9 Best 0% APR Credit Card Offers – March 2017

There are a lot of 0% APR credit card deals in your mailbox and online, but most of them slap you with a 3 to 4% fee just to make a transfer, and that can seriously eat into your savings.

At MagnifyMoney we like to find deals no one else is showing, and we’ve searched hundreds of balance transfer credit card offers to find the banks and credit unions that ANYONE CAN JOIN which offer great 0% interest credit card deals AND no balance transfer fees. We’ve hand-picked them here.

If one 0% APR credit card doesn’t give you a big enough credit line you can try another bank or credit union for the rest of your debt. With several no fee options it’s not hard to avoid transfer fees even if you have a large balance to deal with.

1. Chase Slate® – 0% Introductory APR for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer FEE

ChaseSlateScreenThis deal is easy to find – Chase is one of the biggest banks and makes this credit card deal well known. Save with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee, 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. Plus, receive your Monthly FICO® Score for free.

You can get this offer if you complete the balance transfer within 60 days of opening the account. So it’s worth a shot to see how big of a credit line you get. If it’s not enough, move on to the other options below.

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2. Barclaycard Ring™ MasterCard® – 0% Introductory APR for 15 months, $0 Introductory Balance Transfer FEE

This card is available if you have excellent credit. Be aware that you have 45 days to complete this transfer after opening the account.

You can also nominate and vote on charity partners to donate card profits each year and there are no foreign transaction fees if you use the card abroad.

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Tip: The remaining no fee cards on this list are deals for 12 months or less. You might be better off paying a standard 3% fee for a longer deal, like 0% for 18 months from the Discover It, one of the better deals with a fee of 3% or less.

3. Alliant Credit Union Credit Cards – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

Alliant is an easy credit union to work with because you don’t have to be a Alliant Visa Platinum Credit Cardsmember to apply and find out if you qualify for the 0% APR deal.

Just choose ‘not a member’ when you apply and if you are approved you’ll then be able to become a member of the credit union to finish opening your account.

Alliant Credit Union

Anyone can become a member of Alliant by making a $10 donation to Foster Care to Success.

If your credit isn’t great, you might not get a 0% rate – rates for transfers are as high as 5.99%, so make sure you double check the rate you receive before opening the account, and they might ask for additional documents like your pay stubs to verify the information on your application.

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4. Edward Jones World MasterCard – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

edwardjonesYou’ll need to go to an Edward Jones branch to open up an account first if you want this deal. Edward Jones is an investment advisory company, so they’ll want to have a conversation about your retirement needs.

But you don’t need to have money in stocks to be a customer of Edward Jones and try to get this card. Just beware that you only have 30 days to complete your transfer to lock in the 0% rate. This deal expires 5/5/2017.

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5. First Tech Choice Rewards – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

firsttechrewardsAnyone can join First Tech Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Financial Fitness Association for $8, or the Computer History Museum for $15. You can apply for the card without joining first. This introductory 0% for 12 months on balance transfers with no fee deal is for the First Tech Choice Rewards World MasterCard, and you also get 10,000 points for opening the card (no spending required). The points don’t expire as long as you have the card, and 6,000 points is enough for $50 cash back, while 11,000 points is enough for $100 cash back, which can help you pay down your card.

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6. La Capitol Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

La Capitol Federal Credit UnionAnyone can join La Capitol Federal Credit Union by becoming a member of the Louisiana Association for Personal Financial Achievement, which costs $20. Just indicate that’s how you want to be eligible when you apply for the card – no need to join before you apply. And La Capitol accepts members from all across the country, so you don’t have to live in Louisiana to take advantage of this deal on the Prime Plus card.

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7. Quorum Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

Quorum Federal Credit UnionQuorum is a New York based credit union anyone can join by joining the Select Savers Club during the application process – just choose ”I would like to join through an association” on the application page. All of Quorum’s credit cards offer the 0% for 12 months with no fee deal.

Just be aware the 12 months starts from when your account opens, not when you make the transfer, so if you wait a month to do the transfer, you’ll only get the zero deal for 11 months.

And the 0% deal isn’t prominent on the Quorum site, you’ll see it buried in the fine print. Look for the sentence “The introductory purchase and balance transfer APR is 0% for 12 months from account opening and applies to ALL Quorum MasterCard credit cards” at the very bottom of their page.

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8. Purdue Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

purdue-credit-union-visaThe Purdue Federal Credit Union doesn’t have open membership, but one way to be eligible for credit union membership is to join the Purdue University Alumni Association as a Friend of the University. Anyone can join the association, but it costs $50. The minimum credit line on the Visa Signature card offering 0% is $5,000, so if approved the $50 would be like a transfer fee of 1% or less. The good news is you can apply and get a decision before you become a member of the Alumni Association.

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9. Fort Knox Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

This deal is only good for transfers made before March 31, 2017, so make sure you apply for the card with enough time to be able to get the transfer done. The offer is available on all Fort Knox Visa cards, except the student card. This includes the ‘Classic’ Visa which may be available to you with less than perfect credit, though limits on that card are $5,000 or less.

Anyone can join Fort Knox Federal Credit by joining the American Consumer Council for $5. Click on ‘balance transfer’ after you follow the link below to see the details.

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10. Logix Credit Union Credit Card – 0% APR for 12 months , NO FEE

If you live in AZ, CA, DC, MA, MD, ME, NH, NV, or VA you can join Logix Credit Union and apply for this deal. Some applicants have reported credit lines of $15,000 or more for balance transfers, so if you have excellent credit, good income, but a large amount to pay off (like a home equity line), this could be a good option.

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11. First Tennessee Bank Credit Card – 0% APR for 12 months, NO FEE

If you want to apply online for this deal, you’ll need to live in a state where First Tennessee Bank Credit CardFirst Tennessee has a branch though. Those states are: Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

You need to have an existing First Tennessee account to apply online, but if you don’t have one, you can print out an application and mail it into their office to get a decision. You’ll find a link to the paper application when the online form asks you whether you have an account or not.

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12. Andigo Credit Union – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

You’ll have a choice to apply for the Andigo Visa Platinum, Platinum Rewards, or Platinum Cash Back. The Platinum without rewards has a lower ongoing APR, starting as low as 10.15%, compared to 12.15% for the Platinum Rewards card, so if you’re not sure you’ll pay it all off in 6 months the Platinum without rewards is a better bet.

Anyone can join Andigo by making a donation to Connect Vets for $15, and you can submit an application for the card without being a member yet.

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13. Aspire Credit Union Credit Card – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

You don’t have to be a member to apply and get a decision from Aspire. Once youAspire Credit Union Credit Card do, Aspire is easy to join – just check that you want to join the American Consumer Council (free) while filling out your membership application online.

Make sure you apply for the regular ‘Platinum’ card, and not the ‘Platinum Rewards’ card, which doesn’t offer the introductory deal. Aspire says people with fair credit can apply for its card.

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14. Elements Financial Credit Card – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Elements Financial Credit CardTo become a member and apply, you’ll just need to join TruDirection, a financial literacy organization. It costs just $5 and you can join as part of the application process.

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15. Justice Federal Credit Union – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Justice Federal Credit UnionIf you’re not a Department of Justice, Homeland Security, or U.S. court employee (or a few others), you need to join a law enforcement organization to be a member of Justice Federal. One of the eligible associations for membership is the National Native American Law Enforcement Association. It costs $15 to join.

You can apply as a non-member online to get a decision before joining. And Justice is unique in that its Student credit card is also eligible for the 0% no fee deal, so if your credit history is limited and you’re trying to deal with a balance on your very first card, this could be an option.

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16. Xcel Platinum Visa – 0% APR for 6 months, NO FEE

Xcel Platinum Visa credit cardAnyone can join Xcel by becoming a member of the American Consumer Council, and you can apply for the card as a non-member of the credit union, but not everyone who is approved for the card will get the low intro rate. Xcel advises you contact them to get as sense of whether your income, credit history, and employment history will qualify for the intro rate.

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Are these the best deals for you?

If you can pay off your debt within the 0% period, then yes, a no fee 0% balance transfer credit card is your absolute best bet. And if you can’t, you can hope that other 0% deals will be around to switch again.

But if you’re unsure, you might want to consider…

  • A deal that has a longer period before the rate goes up. In that case, a balance transfer fee could be worth it to lock in a 0% rate for longer.
  • Or, a card with a rate a little above 0% that could lock you into a low rate even longer.

The good news is we can figure it out for you.

Our handy, free balance transfer tool lets you input how much debt you have, and how much of a monthly payment you can afford. It will run the numbers to show you which offers will save you the most for the longest period of time.

promo balancetransfer wide

The savings from just one balance transfer can be substantial.

Let’s say you have $5,000 in credit card debt, you’re paying 18% in interest, and can afford to pay $200 a month on it. Here’s what you can save with a 0% deal:

  • 18%: It will take 32 months to pay off, with $1,312 in interest paid.
  • 0% for 12 months: You’ll pay it off in 28 months, with just $502 in interest, saving you $810 in cash. That even assumes your rate goes back up to 18% after 12 months!

But your rate doesn’t have to go up after 12 months. If you pay everything on time and maintain good credit, there’s a great chance you’ll be able to shop around and find another bank willing to offer you 0% interest again, letting you pay it off even faster.

Before you do any balance transfer though, make sure you follow these 6 golden rules of balance transfer success:

  • Never use the card for spending. You are only ready to do a balance transfer once you’ve gotten your budget in order and are no longer spending more than you earn. This card should never be used for new purchases, as it’s possible you’ll get charged a higher rate on those purchases.
  • Have a plan for the end of the promotional period. Make sure you set a reminder on your phone calendar about a month or so before your promotional period ends so you can shop around for a low rate from another bank.
  • Don’t try to transfer debt between two cards of the same bank. It won’t work. Balance transfer deals are meant to ‘steal’ your balance from a competing bank, not lower your rate from the same bank. So if you have a Chase Freedom with a high rate, don’t apply for another Chase card like a Chase Slate and expect you can transfer the balance. Apply for one from another bank.
  • Get that transfer done within 60 days. Otherwise your promotional deal may expire unused.
  • Never use a card at an ATM. You should never use the card for spending, and getting cash is incredibly expensive. Just don’t do it with this or any credit card.
  • Always pay on time. If you pay more than 30 days late your credit will be hurt, your rate may go up, and you may find it harder to find good deals in the future. Only do balance transfers if you’re ready to pay at least the minimum due on time, every time.

The post 9 Best 0% APR Credit Card Offers – March 2017 appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

The Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses

Note from the Editor: The information related to Chase Ink Business Preferred Card credit card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

 

As a small business owner you know you need to manage your cash flow and plan for financing. Credit cards can be an ideal way to meet those needs. But business owners need to be savvy cardholders. Small business credit cards come with unique risks that personally affect entrepreneurs.

 

In this roundup we cover the risks and advantages of small business credit cards. And we’ll show you what card fits your business needs.

 

Best Cards for Financing

If credit cards are an important source of financing and capital for your business, then you need to be a savvy borrower. Look for cards with compelling terms, and take the time to understand the fine print. Remember, the card may be in the business’s name, but you’re personally liable for the debt. Don’t take on more debt than you can handle.

Best 0% Financing

The American Express Blue for Business card offers 12 months of 0% APR for financing. If you fail to pay back your purchases within 12 months, your interest rate will move to 11.74%-19.74%, depending on creditworthiness. You lose access to the introductory rate if you make a late payment.

The 12-month 0% APR window is one of the most generous offers available. On top of generous financing, you earn rewards for spending.

Rewards include 10x points per $1 spent on the first $2,000 in qualifying purchases at U.S. restaurants for the first six months. You can also earn 10,000 membership rewards points after making your first purchase. Plus, you will receive 2x points on qualifying purchases on the first $50,000 in the first year. Every year, you’ll also receive a bonus of 30% of the previous year’s points earned.

The card offers perks including secondary car rental insurance, purchase protection, extended warranties, baggage insurance, trip accident insurance, and travel hotline help.

The Fine Print
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR financing for 12 months. You must pay on time, or you lose this rate.
  • APR: After 12 months, 11.74%-19.74%, depending on your creditworthiness
  • Penalty APR: 29.74%
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $38
  • Returned payment fee: $38
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $5 or 3%
  • Cash advance APR: 25.74%
  • Rewards: 2 points for every dollar you spend in the first year up to $50,000. 1 point per dollar spent. 10 points for every dollar you spend on dining in the first six months.
  • Bonus: 2 points for every dollar you spend booking travel at amextravel.com

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Low Interest Rates

If you and your business have excellent credit, the Platinum Plus for Business MasterCard from Bank of America offers low ongoing financing. This is a great card for businesses with periodic short-term borrowing needs. Besides interest rates as low as 9.74%, it offers a seven-billing-cycle 0% APR promo rate and $200 statement credit if you spend $500 in the first 60 days.

Plus, the card offers travel accident insurance, secondary rental insurance, and automatic downloads to QuickBooks.

Remember, it’s not wise to use a small business credit card for long-term financing. Many credit unions will offer low rates on installment business loans.

The Fine Print
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR financing for seven billing cycles.
  • APR: 9.74%-20.74% variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness (after seven billing cycles)
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: $19-$49 (depending on your balance)
  • Returned payment fee: $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 4%
  • Cash advance APR: 24.74%
  • Sign-up bonus: $200 statement credit if you spend $500 in your first 60 days
  • Rewards: None

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Cash Flow Management

Managing cash flow can be one of the most difficult problems facing small business owners. The Plum Card by American Express makes cash flow easier. The Plum Card is a charge card not a credit card. This means that it is designed to give you access to short-term working capital. However, it is not a good source of financing.

If you pay your bill within 10 days of statement closing, you’ll get a 1.5% discount on eligible charges. Otherwise you have a full 60 days without interest before you need to make a payment. Beware, these benefits come at a steep price. After one year, you’ll pay a $250 annual membership fee. Plus, carrying a balance on a charge card comes with huge penalties. The first time you go past due, you’ll be charged 1.5% of the balance. After that, they charge a late fee of 2.99%. The minimum fee is $38.

The Fine Print
  • Late fee: 1.5%, then 2.99%; minimum of $38
  • Returned payment: $38
  • On-time payment bonus: 1.5% discount if you pay balance within 10 days of statement closing
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, $250 thereafter
  • No cash advance
  • Rewards: None

Apply Now

Imperfect Credit

If you’re struggling to get approved for a small business credit card, the Spark Classic from Capital One offers an excellent option. The card has a high variable APR (23.49%) and mediocre rewards (1% cash back). But Capital One will approve business owners with just average credit.

This isn’t a great card for borrowing, even in the short term. However, the Spark Classic will give you some working capital, and it will help your business build its credit. Just remember to pay your bill on time each month and to keep your credit use low.

The Spark Classic also offers perks like purchase protection, free extended warranties, and travel and emergency assistance. These protections offer tremendous value to business owners.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 23.49% variable APR
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 3%
  • Cash advance APR: 23.49%
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all purchases

Apply Now

Cards for Service Members

Former and current members of any branch of the military can join Navy Federal Credit Union and apply for these high-quality credit cards. The Visa and MasterCard have the same fees and conditions, but they offer different perks.

 

Navy Federal Credit Union’s Visa for Business credit card gives former service members access to low interest rates and rewards spending. This can be an excellent choice for service members with excellent credit who may have to borrow for short-term needs.

The card gives access to the Visa SavingsEdge program, which gives up to 15% off business purchases at qualifying retailers. However, the card doesn’t offer extended warranties or other protections, so it isn’t always the best choice.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 9.65%-18.0%
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $20
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $20
  • Cash advance fee: $0 at Navy Federal Credit Union branch ATM, 50 cents domestic, $1 foreign
  • Cash advance APR: APR + 2%
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent

Apply Now

Navy Federal Credit Union’s MasterCard for Business credit card gives former service members access to low interest rates and rewards. The low interest rates make it a compelling choice for service members with short-term borrowing needs.

The card gives access to the MasterCard Easy Savings program, which gives automatic 10% rebates at a network of gas stations, auto repair shops, and shipping companies. This can lead to significant savings. The card also connects to the MasterCard Business Network, which makes expense reports easy. However, the card doesn’t offer extended warranties or other protections.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 9.65%-18.0%
  • Annual fee: No annual fee
  • Late fee: Up to $20
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $20
  • Cash advance fee: $0 at Navy Federal Credit Union branch ATM, 50 cents domestic, $1 foreign
  • Cash advance APR: APR + 2%
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent

Apply Now

Best Cards for Rewards

Many small business credit cards offer compelling rewards to cardholders. These rewards can allow you to reinvest in your business, or you can take them for personal use. If you choose to use a rewards credit card, try to avoid paying interest. Most of these cards are not good choices for short-term borrowing.

Travel Perks

If you’re a frequent traveler, these small business credit cards give you access to incredible perks. But be sure to read the fine print. These cards have a few gotchas attached.

 

The American Express Business Platinum Card is a charge card with a premium price tag ($450 per year) and premium benefits for some users. Please note, it is not a credit card; you should not plan to borrow money with this card. These are the most significant perks:

  • Global Lounge Collection access
  • $200 airline fee credit (for checked bags, inflight refreshment, etc.)
  • One free Global Entry or TSA Pre? application fee (allows you to expedite security at select airports and U.S. Customs)
  • Free inflight Gogo Wi-Fi and Boingo (land-based Wi-Fi)
  • Secondary car rental insurance
  • Baggage insurance
  • Travel accident insurance (if you become injured or sick)
  • Purchase protection
  • Free extended warranties
  • 50% airline points redemption bonus on first- or business-class tickets (if you spend 100,000 points on a business-class ticket, you’ll get 50,000 points back 6-10 weeks later)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Program and Fine Hotels and Resorts Program (perks like in-room WiFi, complimentary breakfast, and other hotel perks)
The Fine Print
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Late fee: 2.99% or $38, whichever is greater
  • Returned payment fee: $38
  • No cash advance
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $10,000 within three months of card membership. Earn 25,000 more points after spending an additional $10,000 within your first three months.
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent
  • Bonus rewards: 1.5 points per dollar for first $5,000 spent in a year; 2 points per dollar spent through amextravel.com.

Apply Now

As a business owner, little incidentals can add up in a big way. The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card mitigates these costs by providing high-value insurance protection to you and your employees. Not only will you earn rewards (outlined in the fine print), you’ll enjoy these perks, too.

Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance
If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather, or other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $5,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels.

Trip Delay Reimbursement
If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.

Travel Accident Insurance
When you pay for your air, bus, train, or cruise transportation with your card, you are eligible to receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000.

Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
Decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is primary when renting for business purposes and provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad.

Baggage Delay Insurance
You are reimbursed for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over six hours by passenger carrier up to $100 a day for five days.

Lost Luggage Reimbursement
If you or an immediate family member check or carry on luggage that is damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.

Extended Warranty Protection
This warranty extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less.

Cellphone Protection
Get up to $600 per claim in cellphone protection against covered theft or damage for you and your employees listed on your monthly cellphone bill when you pay it with your Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. There is a maximum of three claims in a 12-month period with a $100 deductible per claim.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 16.49%-21.49%
  • Annual fee: $95 per year
  • Late fee: $15-$39, depending on balance
  • Returned payment fee: $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $15 or 5% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 25.49%
  • Sign-up bonus: 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent, 3 points per dollar spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable or phone services, or online advertising (social media or search engines)
  • Bonus: Points worth 25% more when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards(Chase’s travel website)

Big Introductory Bonuses

Business owners who know they’ll spend a lot in a short period of time should take note of these cards. These bonuses provide excellent value if you can meet the spending requirements. But be wary: these cards have high interest rates. You won’t come out ahead if you end up financing a big purchase with these cards.

The Business Platinum Card offers excellent travel perks, but it offers an unparalleled sign-up bonus, too. Right now, you can earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $10,000 within three months of card membership. You’ll also earn 25,000 more points after spending an additional $10,000 within your first three months.

If you plan to spend $20,000 or more in the next three months, this bonus is worth the highest value when redeemed for travel rewards. Depending on which option you choose, this bonus may offset annual fees. You need to churn through a lot of money to meet the spending minimums, but this is a lucrative bonus.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card offers ideal perks for frequent travelers, but right now you can get a great sign-up bonus, too. By spending $5,000 in three months, you’ll earn 80,000 points. This bonus is worth $1,000 if you spend your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel.

In addition to the lucrative bonus, you can earn everyday spending rewards (including 3 points per dollar spent in certain categories) and valuable trip insurance.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

Cash Back Rewards

Every business owner can benefit from more cash in their pocket. These cards give you the best cash back offers for everyday spending. You can find better rewards if you use multiple cards, but these have excellent rewards for those who don’t want to mess around with multiple cards. Plus, these cards have excellent protections, too. But be careful when you finance with these cards; they don’t offer great terms for borrowing.

 

The Spark Cash card from Capital One offers unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases, and it is free for the first year. Plus, if you spend more than $4,500 in the first three months of holding the card, you get a $500 cash bonus. After the first year, you’ll pay $59 to hold the card. After the first year, if you spent more than $3,000 per year, it’s worth it.

The Spark Cash card also offers valuable protective features like purchase protection, free extended warranties, primary auto rental collision coverage, and more. Overall, the Spark Cash card gives straightforward rewards to business owners with excellent credit.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 17.49% variable APR
  • Penalty APR: 29.9% (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, $59 per year afterward
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 3% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 23.49%
  • Sign-up bonus: $500 reward when you spend $4,500 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 2% cash back on all spending

Apply Now

The Spark Cash Select card from Capital One offers a rare combination of friendly financing terms and rewards. You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on all purchases, and you’ll receive a $200 sign-up bonus if you spend $3,000 or more in your first three months.

On top of that, you’ll have a 0% APR financing rate for nine months, and an APR as low as 13.49% afterward.

This isn’t the most lucrative rewards card, but you won’t pay an annual fee. This makes it a great card for businesses that don’t spend as much on a credit card.

The Fine Print
  • Promo APR: 0% for nine months
  • APR: 13.49%-21.49%, depending on your creditworthiness
  • Penalty APR: 29.9% (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 3% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 23.49%
  • Sign-up bonus: $200 reward when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
  • Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all spending

Apply Now

Best Category Bonuses

If you and your employees spend a lot of money in a limited number of categories, you might want to consider a rewards card with heavy bonuses in those categories. These cards offer at least 3 points for every dollar you spend in a given category. That’s the equivalent of a 3% reward.

Remember, rewards cards aren’t usually a good choice for financing purchases. Look to pay off these cards every month.

Online Advertising

Businesses that regularly advertise on social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or via search engines (Google, Bing) can earn impressive rewards on their marketing spending. These are the best cards for heavy online advertisers.

 

You’ll earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on online advertising. In addition, you’ll be eligible for travel perks, sign-up bonuses, and more.Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

The American Express Business Gold Rewards Card allows you to choose to earn 3 points per dollar spent on any one of the following categories: advertising in select online media, airfare from airlines, gas, shipping, or computers and cloud services from select providers. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar on the categories you don’t choose.

All other spending earns 1 point per dollar you spend.

As a sign-up bonus, you’ll earn 50,000 points if you spend $5,000 or more in your first three months of holding the card. In addition to the rewards, you get trip accident insurance, extended warranties, and purchase protection.

Since the Business Gold Rewards Card is a charge card, you shouldn’t plan to borrow with the card. But the rewards for online advertisers are excellent. Just watch out for the $175 annual fee that kicks in after the first year.

The Fine Print
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $175
  • Late fee: 2.99% or $38, whichever is greater
  • Returned payment fee: $38
  • No cash advance
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 within three months of card membership
  • Rewards: 1 point per dollar spent
  • Bonus rewards: 3 points in one category (pick between advertising in select online media, airfare from airlines, gas, shipping, or computers and cloud services from select providers).
  • 2 points rewards on remaining four categories.

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Dining and Travel

Dining and travel cost a lot, but these cards offer enticing rewards. The cards we recommend offer more than 3% cash back on restaurant spending, travel, or both. Plus, they have other compelling perks. But most of these cards aren’t great for borrowing, so check the fine print.

 

The American Express Blue for Business card offers the single best dining deal, at least during your first six months. During the first six months of holding the American Express Blue for Business card, you’ll get 10 points for every dollar you spend at a restaurant up to $2,000. Once the six-month offer period is over, you may want to turn to other rewards programs from the cards we outline below.

This is also one rewards card that has a decent financing option. Right now you can get 0% APR financing for the first twelve months.

Learn more here about the perks, rewards, and fine print before you apply.

Looking to thin down your wallet? A Sam’s Club Business MasterCard, doubles as your membership card. But it’s not just for wholesale shopping. Spending on the Sam’s Club Business MasterCard gives you the opportunity to earn 3% cash back rewards on all restaurant spending worldwide. It also gives 5% cash back rewards on gas (except when purchased at other wholesalers) and 1% on all other spending.

Road warriors and frequent business entertainers will love this card. Plus, the $45 statement credit (if you spend $100 the day you open it) pays for your annual Sam’s Club membership.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 15.15%-23.15%
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: $0 (requires $45 Sam’s Club membership)
  • Late fee: Up to $39.99
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $5 or 3% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 20.15%-26.15%
  • Sign-up bonus: $45 statement credit when you spend $100 on your first day (applying in-store makes this easy).
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all spending. Maximum of $5,000 back in a given year.
  • Bonus rewards: 3% on dining and travel expenses. 5% on gas (up to $6,000 in gas purchases). Gas cannot be purchased from other wholesale clubs.

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If you prefer Costco to Sam’s Club, the Costco Anywhere Visa Business Card offers similar terms. Their 4-3-2-1 program includes 4% on gas purchases (up to $7,000 per year), 3% cash rewards for all dining and travel expenses, 2% on Costco purchases, and 1% on all other spending.

While the rewards are sweet, the terms can be expensive. This is not a good card for borrowing, so be sure to pay it off each month.

The Fine Print
  • APR: 0% for seven months, then 15.74%
  • Penalty APR: 29.99% (applied if you make a late payment)
  • Annual fee: $0 (requires $55 Costco membership)
  • Late fee: Up to $37
  • Returned payment fee: Up to $37
  • Cash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 5% of transaction
  • Cash advance APR: 22.49%
  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all spending.
  • Bonus rewards: 4% on gas (up to $7,000 in gas purchases). Gas cannot be purchased from other wholesale clubs. 3% on dining and travel expenses. 2% rewards on all purchases from Costco and Costco.com.

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If you’re a frequent business traveller, Chase Ink offers the best rewards. You earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel, but you get a travel bonus. Every point is worth 1.25 points when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Travel perks also include trip insurance, auto rental collision damage waivers (this is primary coverage), and more.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

Gas

 

As a small business owner, you know that driving can be an economical choice, but you can also earn rewards for all those miles on the road. Sam’s Club Business MasterCard gives 5% cash back rewards on gas (except when purchased at other wholesalers), and 1% on all other spending.

Even if you don’t frequent Sam’s Club, this is the best category for rewards for gas purchases.

Click here to see details including perks and the fine print.

Learn More

Risks of Using Small Business Credit Cards

Many business owners see credit cards as an easy solution to their capital needs. But small business credit cards have unique risks. Savvy entrepreneurs will consider the risks before opening a new line of credit. These are the most important considerations.

 

1. Personal Liability

As a small business owner, you’re personally liable for credit card debt. Business bankruptcy won’t protect you. Whether your business succeeds or fails, you have to pay back the debt.

The only way to get rid of small business credit card debt is to declare personal bankruptcy. Bankruptcy destroys your credit history for a few years, and it stays on your report for 7-10 years.

Don’t treat a credit card like venture capital. It’s not. You need to repay it.

2. Credit Bureau Reporting

Small business cards don’t report to the credit bureaus the same way personal cards do. Depending on which card you choose, if you pay your credit card on time, you may not see any information on your personal report. For most business owners, that is a good thing. It will keep your personal credit utilization low.

However, an unpaid bill will show up on your personal credit report. A bill that goes unpaid for 60 days will generally appear on your personal credit report. Some banks offer more generous reporting and some less. You can speak with a banker to determine your bank’s reporting standards. Still, your personal credit score can take a hit at the same time that your business credit runs afoul.

When you take out a business credit card, put precautions in place to protect yourself. You can limit employee spending, and remove authorized users. You can also set up automatic payments each month.

3. Not Protected by the Credit CARD Act

In 2009, Congress passed the Credit CARD Act. The act curtailed predatory lending behaviors, including raising interest rates on existing balances. It also required credit cards to be more transparent about rates and fees.

This act does not apply to business credit cards. With a small business card, banks can raise the interest rate on your existing balance at any time. A higher interest rate means a bigger minimum payment and a longer time to pay off your debt. If you’re using your small business credit card to finance something, you could be at risk.

Still, many banks will not raise your rate if you have an excellent history of on-time payments. It is simply a risk to understand.

Another risk related to the Credit CARD Act is the possibility of double-cycle billing. Business credit cards do not require an interest accrual grace period. This means you may begin accruing interest on purchases right away. We only recommend cards that have a grace period of at least 23 days built in. If you choose a different card, be sure to check for this in the rates and fees schedule.

4. Employee Risk

Small business credit cards make it easy to watch employee spending. Still, they pose serious risks. You’re personally liable for any employee spending on a credit card. If you wouldn’t trust an employee with your wallet, don’t trust them with a company card. Employees can rack up debt and leave the company. That leaves you with a bill and no recourse to get the money back.

The Best Ways Use Small Business Credit Cards

Once you understand the risks of small business credit cards, you can also understand their best uses. Over 65% of small businesses use credit cards on a regular basis. Some use them for rewards, and some for financing. In fact, close to 10% of all small business financing comes from credit cards.

Here are some of the best ways to use a small business credit card.

 

1. Earning Rewards and Protection

If you pay your small business credit card in full each month, you can earn substantial rewards. Many business credit cards offer perks, including cash back, travel rewards, extended warranties, trip insurance, and more. As a business owner, you can reinvest the rewards into your business or take them for personal use.

2. Managing Cash Flow

Cash flow problems destroy small businesses, but credit cards provide short-term working capital. If you have a sales cycle that lasts 30 days or less, a credit card can fund inventory purchases. By the time your bill comes due, you’ll have money to pay it off. If you follow this practice, you’ll pay no interest, and you’ll manage your cash flow.

Credit cards can simplify employee monitoring, too. Most business credit cards allow you to place individual restrictions on employee use. That means you can limit how much and where employees can use company cards. But your employees may manage to misuse the cards. If they do, you will be stuck with the bill.

3. Building Business Credit

Businesses have credit reports just like people. Business credit cards can help you build your score. To build your business credit, hold the card under your employer identification number (EIN).

When your EIN establishes a record of paying its bills on time, it makes your business creditworthy. That means you’ll have an easier time finding long-term loans at great rates.

63% of all small businesses carry debt. Having a lower interest rate on that debt could make the difference between success and failure. This means every small business should take their credit history seriously from the outset. Small business credit cards may allow you to build that history without paying interest or fees.

4. Short-Term Borrowing

Small business credit cards have high interest rates, but they can work for short-term borrowing. If you know that you’ll only carry debt for a few months, you may want to finance something with a credit card.

Credit cards do not have origination fees or prepayment penalties. Sometimes this means that they offer the best terms for short-term borrowing. Just be careful when you borrow, and pay it back quickly. High interest debt compounds over time.

If possible, borrow on a card with a 0% introductory offer. Remember, failing to pay off 0% interest purchases may result in back interest. Be sure you understand the risks before you borrow.

The Worst Ways to Use Small Business Credit Cards

Small business credit cards aren’t always the best tool to get the job done. These are a few times when you should avoid using credit cards.

 

1. Personal Expenses

Bad accounting sinks many entrepreneurs. Always keep your personal spending off of your business credit cards. This will simplify bookkeeping, and it will keep your business credit utilization low. If you need to borrow for personal expenses, look for a low-interest credit card instead.

2. Long-Term Financing

Due to the high interest rates, most businesses should not finance long-term commitments using credit cards. Instead, consider an installment loan from a local credit union or a bank.

Applying for an installment loan can be a pain, but the lower interest rate will be worth it in the long run. Keep money in your pocket and avoid small business credit cards for long-term financing.

3. Cash Advances

Cash advances are the most expensive way to use a credit card. Banks begin charging interest right away, and the advance has a higher interest rate. Cash advances also have high fees of up to 10% of the amount you withdraw.

If you need cash, withdraw it from your business checking account instead, or take out a traditional loan.

4. Financing a Failing Business

Do not use credit cards to help a failing business limp along. Too many people will not give up on their idea even when the execution doesn’t work out. Credit card debt will bury a failing company and erode your personal wealth.

Remember, negative credit behavior will show up on your personal credit report. Plus, courts hold you liable for all credit card debt your business incurs. Use an objective lens to decide whether you need to shut down your business.

The post The Best Credit Cards for Small Businesses appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Best Tax Software Round-Up

If you’re like most Americans, you dread filing your taxes. You have to track down the right forms, deal with the IRS, and try to remember all your deductions and credits. That’s why so many people turn to online tax software to help file taxes. Great tax software simplifies the filing process without draining your pocketbook. But choosing the right software can be as much work as filing your taxes.

To help you choose the right software, we’ve tested 11 of the leading online tax software packages. We’ve ranked each software on the following criteria: usability, helpfulness of support articles, availability of audit support, and accessibility of tax and technical support. Then, we compared these criteria to the price to determine which software package is best for your situation.

Which tax software fits your needs? Find out below.

Best Tax Software of 2016

Best Free Filing Service

Of the 11 tax software packages we reviewed only two allow all users to file state and federal taxes for free.

Best Software: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax features an outstanding user interface with easy interview questions. The built-in calculators make Credit Karma appropriate for even complex filers. You can’t import information, and Credit Karma doesn’t have robust help, but it’s easily the best software you can use for free.

 

Runner-up: DIY Tax

DIY Tax is a joint partnership between Liberty Tax Services and eSmart Tax. Their user interface is clunky, but it has all the functionality you need. Their software interface allows you to import prior tax returns, and they have excellent support articles.

Best for Simple Filing

Simple filers are W-2 employees who claim the standard deduction. You typically file as Single or Married Filing Jointly. You don’t have dependents, and you earn less than $100,000.

Best Software: TaxAct, free edition

TaxAct offers completely free state and federal filing options for simple filers. However, they do charge $10 for prior year import. The user experience is easy, and TaxAct offers free tax and technical support.

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax offers free filing for all users, and they have an easy-to-use interface. While they only offer email tech and tax support, Credit Karma allows simple filers to explore more complex credits and deductions for free.

Best for Maximizing Deductions and Credits

Charitably inclined people, most homeowners, parents who pay for child care, and people who qualify for the earned income tax credit may want to maximize deductions and credits.

Best Software: Credit Karma Tax

Most software packages require you to upgrade to itemize deductions or claim credits. With Credit Karma Tax you can claim them for free. The only problem with Credit Karma Tax? If you fail to qualify for a credit, they don’t offer great explanations.

Runner-up: TaxSlayer Classic

TaxSlayer Classic offers federal filing for $17 and state filing for $22. The software is easy to use and intuitive. It even allows you to upload your W-2 form. For maximizing deductions and credits, you won’t find a better software for the price. TaxSlayer gives you access to technical support, but you need to upgrade to ask tax-related questions.

Easiest for New Filers

We assume that new filers have simple forms to file, but they want a clear user interface and ready access to tax and technical support.

Best Software: 1040.com EZ

1040.com offers free federal filing, and state filing for $9.95. Normally, we don’t recommend paying for a service that you can get for free elsewhere, but new filers will love 1040.com’s user interface and live chat support. Their tax and tech professionals can quickly guide you if you get stuck.

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax has an excellent user interface that you can use for free. Even new filers can use the interview questions to determine whether they qualify for credits or deductions. Unfortunately, Credit Karma only offers email support.

Best Audit Protection

The IRS has the right to audit anyone, but people with complex taxes run a greater audit risk. No tax software (or accountant) can prevent you from getting audited. However, some tax software will give you access to a tax specialist or accountant if you undergo an audit. These are the software services that can lend a hand if you need it.

Best Software: FreeTaxUSA Deluxe

FreeTaxUSA Deluxe costs $6.99 for federal filing and $12.95 for state filing. FreeTaxUSA does not feature an intuitive user interface, but they have built-in calculators that most complex filers need. They also promise to give you personal assistance if you’re audited. If you can stand the software, it’s the best price for audit protection.

Runner-up: TaxSlayer Premium

TaxSlayer Premium costs $35 for federal filing and $22 for state filing. At the Premium level, trained tax professionals will help you if you’re audited after using the TaxSlayer software. The software is generally easy to use. However, the amortization and depreciation calculators can be confusing.

 

Best Interface for Health Care Premium Tax Credit

Health insurance isn’t only confusing during open enrollment. Tax time means that you’ll need to figure out how much of the premium tax credit you qualified for during the year. If you were on an Obamacare health plan for any part of the year, you’ll need to look for software that can handle this credit.

Best Software: OLT.com

OLT.com offers free federal filing and $9.95 state returns. It’s got a poor user interface, but their Affordable Care Act section offers excellent support articles, and it’s easy to use. You can’t import forms, but it’s easy to copy data from your 1095-A onto the software.

This software is only appropriate for simple filers with a marketplace plan. Everyone else should look elsewhere.

Runner-up: TurboTax Deluxe

TurboTax Deluxe costs $34.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state filing. This is a steep price if you want to itemize deductions and maximize credits. However, TurboTax offers the best Affordable Care Act information on the market. They even allow you to upload your 1095-A form to the software.

Best for Investors

If you buy and sell stocks, bonds, or options outside of your tax-advantaged retirement accounts, you need a tax software that can handle all your information. Tax software for investors needs to handle dividends as well as short-term and long-term capital gains.

Best Software: H&R Block Premium – Online version

H&R Block Premium online software costs $54.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state filing. But the price is well worth it in this case. H&R Block allows you to import all major forms from many financial institutions. If you actively trade, you need this capability. H&R Block also has accurate accounting for short-term gains and losses, which will help investors minimize the tax they owe. H&R Block also has helpful community forums and unlimited real-time chat support if you need help.

Runner-up: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax offers a free solution for all kinds of investors. You must manually enter all your trading information, but Credit Karma calculates capital gains and losses and the appropriate tax rate. It’s a decent (and free) solution for less active investors.

Best for Real Estate Investors

Real estate investors need to calculate depreciation. They need to amortize certain expenses and deduct others. This can be confusing for DIY tax preparers. The best tax software for real estate investors needs to feature helpful support articles, intuitive depreciation and amortization calculators, and as many import features as possible.

Best Software: TurboTax Premier

TurboTax Premier costs $54.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state. The real estate portion of TurboTax is second to none. If you use QuickBooks software to manage your real estate accounting, you can connect it directly to TurboTax. If you don’t, you can still upload a Schedule E or use the robust calculators.

Runner-up: H&R Block Premium

H&R Block Premium also costs $54.99 for federal filing and $36.99 for state. The software allows users to import many documents including an entire Schedule E. The depreciation and amortization calculators offer standard inputs, but they are flexible enough for special events. H&R Block also makes it easy to import last year’s tax return. Most real estate investors need this to accurately report depreciation.

Best for Self-Employed People

Are you a freelancer or contractor? If so, you know that you can deduct many business-related expenses. This means that taxes can get messy in a hurry. The best tax software for self-employed people makes it easy to claim business deductions. It will also offer robust explanations that will help you understand amortizing equipment expenses and whether you qualify for a home office deduction.

Best Software: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax makes it easy for you to find and deduct appropriate expenses if you’re self-employed. Their built-in amortization calculators are easy to use, and Credit Karma offers helpful explanations. Outside of the most complex self-employment situations, Credit Karma is a simple filing solution.

Runner-up: Jackson Hewitt Basic

Jackson Hewitt Basic software offers one of the lowest cost Schedule C-EZ forms if you’re self-employed. The cost is $19.95 for federal returns and $36.95 for state returns. Their extensive support articles and helpful interface mean that you can find the help you need at the right price. Plus, you can get unlimited live chat support from technical assistants. If you need help from tax experts, you will have to pay for a consultation at a local Jackson Hewitt office.

Best Bargain for Self-Employed People

When you’re self-employed, you don’t always have the luxury of choosing the best-value product. Sometimes, you just need the cheapest product that will get the job done. If that’s you, these are the software products you should consider.

Best Software: Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax is the best 100% free option if you’re self-employed. It offers all the functionality you need.

 

Best Software: FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSA allows free federal filing and $12.95 state filing. Their calculators and website are adequate for self-employed people. This software allows you to deduct mileage, amortize expenses, and categorize meals and entertainment. FreeTaxUSA isn’t beautiful, but it gets the job done at a low price. If you upgrade to Deluxe, you’ll even get audit assistance.

Best for Small Businesses

Sole proprietors and single member LLCs can also use tax software for self-employed people. As long as the software supports a Schedule C, it will work for your small business needs.

If you’re part of a partnership, a corporation, or a multi-member LLC, then you need more than the standard tax software that we reviewed above.

Corporations need software that supports Form 1120. S Corporations (with more than one member) need tax software that supports Form 1120S. Partnerships and multi-member LLCs need software that supports Form 1065.

If you need business tax software consider one of these options.

TurboTax Business

$149.99 federal (up to five federal e-files); $49.99 per state + $24.99 per state e-filing fee.

TurboTax Business offers the same interview style interface that consumers love, but it offers increased functionality. Small business owners will especially love that they can use it to create unlimited W-2 forms and 1099-MISC forms.

H&R Block Premium and Business

$79.95 federal (up to five federal e-files); first state software free, after that: $35 per state + $19.95 per state e-filing fee. H&R Block offers an excellent interview style user interface with increased functionality such as creating employee forms. This software supports the major forms for businesses, plus the form for nonprofit organizations.

TaxAct for Small Businesses

TaxAct bundles federal and state filing and software for a total of $100. You can purchase federal filing only for $60. TaxAct has a slightly more stripped-down user interface than H&R Block or TurboTax, but business owners can easily complete everything. You can even create as many employee tax forms as you need.

 

Tax Software Pricing, Plans, and Insights

Credit Karma Tax

Credit Karma Tax offers free federal and state filing for all users. With a robust and easy-to-use interface, it’s an excellent default choice for most filers. Their guided path through the tax software is as good as the most expensive tax software on the market. But it has a few shortfalls. You can’t import your prior year’s taxes. This makes year-to-year comparisons impossible within the software. You also can’t import any forms, which can be a pitfall for active traders and real estate professionals.

Credit Karma offers tax and tech support via email. They currently have at least a 3-day wait time for answers. Credit Karma doesn’t offer audit support either.

Superlatives: Best Free Filing Service, Best for Maximizing Deductions and Credits, Best for Self-Employed People, Best Bargain for Self-Employed People, Runner-up Best for Simple Filing, Runner-up Easiest for New Filers, Runner-up Best for Investors

DIY Tax

DIY Tax offers 100% free federal and state filing for everyone. Their user interface is a bit clumsy, but it proves accurate and usable. They even allow you to import your prior year’s taxes for your reference. Real estate investors and small business owners need to be careful with this platform. The depreciation and amortization calculators can be confusing. Their software offers technical support, but they push Liberty Tax Service offices for tax support. The software doesn’t come with an audit support guarantee.

DIY Tax is sponsored by Liberty Tax, and you will see ads for their offices in the software. Remember, filing in a Liberty Tax office isn’t free.

Superlatives: Runner-up Best Free Filing Service

eSmart Tax

eSmart Tax and DIY Tax are the same software package. However, you have to pay for eSmart Tax. Why would you pay? The Deluxe and Premium packages offer unlimited phone or email support from tax specialists, which can prove helpful. But in most cases eSmart Tax isn’t a great option.

 

Free Basic Deluxe Premium
Price $0 Federal $29.95 State $14.95 Federal
$29.95 State
$19.95 Federal
$29.95 State
$34.95 Federal
$29.95 State
Best For 1040EZ Homeowners, people with dependents, sole proprietors Stock market investors without capital gains or losses Freelancers, real estate investors, people who sold a home in the previous years

Superlatives: None

TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer has an incredible user interface and helpful support articles. When it comes to itemizing deductions or finding credits, it is one of the easiest to use tax software packages on the market.

Unlike most tax software, TaxSlayer supports all forms on its second-tier Classic level. This means that anyone could complete their entire tax return at a relatively low price. Their Premium level gives you access to live chat support, audit protections, and help from tax professionals.

However, TaxSlayer has two demerits. First, you cannot import a prior year’s tax return from a competitor. The only tax information you can use is information you entered into TaxSlayer during a previous tax year. Second, TaxSlayer doesn’t allow you to see internal calculations for depreciation and amortization. That makes TaxSlayer inappropriate if you’re a real estate investor or self-employed.

 

Simply Free Classic Premium
Price $0 Federal
$0 First State ($22 each additional)
$17 Federal
$22 State
$35 Federal
$22 State
Best For 1040EZ All others (itemizers, stock market investors, real estate investors, self-employed, etc.) Comes with audit assistance, ask a task professional, and live chat support

Superlatives: Runner-up Best Audit Protection, Runner-up Best for Maximizing Deductions and Credits

TaxAct

When does free really mean free? When it comes to simple tax filing through TaxAct. People who file a 1040 or 1040EZ can file federal and state taxes for free through TaxAct. Even if you don’t qualify for free filing, TaxAct usually represents an excellent value. At any level, you can receive phone and email support from tax and technical professionals. TaxAct doesn’t offer audit support, but it is priced accordingly.

For the most part, TaxAct simplifies tax filing. It uses simple questions, helpful knowledge articles, and easy navigation to help you complete your taxes. They even make it easy to import your prior year’s taxes into their software. TaxAct also offers some of the best guidance if you’re a stock market investor or self-employed.

Despite all these praises, the software stumbles somewhat on its real estate coverage. The depreciation calculator seems clumsy in certain areas. Outside of this flaw, TaxAct offers tremendous value for the price.

 

Free Plus Premium
Price $0 Federal
$0 State
$27 Federal
$33 State
$37 Federal
$33 State
Best For 1040EZ, 1040A (no dependents, claiming standard deduction) Itemizers, stock market investors Self-employed, real estate investors

Superlatives: Best for Simple Filing

OLT.com

OLT.com offers bargain basement pricing, but it shows in the interface. You have to pay $7.95 for tax and technical support. Nonetheless, the $7.95 also brings audit support, which offers some value.

Their clumsy user interface only allows you to import prior year tax forms from its own database. Their support articles send you to the even more confusing IRS website.

However, OLT.com offers a few bright spots. The health insurance coverage is easy and accurate. It is the only tax software that makes it easy to claim the premium tax credit for part of the year. Also, the real estate depreciation calculators are flexible enough to deal with complex circumstances.

In most cases, we don’t recommend OLT.com, but a few people may benefit.

 

Free Premium
Price $0 Federal
$9.95 State
$7.95 Federal
$7.95 State
Best For All major schedules supported Anyone who wants audit support

Superlatives: Best Interface for Health Care Premium Tax Credit

1040.com

According to 1040.com, tax filing should be smart and simple. If you’re a new filer or a freelancer with basic expenses, 1040.com delivers. 1040.com offers free live chat and email technical support. They also have support articles that are approachable and informative.

In fact, their entire software is friendly and informative. New filers are likely to appreciate the high-quality and low-cost support from 1040.com, but other simple filers can find better deals elsewhere. Their friendly interview style interface starts to falter if you’re a real estate or stock market investor. You will need to add forms that don’t have built-in calculators. This means that 1040.com is best for people with less complexity in their filing.

 

Free $19.95 $39.95
Price $0 Federal
$9.95 State
$19.95 Federal
$14.95 State
$39.95 Federal
$19.95 State
Best For 1040EZ Stock market investors Self-employed, real estate investors, itemizers

Superlatives: Easiest for New Filers

H&R Block Online

H&R Block is one of the biggest names in tax software for good reason. People with complex tax returns will love the value that H&R Block offers. H&R Block offers unlimited technical support to all filers, and phone and chat tax support for those who pay. The only disappointment is that H&R Block online filing customers do not get a free in-person audit support. This is reserved for those who purchase a $79.99 “Best of Both” upgrade or who download H&R Block’s software.

However, the H&R Block interface offsets this disappointment. H&R Block offers easy navigation, helpful interview questions, and robust articles that can help you untangle even the most complex filing situation. H&R Block’s built-in calculators are flexible enough to deal with uncommon filings. Plus, you can import most major forms, including prior year’s tax returns from competitors. This makes H&R Block ideal for anyone with complex filings.

Their software isn’t quite as easy to use as TurboTax, but it’s quite a bit less expensive. In particular, freelancers and self-employed people with basic expenses will see huge value since they can purchase the Deluxe edition.

 

Free Deluxe* Premium*
Price $0 Federal
$0 State
$34.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$54.99 Federal
$36.99 State
Best For New filers, basic filers (allows for earned income tax credit), homeowners Stock market investors, self-employed with basic expenses, other itemizers Real estate investors, self-employed with more complex expenses

*Deluxe and Premium filers can upgrade to a $79.99 “Best of Both” package. This means that a CPA will review your return and you’ll receive in-person audit assistance.

Superlatives: Best for Investors, Runner-up Best for Real Estate Investors

TurboTax

If you’re looking for the Cadillac of tax software, TurboTax emerges as the winner. Their interface is easy to use and navigate. TurboTax even allows you to import last year’s taxes from any of their competitors. 1040EZ filers will even get to file federal and state returns for free. After that, the price climbs quickly. But for many filers the high price is well worth the cost.

The interview style format makes tax filing simple, even if you’re facing a complex situation. Paying customers who get stuck can get help from tax or technical professionals. TurboTax takes their support seriously. With your permission, support staff can “draw” on your screen to guide you through tough situations.

Real estate investors, self-employed people, and small business owners will appreciate TurboTax’s robust interface. The one thing they won’t appreciate? The price of audit support. TurboTax’s MAX costs $44.99. This is the only way to get audit support from TurboTax this year.

 

Free Deluxe Premium Self-Employed
Price $0 Federal
$0 State
$34.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$54.99 Federal
$36.99 State
$89.99 Federal
$36.99 State
Best For 1040EZ/ 1040A Itemizers Investors, real estate investors Self-employed

*Anyone can upgrade to TurboTax’s MAX for $44.99.

Superlatives: Best for Real Estate Investors, Runner-up Best Interface for Health Care Premium Tax Credit

FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSAand TaxHawk offer the same tax software at the same price. They are owned by the same parent company, and you can even move your profile from one site to the next. The websites aren’t pretty, but experienced filers will find everything they need to complete their taxes. You can even upload prior year’s tax returns from competitors. This is a huge value given the bargain basement pricing.

FreeTaxUSA offers two pricing tiers. Both levels support all major tax forms. You can also access chat support from tax and technical specialists from both levels. However, upgrading will give you priority access to specialists. Upgrading also gives you access to a tax specialist if you’re audited.

The name might lead you to believe you’re getting free tax filing, but you’ll have to pay at least $12.95 for state filing. Nonetheless, FreeTaxUSA is a great bargain — especially if you have a complex filing situation.

 

Free Premium
Price $0 Federal
$12.95 State
$6.99 Federal
$12.95 State
Best For All major schedules supported Anyone who wants audit support

Superlatives: Best Audit Protection, Best Bargain for Self-Employed People

Jackson Hewitt Online

Jackson Hewitt brings the neighborhood tax filing office online. They feature excellent knowledge articles and easy interview style tax filing. It’s easy to import your taxes from any major competitor or from Jackson Hewitt. This makes switching to Jackson Hewitt Online easy.

Built-in calculators make depreciation and amortization easy. However, Jackson Hewitt doesn’t offer many import options. This makes their relatively high pricing difficult to justify. Simple filers (1040EZ) and self-employed people with basic expenses may see high value in the Jackson Hewitt software. After all, they offer live chat tech support to all their customers. If you need tax support, you’ll have to upgrade to Premium to get the phone support.

Jackson Hewitt also allows online filers to pay extra for an in-person tax consultation. Prices for these meetings vary by location.

It’s important to note that this review is only for the online Jackson Hewitt software package. Magnify Money did not review Jackson Hewitt office preparations.

 

Free Basic Deluxe Premium
Price $0 Federal
$0 State
$19.95 Federal
$36.95 State
$34.95 Federal
$36.95 State
$54.95 Federal
$36.95 State
Best For 1040EZ Freelancers Investors, families with dependents, homeowners, itemizers Small business owners, real estate investors

Superlatives: Runner-up Best for Self-Employed People

 

Tax Software FAQs

Is online tax software safe?

Tax-related identity theft is the number one reported form of identity theft. However, most theft isn’t the direct result of using online software. Any time you apply for a credit card or use online banking, your information enters the digital world. If this information gets stolen, you’re at risk. Nobody can eliminate the possibility of identity theft, but you can work to protect yourself.

Part of protecting yourself involves only giving out your information on trusted websites. When you file your taxes, you provide all your personally identifiable information to a software service. You need to know whether or not that information is safe.

Every software company that we reviewed is an Authorized IRS e-File provider. This means that these sites comply with the security and business standards set forth by the IRS.

None of the software packages we reviewed will sell your personal information to a third party. Each of the software packages we reviewed requires you to use multi-factor authentication. This makes it difficult for hackers to access your personal information. These websites are as secure as possible, but they are not 100% safe.

If you think you’ve been the victim of tax fraud, contact the IRS immediately at 1-800-908-4490 to work with their resolution specialists. You will need to file an identity theft affidavit that explains that someone filed taxes in your name.

What if I don’t want to use tax software?

If you don’t want to use tax software, you can choose a paper filing option. Each state requires you to mail your check to a different office.

You can also use the IRS’s free electronic fillable forms. However, these offer limited guidance and can be difficult to use. With so many other free options, these should be a last resort.

Finally, you can hire a professional tax preparer to do your taxes for you. Be sure that the person you hire is in the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.

Should I hire an accountant?

An accountant can save you time, headache, and in some cases, money. Tax professionals must follow the tax code, but their specialized knowledge helps them pick up on deductions or credits that you might miss on your own.

In general, the more complex your tax return, the more you may want to hire an accountant. If you choose to hire an accountant, be sure that they are an authorized tax return preparer. They should sign your return as an authorized preparer.

The post Best Tax Software Round-Up appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

7 FinTech Startups Helping Businesses Fight Fraud

fraud identity theft hacker

Whether it’s a small shop or a multinational company, businesses must constantly have their guard up to protect against fraud. Installing security cameras, verifying dollar bills aren’t counterfeit, and hiring a security guard to prevent shoplifting can all help with physical fraud. But as commerce and banking continue to go online, digital security is critically important as well.

LexisNexis’ 2016 True Cost of Fraud study focuses on U.S. merchants. The study reveals businesses reported an increase in the cost of fraud as a percentage of annual revenue for the third year in a row.

On average, companies have dealt with nearly 650 fraudulent purchase attempts each month, and over 200 of those are successful. Increasingly, fraudulent purchases are coming from remote channels, either from mobile devices or other online methods.

Combating in-person, online, and mobile-transaction fraud can be an exhausting process, and several financial technology (FinTech) companies are working to help businesses outsmart thieves and win the fight.

1. Feedzai

freedzaiFeedzai uses machine learning and big-data analysis to help companies prevent fraud while managing payment processing, opening new customers accounts, underwriting merchant accounts, securing marketplaces, and validating customers.

Feedzai claims its Fraud Prevention That Learns technology, which bases its decisions on historical and real-time behavioral profiling, can detect fraud up to 10 days earlier than the competition, and identify 61% more fraud with lower false alarms.

2. IdentityMind Global

identitymindIdentityMind Global has a platform that payment service providers, online merchants, and financial institutions can use to identify and prevent fraudulent purchases, botnets, phishing attempts, account takeovers, and other types of attacks in real time.

The platform also offers anti-money laundering (AML), know your customer (KYC), and other risk management services to companies, including Bitcoin exchanges and internet lenders.

3. InAuth

inauthInAuth is a risk management and fraud-detection and -prevention platform for the banking, payments, health care, e-commerce, and mobile commerce industries. Large companies can also use it to secure and identify employees’ devices and information.

InAuth’s InExchange service allows businesses from different industries to share positive and negative information about devices, helping companies determine whether or not the device has been linked to fraudulent activity in the past. InAuth also works to identify when devices are infected with malware or crimeware, and whether or not it’s a rooted or jailbroken device, potential signs of fraudulent use.

4. Jumio

jumioAvailable for merchants in the retail, travel, gaming, finance, telecom, and sharing economy industries, Jumio offers digital identification verification, mobile checkout, and form-filling software. Two of its three products can help prevent fraud.

Netverify helps authenticate potential customers by letting them take a picture of their photo ID and use their phone or computer to scan their face. The software verifies that the person matches the photo in the ID. BAM Checkout lets customers make mobile purchases by taking pictures of their credit or debit card and driver’s license. The software compares the names on the ID and card, and can help prevent fraud while creating an easy checkout process for customers. Jumio also has a third service, Fastfill, which allows customers to quickly fill in their information by snapping a picture of an ID card.

While Jumio filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2016 due to some reported financial irregularities within the company, Jumio’s assets were acquired by Centana Growth Partners. Under this new umbrella, Jumio does seem to have steadied itself and raised an additional $15 million from Centana in August 2016.

5. iovation

iovationiovation delivers device-based fraud prevention and authentication services to help prevent mobile and online fraud. The service automatically collects information about a device. This information is used to visit a company’s site and decide whether or not they should allow, deny, or conduct a manual review of a transaction. For example, iovation may notice a device was used to make over $1,200 of purchases in the previous 12 hours, check to see if a phone number is connected to more than three devices, and see if this purchase is coming from a high-risk location.

Using iovation’s fraud prevention service, companies can require suspicious users to go through additional identification protocol or prevent a transaction outright. They can also use iovationScore, a predictive risk score, to help them identify good and bad customers. As a result, they make a checkout experience smoother for good customers, by letting them skip a security check, for example. The scoring system uses real-time machine learning to monitor billions of transactions globally and increase its predictive capabilities.

6. BioCatch

biocatchBioCatch has created cloud-based technology that builds user profiles based on over 500 cognitive parameters, including behavioral patterns. By learning what it looks like when fraudsters create accounts, purchase products, or browse websites, BioCatch can help detect and stop future potential frauds. BioCatch can also help detect when someone takes over a legitimate account by comparing a user’s normal behaviors, including typing speed or cursor movement, to behaviors during the fraudulent session.

7. Trulioo

truliooCanadian startup, Trulioo, uses data from over 140 sources to collect and share information on over 3 billion people, making it one of the largest consumer data companies in the world. E-commerce stores can use Trulioo to verify new customers, reducing the risk of fraudulent purchases and subsequent chargebacks. Financial institutions can use Trulioo’s data to help them meet AML and KYC identity verification requirements.

The post 7 FinTech Startups Helping Businesses Fight Fraud appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

4 Digital Banks That Treat You and Your Money Well

If you are still banking with a physical bank, it may be time to go digital instead. Digital banks offer several benefits and features that physical banks can’t, or don’t, offer due to the cost of operating a physical location. Because online banks don’t have these overhead costs, they can offer more benefits to help customers save money on fees, and earn more money via interest too.

There are several online banks from which financially savvy customers can choose from these days. If you are looking to go digital with your banking, here are a few good options to consider.

Ally Bank

ally1_c794a82274fb5b321fa200860b050e1bAlly is a digital bank with a full range of services, including online savings accounts, money market accounts, CDs, IRAs, checking accounts, credit cards, and more. It has also been named the “Best Online Bank” 5 years in a row from 2011 to 2015 by Money Magazine.

Ally has become a popular place for people to store their savings in an online savings account due to the 1.00% APY currently available on all balance tiers. It also offers 0.85% on all money market balances. These accounts offer daily compounded interest, FDIC insurance deposits, and no monthly maintenance fees.

Checking accounts with Ally Bank allow customers to earn interest on their money, which is something that is not as common with physical banks. Daily balances of less than $15,000 earn 0.10% APY, and accounts with a daily balance over $15,000 earn 0.60% APY.

Customers of Ally Bank also enjoy the ability to use any of the 43,000+ Allpoint ATMs in the U.S. for free. Plus, Ally Bank reimburses up to $10 per statement cycle for fees incurred at other ATMS. It also offers exceptional customer service with 24/7 live customer care.

Charles Schwab

charles-schwabCharles Schwab is another bank that started offering more digital products for its customers, including checking and savings, lending, and investing.

The High Yield Investor Checking account is a popular choice for many customers as Schwab offers this account with no ATM fees worldwide and unlimited ATM reimbursement for fees incurred each billing cycle. It also offers no account minimums or monthly services fees, and easy banking 24/7 with Schwab Mobile. The Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account is linked to your existing Schwab One brokerage account so you can manage both accounts with one login.

The interest rate on the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account is 0.06% APY no matter your balance, but you do have to open a Schwab One brokerage account in order to use a Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account. There are no fees or minimum balance for the Schwab One brokerage account, and you can transfer funds between the two accounts for free.

Schwab also offers a High Yield Investor Savings account with no minimum balance or monthly service charge. The interest rate is 0.10% APY on all balances. It also qualifies for the unlimited ATM fee rebates.

USAA

usaa1 (1)USAA offers checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, and many different loan products for cars, homes, and more. According to its website, they have been rated 4.5 out of 5 stars by over 16,000 members.

USAA offers free checking with a minimum opening balance of $25. After you open a free checking account, there is no minimum balance, no monthly service fee, overdraft protection, fee bill pay, and free ATMs nationwide. USAA reimburses up to $15 in ATM fees per month.

Like most digital banks, USAA offers interest on its checking accounts, although it is lower than many competitors at only 0.01% APY. Its savings accounts offer rates of 0.05% APY to 0.15% APY depending on the balance of your account.

There is a catch: you need military affiliation to be able to open an account. This can include a connection through a family member, such as a parent or spouse.

Capital One 360

capital-one-360Capital One 360 offers “no fees, no kidding” checking and savings accounts with no fees and no minimums. While it doesn’t offer ATM fee reimbursement, Capital One does offer a unique feature compared to many other digital banks: the ability to deposit cash into your checking or savings account with select Capital One ATMs in a 360 Café or Capital One Bank location.

The interest rates on a 360 Checking account range from 0.20% APY to 0.90% APY, depending on your balance.

  • $0 – $49,999.99: 0.20% APY
  • $50,000 – $99,999.99: 0.75% APY
  • $100,000 or more: 0.90% APY

The interest rate on a 360 Savings account is 0.75% APY.

If you’re a Capital One credit card customer, you can also conveniently access both your credit card information and Capital One 360 banking information with a single sign-on.

Another unique feature of Capital One 360 is the ability to create multiple savings account with any nickname you choose. You can also use their “My Saving Goals” section to make automatic savings deposits and set goals for your various savings accounts.

Which Digital Bank Is Right for You?

As digital banks become more popular, it can be difficult to determine which one might be the best fit for you. Of course, it depends on several factors, such as the features and services you most value, how you plan to use your account, and more. No matter which digital bank you choose, the important thing is that you are making the right decision for you and your money.

The post 4 Digital Banks That Treat You and Your Money Well appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Top 5 Checking Accounts for College Graduates

review-full1

When you open your first bank account as a kid, you’re not thinking about fees. You’re just excited to swap your piggy bank for a debit card. That first bank account may even stick with you up until college. That doesn’t mean it’s the account you should keep for the long haul.

Some checking accounts give you a break on fees while you’re a student, but after you get a diploma or turn a certain age these bank accounts get expensive. For example, Bank of America waives the $12 monthly fee on its checking account for students under 23 years old. After graduation, that’s an extra $12 per month you’ll want to keep your hands on.

If you have a checking account that will phase you out of a discount, it’s time to shop around for accounts with the lowest possible fees. Here are six checking account alternatives college graduates should consider:

1.Charles Schwab Online Checking

No Monthly Fee, ATM Fee Reimbursement Worldwide

charles-schwabCharles Schwab has no fees or account minimums. This account comes with free checks and bill pay. You can connect your Charles Schwab online checking account to Apply Pay for purchases if you have an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. Deposits can be handled remotely through Schwab check deposit.

Where this checking account stands out from other accounts below is it has an unlimited fee rebate for cash withdrawals at ATMs worldwide. Charles Schwab will reimburse you every time you use an ATM that charges a fee. This makes it ideal for those planning to travel frequently.

Apply Now

 

2. Ally Bank Interest Checking

No Monthly Fee, ATM Fee Reimbursement Up to $10 Per Month

allyAlly Bank offers an online checking account without monthly maintenance fees. There’s also no minimum balance required. You’ll get charged certain fees in unique situations. For instance, an overdraft will cost you $25. To avoid an overdraft, you can set up free automatic transfers from another account. This means free overdraft protection, which isn’t the case at many banks that will charge you $10 to move your money from savings to checking.

If you’re used to walking into a bank to manage your money, you won’t get the same experience with this online account or any of the other online checking accounts on this list. But, managing your money is still easy. Ally Bank allows you to deposit money remotely using Ally eCheck. You can also transfer money between Ally bank accounts or sign up for direct deposit to put money into your account.

For withdrawals, you can use Allpoint ATMs in the U.S. for free. If you use an ATM that’s not Allpoint, Ally Bank will reimburse you ATM fees up to $10 per billing cycle.

Apply Now

 

3. Bank of Internet USA Essential Checking

No Monthly Fee, Unlimited ATM Fee Reimbursement in the U.S.

bank-of-internet-usaThe Essential Checking account offered by Bank of Internet USA has no monthly fees as well. There are no fees for overdraft or insufficient funds. If you try to make purchases without enough funds in your account, your card will simply be declined.

Withdrawing money from this checking account is convenient and cheap. You can use any ATM in the U.S. and Bank of Internet USA will reimburse the ATM fees. No need to hunt for a specific ATM to get free cash.

Apply Now

 

4. BankMobile Totally Free Checking

No Monthly Fee, ATM Fee Reimbursement With Conditions

bankmobile picBankMobile has a checking account with no fees or a minimum balance requirement. When it says no fees, it seriously means no fees. You can use the BankMobile app to deposit checks via remote deposit and you can set up direct deposit. For withdrawals, BankMobile has a map where you can locate STAR surcharge free ATMs.

If you have at least $500 deposited into your account each statement period, you can join the BankMobile VIP program. With VIP membership, every ATM in the U.S. becomes free.

Apply Now

5. Capital One 360 Checking

No Monthly Fee, ability to deposit cash, Doesn’t reimburse ATM fees

capital-one-360The 360 Checking account from Capital One has no fees. There’s no minimum balance required either. You have two options for overdraft protection. Connect your checking account to a savings account and have funds transferred automatically when your cash runs low. Or you can apply for an overdraft line of credit. Of course, with a line of credit interest will apply to your balance.

Deposits can be easily made through the mobile app, direct deposit or by sending a check. You get access to free cash withdrawals from 38,000 Allpoint ATMs and Capital One ATMs. If you use an ATM out of the network you may get charged by the bank you withdraw money from and these charges are not reimbursed.

A unique feature of the Capital One 360 Checking account is the ability to deposit cash at many ATMs. Not many Internet-only banks offer the ability to deposit cash. Before signing up for this account purely for this reason, you should guarantee an ATM near you allows you to deposit cash.

Apply Now

Which is the right checking account for you?

All of these accounts are insured by the FDIC up to $250,000. But, if banking online only still makes you a little nervous, the 360 Checking account is a good pick. With this account you can visit a Capital One branch for some account services like disputing transactions and changing your account information. Otherwise, Charles Schwab and Bank of Internet USA have the potential to save you the most money if you routinely frequent ATMs.

The post Top 5 Checking Accounts for College Graduates appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

The 5 Best 529 Savings Plans Anyone Can Use

college-grad (1)

With 50 states offering a 529 savings plan for college, and many offering more than one, how do you know which plan is right for you and your family?

It can be confusing to sort through all of that information, but lucky for you we’ve already done a lot of the hard work. We compared all the options and came away with five 529 plans that stand out as fantastic options.

In this post we explain the criteria we evaluated and why these five plans rose above the rest.

Criteria Used to Compare 529 Plans

What makes for a good 529 college savings account? Here are the main criteria we considered as we compared plans.

Investment Options

Does the plan offer high-quality investment options that have performed well through a number of market conditions? Does it offer easy-to-use age-based options that automatically adjust as your child nears college?

We looked for 529 plans that could answer “yes” to both of the questions above, as well as plans that emphasized the use of index funds, which the research shows have the best chance of outperforming.

Fees

Cost is the number one predictor of future investment returns. The lower the cost, the more likely it is you’ll get better returns.

We looked for 529 plans that minimized expenses so that more of your money is put to good use.

Minimum Required Investment

We know that budgets are tight when raising a family, so we looked for plans that allowed you to get started without a big initial investment.

Other Features

Beyond the three main criteria above, we looked at all the features each 529 plan offers and considered how they might benefit you.

Evaluated for Out-of-State Residents

In order to get an apples-to-apples comparison that applies to as many people as possible, we evaluated 529 plans as if we were an out-of-state resident.

But some states offer significant incentives to residents who use their home state’s plan. There are often tax breaks for contributing, and some states even offer reduced costs for residents. So while you aren’t required to use your home state’s plan, it’s worth looking into the benefits it offers before considering other options.

So, which 529 plans came out on top? Let’s dive in.

1. New York 529 Direct Plan

New York’s 529 plan offers a small but high-quality set of investment options with minimal expenses and the ability to choose from pre-built or customizable portfolios.

  • Investment Options: 13 different Vanguard mutual funds that can be mixed and matched in any combination you please. You can also choose from three different age-based options that create the investment mix for you and adjust it as your child nears college age.
  • Fees: Every mutual fund within the plan comes with an expense ratio of 0.16%, which is about as low as you’ll find. There are no other fees associated with New York’s 529 Plan.
  • Minimum Investment: $25.
  • Other Features: None of note.
  • More Information: You can check out the plan’s website here and read a detailed program description here.

2. Utah Education Savings Plan

Utah offers a wider set of investment options and some unique features that allow for more customization, though it comes at a slightly higher cost.

  • Investment Options: Utah’s 529 plan offers a strong set of both Vanguard and DFA investment options (DFA Investments are typically only offered through a financial planner). They offer age-based options and pre-built static portfolios, as well as some powerful customization tools that are described in the Other Features section below.
  • Fees: Utah’s age-based investment portfolios range from 0.17% to 0.21% in expense ratio. Other investment options range from 0.20% to 0.60%. There is an annual fee for non-Utah residents who want paper statements of up to $12. There is also a $15 fee for wire transfers and a $30 fee for returned checks or rejected electronic contributions.
  • Minimum Investment: $0.
  • Other Features: Utah offers two unique features compared to the other plans on this list:
    • Age-Based Customization – Utah allows you to create your own age-based investment plan using any of the underlying funds within the plan. This is a great tool for DIYers who like to control their investments.
    • Advisor Access – If you work with a financial planner, Utah makes it easy to give him or her trade-only access to your account to manage your investments.
  • More Information: You can check out the plan’s website here and read a detailed program description here.

3. Michigan Education Savings Program

Michigan offers a different set of investment options than New York and Utah, which may appeal to a different set of investors.

  • Investment Options: Michigan offers a lineup of index funds from TIAA-CREF. There are three age-based options to choose from, as well as five other funds that you can mix and match as you please. There isn’t quite as much customization allowed as with New York and Utah, but if you’d prefer to use TIAA-CREF this is a high quality option.
  • Fees: The age-based investment options have expense ratios ranging from 0.14% to 0.21%, and the other investment options range from 0.12% to 0.24%. There are no other fees of note.
  • Minimum Investment: $25.
  • Other Features: None of note.
  • More Information: You can check out the plan’s website here and read a detailed program description here.

4. California ScholarShare

California offers a similar lineup of TIAA-CREF index funds as Michigan, and in some cases with slightly lower fees. They also offer a set of actively managed funds as well that may be attractive to some or lead to confusion for others.

  • Investment Options: California has a single age-based option that uses index funds as well as a set of 10 either single or multi-index fund portfolios that can be combined in any proportion. There is also an actively managed age-based option and a suite of actively managed portfolios to choose from.
  • Fees: The age-based index fund option ranges from 0.12% to 0.19%, with other index portfolios ranging from 0.10% to 0.22%. The actively managed options range from 0.33% to 0.58%. There are no other fees of note.
  • Minimum Investment: $25.
  • Other Features: None of note.
  • More Information: You can check out the plan’s website here and read a detailed program description here.

5. Nevada Vanguard 529

Nevada’s Vanguard 529 plan offers an attractive mix of Vanguard mutual funds, though with a high minimum investment it may not be an option for those who are starting with smaller contributions.

  • Investment Options: There are three different age-based options, all utilizing Vanguard mutual funds. There are also 19 individual funds and investors are allowed to create their own portfolios using up to five.
  • Fees: All age-based funds have an expense ratio of 0.19%. The individual funds range from 0.21% to 0.49%. There is a $20 annual maintenance fee if your balance drops below $3,000.
  • Minimum Investment: $3,000 for out-of-state residents. $1,000 for Nevada residents, though the $20 annual fee still applies for balances under $3,000.
  • Other Features: None of note.
  • More Information: You can check out the plan’s website here and read a detailed program description here.

Which 529 Plan Will You Use?

When looking at 529 plans, the first step is always to check your home state’s plan. There may be certain tax incentives and discounts that make that your state’s more attractive than any other.

But if you’re looking out-of-state, the five plans above all offer high-quality investments with minimal fees, giving your money the best chance to grow.

The post The 5 Best 529 Savings Plans Anyone Can Use appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Best Tax Software of 2016 to Save Money

Tax return check

It’s tax season, and if you’re like most people, you’re dreading it. Gathering all your paperwork, crossing all your t’s, dotting your i’s, and forking over a bunch of money to your accountant might make receiving a refund look less attractive.

However, filing earlier is better. The longer you wait, the higher your risk of identify fraud is, and the more expensive tax preparation software gets. The good news is if your tax situation is simple, there are plenty of ways to take control of filing your taxes, and for less money!

Do you only need to file a 1040? Then you’re in luck. The IRS has approved a number of tax preparation software for free federal filing, provided your adjusted gross income meets the requirements.

Need something with a bit more detail? We’re taking a look at the top five tax preparation software, and comparing all the different packages to figure out which is the best deal.

What Makes Tax Preparation Software Great?

There are plenty of options out there to choose from when it comes to tax preparation software, and the pricing is often tricky to navigate. Trickier than it needs to be, anyway. That’s where we come in. We’re breaking down all the costs and fees and giving you a straight recommendation on which tax software to choose.

The following criteria are what we were on the lookout for when choosing each:

  1. Price: Base prices, prices to file a state return, and prices to file a federal return (when applicable)
  2. Cost of add-ons: Are different tax forms, such as Schedule A’s, E’s, and D’s more money?
  3. Customer service availability: Filing your taxes can still be a complicated process. It helps to have a representative to call for free with any questions you have.
  4. How payment is received: Most people prefer to receive their refund electronically, but some companies offer pre-paid debit cards.
  5. Is audit help available after filing? In case you find yourself getting audited by the IRS, it helps to have professionals on your side.
  6. Importing prior returns: Having the ability to import your prior returns is great if your situation hasn’t changed much as it cuts down on the amount of time it takes to file.

For the purposes of this article, we’re covering details that matter to an average family with two income earners, who have dependents, and aren’t business owners in any way.

Feeling a little overwhelmed? Before you go through this guide, you can also go to the IRS website to see what software is recommended for you so you have a starting point. You’ll also get information on which one you qualify with to file for free.

Before you jump to an online tax preparation software option, see if you can file for free

Before you get started, double-check to see if you qualify for free filing. This could include:

  • If you make less than $100,000 and can file with a 1040EZ
  • You’re 60 years of age or older with low to moderate income
  • You have an AGI of $62,000 or less
  • You have an AGI of $54,000 or less, are disabled or have limited English

Check all your options here.

Self-employed? Then find your best options here.

Learn about free tax filing for for every state online here.

Best for Low Cost, No Frills: FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSA

 

 

FreeTaxUSA emphasizes its straightforward pricing. It offers the basics for less, without all the bells and whistles. It’s a decent tax preparation software if you’re used to filing your own taxes, but the website itself isn’t very user-friendly. Its FAQ database isn’t presented well, so it may take a bit longer to find the answers you need. That said, if price is your top concern, it’s worth considering.

Price

FreeTaxUSA has its services divided into two categories: free and deluxe. Free is free for the most part, although you’ll pay $12.95 to file a state return on either plan. However, it doesn’t matter how complicated your tax situation is – you’ll pay the same no matter what.

The deluxe plan is only an extra $5.95, and it includes a few more options detailed below.

Cost of add-ons

While FreeTaxUSA has an affordable “base” price, there are a few add-ons you can choose if you need to. You’ll pay $9.95 for an amended return under the free plan, and it’s included in the deluxe plan.

You can also pay $5.95 for priority customer support on the free plan, though it comes included in the deluxe plan. Paying $5.95 to upgrade to deluxe makes sense if you want access to live chat and audit assist as well.

Customer service

Free unlimited customer support is offered for the free plan. Priority customer support with the deluxe plan means going to the “front of the line” whenever you have a question, and the live chat is available during tax season every weekday from 9AM-9PM ET.

How you can receive payment

You can receive your tax refund via direct deposit or check.

Audit Support/Guarantees

FreeTaxUSA only offers audit support to those who purchase the deluxe plan, but this doesn’t provide you with hands-on help like some of the audit services offered by other companies. Instead, you can speak with an audit specialist who can address your notice and provide you with information on how to rectify it.

It doesn’t look like FreeTaxUSA offers a maximum refund guarantee, but it does offer an Accuracy Guarantee. If there are any miscalculations on your tax return, it will reimburse you for any penalties and interest incurred. You have to write to FreeTaxUSA within 45 days of the error being discovered to get this reimbursement, though.

Importing prior returns

If you have filed a tax return with FreeTaxUSA previously, you can import the information over for free.

Overall Verdict

FreeTaxUSA is a good, no-frills budget option for those who are first-time filers, those with simple tax situations, or those who don’t need as much guidance in filing their taxes. If you found yourself overwhelmed at the number of packages available with other tax preparation software, FreeTaxUSA provides a less complicated solution.

Best No Frills and Easy to Use: TaxSlayer

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 4.39.01 PM

 

 

TaxSlayer might not be a household name, but its tax software has been in use since 1998. It claims to have helped prepare millions of returns for Americans and started off as a family-owned tax preparation business. The website is very user friendly and modern compared to some of the other choices.

Price

Unlike other tax preparation companies, TaxSlayer only offers online products, making it easy to compare each:

  • Free basic edition: You can electronically file a 1040 EZ return for free, although the state return costs $23.99 for the first return, and $14.99 for each additional state
  • Classic edition: $12.99, and the state return costs $14.99
  • Premium edition: $34.99, and the state return also costs $14.99

Cost of add-ons

There’s not a huge difference between what’s offered for each edition. The biggest difference is in the level of support each receives.

As a classic edition user, you have the ability to import your return from the prior year, and to compare that return to your current one.

Going premium gives you priority access to customer support in the form of chat and jumping ahead in the phone lines.

As you can see on the comparison page, both the classic and premium edition comes with “all major forms,” which are listed here.

Customer service

The basic plan includes free email support and live phone support, which is nice to see. Live chat and “ask a tax professional” is only offered for the premium edition.

How you can receive payment

You can receive your refund via direct deposit or check. In some cases, you can have your state refund put on a pre-paid debit card.

Audit Support/Guarantees

TaxSlayer offers a guaranteed maximum refund, in which they’ll refund you the purchase price you paid if you get a larger refund using another tax preparation software.

It also guarantees its calculations, and will reimburse you for federal or state penalties and interest charges.

However, audit assistance is only available to those who purchase the premium edition.

Importing prior returns

TaxSlayer only allows classic and premium users to import prior tax returns filed with TaxSlayer.

Overall Verdict

One drawback to TaxSlayer is that it’s not supported in every state, so check to see if you can file by using this map from its website.

Other than that, its product offerings are fairly straightforward. If you don’t think you need much guidance and don’t have a complicated tax situation, choose the free edition. If you need a little extra support, go with classic, and if you want to get the best level of support, choose premium.

Read full TaxSlayer review here.

Best Options for Audit Protection: TurboTax and H&R Block

It’s a fairly low probability you’d be picked by the IRS to get audited, especially with straight-forward taxes. However, if you still feel the need to pay for the extra protection, and recognize you will pay a premium for the service, these are your best options.

TurboTax

 

 

Most people have heard of TurboTax as it’s one of the larger giants out there. If you’ve been a customer for the past few years, you might remember the confusion surrounding its pricing in 2015.

There are a lot of layers to the product offerings, and there are four different packages to choose from for both online and CD products. Let’s look at each.

Price

These prices are for TurboTax’s online products:

  • The federal free version allows you to file state and federal for free if you’re filing a 1040EZ/A
  • The deluxe version is $34.99 (down from $54.99)
  • The premier version is $54.99 (down from $79.99)
  • The home & business version is $79.99 (down from $104.99), but this is primarily for business owners

Note that filing with the state is an additional $36.99 across the board (aside from the free version).

These are the prices if you want to buy the CD product:

  • Basic: $29.99
  • Deluxe: $59.99
  • Premier: $89.99
  • Home & Business: $99.99

For the basic plan, filing with the state is an extra $39.99, and if you want to file electronically, it’s an additional $19.99.

For all other CD plans, one state file is included. Additional states are $39.99, and e-files are still an additional $19.99. You can file an unlimited amount of federal tax returns, and you can e-file up to 5 federal returns for free.

Cost of add-ons

There’s a $20 difference between the deluxe and premier version of TurboTax – is it worth paying for?

As you can see on the pricing page, the premier package offers investments and rental property income, whereas deluxe doesn’t. If rental property isn’t something you’re concerned with, or if you’re not an active investor, then you’re safe sticking with the deluxe version.

The deluxe version is listed as the most popular. If your tax situation isn’t simple enough to file a 1040EZ/A, or if you want to itemize, or if you have charitable contributions you want to deduct, it’s worth paying for.

Customer service

You can talk to a tax expert as long as you pay for an online TurboTax product. Tax experts aren’t available for those filing with the free federal offering. Within the fine print, it says “fees may apply” when speaking with a tax expert.

Product experts are available for those who purchase CD products.

How you can receive payment

You can choose to get your refund via direct deposit, check, or a pre-paid Visa card.

Audit Support and Guarantees

TurboTax guarantees that you’ll get the maximum refund available to you using its software. If you happen to get a larger or smaller tax amount due by using another preparation method, it will refund you the purchase price you paid. Those using the free version will receive a payment of $14.99 and a refund of the state purchase price paid.

TurboTax will also cover any penalties and interest incurred if there are calculation errors found by the IRS.

Lastly, it offers an Audit Support Guarantee in the form of free year-round audit support guidance from a tax professional.

Importing prior returns

TurboTax allows you to import last year’s tax return if you’ve used TurboTax before, but it will also import information from H&R Block or TaxAct online software.

You can import your W-2 straight from your employer if you have its EIN, or you can take a picture of it and upload it.

Overall Verdict

Make things easier on yourself by choosing an online product. TurboTax says in its FAQ that the CD products are a better value for those filing multiple returns (for family and friends), but if you’re just looking to file for your family, then you’re better off with an online product. The deluxe version is a safe bet for the average family.

Read full TurboTax review here.

H&R Block

 

 

H&R Block is another household name, and it argues that it’s the cheapest software in town – not TaxAct. It has a comparison chart on the main page of its website to illustrate this. Let’s investigate.

Price

For online products:

  • Free: Filing federal taxes is free, though you’ll pay $9.99 to file per state
  • Basic: $24.99, and $36.99 per state
  • Deluxe: $34.99, and $36.99 per state

All online products come with free federal e-file, however, TaxAct’s free plan gives you a free federal and state return, whereas H&R Block’s doesn’t. That said, H&R Block’s free version offers more options.

For downloads:

  • Basic: $19.95, and $39.95 for state
  • Deluxe: $44.95, and $39.95 for state
  • Premium: $64.95, first filing for one state is included

All downloadable software comes with 5 free federal e-files. State e-files are $19.95 each for all versions, though additional state filings are $39.95 each.

Cost of add-ons

H&R Block highlights that it offers the Schedule A form for free on its basic plan, whereas other companies offer it with their plus or deluxe packages.

That’s certainly a highlight, though you might want to consider upgrading from the online free plan to the basic plan if technical support, storage of your tax return, and importing your tax return from last year is important.

The deluxe plan is $10 more, and you get access to mortgage interest deductions as well as reporting investment income, and guidance on how to optimize your taxes with charitable donations.

The downside is reporting rental property income is only available to premium users, and it’s offered at a lower tier elsewhere.

As for downloadable products, the deluxe plan offers the same advantages over the basic plan, although you also get one free state filing.

Consider upgrading to premium if you need a Schedule E for rental property income, or if you received an inheritance this past year.

Customer service

Free technical support and free, unlimited tax advice from an expert is offered across all plans except the free version.

How you can receive payment

You can get your refund via direct deposit, check, or put it on an Emerald Card Prepaid MasterCard.

Audit Support and Guarantees

H&R Block offers a maximum refund guarantee, and if “another online tax preparation method” gives you a larger refund amount, or shows you owe less, it will refund the purchase price of the software.

It also has an Accurate Calculations Guarantee, which means you’ll get reimbursed up to $10,000 if the IRS finds any mathematical errors on your return. H&R Block covers the penalties and interest.

The audit is where H&R Block shines. It offers a free in-person audit consultation if you filed with H&R Block and receive a notice from the IRS.

Importing prior returns

You can import last year’s tax return if you filed with H&R Block, TurboTax, or Quicken.

A Word of Caution With the “Bonus” Refund

H&R Block is running a promotion to get a “bonus 5% or 10%” on top of your refund. A look at the fine print reveals it’s not that simple.

First, you must choose a $100 increment from your federal tax refund to put toward buying an e-gift card. H&R Block will then put an extra 5% or 10% (depending on the software you’re using) toward the purchase of the gift card.

Unfortunately, it’s not a flat bonus. If you’re planning on using your tax refund to pay down debt or increase your savings, you might not benefit from this.

Overall Verdict

H&R Block offers free in-person audit assistance and a Schedule A form on its lower tier. If your tax situation isn’t that complicated, but you want to itemize, H&R Block may be a good solution. If you want to report rental property income or investment gains, then you should look elsewhere.

Read full H&R Block review here.

Best Option to Lock-in Low Filing Price: TaxAct

TaxAct

 

 

TaxAct is another big player in the tax preparation software industry. It also claims to be one of the least expensive options out there. Let’s see what it has to offer.

Price

For online products:

  • Free: Free is free. If you’re filing a 1040 EZ/A, you don’t have to worry about paying for federal or state
  • Basic: $9.99, state is an additional $9.99
  • Plus: $14.99, state is an additional $14.99
  • Premium: $21.99 (usually reserved for self-employed individuals), state is an additional $14.99

For download products:

  • Free: Again, if you have a simple tax situation, you can file your federal taxes for free. You’ll pay an additional $14.99 for each state
  • Basic: $19.99, includes 5 free federal e-files and 1 state return
  • Plus: $29.99, includes 5 free federal e-files and 1 state return
  • Premium: $39.99, includes 5 free federal e-files and 1 state return

There’s also an “all-state” version available for $59.99, but you likely don’t need this unless you moved a lot during the past year, or are filing for multiple people.

If you’re interested in comparing TaxAct to TurboTax and H&R Block at a quick glance, it provides this chart on its website.

Cost of add-ons

For the purpose of this review, we’ll focus on comparing the free, basic, and plus plans.

The only upgrade you get when choosing the basic plan over the free plan is the ability to import last year’s tax return (if you filed with TaxAct). Online users will also get a “Price Lock Guarantee,” which means whatever the price of the product is at the time you begin filing is what you’ll be charged. Prices are known to increase the closer it gets to tax day.

When you upgrade from basic to plus (a $5 increase with online software, or $10 increase with downloadable software), you gain access to Schedule A, D, and E, meaning you can itemize, report gains and losses from investments, and report rental property income. You can also import donations made.

Customer service

If you choose the free option, you’ll have access to free email help. All other plans get access to email and phone support.

How you can receive payment

You can receive your refund via direct deposit, check, or an American Express Serve reload card.

Audit Support and Guarantees

TaxAct guarantees that you’ll receive the largest refund if you file with its software. If you don’t, it will refund you the purchase price of the software. If you’re filing using the free version, you’ll receive $4.99.

To obtain a refund, you’ll have to write to TaxAct within 60 days of filing.

TaxAct also guarantees its calculations, so if the IRS spots an error, TaxAct will pay for it (penalty and interest included).

If you’re audited, TaxAct offers an Audit Assistant website you can use, but you can also email or fax for additional (personal) assistance. It doesn’t make any mention of additional fees for this service.

Importing prior returns:

TaxAct can import last year’s tax return if you filed with TaxAct, though this isn’t available with the free version.

Overall Verdict

TaxAct is certainly one of the cheaper options, and it offers many of the same services as TurboTax and H&R Block. If your tax situation is on the simple side, but not simple enough to file for free, go for the basic or plus online product, or the basic download product.

If you want to itemize deductions and have rental property income or investment information to report, then you should choose the plus version.

Which Should You Pick?

This answer greatly depends on your needs. As we mentioned at the beginning, you can visit the IRS website and fill out a short survey that will point you in the right direction. Most of these companies also offer to guide you to the right product if you select the situations that apply to you.

As a general rule of thumb, if you’re a newer filer or recent graduate, you can likely get away with filing on any of the free versions offered (or if you meet the requirements to file for free).

If you’re part of a dual-income family, have dependents, have made charitable contributions, need to itemize, or need a Schedule D or E, the plus or deluxe plans should cover you.

In most cases, you won’t need more than that. The top tier offerings are reserved for those who have businesses or a lot of money being shuffled around. Don’t pay for more when you don’t have to.

Be sure to compare prices carefully if you’re stuck between two companies. As you can see, some include state and federal filings, while others don’t. Not all plans are created equal – TurboTax’s deluxe version may not have the same options as H&R Block’s.

Hopefully you have a better idea of what tax preparation software you should choose. Don’t procrastinate on the decision, though. Remember that prices increase around March, and it’s better to have your money working for you than with the government!

The post Best Tax Software of 2016 to Save Money appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Free Tax Filing Options for Every State Online

Tax return check

Filing your taxes doesn’t need to be expensive. Many tax preparation companies offer different editions of their software, including free versions, and the majority of Americans qualify for at least free Federal e-filing. Because of this, however, many of the companies will try to upsell you on the price to file your state taxes. Luckily, there are plenty of options to file both state and federal taxes for free.

The Free File options and requirements

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and tax software developers partnered in 2003 to offer a free option for e-filing federal tax returns. Today, the Free File program gives about 70 percent of all taxpayers a no-cost option for filing federal taxes. There are 13 online preparation options to choose from, including some from the most well-known tax software companies. Some options even work for those with complex tax situations, such as: itemized deductions, business income, or investment income.

There are limitations on who can use the Free File software. At a minimum, you must have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of no more than $62,000. Some of the options have stricter income requirements, age requirements, or are only for residents of select states.

Free File software options that also offer free state filing

Only a few Free File offerings include free state e-filing in addition to a free federal filing.

We’ve rounded up the tax preparation software that allows you to file both state and federal taxes through the Free File program.

Exceptions to the rule: Residents of Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington state, and Wyoming have no state-level income tax and may not need to file a state tax return at all. New Hampshire and Tennessee tax interest and dividend income above $2,400 and $1,250 respectively, and residents may need to file a state return only if they exceed this amount. If you live in one of these states, you may want to compare all the Free File options before choosing.

Tax Preparation Software with Free State and Federal Filing

Free state and federal filing for all states

H&R Block Free FileYou must have an AGI of $62,000 or less and be between 17 and 50 years old. If you’re an active-duty military member with an AGI of $62,000 or less, there is no age requirement.

OnLine TaxesYou must have an AGI of $13,000 to $62,000 and there is no age requirement.

TurboTax Freedom EditionYou must have an AGI of $31,000 or less, be an active-duty military member with an AGI of $62,000 or less, or be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Free state and federal filing for some states

1040Now.net You must have an AGI of $62,000 or less and be 60 or younger if you live in CO, CT, DC, DE, HI, IL, KS, LA, MA, MD, ME, MT, NE, NJ, NM, OH, PA, UT or WI. There is no age requirement in other states. Free state filing is available in AL, AR, AZ, GA, ID, IN, IA, KY, MI, MN, MO, MS, ND, NC, OK, OR, RI, SC, VT, VA, and WV. 

FileYourTaxes.comYou must have an AGI of $8,000 to $62,000 and be between 15 and 65 years old. State filing is free for residents of Iowa, Idaho, Nevada, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Free1040TaxReturn.comYou must have an AGI $62,000 or less and be 70 years old or younger. State returns are free for residents of Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, or West Virginia. Free federal filing is not offered to residents of Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, or Texas.

TaxAct Free FileYou must have an AGI of $50,000 or less and be 56 years old or younger, be an active-duty military member with an AGI of $62,000 or less, or be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Free state returns may be available for filers in AZ, AR, DC, GA, ID, IN, IA, KY, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, OR, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, and WV.

Other ways to get free federal and state filing

Not formally part of the Free File program, these software options have fewer limitations but still provide free federal and state tax preparation and filing.

United Way’s MyFreeTaxesOffered from a partnership between United Way and H&R Block, this edition is free for all filers that made less than $62,000. 

TurboTax Absolute ZeroThere are no income or age requirements for the Absolute Zero edition, but you’re only eligible if you file a 1040EZ or a 1040A form without any business, contractor, or rental income, and with a standard deduction. The price may increase on March 18, 2016.

Free File Options for AGI Above $62,000: State-by-state free filing options 

Feeling frustrated because you don’t qualify for a free state filing with online tax preparation software nor with United Way? You may still have one more option. A lot of individual states offer free filing directly through state-backed websites. However, there may not be tax preparation assistance and this isn’t available in all states.

Below, we go state-by-state and list additional free options for e-filing your state tax return. The state-specific offerings sometimes come from tax software companies or are created and managed by the state itself. They may not be as user-friendly as the third-party alternatives, some states only offer electronic fillable forms, but there are often less stringent requirements. Unless otherwise noted, none of the state-specific options have an income or age requirement.

Regardless of where you live, if you need further assistance or prefer to work with someone in person, you may be eligible for free tax preparation assistance from the AARP Tax-Aide or through the federal Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

Alabama

You can file resident and non-resident Alabama tax returns online at My Alabama Taxes (MAT) for free, but there’s no preparation assistance.

Alaska

Alaska doesn’t have a state income tax.

Arizona

Full-year residents with an AGI below $3,500 can file their Arizona state returns for free on Average1040.com. Arizona also offers free electronic fillable forms and filing to residents, part-year residents, and nonresidents.

Arkansas

Arkansas doesn’t provide additional free tax preparation or filing options.

California

California offers a state-run CalFile program that lets some full-year residents e-file for free. The requirements aren’t as strict as those of the federal FreeFile program, but there is a maximum Adjusted Gross Income requirement of $178,706 for single filers and $357,417 for joint filers. Among other requirements, you can’t take the Mortgage Income Credit, claim capital gains, or have business income or losses.

Colorado

You can file a resident, part-year resident, or nonresident state tax return using Colorado’s free electronic filing system, Revenue Online. However, the site doesn’t offer preparation assistance. The Piton Foundation and Denver Asset Building Coalition offers free in-person tax help to Colorado households with a 2015 income of $53,000 or less.

Connecticut

Connecticut allows you to file your taxes online at the state’s revenue service site. To qualify, you must have filed a Connecticut state return the previous year, have no more than ten W-2s and 1099s, and not change your filing status between single and joint.

Delaware

You can file a Delaware state income tax return for free through the state’s website.

Florida

Florida doesn’t have a state income tax, but Impact America offers free federal tax assistance to households with one or more children that earned up to $52,000, or $20,000 for households with no children.

Georgia

The TaxSlayer Free File Edition offers free state returns to qualified Georgia filers. You must have an AGI of $62,000 or less and be 52 or younger or an active-duty military member.

Hawaii

Hawaii individual resident and non-resident income taxes can be filed and paid online for a $1 administration fee. However, the N-13 Resident Individual Income Tax Return (Short Form) isn’t eligible this year.

Idaho

Idaho doesn’t have additional free tax preparation or filing services.

Illinois

Full-year Illinois residents can use MyTax Illinois to file their tax return for free if they have filed an Illinois state tax return before or have an Illinois driver’s license or ID.

Indiana

Indiana doesn’t have additional free tax preparation or filing services.

Iowa

Full-year residents can file Iowa tax returns online for free with the eFile & Pay system.

Kansas

You can file resident and non-resident Kansas tax returns online for free through the KSWebFile system and manage your tax profile online with KSWebTax.

Kentucky

Kentucky state-sponsored KY E-Tax lets users pay their taxes, but doesn’t provide preparation assistance.

Louisiana

You can file individual income tax returns on the Louisiana Department of Revenue’s website for free if you’ve filed a Louisiana state return after the 2004 tax year, or you have a Louisiana driver’s license or ID card.

Maine

Maine’s free I-file tax allows full-year residents to file and pay taxes. Some nonresident and part-year residents can also use it.

Maryland

This year, Maryland’s free iFile service does not support nonresident tax forms, but it’s still working and free for residents.

Massachusetts

Full-year residents can file their state taxes using Massachusetts’s WebFile for Income service.

Michigan

In addition to the FreeFile options, full-year residents can file free returns at Average1040.com, but only if their AGI is less than $3,500.

Minnesota

Minnesota doesn’t have additional free tax preparation or filing services.

Mississippi

Mississippi doesn’t have additional free tax preparation or filing services

Missouri

In addition to the FreeFile options, Average1040.com offers free returns to full-year Missouri residents with an AGI below $3,500.

Montana

Montana allows first-time resident filers, non-residents, and part-time residents to file online with Taxpayer Access Point.

Nebraska

Full-year residents can file their Nebraska tax return with the state-run NebFile system.

Nevada

Nevada doesn’t have a state income tax.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire doesn’t have a state income tax, but there are taxes on investment income. Non-first-time filers can pay taxes with e-File New Hampshire.

New Jersey

NJ WebFile allows full-year filers, including first-time filers, to pay their New Jersey taxes online for free.

New Mexico

Full-year residents can pay New Mexico state income taxes with the Taxpayer Access Point. The state also provides free assistance and preparation assistance to citizens with an AGI of $22,000 or less.

New York

Full-year residents can use the New York State Web File system. There’s no income limit, but some restrictions apply.

North Carolina

The Benefit Bank of North Carolina provides free tax preparation and filing services to single filers with an AGI of $65,000 or less and joint filers with an AGI of $95,000 or less. There are no age or residency status requirements.

North Dakota

North Dakota provides free web-based fillable forms and interactive software to full-year residents.

Ohio

Non-first-time filers can file and pay their Ohio state and school district income taxes with the state-run I-File system.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s free Taxpayer Access Point is available to full-year residents.

Oregon

Oregon has fillable forms and e-filing available to full-year residents.

Pennsylvania

Full-year residents can file their Pennsylvania state tax return and pay taxes using padirectfile.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island doesn’t have additional free tax preparation or filing services.

South Carolina

South Carolina offers full-year residents fillable forms and free e-filing with no age or income limitations. Impact America also has free tax prep assistance for South Carolina households with one or more children that earned up to $52,000, or $20,000 for households with no children.

South Dakota

South Dakota doesn’t have a state income tax.

Tennessee

Tennessee doesn’t have a state income tax, but there are taxes on investment income. Residents can file a return and make a payment for free online. Impact America also offers free tax prep assistance to households with one or more children that earned up to $52,000, or $20,000 for households with no children.

Texas

Texas doesn’t have a state income tax.

Utah

Full-year, partial, and non-residents can pay Utah state taxes for free online at Utah’s Taxpayer Access Point.

Vermont

Vermont residents can pay, but not file, their taxes online at VT Pay.

Virginia

Virginia has free fillable forms and e-filing for full-year residents. There aren’t any age or income requirements.

Washington State

Washington state doesn’t have a state income tax. 

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. lets full-year residents use free fillable forms and e-filing. There aren’t any age or income requirements.

West Virginia

West Virginia doesn’t have additional free tax preparation or filing services.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin residents, part-year residents, and non-residents can file and pay their taxes with the Wisconsin e-file forms and website.

Wyoming

Wyoming doesn’t have a state income tax.

The post Free Tax Filing Options for Every State Online appeared first on MagnifyMoney.