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Negotiations between the Senate and the House still need to happen before any final package is passed, but it seems increasingly likely that there will be another economic impact payment hitting millions of Americans' bank accounts.
"If you or a loved one need it to pay the bills right now, use it," Krawcheck says. "That's what it's for."
If you haven't already, it's also worth seeing if there's any way you can reduce your bills before you pay them. Many credit card issuers have been offering financial hardship assistance, such as flexible bill payments and waived late fees and interest. Your bank might be willing to put you on an adjusted payment plan if you ask.
Because on-time payment history is the most important factor to your credit score, enrolling in a postponement plan (such as deferment or forbearance) is worth it if that means you wouldn't be penalized for paying late.
For the millions who are unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic and are scrambling for income, having cash on hand is important.
Krawcheck suggests that if you are current on your bills but you think your income may be in jeopardy (you expect a layoff, being furloughed or reduced working hours), save the money from the stimulus check in a safe place. Consider savings accounts that are FDIC- or NCUA-insured and easy to access. A high-yield savings account is a good choice because the best ones can earn you over 16X more money than the national average.
These are our top five recommendations:
- Best overall: Marcus by Goldman Sachs High Yield Online Savings
- Best for checking/savings combo: Ally Online Savings Account
- Best for easy access to your cash: Synchrony Bank High Yield Savings
- Best for earning a high APY: Vio Bank High Yield Online Savings Account
- Best if you want extra help saving: Varo Savings Account
Unlike some financial experts, if you generally feel stable about your job and income right now but have outstanding credit card debt, Krawcheck advises you pay off high-interest debt before saving any possible stimulus check for emergencies.
"If you have debt with interest rates of 10% or more, we recommend NOT saving it," she says. "Instead, use it to pay off that debt."
While it may feel safer to save your stimulus cash in a moment of such uncertainty, unpaid credit card debt becomes more expensive the longer you delay paying it off thanks to compound interest and the notoriously high interest rates that credit cards charge.
This is especially important to pay attention to if you're using a credit card more during the pandemic. If you are doing a lot of online grocery shopping, for instance, using the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card comes with a variable 14.24% to 22.24% APR — surpassing Krawcheck's 10% rule.
Likewise, if you are using a rewards card like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express to earn on streaming movies and television shows, its APR increases to a variable interest rate between 13.99% to 23.99% after the introductory, 12-month 0% APR period (see rates and fees).
If you're worried about having a savings fund in case you do get caught in an emergency, such as an immediate car repair, Krawcheck actually suggests that you charge it. This way, you're incurring high interest on an outstanding balance for a much shorter period of time than it would take you to build up to the recommended three to six months' worth of savings.
For those who don't match any of the above criteria and have no debt or debt with interest rates less than 10%, save your stimulus money and start building up your savings.
Already have three to six months' worth of expenses stashed away? "That's when we'd recommend investing the money," says Krawcheck, noting you should research the right types of brokerage accounts for your needs.
With another round of stimulus checks proposed, the best way to spend the extra cash depends on your situation. You can use it to pay the bills, build a savings cushion, pay off high-interest credit card debt, or to invest.
And at the end of the day, don't be ashamed if you decide to use some of it to treat yourself.
"Feel free to spend a little now on something that makes your life easier," Krawcheck says. "Times are rough, and we're all human."
Information about the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, Marcus by Goldman Sachs High Yield Online Savings, Ally Online Savings Account, Synchrony Bank High Yield Savings, Vio Bank High Yield Online Savings Account, and Varo Savings Account has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the bank prior to publication.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.
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