Audible Promo: 12 Audiobooks + Echo Dot for $99.50


audibleaz2Do you enjoy audiobooks? Check out this Audible promotion. Membership usually costs $14.95 per month (1 audiobook per month), or $149.50 if you buy an annual membership upfront (12 audiobook credits). New members can get a 1-month free trial. With this promo, you can get the annual membership (12 audiobooks) for $99.50 total ($50 savings) and $50 off an Echo device. For example, you could redeem this $50 credit and get a free $49.99 2nd-gen Echo Dot. So basically, if you wanted these things otherwise, the promotion is worth nearly $100. Offer ends 3/25/18.

(Update: There is also an alternative offer of $25 off any Echo device if you start an Audible membership for $14.95 per month. In other words, for $15 you can get one audiobook plus $25 off an Echo device. Also open to past Audible members.)

New member? Past member? I was eligible for this promotion even though I am a past Audible member (but not currently a member). If you are a new member, perhaps you can get your free credit from the free trial, see if you like it, and if you do cancel and then get this promotion. If you’re an existing member, you could also use up your existing credits, cancel, and then try to get this offer. Note that it will auto-renew at $149.50 after the first year. I think you can turn off the auto-renew without losing any credits, but I would double-check. Otherwise, use up all the credits first and then turn off auto-renew/cancel.

The way that Audible works is that you can redeem each credit for any audiobook in their library (regardless of retail price), and you get to keep them forever even if you later cancel your membership. If you start an audiobook and don’t like it, you can exchange it for another book for free.

Most of the audiobooks I’ve chosen so far have been personal memoirs: Shoe Dog (Nike origin story by Phil Knight), When Breathe Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi), and I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons from Kevin Hart.

My most recent audiobook was The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis, a great story about how Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky helped create the field of behavioral economics.

Google Express: 25% Off Costco Orders (Both New and Existing Customers)

gexpressYet another new code, $15 off Target. Google Express has a couple of coupon codes that may be of interest:

  • 5RTC4Q545$10 credit towards your first order (i.e. $10 off $10). This is my referral code and I will get a $10 credit. After joining, you can also refer friends for $10 credits.
  • $15 off any Target order via Google Express. Good for existing customers. You must use Google Assistant (iOS / Android smartphone app). Log into your Google account, and then say “Spring into Target” to activate. The promo code will be available to be used at Google Express checkout (online website or app, my screenshot) for $15 off. No minimum order, but free shipping with $35+.
  • SHOPCOSTCO25 – 25% off your Costco order, good for existing customers (second order, etc). Max discount $40. Expires 4/1/18.
  • APPFEB20 – 20% off for existing customers (second order, etc). Max discount $20. You might need to apply code via the Google Express App (iOS/Android). Promo code may be limited to 5000 uses per day (if so, try again the next day). Expires 2/27/18. Expired.
  • NEWYEAR20 – 20% off for existing customers. Max discount $10. Expired.
  • APP20OFF – 20% off for existing customers (second order, etc). Max discount $20. Expires 2/11/18. Expired.

Google Express delivers things directly to your door from participating merchants like Costco, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Target. Free delivery is usually included above a certain amount that varies (i.e. $35). There is no longer an annual membership fee.

Note that some prices may be higher than from in-store. You will usually see a banner noting if this is the case. For Costco, there are reports that the “coupon book” items are still at the store price. Otherwise, a 20% off coupon may still offset the higher costs.

CIT Bank Review: New Money Market 1.75% APY, 11-Month No Penalty CD 1.85% APY


Update: New Money Market 1.75% APY, 11-Month No Penalty CD 1.85% APY, recommended actions for existing customers! CIT Bank (not to be confused with Citi Bank) has become one of the larger online-only banks with a multi-year history of competitive rates. They don’t offer a checking account, so their products are mostly designed to be savings products with high interest rates. They just added a new Money Market acccount to their list of account options. I also added some tips for existing customers.

  • 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 1.75% APY, currently available on all tiers ($0+) with no max. $100 minimum to open, but $0 minimum balance requirement. Pay individuals with People Pay.
  • Premier High Yield Savings at 1.55% APY, currently available on all tiers ($0+) with no max. $100 minimum to open, but $0 minimum balance requirement.

As of 3/2/18, the CIT Bank 11-month No Penalty CD rate is up to a competitve 1.85% APY and $1,000 minimum opening balance. This is the highest that it has ever been, and higher than any competitor’s current 11-month No Penalty CD rate. See further down this review on how to move your existing funds over if you already took advantage at the previous rate.

As of 3/13/18, CIT was marketing their new Money Market Account at 1.75% APY while keeping their Premier High Yield Savings at 1.55% APY. The accounts are very similar, as both are FDIC-insured savings accounts that allow of 6 withdrawals per statements cycle. They both have a $100 opening minimum, no monthly maintenance fees, no closure fee, and daily compounded interest. In other words, there is really no reason for anyone to open a new Premier High Yield Savings now, and I expect them to stop marketing it shortly.

Check out my rate chaser calculator to see if it makes sense for you to move money over. They also have traditional term CDs as well as fancy CDs that allow add-on deposits and rate-bumps. Currently, I don’t find those rates especially interesting.

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.


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!


How to transfer your money from an existing No Penalty CD into an new, higher-rate No Penalty CD. 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 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:


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 opened an account 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) and 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.

Chase Pay: Make 1 Purchase, Get 300 Bonus Stars (Redeem For Any Two Drink or Food Items)

starbucksReady for more free coffee? Starbucks and Chase Pay have another new promotion for 300 bonus stars at Starbucks. Expires 3/19/18.

  • Install the Chase Pay app on Android or iOS, if you haven’t already. Chase Pay requires you to have an eligible Chase Visa consumer credit card, debit card, or Chase Liquid card.
  • Open the app and activate the Starbucks Rewards Promotion. Log out and log back in if you need. See my screenshot below.
  • Make a purchase at a participating Starbucks Store using the Chase Pay App.
  • 300 stars should show up shortly, it says within 5 days but often sooner.


300 stars is enough to earn Gold Status (or renew your current Gold status), after which 125 stars can be redeemed nearly any food or drink item on the Starbucks menu. This means 300 stars can be valued at $10-$15 pretty easily. Besides a huge Venti caffeine/sugar bomb, most of their lunch food items are over $5 and some are closer to $9. They now have protein boxes, protein bowls, hot/cold sandwiches, and more. Alcoholic beverages are excluded.

What can I redeem my Reward for?

Starbucks® stores: one [1] complimentary handcrafted beverage [standard Starbucks menu sizes only], food item or ready-to-drink bottled beverage at participating Starbucks stores.

Chase Total Checking $300 + Savings $200 Bonus ($500 Total)


Here’s a Chase Bank Total Checking + Savings account promotion offering up to $500 total for new customers. The major catches 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. Some of the language suggests you should reside near a physical Chase branch, but the link lets you apply online and it may still work (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. To receive the $300 checking bonus (taken directly from their offer page):

  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.

Chase Total Checking has no monthly service fee 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. To receive the $200 savings bonus (taken directly from their offer page):

  1. Open a new Chase SavingsSM account, which is subject to approval.
  2. Deposit a total of $15,000 or more in new money into the new savings account within 10 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 1/18/18. Interest rates are variable and subject to change.

Chase Savings has no monthly service fee 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.

In order to avoid monthly fees while your accounts stay open, you could take the $15,000 out and just maintain a $500 direct deposit and a $25 auto-transfer from checking to savings. Alternatively, you could leave $1,500 in checking and $300 in savings for another 3 months and have no other activity.

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 for 90 days, Chase is offering another $200 to try out their savings account (that pays 0.01% APY?). Earning $500 on $15,000 in 90 days is the equivalent of 13.3% annualized return. Not bad. The bonuses are considered interest and will be reported on IRS Form 1099-INT.

Amazon Dash Wand With Alexa: $20 w/ $20 Amazon Credit After Purchase w/ Prime

wandThe Amazon Dash Wand With Alexa lets you talk to the Alexa voice assistant and do Alexa-type things like ask the weather or order stuff (though it doesn’t play music), or you can scan physical barcodes with it. It costs $20 but comes with a $20 promotional credit after you make your first purchase with your Amazon Dash Wand with your Amazon Prime account. Details here. Promotional credit only applies to products sold by or Amazon Digital Services.

You may not have (or necessarily want) an always-listening Amazon Echo, so it’s good to have a cheap alternative. I use mine all the time to buy Add-On items immediately without the minimum purchase requirement and also get access to Alexa-only deals.

TurboTax Absolute Zero ($0 Fed, $0 State w/ E-File For Simple Filers) Ends 3/15 has their “Absolute Zero promotion” again this year where simple filers can get Federal + State + Federal eFile + State eFile all for $0. You must qualify for IRS Forms Form 1040A or 1040EZ – that means taxable income of $100,000 or less, no itemized deductions, no business income, no investment sales. You can still claim certain things like educational tax credits, child and dependent care expenses, retirement plan (IRA) contributions, and the earned income credit. You can even receive interest and dividend income.

TurboTax just announced that this promotion ends March 15th. Prices tend to increase across the board as the deadline nears.

The simplest way to see if you qualify is to fill everything out and confirm the price as $0 before you file. You’ll always be presented with the price before being charged. (If you really have a simple situation, this shouldn’t take very long.) Here is their product comparison chart (click to enlarge).


Earn United Miles at BP Gas Stations (200 Mile Bonus + Keep Miles Active)

bpunitedBP Driver Rewards and United Airlines have a new partnership where you can earn United miles on fuel purchases at BP stations. Earn 200 bonus award miles after joining and making your first fuel purchase with a linked debit or credit card. Signing up is free. You can link up nearly any Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express credit and debit card.

  • One award mile for every gallon of fuel purchased.
  • Two award miles (total) for every gallon of fuel purchased with a linked debit or credit card. When you use a linked card, you don’t need to remember your BP Driver Rewards number.
  • Three award miles (total) for every gallon of premium-grade fuel purchased with a linked debit or credit card.
  • Maximum 20 gallons per fuel purchase.

You can also do the reverse and redeem United miles towards fuel purchases at the rate of 60 award miles per gallon = 50¢ off per gallon at BP when you pay with the debit or credit card linked to your Driver Rewards account.

If you sign up for this Unites miles option, you are ineligible for their alternative cash back program of 10¢ off per gallon for every $100 spent on BP fuel.

Bottom line. The rewards aren’t amazing, but it’s an easy 200 miles upfront and also a good way to keep your existing United miles active by simply buying a few gallons of gas that you would use anyway. Currently, United miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. Keep this option set up just in case you need some miles.

TopCashBack: Free Glad Food Containers for Existing Members (+$10 Bonus For New Members) is a cashback shopping portal that rebates you back a percentage of your purchases made through retail sites like or In addition to competitive payout rates – they promise to rebate you 100% of all commissions earned – every so often TopCashBack runs “free stuff” promos for existing members, I suppose as a reminder to use them.

  • $10 new member bonus. TopCashback is currently offering newly-referred members a $10 bonus once they earn $10 in cashback. Once you get your $10, I will get $10 as well. This new member promo ends 3/17/18. You must check your email and click on the link inside to confirm your email address.
  • Free Glad Food Containers for all members. Once you are a member, click on this Glad Food Containers promotion link and you should be redirected to the offer page with additional details. Click ‘Get Offer Now’. Add the Glad Food Containers from Walmart totaling $3.41 or more to your cart and head to checkout. Do not close the window, open any new tabs, or use non-TopCashback approved coupons while checking out. The $3.43 will post to your TopCashback account within 14 days, and the amount will become payable within 14 days. Cash back can be credited straight to your checking or PayPal account. This Gladware promo expires March 9th at 23:59 PST.
  • To save on shipping, either try free in-store pickup where available or combine with other items to reach free shipping on orders over $35. Transactions must contain at least one Glad Food Storage Containers – Tall Entree Container – 42 Ounce – 3 Count from Walmart priced at $3.41, but you can buy additional items.

Fine print:

Note: Transactions must contain at least one Glad Food Storage Containers – Tall Entree Container – 42 Ounce – 3 Count from Walmart priced at $3.41 to ensure $3.43 cashback is credited to TopCashback accounts. If another item is purchased under $3.41 the cashback amount awarded will be less (depending on the item(s) purchased) instead of $3.43. Transactions may take up to 7 days to appear in your TopCashback account. The deal is open until 11:59pm PST on 3/9/2018 or until supplies run out; whichever happens first; applicable for purchases made directly after clicking through TopCashback. Only one TopCashback account is permitted per member.

Sharonview Federal Credit Union: 64-Month CD at 4% APY

(Update: As of 3/10/18, this offer is expired. If you opened a Sharonview membership by the end of business (5pm ET) on Friday 3/9, you should be able to fund your certificate if done soon. I would contact them for details, they have been quite professional and reasonable based on my own interactions with them.)

sharonview2Sharonview Federal Credit Union has a limited-time certificate special on their 64-month Share Certificate at 4% APY. NCUA-insured. Found via DepositAccounts. Here are the highlights:

  • Minimum new money deposit of $500 required.
  • Regular or IRA option.
  • Deposit up to $100,000 of existing funds.
  • Deposit up to $250,000 of new funds.
  • Penalty for early withdrawal is 365 days dividends on the amount withdrawn. The penalty will, if necessary, be taken from the principal amount of the deposit.
  • For share certificates, there is a 5 day grace period provided at maturity.
  • Hard credit pull with a new membership application (according to various reports)

Membership eligibility. Their eligibility criteria is relatively open. Anyone who lives in North Carolina, South Caroline, Georgia, Tennessee, or Virginia can join if they are a member of the Carolina Consumer Council (CCC). Use promo code SFCU and the dues will even be waived. It has been noted that the CCC falls under the American Consumer Council (ACC), of which some of you may already be a member. It is not completely clear if ACC membership alone is adequate for joining the credit union.

In any case, it appears that anyone nationwide can join Sharonview FCU by joining the Hobby Farmers of America with a one-time $20 fee.

Good deal? If you have a lot of cash that you want to park safely for 5 years, this is a top rate by a full percentage point or so. A 5-year Treasury bond currently yields about 2.6%. The hard credit pull and possible $20 entry fee make it better for high balances to make it worth the trouble. Note that the 365-day early withdrawal penalty is relatively stiff, as for example you would have to keep it in there for at least two years just to get 2% APY. If you withdraw within the first year, you’ll actually lose money.

I think the deal is good enough to worry if this deal will last until next week. This credit union is not tiny, but it isn’t huge either. It is quite possible that there will be enough new applications to overwhelm their staff (and deposit needs). You might pony up $20, start the application process, take the credit pull hit, and have the deal fall apart before you can fund the certificate. I’m not saying this will happen, but it is possible. (I suppose it is also possible that this is only the start of multiple places offering 4% APY CDs). Basically, if you’re interested, I would act immediately.

Best Interest Rates on Cash – March 2018


We just helped an older relative renew a 12-month CD at her local bank branch for 0.30% APY. She had no need nor desire to move it elsewhere for a higher interest rate. I suppose this partially explains the piddly rates that many traditional banks can offer and still get away with it. But if you’re reading this, you have internet access and an e-mail address! Keep those big banks on their toes and shop around.

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 switched over. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 3/1/18.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge brick-and-mortar banks rarely offer good yields, 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.

  • Some familiar pre-crisis names are rising back up. Remember EmigrantDirect? Its brother DollarSavingsDirect is at 1.80% APY. Former top bank FNBO Direct is now at 1.60% APY. Redneck Bank/All America Bank is at 1.75% APY (max balance $50k).
  • My “hub” bank account is the Ally Bank Savings + Checking combo due to their history of competitive rates, 1-day external bank transfers, and overall user experience. I then move money elsewhere if the rate is significantly higher (and preferably locked in via CD rate). The free overdraft transfers from savings allows to me to keep my checking balance at a minimum. Ally Savings has been raising their rates, but it still lags a bit at 1.45% APY.

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 1.52% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 1.36%. 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 1.93% SEC Yield ($3,000 min) and 2.03% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 1.82% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 1.92% 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 short-term CD under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.

  • CIT Bank 11-Month No-Penalty CD is 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 can always jump ship if rates rise. Full review. You can open multiple CDs in smaller increments if you want more flexibility.
  • NASA Federal Credit Union has a promotional 11-month CD at 2.25% APY ($20,000 minimum). However, you should be sure to keep it in there the entire term as the Early withdrawal penalty is 182 days of interest. Ally Bank has a 12-month CD at 2.00% APY again, but with $25,000 minimum deposit. Early withdrawal penalty is 60 days of 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 November 2017 and April 2018 will earn a 2.58% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. At the very minimum, the total yield after 12 months will be 1.29% with additional upside potential. More info here.
  • In mid-April 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.

  • Insight Card is one of the best remaining cards with 5% APY on up to $5,000 as of this writing. Fees to avoid include the $1 per purchase fee, $2.50 for each ATM withdrawal, and the $3.95 inactivity fee if there is no activity within 90 days. If you can navigate it carefully (basically only use ACH transfers and keep up your activity regularly) you can still end up with more interest than other options. Earning 4% extra interest on $5,000 is $200 a year.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with some risk. 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 quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. For example, Northpointe Bank was mentioned for several months here but recently stopped accepting new applications and a few months later dropped to 1% APY for existing customers. 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.

  • Live Oak Bank has an 18-month CD at 2.30% APY ($2,500 min). Early withdrawal penalty is 90 days of interest. Both Fidelity and Vanguard have 2-year brokered CDs at 2.50% APY (see below).
  • Ally Bank has a 5-year CD at 2.50% APY ($25,000 minimum) with a relatively short 150-day early withdrawal penalty and no credit union membership hoops. For example, if you closed this CD after 2 years you’d still get an 1.99% effective APY even after accounting for the penalty.
  • Both Connexus Credit Union and Mountain America Credit Union have a 5-year Share Certificate at 3.00% APY (minimum deposit varies). Both can be joined via a partner organization for a one-time $5 fee, usually right on the online application. I previously ran a Ally vs. Connexus 5-year CD comparison to show the effect of a larger early withdrawal penalty. Ally rates have risen a bit since that post was published.

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 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 3.05% APY (Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity.) Unfortunately, current CD rates do not rise much higher even 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 3/1/18.

CIT Bank No-Penalty CD

Citi ThankYou Premier Card Review – 50,000 Bonus Points

Citi Premier CardThe Citi ThankYou® Premier Card has re-launched from our partner Citi, with an 50,000 point sign-up bonus (worth $625 in airfare towards any airline) plus a waived annual fee for the first year. Here are the rest of the highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Earn 3X Points on Travel, Including Gas Stations
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out and Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • Points are redeemable for $625 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $500 in gift cards when redeemed at
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline and hotel loyalty programs.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*

Triple points include both air/hotel/car rental and daily commute items. The triple (3X) points on on travel includes hotels, airfare, taxis, car rental, public transportation, parking, cruises, and even gas. When combined with the 25% travel premium, makes that equivalent to a 3.75% reward towards gas and travel booked through Citi Travel Center. The double (2X) on restaurants (includes bars and fast food) and entertainment (sporting events) makes that 2.5% towards travel booked through Citi Travel Center.

Bonus details. The sign-up bonus was formerly 30,000 ThankYou points, and while we have seen 60,000 for short periods in the past, it has been a while and 50,000 points is a historically high number. Note the following fine print:

Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

What can you do with 50,000 ThankYou Points? Citi has been trying to improve the value and flexibility of ThankYou points, so here is a rundown of what you can do with 50,000 of them. Bonus ThankYou Points not available if you have had a Citi ThankYou Premier card opened or closed in the past 18 months.


$625 towards flexible airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises. With the new Citi Premier card, you get a 20% discount on the standard number of points needed for a travel redemption. That is the same as saying 1 ThankYou point = 1.25 cents towards travel. Note that this 25% bonus applies all of your points from all Citi cards linked to the same ThankYou account, thus boosting the value of all your other points.

That means 50,000 ThankYou points will get you $625 in airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises book through the Citi Travel Center, which in my experience had the same total price with taxes as compared to Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Since you can book any flight that can be otherwise purchased with cash, there are “no blackout dates”.

This can be even more flexible because you can use it across multiple flights, multiple passengers, and you can even do partial redemptions. Let’s say you found a ticket that want for $200 = 16,000 points, but only have 10,000 points available. Citi now lets you pay the difference, so in this case you can get your $200 ticket for 10,000 points and $75. This makes it much easier to use up all of your points at a 25% premium.

$500 in gift, $500 check towards student loan or mortgage. You can view your redemption options at I took a quick look and it takes 10,000 ThankYou (TY) points to redeem for a $100 gift card to retailers like Gap, Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, Bath and Body Works, Bed Bath & Beyond, Cabelas, CVS Pharmacy, Kohl’s, Land’s End, LL Bean, Sears, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Staples, and Walmart. So with 50,000 TY points, you could get five $100 gift cards from different stores.

For a check mailed to you, it is 8,000 points for $50 (1 points = 0.625 cent). A better conversion ratio comes from a check mailed towards your mortgage payment or student loan (it arrives made out to your lender), which is 7,500 points for $75 (1 points = 1 cent).

Hotel points and airline miles transfer options. Citi ThankYou points are also now available to transfer to certain airline mileage programs on a 1:1 basis including JetBlue, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Etihad, Flying Blue by Air France and KLM, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways. For example, 50,000 TY points can get you 50,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. If you know how to redeem these points wisely, you can get a lot of value.

Bottom line.  Now that I am booking family travel around school schedules, I appreciate the ability to redeem ThankYou points towards any airline without worrying about using a specific airline or hunting for “saver awards”. 50,000 points = $625 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou travel center. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first 12 months, so you can “try before you buy”. If you are willing to do the legwork, the airline transfer partners may get you better value for international flights (or JetBlue for domestic).

“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.”