIMPLE IRA

A Savings Incentive Match Plan for employees, or SIMPLE IRA, is a traditional IRA that both employees and employers can contribute to. These plans are, typically, available to any small business with 100 employees or fewer.

Employers are required to contribute to the plan each year by making a 3% matching contribution, or a 2% nonelective contribution, which must be made even if the employee doesn’t contribute anything to the account. This 2% contribution is calculated on no more than $345,000 of an employee’s compensation in 2024.

Employees can contribute up to $16,000 to their SIMPLE IRA in 2024, and they can also make catch-up contributions of $3,500 at age 50 or older, if their plan allows it.

SIMPLE plans have RMDs, and early withdrawals are subject to income tax and a 10% penalty. The early withdrawal penalty increases to 25% for withdrawals made during the first two years of participation in a plan. (There are, however, certain exemptions recognized by the IRS.)

This article is part of SoFi’s Retirement Planning Guide, our coverage of all the steps you need to create a successful retirement plan.


money management guide for beginners

How to Open an IRA

Benefits of Opening an IRA

The main advantage of opening an IRA is that you are saving money for your future. Investing in retirement is an important financial move at any age. Beyond that, here are some other benefits of opening an IRA:

•   Anyone who earns income can open an IRA. It’s a good option if you don’t have access to an employee-sponsored plan, such as a 401(k) or a 403(b).

•   An IRA can supplement an employee plan. You could open an IRA to supplement your retirement plan at work, especially if you’ve already contributed the annual maximum.

•   An IRA might be a good rollover vehicle. If you’re leaving your job, you could roll over funds from a 401(k) or 403(b) into an IRA. That may give you access to more investment options—not to mention consolidating your accounts in one place.

•   A SEP IRA might be helpful if you’re self-employed. A SEP IRA may allow you to contribute more each year than you could to a Roth or Traditional IRA, depending on how much you earn.

Which Type of IRA Works for You?

There are many different types of IRAs and deciding which one is better for your particular financial situation will depend on your individual circumstances and future plans. Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding between different types of IRAs:

•   Thinking ahead, what do you expect your tax income bracket to look like at retirement? If you think you’ll be in a lower bracket when you retire, it might make more sense to invest in a traditional IRA, since you’ll pay more in taxes today than you would when you withdraw the money later.

•   Will you likely be in a higher tax bracket at retirement? That can easily happen as your career and income grow and if you experience lifestyle inflation. In that case, a Roth IRA might give you the opportunity to save on taxes in the long run.

•   Do you prefer not to take RMDs starting at age 73? If so, a Roth IRA might be a better option for you.

•   Is your income high enough to prevent you from contributing the full amount (or at all) to a Roth IRA? In that case, you may want to consider a traditional IRA.

How Much Should You Contribute to an IRA?

If you can afford it, you could contribute up to the maximum limit to your IRA every year (including catch-up contributions if you qualify). Otherwise, it generally makes sense to contribute as much as you can, on a regular basis, so that it becomes a habit.

Until you’re on track for retirement, many financial professionals recommend prioritizing IRA contributions over other big expenses, like saving for a down payment on a first or second home, or for your kids’ college education.

Any money you put into an IRA has the opportunity to grow over time. Of course, everyone’s circumstances are different, so for specifics unique to your situation, it might help to talk to a financial advisor and/or a tax advisor.

How Can You Use IRA Funds?

Early withdrawals of your IRA funds, prior to the age of 59 ½, can trigger a 10% penalty tax. However, there are exceptions that may allow an individual to use their IRA funds before hitting the age of eligibility and without facing the 10% penalty, according to IRS rules. Just keep in mind that early withdrawals are generally considered a last resort after all other options have been exhausted since you don’t want to dip into your retirement funds unless absolutely necessary.

IRA withdrawal exceptions include:

•   Permanent disability

•   Higher education expenses

•   Certain out-of-pocket medical expenses totaling more than 10% of adjusted gross income

•   Qualified first-time homebuyers up to $10,000

•   Health insurance premiums while unemployed

•   IRS levy of the plan

•   Qualified military reservist called to active duty

•   Death of the IRA’s owner

The Takeaway

IRAs offer individuals an opportunity to save money for retirement in a tax-advantaged plan. There are several different IRAs to choose from to help you find an account that suits your needs and goals.

There are multiple options for opening an IRA, including online brokers and robo-advisors. With an online broker, you choose the investment assets for your IRA. A robo-advisor is an automated investment platform that picks investments for you based on your financial goals, risk tolerance, and investing time frame. Whichever option you choose, you decide on a financial institution, pick the type of IRA you want, and set up your account.

Ready to invest for your retirement? It’s easy to get started when you open a traditional or Roth IRA with SoFi. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Easily manage your retirement savings with a SoFi IRA.

FAQ

How is an IRA different from a 401(k)?

While IRAs and 401(k)s are both tax-advantaged ways to save money for retirement, a 401(k) is an employer-sponsored plan that is offered through the workplace, and an IRA is an account you can open on your own.

What’s the difference between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA?

The biggest difference between a traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA is how and when your money is taxed. With a traditional IRA, you get a tax deduction when you make contributions. Your contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, and when you withdraw money in retirement, the funds are taxed.

With a Roth IRA, you make contributions with after-tax dollars. You don’t get a tax deduction upfront when you contribute, but your money grows tax-free. When you withdraw the money in retirement, you won’t pay taxes on the withdrawals.

When should I make IRA contributions?

One simple way to fund your IRA is to set up automatic contributions at regular intervals that puts money from your bank account directly into your IRA. You could contribute monthly or several times a year—the frequency is up to you. Some people contribute once annually, after they receive a year-end bonus, for example.


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.

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.

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

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What Is a Good Interest Rate for a Savings Account?

What Is a Good Interest Rate for a Savings Account?

When searching for a good interest rate on a savings account, you’ll typically find that the rates banks offer vary widely. You may see the terms “interest rate” and “APY” (annual percentage yield) used, but these two things are not the same and it’s important to understand the difference.

The interest rate on a savings account is the rate you earn from keeping your money in the account.
Essentially, you’re earning interest for lending your money to the bank or financial institution.

Here’s how it works: Say you have a savings account that earns simple interest, paid annually. In this case, if you have $1,000 and earn 1.00% interest, you would have $1,010 at the end of the first year, $1,020 after the second year, and so on. However, savings accounts usually pay compound interest. With compound interest, you earn interest on the entire balance, including previous interest payments. Interest may compound daily, monthly, or annually, depending on the bank.

APY is how much you will earn on the money in your savings account over the course of a year, taking compound interest into account. APY is higher than the interest rate because it includes the effect of compounding

When you’re looking for the interest rate on a savings account, you’ll usually see the APY listed, which tells you how much you’ll earn on your money over the course of a year. For most traditional savings accounts, the APY is currently below 1.00%. To get the best possible rate, you may want to consider a high-yield bank account, which may offer APYs over 4.00%.

National Average Savings Account Rate for 2024

The national savings account rate is 0.45% as of May 20, 2024, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).That’s more than the average checking account rate of 0.08%. By comparison, money market accounts have a rate of 0.68%.

If you’re wondering, “what is a good interest rate on a savings account,” keep in mind that the rate can change. For instance, rates were even lower in 2021 and 2022.

Now that you know what the typical rate is currently for a traditional savings account, when you’re choosing a savings account, you may want to look for one that pays as high of a rate as possible while delivering the features that are most important to you.

How the National Average Savings Rate Is Calculated

The national average savings account rate is the national average that includes all banks insured by the FDIC. The average is weighted by each bank’s share of domestic deposits. This matters because some of the country’s largest banks have savings account rates that are even lower than the current national average.

It’s also important to note that savings account interest rates usually rise and fall with rates set by the Federal Reserve. Generally, when the Fed slashes interest rates, APYs on savings accounts fall. When the Fed raises interest rates, savings accounts tend to have higher yields.

APYs at Big Banks

Here are the APYs for traditional savings accounts at some big banks in the U.S. as of May 7, 2024.

Bank*APY
Capital One4.25%
TD Bank0.02%
Chase0.01%
Bank of America0.01%
Wells Fargo0.01%
U.S. Bank0.01%

*May not reflect regional variances or balance tier options.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

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


How to Get a Higher Interest Rate for a Savings Account

There are two main ways to earn a higher interest rate on a savings account: with a high-yield savings account or by linking your checking and savings accounts.

High-yield Savings Accounts

High-yield savings accounts offer interest rates that are considerably higher than the national average. These accounts are usually available at online banks as well as some traditional banks and credit unions. However, the online savings account typical interest rate is generally higher than the rates at bricks and mortar institutions.

The benefit of these types of high-yield accounts for savings is that you can generally earn more than 4.00% APY on your money, which is a good rate for a savings account in comparison to the national average rate.

Money held in a high-yield savings account is usually FDIC-insured, meaning your money is protected in the event of a bank failure up to $250,000 per depositor and per ownership category. This generally makes them a good place to set aside extra cash for an emergency fund or to meet short-term savings goals.

Linked Accounts

If you have a checking account at a bank, you might be able to increase your interest rate by opening a savings account at the same institution. Some banks will offer a higher interest rate if you have both a checking and a savings account with them and link the two.

Although savings rates on linked accounts are typically higher, everything is relative. Opening a linked account might allow you to increase your savings APY from 0.01% to 0.02% or 0.03%. Banks might also increase the rate a bit more with higher account balances.

Recommended: Average Savings by Age

Common Requirements to Receive a Higher Interest Rate

In order to open a high-yield savings account, there are typically certain criteria you are required to meet.

•   Account minimums: You may need to make a high initial deposit in order to open a high-yield savings account. Additionally, you might be required to keep a certain balance in the account.

•   Direct deposit: You may have to set up direct deposit for a high-yield savings account. In many cases, you can only deposit money by electronic bank transfer.

•   Limited withdrawals: Some banks impose a monthly withdrawal limit on savings accounts. For instance, they might not allow you to make more than six withdrawals a month, otherwise they may charge you a penalty. Inquire at your bank to find out their specific policy.

How Will Savings Rates Change Throughout 2024?

It’s impossible to know exactly how the savings rate might change during the rest of 2024. That will depend in part on whether inflation rises and how the Federal Reserve responds to keep inflation in check. In general, if the Fed cuts interest rates, savings rates may be reduced as well. If the Fed raises rates, the savings rates might go up.

Currently, many high-yield savings accounts offer rates above 4.00%. By taking time to shop around and find the right fit, you may be able to find the right savings vehicle to help you save for the future — and earn money while doing so.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

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

FAQ

What is the interest rate on a traditional savings account?

According to the FDIC, as of May 20, 2024, the current national average deposit rate for savings accounts is 0.45%.

What is considered a high-interest savings account?

High-interest savings accounts typically offer interest rates many times the national average. For instance, currently, these accounts generally offer APYs over 4.00%. While high-yield savings accounts may be offered at traditional banks and credit unions, the highest rates are often offered at online banks.

Is 5.00% a good savings rate?

Yes, 5.00% is a good savings rate. It’s much higher than the current national average deposit rate for savings accounts, which is 0.45%.

How much interest does $10,000 earn a year?

How much interest $10,000 earns in a year will vary depending on several factors, such as the interest rate and how often interest is compounded. Assuming a 4.00% interest rate, $10,000 compounded annually earns $400 in interest in a year. Compounded daily, the same interest rate earns approximately $408 in a year.


Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub

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.

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.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


*Awards or rankings from NerdWallet are not indicative of future success or results. This award and its ratings are independently determined and awarded by their respective publications.

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How to Write a Check: A Step-by-Step Guide

The basic steps of check-writing sound pretty straightforward: Fill out the date, amount, payee name, and add your signature.

There are, however, right and wrong ways to complete this process. And, despite the current age of online banking, there may still be times when you need to write checks and want to do so correctly. Make an error, and your check may not be cashed, which can lead to hassles and fees.

By learning the simple step-by-step process, you can fill out a check properly when you need to.

1. Date the Check

First things first: Write today’s date on the space provided in the upper right-hand corner of the check. Putting the date on your check will provide evidence of when you wrote the check.

You can also postdate a check and request for the recipient not to deposit the amount until on or after that future date.

filling out date on a check



💡 Quick Tip: Make money easy. Open a bank account online so you can manage bills, deposits, transfers — all from one convenient app.

2. Add the Recipient’s Name

In the line, “Pay to the order of,” write the name of the individual or company you are paying. Be sure to double check the spelling of the person’s name and the official vendor name to avoid any payment mishaps.

You can also make a check out to “cash,” but this poses a security risk. If you or the payee loses the check, anyone who finds it will be able to cash it. You can also write a check to yourself if you need to transfer funds from your checking account to another personal account.

adding recipients name to check

3. Write the Payment Amount in Numbers

Write the dollar and cents amount in the rectangular box, located to the right of the payee line. (Example: $156.99.) It’s essential to write the payment amount clearly for the ATM or bank worker.

filling in payment amount on check

4. Write the Payment Amount in Words

To help prevent error or fraud, write the check amount out in words on the line provided.

How to Write a Check with Cents

To write a check with cents, you’ll express the cents amount as a fraction. For example, $156.99 would read as “One hundred and fifty-six and 99/100.”

How to Write a Check with No Cents

If the dollar amount is whole ($156.00), it should read “one hundred and fifty-six and 00/100.” A banker or ATM will check that your numerical amount matches the spelled-out amount.

Recommended: What Is an Outstanding Check?

writing payment amount on check

5. Sign the Check

One of the biggest mistakes check writers make is forgetting to sign the check. Neglecting to do so makes the check invalid and uncashable. Be sure and write your signature on the bottom right-hand line of the check.

adding signature to a check

6. Add a Memo

Adding a note in the memo line on a check is optional, but it’s a good idea. Doing so will help you remember why you wrote the check in the first place: “July 1st rent” or “Beyoncé tix reimbursement.”

Some payees may require additional information which you can put on the memo line on the bottom-left corner. The IRS, for example, will ask you to write your Social Security number on your check.

adding a memo to a check

Example of Writing a Check

Now that you’ve read about writing a check, here’s what a properly filled out one looks like:

example of a filled out check

Tips for Filling Out Checks

The steps on how to write a check are pretty clear. But there are additional tips that can help protect your account and ensure a successful transaction.

Use a Pen

Protect your money. Always fill out a check in ink — preferably blue or black ink for easier readability. Using a pencil is a recipe for theft. You don’t want your payee and dollar amounts being erased and rewritten (aka an altered check).

Don’t Sign a Blank Check

Don’t sign your name on the bottom of the check until it is completely filled out. If a check has your signature, but no payee name or dollar amount, you are leaving yourself wide open for any thief with a pen to fill in the blanks.

Keep Your Signature Consistent

Maintaining a consistent signature can help a bank teller or ATM detect signs of identity fraud. You’ll be better able to prove someone other than you signed your check if you have clear signature samples.

Save a Copy of Your Check

Having a copy of your check can act as proof of payment. You can take a picture of it with your cell phone. Some banks will issue checkbooks with carbon copies—a duplicate check attached to the back of a paper one. If you press down hard enough, your writing will transfer onto the duplicate check.

Recommended: Overdraft vs Non-Sufficient Funds Fees: What’s the Difference?

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How to Protect Your Accounts When Writing Paper Checks

After mailing or handing over a check, it’s wise to keep tabs on its path and your bank account. Here are some smart moves that can help keep your records straight.

Record the Payment

Most checkbooks come with a check register — a place to record your check usage and current bank balance. It’s important to dot down:

•   The check number

•   The date you wrote the check

•   The payee information

•   The dollar amount

Doing so will help you balance your checkbook and avoid ending up with a negative balance.

Monitor for Fraud or Lost Checks

Having a record of your checks will help you avoid overdraft fees and keep track of any outstanding checks that payees have yet to cash. When you receive your monthly statement, compare it against your check register to catch any suspicious activity.

This can reveal a check that might have been cashed for a different amount than what you filled it out for. This could indicate a kind of fraud called “check washing,” in which a criminal gets a hold of your check, erases information, and fills it out to themselves.

Or you might spot that a check hasn’t been cashed in a timely manner, indicating that it’s a lost check, worth following up on.

Check Your Available Balance

You don’t want to write a check for more money than you currently have, so keep an eye on your bank balance to avoid bouncing a check. Whether you have a traditional or online checking account, you should be able to easily monitor this on your financial institution’s website or app.

Consider Automated Payments

While checks can still have their time and place in your financial life, online and mobile banking can make it easy to pay bills and otherwise send funds to other accounts. This can be accomplished quickly, easily, and securely by automating your finances.

For example, instead of writing paper checks, you could set up recurring transfers to pay bills online every month or make one-off payments as needed. These actions can be done safely and simply, and they eliminate the need for envelopes and postage stamps, too.

Recommended: ACH vs Checks: Key Differences

The Takeaway

It’s possible that check payments could eventually become a thing of the past. Until then, it’s important to know how to write a check and avoid making little errors that could result in big headaches.

Most bank accounts come with checks, but that’s not the only feature to consider when shopping for a new account.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.

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

FAQ

What makes a check invalid?

Banks can refuse to cash a check due to a missing signature, insufficient account funds, invalid or illegible account numbers, or if too much time has passed since the check was dated (typically six months).

Can someone steal your identity with a check?

It is possible for criminals to use the information on your check — your name, your address, your routing number — to steal your identity. They might be able to apply for loans in your name or open bank accounts.

Where is the bank routing number on a check?

The bank routing number is at the bottom of the check, to the left. Just to the right of it is your account number, and then at the far right, the check number.

Who signs the back of a check?

The payee endorses the back of the check in order to make a deposit or cash it.


Photo credit: iStock/payphoto

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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