Citi® Double Cash Card Review: Earn 1% When You Buy + 1% As You Pay

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citidouble200Citi has just launched an all-new cash back credit card and it is actually quite compelling. With the Citi® Double Cash Card, as the name suggests you earn cash back twice:

  • 1% unlimited cash back on every purchase you make
  • Plus an additional 1% unlimited cash back as you pay for those purchases, whether you pay in full or over time.

This all comes with no caps, no category restrictions, no quarterly enrollment hoops, no rotating categories. All with no annual fee. The only way you don’t get your 1% + 1% total is if you default on your bill and don’t even make the minimum payments. You can redeem your cash rewards in full as soon as it totals $25 or more, via check or statement credit (i.e. if you have $31.44, you can get a check for $31.44).

So is this a 2% cashback card? Imagine you put $100 on the charge, 1% is earned so you have $1. Then you redeem that $1 (ignore minimums for this example) for a statement credit (as opposed to paper check) which means Citi actually “paid” for $1 of the $100. So you pay the remaining $99 and get an additional 1% or $0.99 back. Final tally: $1.99 back on $100 in purchases, or 1.99% back.

  • If you ask for your cash rewards in the form if a statement credit, you’ll get 1.99% effective cash back.
  • If you ask for your cash rewards in the form of a check, you’ll get the full 2% total cash back.

If you charged $1,000 per month, the difference between 1.99% and 2% per month would be a whopping 10 cents per month, or 1.20 per year.

Given the combination of the ability to get 2% flat cashback on all purchases, no annual fee, and the fact that it is a Mastercard which has the widest acceptance, the Citi Double Cash is a great rewards card to keep in your wallet, both for those who prefer simplicity and just want one card and for those who like optimizing multiple cards and can now establish a 2% minimum on everything. I don’t know of any other card that offers this combination of features.

There have been flat 2% cards in the past (Fidelity Mastercard, Sallie Mae, Priceline) but they are all no longer open to new applicants. However, most existing cardholders were grandfathered in, so based on that precedent you may want to get this card while it is still offered. Based on call with a Citi phone rep, you cannot convert an existing Citi card to this one at this time.

Obviously, you’ll want to pay in full every month (unless taking advantage of the 0% APR promo rate on purchases) as to not rack up interest charges which can quickly offset your cashback rewards.

0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 12.99%-22.99%, based on your creditworthiness. There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Citi Double Cash Leaderboard

$15 iTunes Gift Card for $10 – Groupon

Pretty straightforward. $10 for a $15 iTunes Code from Groupon, limited quantities available, limit one per person. If you buy iTunes music, iPhone apps, Mac apps, or even TV shows or books in the App Store, save yourself five bucks. Code arrives within minutes, ready to apply to your account.

From 8/29-9/1 also get an extra 10% off Groupon Goods with coupon code LABOR10.

TopCashBack: Shopping Portal That Promises Highest Payout + $10 Bonus

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Updated with $10 bonus for new users. When you shop online these days, it’s become habit to search out a coupon or go through a shopping portal that gives a percentage back on purchases made through their links. Well, talk about a race to the bottom. Instead of rebating you part of their merchant commission, TopCashBack.com promises to rebate you all of it (and make money via ads on their website). In addition, they even have no minimum payout threshold. You wouldn’t think that would be a viable business model, but the company is already the #1 cashback site in the UK so apparently it works for them.

For example, get 0.5% back on eBay purchases and 12% back at GNC.com.

I just got an e-mail that for the next two weeks, new customers can get a $10 bonus once they reach $10 in earned cashback if they are referred by a new user (who also gets $10 if/when the new numbers reaches $10 in cashback). See full terms and conditions. I’ve been a member since 2012 and have already cashed out successfully multiple times. Here is my referral link for the $10 bonus. Thanks in advance if you use my link, and you can also leave your own referral link in the comments.

If you aren’t already a member, some other portals also offer sign-up bonuses:

  • eBates ($10 new user bonus after any $25+ purchase, $5 mininum cash-out)
  • Mr. Rebates ($5 new user bonus, $10 minimum cash-out)

Sometimes one of these sites may privately negotiate a higher payout temporarily, so TopCashBack may not always be the highest. Also, if you use miles or points, you may prefer getting 2 points/miles per dollar back as opposed to 2 cents per dollar back. For example, I’ve been warming up to the UltimateRewards Mall (must first have a Chase Sapphire, Chase Freedom, or Chase Ink card) as 1 Ultimate Reward point is worth 1.25 cents towards travel or converts to 1 United or British Airways mile.

ShareBuilder Promotion Codes: Free Stock Trades (Updated 2014)

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Added another new code. Here are some promotion codes for ShareBuilder, a discount brokerage now owned by Capital One. Real-time trades are now $6.95 and automated trades are $4. They give out codes for various promotions, and like coupon codes they often work in your account even if you weren’t given the code directly. Sometimes they don’t though, so have reasonable expectations.

Don’t have an account yet? Get a up to a $600 opening bonus depending on your initial deposit size, and then add the promo codes below afterward. You can often double-dip on codes if you have both a individual account and joint account. Custodial accounts for kids are also available.

How To Use
To enter the codes into your account, log in and go to the Accounts tab > Overview > Profile & Settings > Enter Promotion tab shown below.

In the marked box, enter a code. If it works, you should see a confirmation that says something like:

Thank you for referring ShareBuilder to your friends! Your 2 real-time trades have been credited to your account and are available to use immediately.

Most recently updated codes

  • SWEEP2014 (1 free real-time trade, hat tip to reader Hog)
  • PLACETRADE14 (1 free real-time trade)

Codes added within the last year or so (possible success)

BDAY14Y (hat tip reader Sean)
SWEEP600 (1 free real-time trade)
BDAY14AU (1 free automatic investment)
3AIP
3AIP*GEJZOH

[Read more...]

Bank of America Better Balance Rewards Card Review

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bofabbrA couple of readers have asked me about the BankAmericard Better Balance Rewards credit card. It definitely has a unique rewards structure (full details):

  • Earn a $25 cash reward for each calendar quarter in which all of your monthly payments are received on or before the due date and are more than the minimum payment due. Your account must remain open and you must have a payment due in each of the monthly cycles of the calendar quarter to be eligible for the quarterly cash reward; a zero balance or a credit balance does not qualify.
  • Earn an additional $5 cash reward per quarter if you have a Bank of America checking or savings account.
  • Cash back is automatically credited to your card balance, unless otherwise directed into your BofA bank account.
  • No annual fee.

The draw is that you could charge just $5 to the card every month, wait for the statement to close, and then pay off that $5 every month, and end up with $100 a year in rewards (or $120 a year with BofA account). It would take $5,000 of total purchases at a theoretical 2% cashback rate to get to $100 in rewards.

The first catch is that you need to maintain this every single month. If you skip just one month and have a zero balance, or somehow a refund has you end up with a negative balance, or you don’t pay the minimum due on time, then you forfeit the entire $25 for that quarter. Remember that by default the $25 reward is applied to your credit card balance, so even that could put you negative in a month. You have to pay attention to this card.

The second catch is that there is no other rewards structure, not even a flat 1% cash back. There is no incentive to put any significant purchases on this card, as you won’t get any additional cash back.

In the end, this card would work best for:

  1. People who naturally charge very little on their cards, but at least something every month. Maybe you’ll miss out on a quarter here and there, but with small total purchase amounts it would still be more than you’d get from a normal rewards card.
  2. Detail-oriented folks who are willing to jump through the hoops to get that $100 to $120 per year by charging small amounts and paying them off every month. (Then put all your other charges on a 1%/5% or flat 2% cashback card or other better card.) You could try and automate this somehow with a scheduled $5 monthly charitable contribution, put Netflix bill on auto-pay, or something similar. I can’t recall if BofA lets you also automate the payment.

I think the best play here is to try and convert an existing Bank of America credit card that you don’t use anymore (cash out the rewards completely first!). Ideally you’ll get access to the benefits without an additional credit check. Otherwise, in the current environment, it is quite easy to get $500 or more value upfront out of a new credit card application. A credit pull is valuable and I’d rather have a big bonus now instead of having to jump through hoops for 4-5 years. If/when the bonuses start to drop, then this card would start to look better.

Amazon Local Register: 1.75% Credit Card Processing Fee

Amazon just announced Local Register, which allows small businesses to accept credit cards on their smartphone or tablet much like Square, Paypal, etc. The special thing is their initial promotional rate of 1.75% until the end of 2015 if you sign up by October 31st, 2014. Their standard rate is 2.5%. Square’s standard rate is 2.75%, PayPal is 2.7%. So this is a decent savings of at least 30% on your credit card processing fees. No minimum amounts or monthly fees. Via NYT Bits.

To swipe cards, you have to buy the dongle for $10 with free 2-day shipping, but it also includes $10 in free processing fees. They just don’t want people ordering it and leaving it in their desk drawer (like I did with my Square reader). The lower rates apply to swiped cards only, manually entered numbers cost 2.75%. Compatible with iPhone 4 and newer, Samsung Galaxy S3 and newer, Kindle Fire HD and newer, and all iPads.

I’ve been seeing more Square-type readers at farmer’s markets and smaller retail kiosks. If you have higher volume, you may get a better deal via Costco or other traditional merchant accounts. Individuals may speculate about the churning of cashback or rewards cards through this reader, but in my opinion it has been tried before and is not worth the hassle.

US Airways Premier World MasterCard: Limited-Time 40,000 Mile Bonus

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usaircardI think I’ve only flown US Airways once in my lifetime, but I still included the US Airways Premier World MasterCard® in my latest round of credit card applications.

Why? American Airlines and US Airways are in the process of merging and once that is complete, the only Citibank-issued American Airlines cards will be left available. That means this one issued by Barclaycard will no longer be accepting applications and you won’t be able to get its sign-up bonus or other unique perks ever again. Card highlights:

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after your first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee
  • First checked bag free on eligible bags for you and up to four companions on domestic US Airways operated flights
  • One companion certificate good for up to 2 guests to travel with you on a US Airways operated flight at $99 each, plus taxes and fees
  • Priority boarding Zone 2 on US Airways operated flights
  • Redeem miles for award travel on US Airways and American Airlines booked through usairways.com or US Airways Reservations
  • Earn miles on every purchase with 2 miles for every $1 you spend on US Airways purchases and 1 mile for every $1 on purchases everywhere else
  • Please see terms and conditions for complete details

The eventual merger also means that the 40,000 US Airways miles you get from this card will turn into 40,000 American Airlines miles, which I do fly often and often get me cheap last-minute award flights. The miles won’t disappear, so I might as well get this bonus now while I can.

Note that 40,000 mile bonus does not require any minimum purchase amount and that there is an $89 annual fee that is not waived for the first year. 40,000 miles for example is enough for a roundtrip from the US to Hawaii, so that is worth it for me. The US Airways companion certificate is also a unique feature which would be awesome if it eventually applied to American flights (though it probably won’t).

Time Warner Everyday Low Price Internet Review: $14.99 a Month

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In late 2013, Time Warner Cable announced a new tier called Everyday Low Price Internet (ELP) for $14.99 a month + taxes. Speed is 2 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. The $14.99 a month is not a sale or promotional rate, that is the retail price available to anyone. If you are located in a Time Warner service area and are looking to save some money on your monthly bill, this is an option to consider. You won’t be able to stream HD Netflix on it, but it should work fine for e-mail and web browsing.

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Things that are not included in the plan:

  • Cable modem rental (additional $5.99 a month) – Get around this by purchasing your own modem from their qualifying model list. Example is this for Motorola Surfboard SB6121 for $68.99. More details on buying your own cable modem here.
  • Home WiFi (additional $4.95 a month) – This feature is nothing more than a WiFi router that may be integrated into your cable modem. Either buy a cable modem with WiFi, or better yet just buy a separate router for under $20. Example is this well-reviewed TP-Link Wireless Router with lots of customization features for $19.99.
  • Installation. I was quoted $29.99 for installation, but it may vary by location. You can also try to “self-install” for free if you have had the service at that address before. Existing customers can downgrade to this plan by calling in, there should be no need for a service visit.

Note that the above are not included on their standard high-speed internet plans either.

Comcast Internet Essentials Review: $10/Month High Speed Internet For Low Income Families

Updated with new sign-up promo and debt-forgiveness program. Comcast recently announced that they are continuing their Internet Essentials program that provides high-speed internet service for $9.95 a month + taxes, a subsidized $150 computer, and free digital literacy training to eligible low-income families. Specifically, you get their XFINITY Economy Internet Service for $9.95 per month with no activation or equipment rental charges.

Comcast will also include up to six months of complimentary service for any new family that has not yet applied for Internet Essentials. Families who are approved for Internet Essentials between August 4th and September 20th, 2014 will receive up to six months of Internet service.

Qualification details:

  • Be located where Comcast offers Internet service.
  • Have at least one child receiving free school lunches through the National School Lunch Program. If I read the income guidelines for the NSLP correctly, a family of 4 within the contiguous 48 states can’t make more than $31,005 a year to get free lunches.
  • Have not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days.
  • If you have a unpaid balance with Comcast that is less than a year old, you’ll need to work out a payment plan. Debts over a year old will be forgiven for a limited time.

This program is not supported with government taxes. Instead, it was a condition of the FCC’s approval of Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal, and now they are extending it because they want to merge with Time Warner Cable. Comcast states that if the merger goes through, they will expand access to all Time Warner coverage areas. They also state that over 300,000 families have signed up since this started in 2011.

(And yes, I know, Comcast has had customer service issues. Is that really shocking?)

Official announcement, via The Verge.

Groupon: BJ’s Wholesale Club Membership Discount

Groupon has a deal that gets you a One-Year BJ’s Rewards Membership ($100 value) and a $50 BJ’s Gift Card for $75. So essentially the membership itself is only $25. New members only (you could get your spouse or partner to sign-up). Valid at all BJ’s Wholesale Club locations (East Coast mostly). Their upgraded Rewards Membership gets you:

  • 2% payback on most in-Club and BJs.com purchases
  • Free second Membership card
  • Access to exclusive savings and in-Club promotions

Remember that you can save even more on your Groupon with cashback shopping sites like eBates ($5 new customer bonus), Mr. Rebates ($5 bonus), and BigCrumbs.

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card: Limited-Time 50,000 Bonus Miles

United Mileage Plus Explorer Card Big

United MileagePlus Explorer Card BigChase has just increased the sign-up bonus on the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card from 30,000 to 50,000 United miles after spending $2,000 in 3 months, plus 5,000 more miles for adding an authorized user and making a purchase on that additional card. Offer ends 9/2/14.

Here are the highlights for the card (application link):

  • LIMITED TIME OFFER: Start with 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn an additional 5,000 miles when you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months
  • Check your first bag for free – save up to $100 per round-trip
  • Priority boarding privileges – get on before general boarding
  • Two lounge passes to their first class United Club every year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn double miles on United ticket purchases, and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Your miles don’t expire as long as you’re a Cardmember, with no limit to the number of miles you can earn
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95

All in all, a good card for regular United fliers with the free bags and priority boarding. Every year you spend $25,000 in purchases using your United MileagePlus Explorer Card, you’ll earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles. That means at 25k of spending, you’ll be getting 1.4 miles per dollar on all purchases.

Adding an authorized user is free of charge, so no reason not to get that addition 5,000 miles. Keep in mind the following terms and conditions:

This new cardmember bonus offer is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this consumer credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of this consumer credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this consumer credit card within the last 24 months.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer. This site may be compensated through the issuer’s Affiliate Program.  “The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.”

United Mileage Banner

T-Mobile New Plan: 4 Lines for $100/Month Unlimited Talk, Text, 10 GB of 4G LTE Data

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tmobile10gig

T-Mobile just announced 7/30 that their Family Plan will offer 4 lines for $100 a month with unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 2.5 GB of 4G LTE data per line. (10 GB total across 4 lines. Unlimited 2.5G data after your LTE data allotment is used up.) That is an increase of 6 GB (1.5 GB per line) from their previous offer. Offer expires 9/30/14. I’m not sure why, but the bump up lasts only until 2016, after which it will revert back to 1GB of high speed data per line. That is 17 months from now, so hopefully 4G data will have become cheaper by then anyway. Add a 5th line for only $10 more a month.

These plans include T-Mobile’s free international 2G data and texting in 120+ countries. Came in handy for my brother-in-law when he was at the World Cup in Brazil.

These plans do not include any subsidy for a new phone. You can bring your AT&T or Verizon iPhone 5 straight over to T-Mobile just by swapping out the SIM card inside, no special unlocking procedure required. Usually the Prepaid SIM card is $10 but from 8/1 to 8/6 use the promo code SIMDEAL to get it for only a penny ($0.01). Get a nano SIM card if you have a compatible iPhone 5 or iPad Mini. Get a micro SIM card if you have a compatible iPhone 4, 4S or iPad. You can also check compatibility here.

I really hope T-Mobile stays independent because their aggressive pricing will help keep everyone’s plan costs in line.

Alternatively, you can get unlimited talk, text, and WiFi/3G data for $25 a month with Republic Wireless (per line, no minimum number of lines). You’ll have to buy one of their phones (Moto G starting at $149).