Groupon Deal: $35 for 1-Year Sam’s Club Membership + Gift Cards + Food Coupons ($84.97 value)

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Groupon has a new Sam’s Club Plus membership deal where for $35 you get the following:

  • One-year Sam’s Club membership ($45 value)
  • Complimentary membership card for a spouse or other household member
  • $10 eGift Card valid online or in-club.
  • $15 eGift Card for purchases on SamsClub.com
  • $17.94 in Food Vouchers – Free Rotisserie Chicken ($4.98 value), Free Take and Bake Pepperoni or Cheese Pizza ($6.98 value), and Free 18-count Chocolate Chunk Cookies ($5.98 value).

New memberships only. Full rules:

Offer valid for new Sam’s Club Members only; not valid for membership renewals, for those with a current membership, or those who were Sam’s Club members less than 6 months prior to July 1, 2018. To check your renewal date, call 1.888.746.7726 and choose option #2, then option #1. Please have your membership card or statement on hand. Offer valid for U.S. Sam’s Clubs only; not valid in Puerto Rico.

Remember that you can save even more on your Groupon with a cashback shopping portal. Many offer new customers bonuses if you make a qualifying purchase, including eBates ($10 bonus), TopCashBack ($10 bonus, you see it after entering e-mail), and BeFrugal ($10 bonus). I have cashed out of all of these before.

Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review

My free year of Sprint Unlimited service ends this month, and I’m moving on before I get charged $100 a month + postpaid taxes for 2 lines. It was nice paying under $8 per month, but I was also stuck with slow data speeds (3G?!). Today, I switched to Mint Mobile (T-Mobile MVNO). Here’s my quick review and tips regarding the switching process.

Prices start at $15/month for unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB of LTE data (3 months prepaid). After the initial period, you will have to prepay for 12 months to keep the $15/month price. You can also upgrade to $20/month for 5 GB LTE data or $25/month for 10 GB LTE data. After your high speed data runs out, you still get “unlimited” data at 2G speeds (throttled to 128 kbps). All plans also include free international calls to Mexico and Canada.

1. Buy your SIM card and service online. You can bring your own unlocked GSM phone including both Android and Apple iPhones. You can check phone compatibility here. The $15/month 2 GB plan x 3 months worked out to an all-in price of $45 + $3.13 in taxes and fees in California. I got free shipping added automatically, but it might cost $5. See screenshot below.

2. While you wait for it to arrive, collect the following from your existing carrier: Account number, Account PIN/password, and zip code on bill. This will be required for an instant and smooth port-out of your existing phone number.

3. Install the new Mint Mobile SIM card in your phone and then visit mintmobile.com/activate. Don’t do this until you are ready to activate your service, because it will start immediately. I wanted to try out the 7-day guarantee, so I gave myself a little wiggle room. You’ll need the activation code on the back of the SIM “credit card” from which you punched out the SIM. After providing the carrier information from above, my old number was ported to Mint Mobile in a minute. Everything was done online, no calling in required.

4. Change your APN settings. You will need to change a few settings on your phone to get MMS messages. Here are the instructions for both iPhone and Android. Turn your phone off and on, and everything should work fine again. At this point, I’d spent under 10 minutes and my phone was back to full working condition.

Note: Their 7-Day Money Back Guarantee starts at activation, not order date or ship date. You can request a full refund (minus shipping if any) if you let them know within 7 days of activation. You won’t need to ship back your SIM card.

5. Cancel your old plan. But first, test out your voice, text, and data. After the 7-Day Money Back Guarantee is over, you can call your old carrier and officially cancel. They should see that you ported out your number already and not hassle you about it.

Thoughts on Mint Mobile (T-Mobile MVNO) network so far. In my neck of the woods, Verizon is tops and T-Mobile and AT&T are about tied for second. I ran the Speedtest app and got 5 Mbps down from Mint Mobile as opposed to 1 Mbps down from Sprint in the same spot. I don’t stream much video on my phone so it’s not a huge deal, but I do hope to get more LTE coverage in places where Sprint left me with 3G.

Bottom line. Mint Mobile is a T-Mobile MVNO with prices starting at $15/month for unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB of high-speed LTE data (unlimited slower 2G data above that) when you prepay for 3 months initially (12 months after that). $20/month for 5 GB LTE data. $25/month for 10 GB LTE data. 7-Day Money Back Guarantee. Following the directions above, I was able to swap SIM cards, port my old number, and activate everything in under 10 minutes.

Andrews Federal Credit Union CD Specials: 9-Month CD at 2.75% APY

afcu_logoAndrews Federal Credit Union has a few share certificate specials that may be of interest. Thanks to reader GS for the tip.

  • 9-month CD at 2.75% APY
  • 55-month CD at 3.05% APY
  • 17-month CD at 2.25% APY
  • 30-month CD at 2.55% APY

All special share certificates have a $1,000 minimum opening deposit. If you previously got in on their 84-month CD at 3% APY back in January 2017, getting another CD from them would avoid a hard credit inquiry (TransUnion for me) and another credit union membership application. Otherwise, check out my Andrews Federal Credit Union Application and Account Opening Review for some (hopefully) useful tips.

Amazon Prime Day 2018: Big List of Deals and Discounts

A few more hours… Amazon Prime Day 2018 is here. I’ll try to keep this post updated with the most recent offers (and remove the expired ones). There are usually many opportunities to save some money without buying stuff you don’t need (and thus offset a chunk of that membership fee). In fact, if you have any things you’ve been looking for on your Wish List, you should just look them up and see if they are on sale today.

As the name suggests, most deals require a Prime membership. New members can sign up for a 30-day free trial (6-month free trial + 50% off afterward with student .edu address).

Site-wide

Specific deals

Amazon Deals

Whole Foods Deals

Targeted deals

Target $20 off $50+ Coupon, 15% Off Coupon Via Text

Expired: This offer is no longer available.

Target is offering a mobile coupon for $20 off a $50+ purchase. Simply text LKWKGK to TARGET (827438) and a special link and promo code will be texted back to you. Coupon will expire 10/31/18. Valid both in-stores and online. Found via Slickdeals. Exclusions apply:

Coupon offer excludes alcohol, Apple products, Bose, CVS clinic & pharmacy, dairy milk, DSLR cameras & lenses, Elf on the Shelf, gift cards, Google products, GoPro, LEGO, mobile contracts, prepaid cards, Sonos, Target Optical, Tylenol pain relief, and Weber.

You can also try texting the following codes to TARGET (827438) and get a 15% off coupon code. They might even stack…

  • ptwyy3
  • ptwxx3
  • Lkwgkg

Text STOP to 827438 to end.

Auto Parts Class Action Settlement ($1 Billion Covering Most New Cars Bought Since 1995)

Here’s a big Auto Parts Class Action lawsuit with over $1 billion in total settlements across many different suppliers. The lawsuit claims that multiple auto parts manufacturers conspired together to keep their prices high (“price-fixing”). This was serious, as some automotive executives were actually sentenced to prison terms. If you bought or leased a new vehicle, or bought replacement parts at any time between 1995 and 2018, you could be eligible for compensation. Thanks to reader Gary for the tip.

To get monetary compensation, you’ll have to live on one of the following states per Car and Driver (emphasis mine):

Consumers in the following 30 states and the District of Columbia are eligible for some kind of compensation: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. States not on the list do not have laws permitting recovery of funds in antitrust cases for indirect purchasers, according to a plaintiff’s attorney.

An actual award amount is not given as it depends on how many people file a claim. I don’t see a deadline for filing a claim right now, but there is a deadline of July 13th, 2018 if you want to exclude yourself from the settlement class.

The car list looks like it includes most new vehicle makes and models since 1995. I started filling out the claim form and they require VIN number and documentation of purchase. I looked through their FAQ and couldn’t find exactly what kind of documentation they were looking for. I’ll have to dig that up later. You can upload a PDF or snail mail them the proof.

Bottom line. If you’ve bought or leased a new vehicle, or bought replacement parts at any time between 1995 and 2018, you could be eligible for this auto parts class action. That covers a lot of people, but you’ll also need to provide documentation of purchase. Expect to file a claim now, forget about it after a few years, and then a check will show up one day. (Hope you don’t move soon!)

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard Review: 60,000 Bonus Miles

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(Updated. The sign-up bonus has been raised to 60,000 points, the highest ever. $89 annual fee. Details below.)

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards card with 60,000 miles sign-up bonus (worth $600 toward travel statement credits) and 2X miles on every purchase. Note that this card is different from the Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard. Here are the card highlights:

  • Enjoy 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • $89 annual fee

Rewards program details. With this card, you earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. There are no special categories. These miles (easier to think of them as points, really) are then redeemable towards travel booked from any merchant or retailer classified as Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies. You can redeem towards any airline on any date.

First, visit any booking site (Delta.com, Expedia.com, Hilton.com, Hotels.com, etc) and buy a ticket with this credit card. You don’t need to use any specific portal. Let’s say you buy an airplane ticket for $250. Then, you visit your Barclaycard account website and you’ll offset your purchase. You’ll redeem 25,000 “miles” and see a $250 statement credit on your statement. I’ve done this multiple times, and it always went smoothly with no issues.

Travel statement credit redemptions start at 10,000 miles for $100 toward a qualifying travel purchase of $100 or more made within the last 120 days. For example, you could use 10,000 points for a $100 credit towards a $200 plane ticket, if you wished.

On top of that, the card gives you a 5% miles rebate when you redeem for any travel. So if you redeemed 50,000 miles, you would get 2,500 back in your account after about a week. Although this adds a layer of complexity, you can calculate that technically getting $500 of value out of 47,500 miles at 2X miles/$ spent works out to 2.11% cash back towards any travel. Everything else (gift cards, merchandise) offers a worse redemption ratio, so don’t bother.

Comparison with alternatives. 2X miles is nice and the rebate adds a bit extra. However, this card also has an $89 annual fee. So for the first year you’re good, but the competition offers multiple cards earning 2% cash back with no annual fee. A few examples:

You would have to put over $80,000 in purchases on this card annually in order to get the 0.11% advantage to offset the $89 annual fee (after the 1st-year waiver). That’s a big number. Now, I could have used 8,900 miles out of my 60,000 point bonus to offset the $89 annual fee. You can also ask them to downgrade your card into the “plain” Arrival card with no annual fee (and no 2X miles).

Bottom line. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards card that earns double miles on all purchases (even more with the 5% rebate). The sign-up bonus has been raised to 60,000 points – worth $600 in travel statement credits – the highest ever for this card. This is offset by the $89 annual fee. I like to see a $500 net value over the first year to get me to try out a new card, and this card satisfies that hurdle.

Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard Review: Up to 3% Back Towards Travel During First Year At $15,000 Annual Spending

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(Updated. They just started waiving the annual fee for the first year. This means you can get the full 3% back towards travel for the first year when you hit $15,000 and $25,000 in annual spend.)

The Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard® is a new hybrid travel/cashback rewards card with miles that can be redeemed for both cash or transferred to select mileage partners. Note that this card is different from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. Here are the highlights:

  • 75,000 miles each year if you spend $25,000 on purchases.
  • After that, keep earning unlimited 2X miles on every purchase.
  • Global Entry – $100 automatic statement credit for the cost of one Global Entry application fee every five years.
  • Book the best travel deal, no airline, seat or hotel restrictions, and redeem your miles for travel statement credits.
  • Access to over 800 lounges worldwide with Mastercard® Airport Experience provided by LoungeKey, fees apply.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world.
  • Redeem your miles for travel statement credits, which allow you to book the best travel deal with no airline blackout dates, seat limits, or hotel restrictions.
  • Transfer your miles to participating travel loyalty programs.
  • Complimentary online FICO® score access.
  • $150 annual fee (waived first year).
  • Terms and conditions

Bonus details. Currently, there is no upfront sign-up bonus. Instead, they have spending bonuses – Spend $15,000 on purchases and get 15,000 miles. Spend an additional $10,000 on purchases and get an additional 10,000 miles, for a total of 25,000 miles after $25,000 in purchases.

Up to 3% cash back towards travel analysis. You can redeem 10,000 miles for $100 toward all or a portion of your qualifying travel purchase of $100 or more made within the last 120 days. Basically, you pay for any eligible travel purchase on your card (buy airfare, book a hotel, rent a car, etc) and then you use your “miles” afterward to get a cash credit towards that purchase. Travel purchases eligible for redemptions are defined as “airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries and your account annual fee”.

So if you spent $15,000 in a year, you could get the 2x miles (30,000 miles) plus the 15,000 miles bonus for a total of 45,000 miles worth $450 towards travel. That’s effective 3% back towards travel on all purchases. The same thing occurs at $25,000 in annual total spending (50,000 miles + 25,000 bonus = 75,000 miles total). In between, at worst you’d hit 2.6% back towards travel. 2.6% to 3% back towards travel is a very high rate for rewards cards. The $150 annual fee is also waived for the first year.

Here are the calculations that take into account the annual fee (after the first year). At $15,000 annual spend, you would net $300 towards travel (2% back overall). At $25,000 annual spend, you would net $600 towards travel (2.4% back overall). Therefore, if you spend exactly $25,000 a year (average $2,083 a month), then you could get 2.4% back on travel on all purchases. I’m a geek, so I plugged the numbers into a spreadsheet to get the chart above of effective cash back towards travel vs. annual spending. There are basically three zones.

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  • If you don’t spend at least $15,000 a year on this card, you will net worse than 1% cash back towards travel! This card offers very little rewards to light spenders.
  • If you spend between $15,000 and $25,000 a year on this card, you will net a flat 2% cash back towards travel. Not bad, but there are other cards that earn 2% flat with no annual fee.
  • If you spend exactly $25,000 a year on this card, you will net exactly 2.4% cash back towards travel. As you go above that level, your cash back will start to drop slowly but always remain above 2%.

Miles transfer options. The transfer ratio is 1.4 Arrival “miles” to 1 airline mile for the following partners. You may only transfer miles if you are a primary cardmember, and only to a participating travel loyalty program account belonging to you. Note that you earn 2x miles per dollar spent, so that works out to earning 1.43 airline miles per dollar spent. If you spend $15,000 a year on this card, the bonus results in a total of 2.14 airline miles per dollar spent. These numbers do not include the $150 annual fee.

  • Aeromexico
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • China Eastern
  • Etihad
  • EVA Air
  • Jet Airways
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas

The transfer ratio is 1.7 Arrival “miles” to 1 airline mile for the following partners. Note that you earn 2x miles per dollar spent, so that works out to earning 1.18 airline miles per dollar spent. If you spend $15,000 a year on this card, the bonus results in a total of 1.76 airline miles per dollar spent. These numbers do not include the $150 annual fee.

  • Japan Airlines
  • Air Canada Aeroplan

If you are knowledgeable about the airline miles game and can use one of the internationally-based airlines listed above (no domestic airlines), these rates can be higher than other cards. You’ll still want to hit the $15,000 or $25,000 annual spending marks.

Bottom line. The new Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard® card is best suited for higher spenders. During the first year, you can get unlimited 3% back towards travel at $15,000 and $25,000 in annual spending. Other notable perks are the ability to convert to select airline miles, and a $100 Global Entry fee credit.

After the first year, a $150 annual fee will apply. Taking the annual fee into account, if you spend more than $15,000 annually on the card ($1,250/month average), you will always net 2% or higher cash back towards travel. Between $25,000 and $33,000 annual spend, you’ll get between 2.3% to 2.4% net cash back towards travel even after taking into account the annual fee. If you do not spend at least $15,000 a year on this year, there are better travel card alternatives.

Best Interest Rates on Cash – July 2018

Here is my monthly roundup of the best safe rates available, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to get an idea of how much additional interest you’d earn if you are moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 7/4/18.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge brick-and-mortar banks like to get away with 0.01% APY, there are a number of online savings accounts offering much higher rates. Keep in mind that with savings accounts, the interest rates can change at any time.

  • CIT Bank Money Market offers 1.85% APY with no minimum balance ($100 to open). Purepoint Financial offers 1.90% APY, but requires a $10k+ balance. Northpointe Bank is at 2.05% APY, but requires a $25k+ balance. On the flip side, Redneck Bank offers 2% APY but on a maximum balance of $50k.
  • My “hub” bank account is the Ally Bank Savings + Checking combo due to their history of competitive savings/CD rates, 1-day external bank transfers, and overall user experience. The free overdraft transfers from savings allows to me to keep my checking balance at a minimum. Ally Savings is currently at 1.75% APY. I then open other “spoke” accounts and CDs to lock in higher rates.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, you should know that money market and short-term Treasury rates have been rising. The following money market and ultra-short bond funds are not FDIC-insured, but may be a good option if you have idle cash and cheap/free commissions.

  • Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund currently pays an 2.04% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 1.83%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.
  • Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 2.39% SEC Yield ($3,000 min) and 2.49% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 2.44% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.47% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months.

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
I am often asked what to do with a big wad of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (just sold your house, just sold your business, legal settlement, inheritance). My usual advice is to keep things simple. If not a savings account, then put it in a flexible short-term CD under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.

  • CIT Bank 1-year CD is now at 2.50% APY. Early withdrawal penalty is 3-months of interest. Alternatively, the CIT Bank 11-Month No-Penalty CD at 1.85% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit and no withdrawal penalty seven days or later after funds have been received. The lack of early withdrawal penalty means that your interest rate can never go down for 11 months, but you keep full liquidity. Full review. You can open multiple CDs in $1,000 increments if you want more flexibility.
  • Several other banks now have 12-month CDs at 2% APY and above. Watch the early withdrawal penalties. For example, Synchrony Bank has a 2.45% APY 14-month CD, but the early withdrawal penalty is 180 days of interest. Meanwhile, Ally Bank has a 12-month CD at 2.30% APY with $25k+ deposit (2.20% APY for $5k+) and early withdrawal penalty of 60 days interest.

US Savings Bonds
Series I Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation and backed by the US government. You must hold them for at least a year. There are annual purchase limits. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest.

  • “I Bonds” bought between May 2018 and October 2018 will earn a 2.52% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More info here.
  • In mid-October 2018, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.

Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with exceptionally high interest rates. The negatives are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). The offers also tend to disappear with little notice. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. The Insight Card used to offer 5% APY on up to $5,000, but as of July 2018 is completely shut down.

  • The only notable card left in this category is Mango Money at 6% APY on up to $5,000, but there are many hoops to jump through. There is a $3 monthly fee and you need to maintain a minimum $800 net direct deposit each month. This means you can’t direct deposit $800 and also take out $800 via online transfer. Checks and ATM withdrawals have additional fees. The only thing left is to spend the money via the Visa debit feature (and miss out on 2% or similar credit card rewards).

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. Rates can also drop to near-zero quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. That’s just how it goes with these types of accounts.

  • Consumers Credit Union offers up to 4.59% APY on up to a $20k balance, although getting 3.09% APY on a $10k balance has a much shorter list of requirements. The 4.59% APY requires you to apply for a credit card through them (other credit cards offer $500+ in sign-up bonuses). Keep your 12 debit purchases small as well, as for every $500 in monthly purchases you may be losing out on 2% cashback (or $10 a month after-tax). Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
You might have larger balances, either because you are using CDs instead of bonds or you simply want a large cash reserves. By finding a bank CD with a reasonable early withdrawal penalty, you can enjoy higher rates but maintain access in a true emergency. Alternatively, consider a custom CD ladder of different maturity lengths such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account.

  • Connexus Credit Union is offering a 1-year Share Certificate at 2.50% APY (90-day early withdrawal penalty), a 3-year Share Certificate (180-day early withdrawal penalty) at 2.75% APY, and a 5-year Share Certificate (365-day early withdrawal penalty) at 3.25% APY. All have a $5,000 minimum deposit. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization Connexus Association for a one-time $5 fee.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable fixed early withdrawal penalties. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 3-year non-callable CD at 3.00% APY and a 5-year non-callable CD at 3.30% APY from a few banks including American Express and Citibank. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs listed by Fidelity.

Longer-term Instruments
I’d use these with caution due to increased interest rate risk, but I still track them to see the rest of the current yield curve.

  • Willing to lock up your money for 10+ years? You can buy long-term certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable fixed early withdrawal penalties. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 10-year non-callable CD at 3.40% APY. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity. Matching the overall yield curve, current CD rates do not rise much higher as you extend beyond a 5-year maturity.
  • How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a guarantee that the value will double in value in 20 years, which equals a guaranteed return of 3.5% a year. However, if you don’t hold for that long, you’ll be stuck with the normal rate which is quite low (currently a sad 0.10% rate). I view this as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as long-term bond and thus a hedge against deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years.

All rates were checked as of 7/4/18.


CIT Bank No-Penalty CD

CIT Bank Review: Money Market 1.85% APY, 11-Month No Penalty CD 1.85% APY, 12-Month CD 2.50% APY

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Rates updated 7/4/18, added 1-year CD. CIT Bank (not to be confused with Citi Bank) is an online-only bank with a multi-year history of competitive rates. They don’t offer a checking account, so they focus on savings products with high interest rates. Here is their current line-up:

  • 11-Month No-Penalty CD at 1.85% APY. $1,000 minimum to open. 11-month CD with a fixed rate, but no withdrawal penalty seven days or later after funds have been received. This means that your interest rate will never go down, but you can still move out if interest rates go up.
  • Money Market Account at 1.85% APY, currently available on all tiers ($0+) with no max. $100 minimum to open, but $0 minimum balance requirement. Pay individuals with People Pay.
  • 12-month CD at 2.50% APY with a $1,000 minimum opening deposit. The penalty for early withdrawal is 3 months of interest.

As of 7/4/18, both the 11-month No Penalty CD and the Money Market are at 1.85% APY. The No-Penalty CD has a rate that can’t go down, but also has a $1,000 minimum balance. The Money Market rate could drop, but has more flexibility as you can easily make more deposits and also make 6 withdrawals every month.

CIT Bank recently upped the rate on their 12-month CD to 2.50% APY, which is a very competitive rate. Some people may choose to convert their No Penalty CD into this 12-month CD at a higher rate (but with penalties if you take an early withdrawal). You can use the same directions listed below to move your money within CIT Bank. The rest of the CD term lengths are currently not very competitive. (Okay, the 18-month CD is also at 2.50% APY.)

Check out my rate chaser calculator to see if it makes sense for you to move money over.

Existing savings customer? Upgrade now! Honestly, the only reason I can think of for them to create this new account is to avoid raising the interest rate on idle cash in their older accounts. If you already have an existing savings account, take a minute and upgrade yourself to the better interest rate. Click on “Open an Account” here, then “I have a CIT Bank account”, and then login with your username/password. You can do everything online and even fund your new Money Market account with an instant transfer from your existing Premier High Yield Savings. I wish I didn’t have to do this, but at least it literally only took a minute to complete.

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New customer? Opening process overview. Here’s my review of the opening process if you are a new customer.

  • The application process was completely online. You provide the usual personal information.
  • You must submit to a credit check, but in my experience it was a “soft” pull which did not harm my credit. None of my various credit monitoring services showed it was a hard pull.
  • You may fund via (1) electronic ACH transfer, (2) wire transfer, (3) mobile check deposit via CIT Bank mobile app (iOS and Android), and (4) mailing in a paper check. There was no option for credit card funding. I picked online ACH funding and you need to provide routing and account numbers, followed by manual verification via micro-deposits after a day or two. There was no instant linking option via login information.

After deposit verification, then your funding will go through.

You have successfully verified your external account. Please allow up to 5 business days for your funds to appear in your CIT Bank account.
No further action is required for this account. Thank you!

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How to transfer your money from an existing No Penalty CD into an new, higher-rate No Penalty CD (or any other new account). Let’s say you opened up a No Penalty CD at 1.55% APY, but then the rate for a new CD has risen to 1.85% APY. You have the option of moving the funds (with no penalty of course) over to a new CD with a new 11-month holding period. I just did this, and here’s the easiest way to do so:

  • Start a new online application for the 11-Month No-Penalty CD at 1.85% APY. Click on “Get Started”, and you will have the option to sign-in as an existing CIT customer.
  • After signing in, go through the opening process but choose to fund via “Mail in Check”. Your personal details should be filled in already to save time. Again, I did not observe any hard credit check. This will get you access to your new account number for the new No Penalty CD on the final “Congrats! Your account has been opened” page. Save/print this new account number!
  • Call CIT Bank on the phone at 855-462-2652, open M-F 8a-9p ET, Sat 9a-5p ET, Sun 11a-4p ET. Press “0” for operator. Tell them you opened up a new No Penalty CD and you wish to fund it by closing out your old No Penalty CD. They will verify your identity, ask for the new account number, and complete the transfer instructions while you are on the phone. My customer service rep was pleasant and helpful. I timed my call at under 8 minutes from start to end.
  • That’s it. The phone rep told me the entire process should take 1-3 business days to complete. Your new accounts will show up online. You can have the entire previous balance (including accrued interest) moved over, or another amount.
  • It would be nice if you could do this all online, but I don’t see an option to close the CD early online. Let me know if you know how.

User interface. While the front-facing website is pretty slick, after you login the backend is run by Fidelity National Information Services (subdomain ibanking-services.com). This is a popular backend software system used by many smaller banks who don’t want to create their own software from scratch. As of 3/3/18, the user interface was upgraded to be look more appealing and be more user-friendly. Two-factor authentication is available using voice or SMS.

There is also an app available (iOS/Android) provided by the same company. It is similarly functional and includes mobile check deposit. Here are some screenshots:

citapp

Bottom line. CIT Bank is a lean bank offering targeted products for folks looking to get higher interest rates on their cash balances. I have an account with them due to their low minimums (easy to move in and out) and their current aggressive rate-hiking. They don’t do physical bank branches, checking accounts, or fancy apps. However, I have been pleasantly satisfied with their customer service. Their most compelling products are their Money Market account ($100 minimum to open, no ongoing minimum), their 11-month No Penalty CD which combines a competitive interest rate with a $1,000 minimum deposit. The lack of a penalty means you are always able to move out to a higher rate, even within CIT bank itself. They also run occasional CD rate promotions (12-month at 2.50% APY currently).

Ally Bank 11-Month No Penalty CD Review: 1.85% APY for $25k+

Rates updated 7/2/18. Ally Bank raised the rate on their 11-month No Penalty CD and as well as other savings products. If you have older No-Penalty CDs, you may want to take advantage of this higher rate. Here are the new interest rates for the No Penalty CD under their tiered structure (as of 7/2/18):

  • 1.85% APY at $25,000 minimum opening deposit
  • 1.80% APY at $5,000 minimum deposit
  • 1.30% APY at no minimum deposit.

The 11-month No Penalty CD is unique in that while the 1.85% APY rate is locked in at deposit, you can still withdraw your principal and interest without penalty at any time (well, you do have to wait at least 6 days from the deposit date). In other words, your interest rate can never go down, but you can still jump ship if rates rise or if there is a better promo elsewhere.

If you recently opened one of these, remember that Ally Bank offers a “Ten Day Best Rate Guarantee”:

When you fund your CD within 10 days of your open date, you’ll get the best rate we offer for your term and balance tier if our rate goes up within that time. The Ally Ten Day Best Rate Guarantee also applies at renewal.

If you have an existing No Penalty CD past the 10-day rate guarantee, this means you may consider closing it and then opening up a new one at a higher rate. You will have to withdraw everything at once – there are not partial withdrawals. If you have an Ally savings or checking account, you can close the old CD, see the deposit in your savings/checking, and open up a new CD all in minutes online. (Note that savings accounts are limited to 6 withdrawals per month, so use your checking if possible.) You will be extending the term out another 11 months, but since you can always close it at any time it isn’t much of a concern.

Here’s a screenshot of my withdrawal showing no penalty and instant availability when withdrawn directly into an Ally account:

ally_np_withd

You can use my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to get an idea of how much additional interest you’d earn if you switched over.

Alternatives to consider.

  • Ally Savings is now at 1.75% APY, while other online savings accounts rates are even higher. You gain liquidity, but rates can also change on you.
  • Ally 12-month CD is now at 2.30% APY with a $25k+ deposit (2.20% APY with $5k), and the 2-Year “Raise Your Rate” CD is at 2.50% APY with no minimum deposit. Both of these do have early withdrawal penalties..
  • CIT Bank 11-Month No Penalty CD is a similar product, currently at 1.85% APY but with a lower $1,000 minimum deposit. These two banks both offer 11-month No-Penalty CDs, and I’ve opened (and closed early) CDs from both places..

I use Ally Bank Online Savings, Interest Checking, and No Penalty CD accounts as my “hub” bank accounts, and then I open additional bank CDs as temporary “spokes” when external rates are significantly higher.

Chase Bank $500 Bonus 2018 – $300 Total Checking + $200 Savings

Update with my experience. Just a quick note that I opened both the Chase Total Checking ($25) and Savings ($15,000) as directed below in March 2018. Direct deposit completed in April. $300 checking bonus received in April 2018 and $200 savings bonus received in June 2018. No extra communication required from Chase, and everything was delivered on time as promised. New link below with expiration date of August 6th, 2018.

Original post:

Chase Bank has a Total Checking + Savings account promotion offering up to $500 total for new customers. The notable requirements are that you must switch over a “real” direct deposit to get the $300 checking bonus, and you’ll need a $15,000 deposit for 90 days to get the $200 savings bonus. You enter your e-mail address, and you will get a unique code for your online application. Some of the language suggests you should reside near a physical Chase branch, but the link lets you apply online and it should work from anywhere (you will know via instant approval). If you already have a Chase credit card, the application can be pre-filled.

Chase Total Checking $300 bonus details. Checking offer is not available to existing Chase checking customers, those with fiduciary accounts, or those whose accounts have been closed within 90 days or closed with a negative balance. You must:

  1. Open a new Chase Total Checking account, which is subject to approval;
  2. Deposit $25 or more at account opening;
  3. Have your direct deposit made to this account within 60 days of account opening. Your direct deposit needs to be an electronic deposit of your paycheck, pension or government benefits (such as Social Security) from your employer or the government.
  4. After you have completed all the above checking requirements, [Chase will] deposit the bonus in your new account within 10 business days.

Avoid monthly service fees on Total Checking when you do at least one of the following each statement period. Otherwise a $12 Monthly Service Fee will apply.

  • Have monthly direct deposits totaling $500 or more made to this account; OR
  • Keep a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or more in your checking account; OR,
  • Keep an average daily balance of $5,000 or more in any combination of qualifying Chase checking, savings and other balances.

Chase Savings $200 bonus details. You must:

  1. Open a new Chase Savings account, which is subject to approval.
  2. Deposit a total of $15,000 or more in new money into the new savings account within 20 business days of account opening;
  3. Maintain at least a $15,000 balance for 90 days from the date of deposit. The new money cannot be funds held by Chase or its affiliates.
  4. After you have completed all the above savings requirements, we’ll deposit the bonus in your new account within 10 business days.
  5. 0.01% effective APY as of 5/7/18. Interest rates are variable and subject to change.

Avoid monthly service fees on Chase Savings when you do at least one of the following each statement period. Otherwise a $5 Monthly Service Fee will apply.

  • Keep a minimum daily balance of $300 or more in your savings account; OR,
  • Have at least one repeating automatic transfer from your Chase checking account of $25 or more. One-time transfers do not qualify; OR,
  • Have a linked Chase Premier Plus Checking, Chase Premier Platinum Checking, or Chase Private Client Checking account.

With a total opening deposit of $15,025 in new money, you can open both accounts and avoid both monthly fees. You’ll still need to change your direct deposit (any amount). I have read no reports of a “hard” credit check, and did not experience one myself either this time around or from a previous Chase offer from a couple years ago. Looks like a “soft” check to confirm your identity only (which is all banks should do…).

As reader R. Dannewitz helpfully points out:

Account Closing: If either the checking or savings account is closed by the customer or Chase within six months after opening, we will deduct the bonus amount for that account at closing.

After getting the bonus, you can avoid monthly fees until the 6 month requirement is over by taking the $15,000 out and just maintain a $500 direct deposit and a $25 auto-transfer from checking to savings. Alternatively, you could leave all but $1,500 in checking and $300 in savings and no worry about any other activity (my plan).

Bottom line. If you can switch over your paycheck direct deposit, Chase is offering $300 to try out their checking account. If you can move over $15,000 of new money for 90 days, Chase is offering another $200 to try out their savings account (a “savings” account that pays 0.01% APY??). Earning $500 on $15,000 in 90 days is the equivalent of 13.3% annualized return. That’s a lot more than a bank CD. The bonuses are considered interest and will be reported on IRS Form 1099-INT.