Why toss things in the trash when you can recycle them — and make a little money in return?
By diverting certain items from the waste stream and keeping them out of landfills, you can also make extra money or help out worthy causes. From scrap metal to ink cartridges, bullets to construction materials, you can recycle a huge variety of items in exchange for cash or goodwill.
Ready to see all the different things you can recycle for money?
Find a Collection Point
To find a recycling center near you, head over to Earth911.com and plug in the item you’re looking to recycle along with your location. The site lists collection locations for materials as diverse as antifreeze and ammunition. Of course, not everything pays, but it’s important to properly dispose of potentially hazardous items.
Prepare Items for Recycling
Check with your local collection point for specific rules for preparing your recyclables. Some centers require you to remove bottle caps, rinse and bag bottles in certain increments, or sort and tie together cardboard. Checking the rules before you go will save you time later.
Be sure to properly bag items that may make a bit of a mess. Even if you thoroughly rinse all your bottles and cans, there might be water and other residue on them, so be sure to transport them in bins or bags to protect the interior of your car.
If you’re donating a cell phone or other electronic item, be sure to clear your personal information from it, including contact lists, voice mails, text messages, photos, passwords, downloads and anything else that you wouldn’t want random strangers to access. Back up your information on your new phone, your computer or a cloud-based service, then restore your old phone to factory settings before recycling it.
Items You Can Recycle for Money
Depending where you live, you can get paid to recycle certain items. Here are some common recyclables and how to recycle them.
1. Scrap Metal
Scrap metal is one of the more profitable materials to recycle.
Copper, steel and aluminum are just a few of the scrap metals that you can recycle for money. Google your local area and “scrap yard” to find a facility that takes whatever metals you have and learn their procedures for drop off.
Once you have rounded up your metal, find out if it is ferrous or non-ferrous by seeing if a magnet sticks to it. If it does, the metal is ferrous and likely a common metal like steel or iron. These items typically aren’t worth much, but it’s still worthwhile to recycle them. If the magnet does not stick, you likely have copper, aluminum, brass, bronze or stainless steel on your hands. These metals are more valuable.
Copper is one of the more profitable metals: Copper wire and tubing yields between $1 and $3 per pound. Aluminum typically earns between 40 and 70 cents a pound, yellow brass can yield about $1.50 per pound, and die-cast metal goes in the 30-cents-a-pound range, though local prices vary.
2. Bottles and Cans
One Penny Hoarder writer made $1,500 cashing in soda cans he collected at work. You, too, can make money by rounding up bottles and cans, whether from work, friends and family, at events, or just the recyclables you use at home.
California offers 5 cents for most plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans smaller than 24 ounces, and 10 cents for 24-ounce or larger containers. It’s technically a bottle deposit, but many people don’t bother to collect their refunds, so it’s easy money for bottle and can collectors.
Michigan has a 10-cents per bottle recycling rate, which has prompted people to illegally smuggle in empty bottles purchased out of state to cash in. (This was even the plot of one Seinfeld episode!) Many states have similar deposit programs, so check what’s available where you live.
3. Car Batteries
Advance Auto Parts offers a $10 store gift card to customers who bring in their used car batteries (light-duty truck batteries are also accepted). If the company doesn’t have an outlet near you, call your local auto parts stores to see whether they offer similar deals.
4. Ink Cartridges
A number of office supply stores, including Staples and Office Depot accept used ink cartridges for recycling. Staples offers $2 back per cartridge, with a maximum of 10 returns per month, and you have to spend at least $30 on ink or toner within 180 days of recycling.
Office Depot also gives you $2 back in program rewards for each ink or toner cartridge you recycle, up to 10 cartridges per month. But you must also purchase ink from them the same month. There is no limit on the number of cartridges you can recycle, but you will only receive points on the first 10 per month. You can use your points toward a number of different perks and discounts.
Eco-Cell is one of many companies that offers cash for old cell phones and other electronics. The company accepts working or broken phones, tablets, rechargeable batteries, circuit boards and a variety of other electronics. Even if an item is broken or was submerged in water and is unusable, Eco-Cell will accept it in order to divert electronics from landfills and properly dispose of their toxic components and metals.
Many cell phone providers, including Verizon and AT&T, have trade-in programs where you can receive a voucher, gift card or other reward for turning in your old phone. Amazon Trade-in is another way to earn gift cards.
A number of charities also accept cell phones, whether to re-purpose or sell and use the funds for a charitable purpose. Cell Phones for Soldiers refurbishes and sells your old phone to active-duty military members and veterans. If a phone is too old or broken, Cell Phones for Soldiers sells it to recyclers who strip it for parts and dispose of its metals responsibly. The proceeds from the sales go to purchase international calling cards for troops and provide emergency financial assistance to veterans.
And of course, you can always sell your old phone yourself.
6. Junk Cars
Your rusted old jalopy? You can recycle it for money. There are companies that pay cash for broken down cars.
Junk Car Medics is one, and you can sell your car to them online or over the phone. You enter details about your vehicle, such as condition and mileage, and quickly get an offer. If you accept it, you’ll have to provide proof of ownership and a few other details before you get paid. The company says most transactions are same-day, and they take the car away for you.
7. The Rest of Your Unwanted Stuff
You can “recycle” belongings you no longer want on a variety of apps and platforms and get a little something back for them. ThredUp and Poshmark are popular apps where you can sell clothes online.
ThredUp will send you a free shipping label and apply credits for anything that sells to your own account, but it’s often not a lot of money. Poshmark offers bigger potential payouts, but you have to put in more work to make your items move.
OfferUp is a second-hand site where you can buy or sell just about anything you no longer use.
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
What are you normally doing between 5 and 9 p.m.? If you’re anything like us, your typical evening might consist of unwinding on the couch with an episode of your favorite show, getting dinner ready and doing a bit of scrolling on your phone.
But if you’re normally home during those hours, you could make some serious extra money with that time — for almost no effort. A company called OhmConnect will send you a text when the electricity you’re using at home is “dirty,” and it will pay you just for cutting back for about an hour a week.
Seriously. We’ve seen people earn as much as $1,700 a year just for doing this.
If you have a utility account with PG&E, SDG&E or Southern California Edison (which cover nearly every county in California), OhmConnect will pay you to cut back on your energy use. You’ll get a text when a lot of people in your area are using power (usually between 5 and 9 p.m.). Your job is to simply use less electricity. You could turn off your A/C, use the grill instead of the stove, or even turn off your breaker.
Here’s How to Get Cash from OhmConnect
Sign up for a free OhmConnect account here.
Sync it with your online utility account through PG&E, SDG&E or Southern California Edison, or connect as a guest.
Wait for OhmConnect to text you during high-energy-consumption hours
Head outside, or at least turn the TV off until the hour is up. Heck, you can even play games on your phone during this hour — just resist plugging in any electronics.
Profit! OhmConnect rewards you with cash, prizes, gift cards and more.
This all works because the California electricity market (or California ISO) pays OhmConnect to help them avoid turning on an expensive, dirty power plant. The company then passes the savings on to you.
If you want to automate the process, you can even connect a smart thermostat or plug and let OhmConnect do this automatically. Even connecting some of your biggest energy-hogging devices to a smart plug can help you save $350 a year — effortlessly. Right now, OhmConnect is even offering a free smart thermostat to people in California who agree to try out its free service.
But you don’t need a smart device to save: The more you do, the more money you can make.
For example, we talked to one woman, Tanya Williams, who recently earned an extra $1,700 in one year with OhmConnect — more than $140 a month. A few evenings each week, the 45-year-old stay-at-home mom shut down her home’s electrical panel and took the kids to the pool, or just played board games. Talk about easy money.
Enter your ZIP code here to open a free OhmConnect account, then sync it with your utility account to start earning cash. Your whites can wait until tomorrow.
recent survey from College Ave Student Loans revealed that student borrowers continue to rely heavily on parents when it comes to paying for higher education. Out of 1,001 undergraduate students surveyed, 57% said they were relying partially on parent’s income or savings, and another 9% said their parents were using federal PLUS parent loans. Another 9% said they planned to get help from a parent’s credit card, and 1% said they would use funds from a parent’s retirement plan.
If that all sounds like a lot, you should know there are ways you can help your dependent cover the cost of tuition and fees, or even spend less to begin with. Parents can also help their kids minimize the amount of student loans they have to take out, which can make a huge difference once they graduate from college and begin their adult lives.
If you’re a parent who is hoping to get through the college years with your finances intact, consider these tips.
Create a Spending Plan for College
Also make sure to sit down with your college-bound kid to come up with a budget or spending plan for school. Not having any sort of plan is the best way to make sure you fail, yet having a budget and some sort of agreement on what college spending might look like can be a big help.
For example, you might have a talk with your dependent about how much “spending money” they’ll be able to have on a weekly or monthly basis. You can also sit down and write out all the regular expenses they’ll have that you’ll need to cover, including tuition, books, housing, a smartphone, technology expenses, transportation expenses and other bills.
It might also help to ask family and friends who have recently had a kid in college what some of their expenses were so you can plan accordingly.
Help in the Search for Financial Aid
Also make sure you’re helping your child qualify for all the financial aid they may be eligible for. This process always starts with filling out the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid, or FAFSA form. This form can help you determine whether your dependent is eligible for grants or work-study programs as well as other aid. Meanwhile, filling out the FAFSA is how you’ll find out your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which can help you figure out what your out-of-pocket costs for college will look like.
In the meantime, you can also help your child search for scholarships that may be available, including ones from local organizations or industries in their field of study.
Teach Kids How to Borrow Smart
Chances are good your child will have to borrow some money for college even if you provide financial assistance, but you can still help them make good decisions. Filling out the FAFSA form will help your family determine how much you can borrow with federal student loans, which you should use first. From there, you can also look at student loans from private lenders like College Ave Student Loans, which can help you fill in the gaps after federal loans are maxed out.
Ideally, you’ll help your child find a way to borrow as little as they can, and with the most favorable terms possible. You could also consider being a cosigner, which could help your kids qualify for better rates and terms on private student loans.
Either way, make sure your dependent is not taking on too much debt for their degree. A general rule of thumb says that, if your total student loan debt at graduation is less than your starting salary, you can afford to repay your student loan debt over the standard ten-year timeline.
Teach the Value of Payments During School
Parents can also help their children by teaching them how and why to make payments on their student loans while they’re still in college. The reality is, doing so can help them make a dent in their balances all along, or even keep ballooning interest at bay.
That all depends on the type of federal student loans your child has. While the government covers accruing interest on Direct Subsidized Loans, there is no such benefit on Direct Unsubsidized Loans. This means that not making any payments on Direct Unsubsidized Loans during college could mean you wind up owing a lot more than was borrowed due to capitalized interest.
If students want to keep interest on Direct Unsubsidized Loans from adding to their loan balances, making interest payments during college can help.
Choose the Right Repayment Plan
Finally, you should make sure your dependents are on the best repayment plan for their needs. This could be standard ten-year repayment on federal student loans if they can afford the monthly payment and want to get out of debt as soon as possible. However, you can also look at extended or graduated repayment plans for federal loans that let borrowers repay a smaller monthly amount over a longer period of time. Just keep in mind that extending your loan term may lead to paying more interest over the entire repayment timeline, even if the monthly payment is smaller.
Income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), Income Based Repayment (IBR), and Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) are also popular for borrowers since they let them repay federal loans over 20 to 25 years before ultimately forgiving remaining loan balances. You can also look into Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which lets borrowers repay loans on an income-driven plan for 10 years before remaining loan balances are forgiven. Just keep in mind that PSLF applicants are required to repay their loans while working in an eligible public service position.
If you can afford, encourage your student to pay down student loans while in school. Any amount, as little as $25 a month, can help your child save money on the total cost of their loan.
Finally, you could even consider helping your dependent refinance their student loans (federal or private) to get a better deal. Just remember that refinancing federal loans with a private lender means giving up benefits like income-driven plans and deferment or forbearance.
You should also make sure refinancing makes financial sense before you move forward. A student loan calculator can show you how much you could save if you refinance your loans at today’s low rates.
The Bottom Line
Parents may not be able to cover the entire cost of higher education, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help in other ways. For example, parents can make sure their kids are considering all potential forms of aid they may be eligible for, including ones they may not have thought about. Plus, any advice that helps kids borrow less for college can go a long way toward helping them have more choices once they graduate.
No matter what, your best bet is planning ahead and thinking about college before it gets here. If you wait to plan or decide you’re going to figure it out as you go, you could live to regret it.
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Table of Contents
About the Author
Jeff Rose, CFP® is a Certified Financial Planner™, founder of Good Financial Cents, and author of the personal finance book Soldier of Finance. Jeff is an Iraqi combat veteran and served 9 years in the Army National Guard. His work is regularly featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Inc.com and Entrepreneur.
Your teens want the latest version of PlayStation or maybe a Nintendo Switch. Maybe he covets a pair of Adidas Yeezys and she is hot for Kendra Scott’s newest earrings. It’s time they make like Warren Buffett and start to make — and save — some money. And there are plenty of business ideas for teens to get them started.
The billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway — now in his 90s — bought his first stock at age 11. By the time he was 14, Buffett used $1,200 that he earned from paper routes to purchase 40 acres of land, which he leased to farmers. (Maybe don’t tell your young entrepreneurs that Buffett never spends more than about $3 for breakfast and still lives in the Omaha, Nebraska, house he bought for $31,500 in 1958, according to CNBC.)
12 Money-Making Business Ideas for Teens
Today’s business ideas for teens may not involve paper routes, but there are still plenty of old-school, low-tech money-making ideas that require zero startup capital.
Those include pet sitting, baby sitting, gift wrapping and washing cars. But these days, high school students can go beyond family and family friends to make a living off their special skills, among them mad tech skills, to earn real money.
Bonus: Many of these jobs don’t involve leaving the house which has been helpful during the pandemic.
These 12 ideas can set them on the path of transforming from teen entrepreneurs to the next Warren Buffett.
1. Zoom Tutoring
Teens are hitting the tutoring scene hard because it pays well and it’s easy to get started. Companies like Varsity Tutors, Kaplan and Tutor.com offer around $20 per hour for teens to tutor in subjects ranging from the SATs to math or writing (basically, you’d tutor in your specialty subject).
They can also find tutoring clients via local Facebook groups or via word-of-mouth from teachers, coaches or family members. They will need a strong, dependable Internet connection, solid organization skills and an expertise in an academic subject and the report card to prove it.
2. Tiktok and Video Trainer
My 12-year-old finally put her TikTok skills to good use. She asked me to post on Facebook asking if any local kids wanted to learn the latest TikTok dances. Ten third graders signed up for her class, paying $3 weekly for my daughter to teach them how to TikTok. We cleared out the living room so they’d all have space to dance, and she was good to go.
TikTok is the hottest new social media platform. Users share short videos — no more than 60 seconds — that are mostly entertaining but have recently become educational and inspirational. There are dozens of videos showing how to make what’s now called the TikTok feta pasta dish. Can your resident TikTok expert teach food bloggers how to make food videos to broaden the content on their sites? Maybe some local business folks need help reaching a younger audience.
3. Dog Walking and Pet Sitting
A job as old as time, this one is still legit and thriving. Expect to make $5 to $10 per day for dog walking, depending on location. Teen entrepreneurs specializing in pet care can book their business by creating a Web site and adding additional services (washing the pet or playing/tiring him out in the park) for extra fees.
4. Streaming Entertainment Coach
Imagine the horror of not being able to binge the latest Netflix craze or being flummoxed by the signup directions for Hulu (or Disney + or Amazon Prime or …). And for some people, the remote for the new smart TV seems more like an instrument created for a NASA astronaut than a way for an earth-bound mortal to change the channel.
Teenagers who know of such things can offer their services to neighbors or even the grandparents (or parents) of friends. It’s a sure bet that if if they do a good job, they will be asked to help set up new computers and printers, give quick laptop lessons and even show clients how to use the portrait mode on smartphone cameras.
How to set the price? That takes some trial-and-error to decide whether it’s by the job or the hour.
5. Vintage Clothes Seller
This one is easy for teens to do, as there’s no age minimum. There are also plenty of places to sell and as vintage/used clothing is majorly trending, they could make a lot of money this way. Poshmark is a great place to sell used clothing, as it’s essentially a social media marketplace. Instagram is another. Get advice from others who’ve perfected this side hustle on various sites.
On Poshmark, the more people you follow, the more business you’ll likely receive. Set your own price, receive a prepaid shipping label from Poshmark. It’s free to sell, and Poshmark receives $2.95 for items less than $15; and 20% for anything above $15. Depop is Poshmark’s competitor and another option. Which one is better? Depends.
The RealReal is another possibility if your teen is selling designer or trendy clothing (brands like Lululemon and GoldenGoose are hot). This site takes 15% of sales, and they accept everything from clothing to jewelry. Of course, old standbys like Craig’s List, EBay and Facebook Marketplace are always great selling options.
6. Artist for Hire
Good at art? Love to make friendship bracelets? These talents can be turned into profit by selling goods on Etsy. Etsy users pay 20 cents to list each product, and Etsy takes 3.5% of all sales. Teens ages 13 and up can sell via Etsy as long as their shop is managed by a parent or a legal guardian.
7. Language Teacher
Teaching English online is a popular side gig that teenagers can get in on. While some online companies require a degree from their teachers, there are many that don’t. You can also take a TEFL certification course (3 months, about $1,000) to bump up qualifications. Sounds too pricey? These can often be found on Groupon for less than $100.
If you plan on teaching online in China (this is the largest market), you’ll be required to take the online TEFL certification course. Once you snag an online English tutoring job, you’ll typically make your own hours — but these hours will often be requested in the early morning, due to the time change overseas. You will make around $10 per hour. Legit English teaching platforms include Cambly, PalFish and SkimaTalk.
8. Camp Counselor
According to ZipRecruiter, the average summer camp counselor makes $10 per hour but some pay more. Choose a local day camp or spend the summer at a sleepaway camp. Most sleepaway camps have counselor-in-training programs for kids who are between the ages of 12 to 16, though these typically don’t pay or they pay just a small stipend. Anyone older can be a counselor.
9. Refreshment Entrepreneur
Think your teen is too old to have a lemonade stand? How about they sell a different product, like Shirley Temples, mocktails or kombucha? The other teens won’t judge them for this one — especially if the drinks come in plastic martini glasses. Make sure to check your city ordinances before setting up the pop up. Some cities may require registration or a license.
Also, consider elevating the mocktail stand: Encourage them to hire themselves out as a mocktail bartender for a friend’s birthday party. Or even for a neighborhood kids’ party.
10. Paid Computer Player
This one should be an easy sell. Go onto Swagbucks to answer surveys, shop online and watch videos and you’ll be rewarded with everything from money to store gift cards. Swagbucks is available for anyone 13 and older. They won’t make your fortune doing this — most people make about $1 per day but if they’re already sitting in front of your computer watching videos, they might as well make some cash doing it.
11. Golf Caddy
Most golf courses in the United States will hire teens 14 and up to caddy. They’ll be outside all day, making between $20-$30 per hour. They don’t need to be a golf pro, but should know the basics of the game. Apply at a local golf course or country club.
12. Mobile Device Teacher
Your teen’s a tech pro. Or perhaps she simply understands how to capture a screenshot, copy & paste and check a book out of the library directly to an e-reader. This is a talent! There are plenty of adults that wish they were as tech savvy — and would pay good money to get there. Advertise on a local Facebook page or give them a hand by spreading the word to your friends. Perhaps a class all about navigating an e-reader, or one about how to use social media to your best advantage? And it may seem like everyone can take a Zoom call, but they can’t. Show the grandparents down the street how to video conference call with the grandkids across the country. They may pay handsomely.
The Penny Hoarder contributor Danielle Braff is a Chicago writer who specializes in consumer goods and shopping on a budget. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Real Simple and more.
College graduation marks the beginning of what adulting truly looks like. Bye bye, student discounts. Hello, full-priced everything.
You had guidance from professors, support from your parents and the camaraderie of your fellow students in school. Now you’re on your own, and it may feel overwhelming to navigate post-grad life — especially managing your finances and dealing with the economic shakeup of the pandemic.
Don’t stress. We’ve got you.
11 Smart Money Moves for Recent College Grads
Here’s the practical advice we wish someone had shared with us when we were fresh out of school.
1. Don’t Succumb to Lifestyle Inflation.
Hopefully you’re earning more money than you did in school. Congrats! But use that salary increase for good, not for financial destruction.
Don’t give into the desire to buy all the things just because you’re making more money. Chances are you also have more bills. And now’s a perfect time to get in the habit of saving money for the future (but we’ll get more into that later).
As you settle into your life post-college, give yourself time to adjust. Don’t go out and purchase an apartment’s worth of new furniture all at once.
The key is to live within your means — or even below your means in order to build a nice cushion of savings. It might take time to figure out what that looks like. If you fail one budgeting method, give another a try. This isn’t a graded exam.
2. Treat Bill Due Dates Like Assignment Deadlines.
Gone are the days where you’d use loans or scholarship money to pay four months of room and board in full at the beginning of each semester. Now you’ve got multiple bills in one month, each to a different service provider.
Keeping track of when each bill is due is vital. Automating the process — either by using your bank’s auto-pay service or opting into auto-pay with your utility company or cell phone provider — can be very helpful. If you want to be more conscious of what’s going out of your checking account, set up calendar alerts to remind you of each bill’s due date and make the payment manually.
Set up one calendar alert a couple days before the due date for advanced warning and another alert the day the bill is due as a backup reminder in case you forgot to pay.
Make sure to factor in when you get paid. If your employer pays you weekly, biweekly or semi-monthly, budgeting the money you receive from each paycheck may be more useful than a monthly budget.
3. Get Used to Making Student Loans Payments.
If you borrowed money for college, it’s time to pay up.
Your loan provider will likely give you a six-month grace period before you have to start paying back your student loans. This gives you time to plan how you’ll tackle the repayment, but if you want to start paying your student loans back immediately, that’s even better.
When you’re setting up your post-grad budget, make sure you’re factoring your student loan payment as a necessary expense. Check with your loan provider to see how much your minimum payments will be. If the amount seems unmanageable, you might be able to get on an income-based repayment plan. You might also consider consolidating or refinancing your loans under a lower interest rate.
You could get your loans paid off if your job has a student loan repayment program or through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program if you work in the public sector. Check if you’re eligible.
If you have trouble finding a job or otherwise fall into hardship, a loan deferment or forbearance will temporarily pause repaying your student loan. Typically, interest on the loan still might accrue during that period and you’d be left with more to pay back. Deferment or forbearance is usually only recommended as a last resort.
Due to the pandemic, however, the government has issued an interest-free forbearance on all federal student loans through Sept. 30, 2021. If you have private loans, contact your provider to see what options may be available to you.
4. Use Credit Cards Responsibly.
Credit cards can be tricky. On one hand, they can help you build a positive credit score or earn rewards points. But use them irresponsibly and you can wind up in a hole of debt.
A wise practice is to charge only what you know you can afford and pay your balance in full each month. You may want to start off with a secured credit card where you put down a deposit that serves your line of credit.
If you are paying off credit card debt, keep in mind those minimum payment amounts are not your friend. They’re the lowest you have to pay each month if you don’t want creditors hounding you, but they won’t get you out of the hole any time soon.
Paying extra toward your debt, even if it’s just $20 more, can significantly reduce how much you’ll pay in interest. If you actually read through your credit card statements, you should see a “minimum payment warning” section that explains how making only the minimum payment will raise your total debt and prolong the time it takes to pay it off.
This premise of paying more than the minimum is true for paying off student loans, car loans or even your mortgage.
5. Have a Plan If You’re Moving Back Home.
These days, there really isn’t any shame in moving back home after college. What you’ll regret, however, is moving back home without a plan.
If you revert back to your high school days when Mom and Dad shouldered all the financial responsibility of day-to-day life, you could be setting yourself up for a more challenging transition when you do finally leave the nest.
Discuss with your parents the expectations for covering household bills and expenses. If they insist on you not paying any rent, put aside what you would have paid to save up for your own place or build your emergency fund. Speaking of which …
6. You Need to Have an Emergency Fund.
No one likes to prepare for the worst, but having money saved up in the event of an emergency is a crucial part of being financially secure.
Experts say you should have between three to six months of expenses saved in an emergency fund. Those who watched their savings dry up during the pandemic may want to save even more. But even just $1,000 could be a lifesaver if your car breaks down or you need to fly out of town to attend a funeral.
You can automate your savings by directing a percentage of your paycheck to a savings account. Or use an app like Digit to save money without thinking. Digit’s algorithm analyzes your income and spending and determines safe amounts to transfer automatically to savings.
Even if you just stash $5 bills in a jar, start saving for emergencies now.
7. Create Sinking Funds to Save Up for the Big Stuff.
A sinking fund is a pool of money you regularly add to over time to make a large expense more manageable.
Don’t just limit saving to your emergency fund. When you’re ready to upgrade to a new laptop or you’re hit with your annual car insurance bill, you’re going to wish you had saved up for them gradually.
Setting up sinking funds for those infrequent expenses will prevent you from scrambling. You may want to open separate savings accounts for your different short-term savings goals. If you’re saving all your money in one account, record how much you’re contributing and what the running balance is for each goal.
8. Save for Retirement Now.
I know you’re just beginning your career. Retirement is probably one of the last things on your mind. But the earlier you start saving for retirement, the better off you’ll be.
Thanks to the power of compound interest, a 22-year old who saves $200 a month at a growth rate of 6% will have $371,428.72 by age 62. In comparison, someone who starts making those same retirement contributions at age 32 would have only $189,739.65 by age 62. That 32-year-old would have to be saving nearly $400 a month to have over $370,000 by age 62.
That’s a significant difference. Start now.
Opt into your job’s 401(k) plan as soon as you’re able. At the very least, you should contribute enough to meet your employer’s match.
If your job doesn’t offer a 401(k) plan, you can open an Individual Retirement Account or IRA. Even if you have a 401(k), you can open an IRA for additional savings. Check out this retirement saving guide for more insights to how you can save up for your future.
9. Avoid Being Underpaid.
Budgeting puts the focus on how much money you spend and how much you save. But the amount of money you make matters just as much.
Though your salary is likely to grow throughout your career, how much you make early on can have significant weight on your lifetime earnings. It’s for that reason states like California, New Jersey and a handful of others have outlawed employers asking about salary history on job applications. If you start off making less than others at your level in your field, you’re at risk of earning less in subsequent jobs.
This is why it’s important to make sure you’re being offered a fair, competitive salary from the beginning. Sites like Glassdoor and Payscale provide salary estimates for different fields and companies so you won’t accept a low-ball offer.
Embrace the art of salary negotiation and counter-offer with confidence, even if the thought of it makes you sweat. Read up on how to negotiate your salary like a boss before your next interview.
When considering job offers, don’t forget to factor in the company’s benefits package and any other perks. It might be worth it for you to accept a position that pays a bit less but covers health insurance premiums, offers a generous 401(k) match and allows you to work remotely, lowering your transportation costs.
10. Base Your Budget Off Your Take-Home Pay.
Speaking of salaries, know that the salary offer you agree to won’t be the amount of money you take home. That’s your gross income. Base how much you can spend and save off your net income, which is what you have after deductions are taken out.
It’s common to see the following deducted from your paycheck:
Taxes (federal, state and/or city)
Medicare and Social Security (which might show up as FICA on your check)
Premiums for health benefits
Short/Long-term disability insurance
If you haven’t received your first check yet, ADP has an awesome paycheck calculator that estimates your take-home pay after taxes and other deductions are taken out.
Some deductions — taxes, Medicare and Social Security — aren’t optional. You’ll have a choice to make when it comes to others, like retirement contributions and various insurance plans.
If you’re under 26, you can stay on your parents’ health insurance plan. But you may choose to opt into your own plan if you don’t live near your parents and all doctors in your area are out-of-network.
The value in having disability insurance is that you’d be able to receive a portion of your income in the event that you weren’t able to work. This could cover short-term absences from work, like recovering from childbirth, or long-term absences, such as a serious injury.
If you’re wondering whether you’d benefit from having a life insurance policy, this article can help shed some light.
11. Get a Side Hustle.
You don’t have to resign yourself to working 24/7, but there’s a lot to be said for picking up a side hustle when you’re still young and have ample time and energy.
Find ways to monetize your interests and talents. For example, sell homemade cakes for special occasions if you love to bake. Check out this list of 25 top side hustles.
You can use the extra income to pay down student loans or other debt. Or you could put it toward building that emergency fund or saving up to go on nice vacations. Having a side gig also gives you income to lean on if you ever find yourself out of a job, like if your company downsizes.
Another advantage of having a side hustle is you could develop skills and make connections to help you leverage a promotion or a better-paying job.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Ten years after graduating college, she’s trying to make up for bad money decisions — namely maxing out her credit cards and not getting an earlier start on retirement savings.
My husband has constantly changed jobs since I’ve been out of pharmacy school for 11 years. He got his own account, but he was still using our joint account without any contribution. He refuses to contribute to the household. He’s also got $8,000 of credit card debt in his name.
He wants my help to start a new business, but I refuse because he’s already had four failed businesses. He pressures me and says I have no faith in him.
I’ve thought about divorce, but I’m scared. What can I do?
This marriage sounds like trying to run a marathon in concrete shoes. It doesn’t matter how good you are at your job or as a wife. You’re not getting anywhere because every step is a struggle.
So you need to think about what scares you more: Getting divorced or living like this forever? Because from what you describe, I think these are your only two choices.
Your husband has the freedom to do things exactly on his terms. You work for two. He gets to play. You’ve been his safety net for 11 years.
I think you know that your problem is so much bigger than your husband’s money and career choices. Maybe this specific problem would disappear if you had an unlimited supply of money and neither of you had to work. But I don’t think you’d have a happy marriage because his needs come first.
In a healthy marriage, there’s room for compromise when spouses don’t see eye to eye. But it sounds like you can choose Option A, which is to work hard enough to carry the financial burden for two. And Option B? There is none. If you agree to anything less than Option A, you’re the bad guy. That’s a terrible position to be in.
What if you decided it was your turn to switch careers or start a business? Would your husband do whatever you needed because of his undying faith in you?
Yet I get why this is such a tough decision. On the surface, it may seem easier because you’re the breadwinner. You don’t have to stay in a bad relationship because you can’t afford food and shelter.
But letting someone you love fall on their face is hard after you’ve been there to fix everything for so long. Just the idea of separating yourself from someone you’ve built a life with for many years is overwhelming. Things get infinitely more complicated if you have children together.
If you have any hope of salvaging this marriage — and not feeling completely drained every day of your life — you need to have an honest conversation with your husband about what you need from him. Keep in mind that being equals doesn’t necessarily mean you have equal incomes. It’s more about each partner putting similar amounts of energy into the relationship.
I have no idea what your past discussions have looked like. Maybe if you’ve been focusing on not wanting to fund what will probably be another failed business, you’ll be more productive if you refocus the conversation on the pressure you feel over being responsible for everything. If your husband refuses to budge or even have this discussion, he’s telling you there’s nothing to salvage.
I do think you should at least speak to a divorce attorney so that you understand your options. This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to file. But sometimes just knowing what to expect makes things less scary. An attorney could walk you through the process and financial considerations, like alimony and splitting assets. They could also help you determine if there are any steps you can take now to protect your finances.
There’s always the possibility that getting served with divorce papers is an impetus for your husband to start taking your needs seriously. Maybe he’ll be able to stick with a job that’s less than perfect if he knows his safety net could be ripped out from under him. But I wouldn’t count on it. Some people are willing to work really hard at being lazy. It sounds like your husband is one of them.
Accept that if you pursue divorce, life is going to be a lot tougher in the short term. I’d expect your husband to make things as difficult as possible. But try to imagine your life five years out. Finances are certainly part of the picture, but they’re not the only consideration. Ask yourself if you’d feel freer and happier not being in this marriage. If the answer is yes, you know what the solution is.
Your husband has been telling you exactly who he is for 11 years. Listen to him. If you decide to stay, you have to make peace with the fact that things will look exactly the same 11 years from now.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].
Chances are you’ve gotten your third stimulus check by now, but you may still be waiting on that other chunk of change the IRS owes you: your tax refund.
The IRS is sitting on a backlog of 29 million returns that require manual processing, which basically means that a human needs to review it.
To be clear, most taxpayers who e-file have their returns processed and receive their refunds within 21 days, according to the IRS. But if you’re still waiting and wondering “where is my tax refund?”, here’s what’s going on and how you can track it.
Why You Haven’t Received Your Tax Refund
The 2020 tax season has been an especially complicated one for IRS staff and accountants.
As of March, the IRS still had a backlog of more than 2 million returns from 2019. Most of them are leftover returns filed by mail that piled up last year when most IRS offices were temporarily shuttered due to COVID-19.
But on top of that, there are a number of complexities created by the three stimulus bills, the most recent of which passed in the middle of tax season. On top of the usual tax season mayhem, the IRS was tasked with delivering the third stimulus check. Plus, tax season started 16 days later than usual this year. These challenges prompted the IRS to extend the tax deadline to May 17.
For example, people who typically qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a credit for low- and middle-income working families, may not have been eligible in 2020 due to expanded unemployment benefits. The $900 billion stimulus package that passed in December changed the rules to allow families to use 2019 income to qualify instead of 2020 income.
However, the IRS didn’t have time to update its programs to reflect this change, so if you’re seeking the Earned Income Tax Credit based on 2019’s income, an IRS employee will need to manually review it.
The same applies if you qualify for stimulus money from the first two checks based on your 2020 return that you didn’t qualify for based on your 2019 or 2018 return. For example, if your 2019 income was higher than your 2020 income, you may qualify for more stimulus money. Or if you had a child in 2020, you’d get stimulus credits on their behalf. These situations also require a manual review.
But your tax refund could also be delayed for all the reasons that would apply in a normal year. For example, if your refund was sent to a bank account that you’ve since closed, the IRS will eventually cut you a paper check, but that adds to the wait time. If someone fraudulently filed a tax return in your name to steal your refund, the IRS will think that you’ve already filed and reject it. Your refund will also be delayed if you made an error or your return was incomplete.
If you owe certain types of debt like child support or back taxes, the IRS could take your refund and use it to offset what you owe.
Paper returns require manual processing, so if you’ve filed by paper, expect a long wait, even if there are no issues with your return. The IRS is urging taxpayers who have yet to submit their returns to file online instead of by mail.
If you made an error that requires an amended return, your tax season will be even more prolonged. The IRS will notify you of the error by mail, and you’ll have to send in Form 1040X. There’s only one way to do this: by mail. Then, your amended return will be added to the 29 million-plus unprocessed returns.
What to Do if You’re Still Waiting
The first step is to make sure the IRS has actually received your return.
You can track your return using the Where’s My Refund feature on the IRS website or the IRS2Go app. You’ll need to provide your Social Security number, filing status and your exact refund amount.
But these tools have limited usefulness. If your return has been processed, they tell you when your refund is scheduled for deposit, but they don’t provide information about why a return is still being processed or whether you need to provide additional information, which prompted recent criticism from the Taxpayer Advocate Service.
If you filed electronically, you should be able to see whether the IRS has accepted your return within 24 hours. If the IRS has accepted your return, that just means it has confirmed it received it. The IRS still has to process it.
If you sent a paper return, you can expect a long wait before you can confirm that the IRS even has your return. Even in normal circumstances, tracking a paper return can take about four weeks.
The IRS says its staff will help you research the status of your refund only if you filed electronically more than three weeks ago or sent it by mail at least six weeks ago, or if Where’s My Refund tells you to get in touch.
Considering that the IRS has only answered about 7% of individual taxpayer phone calls to date, it’s pretty tough to talk to a human. Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who gets through to a human, they probably won’t be able to give you much information. The IRS systems don’t tell employees who handle phone calls why a return required manual processing. But if you want to try, the number for checking the status of a refund is 800-829-1954.
What to Do if You Haven’t Filed Yet
The big takeaway if you haven’t filed yet: Filing electronically is the way to go. There are plenty of easy-to-use tax software options, many of which have free versions.
Not only will you get your refund faster, but you’re also less likely to make errors that could result in further delays because the software is doing the math for you. Additionally, filing electronically is more secure than putting all that personal information in an envelope.
And of course, the sooner you file, the better. It usually takes longer to get your refund as Tax Day approaches, so stop delaying and block off time for a date with your tax software of choice.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]
Most of us have probably taken a deep, exasperated breath while surveying our homes, wondering how we managed to accumulate so much clutter. But there might be a way to turn that clutter into cash. It comes down to one word: Craigslist.
8 Tips for Selling on Craigslist
Selling on Craigslist seems easy, but it requires some know-how to get the intended result and money in your wallet. We scoured the Internet for the best tips.
So list that chair you’ve always hated. We’re here to help you find success and sell more of your items on Craigslist.
1. Take Photos That Work
Ever seen a Craigslist listing with an object you can’t quite make out? Is that a nightstand or a coffee table? Are they selling the whole dining room table set or just one chair?
A good photo can make your listing stand out while a bad photo has the potential to shut down any business. Take a good photo by posing your object in a well-lit spot, whether it’s in natural light or a warm artificial glow, and focus on the details that make your object special. Only photograph what you’re selling — leave extraneous things out of the picture.
2. It’s In the Details
Your listing can’t simply be a photo and the name of the object. You need a description and any relevant details — think dimensions or number of items or even age of the item, if relevant. It’s ideal for your listing to answer all of the questions a potential buyer might have so they don’t have time to really agonize over their purchase.
3. Tell the Truth
That being said, it’s important to be honest in your listing. If your couch has stains or your wooden dresser is chipped, add images that show the damage. Point that out to potential buyers in your description. People will be more likely to buy an item when they feel they are getting an upfront understanding of it.
One example: do not post the catalogue image of your piece of furniture from when it was brand new. (People do this.) Take a photo of your furniture piece as is — after all, that’s what you’re selling.
4. Be Simple
While you should absolutely share relevant details, there’s no need to tell the story of how your kids bounced around on these couch cushions or how the table was passed down in the family generation after generation. Potential buyers know they’re browsing for a used object, but they don’t want the legacy that comes with it. They want it to feel like their own.
And stick to simplicity in your listing title. Potential buyers often search for specific objects — trash cans or mirrors — and they likely won’t be searching with various adjectives.
5. Offer Delivery
Potential buyers love it when Craigslist sellers offer delivery. It’s an added perk and makes things easier, especially when the site caters to people from all over. Make sure to add a higher cost for delivery — whatever seems worth it to you based on location — and be safe. Bring someone along with you when you go to deliver.
6. The Price is Right
It really does boil down to whether the asking price is right. Craigslist is known for sellers that practically give items away, so it’s better to price your listing lower rather than higher. Interest is always key, and if you price it too high, you may have no takers.
But make sure you price your item at a level with which you’re comfortable. It’s not worth giving something away if it has sentimental value and you think it can go for more.
7. Reach Out to Your Network
Word of mouth is a powerful tool. If you think you might know someone in your social network — whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or more — who might be interested in what you’re selling, share it on those forums.
And better yet, if you have a specific buyer in mind, feel free to be direct and share your listing with friends and family. If it doesn’t work for them, they may know the right person.
8. Always Be Safe
Always remember that you are dealing with strangers online on Craigslist. If someone is coming to your house or you are going to theirs, have a friend with you. Don’t assume that you will be fine if you are alone. Entering a stranger’s house or allowing a stranger to enter yours always comes with risk. It’s better to be prepared and meet in a public place if that is the only way the meeting can take place.
Writer Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, often writing about selling goods online through social platforms. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Smithsonian Magazine and the Tampa Bay Times.
A Jefferson County School District student receives several bags with meals, Wednesday, March 3, 2021 in Fayette, Miss. As one of the most food insecure counties in the United States, many families and their children come to depend on the free meals as the only means of daily sustenance. Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo
Millions of families struggle with food insecurity every summer when school is out. Income loss due to the pandemic has only exasperated the situation.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) up to 12 million children are currently living in households where they may not have enough to eat.
If you’re worried about how to put food on your family’s table, help is out there.
How to Get Free Meals for Kids This Summer: 3 Federal Programs
The American Rescue Plan — the coronavirus relief package President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2021 — provided funding to expand several USDA programs aimed to reduce child hunger.
1. Pandemic EBT
Families with children eligible for free or reduced lunch and those who qualify for SNAP benefits can receive extra money for food via the Pandemic EBT program, which is being extended through the summer to make up for missed school meals.
The USDA standard benefit amount is $375 per eligible child over the course of the summer. Those living in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands have a higher standard benefit.
You’ll need to enroll in the Pandemic EBT program through your individual state, as funds are disbursed at the state level. Currently, 40 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been approved to operate Pandemic EBT programs.
Money is generally distributed in two or three disbursements throughout the summer.
2. USDA Summer Meals
All families with children 18 and under can participate in the USDA’s summer meal programs, which partners with local agencies including libraries, community centers, parks, churches and schools to distribute meals.
Program rules have been loosened so that meals can be distributed in bulk packages to cover multiple days and so parents can pick up the food without having their children present.
This interactive map helps you find local meal distribution sites. You can also locate a nearby site by texting “Summer Meals” to 97779 or calling 1-866-348-6479.
3. USDA National Hunger Hotline
The USDA National Hunger Hotline can help families seeking food assistance. Call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. E.T. to reach the hotline. If you need assistance in Spanish, call 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273).
Free Meals Next School Year
Even after summer comes to an end, families will still be able to get a financial break when it comes to feeding their kids.The USDA is extending its National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option so that students can receive universal free lunch throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Waivers will also be given to provide free meals for kids in daycare and preschool programs.
If students are still learning virtually, you’ll be able to pick up meals for children to eat at home. Check with your child’s school or child care provider to see if they are participating in this program.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
Storing your cash in a duffel bag under the bed has its perks — immediate access when you need it and the feeling of completely controlling your own finances.
But hoarding hard-earned money in your own home puts it at risk of theft or loss to natural disasters, and it’s doing you no favors in terms of interest.
Savings accounts at an FDIC-insured bank, on the other hand, keep your money secure and can earn you more money in the process.
Nowadays, the best savings accounts are typically with online banks due to higher interest rates, but brick-and-mortar banks still have some (though not many) benefits.
So which savings account should you choose? We’ve ranked the very best savings accounts available today to get you started.
What is a Savings Account?
A savings account is a bank account where you store your money until you need it. To see a detailed explanation to how it differs from a traditional checking account, visit our checking vs savings account comparison.
The best savings accounts are secured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for up to $250,000. That means that if you store your money with a bank and it goes under, you won’t lose your money.
Savings accounts are perfect for achieving your savings goals — for a car, a house, a wedding, vacations, you name it. More importantly, they are the best tool to build your emergency fund.
Most experts agree your emergency savings should total six months’ worth of necessary expenses in the case of job loss or another unpredictable emergency. Necessary expenses might include rent/mortgage, car payments, insurance, medical bills, utilities and groceries.
Don’t sweat it if you don’t have six months’ worth saved up. It takes time to build up your savings. Even if you can deposit $50 a month, you will eventually reach your goal.
One thing a savings account is not is an investment account. Savings accounts have historically low interest rates (or APY — annual percentage yield), but they are inherently low risk.
After you have padded your savings account with enough cash to cover emergency expenses and your other savings goals, you’d be better off opening an IRA or 401(k) or investing in stocks.
Common alternatives to savings accounts include certificates of deposit (CDs), where you store your money for a fixed term for a slightly higher interest rate, and money market accounts, which typically offer a higher APY but have significantly higher minimum balance requirements.
So just how much interest will you earn in a savings account? That depends on the amount you’ve saved and your APY.
Online Banks vs. Brick-and-Mortar Banks
Before the advent of the internet, brick-and-mortar banks (and credit unions) were the only place to store your money, if not in your duffel bag.
But over the last couple decades, online banks have transformed the way we think of safely storing our money, and because of their low overhead (fewer staff and few or no physical locations), they can offer much better interest rates on savings accounts.
Pros of Online Savings Accounts
When online savings accounts first surfaced, bank customers were hesitant to store their money with companies they had never heard of and were fearful of internet security issues.
Today, many of these same customers now see far more pros to online savings accounts than their traditional physical banks.
Higher Interest Rates
This is easily the most important distinction between brick-and-mortar banks and online banks. The national average APY for a savings account is 0.70%, but many brick-and-mortar banks offer just 0.01% interest rates on their savings accounts.
Online banks, on the other hand, tend to offer savings rates that are better — sometimes a lot better
Online banks are always open. The most competitive online banks offer around-the-clock service over the phone or online, and typically have more user-friendly apps and websites.
Some national banks and credit unions may offer 24/7 service, but their physical locations are typically limited to the 9-to-5 business hours.
Pros of Brick-and-Mortar Savings Accounts
There are advantages to brick-and-mortar banks. However, if these benefits do not hold massive weight for you, we highly recommend an online savings account.
Easy Access to Account Funds
Emergencies wait for no one. If you have an unexpected need for $10,000, it would be nice to be able to immediately access that.
Many online savings accounts take several days to get you your funds via ACH deposit or a written check, though wait times for ACH deposits have dramatically decreased in recent years.
(You can also speed up the process by opening a checking account with your online bank or choosing an online savings account with ATM benefits. Prioritize online banks that offer free checking accounts or ATM convenience cards.)
Brick-and-mortar banks, however, can allow major withdrawals at any of their locations. No waiting necessary.
Some people prefer to resolve their issues over the phone or online, but many others find comfort in face-to-face communication. By opening a savings account with a bank that offers physical locations, you’ll be able to get in-person help from financial experts during regular business hours.
… And a Toss-Up
When it comes to access to ATMs, there is no clear winner. Obviously, brick-and-mortar banks and credit unions offer ATMs at all their locations, where you can easily withdraw your money.
Many online banks, however, offer fee-free withdrawals at select ATMs, and the best online banks will reimburse you for fees incurred out of network.
Best Savings Accounts of May 2021, Ranked
So what are the best savings accounts of May 2021? That depends on what you value most.
In determining our top nine, we reviewed more than 20 popular savings accounts and considered what elements seem to be most universally important:
Best savings rates
Stellar mobile app and/or web experience
Convenience of transfers (easy access to funds)
We considered only savings accounts that were FDIC-insured or NCUA-insured and had no monthly fees.
Because physical branch access is becoming increasingly less important, all accounts on our list are online or hybrid (online with some brick-and-mortar bank locations).
So what didn’t we consider when making our list that you might also want to look for?
Bonuses: Because banks regularly add, remove or replace their bonuses, we did not include them in our criteria. If you’re stuck between two or three comparable savings accounts, see which one offers the best sign-on bonus. We highly recommend checking out our current bank promotions list to help earn bonus cash or incentives when signing up for a new savings account.
Customer service: Quality of customer service is subjective. Read reviews and ask friends and family about their experiences when considering banks.
To truly determine how you feel about the level and quality of customer service, give the bank a call and ask some questions about the account. From that interaction, you should be able to feel out how much each bank values customers and prospects.
1. Synchrony Bank High-Yield Savings Account
We ranked Synchrony’s account as the very best savings account of May 2021 because it has the perfect combination of the most important elements of a bank.
Monthly fees: None.
Minimum balance requirement: None.
Additional fee for withdrawals: None.
ATM card: No fee for in-network ATMs, $5 monthly reimbursement for out-of-network ATM fees
Access to funds: ATM, electronic transfer to an external account, wire transfer or a paper check in the mail.
Mobile app: Yes. At the time of this writing, the app has a 4.5 rating on the App Store and 3.7 on Google Play.
Details: Synchrony Bank High-Yield Savings account.
2. CIT Savings Builder Account
CIT Savings Builder is another solid account option, but you have to meet certain conditions to earn it:
APY: To earn up to 0.40% APY, either your account needs $25,000 in it, or you must make a monthly minimum deposit of $100 to the account. The latter option should be more feasible and is a good incentive to save each month.
Minimum balance requirement: $100.
Additional fee for withdrawals: None.
ATM card: None.
Access to funds: Electronic transfer, wire transfer (free if you have $25,000 or more in the account) or paper check.
Mobile app: Yes. At the time of writing, the app has a 4.6 rating on the App Store and 4.2 on Google Play.
Details: CIT Savings Builder.
3. Ally Online Savings Account
Though savings accounts are different from checking accounts — and thus should not be thought of as a place to quickly and easily get money — Ally does make it easier than most to access your funds when you need them. Just open a free checking account (ranked 5th in the best online checking accounts of 2020), and you can easily transfer your money over.
Minimum balance requirement: None.
Additional fee for withdrawals: After the six permitted withdrawals a month, you’ll pay $10 per transfer with Ally.
ATM card: None.
Access to funds: You can transfer money via direct deposit, electronic transfer, wire transfer or paper check.
Mobile app: Ally’s mobile app is highly rated at 4.7 stars on the App Store and 3.7 on Google Play.
Details: Ally Online Savings account.
4. Alliant High-Rate Savings Account
The Alliant High-Rate Savings account is offered via the Alliant Credit Union, so instead of FDIC insurance, it carries insurance through the National Credit Union Administration, but the benefits are the same.
Because it is a credit union, joining Alliant can be a little more challenging. You need to fulfill one of these four requirements:
Be a current or retired employee of a business that is partnered with Alliant.
Have an immediate family member or domestic partner who banks with Alliant.
Be a member of an Alliant-related organization/association.
Become a member of Foster Care to Success, Alliant’s partner charity.
Live in one of the communities near the Alliant headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.
APY: 0.55%. You need an average daily balance of $100 for the APY to kick in.
Minimum balance requirement: $5.
Additional fee for withdrawals: Hard limit on six federally regulated withdrawals.
ATM card: Money access is super convenient with a free ATM convenience card that qualifies at more than 80,000 ATMs nationwide.
Access to funds: If you live in the Chicago area, you’ll even have access to brick-and-mortar locations.
Mobile app: It’s got a solid app (4.7 on the App Store and 4.6 on Google Play)
Details: Alliant High-Rate Savings account
5. Discover Savings Account
The Discover Savings account offers a substantial APY and easy access to funds via a rewards checking account.
Minimum balance requirement: None.
Additional fee for withdrawals: The bank may refuse to pay transactions that exceed the six monthly permitted withdrawals.
ATM card: While Discover doesn’t offer an ATM card for its FDIC-insured savings account, you can sign up for the Discover Cashback Debit (it’s free!), which earns up to 1% cash back on up to $3,000 a month.
Access to funds: The linked debit account provides an easy way to transfer funds; otherwise, you can rely on electronic transfers, wire transfers and paper checks.
Mobile app: Discover’s app has a 4.8 rating on the App Store and a 4.5 rating on Google Play.
Details: Discover Savings account
Learn more: Discover Bank review
6. Capital One 360 Savings Account
While it’s certainly not the savings account with the best interest rate, it makes up for it with no monthly fees, easy integration with other Capital One 360 accounts (including a checking account for easy funds transfer) and a killer app.
Minimum balance requirement: None.
Additional fee for withdrawals: Hard limit on six federally regulated withdrawals.
ATM card: None.
Access to funds: If you don’t open a linked checking account for the easy ATM access, you can still access your funds via the traditional (but slower) means.
Mobile app: In 2018, the Capital One 360 mobile app was ranked No. 1 in customer satisfaction in the banking category for the second year in a row in J.D. Power’s U.S. Banking App Satisfaction Study.
The app has a 4.8 rating on the App Store and a 4.7 rating on Google Play.
Details: Capital One 360 Savings account
7. Barclays Online Savings Account
Barclays has its cons, like challenging access to funds, but its high APY and strong mobile app earned it a spot on this list.
APY: Barclays is one of three banks on this list to offer the competitive 0.40% APY.
Minimum balance requirement: None.
Additional fee for withdrawals: Withdrawals that exceed the monthly limit will result in a fee.
ATM card: None.
Access to funds: You can deposit and withdraw funds in a number of ways, through direct deposit, an electronic transfer, paper check and more.
Mobile app: Yes, but the Barclays US Online Savings mobile app is not the most user-friendly based on its ratings: a 3.7 on the App Store and a 2.4 on Google Play.
Details: Barclays Online Savings account
Learn more: Barclay’s Bank review
8. American Express Personal Savings Account
You might rely on American Express for your credit card, but the bank offers an online savings account worth your consideration as well.
Minimum balance requirement: $1.
Additional fee for withdrawals: Hard limit on nine withdrawals, though this is more than most of its competitors.
ATM card: A major drawback of the American Express account is the lack of ATM card.
Access to funds: Electronic transfer, wire transfer and paper check are the only ways to access your money.
Mobile app: It currently has a 4.9 rating on the App Store and a 4.2 rating on Google Play.
Details: American Express Personal savings account
9. Marcus Online Savings Account by Goldman Sachs Account
Our final online savings account is by Goldman Sachs. It offers a competitive APY and fairly new mobile app.
Minimum balance requirement: None.
Additional fee for withdrawals: Due to a change in federal law, Goldman Sachs currently doesn’t impose a limit on withdrawals.
ATM card: None.
Access to funds: Withdrawals are limited to electronic transfer and wire transfer (you also cannot deposit checks via the app).
Mobile app: Yes. It has a 4.9 rating on the App Store and a 3.9 rating on Google Play.
Details: Marcus Online Savings Account
6 Tips for Choosing a Savings Account
You should be aware that banks can change interest rates, develop better apps and update their bonuses, so it is important to understand how to determine the best savings account for yourself.
Here are a few tips:
1. Consider Your Needs
We prioritized high savings rates, ease of funds transfer and mobile apps in our rankings, but maybe for you, two-factor authentication and customer service are top considerations.
Build your own ranking system based on your top two or three criteria. You won’t find a perfect bank that offers everything, but at the very least, you’ll find banks that can meet all of your top needs.
2. Stick With Online
Put your money in an online savings account, unless you have a good reason not to, such as a high interest savings account at a brick-and-mortar credit union or a regular need to get in-person help.
3. Save Only With Insured Banks
Do not put your money into any bank that is not insured by the FDIC. Or, if you go the credit union route, make sure it is insured by the NCUA. We did not include any banks on our list that were not insured.
4. Don’t Be Tempted by Sign-on Bonuses Alone
Earning cash for starting an account with a bank feels awesome, but don’t let the appeal of $100 now prevent you from putting your savings into an account that will earn you $500 over a couple years.
5. Find a No-fee Account
Be wary of accounts with monthly maintenance fees, statement fees or any other miscellaneous charges. You’re more likely to find these fees with a brick-and-mortar bank.
Ideally, find a bank that has an associated free checking account for easy and fast funds transfers.
6. Read the Fine Print
Know what you are signing before you sign it.
If an APY sounds too good to be true, it’s possible there are strings attached — or that the rate is only temporary.
Ask questions and do research when you are confused by any of the terms and conditions, and don’t deposit your savings until you are satisfied with the agreement.