Counter Checks: What Are They & How Do They Work?

Counter Checks: What Are They & How Do They Work?

If you’ve ever sat down to pay bills only to realize you’ve run out of checks, you may be relieved to know you can use counter checks. Counter checks are temporary checks printed at your bank that can help you make payments in a pinch.

Even in our era of autopay and P2P apps, checks are still a popular way for many to transfer funds.

Key Points

•   Counter checks are temporary checks printed by a bank that can be used for payments when personal checks are not available (such as when you first open an account or if you run out of checks).

•   Counter checks can be obtained from a bank by requesting them, showing ID, and paying a small fee.

•   Counter checks may not be accepted by all merchants and organizations due to their lack of personalization and information.

•   Counter checks differ from cashier’s checks as they are drawn from personal accounts and are not widely accepted.

•   Alternatives to counter checks include online bill pay, money orders, cashier’s checks, mobile app payment services, and paying over the phone.

What Is a Counter Check?

Counter checks, also called temporary or starter checks, are a set of plain, printed checks from your bank that include your account information and the bank’s routing number. They can be used like personal checks. (In terms of how long a check is good for, these are typically valid for six months, like standard checks.)

Counter checks may not have the personalization that a set of pre-printed checks would have. You may need to fill out your personal information normally found at the top left of a check (such as your address) on a set of lines instead.

Typically, you can get counter checks while waiting for your pre-printed checkbook to arrive in the mail. This might occur when you open a new bank account or simply run out of your usual checks. Counter checks can be useful for paying merchants who don’t accept electronic payments, mobile app payments, or debit cards.

How Do Counter Checks Work?

You may get some counter checks when you first open your account; otherwise, you must request them from your bank. Here’s what you’ll do:

1.    Request counter checks from your bank (typically).

2.    Bring and show your ID.

3.    Wait a short time as the bank prints them.

4.    Pay a small fee, usually around $3 for a sheet of three checks.

5.    Use them just as you would a personal check. Just be sure to ask the recipient if they’re willing to accept a counter check before you fill it out. Some merchants are not comfortable accepting these non-standard checks.

When Would Someone Use a Counter Check?

Counter checks are useful in a few situations. If you need to pay someone with a check ASAP and you’re out of personal checks, then a bank counter check may be your best option. Or, if you recently opened a new checking account but haven’t yet received your printed checks in the mail, a counter check can enable you to pay a bill that’s due. Compared with a cashier’s check or a money order (learn more about these options below), they’re usually less expensive, too.

However, there’s an issue to note: Not all merchants, individuals, and organizations will accept a counter check in place of a standard check. Because a counter check does not have as much information printed on it as a typical check, some may reject it, skeptical that it is valid. It’s important to note this when planning to write a counter check. You may want to check first with the intended recipient to make sure it won’t be returned.

How Does a Counter Check Differ From a Cashier’s Check?

A counter check shouldn’t be confused with a cashier’s check. They’re both issued by your bank, but they work very differently. A cashier’s check is a special check that is actually drawn on the bank’s funds vs. your account’s funds.

Here’s a quick comparison of a certified check vs. cashier’s check.

Counter Check

Cashier’s Check

Funds come from your personal account Funds come from the bank. They are guaranteed by the bank because you pay upfront for the amount on the check (plus a fee)
Not widely accepted Widely accepted as a very secure form of payment
Printed without the amount of funds specified Printed with the recipient and amount of funds specified
Written by the consumer Written by the bank cashier
Fees are around $1 per counter check Fees are around $10 to $20 per cashier’s check

Tips for Getting a Counter Check

If you know how to order checks, you are probably aware that the process can take a couple of weeks to get personal checks. Getting some temporary counter checks can be faster, but you’ll need to get them from your bank. If you feel you need them urgently, it may be wise to visit a branch in person. Be sure to bring your ID with you. They may be printed on the spot for you.

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Writing a Counter Check

Writing a counter check is nearly the same as writing a personal check. The only difference is you may need to fill out some personal information if your bank hasn’t printed it on the check. This generally includes your name and address, though a merchant may also request your driver’s license number when you pay with a counter check.

To write the check, you’ll want to:

1.    Write the date in the upper right hand corner.

2.    In the “Pay to the order of” line, write the name of the recipient of the check.

3.    Write the amount of the transaction in numerical form in the box to the right.

4.    Write out the amount in words (say, “two hundred dollars”) on the line below it.

5.    Include a memo in the bottom left corner, if you like, noting what the check is paying for.

6.    Sign the check in the bottom right corner.

All of these elements are necessary in order for a check to be valid.

Recommended: Signing over checks to someone else

Pros and Cons of Counter Checks

While counter checks can serve as a temporary solution while you wait for your checks to arrive, it’s not a perfect solution. There are some advantages, as well as drawbacks to consider.

Pros of Counter Checks

Cons of Counter Checks

Immediately available Not universally accepted
Act like a personal check Fees can be high, as much as $3 per page of checks
Not numbered
Often may not have personal information pre-printed on the checks

Recommended: How to determine if a check is real

Alternatives to Counter Checks

You have other options for paying bills if you’re out of checks. Here are a few of the methods available to transfer funds.

•   Online bill pay. A quick and easy way to send payment is to set up online bill pay through your bank. It’s usually free and incredibly convenient. You can add vendors to pay and then automate monthly payments for things like car payments, mortgages, student loans, and more.

   Typically, your bank can pay merchants and organizations electronically, but if there’s a company that doesn’t accept electronic payments, you may have to do online payments manually or mail a check. In some situations, an online bill pay service may be able to write and mail the check for you.

•   Money order. A money order is like a pre-paid check. You’ll pay the amount that you’re sending, plus a fee (typically just a couple or a few dollars), and you get a check issued by a third-party provider. You can often get money orders at a variety of locations, such as the post office, your bank, your grocery store and your favorite retail stores.

•   Cashier’s check. A cashier’s check is a check you can buy from the bank where they guarantee the funds. The bank writes a check to any third party; you, in turn, pay the financial institution the amount of the payment, plus the fee for the cashier’s check (which may be in the range of $20). It’s considered a safe way to make a large payment.

•   Certified check. A certified check is a check you get from your bank that guarantees the funds from your personal account. This kind of check signals to the recipient that the cash has been earmarked from the payer’s personal account. It can add a level of security and comfort for the payee.

•   Mobile app payment services. There are a host of peer-to-peer or P2P payment options that make paying someone very convenient. Some of the most popular apps include Venmo, Cash App, PayPal, Google Pay, Zelle, and others.

•   Pay over the phone. Some merchants will take a payment over the phone. You can provide your bank’s routing number and your account number, and they may be able to process a payment over the phone. You may also be able to use a debit card for payment.

Recommended: How can I cash a check without a bank account?

Banking With SoFi

Counter checks are a useful tool if you run out of your standard checks or have recently opened a new checking account. These checks are quickly available, but they are usually not printed with all of the standard information, and not all merchants and organizations will accept them. Still, they may allow you to pay some pressing bills when other means are not available.

If you are in the market for a convenient and adaptable banking partner, consider SoFi Checking and Savings. We’ll help you bank better. When opened with direct deposit, a SoFi bank account offers no account fees, and you’ll earn a competitive APY.

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

Is a counter check the same as a personal check?

A counter check can be equivalent to a personal check, and it may be presented as legal tender like a personal check. The main difference is that a counter check is likely to lack the more detailed identifying information that’s pre-printed on a personal check.

Can I pay someone with a counter check?

Not all merchants take counter checks. Because they look temporary and are typically not numbered, businesses may not accept payment via counter check. If you need to pay bills with a counter check, make sure the recipient is willing to accept it before you fill it out and send it.

How long is a counter check good for?

Like a personal check, a counter check is typically good for around six months.


Photo credit: iStock/RyanJLane

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.

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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What Is Discretionary Income?

Discretionary Income Definition and Explanation

Discretionary income is defined as the cash you have available to spend after your necessary payments are covered. Those necessities are typically made up of basic living expenses, such as housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and insurance costs. (In some cases, minimum payments toward debt may be included as well.)

So what does discretionary income equal in daily life? It’s the post-tax money you can put toward things like eating out, entertainment, travel, clothing, electronics, and gym memberships. You might think of discretionary income as paying for the wants in life vs. the needs.

In this guide, you’ll learn more about the definition of discretionary income, read examples of this type of income and how to use it, and understand how to calculate this money in your budget. It can be an important number to know, as you’ll see, especially if you’re repaying student loans.

Key Points

•   Discretionary income is the money left after paying for necessary expenses like housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and insurance.

•   It can be used for non-essential expenses like eating out, entertainment, travel, clothing, and electronics.

•   Discretionary income is important for budgeting and can be used to pay down debt or save for goals like vacations or home improvements.

•   Some people may not have discretionary income if they struggle to cover essential expenses or have variable income.

•   Calculating discretionary income involves subtracting necessary expenses from take-home pay; it’s important to have a budget to manage that money effectively.

What Is Discretionary Income?

Discretionary income is the amount of post-tax income that is left over after you have paid for all the essentials of daily life. These expenses include your mortgage or rent, utilities, and car payments or bills, as well as food, healthcare, and occasionally clothing (if it is needed, not just wanted). To phrase it another way, no, a Netflix subscription or your AM latte isn’t a “necessity.”

It’s worth noting that not everyone has discretionary income; some people struggle just to cover the “essentials” when it comes to paying their bills.

•  Gig, seasonal, and part-time workers: The concept of discretionary income can get a little more complicated if you aren’t a person who gets a steady paycheck. If you have a variable income due to the nature of your work (maybe you’re a gig worker or freelancer), you’ll need to make sure you have enough money set aside in savings if you have a shortfall.

If your income dips and you can’t pay for the basics in life, let alone have some discretionary income, that could mean you’ll get hit with overdraft or late fees or wind up with excessive credit card debt to pay off.

•  Discretionary income and savings: Also worth noting (warning, buzzkill ahead): Discretionary income isn’t just to be spent on cool stuff and fun experiences. It’s wise to put a portion of it toward savings. Some people will include debt payments as part of the “necessities” bucket of your budget; others will say that a portion of discretionary income is what goes toward debt.

One key kind of debt to consider in this scenario: student loans. There are four programs for repaying federal educational loans in which your discretionary income can be a factor. It’s vital to make sure you have the right income-driven repayment plan (IDR) that works for your financial situation when it comes to paying down federal student loans.

What if despite your best efforts to pay back your loans, you are still feeling the financial pinch? It’s a common situation as basic bills and student loans conspire to vacuum up all your moolah. Refinancing your student loans to a lower rate can help free up additional discretionary income each month.

💡 Quick Tip: Don’t think too hard about your money. Automate your budgeting, saving, and spending with SoFi’s seamless and secure mobile banking app.

7 Examples of Discretionary Income and Expenses

Now that you know what discretionary income is, it’s worth mentioning that the phrase is sometimes used interchangeably with discretionary expenses. To be clear, discretionary income is what is spent on discretionary expenses.

And what are discretionary expense examples? Here are several:

1. Entertainment and Eating Out


This category includes such expenses as dining out, getting drinks, splurge-y takeout food (pizza delivery, we’re looking at you!), and fancy coffees. In terms of entertainment, the following would be considered discretionary: Concert, play, and movie tickets; museum admission; books, magazines, and streaming services; and similar costs.

2. Vacations and Travel


Taking a vacation, whether you go to the other side of the planet or an hour’s drive away, is not a necessity, despite how you may feel about it.

3. Luxury Items


These expenses could be anything from a pricey sportscar to designer clothes to jewelry to wine. While clothing and a car may be necessities in life, when you pay extra for top-notch prestige brands, you enter the realm of discretionary expenses.

4. Memberships and Hobbies

Yes, joining a gym or taking up a musical instrument are admirable things. But they are not vital to your survival. For this reason, things like yoga or Pilates classes, crafting supplies, and similar expenses are considered discretionary.

5. Personal Care


A basic haircut or bottle of shampoo may not be discretionary, but pricey blowouts, manicures, massages, skincare items, and the like are.

6. Upgrading Items

If your current phone is functional but you get the latest one, that’s a discretionary expense. The same holds true for being bored with your couch and getting a new one or remodeling your bathroom just because.

7. Gifts


Of course you want to show you care for your loved ones. But buying presents for others isn’t vital to survival, so this should be earmarked as a discretionary expense.

Recommended: How to Save on Streaming Services

Income vs Disposable Income

If you are wondering how income vs. disposable income stacks up, here’s the difference. Income refers to all the funds you have coming in, whether from your salary, any side hustles, interest or dividends, and other sources.

Disposable income, however, is what is left of your post-tax money after you have paid for your necessities, as described above. If, say, you follow the popular 50/30/20 budget rule, 50% of your money goes toward needs (necessities), 30% would go toward wants (discretionary expenses), and 20% toward saving. Together, those account for all of your after-tax money, aka your disposable income.

💡 Quick Tip: Want a new checking account that offers more access to your money? With 55,000+ ATMs in the Allpoint network, you can get cash when and where you choose.

How Is Discretionary Income Used?

Discretionary income can be used for a number of fun things, from buying the latest mobile phone to taking a pal out for their birthday to spending a day at a theme park with the kids. You could also use discretionary income to make a future dream come true. You could, say, contribute to a fund for your next vacation or the down payment on a house. Another way to allocate discretionary income is to use it for home improvement projects, especially ones that could increase the value of your home. Heck, you could even save it in your bank account, plain and simple, if you wanted.

Also, it’s wise to recognize the fact that some people may need to use their discretionary money for an income-based repayment plan to pay down student loan debt. There may not be a lot of wiggle room there. Others must put this money toward paying down their credit card bills; those high-interest debts can grow over time and do damage to your credit score.

(One tip for those who get paid every other week: When you get an “extra” paycheck that doesn’t need to go to bills, consider it discretionary income that you could put toward an extra payment on debts or to toss into savings.)

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How to Calculate Discretionary Income

One way to calculate your discretionary income is to calculate your take-home pay each month and subtract your “fixed” or “necessary expenses” from that. The money you have left over is your discretionary income which can be used for the kinds of expenses we highlighted above.

What if, when you tally your discretionary income, you wound up with a negative number? This means you do not have any earnings left over to address discretionary expenses. In this situation, it’s important to keep spending under control and look for ways to free up funds.

One other angle to consider about this topic: If you have student loans to pay off, discretionary income can be used for an income-based repayment plan.The federal government offers income-based plans, and each one has its own discretionary income requirements.

These programs often put your student loan payments notably under what you might otherwise pay. Some of the factors taken into consideration are income and family size; you also must meet certain requirements to qualify for these repayment plans. You can see how the options stack up by plugging your details into the federal government’s loan simulator tool.

What Is A Good Amount of Discretionary Income?

When you’re considering how much discretionary income you should have, you might want to consult a discretionary income calculator. Many options for these calculators are available online.

Hopefully you have some money left each month after you’ve paid your basic living expenses. As you look at your overall budget and discretionary income, you might benefit from exploring the 50/30/20 rule, as noted above.

Example of Using 50/30/20 Rule to Calculate Discretionary Income

If your monthly net (take-home) income was $5,000, $2,500 would be siphoned off for your “needs,” $1,500 would be allotted for discretionary income, and $1,000 would go toward savings and investments. This can be a really helpful way to understand how to “bucket” your money and keep your finances healthy.

As you think about discretionary income and related concepts, you’ll probably realize how important it is to have a budget; this will inform where your money has to go as well as what’s left after those bills have been paid. It will help keep you on track for your discretionary income, reining in excessive spending and guiding you toward saving well and staying out of debt. There are a variety of different budget methods; try a couple and see which works best for you.

💡 Quick Tip: When you overdraft your checking account, you’ll likely pay a non-sufficient fund fee of, say, $35. Look into linking a savings account to your checking account as a backup to avoid that, or shop around for a bank that doesn’t charge you for overdrafting.

Discretionary vs. Disposable Income

The phrases “discretionary income” and “disposable income” might be used interchangeably in conversations among your friends, but — sorry — that’s not necessarily correct.

•  Disposable income is how much money you have left from your earnings after tax withholdings are taken out but before deductions are also removed. That’s likely going to be a much higher number than your discretionary income.

•  Discretionary income is the amount left after your taxes and deductions (like health insurance, retirement contributions, etc.) are taken out, and then you’ve paid all of your essential living expenses (home, utilities, food, car).

It’s important to be aware that these definitions may be used differently in some circumstances, like if a court is going to garnish your wages or back-owed tax payments during a bankruptcy consideration. These are distressing circumstances, yes, but they happen every day to regular people, so it’s good to have the vocabulary down if you ever face these situations.

Get Ready to Bank Better with SoFi

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 meaning of discretionary income?

Discretionary income is defined as the cash you have available to spend after your taxes are deducted and necessary payments are covered.

What is an example of discretionary income?

Here’s an example of discretionary income: If your post-tax earnings were $100K and you spent $50K on necessities and $20K went into your retirement savings, the remaining $30K would be discretionary income.

What is the difference between discretionary and disposable income?

Discretionary income is the money that you spend on non-essential items, or the wants in your life vs. needs. Disposable income, however, is your total after-tax income.


Photo credit: iStock/Gearstd

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.

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.

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Guide to New Money vs. Old Money

Maybe you’ve heard people mention new money vs. old money in conversation, perhaps in a whisper. Old money and new money both refer to wealthy groups of people. The key difference between old money and new money is how a person obtained their wealth.

In short, old money represents generational wealth — money that has been passed on from generation to generation in the form of cash, investments, and property. New money refers to self-made millionaires and billionaires, those who earned their money (or lucked into it, like in the lottery).

Pop culture and literary references to new vs. old money abound. For instance, James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) includes a depiction of the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” as new money, shunned by some snooty old money types. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby puts new money (Jay Gatsby in West Egg) and old money (Tom and Daisy Buchanan in East Egg) at odds throughout the course of the novel.

Key Points

•   Old money refers to generational wealth passed down through families, while new money refers to self-made wealth.

•   Old money is often associated with traditional investments and long-standing traditions, while new money may spend more lavishly and take riskier investment decisions.

•   Lessons from old and new money include the importance of protecting wealth, analyzing spending, and avoiding stereotypes.

•   The distinction between old and new money may be relevant to the wealthy class but does not affect the daily lives of most people.

What Is Old Money?

Old money refers to people who have inherited significant generational wealth; their families have been wealthy for several generations.

In the past, old money would have referred to an elite class: the aristocracy or landed gentry. In the U.S., families like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers represented early examples of old money. Today, old money families include the Waltons (Walmart), the Disneys (The Walt Disney Company), and the Kochs (Koch Industries). Should families like the Kardashians continue to generate and pass down wealth, they could one day be considered old money as well.

Recommended: How to Build Wealth at Any Age

What Is New Money?

New money then refers to people who have recently come into wealth, typically by their own labor or ingenuity.
Common examples of new money include tech moguls and self-made billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates. Someone who wins millions of dollars in the lottery or becomes famous from a reality TV series (like the cast of Jersey Shore) would also qualify as new money.

You may sometimes hear the French term “nouveau riche,” which means “newly rich.” This tends to describe people who recently became wealthy and spend their money in a flashy, ostentatious manner.

Recommended: Building Wealth in Your 30s

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!


Differences Between Old and New Money

So what is the difference between old money and new money? There are quite a few distinctions, but remember that these are all generalizations. Each person who obtains wealth is unique.

Source of Wealth

The most obvious difference between new money and old money is the source of wealth. Old money has been passed down from generation to generation. Each member of old money typically feels a fierce responsibility to protect — and increase — that wealth.

Members of new money have earned that money in their lifetime, whether for building a tech empire, becoming a famous actor, making it to the big leagues as a sports player, or even making money on social media as an influencer. Some new money members might come into money through a financial windfall like winning the lottery or a major lawsuit.

Long-Standing Traditions

Inheriting generational wealth comes with a responsibility: Old money recipients usually must protect the family’s wealth to pass on to future generations. For that reason, those who come from old money may stick to their traditional investments and ways of life. Many inherit their parents’ business and then pass it on to their own children.

Those who are self-made or come into money quickly do not have long-standing traditions to fall back on. They are often the first in their community to make multimillion dollar spending decisions. This can mean a steep learning curve and the need for guidance, which could make them vulnerable to poor advice and unscrupulous hangers-on.

Spending and Investing

How old and new money generally approach wealth management is one of their starkest contrasts.

Though they do live lavishly, members of old money can be more frugal (or calculated) with purchases than you might expect. For members of old money, spending is often more about investing than shopping for pleasure.

People who are a part of new money may feel more entitled to and excited by their funds. They may spend it more lavishly (and publicly). Some might feel that they worked hard to earn their money — and they’d like to enjoy it.
They might want to show off their newly achieved status with designer watches or mega mansions.

That’s not to say that members of new money don’t invest. Famous celebrities, athletes, and businesspeople often invest in real estate or buy companies to increase their wealth. Generally speaking, new money might make riskier investment decisions for faster yields. They’re not thinking about generational wealth to protect with tried and true investment methods.

Taken to its extreme, this can have disastrous results. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of people who make a lot of money for the first time and spend it all, leading to bankruptcy and even mental health issues.

Recommended: What Is Asset Management?

Leisure

The stereotypes might be a little tired, but in general, people associate old money with traditional activities like golf, skiing, horseback riding, and polo. On the flip side, members of new money might buy courtside seats to a basketball game, a garage full of shiny new luxury cars, or even a rocketship for a joyride into outer space.

Recommended: Knowing the Difference Between ‘Rich’ and ‘Wealthy’

Social Perception

Interestingly, some of the richest people in the world come from new money. They’re today’s self-made tech giants. Yet some members of old money may consider themselves to be a higher class than the likes of Gates and Bezos.

We’re speaking in generalizations here, but old money often perceive themselves — and are perceived by outsiders — to be more educated and refined.

On the other hand, the public may view members of new money as harder workers and more innovative — clear examples of the American dream.

Old and New Money Lessons

What lessons can we learn from old and new money? Even if you are not wealthy, you can learn some valuable life and financial lessons from considering the difference.

•   It’s hard to protect generational wealth. Old money is very privileged; there’s no denying it. But most families lose their wealth in just a few generations. Old money families do work hard to maintain and grow their wealth for their future generations. They are able to avoid seeing their fortune dwindle.

•   It’s important to analyze your spending. Many people who come into wealth quickly don’t take adequate steps to protect their funds and invest it wisely. Horror stories of lottery winners losing everything should be enough to remind us that — if we come into a large amount of money suddenly — we should take the time with a finance professional to build out our money management goals. Doing so may ensure your wealth grows, rather than runs out.

•   Stereotypes aren’t everything. Reflecting on the differences between old and new money, it’s important to note that these are merely stereotypes, and not everyone fits the bill. Just as one hopes that others don’t judge us before they know us, the discussion of old vs. new money is a reminder not to form assumptions about someone until you get to know them.

Recommended: How to Achieve Financial Discipline

The Takeaway

Old money refers to families who have maintained wealth across several generations. New money, on the other hand, refers to someone who earned their wealth in their lifetime. Key traits typically differentiate old vs. new money, but at the end of the day, both refer to members of a wealthy class that most people will not ever be a part of.

No matter how much wealth you have — and whether you inherited or earned it — it’s a good idea to protect it in an FDIC-insured bank account that actively earns interest. Check out SoFi’s online bank account, which earns a competitive APY and has no monthly fees, which can help your money grow faster.

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

Is it preferable to be from new or old money?

It depends on whom you ask. Old money members often regard themselves as a higher class, but they also have less agency to spend their money on “fun” things, as they have to guard their wealth for future generations. While members of new money might feel freer to spend on things they want, they can be more likely to run out of money if they don’t follow good financial planning.

Does new vs. old money matter?

If you are a member of the wealthy class, the distinction might matter to you. Those with old money might feel it’s superior to new, but those with newly minted wealth may well be proud of their success in building their fortune. However, most people are not considered to be new or old money, and so this shouldn’t affect their daily lives.

How has old vs. new money changed since the terms were first coined?

Old money once referred to the landed gentry in Europe, but in today’s world, it might refer to a few families who struck it big a century or more ago in the U.S. New money is more common nowadays, with the advent of television, sports, and social media as the source of riches.


Photo credit: iStock/South_agency

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

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

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.


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Guide to Demand Deposit Accounts (DDA)

Guide to Demand Deposit Accounts (DDA)

A demand deposit account (DDA) is a type of bank account that is payable on demand. In other words, you can withdraw funds whenever you like. The most recognizable type of demand deposit account is a checking account. That’s right: You probably already have a demand deposit account and didn’t even know it.

While some personal finance sites and experts may conversationally refer to savings accounts as demand deposit accounts, there are key differences that actually keep savings accounts from qualifying.

Key Points

•   A demand deposit account (DDA) is a type of bank account that allows you to withdraw funds whenever you like.

•   Savings accounts may not be considered demand deposit accounts due to withdrawal restrictions, though these may have loosened up with the pandemic.

•   Demand deposit accounts do not have a maturity period and allow unlimited withdrawals.

•   CDs and time deposits are not considered demand deposits as they have set maturity dates and withdrawal fees.

•   While demand deposit accounts offer easy and immediate access to funds, they may have low earnings and fees.

What Is a Demand Deposit Account?

So what is a demand deposit account (and what is it not)? The Federal Reserve categorizes demand deposit accounts as those that “are payable on demand, or a deposit issued with an original maturity or required notice period of less than seven days, or a deposit representing funds for which the depository institution does not reserve the right to require at least seven days’ written notice of intended withdrawal.”

Wait, what? Bank jargon can get confusing, so let’s break it down more simply. Demand deposit accounts:

•   Don’t have a maturity period.

•   Allow you to access your funds without notice (or less than seven days’ notice).

•   Can earn interest, like a high-yield checking account.

•   Cannot limit the number of withdrawals or transfers you can make.

Because checking accounts do not mature and give you immediate access to your funds (for example, through check writing, debit cards, and ATM withdrawals), these qualify as demand deposit accounts.

Recommended: What is High Interest Checking – and How Does it Work?

What Isn’t a Demand Deposit Account?

Checking accounts are a common type of DDA, but what about other types of bank accounts, like savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit?

Savings Deposits

Some people consider savings accounts to be DDAs, but there’s a difference to note. The Federal Reserve’s Regulation D (Reg D) previously limited savings account withdrawals to six per month. In response to COVID-19, the Federal Reserve removed this requirement.

Even though the Federal Reserve has eliminated the six withdrawal limit requirement, savings accounts still do not technically qualify as a demand deposit. Because banks have the right to require at least seven days’ written notice for withdrawals on funds in savings accounts, the government instead classifies savings accounts (and money market accounts) as savings deposits.

However, consumers can typically access their savings funds without a required waiting period, so they can often utilize their savings accounts as if they were demand deposit accounts. A bonus is that savings accounts are usually interest-bearing. Just note that many banks still impose a monthly withdrawal limit, despite Federal Reserve changes, so you may wind up getting hit with fees if you make frequent withdrawals.

Recommended: How Do You Calculate Interest on a Savings Account?

Time Deposits

CDs, which have pre-set dates of maturity, are even less like demand deposits. A CD is a time deposit (sometimes called term deposit). They have set maturity dates and are subject to early withdrawal fees, meaning the funds are less liquid than a checking or savings account. Time deposits can be transferable or nontransferable and negotiable or nonnegotiable. In addition to CDs, time deposits can include club accounts (like Christmas and vacation club accounts).

A bit more on how CDs work: The principle for these accounts is that you, the account holder, commit to having your funds on deposit with a bank for a set period of time. Break that agreement, and you may pay penalties.

How Demand Deposits Work

Demand deposit accounts are designed for on-demand access to your funds. Thus, you should be able to withdraw money to cover purchases at any time.

If your demand deposit account is a traditional checking account, you can spend your money with a debit card, checkbook, transfers, or even peer-to-peer payment apps. Each bank will have its own terms and conditions, but some accounts may pay interest, some may charge fees, and some may grant you fee-free access at certain ATMs, so you can grab your money on the go. Research various accounts carefully before selecting a bank or credit union. This involves reading the fine print, but it’s important as it can help you avoid misunderstandings and various fees.

Types of Demand Deposit Accounts

Checking accounts may be the most obvious type of demand deposit account. Some savings accounts can be accessed on demand these days, as outlined above, but many still have restrictions regarding how often you can make withdrawals.

Money market accounts occupy a kind of middle ground: Some experts classify them as demand deposit accounts, but others do not.

How to Open a Demand Deposit Account

Opening a demand deposit account is equivalent to opening a checking account. Each financial institution will have its own processes for opening an account. Typically, you will need a government-issued photo ID, proof of your current residence (a utility bill, for instance), and often an opening deposit to initiate the account. Many banks allow you to complete this process quickly and easily online.

Advantages of Demand Deposit Accounts

Demand deposit accounts offer multiple benefits to consumers:

•   Easy and immediate access to funds: Whether through check writing, an ATM, or the swipe of a debit card, a demand deposit account enables consumers to spend their money as they see fit.

•   FDIC and NCUA insurance: Demand deposit accounts at banks are typically insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000; those held at credit unions are usually insured by the NCUA for the same amount. FDIC and NCUA insurance makes demand deposits safer than cash in your wallet or under the mattress.

•   Interest: Demand deposit accounts can be interest-bearing. The national average APY for checking accounts, according to the FDIC, is currently 0.03%. You can shop around for better returns (over 1%, for instance), largely at online banks. Because these don’t have the expense of bricks-and-mortar locations, they can pass those savings onto their clients.

Disadvantages of Demand Deposit Accounts

Consumers may find some drawbacks to demand deposit accounts as well:

•   Low earnings: Demand deposit accounts are not required to pay interest. While consumers have easy access to their funds, they are trading away higher earning opportunities they might find with a high-interest savings account, time deposits, or even investments in stocks and bonds.

•   Fees: Some demand deposits accounts charge fees, including monthly maintenance fees. Others require minimum balances that some consumers might not want to keep in the account.

The Takeaway

Demand deposit accounts are a type of bank account that give you immediate access to your funds. Checking accounts are the most common type of DDA. With these, you can withdraw money at will, by check, debit card, ATM, bank transfer, or P2P platforms. Demand deposit accounts are often the foundation of an individual’s financial life, allowing them to spend and manage their money seamlessly.

Banking with SoFi can help smooth the path to smart money management. Enroll in our Checking and Savings with direct deposit, and you won’t pay any fees; you’ll have access to more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs via the Allpoint® Network; and you’ll earn an ultra competitive APY.

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

Is a DDA number the same as an account number?

A DDA (or demand deposit account) number is typically the same as your checking account number.

What is a personal DDA deposit?

You can fund your DDA directly with transfers from other accounts, check deposits (mobile, in-person, or ATM), or cash deposits. These are all types of personal DDA deposits.

Is a DDA account a checking account?

In most cases, a DDA account is a checking account. There is some debate about whether other types of accounts, such as a money market account, also qualify as a DDA.

What does DDA mean on a bank statement?

DDA stands for demand deposit account, which indicates that funds in the account are immediately available to the account holder.


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.

Photo credit: iStock/jacoblund
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What Are Get Rich Quick Schemes?

Understanding and Avoiding Get-Rich-Quick Schemes

Unless you’re already a millionaire, you might be interested in finding ways to make more money and increase your net worth so you can join the ranks of the rich. You may be tempted to participate in a get-rich-quick scheme to achieve your goals.

But hold on a minute: Get-rich-quick schemes attract people with the lure of easy money, but more often than not, they can create more financial problems instead of solving them.

Understanding these scams can help you avoid them — and avoid getting scammed by fraudsters.

Key Points

•   Get-rich-quick schemes promise large amounts of money for little to no investment but often fail to deliver.

•   Scammers use enticing language and false claims to attract victims to these schemes.

•   Examples of get-rich-quick schemes include MLMs (multilevel marketing), work-at-home scams, investment scams, and debt relief scams.

•   Spotting a get-rich-quick scheme involves looking out for upfront payments, misleading claims, secret tips, and unrealistic guarantees.

•   Legitimate alternatives to get-rich-quick schemes include starting a business, investing, and working with financial advisors.

What Is a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme?

Generally speaking, a get-rich-quick scheme is any plan or strategy that promises large amounts of money for little to no investment. The term “get rich quick” has a less than desirable connotation, since these ventures often fail to live up to their claims.

It’s not uncommon to see get rich-quick-schemes advertised or promoted using language that’s designed to pique consumers’ interest. For example, you might come across a social media influencer that promises to help you “make money while you sleep” or “make money instantly without paying anything”.

That type of wording is often a red flag, and it may be a sign that a get-rich-quick scheme is actually a thinly veiled scam.

Get-rich-quick schemers can also take a more subtle approach and make promises that seem legitimate when taken at face value. Student loan forgiveness scams that claim to be able to help you wipe out student debt in exchange for a fee are a great example of this (you’ll learn more examples of these traps in a minute).

How Do Get-Rich-Quick Schemes Work?

Get-rich-quick schemes work by drawing people in and using some type of financial incentive as bait. Potential victims may be told that they’ll be able to make a large amount of money very quickly if they just pay a fee or make an initial investment. Or they’ll be told that they can get their debts eliminated for much less than what they owe.

In other cases, a get-rich-quick scheme is a major money scam that’s designed to get people to part with their hard-earned money in exchange for a product or service that will supposedly help them make more money. The purpose of this type of scheme is to get people to purchase something; the individual who’s hawking it can then make money themselves. Put simply, you are unlikely to benefit financially.

So, using social media influencers as an example again, an influencer might promote a book or a course that teaches a “proven” system for how to make money online. They encourage their followers to buy the book or course and suggest that if they do so, they’ll be able to grow their income and get rich.

What their followers may not realize is that the influencer is getting paid for that promotion. Their posts may be sponsored by the book author or course creator. Or perhaps they’re earning affiliate commissions for referring people to the products. If the influencer convinces enough people to buy whatever it is they’re selling, they might get rich quick while their followers may not.

Technically, influencers and bloggers are required to disclose paid relationships to their audience. But disclosure alone doesn’t convey any guarantee that the product they’re promoting will work the way they say it will. So people buy in, expecting results that they may or may not see.

Are Get-Rich-Quick Schemes Illegal?

Get-rich-quick schemes themselves are not outlawed, though there are numerous regulations that attempt to protect consumers from scammers. As mentioned, influencers are required to disclose relationships they have with the brands that they promote. The Truth in Advertising Act exists to prevent companies or individuals from making false or misleading claims when advertising products and services. Advertisers must also be able to back up the claims they make with scientific evidence, when appropriate.

Whether a get-rich-quick scheme falls within legal boundaries or is illegal can largely depend on the nature of the scheme. Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a great example. What is an MLM? In simple terms, it’s a business structure in which people earn commissions by selling products or services to friends and family members. Mary Kay and Avon are two well-known examples of multi-level marketing operations that are legit.

MLMs are not illegal, but pyramid schemes are. What’s known as a pyramid scheme can resemble an MLM, but the difference is that all the money is made by bringing new people into the program. The person who recruited a new participant earns money by charging them an entry or registration fee or perhaps an introductory product package of some sort. The higher up you are in the pyramid, the more money you can make.

A Ponzi scheme is another type of illegal get rich quick scheme. In a Ponzi scheme, the person or persons at the top promise investors they can double or triple their money. They take the investors’ money and keep it for themselves, paying out nominal amounts to people who invested earlier in the scheme. The scheme can keep going — and continue making the people at the top rich — as long as new investors keep joining. Bernie Madoff, the convicted financial fraudster, was notorious for running one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history.

Examples of Get-Rich-Quick Schemes

Get-rich-quick schemes can take many different forms, and it isn’t always easy to recognize them for what they are. Some of the most common examples of legal (and illegal) get-rich-quick schemes include:

•   MLMs and pyramid schemes disguised as MLMs

•   Work-at-home scams that promise you’ll earn major money

•   Investment scams that promise high returns for very little money

•   Side hustle and online business scams

•   Debt relief and credit repair scams

•   Lottery scams

•   Fake job listing scams

•   Scams related to student loan forgiveness or government benefits

•   Home improvement scams

•   Mystery shopping scams

•   Giveaway or free prize scams

And of course, there’s the ever-enduring Nigerian prince scheme. This scam and its many variations promise you a large inheritance, finder’s fee, or compensation in exchange for accepting a deposit into your bank account. Scammers, who claim to be royalty (perhaps hoping that will impress their target and sound legitimate) ask that once you receive the deposit, you send part of the money back to them and keep the rest.

In reality, the scammer is trying to trick you into handing over your bank information, so they can try to use your account number and routing number to cheat you. Or else they ask you to wire them a small amount to cover processing fees before they can send the money along to you. It’s an ongoing get-rich-quick scheme that unfortunately continues to collect victims.

Are Get-Rich-Quick Schemes Reliable?

A get-rich-quick scheme can make lots of promises, but more often than not, they fall short when it comes to the delivery. What you can usually count on with a get-rich-quick scheme is that you’ll lose money if you participate. That’s because that’s how these schemes are designed to operate.

Getting money for nothing sounds attractive, and so it’s easy to fall victim to influencer schemes when you see the lavish lives they lead on social media. But there’s a significant difference between rich vs. wealthy and again, there’s no guarantee that any get rich quick scheme will produce the results you want.

Even if you don’t lose money outright, you may only get a small return on investment. Or it can take much longer to see results. For example, say you’re interested in becoming a blogger so you can quit your full-time job. You see a popular writing course advertised by lots of different bloggers who claim to be making six figures a year.

You buy the course, believing that in exchange for your payment of just $497 you’ll soon be on your way to making $10,000 or more each month from home. Except you complete the course and don’t see instant results. In fact, it takes you more than three years to build up your business to the point where you’re making steady income.

You might eventually get rich, but there’s no “quick” about it. That’s why get-rich-quick schemes are so problematic. They rely on people looking for a shortcut to easy money, despite that building one’s income and net worth can in reality take years.

Recommended: Are You Bad with Money? Here’s How to Get Better

Tips to Spot a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme

Identifying a get-rich-quick scam isn’t always easy since some scammers can be so convincing and seem so sincere. And in some cases, schemes for quick riches are based on legitimate ways to make or invest money. If you’re worried about getting hit by a get-rich-quick schemer, here are some of the ways to spot a scam in action.

Upfront Payment

A request for upfront payment is often a dead giveaway that a scam is afoot. Email phishing scams like the Nigerian prince scheme are a great example. There are some common credit card scams that fall into this category as well. These scams make false claims about being able to raise your credit scores overnight or wipe out credit card debt instantly, as long as you pay their fee first.

Misleading Headlines With False Claims

Scammers often use clickbait-y headlines to grab consumers’ attention. They can make claims that are grandiose or outright false to get you to click and check out their product or service. You may not realize how misleading those claims are until you’ve bought into the scheme.

Secret Tips and Information

Another tactic scammers may use to get your attention is to tell you they have insider information that they’re willing to share with you to help you get rich. Of course, you’ll only be able to access those secret tips once you’ve purchased something or paid them a fee. It’s particularly important to be wary of those so-called secrets when it comes to investing, since insider trading is illegal.

‘100% Success Rate Guaranteed!’

Scammers may also use language that suggests that everyone who’s ever used their product or service has seen success or that success is guaranteed. That could fall under the heading of misleading information in violation of the Truth in Advertising Act. And even if it’s technically true that the success rate is 100%, the results may not be the same for everyone.

If It Sounds Too Good to Be True

Here’s perhaps the easier rule for spotting a get rich quick scam: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is, as the saying goes. Attempting to fact-check or verify claims that someone is making about a product or service can help to weed out scammers. If you can’t verify any of the claims they’re making, that’s a sign to be wary of their statements.

Going to Trusted Sources, Not Influencers or Celebrities

Influencers and celebrities can make a lot of money promoting products or services that are designed to help you get rich. But again, they may be getting paid for that promotion, so they can’t be considered a reliable source.

Researching get-rich-quick offers through trusted sources is important for separating fact from fiction. For example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can be a great resource for reading up on the latest scams targeting consumers.

Unwilling to Share Their Business Model

Transparency is key to rooting out get-rich-quick scammers. Let’s say someone claims to be able to help you make $10,000 by starting your own business from home but is unwilling to tell you how they do it. That’s a sign that you might not want to take them at their word.

‘You Do Not Need Any Experience!’

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could make a fortune with no prior experience or knowledge? That’s the hope upon which some get-rich-quick fraudsters capitalize. While there are legitimate ways to make money that don’t necessarily require years of experience, scammers can use that to persuade people to buy into a product or service that leaves you holding the bag. Or they can twist their wording to make it seem like you can make money even without experience, when really, there’s a steep learning curve involved.

Recommended: Guide to Financially Downsizing Your Life and Saving Money

Alternatives to Get-Rich-Quick Schemes

Getting rich overnight probably isn’t the cards for most people, unless they happen to win the lottery or a wealthy relative passes away and leaves them a huge inheritance. If you want to get rich (or become wealthy), you’ll most likely need to put in some effort and give it some time.

Here are some legitimate wealth-building alternatives to get-rich-quick schemes:

•   Starting and growing a business

•   Using side hustles to supplement your income

•   Asking for a raise or promotion at work

•   Moving to a higher-paying job with a different company

•   Reducing spending and paying down debt

•   Investing money consistently

•   Working with a financial advisor or wealth manager

Admittedly, these ideas may seem a lot more boring and difficult than get-rich-quick schemes. But they’re all proven ways to increase financial stability and raise your net worth.

Getting financial advice from trusted professionals can help you make the most of the money you’re earning, saving, and investing. But is wealth management worth it? It can be, if it helps you to achieve your financial goals. And it’s likely a better alternative to trusting in the get-rich-quick schemes that abound today.

Banking With SoFi

Trying to get rich may be a lofty and elusive goal, but you can certainly take steps to improve your financial situation. Keeping your money in the right bank account can be a great place to start.

When you open a SoFi bank account, you can get checking and savings in one convenient place. You can manage your money online or via the SoFi mobile app and earn a competitive APY on balances. And you can get paid up to two days early with a qualifying direct deposit.

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

Can get-rich-quick schemes be good?

More often than not, get-rich-quick schemes require you to pay money for an investment or product that claims to help you grow your wealth immediately. Typically, though, the results you get can be very different from what you expect. In other words, they are unlikely to be good.

How many businesses are considered get-rich-quick schemes?

There are no definitive statistics on how many businesses are considered to be get-rich-quick schemes. Multi-level marketing companies and direct sales companies often get labeled as get-rich-quick operations, even when those businesses are legitimate. This makes hard numbers difficult to find.

What can I do if I have fallen for a get-rich-quick scheme?

If you’ve fallen for a scam, try to minimize or limit your losses by not funneling any more money into the scheme. If you believe the scheme is illegal, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission. You could also file a police report and report the scheme to your state attorney general’s office. If a scammer tricked you into handing over your banking or financial information, alert your bank to monitor your account for potentially fraudulent transactions. You may also need to update your login details for financial websites.


Photo credit: iStock/alfexe

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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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.


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