CIT Bank Review 2021

When it comes to banking, most of us are just looking for something convenient and free … but it’s that much better when your checking account can actually help you earn money, too. For that, CIT Bank is your answer.

If you’re willing to move to an online banking system — that is, one where your account is entirely online and you don’t have access to a brick-and-mortar banking location — CIT Bank offers both checking and savings accounts with no monthly fees and high interest earnings potential. There is a minimum opening deposit of $100, though it’s pretty reasonable given the bank’s high rates.

Although foregoing the in-person franchise can be a little daunting, CIT Bank makes it that much easier by offering up to $30 in third-party ATM fee reimbursement per month, and you’ll never be assessed an ATM fee on their end. However, if you’re looking for a bank that also offers small business accounts, you’ll want to keep looking (try these business checking accounts); CIT doesn’t have business checking or savings accounts available.

Here’s what we love about each of CIT Bank’s online deposit accounts and what we think could use some work.

CIT Bank Checking Account

CIT Bank has one checking account option which has a lot of perks, including no monthly fees and the ability to connect the account with the high-yield savings account. CIT does still charge overdraft fees but they can be avoided if you sign up for the protection plan.

CIT Bank eChecking Account

Best for Digitally-Savvy Users
Key Features
  • Interest earning
  • Connects with high-yield savings
  • Charges overdraft fees
4 out of 5 Overall
CIT Bank combines the best of both possible worlds when it comes to checking: an account with no monthly fees and the ability to earn interest. Their eChecking account earns up to 0.25% APY on balances with $25,000 or more, and 0.10% APY on balances less than that. (That’s better than the average savings account interest of 0.03% APY, per the FDIC.)
CIT Bank eChecking Account
Up to 0.25%
Monthly fees
ATM access
None, but reimbursement up to $15
Minimum starting balance

The checking account requires a minimum opening deposit of $100, and certain fees can be assessed under specific circumstances. For instance, if you make an outgoing wire transfer and carry an average daily balance of less than $25,000, it will cost $10. CIT Bank’s insufficient funds fee is $30, and no daily limits are advertised.

Still, these fees are relatively easy to avoid, especially given CIT Bank’s free overdraft protection option. They also avoid charging their own ATM fees when you withdraw money, and you can receive up to $30 per month in third-party ATM fee reimbursements.

When you sign up, CIT Bank will send you a complimentary debit card with EMV chip technology, but if you’re looking to use physical checks, keep moving. The mobile app allows you to easily deposit checks made out to you, but doesn’t allow you to write a check from this account.

Finally, we love the way the eChecking account connects with CIT Bank’s new high-yield savings account, Savings Connect Account, to maximize your savings. We suggest you take a look at signing up for both simultaneously.

CIT Bank Savings Accounts

CIT Bank provides customers with three savings account options:

  • Savings Builder
  • Money Market
  • Savings Connect

All carry a minimum opening deposit between $100 to $200, but none assess monthly fees.

CIT Bank Savings Builder

Best for Monthly Savers
Key Features
  • No monthly fee
  • Daily compounding interest
  • Up to .40% APY
3.5 out of 5 Overall
The Savings Builder account allows account holders to earn up to .40% APY depending on their average daily balance and/or monthly deposit behavior; if you keep a balance of at least $25,000 or make at least one monthly deposit of $100 or more, you’ll earn the .40% APY maximum. Interest compounds daily to maximize earning potential, and deposits and transfers can be made through the mobile app.
CIT Bank Savings Builder
Up to 0.4%
Monthly fees
ATM access
Minimum starting balance

The Savings Builder account is a decent option for a high-yield savings account, boasting rates over 6X the national average.  If you jump through the tiered interest hoops, then you can walk away with 0.40% APY, but if you’re looking to just put your money in and sit, you’ll most likely receive the lower-tiered rate of 0.28% APY (unless your balance is more than $25,000).

Basically, if you need motivation to save money monthly for a goal like a house or college, the reward of earning higher interest with a Savings Builder account might be just the trick. In fact, right now, the Savings Builder account offers the higher-tiered interest as a special introductory rate for your first period regardless of balance or savings. So if you’re thinking this is the right savings account for you, you’re at least guaranteed 0.40% for one cycle.

Overall, however, we think CIT Bank’s other savings accounts are worth taking a look at for slightly higher APYs and a little less fuss.

CIT Bank Money Market Account

Best for No Fuss Saving
Key Features
  • No monthly service fee
  • Up 0.45% APY
  • Scheduled bill pay feature
4 out of 5 Overall
The Money Market account earns 0.45% APY without any fees regardless of account balance or deposits, and its interest, like the Savings Builder account, is also compounded daily.
CIT Bank Money Market Account
Monthly fees
ATM access
Minimum starting balance

Coming in at 0.45% APY, CIT Bank’s Money Market account is definitely a strong contender among online banks’ savings options. Unlike the Savings Builder account or Savings Connect account, Money Market has no hoops to jump through. You just put your money in and receive the 0.45% APY. Combined with no monthly fees, we love the ease of earning it offers.

Unlike some other money market accounts, CIT Bank’s Money Market account is limited to electronic transfers only. You can arrange a direct deposit, bill pay, and check cashing on its great mobile app, but there’s no corresponding debit card or checks.

Like the Savings Builder account, the Money Market account is also limited to six transactions a statement cycle with a $10 for each additional excessive transaction. But we think for most, these little inconveniences are worth the high annual percentage yield.

CIT Bank’s Savings Connect account has no monthly fees and a solid APY. You have to open a Savings Connect account and an eChecking account and CIT Bank will link them. If you already have an eChecking account, then CIT Bank will link them automatically.

CIT Bank Savings Connect Account

Best for eChecking Users
Key Features
  • No monthly service fee
  • Up 0.50% APY
  • Linked to eChecking account
5 out of 5 Overall
CIT Bank’s new Savings Connect account allows you to connect this savings account with your CIT Bank checking account—again, with no monthly service fee. To qualify, you must open a Savings Connect account and an eChecking account and deposit $100 in each. Once connected, Savings Connect account holders can earn up to 0.50% APY with a qualifying monthly deposit of $200 to their checking account.
CIT Bank Savings Connect Account
Up to 0.50%
Monthly fees
ATM access
None, but reimbursement up to $30
Minimum starting balance

From there, to earn the highest tiered APY, you simply have to set up an automatic deposit of $200 or more into your linked checking account from your Savings Connect account. This monthly deposit locks in 0.50% APY for the cycle. If you don’t meet this requirement, you’ll still bring home 0.42% APY for simply having the linked accounts, which is a more than respectable APY.

Besides a good APY, a linked Savings Connect account gets you access to a debit card and overdraft protection. For the debit card, the same rules apply as before with no CIT Bank ATM fees and other ATM fee reimbursements up to $30 a month.

Some people might find opening two accounts a bit annoying, but the high APY makes it a great option for most who are looking for a fully online banking experience.

Other CIT Bank Products

While we mostly come to CIT Bank for the savings and checking accounts, it doesn’t stop there. Check out the other services available from CIT Bank  that might fit your needs below.

Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

CIT Bank offers three different CDs for new customers seeking to hit their savings goals:

  • Term CDs
  • No Penalty, 11 Month CDs
  • Jumbo CDs

CIT Bank’s CDs work pretty much like other standard CDs with varying rates and lengths. The Term CDs offer between 0.30% to 0.50% APYs depending on the CDs term. There’s no maintenance or opening fee, but it does have a $1000 minimum.

The No Penalty 11 Month CDs also have a $1,000 minimum but can be accessed early with no penalty—that flexibility, however, costs you a little APY with rates of 0.30% APY.

With a $100,000 minimum, the Jumbo CDs are definitely channeling a specific type of customer. These term lengths are longer—between 2 to 5 years—and have 0.40% – 0.50% APYs depending on the length.

It is worth just mentioning that previous customers do continue to have access to their RampUp CDs, but they’re not offered to new customers.

So do we believe CIT Bank CDs are worth it? CIT Bank’s CDs are a solid option for CDs; however, there are CDs on the market with better rates and lower minimums, so we’ll probably stick to CIT Bank’s savings and checking accounts.

Pro Tip

Check out our current list of bank promotions for a chance to gain a monetary bonus when signing up for a new bank account.

Home Loans

CIT Bank offers home loans with relationship pricing options:

  • .10% with 10% of the loan amount in new deposits
  • .20% with 25% of the loan amount in new deposits.

Plus, you can get $525 cash back deposited into your CIT Bank account after you close on your new home loan with CIT Bank.

CIT Bank Custodial Accounts

If you’re looking to grow wealth for a minor, CIT Bank can help you open a Custodial Account. You can set up most of the savings accounts in the minor’s name for them to gain control of at 18. With some federal tax benefits and no maximum limit, it makes a great place to save for the future.

Small Business Banking

CIT Bank focuses on personal accounts and doesn’t offer small business checking and savings accounts. They do have some small business financing options, specifically focusing on Equipment, Working Capital, or Franchise financing. The terms vary in length and rates, but all can be funded in as fast as 1 day.

CIT Bank Mobile App

Like most online banking options, CIT Bank’s mobile app provides digital solutions to help its members access and manage their funds from the convenience of their smartphones. Its mobile apps are well received, with ratings of 4.2 stars on Google Play and 4.6 stars on the Apple App Store.

The apps allow users to make transfers between their own accounts (and to others using third-party platforms like Zelle and Samsung or Apple Pay), as well as to make mobile check deposits using the onboard smartphone camera.

Pros and Cons of CIT Bank

So what’s the breakdown of CIT Bank overall? Below, we’ve laid out the pros and cons of CIT Bank to help you streamline your decision.

  • Free eChecking account earns interest at a rate higher than the average savings account.
  • No monthly fees on any of its deposit accounts.
  • Free overdraft protection.
  • Competitive APYs.
  • Low minimum deposit requirements.
  • Refunds ATM fees up to a certain amount.

  • Insufficient funds fee of $30 per transaction item.
  • No physical locations and no ATMs for the actual service.
  • No small business banking option.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About CIT Bank

Still have a few questions? Below we’ve tracked down the answer to the most common questions people ask about CIT Bank.

Is CIT Bank FDIC Insured?
Absolutely. All CIT Bank savings and checking accounts are FDIC insured against bank failure and theft. You should feel safe and secure using CIT Bank, knowing it’s backed by the FDIC.
Does CIT Bank Offer Loans?
CIT Bank does offer home loans and small business financing with relationship pricing mortgages and competitive rates.
Who Owns CIT Bank?
CIT Bank is owned by the CIT Group Inc, a North American financial holding company.

Jamie Cattanach and Whitney Hansen are contributors to The Penny Hoarder. Both are experienced writers in personal finance, banking and investing.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

M1 Finance Review: Pros and Cons

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M1 Finance is a fee-free way to invest that lets you be as hands-on or hands-off as you want to be. The M1 Basic account is completely free (minus the typical fees associated with investing), but you can unlock even more potential out of M1 Plus, which is free for the first year and then $125 thereafter. Supported investment accounts include individual and joint taxable accounts, retirement accounts and event trust accounts.

Both M1 Basic and M1 Plus go beyond traditional investment accounts with cash management options like Borrow (loan) and Spend (checking) accounts that fit in nicely with the portfolio. M1 Plus members even have access to the special Owner’s Rewards Card by M1, with the annual fee waived.

In our M1 Finance review, we’ll start with a quick comparison of M1 Basic and M1 Plus, then dig into each of the components of an account: investing, retirement, checking, loans and the credit card.

M1 Finance Basic

Best for Basic Investing
Key Features
  • No annual fee
  • 1 ATM reimbursement per month
  • $100 minimum investment
4 out of 5 Overall
The M1 Basic account through M1 has no monthly management fee and is great for beginners. If you aren’t sure that M1 is right for you long term, start with this account and upgrade to M1 Plus down the road if you’re satisfied.
M1 Finance Basic
Trading commissions
Borrow rate
Checking account APY
Credit card

The no-frills M1 Basic account from M1 Finance boasts $0 trading commissions with an AM-only trading window. With M1 Basic, you can still open a checking account (Spend) and take out a personal loan. You just miss out on lower borrowing rates, checking account rewards and the rewards credit card.

The Borrow account comes with a 3.5% rate and requires a $5,000 minimum balance. The Spend account has a $0 minimum balance requirement, 0.8% to 1.0% international fees and one monthly ATM fee reimbursement.

If you just go with M1 Basic, this will serve you well as an investment account (the lack of fees is the big appeal), but you should seek out personal loans and a checking account elsewhere.

M1 Finance Plus

Best for Account Extras
Key Features
  • $125 annual fee
  • 4 ATM fee reimbursements per month
  • $100 minimum investment
4.5 out of 5 Overall
The M1 Plus account through M1 may cost $125 a year (first year is free!), but the perks that come with the account are well worth the cost for those who will take advantage of them: cash back debit card, lower interest rate on personal loans, larger trade window and rewards credit card.
M1 Finance Plus
Trading commissions
Borrow rate
Checking account APY
Credit card
Owner’s Rewards Card by M1

When you upgrade to the M1 Plus account, you’re getting far more than a basic investment platform; you’re getting a banking experience that rewards you for spending (plus more competitive borrowing options).

For starters, M1 Plus gets you AM and PM trade windows, rather than just AM. The minimum balance for the Borrow account is still $5,000, but the rate drops to 2%.

The Spend account is far more attractive with M1 Plus. For starters, you’ll get 1% APY on your checking, which is more competitive than most banks’ savings accounts. On top of that, you will pay no foreign transaction fees, get four monthly ATM fee reimbursements and can send paper checks from the M1 app. And did we mention 1% cash back on debit card purchases? With checking rewards this good and your own investment account, you could do away with a traditional savings account altogether.

M1 Plus members can also apply for the Owner’s Rewards Card by M1, a rewards credit card that incentivizes shopping with merchants that you’ve invested in. The $95 annual fee is automatically waived as long as you keep your M1 Plus account active. Cash back rewards range from 1.5% to 10% with a maximum reward value of $200 per month (or $2,400 per year). Those rewards are then automatically reinvested in eligible accounts.

Sign-Up Bonus

M1 Finance is currently running an enticing sign-up bonus. When you open a new M1 account and make a qualifying deposit within the first two weeks, you’ll get a bonus ranging from $30 to $500.

M1 Finance Bonus Breakdown

Deposit Amount Bonus Amount

$1,000 to $4,999.99


$5,000 to $9,999.99


$10,000 to $29,999.99


$30,000 to $49,999.99




This promotion is running through the end of 2021. It is likely that M1 will run a similar promotion in 2022, but M1 has not released details on the bonus amounts for various deposits yet.

The bonus is only available to new M1 customers. If you have opened an M1 investment account previously, you are not eligible for the bonus payout.

M1 Finance Fees

The M1 Basic account has no annual fee while the M1 Plus account costs $125 a year (the first year is free). While other investment platforms often charge you commissions on trades, M1 Finance is truly fee-free.

However, you will pay fees for some less common tasks, like paper statements, account transfers and account inactivity. These are all very transparent on the M1 site, and it is not likely the typical customer would be paying these fees.

The full rundown on M1 fees.

M1 Finance App

As an online robo advisor, M1 Finance offers a great online platform that is relatively easy to use once you get used to it. Even more important, M1 offers a mobile app that is ideal for tech-savvy investors

Within the app, you can buy and sell individual stocks, mutual funds and ETFs; set up smart transfers (rules that automatically move money within your account); and manage your Borrow and Spend accounts.

At the time of publishing, the M1 mobile app had nearly 36,000 ratings on the Apple App Store with a star rating of 4.6. On Google Play, it has almost 17,000 reviews and a 4.5 star rating.

M1 Finance Customer Support

M1’s client success team is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET on any day the U.S. stock market is open. The limited access to customer support agents can be difficult, especially for those accustomed to 24/7 customer service.

Because M1 is a robo advisor, you cannot contact financial advisors for investment advice or personal finance advice. If you need more tailored investment advice, consider a company with physical locations or real human advisors.

M1 Finance Review: Key Features

Below, we’ve spelled out the fine print of each part of an M1 Finance account. Look for Our Take at the end of each section for a quicker read.

M1 Invest

The M1 Invest platform includes automatic rebalancing of your accounts, which means the investment platform will automatically manage your investments (selling and buying various individual stocks, mutual funds, bonds, etc.) to keep your account proportioned how you want it (based on your risk tolerance, preferred asset allocation and investment goals). The auto rebalancing feature also includes tax loss harvesting.

While automatic rebalancing is a common feature among robo advisors like M1 Finance, the option for fractional shares is a little more unique and a hard sell. Fractional shares allow you to buy into part (i.e., a fraction) of stocks and ETFs (exchanged-traded funds) that might otherwise be too expensive for you to invest in.

The selling point of an Invest account with M1 is “The Pie.” This is M1’s solution for easy portfolio management. You can create custom pies via an interactive dashboard that lets you browse 6,000+ stocks and ETFs to truly customize your investment portfolio. But if you don’t have the time or knowledge to customize your portfolio, you can select from “Expert Pies” that the M1 Finance team has “baked.” With more than 80 curated Expert Pies, there is likely to be one or more that suits your investment strategy and risk tolerance.

Some examples of Expert Pie categories include:

  • General Investing
  • Plan for Retirement
  • Responsible Investing
  • Income Earners
  • Hedge Fund Followers
  • Industries & Sectors
  • Just Stocks & Bonds
Community Pies allow you to find and share portfolios that align with personal values. You can build and invest in pies that focus on publicly traded companies led by Black, female, or LGBTQ+ leaders.

You can make your portfolio as diverse as you’d like with M1, with access to stocks, bonds, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds and options. If most of this goes over your head, however, you will benefit from the Expert Pies already fresh out of the oven and served up for you.

Note: There is a $100 investment minimum for M1 Invest.

Our Take: For those who want hands-off investing through a robo advisor, rather than a real human financial advisor, M1 Finance is a great platform. And if you learn more about the market and want to play a more direct role in your investment strategy, the customizable Pies allow you to do so without needing to close your M1 account. If you simply want the investment aspect of M1 (and don’t care about the Spend, Borrow, or credit card portions), we recommend the free M1 Basic account.

M1 Retirement

The M1 Invest platform is designed for investing in the stock market for goals of any length, but you can also specifically open tax-advantaged accounts for your retirement. M1 has options for an IRA, a Roth IRA and even a SEP IRA.

These accounts share the same benefits of a traditional investment account with M1: access to Expert Pies, fractional shares and auto rebalancing. If you already have an IRA or 401(k) elsewhere and would like M1 to manage it, you can roll over your account.

Our Take: Try out M1 Invest first to make sure you are satisfied with the platform. If, after a few months, you find this robo advisor is the right match for you, roll over your retirement accounts to keep them under one roof. But if you are happy with how your retirement account portfolio is being managed elsewhere (and the fees are negligible), it’s perfectly fine, albeit a little more confusing, to have the accounts managed separately elsewhere.

M1 Borrow

M1 Finance is a portfolio line of credit, meaning it offers its customers a flexible line of credit that is borrowed against their own investments. Use it to start a business, fund a wedding or as a down payment on a house. There is no application involved and no payment schedule, and it takes just three clicks to borrow.

You can borrow up to 35% of your account value. Rates are 2% for M1 Plus members and 3.5% for M1 Basic members. This is an ideal scenario if you have high-interest loans, like student loans or credit card debt, that you would like to pay off; then you’d have a more manageable loan to pay off via M1.

This could also come in handy if you do not have the means to save toward an emergency savings fund. Instead, take out a low-interest personal loan through M1 Borrow to avoid high-interest medical debt or credit card payments.

Our Take: Never borrow unless you have to. Don’t take out a loan just to have some cash to play with. That said, if taking out an M1 Borrow loan can eliminate monthly payments on predatory loans, take advantage of this option.

M1 Spend

You can also utilize cash management account features via M1, which is a more recent addition to the platform. The M1 Spend account is ideal if you are an M1 Plus member because of the extra perks. We do not recommend the Spend account as a checking account alternative to those using M1 Basic.

M1 Plus customers with a Spend account will get the following cash management features:

  • 1% cash back on debit card purchases
  • 1% APY on your cash balance
  • Four ATM fee reimbursements each month
  • 0% foreign transaction fees

Other notable features of the Spend account (for both M1 Basic and M1 Plus) include early direct deposit access and a $0 account balance minimum. Both accounts come with the M1 Spend Visa Debit Card, but again, only M1 Plus members get the 1% cash back perk.

M1 Plus members can also set up smart transfers; if your cash balance in the Spend account hits a certain threshold, M1 will automatically transfer and invest it.

Because M1 is not a bank but a brokerage, it partners with Lincoln Savings Bank to service its checking account.

Our Take: This Spend account is much better than a lot of the high-interest checking accounts from other online banks. However, you do have to pay to get these perks. If the cash back and APY will more than cancel out the cost of the account, this is a must-have for M1 Plus members.

M1 Credit Card

The Owner’s Rewards Card by M1 is a standout feature of the M1 Plus account. You can earn cash back on purchases with brands that you’re invested in; the standard cash back is 1.5%, but select brands offer 2.5%, 5% or even 10% cash back.

Some of these popular brands include Apple, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Spotify, Netflic, Peloton, Popeyes, Victoria’s Secret, Converse, Delta and Starbucks.

You can even choose to reinvest this cashback into your portfolio for continued growth.The credit card account comes with a contactless metal card with tap-to-pay.

Our Take: If you want a rewards credit card and plan to invest with M1, this should absolutely be on the top of your list. Even if you have another rewards credit card, the 10% cash back on select merchants is too good to pass up. Since the fee is waived for M1 Plus members, you could even open this credit card and only use it when you’ll get the 10% cash back if you have another rewards credit card to utilize in other scenarios.

M1 Finance Pros and Cons

If our M1 Finance review has not given you a clear decision on whether to invest quite yet, check out these pros and cons of M1 Finance.

  • Automatic rebalancing for preferred asset allocation
  • Fractional shares
  • Hands-off investing for beginners
  • More customization for advanced investors
  • Cash back debit and credit cards
  • High-interest checking account
  • Low-rate loans

  • No savings account
  • No checking account perks for M1 Basic account
  • $125 fee for the M1 Plus account
  • No access to human financial advisors

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About M1 Finance

Still have some questions about M1? Here’s what other readers like yourself are asking — and the answers to those questions:

Is M1 Finance Trustworthy?
M1 is a trustworthy automated investment platform. M1 is a registered broker/dealer with FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) and a member of SIPC (Securities Investor Protection Corporation).

In addition, your funds in the Spend account are insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).

What are the Cons of M1 Finance?
M1 Finance’s pros far outweigh the cons; however, we have determined a few downsides to M1:

1. There is no savings account.
2. There are no checking account perks for an M1 Basic account.
3. To unlock the checking account perks, you must pay the $125 fee for the M1 Plus account.
4. There is no access to human financial advisors.

Is M1 Finance Good for Beginners?
Because of the Expert Pies that allow users to choose among investment portfolios curated for their specific needs, M1 Finance is great for beginners. Even better, the M1 Basic account is free and has no commission fees.
Is M1 Finance Really Free?
M1 Finance is a free automated investing platform. The M1 Basic account is free, and there are no commissions on trades. However, the M1 Plus account is $125 a year, though the first year is free.
Should I Get M1 Plus?
If you plan to take advantage of the M1 Borrow loan, the perks of the M1 Spend checking account and/or the cash back from the M1 credit card, paying $125 a year for an M1 Plus account makes a lot of sense.
Is M1 Finance a Bank?
M1 Finance is a brokerage account, but it also operates a digital bank account with cash management account features like a checking account. The checking account is interest bearing if you pay for an M1 Plus account. However, you cannot open a savings account with M1, nor can you apply for auto loans or home loans. In that sense, it does not operate like a traditional bank account.
Does M1 Finance Offer Tax Loss Harvesting?
Yes, M1 offers tax loss harvesting. Tax efficiencies are built into the M1 robo advisor platform.

Timothy Moore covers bank accounts for The Penny Hoarder from his home base in Cincinnati. He has worked in editing and graphic design for a marketing agency, a global research firm and a major print publication. He covers a variety of other topics, including insurance, taxes, retirement and budgeting and has worked in the field since 2012.

Investing in securities involves risks, including the risk of loss. M1 Finance LLC is an SEC registered broker-dealer. Member FINRA/SIPC.

Borrow rate may vary. Borrowing involves additional risks, including the risk to lose more than deposited. Not available for retirement, custodial, or trust accounts.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

How to Become a Mortician and Other Jobs in the Funeral Industry

There are a lot of reasons for thinking about becoming a funeral director, the funeral industry’s preferred term for mortician.

For one, the unemployment rate is low. For another, there’s always a need.

And, it is one of the careers that does not require a bachelor’s degree that still pays well. Funeral directors make an average of $55,000 a year. That’s the average and some directors with more experience bring in more than $70,000. As far as school, most states require an associate’s degree, an apprenticeship/internship, and passing a licensing exam.

If working with bereaved families and preparing bodies for burial or cremation seem like something you would be good at, consider this well-paying career path. The funeral industry is estimated to be worth $16 billion in the United States in 2021.

Read on to find out how to become a mortician.

The Difference Between a Mortician and Funeral Director

First, let’s clarify some terms. What are the differences between mortician, funeral director, embalmer and undertaker? They have similar roles but slightly different duties.

In 1895, an American publication called The Embalmer’s Monthly put out a call for a new term for undertakers. The winner was mortician, a made-up word and thank goodness for Morticia Addams, right? Now, the industry uses funeral director for the person arranging the funeral service.

Most funeral directors are licensed morticians and embalmers. They have studied mortuary science and prepare bodies, but they also arrange the other aspects of funeral services. Funeral directors help the bereaved plan the memorial service (and might conduct it if there is no clergy) and arrange for cremation and burial. Funeral directors deal directly with the clients.

An embalmer can work for a funeral home, but also elsewhere — medical schools, hospitals, and morgues. They mainly prepare bodies, and don’t work with clients. The term undertaker is the British term for funeral director and is seldom used in the U.S. except when referring to the popular professional wrestler, The Undertaker.

What Does a Funeral Director Do?

Funeral directors deal with both the living and the dead. Funeral directors arrange for moving the body to the funeral home. They file the paperwork for death certificates, obituaries, and other legal matters.

Preparing a body for the funeral service may or may not include embalming (cremation doesn’t require embalming), but it needs to be dressed, cosseted (put in the best and most natural appearance), and casketed (placed in the coffin).

Funeral services are difficult times for people. The funeral director needs to have compassion for people navigating their pain and sorrow. While an interest in science is necessary, an important quality for someone who wants to become a mortician or funeral director is empathy.

The funeral director guides the grieving through the decisions that have to be made for the funeral service. This not only includes choosing the coffin, but placing the obituary, arranging the wake and service and creating a program for it, shipping remains, and more.

The Changing Funeral Business

Most funeral homes are independently owned. While often smaller businesses don’t have the deeper pockets of corporations, their size allows them to be more nimble in evolving their business. Funeral services have transformed from somber and sorrowful times to celebrations of life with some funeral homes even providing spaces for outdoor gathering complete with grills.

In recent years, more women are graduating in mortuary science. Some people might become funeral service workers as a second career instead of inheriting the business, which has been a traditional entry into the industry. The National Funeral Directors Association encourages its members to seek out, hire, and train more women and non-binary people.

You can find mortuary science stars on social media, including the popular YouTube channel, Ask a Mortician. There are funeral directors’ TikTok videos, and mortician AMAs (ask me anything) on Reddit.

Get Started in the Funeral Business

Most states require a two-year associate’s degree in mortuary science or related areas, an apprenticeship or internship, and passing the national or state’s license exam. Ohio and Minnesota are the only two states that require a bachelor’s degree to be a funeral home director. Colorado does not have any education requirements, but licenses funeral homes instead. Kentucky doesn’t license funeral directors but does license embalmers.

The National Funeral Directors Association is your go-to source for state-by-state details of working in the funeral industry.

If you were also thinking about joining the military, the Navy is the only service branch with its own morticians. For that you need a high school diploma or GED, and then you would get training through the Navy as a hospital corpsman-mortician.


You usually have to be at least 21 years old to take the exams, though you can start an internship or apprenticeship before that age. There may also be a criminal background check. Having a criminal record doesn’t mean you can’t become a mortician. You also have to submit proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent residency.

You can also study for and take the national funeral service education board exam. The pathways to these two types of exams can be different. It is important to note that not all mortuary science programs are accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE).

You can only take the National Board Exam if you have a degree from an accredited program. Some states allow you to take the state exam even if your program is not accredited. The exams are the same. It is just more difficult to practice in a different state if you haven’t attended an accredited program.

State Licenses

Most states have information about how to become a mortician through their occupational license, public health, or funeral board sections on their website. It is important that you clarify whether the mortuary science programs are accredited for just the state license exam, or for both state and national exams. Some schools also offer Funeral Arts Certificates, which can be used for other jobs in the funeral service industry.

National License

The American Board of Funeral Service Education is the national academic accreditation agency for college and university programs in Funeral Service and Mortuary Science Education. Most states have easier reciprocity requirements to transfer your practice if you have taken the national board exam. If you have taken the state exam only, you may have to meet all of the requirements again if you move to another state.

Classwork for the License

Coursework can be broken down into roughly three categories: art, business, and science. Art? That is for the restorative arts, or visually preparing the body for a funeral service, which includes hair and makeup. There are courses which cover death traditions from many cultures and the history of funerals.

Science classes may cover embalming theory and labs, anatomy, physiology, public health, and pathology. There are chemistry and biology courses, and also usually psychology courses on grief and bereavement training.

Business classes will cover funeral home administration, accounting, requirements for a funeral service license, and some business law. There are usually classes covering legal and ethical issues that a certified funeral service practitioner will face.

Cost of Getting a License

The cost of getting a two-year mortuary science degree varies by state but your best bet will be an in-state community college. Then there will be costs associated with taking exams and getting a license.


There is a huge difference in how much you can pay for a mortuary science associate’s degree. In-state public schools may cost between $5,000-$8,500. Private, out of state tuition might be almost $20,000. There are the normal student loans and grants available, but there are also specific grants for students studying mortuary science (even as a second career). It seems like a great investment, since unemployment for funeral directors is extremely low.


The National Board Exam has two sections, arts and sciences. Each one costs $285. There are practice exams that you can take, which are free. In Florida, the state funeral service examining boards charge $132 for exams. Maine charges $75 plus $21 for a criminal background check. Texas charges $89. Some states have two separate exams — one for funeral services and the other for embalming.


This is another area with variation. Using the same three states as above, Florida’s license for a funeral director costs $430 with all the fees. Maine’s is $230, and Texas costs $175 plus $93 for the application. Apparently not everything is bigger in Texas! Licenses need to be renewed periodically, which also requires continuing education credits.

Want to break into the medical field? Consider one of these entry level medical jobs that can bring in $40,000 a year.

Funeral Director as Entrepreneur

The funeral industry has been changing rapidly over the last few years. Cremations have increased and burials decreased. Funeral homes make less money on cremations, and have responded to this shift by finding new sources of income and new ways to help people.

Green Funerals

There are more environmentally conscious choices that funeral homes can offer, including rental coffins for services (and a plain one after), biodegradable coffins, and natural burials. Green funeral services include sourcing flowers locally, using funeral invitations and programs made of recycled paper embedded with seeds, and biodegradable water urns, which sink and dissipate for at sea services..

Pet Funerals

An estimated 67% of households in the U.S. own pets, and many of them are using funeral home services for their animals. That includes memorials, services, and burials. Despite pet cremation being infinitely (well, 90 vs.10%) more popular than burial, there are over 200 pet cemeteries in the U.S., with Florida having the most.

Other Jobs in the Funeral Industry

Besides being an intern or apprentice, you can work in the funeral industry in many other ways. Florida lists 16 separate individual and business licenses for funeral home-related activities.

Here are the common jobs in the funeral or mortician industry though keep in mind in a smaller business, the funeral director may do some of them:

  • Administrative assistants handle office work.
  • Burial rights brokers arrange for third parties to sell or transfer burial rights.
  • Cemeterians maintain cemetery grounds (think groundskeeper).
  • Ceremonialists conduct the funeral service.
  • Crematory operators/technicians assist in cremation remains.
  • Direct disposers handle cremation when there is no service or embalming.
  • Embalmers prepare the body after death.
  • Funeral arrangers work with clients to set up the funeral.
  • Funeral home manager is the best paying job in the field, the median salary for this position is more than $74,000. The manager oversees all funeral home operations.
  • Funeral service managers are similar to funeral arrangers.
  • Funeral supply sales personnel work for the funeral home-sourcing supplies.
  • Monument agents sell tombstones and other markers for the cemetery.
  • Mortuary transport drivers prepare and transport human remains.
  • Pathology technicians work in hospitals, morgues, or universities with cadavers.
  • Pre-need sales agents help clients plan their services and burials before they die.
Check out these in-demand services that could make you up to $60/hour as a virtual assistant. College degree not required.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Funeral Business Jobs

We’ve rounded up the answers to the most common questions about working in the funeral industry.

What Jobs Can You Do at a Funeral Home?
negotiate supplies, transport bodies, conduct funeral services, and work with clients to place obituaries and arrange the service. They also have sales people working on pre-need arrangements. Some funeral homes feature pet burials and have special jobs related to that.
How Much Do You Make Working at a Funeral Home?
Funeral directors average $55,000 annually. Managing a funeral home pays a median salary of $74,000. Mortuary transport drivers average over $35,000. It is a field with very low unemployment.
How Do I Get a Job in the Funeral Industry?
Most states require two years of school, a (paid) internship, and passing the appropriate license exams to become a funeral director. Other jobs may require less.The mortuary transport driver has to be able to lift 100 pounds or more and have a clean driving record.
What is a Funeral Home Job Called?
There are many. There are funeral directors, embalmers, mortuary transport drivers, and funeral service arrangers. There are also typical office jobs, such as administrative assistant and bookkeepers. There are also related jobs at crematoriums, hospitals, and mortuaries.

The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St.Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

23 Ideas for Cheap Christmas Decorations

The weather’s getting colder. The days are getting shorter. Before you know it, Christmas will be here.

While you’re out shopping for gifts, it can be very tempting to add a bunch of holiday decorations to your cart to help get your home looking merry and bright. But the cost of Christmas decorations often gets overlooked when making your holiday budget — and you end up spending way more than you thought you would.

To avoid that post-holiday regret, consider these low-budget suggestions for decorating for Christmas.

23 Ideas for Cheap Christmas Decorations

Deck the halls without wrecking your finances. Here are 23 festive ideas for cheap Christmas decorations.

1. Wall Christmas Trees

A flat Christmas tree hung on the wall is a great space saver and money saver. You can make wall Christmas trees out of a string of lights, garland, a large piece of felt or even Washi tape. Check out this article from Apartment Therapy for ideas. It looks festive with or without a tree topper!

2. Get an Artificial Christmas Tree

Bundling up on a snowy day to go to the Christmas tree farm and chop down the perfect tree may be a sweet holiday outing, but you’ll get more bang for your buck by opting for an artificial Christmas tree. Now, artificial trees can get pricy themselves, depending on what size and type you choose. However, you can reuse the tree for years to come, rather than having to put it out to the curb when the new year rolls around.

A woman decorates a tiny Christmas tree.

3. Get a Tiny Tree

Instead of buying an expensive 7-foot tree, you can save money by getting a much smaller tree that’ll fit on your tabletop. In addition to spending less on the tree, you’ll save on the amount of lights and ornaments you’ll need to decorate it.

4. Garland

Garland is a low-budget Christmas decoration that instantly adds holiday spirit to a room. In addition to stringing garland around your Christmas tree, you can hang strings of garland above your mantle, over your doorways, around your window frames or wrapped around the banister of your staircase. Instead of buying your garland, you can make your own using natural elements like dried citrus and pine cones, construction paper, popcorn or cheap ball ornaments.

5. DIY Ornaments

Forget the store-bought ornaments, and pick up your hot glue gun. Create wonderful holiday memories while crafting ornaments you can hang on your tree or use as decor around the house. See this Good Housekeeping post for over 75 ideas for DIY Christmas ornaments.

6. Twinkling Lights

A string of lights can really spread holiday cheer. To save money, opt for shorter strings of light to cover smaller areas — such as a window or mantle piece, rather than along your gutters or around a 7 foot tree. You can also use a string of lights on a blank stretch of wall in the shape of a star or to spell out “Merry Christmas” in cursive.

7. Window Stickers

Dress up your windows with seasonal decals. You can find window stickers of snowflakes, ornaments, gingerbread men and more at the dollar store, craft store and major retailers like Walmart or Amazon. If stored properly, you can even reuse them for next year.

8. Candles

Candles are a simple and low-cost way to add a bit of Christmas spirit to a room. You can create a tablescape with red, green, white or gold candles — or set them on the mantle or a wide window ledge. Set battery-operated votive candles inside Mason jars painted in holiday colors for a flame-free decor option.

A front door is wrapped in wrapping paper.

9. Decorate Your Doors

Transform your doors into the biggest presents ever by covering them in wrapping paper. You can use wrapping paper to decorate your interior doors as well as your front door. Add ribbon or a big bow for extra embellishment.

10. Bells Around Door Knobs

Make your home not only look but sound festive by tying jingle bells to some red or green ribbon and then wrapping them around your door knobs. Whenever someone opens a door, the kiddos in the house will be looking over their shoulders to see if Santa’s coming.

11. Decorate With Ribbon

You can use ribbon for more than just wrapping presents. Take some thick ribbon in Christmas colors like red, green or gold and use it to make bows to hang on your Christmas tree, your mantle and even on door knobs or drawer pulls. Tie them around a glass vase with a candle inside for a simple Christmas centerpiece.

12. Wrap Empty Boxes

Talk about easy Christmas decorations that make your home merry. You can also stack your wrapped present props in an empty corner, by the base of your staircase or on your front porch.

13. Holiday Cards Display

A cheap and easy way to add a little holiday spirit to your home is to make a pretty display with the Christmas cards you receive from family and friends. You can fashion your cards into the shape of a wreath or Christmas tree or attach them to a ribbon to hang along your staircase banister along with lights or garland. You can fill out your display by purchasing some dollar store cards.

14. Make your Own Advent Calendar

Rather than buying an advent calendar this year, make your own. This post from Country Living has several ideas. Come up with whatever little treat, token or message you want to open each day.

A boy eats a gingerbread house he made.

15. Gingerbread House

Whether you use a kit or make your own gingerbread from scratch, a gingerbread house is a fun holiday project that can double as Christmas decor. Just know it probably won’t last long — so consider this a temporary decoration!

16. Display Your Kids’ Holiday Artwork

If you’ve got young kids — or grandkids, nieces or nephews — use the holiday artwork they make at school, daycare or home to hang up on the fridge or display on your shelves, mantle or countertops.

17. Create a Holiday Tablescape

Dress up your dining table to bring out the joy of the holiday season. Drape your table with a red, green or white tablecloth and fill a vase or tray with seasonal elements, such as pine cones, holly leaves, cranberries, sprigs of pine needles, jingle bells, candy canes or candles.

18. Sock Snowmen

This winter craft doubles as a cheap Christmas decoration. You may be able to make it with items you already have at home: white tube socks, rice, buttons, pins and a scrap of fabric. This post from Darkroom and Dearly tells you exactly how to create them.

A person decorates their Christmas tree with candy canes.

19. Candy Canes

You can buy boxes of candy canes for cheap at grocery stores or dollar stores around this time of the year. Fill candy dishes full of these red and white striped treats to go on your tablescape, coffee table or end tables. Or hang one or two candy canes on your Christmas tree in place of buying more pricy ornaments.

21. Fake Snow in Windows

If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, but you live in an area that doesn’t get any snow, you can use spray snow to make your winter wonderland dreams come true. You can spray artificial snow on your windows to create a frosted look or spray your front door wreath to make it appear to be covered with snowflakes. A can of spray snow costs less than $10 on Amazon.

22. Flower Pot Decorations

Turn empty flower pots into outdoor Christmas decor with just a little paint. You’ll need at least three pots of varying sizes. Paint them white if you want to create a snowman out of your flower pots or green to make a flower pot Christmas tree. Once dried, stack the pots on top of each other upside down and paint additional embellishments, like a face and buttons on your snowman or ornaments and tinsel on your Christmas tree.

23. Light Projector

An easy way to light up the outside of your house without needing yards of string lights and a ladder is to use a light projector. You can buy one on Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart and similar retailers for under $40.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Travel Freebies and Deals for 10 Fabulous U.S. Cities

After a year and a half of travel restrictions, stay-at-home orders and individual health concerns, the world is opening back up and that’s music to the ears of those of us traveling again.

But even if you’ve been saving lots of money while waiting out the pandemic and are ready for some revenge travel, you’ll still want to watch your pennies. Good thing there are some great deals out there — some of them even freebies.

From hotel deals to food offerings to reduced prices for tours and even free walking tours, travel may be more affordable than ever right now. We found offers in 10 U.S. cities that will make you want to pack your bags.

Great Travel Freebies and Deals in 10 Must-Visit Cities


Seattle has transitioned from a mid-size regional center to an innovative and modern destination. The Space Needle and Fisherman’s Wharf may be its most iconic landmarks but there’s much more to the Emerald City, along with plenty of opportunities for freebies and discounts.

Speaking of the Space Needle, bundle your tickets with a trip to the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit and save $10 on admission. Be sure to check the glass exhibit closures when scheduling your trip.

A popular draw for tourists, Seattle Museum Month returns in 2022. Guests staying at participating downtown hotels in February receive a pass that entitles up to four people half price admission to over 30 museums including the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Aquarium, Woodland Park Zoo, Museum of Pop Culture and The Museum of Flight.

If you’re planning a holiday trip to the Pacific Northwest, Visit Seattle has collected over a dozen special hotel packages. The Grand Hyatt Seattle’s Hyatt NightIn package includes early check-in and late check-out, a $100 credit for in room dining, at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, or Fire & Vine, 15% off in room dining, and a bath bomb. Hyatt at the Olive 8 has its own Hyatt NightIn package with champagne and a dozen oysters at the TIDAL+ restaurant, a $20 gift card to O8 Bagel Shop, and a $50 credit to Elaia Spa.

Another great way to save money is a CityPASS. Seattle CityPASS includes free entry to the Seattle Aquarium and Space Needle, along with admission to other attractions. The pass is $104 for adults (13+) and $84 for children, a savings of 46% versus paying full price for each attraction.

If rail travel appeals to you, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight Rail Experience is a great way to see two West Coast cities and take an overnight journey along one of the country’s most scenic rail corridors. This package includes two nights in Los Angeles, a one-day journey up the coast, and two nights in Seattle. The trip includes a hop-on hop-off bus tour of Los Angeles and a Seattle CityPASS.

You can scratch your travel itch without draining your bank account. We’ve got smart ideas for planning a travel budget. 
A group of friends take a photo in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco

As an urban vacation destination, few offer the appeal of San Francisco, though it can make for an expensive trip. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to enjoy this great city without breaking the bank.

Start with well-known travel sites like Travelocity or Expedia; when you book your hotel and flight together you may be able to save as much as 100% on your flight — essentially free flights. This is true for every city on this list.

Another place to check for discounts and deals is the city’s official travel site. There you’ll find freebies like a ticket to ice skate at Union Square when you book a room at the Hyatt or Marriott. Other offers to be found around the city include Villa Florence’s Welcome Back Package, which includes a bottle of wine on top of savings of up to 21% off the best booking rate. Alton Hotel’s Escape to San Francisco promotion includes two free cable car tickets and a wine flight for two featuring Habibi Wines at Bacchus Wine Bar in Russian Hill.

There are several discount passes in San Francisco that save money. These passes include the San Francisco CityPASS (savings of up to 44% off adult admission), C3 Pass (savings of up to 38%), Go San Francisco (savings of up to 58%), The San Francisco Sightseeing Pass (savings of up to 59%), or the Land & Sea Combo pass (savings of up to 18%).

Los Angeles

These days Los Angeles is much more than the entertainment capital of the world. Over the last 30 years L.A. has evolved into a preeminent multicultural travel destination with a seemingly endless number of vibrant urban neighborhoods. And of course, it’s still home to longtime tourist favorites like Disneyland, Universal Studios, the Santa Monica Pier, and the Walk of Fame.

If your idea of a Southern California vacation isn’t complete without a trip to the beach, there are several great ways to save money with discounts and freebies. The iconic art deco Georgian Hotel has a promotion which saves you 20% when you book 21 days or more in advance. A few blocks away at Palihouse Santa Monica, you can get a $20 daily dining credit at their lobby cafe and barista bar.

Hollywood is always a popular destination for visitors to Los Angeles and there’s no more authentic experience than staying at The Hollywood Roosevelt. Their California’s Calling package is available through Jan. 30, 2022 and includes two complimentary welcome drinks, a daily $30 food and beverage credit, access to movie nights, and access to yoga classes.

It’s easy to find free tickets to museums in Los Angeles. There are museums that are always free like The Getty Center and Getty Villa Museum on the Westside, and the California Science Center and The Broad downtown. Other museums have monthly free ticket days, like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM). LACMA offers free admission on the second Tuesday of every month while NHM has free admission on the first Tuesday of every month except July and August.

Despite the region’s commitment to building out its public transportation system, Los Angeles is famously a driving town. Renting a car is recommended if you’re trying to hit all of the popular destinations. Car rental prices are up 70% compared with 2019, so as an alternative to booking directly from the large operators try companies like Turo, which follows an AirBnB-style business model. They offer a loyalty program where you can earn a free bonus day, while some of their hosts provide discounts when you book a week or more in advance.

Three people stand in front of the Las Vegan sign.

Las Vegas

Hotels and casinos are working hard to encourage travelers to return to Sin City and there are deep discounts on hotels, dining, shows, and attractions.

Signing up for a Casino Loyalty Club Card is a great way to get free stuff in Las Vegas. The card tracks your betting in the casinos and the points you earn can be redeemed for special rates on hotel rooms — or even a free room — free food and drinks, and discounted shows.

Wynn Rewards members save up to 30% on hotel accommodations and the Platinum Tier members get a complimentary spa credit of $100, a birthday dinner credit of $150, and two Wynn Master Class passes. Caesars Rewards gives members access to exclusive hotel rates, some as low as $10 a night, earn reward credits and enjoy member pricing at participating restaurants, and earn reward credits at participating retailers. MGM Resorts’ M life Rewards give members a discount of up to 20% off booking and the opportunity to earn free rooms, dining credits and free gaming.

Shows are a major draw for Las Vegas visitors and it’s possible to find free or discounted tickets. Discount ticket booths like Tix4Tonight are located all along the Strip and sell tickets for shows at a deep discount.

Check out more free things to do in Las Vegas, on and off the Strip.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

One of the smaller cities on our list, Santa Fe is the perfect destination for art lovers seeking a rustic change of pace. Located high in the Sangre de Cristo foothills, this historic city is recognized for its Pueblo architecture and artistic culture.

Santa Fe’s visitor’s bureau is offering 10% off of a food tour through February 2022, a great way to save money while exploring the city. If you’re more interested in the sweet side of things, La Fonda on the Plaza is offering a Chocolate Tour package that includes luxury accommodations for two, free tickets to the Chocolate Walking Tour and the Discovery Walking Tour, free breakfast, and a copy of the book Spirit of Chocolate by JoAnne Dodgson.

Other packages offered by the hotel with free tickets to local events or tours are the Winter Indian Market package and the Billy the Kid package. The El Dorado Hotel & Spa offers 20% off your stay with their Return to Travel promotion; simply mention code RETURN2TRAVEL when you book.

If you plan on visiting a few of the city’s museums during your stay, look to the New Mexico Culture Pass, which can be purchased at any state museum or historic site. The pass is good for a year and includes access to 11 other museums around the state.

A benefit of Santa Fe’s small size is that it’s easy to see the most important historic landmarks on foot. Book free walking tours through Santa Fe Footprints, which covers the historic Plaza, the city’s architecture, the history of the Pueblo Indians, The Atomic Secret, The Miracle Stairway, The Cathedral of St. Francis, local museums, and more.

If Florida’s theme park mecca is calling you for a vacation, our list of free things to do in Orlando will come in handy. 

New Orleans

A trip to New Orleans is like a journey to another country. Jazz music, world-renowned food, and Creole culture are central to the experience of this compact and walkable Gulf Coast city. There’s plenty of free jazz music to be had in the French Quarter, thanks to street musicians on every block.

Nola Tour Guy offers free walking tours of the Quarter, the Garden District and historic cemeteries. Of course, the guides accept donations.

Amtrak’s New Orleans Ultimate Getaway is a great place to start your trip to the Big Easy. This package starts at $269 for three days and includes hotel accommodations, dinner at a popular local restaurant, a New Orleans Pass, and your choice of a tour.

You can choose between three centrally-located hotels, either the Wyndham New Orleans French Quarter, Holiday Inn Downtown Superdome, or the Hotel Monteleone. The two-day New Orleans Pass includes free admission to the San Francisco Plantation House, Mardi Gras World, National World War II Museum, and a Creole cooking demonstration, among other options. You’ll also be able to choose between the Swamp and Bayou Tour, a Steamboat Natchez Jazz Cruise, or the Oak Alley Plantation Tour.

Hotels around New Orleans are offering specials through the end of 2021, including Loew’s Romance in the Big Easy package that includes a nightly $35 food and beverage credit, in-room prosecco and chocolate covered strawberries. The Fairfield Inn & Suites in Downtown New Orleans has a Coffee Krewe package that includes a $10 gift card to PJ’s or Starbucks with a one-night stay, or a Creole Cuisine Dine Around Town package with a $50 Creole cuisine gift card.

A couple sit on a park bench near trees and water in <span class=

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is another quaint, historic city that doesn’t boast the sheer number of activities as its larger counterparts, but is certainly a major tourist draw. The beauty of Charleston is that much of its allure is the architecture and rich pre-antebellum history, making it perfect to find free walking tours with WalknTours.

The Restoration Hotel has a wide range of experience packages available. Foodies can enjoy the culinary evolution of this city with the A Taste of the South offer that includes a two-night stay, a $100 credit to The Watch Rooftop Kitchen & Spirits, two tickets for a culinary tour, and complimentary breakfast. If shopping is on your mind, you can bundle your hotel stay with freebies and discounts through the Shop & Stroll Package, which includes a 15% discount on purchases at The Mercantile, a Restoration branded tote bag, and a $100 Visa gift card to use at the boutiques of King Street, the city’s main shopping drag.

Charleston’s tourism website aggregates special packages from area hotels and breaks them down into Cuisine Packages, Family Packages, and Beach Packages. For a tour of the historic roots of the Deep South, Amtrak offers a six-day travel package. The package includes a sightseeing tour of Charleston and the Magnolia Plantation, a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of Savannah, and a sightseeing cruise of Savannah.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. isn’t just the capital of the United States, it also bills itself as the “Capital of Free.” There are few American destinations as inspiring as D.C. and the best part is, many of the attractions have year-round free entry.

Just a few of the free museums include the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Castle, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, The National Gallery for Art, The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Archives, and the U.S. Botanic Garden.

The capital tourism department has a travel deals page with unique offers, free goodies, and discounts. There are few better ways to explore the capital than by bike, and you can save up to 20% on full-day bike rentals from Unlimited Biking. If you’d rather see the city by bike with a tour guide, Unlimited Biking is also offering 20% off morning, afternoon, and night tours.

Who doesn’t love free drinks? At Cava Libre, when you order tapas on Thursdays from 5pm-6pm, the Spanish sparkling Cava is complimentary.

The tourism site also posts specials on area hotel rooms, like Generator Washington, DC’s We Are Back reopening group rates, which start at $99 and include free WiFi. The Washington Marriott at Metro Center is encouraging tourists to get back on the city’s extensive Metro system. They don’t offer free public transportation, but when you book a room through their Grab, Go, Explore! offer, you’ll receive free goodies like a reusable and insulated picnic tote, snacks, water bottles, seasonal items, and a tour map of the city.

A person looks at the statue of Liberty from a boat in NYC.

New York City

Gentrification over the last few decades has made Manhattan an expensive destination, but the flip-side is that boroughs like Brooklyn and Queens have become tourist destinations in their own right.

The city’s tourism website posts deals where you can find discounts like a free glass of wine with a dinner order, up to 55% off a Liberty Cruise, 15% off merchandise at Carnegie Hall, or BOGO tickets at the Alice Austen House. If you want to see the iconic Central Park on bike, you can save up to half the usual price on hourly bicycle rentals

Hotels in New York City can be pricey, so finding a deal on lodging is essential to making your dollar go further. Hotels want you to plan your travel in advance and stay longer, with deep discounts when you book ahead and free nights added onto multi-day bookings. The Marriott Vacation Club Pulse in Manhattan offers 10% off a three night stay, with the discount increasing to 15% for four nights and 20% for five nights or more.

Promotions like Marriott Bonvoy Escapes are another way to save on your vacation stay. The hotel chain posts new deals every Wednesday through Sunday with savings of up to 25% for members and 20% for non-members.

Remember, bundling airfare and accommodations on the online travel agency sites is always a way to get good deals.

The Met is one of the biggest and best museums in the country, and through the end of the year admission to the museum and The Met Cloisters is pay-as-you-wish. The Intrepid Museum has 20% off general admission, and you can save on admission to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum with a family pass for $82.


From the shores of Lake Michigan to the top of Willis Tower, the Windy City has always been a tourist favorite. This Midwestern metropolis has a variety of offerings for every tourist, from big spenders to the thrifty traveler.

Start your search for discounts and freebies on Choose Chicago, the city’s official tourism website. There you’ll find lots of special offers like discounted admission to museums, food and drink credits, and reduced rate tours.

Through the site you can save 20% on an Adventure Quest, which is billed as combining the

excitement of The Amazing Race with a three-hour city tour. Save on tickets for the public Ugly Buildings Tour through Tours with Mike and see another side of this architecturally famous city.

It may not be Broadway, but Chicago has a vibrant theater scene and you can save big on tickets through Hot Tix. They have half price tickets at several theaters.

Dining is another category in which Chicago is world-class. You can save on eating out with special deals from Artango Bar & Steakhouse, which has a 20% off dinner special from Sunday to Thursday. Or, get half off wine bottles every Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday at Kinzie Chophouse when you purchase two entrees. Check out dining deals on Lettuce Entertain You, too.

The Chicago CityPASS is another way to bundle and save on destinations like Skydeck Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum. Along with those three attractions, you can choose two more between the Museum of Science and Industry, the 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck, or the Art Institute of Chicago. With this pass you’ll save half off the full price you’d pay visiting five of these destinations.

Matt Matasci is a Southern California freelance writer who writes on technology and business, plus travel and lifestyle topics.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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