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What Is a Crypto Interest Account?

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This article provides information for educational purposes. NerdWallet does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend specific investments, including stocks, securities or cryptocurrencies.

Some cryptocurrency platforms, such as BlockFi and Gemini, have begun to offer a way to earn interest on crypto. The process has parallels with traditional savings accounts, and the rates can be eye-popping, with some in the double digits.

But like most crypto activities, there are big risks in losing more money than you earn with these accounts. Here’s a quick explainer on how crypto interest accounts work.

What is a crypto interest account?

A crypto interest account is generally a crypto platform’s offering that lets you earn interest on digital assets that you’ve bought. You agree to lend out Bitcoin or altcoins (any cryptocurrency that isn’t Bitcoin) in exchange for interest. This is similar to how savings accounts work at banks: You deposit money, then the bank lends it out and pays you back plus interest. You can generally take your money out anytime.

“It does work conceptually identical to how banking institutions lend money,” says Ryan Greiser, a certified financial planner in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

But the differences in rates and risk, among other factors, are huge.

7 things to know about crypto interest accounts

1. Rates can be astronomically high

The crypto firm BlockFi, for example, offers rates from 0.10% to 9.50% on its website, and the firm Celsius has several yields around 9% — with one nearly at 14% — for U.S. customers (there’s a 17% rate for non-U.S. customers). The best high-yield savings accounts, in contrast, tend to have interest rates closer to 0.50% annual percentage yield. And the national average rate for a regular savings account is 0.06%.

2. Returns over time are hard to compare

With traditional savings accounts, everything is in U.S. dollars so you can estimate the total possible interest you can earn in a year, assuming a rate doesn’t change. When browsing a crypto firm’s rates, however, you might be looking at dozens of digital assets with varying levels of volatility. It’s good to be familiar with at least two broad types of digital assets:

  • Native cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum can have daily fluctuations in value.

  • Stablecoins such as USD Coin are a type of cryptocurrency with value that is pegged to the U.S. dollar or another real asset.

3. Withdrawal fees and limits may apply

Watch out for fees that may vary by cryptocurrency and might not be listed in U.S. dollars. Also, check for any minimum or maximum withdrawal amounts. Some crypto firms offer different types of access:

  • Flexible terms have no constraints on when you can withdraw.

  • Fixed terms require agreeing to not access funds for a period, generally a few months. These fixed-term yields have parallels to certificates of deposit, a type of savings account where you lock up funds in exchange for a higher rate. (If the idea of locking up crypto for more rewards appeals to you, you may also be interested in crypto staking, which involves helping to verify valid crypto transactions on a blockchain network.)

4. Crypto has big risks

Risks include but aren’t limited to:

  • No deposit insurance: Crypto interest accounts are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, so if a firm goes bankrupt, there’s no government guarantee that you can get funds (including interest) back.

  • Default risk: What if a borrower can’t pay you back? Greiser recommends understanding what measures a crypto exchange is taking in case borrowers default on their crypto loans (which might be using the crypto you’re lending). Crypto exchange Gemini, for example, explains on its site how it’s regulated by the New York government and how it vets borrowers’ risk management processes.

  • Digital assets can lose value, and some can go extinct: There are more than 13,000 cryptocurrencies, according to market research website CoinMarketCap.com, and it’s unlikely they’ll all go up in value over time. Some might even go away completely. You can find “dead coins,” or previous crypto that went out of circulation, on websites such as Coinopsy and Deadcoins.

5. Regulation of crypto interest accounts is underway

In September, Coinbase — the biggest U.S. crypto exchange — canceled its launch of a lending product that would earn interest for customers. This action occurred after Coinbase received notice that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission threatened to sue, though the reason wasn’t clear, Coinbase wrote in a blog post. In addition, securities regulators in two states have ordered BlockFi to stop opening new interest accounts for customers, according to BlockFi’s website. There’s likely more regulation to come, which could affect the usage of these accounts.

6. Not all crypto firms work in all states

BlockFi’s and Crypto.com’s platforms, for example, aren’t available to New Yorkers, though the accounts are options in most states.

7. Crypto is not for everyone

Greiser says the person who has the right risk appetite, time horizon and willingness to do their own due diligence and research may consider crypto interest accounts. In doing research, you’ll likely need to learn various technical processes, such as how to transfer crypto between platforms or from a crypto wallet outside a platform and how to report crypto earnings or losses for taxes. If you’re just getting started, consider these three questions before buying cryptocurrency.

The author owned Bitcoin and Ether at the time of publication. NerdWallet is not recommending or advising readers to buy or sell Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency.

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Personal Finance

Can You Refinance a Car Loan More Than Once?

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You can refinance your car as often as you can find a lender willing to approve a new loan, but finding a lender to refinance again and again could be difficult.

When you refinance, you’re replacing your current car loan with a new one — almost always with a different lender. Since most lenders won’t refinance their own loans, you’d likely need to get approval from a new lender each time.

Also, the most common reasons for refinancing a car loan are to save money, lower the monthly payment or pay off the loan sooner. Once you’ve refinanced to meet one or more of these goals, it may not be easy finding another loan that provides any additional benefit.

Reasons to refinance a car loan more than once

Throughout the life of your auto loan, you may experience different situations when refinancing makes sense — leading you to refinance more than once. Here are some examples:

  • To replace a dealer’s high interest rate. Maybe you financed your car at a dealership and realized the next day that you could qualify for a lower rate. If you have solid credit, you likely can find a lender to refinance your loan to a lower rate right away, or as soon as they can obtain the vehicle’s title.

  • To take advantage of your improved credit. If your car loan has a high interest rate because of previous credit problems or no credit history, and you’ve made on-time loan payments for six to 12 months, you might now be able to qualify for an auto refinance loan with a lower rate.

  • Because you need a lower monthly car payment. If your financial situation has worsened — for example, you changed jobs and took a cut in pay — you might need to refinance to a longer loan term for a lower payment that you can afford.

Why refinancing a car over and over can be a bad idea

Before you refinance your car multiple times, be aware of some potential disadvantages.

  • Paying more than you save. Refinancing is applying for a new loan, which can come with loan origination fees, lender processing fees and title transfer fees. Occasionally, you could have prepayment penalties for your current loan. And if you extend the loan term, you’ll likely increase the amount of interest you pay overall. So before you refinance, consider whether the benefits outweigh your total cost.

  • Lowering your credit score. Each time you get approved for a new auto refinance loan, the lender runs a hard inquiry on your credit report, which causes a slight, temporary drop in your credit score. In most cases, your score rebounds in a few months, but it’s still something to consider if you plan to apply for any other types of loans during that time.

  • Owing more than your car is worth. If you keep refinancing your car to a longer term, you can become upside down on your car loan. While you’re taking extra time to pay off your car, it’s most likely depreciating in value, and at some point, you may owe more than you could get for the car if you decide to sell it or if it’s totaled in an accident.

Also, most lenders have vehicle age and mileage limits for refinancing, so if you keep extending the loan on an older car, it could become ineligible for refinancing.

Finding a lender to refinance again

Many lenders are hesitant to refinance a car that has already been refinanced many times. They perceive repeated refinancing as a sign that a borrower may be struggling to repay the loan or having other financial issues — especially if they’ve used cash-back auto refinancing more than once. Even if a lender approves another loan for refinancing, the loan may be considered high risk and come with a much higher interest rate.

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Personal Finance

Whole Life Insurance Definition

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Whole life insurance is a popular type of permanent coverage. It can last your entire life, has a guaranteed death benefit and provides guaranteed cash value growth. Whole life is more expensive than term life insurance, which covers you for a fixed number of years only and doesn’t build cash value.

Definition of whole life insurance

Whole life is a type of permanent life insurance. It pays out regardless of when you die and includes cash value — an investment component. When the policy has built enough cash value, you can withdraw or borrow against the funds while you’re still alive. Unlike other types of permanent coverage, the cash value in a whole-life policy is guaranteed to grow at a set rate.

Whole life insurance premiums stay the same throughout the length of the policy and the death benefit is guaranteed. If there are no outstanding cash value loans or withdrawals when you die, your life insurance beneficiaries receive the full death benefit.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you want permanent insurance without the bells and whistles, whole life may be a good fit. However, due to its guarantees, the cost of whole life insurance is typically higher than that of other permanent policies.

Whole-life policy features: Definitions

Guaranteed death benefit: The death benefit for whole life insurance is guaranteed; it won’t decrease or change over time as long as you pay your premium. Though whole-life policies are considered lifelong, many mature upon the insured person reaching a certain age, such as 100. When the policy matures, the death benefit is paid to the policyholder or coverage can be extended until the insured’s death. Therefore, even if you outlive the policy’s maturity date, the death benefit is guaranteed to pay out.

Guaranteed cash value: The cash value in a whole life insurance policy is guaranteed to grow at a fixed rate set by the insurance company. A portion of your insurance premium funds the policy’s cash value, which grows over time. You can withdraw or borrow against the funds while you’re still alive. But keep in mind that withdrawing or borrowing against the policy’s cash value without paying it back can reduce the death benefit — the amount your beneficiaries receive when you die.

Fixed premiums: Whole-life premiums are typically fixed, which means they remain level throughout the length of the policy. If you miss a premium payment, your coverage can lapse. In some cases, funds from the cash value can be used to cover the missed premium. But this perk may not apply to all policies.

Dividends: When you buy a whole life insurance policy from a mutual company — one owned by its policyholders — you may receive dividends if the company performs well. Dividends typically aren’t taxed as income. Depending on the terms of your policy, you may be able to use the dividends to increase the death benefit or pay your premiums.

More about whole life insurance

Learn more about whole life insurance and find the best policy for you.

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Personal Finance

3 Reasons Not to Tap Your Home Equity Right Now

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Soaring real estate values mean many homeowners are awash in equity — the difference between what they owe and what their homes are worth. The average-priced home is up 42% since the start of the pandemic, and the average homeowner with a mortgage can now tap over $207,000 in equity, according to Black Knight Inc., a mortgage and real estate data analysis company.

Spending that wealth can be tempting. Proceeds from home equity loans or lines of credit can fund home improvements, college tuition, debt consolidation, new cars, vacations — whatever the borrower wants.

But just because something can be done, of course, doesn’t mean it should be done. One risk of such borrowing should be pretty obvious: You’re putting your home at risk. If you can’t make the payments, the lender could foreclose and force you out of your house.

Also, as we learned during the Great Recession of 2008-2009, housing prices can go down as well as up. Borrowers who tapped their home equity were more likely to be “underwater” — or owe more on their houses than they were worth — than those who didn’t have home equity loans or lines of credit, according to a 2011 report by CoreLogic, a real estate data company.

Other risks are less obvious but worth considering.

You may need your equity later

Many Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement and may need to use their home equity to avoid a sharp drop in their standard of living. Some will do that by selling their homes and downsizing, freeing up money to invest or supplement other retirement income.

Other retirees may turn to reverse mortgages. The most common type of reverse mortgage allows homeowners 62 and up to convert home equity into a lump of cash, a series of monthly payments or a line of credit they can use as needed. The borrower doesn’t have to pay the loan back as long as they live in the home, but the balance must be repaid when the borrower dies, sells or moves out.

Another potential use for home equity is to pay for a nursing home or other long-term care. A semi-private room in a nursing home cost a median $7,908 per month in 2021, according to Genworth, which provides long-term care insurance. Some people who don’t have long-term care insurance instead plan to borrow against their home equity to pay those bills.

Clearly, the more you owe on your home, the less equity you’ll have for other uses. In fact, a big mortgage could preclude you from getting a reverse mortgage at all. To qualify, you either need to own your home outright or have a substantial amount of equity — at least 50% and perhaps more.

You’re deeply in debt

Using your home equity to pay off much higher-rate debt, such as credit cards, can seem like a smart move. After all, home equity loans and lines of credit tend to have much lower interest rates.

If you end up filing for bankruptcy, though, your unsecured debts — such as credit cards, personal loans and medical bills — typically would be erased. Debt that’s secured by your home, such as mortgage and home equity borrowing, typically isn’t.

Before you use home equity to consolidate other debts, consider talking to a nonprofit credit counseling agency and to a bankruptcy attorney about your options.

What you’re buying won’t outlive the debt

It’s rarely, if ever, a good idea to borrow money for pure consumption, such as vacations or electronics. Ideally, we should only borrow money for purchases that will increase our wealth: a mortgage to buy a home that will appreciate, for example, or a student loan that results in higher lifetime earnings.

If you’re planning to borrow home equity to pay for something that won’t increase in value, at least ensure that you aren’t making payments long after its useful life is over. If you’re using home equity to buy a vehicle, consider limiting the loan term to five years so that you’re not facing big repair bills while still paying down the loan.

Home equity loans typically have fixed interest rates and a fixed repayment term of anywhere from five to 30 years. The typical home equity line of credit, meanwhile, has variable rates and a 30-year term: a 10-year “draw” period, where you can borrow money, followed by a 20-year payback period. You typically are required to pay only interest on your debt during the draw period, which means your payments could jump substantially at the 10-year mark when you start repaying the principal.

This leads to a final piece of advice: With interest rates on the rise, consider using a home equity loan or line of credit only if you can repay the balance fairly quickly. If you need a few years to pay back what you borrow, getting a fixed interest rate with a home equity loan may be the better way to tap equity now.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. 

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