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U.S. Bank START Smart Savings Program Review

Learn about the U.S. Bank START Smart savings program that helps customers build savings faster by connecting a checking account with a money market account.

U.S. Bank

You're having trouble saving and found that U.S. Bank offers an interesting savings program to help you with that.

While it isn't a game-changing feature, it is worth considering, especially if you're a U.S. Bank customer already.

In this review, find out how it works, what it costs, and how you should incorporate it into your financial setup.

What is the START Smart Savings Program?

The START Smart Savings Program gave U.S. Bank customers who have a checking and money market account the chance to accelerate their savings.

One of the best ways to save money is to make regular additions to your savings.

You’ll reach your goals much faster by adding additional saving than by relying on account growth.

Unfortunately, making regular additions to your savings account is also one of the hardest parts of saving.

To make it work, you need to set aside extra money, remember to transfer it to your savings account and resist the temptation to spend it.

Out-of-mind savings

The START Smart Savings Program makes it easier to make regular additions to your savings.

It also gives you the incentive to reach your saving goal.

When you make a purchase with your linked U.S. Bank debit card, the cost of the transaction will be rounded up to the next dollar.

So, if you spent $7.82 on lunch, your debit card would be charged for $8.

The extra $0.18 will be automatically transferred from your checking account to your money market account.

You don’t have to do anything to add money to your savings. Small amounts will simply be added every time you buy something.

The average debit card user makes 24 card transactions per month.

If the average transaction causes $0.50 to be moved from your checking account to your money market account, you’ll be saving $12 per month.

After a year, you’ll have $144 saved up.

The money in the money market account will also earn interest, accelerating the growth of your savings.

Cash back on certain spending

Here's the best part:

You will also get a 1% bonus on debit card purchases of gas and groceries, up to $50.

For every $100 you spend on gas and groceries, you’ll get $1 deposited to your savings account.

A bonus reward for saving

Another great perk:

The START Smart Savings Program doesn’t just help you save by making automatic transfers. It also provides an incentive to save.

If you are able to get your money market account’s balance up to $500 within a year of opening the account, you’ll get a $50 reward.

That gives you even more reason to save.

To guarantee that you receive the reward, sign up for automatic monthly transfers from your checking account to your savings account.

Saving $41.67 a month will get you to $500 after 12 months, ensuring that you earn the bonus.

Eligible Accounts

The START Smart Savings Program requires customers to open a Silver Checking Package.

This package includes a checking account and linked money market account, setting up consumers to spend and to save at U.S. Bank.

The accounts offer basic bank services, such as online and mobile banking, bill pay, mobile check deposit, and fee-free ATM use.

Costs

There are no direct costs related to signing up for the U.S. Bank START Smart Savings Program.

There are, however, indirect costs.

Potential monthly fee for checking

One such cost is the monthly fee for opening a Silver Checking Package.

There is a $6.95 monthly fee, which can be avoided by one of the following:

  • Receiving $1,000 in direct deposits each month.
  • Keep a combined balance of $1,500 across your checking and money market accounts.

There is also a $2 monthly paper statement fee. Signing up for eStatements waives this fee.

Don't overspend

Let's face it:

When there's a rewards for spending, there's the potential to overspend.

Every time you make a purchase, money is moved to your savings account, which is a good thing.

However, you’re still spending money.

If you come to think of spending money as a way to save, you might start justifying purchases you wouldn’t otherwise make.

You could wind up spending more than you used to because you feel good about saving every time you swipe your debit card.

That can hamper your ability to save and cost you a lot of money.

Should You Use It?

Absolutely.

Because of the bonuses that you can earn, there’s little reason not to sign up for the START Smart Savings Program, even if you don’t use some of its features.

Remember:

All that the START Smart Savings Program really does is move your money from a checking account to a money market account.

The bonus cash back on gas and groceries is nice, as is the reward for saving $500, but at most you’ll get an extra $100 out of the deal.

The fact is:

Nothing stops you from moving the money right back to your checking account.

There’s also nothing stopping you from doing what the START Smart Program does manually.

Automatic savings

If you have good savings habits you don’t need the hand-holding of automatic transfers every time you use your debit card.

It would be better to make transfers to your savings account manually since it gives you control over how much you save each month. You can even set up recurring transfers to make the process automatic.

Where the START Smart Savings Program really helps is if you have trouble with saving money.

The automatic transfers every time you use your debit card can help you build up some savings.

Whether you have trouble remembering to transfer money to savings, or simply tend to spend all your money, this program will make sure you have some extra money in your money market account.

Assuming you are good at saving, the best way to use the program is to make automatic transfers each month to ensure that you hit the $500 savings goal, then use a rewards credit card for your everyday purchases.

Consider a Rewards Credit Card Instead

The biggest downside of the START Smart Savings Program is that the automatic transfers require that you use a U.S. Bank debit card.

Debit cards are convenient but are generally worse to use than rewards credit card.

Credit cards offer significant benefits when compared to debit cards.

One benefit is that they offer better consumer protections than debit cards. If someone uses your credit card without permission, you won’t be held liable for the charges. You can sort things out with your card issuer and you won’t owe any money.

Debit card protections are less effective. Depending on the bank you use, you might be liable for some charges based on how long it took for you to report the fraud.

Rewards credit cards also help when it comes to building up savings.

They can offer as much as 5% cash back on every purchase you make.

Unlike the START Smart Saving Program, which pays just 1% of gas and groceries, rewards credit cards offer cash back on every purchase.

Consider the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card. You get to choose two spending categories that will earn 5% cash back, and one category of spending that will earn 2% cash back.

The average American family spends about $550 per month on food. Let’s assume that $400 of that spending comes at the grocery store.

If you set groceries as one of your 2% categories, you’ll earn $8 each month in cash back. Over the course of a year, you’ll earn $96.

The average monthly cell phone bill for an individual is $71. If you choose cell phone providers as one of your 5% cash back categories, you’ll earn $3.55 each month, for a total of $42.60 per year.

From groceries and phone bills alone, you’ll earn $138.60. That doesn’t include any money you’ll earn from other purchases.

Other credit cards will offer different rewards rates on different types of purchases. Some cards offer non-cash rewards in the form of points or airline miles.

These can be redeemed for different types of rewards and experiences.

If you can qualify for one or more good rewards credit cards, you can earn a lot of money from the cards. If you put those rewards towards your savings, you can save much more than you will by using the START Smart Savings Program.

Again:

Just be careful not to allow yourself to fall into debt. Always pay the balance in full each month.

Paying interest on your credit card balances will quickly wipe out the benefit of the rewards you receive.

Conclusion

The U.S. Bank START Smart Savings Program helps people save by automatically moving money to their savings account.

It also provides an incentive by offering a $50 bonus if you save $500 in the first year.

If you feel comfortable doing so, sign up for the program and use automatic transfers to save each month, then use rewards credit cards to build your savings further.

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