Current Amex Special Offers: Whole Foods, JC Penney, Best Buy

amexoffers

amexoffersUpdated 7/21/04. This post will be updated to include selected recent special offers from American Express that are widely available to their cardholders. These promotions often offer the opportunity for easy savings without changing your spending habits. Sometimes I just buy a gift card if I go the store regularly.

Here are the current special offers:

  • Whole Food Market $10 off $75. Get a one-time $10 statement credit by using your connected Card to make a single qualifying purchase of $75 or more in-store at Whole Foods Market by 9/30/14. I would just buy a $75 gift card if you don’t usually spend that much at once.
  • JC Penney $10 off $50. Get a one-time $10 statement credit by using your connected card to spend a total of $50 or more on qualifying purchases in-store or online at JCPenney by 9/2/14.
  • Best Buy $25 off $250. Get a one-time $25 statement credit by using your connected Card to spend a total of $250 or more in-store and online at Best Buy by 9/2/14.
  • Delivery.com $5 off $25. Get a one-time $5 statement credit by using your connected card to make a single purchase of $25 or more online at delivery.com by 8/3/14. First-time customers can also get $7 off first order of $20 or more (expires 7/31/14). Various cities.
  • American Express Gift Card $10 off $200. Get a one-time $10 statement credit by using your connected card to spend a total of $200 or more on American Express Gift Cards at www.americanexpress.com/gift-cards by 7/30/14.

Here are the various ways to access these offers:

  • Log into your AmEx account online and scroll down until you see the “Amex Offers For You” tab.
  • Use the AmEx smartphone app.
  • Access via social media at AmExOffers.com – Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor.
  • Not everyone can access every offer, but the ones on Twitter tend to be available to everyone. You can track these easily on their Favorites page.

Groupon Deal: Sam’s Club Membership

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samslogoAvailable again. Groupon has a special Sam’s Club Plus membership deal where for $45 you get:

  • One-year Sam’s Club Savings membership ($45 value), which includes a membership card for the primary cardholder and a complimentary membership card for a spouse or other household member.
  • $20 Sam’s Club gift card
  • Four Fresh-food vouchers, redeemable at the time of membership activation through Monday, October 27, 2014 (a $26.23 value), including:
    • Sliced oven-roast turkey (22 oz. – $7.98 value)
    • Ciabatta rolls (8 ct. – $3.99 value)
    • Black bean five-layer dip (28 oz. – $7.98 value)
    • Apple pie (10” – $6.28 value)

Valid at any Sam’s club location. New members only, which is defined as someone who does not have a currently valid membership. Remember that you can save even more on your Groupon with cashback shopping sites like eBates ($5 new customer bonus), Mr. Rebates ($5 bonus), and BigCrumbs.

Kindle Unlimited Review: Personal Finance and Investing Books

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kindleu2Amazon has just announced Amazon Unlimited, an eBook and audiobook subscription service that costs $9.99 a month (30-day free trial) and not included in Amazon Prime. They claim over 600,000 titles in their library, although that number is padded by a lot of little-known self-published eBooks. “Thousands” of those books come with free audiobook versions. You can read unlimited books (max 10 out at once) and on any Kindle app (Windows, Mac, web browser, iPhone/iPad, Android, etc).

It’s a library card with 24/7 instant availability, but how well-stocked is this virtual library?

My personal reading habits include mainly business, personal improvement, and finance books. I compiled a list of notable books that I have read or want to read first, and then checked if Amazon Unlimited had it. I’m also including the findings from my Oyster review (a competing eBook app) for comparison purposes.

Book Oyster.com Amazon Unlimited
William Bernstein’s Recommended Reading List for Young Investors
The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. Yes No
Common Sense on Mutual Funds by Jack Bogle. Yes No
Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation by Edward Chancellor. No No
The Great Depression: A Diary by Benjamin Roth. Yes No
Your Money and Your Brain by Jason Zweig. Yes No
How a Second Grader Beats Wall Street by Allan Roth. Yes No
All About Asset Allocation by Rick Ferri. No No
5 Recent Bestsellers
Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis. No Yes
Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry by Helaine Olen. No No
Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. No No
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. No Yes
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. No No
5 Personal Favorite Financial Books
Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. No No
Work Less, Live More: The Way to Semi-Retirement by Robert Clyatt. Yes No
The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. No No
The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein. No No
A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton G. Malkiel. No No

 
* Oyster catalog checked June 2014 and Amazon Unlimited checked July 2014.

Recap

In the “major publisher, popular, well-reviewed” category, Oyster wins hands-down. AmazonUnlimited reportedly does not have any of the major “Big 5″ publishers (they are not BFFs right now). In the “recent business bestseller” category, neither is great but Amazon actually has a slightly better showing. Many of Michael Lewis’s other books are also on AmazonUnlimited (The Big Short, Liar’s Poker, The Blind Side). In the “niche DIY early retirement personal finance nerd” category, again neither does great although Oyster technically wins by a nose.

Bottom line: Amazon Unlimited has a relatively limited catalog for personal finance enthusiasts.

Keep in mind that the Amazon Kindle Owner’s Lending Library still exists (at least for now) and boasts 500,000+ titles (again padded by self-published eBooks). The Kindle Lending Library is free if you already have both a Kindle (any model) and an Amazon Prime subscription. You can only read on a Kindle device though, and you only get one title per month.

There are some promising titles available if you dig around, for example I noticed that William Bernstein’s “Investing for Adults” series of books (The Ages of the Investor, Skating Where the Puck Was, Deep Risk, and Rational Expectations so far) are all available with both Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Lending Library.

Personally, I might sign-up for the free trial and read whatever books I can during that window and maybe it’ll spill over for a month (though you can cancel now and still enjoy you free month without worry of auto-bill), but I can’t see myself paying $120 a year for a limited selection of books (that interest me) that I can’t keep forever.

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card: $100 Statement Credit + Two Free Weekend Nights $500+ Value

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Update – This promotion is now EXPIRED.

Citi has a new promo for its premium Hilton Hotels card, the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card. The sign-up bonus now includes a $100 statement credit in addition to 2 Free Weekend Nights (details below). The two free weekend night certificates are good on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights and offer a potential value of $500+ by themselves. Card feature summary:

  • Earn a $100 statement credit after spending $100 or more on your first hotel stay in the Hilton HHonors Portfolio within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio after $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening*
  • Earn 10 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton HHonors portfolio*
  • Earn 5 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on airline and car rental purchases*
  • Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases*
  • Free HHonors Gold status as long as you are a cardmember*
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases*
  • Travel with ease and enjoy global acceptance with your Citi chip credit card
  • $95 annual fee.

The two free weekend night certificates have no category restrictions, but do have the following exclusions. Certificates are valid for 12 months after issuance. Must be used on “standard” rooms (no upgraded suites, etc). Room taxes are included with the certificates. Booking the same rooms using rewards points would cost 50,000-70,000 HHonors points per night. Possible choices include:

grandmaui

In the end, this is a great way for casual travelers to stay two nights at a really fancy hotel where you can’t imagine paying over $300 a night. (I just checked the Grand Wailea in Maui, and the standard room for one night was $439 + taxes = $501.27) Use the $100 credit to save on an additional night or separate stay. Alternatively, this card is good for regular travelers where Hilton is your hotel chain of choice. Free Gold status offers perks like late checkout, free Wi-Fi, and a free breakfast at many hotels. For future years, if you spend $10,000 in a year you get another free weekend night certificate, which you can weigh against the $95 annual fee.

I just applied for this card. I would normally like to use the certificates for something international and exotic, but with two toddlers I’m pretty sure we’re going to use it for the Grand Wailea in Maui. My application is pending; you can check via their application status number 888-201-4523.

Spirit Airlines Free 8,000 Miles = 80% of One-Way Flight Award or Free Magazines

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hatespiritSpirit Airlines is a budget airline that charges for things like carry-ons and printing a boarding pass at check-in. They have the highest number of complaints per passenger. But they’re cheap – they claim 40% lower on average. They are also known for controversial ad campaigns, including their most recent Hate Thousand Mile Giveaway. Basically, make a complaint about any airline and get 8,000 Spirit miles. If you don’t have one yet, you can sign up for a free account beforehand.

As previously mentioned, you can grab another 1,000 Spirit miles with a new Rewards Dining account and spending $30 (tax and tip count) at a participating restaurant. Get another 750 bonus miles by signing up for MyPoints and making a $25 purchase through their shopping mall. Finally, get 400 miles for joining a survey site and taking your first survey.

What can you do with Spirit miles?

  • Free flight award chart. One-way awards start at 10,000 miles. This is why I mention the partners above, as a possible way to get to 10k without flying.
  • However, if you apply for their branded credit card, one-way awards start at 2,500 for off-peak awards. But since everyone is getting these free miles, I don’t know how easy it will be to grab one of these.
  • Free magazine subscriptions. Via MagsforMiles, 40 issues of Fortune is 2,900 miles, 51 issues of The Economist is 4,800 miles, 12 issues of Money is 1,200 miles, 304 issues of Wall Street Journal is 4,800 miles, 52 issues of Time is 1,800 miles. Other examples are Sports Illustrated, Vogue, People…

So at worst, fill out a 60-second form and get two free magazine subscriptions. I just did it and I’m not really sure where the “hate” goes, I guess they just want to remind us that other airlines stink too. “Miles will be posted to your FREE SPIRIT account within 10 days of submission.” Keep in mind that miles expire after only 90 days of inactivity. So redeem quickly or sign up for the dining miles program to extend expiration.

ShareBuilder Promotion Codes: Free Stock Trades (Updated 2014)

sbcapone

Added a new code. Here are some promotion codes for ShareBuilder, a discount brokerage now owned by the same folks behind Capital One 360. 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)

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...]

Fandango Movie Ticket Discounts: 2-for-1 Fridays + 20% Off Gift Cards

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fanplus1Only six Fridays left! Fandango has brought back their Visa Signature summer promotion from April 25th to August 8th. 2-for-1 movie tickets on Fridays! You can also get 20% off Fandango gift cards which can be used any day of the week and can be instantly redeemable online.

2-For-1 Movie Fridays. If you buy two or more tickets via Fandango.com/visasignature on a Friday, one of those tickets will be free at checkout (up to $19.50 value). Works with IMAX and other premium theaters. This should also work with the Fandango Mobile App “TIXPRESS” feature if you have a Visa Signature as the stored payment. No promo code required.

Tickets must be purchased on a Friday and used on a Friday showing. Limit 1 complimentary movie ticket per Visa Signature card purchase, per 30 day period, following the date of a purchase in connection with this offer.

Note that this means if you have more than one Visa Signature card, you can participate more often. Check your credit cards, you may be surprised to have one already, especially if you’ve gone after some of the juicy $500+ sign-up bonuses recently. The following are all Visa Signature cards:

20% off Fandango Gift Cards. You also get 20% off gift cards bought in $25 increments, which is basically $5 off $25 and valid any day of the week.

Limit four (4) discounted Fandango Gift Card purchases per Visa Signature card per month (maximum of $100 in Fandango Gift Cards).

Again, this is per Visa Signature card. The service fee can be annoying, but these promotions still make it a net discount. If you are a member of AMC Stubs, you can get the Fandango service fee waived at those theaters (membership costs $12 a year). I must say that being able to buy tickets from my phone is quite nice.

I’m not sure if these stack with other promotional codes, but their fine print says that they can’t be combined with other offers.

Rewards Dining Programs and Avoiding Airline Miles Expiration Policies

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stopwatch2As I am now a father of two in diapers and no longer an active traveler, I am again faced with the possible expiration of my frequent flier miles due to inactivity.

The easiest and cheapest way for me to keep my miles alive has been to using dining rewards programs that give me miles for eating at participating restaurants. You just link your existing credit card and pay with that credit card and it figures everything out for you – no embarrassing coupons, apps, or membership cards. Not all the food joints are great (this is basically paid advertising and the best places don’t need to advertise) but thankfully there is consistently a small overlap between participating merchants and places I usually eat at anyway. My $10 lunch fills the stomach and resets the clock on my 5 or 6-figure mileage balance (although you could buy something as little as a $1 bottle of water). Miles usually post within a few weeks; often faster.

Each separately branded program can have multiple credit cards linked to it, but any single credit card can only be linked with one program. (Hope that made sense. You can’t earn miles on two airlines on the same purchase.) However, you can change the linked cards as often as you like via website.

Be on the lookout for also various limited-time promotions for both new and existing members that may offer you more free points and miles. For example, below is a limited-time promotion offering new American Airlines Dining members 2,000 miles for spending $30+ at a participating restaurant and completing a short survey. At 1 to 2 cents value each, that 2,000 mile bonus is worth $20-$40 by itself. You can join each program and grab every bonus (one by one or simultaneously, if you have enough credit card numbers).

Here are all the airline mileage and hotel programs that are affiliated with Rewards Network (formerly iDine), along with their expiration policies:

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

American Airlines AAdvantage

Delta SkyMiles

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

Spirit Airlines

United Airlines MileagePlus

US Airways Dividend Miles

Hilton HHonors

International Hotel Group (IHG)

Capital One 360 Financial Independence Day Promo 2014

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13045000Capital One 360 is running their annual Financial Independence Day promotion, with what is traditionally the best bonus of the year for their 360 Savings and 360 Checking accounts. (Formerly known as ING Direct.) These online bank accounts offer no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements, all with a decent interest rate. As a result, the savings account makes a great “online piggy bank” where you can make free transfers from your existing checking accounts from any bank into the 360 Savings account on a regular basis. Promo details:

360 Savings $76 Bonus

  • Grab $76 when you open a 360 Savings® account.
  • This has to be the primary account holder’s first 360 Savings account and it needs a $500 minimum deposit.
  • The bonus starts earning interest on day 1, but you can’t take it out for at least 30 days.

360 Checking $100 Bonus

  • Earn $100 when you open a 360 Checking® account. Sign up for fee-free 360 Checking®, make 5 Debit Card purchases or 5 mobile deposits with CheckMateSM within 45 days and snag a cool $100 on day 50.
  • This has to be your and your joint account holder’s (if you have one) first 360 Checking account.
  • Open 360 Checking from June 30th – July 3rd and make a total of 5 Debit Card purchases or 5 CheckMateSM deposits or any combination of the two within 45 days.
  • Your $100 bonus will be automatically deposited into your account on day 50.

Expedia $50 off $200 Coupon Code

Expedia has a 4th of July promotion where if you use their mobile app you can get $50 off a $200 hotel booking. That’s up to 25% off. Pretty simple… go to link, enter mobile phone number, receive both unique coupon code and mobile app download link. Limited time offer; grab the code now if interested. Via Fatwallet.

Hotel stay must be $200 before taxes and fees. Promo code must be redeemed on mobile app (at checkout page) by 7/7/14 for travel between 6/27/14 and 12/31/14. Limit one per user account. Full terms and conditions.

5% Cash Back Credit Cards: Rotating Categories Update 2014

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3nd quarter activation now open for all cards.  Chase Freedom $200 bonus ends 6/30. The cards below offer a hefty 5% cash back on certain categories that rotate each quarter. With a little extra attention, I can easily rack up hundreds of dollars in additional rewards per year without otherwise changing my spending habits. Sometimes this involves buying Amazon gift cards at stores offering 5% back. None of these have an annual fee, so it costs me nothing to keep them around. New cardmembers often also get an initial sign-on bonus.

Chase Freedom CardChase Freedom® – $100 Bonus
From July 1st through September 30th, 2014 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Gas Stations
  • Kohl’s® (in-store and online)

Enroll each quarter at ChaseBonus.com, it’s quick and as long as you activate by the end of the quarter the rewards are retroactive. All other purchases earn 1% back, with no tiers or expiration of rewards. Currently, the Chase Freedom® card is offering a $100 bonus cash back.  If you sign up and make just $500 in purchases in your first three months and a $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period. No annual fee.

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa CardCiti® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card
From July 1st to September 30th, you can earn 5% cash back from Citi on eligible purchases at:

  • Movie Theaters & Theme Parks
  • Car Rental Agencies
  • Eligible Purchases within the Hilton portfolio

Log into your online account or call 1-800-231-0891 to activate the rewards each quarter (starts upon activation, not retroactive). The total cash back earned with the card is $300 per calendar year, excluding the $100 cash back with this offer.  See Citi Dividend Card Reward Program Information for details. Full 1% cash back on all other purchases and eligible cash advances and rewards do not expire as long as you have activity once every 12 months.

Currently, the Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card has a promotion offering $100 cash back after $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 12 months. After that, the APR will be 12.99%-22.99% variable based on your creditworthiness. No annual fee.

Discover it Card ImageDiscover it® Card
From July 1st through September 30th, 2014 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Gas Stations

Login into your online account to activate the rewards each quarter (starts upon activation, not retroactive). The new Discover it® card now has a flat 1% cash back (no more tiers), free FICO score every month, late-payment forgiveness, and direct-to-human, 100% US-based customer service reps. No annual fee. (If you have an old Discover More card, you should call in and convert it to a Discover It card for free and get the new perks.)

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

Amazon App Store: Over $100 in Paid Apps Free 6/27 6/28 Only

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az100If you have an Android phone or tablet, check out this Amazon App Store promotion which has a bunch of paid apps for free, Friday and Saturday only. As usual, I just grab whatever looks good now while it is free and then later delete the ones I don’t want. If you’ve never used the Amazon App store before, you’ll get a $1 credit after your first download.

Plex app caught my eye, that is a great app for streaming movie files from your computer to your TV via Roku or to your phone. Rip all your old DVDs to a hard drive and have them only a tap away.