Obihai Free Monthly Home Phone Service; VoIP Adapter Deal for $30

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obi200

If you still have landline phone service and are looking for a cheaper alternative, Obihai is officially supported by Google again (it ended back in May 2014):

Obihai is excited to announce official support for Google Voice. With a Google Voice account and a companion OBi device you can make and receive VoIP calls on a regular telephone. To get started, just login to the OBiTALK website, add your OBi device and select Google Voice as your service. You’ll then confirm your account with Google, and within minutes, you will be making and receiving calls from the comfort and convenience of your home phone.

An Obihai VoIP phone adapter is a little box that will allow you to plug in any standard landline telephone and use Google Voice to make free phone calls within the US and Canada. You can also make cheap international calls starting at 1 cent a minute. Many people have been doing this happily since 2011.

To celebrate, Obihai is running a promotion where you can get a Obihai OBi200 VoIP Telephone Adapter from NewEgg for only $29.99 with free shipping (also works with Shoprunner) after using coupon code EMCPAWW99. Promo ends 9/14/14, or while supplies last. Retail price is $49.99.

Even though I am still quite happy with the quality of my Ooma VoIP phone service, it is really hard to beat 30 bucks upfront and no ongoing monthly fees or taxes. (Note: It is up to Google to continue offering free domestic calls, which they usually only promise a year at a time.) I just bought my first Obihai box just so I can tinker with it and maybe send it to my parents.

Google Hangouts App Update: Free Voice Calls Over Data for Android and iPhone

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hangoutsGoogle has just announced better integration between Google Voice and their Google Hangouts smartphone app. Both iOS and Android apps can now make domestic and international calls through a Wi-Fi or data connection (like 4G). You can also receive calls if you have a Google Voice number. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are currently provided by Google free of charge from all countries where Hangouts calling is available.

What does this mean exactly?

  • For the frugal minimalist, as long as you have a data connection like WiFi, you can now make and receive unlimited domestic voice calls using a basic Apple or Android device. You can pay for a cheap prepaid option as a backup, or simply go without any cellular plan. You can also use voice over data to complement T-Mobile’s $30 plan which offers 5 GB of 4G data but only 100 voice minutes (this plan isn’t heavily-advertised, but scroll down and you’ll find it).
  • For the international traveler, as long as you have WiFi in a supported country you can call back home to the US for free using your phone. No foreign SIM card or even Skype account required.
  • For the international caller, you can more easily use Google Voice’s discounted calling rates which have recently been lowered again. For example, rates to India (mobile or landline) and Mexico (landline) are only 1 cent a minute.

iPhone / Apple iOS. Download the Google Hangouts app and the calling functionality is built-in.

Android. Download both the Google Hangouts app and the Hangouts Dialer app. If you need help, here are directions straight from Google: Make calls with Hangouts on Android.

SMS text message support is also supposedly coming, first to Android devices “in the next few days” and then to iOS devices “soon”.

1 Year Free Identity Protection and Credit Monitoring from Home Depot

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hdallclearidHome Depot has admitted they were recently hacked and customer information was compromised and stolen. If you have shopped at any Home Depot store after April 1, 2014, you are eligible for one free year of identity protection and credit monitoring at homedepot.allclearid.com (press release).

If you need identity repair assistance during the next 12 months, starting on September 8, 2014, we have a team of dedicated fraud resolution investigators available to assist you. They will do the work to recover financial losses, restore your credit, and make sure your identity is returned to its proper condition.

For additional protection, we are also making available at no cost to you a service that includes credit monitoring, identity monitoring, and an identity theft insurance policy.

It appears you get AllClear Secure identity repair service and a 12-month AllClear PRO subscription (retail price of $14.95 a month, though I’d never actually pay that). Call 1-855-252-0908 for identity repair assistance. You’ll have to provide them with your Social Security number. Keep in mind that with all major credit card issuers, you have zero liability for any unauthorized charges as long as you report them in a timely manner.

Reminder: Everyone can get free daily credit monitoring from all three major credit bureaus through the following sites: Credit Sesame for Experian, Credit Karma for TransUnion, and Quizzle for Equifax (I got offered this last one, but it may be targeted).

Fandango Movie Ticket for $7 (Up to $14 Value)

Amazon Local has a Fandango Movie Ticket code for $7. Voucher is valid for 1 movie ticket up to $14. Service fee still applies (varies). Limited quantities. Promotional value expires 11/30/14, paid value never expires.

Free Rideshare Promo Codes: Uber, Lyft, Flywheel, Gett, Sidecar, Silvercar

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uberscreenAdded Gett $10 flat fare within Manhattan promo info. Added Sidecar “Trip token” promo info. Summoning a car with your smartphone is all the rage. Most of these startups are offering some form of bonus credit for first-time users. If you live in a major metro area, this can quickly add up to a decent amount of free rides. I’ve only used Uber up to now, but it was a very easy experience.

  • Uber – Hail a car, taxi, black car, minivan, and more with your smartphone. Lots of cities. Get $30 off your first ride via this special link or promo code uberMYMONEYBLOG. UberX involves individuals driving their personal cars, the rest are professionals.
  • Lyft – Hail a pink-mustached car driven by a private individual in their private car. Cities. Get $50 off your first ride with promo code SLICKDEALS. If that doesn’t work (some report expired), you can get a $25 ride credit via my referral link. If you live in a city where they are just starting out, you may also get a bunch of additional free rides for being a “Lyft Pioneer”.
  • Flywheel – A taxi app that only hires “fully licensed, insured and professional” drivers. Cities. Get $10 off your first ride with this special link or promo code 27A8AP.
  • Gett – Black car service in NYC only plus some international cities (yellow taxi coming soon). Get $20 free credit with promo code GTJONAT17. For the rest of 2014, all Gett rides within Manhattan are a flat $10 plus tip. Any time, any day.
  • Sidecar – “Sidecar allows riders to choose the vehicle, the driver
    and the price, tailoring every ride for any occasion.” Cities. Get $10 free ride credit with promo code jdhmd. If that doesn’t work, get a $5 ride credit with my promotion code JONATHAN931.
     
    When you use Sidecar from 6am–1pm on weekdays, a $2 Trip Token will be dropped in your account to automatically discount the next ride you take that day before midnight.
  • Silvercar – Rental car app, with the only choice being a silver Audi A4. AUS, DAL, DFW, LAX, PHX, SFO. Get a $25 Visa gift card after your first rental if you use this sign up form with promo code JPING.

I have tried out all of these codes myself as of mid-2014. Where the best deal is a referral code, I have included my own and will usually get a bounty of whatever you get (you get free ride, I get free ride). If my code isn’t the best deal, I posted the better deal instead. Thanks in advance if you use any of them.

Bonus: Get $25 credit towards any hotel stay booked through the Hotel Tonight app. Sign up online at this link with promo code JPING2 for $25 in credit (new customers only). Then download the Hotel Tonight app (Apple or Android). More info here.

Expedia $100 off $400 Coupon Code – Today 9/4 Only

Expedia has a promotion for their new table app where you can get $100 off a $400 hotel booking. That’s up to 25% off. Pretty simple… go to link, enter mobile phone number, receive unique coupon code. Says for today only 9/4… sorry if you don’t see this in time.

Hotel stay must be $400 before taxes and fees. Coupon must be redeemed on Expedia.com by 11:59 PM (Pacific Time) on September 4, 2014, for travel between now and December 31, 2014. Limit one (1) coupon per user account and per qualifying hotel booking. Full terms and conditions.

I can’t quite parse the terms and conditions, but it may only apply towards hotels with an “Expedia Rate”. You must book today, so I would make sure your rate is refundable if you aren’t 100% sure.

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.

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.

Bottom line. 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.

Citi Double Cash Leaderboard

$15 iTunes Gift Card for $10 – Groupon (Expired)

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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tcb2

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.