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:

[Read more...]

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 Roundtip Flights + Companion Pass INFO

Southwest Premier Card ImageUPDATE – This offer is now EXPIRED

Southwest has brought back their 50,000 bonus point promo for the Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. That’s worth two Round trip Flight (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.

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

“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 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.

Consumer Reports Online Discount: 50% Off, $15 a Year

crappThis AmazonLocal deal can get you ConsumerReports.org online access at $15 for a 1 year subscription or $25 for 2 years, which is at least 50% off the normal price. Not valid for current online members or renewals. Subscriptions will not renew automatically upon expiration. Deal expires November 20th, 2014.

Consumer Reports makes you pay separately for their print magazine and online access, although you do get a $10 annual discount when you already have a print subscription. (Which makes it $20 a year, still not as good as this deal.) I like the online access better anyway as you get historical access to their entire review database.

I had a Consumer Reports subscription for a while but let it lapse after 6 months of issues piled up unread. I only buy cars once every several years, appliances once every several years, and I don’t like their electronics reviews anyway. However, but as a parent of young children I am often looking for unbiased reviews of kiddie items. So I might jump on this.

Wells Fargo + Apple Pay = Up to $30 in Bonuses

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Use your iPhone 6 to make an Apple Pay purchase with your Wells Fargo credit card by November 30, 2014, and you’ll earn a $20 statement credit.

Use your iPhone 6 to make an Apple Pay purchase with your Wells Fargo debit or prepaid Card by November 30, 2014, and you’ll earn a $10 statement credit.

AirBNB Promotion Codes: 20% Off First Booking or $50 off $75

airbnblogoUpdated. Airbnb rents out everything from private rooms to entire houses to ancient castles. Here’s a list of current promo codes. Use coupon code 20off for 20% off your first booking of at least $200 minimum. You must book by 11:59 pm Pacific on November 1, 2014. Selected fine print:

The 20% discount is valid only for guests who have never completed a booking on Airbnb. To receive the discount, you must book via the Airbnb platform with the discount code as provided in this email prior to booking. You must complete a booking (including host acceptance) using the code before 11:59 pm PDT (California time) on November 1, 2014. The discount applies to the base cost of your reservation up to a maximum value of USD$200 off your reservation (excluding cleaning, service fees or taxes). No minimum length ofstay required.

Alternatively, right now you can get $50 AirBnB credit towards your first reservation via my referral link. Your booking must cost at least $75 to redeem the credit. The standard amount is usually $25, so I’m not sure how long this will last. I confirmed the $50 credit via this example booking screenshot:

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If you haven’t seen it, also check out this guy: I Bought an Apartment Just to Rent Out on Airbnb. Share your own Airbnb experiences in the comments.

Amazon Fire Streaming Stick 50% Off with Prime

fire_stickOffer expired, now $39. Many cable TV “cord-cutters” get their TV fix using an HDTV over-the-air antenna and/or a streaming video device like the Roku, Google Chromecast, or Apple TV. Amazon has just announced their new Amazon Fire TV Stick. The regular price is $39, but if you have Amazon Prime and order it by 10/29/14 at 6am Pacific, you can get it for just $19. Here’s a comparison chart against similar competitors provided by Amazon (click to enlarge):

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Notably, Google Chromecast does not support Amazon Prime Instant Video and does not include a physical remote. Fire does not support HBO Go.

Not a Prime member? Join as Amazon Mom for a free 1-month Prime trial and get 50% off diapers. Join as Amazon Student with a .edu email address and get a free 6-month Prime trial.

I have an older Roku box that I’ve been using on and off for the last couple of years – it is useful for Plex which streams my own media from my hard drive to my TV and also for various kids shows on-demand from Amazon Prime Instant Video. (I cancelled my Netflix subscription after having kids since I don’t have time to binge-watch TV anymore.) So why am I going to buy this? Because my 2-year-old lost/hid/ingested the remote, and this new gadget is cheaper than buying a replacement Roku remote!