The Most Important Components of a Successful Budget

Financial gurus, your money-savvy friend, and personal finance books and articles all say the same thing: You need a budget. Why? Because without any guardrails to guide your spending decisions, you can end up overspending (and, in turn, running up debt). You may also find it difficult to reach important financial goals, such as building an emergency fund, going on vacation, or buying a home.

The main characteristics of any budget are estimates of how much money you’ll make and how much you’ll spend over a certain period of time, typically a month. Trouble is, it can be hard to predict every expense that may come up in a given month. That can make it hard to know what to include in your budget. But don’t give up — read on. What follows are eight key components of a successful and realistic budget.

Key Points

•   A successful budget includes estimates of income and expenses over a specific period, typically monthly.

•   Emergency funds are crucial, ideally covering three to six months of expenses.

•   Budgets should account for irregular and one-off expenses by setting aside funds monthly.

•   Debt repayment is a key component, with strategies like the 50/30/20 rule guiding spending.

•   Accurate tracking of monthly income is essential for effective budget allocation.

The Importance of Budgeting

While a budget may sound restrictive, it’s really nothing more than a plan for how you will spend your money. Why bother making one? Here’s a look at some of the benefits of putting together a basic budget:

•   Lets you know if you’re spending more than, less than, or about the same as you’re earning each month.

•   Gives you a birds-eye view at where exactly your money is going each month.

•   Helps you avoid spending more than you have or want to spend.

•   Alerts you to subscriptions or services you’re paying for but may no longer need.

•   Ensures you stay on top of debt payments.

•   Allows you to make adjustments in your spending and saving so you can align your financial habits to reach your goals.

•   Can prevent you from going into debt should there be an unexpected, emergency expense or if you get laid off

•   Helps you feel more secures and less stressed about money

💡 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.

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!


Key Characteristics That Make a Budget Successful

While there are many ways you can approach managing your money, all budgeting styles share some of the same key elements. Let’s take a look at the main characteristics of a budget that can help you stay on track and boost your overall financial wellbeing.

Emergency Funds

The bedrock of any type of budget is an emergency fund. Without a cash reserve set aside specifically for unplanned expenses or financial emergencies, any bump in the road — say a car repair, trip to the ER, or a loss of income — can force you to run up credit card debt. This can lead to a debt spiral that can take months, potentially years, to recover from.

A general rule of thumb is to keep three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses in a separate savings account earmarked for emergencies. If you’re self-employed or work seasonally, however, you might want to aim for six or 12 months of expenses to feel secure and protected.

Recommended: Where to Keep Emergency Funds

Irregular Expenses

When creating a budget, you likely won’t overlook your recurring monthly expenses, such as rent, utility bills, and food. What’s easy to forget about are your one-off and irregular expenses.

To set up an accurate budget, you’ll want to be sure to jot down any annual or seasonal expenses you anticipate, such as membership dues, holiday gifts, insurance payments, car and registration fees, or kid’s camp expenses. Scanning through your monthly checking account statements for a year should help you suss out your irregular expenses.

To adequately account for these expenses, determine the annual cost, divide by 12, and build that amount into your monthly budget. You may want to transfer that money into a separate account so you can pay those expenses when they’re due.

Recommended: What Are the Average Monthly Expenses for One Person?

Repaying Debt

For a budget to be successful, you want to make sure you’re accounting for debt repayment, including minimum monthly payments and (if you’re carrying high-interest debt) additional payments. The 50/30/20 budgeting rule, for example, recommends putting 50% of your money take-home income toward needs (including minimum debt payments), 30% toward wants, and 20% toward savings and debt repayment beyond the minimum.

Once you’ve paid off your balances, the money you were spending on debt/interest each month can now go towards other goals, such as a vacation, large-ticket purchase, or down payment on a house.

Recommended: See how your money is categorized using the 50/30/20 Budget Calculator.

Monthly Savings

Even if you tend to live paycheck to paycheck, a key element of a budget is putting at least something into savings each month. For example, with the “pay yourself first” approach to budgeting, you set up a recurring transfer from your checking account into your savings account on the same day each month, ideally right after you get paid.

Once you’ve fully funded your emergency saving account, you can funnel this extra money into a high-yield savings account to work towards your short-term savings goals.

And it’s fine to start small. If you save $20 a week, in a year you’ll have accumulated $1,040. If you commit to the 52-week savings challenge, where you save $1 the first week, $2 the second week, and so forth for an entire year, you’ll have stashed away $1,378 by week 52.

💡 Quick Tip: Most savings accounts only earn a fraction of a percentage in interest. Not at SoFi. Our high-yield savings account can help you make meaningful progress towards your financial goals.

Accurate Monthly Income

Without knowing exactly how much money hits your bank account each month, you won’t be able to allocate your funds accordingly and create an accurate budget. Besides your paycheck, you’ll want to factor in any other income streams, such as freelance work, government benefits, alimony, or child support.

If you’re self-employed and your income varies from month to month, determining your monthly income can be a bit trickier. One solution is to use your lowest monthly income over the past year as your baseline income (minus any taxes you will owe). This gives you a margin of safety, since you will likely make more than that.

Money for Vacations and Free Time

While it’s important to save for an emergency fund and pay off your debt, a key component of budgeting is money for fun and leisure. Without it, you likely won’t stick to your budget at all.

Think about what activities bring you the most joy and offer the most value in your life. What hobbies would you like to invest more time, energy, and resources in? Where would you like to vacation next? From there, you can set some “fun” savings goals. Consider how much you will need and when you want to reach your goal to determine how much to set aside for fun each month.

Recommended: 15 Creative Ways to Save Money

Retirement

Retirement might seem far off but failing to start saving early can put you in a tough predicament later on. Thanks to compound interest — the interest earned on your initial savings and the reinvested earnings — it’s much easier to amass a comfortable nest egg when you start early. Even if you’re still paying off your student loans, retirement is an important element of a budget that can make a huge difference in your future.

If you work for a traditional employer, you likely have a company 401(k) you are eligible to participate in. If your employer offers a company match, it’s wise to contribute at least up to match — otherwise you’re leaving free money on the table.

Realistic Goals

While many people don’t write down specific goals when creating a budget, this is actually an important element of budgeting. By setting realistic goals, such as building an emergency fund, saving for a downpayment on a car or a home, getting out of debt, or saving for retirement, you can begin to find ways to save for those goals and track your progress towards achieving them.

Having specific and realistic money goals can give you the motivation to take control of your spending. It also gives all the money that comes into your account a purpose.

Keep in mind, though, that goals and budgets are ever-evolving. When changes arise in your situation, you can tweak your goals accordingly. For instance, maybe you suffered a financial setback. In that case, you might want to put your foot off the pedal on aggressively paying off debt, and focus on replenishing your emergency fund.

Tips on Starting a Budget

If the idea of creating a budget feels overwhelming, here are some stimple steps that help jump start the process.

•   Determine your after-tax income. If you get a regular paycheck, the amount you receive is probably just that, but if you have automatic deductions, such as 401(k) contributions or health and life insurance, you’ll want to add those back in to give yourself an accurate picture of your earnings.

•   Tally your monthly expenses. You can scan your bank and credit card statements for the past three to six months to get an idea of what you typically spend each month and on what. You can then make a list of spending categories, how much (on average) you spend on each per month, and then break down those expenses into two main categories: “needs” and “wants.”

•   Make adjustments. If your average monthly income is less than your average monthly spending (meaning you are going backwards) or is about the same (meaning you aren’t saving anything), you’ll want to look for places to cut back. You likely find it easier to cut back spending in your “wants” categories, such as cooking a few more times a week (and getting take-out less often) or cutting the cord on cable and opting for cheaper streaming services.

•   Choose a budgeting plan. Once you’ve done the basics, you can take it a step further by selecting a budgeting plan. Any budget must cover all of your needs, some of your wants and — this is key — savings for emergencies and the future. The 50/30/20 budget (mentioned above) often works well for beginners. But there are many different types of budget — including the envelope system and zero-based budget. You might choose a budgeting app, such as YNAB or Goodbudget, to automate the process.

Banking With SoFi

Knowing exactly what elements go into a successful budget can help you create a spending plan that’s in step with your goals and help you do a lot more with the money you have.

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

How do I stick to a budget?

The best way to stick to a budget is to never spend more than you have. Running up high-interest debt can be a vicious cycle that is tough to get out of. You also end up spending a lot more on your purchases than if you have held off and saved up.

If you can’t afford something you want right now, it’s generally a good idea to put it off until you can. If you want to go on vacation or buy new furniture, for example, plan for it and save regularly so it doesn’t throw off your budget.

What is the best budgeting method?

The best budgeting method is the one you’re most likely to stick with. If you prefer to not worry so much about where you’re spending each dollar, you might prefer the 50/30/20 budget. If you like to get granular with your spending, then a zero-sum budget might be a good choice.

What are the benefits of budgeting?

Budgeting is a tool that helps ensure you’re spending your money in a way that aligns with your priorities. If you simply spend here and there without any type of plan, you can end up spending on things you don’t care all that much about, and never saving up enough for the things that you do — such as buying a car, going on vacation, or putting a downpayment on home.

Budgeting also helps ensure you can pay all your bills, have a cushion for the unexpected, and avoid running up expensive debt.


Photo credit: iStock/AndreyPopov

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.

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.

SOBK0124056

Read more
How to Spot and Avoid Credit Card Skimmers

How to Identify a Credit Card Skimmer and Protect Yourself

Card skimmers are small devices that fit into credit card readers (say, at a gas station or outside ATM) and snag your card information. This can then be used to steal your credentials and commit identity theft.

Unfortunately, credit card fraud is all too common, totaling more than 426,000 instances in the most recent year studied. These skimmers, installed by would-be criminals, contribute to this figure. Here’s another indicator of how pervasive skimmers are: The FBI reports that financial institutions and consumers lose more than $1 billion per year to this practice.

To help protect yourself against theft, keep reading to learn what credit card skimmers are, how to spot a credit card skimmer, and what to do if your credit card is skimmed.

What Is a Credit Card Skimmer?

Credit card skimming is a form of theft that occurs when someone installs a small electronic device, known as a credit card skimmer, into a card reader. This device can read and collect information from a credit card when someone makes a purchase. The skimmer does this by reading the magnetic strip on a debit or credit card, which provides the full name on the credit card as well as the credit card number and credit card expiration date.

Credit card skimmers have been around for almost a decade. They are most commonly attached to gas station pumps, ATMs, and other types of machines that accept payments from both secured and unsecured credit cards as well as debit cards.

Identifying Credit Card Skimmers

Knowing how to check for credit card skimmers is a great way to protect against potential theft. Especially when using an outdoor payment machine like a gas pump or ATM, take a look at the card reader for signs of a credit card skimmer. See if the card reader is sticking out at an angle or looks any different from other nearby card readers. Also check if the card reader is loose or the keypad is unusually bulky.

When skimmers first came into play, it was easier to spot a credit card skimmer as the card reader often appeared to be tampered with or wiggled when used. Today, skimmers can fit snugly over the scanner, which makes it much harder to tell if something is amiss.

In the instance that all seems well with the card scanner at a gas station, double check the pump. If a gas pump is open, unlocked, has had the tamper-evident security tape altered or removed, or anything else seems amiss, it’s a good idea to use a different pump.

If possible, it’s best to use a credit card pump that has an encrypted credit card reader. Ideally, use one that has the illuminated green lock symbol near the credit card reader — this symbolizes that it’s been encrypted.

What Happens When a Credit Card Is Skimmed

When a credit card skimmer reads a magnetic strip on the back of a credit or debit card, it can obtain the cardholder’s full name, credit card number, and the credit card expiration date. Sometimes, scammers add a small camera into the equation in order to watch someone enter their PIN number when using a debit card. Really, one of the few things that’s safe is the CVV number on a credit card, which is why it’s so important to keep this secure.

Once the thief has this information in hand, they can use the card anywhere that accepts credit card payments. They may have access to the cardholder’s bank account and could steal their identity. Or the thief can sell the information on the dark web.

Recommended: 10 Common Credit Card Scams and How to Avoid Them

Protecting Yourself From Credit Card Skimmers

If you’re old enough to get a credit card, it’s critical to know how to use it responsibly and safely. Here’s a few tips to keep in mind to avoid falling prey to credit card skimmers.

Use NFC or Supervised ATMs

To help avoid coming into contact with a card skimmer, try to use payment terminals that are supervised by security cameras or skip using the card reader altogether and make a Near Field Communication(NFC) payment. NFC payments are secure transactions made with a smartphone, allowing you to avoid swiping your card at all.

Check and Recheck the Keypad

When it comes to how to spot a credit card skimmer, remember to check the keypad for any signs of tampering. These days, it’s a bit harder to identify when a keypad has a skimmer on it, but if anything seems amiss, use another payment machine or go inside the gas station or bank to make a transaction or withdrawal.

Don’t Leave Your Card Unattended

Whenever possible, make a transaction or withdrawal inside of a gas station or bank. The odds of a criminal accessing inside payment terminals with a clerk watching are much lower compared to outside payment terminals. It only takes criminals a few seconds to add a skimmer to an outside payment terminal where no one is watching.

Just like taking the time to compare the APRs on credit cards, spending a few extra minutes going inside to buy gas or take out cash can pay off. It could help you avoid countless hours of dealing with identity theft as a result of credit card skimming.

Use Credit Cards With a Chip

If you’re familiar with what a credit card is, you’ll know that most credit cards today come with a “chip” that allows consumers to make payments without actually swiping their credit card. With an EMV chip, it’s possible to simply tap a credit card instead of swiping it to make a payment, which helps avoid credit card skimming. If you have a card that is old-school and lacks a chip, you might ask the issuer if an updated version is available.

Be Vigilant

If someone does need to use an outdoor ATM or gas pump, use one that is close to the building and preferably in the line of sight of an attendant, security guard, or security cameras. The more hidden a payment terminal is, the more likely it is that there is a credit skimmer placed on it. Also make sure to be aware of your surroundings when using any exterior payment terminals.

Sign Up for Credit and Debt Alerts

One way to catch fraud is to sign up for alerts that send a notification any time a purchase is made with the card. After all, it’s unlikely a fraudster’s activity will result in a negative balance on a credit card.

By receiving an alert right when a purchase is made, you can confirm whether or not you made it. If you believe an unauthorized purchase was made, contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately.

Check Your Account Regularly

To be extra vigilant, double-check debit and credit card statements frequently to make sure that no unauthorized charges slipped through the cracks. It can be easier to stay on top of charges if you check in throughout the month rather than waiting until you receive your credit card statement and being shocked that you’re almost at your credit card limit due to unauthorized spending.

Can You Get a Refund if Your Card Gets Skimmed?

If you realize your credit card or debit card has been skimmed, check in with your bank or credit card issuer about next steps. You should also put a freeze on your credit report to ensure that the fraudsters aren’t applying for new credit cards in your name. In some cases, you may need to file a police report.

The credit card issuer or bank will have fraud protections in place and should refund you for any money lost. These protections are an important part of how credit cards work. Still, the sooner you cancel the cards and stop the fraud, the better. Most top credit cards have zero-liability policies that will refund the full amount of the fraudulent charges. If they don’t, the maximum liability anyone has as a consumer is $50.

The Takeaway

Skimmers, small devices that fit over credit card readers, are unfortunately a common way that financial credentials can be stolen and unauthorized charges or identity theft enacted. These are especially common at gas station pumps and outside ATMs. With a debit card, consumers aren’t entitled to as much protection regarding theft, so it’s helpful to use a credit card whenever making purchases at an outdoor payment terminal that’s vulnerable to skimmers. Still, it’s important to know how to spot credit card skimmers so you can hopefully avoid them.

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

What does a credit card skimmer do?

Credit card skimmers illegally collect information from credit and debit cards. Skimmers are typically attached to outside payment terminals like ATMs or gas stations.

Are card skimmers illegal?

Yes, credit card skimmers are illegal. This is why credit card issuers are creating new technology like chips to help make purchases more secure.

How common is credit card skimming?

Credit card skimming is all too common. The FBI reports that it costs financial institutions and consumers more than $1 billion per year.


Photo credit: iStock/greyj

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.

SOCC-Q224-1884859-V1

Read more
The Highest-Paying Jobs in Every State

25 Highest Paying Jobs in the US

If you’re looking for a career that makes a lot of money, you might want to start your search in the health and medical field. Healthcare jobs are the highest-paid jobs in the U.S., and overall employment in this sector is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations over the next eight years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Outside of healthcare, professional athletes and corporate chief executive officers (CEOs) are among the highest-paid professions. Three other fields that also made the top 25: Airline pilots, computer/information systems managers, and financial managers.

Read on for a snapshot of the highest-paying jobs across the U.S., followed by a listing of the best-paying occupations by state.

Key Points

•   Healthcare professions dominate the highest-paying jobs in the U.S., with cardiologists and orthopedic surgeons leading the list.

•   Professional athletes and CEOs also rank among the top earners nationwide.

•   The list of top-paying jobs includes various medical specialists such as pediatric surgeons and anesthesiologists.

•   Each state has different top-paying jobs, with healthcare roles typically offering the highest salaries.

•   The data for this ranking was sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and includes projections for job growth and educational requirements.

25 Highest Paying Careers in the U.S.

To compile this list of highest-paying jobs, we reviewed data from BLS’s most recent National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates report (May 2022). We also used government data to cite the minimum education requirements, projected growth, and which industries provide employment for each occupation. For more job description details, we tapped the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

Here’s a look of the highest-paid jobs in the U.S., ranked from highest average salary to lowest.

💡 Quick Tip: Help your money earn more money! Opening a bank account online often gets you higher-than-average rates.

1. Cardiologist

Cardiologists diagnose, treat, manage, and prevent diseases or conditions of the cardiovascular system. They may further subspecialize in interventional procedures (e.g., balloon angioplasty and stent placement), echocardiography, or electrophysiology.

Average Salary

$421,330

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Administer emergency cardiac care for life-threatening heart problems.

•   Advise patients about diet, activity, and disease prevention.

•   Calculate valve areas from blood flow velocity measurements.

•   Compare measurements of heart wall thickness and chamber sizes to standards to identify abnormalities using echocardiogram results.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Hospitals

•   Outpatient care centers

•   Management of companies and enterprises

2. Orthopedic Surgeon

Orthopedic surgeons diagnose and perform surgery to treat and prevent rheumatic and other diseases in the musculoskeletal system.

Average Salary

$371,400

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Analyze patient’s medical history, physical condition, and examination results to verify operation’s necessity and to determine best procedure.

•   Conduct research to develop and test surgical techniques that can improve operating procedures and outcomes related to musculoskeletal injuries and diseases.

•   Direct and coordinate activities of nurses, assistants, specialists, residents, and other medical staff.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Hospitals

•   Outpatient care Centers

•   Colleges, universities, and professional Schools

3. Pediatric Surgeon

Pediatrics surgeons diagnose and perform surgery to treat fetal abnormalities and birth defects, diseases, and injuries in fetuses, premature and newborn infants, children, and adolescents.

Average Salary

$362,970

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Analyze patient’s medical history, physical condition, and examination results to verify operation’s necessity and to determine best procedure.

•   Conduct research to develop and test surgical techniques that can improve operating procedures and outcomes.

•   Consult with patient’s other medical care specialists to determine if surgery is necessary.

•   Describe preoperative and postoperative treatments and procedures to parents or guardians of the patient.

•   Direct and coordinate activities of nurses, assistants, specialists, residents, and other medical staff.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Little or no change

Top Industries

•   Hospitals

•   Offices of physicians

4. Athletes and Sports Competitors

Athletes and sports competitors compete in athletic events.

Average Salary

$358,080

Typical Entry-Level Education

No formal educational credential

Primary Duties

•   Participate in athletic events or competitive sports, according to established rules and regulations.

•   Assess performance following athletic competition, identifying strengths and weaknesses and making adjustments to improve future performance.

•   Attend scheduled practice or training sessions.

•   Maintain optimum physical fitness levels by training regularly, following nutrition plans, or consulting with health professionals.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Much faster than average (9% or higher)

Top Industries

•   Spectator sports

•   Other amusement and recreation industries

•   Promoters of performing arts, sports, and similar events

•   Colleges, universities, and professional schools

5. Surgeons

Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities.

Average Salary

$347,870

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

Varies with specialty

Projected growth (2022-2032)

3% (as fast as average)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Hospitals

•   Outpatient care centers

•   Colleges, universities, and professional schools

6. Radiologists

Radiologists diagnose and treat diseases and injuries using medical imaging techniques, such as x rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, and ultrasounds. They may also perform minimally invasive medical procedures and tests.

Average Salary

$329,080

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Perform or interpret the outcomes of diagnostic imaging procedures including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computer tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET), nuclear cardiology treadmill studies, mammography, or ultrasound.

•   Prepare comprehensive interpretive reports of findings.

•   Communicate examination results or diagnostic information to referring physicians, patients, or families.

•   Obtain patients’ histories from electronic records, patient interviews, dictated reports, or by communicating with referring clinicians.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Hospitals

•   Medical and diagnostic laboratories

•   Outpatient care centers

•   Colleges, universities, and professional schools

7. Dermatologists

Dermatologists diagnose and treat diseases relating to the skin, hair, and nails. They may perform both medical and dermatological surgery functions.

Average Salary

$327,650

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Conduct complete skin examinations.

•   Diagnose and treat pigmented lesions, such as common acquired nevi, congenital nevi, dysplastic nevi, Spitz nevi, blue nevi, or melanoma.

•   Perform incisional biopsies to diagnose melanoma.

•   Perform skin surgery to improve appearance, make early diagnoses, or control diseases such as skin cancer.

•   Counsel patients on topics such as the need for annual dermatologic screenings, sun protection, skin cancer awareness, or skin and lymph node self-examinations.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Outpatient care centers

•   Offices of other health practitioners

•   Medical and diagnostic laboratories

•   Personal care services

8. Emergency Medicine Physicians

Emergency medicine physicians make immediate medical decisions and act to prevent death or further disability. They provide immediate recognition, evaluation, care, stabilization, and disposition of patients. They may also direct emergency medical staff in an emergency department.

Average Salary

$316,600

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Analyze records, examination information, or test results to diagnose medical conditions.

•   Assess patients’ pain levels or sedation requirements.

•   Collect and record patient information, such as medical history or examination results, in electronic or handwritten medical records.

•   Communicate likely outcomes of medical diseases or traumatic conditions to patients or their representatives.

•   Conduct primary patient assessments that include information from prior medical care.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   General medical and surgical hospitals

•   Outpatient care centers

•   Colleges, universities, and professional schools

•   Management of companies and enterprises

9. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform surgery and related procedures on the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial regions to treat diseases, injuries, or defects. They also diagnose problems of the oral and maxillofacial regions, and may perform surgery to improve function or appearance.

Average Salary

​​$309,410

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Administer general and local anesthetics.

•   Collaborate with other professionals, such as restorative dentists and orthodontists, to plan treatment.

•   Evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth to determine whether problems exist currently or might occur in the future.

•   Perform surgery to prepare the mouth for dental implants and to aid in the regeneration of deficient bone and gum tissues.

•   Remove impacted, damaged, and non-restorable teeth.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Faster than average (5% to 8%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of dentists

•   Hospitals

•   Outpatient care centers

10. Anesthesiologist

Anesthesiologists administer anesthetics and analgesics for pain management prior to, during, or after surgery.

Average Salary

$302,970

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Examine patient, obtain medical history, and use diagnostic tests to determine risk during surgical, obstetrical, and other medical procedures.

•   Administer anesthetic or sedation during medical procedures, using local, intravenous, spinal, or caudal methods.

•   Monitor patient before, during, and after anesthesia and counteract adverse reactions or complications.

•   Record type and amount of anesthesia and patient condition throughout procedure.

•   Provide and maintain life support and airway management and help prepare patients for emergency surgery.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

[bls]

•   Offices of physicians

•   Hospitals

•   Outpatient care centers

•   Colleges, universities, and professional schools

•   Offices of other health practitioners

11. Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Obstetricians and gynecologists provide medical care related to pregnancy or childbirth. They diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases of women, particularly those affecting the reproductive system. They may also provide general care to women, and perform both medical and gynecological surgery functions.

Average Salary

$277,320

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Treat diseases of female organs.

•   Care for and treat women during prenatal, natal, and postnatal periods.

•   Analyze records, reports, test results, or examination information to diagnose medical condition of patient.

•   Perform cesarean sections or other surgical procedures as needed to preserve patients’ health and deliver babies safely.

•   Collect, record, and maintain patient information, such as medical histories, reports, or examination results.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Hospitals

•   Outpatient care centers

•   Colleges, universities, and professional schools

12. Ophthalmologists

Ophthalmologists diagnose and perform surgery to treat and help prevent disorders and diseases of the eye. They may also provide vision services for treatment including glasses and contacts.

Average Salary

$265,450

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Perform comprehensive examinations of the visual system to determine the nature or extent of ocular disorders.

•   Diagnose or treat injuries, disorders, or diseases of the eye and eye structures including the cornea, sclera, conjunctiva, or eyelids.

•   Provide or direct the provision of postoperative care.

•   Develop or implement plans and procedures for ophthalmologic services.

•   Prescribe or administer topical or systemic medications to treat ophthalmic conditions and to manage pain.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Offices of other health practitioners

•   Outpatient care centers

•   Colleges, universities, and professional schools

13. Neurologists

Neurologists diagnose, manage, and treat disorders and diseases of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves, with a primarily nonsurgical focus.

Average Salary

$255,510

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Interview patients to obtain information, such as complaints, symptoms, medical histories, and family histories.

•   Examine patients to obtain information about functional status of areas, such as vision, physical strength, coordination, reflexes, sensations, language skills, cognitive abilities, and mental status.

•   Perform or interpret the outcomes of procedures or diagnostic tests, such as lumbar punctures, electroencephalography, electromyography, and nerve conduction velocity tests.

•   Order or interpret results of laboratory analyses of patients’ blood or cerebrospinal fluid.

•   Diagnose neurological conditions based on interpretation of examination findings, histories, or test results.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Hospitals

•   Outpatient care centers

•   Colleges, universities, and professional schools

14. Pathologists

Pathologists diagnose diseases and conduct lab tests using organs, body tissues, and fluids. Includes medical examiners.

Average Salary

$252,850

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Examine microscopic samples to identify diseases or other abnormalities.

•   Diagnose diseases or study medical conditions, using techniques such as gross pathology, histology, cytology, cytopathology, clinical chemistry, immunology, flow cytometry, or molecular biology.

•   Write pathology reports summarizing analyses, results, and conclusions.

•   Communicate pathologic findings to surgeons or other physicians.

•   Identify the etiology, pathogenesis, morphological change, and clinical significance of diseases.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Faster than average (5% to 8%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Medical and diagnostic laboratories

•   Colleges, universities, and professional schools

•   Local government, excluding schools and hospitals

•   Scientific research and development services

15. Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists diagnose, treat, and help prevent mental disorders.

Average Salary

$247,350

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Prescribe, direct, or administer psychotherapeutic treatments or medications to treat mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders.

•   Gather and maintain patient information and records, including social or medical history obtained from patients, relatives, or other professionals.

•   Design individualized care plans, using a variety of treatments.

•   Collaborate with physicians, psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, or other professionals to discuss treatment plans and progress.

•   Analyze and evaluate patient data or test findings to diagnose nature or extent of mental disorder.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Faster than average (5% to 8%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Hospitals

•   Outpatient care centers

•   State government

16. Chief Executives

Chief executives determine and formulate policies and provide overall direction of companies or private and public sector organizations within guidelines set up by a board of directors or similar governing body. They plan, direct, or coordinate operational activities at the highest level of management with the help of subordinate executives and staff managers.

Average Salary

$246,440

Typical Entry-Level Education

Bachelor’s degree

Primary Duties

•   Direct or coordinate an organization’s financial or budget activities to fund operations, maximize investments, or increase efficiency.

•   Confer with board members, organization officials, or staff members to discuss issues, coordinate activities, or resolve problems.

•   Direct, plan, or implement policies, objectives, or activities of organizations or businesses to ensure continuing operations, to maximize returns on investments, or to increase productivity.

•   Prepare or present reports concerning activities, expenses, budgets, government statutes or rulings, or other items affecting businesses or program services.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Decline (-2% or lower)

Top Industries

•   Local and state government

•   Management of companies and enterprises

•   Elementary and secondary schools

•   Computer systems design and related services

17. Dentists

Dentists examine, diagnose, and treat diseases, injuries, and malformations of teeth and gums. They treat diseases of nerve, pulp, and other dental tissues affecting oral hygiene and retention of teeth. They may also fit dental appliances or provide preventive care.

Average Salary

$233,430

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Examine teeth, gums, and related tissues, using dental instruments, x-rays, or other diagnostic equipment, to evaluate dental health, diagnose diseases or abnormalities, and plan appropriate treatments.

•   Administer anesthetics to limit the amount of pain experienced by patients during procedures.

•   Use dental air turbines, hand instruments, dental appliances, or surgical implements.

•   Formulate plan of treatment for patient’s teeth and mouth tissue.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of dentists

•   Federal executive branch

•   Hospitals

•   Outpatient care centers

18. Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers

Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing aircraft, usually on scheduled air carrier routes, for the transport of passengers and cargo. This job requires a Federal Air Transport certificate and rating for the specific aircraft type used.

Average Salary

$225,740

Typical Entry-Level Education

Bachelor’s degree

Primary Duties

•   Start engines, operate controls, and pilot airplanes to transport passengers, mail, or freight, adhering to flight plans, regulations, and procedures.

•   Work as part of a flight team with other crew members, especially during takeoffs and landings.

•   Respond to and report in-flight emergencies and malfunctions.

•   Inspect aircraft for defects and malfunctions, according to pre-flight checklists.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

•   Scheduled air transportation

•   Couriers and express delivery services

•   Federal executive branch

•   Support activities for air transportation

•   Management of companies and enterprises

19. General Internal Medicine Physicians

General internal medicine physicians diagnose and provide nonsurgical treatment for a wide range of diseases and injuries of internal organ systems. They provide care mainly for adults and adolescents, and are based primarily in an outpatient care setting.

Average Salary

$225,270

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Treat internal disorders, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, or problems of the lung, brain, kidney, or gastrointestinal tract.

•   Analyze records, reports, test results, or examination information to diagnose medical condition of patient.

•   Prescribe or administer medication, therapy, and other specialized medical care to treat or prevent illness, disease, or injury.

•   Manage and treat common health problems, such as infections, influenza or pneumonia, as well as serious, chronic, and complex illnesses, in adolescents, adults, and the elderly.

•   Provide and manage long-term, comprehensive medical care, including diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of diseases, for adult patients in an office or hospital.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Hospitals

•   Colleges, universities, and professional schools

•   Outpatient care centers

20. Family Medicine Physicians

Family medicine physicians diagnose, treat, and provide preventive care to individuals and families across the lifespan. They may refer patients to specialists when needed for further diagnosis or treatment.

Average Salary

$224,460

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Prescribe or administer treatment, therapy, medication, vaccination, and other specialized medical care to treat or prevent illness, disease, or injury.

•   Order, perform, and interpret tests and analyze records, reports, and examination information to diagnose patients’ condition.

•   Collect, record, and maintain patient information, such as medical history, reports, or examination results.

•   Monitor patients’ conditions and progress and reevaluate treatments as necessary.

•   Explain procedures and discuss test results or prescribed treatments with patients.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Average (2% to 4%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Hospitals

•   Outpatient care centers

•   Colleges, universities, and professional schools

•   State government

21. Orthodontists

Orthodontists examine, diagnose, and treat dental malocclusions and oral cavity anomalies. They design and fabricate appliances to realign teeth and jaws to produce and maintain normal function and to improve appearance.

Average Salary

$216,320

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Examine patients to assess abnormalities of jaw development, tooth position, and other dental-facial structures.

•   Study diagnostic records, such as medical or dental histories, plaster models of the teeth, photos of a patient’s face and teeth, and X-rays, to develop patient treatment plans.

•   Fit dental appliances in patients’ mouths to alter the position and relationship of teeth and jaws or to realign teeth.

•   Adjust dental appliances to produce and maintain normal function.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Faster than average (5% to 8%)

Top Industries

•   Offices of dentists

•   Hospitals

22. Nurse Anesthetists

Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia, monitor patient’s vital signs, and oversee patient recovery from anesthesia. They assist anesthesiologists, surgeons, other physicians, or dentists. They must be registered nurses who have specialized graduate education.

Average Salary

$205,770

Typical Entry-Level Education

Master’s degree

Primary Duties

•   Manage patients’ airway or pulmonary status, using techniques such as endotracheal intubation, mechanical ventilation, pharmacological support, respiratory therapy, and extubation.

•   Respond to emergency situations by providing airway management, administering emergency fluids or drugs, or using basic or advanced cardiac life support techniques.

•   Monitor patients’ responses, including skin color, pupil dilation, pulse, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, ventilation, or urine output, using invasive and noninvasive techniques.

•   Select, order, or administer anesthetics, adjuvant drugs, accessory drugs, fluids or blood products as necessary.

•   Select, prepare, or use equipment, monitors, supplies, or drugs for the administration of anesthetics.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Much faster than average (9% or higher)

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Hospitals

•   Outpatient care centers

•   Offices of other health practitioners

•   Colleges, universities, and professional schools

23. Pediatricians

Pediatricians diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases and injuries in children. They also refer patients to specialists for further diagnosis or treatment, as needed.

Average Salary

$203,240

Typical Entry-Level Education

Doctoral or professional degree

Primary Duties

•   Prescribe or administer treatment, therapy, medication, vaccination, and other specialized medical care to treat or prevent illness, disease, or injury in infants and children.

•   Examine children regularly to assess their growth and development.

•   Treat children who have minor illnesses, acute and chronic health problems, and growth and development concerns.

•   Examine patients or order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests to obtain information on medical condition and determine diagnosis.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Little or no change

Top Industries

•   Offices of physicians

•   Hospitals

•   Outpatient care centers

•   Colleges, universities, and professional Schools

24. Computer and Information Systems Managers

Computer and information systems managers plan, direct, or coordinate activities in such fields as electronic data processing, information systems, systems analysis, and computer programming

Average Salary

$173,670

Typical Entry-Level Education

Bachelor’s degree

Primary Duties

•   Direct daily operations of department, analyzing workflow, establishing priorities, developing standards and setting deadlines.

•   Meet with department heads, managers, supervisors, vendors, and others, to solicit cooperation and resolve problems.

•   Review project plans to plan and coordinate project activity.

•   Assign and review the work of systems analysts, programmers, and other computer-related workers.

•   Provide users with technical support for computer problems.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Much faster than average (9% or higher)

Top Industries

•   Computer systems design and related services

•   Management of companies and enterprises

•   Software publishers

•   Management, scientific, and technical consulting services

•   Computing infrastructure providers, data processing, web hosting, and related services

25. Financial Managers

Financial managers plan, direct, or coordinate accounting, investing, banking, insurance, securities, and other financial activities of a branch, office, or department of an establishment.

Average Salary

$166,050

Typical Entry-Level Education

Bachelor’s degree

Primary Duties

•   Establish and maintain relationships with individual or business customers or provide assistance with problems these customers may encounter.

•   Oversee the flow of cash or financial instruments.

•   Plan, direct, or coordinate the activities of workers in branches, offices, or departments of establishments, such as branch banks, brokerage firms, risk and insurance departments, or credit departments.

•   Recruit staff members.

•   Evaluate data pertaining to costs to plan budgets.

Projected growth (2022-2032)

Much faster than average (9% or higher)

Top Industries

•   Credit intermediation and related activities

•   Management of companies and enterprises

•   Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities

•   Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services

•   Insurance carriers

Highest Paying Jobs by State

The top-paying occupations in the U.S. vary by location, so here’s a look at the best-paid jobs by state based on the BLS’s State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates. This listing goes in alphabetical order and includes all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

💡 Quick Tip: Your money deserves a higher rate. You earned it! Consider opening a high-yield checking account online and earn 0.50% APY.

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!


Alabama

Career: Cardiologist
Average Salary: $466,030

Alaska

Career: Surgeon
Average Salary: $311,440

Arizona

Career: Plastic Surgeon
Average Salary: $430,870

Arkansas

Career: Orthopedic Surgeon
Average Salary: $365,580

California

Career: Dermatologists
Average Salary: $371,450

Colorado

Career: Anesthesiologists
Average Salary: $384,860

Connecticut

Career: Dermatologists
Average Salary:$308,230

Delaware

Career: Orthopedic Surgeons
Average Salary: $509,820

District of Columbia

Career: Orthopedic Surgeons
Average Salary: $509,820

Florida

Career: Cardiologist
Average Salary: 428,810

Georgia

Career: Neurologists
Average Salary: $332,760

Hawaii

Career: Orthopedic Surgeon
Average Salary:$554,520

Idaho

Career: Cardiologists
Average Salary: $521,690

Illinois

Career: Dermatologists
Average Salary: $360,560

Indiana

Career: Athletes and Sports Competitors
Average Salary: $702,270

Iowa

Career: Dermatologists
Average Salary: $398,590

Kansas

Career: Surgeons
Average Salary: $374,300

Kentucky

Career: Orthopedic Surgeons
Average Salary: $410,760

Louisiana

Career: Surgeons
Average Salary: $534,920

Maine

Career: Surgeons
Average Salary: $450,330

Maryland

Career: Cardiologists
Average Salary: $456,280

Massachusetts

Career: Dermatologists
Average Salary: $414,270

Michigan

Career: Orthopedic Surgeons
Average Salary: $412,260

Minnesota

Career: Dermatologists
Average Salary: $514,330

Mississippi

Career: Surgeons
Average Salary: $362,430

Missouri

Career: Cardiologists
Average Salary: $370,910

Montana

Career: Surgeons
Average Salary: $435,940

Nebraska

Career: Anesthesiologists
Average Salary: $422,040

Nevada

Career: Dermatologists
Average Salary: $344,980

New Hampshire

Career: Orthopedic Surgeon
Average Salary: $425,620

New Jersey

Career: Chief Executives
Average Salary: $414,350

New Mexico

Career: Emergency Medicine Physicians
Average Salary: $332,590

New York

Career: Pediatric Surgeons
Average Salary: $415,810

North Carolina

Career: Surgeons
Average Salary: $429,010

North Dakota

Career: Psychiatrists
Average Salary: $390,140

Ohio

Career: Athletes and Sports Competitors
Average Salary: $648,120

Oklahoma

Career: Emergency Medicine Physicians
Average Salary: $312,940

Oregon

Career: Anesthesiologists
Average Salary: $395,060

Pennsylvania

Career: Cardiologists
Average Salary: $478,340

Rhode Island

Career: Radiologists
Average Salary: $343,450

South Carolina

Career: Ophthalmologists
Average Salary: $386,460

South Dakota

Career: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
Average Salary: $347,390

Tennessee

Career: Surgeons
Average Salary: $324,550

Texas

Career: Cardiologists
Average Salary: $413,510

Utah

Career: Dermatologists
Average Salary: $402,230

Vermont

Career: Orthopedic Surgeon
Average Salary: $413,870

Virginia

Career: Neurologists
Average Salary: $368,650

Washington State

Career: Anesthesiologists
Average Salary: $419,950

Washington, D.C.

Career: Surgeons, Except Ophthalmologists
Average Salary: $286,160

West Virginia

Career: Surgeons
Average Salary: $365,560

Wisconsin

Career: Dermatologists
Average Salary: $455,200

Wyoming

Career: Family Medicine Physicians
Average Salary: $295,570

The Takeaway

Whether you look at the top-paying fields nationally or by state, healthcare professions dominate the list. However, a few other careers also consistently show up in the highest-paid job rankings, including professional athletes, chief executives, airline pilots, and computer/information systems managers.

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.

Photo credit: iStock/Eva-Katalin


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.

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.

SOBK0124013

Read more

Pros and Cons of Raising the Minimum Wage

Raising the minimum wage, which is a hot-button political issue, could have immediate effects on the lives of low-wage hourly workers. It could help them to move out of poverty and keep up with inflation. Some economists argue that other pros of raising the minimum wage could include increased consumer spending, reduced government assistance (and increased tax revenue), and stronger employee retention and morale.

Alternatively, other financial experts point to the cons of raising the minimum wage, including potentially increasing the cost of living, reducing opportunities for inexperienced workers, and triggering more unemployment.

Learn more here, including the purpose of the federal minimum wage, where the minimum wage currently stands, and the pros and cons of raising it.

Key Points

•   Raising the minimum wage could help low-wage workers escape poverty and keep up with inflation.

•   Increased wages may lead to higher consumer spending and reduced reliance on government assistance.

•   Higher labor costs from wage increases could lead to unemployment and higher product prices.

•   A raised minimum wage might improve employee retention and performance in businesses.

•   The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 per hour since 2009, despite inflation.

What Is the Federal Minimum Wage in 2024?

The federal minimum wage in 2024 is $7.25 per hour. The last time that minimum wage increased was on July 24, 2009, when it grew $0.70 from $6.55 an hour. This was part of a three-phased increase enacted by Congress in 2007.

It’s worth noting that tipped employees (say, waiters) have a different rate. The current federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13, as long as the worker’s tips make up the difference between that and the standard minimum wage.

Some states have their own minimum wage laws with a higher (or lower) starting wage than the federal minimum. In such states, employers must pay out the higher of the two minimum wages.

Here are some minimum wage fast facts:

•   The highest current minimum wage is in Washington, D.C., where it is $17.00.

•   There are 58 cities and counties with minimum wages higher than their state’s figures. Of these, the city of Tukwila, Washington, currently has the highest wage at $20.29 per hour.

•   As of 2023, about 20.6 million US workers make less than $15 per hour, and many are making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or less.

•   While the minimum wage has been stagnant since 2009, inflation has not. The spending power of $7.25 in 2009 is equivalent to $10.55 today. This means that $7.25 can buy today about 68% (or just over two-thirds) of what it could buy in 2009.


💡 Quick Tip: Help your money earn more money! Opening a bank account online often gets you higher-than-average rates.

What Is the Purpose of the Minimum Wage?

So why was the minimum wage originally created? The minimum wage was an idea that gained traction during the Great Depression era. During that time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt worked with Congress to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which officially established the minimum wage. Even then, politicians bickered over the hourly rate and potential impacts on the economy, and the final legislation (25 cents an hour) was not what FDR originally had in mind.

Regardless of the final number that Congress landed on, FDR’s vision for this minimum wage law was to “end starvation wages and intolerable hours,” according to the Department of Labor. The Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School paints an even clearer picture: The minimum wage was designed to create a minimum standard of living to protect the health and well-being of employees.

In short, early proponents of the minimum wage legislation intended for it to be a living wage. And as the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise points out, in today’s economy, “there is a stark difference between the federal minimum wage and a living wage.”

Recommended: Salary vs. Hourly Pay

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!


Benefits of Raising the Minimum Wage

Many economists point to several pros of raising the minimum wage, including the following:

Helping Families Get Out of Poverty

Even without minimum wage increases in today’s market, inflation is skyrocketing. In July 2022, it was up 9.1% year-over-year, a four-decade high. In 2023, it was 4.98%. The average American family is likely trying to cut grocery costs, gas prices, and utility bills.

The Raise the Wage Act of 2023 focuses on raising the minimum wage to $17 an hour by 2028, giving almost 30 million American workers a long overdue raise and more buying power to make ends meet.

While raising the minimum wage will not stop inflation’s effects, it could help families more easily afford basic necessities. It can also fulfill the legislation’s original intention of eliminating starvation wages and establishing a minimum standard of living.

Increasing Consumer Spending

Multiple studies over the last decade have demonstrated that low wage earners are more likely to put their income directly back into the economy. That’s because low wage workers spend a larger portion of their budget on immediate needs, like food, clothing, transportation, and shelter.

Increased consumer spending is a boon to the economy, as it is a positive economic indicator reflecting consumer confidence in the market — and brings more revenue to small businesses and corporations alike.

Increasing Federal Revenues

Reports have found that federal spending would both increase and decrease if the minimum wage were raised. While those with newly raised wages might rely on government assistance less (for example, there could be reduced spending on nutrition programs like SNAP), workers who lose their jobs as a result of minimum wage increases will put an excess burden on unemployment.

However, increased tax revenue from higher wages should boost federal revenues overall.

Increasing Employee Retention and Performance

The theory of efficiency wages suggests that higher-paid employees are more motivated to work harder and thus produce more goods and services faster. If that theory is true, increasing the minimum wage could help businesses become more profitable.

Further, employees are more likely to stay with a company longer if they earn good wages. The longer an employee is with a company, the more skilled that employee can become — and thus more valuable to the business.

On top of that, employee turnover is expensive. Replacing an employee with a new candidate can cost up to 150% of the worker’s salary or possibly more. In many cases, it might be cheaper for a business to pay an employee a better salary to keep them from leaving. It could be cheaper than recruiting and training a new worker to replace them after they’ve left.

Cons of Raising the Minimum Wage

There are multiple downsides to raising the minimum wage to consider when debating this policy as well:

Increasing Labor Costs and Unemployment

The largest concern with raising the minimum wage is increased labor costs. If the minimum wage increased to $15 an hour, businesses would suddenly need to give raises to everyone making less than that.

But if some employees were making $10 to $15 an hour, they might not be thrilled to hear that other workers with less tenure and experience are suddenly being paid the same. And employees who were making $15 an hour or slightly above it may also expect a raise once entry-level workers are bumped to $15.

The problem? Not all businesses can afford that. Restaurants, for example, operate at a 3% to 5% profit margin. Increasing labor costs could shrink (or eliminate) their margins, meaning they might have to let go of some staff or go out of business.

Another aspect of this is that if employers have to raise their wages, they might well raise their prices, passing along the increase to their customers.

Increasing Cost of Living

As businesses adjust prices to accommodate higher labor costs, consumers should expect that their dollars won’t go as far as they used to. That is, many economists argue that minimum wage is correlated with inflation. Some say that if business owners have to raise the minimum wage they pay workers, they will pay along those costs to their customers, ratcheting up their prices and contributing to inflation.

That said, other economists paint inflation as the boogeyman of the minimum wage debate. For example, Daniel Kuehn, a research associate at The Urban Institute, has said that, though increasing wages will increase the cost of goods and services, it’s not really a 1:1 ratio. In other words, it won’t be “enough for consumers to really feel a burn in their wallet.”

Recommended: Compare Texas Cost of Living to California Cost of Living

Decreasing Opportunity for Inexperienced Workers

Typically, employees without specialized skills — first-time workers in high school and college, people with disabilities, and the elderly — fill some minimum wage jobs to earn what might be considered entry-level salaries. But as employers are forced to pay workers more, some argue that companies will look for employees with more experience (or will invest in automated technology). This could make it more challenging for unskilled laborers to find work.

Handling the Effects of Raising the Minimum Wage

Businesses may need to adjust practices to pay employees a higher hourly rate if the federal or state minimum wage increases. Here are a few ways company leaders might be able to handle the effects of increased wages:

•   Raising prices: If a company’s labor costs go up, the company may need to offset those expenses with higher prices for its goods and services. Paying attention to what competitors are doing and how consumers are reacting to price hikes can be helpful in determining how much you raise prices.

•   Working with independent contractors: Independent contractors might be more affordable than full-time employees for specific job duties. For instance, the employer would save on paying benefits (though that could mean staff workers get laid off and go on unemployment).

Before establishing an independent contractor model at your business, it’s a good idea to research the guardrails around independent contractors, as defined by the IRS.

•   Automating some positions: Technology continues to offer new ways to automate certain business functions, which may allow employers to reduce headcount, avoid future hires, or reassign existing employees to more revenue-generating work.

•   Reducing hours or cutting costs: Business owners who do not want to lose any employees might be able to reduce overall hours or find other ways to cut costs instead (perhaps a less expensive benefits package, for instance).

•   Getting creative: Offsetting increased labor costs can be as easy as generating more business. But then generating more business isn’t always so easy. Some creative ideas to get customers in the door could include loyalty programs or offering low-cost alternatives for budget-conscious customers.

The Takeaway

The original intention for establishing a minimum wage was to enable workers to have a standard of living that allowed for their health and well-being. While opponents may still argue over “living wage vs. starting wage,” many signs point to today’s federal minimum wage not being enough to have a basic standard of living. Raising the minimum wage has several pros, but it’s important to remember that there are many negative effects to minimum wage increases as well. The economic solution may not be simple, but it will likely be a debate that’s in the spotlight today and in the near future.

A high-yield bank account can be a good idea no matter what your wages are.

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

How does increasing the minimum wage affect the economy?

Some economists argue that increasing the minimum wage encourages consumer spending, helps families out of poverty, and boosts tax revenue while reducing tax-funded government assistance. Other economists point out the cons of raising the minimum wage, like increased inflation and unemployment.

How does decreasing the minimum wage affect the economy?

In general, the discussion around minimum wage is about increasing it. Economists and politicians are not considering decreasing the minimum wage; doing so would send more families into poverty and decrease consumer spending.

Why are state minimum wages different?

States are able to enact their own laws that supplement or deviate from federal laws. Many states with a higher cost of living, like California and Washington, have increased their minimum wage to roughly double the federal minimum. If a state’s minimum wage differs from the federal minimum wage, employers must pay the higher of the two rates.


Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.

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.

SOBK-Q224-1866400-V1

Read more
Secured vs. Unsecured Credit Card: What’s the Difference?

Secured vs. Unsecured Credit Cards: What You Need to Know

If you have a thin credit profile or want to build your credit, you may come across secured credit cards when searching for a card you can qualify for. But what’s the difference between a secured vs. unsecured credit card? And how can you gauge which one is right for you?

Here, delve into how both types of credit cards work and the differences between secured cards and unsecured credit cards, so you can decide which to choose.

What Is a Secured Credit Card?

Like a traditional, or unsecured, credit card, an unsecured credit card is a type of revolving loan. This means that it offers a line of credit that you can borrow from as needed and then repay. However, with a secured credit card, you’ll need to put down a deposit, which “secures” the credit card.

The bank holds onto that money as a form of collateral if you default on payments, but it’s refundable if you close your account or upgrade to an unsecured credit card. Your secured credit card’s credit limit, an essential part of what a credit card is, usually is the same amount as your deposit. The deposit is typically at least $200 to $500, though it can range as high as $25,000 depending on the specific card and how much you can afford to put down.

A secured credit card is designed for building credit. So, if you’re working on rebuilding your credit or don’t have much in the way of a credit history because you’re young or new to the country, it could be a good option. The age requirement to get a credit card that’s secured is the same as for an unsecured credit card.

How Secured Credit Cards Work

As mentioned, you’ll need to put in a deposit to open a secured credit card. Your available line of credit is usually the same amount as your deposit. Just like how credit cards work when it’s an unsecured card, you’ll need to repay the balance, and your credit limit will get replenished as you make payments.

As with an unsecured credit card, there’s a minimum monthly payment you’re responsible for. If you carry a balance from month to month, you’ll incur interest charges. Your credit card activity, including your payment history, is generally reported to the three major credit bureaus, Experian®, Equifax®, and TransUnion®.

Your deposit on a secured credit card isn’t used to make payments should you fall behind or miss payments altogether. If you’re unable to make payments and your account goes to default, you’ll lose your deposit. Plus, it can hurt your credit. If the balance you owe is larger than the deposit, you might be on the hook for the difference owed.

Secured credit cards may offer a “graduation” option. In other words, if you make on-time payments and show a track record of responsible financial behavior, the credit card issuer might offer you an unsecured credit card.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Pros and Cons of a Secured Credit Card

Let’s look at some of the advantages and downsides of a secured credit card:

Pros of a Secured Credit Card Cons of a Secured Credit Card
May qualify with a low credit score or limited credit history Need to provide a deposit
Could be easier to get approved for than an unsecured credit card Credit limit is usually low
Can be a way to build or rebuild credit as activity is reported to credit bureaus Can have higher interest rates and more fees than secured credit cards
Offers a revolving line of credit you can use as long as you make payments Could lose your deposit if you’re late or miss payments

What Is an Unsecured Credit Card?

Also known as a traditional credit card, an unsecured credit card doesn’t require a deposit or collateral of any sort. Instead, you’re offered a credit limit based on your creditworthiness and other factors, such as your income and existing debt. The lender simply has your word that you’ll pay back what you borrow, which is why you’ll also generally need a higher credit score and a more robust credit history to qualify.

Just as with a secured credit card, the credit remaining on an unsecured credit card dwindles as you rack up a balance. Once you make a payment, your limit replenishes. For example, say your credit limit is $5,000. If your balance is $500, your credit limit goes down to $4,500. Once you pay off your balance, your credit limit goes back up to $5,000.

The annual percentage rate (APR) and terms associated with an unsecured credit card are usually better than they are for a secured credit card. Typically, the better your credit score, the better your rates and terms are for an unsecured credit card. The average credit card APR is currently 22.3%; meanwhile, many of the top secured credit cards have APRs that are close to 30%.

How Unsecured Credit Cards Work

Because an unsecured credit card is a form of revolving credit, you have access to that credit line as long as you remain in good standing and your account stays open. Unsecured credit cards also require you to make minimum monthly payments to avoid incurring late payment fees and harming your credit score. You’ll owe interest on any balance that carries over from month to month.

Sometimes, unsecured credit cards might offer perks, such as cash-back rewards and travel insurance.

Pros and Cons of an Unsecured Credit Card

Here are some of the pros and cons of traditional, or unsecured, credit cards:

Pros of an Unsecured Credit Card Cons of an Unsecured Credit Card
Higher credit limits compared to secured credit cards Can be harder to get approved for
Need at least a fair credit score to qualify (580+) Can still incur interest and fees
Can help you build your credit May entice you to spend more than you can afford due to higher credit limits
Opportunity to earn rewards and enjoy other benefits Could damage your credit if not used responsibly

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

Similarities Between a Secured Credit Card and an Unsecured Credit Card

When it comes to a secured credit card vs. an unsecured credit, there are a number of similarities:

•   Both are revolving lines of credit, so you’ll have access to those lines of credit as long as you keep the card open and your account in good standing.

•   Your payments are reported to credit bureaus. If you make on-time payments, your credit score will improve. Conversely, it can drop if you don’t use your credit card responsibly.

•   The process of how to apply for a credit card is usually similar with a secured vs. unsecured credit card. You can usually fill out an application online, in person, over the phone, via an app, or through the mail.

•   Both secured and unsecured credit cards come with interest rates and fees. Depending on the card, there might be an annual fee.

•   Both types of credit cards usually offer a grace period, which is the period between when your billing cycle ends and your payment due date. During this time, you may not be charged interest as long as you pay off your balance in full by the payment due date.

•   While it’s less common among unsecured credit cards, both types of credit cards might feature perks, such as cash-back rewards, car rental insurance, trip and travelers insurance, extended warranties, and price protection.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

Differences Between a Secured Credit Card and an Unsecured Credit Card

There are a handful of features that set these types of credit cards apart:

•   For starters, secured credit cards require a security deposit, whereas unsecured credit cards do not.

•   The credit limit for a secured credit card usually matches the deposit amount. With unsecured credit cards, the credit limit usually depends on a handful of factors, such as your creditworthiness.

•   Secured credit cards generally carry higher interest rates and fees, whereas unsecured credit cards typically have lower interest rates and fees.

•   Unsecured credit cards usually have one variable interest rate, meaning the card’s interest rate fluctuates over time based on an index. Secured credit cards can have a fixed or variable rate.

Secured vs. Unsecured Credit Card: Which Is Right for You?

Now that you know the similarities and differences between a secured and unsecured credit card, you can start to assess which one might be right for you. Here’s a high-level overview to help you better compare what sets secured vs. unsecured credit cards apart:

Secured Credit Card Unsecured Credit Card
Requires a deposit to open Does not require a deposit
Usually available for those with thin credit histories or lower credit scores Usually need at least fair to good credit to qualify
Lower credit limits, which are based on the amount of the deposit Higher credit limits, which are based on creditworthiness
Fewer card options available Variety of card options, such as cash-back cards, travel cards, business cards, and retail cards

Staying on Top of Your Credit After Choosing a Card

No matter if you decide on a secured credit card or an unsecured credit card, it’s important to stay on top of your payments. Ideally, you’ll pay the balance in full each billing cycle. Otherwise, you’ll owe interest.

At the very least, make sure to make the minimum payment each month. That way, your credit will stay intact and you’ll avoid late fees. If you’re struggling to make payments, reach out to the lender and see what they can do. They might be able to change the payment due date so it’s more in line with what’s feasible for you, or let you temporarily skip a payment to catch back up.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

The Takeaway

Whether you should apply for a secured credit card and an unsecured one may depend largely on your credit history and score. A secured card may be best if you have yet to establish credit or have a low credit score, while an unsecured card can be beneficial if your credit is more established and you want to earn rewards.

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

Is an unsecured or secured credit card better?

Whether a secured vs. unsecured credit card is better depends on your situation. An unsecured credit card might be better if you’re having trouble getting approved for a secured card and can afford to make the deposit. On the other hand, a secured credit card may be better if you have at least an average credit score, are looking for a higher credit limit, and would like more card options.

Should your first credit card be secured or unsecured?

It really depends. If you have a thin credit history, are looking to build credit, and can afford the security deposit, a secured credit card might be the best route to take as they’re generally easier to qualify for. Note, however, that you’ll probably need to stomach a higher interest rate and a lower credit limit. While an unsecured credit card doesn’t require a deposit, it might be harder to get approved for one if your credit is less-than-stellar or you don’t have much of a credit history yet.


Photo credit: iStock/cesar fernandez dominguez

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.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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.

SOCC-Q224-1884787-V1

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender