What is Debt Consolidation and How Does it Work_780x440

How Does Debt Consolidation Work?

If you’re repaying a variety of different debts to different lenders, keeping track of them and making payments on time each month can be time consuming. It isn’t just tough to keep track of these various debts, it’s also difficult to know which debts to prioritize in order to fast track your debt repayment. After all, each of your cards or loans likely have different interest rates, minimum payments, payment due dates, and loan terms.

Consolidating — or combining — your debts into a new, single loan may give your brain and your budget some breathing room. We’ll take a look at what it means to consolidate debt and how it works.

What Is Debt Consolidation?

Debt consolidation involves taking out one loan or line of credit (ideally with a lower interest rate) and using it to pay off other debts — whether that’s car loans, credit card debt, or another type of debt. After consolidating those existing loans into one loan, you have just one monthly payment and one interest rate.


💡 Quick Tip: A low-interest personal loan can consolidate your debts, lower your monthly payments, and help you get out of debt sooner.

Common Ways to Consolidate Debt

Your options to consolidate debt depend on your overall financial situation and what type of debt you wish to consolidate. Here are some common approaches.

Balance Transfer

If you are able to qualify for a credit card that has a lower annual percentage rate (APR) than your current cards, a balance transfer credit card may be one option to consider and can be a smart financial strategy to consolidate debt if you use it responsibly.

Some credit cards have zero- or low-interest promotional rates specifically for balance transfers. Promotional rates are typically for a limited time, so if you pay the transferred balance in full before it ends, you’ll reap the benefit of paying less — or possibly zero — interest.

However, there are some caveats to keep in mind. Credit card issuers generally charge a balance transfer fee, sometimes 3% to 5% of the amount transferred. If you use the credit card for new purchases, the card’s purchase APR, not the promotional rate, will apply to those purchases.

At the end of the promotional period, the card’s APR will revert to its regular rate. If a balance remains at that time, it will be subject to the new, regular rate.

Making late payments or missing payments entirely will typically trigger a penalty rate, which will apply to both the balance transfer amount and regular purchases made with the credit card.

Home Equity Loan

If you own a home and have equity in it, you might consider a home equity loan for consolidating debt. Home equity is the home’s value minus the amount remaining on your mortgage. If your home is worth $300,000 and you owe $125,000 on the mortgage, you have $175,000 worth of equity in your home.

Another key term lenders use in home equity loan determinations is loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. Typically expressed as a percentage, the LTV is similar to equity, but on the other side of the scale: Instead of how much you own, it’s how much you owe. The percentage is calculated by dividing the home’s appraised value by the remaining mortgage balance.

Lenders typically like to see applicants whose LTV is no more than 80%. In the above example, the LTV would be 42%.

$125,000 / $300,000 = 0.42
(To express this as a percentage, multiply 0.42 x 100 to get 42%.)

If you qualify for a home equity loan, you’ll typically be able to tap into 75% to 80% of your equity.

After the home equity loan closes, you’ll receive the loan proceeds in one lump sum, which you can use to pay your other debts.

A home equity loan is essentially a second mortgage, a secured loan using your home as collateral. Since there is a risk of losing your home if you default on the loan, this option should be considered carefully.

Personal Loan

If you don’t have home equity to tap into or you prefer not to put your home up as collateral, a personal loan may be another option to consider.

There are many types of personal loans, but they are typically unsecured loans, which means no collateral is required to secure the loan. They can have fixed or variable interest rates, but it’s fairly easy to find a lender that offers fixed-rate personal loans.

Generally, personal loans offer lower interest rates than credit cards. So consolidating credit card debt with a fixed-rate personal loan may result in savings over the life of the loan. Also, since personal loans are installment loans, there is a payment end date, unlike the revolving nature of credit cards.

There are many online personal loan lenders and the application process tends to be fairly simple. You may be able to use a loan comparison site to see what types of interest rates and loan terms you may be able to qualify for.

When you apply for a personal loan, the lender will do a hard credit inquiry into your credit report, which may temporarily lower your credit score. The lower credit score may drop off your credit report in a few months.

If you’re approved, the lender will send you the loan proceeds in one lump sum, which you can use to pay off your other debts. You’ll then be responsible for paying the monthly personal loan payment.

A drawback to using a personal loan for debt consolidation is that some lenders may charge origination fees, which can add to the total balance you’ll have to repay. Other fees may also be charged, such as late fees or prepayment penalties. It’s important to make sure you’re aware of any fees or penalties before signing the loan agreement.


💡 Quick Tip: Swap high-interest debt for a lower-interest loan, and save money on your monthly payments. Find out why SoFi credit card consolidation loans are so popular.

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Is Debt Consolidation Right For You?

Your financial situation is unique to you, but there are several things you’ll want to keep in mind when trying to decide if debt consolidation is right for you.

Debt Consolidation Might Be a Good Idea If …

•   You want to have only one monthly debt payment. It can be a challenge to manage multiple lenders, interest rates, and due dates.

•   You want to have a payment end date. Using a home equity loan or a personal loan for debt consolidation will be useful for this reason because they are forms of installment debt.

•   You can qualify for a zero interest or low-interest rate balance transfer credit card. This may allow you to consolidate multiple debts on one new credit card and save interest by paying off the balance before the promotional rate ends.

Debt Consolidation Might Not Be For You If …

•   You think you’ll be tempted to continue using the credit cards you paid off in the debt consolidation process. This can leave you further in debt.

•   You’ll incur fees (e.g., balance transfer fee or origination fee). If the fees are high, it might not make sense financially to consolidate the debts.

•   Consolidating your debts may actually cost you more in the long run. If your goal is to have smaller monthly payments, that generally means you’ll be making payments for a longer period of time and incurring more interest over the life of the loan.

Recommended: Getting Out of Debt with No Money Saved

Credit Card Debt Relief: How to Get It

Some people seek assistance with getting relief from debt burdens. Reputable credit counselors do exist, but there are also many programs that scam people who may already be overwhelmed and are vulnerable.

Disreputable debt settlement companies may charge fees before ever settling your debt and often make bogus claims, such as guaranteeing that they will be able to make your debt go away or that there is a government program to bail out those in credit card debt.

Even if a debt settlement company can eventually settle your debt, there may be negative consequences to your credit along the way. What’s more, a debt settlement program may require that you stop making payments to your creditors. But your debts may continue to accrue interest and fees, putting you further in debt. The lack of payments may also take a negative toll on your payment history, which is an important factor in the calculation of your credit score.

Recommended: Debt Settlement vs Credit Counseling: What’s the Difference?

Debt Relief: Is it a Good Idea?

What’s a good idea for some people may be a bad idea for others. Whether debt relief is a good idea for you and your financial situation will depend on factors that are unique to you. Working with a reputable credit counselor may be a good way to get some assistance that will help you get out of debt for good and create a solid financial plan for the future.

The Takeaway

Debt consolidation allows borrowers to combine a variety of debts, like credit cards, into a new loan. Ideally, this new loan has a lower interest rate or more favorable terms to help streamline the repayment process.

SoFi personal loans offer competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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

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How to Save on Spring Break Travel

How to Save on Spring Break Travel

Your mind and body may be ready for a sunny beachside spring break in Cancun, but if you’re living that broke college kid life, you may imagine your spring break looking more like a week at home, scrolling through Instagram and binging Netflix.

However, it is possible to plan a spring break trip on a limited budget. And yes, even a college student’s budget can be stretched for spring break fun! If you’re wondering how to plan a spring break trip without living off instant noodles for the next month, we have some tips to help you get a well-deserved vacation from those long nights spent studying in your dorm room.

Keep reading for some of our best tips on making your spring break trip dreams happen on a budget.

1. Start Planning Early

Waiting until the last minute to plan a trip could mean missing out on cheaper flights, hotels, and even popular ticketed attractions. If you’re going to a hot destination during a peak travel season, which includes spring break for many destinations, then you could blow your travel budget on the flight alone, leaving you without enough money for food and lodging.

2. Make a Budget & Stick to It

Before you even leave for your destination, it’s smart to create a travel budget. What can you reasonably afford to spend on accommodations, transportation, entertainment, meals, and shopping? Having a budget could help you avoid splurging on expensive dinners or overspending at local shops.

Recommended: How to Save for a Vacation: Creating a Travel Fund

3. Find Off-Season Destinations

If Cancun for spring break is too pricey for your college student budget, don’t stress. There are a number of great destinations that are off-season in the spring, ranging from the more rugged Jackson County, North Carolina to the Big Apple.

4. Only Travel as Far as You Can Drive

It’s about the journey, not the destination, right? You can make that (semi) true by taking a road trip with a few friends. On a road trip, you don’t need to follow any set schedule. Since there’s no flight or train to catch, and often no hurry to reach a destination, you can make spontaneous decisions and discover hidden gems along the way.

5. Avoid Tourist Traps

Doing spring break on a budget generally means skipping touristy destinations like Miami, New Orleans, and Cabo. However, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives to these locations that can save you money and that will probably be far less crowded, too.

6. Reach out to Friends & Family

If you have friends or family in another city, reach out and ask if they’d be willing to host you. If they agree, you could get some free lodging and meals out of it. Plus, you’d be connecting with locals who could guide you through the city and give some tips on cool and free stuff to do that you might not have found otherwise.

Recommended: How to Balance the Urge to Travel and the Need to Save

7. Ditch the Plane Ticket

Planes and cars aren’t the only way to land at your tourist destination. You can do spring break on a budget by hopping on an Amtrak train or a Greyhound bus, both of which have destinations all over the country. The best part? You can catch up on some work, sleep, or relaxation while you enjoy the ride.

8. Don’t Forget about Cruises

You could spend a fortune going to just Miami or Los Angeles. Or, you could check out some cheaper cruise options that could potentially take you all over Alaska, the Caribbean islands, or a slew of other destinations for less. There are even cruise options designed specifically for college students.

9. Consider Pitching a Tent

Do you get motion sickness in cars or boats? With camping, your feet will be firmly planted on the ground, and your budget will also likely stay down to earth. You can camp out in many destinations across the U.S. and even abroad, be it under the stars near a national park or near a great fishing hole in the Carolinas.

10. Look For a Deal

Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer a number of travel and hotel deals both for individuals and for group travel. Checking out which hotels are offering promotions could help you save when booking accommodations. You can also find deals on attractions near where you’re vacationing, too.

11. Sign Up for a Spring Break Volunteer Experience

Many colleges offer a program called “alternative break,” which allows students to travel and volunteer during their spring break. If your college doesn’t offer any alternative break trips, you can still find some opportunities through organizations like Habitat for Humanity and United Way .

12. Be a Tourist in Your Own State

If airfare is out of the question for your spring break budget, a budget-friendly alternative could be touring your own state. You can take a spring break road trip around your state or even take multiple day trips, the latter of which could allow you to have most of your meals at home with no hotel needed.

13. Fly on Unpopular Days

No, it’s not just your imagination: There are some days that are cheaper to fly on than others. If you’re not tied to a set departure and/or return date, use the flexible date search on a travel or airline site. This can help you find the cheapest travel dates for your trip.

14. Sign Up for Price Alerts

One helpful way to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal on your trip is to sign up for price alerts, a free service offered by several travel companies, such as Kayak, Skyscanner, and Google Flights. These sites track prices daily and alert you in real-time when the price changes for a flight, hotel, or rental car you want.

15. Ask for Extra Snacks

If you’re flying to your destination, be sure to grab the airplane snacks. And if you like the snacks, ask for seconds! You may be able to snag a free snack to help tide you over between meals when you land. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no.

16. Consider Airbnbs or Hostels

For those looking for the best tips on how to plan a spring break trip, one not-so-obvious one may be skipping hotels altogether. Staying at an Airbnb or hostel could be a cheaper travel hack than even a budget motel, especially if you don’t plan on spending much time in your room anyway.

17. Use Public Transportation

While Uber may be one of the handiest apps to have while traveling, relying on ridesharing and taxis could end up costing you a small fortune, especially if you’re traveling in a big city. Using public transportation could cost you a fraction of the price of an Uber, plus it will allow you to explore more of your destination as you navigate around subway and bus stations.

18. Bring Your Own Food

Grocery costs may be on the rise, but the cost of dining out can really wreak havoc on your spring break budget. If you want to try the local cuisine, you can typically do so much cheaper by going to a local grocery store and buying premade meals there or, better yet, making your own meals using fresh, local ingredients. This option may only be available if you’re staying at an Airbnb or hotel with a kitchenette, though.

19. Eat Out for Lunch, not Dinner

Eating out for dinner will often cost you far more than eating out for breakfast or lunch. And if you decide to eat out for dinner still, skip the drinks and desserts. These items typically have higher markups than other items on the menu. Plus, when it comes to desserts, the quality (and quantity!) may not be worth it — many restaurants don’t even make the desserts they serve.

20. Ask About Complimentary Hotel Meals

Students looking for spring break trips on a budget won’t want to miss out on this tried-and-true travel budget saver: Before booking your hotel, ask if they have any complimentary meals, such as a continental breakfast. It may not be as fancy or Instagram-worthy as the hottest brunch spot in town, but it will likely be a lot better for your budget.

21. Use The Free Hotel Coffee

Most hotels offer free coffee either in the lobby in the mornings or through small coffee makers in your room. It may not be as fancy as your usual Venti Coconutmilk Latte with two pumps of salted caramel, but it won’t cost you anything.

22. Look out for Free Samples

Looking to score some more free snacks? Add local farmers’ markets to your itinerary. Many markets are full of free samples, so you may even be able to scrounge together a free lunch. You may also be able to score free swag, like t-shirts and reusable bags, from local vendors and businesses, your hotel, or the local visitor’s center.

23. Prioritize Free Activities

Sure, you can spend $50 for a museum ticket. Or, you could search online for some free museums nearby. Many hot spring break destinations offer free walking tours, free museum days, and a plethora of other free activities, such as parks and beaches.

24. Find a Travel Buddy (or Four!)

You’ll find that going on a budget-friendly spring break trip can be a lot easier if you team up with friends. Pooling your college budgets together may even help you to afford nicer accommodations or a more far-flung destination.

25. Cash in Credit Card Rewards…

If you have a rewards or cashback credit card, you may want to save up your points to help fund your epic spring break. Having a travel rewards card can be an easy way to save on travel, especially if you’re able to use that card on purchases before heading out on vacation, which could help you build up even more rewards points.

26. …And Earn More Rewards While Traveling!

Using your rewards credit card on vacation may not help you save for your current trip. But if you rack up more rewards during your trip, you’ll already have a new vacation fund started before you even come back from spring break.

27. Research Student Discounts

Catching a movie or eating out during spring break? Ask about a student discount! You may be able to score some sweet savings even before your vacation, as companies like Expedia often offer student-only travel deals. You can also try StudentUniverse , which helps students get discounts on hotels, airfare, and more.

28. Ask About Membership Discounts

A ton of college discounts exist, but don’t rule out membership discounts you could get from family members. For instance, Costco, Sam’s Club, AAA, and AARP all offer travel discounts to their members. It may be worth asking some relatives about their memberships to save big on your spring break trip.

29. Avoid Transaction Fees

Transaction fees can be a real budget-killer if you’re traveling abroad. And even if you’re stateside, ATM fees can also put a dent in your spring break savings. So you may want to ask your card issuer about fees and plan accordingly to make sure you have enough cash on hand to avoid them.

30. Use Hotel Toiletries

TSA-approved toiletries can be overpriced, and buying them when you arrive at your destination may also mean overpaying for toiletries that you have loads of at home. The best alternative? Decant your own shampoo and conditioner into smaller bottles you can snag at The Dollar Store. Or, better yet, just use the hotel toiletries. They may not be what you’re used to, but your budget will thank you.

The Takeaway

Wondering how to plan a spring break trip on a budget? It may not be as hard as you think. If you’re willing to try off-peak destinations and hunt for discounts, you can save a ton of cash. Spring break trips on a budget don’t have to be a drag, either. You can still go to popular destinations if you create (and stick to) a spring break travel budget. Using rewards and cashback cards can also help you save on airfare and other travel expenses.

SoFi Travel has teamed up with Expedia to bring even more to your one-stop finance app, helping you book reservations — for flights, hotels, car rentals, and more — all in one place. SoFi Members also have exclusive access to premium savings, with 10% or more off on select hotels. Plus, earn unlimited 3%** cash back rewards when you book with your SoFi Unlimited 2% Credit Card through SoFi Travel.

Wherever you’re going, get there with SoFi Travel.


Photo credit: iStock/onurdongel

**Terms, and conditions apply: The SoFi Travel Portal is operated by Expedia. To learn more about Expedia, click https://www.expediagroup.com/home/default.aspx.

When you use your SoFi Credit Card to make a purchase on the SoFi Travel Portal, you will earn a number of SoFi Member Rewards points equal to 3% of the total amount you spend on the SoFi Travel Portal. Members can save up to 10% or more on eligible bookings.


Eligibility: You must be a SoFi registered user.
You must agree to SoFi’s privacy consent agreement.
You must book the travel on SoFi’s Travel Portal reached directly through a link on the SoFi website or mobile application. Travel booked directly on Expedia's website or app, or any other site operated or powered by Expedia is not eligible.
You must pay using your SoFi Credit Card.

SoFi Member Rewards: All terms applicable to the use of SoFi Member Rewards apply. To learn more please see: https://www.sofi.com/rewards/ and Terms applicable to Member Rewards.


Additional Terms: Changes to your bookings will affect the Rewards balance for the purchase. Any canceled bookings or fraud will cause Rewards to be rescinded. Rewards can be delayed by up to 7 business days after a transaction posts on Members’ SoFi Credit Card ledger. SoFi reserves the right to withhold Rewards points for suspected fraud, misuse, or suspicious activities.
©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).


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.

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How to Transfer Money From One Bank to Another

If you want to transfer money from one bank to another, you have a variety of options, including online transfers, third-party services, wire transfers, and more. Which one is right for you will depend on such variables as how quickly you want to make the transfer, whether you are willing to pay a fee, and how large an amount you are moving. Your personal preference and what you find most convenient matters as well. Here, you’ll learn more about the different ways to transfer funds from one bank to another.

Key Points

•   Bank transfers move money from one bank account to another.

•   These can be done by online transfers, checks, peer-to-peer services, wire transfers, third-party companies, or bank-to-bank money transfer services.

•   There may be limits on how many bank transfers you can do in a specific time period and the dollar amount.

•   The time it takes to complete a bank transfer may vary with the method.

What Is a Bank Transfer?

Simply put, a bank transfer is a way of moving money into a bank account. If you want to pay for a purchase, for a service you are using, or simply repay a friend for brunch over the weekend, a bank transfer can make that happen.

💡 Quick Tip: Tired of paying pointless bank fees? When you open a bank account online you often avoid excess charges.

What Factors Should I Consider Before Transferring Money?

Typically, when making a bank transfer, you will want to consider these factors:

•   Timing: How quickly do you need to move the funds? This can have implications on the method you choose.

•   Cost: Some methods for bank transfers may be free; others may involve a fee.

•   Limits: Depending on the amount of money you are seeking to transfer, some methods may be more suitable than others.

There May be Limits on How Many Transfers You Can Make

You can typically make as many transfers into a savings account as you would like, but there may be some limitations when it comes to taking money out of a savings account.

Online withdrawals from savings accounts have been governed by the Federal Reserve’s Regulation D. Some banks are still enforcing the legacy limit of six withdrawals per month and will charge a withdrawal fee for each transaction over the limit. Or they might convert your savings account to a checking account. This guideline was largely suspended during the pandemic, but that’s not necessarily a universal decision.

It can be a good idea to check your financial institution’s rules before you try to transfer money from a savings account into a different account. Transfers count as one of the kinds of withdrawals that may be limited. See if your financial institution has limits on the quantity you can make in a given time period.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

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How to Transfer Money Between Banks

Here’s a look at different ways to transfer money to someone else or to another account that you own. You’ll also learn which method is best for each situation.

1. Directly Making an Online Transfer From One Bank Account to Another

If you have accounts at two different banks and want to transfer money from your account at Bank A to your account at Bank B, follow these steps:

•   Log into Bank A’s account, then choose the option to “add an account,” “link account,” or “add external account.” You can often find these options, or something similar, in your bank’s “customer service” or “transfers” menu.

•   Bank A will likely ask for the routing number (a nine-digit number) and account number (eight to 12 digits) for bank B. You can find these numbers on a check, typically along the bottom (the routing number comes first, followed by the account number, then the check number). If you don’t have checks, you can also find the bank’s routing number on their website and your account number on your monthly statement.

•   To prove that the account at Bank B belongs to you, Bank A may ask you to input the username and password you use for Bank B. Another way Bank A may verify the account is to make a small deposit (maybe a few cents) and ask you to confirm the amounts, a process that might take a day or two to complete.

•   Once the account is confirmed, you can choose an amount you want to transfer from Bank A to Bank B and the date on which you want it to occur. You can also choose to make it a one-time transfer or a recurring transfer (such as once a month). You can then select the option to submit your request.

These steps will work whether you are transferring funds to a brick-and-mortar bank or to an online-only financial institution.

Transferred funds typically arrive at their destination in two or three business days. The timing will depend on which banks you use and whether you are moving money internationally or domestically.

While transferring money between linked bank accounts at different institutions is often free, there might be transfer limits in the amount you can move each time or within a certain time period. It can be a good idea to check your financial institution’s rules for bank-to-bank transfer limits.

2. Writing a Check

If you want to transfer money from your bank account to someone else’s bank account, you will likely need to find an alternative bank transfer solution.

You may be asking yourself if checks are useful. Perhaps you don’t have any checks on hand and are wondering if you should order a checkbook. That may be wise; here are some ways you can use checks to move money around:

•   Writing a check is still a good way to make a bank-to-bank funds transfer. When you write a check, you are authorizing your bank to transfer funds to the recipient.

•   You can also make a check out to yourself by entering your own name as the payee. This can be a good option if you are closing out a checking account and want to transfer the remaining funds into a new account.

•   If you take advantage of mobile deposit, you can write a check from one account and deposit it into a different account without ever leaving home. That little rectangle of paper’s job is to transfer money from one bank to another, and it will get it done.

You may want to keep in mind, however, that writing a check is not an instant money transfer. It can take a few business days for a check to clear and be available in the new account.

Also, if there aren’t sufficient funds in the account to cover the amount, your check will bounce, and the payment won’t go through. You may also be charged a fee. To avoid this glitch, you’ll want to make sure you have sufficient money in your account before writing a check.

3. Peer-to-Peer Transfer

Whether you’re reimbursing your roommate for the monthly rent or splitting dinner with a friend, a peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer service or app can be a good solution.

Services like Venmo and PayPal can offer some advantages:

•   They are easy to use, and once your bank account is linked in the app, you can quickly type in a dollar amount, select the recipient, and hit “Send.”

•   These services are typically free if you fund the payment from your bank account. There may be a fee, however, if you fund a transfer with a debit card or credit card. Many banks offer free or inexpensive P2P transfers through Zelle or a similar vendor.

Worth noting, however, is the fact that some payment apps may limit the amount you can transfer in a day or within a week, and some do not allow international transactions. Before using a P2P service, It can be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the company’s fees, timing, and limitations.

4. Wire Transfer

If you need to send a considerable amount of money to someone quickly and/or the recipient is located overseas, it’s useful to know how to wire money using a wire transfer. Here are some specifics:

•   A wire transfer is one of the fastest and most secure ways to transfer money electronically from one person to another. It can be done through a bank or a nonbank wire transfer company, such as Wise (formerly TransferWise) or Western Union.

•   Wire transfers are convenient because you can make them over the phone and online as well as in person.

•   Wire transfers can be extremely fast. If you are making a wire transfer to another bank in the US, the funds may be available within one business day or even a few hours. Sending money to a bank in another country may take more time to process.

•   There is usually a fee involved in making a wire transfer. For outgoing domestic transactions, the wire transfer fee could be as high as $25 or more; international transfers are often around $45.

Since wire transfers are not reversible, you’ll want to make sure you are sending money to the correct recipient and not being lured into a money scam. To make a wire transfer, you’ll likely need to have the recipient’s bank name, routing number, and account number.

5. Third-party Companies

Another option to send money domestically and overseas is to use a third-party wiring service like MoneyGram or Western Union. Here’s how these work:

•   These companies do not require you to have a bank account to take advantage of services such as money transfers, money orders, and bill pay. You can fund your transaction using cash or perhaps a credit card.

•   Pricing varies widely depending on factors such as where money is sent from, where it is delivered, whether it’s paid in cash or wired to a bank account, and how fast the money is delivered. International transfers tend to be more expensive than domestic transfers.

Recommended: How to Send Money With A Credit Card

6. Online Bank-to-Bank Money Transfer Service

Some banks will allow you to use an online money-transfer service that allows you to send money between bank accounts using an email address or a US-based mobile phone number. A few details to consider:

•   Recipients are notified of the transfer via email, though the funds are actually sent through traditional bank transfer channels. Zelle is a popular choice for banks to partner with to provide this service.

•   You can usually make email money transfers directly from your bank’s app.

•   These transfers are typically free (although some banks may charge a fee) and can be instantaneous, though the speed is determined by the banks involved.

How to Transfer Money from One Bank to Another at a Glance

Here’s a quick look at your options when you want to know how you can transfer money from one bank account to another. Included are such factors as cost and timing.

Online Transfer

Check

Peer-to-peer Transfer

Wire Transfer

Third-party Transfer

Bank-to-Bank Money Transfer Service

Cost Typically fee-free. Check with your bank Banks may charge for boxes of checks Free domestically Up to $30 for domestic transfers, and up to $50 for international transfers Fees vary. May range from $5 to $50 Usually free (though some banks may add a fee)
Timing Up to three days Usually take 1-2 days to clear May take a few minutes or a few days depending on the service Typically 24 hours for domestic transfers, up to 5 days for international Speed varies by fee, from immediate to multi-day transfers Varies by bank, but often immediate

The Takeaway

There are multiple ways to transfer money from one bank to another. The best option will depend on where you are sending the money, whether or not you own both accounts, how quickly you want the funds moved, and how much (if any) in fees you are willing to pay.

Options typically include online and bank-to-bank transfer services, wire transfers, third-party services, checks, and P2P apps like Venmo. Isn’t it nice to know that there are so many bank-to-bank transfer options to help you get funds where you want them to go, at the speed and price you want to pay?

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

FAQ

What is the easiest way to transfer money from one bank to another?

Online transfers, bank-to-bank money transfer services, and P2P apps can all make moving money very convenient; no checking writing is required, nor do you need to fill out as many forms as you might have to for wire transfers or when using a third-party service.

What is the safest way to transfer money from one bank to another?

While all methods of moving money have security features, wire transfers are generally thought to be one of the safest ways to send money from one bank to another.

How do I transfer money from one bank to another bank manually?

If you are using a banking or P2P app, you typically will need to type in the details of the account you are sending money to, the amount, the date you want the transfer to occur, and then verify that the specifics are correct.

Is it free to transfer money from one bank to another?

Whether or not it’s free to transfer money from one bank to another depends on the method you select. An online, bank-to-bank money transfer service, or P2P transfer and writing a check (excluding the postage to mail it) can be free; check details with your particular provider.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Negative Balance on Credit Card Statement: What It Is, How It Happens, and What to Do

Negative Balance on Credit Card Statement: What It Is, How It Happens, and What to Do

It’s entirely possible to find, when looking at your credit card statement, that you don’t owe any money this month. In fact, you have a negative balance on your credit card. You may assume there is a glitch in the system, but there are several reasons this can happen.

Read on to learn what a negative balance means on a credit card, how it can occur, and what to do if you see a minus figure on your statement.

What Is a Negative Balance on a Credit Card?

A negative credit card balance is when the credit card issuer owes the cardholder money instead of the cardholder owing money to the credit company. If you have a negative balance on a credit card, your outstanding balance is below zero.

How Does a Negative Balance Happen?

A negative balance on a credit card usually occurs for one of several reasons, which include:

You Overpaid Your Credit Card Bill

The first reason you may have a negative credit card balance is that you may have overpaid. For example, say you entered a specific payment amount that exceeded the amount due. Or, perhaps if you used autopay to cover your credit card minimum payment but made a manual payment simultaneously, you could end up having a negative balance on a credit card.

You Returned Something You Bought With the Credit Card

If you return an item and the amount of the refund exceeds your current credit card balance, it could result in a credit card negative balance. For example, perhaps you bought a $50 frying pan from your local home supply store. If you paid off your credit card and then decided to return the frying pan, your credit issuer will refund the $50. This refund will now make your new balance -$50, meaning you have a credit card with a negative balance.

You Cashed Out Too Many Rewards

Some credit cards let you redeem your rewards in the form of a statement credit. If you redeem your rewards and also pay off your revolving balance in full, for instance, you could end up with a negative credit card balance.

You Had a Charge Removed from Your Statement

Here’s another example of a scenario that could leave you with a negative balance on a credit card: Say you reported a fraudulent charge on your credit card. If you decide to repay the entire amount that’s due without accounting for the fraudulent charge, you could have a negative balance once the charge is reimbursed to your account.

Also, if you had a fee canceled or removed from your account, this could happen as well. This could also happen in the case of a credit card chargeback.

How to Get Your Money Back From a Negative Balance

If you see a negative credit card balance, it’s not something you necessarily need to worry about. However, if it’s bothering you, there are actions you can take to bring your balance out of the negative.

Here are your options if your credit card balance is negative:

Leave the Balance Alone and Decide Later

If you discover a negative balance on your credit card, you don’t need to take immediate action. Instead, you can just let it be and decide how to move forward at a later time. Because you’re owed money from the credit card issuer, you won’t need to worry about credit card interest accruing.

Use Your Credit Card for Additional Purchases

One of the easiest ways to resolve a negative balance is to make other purchases. Given how credit cards work, spending money on your card can help your balance get back to zero.

For example, if you have a -$100 balance and then make a $100 purchase, your credit card balance will even back out. Then, you don’t have to do anything until you receive another bill, nor will you have to worry about the APR on your credit card yet.

Get Your Money Back as a Credit Balance Refund

If your negative balance is an amount that’s more than you’re comfortable with or you need the money for other expenses, you can request a refund from the company. To comply with the Truth and Lending Act, credit issuers must refund negative credit card balances that exceed $1 within seven business days of receiving a written request from the cardholder.

You can expect the refund to come in the form of a check, money order, or direct deposit to your bank account. In some cases, you might be able to get a cash refund if the card issuer has physical locations.

Is a Negative Balance a Bad Thing?

A negative credit card balance isn’t a bad thing. However, if you need the funds for other bills, it’s wise to request a refund immediately.

And if you’re concerned, a credit card negative balance could impact your credit score, don’t fret — it won’t. Credit scoring models generally treat negative credit card balances as the equivalent of a $0 balance. In fact, if you have a negative balance, it likely means you’ve been staying on top of paying your balance off each month and are in good standing.

Also, keep in mind that although a negative balance may temporarily allow you to spend beyond your credit card limit due to the addition of the negative funds, it won’t actually increase your limit.

Recommended: How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?

The Takeaway

While a credit card negative balance isn’t a bad thing, it’s always wise to keep tabs on your credit card activity. Not only should you monitor what you owe, but you should identify credits or refunds you’re entitled to and factor those in when paying your balance each month. If your balance does end up in the negative, there are steps you can take to bring it back to zero, but you’re also fine to just leave it alone — unless, of course, you need the funds for other things.

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

Will a negative credit card balance affect my credit?

No, a negative credit card balance will not affect your credit score. This is because credit bureaus consider negative balances as equivalent to a $0 balance.

Can I close my account with a negative balance?

Yes, you can close an account with a negative balance. In most cases, your card issuer will process a refund automatically. If they don’t, you can request one when closing the account.

What do you do with a negative balance on a closed credit card account?

Usually a credit issuer will refund your negative balance before completely closing the account. However, if the credit card is canceled and you lose access to your credit card login, you’ll need to contact your credit issuer to process a refund.


Photo credit: iStock/filadendron

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

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How to Get a Credit Card for the First Time

How to Get a Credit Card for the First Time: A Step-By-Step Guide

Getting a credit card for the first time comes with a unique set of challenges. A lack of a credit history can make it harder to qualify, and you’ll have a learning curve when it comes to how to choose and use your first credit card responsibly.

However, the actual process of applying for a credit card for the first time isn’t all that complex if you are armed with a bit of information. Read on to learn how to get your first credit card.

Qualifying for a Credit Card

When someone applies for a credit card, the credit card issuer will take a number of factors into consideration, including their credit score and income, when deciding whether to approve their application. It’s also necessary to make sure you’re old enough to get a credit card — you usually must be at least 18 years old.

Someone’s credit score can indicate how likely they are to pay back their credit card on time. The higher someone’s score is, the more creditworthy they appear. Income is also a major factor that’s considered, especially when figuring out someone’s credit card limit. Applicants under the age of 21 who can’t show independent income generally must get a cosigner.

Additionally, those applying for a certain type of credit card, such as a student credit card, will have to make sure they meet that card’s particular requirements. While a student credit card may be available to those with no or limited credit, the cardholder generally must be enrolled in a qualifying educational program.

Recommended: Charge Cards Advantages and Disadvantages

How to Apply for a Credit Card With No Credit History

It can be difficult to qualify for a credit card before you’ve built a credit history, given what a credit card is. The catch? It takes credit to build credit. Thankfully, there are a few credit card options that consumers can consider if they don’t yet have a credit history at all or only have a limited one.

Starter Credit Card

Starter credit cards are a type of credit card designed for consumers who have no credit history or a very limited credit history. Starter credit cards help cardholders build a credit history when they use the card responsibly. If they make on-time payments each month, they’ll see their credit score rise over time and will start to build a solid credit history.

Generally, starter credit cards don’t come with the best rates and terms, but when used to make purchases someone can afford to pay off each month, they can be a very helpful financial tool. Student credit cards are an example of starter cards that can help someone establish a credit history.

To apply for a starter credit card, you generally must provide the following:

•   Social Security number

•   Sources of income

•   Monthly housing or rent costs

Those under the age of 21 who do not have your own source of income will need to get an adult cosigner who’s over the age of 21. For those who are applying for a student credit card as their choice of starter credit card, the credit card issuer may request information such as the name of your school or program, your major, and your expected year of graduation.

Secured Credit Card

Another credit card option for those who are new to credit is a secured credit card. With a secured credit card, the cardholder must deposit money to use the card.

The amount they deposit will act as their credit limit, and they’ll then borrow against that deposit. For example, if they deposit $500, they can make up to $500 worth of purchases anywhere that accepts credit card payments. Once they pay off their card balance, they can spend up to $500 again.

When at least the credit card minimum payments are made on time, the cardholder will build a credit history. Functionally, a secured credit card works more similarly to a debit card but helps to build credit.

Applying for a secured credit card requires much of the same information as applying for an unsecured credit card. This includes your name, address, Social Security number, and income information. Additionally, it’s necessary to have the cash on hand to make the security deposit. Depending on the card, there may or may not be a credit check required.

Often, after using a secured credit card responsibly, the cardholder can graduate to a standard unsecured credit card.

How to Choose Your First Credit Card

When shopping around for a credit card, it’s a good idea to compare the fees, interest rates, and cardholder benefits of multiple credit cards. Here’s why these factors matter when choosing a first credit card:

•   Credit card fees. From annual fees to foreign transaction fees to late fees, all credit cards have some fees that cardholders need to be aware of. Certain transactions, such as buying a money order with a credit card, can also involve fees as well. Being aware of the fees a card may charge and finding a credit card with low fees can help save money.

•   Interest rates. If a cardholder carries a balance, they’ll need to make interest payments. Credit cards interest rates are displayed as annual percentage rates (APRs) and the higher someone’s APR is, the more they’ll pay in interest. What’s considered a good APR for a credit card will vary depending on someone’s credit profile as well as the type of card they’re applying for, but it’s generally below the average rate, which is around 24%.

Also pay attention to the different rates that may be charged. For example, if you take a cash advance on a credit card, the rate is typically higher than the standard rate.

•   Rewards. From cash back to travel points to discounts at major retailers, credit cards can come with some pretty cool rewards. It’s worth comparing the rewards offerings of multiple credit cards to see where it’s possible to benefit more from good credit habits. Keep in mind, however, that the top rewards cards are usually reserved for those with solid credit histories.

How to Apply for a Credit Card

The process of figuring out how to apply for a credit card online for the first time is usually pretty straightforward. When it’s time to apply for a credit card, the applicant generally needs to supply the following information as a part of the credit card issuer’s application process:

•   Identification (such as a Social Security number)

•   Source of income (such as pay stubs or W-2s)

•   Credit score (generally a score starting in the mid 600s is required, though you may find a number of options if your score is between 580 and 669, which is considered a fair score)

Further information may also be requested, as the process can vary somewhat from issuer to issuer.

Once you’ve submitted your credit card application, you’ll wait to get an approval or a denial. It may take just minutes to get a response, or it may be a few days or even a few weeks. The creditor must send a decision within 30 days at the most.

If you’re approved, you’ll then receive your new card in the mail. You won’t have to worry about replacing it until your credit card expiration date, at which point the issuer will send you a new card.

How to Use Your First Credit Card

Here are some pointers for using your credit card:

•   The key to using your first credit card is to limit charges to those that you can afford to pay off — and then making sure you do so in a timely manner. Doing so will ensure you never miss a payment, which will boost your credit score, and avoid late payment fees and interest payments.

•   Paying off your balance at the end of each month (or more often) will help keep credit utilization rate low. Credit utilization measures how much credit someone is using in comparison to how much they have available. The lower someone’s credit utilization, the more their credit score will benefit.

For instance, a potentially good way a student could use their first credit card is to limit their purchases to their textbooks for a semester. This will rein in their spending as they learn to budget and stay on top of their credit card statements.

•   Educate yourself on credit card safety best practices. For instance, be on the lookout for credit card skimmers, which are devices attached to credit card readers designed to steal your information.

Also be wary of sharing your credit card information, such as the CVV number on a credit card, with anyone.

What Should You Do if Your Application Is Denied?

If someone’s credit card application is denied, the best thing they can do to move forward is to work on building their credit score. This will improve their creditworthiness, and thus their odds of getting approved in the future. Here’s some advice:

•   Making on-time payments and keeping a low balance on an existing credit card are both ways to improve a credit score.

But if someone can’t qualify for any credit cards, how can they improve their credit score? In this scenario, one option is to become an authorized user on a family member’s credit card, such as a parent’s.

•   When someone is an authorized user, their score will improve as the main account holder makes on-time payments. However, both the account holder and authorized user’s credit scores are at risk if either party makes purchases they can’t afford, so it’s important that everyone has a plan for paying off the bill at the end of the month.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Things You Need to Know as a First-Time Credit Card User

When someone is a first-time credit card user, it’s important that they understand the basics of how a credit card works. Specifically, they’ll need to know what interest rates and fees they may end up paying by using their credit card (especially if they plan to carry a balance).

Using a credit card can feel like shopping with free money, but at the end of the month, the cardholder needs to be prepared to pay their balance off in full. Otherwise, they risk paying more for the purchases they already made in the form of interest and fees. Once debt starts racking up, it can become hard to get rid of.

What If You Are Not Ready to Apply for a Credit Card?

Applying for a credit card for the first time is a big responsibility. If someone isn’t ready to take on the responsibility, they do have the option of using a debit card to gain some of the convenience that comes with a credit card.

A debit card is attached to a bank account and allows the account holder to make payments without keeping cash on hand. Debit cards don’t involve borrowing money, so interest rates aren’t a concern.

However, debit card holders will still need to look out for potential fees. Additionally, debit cards don’t have quite the level of protections that credit cards offer, such as the option to request a credit card chargeback.

The Takeaway

Applying for a credit card online is a relatively straightforward process, requiring some basic information about you and proper ID. The challenging part can be getting approved for the first time since you may have a thin or non-existent credit history. If you are approved, try to use your new card wisely by only making purchases you can afford and by paying off your balance in full each month. This can help you avoid high-interest payments and late fees and also may make it easier for you to get approved for other cards in the future.

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 is a good credit limit for a starter credit card?

The credit limit for a starter credit card is usually low, perhaps $1,000. With a secured credit card, the limit is the amount of the security deposit that the cardholder makes.

What are the requirements to apply for a credit card?

To apply for a credit card, it’s usually required that the applicant provide proof of income and identifying information such as a Social Security number. They will also need to have an acceptable credit score to qualify.


Photo credit: iStock/Demkat

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.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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