How SoFi Works

With so many finance apps today, it can sometimes feel like your financial life is spread across dozens of different providers...not to mention a lot of passwords and tax paperwork to keep track of!


SoFi is a digital bank that offers the full suite of banking products inside one single app. Unlike apps like Betterment that only focus in one particular niche, SoFi is an all-in-one solution to your spending, money management, investing and borrowing needs.



SoFi Money


SoFi Money is a checking account that doubles as a savings account and pays interest on any account balance (which increases for balances over $500), yet doesn't impose a restriction on the number of withdraws you can make.


As is the case with other digital banks, your balances with SoFi reside with their FDIC-insured banking partner - in this case, Bancorp Bank. When transferring money between SoFi and other providers, you may see a reference to the this financial institution instead of SoFi.


MOVING MONEY

Setting up direct deposit with your employer is just a matter of fetching your account and routing number from the app, which can be found by tapping the "More" button on the "Money" tab. You can elect to have a portion of your paycheck automatically moved into savings. Like most digital banks, SoFi offers early access to your paycheck. Unlike other apps, your paycheck will come early automatically, without requiring you to opt in.


At the thought of banking without branches, you might ask, "how do I handle cash and checks?" To deposit a check, you'll tap the "Deposit" button inside the app, followed by taking pictures of the check and entering its amount. To deposit cash, go to one of these retail stores, hand the cash to the cashier and swipe your debit card to complete the deposit - which will come with a fee up of $4.95. Finally, withdraw cash at any of these ATMs and SoFi will reimburse you whenever a fee is charged.


To pay friends or family, simply enter their e-mail address or phone number and the amount of the payment. If the recipient already banks with SoFi, the money will instantly be deposited into the account. If they don't, they'll just need to enter their bank account and routing information and then receive the payment in a few days. When moving money to another financial institution, you can either link the external account using the same credentials you use to log into your bank, or enter its account and routing information.


SPENDING MONEY

You'll receive a SoFi debit card upon opening your account, which you can use to spend with funds in your Money account and take advantage cashback offers with SoFi's merchant partners, which are activated directly in the app and awarded as spending is made. Like most banks, you can also use your Money account to pay utility and credit card bills.


SoFi's cashback offers are just the beginning of additional benefits you can reap from your activity with the bank. With SoFi Member Rewards, you earn rewards points from healthy financial behaviors, such as logging into the app to check balances, linking external externals to see a complete picture of your money, reading financial news articles and setting up direct deposit.


MANAGING MONEY

While SoFi does everything it can to keep your entire financial life living under its roof, it recognizes the importance of still allowing you to see your full financial picture, in the cases where a 401(k) sits with your employer's provider or you do most of your spending on the Amazon Prime card. Therefore, you're able to easily link external accounts by tapping the "Connected Accounts" section on the home screen of the app and scrolling to "Add account."


After linking external accounts through SoFi's account aggregation service (Plaid), you'll be able to see their balances on the home screen, broken down by account type, and their transactions in SoFi's budgeting tool, "Relay." I'll caution that, you won't be able to link all types of accounts - most notably, your Venmo account, many co-branded credit cards (like Goldman Sach's Apple Card) and other digital banks are often not available through Plaid.


You may need to set money aside for a specific purpose - such as a tax or tuition payment or funds to tap in emergency cash shortages. So, SoFi makes it easy to earmark those funds for later use with "Vaults," thus removing those dollars from the available balance in your SoFi Money account. For me, my paycheck cycle often doesn't line up with the end of the month, so it's helpful to park next month's rent in its own vault.

SoFi Card


If you're trying to build credit in a responsible way, the SoFi credit card - issued by The Bank of Missouri - is for you. The card doesn't come with an annual fee and it's conveniently managed inside the SoFi mobile app.


EARNING REWARDS

SoFi's rewards come in the form of points, which are earned both through spending made with the card and performing other healthy financial habits inside the app. The card won't blow anyone away its rewards scheme - you'll get a rather modest, 2% unlimited cashback on your spending when you redeem the earned points to pay down debt, save or contribute toward investments on SoFi. This last form of redemption includes crypto assets.


What the card lacks in premium rewards it makes up for in cost-effective financing. After making 12 consecutive, on-time payments, SoFi will reduce your purchase APR by 1%. This can come in handy for cardholders who occasionally carry a balance. Lastly, as a part of Mastercard's World Elite network, the SoFi credit card offers benefits such as credits on Lyft rideshares and discounts on DoorDash deliveries.


MAKING PAYMENTS

Once approved, you can use the virtual version of your SoFi card anywhere online and in stores through Apple Pay. When the physical card arrives 7-10 days later, you can use it anywhere Mastercard is accepted.


Like many other credit and debit cards nowadays, you'll receive a real-time notification after making a purchase with the card. When tapping on this notification, you'll be able to view the amount and merchant of the transaction, along with other information like purchase category and store location. Unfortunately, the category assigned by SoFi cannot be changed within the "Credit Card" tab of the app. Instead, it can only be modified through SoFi's budgeting tool, Relay.


MANAGING THE CARD

The SoFi credit card gets its own, dedicated tab inside the mobile app, where you'll be able to easily view your transaction history, available credit and your SoFi rewards balance. As is the case with most cards, you'll be able to revisit terms of the rewards program, view your card information, access past statements and freeze your card. One nice feature often not available with other card issuers is the ability to add additional authorized users directly within the app.


SoFi's credit card isn't for everyone, particularly the points gaming crowd. However, given the seamless experience of managing the card inside SoFi's all-in-one finance app, plus its flexible forms of redemption, I find the card to be worthy of use toward spend categories that aren't typically rewarded heavily by other premium cards, such as health, beauty, drugstore and general online shopping purchases.

SoFi Invest


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NOTE: This review was based on Version 2.58 of the SoFi iOS mobile app