Personal Capital Black Friday Promo: Free $20 Amazon Gift Code

pc_logoPersonal Capital is a free tool that allows you to connect all your financial accounts to track your balances, asset allocation and performance. If you are familiar with Mint.com, it is somewhat similar but more focused your investment portfolio.

For Black Friday weekend, Personal Capital is offering the first 1,000 users to sign up for a free account and link at least one account via personalcapital.com/holiday2014 will get a free $20 Amazon.com gift card. The next 3,000 users to sign up and link at least one account will get a $10 Amazon gift card. Easy money!

Valid from 12:00 am PT on Friday, November 28, 2014 and expires at 11:59 pm PT on Monday, December 1, 2014. But it really ends when the $50,000 of gift cards runs out, so probably a lot sooner.

Chase Freedom $200 Limited Time Offer

Chase Freedom ImageUpdated with limited-time $200 bonus and new 5% categories for Q1 2015. The Chase Freedom® – $200 Bonus has a new limited time promotion offering a $200 Bonus after you make $500 in purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. In addition, you can earn an additional $25 bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period. This is the highest sign-up bonus I’ve seen for this “keeper” card and double the usual $100.

As a rewards credit card it is better than plain vanilla 1% cashback cards with its 5% cashback on rotating categories, good for up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter. Here are the categories for the rest of 2014:

From October through December 2014 (activate starting 9/15/14):

  • Amazon.com
  • Zappos.com
  • Select Department Stores

From January through March 2015 (activate starting 12/15/14):

  • Grocery Stores (Target and Wal-mart not included)
  • Starbucks
  • Movie Theaters

Activate quarterly at ChaseBonus.com or call the number on the back of the card. All other purchases earn 1% back, with no tiers or expiration of rewards.  Keep in mind that you actually earn Ultimate Rewards points. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold/Plus small business cards which also earn those, your Ultimate Rewards points can be combined and converted to miles like United Airlines, British Airways, and Hyatt hotel points. Depending on what you redeem for (i.e. plane ticket, hotel stay), Ultimate Rewards can be worth well more than 1 cent per point this way, which means you can actually get more than 5% value back.

I’ve had this card seemingly forever as the 5% rewards often come in handy, and there is no annual fee so there’s no reason to cancel it.

“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.”

PNC Bank Card + Visa Checkout $10 Bonus

Get a $10 statement credit via this link when you enroll in Visa Checkout with a PNC Bank Visa debit or credit card by 12/31/2014. You don’t actually have to buy anything for this promotion.

Visa Checkout allows you to pay at participating online merchants without having to type in your card numbers every time, although you’ll need to remember your username and password (like Paypal).

Offer valid 10/20/14-12/31/14. Within 3 statement cycles after enrollment in Visa Checkout, customer will receive a $10 statement credit to either the enrolled PNC Visa credit card account or the primary checking account associated with the enrolled PNC Visa debit card, whichever card is listed as the preferred card in Visa Checkout. Business cards excluded. Limit of one $10 statement credit per customer.

Bank of America Card + Visa Checkout $10 Bonus

Get a $10 Prepaid Reward Visa® Card via this link when you enroll in Visa Checkout with a Bank of America Visa debit or credit card by 12/4/2014. You’ll need to be a new Visa Checkout account customer and add a BofA consumer card, but the promo doesn’t require you to actually buy anything.

Visa Checkout allows you to pay at participating online merchants without having to type in your card numbers every time, although you’ll need to remember your username and password (like Paypal).

To qualify for this offer, you must (1) create a new Visa Checkout account for the first time by [12/4/2014] via the “Enroll now” link above, via http://promo.bankofamerica.com/visa-checkout/ or the Visa Checkout link in Bank of America’s Online Banking, AND (2) add at least one consumer Bank of America issued Visa credit or debit card to the new Visa Checkout account during the initial account set-up (other cards do not qualify for this offer). Allow 60 days from Visa Checkout account opening for delivery of the Reward card to the billing address of the Bank of America issued Visa credit or debit card first added to the Visa Checkout account. Limit one (1) Reward card per customer.

American Express Small Business Saturday 2014 – $30 Total Bonus Per Card

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Reminder: Registration is now live on Shopsmall.com. You will get e-mail confirmation. I would highly recommend registering sometime on Sunday to guarantee your spot, as the number of registrations is limited. The actual day that you must make your purchases is Saturday, Nov 29, 2014. Details are below.

Have you made your SBS Game Plan? Remember that authorized users of eligible cards are also eligible for this promotion. Given that it is three separate $10 credits per card, it’ll make your live easier if you plan out your purchases ahead of time. Here’s my list:

  • Local grocery stores. There’s one where I can find the sunflower seed butter for my kid, and the one with the good raw lasagna.
  • Local restaurants and coffee shops. Just make sure they take AmEx!
  • Local doggie bakery. Usually too pricey for me, but a good place for gifts!
  • Local sporting goods stores and bike shops. Buy some tennis balls, some little things for my bike, etc.
  • Local hardware stores. These are a dying breed, but there are still some non-Home Depot small business hardware stores in my area.
  • Local bookstore. Another rarity, but there happens to be one next to a local restaurant we like!

If they sell gift certificates, buy them! If you only want to spend $10, you can say those can make good stocking stuffers. If you would otherwise buy a $25 certificate for a gift, hey that’s still 40% off what you would have paid. Also don’t be shy about using more than one card at a place. AmEx is paying those $10 credits, not them, so the merchants should still appreciate your patronage.

Original Small Business Saturday 2014 post:

American Express has confirmed that they will bring back Small Business Saturday (SBS) on Saturday, November 29th – two days after Thanksgiving.

The significant change this year is that now it is up to three separate $10 statement credits, for a total of up to $30 per eligible card. Details from the Official Terms and Conditions [pdf]:

  • Limit three (3) $10 statement credits per eligible American Express Card. To receive the offer, Card Members must register any eligible American Express Card for this offer. Corporate Cards and all prepaid Card products (other than American Express Serve® and Bluebird®) are not eligible.
  • The number of registrations is limited. Registration opens at 12:00 A.M. MST (“Mountain Standard Time”) on Nov 16, 2014 and will continue until 11:59 P.M. MST on Nov 29, 2014, unless the registration limit is reached sooner.
  • To receive the $10 statement credit, the Card Member must use his or her registered Card to spend $10 or more in a single, in-store transaction at a qualifying small business location on Saturday, Nov 29, 2014.

Other important terms and tips:

  • Qualifying small business locations appear on the Shop Small Map.
  • If you don’t have anything specific in mind, even gift cards to a local non-chain restaurant, grocer, hardware store, or clothing boutique count.
  • In all previous years, additional authorized user cards have been eligible for their own $10 credit. (Authorized user cards with AmEx get their own unique card number.) I see nothing that changes that in this year’s rules. Many American Express cards offer additional cards for free to authorized users like your spouse, partner, or older children.
  • Most prepaid cards are not eligible, but American Express Bluebird and Serve cards are eligible. Given that these cards are free to obtain (officially you can only have one or the other, though) this is another path to an additional free $30 of small business patronage in 2014.

Small Business Saturday remains a very creative way for American Express to tell the public that they’ve greatly increased acceptance of their cards at small businesses, which has always been their relative weak spot due to their slightly higher fees for the merchant. (It also makes small business that aren’t accepting AmEx to think twice…)

This is a great perk for American Express cardholders. With a little advance planning multiple credits are very easy to get… I’ve gotten them every year without issue.

AmEx Small Business Card Offers: $150 off $150 AT&T Wireless

Quickly since this won’t apply to everyone – If you have a American Express Business card with OPEN, check to see if you were offered $150 back at AT&T Wireless. Simply log into your AmEx account online and scroll down until you see the “Amex Offers For You” tab. Not everyone will have this, but for those that do, simply make a $150 payment to your AT&T Wireless bill by phone at 800-331-0500 with that business card, and get that $150 back in statement credit!

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Fine print:

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Raise App: Buy Gift Cards on Smartphone Right Before Purchase

raiseapp2I prefer shopping tips that let you save money on stuff you’d already buy anyway. Raise.com lets you buy and sell gift cards online, and according to them they are the largest online marketplace for gift cards (plus they’ve raised $25M in venture capital).

Raise just launched their new iPhone app (currently no Android app), and you can tell they put some thought into it with little things like scanning your credit card number via smartphone camera and storing all your past gift cards in their “wallet”. This app makes it even easier to buy a discounted gift card after you’ve already decided what to buy and are on the way to the register. Store your credit card info ahead of time, buy a discounted card for 5 to 10% off, and use up the gift card a minute later. Why wait for shipping? Definitely worth keeping on your phone, if only for big $100+ purchases.

Always check the gift card to make sure it will be delivered electronically. The fine print states that eGift cards will be delivered “within 1 hour” but they’ve always arrived within a minute for me. Even their press release states “A user standing in line for coffee, for instance, could quickly find and buy a corresponding gift card and redeem it at the store counter, pocketing instant savings.”

Raise also guarantees that the gift card you purchase will have the correct value upon redemption. The only “catch” is that you must tell them within 60 days of purchase. I wouldn’t recommend waiting nearly that long with any used gift card, as at least one other person has the code.

Their current promotion is new customers can get $5 off $60 using code RAISE60AF. Yes, you can use promo codes in the Raise app. Inventory is constantly changing, but I just found a Home Depot gift for $61.76 (face value $65.01). After the $5 off coupon, that would be $57.76 or 12.7% off face value.

Target Gift Cards 10% Off on Black Friday 2015

I usually don’t write much about Black Friday “deals” as it usually involves a lot of stuff most people don’t need anyway, but this year it caught my attention that Target is selling their gift cards at 10% off face value. Here are details according to their Black Friday ad [pdf] hosted by Fatwallet.

  • 10% Off all Target GiftCards valid in stores on Friday, 11/28/14 from 6am until 12pm Noon local time and at Target.com from 6am until 12pm Noon Central time.
  • Target Gift cards purchased during this offer can only be used beginning Saturday, November 29th (no double-dipping on Black Friday).
  • Offer valid for up to $300 in Target Giftcard purchases per household. (Not sure how they’d enforce the per-household rule in-store, perhaps by billing address online.)
  • Quantities limited, no rainchecks.

The good news is that you can buy online, but the max discount is $30 on $300 of gift cards (less if you’d otherwise use Target RedCard with 5% off). Also, what is up with “quantities limited”? Why limit access to their own gift cards when they already restrict the time to purchase and place a cap on purchases? Hopefully they make this promo run smoothly.

As reader Helena points out, you can also use your Discover It card and get an additional 5% off if you buy the gift cards online at Target.com.

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Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card Review: Two Roundtrip Flights + Companion Pass Info

Southwest Premier Card ImageSouthwest has brought back their 50,000 bonus point promo for the Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. That’s worth 2 Roundtrip Flights (over $700 in airfare with no limited-capacity seating hoops or $500 in Amazon.com gift cards) after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account.  There is a $99 annual fee that is not waived the first year. (In the past, these limited-time offers have lasted a couple of weeks and come up around twice a year.)

2015/2016 Companion Pass
Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Companion Pass allows you to designate one person to fly with you for free (person can be changed 3 times). To qualify, you must earn 110,000 points in a calendar year, and yes credit card points count! If you are careful with when you meet the spending requirement (wait until January), you can earn the status in very early 2015 and then you can use the Companion Pass for the rest of 2015 and all of 2016. The companion pass even works on award tickets!

Besides a lot of spending or flying, the small business version of this card has a 50,000 point bonus. Spend $2,000 on each of these two cards and you’ll qualify for both the 50k bonus and 50k bonus plus the 4k from spending for a total of 104,000 Rapid Rewards points. Spend a little more on the card or take some Southwest flights to make up the last 6,000 points and you’ll have 110,000. Those 110k points will be worth over $1,400 in Wanna Get Away airfare split up into however many flights you want + a free companion pass which can effectively double the value.

More Details
The huge “2 Roundtrip Flights” banner on the Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card application page is based on the fact that an “average” round-trip $357 Wanna Get Away fare would cost about 25,000 points. In reality, the value of the bonus is $714 in Southwest airfare broken up however you like. Any Wanna Get Away fare is eligible, so this bonus is very useful for Southwest fliers. If you take shorter flights or wait for a fare sale, this could easily be worth multiple roundtrip flights. 25,000 points can also be converted to $250 in gift cards to Amazon.com, Wal-mart, and other retailers.

Currently 70 points = $1 worth of Wanna Get Away airfare, which means you get 1.43 cents of value per point. Southwest is still offering two free checked bags, which can be a significant roundtrip savings. Here are the rest of the details:

  • Get 50,000 points for 2 Roundtrip Flights after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account. Government fees as low as $23 not included.
  • Get 6,000 points after your Cardmember Anniversary.
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® and AirTran® Airways purchases made directly with the airlines and on Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Redeem points for gift cards, car rentals, cruises, hotel stays, and international flights to over 800 Destinations on 50+ global carriers.
  • No foreign transaction fees

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card Application Link

“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.”

Southwest Premier Card Banner

Amazon Prime Photos: Free Unlimited Photo Backup

azphotosAmazon has announced another feature for Prime subscribers: unlimited free online photo storage. As part of their Cloud Drive, Prime Photos will allow you to back up all your photos in full resolution via either web browser, smartphone app, or desktop PC software. The iOS and Android apps can be set to automatically upload your “camera roll” photos.

Prime Photos requires an Amazon Prime, Amazon Mom, Amazon Student or Amazon Fresh membership (trials count).

Back in May 2014, Flickr announced 1,000 GB of free online photo storage also at full resolution. Their smartphone app can also auto-upload pictures from your phone. For Google+ Photos, any photos over 2048×2048 pixels will count toward your storage limit (15 GB free; 1 TB is $9.99 per month).

On the one hand, Prime Photos provides even more value to Prime subscribers and it is good to have a service you pay some money towards. Flickr is free, but that also means they might shut down in the future if they lack revenue for ongoing support. On the other hand, if you stop your $99 a year Prime membership you’ll either lose your photos or have to pay for Cloud Drive storage. It’s not very cheap: 1 TB of storage costs $500 year.

Cash Reserves & Best Interest Rates Update – November 2014

percentage2Our family keeps a full year of expenses put aside in cash reserves; it provides us with financial stability with the additional side benefits of lower stress and less concern about stock market gyrations. Emergency funds can actually have a better return on investment than what you see on your bank statement.

Interest rates are still depressingly low, and I haven’t made any changes to how I hold my cash reserves since my last update in June. However, there are still better options out there for cash stuck in a too-big-to-fail megabank savings account paying 0.000001%.

Best Currently Available Interest Rates

If I wasn’t already invested as outlined at the bottom of this post, here are the FDIC-insured or government-backed opportunities that I would be looking into based on my needs.

  • Everbank Yield Pledge Money Market and Interest Checking account both offer 1.40% APY guaranteed (up to $50k each) for the first 6 months for new accounts. Since it is fixed, this is essentially a 6-month CD with a higher rate than any other 6-month CD rate out there and with no early withdrawal penalty to worry about.
  • “Series I” US Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation. “I Bonds” bought right now will earn 1.48% total for the first six months, and then a variable rate based on ongoing inflation after that. You must hold them for a year, and if you redeem them within 5 years you lose the last 3 months of interest. While future rates are unknown, the net rate after a year is still likely to be competitive with top 1-year CD rates. More info here.
  • Rewards checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but only if you to jump through many hoops. Make a mistake and you’ll forfeit your interest for that month. Rates can also drop quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. If you’re up for it, a recent example is Consumers Credit Union where you can earn up to 5.09% APY on up to a $20k balance, although 3.09% APY is easier to achieve unless you satisfy a long list of requirements. Good news is the rate is guaranteed until August 2015.
  • Certificates of deposit. If you have a large cushion, it’s quite likely to just sit there for years. Why not put some money in longer-term investments where you can still take it out in a true emergency and pay an early withdrawal penalty. Synchrony Bank (formerly GE Capital Retail Bank) is offering a 5-year CD paying 2.30% APY for $25k+ balances (2.25% APY for $2k+) with an early withdrawal penalty of 180 days interest. For example, if you withdraw from this CD after 2 years and pay the penalty, your effective rate earned will still be 1.72%.
  • Willing to lock up your money for 7 years? Tobyhanna Federal Credit Union has a 7-year CD paying 3.04% APY, however the early withdrawal penalty is a full 2 years of interest. More info at DepositAccounts.com.
  • How about two decades!? “Series EE” US 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 0.50% APY). You really want to be sure you’ll keep it for 20 years.

Where’s My Money At?

Here’a quick recap of how I have our cash reserves split up. Keep in mind that most of the rates that I locked in are no longer available, but I did blog about them at the time.

  • Ally Bank Online Savings paying 0.90% APY (as of 11/3/14) which also serves as a no-fee overdraft option to my Ally Interest Checking, that way I can keep a minimal balance in checking. Ally checking also has unlimited ATM fee rebates and no fees. I know there are some savings accounts paying a tiny bit more, but not worth the trouble for less than 0.1% difference on $10,000.
  • Ally Bank CDs earning between 1.84% and 3.09% APY. These are old 5-year CDs with a short 60-day interest penalty. Current Ally CD rate of 11/3/14 is 2.00% APY for 5-Year CD with 150-day early withdrawal penalty.
  • PenFed CDs earning 5% APY. Long gone, although earlier this year PenFed did offer 5-year CDs at 3% APY (no longer available). Current rates are only so-so.
  • I also bought several US savings bonds that I now consider part of my retirement portfolio as opposed to cash reserves, as I don’t think I’ll ever want to cash them in before full maturity. More info below.

All rates are believed current as of writing, 11/3/14.

Citi American Airlines AAdvantage Mastercard Review: 50,000 Bonus Miles (Updated)

citinewaaUpdated. American Airlines and US Airways have announced new details about their upcoming merger. As expected, the two frequent flier programs will merge and all the miles will become American AAdvantage miles in 2015. (US Airways Dividend miles will convert at a 1:1 ratio.) Along with that, they have slightly updated both the Citi American Airlines card and Barclaycard US Airways card.

Here are the updated details on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® (yikes what a name):

New cardholder bonus:

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and 2 Admirals Club® Passes after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Annual fee is $95, waived for first 12 months.

American Airlines and US Airways perks:

  • Free checked bag for you and 4 companions. Your first eligible checked bag is free for you and up to four travel companions. This perk still only applies to American and not US Airways.
  • Free Priority Boarding. Priority Boarding with Group 1 privileges for you and up to 4 companions on American flights only.
  • 10% rebate on award redemptions. Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage miles back – up to 10,000 AAdvantage miles each calendar year*
  • 25% savings on in-flight purchases (food, beverages, and headsets) on both American Airlines and US Airways flights.
  • Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount every cardmembership year with qualifying purchases and cardmembership renewal. The Flight Discount is also redeemable for air travel on any oneworld® carrier or American Airlines codeshare flight (this includes US Airways flights booked as American Airlines codeshare flights).
  • Double miles on both American Airlines and US Airways purchases. Double AAdvantage miles on eligible American Airlines and US Airways purchases* like plane tickets and 1 AAdvantage mile for every $1 spent on other purchases.