TurboTax 2014 Feature Change + Free H&R Block Offer + Free TurboTax Upgrade

ttboxIt’s that time of year again, where we await our W-2 and 1099 forms and decide which tax software to use. I’m working on product-specific reviews, but for now I figured I’d summarize the drama surrounding TurboTax 2015 for those that don’t follow these things as closely.

  • Last year, TurboTax Deluxe Online 2013 started requiring you to upgrade to Premier in order get guidance on stock sales (Schedule D) and self-employment expenses (Schedule C). You can see this as either a feature delete, or price increase. However, the TurboTax Deluxe Desktop 2013 version kept this ability. There was a little outrage but really not that much from what I recall.
  • This year, TurboTax Deluxe Desktop 2014 no longer included Schedule D or C. In other words, the 2013 change to the online version was propagated to their desktop download/CD version. This time, break out the pitchforks! There are over a thousand 1-star reviews on the Amazon product page and articles from various media outlets including the NY Times and Time.
  • Why the outrage this year and not last year? TurboTax says 80% of people use the online version and only 20% use the desktop download, so you can see why Intuit thought everything would be cool. My theory is that desktop PC customers always pay for their software upfront (often at a physical store like Staples or Costco) and then don’t expect to be asked for any more money down the road. This has probably been their habit for years. Now in the middle of doing their taxes, you’re hitting them up for another thirty bucks?!
  • In contrast, with TurboTax Online you pay at the very end and the price is always a little different with various coupon codes and promotions.
  • Finally, the price difference between Deluxe and Premier for Online is $20, but for the Desktop version is $30. The software only cost $40 or $45 initially. That $30 upgrade fee is a 66-75% price increase.

Intuit needed to communicate this price change much more upfront and clearly. They don’t hide it, but you can see how repeat customers won’t notice since the Deluxe name doesn’t change.

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Trying to pick up the fumble, H&R Block is offering any impacted TurboTax customer a free copy of the H&R Block Deluxe + State for 2014, which just so happens to still include Schedule D capital gains guidance.

Those who have already purchased TurboTax Basic or Deluxe and would like to try H&R Block may email H&R Block at SwitchToBlock@hrblock.com and include the following information:

  • Name, address, and phone number
  • Type of operating system in use (Windows/Mac)
  • A photo, scan, or email showing proof of TurboTax Basic or Deluxe purchase

H&R Block will then send a link for one free download of H&R Block Deluxe + State (a $45 value, State E-file is $19.95 extra, does include Schedule D). You can import from a previous TurboTax return. This offer is not on the H&R Block website – it is only available by e-mailing them as directed above.

What if you want to stick with TurboTax? TurboTax may offer you a free upgrade to Premier, *if* you ask correctly. Well, hidden in the Amazon comments and vaguely referenced in various articles is the fact that Intuit will help their customers on a case-by-case basis so they can “demonstrate customer service” and “do what’s necessary” to appease customers. That basically means the squeaky wheels get the grease. You have to e-mail them at their own special e-mail address: TurboTax_Advocate@intuit.com or call them at 800-445-1875 (8am – 8pm EST M-F).

Reports are that if you contact them and cite the unexpected feature change, they will offer you the upgrade to Premier for free (a $30 savings as noted above). You may also mention a TurboTax VP made statements in Amazon reviews and media articles that Intuit would remedy the situation. I don’t know if it will work for the online version, but you could try.

So there you have it. TurboTax committed a foul, H&R Block invites you over to their party instead, and TurboTax wants to take you aside and apologize privately. When comparing tax software prices, be sure to find the right version for your needs and also include the price of state e-File if needed.

Or, you could use the underdog, TaxACT.com. Both the online and desktop versions of their Free Federal edition and cover all the Schedules A/B/C/D/E and even includes a free Federal E-File. For them, the Deluxe option means addition of time-saving import features. Their Ultimate package with everything Federal and State included – all Schedules, free Fed e-File, free State e-File – runs $17.99 for Online or $30.99 for Desktop ($21.99 + $9.99 State e-File).

T-Mobile Free 7-Day Test Drive Review

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I’m nearing the end of my contract, and I’ve been tempted by T-Mobile’s aggressive promotions like 4 lines for $100 and most recently free rollover data. But I worry about their coverage. Then I learned of the Free T-Mobile Test Drive where you can get an iPhone 5S shipped to you and try out their service with unlimited talk, text, and data for 7 days. All for free. You just have to return the phone to a physical T-Mobile retail store by the end of the 7th day or get charged $375 + tax. If there is damage like a cracked LCD screen or the Find my iPhone feature is left active, you’ll be charged $100.

I signed up online, agreed to the $700 hold on my credit card, and they shipped a phone out to me. 2-day shipping time passed, I started it up, but the phone didn’t work. Well, the phone turned on and apps worked fine on Wi-Fi. The T-Mobile service didn’t work. I saw bars and “T-Mobile” on the screen, but under the phone number setting, it said “Unknown”. All phone calls went to T-Mobile customer service. When trying to access the internet using 4G, it would only pull up a T-Mobile website stating that the phone was not activated on a data plan. Warning: this is a bit of a rant so you may want to just skip down to the bottom line.

Naturally, I called T-Mobile customer service. I was stuck in the usual phone tree hell, as there was no option for the 7-Day Test Drive and I wasn’t a new activation or an existing customer. I had no phone number to type in. Eventually I reached a human. I’ll call her Human #1.

T-Mobile Human #1: Hi, may I help you?

Me: Yes, I just received a phone from your T-Mobile 7-Day Test Drive promotion and I am having trouble getting the service to work.

T-Mobile Human #1: What is your name? (I give it to her)

T-Mobile Human #1: What is your phone number?

Me: I don’t have one.

T-Mobile Human #1: What is your account PIN?

Me: I don’t have one.

T-Mobile Human #1: What is your account number?

Me: I don’t have one. I’m on a test drive. I do have my order number, though.

T-Mobile Human #1: Hmm… let me transfer you. I’ll need to put you on hold for a few minutes.

Me: Okay.

T-Mobile Human #2: Hi, may I help you?

Me: Yes, I just a phone from your T-Mobile 7-Day Test Drive promotion and I am having trouble getting the service to work.

T-Mobile Human #2: What is your name? (I give it to him)

T-Mobile Human #2: What is your phone number?

Me: I don’t have one.

T-Mobile Human #2: What is your account number?

Me: I don’t have one. I do have my order number, though.

T-Mobile Human #2: Okay let me transfer you. I’ll need to put you on hold for a few minutes.

Me: Umm… okay.

I’m not kidding, this actually happens AGAIN with Human #3, and then I get transferred to tech support.

T-Mobile Human #4: (All the same questions again…) Okay, what is the ICCID number under your Settings > General > About?

Me: 8914 2121 2121 1212 555 (not actual number but I did give it to him)

T-Mobile Human #4: Well your SIM is not showing up as activated on our system. I’ll need to transfer you back again.

Me: You know what, I’ve been on the phone for half an hour. I am already running late. I’m going to go.

I wait until the next day and hope the phone activates on its own. Nope. So I call T-Mobile again. This time the person (#5) is in a crowded call center and I can barely hear her amidst the noise. She has no idea what the T-Mobile Test Drive is. She wants to transfer me. I just can’t go through that again so I hang up. I happen to have an errand that runs by a T-Mobile store so I just decide to return the phone.

I walk into the store and tell them I need to return a Test Drive phone. Surprise, they don’t know how to do that. I should mention that this promotion has been running for over 6 months and T-Mobile boasted that over 12,000 people had already done it. The two young men take the phone and ask me what the phone number is. I tell them I don’t have one and the phone doesn’t work. They ask to look at the phone.

T-Mobile Human #6: Your phone isn’t activated.

Me: I know.

T-Mobile Human #7: So they sent you a phone that doesn’t even work?

Me: Yes.

T-Mobile Human #6: We don’t know how to accept this return.

Me: Well, the promo is on your website and it clearly says I can only return it at a T-Mobile store. So here I am.

T-Mobile Human #7: Uhh, we have to call the manager.

Eventually another employee came by that knew the proper return process. I asked if they could just activate the phone in the store, but they couldn’t. I made sure to get a receipt stating that they received my device back and confirm that I’ll be charged $0.00. So after dealing with eight different T-Mobile employees and wasting well over an hour of my time, I still have no idea how good T-Mobile’s coverage is in my local area. It could be great.

For my troubles, I did get to keep the Apple OEM earbuds that came with the phone. Yay. I guess they think it’s icky to share earbuds (and I agree) so they ship brand new ones to every Test Drive customer along with a refurbished iPhone.

Please, T-Mobile, if you’re going to run a a test drive promotion, you need to use it as THE perfect opportunity to show the best side of your company and gain a customer!

Bottom line: I like the idea of letting people test drive the network. I do suspect T-Mobile coverage can be good enough if you stay in major metro areas. I liked being able to order the kit online and have it arrive at my door. Returning at a physical store so they can manually check the phone’s condition was better than having me mail it in and praying it gets there safely with a fair inspection. This way I knew I’d be charged nothing when I returned the phone. But T-Mobile needs to make a special department or hotline for this promo as their customer service folks are uninformed. Hopefully, most other people who do this test drive get a properly activated phone and don’t have to deal with the same issues.

Slate from Chase: 0% APR For 15 Months + NO Balance Transfer Fee for 60 Days!

Slate from Chase

Looking to pay down debt in 2015? Transfer your balances to the Chase Slate Card and get 0% APR For 15 Months and pay NO BALANCE TRANSFER FEE if done within 60 days of account opening. You won’t pay any more interest until 2016, and all your money will go towards paying down the balance principal. Detailed review below.

The Chase Slate® is now available with 0% introductory APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 15 months, and the best part: $0 balance transfer fee! You can literally borrow money or transfer existing balances for free and pay it back in 15 months with no interest (keeping in mind you’ll still need to satisfy the minimum payment each month until then). $0 annual fee.

It is very rare these days to find a no balance transfer fee 0% APR offer that is available to all (as opposed to being targeted only to specific customers). You can verify in the Pricing & Terms section of the application, down in the Fees box:

None on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. All other transfers: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Make sure you initiate that balance transfer within the first 60 days.

Lower your interest on balances!
This is a great opportunity for those people with good to excellent credit but are still working hard to lower their debt payments, as now you can have all your money applied directly into cutting down your principal instead of having it go towards interest and/or fees. The 0% APR applies to new purchases as well, so your balance owed will go down that much faster and you won’t have to worry about interest until well into 2016.

Chase Blueprint is a free feature on select cards that lets you break down your balances into things that you want to pay in full each month and bigger purchases that you wish to pay off over time. A gadgety feature, but if at all possible I say nuke those balances completely!

If you wish to get cash from this balance transfer offer without it being classified as a “cash advance”, one option that has worked for me is to ask for the balance transfer as a check or electronically transferred to your bank account. Just call the number on the back of your card after you get it and tell them you’re trying to pay down debt that’s not on another card.

“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.”

Citi® Double Cash Card Review: 1.99 or 2% Cash Back Credit Card

citidouble200Citi has an all-new cash back credit card and it is actually quite compelling. With the Citi® Double Cash Card, as the name suggests you earn cash back twice:

  • 1% unlimited cash back on every purchase you make
  • An additional 1% unlimited cash back as you pay for those purchases, whether you pay in full or over time.

This all comes with no caps, no tiers, no category restrictions, no quarterly enrollment hoops, no rotating categories. All with no annual fee. The only way you don’t get your 1% + 1% total is if you default on your bill and don’t even make the minimum payments. You can redeem your cash rewards in full as soon as it totals $25 or more, via check, direct deposit, or statement credit (i.e. if you have $31.44, you can get a check for $31.44).

You say that if pay your bill, then this is either a 1.99% or 2% cash back card. Why? Imagine you put $100 on the charge, 1% is earned so you have $1. Then you redeem that $1 (ignore minimums for this example) for a statement credit (as opposed to paper check) which means Citi actually “paid” for $1 of the $100. So you pay the remaining $99 and get an additional 1% or $0.99 back. Final tally: $1.99 back on $100 in purchases, or 1.99% back.

  • If you ask for your cash rewards in the form of an electronic funds transfer into a linked bank account, you’ll get the full 2% total cash back. The bank account can be a checking account from any bank from which you have paid a Citi Credit Card bill at least two times, or any Citi savings/checking account.
  • If you ask for your cash rewards in the form of a check, you’ll get the full 2% total cash back.
  • If you ask for your cash rewards in the form if a statement credit, you’ll get 1.99% effective cash back.

If you charged $1,000 per month, the difference between 1.99% and 2% per month would be a whopping 10 cents per month, or 1.20 per year.

There have been flat 2% cards in the past (Fidelity Mastercard, Sallie Mae, Priceline) but they are all no longer open to new applicants. However, most existing cardholders were grandfathered in, so based on that precedent you may want to get this card while it is still offered. According to varying reports, certain cardholders can call in and try to convert their existing Citi cards over, but you may or may not be successful. Converted cards are not eligible for the 0% interest for 15 months mentioned below.

Obviously, you’ll want to pay in full every month (unless taking advantage of the 0% APR promo rate on purchases) as to not rack up interest charges which can quickly offset your cashback rewards.

0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 12.99%, 15.99%, 18.99%, 20.99%, and 22.99%, based on your creditworthiness. There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Bottom line. Given the combination of the ability to get 2% flat cashback on all purchases, no annual fee, and the fact that it is a Mastercard which has the widest acceptance, the Citi Double Cash is a great rewards card to keep in your wallet, both for those who prefer simplicity and just want one card and for those who like optimizing multiple cards and can now establish a 2% minimum on everything. I don’t know of any other card that offers this combination of features.

Citi Double Cash Leaderboard

Pointshound Promo: 100 Free American Airlines Miles

PointsHound is a new hotel reservation site that lets you earn frequent flier miles and other loyalty currencies when making a hotel booking. For example, you could earn American Airlines miles by staying at a small boutique hotel. It seems basically like a little rebate on your purchase like Expedia+ points, but be careful if you are trying to rack up hotel-specific elite stays.

Right now, they have a promotion where you can get 100 free American AAdvantage miles just for signing up at PointsHound.com/AAdvantage and linking up your American Airlines account number. No booking required for the 100 miles, but you can also get an additional 2,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after your first booking.

100 miles is maybe worth a buck or two, but it does present a good way to reset your miles expiration date at no cost. AA miles currently expire after 18 months of inactivity.

Sling by Dish: Live Internet TV with ESPN for $20 a Month

One of the notable announcements from the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show that Dish Network will stream a package of major cable networks live over the internet. Getting channels like ESPN, Food Network, and CNN without a traditional cable subscription is a big shift in the industry and a sign of things to come. Official press release, NYT.

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The specific product is called Sling TV and Dish promises to offer the following 12 channels as part of their “The Best of Live TV” core package for just $20 a month:

  • ESPN (live sports!)
  • ESPN2
  • CNN
  • Food Network
  • Travel Channel
  • HGTV
  • Cartoon Network
  • TNT
  • TBS
  • Cartoon Network
  • Disney Channel
  • ABC Family

Here is a list of devices that it will work on:

  • iOS and Android devices
  • Mac / OS X
  • Windows PC
  • Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
  • Google Nexus Player
  • Select LG and Samsung Smart TVs
  • Roku TVs, boxes, and Streaming Stick
  • Xbox One

No contracts, no hardware installation, no credit check. More channels will be available in themed packages at an extra cost. The service is designed for individuals – You can only stream one show at once. (You can’t watch CNN on your TV and then ESPN on your tablet. Or it seems CNN on your TV and CNN on your tablet.) Even though I watch less TV than ever, I still pay for traditional cable for the ability to watch ESPN or Travel Channel when I do happen to catch some free time. This type of package could save me some bucks.

Related: Haggle to lower your cable and satellite TV bills.

Sam’s Club $25 Discount – New and Renewal Memberships

samslogoSam’s Club has a new deal that can get you a $25 gift card when you join or renew your membership. Here is the deal link, but everyone who does the Facebook share ends up at this page (in case you don’t do Facebook). Print it out (or load on phone) and bring it to the store to get your $25 gift card.

This is one of the few deals that I’ve seen still good for existing members. Sam’s Club gift cards also work at Wal-mart. Expires 1/31/15.

Gyft Promo Code: $5 off $25 Gift Cards to Target, Home Depot, More

Gyft just sent me an e-mail that you can get $5 off your gift card purchase of $25 or more with promo code LASTMIN, good for existing customers. Expires very soon on 12/25/14 at noon PST. (Note: If you are a new user, get your new user free $5 Gyft card first here.)

Good at lots of popular places like Target, Home Depot, Starbucks, and iTunes. Amazon won’t work directly, but you can buy a $25 Gyft card and then redeem that for a $25 Amazon gift card. The whole process took a minute.

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Straight Talk Promotion Codes: $20 off $45 Unlimited Monthly Plan Card + SIM

Straight Talk is a prepaid MVNO that offers the ability to buy SIM cards that you can pop into any AT&T-compatible, T-Mobile-compatible, or unlocked GSM phone. This includes many Samsung Galaxys and iPhone 5s that you can buy refurbished or on the used market. For $45 a month you get unlimited minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited data with no contracts and no credit checks. You also avoid the usual cell phone taxes that can add $5 to $10 per line. Unlimited means 3G/4G data speeds for 2.5 GB per month, throttled to 2G data speed after that.

Right now they have some good coupon codes for both new and existing customers. Found via SD.

  • Get $75 off any $199+ smartphone plus free shipping with promo code STWB75OFF. Choose between Android or Apple phones, although the iPhones can get expensive. Their refurbished iPhone 4s appears sold out at the time of writing.
  • Get $20 off a SIM + $45 plan card bundle plus free shipping with promo code STWB20OFF. You can buy up to 4 plans per order.

The second code can be a great deal since existing users can simply use the $45 plan card to reload their existing card. You don’t have to use it with the separate 99 cent SIM card, it’s sold as a bundle but the two items are separate. That’s an unlimited month for just $26. Here’s a screenshot of my order screen for $20 off:

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Here’s another screenshot for $80 off if you buy 4 of them. That’s 4 monthly plan cards for $103.96.

Free EPIX Movie Membership Trial

epixlogoMovie streaming service EPIX and the NHL are giving away a free trial membership good until March 6, 2015. Only thing you really need is a working e-mail address; no credit card or personal information required.

Won’t work on your TV, you’ll need an internet connection. Compatible with iPhone/iPad app, Android app, Chromecast, Roku, PS3, PS4, XBOX 360, and other streaming devices. Note: When logging in, under provider choose “Free NHL Trial”.

If you already have Amazon Prime, you’ll see a lot of overlap as Amazon has a partnership agreement with EPIX. Otherwise, a nice freebie, especially for the cable TV cord-cutters out there in need of some free holiday viewing material.

Obihai FREE Monthly Home Phone Service; Get Started For $29.99

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Updated: $29.99 with free shipping (40% off) for a limited-time. If you still have landline phone service and are looking for a cheaper alternative, Obihai is officially supported by Google:

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

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

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It’s tough to beat under 50 bucks upfront and no ongoing monthly fees for unlimited home phone service. I bought one earlier this year – check out my OBi200 Adapter + Google Voice Installation Review.

Obihai is running a holiday promotion where you can get a Obihai OBi200 VoIP Telephone Adapter from NewEgg for only $29.99 with free shipping from December 18th to December 21st, or until supplies last. Retail price is $49.99.

You must use promo code EMCWHWB45.

20% off Gift Cards to Various Retailers & Restaurants

chilicardAmazon runs various temporary “Lightning Deals”, but if you filter to only show the Gift Card deals you’ll see a running list of gift cards to various retailers at 20% off for a limited time. Amazon Prime members get early access, but many of them don’t sell out and there is also a waitlist option.

For Thursday, December 18th, the line-up includes Chilis/Maggianos/Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Dave & Busters, and AMC Theatres. Seems like an easy way to knock out some last-minute gifts at 20% off face value (i.e. , $20 for $25 gift card, or $40 for $50 gift card). Physical cards get free shipping.

Stack this discount with the 5% cash back at Amazon from Chase Freedom and Discover It cards this quarter.

Similar deals!

  • Get a $20 eGift card if you buy $100 in eGift cards for Panera Bread.
  • Get a free slice of cheesecake with a $25 gift card purchase (electronic or physical) at Cheesecake Factory.
  • Free large pizza if you buy a $25 gift card at Papa Johns.
  • Get $5 eGift card if you buy $25 eGift card at Petco.

Find more special offers by going through the list here at Cashstar and looking for the red “Special Offer” banner.