Second COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Payment – Eligibility & How to Get It

On Dec. 29, 2020, President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package into law. It was the fourth piece of COVID-19 stimulus legislation to become law in the United States since the pandemic hit and the second to include stimulus checks — which the IRS calls “economic impact payments” — for most Americans.

According to CNN, this latest piece of legislation allocates $600 in stimulus funds to most American adults earning $75,000 adjusted gross income (AGI) or less, $1,200 per couple earning $150,000 AGI or less, and $600 per qualifying minor dependent. Above those income thresholds, payments step down by $5 for each additional $100 in eligible income until they phase out entirely. Americans who do not normally file tax returns are eligible to receive these stimulus payments, though they may be required to file simple informational tax returns to claim the funds.

The latest COVID relief measure follows up an initial round of larger stimulus checks that allocated $1,200 to adults earning $75,000 AGI or less, $2,400 to couples earning $150,000 AGI or less, and $500 per qualifying minor dependent. And it may not be the last batch before the pandemic ends.

Shortly after passing the spending bill Trump signed on Dec. 29, the U.S. House of Representatives passed another stimulus measure that would replace the $600 checks with $2,000 checks, subject to the same income restrictions and phaseout formula. It’s unclear what the Republican-controlled Senate will do with the measure, but Trump is expected to sign if and when it clears the Senate. Fortunately for Americans counting on the second round of checks to top up their bank accounts after the holidays, this second measure’s passage shouldn’t significantly affect the timing of the second round of stimulus payments — only their size.

Are You Eligible for the Second Round of Stimulus Checks?

The vast majority of American adults and children are eligible for the second round of payments passed in December 2020. Not all adults will receive the full $600 allotment per qualifying individual, and — as was the case with the first round — some won’t receive any payment at all due to income restrictions.

Regardless of your income or the amount you receive, you won’t need to pay income taxes on that amount or even claim your payment on your federal tax return. However, eligible recipients who typically don’t file tax returns (or didn’t file in 2018 or 2019) may need to file at least a simple return to ensure receipt. Refer to updated IRS guidance to determine whether you need to file.

Income Limits & Phaseouts for the Second COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments

During the second round of COVID-19 economic impact payments passed by U.S. lawmakers, the maximum AGI thresholds to receive the full $600 payment per individual remain the same:

  • $75,000 for single filers
  • $112,500 for head-of-household filers
  • $150,000 per couple for joint filers

The phaseout formula remains the same as well. However, because the starting point is lower, the final phaseout threshold is lower than the first round’s:

  • $87,000 for single filers
  • $124,500 for head-of-household filers
  • $174,000 per couple for joint filers

As with the first round of stimulus checks, the IRS will use 2019 income (if available) to determine eligibility and calculate payment amounts. If 2019 income is not available, the IRS may default to 2018 income.

If you lost your job or saw a reduction in income in 2020, your eligibility or payment amount won’t change at all. Americans receiving extended unemployment benefits or other forms of COVID-related financial aid, such as Paycheck Protection Program loans, are eligible for this round of stimulus payments as long as their 2019 income qualifies.

Economic Impact Payments for Children in the Second Round of COVID-19 Stimulus

Minor dependents (children age 17 and under) are eligible to receive $600 per individual in the second round of COVID-19 impact payments. That’s a $100 increase per child over the $500 payments provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the first stimulus package featuring direct payments to citizens). As with the second round of payments to adults, the phaseout formula and process for children remain the same as in the first round.

How & When to Expect Your Second COVID Stimulus Payment

The IRS’s preferred delivery method for this round of stimulus checks is electronic (direct deposit), not paper checks. But the IRS needs up-to-date bank account information for any recipient who’d like to receive payments by direct deposit. If you haven’t yet filed your 2018 or 2019 taxes and don’t want to wait weeks to receive a paper check, you may need to take action.

How to Receive Your Stimulus Payment Electronically

First, the good news: If the IRS has up-to-date bank account information for you, your stimulus payment should arrive sometime during the first half of January 2021. The IRS has indicated its intention to send electronic payments to eligible recipients no later than Jan. 15, 2021. If you received your first stimulus payment electronically and your bank information hasn’t changed, the second payment should hit that account soon.

If the IRS doesn’t have current financial account information for you and you haven’t filed (or don’t plan to file) a 2019 return, use the Get My Payment tool linked from the IRS’s coronavirus information page to provide it. The process should take less than five minutes — you just need to confirm your most recent AGI and your refund or tax-owed balance.

How to Receive Your Stimulus Payment by Paper Check or Prepaid Card

If you don’t mind (or prefer) receiving your stimulus payment by paper check or prepaid card, you shouldn’t need to take action right now unless the IRS does not have your current address on file. If you’ve moved since filing your most recent federal tax return, complete and mail Form 8822 (the agency’s official change-of-address form). Confirm you’re sending it to the appropriate IRS mailing address, which is on Page 2 of the form.

If you didn’t file a federal income tax return in 2018 or 2019 and have changed addresses since your last filing, you may need to file a simple federal tax return. Use a free tax filing resource to avoid out-of-pocket costs for this step.

When to Expect Your Stimulus Payment

Direct-deposited stimulus payments should arrive in most accounts by the middle of January 2021. Paper checks and prepaid cards could take weeks longer to arrive.

If you’re concerned your stimulus payment might be missing or lost in the mail, use the Get My Payment tool in the IRS Economic Impact Payments portal to confirm you’re eligible and get an estimated arrival date.

After the IRS sends your payment, you’ll receive a written notification explaining how and when. If this notification arrives before your payment, contact the IRS for more information.

Final Word

Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much these days. But the parties’ respective leaders — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and outgoing President Donald Trump — have cooperated on several significant pieces of stimulus legislation since the coronavirus outbreak began.

They might not be done. Although the end of the pandemic’s acute phase is within sight, the economy has a long road to recovery, and the federal government might need to do more to ensure that recovery remains on track. A bipartisan effort to increase the second round of stimulus payments to $2,000 per individual presents an early test of this commitment.

In the meantime, Americans can count on some relief from the forthcoming $600 payments. If you’re eligible, you can safely begin thinking about what you’ll do with your stimulus check.


6 Best Lenders for Quick Cash | Fast Personal Loans

Financial emergencies can happen at any time, and when they do, you need to respond quickly. But this can be challenging if you don’t have the funds available in savings. When this happens, taking out a personal loan can be a good way to cover the shortfall.

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You may think that the process of applying and getting approved for a personal loan would be tedious and time-consuming, but it’s not. Many online lenders will give you access to the funds within the same day or by the next business day.

6 Lenders That Provide Quick Cash Loans

Listed below are six online lenders that provide quick access to personal loans.

1. Upstart

Upstart helps borrowers that have strong financial futures but are still in the process of building their credit. The company will consider a variety of factors, including your degree and your job history. You do need to have a credit score of at least 620 to qualify.

The approval and funding process is quick with Upstart, and you could receive the money within one business day. Upstart does charge origination fees and late fees.

  • Loan amount: $1,000 to $50,000
  • APR range: 5.67% to 35.99%
  • Repayment terms: 3 to 5 years

2. Best Egg

Best Egg caters to creditworthy borrowers that are looking for ways to consolidate their debt. You’ll need to have good to excellent credit to qualify, and you can receive the funds as soon as the next business day.

However, Best Egg isn’t going to be the best option for borrowers with bad credit. And the company does charge origination and late fees.

  • Loan amount: $2,000 to $35,000
  • APR range: 5.99% to 29.99%
  • Repayment terms: 3 to 5 years

3. Avant

Avant is a great option for less creditworthy borrowers who are looking to take out a quick loan. The company offers same-day funding, flexible repayment terms, and refinancing options.

And the company is very transparent about its fees and gives borrowers the option to prequalify for a loan. However, you won’t have the option to apply with a co-signer.

  • Loan amount: $2,000 to $35,000
  • APR range: 9.95% to 35.99%
  • Repayment terms: 2 to 5 years

4. Discover Loans

Discover Loans are a great option for borrowers with stellar credit that are looking for a low interest rate and fast funding. You can receive the funds within the next business day, and the company doesn’t charge any origination fees.

However, Discover does put some limitations on what borrowers can do with a personal loan. You can take out a personal loan to consolidate debt or fund a large home improvement project. These cash loans are not designed to pay for college expenses or pay down the balance on a Discover credit card.

  • Loan amount: $2,500 to $35,000
  • APR range: 6.99% to 24.99%
  • Repayment terms: 3 to 7 years

5. Lending Club

Lending Club was one of the first peer-to-peer (P2P) lenders and is one of the best lenders for borrowers looking for fast, convenient online cash loans. You’ll apply on Lending Club’s website, and the company will match you with investors that are willing to fund the loan.

If you’re approved for a loan the funds will be deposited in your bank account within a week. You should expect to pay an origination fee between 1% and 6% of the total loan amount.

Lending Club is ideal for borrowers with good credit history and a low debt-to-income ratio.

  • Loan amount: $1,000 to $40,000
  • APR range: 6.95% to 35.89%
  • Repayment terms: 3 to 5 years

6. OneMain Financial

OneMain Financial is another lender that is willing to work with borrowers that have bad credit. The company doesn’t have any minimum credit score requirements, and it offers same-day funding on cash loans.

However, you will pay for this kind of convenience. The company charges higher interest rates than others, and you’ll have to pay an origination fee.

  • Loan amount: $1,500 to $20,000
  • APR range: 18.00% to 25.99%
  • Repayment terms: 2 to 5 years

Things to Keep in Mind

Keep in mind that when we say you can receive the funds within the same day or by the next business day, it’s not guaranteed. There are a variety of factors that will influence how quickly you receive the cash loan. These factors include things like the rules of your bank, the loan amount, and when you apply.

If you’re not sure if your credit scores are high enough to qualify with any of these lenders, then you might consider a lending marketplace. With a lending marketplace, you’ll apply, and the company will match you with multiple lenders that are willing to work with you. This lets you compare interest rates from multiple lenders without further damaging your credit.

And finally, when you’re feeling a financial pinch, it can be tempting to settle for the easiest option. But don’t make the mistake of turning to predatory payday lenders that charge insanely high interest rates.

Choosing the wrong lender will only hurt your financial situation over the long haul. If you’re this desperate for cash, consider asking friends or family to loan you the money. Or you can look for creative ways to earn some extra money.


If you’re looking for a fast cash advance loan, any of the lenders on this list will make an excellent choice. The application process is fast, and if you’re approved, you can receive the funds with the same day or by the next business day.

Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of that loan before agreeing to anything. And start taking steps to save an emergency fund so you won’t find yourself in this situation again.


What Is a Unicorn Tech Startup Company – Status Meaning & Examples

You’ve likely come across the term “unicorn” when digging into new investment opportunities. Likened to the legendary creature often depicted as a rainbow-colored horse with a golden horn, unicorn companies sound like rare, mythical beasts.

These companies are indeed rare and can be difficult to find, yet many have massive followings behind them. The allure of finding a unicorn often drives investors to dive in as soon as they see one for fear of missing out on a rare opportunity. But is that really a good idea?

What are unicorn companies? Are they worth your hard-earned investment dollars?

What Are Unicorn Companies?

The term unicorn company is used to describe a privately held or startup company with a valuation of more than $1 billion. Seems simple enough right? So, why is it that unicorn companies are so hard to find?

Because it is incredibly rare for a company to reach a valuation of more than $1 billion without the help of the public markets. For this to happen, one of two things has to be true:

  1. A privately held company has generated such strong sales that a valuation of $1 billion or more is justified by this incredible performance.
  2. A startup company has an idea that’s so innovative that even the experts are willing to throw caution to the wind for a chance to get involved in what may become revolutionary technology.

That doesn’t happen often.

Venture capitalist Aileen Lee, who coined the term, described four main categories of unicorn companies, which include consumer audience, e-commerce, software-as-a-service, and enterprise software. Her research showed that the vast majority of unicorn companies were split relatively evenly across these four key business models.

Where Did the Term Unicorn Company Come From?

In her now-famous 2013 TechCrunch article that popularized the term unicorn company, Lee explained that on average since 2003, only four unicorn companies are born each year in the United States. Only 0.07% of U.S. venture-backed software startups reach a $1 billion valuation.

That’s a huge statement that goes to show just how difficult finding these companies can be. The means just seven of every 100,000 tech startups will ever find their way to a billion-dollar valuation. Most of the few that ever make it to that point will do so over time, not in the startup phase.

So, unicorn companies are incredibly rare exceptions, reaching that prized billion-dollar valuation while still in the startup or privately held stage. They are so rare that an elusive, mythical creature seemed like an appropriate way to name the group.

Examples of Unicorn Companies

Keep in mind that unicorn companies are startup companies that have grown to be worth more than $1 billion. That’s exceptionally rare, but it does happen. According to CBInsights, there are currently more than 400 unicorn companies in existence today around the world, including many in the U.S. and China and several in India, Germany, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Some unicorn companies that you may have heard of include:

  • Airbnb. Founded in 2008, Airbnb quickly grew to become the online vacation rentals hotspot. The application gives homeowners a way to earn money from investment properties or their own homes when they are traveling, and gives travelers a wide array of lower cost, higher value options for rentals during their vacations or work trips. The company is currently planning an initial public offering (IPO) and has been privately valued at $31 billion according to The New York Times.
  • Epic Games. Epic Games is the creator of the smash hit video game Fortnite. The company has also seen success with its titles Infinity Blade and Unreal Tournament. Epic Games reached a valuation of more than $17 billion long before any plans of an IPO.
  • DoorDash. Finally, DoorDash is a food delivery service that adds a delivery component to restaurants that didn’t previously offer the service. The move proved to be a great idea, resulting in a startup company with a value of more than $13 billion and that has reached as high as $16 billion.

One similarity you’ll notice among all of these companies — other than the fact that they have tremendously high valuations — is the fact that they are all in technology. Looking at the full list of unicorn companies on CBInsights, you’ll find that nine of the top 10 unicorn companies by valuation are centered around innovative technology in one way or another.

Pro tip: If you’re thinking about adding a unicorn company to your portfolio after they go public, make sure you do your due diligence. Stock screeners like Trade Ideas can help you narrow down the choices to companies that meet your requirements. Learn more about our favorite stock screeners.

Traditional Risk Evaluations Are Thrown to the Wind With Unicorn Investments

Before you consider investing in unicorn companies, it’s important that you understand the risks. When it comes to unicorn companies, the fear of missing out — often abbreviated FOMO in investing circles — leads to uncalculated investments in which risk evaluations tend to be placed on the back burner.

Unicorn companies have often created something so innovative that even institutional investors struggle to agree on a valuation, and may be willing to value them far above what the average company would get at a general fund-raise.

There’s incredible risk in that fact.

By the time a unicorn company makes it to the public stage, venture capitalists and other institutional players have taken their positions at relatively low rates compared to the high current value of the investments. Because unicorn companies are worth more than $1 billion by nature, their IPOs tend to be quite expensive to the investing public, and may take a very long time to provide any return on investment.

For example, take a look at Uber. The unicorn company launched its IPO at $45 per share. In the first year following the IPO, there was only one day in which the stock traded above the $45 IPO price. One year after the IPO, the stock closed at just above $30 per share.

The fact of the matter is that when unicorn company IPOs take place, they tend to be expensive already, and many fall in value. As such, an investment in a unicorn stock is a big bet on the hope that the stock you’re following will be one of the unicorns that flies rather than trots or stumbles out of the gate.

Investing in Unicorn Companies Pros & Cons

As with an investment in any other type of company, making an investment in a unicorn company comes with pros and cons.

Pros of Investing in Unicorns

There are several benefits to investing in unicorn companies. Some of the most impressive of these benefits include:

  1. You Likely Know the Company. Unicorn companies don’t grow to billion dollar valuations before their IPO without a reason for that valuation. These companies have created something highly innovative. If the product they’ve created is on the market, it is likely a very popular one. If it hasn’t hit the market yet, a large audience likely already knows it’s coming. Think about it, Airbnb hasn’t yet gone public, but if you haven’t heard the name, chances are that you live under a rock. There’s a strategic benefit to investing in companies that you have heard of and know well. Remember, educated investing gives the investor a better chance of seeing growth.
  2. Some Unicorns Really Do Fly. As their namesake mythical creatures do, some unicorn companies fly following their IPO. A great example of a successful unicorn company is Zoom. The stock debuted at just $32 per share. One year later, the stock was trading at well above $100 per share.
  3. Innovation Has Long-Term Value. Unicorn companies are the kings of innovation, and there’s tremendous value in that. Those that do hit tend to hit hard, generating tremendous long-term profits. Take a look at Tesla. After launching a unicorn IPO at $17 per share in 2010, the stock has never fallen below its IPO price. Just 10 years later, the stock has multiplied more than 100 times.

Cons of Investing in Unicorns

While there are plenty of clear benefits to investing in unicorn stocks, even the most beautiful rose will have thorns. There are a few drawbacks to consider when investing in these stocks.

  1. Billion-Dollar Valuations Don’t Necessarily Mean Profits. Although all unicorn companies have valuations at $1 billion or higher, many lack something important: profits. Consider Uber — the ridesharing company is valued at more than $50 billion. However, it has yet to turn a single penny in profits. In fact, the company loses millions of dollars every quarter. Many other unicorn companies follow along these lines, making them risky plays. After all, a company that operates on losses will eventually run out of money.
  2. Ridiculous Overvaluations. Unicorn companies are generally valued on different metrics compared to others in their sector. Therefore, when looking at fundamental valuation metrics like price-to-sales or price-to-book value, these companies generally come with ridiculous overvaluations. That means that when you invest in a unicorn company, you are banking on the company being overwhelmingly successful and growing at a much faster rate than the average company within its sector. That can prove to be a risky bet to make.
  3. Lack of History. A unicorn company gets its billion-plus-dollar valuation from venture capitalists and institutions that fund it early on. However, these companies are pre-IPO, meaning that the market hasn’t had the opportunity to price the company. Oftentimes, the market doesn’t believe that the company is as valuable as institutions do, leading to declines once a stock hits the public stock exchange. However, without any trading history, there’s no way to determine how the overall market will value the company.

Tech Unicorns: Dot-Com Bubble 2.0?

At the center of the unicorn company’s anatomy — its heart, so to speak — seems to be technology. Innovative technologies are valuable, and unicorns all seem to center around an innovative technology that will disrupt traditional markets.

However, we’ve seen what overvaluations of innovative technology have done in the past. Just think back to the dot-com bubble. During this time, investors were throwing as much money as they could at any stock with a dot-com in its title. The value on Internet-based innovation was ridiculously high, and it had to come back to earth.

Eventually, the dot-com bubble popped. Sure, there were some winners, but there were also huge losers, with billions of dollars wiped out of dot-com market caps seemingly overnight.

To some degree, the same thing is happening with today’s unicorn companies. Investors are throwing caution to the wind, ignoring valuation metrics that would generally be screaming red flags, and diving into investments that simple due diligence would tell them to avoid.

It’s far from clear that the risk of investing in disruptive but high-priced — and often initially unprofitable — companies is worth the reward. Surprisingly, in some cases, like that of Tesla, the move pays off greatly. Some argue, however, that as technology unicorn companies continue to see increasingly high valuations, we’re seeing what will become the dot-com bubble 2.0.

Should You Invest in Unicorn Companies?

Unicorn companies are exciting for investors because of the significant gains that they can create. However, any time there is an opportunity for significant gains, there’s also the opportunity for significant losses.

Investments in unicorn companies are highly speculative. This means that these investments are made under the speculation that an innovative technology will be a game-changer in a specific sector. Unfortunately, unless you’re a fortune teller, there’s no way to say that for certain.

Just like any other company, unicorn companies can do belly flops, and due to their overwhelmingly high early valuations, their belly flops have a tendency to be incredibly painful. So, it takes a special kind of investor to invest in these types of stocks.

In particular, if you’re an investor with a heavy risk appetite, a strong understanding for technology and the implications of new and innovative technology, and the ability to take on losses and absorb them without losing your livelihood, unicorn stocks may be for you. On the other hand, if you’re not comfortable with risk and don’t have money to lose in the stock market, this is a category of stock that you should stay away from.

Final Word

Unicorn stocks are intriguing. These companies do the seemingly impossible; they create technologies that are so ahead of their time that they have the potential to change the shape of the entire sector in which they work. In doing so, they fly to billion-dollar valuations well ahead of their peers.

However, there’s a catch. Unlike the mythical creatures for which they’re named, unicorn companies aren’t all perfect and beautiful. While some have the potential to generate significant gains, they also have the potential to generate significant losses.

So, if you’re considering investing in these stocks, instead of making a FOMO-based trade, take the time to do your research and seriously consider whether the technology that keeps the unicorn’s ticker ticking is something that you believe to be revolutionary. Dive into the company’s books, and make an educated decision for yourself as to whether the company’s billion-dollar valuation is justified.


Top 10 Checking Accounts With No Overdraft Fees for [year]

When you’re low on funds and overdraw from your bank account, it can really feel like a kick in the teeth because you’re already tight on cash and then have to pay an extra fine.

overdraft fees

Of course, from the bank’s perspective, it makes sense to have some sort of measure in place. If they didn’t, what would stop people from impulse buying? Or running amok every day using their debit card as if it were a credit card?

But it’s not always impulse-buying when over half of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. And 57% of Americans can’t write a check for $500 to cover a surprise expense.

Maybe one day the standard of living will be good enough that people won’t have to read over the fine print when choosing a bank. Until that day comes, let’s talk about options.

If you’re worried about overdrafting, we’ve uncovered the best banks for low and sometimes even $0 overdraft fees.

Which banks charge $0 or low overdraft fees?

There are a few checking accounts out there that don’t charge overdraft fees. Luckily, the list seems likely to grow even more in the years ahead. Why? A recent FICO survey found that Millennials are two to three times more likely to close all accounts and switch banks completely.

Their reason?

It should really come as no surprise — expensive fees.

In the next couple of years, Millennials will occupy half of the American workforce, so expect more and more banks to be added to this list in the years ahead. Until then, here are current banks offering consumer-friendly overdraft services.


Chime has a new fee-free overdraft feature called SpotMe. They spot members up to $100 on debit card purchases when their balance is low, with no overdraft fees.

Chime is a mobile-only bank that allows you to get your paycheck up to two days early with direct deposit. You get daily balance notifications and instant transaction alerts whenever you use your Chime Visa Debit Card.

To avoid paying ATM fees, whenever you need cash you’ll need to find a specified ATM via your mobile app. There are over 38,000 fee-free MoneyPass® and Visa® Plus Alliance ATMs to choose from.

This checking account has no minimum balance requirements, no monthly fees, no deposit required, and no foreign transaction fees.

Acorns Spend Checking Account

The Acorns Spend Checking Account comes with a Visa debit card, and every time you spend money, it will automatically deposit money into your investing account. This means that your round-ups are invested in real-time, making the entire process easier.

But there are several other advantages to signing up for Acorns Spend. You’re free to use your debit card at any ATMs that accept Visa cards, and Acorns doesn’t charge ATM fees.

Not only that, but the company offers unlimited ATM reimbursement for any third-party fees you accrue throughout the month. You’ll receive your ATM refunds on a monthly basis.

Acorns does charge a $3 monthly fee, but the ATM reimbursements more than make up for this. And you’ll receive a number of other useful features when you sign up for the checking account including:

  • No minimum balance fees
  • No overdraft fees
  • Mobile check deposit
  • Send checks digitally
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Automatically invest part of your paycheck


Talk about user-friendly! Simple has one of the best mobile apps on the market and provides users with some helpful tools to help you manage your money more effectively.

Users can, for example, input all of their upcoming bills and needed purchases. Simple then calculates how much money is ‘safe-to-spend.’ What better tool is there to have with you before you hit the town on Saturday nights?

Simple also doesn’t have any minimum account balances, monthly fees, or — you guessed it — any overdraft fees. The way it gets around charging an overdraft fee is quite simple: it doesn’t allow any transactions to exceed the user’s balance.

Attempt to do so and the card will be declined. For many people, this is just what they want. And with Simple’s powerful, intuitive mobile app, there’s really no reason anyone shouldn’t know how much money he or she has.


Though Discover does charge a $30 fee if you have a negative balance, it only does so once a day. Many banks charge a similar amount each time you overdraw. So if you overdraw your account at a deli for lunch and again at the grocery store, Discover would only charge you a single overdraft fee.

However, Discover didn’t make the cut just for this. With Discover, you can connect your checking account with a savings account or a money market account and get a free transfer any time your account needs the funds.

Fidelity Investments

Fidelity Investments is a bank that truly offers its customers zero-fee banking. If you have overdraft protection, there’s no charge to use it. However, if you don’t have overdraft protection, your card will simply be declined.

What happens when you do sign up for overdraft protection?

You can link your checking account with either a savings account or a brokerage account. If and when you overdraw from your account, funds will automatically be pulled from your savings or brokerage account to cover the transaction.

Again, this all happens for free.

Capital One 360

Capital One actually does something pretty cool for overdrafts. When you overextend your online checking account, Capital One lets you borrow money that you can then pay back month-to-month at a pretty decent APR of 12.25%.

Say you go over your checking account balance by $50. You won’t be fined an overdraft fee of $35, and then being immediately harassed for the $50 the next day. Instead, you would have a $50 debt plus the pennies in interest you would owe by the end of the month.

That’s a much better scenario than you would get at other banks, don’t you think?


If you sign up for it, TIAA Bank (formerly EverBank) offers a line of credit any time you overdraw. The rates are variable, and if you miss a monthly payment there is a $25 late payment fee.

Another option with TIAA Bank is to link another line of credit or account with your checking account. The transfer, should you need it, is free.

If you don’t do either of the above options, there is a $30 over-withdrawal fee.

Schwab Bank

If you have a Schwab One brokerage account, Schwab will pull money from it for free if you ever overdraw your checking account.

Do know, however, that this overdraft protection doesn’t pertain to checks or electronic withdrawals or payments. If these cross the line, you’ll get a $25 insufficient funds fee, which can add up to $100 a day.

Axos Bank

Axos Bank comes with no monthly fees, full reimbursement for fees incurred while using any ATM in US, plus some pretty competitive cash back rewards.

As you might have guessed, Axos has zero overdraft fees for people who spend more than what is in their checking account. There are two ways for users to accomplish this. Option one involves not signing up for any protection and letting your card simply be declined.

The second option is to sign up for a line of credit with them. The APR is not great — a somewhat high 18% — and interest begins to accrue the day of the transaction.

If you are looking for a checking account with no fees, Axos Bank is a strong choice.

Ally Bank

Ally Bank is not technically a zero overdraft fee bank, but it is pretty close compared to others.

Sign up for their overdraft protection plan and Ally will move funds from your savings account to your checking account in $100 increments. So, the downside is you have to have money in the first place to move around, but the plus side is that they won’t charge you to do so.

If you don’t sign up for any kind of overdraft protection, you will be charged $25 per day you have a negative balance. It’s not the best scenario, but many other banks charge more for each infraction.

Tips to Avoid Overdrafting Your Account

Though the banks discussed above offer some solutions, there are things you can do to lessen the likelihood of overdrawing from your account.

First off, there are three things that suck up most people’s paychecks every two weeks.

  • Student Debt
  • Housing
  • Car Payments

Is this the situation you’re in?

Experts say you should never spend more than 28% of your income on housing, nor should you spend any more than 10% to 20% on transportation.

Simply put, don’t live beyond your means. Do the math before you commit. If the monthly payments mean you won’t be able to afford a fast-food run once in a while, then you can’t afford them.

Yes, there are things you can do to lessen your student debt before you matriculate, but it’s unlikely you’re in a position to take advantage of those things now. So, apart from consolidating your loans and getting into an income-based repayment plan, let’s focus on some practical things you can do to stay on top of your bank account.

1. Use cash for all purchases

It’s not the most convenient thing to go to the bank and withdraw cash whenever you need to spend money.

To get around doing this, simply take out as much money as you can and leave just enough in to pay your mortgage, car payment, and any monthly bills you have. Leave your debit card and credit card at home, and only take just enough cash with you when you go out.

This way your budget is a very real one. If you go over, you can’t pay for what you’re trying to purchase. It’s not stressful, it’s practical. Use your phone as a calculator, know your state’s sales tax, and you’ll be just fine.

Groceries are what really get people into a bind when using this system. For cash to work when grocery shopping, you need to have a list with every item on it before you go out.

Stick to the list, know how much your bill is going to be before you even get to the register, and buy nothing else. Over time, you can save buckets of money doing this.

2. Use a prepaid debit card

This is basically the same as using cash, but you have the added security that comes with a debit card. If you do use a prepaid debit card, keep track of how much you have on the card by using a transaction register.

Don’t know what that is? Keep reading.

3. Record all purchases or payments in a transaction register

This sounds simple (and a bit old-fashioned), but it’s actually a very powerful method to stay on top of your finances.

In many ways, we’ve become too tech-oriented, and rely too heavily on checking balances online — which we then rarely do.

To avoid overdrafting your account, write down every transaction in your register. You’ve got to include the little stuff because that’s the stuff that comes back and gets you.

If you always know how much money you have (down to the very cent), you will be far less likely to waste it on small purchases.

You can also use a mobile app for budgeting to do this automatically. But if you’re just getting started, it may be helpful to start off tracking your everyday expenses manually before having your phone do it for you.


How to Sell Travel Photos and Turn Your Memories into Cash

If you travelled a lot prior to the pandemic, dig through your old photos. Pause when you find the ones that take your breath away.
You have to submit 15-20 photos per campsite. Prior experience isn’t mandatory, but the end product must be high-quality, and your equipment has to be quality, too.
When you sell your travel photos to a stock agency, you’ll upload a high-resolution version of your image to their website. Then, the agency connects those shopping for images with your work. For each photo sold, you’ll earn a royalty.

Sell Your Travel Photos to a Stock Agency

One way to make money while you’re stuck between the four walls of your home: take a trip down memory lane.
Smugmug, for example, allows you to sell your photography on coffee mugs, magnets, coasters, ceramic tiles and more. You can also sell photo prints, and you get to keep 85% of the profit.
If you have compelling images from your sojourn in the Nevada desert, Nevada Magazine may be interested in them. Here, you’ll make -0 per image.

Sell Your Photos to Travel Magazines

For example, if you took a trip to the Adirondacks and got some gorgeous shots, you could submit them to Adirondack Life. This magazine pays between and 0 per image.
HipCamp works with photographers — including amateurs — to facilitate this photography service. Here’s what photographers get for visiting a campsite and providing their services:
HipCamp is the Airbnb of campsites. And just like on Airbnb, the people who list their properties on HipCamp could use the help of a photographer. Visually appealing listings get booked more often.

Get Paid to Photograph Campsites

Because you’re often signing away some of the rights to your photography when you work with a stock agency, be careful to pick the right agency the first time. You usually won’t be able to list your images on more than one site.
If you want to keep even more of the profits, you can sell your photography on Etsy. Etsy pays you 96.5% of each sale minus Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

Sell Prints or Novelty Items

Another way to make money off of your travel photography is by selling prints or novelty items with your photograph printed on them.
Most photographers aren’t going to break into major magazines like National Geographic, especially on their first try. But a practical alternative is looking for local magazines based in the places you have traveled.
There are many microstock agencies that pay pennies for each photo sold. Instead, check out these five sites that pay 0+ per photo. Before publishing moved predominantly online, selling photos to travel magazines was a lucrative venture. Today you likely won’t be able to build a career on travel magazine photography alone, but you can bring in some side hustle income.
You can sell those breathtaking photographs, bringing in a little side income even while your travel plans are grounded. Here’s how to sell travel photos.

How to Get WIC for Pregnant Women & Infants – Eligibility & Requirements

Many people struggle to feed their family at some point. Fortunately, many state and federal programs can help you through a challenging time.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, commonly known as WIC, is the third-largest food assistance program in the United States. And it has become a crucial safety net for infants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service reports that WIC supports almost half of all infants in the U.S.

The purpose of WIC is to supplement the diet of low-income pregnant people, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum parents, infants, and children through age 5 who are nutritionally at risk.

According to the USDA, WIC supplemental foods provide benefits that include longer, safer pregnancies, fewer premature births and infant deaths, improved dietary outcomes for infants and children, and improved health for the pregnant or postpartum parent.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reports that children whose parents participated in WIC while pregnant scored higher on mental development assessments at age 2 than children whose parents did not participate in the program. Later, they also performed better in reading assessments while in school.

WIC is just one of many food assistance programs to help feed your family when you’re going through a challenging time. WIC can provide a firm foundation when you need it most. However, there’s a lot you need to know about WIC and the application process before you apply.

What Is WIC?

The federal government established WIC in 1972 to provide money to states for supplemental food, nutrition counseling, and health care referrals for low-income pregnant and postpartum parents and children. The first WIC site opened in Kentucky in 1974.

WIC provides food supplements for specific groups, including pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum parents, as well as infants and children up to age 5 who are nutritionally at risk due to medical problems or poor diet.

State health departments, along with some nonprofits, organize and distribute funds and resources for WIC. The WIC program is often used in conjunction with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The program is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands as well as through 34 Native American tribal organizations. There are over 10,000 WIC clinic sites in the U.S. and its territories.

WIC is funded through the annual appropriations process. Each year, WIC receives $6 billion, which is enough to provide benefits to everyone eligible to receive them. However, the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire reports that in 2014, less than 43% of income-eligible families and children received benefits through WIC.

According to the USDA’s National Level Annual Summary, in 2019, each person’s food allotment through WIC cost the federal government $40.90 per month.

Pro tip: When shopping for groceries, make sure you download the Ibotta and Fetch Rewards apps. Both of these can be used alongside your WIC benefits and will help you save money on your grocery bill.

Who Uses WIC?

Many American families use the WIC program. The USDA reports that in 2018, approximately 6.87 million adults, infants, and children received benefits through WIC.

You can find WIC assistance locations in many different places within a community, including:

  • County health departments
  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Mobile clinics
  • Public housing sites
  • Community centers
  • Migrant health centers and camps
  • Native American health services facilities

WIC Eligibility

There are several eligibility requirements you must meet to receive benefits through WIC.

Categorical Requirement

WIC provides benefits for the following people:

  • Pregnant people (through pregnancy up to six weeks after birth or pregnancy ends)
  • Breastfeeding people (up to the infant’s first birthday)
  • Non-breastfeeding postpartum people (up to six months after the birth of an infant or after pregnancy ends)
  • Infants (up to their first birthday)
  • Children (up to their fifth birthday)

Pregnant women and postpartum women aren’t the only ones who can sign children up for WIC, though. For example, fathers may apply for WIC on behalf of their children. Parents who adopt children and foster parents can also apply for the program. Following U.S. Civil Rights regulations, WIC has a nondiscrimination policy, which means WIC offices and staff cannot discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal for any previous civil rights activity.

In the event applications for the WIC program outstrip available resources, caseworkers must prioritize applicants based on their levels of need and nutritional risk. The USDA prioritizes applicants in the following order:

  • Pregnant people, breastfeeding parents, and infants at high nutritional risk because of serious medical problems
  • Infants up to 6 months old whose parents participated in WIC or could have participated in WIC who have serious medical problems
  • Children up to age 5 who have serious medical problems
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding people and infants at nutritional risk because of dietary problems
  • Children up to age 5 at nutritional risk because of dietary problems
  • Non-breastfeeding, postpartum individuals with any nutritional risk
  • People at nutritional risk because they are homeless or migrants or those currently enrolled in the program who, without WIC, would continue to have medical or dietary problems

Residency Requirement

You must live in the state in which you apply for WIC. If you live on tribal lands, you must meet the residency requirements established by the tribal organization. You do not have to live in a state for a specific amount of time to meet the residency requirement.

Nutrition Risk Requirement

After applying for WIC, you must see a health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse, or nutritionist, who can determine whether you are at nutritional risk. Health professionals will provide this exam at a WIC clinic at no cost.

The USDA defines nutrition risk as “medical or dietary-based conditions.” These can include anemia, being underweight, having a history of pregnancy complications or poor pregnancy outcomes, or maternal age. “Dietary-based conditions” refers to having a poor or inconsistent diet.

Income Requirement

You must also be income eligible to qualify for WIC. Your income must be no higher than 185% of the federal poverty guidelines to qualify.

The income eligibility guidelines are updated each year. The current income guidelines are effective from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021. Your income eligibility depends on the size of your household.

For example, a family of four must earn no more than $48,470 annually to qualify for WIC, while a family of eight can earn no more than $81,622 annually.

If you or a family member participates in SNAP or other federal assistance programs like Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), you automatically meet WIC’s income eligibility requirement.

The USDA created a WIC prescreening tool to help determine whether you’re potentially eligible for the program. The prescreening tool takes 15 minutes to complete. The application also provides a list of local WIC offices where you can make an appointment and outlines a list of documents you need to provide.

WIC Benefits

Through the years, the USDA has taken steps to make using WIC as easy as possible. And the WIC program provides benefits in many different areas.


The WIC program provides healthy, nutritious food for families struggling to make ends meet. However, there are strict guidelines regarding what you can purchase through WIC and what you can’t. The CBPP notes that the foods available through WIC are often lacking in low-income people’s diets. Making sure these foods are available has proven to result in positive long-term benefits for families.

Some WIC foods available for purchase include:

  • Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals
  • Hot cereal, such as oatmeal or grits
  • Whole-wheat bread and rolls
  • Whole-wheat pasta products
  • Fruit and vegetable juice
  • Milk and soy-based beverages
  • Soft corn and wheat tortillas
  • Yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Dry beans and peas
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned fish, such as tuna, salmon, or sardines
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables

Read through the WIC regulatory requirements for food carefully to understand which foods are eligible. Package sizing, nutritional content, and types of each food also define what’s allowed and what isn’t.

Some foods not permitted through WIC include:

  • Imported or spreadable cheeses
  • Yogurts sold with mix-in ingredients, such as granola or candy, or drinkable yogurts
  • Soda
  • Canned or powdered soups
  • Immature varieties of legumes, such as those used in canned green peas or green beans
  • Baked beans with meat
  • Peanut butter with added jelly, honey, chocolate, or other mixtures
  • Herbs and spices
  • Vegetable-grain (pasta or rice) mixtures
  • Mixed vegetables with noodles, nuts, or sauce packets
  • Home-canned and home-preserved fruits and vegetables

Note that these are general lists. According to the USDA, foods approved for WIC differ from state to state depending on regional availability, local pricing, and approved store brands and generics. Some states also distribute food using warehouses or home delivery.

You might also be eligible for the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP). FMNP provides you with coupons to buy fresh, locally grown produce at a participating farmers market or roadside stand.

It can be a confusing process to go grocery shopping and figure out which healthy foods are allowed through WIC and which aren’t. Each state has slightly different requirements for labeling WIC-approved foods, and your caseworker can explain how food labeling is handled in your state.

State agencies also provide shopping guides to help you identify WIC-approved foods while at the store. Some guides, such as those provided to WIC-participants in Tennessee and Minnesota, even contain pictures of specific WIC-approved brands to make shopping easier.

Not every store is approved to accept WIC. Even within WIC-approved stores, you still might be restricted to using a specific lane, and you cannot use self-checkout. You can find a full list of WIC-approved stores on the WIC store locator. Stores that participate in WIC also post signs at all entrances.

The food you’re eligible to purchase each month varies, depending on which category you qualify for. For example, pregnant people are approved for slightly different food packages than those who are breastfeeding, and infants are eligible for different foods than children aged 2 to 4.

Most states approve WIC benefits packages in three-month time frames. You are then required to return to your local WIC clinic so the WIC staff can approve you for another three months. However, check your state’s WIC website for more details on current protocols. Many states have waived these return visits due to the coronavirus pandemic.

WIC strongly encourages people with infants to breastfeed. And the agency provides education and support to help you breastfeed successfully. However, if you choose not to breastfeed or (exclusive) breastfeeding isn’t an option, WIC provides infant formula.


Due to food-supply interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA approved new food substitutions and food sizes for purchase. For example, WIC participants can now purchase:

  • Milk of any available fat content
  • 24-ounce packages of bread when 12-ounce packages are unavailable
  • 18-count eggs when 12-count cartons are unavailable

Other Services

In addition to food assistance, WIC provides several other public health services for families.

How to Sign Up for WIC

There are several steps to applying and enrolling in WIC. Many states have changed their application protocols due to COVID-19. For example, many agencies are conducting WIC interviews over the phone and offering online nutrition training and curbside pickup of eWIC cards (like a debit card for your WIC benefits) and shopping guides.

Each state has slightly different steps and protocols for applying for WIC. However, you can expect the process to be somewhat similar no matter where you live.

1. Make an Appointment

To apply for WIC, you must contact your local agency and set up an appointment. You can find your state’s WIC offices through the USDA website. Every state agency also has a toll-free number you can call to make an appointment.

You can also make an appointment and find specific contact information for WIC representatives in your state through the National WIC Association.

2. Gather Your Documentation

Your WIC office needs you to bring several documents to your WIC appointment. Each state has different requirements, but you generally need to provide:

  • Proof of all income sources for everyone in your household, such as a pay stub, bank statement, alimony or child support, interest or dividend statements, or pension statements
  • Proof of identity for you and your children, such as a birth certificate, photo ID, military ID, or employment ID card
  • Social Security numbers for each family member
  • Proof of address, such as a utility bill, photo ID with current address, or rent or mortgage documents
  • Immunization records for all children up to age 2

If you’re currently participating in SNAP, TANF, or Medicaid, you also need a letter of eligibility.

3. Gather Family Members

Bring each family member who is applying to receive WIC benefits to your appointment, including infants and children.

4. Meet With WIC Staff

At your appointment, a WIC staff member will talk to you about your income and nutrition needs and go over your documentation carefully to see if you qualify for WIC. In most states, a doctor, nurse, or nutritionist will conduct a health screening at this appointment to determine your health status. They will check your height, weight, and iron status.

If you’re approved, a WIC staff member or nutritionist will then talk to you about your family’s nutritional needs and determine the type of food package you qualify for. You will receive an eWIC card, which you use like a debit card for food purchases, and a shopping guide that details what you can and cannot buy through the program.

Using WIC at the Store

Until very recently, WIC participants received a monthly check or voucher they could use to purchase food. However, as of Oct. 1, 2020, states must implement WIC electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. These are also called eWIC.

Once your caseworker approves you for WIC, your benefits automatically load onto your eWIC card and are available for use immediately. It’s important to remember you must use all your WIC benefits each month. Any funds you don’t use by midnight on the last day of your monthly enrollment period expire. Benefits do not roll over each month.

Some grocery stores have dedicated lanes set up to accept WIC. In other stores, such as large national chains, every lane can likely accept and process WIC payments. Some smaller stores might ask you to separate your WIC-approved goods from your other purchases so they can conduct two separate transactions.

When you’re ready to check out with eWIC, swipe your eWIC card and enter a PIN, just like a debit card. If you’re using two payment types, such as eWIC and SNAP or credit card, pay with your eWIC first.

The WIC foods you purchase automatically deduct from your account balance once you check out. Your receipt also contains a list of your remaining WIC food benefits broken down by food type and the expiration date of those benefits.

For more information on how to use eWIC at the grocery store, see the eWic YouTube video produced by Massachusetts WIC. While some of the information might be different from your state, the video still provides a good overview of what it’s like to shop with WIC.

Final Word

WIC exists to ensure parents, infants, and children have the healthy, nutritious food they need to grow and thrive. The foods provided by WIC might be absent from your or your child’s diet when money gets tight. And there’s no shame in wanting to make sure you have healthy food on the table every night.

At first glance, it might seem like WIC benefits won’t add up to much from week to week. However, there are many different ways to incorporate these healthy foods into meal planning for your family. Once you’re familiar with your benefits, plan a menu and make a shopping list for what you intend to buy. You can also find many WIC-friendly recipes through the USDA’s WIC Works Resource System or Your state agency may also have WIC recipe ideas on their website.

And if you need additional help, sign up for other food assistance programs to help feed your family.


How Long Do You Stay in ChexSystems?

If you’ve ever applied for a savings or checking account at a new bank and been turned down, ChexSystems was likely to blame.

Man viewing report

A ChexSystems report contains a record of your activity and account closures at various banks and credit unions. But in the spite of the agency’s importance, many people have never heard of ChexSystems.

This article will explain what ChexSystems is, what the agency monitors, and how long it takes to get out of ChexSystems.

What is ChexSystems?

ChexSystems is a consumer reporting agency that collects information about problems you’ve had with a bank or credit union. The agency provides services under the regulations provided by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

ChexSystems tracks your account activities and closures at various banks and credit unions. If you have a history of closing accounts, bouncing checks, and overdrawing your account, this information will be included in your ChexSystems report.

And depending on the type of derogatory mark, this information can stay on your report for quite a while. When you apply for a new bank account, most banks use ChexSystems to either approve or deny the request.

See also: 18 Banks That Don’t Use ChexSystems

240+ Second Chance Banks

What information is included in your ChexSystems report?

Under the FCRA, ChexSystems can report negative transactions on your checking and savings account. Here are some of the types of information that will be included in your ChexSystems report:

  • Account closures: Your report contains a record of every account closure. This can become problematic if you have repeated account closures due to bounced checks or suspected fraud.
  • Third-party inquiries: Your report contains a record of every time your account is viewed by a third-party. This typically happens when you try to open a new checking account or credit card.
  • Bounced checks: If you’ve ever written a check that bounced due to insufficient funds in your account, this will be included in your report. However, this only becomes a problem if you have a history of bouncing checks.
  • Suspected fraud: If you’ve ever altered checks or provided incorrect information on a banking application, this will be noted in your report. This could also include depositing empty envelopes into a bank ATM.
  • Public records: Certain negative public records like liens, bankruptcies, and evictions are also included. Bankruptcies are particularly damaging, and can stay on your report for up to 10 years.
  • Overdrafts: If you’ve ever overdrawn your checking account, that information is included on your report. However, a couple of overdrafts are unlikely to hurt you. This becomes problematic if you have a history of overdrawing your account and then failing to get your account to good standing.
  • Opening an excessive number of accounts: If you try to open multiple accounts within a short period of time, you may be flagged for potential fraud by ChexSystems.

How long does it take to get out of ChexSystems?

According to ChexSystems, reported information typically stays on your ChexSystems report for up to five years. But just like you have the right to dispute inaccurate information on your credit report, you can dispute inaccurate information on your ChexSystems report as well.

If you’ve never looked at your ChexSystems report before, you can contact the agency and request a copy of your report. From there, you can dispute any inaccurate information.

ChexSystems will then conduct an investigation which should be completed within 30 days of your request. The agency will notify you of the results by mail.

Bottom Line

Your ChexSystems record consists of your banking information, and banks and credit unions use it to either approve or deny new account requests. If you’ve ever applied for a bank account and were turned down, it’s likely because of negative items on your ChexSystems report.

The best way to maintain a good record and avoid any problems is by keeping all of your accounts in good standing. But mistakes do happen, and you have the right to request one free copy of your ChexSystems report every 12 months. From there, you can contact the agency to dispute any inaccurate items you find.


5 Best Checking Accounts for Seniors – Rates for 2021

Banks don’t market checking accounts to older adults at quite the same rate as to students, small-business owners, or general audiences looking for free checking options — which covers pretty much everyone, to be fair.

But senior-friendly checking accounts do exist, and they’re more common than you might imagine. Look no farther than the checking accounts on this list, backed by some of the best banks for seniors around. All are either free of monthly maintenance fees for all account holders or have easy-to-attain maintenance fee waivers.

Top Checking Accounts for Seniors

A few of the top checking accounts for seniors are age-restricted, meaning they’re not open to applicants who don’t meet the sponsor bank’s definition of “senior.” Others are not age-restricted but either offer perks specifically for seniors or simply provide a favorable mix of features and benefits for older account holders.

1. Axos Bank Golden Checking

0.20% APY on All Balances With Virtually No Fees

Axos Bank LogoAxos Bank Golden Checking is a virtually fee-free checking account for people age 55 and older. Its upsides include a solid yield on all balances, a low minimum opening deposit requirement, and no ongoing monthly balance requirement. Switching is easy for new account holders thanks to Axos Bank’s No-Hassle Switch Kit — a step-by-step checklist that makes sense of the transition and ensures nothing falls through the cracks. And, if you’re in the market for a one-stop financial shop, don’t miss Axos Bank’s consumer-friendly savings account and CD options.

  • Minimum Balance Requirements: There’s no minimum monthly balance requirement. The minimum balance to open the account is $50.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: This account yields 0.20% APY on all balances. Yields are subject to change with prevailing rates.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Enjoy up to $8 in monthly ATM fee reimbursements, free personal checks, and free mobile check deposit.
  • Possible Fees: This account has no monthly maintenance fee and virtually no ongoing fees.

Learn More

2. BBVA Online Checking

Access to BBVA’s ClearBenefits Program for an Additional $4 Per Month

Bbva LogoThe BBVA Online Checking account is a maintenance-fee-free online bank account available to most Americans, including those who don’t live within BBVA’s Sun Belt branch network. That’s great news for retirees and working seniors interested in online banking, no matter where they call home.

Beyond no monthly maintenance fee and no ongoing balance requirement, the standout here is BBVA’s ClearBenefits program, which promises premium identity theft restoration and insurance coverage — plus other potentially valuable perks — for a small monthly fee. All told, BBVA is one of the best banks for young folks and older customers alike.

  • Minimum Balance Requirements: There’s no ongoing balance requirement. The minimum opening deposit is $25.
  • Account Opening Bonus: See BBVA’s website for potential bonus opportunities.
  • Yield: None.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Enroll in the BBVA ClearBenefits Program to take advantage of benefits like identity theft restoration and insurance, cellphone protection (less a small deductible), and other potentially valuable services. The monthly fee is $4 — significantly less than the out-of-pocket cost for most premium identity theft protection services and electronics insurance policies. Plus, enjoy no ATM fees at more than 64,000 machines in BBVA’s extended network and deposit checks on the go with a handy mobile check deposit app.
  • Possible Fees: Overdraft protection typically involves fees. See BBVA’s Online Checking disclosures for more detail.

Learn More

Member FDIC.

3. BB&T Bank Senior Checking

Free Personal Checks and One Penalty-Free CD Withdrawal for Medical Emergencies

1280px Bb&t Logo.svgBB&T Bank Senior Checking is an age-restricted checking account for Americans age 55 or older living across a broad swathe of the eastern United States. With an easily attainable monthly maintenance fee waiver and a host of digital perks for on-the-go account holders, it’s the ideal choice for seniors who’d be perfectly happy never to set foot in a bank branch again. Avoid the $10 monthly maintenance fee each statement cycle by receiving at least $500 in combined direct deposits or maintaining a $1,000 average minimum daily balance.

  • Minimum Balance Requirements: There’s no ongoing balance requirement, although a minimum daily balance of $1,000 gets the $10 monthly maintenance fee waived. The minimum opening deposit is $100.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: None.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Senior Checking account holders enjoy one penalty-free early CD withdrawal for documented medical emergencies — a potentially invaluable perk should an unforeseen illness or injury strike. Other benefits include free mobile check deposit and digital money transfers with Zelle.
  • Possible Fees: See BB&T’s fee disclosures for a complete accounting of possible fees.

Learn More

4. U.S. Bank Easy Checking

No Monthly Maintenance Fee for Account Holders Over Age 65

Us Bank LogoU.S. Bank Easy Checking is a senior-friendly checking account that waives monthly maintenance fees for any account holder over age 65, regardless of balance or cash flow. Otherwise, it’s a fairly basic account for older Americans not looking for anything fancy. Standard features include a complimentary debit card and online and mobile bill pay and check deposit.

  • Minimum Balance Requirements: There’s no ongoing balance requirement for account holders over age 65. The minimum opening deposit is $25.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: None.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Enjoy free mobile check deposit.
  • Possible Fees: See U.S. Bank’s Easy Checking snapshot for a complete accounting of common fees.

Learn More

5. TD Bank 60 Plus Checking

Nominal Yield on All Balances

td bankTD Bank 60 Plus Checking is an age-restricted account for Americans over age 60. Like the BB&T Bank Senior Checking, TD Bank 60 Plus Checking is available primarily in the eastern half of the United States, so be sure to check that you’re eligible before applying. Notable benefits here include a nominal yield on all balances, free personal checks, and discounts on home equity products and personal loans.

  • Minimum Balance Requirements: There’s no minimum opening deposit required, but the minimum daily balance required to waive the $10 monthly maintenance fee is $250.
  • Account Opening Bonus: None.
  • Yield: This account yields 0.01% APY on all balances, subject to change by account holder location and prevailing interest rates.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Enjoy a 0.25% interest rate discount on eligible TD Bank home equity lines of credit, no ATM fees at TD Bank ATMs, and free standard personal checks and bank checks.
  • Possible Fees: This account has few fees, but overdraft protection generally does involve costs. See TD Bank’s account overview for more on possible fees.

Learn More

Final Word

Mainstream money management won’t ever be off-limits to older Americans, of course. If you’re happy with your current bank or credit union and none of the checking options on this list excite you, you can keep your money where it is as long as you’d like. You’re also free to move your money to another checking or savings account not listed here, explicitly senior-friendly or otherwise — like one of these leading rewards checking accounts.

Still, it’s surely nice to know that some banks and credit unions do prioritize older Americans’ unique financial needs. Financial institutions should recognize just how much work their older customers have put in to get where they are — whether that’s enjoying a comfortable retirement, preparing a graceful exit from the workforce, or gearing up for the next great career challenge.


Early Warning Services (EWS) – What Is It?

If you’ve ever been denied an application for a bank account, you may be wondering what exactly went wrong. While there are several possibilities out there, one potential cause is Early Warning Services.

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This risk detection service screens applicants to help banks and credit unions make sound decisions. While the goal may be fraud prevention, EWS’s tactics impact individuals across the country.

Find out exactly what Early Warning Services does, how it affects you, and how you can potentially stop it from hurting your banking future. We’ll take you through the process so you know what to expect when dealing with EWS.

What is Early Warning Services?

Early Warning Services LLC is a relatively new creation that allows banking institutions to evaluate the risk potential for new clients. If the applicant is deemed too risky, they are denied service at the bank or credit union. Sound familiar?

It’s an extremely similar service as TeleCheck and ChexSystems. EWS was created jointly by several large banks including Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, BB&T, and Bank of America.

It’s not always seen as competition to TeleCheck and ChexSystems, rather it’s often considered an additional level of security during the screening process.

Specifically, EWS is meant to identify individuals who have committed financial fraud in the past. The term fraud refers to a wide variety of activities, and you may even be flagged if you inadvertently tried to cash a fraudulent check you received from someone else.

While the process may help banks in evaluating applications, it can be extremely damaging for individuals. Luckily, there are ways to circumvent Early Warning Services and even clear your record.

How does EWS screening work?

Early Warning Services is a subscription service that banks and credit unions pay to use. It screens bank applicants and sometimes even current account holders for a number of different things.

These include any previous history of fraud or account abuse, forgery, counterfeiting or check altering, paperhanging or check kiting, and verifying identity and authenticating account ownership. The screening can occur at any point of interaction, such as online, over the phone, or at the teller window.

While EWS screening doesn’t entail looking at your credit history, it does review your past banking behavior. It looks at information from a variety of sources, including other financial institutions as well as third parties.

Bank of America

The data primarily pertains to deposit accounts and how you’ve used them in the past. They don’t just focus on negative data; they include positive data points as well. According to EWS, they take extra care to ensure any information used in the evaluation process is accurate and validated.

Of course, you can check to see exactly how true the accuracy is and it’s also possible to dispute items you don’t agree with — more on that shortly. On a positive note, products from EWS don’t result in a strict “yes” or “no” for approval.

Instead, the goal is to help financial institutions provide potential customers with products that are right for them and that the bank feels comfortable offering. EWS can very easily affect your access to bank products, so it’s vital to know exactly what happens throughout the process.

How can EWS affect you?

The biggest impact caused by Early Warning Services is that you can be denied the ability to open a new bank account, whether it’s for checking, savings, or even a more sophisticated product. On top of that, you may even have your account shut down after it’s been open.

There are reports of people getting approved for accounts only to have it closed soon after when another bank department (typically loss or fraud prevention) runs the EWS software. You may also have checks that you’ve written denied because of EWS.

Many people in EWS aren’t running money laundering schemes or a counterfeit currency shop in their basement. Unfortunately, you can be reported in EWS for something extraordinarily small, like a small fee owed to a former bank. Even if you’ve since paid the fine, the listing could still remain on your EWS report.

If this has happened to you, whether for large infractions or small ones, there is a solution. You can apply for a second chance bank account at a bank or credit union that specializes in them.

There are a number of banks providing this type of account, often with no fees or few other requirements. If you’re having trouble opening an account due to EWS, TeleCheck, or ChexSystem, then you could potentially benefit from a second chance account.

What is the difference between EWS, ChexSystem, and TeleCheck?

With all of these companies reporting to banks, it can be difficult to keep track of them all. Some banks use EWS, ChexSystem, and TeleCheck, while others may only use one or two. ChexSystem is the most widely used risk detection program for financial institutions; however, the entire industry is gaining popularity.

The biggest difference is how your information is reported to the bank. Early Warning Services, for example, provides a simple form with your relevant financial history on it. ChexSystems, which is used by 80% of banks in the U.S., includes a summary in their evaluation.

TeleCheck provides a risk score in addition to a form and summary. In essence, these three companies are extremely similar, especially from the consumer’s perspective.

But if you’re denied, it’s important to know which service was used so that you can check (and potentially dispute) your history with the right one.

How do you access your EWS report?

If your account application is denied because of information from Early Warning Services, you have the right to a free report from the company so you can see why you weren’t approved. Like a ChexSystem report, your EWS report lists out any negative information regarding your banking past.

This includes all the risk detection points we talked about earlier, like fraud and abuse. Rather than ignoring the problem and remaining unbanked, take the initiative to find out what exactly is on your report. If it’s inaccurate, you can get it taken care of so you can start banking.

To receive a copy of your report, you can contact Early Warning Services directly. Visit their Consumer Services web page to print off the Identification Form. You can then either create an online account and submit it electronically or mail it to the following address:

Early Warning Service LLC
Attn: Consumer Services Department
16552 N. 90th Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

Alternatively, you can fax the form to (480) 656-6850. To contact EWS with questions, call them at 1 (800) 325-7775.

Once you receive your report, you’ll find any negative information listed about your bank history. It will include your personally identifying information as well as the contribution reason explaining why the account is listed.

The report also lists out any former disputes you’ve initiated and any rebuttals if a dispute has been denied. That way, future banks can at least see your response to the previous bank’s accusations.

Can you dispute your EWS record?

Once you review your EWS record, you may find that you disagree with one or more of the negative listings. If the information is accurate, particularly surrounding past bank fraud, it may be difficult to get the data removed.

However, if the listing refers to old unpaid debts or fees that have since been repaid, you may successfully get those removed. EWS provides a dispute checklist to guide you through the process.

You’ll need to provide some basic information regarding the account in question. At a minimum, you can expect to pull together:

  • Your consumer ID number from EWS
  • Specific information on the account in dispute, including the account number
  • Why you’re initiating the dispute, including reasons the listing is incorrect or incomplete
  • A description of each dispute, each signed on a separate piece of paper
  • Relevant details about the account in question
  • Supporting documentation to back up your claim (send copies, not originals)

Within 30 days, you should hear back on the results of your dispute. If your request has been granted, the relevant negative item should be removed from your report. It may then be worth reapplying for an account.

If your request has not been granted, you may submit a rebuttal. This appears as the last line of the entry so that a bank can use their own best judgment in reviewing your application.

You can submit it in the same manner as the dispute form. Note that a rebuttal may not contain names of individuals or businesses or profanity.

How to avoid scams surrounding Early Warning Services

When it comes to the financial services industry, you can bet there’s always someone trying to take advantage of another person in a tight spot.

Unfortunately, this holds true if you’re having trouble getting an account. There are plenty of fake companies targeting EWS to try and get money out of you.

Here’s how to identify such scammers and avoid them entirely.

Free Early Warning Services Report

First, know that EWS must provide you with a free report once a year. If you find a company or website claiming to help you get your EWS information for a fee, they’re probably not legitimate. As you’ve learned, requesting your report is easy and free.

Other Scams

Another scam tactic to look out for is someone contacting you to collect money that is allegedly on behalf of Early Warning Service. EWS is simply a consumer reporting company and any business acting otherwise should be reported to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Finally, watch out for companies that want to dispute negative EWS listings on your behalf. This is especially true if they guarantee results. There’s no way to guarantee that you’ll get your EWS report cleared of negative items.

You’ll likely end up paying an expensive fee for something you could’ve done on your own. Or worse, you’ll pay and then not hear back from the company at all. Trust your gut when it comes to protecting your financial information.

You don’t want to hand out your hard-earned money or your personal data. When fixing your report, work directly with EWS.

Bottom Line

Early Warning Service attempts to provide banks and credit unions with risk assessment tools. But like with all data collection efforts, not everything is done correctly.

Computers may be great, but they don’t always tell the full story. Instead of assuming that you can never qualify for a bank account, stay on top of your EWS report.

You may be surprised to learn that your banking history isn’t actually represented accurately. If that’s the case, it’s your right and responsibility to get it fixed. While results are never guaranteed, you need to know what personal and financial information about you is being collected and distributed.


7 Key Home-Buying Numbers to Know When Shopping for a House

Understanding your DTI isn’t just good for lenders, it also helps put your personal finances in perspective when deciding how much house you can afford.
“One of the most overlooked and underestimated numbers when buyers actually locate a home and win an offer on it is the tax amount,” said Gelios. “Too many times, I’ve seen real estate agents list what the seller is paying in taxes at that time. If time allows, a home buyer should contact the municipality and ask for a rough estimate as to what the taxes will be if they closed on the home in X month.” Source:

1. Cost per Square Foot

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For example, if you earn ,000 per month but have to pay ,000 in bills, this would be a debt-to-income ratio of 50%. Gelios says lenders typically view any DTI above 40% as high risk, and with good reason. If over half of your income is accounted for in bills, that would make it significantly harder to make a big mortgage payment every month.
“An earnest money deposit is very important because it’s the skin in the game from the home buyer,” said Realtor Jason Gelios of Community Choice Realty. “If a home buyer is up against other offers, the EMD can make or break them getting the home.”
Another personal finance term that comes into play when buying a home is your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Much like creditworthiness, this number is used by lenders to determine how much of a loan you qualify for and at what rate.
Work with your real estate agent to understand the differences in cost for various properties to map out what areas and homes are within budget.

2. Earnest Money Deposit

“When looking to get approved for a mortgage, a buyer should know what their debt-to-income ratio is,” said Gelios. “This is the amount of debt you owe per month as compared to your gross monthly income.”
Long before you close on a home, you need to be ready for ongoing expenses such as property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and any potential HOA fees. These expenses tend to slip through the cracks, but it’s important to know about them before you become a homeowner.
The all-important down payment: Many homebuyers use this number to help them determine when they’re actually “ready” to buy a home — based on how much of a down payment they have saved up.
The old rule of thumb on home purchases was to put down 20%. If that sounds like a lot of money, it is. (Home price 0,000, time 20% = ,000. Ouch.) For many buyers, a 20% down payment just isn’t feasible — and that’s okay. Forte said the down payment can be as low as 3% of the sales price with a conventional loan, although 10% is more typical.
Since most home purchases involve a mortgage, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with current interest rates. Interest rates dictate how much you’ll pay your lender every year to borrow the amount of your mortgage, so you’ll want to shop around for the best deal.

3. Interest Rates

“A down payment is the amount you contribute to the transaction in cash,” said Forte. “Most home purchases are a combination of cash in the form of a down payment and a loan from a mortgage company.”
Forte broke down the term a little more: “A credit score is the numerical grade a rating agency assigns to you,” he says. “Commonly referred to as a FICO score, this grade is made up of many factors such as credit utilization, and the length of your credit history.”
“I’ve seen lower offers won due to a higher EMD amount, because sellers view the higher EMD as a more serious buyer,” he added.

4. Credit Score

Forte defines livable square footage as any interior space that’s heated and cooled, which is why a garage wouldn’t necessarily fit the bill. One of the best ways to understand how much home you can afford is to break it down by cost per square foot, which will vary from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood.
The amount of the EMD is set by the seller, typically running anywhere from 1% to 2% of the home’s purchase price. The key thing to keep in mind about EMDs is that they represent your commitment to buying the home, and can be useful in making a compelling offer in a competitive sellers’ market.
Since taxes almost always increase when homes change ownership, it’s good to get an updated quote before those payments become your responsibility.

5. Debt-to-Income Ratio

While interest rates are mostly determined by your creditworthiness (aka credit score) and the type of loan you’re getting, they’ll still vary between lenders. Even a half-point difference in rates can amount to a big difference in your monthly mortgage payment — as well as the grand total you pay for your house.
Here are seven all-important home-buying numbers to know.

“Your interest rate is the annual percentage rate you will be charged by the lender, and the lower the rate you receive, the lower your monthly payment,” said real estate developer Bill Samuel of Blue Ladder Development. “You should speak with a handful of lenders when starting the process and get a rate quote from each one.”
The money you put toward your EMD comes off the purchase price for the home, so there’s no reason to be stingy. If you really love the house and have the available cash, you might even consider offering more than the deposit amount your seller is asking. Either way, be sure to start saving up for your EMD early and factor it into any other cash you set aside for your down payment.

6. Down Payment

“Cost per square foot is simply the list price divided by the number of livable square feet,” said Tyler Forte, founder & CEO of Felix Homes. “This number is important because it allows a homeowner to compare the relative price of homes that are different sizes.”
Remember that any amount you pay up front will ultimately save you money in interest on your mortgage — and putting more money down will lower your monthly payment. Take some time to calculate what your monthly mortgage payment will be based on various down payments. That way you’ll know exactly what to expect and how much of a down payment you should aim to save up.
One of the first numbers you’ll encounter when shopping for homes is cost per square foot. While this number is based on a relatively simple calculation, it’s an important one to understand since ultimately it helps you determine how much house you’re getting for your money.
We’ve compiled this list of seven key numbers you’ll need to know when buying a home — plus the details on how understanding these terms can help you land your dream home.

Pro Tip
Keep in mind that for any down payment of less than 20%, you may be required to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), another expense that adds to your monthly payment. 

7. Property Taxes & Other Expenses

Ready to stop worrying about money?
There’s a lot that goes into buying a new home, starting with finding the right one all the way down to finalizing the paperwork. Somewhere in that process, you’ll likely find yourself trying to decipher myriad new terms and figuring out what they mean for you.
But there’s more to consider, he said. “While cost per square foot is an important metric, you should also consider the layout of the home. In many cases, a home with an open floor-plan may seem larger even if it has a smaller livable square footage.”

If your credit score is low (under 600), spend some time figuring out why and how you can boost it. Just remember, the better your credit score, the better your interest rate — and the more money you’ll save in the long run.