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APR vs. APY: While the seem similar, there’s a big difference between annual percentage rate and annual percentage yield. Here’s what you need to know.

APR vs. APY

APR and APY are short acronyms with big importance. Despite the confusion, these two terms are not interchangeable. What exactly is the difference between APR and APY? Here’s a quick lesson:

  • APR stands for annual percentage rate
  • APY stands for annual percentage yield
  • APR is more commonly used regarding credit cards, mortgages, and loans
  • APY is more commonly used regarding interest-bearing accounts

One thing APR and APY have in common is that they come into play in our lives just about every day if we use credit cards, pay a mortgage, or keep money in the bank. Both determine how much you will earn or pay on investment products and loans. Understanding the basic differences between APR and APY is important before you do something like open a credit card or choose an investment account.

APR is going to be tossed at you when you shop around for credit cards, car loans, or home loans. APR represents the interest you’ll be responsible for paying. APY is a phrase you’re going to hear as you search around for bank accounts, CDs, and a variety of investment products. APY is the amount you stand to earn if you place your money in the hands of a financial institution.

The Basics of APR

The rate portion of an annual percentage rate refers to the amount of money a lender is charges when you borrow money. You can figure out the APR of a loan or balance by multiplying the period rate by the number of payment periods in a year. A simple way to look at it is that an account with an interest rate of 1 percent will have an APR of 12 percent.

On the other side, you can divide the APR by the number of payment periods to get the per-payment rate. Many loans will give you the APR rather than the per-payment rate. If your car loan has a 7.5 percent APR, you’ll pay .625 percent in interest every month.

Sometimes you’ll see both an interest rate and an APR for any given loan or balance. In this case, the APR is typically higher. That’s because APR includes interest, points, broker fees, and additional fees. This is especially common for accounts like mortgages.

The Basics of APY

APY is the rate of return of an interest rate. It takes into account compound interest. Compound interest is the interest you earn on top of the principal and simple interest. APY takes the interest rate and provides a percentage based on how often interest is compounded during a year.

Remember the account with an interest rate of 1 percent and an APR of 12 percent? That same account would carry an APY of approximately 12.68 percent. However, that’s just a basic estimate using the most basic scenario. Actual percentages will always depend on factors like the specific financial institution you’re dealing with and state laws.

Things to Keep in Mind When Shopping Around for Rates

Keep in mind that most lenders and institutions will list whichever number makes their products appear more appealing. This is why it’s important to always ask a potential lender or institution which percentage type they’re quoting as you’re shopping around for loans or accounts.

Compare all the options you’re considering based on the same percentage type to get a true picture. Anything else would be like measuring apples against oranges instead of making a true apples-to-apples comparison. The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) requires all lenders to provide you with accurate cost information that allows you to comparison shop for loans.

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Prosper claims to offer great rates for both borrowers and investors. In this Prosper review, we put these claims to the test.

prosper review

Prosper offers a different way to look at lending. The Prosper platform is a peer-to-peer marketplace where people can borrow money for all aspects of life. It’s an interesting platform for people who need to borrow money. But it’s also great for investors, who have potential to get solid monthly returns. Prosper offers loans for the following:

  • Debt consolidation
  • Home improvements
  • Vehicles
  • Babies and adoptions
  • Small businesses
  • Weddings and other special occasions

Prosper’s big strength is that it removes the roadblocks between people and the funding they need to make the next big leap in life or pursue their goals. It’s a virtual platform for funding that provides both lenders and borrowers with the tools and transparency they need to make informed decisions. There are no in-person meetings with lenders or lengthy application processes.

The Basics of Borrowing Through Prosper

Borrowers can get a rate quote in minutes just by answering a few questions on Prosper’s website. Once you’ve been cleared to receive the loan, Prosper deposits funds straight into your bank account. The process usually takes between three and five business days. Here are the basics of Prosper loans:

  • Fixed terms of either three or five years
  • Maximum loan amount of $35,000
  • Minimum loan amount of $2,000
  • No early payment penalties
  • No hidden fees
  • No minimum income requirement
  • Minimum credit score of 640
  • Payment schedules cannot be adjusted
  • Late fees are charged if payments are not made on time
  • Borrowers can file joint loan applications
  • Payment modification plans are available in some situations

Prosper assigns every borrower on the platform a grade. This grade determines the interest rate Prosper offers and the origination fee borrowers pay. In addition, it’s what investors will look at when deciding whether or not to invest in your loan.

How does Prosper determine your grade? They look at things like your credit score, income, and current debt level. The average income of a Prosper borrower is $88,746. The average FICO score is 710. Those two figures should give you a good idea of how you’d do when seeking a peer-to-peer loan from Prosper’s investors.

The Basics of Lending Through Prosper

Prosper offers the opportunity to invest in personal loans. Lenders can browse loan options for creditworthy borrowers based on factors like FICO scores, Prosper ratings, and loan terms. Prosper assigns each loan opportunity a rating based on its levels of risk and return. As with other investment types, you can earn a higher return. But you generally have to take on more risk for that.

Lenders can either select individual loans or use Prosper’s Auto Invest tool to create a target portfolio. Prosper deposits monthly returns from investments directly and automatically into your account. Prosper does require a $25 minimum investment per loan. The estimated return for Prosper investors is 7.57 percent.

Is Prosper a Good Choice?

Prosper offers a simple and solid way to take part in the peer-to-peer lending world. With loan amounts between $2,000 and $35,000, it’s a good option if you’re looking for a way to finance just about anything without going through traditional banking channels. One thing that separates Prosper from peer-to-peer lending platforms that may appear similar is the fact that the company doesn’t fund loans using its own money. Prosper does underwrite applicants.

What’s the bottom line on Prosper? Borrowers can enjoy a fast way to get funding as long as their credit history is in decent shape and they have a solid income. Lenders may find Prosper to be a simple investment tool that allows them to enjoy some diversification.

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Credit cards offer convenience, security, and rewards. Overspend with a credit card, however, and the interest and fees can bury you. Here are 10 tips to stop using credit cards.

stop using credit cards

If you’ve got a bad credit card habit, chances are you know it. Whether or not you’re willing to admit it is a whole other story. But admitting you have a problem is the first step to making changes.

If you can answer yes to any or all of these questions, you need some major changes:

  • Do you pay interest fees when you send in your credit card payment?
  • Have you ever paid your credit card late because you didn’t have the money for the payment?
  • Do you use your credit card when you don’t have enough cash?
  • When your issuer raises your credit limit, do you spend more because you can?

Credit card companies just love credit card users like this. They pay interest and late fees. They spend more on their credit cards, too.

This means credit card companies can charge merchants for more transactions. Altogether, these credit card users are the ones who are putting food on the table.

And putting more money in the pockets of credit card issuers means you’re putting less money in your own pocket. So the goal should be to stop these bad credit card habits. Instead, work to get to a place where you can use credit responsibly. This means taking advantage of rewards programs but never paying interest or fees.

Don’t think you can do it? Think again. Take these ten steps to systematically break your bad credit card habits.

1. Look at your spending carefully

Deep down, maybe you know your credit card habits have come about because you’re spending more than you earn. And this is a self-perpetuating issue. Once you get stuck in the cycle of paying interest and fees, it becomes harder and harder to get back to spending less than you earn.

So your first step is to track your spending faithfully. You can do this on a pen and paper. Or an Excel spreadsheet. Or you can use a program like Mint.com that will automatically import your transactions.

The key here is to total up all of your spending from all sources–credit cards, checking account, savings, and cash. Keep this up for at least a month, and you’ll see where you’re spending money you shouldn’t spend. Keep it up for multiple months in a row, and you’re likely to find that you automatically reduce your spending.

2. Create a new budget

Once you’ve tracked your budget for a month or two, you can see what you are spending versus what you should be spending. Now it’s time to actually create a new budget. This budget should be based on the money you actually make each month.

Again, you can do this in different ways. You can stick to cash-only spending. Or you can use a program like Mint to track where you stand in various budget categories. Either way, you’ll need to use discipline to make sure you stick to your budget. The best way to do this is to cut back on spending slowly, particularly in essential areas like groceries.

Try to take your grocery spending from $500 per month to $200 per month overnight, and you’ll probably fail. But you can succeed by cutting just $20 per week from your spending. Keep doing this until you reach a comfortable, but frugal, level of grocery spending.

You can do this with other areas of your budget, too. The key is simply to budget for what you need and then stick to the budget. This will be more possible if you consistently check in on your spending. Make this a habit, and you’ll find you’re more likely to stick to your budget.

3. Build an emergency fund

This step can take some time, especially if you’re in the habit of overspending rather than saving. But find places where you can stash back even $10 per week. Over time, you’ll build up a pad of savings that can help you in an emergency.

Start by opening a high-yield savings account. Then, begin with the first goal of putting about $1,000 into the emergency fund. Sure, you’ll eventually want to save three to six months’ worth of expenses. But this can take a really long time. Starting with this smaller goal lets you be prepared for minor emergencies, which can help you cut back on credit card spending.

Remember: an emergency fund is to be used in true emergencies only. This doesn’t take the place of your credit card. The purpose of the emergency fund is to remain untouched for regular expenses but accesible when major spending is required. Some examples might be the loss of a job or a significant medical expense.

For more details, see Five Components of an Emergency Plan, but ignore component number four.

4. Stop using your credit cards

Building up an emergency fund is essential for this step to start working. If you’ve consistently used your credit card for minor emergencies, you’re relying on it too much. When you have a bit of money in savings, you can reduce your credit card dependency. And this can let you stop using your credit cards.

Now that you’re living on a budget, you should not need to rely on your credit cards anymore. Instead, you should only be spending the money that actually comes into your bank account each month.

So stop using your credit cards. You might want to take baby steps here. Start by simply leaving the cards at home all the time. Then remove them from your PayPal account and other automatic online payment options. Then, start shredding them, which will lead you to the next step.

5. Destroy your credit cards except for one or two

You can play this one of two ways. If you’re disciplined enough, you can simply destroy the physical credit cards and remove them from your online accounts. This means you’ll stop spending on the cards but won’t actually close the accounts. This is because closing old credit card accounts can actually damage your credit score.

But if you have a serious problem, this may not be enough to stop your overspending. Instead, you may need to go as far as actually closing your credit card accounts. Overspending, after all, is a larger issue than getting a better rate on your next mortgage. So if you want to really take away your ability to overspend on credit, you can close the accounts.

However, you’ll only be able to close accounts that have no outstanding balance. You may want to skip to step seven if all of your cards have an outstanding balance.

6. Lock away your remaining credit card

Now that you have one credit card left, realize that you will not be using this card for everyday spending; for now, cash is king. Put your remaining credit card out of sight. Lock it away. I’ve even heard of some people who put their credit card into a cup of water in the freezer. The extra step of breaking a block of ice to get to your credit may be an extra demotivator.

Why keep a credit card at all? You may need it in a real emergency before you emergency fund is fully built up. But making it difficult to access will mean you’re less likely to use it for non-emergencies.

7. Consolidate your balances onto one or two cards

Gather the latest statements for the cards containing balances. Choose one or two with the lowest interest rates, and consolidate your balances onto these cards. By calling the credit card company, you can provide the information for your other cards with balances. Then they will initiate a balance transfer. Ask for a transfer fee waiver. If they aren’t willing to waive the balance transfer fee, consider using a different card to consolidate your balance or apply for a great balance transfer credit card.

Another option is to look at an unsecured personal loan to consolidate your balances. This type of loan can get you into a lower interest rate and help you pay off your credit card debt more quickly. Plus, once you’ve consolidated debt off of some of your cards, you can then close those zero-balance accounts.

What if you don’t have good enough credit or enough available credit to consolidate your debt? In this case, you’ll need to skip to steps eight and nine. You can make this work without consolidation. Consolidation can just make it easier.

8. Enact a cash-only policy

Once you’ve lived without your credit cards on hand for a couple of months, your budget should be in a good place. Now you know what you can and need to spend each month. So now you can enact a cash-only policy.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend physical cash. But that can be a good idea. Spending cash actually helps you spend less money. But spending cash can also be unwieldy at times. So another option is to keep cash on-hand for certain expenses, such as groceries, but to use your debit card for other expenses.

The key is that you have to actually have the money in hand–either physically or in your bank account–to spend it. Getting into the swing of this can be difficult. But, trust me, it’s worth the learning curve. Once you start spending only what’s coming in, you can turn your attention to spending less than what you make. And this is how you’ll really start to make financial progress.

9. Pay down your balances

Now it’s time to start reversing the damage you’ve done with your bad credit card habits. You’ll likely need to pay more than the minimum payments on your accounts to start getting out of debt. So use that money that you’ve suddenly found in your now-strict budget to get this done.

There are a couple of different ways to pay down your balances. And, really, either one is sufficient, as long as you keep on keeping on. One option is the Debt Snowball method popularized by Dave Ramsey. This has you start paying off your smallest balance first. Once that balance is paid off, apply its minimum payment and any extra money to the next-smallest balance.

The advantage of the Debt Snowball is that you get some quick wins up front. This can help you stay on track as you work towards paying off larger and larger balances.

The other option is the Debt Avalanche. This has you start with the highest-interest account first. Then pay off lower-interest cards as you move through your debts. The advantage of this approach is that you wind up paying less interest over time.

The Debt Avalanche is the most logical way to pay off your debts. But it doesn’t make a huge difference unless you’re in a lot of debt or have a big differential between your interest rates.

You can check out a more in-depth discussion of these two options here. But, really, the main issue is that you start paying off your debts and keep on with it until your credit cards are paid off.

10. Check your progress each month

Paying off debt takes time and dedication. You’ll need to keep moving forward towards your goals, even when things get tough. One way to keep making progress is to see how far you’ve come.

The best option is to come up with a way to consistently track your balances each month. You’re already checking in on your spending frequently, right? Well, make a chart where you keep track of your credit card balances month after month, and watch as they disappear.

You can do this with some budget-tracking softwares, such as Mint. Or you can create your own spreadsheet for tracking your credit card balances. Either way, be sure you’re checking in at least once a month to keep track of your progress. Seeing how far you’ve come will help you keep moving forward until you finally break your bad credit card habits and reverse the damage they’ve done.

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We’ve tracked bank rates since 2008. The latest list shows the best bank interest rates available nationwide as of February 2018 (with daily updates).

best bank rates

Since many banks are constantly updating their interest rates offered on savings, money market and checking accounts, this chart should come in handy. On the 1st of every month, this page is updated to show the most accurate rate information available.

Banking Deal: Earn 1.55% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at CIT Bank.

This list is organized into two sections. The first section includes FDIC-insured savings or money market accounts and the second includes FDIC-insured checking accounts. Each list is sorted alphabetically and unless there is a notation listed, the APY rate applies to all amounts.

Current rates

Use the table below to search for current interest rates available on money market accounts, savings accounts, and certificates of deposit. For historical rates, scroll down.

Historical interest rates

Banks that have lowered or raised their rates in the last month are shown in red and green, respectively.

Bank Account Name Tier Notes 2/1/2018 1/1/2018 1/1/2017 1/1/2016 1/1/2015
Synchrony Bank Online Savings All No minimum balance  1.45% 1.30% 1.05% 1.05% 1.05%
Ally Online Savings All No minimum balance 1.35%  1.25% 1.00% 1.00% 0.99%
Ally Money Market All No minimum balance 0.90% to 1.00% 0.90% 0.85% 0.85% 0.85%
American Express Bank High Yield Savings All  1.45% 1.35% 0.90% 0.90% 0.80%
Barclays Online Savings All  1.50% 1.30% 1.00% 1.00% 0.90%
Capital One 360 Online Savings All Formerly ING Direct  1.00% 1.00% 0.75% 0.75% 0.75%
Discover Bank Online Savings All  1.40% 1.30% 0.95% 0.95% 0.90%
GS Bank Online Savings All No minimum deposit  1.50% 1.40% 1.05% N/A N/A
Everbank Money Market $5k to $10k Includes 1st year intro rate  1.41% 1.31% 1.11% 1.11% 1.11%

Savings Account Rates

As you review the current and historical rates for savings accounts and money market accounts, keep the following in mind:

  • Fees: The best offers come with no monthly maintenance fees. Even a small fee can wipe out much of the yield, particularly in the current low rate environment. Before opening an account, make sure you understand what if any fees you’ll pay. The best savings accounts don’t charge fees.
  • Minimum Deposit: Many bank accounts require either a minimum deposit or a minimum balance going forward, or both. Be sure you know these requirements as you shop for the highest yield.
  • Tiered Rates: Some, but not all, banks offer tiered rates based on the amount of your balance. While one might assume that the rates go up as the balance goes up, that’s not always the case. Some banks actually lower the rate for balances over a certain limit.
  • Online Banks vs Traditional Banks: As a general rule, online banks offer the highest rates. Many brick and mortar banks offer yields as low as 0.01%. It’s as if they don’t want your money. In contrast, online banks offer yields of 1.00% APY or more.

Checking Account Rates

With checking accounts, the interest rates tend to be lower. That’s generally fine because most people don’t keep a lot of money in a checking account. Any extra money one has should be moved over to a high-yield savings product. That being said, many banks do offer interest checking accounts. Here it’s critical to consider fees, which are more common than on savings and money market accounts.

Finally, if you know of other bank accounts or deals we should include in our list, please leave a comment below.

The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards of 2018

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7 of the Best Places to Open an IRA in 2018

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Opening an IRA is an important decision. To help, here is our survey of the best IRA accounts for 2018, including fees and features of each option. Just about every bank, investment brokerage, and robo-advisor welcomes Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). But there are a handful of institutions that stand out above the rest. Below are […]

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Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Review

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In our 2018 Capital One Venture Rewards credit card review, we look at its 50,000 mile bonus and 2x rewards structure. Is it too good to be true? I use four primary credit cards to buy just about everything. One for my purchases at the grocery store. One for purchases at the pump. Another to […]

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MoviePass Review: Is it Really Unlimited Movies for One Price?

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MoviePass claims to offer unlimited movie tickets for one low monthly price. Is it too good to be true? We answer that question in our MoviePass review. According to the National Theater Owner’s Association, the average price of a movie theater ticket was $8.84 as of the first quarter of 2017. If you live in […]

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