Sunday, February 28, 2021

What is a Returned Item Fee and why was I charged?


Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

You’re not alone if you’ve fallen out of the habit of balancing your checkbook because you trust your online banking statement to indicate how much money is in your account. Why do the math when the number is so accessible? This amount is not always accurate, though, because it might not reflect recent purchases or pending transactions.

As such, you might have tried to write a rent cheque with less money in your account than you believed. Your landlord attempted to deposit the cheque, but it bounced. Now you’re late on rent, and there’s a charge on your bank account that reads “NSF Fee - Item Returned.” You didn’t mail any packages that came back to you, so what does this fee mean, and why were you charged?

What are Returned Item Fees?

Your account's charge is called a returned item fee, also known as a nonsufficient funds fee (abbreviated as NSF). It means you didn’t have enough funds in your chequing account to cover your attempted transaction, and you don’t have overdraft protection.

WalletHub notes that NSF fees are fixed and vary between states, but they are usually between $27 and $35. Because they are set, you can incur a $30 fee for overdrawing your account with $700 in it if you try to write a check or make an ACH payment for $800. Likewise, your bank can charge you the same $30 if you try to buy groceries at the grocery store using a debit card for $50 with only $2 in your checking account.

Why do these fees exist? You’re not wrong to notice that they perpetuate the cycle of debt and poverty. The answer is in the name “returned item fee” — your bank is making you pay for the trouble of sending your money back to you. Your bounced cheque will be re-deposited into your account, but your bank won’t do it for free.

Can You Waive a Returned Item Fee?

It’s possible, but not common. It never hurts to call your bank’s customer service center and ask. The worst thing they can do is say no, and they may feel more inclined to help you out if you explain your situation or have never overdrawn your account before. The bank may not erase the charge entirely, but it’s always worth a shot.

How are NSF Returned Item Fees Different Than Overdraft Fees?

You might be confused about the difference between an NSF returned item fee and an overdraft fee. Overdraft protection is a service you can opt into that allows you to overdraw your account when you have nonsufficient funds. If you had overdraft protection in our previous example, your bank would loan you the difference or pull from your savings account, your rent cheque would still go through, and your landlord would be none the wiser. Your bank would then charge you a comparable overdraft fee for using this service.

How to Avoid Returned Item Fees

How can you avoid having an “NSF Fee - Item Returned” charge in the future? Check out the following tips:

Access Your Money On Time

Maybe one reason you had less money in your account than you thought you did is because your paycheck was delayed. You depend on punctual deposits to pay your bills on time (or your bills are due before payday), but you’re afraid to ask your employer for an advance too often. In this case, you can use an app like Earnin to access your pay when you want it and make payments. You’ll avoid a returned item fee, and you pay the app back without mandatory fees when your paycheck arrives.

Use a Backup Source

Link your chequing account to a backup source of money, such as a savings account. You will likely have to pay an overdraft fee to pull from it, but this will hopefully be smaller than an overdraft fee for borrowing money or an NSF fee.

Take Advantage of Overdraft Protection

Overdraft protection can spare you from NSF returned item fees. However, be aware that there are caveats to this service. Your bank could report you to a debit bureau like ChexSystems if you rely on it too frequently, which could negatively impact your ability to open a new checking account in the future.

Turn on Low-Balance Alerts

Link your account to an app with low-balance alerts or use your bank’s native feature. If your funds drop too low, an alert will notify you that you either need to replenish your account or avoid spending until further notice. Mint is an example of an app that enables low-balance alerts.

Budget Carefully

Besides making a significant amount of money, your next-best option to avoid returned item fees is to budget carefully. Make sure you balance your accounts and checkbook, so you know how much money you have at any given time. Your online banking statement and third-party apps can help, but it’s always good to be sure before you trust the number they display too quickly. Apps like GoodBudget and Cleo can help you manage your money wisely.

It’s not fun to see a returned item fee on your statement, but you can avoid them by keeping an eye on your financial status and using resources available to you.

This article originally appeared on Earnin.

Please note, the material collected in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as or construed as advice regarding any specific circumstances. Nor is it an endorsement of any organization or Services.

EPF declared 5.2% (conventional) / 4.9% (shariah) dividend for 2020

After a long time waiting, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF, a.k.a. KWSP) has finally declared the dividend rate for financial year 2020.

For year 2020, the dividend declared for conventional account is 5.2% while for Shariah account is 4.9%. The dividend has already credited into members' account, and you can check for it by login into your EPF i-Account.

Year 2020 was the 4th year of dividend declaration for Shariah account, while dividend for conventional account has been declared annually since 1952. The dividend for Shariah account in all the years from 2017 to 2020 were lower than the dividend for conventional account of the same year.

The 5.20% dividend for EPF conventional account in 2020 is 4.59% lower than the 5.45%  dividend declared for 2019 (last year).

Calculation: (5.20-5.45)/5.45 = -0.25/5.45 = -4.59%

It is 6.12% higher than the 4.90% Shariah dividend declared for the same year.

Calculation: (5.20-4.90)/4.90 = 0.30/4.90 = 6.12%

The table below shows the historical EPF dividend payout rate since 2000, for you to judge yourself whether the dividend payout rate in 2020 is satisfactory or not.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

How to register for COVID-19 vaccination using MySejahtera mobile app

You can now register for COVID-19 vaccination in Malaysia using MySejahtera mobile app.

Before you start, make sure you have already updated the MySejahtera app in your phone to the latest version, which should be Version 1.0.29 (dated 24 Feb 2021) or above.

After opening the MySejahtera app, tap on the Close button at the top right corner to enter its main screen.

Then, tap on COVID-19 Vaccination for the registration.

On the next screen, you should be able to see "Vaccine for <your name>". Tap on it.

On the next screen, remember to tap on CLICK HERE to fill up the form. Do not tap on the Close button without filling up the form.

Fill in the questionnaire, and your registration will complete when you are able to see the Thank You screen as below.

Now, you just need to wait for your vaccination appointment message for the next course of action.

You might want to repeat the same process above for your family members registered in your MySejahtera app. Just select their name and fill up the questionnaire for them to complete their vaccination registration.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

PTPTN announced 2020 dividend for SSPN-i and SSPN-i Plus

The Malaysia National Higher Education Fund (Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional, PTPTN) has just announced dividend for year 2020 for the education savings schemes SSPN (Skim Simpanan Pendidikan Nasional, consists of SSPN-i and SSPN-i Plus) on 23 February 2021.

The 2020 SSPN dividend payout rate is 4%, amounting to RM201.3 million. This rate is the same as previous payout for 2015-2019.

This 4% dividend has already been credited into our SSPN accounts respectively on 24 February 2021.

In 2020, the amount of deposits in  SSPN was RM1.99 billion, with 436,101 new accounts opened by depositors.

According to PTPTN, the number of SSPN accounts opened to date is 4.82 million.

Historical SSPN-i dividend payout rate is as below:

·   2020: 4.00%

·   2019: 4.00%

·   2018: 4.00%

·   2017: 4.00%

·   2016: 4.00%

·   2015: 4.00%

·   2014: 4.25%

·   2013: 4.25%

·   2012: 4.25%

·   2011: 3.75%

·   2010: 3.25%

·   2009: 2.50%

·   2008: 4.00%

·   2007: 4.00%

·   2006: 4.00%

·   2005: 4.00%

·   2004: 3.00%

You can proceed to the Online SSPN-i Statement of Account website to check the transactions and amount of savings in your kid's SSPN account.

You are also highly encouraged to read about Online paying PTPTN / SSPN-i with credit card through Boost.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Did you overdraw your bank account? Here is what to do


Photo by Adam Satria on Unsplash

Did you mail a cheque only to be notified that it bounced? Or perhaps you tried to buy something with your debit card, and when you checked your online statement later, you were shocked to find a negative balance. You just spent more money than you have, so what do you do to fix it?

First, don’t panic. It’s not a fun situation to be in, but it happens. Follow these tips to get back in the black as soon as possible:

The Consequences of Overdrawing Your Account

The consequences of an overdrawn account depend on your bank’s specific policies. If you have opted-in to overdraft protection, then the transaction you were trying to make will still go through because your bank will cover the amount. In this instance, your bank will charge you an overdraft fee, which will likely be around $33. If you don’t have overdraft protection, though, then you may be charged an NSF fee (nonsufficient funds fee) that is a similar amount, but your card will decline, or your cheque will bounce.

Overdrawing your account now and then isn’t the end of the world if you can pay the fee, but relying on overdraft protection too often could result in your bank terminating your account. It may also report you to a debit bureau that may make it more challenging to open a new chequing account in the future.

Plus, it may not be your bank who takes action against you if you’re in the red for too long; services you pay for may cancel on you if they don’t receive payment in time. 

What to Do if You Overdraw Your Account

Those are a few examples of consequences, but what should your next steps be?

Don’t Spend Anymore

This should be obvious, but it’s worth repeating: don’t spend any more money with the overdrawn account. It’s understandable if you have essential expenses coming up, but don’t use the account at all, if possible. Check on your upcoming subscriptions or auto-payments that could put your further in the red. Only once you have replenished your accounts’ funds should you resume spending.

Keep in mind that if you don’t have a backup source of money, then your bank will automatically use your next deposit to cover your negative balance. Your negative balance likely includes the fee, so factor in this change for your monthly budget.

Replenish Your Funds

You probably guessed this one, but replenish your account as soon as possible. Don’t let it remain negative for too long, or your bank may charge you extended overdraft fees, which can accumulate quickly. Use your savings or another backup account to bring your overdrawn account back up to zero, preferably higher.

If you don’t have any other sources of money to make your checking account positive again, then consider borrowing from someone you trust, picking up a side-gig, or selling items you don’t need.

Another option is to use Earnin, which allows you to access your income on time if your bills are due before your paycheck arrives. Pay cycle delays may have been the reason you overdrew your account in the first place, so next time, you can use Earnin to take out up to $100 per day, $500 per pay period, and avoid paying overdraft or NSF fees. Earnin then deducts the amount you used from your paycheck once it’s deposited.

Check if You Were Charged Overdraft or NSF Fees

You have to opt-in to overdraft protection, but if you aren’t sure whether you have it or not, it’s possible you signed up for it without realizing what it is. Though you’ll know when making a debit card purchase immediately (the card will decline if you don’t), double-check with your bank if you realize you are about to overdraw your account with a written check. In this situation, you have time to contact your bank and the recipient and void it before it’s deposited. Likewise, look for an NSF fee on your account so you can pay it before you plan next month’s budget.

Contact Your Bank

If you attempt to make a transaction that overdraws your account, contact your bank’s customer service center and find out if they can remove any fees that will put you in further debt. It never hurts to ask, and the worst thing they can say is no. Bank representatives may be even more inclined to help you out if you have been an outstanding customer in the past or if you explain your situation to them.

Enable Low Balance Alerts

You can connect various apps to your bank account that will notify you when funds are running low (including the previously mentioned Earnin). This way, you’ll know how much money you have in your account before you attempt to make a purchase with non-sufficient funds, and you can avoid an NSF or overdraft fee altogether.

Overdrafting your bank account can be alarming, but here are strategies you can use to get back in the black quickly and (hopefully) avoid paying additional fees.


This article originally appeared on Earnin.


Please note, the material collected in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as or construed as advice regarding any specific circumstances. Nor is it an endorsement of any organization or Services.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Cash out refinance: How to know if it is time


Photo by todd kent on Unsplash

Traditional refinancing entails swapping out your current debt, often a mortgage, for another loan with better terms. For example, many people choose to refinance their homes when housing market interest rates drop so they can pay less money in the long run.

What is a cash-out refinance, though? It’s a little different. Instead of trying to pay less, you borrow more than your house is worth and use the extra money for other debts, purchases, or payments.

How do you know if acquiring funds this way is right for you? If it is, when is the best time to do it? Let’s dive into why people choose to go through this process.

What is a Cash-Out Refinance?

You might use a typical term-and-rate refinance to exchange your mortgage for one with lower monthly payments or another benefit. However, a cash-out refinance means you switch out your mortgage for a larger one. 

Why would anyone want to borrow a bigger mortgage? It’s a way to access the value of your home that you own through a loan instead of selling it. If you have paid off any part of your mortgage, then you have built “equity.” You cannot use your home’s equity to make purchases in illiquid form, so taking out another loan and using your equity as collateral allows you to use that value as cash.

How Does a Cash-Out Refinance Work?

Next, how does a cash-out refinance work? Most lenders limit the amount you can cash out to between 80% and 90% of your property’s equity, so you cannot withdraw as much as you might hope. 

Because you are borrowing against your equity, you need to have accumulated a sufficient amount (in other words, you have paid off a sizable portion of your mortgage). It’s also advisable to keep around (and sometimes required) 15-20% of your equity once the process is complete. For example, if your home is worth $400,000, you could take out another loan worth 80% of your home’s value, which is $320,000. How much money you have left to spend on other things depends on your mortgage balance. If you have $150,000 in equity and $250,000 left to pay, you would have $70,000 left over.

What Can You Use a Cash-Out Refinance For?

How you use your refinance money is up to you. Many people use their new cash to pay for: 

        Outstanding bills and debts, including credit cards

        Make a significant purchase, such as a vehicle

        College tuition

        Major home renovations.


Do you want to modernize your kitchen but can’t afford to? Do you want to go back to school but don’t want to burden yourself with high-interest student loans? While there are other options you should consider first, cash-out refinancing can provide you with the funds you need for significant expenses.

Is it Necessary for Me to Cash-Out Refinance?

No, it is not strictly necessary for anyone to exchange their mortgages for a larger one and withdraw the difference. You might hear of your neighbours and friends refinancing their homes in the traditional sense because the market is optimal, but the cash-out variety is not a trend you need to jump on if you don’t need to.

People have different reasons to refinance their homes this way. Some might owe a wide variety of debts and want to consolidate. Others might have fallen on hard times and need a large sum of money as soon as possible, but they don’t have any other options than to sell their possessions if they don’t want to move. They cannot sell their equity, though, so the best option is to use it as collateral for another loan.

You might be considering cash-out refinancing because delays in receiving your paycheck have made you miss important payments. You had to dip into your savings, which you prefer not to do, but having larger savings from your home’s equity could be useful in the immediate future. Instead, you can turn to apps like Earnin that allow you to access your money on time, up to $500 per pay period. Instead of doing a cash-out refinance to borrow a large sum to pay off monthly bills, you can use Earnin to take out your own earnings.

What are the Disadvantages of Cash-Out Refinancing?

There are several disadvantages to consider before you cash-out refinance. One of them is closing costs, which are typically between 2% and 5% of your loan and can, therefore, amount to thousands of dollars. Similar to how you must pay for private mortgage insurance if you put less than 20% when buying a house, you will have to pay for PMI if you borrow more than 80% of your property’s value. 

Time is also an essential factor. It may take longer to pay off your house, and your monthly mortgage payment could increase. Though interest rates associated with this kind of refinancing may be lower than HELOCs or home equity loans, your lender might charge you a higher interest rate than the first time around.

Cash-out refinancing has its uses, but consider the pros and cons carefully and talk with a financial advisor before deciding it’s right for you.


This article originally appeared on Earnin.


Please note, the material collected in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as or construed as advice regarding any specific circumstances. Nor is it an endorsement of any organization or Services.

Fixed Microsoft Outlook unable to open any URL link in email problem

If you are using Microsoft Outlook as your email client, and facing the problem of unable to open any URL link in your emails, this could be a workable solution for you.

The symptom: whenever you click on a link in your email, expecting your web browser to open the link, or in the case of a mailto email address link, expecting Outlook to open the New Message window for you to write a new email to the recipient, you will get this pop-up error message instead: "Your organization's policies are preventing us from completing this action for you. For more info, please contact your help desk".  

However, if you are using Outlook in your home computer, or your IT personnel told you that they didn't impose any such restriction on your computer, then the actual problem is possibly due to corrupted Windows registry.

You can try to fix it by resetting related Windows registry entries to their original form.

To do this, use Notepad or any text editor to open a new plain text file, copy and paste the following content into it.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

@="\"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Internet Explorer\\iexplore.exe\" -nohome"
@="\"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Internet Explorer\\iexplore.exe\" %1"


@="\"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Internet Explorer\\iexplore.exe\" -nohome"
@="\"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Internet Explorer\\iexplore.exe\" %1"



Save the above content in plain text as "fix-my-links.reg".

Login as a user with Administrator rights, and double click on this file fix-my-links.reg to fix your Windows registry.

After that, you should be able to open the URL links in your emails in Outlook now.

Hint: Click on the "Older Posts" link to continue reading, or click here for a listing of all my past 3 months articles.