How Did You Score on Our Financial Literacy Quiz?

A few weeks ago, we teamed up with TransferWise to create a challenging financial literacy quiz to test your knowledge on personal finance and sending money abroad. In fact, it was so challenging, Trent Hamm — the founder of The Simple Dollar — “only” scored an 8 out of 10. So you’re probably wondering: How much do people really know about personal finance and spending abroad?

Most people knew the basics, like the dismal 0.1% APY on the average savings account at a traditional bank. But our survey revealed a trend of uncertainty around money transfers, fees and spending money abroad.

Key takeaways

  • 85% of Americans have experienced hidden fees for a service they used.
  • Nearly half of respondents didn’t know money transfers aren’t processed on Saturday in the U.S.
  • Only 30.8% of people knew there is no federal law requiring laws to disclose how much they are charged on international transfers.
  • Most Americans don’t know how much to expect in fees on a transaction from the U.S. to the U.K.

True or false: It’s free to spend money internationally.

Answer: False. We started with an easy one. 87.5% of readers knew it’s not free to spend money internationally. Before you travel, think about how you want to spend your money and how to avoid fees. Each option has benefits and disadvantages, so consider carefully.

Cash: Getting cash foreign cash in advance can be expensive, you’ll probably experience a marked-up exchange rate.

Credit and debit cards: Generally, safer than carrying around cash, you should expect fees if you use ATMs. How much you’re charged will depend on the terms of your bank account and the ATM you use.

Prepaid card: There are prepaid cards available designed to be used internationally. You add as much money as you want to the card, though you’ll have a fixed amount you can spend.

True or false: A person can have more than one debit card on the same account.

Answer: True. You can have more than one debit card on the same account. While most people probably don’t have more than one debit card that they use regularly, it’s entirely possible to manage various cards for the same account. Some people may use multiple debit cards to track business expenses or regulate their spending. 

What percentage of Americans have experienced hidden fees for a service they used?

Answer: 85%. In a 2018 survey of 2,000 US adults conducted by Consumer Reports, it was reported that 85% of Americans had encountered an unexpected or hidden fee over the past two years (2016-2018). 64.7% of readers got this one right. Unfortunately, money transfer fees are often hidden, but the TransferWise app is always transparent — and usually much cheaper. 

How large of an emergency fund do most experts recommend keeping in your savings account?

Answer: 3-6 months of expenses. An emergency fund is a pool of money you save for life emergencies like job loss or sudden illness. How big your emergency fund should depend on your personal financial standing, but enough to cover three-to-six months of expenses is recommended by most experts.

What is the mid-market exchange rate?

Answer: If you plan to travel internationally, you’ll need to know the mid-market exchange rate. The real exchange rate — what you see on Google — is the midpoint between the buy and sell rates on the global currency markets, and it constantly fluctuates. Banks set their own rates, so it helps to stay up to date on the mid-market price.

What is the average APY on a savings account in the United States?

Answer: 0.1% APY. 63.6% of readers knew that the national average for savings accounts in the United States is only 0.1%. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for such a low rate. Opening a high-yield savings account will allow you to secure a higher APY. Some accounts offer interest rates of 1% or more, which will help your savings grow faster.

True or false: Money transfers can be processed on a Saturday in the U.S.

Answer: False. Only 49.7% of people got this one right. The idea of moving money from one account to another sounds simple enough, but people seemed to get lost in the details, especially around timing and fees. Banks don’t process transfers over the weekend; they start paying them out on the following Monday.

Cutoff times apply to all types of transfers — both ACH and wire transfers. An Automatic Clearing House (ACH) transfer is significantly cheaper than wire transfers, though they take more time. Many banks or credit unions offer ACH transfers for free or for a modest charge.

[Read more: ACH Transfer: How Much Does It Cost to Send Money Between Banks?]

Domestic wire transfers are done in real-time, though you pay for that privilege. Instead of moving money from one account directly to another like an ACH, wire transfers use a network of agencies and financial institutions to achieve the same goal. How much you’ll pay for a wire transfer will vary depending on what bank you use. Generally, most U.S. wire transfer fees are around $30.

Do federal laws require banks and money transfer services to disclose the exact amount charged on international transfers?

Answer: No. Contrary to what 70% of respondents think, there are no federal laws requiring banks or money transfer services to disclose how much is charged on international transfers. This might come as a surprise to many people, especially if they’ve heard about the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. Designed to protect consumers and require that institutions provide things like periodic statements and associated notices, many would assume that international wire transfers are included.

However, under the amendments to the Remittance Rule, international wire transfers are exempt from the requirements to disclose the exact exchange rate and associated fees. With no federal law to require institutions to disclose this information, there’s a lot of unknown for consumers. Undisclosed fees can add up fast, which is why we appreciate TransferWise’s transparent approach to money transfer fees.

How long (on average) does an international wire transfer take?

Answer: Up to 5 days. Wire transfers are one of the fastest ways to transfer money, though international transactions take much longer than domestic options. From start to finish, the process can take up to five days –– 69% of respondents didn’t know this.

Generally, international wire transfers have a straightforward process, though it will vary by which bank you use. Some will allow for online transfers, while others require in-person visits to the branch. Sending the wire transfer isn’t the part that slows down the timeline; it’s how long it takes to process. International wire transfers take so long for one crucial reason: fraud prevention.

Each bank will differ from how long it takes to process your wire transfer. And even if your bank handles it in a day, it doesn’t mean the fund will be available to the recipient. Receiving the transfer is one of the steps that can take the most time.

If you’re sending $1,000 from the U.S. to the U.K., how much can you expect to incur in fees?

Answer: It depends. Sending money abroad was another area of confusion for our readers. 29.7% estimated it would be around $50, while 31% answered $10 — both of which are wrong. How much you’ll incur in fees will depend on the provider and market average exchange rate. Only about 40% of respondents answered this correctly.

Based on the market average, how much you’re charged in fees will vary. Sometimes reaching as much as $170, TransferWise’s fees can be as low as $10 when spending $1,000 from the U.S. to the U.K. With such drastically different rates from each provider, it’s not hard to see why readers’ answers were so differing.

Quiz methodology

To create the 2020 Financial Literacy Quiz and gain insights into what our readers know, we teamed up with TransferWise — our pick for the best money transfer app in The Simple Dollar Awards of 2020. Five respondents were chosen at random to receive a $30 Amazon gift card, regardless of how well they scored. Including ten multiple-choice questions, the total sample size of the survey was 503 adults. Survey results were collected online from May 15 to June 8, 2020, and met rigorous quality standards.

We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

Taylor Leamey

Personal Finance Reporter

Taylor Leamey is a personal finance reporter at The Simple Dollar who covers banking, savings, mortgages, loans and credit cards. Her writing has also been featured at Reviews.com, Interest.com and ISP.com.

Reviewed by

  • Andrea Perez
    Andrea Perez
    Personal Finance Editor

    Andrea Perez is an editor at The Simple Dollar specializing in personal finance. Prior to that she specialized in digital marketing content for online learning websites. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and media studies from the University of South Florida.