All You Need to Know About IRA Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

All You Need to Know About IRA Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

An IRA CD is simply an individual retirement account (IRA), in which the investor has opened one or more certificates of deposit (CDs).

In other words, an IRA CD is a traditional, Roth, or other type of IRA account where the funds are invested at least partly in CDs.

Investing in CDs within an IRA can offer some tax advantages. Keep reading to learn more how an IRA CD works, the pros and cons of using an IRA CD, and whether it might make sense for your retirement plan.

Recommended: What is an IRA and How Does it Work?

What Is an IRA CD?

An IRA CD is an IRA where your money is invested in certificates of deposit. To understand why this might make sense as part of an overall retirement plan, let’s consider the two types of accounts.

How Does a CD Work?

A CD or a certificate of deposit is a type of savings or deposit account that offers a fixed interest rate for locking up your money for a certain period of time, known as the term. An investor deposits funds for the specified terms (usually a few months to a few years), and cannot add to the account or withdraw funds from the account until the CD matures.

In exchange, for keeping your money in a CD, the bank will offer a higher interest rate compared with a traditional savings account. But the chief appeal for retirement-focused investors is that CDs can provide a steady rate of return, versus other securities in a portfolio which may entail more risk.

Recommended: How Investment Risk Factors into a Portfolio

How Does an IRA Work?

An IRA or individual retirement account is a tax-advantaged account designed for retirement planning. There are different IRA types to choose from, such as a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP IRA. By contributing to this type of account, you can have your money grow tax-free or tax-deferred, depending on the type of IRA you open.

Think of an IRA as a box in which you place your retirement investments. With an IRA, investors have the flexibility to invest in a variety of securities for their portfolio.

For this reason, it might make sense for some investors to include CDs as part of their asset allocation within the IRA.

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How Do IRA CDs Work?

If you choose to put your retirement money in an IRA, you have the chance to choose investments that might include stocks, mutual funds, bonds — and also CDs. By investing in CDs within an IRA, you can add to your portfolio’s diversification. Unlike equities, CDs can offer a steady rate of return.

Also by investing in an IRA CD, you no longer have to pay taxes on the interest gains, and the money can grow taxed deferred.

But if you withdraw funds prior to the CD’s maturity date, you will face an early withdrawal penalty. Once the IRA CD matures, you can either renew it or take your money and invest it in the stock market for potentially higher returns.

How much can you contribute to an IRA CD? It depends on the type of IRA account you choose. Traditional and Roth IRAs have contribution limits of $6,000 per year, or if you are 50 or older, the contribution limit is $7,000 per year. The contribution limits for SEP IRAs are typically higher.

If you choose an IRA CD with a bank or credit union backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., or FDIC, your money in the IRA CD is insured for up to $250,000. This means that if the bank goes under for any reason, your retirement funds are covered up to that amount.

Which CDs Can You Use in an IRA CD?

Opening an IRA CD is only the first step. Next, investors must consider which investments to place in the account.

You can invest in stocks, bonds, and other investments — including CDs. You can choose to put your money in various types of CDs, including short-term CDs, long-term CDs, jumbo CDs.

You can even create a CD ladder within your IRA to help provide steady income.

Pros of IRA CDs

IRA CDs have unique characteristics that can benefit account holders as they think about how to handle their retirement funds:

•   Compared to investing in the stock market where investment returns can be volatile and unpredictable, IRA CDs are low-risk cash investments that guarantee a fixed return.

•   With an IRA CD, there are similar tax benefits that come with a traditional IRA. Investors can enjoy tax benefits such as growing your account with pretax dollars while having your earnings accumulate tax-deferred until you reach retirement.

Cons of IRA CDs

There are some cons associated with IRA CDs to keep in mind:

•   With an IRA CD, you have to keep your money locked away for a period of time that varies depending on the maturity date you choose. During this time, you cannot access your funds in the event you need capital.

•   In the event you decide to withdraw cash prior to the IRA CD’s maturity, you will incur early withdrawal penalties. After age 59 ½ there is no penalty for withdrawing cash.

•   While putting your retirement funds in an IRA CD is a safer and lower-risk option than investing in the stock market, the returns can be quite low. If you are in retirement and are concerned about the stock market’s volatility, an IRA CD could be a safer option than other securities, but if you are many years away from retirement, an IRA CD may not yield enough returns to outpace inflation over time.

Who Should and Should Not Invest in an IRA CD?

IRA CDs are a safe way to invest money for retirement, but are best suited for pre-retirees who are looking to de-risk their investments as they approach retirement age.

However, if you are many years away from retirement, an IRA CD is probably not the best option for you because they are low-risk and low-return retirement saving vehicles. In order to see growth on your investments you may need to take on some risk.

If you decide an IRA CD is the right option for you, you also must determine if you are comfortable with keeping your money stowed away for a period of time. Account holders can choose the length of maturity that best suits them.

Typical Process for Opening an IRA CD

The first step is to open an IRA at a bank, brokerage, or other financial institution. Decide if a traditional, SEP, or Roth IRA is right for you. You can set up the IRA in-person or online. Once you open an IRA account, now you can buy the CD.

Choose the CD that fits your minimum account requirements and length of maturity preference. Typically, the shorter CD maturity, the lower the minimum to open the account. When considering maturity, you also should compare rates. The longer the maturity the higher the rate of return.

The Takeaway

If you’re looking to add diversification to the cash or fixed-income part of your portfolio, you might want to consider opening an IRA CD — which simply means funding a CD account within a traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA. Bear in mind that CDs offer very low interest rates, though, and your money might see more growth if you chose other securities, such as bonds or bond funds.

That said, because CDs are very low risk and you earn a steady rate of return, it might make sense for your retirement plan to give up growth potential in favor of that steady return.

If you’re thinking about how to earn a steady rate of return on your savings, consider an account with SoFi. When you open a high-yield bank account, you pay no SoFi account fees or management fees. With the special “vaults” feature you can separate your savings from your spending, and earn competitive interest on your total balance.

Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What is the difference between an IRA CD and a regular CD?

A standard CD is a separate account you open at a bank or credit union. An IRA CD is where the CD is funded within the IRA itself.

With a regular CD you withdraw the funds penalty free when the CD matures. With an IRA CD you can withdraw the funds penalty free starting at age 59 ½, per the rules and restrictions of the IRA.

What happens when an IRA CD matures?

Once your IRA CD matures, you’ll receive the principal plus interest. Then you can either leave the IRA CD as is or renew it. You cannot withdraw the funds from an IRA CD until age 59 ½, as noted above.

Can you lose money in an IRA CD?

It’s unlikely as IRA CDs are low-risk. If you open an IRA CD with a federally insured institution, your funds can be covered up to $250,000.


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

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

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

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

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

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at 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.


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Guide to Letters of Credit

Guide to Letters of Credit

A letter of credit is a business-to-business document guaranteeing that the provider of goods or services to a buyer will receive payment. As part of a sales agreement, a seller may require the buyer to deliver a letter of credit before a deal takes place.

More specifically, letters of credit are often vital in international trade where the two parties involved are not yet familiar with one another. Letters of credit facilitate new trade and prompt payments.

Read on to learn more, including:

•   What a letter of credit is

•   How a letter of credit works

•   What the different types of letters of credit are

•   The pros and cons of letters of credit

•   How to get a letter of credit.

What Is a Letter of Credit in Banking?

Here’s what a letter of credit in banking is: It’s a document that a bank issues to a seller that guarantees payment from their customer for an order or service. The bank where the buyer’s business account is held usually assumes responsibility for the payment for the goods. However, the conditions laid out in the letter of credit must be fulfilled. The bank or financial institution charges the buyer a fee for guaranteeing the payment and issuing the letter.

Letters of credit are common in international trade situations because various factors can affect cross-border transactions. It’s not necessarily a matter of the buyer having a bad credit score. Rather, the deal may involve different legal frameworks, a lack of familiarity between the parties involved, and geographic distance.

How a Letter of Credit Works

When used properly, letters of credit can work to minimize credit risk and smooth international trade. A vendor selling products or services overseas may want assurance that a buyer of their products or services will pay. Perhaps the buyer is new to them or just a new business, period.

So how does a letter of credit work? It serves as a guarantee from a bank that it will pay the vendor once the requirements are met. The letter lays out the conditions of payment, such as the amount, the timing of the payment, and the delivery specifications. The letter can help the business placing the order build their credit, too.

The bank charges the buyer a fee for issuing a letter of credit (often around 0.75% to 1.5% of the amount of the deal), but it also does the due diligence to assure creditworthiness. The bank requires collateral or security from the buyer for the payment guarantee. In essence, the bank acts as a third party facilitating the deal.

Recommended: Why is Having a Good Credit Score Important?

Types of Letters of Credit

The following are four types of letters of credit.

•   Commercial Letter of Credit: The issuing bank pays the seller directly. For a stand-by letter of credit, the bank only pays the seller if the buyer cannot transfer funds.

•   Revolving Letter of Credit: The bank guarantees payment for a number of transactions within a set period.

•   Traveler’s Letter of Credit: Travelers can make withdrawals in a foreign country. The issuing bank guarantees to honor any withdrawals.

•   Confirmed Letter of Credit: A seller using a confirmed letter of credit involves a secondary bank, typically the seller’s bank. They guarantee payment if the first bank fails to pay.

You may also hear an irrevocable letter of credit mentioned; this is a letter of credit that can’t be changed or canceled unless all parties agree.

There is also a stand-by letter of credit which may be used when deal requirements are not initially met; see below for more details.

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Letter of Credit Example

Here’s an example of a letter of credit: Wells Fargo provides commercial letters of credit and stand-by letters of credit within two weeks. The funds are secured through deposits at Wells Fargo, and the terms are renewable. These documents can help reassure parties doing business internationally, with new-to-them businesses or clients who have recently started a business.

The Money Behind a Letter of Credit

When it comes to letters of credit, you may wonder, Where do the payment funds for a letter of credit originate? The party paying for the goods or services typically deposits funds in advance to the bank that issues the letter of credit to cover the payment. Alternatively, the amount might be frozen in the payer’s account or the payer might borrow from the bank using a line of credit.

When Does Payment Happen?

Payment usually occurs when the seller has completed all the stipulations in the letter of credit. For example, the seller might have to deliver the goods to a specific address or onto a ship for transportation in the case of international trade. In the latter case, shipping documents would serve as proof that the requirements for payment have been fulfilled. They might trigger the payment transaction.

What to Watch Out for

Here are some common mistakes sellers may make when relying on a letter of credit for payment.

•   Failing to check all of the requirements in the letter of credit.

•   Failing to understand the documents required for the deal.

•   Failing to confirm whether the time limits for delivery and payment are reasonable.

•   Failing to meet the time limits.

•   Failing to get the necessary proof of delivery documents to the bank.

Letters of Credit Terminology

Here are some terms and phrases to know if you may be using letters of credit.

•   Advising bank: This is the bank that informs the seller that the letter of credit has been completed. The advising bank is also called the notifying bank.

•   Applicant: The party or the acquirer of products or services who applies for the letter of credit from the bank.

•   Beneficiary: The party, or seller, who will receive payment. The seller usually requests a letter of credit to guarantee payment.

•   Confirming bank: The bank that guarantees the payment of the required funds to the seller. If a third party is involved, the confirming bank is the bank most familiar to the seller.

•   Freight forwarder: A shipping company that provides the transportation documents to the seller.

•   Intermediary: These are companies that link buyers and sellers and may use letters of credit to ensure transactions are executed.

•   Issuing bank: The bank that issues the letter of credit.

•   Negotiating bank: If a third party is involved, the negotiating bank works with the beneficiary and the other banks involved. They likely determine the letter of credit requirements to complete the transaction.

•   Shipper: The transportation company that ships goods.

•   Stand-by letter of credit: A subsequent letter of credit that’s used when a deal requirement has not been met. For example, if payment does not occur within the specified timeframe, a stand-by letter of credit would then be used to help guarantee that the deal goes through.

Pros and Cons of Letters of Credit

A letter of credit provides security for both parties involved in a trade, but it can also add costs and time to business transactions.

Pros

Cons

•   Reduces the risk that payment will not be made for goods or services, thereby providing security

•   Allows for additional requirements to be built into a letter of credit, such as quality control and delivery stipulations

•   Provides transaction security for both the buyer and the seller

•   Forges new trade relationships

•   Incurs bank fees for the letter of credit, which increases the cost of doing business

•   Adds time by preparing a letter of credit; transactions can be delayed

•   May require a separate letter of credit for each transaction

•   Demands that the buyer usually provide collateral to the bank

How to Get a Letter of Credit

Getting a letter of credit typically requires a few steps. It’s wise to get the necessary paperwork together first. Various documents will usually be listed as requirements for a trade, such as a shipping bill of lading, a commercial invoice, insurance documents, a certificate of origin, and a certificate of inspection.

Here are the steps typically taken to obtain a letter of credit.

1.    The buyer and seller come to agreement on the sale terms and the use of a letter of credit.

2.    The buyer contacts their bank where they have a checking account and requests a letter of credit and provides necessary documents.

3.    The issuing bank prepares the letter based on the terms of the sales agreement and sends it to the confirming bank or advising bank, which is typically in the seller’s home country.

4.    The confirming bank verifies the terms and forwards the letter to the seller.

5.    The goods can then be shipped, and the exporter sends documentation to the advising or confirming bank.

6.    Document verification and settlement of payment can then occur.

When to Use a Letter of Credit

A letter of credit is beneficial for sellers entering into a new trade relationship or an international trade relationship. It can provide assurance that the seller will receive payment because the issuing bank guarantees payment once the requirements have been met. Sellers may also use the guarantee of payment to borrow capital to fulfill the buyer’s order.

The Takeaway

A letter of credit is usually requested by an exporter or seller to minimize credit risk. The buyer of the goods or services applies to a bank and requests a letter of credit based on the sales agreement. This document helps guarantee that payment will be made. It can provide priceless peace of mind when conducting international trade or doing business with a new customer.

Here’s another path to financial peace of mind: Banking with SoFi. Your money is FDIC-insured and secure, and it grows faster. Open a new bank account with direct deposit to earn a competitive APY and pay zero account fees.

Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

How much does a letter of credit cost?

A typical fee for a letter of credit is typically 0.75% percent to 1.5% of the amount of the deal, but the rate will vary depending on the country and other variables.

How do you apply for a letter of credit?

Once the terms of a trade are agreed upon between the buyer and the seller, a buyer contacts their bank to request a letter of credit. They then gather the required documentation and fill out an application with that bank.

Why do you need a letter of credit?

The parties involved in a trade typically use a letter of credit to minimize risk. For the seller, a letter of credit can guarantee payment for goods once certain requirements have been met and the buyer confirms their creditworthiness as a trade partner.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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.

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Guide to Zero-Coupon Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

Guide to Zero-Coupon Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

A zero-coupon certificate of deposit or zero-coupon CD is a type of CD that’s purchased at a discount and pays out interest at maturity. Zero-coupon CDs can offer higher yields than standard CDs for investors who have the patience to wait until maturity to collect their original deposit and the interest earned.

Zero-coupon certificates of deposit are similar to bonds, in that both are considered low-risk, fixed-income instruments, but they serve different purposes in a portfolio. Understanding how a zero-coupon CD works can make it easier to decide if it’s a good investment.

What Is a Zero-Coupon CD?

To understand zero-coupon CDs, let’s recap how a certificate of deposit works. A CD account, also referred to as a time-deposit or term-deposit account, is designed to hold money for a specified period of time. While the money is in the CD, it earns interest at a rate determined by the CD issuer — and the investor cannot add to or withdraw from the account.

CDs are FDIC or NCUA insured when held at a member bank or credit union. That means deposits are insured up to $250,000.

CDs are some of the most common interest-bearing accounts banks offer, alongside savings accounts and money market accounts (MMAs).

A zero-coupon certificate of deposit does not pay periodic interest. Instead, the interest is paid out at the end of the CD’s maturity term. This can allow the purchaser of the CD to potentially earn a higher rate of return because zero-coupon CDs are sold at a discount to face value, but the investor is paid the full face value at maturity.

Recommended: CD Loans, Explained

By comparison, traditional certificates of deposit pay interest periodically. For example, you might open a CD at your bank with interest that compounds daily. Other CDs can compound monthly. Either way, you’d receive an interest payment in your CD account for each month that you hold it until it matures.

Once the CD matures, you’d be able to withdraw the initial amount you deposited along with the compound interest. You could also roll the entire amount into a new CD if you’d prefer.

Remember: Withdrawing money from a CD early can trigger an early withdrawal penalty equal to some or all of the interest earned.

How Do Zero-Coupon CDs Work?

Ordinarily when you buy a CD, you’d deposit an amount equal to or greater than the minimum deposit specified by the bank. You’d then earn interest on that amount for the entirety of the CD’s maturity term.

With zero-coupon CD accounts, though, you’re purchasing the CDs for less than their face value. But at the end of the CD’s term, you’d be paid out the full face value of the CD. The discount — and your interest earned — is the difference between what you pay for the CD and what you collect at maturity. So you can easily see at a glance how much you’ll earn from a zero-coupon CD investment.

In a sense, that’s similar to how the coupon rate of a bond works. A bond’s coupon is the annual interest rate that’s paid out, typically on a semiannual basis. The coupon rate is always tied to a bond’s face value. So a $1,000 bond with a 5% interest rate has a 5% coupon rate, meaning a $50 annual payout until it matures.

Real World Example of a Zero-Coupon CD

Here’s a simple example of how a zero-coupon CD works. Say your bank offers a zero-coupon certificate of deposit with a face value of $10,000. You have the opportunity to purchase the CD for $8,000, a discount of $2,000. The CD has a maturity term of five years.

You wouldn’t receive any interest payments from the CD until maturity. And since the CD has a set term, you wouldn’t be able to withdraw money from the account early. But assuming your CD is held at an FDIC- or NCUA-member institution, the risk of losing money is very low.

At the end of the five years, the bank pays you the full $10,000 face value of the CD. So you’ve received $400 per year in interest income for the duration of the CD’s maturity term — or 5% per year. You can then use that money to purchase another zero-coupon CD or invest it any other way you’d like.

Tips When Investing in a Zero-Coupon CD

If you’re interested in zero-coupon CDs, there are a few things to consider to make sure they’re a good investment for you. Specifically, it’s important to look at:

•   What the CD is selling for (i.e., how big of a discount you’re getting to its face value)

•   How long you’ll have to hold the CD until it reaches maturity

•   The face value amount of the CD (and what the bank will pay you in full, once it matures)

It’s easy to be tempted by a zero-coupon certificate of deposit that offers a steep discount between the face value and the amount paid out at maturity. But consider what kind of trade-off you might be making in terms of how long you have to hold the CD.

If you don’t have the patience to wait out a longer maturity term, or you need the money in the shorter term, then the prospect of higher returns may hold less sway for you. Also, keep in mind what kind of liquidity you’re looking for. If you think you might need to withdraw savings for any reason before maturity, then a standard CD could be a better fit.

Comparing zero-coupon CD offerings at different banks can help you find one that fits your needs and goals. You may also consider other types of cash equivalents, such as money market funds or short-term government bonds if you’re looking for alternatives to zero-coupon CDs.

Recommended: How to Invest in CDs: A Beginner’s Guide

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Pros of Zero-Coupon CDs

Zero-coupon CDs have some features that could make them more attractive than other types of CDs. The main advantages of investing in zero coupon certificates of deposit include:

•   Higher return potential than regular CDs

•   Guaranteed returns, since you’re unable to withdraw money before maturity

•   Suited for longer-term goals

•   Can be federally insured

Zero-coupon CDs are low-risk investments, which can make them more appealing than bonds. While bonds are considered low-risk investments generally, if the bond issuer defaults, then you might walk away from your investment with nothing.

A zero-coupon certificate of deposit, on the other hand, does not carry this same default risk because your money is insured up to $250,000. There is, however, a risk that the CD issuer could “call” the CD before it matures (see more in the next section).

Cons of Zero-Coupon CDs

Every investment has features that may be sticking points for investors. If you’re wondering what the downsides of zero-coupon CDs are, here are a few things to consider:

•   No periodic interest payments

•   No liquidity, since you’re required to keep your money in the CD until maturity

•   Some zero-coupon CDs may be callable, which means the issuer can redeem them before maturity, and the investor won’t get the full face value

•   Taxes are due on the interest that accrues annually, even though the interest isn’t paid out until maturity

It may be helpful to talk to your financial advisor or a tax expert about the tax implications of zero-coupon CDs. It’s possible that the added “income” from these CDs that you have to report each year could increase your tax liability.

How to Collect Interest on Zero-Coupon CDs

Since zero-coupon CDs only pay out at interest at the end of the maturity term, all you have to do to collect the interest is wait until the CD matures. You can direct the bank that issued the CD to deposit the principal and interest into a savings account or another bank account. Or you can use the interest and principal to purchase new CDs.

It’s important to ask the bank what options you’ll have for collecting the interest when the CD matures to make sure renewal isn’t automatic. With regular CDs, banks may give you a window leading up to maturity in which you can specify what you’d like to do with the money in your account. If you don’t ask for the money to be out to you it may be rolled over to a new CD instead.

How to Value Zero-Coupon CDs

The face value of a zero-coupon CD is the amount that’s paid to you at maturity. Banks should specify what the face value of the CD is before you purchase it so you understand how much you’re going to get back later.

In terms of whether a specific zero-coupon CD is worth the money, it helps to look at how much of a discount you’re getting and what that equates to in terms of average interest earned during each year of maturity.

Purchasing a $10,000 zero-coupon CD for $8,000, for example, means you’re getting it at 20% below face value. Buying a $5,000 zero-coupon CD for $4,500, on the other hand, means you’re only getting a 10% discount.

Of course, you’ll also want to keep the maturity term in perspective when assessing what a zero-coupon CD is worth to you personally. Getting a 10% discount for a CD with a three-year maturity term, for example, may trump a 20% discount for a five-year CD, especially if you don’t want to tie up your money for that long.

The Takeaway

Investing in zero-coupon CDs could be a good fit if you’re looking for a low-risk way to save money for a long-term financial goal, and you’d like a higher yield than most other cash equivalents.

Zero-coupon CDs are sold at a discount to face value, and while the investor doesn’t accrue interest payments annually, they get the full face value at maturity — which often adds up to a higher yield than most savings vehicles. And because the difference between the discount and the face value is clear, zero-coupon CDs are predictable investments (e.g. you buy a $5,000 CD for $4,000, but you collect $5,000 at maturity).

As with any investment, it’s important for investors to know the terms before they commit any funds. For example, zero-coupon CDs don’t pay periodic interest, but the account holder is expected to pay taxes on the amount of interest earned each year (even though they don’t collect it until they cash out or roll over the CD).

If you’re eager to earn a higher rate on your savings, you’ve got a lot of options — including the new high-yield bank account with SoFi. With SoFi, you don’t pay management fees or account fees, and you can earn a competitive APY.

Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What is a coupon on a CD?

The coupon on a CD is its periodic interest payment. When a CD is zero coupon, that means it doesn’t pay out interest monthly or annually. Instead, the investor gets the full amount of interest earned paid out to them when the CD reaches maturity.

Is a certificate of deposit a zero-coupon bond?

Certificates of deposit and bonds are two different types of savings vehicles. While a CD can be zero-coupon the same way that a bond can, your money is not invested in the same way. CD accounts also don’t carry the same types of risk that bonds can present.

Are CDs safer than bonds?

CDs can be safer than bonds since CDs don’t carry default risk. A bond is only as good as the entity that issues it. If the issuer defaults, then bond investors can lose money. CDs, on the other hand, are issued by banks and typically covered by FDIC insurance which can make them safer investments.


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

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

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

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

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

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at 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.

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.

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Can You Get a Credit Card at 16?

Getting a Credit Card at 16: What You Should Know First

A credit card is a key tool for achieving financial independence, so it’s understandable why a teen might wonder, ‘can you get a credit card at 16?’ While you have to be at least 18 years old to get your own credit card, you can become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card as a 16 year old. This allows you to have a copy of a credit card with your name on it — though the adult will still be the account holder and be responsible for paying the bills.

Keep reading to learn more about how to get a credit card at 16, which will involve becoming an authorized user.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Credit Card?

Generally, you must be 18 years old to get a credit card on your own. Even after turning 18, you must prove that you have independent income or get a cosigner that is over the age of 21 in order to get a credit card, due to regulations that govern how credit cards work.

While getting a cosigner (usually a parent) can be doable, many teens may struggle to find a credit card issuer that is willing to accept a cosigner. More often than not, if a teen wants to gain access to a credit card, their best path forward is to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.

What Is an Authorized User?

An authorized user is someone who is added to a credit card account by the primary account holder. Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card can make it possible for a 16-year old to have a credit card, as all major credit card issuers accept authorized users who are 16.

If an adult — such as a parent — wants to, they can add a teenager as an authorized user to their credit card. The account holder can then request that the authorized user receive a copy of the credit card with their name on it. This credit card will share the same number as the card of the main account holder.

The teen can then make purchases with the credit card anywhere that accepts credit card payments, but they won’t be legally responsible for paying the bills. Because of this, it’s important that everyone works together to communicate and is aware of what’s being spent and who will pay it off. If the parent is going to put a big purchase on their credit card — such as paying taxes with a credit card — an authorized user’s added spending can drive up the credit utilization ratio.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Becoming an Authorized User

Becoming an authorized user on a credit card can impact a teen’s credit score and build their credit history. That’s because when a teenager becomes an authorized user on a credit card, the credit card issuer will begin to report the account activity to the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian).

When the primary account holder makes on time payments and keeps their balance low in comparison to their credit card limit, the teen’s score should benefit. On the other hand, if the account holder is late on their payments, the teen’s credit score could suffer.

This is another reason why it’s so important for both the account holder and authorized user to know how much they can afford to spend and how much they can manage to pay off each month. Ideally, you’ll be able to pay more than the credit card minimum payment to minimize the interest that accrues.

It’s also important to double check that the credit card issuer is reporting the behavior of the authorized user to the three main credit bureaus. Some credit card issuers, like American Express and Wells Fargo, accept authorized users who are under the age of 18 but don’t report their behavior to the credit bureaus until they come of legal age — which won’t help the teen build their credit history or improve their credit score.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Credit Card Options for 16-Year-Olds

If becoming an authorized user isn’t a good fit, 16 year olds have other options. Teens may find that a debit card or prepaid card can give them the convenience of using a credit card without actually having a credit card or borrowing any money.

Because debit cards are connected to bank accounts, a teen can use a debit card to make payments without physical cash on hand. However, they can’t spend more than they have in their bank account. They also won’t have to worry about any potential impacts to their credit score when using a debit card.

Meanwhile, prepaid cards can be purchased at grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies, and they can be loaded with a set amount of money. The user can then spend as much as the prepaid card is worth.

Neither a debit card nor a prepaid card will help teens build their credit score, nor do they offer the protections a credit card does, like requesting a credit card chargeback if there’s an incorrect charge. However, these options can get teens used to the concept of not overspending when shopping with a card instead of cash.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

Are There Advantages to Getting a Credit Card at 16?

There are some unique advantages that come with getting a credit card at the age of 16 by becoming an authorized user. In addition to the teen gaining a firm grasp on what a credit card is, these are the main benefits worth keeping in mind.

Building Credit Score

As we briefly mentioned earlier, using a credit card responsibly can help teens build their credit history and credit score. Building credit when you’re young can make it easier to qualify for better credit products as well as rates and terms down the road.

Learning Good Financial Habits Early

Another headstart that teens can get by using a credit card at age 16 is learning good financial habits. Using a credit card can help teenagers learn how to budget, pay bills on time, and spend less than they earn. They can also begin to learn about annual percentage rate, or APR, and understand why it’s so important to find a good APR for a credit card.

Access to Emergency Funds

As teenagers gain more and more independence, their parents won’t always be with them when they’re out and about. If an emergency were to arise, like running out of gas, a credit card can give a teen the ability to spend more than just the cash they have on hand.

Rewards for Card Holders

The fun part about credit cards is that it’s possible to earn rewards when you use them. Because the teen will be an authorized user on a credit card, the account holder will be the one to redeem any credit card rewards. Still, this serves as a good opportunity to teach a teenager the benefits of using credit responsibly when it comes time for them to apply for a credit card of their own.

If they want, the primary account holder can even share some of their cash back or other perks with the authorized user.

Convenience for Both Parents and Children

Parents may find that their teen having a credit card saves them a lot of fuss. Do they need money for a yearbook or to buy prom tickets? No worries, they can use their credit card. With their own credit card (and the help of a responsible adult when it comes time to pay the bill), teens can use a credit card to manage their college applications, pay for SAT prep classes, or pick up school supplies.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

Common Pitfalls for 16-Year-Olds With a Credit Card

Of course, credit cards aren’t all fun and games. Here are some pitfalls that 16 year olds should look out for when using a credit card.

Overspending

The biggest mistake any of us can make when it comes to credit cards is overspending and not being able to afford our bill. It’s important that parents or legal guardians have serious conversations with their teens about how credit works and what the stakes of overspending are. This can include credit card interest, fees, and a bruised credit score.

Proneness to Credit Card Fraud

Credit cards come with fraud risks that teens who are used to paying in cash may not know what to look out for, such as credit card skimmers. While credit cards can be more secure than debit cards, it’s important to teach teens about how to use credit cards safely so their card isn’t lost or stolen and they don’t fall prey to identity theft.

The Takeaway

It is possible to get a credit card at 16 by becoming an authorized user on an adult’s credit card account. To get your own credit card, you’ll need to wait until you’re at least 18, and even then, you’ll need to prove you have independent income or get a cosigner. When it is time to get a credit card of your own, you’ll want to make sure you’re ready to manage it responsibly and that you take the time to select a credit card that fits your needs.

Those looking for a new credit card may find the SoFi credit card can meet their financial needs. Cardholders must be 18 years old to qualify. The card has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and it offers SoFi cardholders 2% unlimited cash back when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. Cardholders earn 1% cash back when redeemed for a statement credit.1

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

What is the minimum age to get a credit card?

You must be 18 years old to get your one credit card. Even then, you must prove that you have a steady source of income. Otherwise, you’ll need to get a cosigner who is over the age of 21.

Can a 16 year old get a credit card with a cosigner?

No, you must be at least 18 years old to get a credit card — even if you have a cosigner. Those under the age of 18 can become an authorized user on an adult’s credit card account, but they can’t get a credit card of their own.

Can you use a credit card to build a good credit score?

When used responsibly, a credit card can help build a credit score. If a teen becomes an authorized user on a parent’s credit card, for instance, and that parent makes on-time payments and keeps their credit utilization low, they can improve their credit score as well as the teen’s.

What payment card can you get at 16?

Before the age of 18, teens can get a debit card or a prepaid card on their own. Neither type of payment card will help improve their credit score, but they are easier to obtain than a credit card. A teen can also become an authorized user and get a credit card of their own if approved by the main account holder, though this will not be their own credit card account.


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

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 .

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

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

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.

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 rewards points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, SoFi Active Invest account, SoFi Credit Card account, or SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every 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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Average Credit Card Processing Fees in America in 2022

Average Credit Card Processing Fees and Costs in America in 2022

Whether you’re a merchant who runs your own business or someone with a side hustle, if you accept credit card payments, fees are likely going to eat into your gross profit. But how much are credit card processing fees?

Average credit card processing fees can range anywhere from 1.40% to 4.35%. While a few percentage points may seem low, these fees can add up and impact your business’ bottom line. Read on to learn more about these credit card fees and how you can reduce them.

What Is a Credit Card Processing Fee?

A credit card processing fee describes all of the fees charged to take credit cards as a form of payment. These, which are incurred by merchants that accept credit card payments, include interchange fees, payment processor fees, and assessment fees.

Processing fees can run over 4% of a total transaction. Rates can vary based on the size and location of a business, as well as the types of transactions and cards that are accepted.

Generally, businesses bake credit card transaction fees into their pricing in the form of credit card merchant fees. However, some businesses may provide a discount if a customer pays with cash. Others may set a minimum payment amount they’ll accept by card. Understanding how credit cards work can give insight into why some businesses don’t accept credit card payments.

Types of Credit Card Processing Fees and Costs

Credit card processing fees actually combine several fees. When talking about credit card processing fees, merchants are generally talking about.

•   Interchange fees

•   Assessment fees

•   Payment processor fees

Some of these fees, like payment processor fees, can vary depending on the credit card processor a merchant chooses. Others, like interchange fees, are set by the credit card companies and depend on the cards used.

Recommended: Charge Cards Advantages and Disadvantages

Interchange Fees

Interchange fees are collected by credit card issues from the merchant when a credit card or debit card is used. Interchange rates vary depending on the type of card used, the type of business, and the amount of the transaction. Interchange rates can also vary depending on whether the payment was made online or in store.

Generally, interchange rates are presented as a percentage of the sale, plus a flat fee. For example, if Mei buys $50 worth of groceries with XYZ card, the grocer would have a set interchange rate based on XYZ card, which may be slightly different than ABC card. XYZ card may have a 1.15% interchange rate, plus a flat fee of $0.30. That would mean that, from Mei’s transaction, the store would owe $0.88 as an interchange fee.

Assessment Fees

An assessment fee is levied by the credit card network (the brand name on the card a cardholder uses, such as MasterCard or American Express). This fee may vary depending on whether the card is a credit card or debit card, as well as on the volume of transactions a business makes. There also may be larger international fees.

Unlike the interchange fee, an assessment fee is standard across transactions. It is also generally lower in amount than an interchange fee.

Card Processor Fees

Payment processor fees go to the payment processor, which facilitates the transaction. The card processor is the intermediary that communicates between the card issuer and the merchant bank. It may also include the point of sale (POS) system and provide the devices to take credit card payments.

The merchant does have some control over the amount of these fees. Credit card processing fees vary depending on the payment model selected. Costs could include per-transaction fees, a monthly service fee, and equipment rental fees.

Average Card Processing Fees in 2022

As discussed, card processing fees in 2022 depend on several factors, including whether payments are primarily processed in person or online. That said, average credit card processing fee ranges are provided below for the major credit card networks:

Average Credit Card Processing Fees By Network

Network Processing Fee Range
Visa 1.29% + $0.05 to 2.54% + $0.10
Mastercard 1.29% + $0.05 to 2.64% + $0.10
Discover 1.48% + $0.05 to 2.53% + $0.10
American Express 1.58% + $0.10 to 3.45% + $0.10

Note that American Express is considered a bit differently than other credit card companies. Unlike the other three credit card companies in the table above, American Express is a closed-loop network. This means that it is not backed by another financial institution, which gives it more control over its practices and charges. American Express calls the fees it charges “discount fees,” which operate similarly to interchange fees.

If you do have an American Express card, this wouldn’t have any impact on things like your credit card limit or credit card minimum payment, but it may affect where your card is accepted due to generally higher fees.

Factors That Determine Interchange Fees

Adding to merchant confusion, interchange fees vary depending not only on the merchant, but also depending on what sort of credit card is used in a transaction. Interchange fees are usually between 1% and 3% of the overall sale, but the actual percentage varies on a host of factors that we’ll discuss below.

Credit Card Type

Credit card type plays a role in determining the amount of the interchange fee — even if all cards fall under the same brand. In general, debit cards have lower interchange rates than credit cards, which are unsecured debt.

Part of how a rate is assigned is based on risk level. For a merchant bank, a debit card can be less risky because the money is already accounted for within your account. (This is also why the process of how to apply for a credit card is more involved than it is for a debit card.)

Merchant Category Code

Shopping at a grocery store? Then you may be paying a different interchange rate than you would at the hardware store or dry cleaners. Every merchant has a category code, and those merchants within the same category will have the same fees.

Method of Processing

How a payment is processed will also affect the rate of interchange fees. Card companies assess the risk of the transaction, considering the potential for fraud, chargebacks, and other things that may go awry. For this reason, they may assign different interchange rates based on whether a purchase was completed online, in person, or even whether the purchase was made via swipe or chip technology.

Network

Each credit card network sets its own fees based on merchant type. While the majority of the fee goes to the bank that issued your card, a small amount will go to the card network itself. This money will then be used to fund perks, rewards, and protections offered by the card — all key parts of what a credit card is.

Pricing Models for Processing Fees

There are various pricing models for processing fees, and merchants can assess which one works best for them based on how they do business. There are three common models to consider: flat rate pricing, interchange plus pricing, and tiered pricing.

Flat Rate Pricing

Like the name suggests, flat rate pricing provides a fixed rate for all transactions, which is inclusive of processing fees and interchange fees. This can be convenient, as it makes it easy to predict costs. However, it also could mean that your business is overpaying for transactions that have lower interchange rates, such as purchases made with a debit card.

Interchange Plus Pricing

Interchange plus pricing provides a detailed analysis of fees by breaking out interchange fees, assessment fees, and processor fees. This can be great for businesses looking for a level of detail into the fees they’re paying, and it can also help ensure that you’re not overpaying fees. However, some businesses may find this level of detail overwhelming.

Tiered Pricing

With tiered pricing, prices for interchange rates are separated into one of three tiers: qualified, mid-qualified and non-qualified. Tiering is dependent on how payment occurs (for example, in person or online) as well as how the card processing occurs (a payment may be downgraded based on how the card is processed).

While statements can be easier to read with this model, there’s less transparency than with interchange plus pricing. Additionally, because merchants can’t separate interchange fees from processing fees, it can be challenging to see a fee breakdown.

Other Credit Card Processing Fees and Costs

In addition to the credit card processing fees outlined above, you also may pay a monthly subscription fee for processor use. This is independent of the number of transactions and may include customer service, POS equipment, and more. Sometimes, a higher subscription fee may result in a lower fee per payment.

You may also pay a fee for the initial setup when you sign up for a credit card processing company. Further, you could owe fees for if a customer disputes a credit card charge, in the instance of any chargebacks, and for non-sufficient funds.

How Often Do Payment Networks Update Their Interchange Fees?

Interchange fees are typically updated twice a year, in April and October. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused Visa and Mastercard to pause changing certain interchange rates on transactions.

As for the amount of typical fee hikes, the most recent increases by Mastercard and Visa resulted in a jump of 0.05 to 0.10 of a percentage point for payments made by credit card. This may not sound like a lot, but this can add up significantly — especially as more consumers are using cards over cash. Just think if your annual percentage rate (APR) on your credit card was to inch up by that much.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

The Takeaway

Understanding credit card processing fees isn’t only helpful for entrepreneurs and small business owners. It can also help consumers understand why there might be an additional fee charged for certain payments made with cards, such as if you decide to pay taxes with a credit card.

When it comes to choosing a credit card, however, you don’t necessarily have to think about interchange rates — that’s the job of merchants. What you do need to consider is any fees involved and whether the interest rate is a good APR for credit card.

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



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FAQ

What is the typical fee for credit card processing?

The typical fee for credit card processing in 2022 is 1.40% to 4.35% for transactions. The rate is dependent on the type of transaction (in general, debit cards cost less to process than credit cards) and the processing system the merchant chooses. The actual percentage per swipe varies based on a host of factors.

Can I avoid credit card processing fees?

There are no ways to entirely avoid credit card processing fees, but there may be ways to make fees more manageable. One common way for businesses to manage credit card processing fees is to bake them into pricing and to offer cash discounts. Another way to potentially avoid credit card processing fees is to accept ACH payment methods for services.

Can the type of credit card determine processing fees?

Yes, the type of credit card is one factor that determines processing fees. For example, different categories of cards, such as reward cards, can have different fees than other cards, like debit cards.


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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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