Life as a Student, Again

I’ve been somewhat vague about what I’m doing right now, but after jumping through some hoops, I am enrolled full-time as student again in a new field that I enjoy, working towards a graduate degree. I am still doing some part-time consulting work, but that is dwindling as school is starting to take up more of my time. Money-wise, here are some casual observations I’ve made:

– I need to investigate financial aid next semester. Although I doubt I’ll get any, the first ‘F’ in FAFSA does stand for Free, so why not? Even a subsidized loan may be beneficial, we’ll see.
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Bet Your Net Worth On Black… or Red… or Black…

This is old news, but I just ran across it. Apparently Ashley Revell, a 32 year old from England, bet his entire net worth on a roulette spin… and won. And by net worth, I’m not just talking selling his stocks. He (supposedly) sold everything he owned – from his car to his underwear, and came up with $135,300. He changed his mind from black to red at the last second, swaying to the crowd’s preference… and walked away with $270,000 after tipping the dealer $600. Now you can spend your Friday dreaming about what you’d do if you doubled your net worth instantly with a spin of the wheel… As for me, I truly believe I’d be doing the exact same thing as I’m doing right now.

Now, if I’d won the Powerball Lotto, I’d be out shopping for my own small country!

VirtualBank eMoney Market Account now at 3.55% APY Interest

VirtualBank is the forgotten middle-child of the online banking world. It doesn’t have the great 4.0% APY rate of Emigrant, and it doesn’t have the advertising budget of Capital One 360. It offers a relatively competitive 0.75% APY now, with no fees and minimum balances for it’s eMoney Market savings account, but is mostly ignored since it no longer stands out in the crowd. It’s only slightly unique capabilities are shorter hold times on transfers, and the ability to link 4 accounts. I still use my account to shuffle money around quickly amongst my many accounts, though. For more information, please see my VirtualBank Information and Review Page.

Free Credit Report and Score For MBNA Cardholders

MBNA is currently offering a free credit report and score from Equifax for cardholders at the following site. I read the whole long terms and conditions, and there is no ‘free trial’ or anything to worry about. You must input a valid MBNA credit card for verification only (My only MBNA card is my 2% Cash Back 529 card), and it will not be charged. You must use the link above and only the link above to get the free report. I went through another link and was asked to pay $19.95 for 3 months of credit protection. It should read “Privacy Assist Single Credit Report… $0.00 / Complimentary”, which includes:

» Credit Report – Unlimited 30-day access to your credit report with data compiled from Equifax.
» Credit Score – Snapshot evaluation of your current creditworthiness.
» Credit Analyzer – Credit tips and tools to help you improve your credit rating.
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Presidential Bank Checking and Savings now at 4.0% and 4.12% APY

I knew Presidential Bank would step it up. I have the majority of my cash at there, and kept it there even in the wake of Emigrant Direct’s recent 4.0% APY interest rate. Presidential Bank’s Internet Checking Plus Account [review] now pays 4.0% APY interest. And its Premier Savings Account [review] now pays 4.12% APY. Of course, both these accounts have additional restrictions that Emigrant Direct does not have like minimum balances, but it also offers more features like check-writing and online bill paying. It works great for me, but is definitely not the best fit for everyone. Check out my Online Bank Comparison page for some side-by-side stats.

Get 5% back on Dining Out, Bookstore, Utilities, and More

While I’m still happy with the three main credit cards that I use for rewards, I just noticed that Citibank has come out with two new cards with good rewards:

Citi mtvU Platinum Visa Card – 5 ThankYou Points per $1 spent on restaurants, bookstores, record stores, movie theaters, and video rental stores

Citi Home Rebate Platinum MasterCard – 6% cash back for 6 months on utilities, cable tv, satellite tv, other pay tv and radio services, internet connection and telecom services.

ThankYou Points are Citibank’s new rewards system. To be very, very general, 1 point = 1 cent. For example, the reward that appeals to me the most is the $50 Target Gift Card for 5,000 ThankYou Points. It’s not as good as cash, but I shop at Target regularly so it’s basically the same for me. Here is a .pdf file of the whole catalog.

Each card has other features, but this basically means you’re getting 5+% back on all those things – with this and my existing Citi Dividend Select Card which gives 5% back on grocery stores, drugstores, and gas stations, I’d be getting 5% back on the majority of my purchases! Too bad the Home Rebate offer is only for 6 months.

The mtvU card is targeted towards students, even gives you up to 2,000 ThankYou points twice a year based on your GPA last semester! And you also get 25 points a month for paying your bill on time and not exceeding your credit limit.

[Update: I have some reports that Citi is asking for transcripts from some, but not all cardholders. It may be just for people who want the extra GPA points though.]

[Update #2: For 3% back on Restaurants, Auto Rentals, Gas, and Office Supply Merchants, check out the Citi Professional Card ($100 bonus currently too!]

Carnival Time

This week’s Carnival of Personal Finance and the new(ish?) Carnival of Debt Reduction are up. Lot of stuff to digest, check ’em out over the week like I do.

Millionaire Next Door Author Part of Get-Rich-Quick Seminar

I just got an invitation in the mail to a “special VIP guest” at something called the American Training Conference, where I get the chance to be trained by 5 of the wealthiest self-made multi-millionaires in the country and learn their secrets. And – Gasp! – the normal tuition fee of $149 is waived for me!! What a value! This is usually about the time I start the shredder.

But then something caught my eye – one of the speakers is William Danko, Co-Author of the oft-mentioned book The Millionaire Next Door. Here is a scan of my free ticket (click to enlarge):

th_danko.jpg

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Thrift Store Shopping For Fun and Profit… or maybe just Fun

My wife and I were at Goodwill today looking for some Halloween costume ideas (she rejected Slutty Nurse – go figure). I came across this old Kodak camera from the 1900s for $20. I’m no shutterbug, but it looked really cool and I thought it would be an interesting piece for the living room (maybe try to look smart or something), so I bought it. When I got home I did a quick search on eBay, and I found that the same camera had recently sold for $64 – a potential 200% or $40 profit!

Of course then I had visions of buying and selling cameras from thrift stores for big bucks. But then I searched for some other Brownie cameras that sold for about 10 bucks both at Goodwill and on eBay, and realized (again) I knew nothing about cameras. I guess I’ll have to be content with my ‘Really Old Camera’

Investor Beware: Pac Equities = Scam

Back in May I blogged about Pac Equities, a ‘Private Equity Funding’ establishment who supposedly did high interest loans to non-traditional real estate transactions and offered 10% interest on your money. Every commenter told me to stay far, far away – and they were right. Someone who actually worked for the company left a comment today and led me to search for and find two newspaper articles detailing how they are currently under investigation for selling unregistered securities and not properly documenting their activities – ‘Pac Equities lays off staffers, stops ads, cancels new office’, and Bend-based company facing state investigation.

Also, their once fancy website has been taken down and is now “under construction”. Under DE-struction is more like it. Looks like this is another ABFS story. I’m happy to report that although I did request an information packet, it was so vague that I didn’t pursue it any further. So many money traps to avoid out there.

Capital One 360 now at 0.75% APY

Capital One 360 is now showing 0.75% APY on their site. Hmm… a rather weak reply to Emigrant Direct’s jump to 4.0% APY if you ask me. Still, the beauty of these accounts is that you can transfer money between them as you’d like. Although I’m sure ING is relying on ‘financial inertia’ to keep some people from moving their money out, even though you can even link Emigrant Direct and Capital One 360 together now.

For more information, please see my Capital One 360 Info Page and my Online Bank Comparison which compares many of the popular online savings accounts.

How To Convert Your Paper Savings Bonds to Electronic Format

I’ve got some U.S. Savings Bonds from back when you could buy them with no fees with a credit card and earn cash-back rewards. Unfortunately that ended in 2003. But I still have these paper bonds worth over $5,000, just asking to be misplaced or stolen. And the Treasury has been teasing me with this page about their SmartExchange program to convert these bonds to online electronic format. It’s invitation only, and I’ve been waiting for one for almost a year now. Finally I found out how to get an invitation – just ask! (Seems like a recurring theme now)

Benefits of Electronic Bonds include:

» Cash them in online, instead of having to go to a bank
» Track their current value online
» You don’t have to worry about losing them
» You can make transfers online
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