Federal stimulus checks are criss-crossing the country, with more than $215 billion being deposited into American bank accounts.

If you’re under financial pressure, spend the money on immediate needs like rent, food, and utilities. If you’re not under immediate financial pressure, here are some options for making the most of your stimulus payment.

The stimulus checks, also known as economic impact payments, are meant to provide financial relief from the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down the economy, shuttered schools, and caused the unemployment rate to skyrocket to nearly 15 percent

Americans who reported a gross income of less than $75,000 are eligible for a $1,200 payment. Those with children are entitled to an extra $500 per child. So a married couple earning less than $150,000 and raising one child would be entitled to $2,900.

For people not in an emergency financial situation, we have broken down the best options for making the most out of your stimulus payment.

Should I Save My Stimulus Check?

Before you can decide how to save or grow the money from your economic impact payment, you need to be able to cover the necessities. Consider these categories before deciding to save.

The Basics
Rent or mortgage, utilities, medication, food on the table—these are the basics. Take care of these before saving.

Your Debt
After you’ve met your basic needs, consider paying outstanding debt. It probably can’t pay off your car or your student loans, but it can help. 

Your Employment
If you’re still working, you may be in a place to save, but keep in mind that the job market is very unstable right now. Plan carefully even if the current outlook is smooth.

Other Necessities
There are a few other expenses you need to consider before you research savings options. Do you need to make a necessary repair to your house or your car? Did you borrow money for your last month’s rent? If so, factor those into possible immediate expenses to cover.

What Are the Best Savings Options?

If you’re confident in your financial security to sock away your stimulus payment, let’s look at your long-term savings options. Don’t just hold it in your checking account, there are better ways to store your money.

High-Yield Savings Accounts
If you’re furloughed or collecting unemployment, consider a high-yield savings account or a short-term certificate of deposit (CD). A CD is a bank product that offers customers a high interest rate in exchange for a lump-sum deposit that the customer can’t touch for a specified amount of time. This will allow you to access your stimulus money sometime within the next few months or years and grow meaningful interest.

Many banking institutions have seen their annual percentage yield (APY) fluctuate with the changing market. 

Keep an eye on the minimum opening deposit amount. Some of the online banks require hefty deposits to take advantage of their highest APYs. The best APYs at the time of the writing of this article are around 1.5%.

High-Yield CDs
Another savings option is a high yield CD, which generally offers a higher APY for longer terms. Marcus by Goldman Sachs offers 1.6 percent APY with a $500 opening balance. But their APY stays relatively flat even for longer-terms, rising only half a percent to 1.65 percent for a 5-year CD.

Comenity Direct offers a 1.7 percent APY on a 1-year CD and a 1.8 percent APY on a 5-year CD. But they require a $1,500 minimum deposit and you may not want to tie up that much money for so many years.

Saving for Retirement
If you’re sure you’ll be financially stable without your stimulus check, put that money into your IRA or 401k to ensure good long-term growth.

The Motley Fool broke down the potential outcome of putting your stimulus check into your retirement account, stating, “If you invest that $1,200 at an average annual 7% return…and you’re 35 years away from retirement, you’ll ultimately boost your nest egg by nearly $13,000.”

However you choose to save—or spend—your economic impact payment, make the choice that works best for you. Everyone’s definition of financial security is personal and only you know what’s best for your situation.

Some are making more money than before from extra hours or increased unemployment benefits. If you’re lucky enough to be making a little extra, here’s what you can do to better prepare yourself for the coming months.  

The Normal Route Doesn’t Apply

Usually, when you make more money, get a bonus, or receive a tax refund, you can follow this guide: 

  1. Build a small emergency fund
  2. Pay off high-rate debt
  3. Build a full emergency fund  
  4. Increase long-term investments
  5. Pay off low-rate debt
  6. Increase investments more

Since we’re already in an emergency, there may be a better route.

Save Big (If You Can)

The first step is generally building a mini emergency fund of up to $1,000. Right now, try to go bigger and skip the “mini” part, if you can. Typically, an emergency fund is three to six months’ worth of living expenses. If you can save more, great, but build what you can. 

There’s no guarantee that your increased income will last in the weeks to come. And if your extra income isn’t secure, the savings can help you cover the necessities—food, shelter, transportation, and utilities—in case you lose your income or have to take care of a family member. 

Be Strategic About Paying Down High-Rate Debts 

High-rate debts are generally classified as debts that have an interest rate above 10%. Credit cards may fall into this category, as well as some personal and auto loans. Payday, pawn, and title loans often charge high fee and interest rates.

Generally, when you’re making more money, you want to focus on these debts first to save the most money in the long run. Because these debts have such high interest rates, even a small debt can grow quickly. 

However, making early payments doesn’t necessarily decrease your monthly bill, which can make the decision more difficult right now.

For example, if you have an auto loan with a 12% interest rate and you owe $2,000, you may want to focus on paying off the loan early, saving a little interest, and striking a bill from your monthly list. 

However, if you still owe $10,000, you could be making payments for years. Paying extra now might decrease how much interest you pay in the long run, but it’s all for nothing if you can’t afford your payments in a few months and your vehicle is repossessed. 

If you’ve built your emergency fund and want to make extra debt payments, consider a staggered approach. Rather than making extra monthly payments, some people build up several months’ worth of payments and then send the extra amount to their creditor.

Try to Refinance High-Rate Debts

Lenders’ requirements are getting stricter, but they’re always looking for new customers to recoup the money they lose when people can’t make their payments. 

If a new job or promotion led to your increased income, and you have good credit, look into refinancing your high-rate debt with a new, lower-rate loan.

Refinancing with a lower-rate loan, or choosing a longer term, can save you money and lower your monthly payments. Refinancing credit card debt with a personal loan can also improve your credit scores. 

Take Advantage of Sales

Many stores are struggling because of the coronavirus. While you  shouldn’t overspend, it may be a good time to invest in durable products and assets.

If you need a new computer or to work on your home, it may be a good time to go deal hunting. It may also be a good time to save for a larger investment, such as a home or rental property. 

With low interest rates, it may be easier to buy a home in the next few years. If you’re able, this may be a good time to set money aside for the down payment. 

Be Mindful of Your Cash Flow

The debate about when to save and when to invest is an ongoing one, and the correct answer always depends on your financial situation and personal preferences. 

Right now, it may make sense to take an adjusted approach. Rather than minimizing all your expenses, you may want to focus on your cash flow—how your income compares to your expenses—and having liquid savings available to ease financial stress.

Need to feed a family of five on $10? Take a vacation on a staycation budget? Outfit kids that will outgrow clothes after the second wear? Moms make it happen.

No offense to financial professionals, but it’s the moms who are the original budget gurus, the best at stretching their money as far as it will go

American moms have a collective estimated $2.4 trillion in spending power and control 85 percent of household purchases. And many of them are looking for a good deal, with 25 percent searching for coupons on their mobile device and 48 percent using their smartphones to research products they want to buy, according to a SurveyMonkey survey of 300 moms.

So what are they buying? More than 80 percent told SurveyMonkey they go grocery shopping at least once a week and 34 percent shop for consumer goods such as toys, tech and clothing two to three times a month.

Their online shopping trends include products like books, candy, clothing, shampoo, baby products and games as well as retailers such as Amazon, Target, Nike and Walmart.

But, as moms say (because they heard it from their mothers since the beginning of modern civilization) money doesn’t grow on trees.

Varo reached out to mommy bloggers and parenting writers across the country to find out how they stretch their dollars to maximize their purchases.

Budgeting and saving
The basics of budgeting and saving can be difficult to practice in daily life when there are bills to pay, food to prepare and necessities to buy.

Kiana Keys, a finance business manager and the blogger behind Sassy Plum, tries to anticipate lean times when there isn’t as much money flowing into her bank account.

“During good seasons, I routinely purchase gift cards to Amazon, restaurants and grocery stores, and put them away,” said the Chicago mom of three. “During the seasons that aren’t as plentiful, I pull them out and purchase what we need.”

She also practices saying no to everyone in the house, including herself. It’s a money lesson she learned from her own mother, who told her that saying no can teach discipline and appreciation.

“We don’t need everything we want and see. Sometimes we get so caught up in consumerism that we end up purchasing so many things we can’t appreciate,” Keys said. “I find that the less I buy for myself and the kids, the more we focus on the few things I do purchase.”

Baby gear
Buying for baby is one of the first purchasing decisions people make as a parent. There are thousands of products and thousands more reviews for each product. There are lists of “must-haves” that insinuate you will be failing at motherhood if you don’t check off each one. 

Take a breath, says parenting and finance writer and blogger Jessica Sillers, the blogger behind Be Rich Parents. Her work has also appeared in MSN.com, Business Insider and Pregnancy & Newborn magazine. 

“I think the biggest hurdle with saving money on baby stuff is getting over the sense of parent guilt of, ‘Oh, I need to get my kid all brand new things,’” said the Maryland mom of two young girls.

She keeps an eye out for used baby and toddler equipment, especially bigger, high-end items like jogging strollers, that are still in great shape. 

“Chances are they aren’t going to be worn into the ground even after a couple years of use and then it’s just like a really clunky stroller that people don’t want to have in their closet anymore,” she said. “So you can find people letting go of pretty high end baby equipment and some of the big baby equipment for much, much less than what you are going to see retail or even on sale.”

There are two things, though, that Sillers cautions new parents to always buy new for health and safety reasons — bedding, including the crib mattress, and car seats.

Sillers said she also makes her dollars stretch by scouring sales and store promotions for diapers. She’s even found great deals on Groupon. Then she game plans her diaper usage. 

“I had my baby in the cheap kind during the day and then I would use the fancy expensive ones at night because then they would sleep longer,” she said. “During the day I was like eh, I don’t mind if I change one or two extra.”  

Food and groceries
Feeding the family is a spending necessity, but there are ways to be financially smart about it. Buying in bulk, making and freezing leftovers, couponing, watching for buy one get one deals and budgeting for restaurants and takeout are all mom-approved money savers.

Food is a spending weakness, admits parenting writer Olivia Dreizen Howell, owner of Howell Media House, and she tends to over buy. So she tries to make it work in a way that stretches out the time in between grocery runs. 

“I like going to Costco and getting a large amount of snacks,” said Howell, a mom of 3-year-old and 6-year-old boys. “Then taking them out of the packaging into smaller bags so that the kids don’t see all snacks at once. We stretch the snacks longer!”

Keys found huge grocery savings by staying out of the stores entirely and ordering groceries online for pick up to avoid a cart full of impulse buys.

“It saved my life and wallet. I was able to watch my totals and better balance my budget,” she said. “It was also easier to price-compare, and make quick choices about items without having to run laps around the grocery store. In all, I was able to reduce my household’s weekly spending by a third to a half just from this one practical shift.”

Sillers saved money on baby food by modifying the family’s regular meals for baby instead of buying pricey jarred purees. She would cut bite-sized pieces of whatever they were eating and then make it easier for her baby to eat, such as cooking carrots longer to make sure they were tender.

It costs absolutely nothing, she said.

“You have leftovers a lot of the time, you are throwing things away. You don’t need to prepare extra because the baby in the 6 to 12 month age range is only going to be eating  probably a couple of tablespoons of food,” she said. “It’s just not a cost that’s going to reflect in your grocery bills.”

Clothing
Clothing is a huge expense when you have children. Growth spurts render entire wardrobes obsolete, skinned knees mean ripped pants, art projects destroy shirts and trying to keep shoes neat and clean is a perpetually uphill battle. 

The best way to make the clothing budget go farther is hand-me downs. It’s a tried and true method that mother’s have been using for centuries. And it still works.

Howell, whose work has appeared in sites like Gugu Guru, Rookie Moms  says she’s a “huge fan” of getting hand-me downs for her boys. “And I love to pass on our old clothes.”

She also took a lesson from her family matriarchs to make her kids’ clothing last longer.

“My grandmother and mother are sewers, so I have learned early on to mend my own clothing,” she said. 

Sillers, whose children are very young, tries to avoid buying new whenever possible, preferring to shop higher-end thrift stores. 

“Even if you go to a major department store like Target or Macy’s or something where it seems like everything should be cheap, a onesie, you may still be finding that for $15, $20, $30,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”

She also shops clearance racks and end-of-season sales. She recently scored pajamas for $3. 

“You save so much and the stuff is still cute,” she said.

Travel
First rule — don’t pay full price. 

Sillers and her husband took a month of parental leave after their second daughter was born and spent a month in Europe. Total airfare for three people + a lap infant? Just $1,700, or about the same cost as one ticket without budgeting. 

They booked two one-way tickets: $700 from Washington D.C. to Amsterdam and then $1,000 from Barcelona to Washington D.C. 

“We really like Kayak. It’s really easy to set some filters,” Sillers said. “I like being able to use a site where you can make your travel dates flexible, because airline pricing is not super transparent and a lot of the time a 24-hour difference makes a big impact in how much tickets are going to cost.”

They also booked early, keeping an eye on routes and fare options as soon as the airlines released tickets for that time period.

Another travel hack? Searching airfares in an incognito browser. 

“I want to keep my activity as hidden as possible until I’m ready to book,” she said. “I don’t want to be storing unnecessary cookies about the fact that I’m searching for flights, which might signal some agencies to start showing me their higher pricing because they … know you want to buy.” 

They also try to stay at short-term rentals over hotels whenever possible and avoid huge restaurant tabs. 

In Barcelona, she said, they found a place selling empanadas for 2.50 euros each. They got several varieties and brought them back to their apartment. 

“Getting creative about where you find your food, scoping out open air markets, scoping out specialty places, bakeries for savory things that are distinctive to the region, but are very inexpensive — that’s a big way we still have a lot of fun and have a lot of meals that feel very special without making the food part of the trip budget turn into a nightmare, Sillers said. 

Self-care
Budgeting doesn’t mean deprivation, if done properly. Doing things for yourself — within reason, of course — won’t empty your bank account and can give you a much needed boost.

“I have self-care activities that are non-negotiable. From massages to hair and nail care, I never cut myself out of the pie,” Keys said. “Indulging in self-care makes me a happier mother and better to others around me.”

Howell said she lets herself enjoy food shopping. And you should too.

“I do indulge and buy myself good ice cream and salad dressing.” she said.

The moms we spoke to say no one is immune to money mistakes. Howell admits she is prone to what she calls panic spending. 

“Back to school shopping? Must get all the things! Kid’s birthday coming up? They need all new toys!” she said. “Don’t even get me started on Christmas.”

And Keys called Amazon Prime her major spending weakness.

But they get it done. Every day. Because that’s what moms do.

More than 22 million Americans are out of work because of COVID-19. If you’re tightening your belt, you’re not alone. It’s a difficult time, but you find some comfort in knowing that it’s easy to save money by staying home. 

For now, travel, outside entertainment, events, and even eating out are is a thing of the past. This new normal already brings its natural cutbacks, but here are a few more effective ways to save money while staying home. 

1. Be conscious of energy usage

One expense that’s likely to spike for most Americans practicing social distancing is utilities. We’re home all day. That means more dishes, laundry, showers, air conditioning or heat, and leaving lights on for longer. To save money on utilities, reduce where you can: 

2. Embrace batch cooking with cheap pantry staples

Pantry staples store well, are incredibly affordable, and with a bit of creativity can feature in nearly every meal you serve without feeling repetitive. 

To maximize your savings with groceries and dry goods, invest in experimenting with a few batch recipes that will feed you and your family for a week. Fill up your freezer with lentil curries and batch cook some rice to tide yourself over for a week for just a few dollars. 

3. Tune out from big brands advertising sales

Most big brands have the same idea right now: sell to people while they’re home and bored. It’s tempting to want to take advantage of slashed prices, but you probably wouldn’t spend the money if these products weren’t on sale. 

Think to yourself, would you buy this product if it was full price? If not, think before you jump at the discount. Or better yet, simply unsubscribe and mute these brands on social media. Your wallet will thank you.

4. Set a budget for home delivery services

Since we can’t go out, many of us are trying to bring out to us through home delivery. Self-care is important, but $3-10 delivery fees add up.

Set a weekly budget for delivery (including your tip) and stick to it. 

5. Freeze accounts you’re not using

We’re so used to some services that we’d never consider canceling, but under extraordinary circumstances it’s time to reevaluate.

If you haven’t already, call your gym and ask to freeze your account for the next month. If you use a recurring metro or bus pass, cancel auto-draft and pocket the money instead. 

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s likely subscriptions and services you’re paying for that were intended to be one-time purchases. Spend some time scanning your account statements. You might be surprised how much you can save.   

6. Reap the refunds

Although social distancing has only been in effect for a few weeks, there’s speculation that we could be in it for the long haul (at least for a few more months). And that means you’re likely to have at least one event cancelled from your calendar. 

Call you the ticket provider and see what your refund options are. 

7. Deposit your stimulus check into a high-yield savings account

Stimulus checks are starting to roll in. If you don’t need to use it to pay outstanding bills, you can put that money to work in other ways. Consider a high-yield savings account, which can generate up to 25 times more interest than a traditional savings account.

Saving money by staying home really comes down to self-discipline, so keep your head up, close your online shopping tab.

22 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in mid-April 2020 because of COVID-19 crisis. For the first time, independent and self-employed workers are eligible for unemployment insurance thanks to COVID-19 emergency assistance.

Here’s a look at how unemployment insurance benefits work for the self-employed with recently updated guidelines. 

The CARES Act, for Self-Employed Workers

Passed by Congress in late March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) is a comprehensive relief plan for individuals and businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. This plan expands unemployment benefits and sick leave for full-time workers and extends benefits to the self-employed, independent contractors, and gig workers who were traditionally excluded from these programs.

The CARES Act offers expanded coverage by getting rid of barriers to unemployment insurance in a few areas:

Broader eligibility
Employers pay into state funds for unemployment benefits, and since self-employed individuals typically don’t operate with employees, they often bypass this program and surrender eligibility. Contractors working under 1099s—even if they were long-standing contributors to a company—were not considered an employee and would therefore not be eligible for unemployment. 

In the new ruling, self-employed workers are acknowledged by previous income, just like full-time workers.

Waiting periods
In a typical unemployment benefits application cycle, the period between your last working day and when you can file your first claim is typically known as your “waiting week.” As part of the CARES Act and expanding unemployment benefits for the self-employed and full-time workers, states have been incentivized to waive this period. 

Benefits typically withheld during this week will be financed at a federal level, but workers will need to apply for assistance as soon as possible within their state guidelines. The waiting week does not include processing time, which likely increase with the influx of recent applications. 

$600 weekly increase in benefits
The amount you’re paid by unemployment insurance is determined by your application and set at the state level. Most workers find their packages to reflect about 50% of their former salary

Under the CARES Act, eligible individuals can collect an additional $600 per week. This additional $2400 per month will be available through July 31st, 2020. 

Longer periods to claim benefits
Prior to the passing of the CARES Act, most state-set limits for claiming benefits maxed out at 26 weeks. With these new additions, if you’re still looking for comparable work after six months of unemployment, you’re eligible to submit claims for 13 more weeks (about three months).

How to Apply for Benefits

Because of the new processes, some self-employed Americans are struggling to get their benefits. Many states are still updating their systems to accept the new documentation required for filing a claim. 

If your state’s unemployment office is prepared to accept applications from self-employed filings, start your claim by locating their digital portal in the state where you worked. If you live in a different state than your former employer is based (or worked in multiple states), consult with your home state’s unemployment office.

To complete your application, you’ll want to gather your contact and banking information, as well as materials to document your recent assignments, clients, or gigs. 

You may also be asked if you’d like taxes withheld from your unemployment check, so keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for federal income tax as a part of your benefits allowance. 

Part-Time Work While Receiving Unemployment Benefits

Self-employed people get income differently from full-time employees. You’ll need to express need based on your normal assignment load. 

Similar to working a part-time position, if you’re trying to work your reduced client load, you need to report any income on your weekly claims. Follow your state’s guidelines.

These systems are new, so it will take patience to navigate them. Overall, it’s a step in the right direction for self-employed Americans to be offered unemployment benefits to support their families.

Millions of people have filed for unemployment benefits as employers across the country respond to the pandemic and economic downturn. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act extends unemployment benefits to a wider range of people, increases the amount of payment, and extends the length of time people can access the program. Please check with the Department of Labor for more information.

At Varo, we are here to serve you. If you’re using Varo for direct deposit, we aim to get you your funds as soon as we receive them.

Who can now qualify for unemployment?

The CARES Act includes many more people than are usually eligible for unemployment benefits, including:

✅Self-employed people including gig workers

✅Part-time workers 

✅People diagnosed with COVID-19 or are caring for someone who has been

✅People whose employers temporarily ceased operations do to COVID-19

✅People quarantined who expect to return to work when quarantine ends

✅People leaving employment because of exposure risk or to take care of a family member

You will need to check with your state’s unemployment office to determine exact eligibility. Here is a list with every states’ unemployment office.

How do I file for unemployment?

Each state handles its own unemployment insurance program, but all states follow the same guidelines established by federal law. Please find a link to your own state on the Department of Labor’s website

How much additional money is the new unemployment benefit?

It depends on your state, but the CARES Act has expanded who is eligible for unemployment, and added an extra $600 per week on top of your state’s benefit through the end of July 2020.

How do I get my unemployment benefit?

Direct deposit: In many states, you can connect your unemployment benefit to your bank account, and each state has its own process for filing and setting up payment. Check with your state’s website. Generally, to set up direct deposit, you’ll need the account number and routing number for your bank account. 

Prepaid debit card: Many states issue prepaid debit cards to distribute benefit payments. You will need to check with your own state’s unemployment office to learn what the process is.

Can I use Varo to get my unemployment benefit?

Yes. Once you’ve signed up for unemployment benefits in your state you can connect your Varo Bank Account. You will need your routing number and account number to complete signing up for direct deposit. Learn more about connecting your unemployment with direct deposit to your Varo account in our Help Center.

Connecting your unemployment benefit to your Varo Bank Account — versus using the state-issued prepaid debit card — could make it more convenient and less costly to access your money compared to using the state-issued prepaid debit card. 

There is no monthly fee for a Varo Bank Account. You can make fee-free transfers between Varo Bank Accounts with the Varo to Varo peer-pay feature; there is also no fee at more than 55,000 Allpoint® ATMs worldwide, which are located in essential-service stores such as Target, Costco, and Walgreens. As a reminder, your Varo Visa® Debit card must be activated in order to transfer money. Learn more here.

For how long can I get my unemployment payment?

Every state is slightly different but in general you can qualify for up to 26 weeks (6+ months) under the regular guidelines. The new bill extends payments for an additional 13 weeks for a total of 39 weeks. However, note that the additional $600 bump only lasts for the next 16 weeks and ends July 31, 2020. 

Everyone who files for unemployment benefits between Jan. 27, 2020 and through Dec. 31, 2020 will be eligible for extended benefits.

Can I sign up again if I recently ran out of unemployment benefits?

If you have recently exhausted your benefits, you can reapply. How much you are eligible to receive, and for how long, depend on the state where you worked. Everyone would get at least another 13 weeks, along with the extra $600 payment.

Sources: New York Times, Department of Labor, Congress.gov

Links to external websites are not managed by Varo or The Bancorp Bank.

Bank Account Services provided by The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC.

Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Bancorp Bank (“Bank”). Bank is not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s).

For the vast majority of Americans, the pandemic and economic crisis are taking an unprecedented financial toll as millions of people are out of work. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act will send one-time stimulus payments up to $1,200 to many individuals. 

At Varo, we are here to serve you. If you’re using Varo for direct deposit, we aim to get you your funds as soon as we receive them.

Do I qualify for a stimulus payment?

✅You have a Social Security number

✅You are a U.S. resident

✅You have adjusted gross income up to $99,000 as a single tax filer

👉You can find your adjusted gross income on line 8b of your most recently filed return (2019 or 2018) 1040 federal tax return. 

As an individual, if you earned up to $75,000 you’ll qualify for the full payment. If you earned between $75,000 and $99,000, your payment will be less. If you’re not sure how much you’re going to receive, use this calculator to determine how much you could receive. 

If you are receiving Social Security benefits but didn’t file taxes in 2018 or 2019, you will be eligible to receive a stimulus check without a tax return based on data available to the IRS from your annual Social Security benefits statement, according to AARP.

If you are not receiving Social Security benefits and didn’t file taxes in 2018 or 2019 because you earned less than $12,200 over the year ($24,400 for married couples) or were otherwise not required to file, you are still eligible for benefits. Enter your payment info here.

Married couples with no children earning $150,000 or less would receive a total of $2,400. If you have filed as head of household, you will get the full payment if you earn $112,500 or less. Above those income figures, the payment decreases until it stops altogether for single people earning $99,000 or married couples earning $198,000.

Do I need to have a valid Social Security number to get a stimulus payment?

In most cases, everyone — including children under age 16 — must have a valid Social Security number. There is an exception for members of the military.

How much will the stimulus payment be?

Most adults will get up to $1,200, however, the full amount will depend on your reported income. If you’re not sure how much you’re eligible for, use this calculator to determine how much you could receive. For every child age 16 or under, the payment would be an additional $500. 

How can I get my stimulus payment?

You do not need to apply for this check. The government will automatically transfer the money to you in a few ways. Please see the IRS website for more information.

Direct Deposit: Most people will receive their payment via an ACH direct deposit to the bank account where they receive their SSI, SSA, or other payments, such as a tax refund from the IRS, from the government.

Paper check: If you have not connected your bank account to your tax return with the IRS, the government has said it will mail a paper check. 

When will I get my stimulus payment?

As of April 15, 2020, many people have received their stimulus payments. If you haven’t received your payment, you may check on its status using this tool on the IRS website.

How can I get my stimulus payment with Varo?

If your Varo Bank Account is connected with direct deposit, your payment will likely be deposited into your Varo account. Please make sure to turn on notifications in your app so you can get alerted when the money hits your account. 

What can I do with my stimulus payment?

These funds are aimed to help you make ends meet in this time of economic stress—there are no restrictions on how you use this money. 

While these funds might feel like a windfall, take a moment to plan how you need to spend this money. What bills can be postponed and what bills need to be paid now? Do you need this money to buy food and other essential supplies for you and your family? You might consider putting half the funds into a savings account for the coming months if you can afford to do that. 

For more information about how to handle your taxes, your bills, and other money issues see this blog post.

Will I get another stimulus payment?

Right now the CARES Act only provides for this one payment. Future government bills could order up additional payments.

Sources: New York Times, IRS, Washington Post

Links to external websites are not managed by Varo or The Bancorp Bank.

Bank Account Services provided by The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC.

Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Bancorp Bank (“Bank”). Bank is not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s).

Every time your employer automatically deposits your paycheck into your banking account, you’ve received an ACH payment. Each time your auto insurance provider automatically deducts your premium from your checking account, that’s an ACH payment, too. 

But what does ACH stand for? Are an ACH payment and an ACH transfer the same thing? And what are the benefits to consumers? 

Here’s what you need to know about ACH. 

What does ACH stand for? 

ACH stands for automated clearing house, which is a system run by the National Automated Clearing House Association that facilitates electronic payments and automated money transfers between banks. In 2019 alone, the ACH Network processed 24.7 billion electronic payments, making it one of the largest U.S. payment systems. 

So what exactly is an ACH payment? 

At its most basic, an ACH payment is a way to move money between banks. But instead of using paper checks, wire transfer, credit card networks, or cash, an ACH payment — also known as an ACH transfer — moves money electronically between banks through the ACH Network. 

There are two types of ACH transactions:

What are some common reasons to use ACH transfers? 

There are many reasons both individuals and businesses make use of computerized payments. Some of the most common uses of ACH payments include:

Other types of ACH transfers include direct deposits from dividends, Social Security, and other government benefits; charitable giving; tuition; and subscription services.

How does ACH work? 

To set up an ACH payment — whether it’s moving funds to or from your account — you need to authorize those transfers by providing your bank account and routing numbers. A common way to do this, especially when setting up automatic payments with billers or direct deposit with employers, is by providing a voided check. 

Keep in mind that, in some cases, the funds only move when you say so, such as when you pay a friend back for dinner through Venmo and you tap “Pay.” In other cases, however, the biller automatically pulls the funds from your account when your bill is due. 

It’s super important to make sure you have the funds available in your bank account when you’re setting up ACH transfers. Otherwise, you might be hit with a hefty overdraft fee

What are the benefits of ACH payments? 

There’s a reason the ACH Network processes billions of payments annually: 

Are there disadvantages to ACH payments? 

There are a few things you should keep in mind about ACH transfers. The biggest one is that businesses have direct access to your bank account — and automatic payments are going to be taken out of your checking account whether you have the funds in your account or not. 

If your checking account is often in flux, you might prefer a different way to pay or look for a bank that doesn’t have overdraft fees

Also, some banks charge a fee for sending money between accounts that you have at different banks, but most ACH transfers are free. If there is a fee for ACH credit transfers, it’s usually less than $5. But compared to a wire transfer, which can cost up to $50, ACH transfers are much more cost-efficient.

When it comes down to it, ACH payments can be an easy way to send and receive money. Just make sure you’re clear on your bank’s policies for ACH direct deposits and direct payments.

Links to external websites are not managed by Varo or The Bancorp Bank.

Bank Account Services provided by The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC.

Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Bancorp Bank (“Bank”). Bank is not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s).

 

It’s never been easier to send money online. But with so many options, it can be hard to know which online money transfer platform is best and how to send money safely to other people. 

Each app, website, and payment service has its own features and fees, so the best option depends on your preferences and needs.

👉For Varo customers, it’s fast and free to send money between Varo Bank Accounts with Varo to Varo. Varo customers can also access low-cost international payments in the Offers section of the app. Varo can also easily link to many of the digital wallets listed below.

6 easy ways to send money online

Here’s a closer look at other easy ways to send money online stateside and abroad. 

1. PayPal

PayPal is one of the oldest and most widely used ways to send money to friends and family online. Once you sign up for the service — you can use the website or mobile app — and link your bank account, you can easily send money for free. All you need is the mobile phone number or email address of the person to whom you’re sending money. It usually takes one to three business days for the funds to transfer to the recipient’s bank account, or you can pay for an instant transfer to a linked debit card.

Advantages: With more than 277 million active users, most people you know probably have a PayPal account. You can send as much as $10,000 per transaction. 

Disadvantages: If you use a debit or credit card to send money, you’ll pay a fee of 2.9 percent plus 30 cents of the amount you send.

Tips: Transfers are free when they come from your bank account, so don’t waste money on fees by paying with a credit card or debit card. 

2. Venmo

Venmo, which is owned by PayPal, is another way to send money online in just a few taps. The free mobile app allows you to send up to $2,999.99 per week for free when you link your bank account, debit card, or prepaid debit card. Bank transfers typically take one to three business days, or you can transfer funds to a debit card, typically within 30 minutes, for a 1 percent fee. 

Advantages: Venmo offers one of the best mobile experiences for money transfers. A sort of social network for money transfers, Venmo lets you add friends and see their transactions — but not the amounts — usually in emoji form. (Alternatively, you can mark the transaction as private.)

Disadvantages: The app is not intended for buying and selling; therefore, Venmo doesn’t provide any buyer or seller protection. Only use this platform with people you know and trust.

Tips: If you choose to send money using a credit card, you’ll pay a 3-percent fee, so use your bank account as the funding source. 

3. Zelle

Zelle is an online money transfer app that is integrated with over 200 banks and credit unions, including Varo, Chase, Bank of America, Ally, Capital One, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo. Using your bank’s mobile app, you can send money within minutes. All you need is the mobile phone number or email address of the intended recipient. Because all transfers are through your bank account, Zelle doesn’t charge any fees. 

Advantages: Because Zelle sends money between bank accounts at different financial institutions, it can deliver money within minutes, making it one of the fastest ways to send money online.

Disadvantages: Like Venmo, Zelle doesn’t offer fraud protection. Send money only to people you trust, make sure your recipient’s contact information is correct before you send money, and beware of scams. 

Tips: Although Zelle doesn’t charge fees, your bank might. Double-check with your bank to make sure there are no additional fees before sending money using Zelle. 

4. Google Pay

Google Pay is a mobile app that lets you transfer money for free. Using the in-app mobile wallet, you can easily transfer money to someone if you have their phone number or email address. The recipient doesn’t need to be a Google Pay user. To receive the payment, they simply need to enter their bank account information or debit card number. 

Advantages: Integrated with Gmail, Google Pay allows you to send or request money by clicking a dollar sign at the bottom of an email.

Disadvantages: Google Pay doesn’t allow users to link credit cards as a form of payment.

Tips: Google Pay can be used at checkout with a lot of retailers. If you are already a digital wallet user, then using Google Pay to send money online is super simple. 

5. OFX

If you need to send money overseas, OFX is one of the more affordable options. The online currency exchange platform allows you to transfer money to 190 countries and doesn’t charge any transfer fees. It typically takes three to four business days for the funds to arrive in the recipient’s account. 

Advantages: No matter how much money you send, OFX doesn’t charge any fees. Plus, the service generally has low markups on exchange rates. 

Disadvantages: Although there are no transfer limits, OFX does have a $1,000 transfer minimum. 

Tips: You can target future exchange rates so your money will only be sent once your desired exchange rate is reached.

6. Western Union

Western Union is the biggest money transfer company in the world. With more than 500,000 locations in over 200 countries and territories, Western Union has a wide reach. The cheapest way to send money online internationally through Western Union is from your bank account, though you can also use a credit card or debit card. Transfers can take four to five business days. 

Advantages: Western Union offers the most ways to send and deliver money internationally, and there are same-day delivery options. 

Disadvantages: Fees range from $5 to $95, and the exchange rate markup can be up to 10 percent.

Tips: The recipient’s bank may charge extra fees on top of Western Union’s fees, so be sure to do your research before transferring money.

You don’t need to hit the ATM or spend time searching for your checkbook every time you need to pay a friend back for dinner or send your landlord your rent check. There are lots of ways to send money online, and each has its own pros and cons. Which one you should use depends on how and where you want to send it, so don’t be surprised if you end up using more than one. 

Links to external websites are not managed by Varo or The Bancorp Bank.

Bank Account Services provided by The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC.

Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Bancorp Bank (“Bank”). Bank is not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s).

If you’ve ever used your debit card to purchase something for $25 and then found out when you checked your bank statement that it actually cost you $59 because you incurred a $35 overdraft fee, you’re not alone. 

Many people struggle with overdraft fees, which are charged when you try to spend more money than you have available in your checking account and you’ve opted in to overdraft protection.

You might think that overdraft protection means you’re protected from overdraft fees, but that’s not how it works. When you opt in to a bank’s overdraft protection service, the bank allows you to complete a transaction that exceeds your account balance — for a fee. An overdraft fee. 

Confusing, right? According to survey research by The Pew Charitable Trusts, 70% of those who overdraft don’t understand how to avoid overdraft fees. 

Let’s take a look at what overdraft fees are, what overdraft protection really is, and how you can avoid overdraft fees altogether. 

What is an overdraft fee? 

An overdraft happens when you don’t have enough available funds in your checking account to cover a payment or withdrawal and your bank or credit union pays for the transaction anyway. Essentially what is happening is the bank is making a mini loan to your account in the amount of the overdraft. 

For this service, the bank charges a fee known as an overdraft fee. The next time a deposit is made into your account, the amount you are overdrawn plus the overdraft fee will be immediately deducted from your account. 

How much do overdraft fees cost? 

Overdraft fees typically cost between $30 and $35 per transaction, and they can add up if you’re not careful. 

Consumers pay roughly $17 billion annually in overdraft fees and non sufficient funds fees combined, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But these fees are unnecessary. Learning how to avoid them can help you save money. 

How to avoid overdraft fees

Fortunately, there are some simple ways to avoid overdraft fees. 

1. Opt out of overdraft protection

Under federal regulations, a bank must obtain your consent before covering debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals and charging overdraft fees — a service known as overdraft protection. When you open a new checking or savings account, you have the option to opt in to overdraft protection. 

If you don’t opt in and you try to make a purchase or withdrawal that you can’t afford, then the bank will simply decline your debit card transaction at the register or your withdrawal at the ATM. 

Keep in mind that there are some instances in which you can still incur overdraft fees, even if you don’t opt in to overdraft protection, such as if you write a check that overdraws your account or when recurring bills are automatically deducted from your account.

Most important to remember is that banks can’t charge you for overdrafts on ATM or point-of-sale debit card transactions unless you have opted in, so steer clear of bounce coverage and courtesy overdraft protection programs.

2. Watch your balance

Another way to protect yourself from overdraft fees is by tracking your expenses. Sign up for online banking, watch your balance, and keep track of how much money you have available. That way you’ll always know how much you can spend. 

3. Set up low-balance alerts

Another way to be aware of when your balance is low is to sign up to receive email or text alerts when your bank account dips below a certain threshold. If you get a low-balance alert, you can transfer or deposit more money into your account or cancel the payment.

4. Link your checking account to a savings account 

If you link your checking account to your savings account and you overdraw on your checking account, your bank will transfer funds from your savings to your checking to cover the difference. There might be a small fee to do this, but it’s cheaper than an overdraft fee. 

Keep in mind this only works if you have sufficient funds in your savings account. 

5. Change to a bank that doesn’t have overdraft fees

Not all banks charge hefty overdraft fees. Some banks don’t have overdraft fees. Varo, for example, offers No Fee Overdraft up to $50 to eligible customers for purchases or withdrawals made with the Varo Visa® Debit Card.

Overdraft fees are not only costly. They’re also unnecessary. Use these strategies to help avoid overdraft fees and manage your money better.

Links to external websites are not managed by Varo or The Bancorp Bank.

Bank Account Services provided by The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC.

Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Bancorp Bank (“Bank”). Bank is not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s).