5 Little-Known Ways to Get Your Student Loans Forgiven

Student loans are a huge burden but they don't necessarily have to be. It's possible to lower your monthly student loan payment with the right tips.

If you feel burdened under the weight of student loan debt, we have some good news: you may be able to get those student loans forgiven. In 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report estimating that up to one in four Americans may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, but only a small percentage are actually using it.

Most student loan forgiveness programs aren’t a secret—but it might seem like they are because so few people take advantage of them. If you’d like to wave a magic wand and make your student loan debt disappear, here are five ways to help make that happen.

1. Loan Forgiveness Programs for Health Care Professionals

If you’re a doctor or a nurse, you could get a significant amount of your student loans forgiven in exchange for your service. Here are a couple programs to check out.

  • The Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program: This program is for health-care professionals who serve in the military. You could get up to $50,000 of student loan debt forgiven for each year of military service.
  • Maine Dental Loan Repayment Program: Get up to $20,000 of your student loan debt paid for if you’re a dental professional who sets up shop in an underserved area in Maine. Other states offer similar programs for medical professionals in underserved areas.

2. Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge

Those who took out a Perkins loan to help pay for college and work in a qualifying career could have their entire debt wiped out after five years. All Perkins loan borrowers are eligible for potential loan cancellation or forgiveness. Here’s a look at some of the professions that qualify.

  • Active Duty Military Service: If you served in a hostile fire or imminent danger pay area before August 14, 2008, you could have up to 50% of your loans forgiven. Those who began serving on or after that date may qualify for 100% loan forgiveness.
  • Full-Time Public Service: Police officers, firefighters, and other law enforcement personnel may be able to have 100% of their loans forgiven. Attorneys that work in a community or federal public defender organization may also qualify for total loan forgiveness.
  • Educators: Teachers of certain subjects, special education teachers, and teachers serving low-income students may all be eligible for loan forgiveness up to 100% of the loan. Librarians and speech pathologists in Title I schools may also be eligible.

3. Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs

There are a number of loan forgiveness programs available for teachers who work in underserved areas. Some are state specific, and others are federal programs. Find out if you qualify for either of the federal programs for teachers.

  • Teacher Cancellation: As noted above, teachers who work full-time at a low-income school may be able to have their Federal Perkins Loan cancelled. This option is also available to teachers of certain subjects like math, science, or bilingual education.
  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness: This program was designed to encourage people to enter the education field. If you’ve been a full-time teacher for five consecutive years in a designated school or agency, you may be able to have up to $5,000 of Direct and Stafford loans forgiven. Secondary teachers who teach math or science, as well as special education teachers in elementary or secondary schools, may have up to $17,500 of Direct and Stafford loans forgiven. Unfortunately, PLUS loans are not eligible for this forgiveness program.

4. Forgiveness Programs for Volunteering

Some student loan forgiveness programs are related to volunteer work instead of your nine-to-five profession. If you’ve got a penchant for community service, then you might be able to get a little help with your student loans from these organizations.

  • AmeriCorps and VISTA: When you volunteer for AmeriCorps or VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), you can qualify to suspend your student loan payments for the duration of your service. You can also earn time that will help you qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
  • Peace Corps: If you want to volunteer across the globe, the Peace Corps can help you make a difference and move you closer to paying off those student loans. Volunteers receive forbearance of loan payments during their service, and they earn over $8,000 of readjustment allowance and partial Perkins loans cancellation upon completing their service.

5. Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

While no one plans to be disabled, it’s reassuring to know that student loan help is available if you have a terrible accident or become ill. In the worst cases, your entire student loan debt can be wiped out, eliminating this extra worry during an already trying time. There are three ways to demonstrate that you are “totally and permanently” disabled.

  • Military-Related Disability: Veterans can qualify if the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has determined that you cannot work because of an injury incurred during your military service.
  • Social Security Disability: People who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may also qualify to have their student loans discharged.
  • Medical Disability: If a doctor determines that you’re unable to work due to a mental or physical disability, then you may be able to get your student loans discharged. The disability has to have lasted for more than 60 months or be expected to last for more than 60 months.

The Bottom Line

If you’re having trouble paying off your student loans, it’s important to find a workable solution so you don’t default on them. Even if you file for bankruptcy, it can be difficult to have your student loans cancelled, and falling behind on your payments can hurt your credit and may even lead to wage garnishment. If you’re worried that your student loans might be affecting your credit, get a free credit report so you can see exactly what’s going on. Get your free credit score now to make sure your student loans aren’t getting you in trouble.

Student loan forgiveness programs are not an instant solution. For example, one important thing to note is that if you do have your student loans forgiven, you will then owe taxes on the amount forgiven. This is because the IRS counts forgiven student loans as income. So while you might be able to escape your student loans, you should still budget to pay the associated taxes. But loan forgiveness programs can help you rebuild your financial peace of mind. Most people don’t realize that they might qualify for a student loan forgiveness program. Don’t end up in a bad situation where you risk default without looking into the options that are available.

More on Student Loans:

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5 Store Credit Cards That Are Worth It

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[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]

The last time you shopped at a department store, someone probably asked you to apply for a store credit card. For some, it would be easy to say no, but maybe you were tempted to apply for a store card and asked yourself if it’s worth it.

You should make any credit decision carefully, including opening a new credit card. In some cases, department store credit cards are not a good deal. You might get a small discount off your first post-approval purchase, but you could end up with a card that has few rewards and a higher interest rate compared to conventional credit cards.

Still, store cards are some of the easiest credit cards to get, making them attractive if you’re trying to build or rebuild credit. Plus, many of these cards offer impressive discounts, low or no extra fees, enticing rewards, or all three.

One more tip: Choose a store card that gives you perks where you spend a lot of money. If you’re already a frequent shopper at a store—and you can pay off your balance each month to avoid paying interest—one of these cards may be a great deal.

For Discount Shopping: Kohl’s Charge Card

Kohl’s credit card, called Kohl’s Charge, offers the biggest purchase discounts on this list. Once you’re approved, you’ll get a whopping 25% off your first purchase made with the card. You’ll get another 15% discount when you receive your card, and you can combine certain discounts with other programs like Kohl’s Cash and Yes2You rewards. What’s more, you’ll get 12 more discounts of 30%, 20%, or 15% throughout the year.

There is no annual fee for the Kohl’s Charge card, but it does have a 24.99% APR, so be careful about carrying a balance each month. Paying in full or keeping the balance to 10% or less of your credit limit also helps your credit score.

For Bad Credit: Walmart Credit Card

Walmart’s credit cards don’t offer the largest discounts or rewards, but they’re good options if you’re trying to build or rebuild your credit. (If you’re wondering where your credit score stands, check your free credit report.)

Walmart cards come in two types. The Walmart Credit Card is easier to be approved for, but you can use it only at Walmart. It’s harder to get approved for the Walmart Mastercard, but you can use it anywhere that accepts Mastercard.

You don’t pay an annual fee for either Walmart card, and both include the “3-2-1 Save” rewards program. This program gives you 3% cash back on Walmart.com online purchases, 2% cash back on Murphy USA and Walmart gas, and 1% cash back on in-store purchases or any accepted purchases with the Walmart Mastercard.

Your introductory APR for the Walmart Mastercard is 17.90%, 20.90%, or 23.90%, depending on your “account type,” which reflects your credit score. The Walmart MoneyCard Visa has a 23.90% APR, so it’s best to charge only what you can pay in full each month to avoid paying interest.

For Frequent Shippers: Amazon Prime Store Card

If you’re like the majority of Americans, you do at least some shopping at Amazon.com. All those books, gadgets, and everyday items would cost a fortune in shipping fees if it weren’t for Amazon Prime’s free-shipping program. But another way to save as an Amazon shopper is with the Amazon Prime Store Card.

Once approved, you get 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases, a $40 gift card, and access to special financing options for some items. And there’s no annual fee. The biggest downside is the card’s high 26.99% APR, so avoid carrying a balance with the Amazon Prime Store Card.

For Everyday Shopping: Target REDcard

Target’s REDcard has one perk that most store cards don’t: instant discounts. Instead of the typical rewards points or cash back systems, which are usually applied to your monthly statement, the REDcard gets you 5% off all Target purchases.

The 5% discount applies online too, and the card includes free shipping at Target.com. Plus, you get access to exclusive cardmember offers, an extra 30 days for store returns, and the ability to stack the 5% savings with other discounts like the ever-popular Cartwheel program.

Be wary of Target REDcard’s 23.90% APR, which could leave you with high interest payments if you don’t pay off your balance each month. One way to avoid the interest altogether is to opt for the REDcard debit card. With that option, you get the same 5% discount by linking the card directly to your checking account.

For Department Store Purchases: TJX Rewards Credit Card

Department store shoppers like their deals and perks. If that’s you, the TJX Rewards card from T.J.Maxx could be a great way to save on your purchases and get special rewards. You can use the card at any T.J.Maxx location or sister store, including Marshalls, HomeGoods, and Sierra Trading Post. And because it’s a Mastercard, you can also use it anywhere that accepts Mastercard.

When you’re approved, you’ll get 10% off your first in-store purchases. Then you’ll earn $10 for every $200 you spend using the card. You’ll also get perks like chances to win free giveaways and entry into a $100 gift card sweepstake.

Like many other store cards, the TJX Rewards card has a high interest rate at 27.99%. Don’t pay unnecessary interest—pay off the balance every month.

Store cards and department store credit cards can help you save on your purchases and build your credit if you can manage the balances well. To search other credit card options, use this credit card search tool.

More on Credit Cards:

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees, and terms with credit card issuers, banks, or other financial institutions directly.

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Where Americans Cashed In the Most Wealth

These are the places where the most capital gains have been realized

Just a few years ago, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Americans were constantly reading about how home ownership had let Americans down.  There was red ink everywhere: Not only had stocks lost nearly half of their value between 2007 and 2009, but home prices had declined in virtually every real estate market in the country.

That trend has long since been reversed. Last year, incomes grew an average of 4.7 percent. When adjusted for inflation, they have finally fully recovered to levels seen before the 2007-08 financial crisis. But even better, their investments have been paying off.  Stocks, as based on broad market indexes, have more than tripled in value from their 2009 lows. And in most local markets, home prices have also since recovered.

So, who’s cashing in?

MagnifyMoney analyzed five years’ worth of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data — from 2012 to 2016 — to see where American taxpayers are getting the most return on their investments. In particular, we focused on capital gains: a tax on the sale of appreciated assets like real estate and stocks.

For the 100 largest American metros, we looked at two facets of capital gains: How much in gains, per resident, were realized; and, to get a sense of the breadth of wealth being realized and taxed, the percentage of individuals who filed federal taxes that cited a capital gain.

We ranked each metro on these metrics and weighted them evenly to create a Cashing In Score, from 0 to 100 (with 100 representing a metro that would rank first in both capital gains per resident and the percentage of returns with capital gains).

Topping the list were Fort Myers, Fla.; San Francisco; and Sarasota, also in Florida. Others in the top 10 include tech-heavy places like Seattle and Austin, Texas.

#1 Fort Myers, Fla.
Cashing In score: 98 (Scores are rounded in this list.)

By far, the place with the most cashing-in was Fort Myers, on Florida’s west coast. With a relatively small population of well-off retirees, the city and surrounding area realized nearly $103,000 in capital gains per resident, easily eclipsing other American cities. Moreover, with a capital gain appearing on nearly one in four returns over the past five years, there’s been significant activity in the region.

#2 San Francisco

Cashing In score: 94

The City by the Bay is famous for both its tight real estate market as well as Silicon Valley, and the data bear this out. Even with a significantly large population, San Francisco realized more than $76,000 in capital gains per resident, many of the realized gains likely the result of selling stocks which have greatly appreciated in value.

#3  Sarasota, Fla.

Cashing In score: 75

Sarasota has the distinction of having a higher proportion of federal tax returns with a capital gain than any other metro in the nation, including its Fort Myers neighbor to the south. The capital gains per resident, at more than $56,000, are less than those realized in Fort Myers (as well as No. 9 Miami).

#4 New York

Cashing In score: 70

The nation’s largest metro also sports large gains: more than $60,000 in capital gains per resident over the five-year period we examined. One in five returns included some sort of capital gain. And where the average price of a home in Manhattan has now exceeded $1 million, a healthy percentage of the gains realized were from real estate sales.

#5 Boston

Cashing In score: 63

Another metro with a hot real estate market, Boston realized more than $48,000 of capital gains per resident from 2012-2016, while, as in New York, 20 percent of federal filings from the Boston area included some sort of capital gain.

What is a capital gain?

According to the IRS, a capital gain can arise from a sale of stock, a private business, real estate or art. In other words, it’s the money that you earn on an investment after you sell it, less the cost of the initial investment. And while these assets are taxed at differing rates, all may be subject to federal taxes, if they are sold for more than the original purchase price.

Homes are still how most Americans typically accumulate wealth. Overall, 64 percent of American households are homeowner households, according to the most recent Census data . The median value of the primary residence of Americans still exceeds the median value of the stocks and bonds they hold outside of retirement accounts and other managed assets like annuities. And homeowners have a net worth of nearly $230,000, versus an average of about $5,000 for renters.

But housing markets are still local, which may in part explain the variance among the 100 largest metropolitan areas we examined for the most capital gains realized from 2012 to 2016.

The second-home factor

Not all home sales will result in a capital gains tax.  Currently homeowners only pay a capital gains tax on gains that exceed $250,000 ($500,000 for couples filing jointly), if it’s their primary residence.

But other property – such as vacation homes and rental properties – aren’t afforded the same protections from capital gains as a primary residence.

Thus, all the gains from these sales may be subject to capital gains tax, which may explain why we found that many of the cities that top our list s are in vacation spots like Florida and Lake Tahoe (considered part of Reno, Nev., by the Census Bureau).

Stocks still likely result in some significant realization.

It’s probably not a surprise that both New York and San Francisco are near the top of the list. Not only do both have tight residential real estate markets, but both Wall Street and Silicon Valley are homes of dozens of public corporations with thousands of employees. Stocks, whether in the form of compensation given to employees or simply bought and sold on the open market, may also result in significant capital gains.

Local economies still a factor.  

Finally, local economies may also be a factor in how much in capital gains are realized. Consider two major cities in Texas: Houston and Austin. Despite being fewer than 200 miles apart, Austin ranks significantly higher than Houston on our scale. One explanation: Austin’s tech-heavy economy continues to flourish, while the energy centric economy of Houston is slogging through a period of depressed energy prices, weighing on the residential real estate market there

Methodology

MagnifyMoney analyzed IRS Statistics of Income data for tax returns filed January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2016, covering five years of tax filings, along with U.S. Census Bureau 2016 population data to create a ‘Cashing in score.’

The 100 largest metros in the U.S. were ranked by the % of returns that declared capital gains, as well as the total capital gains reported per resident over the five year period. These rankings were weighted evenly to create the score for each metro, with 100 the highest possible score for a metro that ranks #1 for both metrics.

The post Where Americans Cashed In the Most Wealth appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Credit Cards with Authorized User Bonuses

Credit cards are a super convenient financial tool, but they can often be confusing.

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]

Adding an authorized user to your credit card account comes with a few advantages. You can share your account with a trusted loved one, help them build credit, and even reap rewards as they use your card.

Some credit cards offer additional incentives in the form of authorized user bonuses—and here are our top three picks.

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Rewards: Two points per dollar spent on dining and travel; one point per dollar on all other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus:
50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
Annual Fee:
$0 the first year, then $95.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 16.99% to 23.99% APR on purchases and balance transfers.

Why We Picked It: Cardholders can rack up travel points by adding an authorized user.

For Authorized Users: If you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months, you’ll earn 5,000 bonus points. That’s up to $62.50 in redemptions when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Drawbacks: If you don’t travel often, this card won’t hold as much value.

  1. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: $150 bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months.

Annual Fee: $0
APR:
0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 15.99% to 24.74% APR.

Why We Picked It: Cash back enthusiasts get an extra boost when they add an authorized user.

For Authorized Users: If you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months, you’ll get a $25 cash back bonus.

Drawbacks: There are higher cash back rates available elsewhere.

  1. Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard

Rewards: Three miles per dollar on Virgin Atlantic purchases; 1.5 miles per dollar on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: 20,000 bonus miles when you make your first purchase.

Annual Fee: $90

APR: Variable 13.24% to 20.24% APR on purchases and balance transfers.
Why We Picked It:
Virgin Atlantic customers get a solid incentive for adding users to their card.
For Authorized Users: You’ll earn 2,500 miles per authorized user for the first two users you add to your card. Miles can be redeemed for Virgin Atlantic flights, cabin upgrades, and much more through Virgin’s partner network.

Drawbacks: If you have another preferred airline, you should keep looking.

How to Choose a Card with an Authorized User Bonus

In most scenarios, you should consider your own credit card needs over those of potential authorized users. Choose a card that reflects your spending habits and provides rewards—such as cash back or travel redemptions—that are valuable to you.

Furthermore, adding an authorized user to your account should not be taken lightly. As the primary account holder, you are responsible for your credit card’s balance and activity. If an authorized user uses your card irresponsibly, you are liable for the ensuing balance and your credit could suffer. You should add an authorized user only if you consider them trustworthy and financially responsible.

With any card, closely evaluate the related fees and APR to ensure it’s a good fit for you and your authorized user. For example, if your authorized user frequently travels out of the country, you should avoid cards that charge foreign transaction fees.

What Credit Is Required for a Card with an Authorized User Bonus?

Rewards cards with authorized user bonuses usually require excellent credit. As the primary applicant, you—not the potential authorized user—will be evaluated. Before applying, you should check your credit score to verify you meet the card’s credit requirements. You can check your credit report for free at Credit.com.

At publishing time, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom Unlimited cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees, and terms with credit card issuers, banks, or other financial institutions directly.

 

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PNC Bank Reviews: Checking, Savings, CD, Money Market, and IRA Rates

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PNC Bank is one of the oldest and largest banks in the country, founded shortly after the American Revolution. Although it is based out of Pittsburgh and its 2,600 branches are mostly located across the Eastern U.S., that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you’re in the western U.S.

PNC Bank offers a robust online banking platform with plenty of helpful features. But is it the right bank for you? How do its rates compare with those of other banks? Let’s walk you through the different types of PNC Bank account offerings.

It’s important to note that PNC Bank charges different rates across the country. To keep things consistent for comparison purposes, we’ll present you with the rates closest to their headquarters in Pittsburgh using the ZIP code 15222. To see rates for your local area, click here.

PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet®

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a super-easy holistic account package when you decide to switch banks? That’s what PNC Bank aims to offer with its Virtual Wallet® kit. It’s a complete set of accounts for everything you need to do, including:

  • Spend : An everyday checking account.
  • Reserve : A savings account for short-term goals, like a vacation or Christmas gifts.
  • Growth : A savings account for long-term goals, like a down payment on a house.

Virtual Wallet® accounts also come with different tiers of interest rates, depending on whether you meet certain qualifications. We’ll do a deeper dive on that later.

What’s really neat about PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet® is that it comes with all sorts of tools to help you manage your money better. Within the checking account, you can take advantage of the following tools:

  • Calendar : Allows you to see scheduled bills and amounts due.
  • Online bill pay : Will pay your bills for you automatically on their due dates.
  • Danger Day : Shows you when you might run out of money for the month.
  • Spending Zone : Allows you to set up and track your spending in a budget.
  • Money Bar : Shows you how your money is divvied up: savings, scheduled for bills, or free to spend.

The Virtual Wallet® even makes it easier to save in Reserve and Growth savings accounts with the following features:

  • Punch The Pig : Gamifies your savings when you hit a pig icon to transfer money to your Growth account.
  • Wish List : Allows you to set up and track individual savings goals separately from each other.
  • Early closure fee: $25 if you close the account within 180 days of opening.
  • Savings Engine : Automatically puts money into savings when you’re paid, or if you pay a bill.

PNC Checking Accounts

PNC Bank’s checking accounts are, overall, pretty lackluster. The only advantage of using them is that you get access to the Virtual Wallet® account package, which actually does offer some nice money management tools. But you can still get access to budgeting tools and savings apps elsewhere that can do all the same jobs as the Virtual Wallet®.

The rewards structure for these checking accounts is confusing. There’s no way to know whether you’ll earn good rewards, since you have to log into a portal and manually activate them ahead of time. Furthermore, once you do earn those rewards points, you have to redeem them through another portal. Some checking accounts do come with discounts, but they’re mostly on more obscure banking products you probably aren’t going to use much anyway, like cashier’s checks or safety deposit boxes.

These accounts carry a lot of red tape and fees. They also don’t pay much interest, if any. If earning the highest interest rates possible (with the least amount of fine print and fees) is your goal, there are much better checking accounts elsewhere.

Read on to find out more about all of PNC’s checking account offerings:

Checking accounts with Virtual Wallet®

Virtual Wallet® Basic

A basic account for lower-income earners who want to use Virtual Wallet® features to manage their money.

If you’re looking to take advantage of PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet® account package but don’t earn a huge income, this basic account is where you’ll want to start.

Just beware of fees; there are plenty that come with this product, including the following:

  • Minimum opening deposit : $25
  • Interest rate : The Spend account does not earn interest. The Reserve and Growth accounts earn 0.01% APY. If you meet qualifications (such as making at least five debit transactions per month from your Spend account), you can earn up to 0.10% APY with your Growth account.
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : $7
  • How to waive the account maintenance fee :
    1. Keep at least $500 in your Spend and/or Reserve accounts
    2. Have at least $500 direct-deposited into your Spend account
    3. Be 62 or older
    4. Provide proof of active enrollment in a qualifying education institution (expires six years after the account is enrolled in the student banking program).
  • ATM fees : No charge at PNC Bank ATMs. $3 for every domestic non-PNC Bank ATM transaction, and $5 for every international non-PNC ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds:None.
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5. They will not charge you if you set up Overdraft Protection Transfer from your Reserve or Grow accounts.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if you close the account within 180 days of opening.

This checking account does come with a rewards program, but we’ll be honest: it is confusing.

To earn rewards points, you’ll need to log into the PNC Bank Rewards Portal to see and manually activate customized offers just for you, based on your spending history.

You can redeem your rewards through the online rewards catalog or receive cash back directly into your account. If you link up a PNC Points Visa credit card with your account, you can also earn 25 percent more rewards points for your purchases.

Because of the complexity of assessing the value of the rewards program before you sign up, we think that this is a nice bonus feature but not one you should base your decision on. If you’re looking for cashback rewards, there are many better, more transparent options for you.

If you decide to open a basic Virtual Wallet® account with PNC Bank, the process is relatively straightforward.

You can do it online, over the phone, or in a local branch if one is nearby. Simply provide some basic information (name, address, Social Security number and the like), have a government-issued photo ID ready, and a way to make an opening deposit with your existing bank’s routing and account numbers, or with a debit or credit card.


Virtual Wallet® with Performance Spend

A low-interest-earning account for those who earn a higher income and want to use the Virtual Wallet® package.

The Virtual Wallet® with Performance Spend works exactly like the basic Virtual Wallet® accounts, albeit with some extra threshold levels for higher rewards.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $25
  • Interest rate : 0.01% APY on balances over $2,000 for your Spend account or $1 for your Reserve account. Up to 0.35% APY on balances on your Growth account if you meet certain qualifications (such as making at least five debit purchases per month).
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : $15
  • How to waive the account maintenance fee :
    1. Keep at least $2,000 in your Spend and/or Reserve accounts
    2. Have at least $15,000 in another PNC Bank account or loan
    3. Have at least $2,000 direct-deposited into your Spend account each month ($1,000 for military members).
  • ATM fees : No charge at PNC Bank ATMs. It’s $3 for every domestic non-PNC Bank ATM transaction, and $5 for every international non-PNC Bank ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds : Two refunds per statement. However, ATM surcharges from the originating financial institution ATMs may not be refunded.
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5. You won’t be charged if you set up Overdraft Protection Transfer from your Reserve or Grow accounts.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if you close the account within 180 days of opening.

The rewards program is structured the same way as with the basic Virtual Wallet package. You’ll need to log into a portal to view and activate different rewards offers for purchases you make. When you’ve accumulated enough rewards, you can redeem them for an unknown amount of cash back or other rewards.

The Performance Spend also adds in a few extra rewards: You get up to two ATM fee refunds per month. You’ll also get discounts on check designs, an annual safe deposit box rental,`free cashier’s checks, and higher rates on certain CDs and IRA CDs You do have the potential to earn slightly higher (but still paltry) interest rates on your savings accounts.


Virtual Wallet® with Performance Select

A low-interest-earning account for high earners who want to take advantage of Virtual Wallet® features.

This Virtual Wallet® package is built to be used by high-income earners. After all, you do not want to be paying a $25 monthly account fee, especially when you can get a much better rates at another bank.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $25
  • Interest rate : 0.01% APY on balances over $2,000 for your Spend account or $1 for your Reserve account. Up to 1.00% APY on balances over $1 on your Growth account if you meet certain qualifications (such as making at least five debit purchases per month).
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : $25
  • How to waive the account maintenance fee :
    1. Keep at least $5,000 in your Spend and/or Reserve accounts
    2. Have at least $25,000 in another PNC Bank account or loan
    3. Have at least $5,000 direct-deposited into your account each month.
  • ATM fees : None for PNC Bank ATMS and non-PNC Bank ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds : Up to $10 per month in non-PNC Bank surcharges (i.e., the fees the ATM owner tacks on).
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5. They will not charge you if you set up Overdraft Protection Transfer from your Reserve or Growth accounts.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if you close the account within 180 days of opening.

The Performance Select package comes with added bonus perks. In addition to all the perks from the Performance Spending package, you also will have fees waived for more obscure services, such as Stop Payment and ATM statements. You’ll also be eligible for savings on home equity lines of credit and personal lines of credit, and up to $10,000 in identity theft protection reimbursement.

Overall, though, we’re left feeling underwhelmed by the bonus perks that this account offers for all of the requirements.

Bonus: New checking account offer

PNC Bank is currently offering sign-up bonuses with the Virtual Wallet® account package. If you open a new account and meet the requirements, you could be eligible for a lucrative sign-up bonus.

The bonus amount and the requirements depend on which account tier you open.

For a basic-level Virtual Wallet account, you’ll need to set up at least $500 of direct deposits into the account and make at least 10 purchases with your debit card. If you do those things, you’ll earn a $50 sign-up bonus.

The next level up is the Performance Spend account. To get the $200 sign-up bonus for this account, you’ll need to set up $2,000 of direct deposits and also make 10 purchases with your debit card.

Finally, you can earn a $300 sign-up bonus by opening a Virtual Wallet package with the Performance Select level. To earn this hefty bonus, you’ll need to schedule a $5,000 direct deposit into your account and make 10 debit card purchases.

PNC checking accounts without Virtual Wallet®

Performance Select Checking

A basic interest-earning checking account for high-income earners who don’t need all the fancy Virtual Wallet® features.

The Virtual Wallet® account package is nice for people who want an all-inclusive money management experience. But what if you’re a high-income earner who just wants a simple, no-frills checking account?

That’s where the base Performance Select Checking account comes in. It has the same fees, reward program, requirements and interest-earning structure as the Virtual Wallet®’s Performance Select, just without the extra two Reserve and Growth savings accounts.

Signing up for the Performance Select checking account is easy and takes just a few minutes. You can go to a local branch if you’re near one, call or sign up online. You’ll need that photo ID, a way to fund your new account, and all the basic info, like Social Security number.


Performance checking

A basic interest-earning checking account for medium-income earners who don’t want Virtual Wallet® features.

PNC Bank’s Performance checking account is its lowest-requirement interest-earning checking account. But with an interest rate of 0.01% APY that only applies to balances over $2,000, the amount of money you’ll earn with this account will be peanuts.

Furthermore, if you don’t meet all the same requirements (keeping at least $2,000 in your account, having $2,000 of direct deposits, or having $15,000 in another PNC Bank account or loan) as the Virtual Wallet with Performance Spend, you’ll have to pay a $15 monthly account fee.

This account does come with the same reward structure and banking discounts as the Virtual Wallet® with Performance Spend account, however. If this sounds like the right account for you, you can easily sign up online, via phone or by visiting a local branch.


Standard checking

A basic-reward checking account for lower-income or retired consumers.

If you’re not interested in taking advantage of PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet® money management features but still want a reward checking account without all the red tape, the Standard account might be for you.

This non-interest-earning account, which carries the same fee, reward, and requirement structure as the basic Virtual Wallet® account package, is easy to sign up for. All you need is a photo ID, basic personal information and a way to fund your account. You can sign up in just a few minutes online, over the phone or at a local branch.


PNC Savings Accounts

While you can save money with PNC Bank’s savings accounts, they’re not an effective way to earn interest. Their rates are well below the national average of around 0.20% APY and there are many hidden fees that can trip you up if you aren’t a model customer.

The “S” is for Savings account for children is an exception if you’re looking to teach your youngsters about money, however. With its neat interactive interface and “Sesame Street” characters, it can get any child excited about savings.

That doesn’t mean it’s the best tool for the job, though. There are many other savings accounts that offer better rates for both you and your children.

Read on to learn more about PNC’s savings account offerings.

Standard savings

Low interest rates for a fee-heavy savings account.

PNC Bank’s basic savings account does technically earn interest — but that’s about all we can say about it. Though national savings account rates average around 0.19% APY, the best you can hope for with this account is 0.10% APY—-and only if you have more than $2,500 in your account and qualify for relationship rates.

To do this, you can set up a direct deposit into another account in one of the following amounts:

  1. $500 to a Standard checking account
  2. $2,000 to a Performance checking account
  3. $5,000 to a Performance Select checking account

Alternatively, you can also qualify for the higher rates by making at least five purchases with your PNC Bank credit or debit card.

If you’re not able to meet these requirements for the higher relationship interest rates, you’ll only earn a measly 0.01% APY on your savings. That’s as low as you can go while still technically saying it does earn interest.

Furthermore, there are many hidden-fee traps with this account. For example, if you don’t meet another set of requirements to waive the monthly account fee, you’ll pay a $5 monthly account fee.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $25
  • Interest rate : 0.01% APY on balances over $1.00
  • Relationship interest rate : 0.05% APY on balances between $1.00 and $2,499.99. 0.10% APY on balances over $2,500.
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : $5
  • How to waive the account maintenance fee :
    1. Keep $300 in your savings account
    2. Be under age 18
    3. Transfer at least $25 from this account to an Auto Savings account
  • ATM fees : No charge at PNC Bank ATMs. $3 for every domestic non-PNC Bank ATM transaction, and $5 for every international non-PNC Bank ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds : None
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if closed within 180 days of opening
  • Regulation D violation fee : You get six free transactions per month, as per Federal Regulation D. After that, you’ll pay $15 per transaction.

At least the bank does make it easy to open an account if you decide you want to go this route. You can do it online, over the phone, or at a local branch. You’ll need just a few minutes of your time along with a photo ID, basic personal information and a way to fund your new account.

“S” is for Savings

Fun savings tools for children, but don’t expect to teach them about earning interest.

It can be tough to teach young ones about money, but this savings account can help in a few ways. Children can set savings goals for things like a new bike or a toy.

When money is deposited into the account, children are presented with a visual of three buckets that they can choose to put the money in:

  1. Saving (for later)
  2. Sharing (to be given to charity or other people)
  3. Spending (to be spent right away)

Even cooler is an interactive learning center where young savers can learn about basic money management from “Sesame Street” characters.

These features are great for teaching basic financial concepts, except for one thing: how compound interest works. This account earns a rock-bottom interest rate of 0.01% APY. Since your child probably isn’t going to be saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in this account, he or she won’t really be able to see compound interest in action.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $25
  • Interest rate : 0.01% APY on balances over $1
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : $5
  • How to waive the account maintenance fee :
    1. Be under age 18
    2. Keep at least $300 in this account
    3. Transfer at least $25 from this account to an Auto Savings account each month
  • ATM fees : No charge at PNC Bank ATMs. $3 for every domestic non-PNC Bank ATM transaction, and $5 for every international non-PNC Bank ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds : None
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if you close the account within 180 days of opening.

Luckily, this account is pretty easy to open. All you need is a photo ID for yourself (not your child), a way to fund the account, and your child’s personal information. It only takes a few minutes to complete an application, which you can do online, in person at a local branch or over the phone.

PNC CD Rates

PNC Bank offers a diverse set of CDs, which is great because it provides you with the most flexibility for your personal situation. Not everyone is able or willing to use a one-size-fits-all CD.

The rates offered for these CDs fall well short of national averages, however. If you’re looking to maximize the amount of return for your money, there are many better options.

Read on for more on PNC’s CD offerings:

Fixed-rate CDs

Large amounts of cash needed for below-average returns.

To get started with a PNC Bank Fixed Rate CD, you’ll need a deposit of at least $1,000. The bank will notify you and give you a 10-day grace period when your CD term is due to allow you to decide what to do with it (withdraw, or renew?). If you do nothing, the CD will automatically renew with the same term.

Although PNC Bank does allow CDs with a deposit of as little as $1, there’s a hidden catch: deposit amounts between $1 and $999.99 are only available for CDs that are being renewed — which means you can’t start out at this level with your first deposit amount.

Furthermore, the rates offered for their CDs are again very low.

For example, the average national rates for a 1-year and 5-year CD are 0.63% APY and 1.56% APY with a $1,000 deposit, respectively. But PNC Bank? They’re just 0.13% APY and 0.60% APY, respectively—less than half the national average.

Standard CD rates

 

$1.00 - $999.99

$1k - $9,999.99

$10k - $24,999.9

$25k - $99,999.99

$100k - $499,999.99

$500k +

1 month

0.04%

0.05%

0.05%

0.05%

0.05%

0.05%

3 months

0.04%

0.05%

0.06%

0.07%

0.08%

0.09%

6 months

0.04%

0.06%

0.08%

0.10%

0.12%

0.14%

12 months

0.04%

0.13%

0.15%

0.18%

0.20%

0.22%

18 months

0.04%

0.18%

0.25%

0.28%

0.30%

0.35%

24 months

0.04%

0.25%

0.30%

0.35%

0.38%

0.43%

36 months

0.04%

0.30%

0.35%

0.38%

0.40%

0.45%

48 months

0.04%

0.50%

0.55%

0.65%

0.70%

0.75%

60 months

0.04%

0.60%

0.70%

0.90%

0.95%

1.0%

84 months

0.04%

0.90%

0.95%

1.05%

1.15%

1.25%

120 months

0.04%

1.10%

1.20%

1.30%

1.40%

1.50%

Promotional rates

$1.00 - $999.99

$1k - $9,999.99

$10k - $24,999.99

$25k - $99,999.99

$100k - $499,999.99

$500k +

9 months

0.04%

0.06%

0.08%

0.10%

0.12%

0.15%

  • Minimum deposit amount : $1,000
  • Interest compounded : Monthly
  • How interest is paid : Deposited into your CD account monthly
  • Grace period : 10 days to decide whether to renew or withdraw the CD
  • Early withdrawal penalties : For CDs with terms between 3 months and one year, you’ll lose the amount of interest you would have earned. For CDs with terms over one year, you’ll lose six months’ worth of interest.

If you do decide to open a Fixed Rate CD, you’ll need a bit more information than with a standard checking or savings account. You’ll need current personal and employment information, and a photo ID. You can apply online, at a local branch, or over the phone.

Ready Access CDs

A better option to earn higher interest rates and skirt around the rules of PNC Bank’s savings account.

CDs can be tough to invest with. On one hand, they offer higher rates than a savings account. But, if something comes up and you need the cash, you generally can’t withdraw it without paying an early withdrawal fee that could wipe out your earnings.

You can withdraw the money from this CD at any time penalty-free after the account has been open for at least seven days. These CDs will also automatically renew, meaning they’re a great option to store your emergency savings to earn a higher interest rate. In a worst-case scenario, you won’t be able to pull the money out within a brief seven-day period each year without incurring an early withdrawal fee.

Otherwise, it’s a great way to skirt around the rules and fees of their savings account while still earning a higher rate.

Term

APY

Minimum Balance Amount

3 months

0.05%

$1,000

12 months

0.15%

$1,000

  • Minimum deposit amount : $1,000
  • Interest compounded : Monthly
  • How interest is paid : Deposited into your CD account monthly
  • Grace period : 10 days to decide whether to renew or withdraw the CD
  • Early withdrawal penalties : You will forfeit any interest earned.

You can open a Ready Access CD online, over the phone or in-person at a local branch. You’ll need a photo ID, employment and personal information, and a way to fund your new account.

Callable CDs

Higher rates that still underperform national averages with added fine print.

If the rates of PNC Bank’s Fixed Rate CDs left you feeling a bit underwhelmed, you do have an opportunity to earn a slightly higher rate with Callable CDs. Still these rates are around half of what national averages are for these CD term lengths.

The way it works is a little confusing. PNC Bank has the right to call back its CD if it decides the interest rate isn’t working in its favor. This just means that it’ll pay out what you’ve already earned instead of paying a higher interest rate for the full term length of the CD. It can only call back the CD after you’ve had it open for 12 months (for a 36-month Callable CD), or 24 months (for a 60-month Callable).

If this happens, you’ll get an advance notice of the actual “call date” of the CD. After this date, you’ll have 10 full days to decide whether you want to withdraw the cash or renew it into another CD. If you do nothing, the bank will automatically roll the funds over into a 12-month fixed-rate CD.

Term

APY

Minimum Balance Amount

36 months

0.50%

$10,000

60 months

1.10%

$10,000

  • Minimum deposit amount : $10,000
  • Interest compounded : Monthly
  • How interest is paid : Deposited into your CD account monthly
  • Grace period : 10 days to decide whether to renew or withdraw the CD
  • Early withdrawal penalties : Six months’ worth of interest.

Getting a Callable CD is relatively straightforward, but you’ll need a few pieces of information. You can open an account over the phone, in person at a local branch or online. You’ll need a photo ID, employment and personal information, and a way to fund your new CD.

Variable-rate CDs

Earn fair rates through a changing interest rate environment.

You’ve probably heard all the kerfuffle surrounding the Federal Reserve changing interest rates. That can cause banks to change their own CD rates, and if you’re locked into a long-term CD, that change might not be in your favor.

Instead, PNC Bank offers an option for these scenarios. You can choose from just one term length — 18 months — and the interest rate you earn will be tied to the current price of a three-month Treasury Bill. Right now, as of November 2017, that’s running at 1.17% APY.

After the 18-month period is up, your variable-rate CD will renew into another CD of the same type.

  • Minimum deposit amount:$1,000
  • Interest compounded: Monthly
  • How interest is paid: Deposited into your CD account monthly
  • Grace period:10 days to decide whether to renew or withdraw the CD
  • Early withdrawal penalties:You’ll lose six months’ worth of interest.

To open a Variable Rate CD, you’ll need a few things. You’ll need to provide personal information and employment history, as well as a photo ID. You can apply in person at a local branch, over the phone or online.

Step-rate CDs

Frequent access to your cash with an unknown earning potential.

If you want more frequent access to your money but don’t want to commit to a Ready Access CD, then a step-rate CD might be right for you. This CD is available in 36-month term lengths, which are further subdivided into six six-month terms.

Every six months you’re given a 10-day period where you can withdraw your cash penalty-free if you wish. If you choose to leave it in the account, the interest rate will be bumped up a notch each time.

The downside of this CD is that the lender won’t tell you what the interest rates for each step are until you sign up for an account. So, it’ll be a surprise!

  • Minimum deposit amount : $2,500
  • Interest compounded : Monthly
  • How interest is paid : Deposited into your CD account monthly
  • Grace period : 10 days to decide whether to renew or withdraw the CD
  • Early withdrawal penalties : You’ll lose six months’ worth of interest.

To open a Step Rate CD, simply go online, call PNC Bank, or visit them in person if you live near a local branch. You’ll need to provide them with basic personal and employment information, and a photo ID.

PNC Bank Money Market Accounts

For most products, PNC Bank offers below-average rates. Its money market account is one exception — if you can meet the added requirements. Otherwise, you’ll earn measly rates and might actually lose money if you have to pay the monthly account fee.

The higher rates offered for customers who qualify are actually right on par with national averages. But, as with the rest of their products, you can still find better account rates and terms with other banks.

PNC Bank’s basic money market account isn’t anything to write home about on its own. But, if you can take advantage of the higher rates offered if you have a Performance Checking or Performance Select Checking account, you can actually earn decent returns on your savings.

To qualify for these higher interest rates, you’ll need to meet at least one of these other requirements in addition to having the extra checking account:

  1. Set up a monthly direct deposit amount ($2,000 to a Performance Checking account, or $5,000 to a Performance Select Checking account)
  2. Make at least five purchases a month with your PNC credit or debit card

Just be sure to watch out for the hidden fees, especially the monthly account maintenance fee. If you’re not able to keep $5,000 in your account, it’ll be a $12 fee each month.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $100
  • Maximum opening deposit : $10,000
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : $12
  • How to waive the account maintenance fee : Keep at least $5,000 in your account.
  • ATM fees : No charge at PNC Bank ATMs. $3 for every domestic non-PNC Bank ATM transaction, and $5 for every international non-PNC Bank ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds : None
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if closed within 180 days of opening
  • Regulation D violation fee : You get six free transactions per month, as per Federal Regulation D. After that, you’ll pay $15 per transaction.

Balance to earn interest

Standard APY

APY when linked to Performance Checking

APY when linked to Performance Select Checking

$1.00 - $9,999.99

0.03%

0.25%

0.60%

$10k - $24,999.99

0.09%

0.27%

0.60%

$25k - $49,999.99

0.11%

0.30%

0.70%

$50k - $99,999.99

0.13%

0.32%

0.80%

$100k - $249,999.99

0.15%

0.35%

0.85%

$250k - $499,999.99

0.15%

0.35%

0.85%

$500k - $999,999.99

0.17%

0.35%

1.00%

$1M and above

0.17%

0.35%

1.00%

To sign up for a PNC Bank Money Market account, you’ll need to apply either online, in person at a local branch, or over the phone. You’ll need a photo ID, and be able to provide bank account or credit card numbers to provide an opening deposit. Finally, you’ll also need to provide PNC Bank with basic personal information.

PNC IRA CDs

Unfortunately, PNC Bank falls short of the mark for Fixed Rate IRA CDs as well. The rates offered are measly compared with those of competitors, even when you look at the longest-running CDs with the highest deposit amounts. If you’re looking to grow your money, you can find better rates and terms for IRA CDs elsewhere.

Furthermore, there are fees to watch out for with this account. Unless you come to the table with a $2,000 minimum deposit, you’ll have to pay an annual account fee. If you ever want to transfer your money out of the bank, you’ll need to pay another fee. These fees could really eat into your already-tiny earnings.

Fixed-rate IRA CD account

Low rates for high-fee retirement savings.

This is one of the safest options around for growing your savings. PNC Bank offers multiple term lengths and rate tiers depending on how much money you want to invest and for how long.

Although it does offer IRA CDs in amounts from $1.00-$999.99, you actually can’t start your account with these. You can only renew existing IRA CDs in this amount, meaning that you’ll need to bring at least $1,000 to the table if you want to open an account.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $1,000
  • Annual custodian fee : $25
  • How to waive the annual custodian fee : Keep at least $2,000 in your account.
  • Interest compounded : Monthly
  • How interest is paid : Deposited into your CD account monthly
  • Transfer fee : $25 if transferring money to another PNC savings or checking account, or to another bank.
  • Grace period : 10 days to decide whether to renew or withdraw the CD
  • Early withdrawal penalties : For Fixed Rate IRAs with terms between three months and one year, you’ll lose the amount of interest you would have earned. For CDs with terms over one year, you’ll lose six months’ worth of interest.

Standard rates

 

$1.00 - $999.99

$1k - $9,999.99

$10k - $24,999.99

$25k - $99,999.99

$100k - $499,999.99

$500k +

6 months

0.04%

0.06%

0.08%

0.10%

0.12%

0.14%

12 months

0.04%

0.13%

0.15%

0.18%

0.20%

0.22%

18 months

0.04%

0.18%

0.25%

0.28%

0.30%

0.35%

24 months

0.04%

0.25%

0.30%

0.35%

0.38%

0.43%

36 months

0.04%

0.30%

0.35%

0.38%

0.40%

0.45%

48 months

0.04%

0.50%

0.55%

0.65%

0.70%

0.75%

60 months

0.04%

0.60%

0.70%

0.90%

0.95%

1.00%

84 months

0.04%

0.90%

0.95%

1.05%

1.15%

1.25%

120 months

0.04%

1.10%

1.20%

1.30%

1.40%

1.50%


Promotional rates

9-month fixed term

Fixed rate only

Fixed rate with Choice/Premium plan

Fixed Rate with Performance/Performance Select/VW Performance

$1.00 - $999.99

0.04%

0.24%

0.29%

If you’d like to open a fixed-rate IRA CD account with PNC Bank, you’ll need to block out about 15 minutes of time from your day. You can apply over the phone, online or in person at a local branch.

New IRA account offer

PNC Bank is offering a nice promotion when you sign up for a new IRA Account until Dec. 31, 2017. First, you’ll need to sign up to receive the sign-up bonus coupon. After that, you’ll need to call up PNC Bank or visit a local branch in-person to open your account. You cannot take advantage of this sign-up bonus by signing up for an account online.

You’ll also need a hefty deposit amount to be able to take advantage of this offer. You’ll earn the following sign-up bonus based on your deposit amount:

  • $50 sign-up bonus for a $20,000 deposit
  • $100 sign-up bonus for a $50,000 deposit
  • $200 sign-up bonus for a $100,000 deposit
  • $600 sign-up bonus for a $250,000 deposit
  • $1500 sign-up bonus for a $500,000 deposit

PNC Bank’s student Virtual Wallet® review

Great account package for young adults to learn money management skills.

PNC Bank offers all the functionality and perks of its regular Virtual Wallet® package (Spend, Reserve, and Growth accounts) with added bonuses for students. One of these great features is parental alerts, so parents can also see, along with students, when the account balance is low.

This account package also comes with helpful financial education. It provides in-person financial education seminars if you’re lucky enough to have a local branch on your campus.

  • Minimum opening deposit : $25
  • Interest rate : The Spend account does not earn interest. The Reserve and Growth accounts earn 0.01% APY. If you meet qualifications (such as making at least five debit transactions per month from your Spend account), you can earn up to 0.10% APY with your Grow account.
  • Monthly account maintenance fee : None if you provide proof that you’re actively enrolled in an educational institution. Status expires 6 years from when you open the account.
  • ATM fees : No charge at PNC Bank ATMs. $3 for every domestic non-PNC Bank ATM transaction, and $5 for every international non-PNC Bank ATMS.
  • ATM fee refunds : Two per month. ATM surcharges (i.e., the extra fee the ATM’s owner tacks on) are not refunded.
  • Overdraft fees : $36 per charge, up to four charges per day. $7 per day for each day the account remains overdrawn. Any overdraft fees will be refunded if the overdrafted amount is less than $5. They will not charge you if you set up Overdraft Protection Transfer from your Reserve or Grow accounts.
  • Overdraft fee courtesy pay : Your first overdraft fee within 12 months of account opening will be refunded.
  • Early closure fee : $25 if you close the account within 180 days of opening.
    Opening an account is the same as for the regular Virtual Wallet® accounts. In addition, you’ll need some way to prove that you actually are a student for this particular account.

Overall review of PNC Bank

We’ll be honest. PNC Bank really does offer some neat money management tools, especially with its Virtual Wallet® and “S” is for Savings® accounts. These accounts come with seamless tools that help you to simplify your hectic financial life.

But that doesn’t mean these are the only places you can get these tools. Other financial products such as Mint or FamZoo can also do just about everything that the Virtual Wallet® does. You’ll have to do research and piecemeal these tools together to create a custom package for you, but it is possible to replace all the functionality of the PNC offerings with other products.

Furthermore, PNC Bank offers rock-bottom rates and super-high fees for most of its banking products. Unless you’re a model customer, these fees have the potential to wipe out your meager earnings.

Instead, you can search for higher-earning, more transparent checking and savings accounts elsewhere and finding your own budgeting and savings tools to help you manage your money. That way, you’ll have the best of both worlds: custom ways to simplify your finances and, with luck and due diligence, the highest-earning accounts possible.

The post PNC Bank Reviews: Checking, Savings, CD, Money Market, and IRA Rates appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

My New Car Is a Piece of Junk. Can I Return It to the Dealer?

My Car Is a Piece of Junk. Can I Return It to the Dealer?

Once upon a time, you loved your car. You loved it so much that you agreed to the payment terms and drove it home from the dealer or, dare we say, a private seller. But now, that love has grown cold and you wish you’d never laid eyes on it. And to make matters worse, you’re bound to its existence and monetary depreciation—thanks to that sweet-little-pain-in-the-butt payment book. Or at least, that’s what you’re afraid of.

If you’re wondering if you can return your unwanted car without any more financial obligation, read on. We’ll discuss whether it’s possible and what you can expect.

Can I Return My Car?

Readers have asked us if they can just “give the keys back” and get a car that is reliable and without unanticipated problems—specifically, a vehicle they can confidently drive with their family, friends, or pets in tow. The short answer is yes, but there’s a variety of potential repercussions and unseen problems.

Before you do anything, find out the following:

  1. If you purchased your car through a private seller, does your state have a “lemon law”?
  2. If you purchased your car through a dealership, does the dealer have a return policy?

If you can answer “yes” to either of these questions, look into these options further to see if your circumstances apply and what you’re entitled to.

However, if you have no recourse under your state’s lemon law and your situation doesn’t qualify for a dealership’s return policy, returning the car is going to be a little tricky and could have credit implications—which you’ll want to consider, especially if you plan to lease or purchase another car once you give the other one back.

Returning the Car to the Dealer

Despite how liberating and freeing a car return may feel, giving the vehicle back to the dealer won’t erase your debt. In fact, the consequences could be just as frustrating as the junk car itself.

“Technically, if you give the car back, it is the same as a repossession,” Matt Briggs, co-founder and CEO of RentTrack, explains. “Keep in mind you have a legal obligation to pay the terms of the loan and the car dealer is typically not the finance company who holds the loan (unless they are ‘buy here pay here’). Either way you cannot simply ‘give back’ the vehicle to a dealer and walk away.”

So look at it this way: to simply give the car back is to consent to automobile repossession—meaning the car would be sold at auction, and you would be responsible for the difference in what the car brought at auction and the amount you still owe on the car.

Plus, you’d be on the hook for expenses involved in this process, such as repossession, towing, title and sale, and storage. So if you leave the car at the dealership, you still owe the debt—which could total to more than the dang clunker is worth—and you’re out a working vehicle.

Concerned about what could happen to your credit score? According to Experian, a car repossession stays on your credit report for seven years—even after the original account goes delinquent. You can see how your debt has affected you by getting a free credit report summary on Credit.com, which will explain what factors influence your credit score.

Car Debt and Bankruptcy

There is a way, however, to force a dealer to “eat steel,” says Eugene Melchionnne, a Connecticut bankruptcy attorney. To do so, you can surrender the car and discharge the debt in bankruptcy—but then you’d have to apply for bankruptcy. “There is also a process for ‘cramming down’ the debt to the value of the car in bankruptcy, and in a Chapter 13 case, you can spread the balance owed over an extended period of time,” he says.

“For example, if the car loan is for $20,000, but the car is worth $10,000, the loan can be reduced to $10,000, and if there are, say, four years left to pay at $500 per month, the payments can be spread out to a maximum of five years on the lowered balance, resulting in $330 or more a month savings,” Melchionne explains.

Selling or Trading the Car Instead

With all that said, it might be simpler and cheaper to sell the vehicle yourself or trade it in for something else, which is what Matt Briggs suggests you do.

“[At] most repossession auctions, the cars sell for a much lower price than the retail value, so you may end up owing more than you would if you sold it [as a] private party (using a website like AutoTrader, eBay, or Cars.com) or if you traded it in on a different vehicle.”

The Bottom Line

For most of us, simply driving the car back to the dealership and handing over the keys, however tempting, is not a workable strategy. So after you dig yourself out of this mess, do as much due diligence as possible before you buy next time.

“Bottom line,” Briggs said, “you have a legal obligation to pay the car loan in full, so make sure you are getting a good deal before you sign on the dotted line.”

 

Image: hemera

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Can You Hack-Proof Your Personal Email Address?

This simple trick can help reduce spam and add an additional layer of protection against phishers and identity thieves.

How would you feel if the digital “you” were deleted? The common wisdom in cybersecurity circles is that if you think it can’t happen to you, it probably will. Consider Mat Honan’s story.

“First my Google account was taken over, then deleted,” Honan wrote. “Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages.” Honan’s AppleID was used to remotely delete all the data on his iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.

“My accounts were daisy-chained together,” Honan confessed. Sound familiar? Most people have to authenticate via daisy-chain. Even if you have everything segregated and use multi-factor authentication, chances are good that your personal email address is used to log in to most of the places you go online.

If a hacker gains access to your personal email account and, like most people, you’re lax when it comes to personal cyber hygiene, it could be game over for you—not only with regard to your data, but for whatever assets and accounts you manage online.

Can Your Personal Email Be Hack-Proofed? 

The short answer is no. Hacks and data breaches are the third certainty in life, right behind death and taxes. In fact, the most likely reason you haven’t been hacked yet is that there is a staggering number of sitting ducks out there. Needless to say, however, there is no safety in numbers. Hackers become more efficient all the time. 

While there is no silver bullet to our collective vulnerability, brothers Steve and Robert Yoskowitz think they might be able to help with Joinesty, a Chicago-based digital security startup that recently released an interesting Chrome extension.

Like LastPass and other password managers, Joinesty allows users to change passwords for everything they access online. Login credentials are automatically generated and easy to manage.

What makes Joinesty different is that they also let users create unique email addresses (to be forwarded in real time or delivered in daily digest form) for everything they access online, thereby shielding their personal email address from prying eyes.

In addition to email management, Joinesty lets users know about deals that are available at over 7,500 merchants in real time.

“The feature injects into Google so users can see what deals are available within their search results,” CFO and co-founder Steve Yoskowitz told me. “As cybersecurity and privacy become everyday and every-person concerns, we are trying to create an environment of security appealing to a demographic which may not know how much they need it, while targeting the interactions and online behavior that expose users the most.”

Before you decide that Joinesty is an advertising vehicle disguised as a cybersecurity solutions company, I asked about revenue, which is subscription based. Users can choose between monthly or annual subscriptions at $6.99 a month or $41.99 a year.

“The pillars of the Joinesty brand are trust, transparency, and simplicity,” Yoskowitz told me.  “We structured every aspect of our platform around these pillars, including our revenue model.”

Why Personal Email Addresses?

Nobody needs a disquisition on the dangers of using the same password for different accounts and services, though the number of consumers who still do it is alarming.

Instead, how about a quick lecture: According to one recent survey, more than 80% of people 18 and older re-use the same password across multiple accounts. The most popular password in 2016 was “123456.” For less than $1,000, hackers can buy a machine that has the capacity to test billions of passwords per second. Effect: You are vulnerable. Password managers work, so use one. (End of sermon.)

Actually, it’s not quite the end of the sermon. Because lousy password hygiene is so prevalent, you need to know if your personal email address been leaked in a data breach or, better yet, just assume that it has been. Haveibeenpwned.com is one place to go if you’re curious.

Personal email addresses present a huge vulnerability for most people and an infinite number of clear-sky lines of attack for hackers.

A recent data sample found that in the United States there are an average of 130 accounts assigned to a single email address. We’re talking about newsletters, e-commerce site, banks, gyms, portals to your medical records and healthcare coverage, investments, car loans, credit cards, and—as Matt Honan knows all-too-painfully well—social networking sites.

Your personal email address is one of your most visible forms of personally identifiable information (PII), and yet many websites require it. If your email is commandeered, whoever has control of it is just a few clicks away from taking control of your finances and anything else they might care to target. Think of your email address as a much less secure version of your Social Security number—especially if you have bad password habits.

I asked Yoskowitz about the use of personal email addresses as a login credential. After a quick scan of the top 210 Quantcast sites, he found that only 26 had no login. “Two had a username—instead of email—for logging in, so roughly 86% currently require email for login,” Yoskowitz told me.

Fewer Opportunities to Click and Get Got

So, is Joinesty addressing the personal email problem or taking advantage of it? Does the solution open up new vulnerabilities? Is this merely a ploy to sell ads and profit off our collective cyber-insecurity? 

The first thing you need to know is that Joinesty offers something of value.

It is not tokenization per se, but it’s like it in that Joinesty replaces PII (in this case your personal email address) with equally valid but non-identifiable data.

“We retain the purposes and benefits of tokenization allowing the user to retain all the functionality of giving out their personal email—logging into their accounts, receiving deals—without that email address having any inherent value to hackers because of its unique one-off nature.” 

Parting shot from my book Swiped: When creating an account on sites that allow a non-email login name, let your spirit fly. Be creative (but store it somewhere on a cheat sheet that resides on an encrypted memory stick). You might even consider using a long-and-strong password as your login name if the site will allow it.

image svetikd

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Confessions of a Thanksgiving Caterer  

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Using a caterer to prepare a holiday meal can cost a pretty penny — up to $150 per person for a party with 18 to 20 guests, according to the National Association for Catering and Events.

The beauty of outsourcing your holiday feast, however, is the countless hours you’ll save on shopping, cooking and cleanup. 

If you hire a full-service caterer, you’re not just paying for someone else to cook the perfect turkey and stuffing. Catering services can include setup, cleanup, utensils,  flatware and servers.  

We asked professional caterers to share insights about their job and tips that even budget-conscious holiday hosts can use to make holiday catering more affordable.   

“Host Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday — or earlier.”

Choosing to have your Thanksgiving meal catered before Thanksgiving could help you save on labor costs, says Lisa Carruth, a spokeswoman for the National Association for Catering and Events 

Many caterers charge a minimum amount based on the number of guests or the amount of food. Paying to have staff for a catering event can cost m 

ore because they are working on holidays, when companies typically provide extra pay. 

Your food is going to cost the same no matter the day, but caterers may require that you meet a higher spending minimum to book events on certain days, says Carruth, who also is the director of catering at Braeburn Country Club in Houston. The higher minimums offset the cost of paying staff.  

For example, events held on holidays and weekends generally have higher minimums. 

“Buffets aren’t always the best way to save.” 

The common perception is that a buffet is less expensive, but plated meals can sometimes be cheaper, depending on the caterer and the size of an event. A carving station for your turkey or ham also will increase your cost because of the labor required, so consider cutting that s to save money. 

“With a buffet, if you have a 100 people, you have to prepare 110 of everything because you have to assume that everyone’s going to take one of everything,” Carruth explains. “Whereas, with a plated dinner, portion sizes are controlled.”  

Buffets typically have more options—such as two entrees—than a plated meal, too, which also can lead to additional costs. When deciding between a buffet and a plated meal, check with your caterer’s pricing before making a wrong assumption about the cheapest option.  

“Heavy hors d’oeuvres sometimes cost as much as plated meals.”

A heavy hors d’oeuvres party can cost as much, if not more, than both plated meals and buffets because they can be labor-intensive affairs, Carruth says. First, they require making tiny bites by hand and making enough pieces to satisfy appetites. You need to make enough hors d’oeuvres to replace what people would typically eat for an entire meal.  

They also often require servers on hand to make sure the small bites are passed around the room and that platters are refilled as they empty.  

But if you want to do an hors d’oeuvres-heavy party and save money, you can have the food set up on tables without a wait staff. 

“So while you’re spending more money on the catering itself, you’re not going to pay for so much labor because everything can just be dropped off, set up and you can typically take care of it based on the size of your group,” she says. 

“To-go will always win over on-site service.”

Picking up your food for Thanksgiving can help significantly reduce your total bill.  

According to the NACE, pickup catering averages $45 per person because staff or service item charges are not included. 

“Many restaurants and caterers offer Thanksgiving meals to go, and allow you to bring your own dishes, so it looks like you cooked,” says Carruth.  

You can save generally 20-30 percent on the total bill because you won’t have to pay for staffing or delivery, she says. Many of these “Thanksgiving to-go” meals are cost effective because everything is done in bulk, and then portioned out for individual orders. 

“Don’t rent your utensils from us”

Providing your own items, such as flatware, glassware and plates, can save you money. You can buy them for less at a discount online or at party supply stores. 

NACE says utensils can be rented from anywhere, at 15 cents apiece and up, but  when the caterer supplies utensils, it takes on the liability and the time and money spent to set up, deliver and clean them. The minimal price is offset by the convenience factor, according to NACE. 

The majority of caterers include the dinnerware and build the cost into the per-person pricing structure, according to NACE. If they do charge separately, they typically line-item it out so you can see the costs. 

“Book your caterer early and be upfront about your budget.”

You typically need to book your caterer three months in advance, but Thanksgiving catering can often be booked more short-term because it is less in demand than Christmas or New Year’s Eve. 

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, for a lot of companies, that’s what called the season. We’re pretty much crazy-busy from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve,” says Carruth.  

When booking a caterer, it’s easier for caterers to first know your budget, and then come up with creative ideas of what they can do with it. “Say, ‘Here’s what I have. What can you do for me?’ ” she says. 

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Are Braces Really Worth the Cost?

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Whether it’s for themselves or their children, many people are at some point forced to decide if braces are a worthy investment. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children have their first orthodontia checkup by age 7.  

Orthodontic treatment is becoming increasingly more commonplace, leading to industry growth, more patients and more money for practitioners. Worldwide, the industry has reached $11 billion in revenue, according to a 2016 market research report by IbisWorld. (Though this represents only a modest pace of revenue growth, demand is soaring, the report found.)  

An estimated 5.41 million patients in North America sought orthodontic treatment in 2014, according to the most recent data from the AAO. Annual salaries for orthodontists in the United States have increased to $228,780 annually in May 2016, up from $186,320 in May 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Still, the debate over braces remains largely a financial one, as parents have to consider if the long term effects justify the expense, or if their their children’s dental problems aren’t severe enough to warrant the cost. 

How expensive are braces?

Comprehensive treatment for children ranged from $4,685 to $6,500, and adults ranged from $4,800 to $7,135, according to data from the American Dental Association cited by the AAO. BracesInfo.com offers a free calculator tool that lets you estimate prices based on location 

Still, prices can vary widely based on location, with practices in larger cities tending to charge more. Rates are also dependent on the length of the treatment itself, which on average lasts about 24 months. With these variables in mind, ValuePenguin, a financial site, estimates the entire process could range from $3,000 to $10,000.  

Dr. Nahid Maleki, president of the AAO, says many orthodontists offer initial consultations for little to no cost. 

Learning the costs beforehand is the only way to make a truly informed decision, says Dr. Dawn Pruzansky, the administrative director of the Arizona School of Dental and Oral Health postgraduate orthodontic program in Mesa, Ariz. 

“When you look at the overall price, it does seem to be a bit daunting,” says Pruzansky, who owns a practice in Glendale, Ariz. “Just go get the consultation and don’t automatically think that it can’t be done.” 

When are braces worth the price?

While some parents may want to take a “wait and see” approach to braces, Maleki says there are certain dental problems that should be resolved before a child gets too old, as many irregular bone structures can’t be fixed after a person gains all their permanent teeth. Additionally, an improper bite can cause permanent damage to the teeth, making some damage irreversible after adolescence. 

“We can prevent problems from developing fully,” but a child cannot “un-grow” undesirable growth in their bones, says Maleki, who has a practice in Washington, D.C. 

However, there are problems that may not require immediate action. While Pruzansky notes that issues such as overcrowding won’t resolve themselves, she says dental problems that don’t inhibit a person’s ability to speak or eat properly — for example, minor spacing flaws — don’t normally justify braces.  

In these cases, it may be feasible to wait until adulthood to re-evaluate the situation. Pruzansky says holding off on treatment can be beneficial because adults can be more compliant, meaning they’re usually more likely than children to do what it takes to get the most out of having braces.  

“Sometimes it’s hard to get kids to understand the importance of braces,” she says, “or to get them to wear their retainers afterward.” 

This decision to wait seems to be growing in popularity. The number of adults receiving orthodontic care throughout North America increased by 67 percent from 1989 to 2014, the most recent data available, and 27 percent of all patients — 1.46 million people — were adults, according to AAO estimates from its membership of 19,000 orthodontists. The increase may  be due in part to the price difference between age groups, as ValuePenguin estimates that, on average, braces for adults cost only about $150 more than they do for children.  

What if I can’t afford braces?

There are a number of payment plans available, most of which involve making consistent monthly payments on a low-interest loan, typically giving you around five years to pay off the total.  

There also are no-interest plans, typically in the form of medical expense credit cards that have to be paid off in less timeCareCredit, which has financing options ranging between six and 24 months, is a popular example. Just watch out for deferred interest clauses, which can result in hefty fees if you don’t pay off the debt before the 0 percent intro period is over.  

Pruzansky says she also has seen patients use their Health Savings Account (HSA) — a special pretax account — to pay for braces. HSAs can typically be used to pay for orthodontic treatment, but check with your bank.  

Additionally, getting braces through a dental school could help save on certain fees, as some schools will charge only for materials and equipment 

While the most cost-effective solution may differ from situation to situation, Pruzansky says people are often surprised by the number of affordable options they actually have at their disposal.  

“I never want someone not to start simply because they can’t afford it,” Pruzansky says. “I don’t know any private practice that doesn’t offer some kind of interest-free financing.” 

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