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Federal Reserve officials raised the federal funds rate on Wednesday, March 16, for the first time in more than three years. The new target range is 0.25% to 0.50%, up one-quarter of a percentage point from the previous range of 0% to 0.25%. Though this increase doesn’t seem like much, it’s still likely to have an effect.
Higher interest rates can raise costs for borrowers, but it can also mean higher yields for savers. After all, when you have a savings account at a bank, you’re effectively letting the bank borrow your money, and the institution pays you interest in return.
A Fed rate increase doesn’t instantly change the rates your bank offers, but it can lead to an increase for some accounts. In a higher rate environment, banks may start raising rates on savings accounts to attract new customers. This puts competitive pressure on other institutions to increase their rates. If one bank starts, others are likely to follow.
What is the federal funds rate?
The federal funds rate, or the “Fed rate,” is the interest rate that banks charge each other to borrow money overnight. According to the Federal Reserve, institutions borrow money and lend from their reserves after hours in order to meet regulatory requirements and to be ready to manage market conditions.
The funds rate is set by the Federal Reserve, and the Fed uses it to help adjust monetary policy based on economic conditions. It affects you as a consumer in various ways. For example, raising rates can help ease inflation: A higher interest rate generally leads to higher costs for a loan or credit cards, so households may be less willing to borrow money. That could lead to less spending, which could result in lower prices and less inflation.
Take advantage by choosing a high-yield account
Any time there’s a Fed rate increase, it’s a good idea to check the interest rate on your savings accounts and shop around for a better option. Not every bank will follow others in lifting its rates. Some consistently offer a low annual percentage yield of around 0.01%, and the current national average savings account rate is only 0.06% APY, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
But online savings accounts tend to offer better rates — many times higher than that average — because institutions that offer these accounts don’t have to operate expensive branches and can pass the savings on to customers in the form of higher rates and low (or no) fees.
A higher APY can make a visible contribution to your bank balance. Say you have $10,000 in a savings account that earns a low 0.01% APY, which is typical for large banks. After a year, that balance would earn only about a dollar in interest. But put that amount in a high-yield savings account that earns a 0.50% APY, and it would earn about $50 after a year. That interest would also earn interest over time, a feature known as compound interest. High-yield savings accounts may not make you rich, but you’ll automatically earn much more than you would with a lower rate option.
Use a savings calculator to determine what your bank balance can be with different APYs and see how your money could grow.
With low rates, why put money in any savings account?
Inflation erodes spending power, since it means goods and services are more expensive than they were previously. So when the inflation rate is significantly higher than the average national savings account rate — as it has been since late last year — it may seem that parking money in a savings account isn’t beneficial.
But the larger reason for saving cash is to have easy access to money in case you need it quickly, say, for an unexpected car repair expense. Setting aside funds for financial emergencies can help prevent you from going into debt, which can be costly, especially when interest rates rise.
Having at least three to six months’ worth of expenses tucked away in an emergency savings fund is ideal, but anything you can put away would help. And having that money earn interest is a bonus way to have your dollars work for you.
If you have a fully funded emergency savings account, and you have extra cash that you don’t need to access right away, it may be worth looking at other short-term options to grow your money. Some inflation-matching savings bonds, for example, can earn a better yield than even the best savings rates. But you will need to leave the money parked in the account for a predetermined time period — a year or more, for example. For longer-term goals, such as retirement, it makes sense to look into investing.
The Fed funds rate is worth paying attention to. With increasing rates, loans are generally more costly, but savings accounts can earn higher yields. For those who have little or no debt and can contribute to savings, a Fed rate increase could be a financial opportunity.
Overdraft Protection: What It Is and Different Types
Overdraft fees can be a major drain on your finances. Some banks charge more than $30 per overdraft and potentially charge that fee multiple times per day if you keep making transactions that overdraw your checking account. If you want to avoid these fees, you can typically opt out of overdraft coverage with your bank. It can be useful, however, to set up overdraft protection instead of opting out so you don’t find yourself unable to pay for something urgent.
What is overdraft protection?
Overdraft protection is a checking account feature that some banks offer as a way to avoid overdraft fees. There are several types of overdraft protection, including overdraft protection transfers, overdraft lines of credit and grace periods to bring your account out of a negative balance. Some other overdraft coverage programs might be a combination of these features.
Before you opt out of overdraft protection altogether — which means your bank will decline any transaction that would result in an overdraft — consider how you might need overdraft coverage in an emergency. For example, maybe you’re using your debit card to pay for gas on a road trip. You need enough fuel to get home but don’t have enough money in your checking account. Instead of dealing with running out of gas, you may want to deal with an overdraft.
How does overdraft protection work?
Here are more details about the main types of overdraft protection that banks tend to provide.
Overdraft protection transfers. When a bank allows you to make an overdraft protection transfer, you can link a savings account, money market account or a second checking account at the same bank to your main checking account. If you overdraft your checking, your bank will take the overdrawn funds from your linked account to cover the cost of the transaction. Many banks allow this service for free, but some banks charge a fee.
Overdraft lines of credit. An overdraft line of credit functions like a credit card — but without the card. If you don’t have enough money in your account to cover a transaction, your bank will tap your overdraft line of credit to cover the remainder of the transaction. Lines of credit often come with steep annual interest rates that are broken up into smaller interest charges that you keep paying until the overdraft is paid back. Be aware that a line of credit could end up being expensive if you use this option to cover your overdrafts.
Grace periods. Some banks offer grace periods, so instead of immediately charging an overdraft fee, the bank will give you some time — typically a day or two — to return to a positive account balance after overdrafting. If you don’t do so within that time frame, your bank will charge you fees on any transactions that overdrafted your account.
Other coverage programs. Some banks are taking a new approach to overdraft protection by offering what’s basically a free line of credit with a longer grace period for customers to bring their account to a positive balance. One example, Chime’s SpotMe® program, allows customers to overdraft up to $200 with no fees. The customer’s next deposit is applied to their negative balance, and once the negative balance is repaid, customers can give Chime an optional tip to help keep the service “free.”
Chime says: “Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by, and debit card issued by, The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC. Eligibility requirements and overdraft limits apply. SpotMe won’t cover non-debit card purchases, including ATM withdrawals, ACH transfers, Pay Friends transfers or Chime Checkbook transactions.”
4 ways to avoid overdraft fees
Set up low balance alerts. Many banks offer an alert option so you’ll get a text, email or push notification if your account drops below a certain threshold. These alerts can help you be more mindful about your balance so that you can put more money into your account or spend less to avoid an overdraft.
Opt out of overdraft coverage. If your bank doesn’t offer overdraft protection — or if its only options cost money — you may want to opt out of overdraft coverage, in which case your bank will decline any transactions that would bring your account into the negative. Keep in mind that this option could put you in a sticky situation if you’re in an emergency and can’t make an important purchase because you don’t have overdraft coverage.
Look for a bank that has a more generous overdraft policy. Many banks are reducing or eliminating their overdraft fees, so if overdrafts are an issue for you, do some comparison shopping to see if there are better options available.
Consider getting a prepaid debit card. Prepaid debit cards are similar to gift cards in that you can put a set amount of money on the card, and once you run out, you can load it with more money. The prepaid debit card can’t be overdrawn because there isn’t any additional money to draw from once its balance has been spent.
Are Small-Business Loans Installment or Revolving?
A small-business loan provides funds to purchase supplies, expand your business and more. This type of funding can be either installment or revolving. Reviewing the credit terms of your loan offer will help you determine whether you’re being offered an installment loan or revolving credit.
Both types of loans can be found in the Small Business Administration, or SBA, loan program and at banks, credit unions and online lenders. While each can provide much-needed funding for your business, there are some key differences to keep in mind.
Installment loans vs. revolving credit
Installment loans provide a lump sum of money
An installment loan is a credit agreement where the borrower receives a specific amount of money at one time and then repays the lender a set amount at regular intervals over a fixed period of time. Typically, each payment includes a portion for interest and another amount to pay down the principal balance.
Business term loan is another common name for this type of loan. After the loan is paid off, the borrower typically must apply for a new loan if additional funds are needed.
Revolving credit provides flexible funds
A revolving loan is a credit agreement where the borrower can withdraw money as needed up to a preset limit and then repays the lender a portion of the balance at regular intervals. Each payment is based on the current balance, interest charges and applicable fees, if any. You pay interest only on the funds that you use — not the maximum limit.
A business line of credit is a common type of revolving credit. Revolving credit gives the borrower flexibility in determining when to withdraw money and how much. As long as the credit balance remains within the preset limit and you continue to make timely payments, you can continue to draw from the line again and again.
Differences between installment loans and revolving credit
The terms of a loan can vary depending on the type of loan, lender and your business’s credentials. Your loan may be a unique combination of terms. However, the following are some common differences between installment and revolving loan programs.
Withdraw as needed.
Minimum amount based on balance and interest with option to pay more.
Based on loan amount.
Based on current balance, not maximum loan limit.
Ability to renew
Not renewable, typically.
When to use an installment loan
Set loan amount is needed
If you’re confident in the loan amount you need, then an installment loan may be the right fit, especially if you need the money in a lump sum. For example, if you’re using the funds to make a one-time purchase, you’ll likely want an installment loan.
Long-term financing needs
Some term loans can offer you more time for repayment when compared with revolving credit. When you stretch your payments out over a longer period of time, it can mean a lower monthly payment. However, that trade-off typically means you’ll pay more in interest costs over the life of the loan.
Larger funding needs
If you’re looking to purchase property, equipment or other large-ticket items, there are a number of installment loans that can be used for this purpose. Revolving credit limits are often less than term loan maximums.
Preference for predictable payments
With a set monthly payment amount, it can be easier to budget for an installment loan compared with a revolving loan, where the payment varies depending on how much of the credit line you use.
When to use a revolving loan
Short-term financing needs
Revolving credit can be good to handle short-term cash shortages or to cover unexpected expenses. Some businesses use lines of credit as an emergency fund of sorts since they’ll pay interest only on the funds they use.
Fluctuations in cash flow
Businesses that experience major fluctuations in their cash flows may benefit from revolving credit. For example, seasonal businesses that don’t have consistent revenue throughout the year can use lines of credit to cover operational costs during their slow season.
Preference for flexible loan amount and payments
If you don’t know exactly how much money you need, then revolving credit will give you the option to qualify for a maximum amount but only withdraw funds as you need them. This way, you’ll pay interest only on the current amount owed.
Compare small-business loans
To see and compare loan options, check out NerdWallet’s list of best small-business loans. Our recommendations are based on the lender’s market scope and track record and on the needs of business owners, as well as rates and other factors, so you can make the right financing decision.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Business Bank Loan
According to the Federal Reserve’s 2021 Small Business Credit Survey, banks remain the most common source of credit for small businesses — compared with options such as online lenders, community development financial institutions or credit unions.
You can use a business bank loan for a variety of purposes: working capital, real estate acquisition, equipment purchase or business expansion. To qualify for one of these small-business loans, however, you’ll likely need excellent credit and several years in business.
Before applying for a business loan from a bank, consider the following advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of business bank loans
Flexible use of funds
Banks offer a range of different business loan products, including term loans, business lines of credit, equipment financing and commercial real estate loans, among other options. Unless you opt for a product that has a specific use case, like a business auto loan, for example, you can generally use a bank loan in a variety of ways to grow and expand your business.
When you submit your loan application, the bank may ask you to identify a purpose for the financing to evaluate the risk of lending to your business. Once you’re approved, however, the bank is unlikely to interfere if you change your intentions, as long as you make your payments. This flexibility is perhaps one of the biggest advantages when comparing debt versus equity financing.
Large loan amounts and competitive repayment terms
Bank loans are often available in amounts up to $1 million or more. Many online lenders, on the other hand, only offer financing in smaller amounts. Popular online lenders OnDeck and BlueVine, for example, both have maximum loan limits of $250,000.
Business loans from banks also tend to have long terms, up to 25 years in some cases. These loans usually have monthly repayment schedules, as opposed to daily or weekly repayments.
In comparison, online business loans typically have shorter repayment terms, ranging from a few months to a few years. Many of these loans require daily or weekly repayments.
Low interest rates
Banks typically offer small-business loans with the lowest interest rates. According to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve, the average business loan interest rates at banks range from 3.19% to 6.78%.
Although some online lenders can offer competitive rates, you’ll find that their products are generally more expensive than bank loans, with rates that range from 7% to 99%.
The interest rates you receive on a bank loan, or any small-business loan, however, can vary based on a number of factors, such as loan type, amount borrowed and your business’s qualifications, as well as any collateral you provide to back the loan. In general, the stronger your qualifications and the more collateral you can offer, the better rates you’ll be able to receive.
Relationship with a bank lender
Many banks provide ongoing support for their lending customers, such as business credit score tracking or a dedicated relationship manager to work with your business. Most banks also offer other types of financial products, such as business checking accounts, business credit cards and merchant services, if you prefer to use one institution for your financial needs.
Although some alternative lenders offer additional support and services, the Federal Reserve’s 2021 Small Business Credit Survey reports that businesses that receive financing are more satisfied with their experience with small banks (74%) and large banks (60%) compared with online lenders (25%).
Disadvantages of business bank loans
Intensive application process and slow to fund
To apply for a small-business loan from a bank, you’ll need to provide detailed paperwork that may include, but is not limited to, business and personal tax returns, business financial statements, a loan purpose statement, business organization documentation, a personal financial statement form and collateral information. You may have to visit a bank branch and work with a lending representative to complete and submit an application — although some banks offer online applications for certain business loan products.
The entire process, from application to funding, can take anywhere from several days to a few weeks, or even longer, depending on the type of loan and the bank. Some banks will also require you to open a business checking account with them before you can receive funds.
In comparison, alternative lenders typically have streamlined, online application processes that require minimal documentation. Many of these lenders also offer fast business loans — in some cases, funding applications within 24 hours.
Strict eligibility requirements
To qualify for a business loan from a bank, you’ll generally need strong personal credit (often a FICO score of over 700), several years in business and a track record of solid business revenue. Bank of America, for example, requires a minimum annual revenue of $100,000 for unsecured term loans and a minimum annual revenue of $250,000 for secured term loans.
Depending on the bank and the loan type, you may need to provide collateral, such as real estate or equipment, to secure your financing. Most banks will also require you to sign a personal guarantee that holds you personally responsible for the debt in the event that your business can’t pay.
Online lenders, on the other hand, have more flexible qualifications and some will work with startups or businesses with bad credit. To qualify for a business line of credit with Fundbox, for example, you only need six months in business, a credit score of 600 or higher and at least $100,000 in annual revenue.
Although online lenders may still require a personal guarantee, they’re less likely than banks to require physical collateral.
Find and compare small-business loans
Still trying to determine the right way to finance your business? Check out NerdWallet’s list of the best small-business loans for business owners.
Our recommendations are based on the market scope and track record of lenders, the needs of business owners, and an analysis of rates and other factors, so you can make the right financing decision.