How Long to Keep Your Credit Card Statements: What You Should Know

How Long to Keep Your Credit Card Statements: What You Should Know

Typically, you only need to keep credit card statements for 60 days, unless they are tax-related. It can be wise to keep copies in the short-term so you can scan the charges and wrangle your budget.

Keep reading for more insight if you’re wondering how long you should keep credit card statements. Different situations may require differ guidelines on the timing.

Why Should You Keep Your Credit Card Statements?

Aside from sharing your credit card statement balance or current balance, your credit card statements contain some pretty helpful information that can come in handy down the road — especially come tax season. If payments are made by credit card, it’s possible to review old statements to look up business expenses (perhaps Ubers taken for work purposes) or other write-offs like mortgage, student loan, or tuition payments that you put on your card.

It can also be helpful to keep credit card statements in case so you can review them for errors or signs of fraud. It’s easy to overlook mistakes when quickly reading a credit card statement while sorting the mail. It can be valuable to take the time to look more closely.

Online vs Hard Copy Statements

If you want to avoid holding onto a lot of paperwork, you also have the option to access online statements for your credit card. Credit card issuers may store this information for a while — though they won’t necessarily hold onto old statements forever.

The length of time your records are stored will vary by financial institution. Some credit card issuers only provide the past 12 months of statements, while others hold onto them for up to seven years. In many cases, five years is a common timeline.

If an old statement isn’t appearing online, the account holder may be able to call their credit card issuer and request a copy of an older statement. Still, there’s no guarantee that this will work; you might not be able to get what you’re searching for. It can also cost money to get a copy of an older statement if it is accessible.

Factors That Determine How Long to Keep Credit Card Statements

Like the rules around keeping financial documents in general, how long to keep credit card statements depends on each consumer’s unique needs. That being said, a good rule of thumb is to keep them at least 60 days, to have time to scan them for signs of erroneous charges or fraud and to reconcile your budget.

If you use your credit card for purchases that might be tax-deductible, then it can be wise to at least hold onto them until it’s time to prepare taxes for the year. (Again, you may not have to keep hard copies since you may be able to download statements from your credit card issuer’s website or app.)

If you do use your credit card statements to help prepare your taxes, you should hold onto them for at least seven years just in case the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) comes knocking with any questions.

How Long Should You Keep Your Credit Card Statements?

It’s worth noting though that consumers may have different needs than business owners when it comes to holding onto old credit card statements. Here’s a closer look.

For Consumers

How long consumers should keep credit card statements depends on how someone uses their statements. In general, it’s wise to keep your credit card statements for 60 days due to credit card rules. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), credit card issuers must receive written notice of any errors within 60 days of them sending the consumer the statement containing the error.

However, it might be smart to keep your statements for longer in the following scenarios:

•   If you use your statements to make deductions on your taxes: In this case, it’s wise to keep statements for seven years. That way, if you’re ever audited by the IRS, you’ll have those statements handy as supporting documentation for deductions.

•   If you decide to dispute charges: If you’re disputing charges on your credit card, it’s best to hold onto the statement in question for 90 days, as that’s how long the dispute process can take.

•   If you want to track your spending: Those looking to learn more about their spending habits and create a better budget may find that holding onto a year’s worth of statements is helpful. That way, they can sit down on January 1 and get a clear picture of how you spent your money in the last year and where you can cut back. This can help with using a credit card responsibly.

•   If you have an extended warranty: It’s also helpful to hold onto statements that contain purchases that came with extended warranties. For example, if you buy a TV with a three-year warranty, the credit card issuer may offer an extended one-year warranty as a cardholder benefit. Keep that statement at the ready as a proof of purchase in case that extended warranty is needed.

For Business Owners

Similar to consumers, business owners can benefit from holding onto credit card statements for at least a year in order to track business expenses. If referenced for tax purposes, it’s wise to keep credit card statements stored away for seven years to help resolve any future tax issues that may arise.

When You Should Keep Credit Card Statements Longer

As mentioned earlier, if you are going to use your credit card statements to help you prove deductions on your taxes, you’ll want to keep your own copies of your credit card statements (whether you save them on paper or digitally) for seven years. This is generally the longest you might need to keep statements for.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

Different Ways to Store Statements

Because credit card statements contain sensitive personal and financial information, it’s important to keep them safe. Here are a couple ways to store them:

•   In a password-protected file on your computer: If you download a digital copy of your statement, you can store them in a password-protected file on your computer.

•   In a safe: If you want to hold onto hard copies, keep them in a locked, fireproof safe to protect them from both theft and damage.

Different Ways to Dispose of Statements

Once you are ready to dispose of your credit card statements, it’s important to destroy the documents so no one can find them and glean information from them. Here are your options to get rid of your old credit card statements:

•   Shredding or cutting them up: Shredding old documents is ideal, but if you don’t have a shredder, you can cut the statement up into very small pieces using scissors. Then, throw away the various pieces into different garbage cans.

•   Deleting all files: For digital copies, simply delete the files fully from your computer — including any backup copies — once you no longer need them.

Managing Online Statements: What to Know

When it comes to online statements, you can easily save those digitally if you don’t like storing paper documents or if you’ve opted to receive paperless statements. All the cardholder has to do is download their statements and keep them stored in their digital files, ideally with password protection.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

The Takeaway

How long you should keep your credit card statements depends on your unique needs, but 60 days is a good rule of thumb. If you have extended warranties through your credit card issuer, you may keep statements for the length of their warranty in case you need a reference. Or, if you use the statements to help with your tax deductions, it can be a good idea to hold onto them for up to seven years in case any questions arise.

Further, holding onto your credit card statements can help you easily see your spending habits and how well your credit card is serving you.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

How can I get old credit card statements?

If you didn’t save your old credit card statements, you can look for them in your online account or can call your credit card issuer to request them. A charge may be involved for this service.

Do you need to keep credit card receipts?

Often, a credit card statement will give you a record of the information you need without needing to keep receipts.

How long should you keep credit card statements with tax-related expenses?

If you use your credit card statements to help figure out tax deductions, you should keep old credit card statements for up to seven years. That way, if the IRS has questions about any deductions, you can have the documentation to back them up.

How can you keep digital credit card statements safely?

If you download a digital copy of your statement, it’s best to store them in a password-protected file on their computer. Once you no longer need the statements, fully delete the files from your computer.


Photo credit: iStock/Rawpixel

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.

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 a Credit Card Sign-up Bonus?

What Is a Credit Card Sign-up Bonus and How Does It Work?

A credit card sign-up bonus, aka a credit card welcome bonus, can come in the form of cash back, discounts on purchases, or other rewards, such as airline miles that you can put toward travel. These bonuses are a way for card companies and branded partners — such as airlines and other merchants — to incentivize you to sign up for a new card.

Sign-up bonuses can be a great way to get extra value out of a credit card in its first year. Just beware that there may be strings attached. Here’s a closer look at how sign-up bonuses work, their pros and cons, and how to make the most of them.

How Do Sign-Up Bonuses Work?

Rewards are offered through a variety of credit cards, including co-branded cards and even prepaid credit cards. In order to receive your credit card sign-up bonus you must open a new account. Then, depending on the reward you’re being offered, you’ll usually have to meet one of three criteria:

•   First, and most simply, you may receive your bonus after your application is approved or after your first purchase.

•   If your new card is from a branded retailer, you may need to make a purchase with them before you can earn your sign-up bonus.

•   Finally, you may have to spend a certain amount of money over a set period to trigger the bonus. For example, you may have to spend $500 on purchase within the first three months of account opening.

Sign-up bonuses vary by card, as will the amount you’ll have to spend and the timeframe within which you have to do it. You may have to spend thousands of dollars in a short period of time to earn your bonus on some cards, while other cards may have no spending requirement.

Earning Sign-Up Bonuses

Spending requirements to earn a sign-up bonus on a credit card can be high, ranging into the thousands of dollars. The amount usually must be charged to your card within a set period of time, often the first three months after opening your account.

Make sure you can afford to meet these spending requirements before you decide on a particular card. Even if you technically can afford to meet the requirement, avoid the temptation to overspend on things you don’t need just to earn rewards.

Also, it may take a month or two for your bonus cash or points to appear in your account. If you’re planning to use them for something specific, say to buy a plane ticket to a friend’s wedding, be sure to take this timeframe into account.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

Types of Credit Card Bonuses

There are different credit card rewards, depending on the card company and on branded partnerships. An airline is much more likely to offer points toward a flight, while a big box store is more likely to offer you an in-store discount. Here’s a look at some of the most common bonus types.

Cash Back and Bonus Points

Perhaps the two most common sign-up bonuses are getting cash back with a credit card or rewards points that you can use toward booking a hotel room or buying an airline ticket. For example, you might earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000, or you might receive a cash credit after you make your first purchase.

You may receive the bonus all at once, or there may be a tiered system in place with different eligibility requirements you’ll need to meet to earn the full reward.

Purchase Discounts

Another common sign-up bonus is a discount on a current or future purchase. For example, a retailer might offer you 20% off your next purchase when you sign up for their in-store credit card. These cards are often co-branded with a major credit card issuer, and they may be offered by brick-and-mortar stores or online retailers.

Your reward may come in the form of an immediate discount when you’re approved for the card. You could also receive a coupon or discount code. Or you might get a credit when you make your first purchase with the retailer.

Additional Spending Rewards

In addition to rewarding you for spending in the months shortly after opening your account, your credit card company may offer rewards for spending throughout the first year.

Waived Annual Fee

Rewards cards can be a little bit tricky with their various requirements, and there can be credit card costs involved. Often, rewards cards charge an annual fee that helps to offset the cost of the rewards they provide. As part of the sign-up bonus, some rewards cards will waive the card’s annual fee for the first year.

Pros and Cons of Sign-up Bonus Credit Cards

When determining whether or not you want to open a credit card with a sign-up bonus, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons:

Pros

Cons

Sign-up bonuses may include cash back, rewards points, or discounts on purchases made with co-branded partners. You may be limited in how you can use your bonus. For example, you may be able to use airline points online only at certain airlines.
Annual fees may be waived for the first year. Cards may have steep annual fees and high interest rates to help credit card companies offset the cost of rewards.
The right card can allow you to reap benefits from purchases you’d make anyway. There may be high spending requirements you must meet before you can claim your bonus.
Using your credit card responsibly can help you build credit. If you can’t pay off your credit card bill each month, you may miss payments, which can damage your credit.

Making the Most Out of Your Credit Card Bonus

Before choosing a credit card with a sign-up bonus, consider these ways that you can take advantage of credit card bonuses.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Pick the Most Suitable Card

Reward cards often offer flashy bonuses that are real attention-grabbers — but make sure the card you choose has a bonus you’ll actually use. For example, sign up for a card with an airline you fly often or a retailer you frequent. Or, make sure that you’ll receive cash back rewards on purchases that you already make or will need to make in the future. It doesn’t make sense to sign up for a card that gives you a bonus you won’t actually use.

You also may want to consider applying for cards with a high spending requirement in the first three months when you’re planning to make a series of big purchases anyway. That way, you won’t be buying anything that you don’t need already, and you’ll be rewarded for the purchases you were going to make. For example, maybe your car is scheduled for major maintenance or repairs, or perhaps you’re planning a wedding and will put some of the costs on your credit card.

It’s always worth considering how signing up for a new card will affect your credit. Applying for a new card will trigger what’s known as a “hard inquiry,” which can bring down your credit score temporarily. The damage to your credit may not be worth it, especially if you’re unlikely to use the bonus, you won’t really need the credit card later, or you’re planning to seek out other loans in the near future.

Look for Special Offers

From time to time, credit cards may offer special sign-up bonuses that are much bigger than usual. Keep an eye out for these, and make sure that you hit the application deadlines. These are usually limited-time offers, so be sure the offer is still valid before you sign up.

Ensure You’re Eligible for the Bonus

In some cases, you may not be eligible to sign up for a credit card and receive its bonus. For example, if you’ve had a specific card and canceled it in the past, you likely won’t be able to sign up for that card again and receive the bonus.

Before you apply, make sure you read the terms and conditions to understand your eligibility and to see if there’s any reason you might not receive your bonus if you sign up. Also, know that if you’ve recently opened several new credit cards, you may be declined automatically for a new bonus card.

Make Sure You Can Pay Down Your Debt

Before signing up for a bonus card, it’s crucial that you understand your ability to pay your bills on time. Bonus rewards cards often carry extremely high interest rates, meaning that any balance you carry from month to month can end up costing you a lot of money, quickly outweighing the rewards you earned initially.

Consider, too, that carrying a high credit card balance can have a negative impact on your credit score. Ideally, you should keep your credit card utilization ratio — calculated by dividing your total credit card balance by your total loan limit — below 30%. If you can, aim to keep your ratio at 10% to give you the best shot at maintaining a high credit score.

You’ll also want to be sure that if you pick up a rewards card, you’ll still be able to make on-time payments on all of your other obligations, as this is another crucial component of a healthy credit score.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Redeeming Your Bonus Reward Points

Depending on your card, you may have a variety of options to redeem your rewards. For example, if you sign up for a card with a co-branded retailer, you may receive a coupon or rebate for a purchase at the store. Meanwhile, airline or hotel points may need to be redeemed by booking flights on certain airlines or rooms at certain hotel chains.
Cash back rewards could be received as a credit card refund by having your rewards applied to your credit card balance, transferred to a bank account, mailed to you as a check, or converted into rewards points.

Check your card’s terms and conditions to find out rules for redeeming your points so you can start to put them to use.

The Takeaway

Sign-up bonuses can offer credit card users a lot of value. However, it’s important that you do your research before jumping on an offer. Make sure the bonus is actually something you’ll use and that you have the means to meet eligibility requirements without damaging your overall financial health and credit score. Read all terms and conditions carefully before you sign up.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

When do you get a credit card sign-up bonus?

When you sign up for a bonus rewards card, you’ll receive your bonus when you meet the card’s eligibility requirements. This could mean simply making a purchase, or you may need to spend a certain amount over a set period of time. The card could also require you to spend money with a particular merchant.

Are sign-up bonuses taxable on credit cards?

The bonus rewards that you receive are not taxable. They’re considered a rebate as opposed to taxable income. That simplifies things come tax time, when you will not have to claim your bonus as income.

Can you open multiple cards to get more sign-up bonuses?

Technically, you can open multiple cards to receive more signing bonuses, but there are limitations. You won’t be able to open the same card multiple times, though you may be able to open a number of different cards. However, you eventually may get automatically declined if a card company sees that you’ve opened several recent accounts. Opening several accounts also may not be a good idea, as hard inquiries when you apply for credit have a negative impact on your credit score.


Photo credit: iStock/nuchao

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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Tips for Handling Incorrect or Fraudulent Credit Card Charges

Tips for Handling Incorrect or Fraudulent Credit Card Charges

It’s never a good feeling to look at your credit card statement and wonder, “What is this charge on my credit card?” When it comes to fraudulent credit card charges, your bank has often got your back. They have methods for spotting activity that isn’t normal, and they’ll usually alert you when a charge seems suspicious.

That said, your bank might not catch everything, and there may be a charge that’s valid but the amount is incorrect. So it’s important that you, too, keep an eye on your credit card statement to catch these errors and report anything that’s amiss immediately.

Here’s what to watch out for and tips for handling a dispute.

What Are Fraudulent Credit Card Charges?

Credit card fraud can happen if someone steals your card or the information on your card, or hacks into your account. Someone could do so by stealing your physical card, skimming your card information at a credit card terminal, through phishing scams via text or email, or by stealing your mail. Fraudsters then use the information they’ve stolen to make unauthorized purchases on your credit card.

Most cards offer zero liability on fraudulent charges, meaning you won’t be responsible for covering charges you didn’t authorize. This is an important feature of how credit cards work. However, it’s important that you catch fraudulent charges early so you can report them quickly and minimize your liability.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Detecting Unauthorized Credit Card Charges Early

The key to spotting unauthorized charges on your credit card is remaining vigilant and always checking your credit card statement each month. When you receive your statement, follow these steps:

•   Review statements immediately. Avoid letting a few months of credit card statements accumulate before checking them. Whether you look them over online or via hard copy, do so ASAP so you can catch errors and head off fraud as quickly as possible. Going through your statements regularly will also offer a clearer understanding of how credit card payments work.

•   Check every purchase. Fraudsters know that small unauthorized credit card charges are less likely to get flagged. Go down the list of purchases you’ve made on your card over the last month and make sure you recognize the merchant and can match the sale with an item or service you bought.

•   Keep receipts. Hang on to receipts from credit card purchases so you can match them up to the items in your statement. This can also help if you’re unsure of how to identify a credit card transaction.

Fraudulent Credit Card Charges vs Billing Errors

Fraudulent charges are a result of theft. However, sometimes you may be charged for something that was due to a billing error. For example, perhaps you were charged twice for an item, or you were charged for goods or services that you never received.

Other billing errors could include:

•   Unauthorized charges, for which federal law limits your liability to $50

•   Charges that list the wrong date or amount

•   Errors in math

•   Charges for goods or services that you didn’t accept or weren’t delivered as agreed

•   Failure to post payments or credits, such as after you’ve returned an item.

You can correct these errors using procedures laid out by the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA). If a charge is found to be made in error, your credit card company will carry out a credit card chargeback, reversing the charges.

Reporting Unauthorized Credit Card Charges

Procedures for reporting fraud and billing errors are slightly different.

If you suspect fraud, you’ll take the following steps:

•   Contact your card issuer immediately. Tell them you suspect that you’ve been a victim of fraud. Your issuer can then investigate the charge.

•   Ask for your accounts to be suspended or closed, and ask to be issued a new card. Change passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs) on your accounts.

•   File an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can do so at Identitytheft.gov .

•   Contact the three credit reporting bureaus, Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®. Confirm your identity with them and check your credit reports for any other fraudulent activities. Consider having a fraud alert connected to your accounts.

If you’re disputing a billing error, first call your credit card company and alert them to the error. The credit card company will investigate. If they find there was an error, your account will be corrected, and you will not pay credit card purchase interest charges on the amount for which you were billed.

In addition, send your credit card company written notification of an error. Use FBCA procedures to dispute the credit card charges, including the following steps:

•   Contact the creditor at the address they provide for billing inquiries. This address may be different from the one to which you send payments. Include your name, address, and account number, as well as a description of the billing error you’ve spotted. You may be able to proceed online or by phone as well as through the mail. The FTC provides a sample letter that you can use as part of the process.

•   Include copies of receipts and other supporting documents.

•   Be sure to mail your letter within 60 days of the first bill you received that contained the error.

•   Send the letter by certified mail and ask for a receipt so you can be sure your creditor received it.

•   Keep a copy of the dispute letter.

How to Read Your Credit Card Statement

It’s important to get familiar with how to read your credit card statement. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act) requires that each of your credit card statements includes certain pieces of information.

•   First, there should be a section that includes your account information. This is where you’ll find your name, account number, and the date of the billing cycle.

•   Next, the account summary is an overview of transaction information on your card. This section will include the payment due date, any payments or credits that have been applied to the account, any fees that have been charged to you, and the total amount of your account balance.

•   Following this summary is a detailed account of the purchases you’ve made over the billing period. Each line item will include the vendor name, the date the purchase was made, the category (such as “groceries”), and the amount that was charged to your card. Go through this section carefully as you look for fraudulent charges or charges in error. This is how to find who charged your credit card.

•   Your statement will include other sections that detail payment information, interest or credit card finance charges, rewards, and account fine print.

Credit Card Security and Fraud Protection

When you apply for a credit card, carefully look at the security measures the card issuer has in place. Credit cards, such as the credit card offered by SoFi, can have a variety of measures to keep your information safe and protected from fraud.

Fraud protection limits your responsibility and liability for fraudulent charges. Many banks offer $0 liability. The FCBA limits liability to $50 for card-present fraudulent charges, and $0 if the card is not present, such as for online charges made with stolen credit card information.

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

The Takeaway

Fraudulent charges or billing errors can be an unfortunate part of having a credit card. Your bank may catch them, but it’s also important to be proactive and keep an eye out for fraud and errors on your credit card statement. Bringing them to the attention of your credit card company will help you get the issue sorted faster and head off potential future fraud.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

How do I file a fraudulent charge claim with my credit card company?

If you spot a fraudulent charge on your credit card statement, call your card company immediately and ask them to investigate. They can guide you through the process of disputing the charge.

How do I find out where a charge came from?

You can see where a charge was made in the detailed purchase information provided on your credit card statement.

How do I look up a charge from my credit card statement?

If you’re unsure about a charge on your credit card statement, call your credit card company, which may be able to do a credit card charge lookup by the merchant.


Photo credit: iStock/Pekic

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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Benefits of Using a Health Savings Account (HSA)

A health savings account, or HSA, is a tax-advantaged account that can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses including copays and deductibles, provided you have a high-deductible health care plan (HDHP).

By using pretax money to save for these expenses, an HSA may be used to help lower overall medical costs. What’s more, HSAs can also be a savings vehicle for retirement that allows you to put away money for later while lowering your taxable income in the near term. Here’s the full story on these accounts and their pros and cons.

Reasons to Use a Health Savings Account (HSA)

Here are some of the key advantages of contributing to and using an HSA.

HSAs Can Make Health Care More Affordable

An HSA is a tool designed to reduce health care costs for people who have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). In fact, you must have an HDHP to open an HSA.

If you’re enrolled in an HDHP, it means you likely pay a lower monthly premium but have a high deductible. As a result, you typically end up paying for more of your own health care costs before your insurance plan kicks in to pick up the bill. Combining an HDHP with an HSA may help reduce the higher costs of health care that can come with this type of health insurance plan.

Some numbers to note about qualifying for and using an HSA:

•   For 2024, the IRS defines an HDHP as having an annual deductible of at least $1,600 for single people and $3,200 for family plans.

•   The annual out-of-pocket expenses cannot exceed $8,050 for those enrolled in single coverage and $16,100 for family coverage.

•   Yearly HSA contributions have a limit of $4,150 for individuals and $8,300 for families as of 2024.

•   People 55 or older by the end of the tax year have the option to make an additional contribution of $1,000 per year, which is known as a catch-up contribution.

HSA contributions can be made by the qualified individual, their employer, or anyone else who wants to contribute to the account, including friends and relatives.

HSA Contributions Stretch Your Health Care Dollars

Contributions are made with pretax money and can grow tax-free inside the HSA account. Because money in the account is pretax — Uncle Sam never took a bite out of it — qualified medical expenses can essentially be paid for at a slight discount.

HSA Funds Can Be Used for Many Health Care Expenses

The money you contribute to your HSA can be used on an array of health care expenses that aren’t paid by your insurance. Rather than dipping into your checking or savings account, you can use an HSA to pay for qualified medical costs. The IRS list of these expenses includes:

•   Copays, deductibles, and coinsurance

•   Dental care

•   Eye exams, contacts, and eyeglasses

•   Lab fees

•   X-rays

•   Psychiatric care

•   Prescription drugs

💡 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.

HSAs Offer Triple Tax Advantages

Another reason to start a health savings account is that putting money into an HSA lowers taxable income. The money contributed by a qualified individual to the account is pretax money, so it will be excluded from gross income, which is the money on which income taxes are paid.

This is the case even if an employer contributes to an employee’s account on their behalf. So if you earn $80,000 a year and max out your HSA contribution, you will only be taxed on $75,850. If you make any contributions with after-tax funds, they are tax-deductible on the current year’s tax return.

There are other considerable tax advantages that come with HSAs. Contributions can earn interest, or returns on investments, and grow tax-free. This tax-free growth is comparable to a traditional or Roth IRA.

Here’s another HSA benefit: Not only are contributions made with pretax money, but withdrawals that are made to pay for qualified medical expenses aren’t subject to tax at all. Compare that to say, Roth accounts where contributions are taxed on their way into the account, or traditional IRAs where withdrawals are taxed.

Recommended: HSA vs HRA: What’s the Difference?

HSA Funds Are Investable

The funds in an HSA can be invested in ways that are similar to other workplace retirement accounts. They can be put into bonds, fixed income securities, active and passive equity, and other options. You could potentially be investing money in this way for decades prior to retirement.

Using an HSA for retirement might also be a good way to prepare for health care expenses as you age, which can be one of the biggest retirement expenses. According to some estimates, a 65-year-old couple may need $315,000 or more to cover health care costs over the rest of their lives. An HSA could be a good way to stash some cash to put towards those charges.

If you were to become chronically ill or need help with the tasks of daily living as you age, you might need long-term care at home or in a nursing facility. Medicare does not cover long-term care, but long-term care insurance premiums are qualified expenses and can be paid with HSA funds. Saving in an HSA before these potential costs arise may offset overall spending on health care expenses later in life.

The Money in an HSA Is Yours and Stays That Way

Another advantage of HSAs is that contributions roll over from year to year. In comparison, flexible spending account (FSA) funds, which also allow pretax contributions to save for qualified health care expenses, must be spent in the same calendar year they were contributed, or you risk losing the funds. HSAs don’t follow this same use-it-or-lose-it rule. There is no time limit or expiration date saying you must spend the money you contributed by a certain date.

What’s more, your HSA funds follow you even if you change jobs and insurance providers. It can be very reassuring to know those funds won’t vanish.

Disadvantages of Using a Health Savings Account

Here are some potential downsides of HSAs to note.

You May Not Be Qualified to Open and Contribute to an HSA

You may only open and contribute to an HSA if you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, or HDHP. The IRS defines this as having a deductible of at least $1,400 for an individual and $2,800 for a family.

If You Have Medicare, You Cannot Have an HSA

Once you enroll in Medicare, you can no longer contribute to an HSA, since Medicare is not an HDHP. If you previously opened an HSA, those funds are still yours, but you can’t continue adding to the account.

Not All Expenses Will Be Covered

There are a number of health care expenses that do not qualify for HSA coverage. These include:

•   Cosmetic surgery

•   Teeth whitening

•   Gym memberships

•   OTC drugs

•   Nutritional supplements

HSAs May Charge Fees

If you decide that a health care savings account is right for you, don’t be surprised if you are hit with fees when you open one. Some of these accounts may charge you every month to maintain the account, especially if a professional is advising you on investments. These fees may be as low as $3 or $5 a month or considerably higher.

You may also be assessed a percentage of the account’s value, with that fee rising as your account’s value increases. It’s important to read the fine print on any account agreement to make sure you know the ground rules.

You May Be Penalized for Early Withdrawal

Also note that if you withdraw funds from your account for something other than a covered medical expense before you turn 65, you could be hit with fees. These withdrawals will typically be subject to income taxes and a 20% penalty.

How HSAs and FSAs Differ

HSAs, as described above, are health care savings accounts for individuals who have a high-deductible health plan. Another financial vehicle with a similar-sounding name are FSAs, or flexible spending accounts. An FSA is a fund you can put money into and then use for certain out-of-pocket health care expenses. You don’t pay taxes on these funds. Two big differences versus HSAs to be aware of:

•   To open an FSA, you don’t need to be enrolled in an HDHP. This is only a qualification for HSAs.

•   The money put in an FSA account, if not used up by the end of the year, is typically forfeited. However, there may be a brief grace period during which you can use it or your employer might let you carry over several hundred dollars. With an HSA, however, once you put money in the account, it’s yours, period.

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!


The Takeaway

Health savings accounts, or HSAs, offer a way for people with high-deductible health plans to set funds aside to help with health care expenses. The money contributed is in pretax dollars, and it brings other tax advantages. What’s more, funds in these HSAs can roll over, year after year, and can be used as a retirement vehicle. For those who qualify, it can be a valuable tool for paying medical expenses and enhancing financial health, today and tomorrow.

Looking for a bank that can help you boost your financial life?

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.


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.


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

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.

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.

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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What Is a Lifeline Checking Account and How Does It Work?

What Is a Lifeline Checking Account and How Does It Work?

A lifeline checking account is a basic bank account that features minimal fees and other cost-cutting elements, making it more accessible to first-time bank-account holders and those at lower income levels. These accounts can be, as the name indicates, a lifeline for those who are seeking firmer financial footing.

For example, a lifeline checking account may have no monthly maintenance fees, minimum balance requirements, or minimum opening-deposit requirements. Or they may have very low fees and requirements However, there are sometimes trade-offs to these sorts of accounts.

What Is a Lifeline Account?

A lifeline checking account is a bank account designed specifically for underbanked and low-income customers that often features no account fees. These accounts typically also offer additional consumer protections such as free overdraft coverage.

Having access to a bank account is an important step toward financial wellness. Without one, safely saving significant amounts of money and paying bills can become much more difficult. Recognizing this, some jurisdictions have laws in place requiring banks to offer low-cost accounts to consumers. For example, New York passed a law in 1994 requiring banks in the state to offer lifeline checking accounts to any customers who might want them.

Furthermore, the increase in digital-first and online banks has increased the public’s access to low-cost banking products. Online banks don’t have the same kind of costly overhead as banks that operate brick-and-mortar branches. For that reason, they’re typically more easily able to offer accounts with minimal fees, which may result in more affordable, accessible banking for more customers.

Recommended: How to Avoid Monthly Account Fees

How Do Lifeline Accounts Work?

Lifeline checking accounts work a lot like any checking account does. You open the account, deposit money into it, and then use those funds to pay bills and make day-to-day purchases. You can do so by using bank transfers, a debit card, or cash you withdraw from the bank or an ATM.

There is a main difference between lifeline and other accounts. Many typical checking accounts assess monthly maintenance fees or require a certain minimum balance to be maintained. These requirements may be waived in a lifeline account (or, if they’re still in place, the dollar amounts will be low).

Of course, bank accounts with higher fee structures do sometimes come with additional benefits that may make the fees worthwhile to certain customers. For example, with a lifeline checking account, you may not be able to use paper checks — or head into a physical bank to interact with a live teller. Still, for those whose choices are limited by financial circumstances, lifeline checking accounts can be… well, a lifeline. They’re also useful for anybody who’s hoping to minimize the amount they spend on banking.

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!


Examples of Lifeline Checking Accounts

Lifeline checking accounts, or low-cost accounts that serve as lifeline checking accounts, are offered by many different financial institutions, including big box banks, regional credit unions, and online banks.

For example, as of early June 2024, BankFinancial offered a Lifeline Checking account that features overdraft protection services, free in-network ATM transactions, and a $0 minimum daily balance requirement. It charged a $5 monthly service charge — which is still pretty minimal in the world of brick-and-mortar banks. Wells Fargo’s lowest-cost checking account also assessed a $5 monthly service fee, though this cost is waived for account-holders between ages 13 and 24. The minimum opening deposit was $25, and there was no required minimum balance.

Pros and Cons of a Lifeline Checking Account

Like any other financial product there are both pros and cons to keep in mind when you’re considering a lifeline checking account.

Pros:

•   Low costs make these accounts more accessible to a wide range of consumers

•   Lifeline checking accounts can help any money-savvy account holder save more of their money

Cons:

•   Lifeline checking accounts may come without features considered “basic” by many, such as paper checks

•   Many lifeline accounts are offered by online banks, which don’t give account holders the option to bank in person

Being able to pay lower fees and keep more of your cash is a tremendous help to those who are just starting their banking lives and trying to manage their money or individuals who are earning a lower income. Lifeline accounts can play an important role when a person has limited cash.

But only you can determine what kind of banking products are right for you. To help you decide, here’s how the benefits and downsides of lifeline accounts stack up side by side.

Pros of Lifeline Checking Accounts

Cons of Lifeline Checking Accounts

Accessible to those who need a low-cost optionMay not include “basic” features, such as checks
Offer savings to all money-savvy customersTend to be offered by online banks, so there’s no in-person support

How Can I Qualify for a Lifeline Checking Account?

If you’re ready to open a low or no fee bank account, here’s some good news: In general, qualifying for a lifeline checking account is pretty easy. You’ll just need to provide your proof of residence and other identifying and demographic information, and provide whatever minimum opening deposit is required, if there is one.

That said, some banks will look into your banking background before allowing you to open an account. For instance, they may use ChexSystems, which is a reporting agency that consolidates information about consumers’ banking behaviors. It’s kind of like a credit report, but for your interactions with banks. A poor ChexSystems record can make it impossible to qualify even for some low-cost accounts. However, there are still second-chance checking accounts out there that can provide the banking products you need while your ChexSystem record improves.

What Can I Do If I Cannot Find a Lifeline Account?

Fortunately, with the proliferation of online banking, lifeline-like checking accounts are pretty much everywhere — it’s simple to search for them online. It’s always a good idea to verify the validity of any online bank accounts you find, however, and to ensure that the accounts are FDIC-insured. That means you don’t have to worry about losing your hard-earned money if the bank goes out of business or loses revenue.

The Takeaway

Lifeline checking accounts are low-cost accounts that make it possible for people with lower incomes or those who are new account seekers to get the checking capabilities they need. These accounts often feature no or low fees and minimal beginning balances. The downside is that they may skip some banking basics, like paper checks. Fortunately, in our increasingly online world, this isn’t a deal-breaker. It may well be a trade-off that’s worthwhile to secure the convenience of a checking account.

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

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

FAQ

Are there benefits for lifeline checking accounts?

Along with their low fees, some lifeline checking accounts do come with extra benefits such as free overdraft protection or ATM fee waivers.

Can I open a checking account with no money?

Yes! Although it’s not true of all lifeline checking accounts, some come with a $0 opening deposit minimum, which means you can start the account even if you don’t have any cash on hand right now.

Which banks are best for low income?

Whether your income is low or high, looking for a minimal fee structure is the best way to save money — in banking and beyond. Typically, online banks may offer lower fees and higher interest rates than bricks-and-mortar financial institutions.


Photo credit: iStock/gorodenkoff

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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