How to Budget on a Fluctuating Income

How to Budget on a Fluctuating Income

Budgeting can be challenging even with a stable income, but it becomes much more complex when your income fluctuates. Many freelancers, gig workers, seasonal employees, and commission-based professionals are familiar with the uncertainty of irregular compensation. With the right strategies, however, you can come up with a budget that allows you to manage your expenses, save for future goals, and feel less stressed about money — even during those lean months. Here’s a basic guide to budgeting with a variable income.

Tips for Budgeting With an Irregular Income

Just because you don’t get a regular paycheck doesn’t mean you can’t build wealth and achieve your financial goals. These tips can help you manage your up-and-down paychecks and feel more in control of your finances.

1. Determine Your Average Monthly Income

The first step in budgeting with an irregular income is to determine your average monthly take-home income. This can be tricky since your earnings vary, but you can get a reasonable estimate by looking at your income over the past six to 12 months.

Start by gathering your bank statements for the last six to 12 months, or if you get e-statements, log into your online checking account. Next, add up all of your income for the time period you choose, then divide by the number of months. This gives you an average monthly income, which will serve as a baseline for your budget.

Something to keep in mind: If you earn money from side gigs or freelancing, you’ll want to subtract anything that reduces it, such as taxes and business expenses.

2. Analyze Your Spending

Once you know how much money you have coming in, the next step is to figure out where it’s all going. You can do this by looking at your bank and credit card statements over the past six months, then listing and categorizing your expenses. This will show you what you are spending the most money on and where it might be easiest to save. Some tips that can help:

•   Begin by listing your fixed expenses. These are regular monthly bills such as rent or mortgage, utilities and car payments.

•   Next list your variable expenses. These are the expenses that may change from month to month, such as groceries, gas, and entertainment. This is an area where you might find opportunities to cut back.

•   Consider tracking your spending. To get a better sense of your spending, you may want to track it for a month. Simply record your daily spending with whatever is easiest — pen and paper, an app or your smartphone, or a budgeting spreadsheet found online.

3. Set Some Goals

Before you begin analyzing the data you’ve gathered, it’s a good idea to jot down your short- and long-term financial goals.

Short-term goals are things you want to accomplish within the next few years. This might include establishing an emergency fund (more on that below), reducing credit card debt, going on vacation, or putting a down payment on a home. Long-term goals, like saving for retirement or funding your child’s education, may take decades to accomplish.

Identifying these objectives can inspire you to stick to your budget. For instance, it might be easier to reduce expenses when you’re aware that you’re saving for a new car or a tropical vacation.

4. Consider Using the Zero Sum Budget

There are many different types of budgets but the zero sum budgeting approach can work particularly well for people with fluctuating income.

With this method, every dollar of your income is assigned a specific purpose, including saving and paying off debt. You’ll treat your short- and long-term financial goals as “expenses,” just like rent, utilities, and any other monthly expense. So if you make an average of $5,000 a month with your variable income, everything you spend or save during a month should add up to $5,000.

To make this budget work with a fluctuating income, you may want to take your average monthly income and use it as a salary for yourself. During months when your salary is higher than the average, you’ll put the surplus into a separate savings account. During months where your income is lower than the average, you’ll draw the additional funds from that account. In this fashion, you end up with the same salary every month.

Recommended: 7 Different Types of Budgeting Methods

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5. Start Building An Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is important for everyone but particularly for people with inconsistent income. This is an account you can turn to should you get hit with an unexpected expense (like a big home or car repair) or to cover your essential expenses should your income take a hit. While the general rule of thumb is to keep three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a separate savings account for emergencies, those with fluctuating income may want to aim higher.

Once you come up with a goal amount for your emergency savings, consider these ways to fund it:

•   Open a separate account. To ensure you don’t actually spend the money on something else — and to allow your money to grow while it’s sitting around — consider opening a high-yield savings account specifically earmarked for your emergency fund. You can generally find the best rates at online banks.

•   Automate saving. Once you determine how much you can put toward your emergency fund each month and factor it into your budget, consider setting up an automatic monthly transfer into your emergency account. It’s fine to start small. Regular deposits will build over time.

•   Take advantage of windfalls. Consider allocating any windfalls that come your way, such as a tax refund, cash gift, or bonus, to your emergency fund to accelerate your progress.

Once you build your emergency fund, you can put your monthly transfer toward other savings goals.

The Takeaway

The foundation of any budget is your net (take-home) monthly income. To come up with that number on a fluctuating income, you’ll need to look at the last six to 12 months of income and come up with an average. You can then determine how you want to divvy up that money up so you’re able to cover your necessities, work toward your goals, and also enjoy your life.

The zero sum budget is one option you can try, but there are many other types of budgets. The goal is to get to a place where you won’t overspend during the high times or worry during the low times because it’s all factored into your budget.

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

Will budgeting work if you have an irregular income?

Yes, budgeting can work with an irregular income. Most budgeting approaches start with your net (after tax) monthly income. To come up with that figure with a fluctuating income, you’ll want to look at the past six to 12 months of your income and come up with an average monthly income. You can then determine what your average monthly spending is, see how it compares, and make any necessary adjustments to your spending.

What are examples of irregular income?

Irregular income refers to earnings that vary in amount and frequency. Examples include:

•   Freelance work

•   Seasonal jobs

•   Commission-based sales

•   Side gigs

•   Bonuses and tips

What is the difference between regular income and irregular income?

Regular income is a set amount of money received at regular intervals, such as weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Examples include earnings from a salaried job or a passive income source like rental income.

Irregular income, on the other hand, varies in amount and frequency. It includes freelance payments, seasonal work, commissions, and gig economy earnings. The key difference lies in the stability and predictability of the income stream.


Photo credit: iStock/andresr

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.


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


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

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Retail vs Corporate Banking: What's the Difference?

Retail vs Corporate Banking: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between retail vs. corporate banking lies in what type of services they provide and to whom. Retail banking is consumer-focused while corporate banking, also referred to as business banking, is designed to meet the needs of businesses.

Banks can offer both retail and business banking services to attract both types of clients. Understanding how each one works makes it easier to distinguish between retail vs. corporate banking.

What Is Retail Banking?

Retail banking refers to banking services and products offered to retail customers, meaning individuals. Retail banking can also be referred to as consumer banking or personal banking. The kinds of products and services offered by retail banks are designed for personal money management — such as checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), debit cards, and more.

In the U.S., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is responsible for overseeing banks at the national level. Banks with assets in excess of $10 billion are also regulated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In addition to federal regulation, retail banks can also be subject to regulation and oversight at the state level. These organizations help ensure that services are being provided in keeping with the law and that charges are not excessive.

Recommended: How Do Retail Banks Make Money?

Services Offered Under Retail Banking

Retail banks typically offer products and services that are designed to help everyday people manage their finances. This is the key distinguishing factor between retail vs. business banking. For example, some of the services retail banks may offer include:

•   Deposit account services: Retail banks can allow consumers to open checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts, and other deposit accounts to hold their money safely and securely.

•   Mortgage lending: Homeowners often require a loan to purchase a home, and many retail banks provide mortgages to qualified borrowers.

•   Secured and unsecured loans: In addition to home loans, retail banks can issue other types of loans, including auto loans, personal loans, home equity loans, and lines of credit.

•   Credit cards: Credit cards offer convenience for making purchases; many of them also offer rewards to consumers for using them. Retail banks may issue credit cards to creditworthy customers.

•   Certificates of deposit: Certificates of deposit (or CD accounts) are special types of deposit accounts that allow you to earn interest on your money for a set term.

Banks may also offer insurance to their retail clients. Private banking may also be available for higher net-worth customers.

Retail banks usually make money by accruing interest on the money they lend via loans and other vehicles. They may also charge various fees for banking services, including overdraft fees, loan origination fees, and checking account fees. Some retail banks have physical branches, while others operate exclusively online.

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What Is Corporate Banking?

Corporate banking is the branch of banking that offers its services and products to business entities. That includes large corporations as well as small and medium-sized business operations. Corporate banks may also serve government agencies and entities. While services may include deposit accounts, these banks also may offer credit and asset management, lines of credit, payment processing, and tools that facilitate international trade.

Like retail banks, corporate banks can charge fees for the various services they provide. Banking services can be directed toward a corporate audience in general or be tailored to target the needs of specific industries, such as healthcare or companies that operate in the tech space.

Recommended: When Would I Need a Business Bank Account?

Services Offered Under Corporate Banking

The services offered by corporate banks are designed to suit the needs of businesses large and small. The kinds of services a corporate bank can offer include:

•   Deposit account: Business banking can include many of the same deposit options as retail banking, such as checking accounts, savings accounts, and money market accounts.

•   Debt financing: Corporate banks can offer debt financing options to startups and established businesses that need capital to fund expansion projects and growth.

•   Trade lines of credit: Trade financing can make it easier for businesses to cover day-to-day operating expenses. Examples of trade financing that corporate banks may offer include merchant cash advances, purchase order financing, and accounts receivable processing.

•   Payments processing: Corporate banks can act as payment processors to help businesses complete financial transactions when providing products or services to their customers.

•   Treasury management: Treasury management services can help businesses keep cash flowing steadily and smoothly.

•   Global banking: Businesses that are interested in expanding into foreign markets may rely on business banking services to reach their goal.

Key Differences Between Retail and Corporate Banking

Retail and corporate banking both have the same goal: serving the needs of their customers. But the way they achieve this goal differs. Here are some of the most noteworthy differences between retail banking vs. business banking.

Business Model

Retail banking’s business model is built around meeting the needs of retail banking clients. Banks that operate in the retail space are primarily concerned with three things: deposits, money management, and consumer credit.

Corporate banks, on the other hand, base their business models around products and services that are utilized by business entities. That includes offering business bank accounts, providing avenues for securing capital, and offering financial advice.

Customer Base

Retail banks are geared toward consumers who rely on financial products like personal checking accounts, savings accounts, or unsecured loans. A retail bank can offer accounts to different types of consumers, including specialized accounts for kids, teens, students, or seniors. But generally, they’re consumer-facing and work with everyday people to help them manage their money.

That’s a difference between retail vs. corporate banking: The latter is business-centric. For example, a corporate bank may offer services to companies with a valuation in the millions. Or it may cater to smaller businesses that need help with things like payment processing or cash flow management. Some business banks may serve companies both large and small.

Processing Costs

As mentioned, both retail and corporate banks can charge fees for the services they provide. These fees are designed to make up for the bank’s own handling costs for processing transactions. Both types of banks can also charge interest on loans, lines of credit, and credit cards. These are some of the ways that banks earn money.

In general, retail banks tend to have lower handling costs which means lower fees for consumers. Corporate banks, on the other hand, typically have higher processing costs which means their clients pay more for their products and services.

Value of Transactions

Since retail banks serve everyday consumers, the average value of transactions processed tends to be lower compared to that of corporate banks. A corporate bank, for example, might process a transaction valued at several million dollars for a single customer. Someone who’s adding money to their personal checking account vs. a business checking account, meanwhile, may be depositing a few hundred or few thousand dollars.

Profitability

Here’s another key difference between business banking vs. retail banking: Business banking tends to generate more profits. That’s because corporate banks typically deal in higher value transactions than retail banks.

The Takeaway

The difference between retail vs. business banking is quite straightforward: Retail banking serves individual customers’ needs, while corporate banking serves the needs of companies of all sizes, as well as other organizations.

For most people, retail banking is a good choice to manage and optimize their financial lives. For instance, you can use a retail bank account to pay bills, deposit your paychecks, transfer money to savings, and make purchases or withdrawals using your debit card.

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

Is corporate banking better than retail?

Corporate banking is not necessarily better than retail banking; they’re designed to serve different audiences. Corporate banking is usually a wise choice for a business entity, while retail banking is designed to serve individuals with their personal banking needs.

Is a current account retail or corporate?

Current accounts can be offered by retail and corporate banks. Generally speaking, a current account is a bank account that allows you to make deposits and withdrawals. A checking account, either personal or business, is an example of a current account.

Why do banks focus on retail banking?

Banks focus on retail banking because there’s a need for it among consumers; many adults might be interested in a checking account, a debit card, and a credit card, for example. The demand for retail banking also allows banks to generate revenue by charging fees for deposit accounts and interest on loans and lines of credit. That said, corporate banking also serves an important need and generates income for banks as well.


Photo credit: iStock/https://www.fotogestoeber.de

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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Check Kiting: What It Is and How to Avoid Potential Scams

Check Kiting: What It Is and How to Avoid Potential Scams

Check kiting is the illegal act of writing bad checks using bank accounts with insufficient funds. Common variants include retail check kiting and securities-based kiting. Consumers and business owners should know about this fraudulent practice to protect themselves.

While mistakenly writing a bad check is often not a serious issue, there can be harsh penalties, including prison time, for intentionally engaging in check kiting. Knowing how to avoid this scam can save people time and money. As the financial world grows more digital and mobile, this age-old illegal practice still remains a risk.

What Is Check Kiting?

Check kiting is the illegal practice of writing bad checks on accounts with insufficient funds. While credit cards and mobile payment methods grow more and more common, checks are still used today, so kiting remains an issue.

This fraudulent activity seeks to take advantage of what’s known as the bank’s float period, which is the time it takes a financial institution to determine if an account has funds to clear the check. If the funds are there, then the amount is cleared and made available for the payee to use. Nefarious individuals engage in check kiting to essentially take money from a bank by pulling cash from accounts that do not have enough funds to cover the checks.

Kiting is not only done through banks and checking accounts, but also with retailers and even individual companies. Retail kiting is performed by cashing a check on an account with insufficient funds to purchase goods and services. There are other variations that financial con artists attempt to pull off, too; more details on these are below.

How Does Check Kiting Work?

Banks and credit unions likely know about check kiting, but business owners and retailers might wonder about this practice. Kiting is the illegal practice of obtaining credit and cash from accounts and other financial instruments. Examples of kiting are when a scammer writes a bad check or uses securities to gain leverage while skirting regulations.

💡 Quick Tip: Want to save more, spend smarter? Let your bank manage the basics. It’s surprisingly easy, and secure, when you open an online bank account.

Real-Life Examples of Kiting

Perhaps the most common kiting example is within the banking world. With a checking account, for instance, a scammer might write a check for $100 on an account that only has a $20 available balance, then deposit that check in a separate account. The $100 is then quickly withdrawn from the second account, leaving the first account overdrawn. In this case, the individual took advantage of the bank’s clearing window to steal money.

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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!


Variants of Check Kiting

There are other examples of this malicious practice in the business world. Scammers are often highly creative in their practices to swindle cash. Below are a few variants of check kiting to watch out for; also protect yourself by making sure that the financial institution where you hold your bank account has top-notch fraud protection to help keep your cash safe from scammers’ activities.

Circular Check Kiting

Circular check kiting is among the most common forms of kiting. A financial con artist will use multiple bank accounts, maybe even at different banks, to illegally take advantage of the bank account float period. As described above, the scammer will pull real cash from non-existent money. While cashing checks without a bank account is a legal practice, doing so with no funds backing it up is kiting.

Circular kiting works by writing fraudulent checks on real accounts to gain unauthorized credit. The fraudster makes a deposit with a check they know will bounce, but quickly withdraws the cash, leaving the banks with overdrawn accounts. With circular check kiting, the individual might get extra creative and use different names or even several identities to hide their actions.

Retail-Based Check Kiting

Retail-based check kiting happens when an unscrupulous person swindles cash from other types of businesses. It may involve the illegal act of writing bad checks around town. A financial huckster might seek to purchase goods and services by writing a check on an account with insufficient funds. The con artist takes or receives the products, but then the check bounces and the money never makes it back to the retailer.

Another method involves requesting cash back on a bad check at the register. A second check may be used to cover the first check to stay ahead of the bank float period. This can facilitate a series of illegal retail acts. If a retailer becomes aware of this scam, they can try to issue a stop payment on the check. This might help prevent illegal activity, but it’s no guarantee.

Kiting With Securities

Kiting is also a problem in the investing world. Some firms may illegally use the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) settlement window to keep a short position in the market without actually purchasing the securities. (Selling short means an investor anticipates that a stock’s price will drop and they can buy low and make a profit.) The SEC’s three-day settlement period requires timely delivery of transactions and securities. If an individual exploits settlement delays in order to transfer unavailable funds, they are engaging in kiting. A trading company that does not receive securities within the three-day period is required to buy shares in the market.

Corporate Check Kiting

Corporate check kiting typically happens when a company doesn’t have the usual limits on deposits. Large sums can be put in an account. Deceitful managers or owners of a firm might take advantage of this; they might deposit bad checks and then immediately spend the cash, before it’s apparent that the check won’t clear.

Consequences of Check Kiting

Obviously, check kiting, like other forms of bank fraud, can cause financial loss and a considerable amount of stress, anger, and frustration. There are a range of consequences to the illegal activity of check kiting. Penalties for this type of financial fraud vary depending on how severe the case is:

•   Banks might restrict someone’s account features or close their account.

•   Certain scams can result in misdemeanor or even felony charges.

•   Fines and prison sentences can happen after a severe crime.

Avoid Check Kiting Scams

While there is no sure way to avoid becoming a victim of malicious illegal financial activity, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances. These include:

•   Know how to identify a fraudulent check and a check’s expiration date

•   Be aware of customers and individuals with whom you do business. Before you accept a check or deposit it into your bank account, take steps to verify that checks are good.

•   Avoid wiring funds to people you do not know.

•   Use a voided check’s information to verify the account is real.

Also, be cautious about scam scenarios in which someone sends you a check that overpays you and then requests that you quickly return the difference to them. You could wind up the victim of fraud.

Banking With SoFi

Choosing a bank account with the services and features you need is important. Be sure to explore your options to find an account that can help you manage 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.

FAQ

Why is check kiting illegal?

Check kiting is illegal because it fraudulently uses financial products to gain unauthorized money or credit. It typically employs checks for which there are insufficient funds (that is, checks that will bounce rather than clear).

Why is it called kiting?

The term “kiting” is thought to come from the nineteenth-century practice of bond issuance that had no real financial backing. It was said that the only thing keeping the bonds afloat was “air” and nothing else. “Check kiting” grew in prevalence during the 1920s, perhaps as retail banking became more common.

What is cash kiting?

Cash kiting takes advantage of banks through the use of two separate accounts. A fraudster might write a check on one account for more than its available balance and deposit it in the other account. The individual takes advantage of the bank float period, which is the processing time for funds to clear. During cash kiting, both accounts appear to have more funds than they truly do. The fraudster can profit from drawing cash from the accounts when it’s not really available.


Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub

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

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.


This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

*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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Guide to Shared Branch Credit Unions

Guide to Shared Branch Credit Unions

Shared branch credit unions allow members to access banking products and services at other credit union branches that belong to a wider network. Joining a shared branch credit union can make managing your financial accounts more convenient if you live, work, or study in an area where your home credit union doesn’t have branches.

The types of transactions that can be carried out via shared branching are typically the same as those allowed by the home branch. There are, however, a few things you may not be able to do, so here’s a closer look.

What Is Shared Branching?

Shared branching is the practice of allowing members of one credit union to carry out financial activities at branches of other credit unions that are all located within the same branch network.

Here’s one example: The Co-Op Shared Branch managed by Co-Op Solutions, for example, offers access to more than 5,600 shared branches in the U.S. and over 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs. This can be very convenient in terms of being able to bank at a variety of locations.

As long as your home credit union, meaning the credit union where you maintain your accounts, is part of a shared branching network, then you can access your accounts at other credit unions within the network. You don’t need to be a member of multiple credit unions to benefit from this sharing system.

Shared branching is a significant departure from traditional banking. If you have checking and savings accounts at Chase Bank, for example, you likely wouldn’t be able to walk into a Bank of America and conduct business.

💡 Quick Tip: Make money easy. Enjoy the convenience of managing bills, deposits, and transfers from one online bank account with SoFi.

How Can I Use a Shared Branch?

To use a shared branch credit union, you first have to determine whether your home credit union belongs to a sharing network. Co-Op Solutions, for instance, simplifies this process. It offers a shared branch and ATM locator tool that you can use to find shared credit union branches near you.

Once you find a shared branch, you can visit in-person to manage your accounts. You’ll need to bring a form of photo identification to verify your identity. You may also need to provide your phone number and the last four digits of your Social Security number. And of course, you’ll need the name and account number for your home credit union.

Generally, you can use a shared branch credit union much the same as your home credit union. That means you can use the ATM to make withdrawals or check account balances. If you need to make a deposit or complete other transactions, you can do those through a teller either inside the branch or at the drive-thru.

What Can Members Do at a Shared Branch?

For the most part, shared branch credit unions allow you to carry out the same range of transactions as you would at your home branch. If you’re not sure what a particular shared branch credit union allows, you may be able to find a list of services on the credit union’s website.

Here are some of the most important transactions you can complete via shared branching.

Deposits and Withdrawals

Credit union members can deposit funds to their accounts and make withdrawals through a shared branch credit union. That’s convenient if you need to deposit cash or withdraw money from your accounts. You may also choose to make deposits in-person if you’re concerned about mobile deposit processing times. (And if you’re wondering about whether mobile deposits are safe, the answer is typically yes.)

Transfer Money Between Accounts

Shared branching also allows members to move money between accounts. For example, you may want to shift some of your savings to checking or to a money market account at your credit union.

Can you move money from one bank to another via shared branching? Yes, if you have accounts at more than one credit union. If you need to transfer money from your credit union to a financial institution that’s not part of a shared branch network, then you’ll need to link the external account to schedule an ACH transfer or wire transfer.

If you need to send funds overseas, keep in mind that not all credit unions participate in the SWIFT banking system, which is used to facilitate international wire transfers.

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!


Make Loan Payments

Credit union members can make payments to auto loans, personal loans, mortgages, and other loans through shared branches. You’ll need the loan number to make your payment. Being able to pay through a shared branch credit union could help you to avoid missed due dates.

What Can Members Not Do at a Shared Branch?

While shared branch credit unions allow for flexibility, there are some things members cannot do. If you belong to a shared branch credit union network, here are some of the things that are typically prohibited.

Open a Bank Account

If you’re visiting a co-op shared branch credit union, you can’t open a new account with your home credit union. Instead, you’d need to go to one of your home credit union’s branches or visit the credit union’s website to open the accounts. Of course, you could ask how to open a business bank account or personal bank account options at the shared branch if you’re interested in being a member of that credit union.

Access Deposited Funds Immediately

Just like banks, credit unions process transactions according to a set schedule. When you deposit money at a shared branch credit union, you can’t expect to be able to withdraw it right away. The deposit hold time or processing time can vary by the credit union. You may be able to expedite processing if the credit union allows it, but you may pay a fee for that.

Withdraw an Unlimited Amount of Money

Shared branch credit unions can impose limits on the amount of money members can withdraw each day. For example, members of the Co-Op Solutions Shared Branch Network are typically limited to no more than $620 per day in withdrawals from their ATM network. That limit may be higher or lower than the limit imposed by your home credit union.

Open an Individual Retirement Account

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) offer a tax-advantaged way to save money for retirement. Credit unions can offer IRAs to savers, though you typically cannot open one through a shared branch. Instead, you’ll need to go to your home credit union to open an IRA either in-person or online.

Benefits of Shared Branching

If you prefer credit unions to traditional banks, then belonging to a shared branch credit union can offer some advantages. Remember, you don’t have to do anything special to enjoy the benefits of shared branching, other than belonging to a credit union that’s part of a sharing network. You don’t have to open multiple bank accounts to have privileges at more locations.

Convenience

Shared branch credit unions make it convenient to access your money wherever you are, as long as there’s a shared branch location nearby. So whether you’re traveling for business, taking a family vacation, or planning a move, you don’t have to worry about leaving your credit union accounts behind.

Flexibility

Doing business at a shared branch credit union allows for flexibility since you can do most of the things you’d be able to do at your home branch. Again, the main things you wouldn’t be able to do include opening new checking or savings accounts, opening an IRA, or applying for a loan. You’d only be able to do those things if you also choose to become a member of the shared branch credit union.

Avoid Fees

Banks make revenue by charging fees for the services they provide. Being part of a shared credit union may help you avoid some fees. If you use a shared-branch credit-union ATM network while you’re traveling, you may be able to avoid out-of-network ATM surcharges. While shared branch credit unions may charge fees for certain services, others may be provided free of charge.

Drawbacks of Shared Branching

While shared branching does have some advantages, there are some potential downsides to consider. Here are some of the main cons of using shared branch credit unions.

Availability

Credit unions are not obligated to join a shared branch network. If your home credit union isn’t part of a sharing network, then you’ll be limited to using only that credit union’s branches. That could make managing your accounts more challenging if you regularly travel for business, school, or pleasure.

(However, many people today are used to banking without brick-and-mortar locations, which is a key difference between online banking versus traditional banking. This availability issue may not be a big concern to some who do their money management online or via an app.)

Withdrawal Limits

As mentioned, credit unions that are part of the Co-Op Solutions network can limit your withdrawals. If you need to withdraw a larger amount in cash than is permitted, you’d need to find a branch of your credit union to do so, assuming your credit union has a higher daily cash withdrawal limit.

Use Limitations

Shared branch credit unions can be used to do quite a few things, but they’re not all-encompassing. There are some transactions that you’ll only be able to do at your credit union’s branch or via the credit union’s website or mobile app.

The Takeaway

Deciding where to keep your money matters. Shared branch credit unions can make banking easier. With shared branches, you don’t have to be limited to a certain geographic area when managing bank accounts in person or via ATM. You can avoid fees by being part of a large network of connected credit unions. While there are some drawbacks, the benefits of convenience and cheaper banking costs can be very appealing to some consumers.

Of course, there’s a lot to be said for online banking and its associated benefits.

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

Should I join a credit union or a bank branch?

It depends on your needs. Joining a credit union could make sense if you’re looking for lower interest rates on loans and fewer fees, provided you meet the credit union’s requirements to join. If you do choose to join a credit union for those benefits, you can still open an account at a traditional or online bank and enjoy the benefits those offer.

Is it good to be part of a credit union?

Credit union membership can offer certain perks that you may not always get at a bank. For example, credit unions may charge lower interest rates for loans while offering higher interest rates on deposit accounts. You may also be able to get access to discount programs and other special incentives for being a member.

Can I withdraw money from any bank branch?

You can withdraw money from any branch of your bank, either by seeing a teller or using the ATM to access your accounts. However, you wouldn’t be able to walk into a branch of Bank A to withdraw cash from accounts held at Bank B.


Photo credit: iStock/Marco VDM

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.

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 Tiered-Rate Savings Accounts

Guide to Tiered-Rate Savings Accounts

Putting cash into a savings account can be one way to help your money grow, not only by stashing it away so you don’t spend it, but also by potentially earning interest as it sits in the account. One type of interest-earning savings account you might want to0 consider is a tiered-rate savings account.

The interest rate that a tiered-rate savings account earns typically increases as the amount of your savings increases — which can make saving cash even more motivating.

What Is a Tiered-Rate Savings Account?

A tiered-rate savings account is a savings account that has multiple interest rates that can be applied, depending on the amount of money in the account.

The way tiered-rate savings accounts generally work is that as the account holder’s savings grow, their interest rate on the savings account also rises. Interest rates for these accounts are offered on a tiered scale with the largest balances getting the highest interest rates.

A tiered savings account might encourage customers to save more money as they work towards earning the highest possible interest rate. It may also keep account holders loyal to their current bank with a long-term account.

How Do Tiered-Rate Savings Accounts Work?

If you open a bank account that’s a tiered-rate account, the higher your balance is, the higher your interest rate is likely to be. That means as your balance grows, your interest rate has the potential to rise, and your savings may grow more quickly.

Tiered-rate accounts offer account holders different “tiered” interest rates that correspond with different account balances. For example, if a bank offers a tiered-rate savings account they may give a 0.05% interest rate for savings account amounts up to $25,000. For savings ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 they may raise that interest rate to 1.00%.

Tiered-rate savings accounts tend to have a minimum balance threshold needed to open an account for the first time. Typically, a minimum daily balance must also be maintained. In addition, these accounts may require that their holders make a minimum amount of monthly transactions, such as making deposits or transferring money to another account.

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!


Characteristics of Tiered-Rate Accounts

The following features are typically associated with tiered-rate accounts:

•   Interest rates rise as account balances grow

•   Minimum initial deposit and ongoing balance requirements

•   Minimum monthly transaction requirements

Pros of Tiered-Rate Savings Accounts

These are some of the advantages to having a tiered-rate savings account:

Opportunity to Earn Higher Interest Rate on Savings

Tiered-rate savings accounts typically offer higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts do — especially for motivated savers who work to increase their account balances.

Potential for Money to Increase Quicker

Because interest rates can be higher with tiered-rate savings accounts, it’s possible for money held in these accounts to grow faster than it might in other types of savings account, as long as it remains in the account. Because of the effect of compound interest, your money could make more money.

Cons of Tiered-Rate Savings Accounts

There are also some disadvantages of tiered-rate savings accounts that are worth keeping in mind.

Putting Money Elsewhere May Be Better to Build Wealth

The interest rates offered by tiered-rate accounts tend to deliver a lower return when compared to some other investments over time, such as investing in the stock market. While investing in stocks is considered far riskier than earning interest in a savings account, investors could potentially see a higher return over the long term from stocks. This could be helpful when saving for long-term goals like retirement.

Need a Larger Account Balance for the Highest Rates

To secure the best interest rates through a tiered-rate savings account, account holders may need to keep a large sum of money in their savings account. If someone doesn’t have that amount of money, they may find that a standard savings account is better for them.

Here is a chart comparing the pros and cons of tiered-rate accounts:

Pros of Tiered-Rate Accounts

Cons of Tiered-Rate Accounts

Opportunity to earn higher interest rates on savingsPutting money elsewhere may be better for building wealth
Potential for money to increase more quicklyNeed a larger account balance for the highest rates

Alternatives to Tiered-Rate Savings Accounts

If you’re looking to earn money on your savings, there are a few different vehicles you can consider for earning competitive interest on your funds.

•   High-yield savings accounts: High-yield savings accounts are similar to standard savings accounts, but they earn much higher interest rates. High-yield savings accounts are often found at online banks. These financial institutions don’t have to finance bricks-and-mortar branch locations, so they may pass along the savings to their customers in the form of higher interest rates, lower fees, and/or special bonuses.

•   Money market accounts: Money market accounts are typically insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) like savings accounts. They tend to have higher annual percentage yields (APYs) than traditional savings accounts. There is, however, a potential downside: Money market accounts may have significantly higher minimum deposit and balance requirements, and they might also have withdrawal limits much like some savings accounts do.

•   Certificate of deposit (CD): Certificates of deposit vs. savings accounts can be a wise choice for some consumers. CDs are time or term deposits, meaning the money stays in the account for a specific period of time (typically six months to a few years, though longer and shorter terms are available). If you withdraw the funds before the maturity date, or the end of the term, you will likely pay a penalty fee. Because of the time commitment involved, CDs may offer higher interest rates than savings accounts and money market accounts.

The Takeaway

If an individual has a sizable amount of money to deposit, they may find that a tiered-rate savings account could be a good option. This type of account offers a way to earn a higher interest rate the more the account holder has in the account.

If, however, a person is just starting their savings journey, a traditional savings account may be a better fit. Either way, an aspiring savings account holder should evaluate such variables as interest rate, minimum deposit and balance requirements, and account fees. That can help them find the right savings account for their needs.

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 tiered APY?

Tiered-rate accounts offer account holders different tiered APY, or annual percentage yield, which is how much you will earn on your cash over the course of a year. The amount of money an account holder has on deposit will qualify them for a certain tier or level. Typically, the more money on deposit, the higher your APY.

What is tiering in banking?

Tiering in banking refers to tiered-savings accounts, which provide account holders with different interest rates based on the balance in their savings account. Usually, the higher someone’s account balance is, the higher their interest rate is.

Is a tiered interest rate good?

A tiered interest-rate structure tends to benefit savers who have high account balances because the more money you have on deposit, the higher your interest rate. If someone has a smaller amount of savings, a traditional or high-yield savings account with a single interest rate may be more advantageous to them.


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.


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