Keep Your Hilton Honors Points From Expiring with a $1 Amazon Gift Code

hiltonhonors0My relative lack of travel these days means that I am constantly keeping miles and points from expiring. Here’s the official policy of Hilton Honors point expiration:

Hilton Honors Points do not expire as long as Members remain active in the program. To keep an account active, Members can stay at one of Hilton’s hotels, or earn or redeem Hilton Honors Points within 12 months. [For Hilton Honors credit card holders, Hilton Honors Points will not expire as long as the Member is a cardholder in good standing.]

You need to earn or spend Hilton points every 12 months, which is on the short side. My usual strategy is to use Hilton Honors Dining to earn a few points at my neighborhood burger joint, but I was running short on time. I found that you can redeem Hilton points at Amazon through their Shop with Points program. The redemption ratio is 500 Hilton Honors points = $1 on Amazon.

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First, link your Hilton Honors account to Amazon. The easiest way to just spend $1 without waste is to buy a $1 Amazon gift certificate. Checkout and choose to pay with Hilton Points. You can redeem the gift code into your account and spend it later.

The activity should show up in your Hilton.com account the same day as the purchase:

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Bottom line. If you have Hilton points expiring soon, you can redeem 500 Hilton points for a $1 Amazon gift code and create qualifying activity that posts the same day. If you are generous with the valuations, 500 Hilton points could be worth about $2.50 to $3 in room rates. Minus the $1 value from Amazon, and you might consider this a $2 net cost. However, if you have a lot of points expiring and/or limited time, this option can be worth it.

Amazon Prime + American Express Promotion: Fire Tablets from $20

fire7Updated. Here’s a targeted deal for Amazon Prime members that also have American Express Membership Rewards points. First, all Amazon Prime members can get the following prices today (20% off all Alexa-enabled devices):

However, if you have American Express Rewards, first link your American Express card to Amazon. Then check eligibility here for up to a $40 discount when you pay with at least one AmEx point. The final prices would be:

Finally, here is another targeted coupon link that checks your eligibility to save $30 off $60 at Amazon when you buy anything (not just Fire Tablets) with Membership Rewards points. You may have done this older offer already, but the expiration has been extended if you missed it.

Be sure to select your linked American Express card as payment method, select the option to Pay with Points (you can use just 1 point), and apply the promo code to trigger the discount.

PSA: Check Your Facebook Privacy Settings and Third-Party Apps

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If you use Facebook regularly, you should read this Buzzfeed article about how to check your third-party app settings. It’s completely separate from your privacy settings. Even though I use Facebook very sparingly, I was surprised to find that I had linked 54 different third-party apps and shared varying levels of personal information with them. You get distracted by a giveaway (free miles!) or trivia game and quickly forget that they can keep collecting (and selling) your data forever. Here’s how to find them:

[Visit this link, or] on the desktop interface, click the downward arrow in the top-right corner and select Settings. Then select Apps from the menu. On the apps page, you’ll see all the apps where you’ve logged into Facebook. On mobile, tap the menu bar (bottom-right for iOS, top-right for Android), and select Settings > Account Settings > Apps > Logged in with Facebook.

I just deleted them all; I figured I can always add them back later. You can also contact the apps and request your existing data to be removed. The same author Nicole Nguyen also wrote about other ways to limit your Facebook data gathering. I decided to remove the Facebook app itself and only use their website when needed. I suppose I’ll have to do something similar with other social media sites, but Facebook and Google seem like the scariest by far in the amount and types of information they can analyze together.

Related: Beware Recurring Preapproved Payments on PayPal – Skype Account Hacked

Audible Promo: 12 Audiobooks + Echo Dot for $99.50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 11-Month No-Penalty CD at 1.85% APY. $1,000 minimum to open. 11-month CD with a fixed rate, but no withdrawal penalty seven days or later after funds have been received. This means that your interest rate will never go down, but you can still move out if interest rates go up.
  • Money Market Account at 1.75% APY, currently available on all tiers ($0+) with no max. $100 minimum to open, but $0 minimum balance requirement. Pay individuals with People Pay.
  • Premier High Yield Savings at 1.55% APY, currently available on all tiers ($0+) with no max. $100 minimum to open, but $0 minimum balance requirement.

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

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

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

Existing savings customer? Upgrade now! Honestly, the only reason I can think of for them to create this new account is to avoid raising the interest rate on idle cash in their older accounts. If you already have an existing savings account, take a minute and upgrade yourself to the better interest rate. Click on “Open an Account” here, then “I have a CIT Bank account”, and then login with your username/password. You can do everything online and even fund your new Money Market account with an instant transfer from your existing Premier High Yield Savings. I wish I didn’t have to do this, but at least it literally only took a minute to complete.

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New customer? Opening process overview. Here’s my review of the opening process if you are a new customer.

  • The application process was completely online. You provide the usual personal information.
  • You must submit to a credit check, but in my experience it was a “soft” pull which did not harm my credit. None of my various credit monitoring services showed it was a hard pull.
  • You may fund via (1) electronic ACH transfer, (2) wire transfer, (3) mobile check deposit via CIT Bank mobile app (iOS and Android), and (4) mailing in a paper check. There was no option for credit card funding. I picked online ACH funding and you need to provide routing and account numbers, followed by manual verification via micro-deposits after a day or two. There was no instant linking option via login information.

After deposit verification, then your funding will go through.

You have successfully verified your external account. Please allow up to 5 business days for your funds to appear in your CIT Bank account.
No further action is required for this account. Thank you!

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How to transfer your money from an existing No Penalty CD into an new, higher-rate No Penalty CD. Let’s say you opened up a No Penalty CD at 1.55% APY, but then the rate for a new CD has risen to 1.85% APY. You have the option of moving the funds (with no penalty of course) over to a new CD with a new 11-month holding period. I just did this, and here’s the easiest way to do so:

  • Start a new online application for the 11-Month No-Penalty CD at 1.85% APY. Click on “Get Started”, and you will have the option to sign-in as an existing CIT customer.
  • After signing in, go through the opening process but choose to fund via “Mail in Check”. Your personal details should be filled in already to save time. Again, I did not observe any hard credit check. This will get you access to your new account number for the new No Penalty CD on the final “Congrats! Your account has been opened” page. Save/print this new account number!
  • Call CIT Bank on the phone at 855-462-2652, open M-F 8a-9p ET, Sat 9a-5p ET, Sun 11a-4p ET. Press “0” for operator. Tell them you opened up a new No Penalty CD and you wish to fund it by closing out your old No Penalty CD. They will verify your identity, ask for the new account number, and complete the transfer instructions while you are on the phone. My customer service rep was pleasant and helpful. I timed my call at under 8 minutes from start to end.
  • That’s it. The phone rep told me the entire process should take 1-3 business days to complete. Your new accounts will show up online. You can have the entire previous balance (including accrued interest) moved over, or another amount.
  • It would be nice if you could do this all online, but I don’t see an option to close the CD early online. Let me know if you know how.

User interface. While the front-facing website is pretty slick, after you login the backend is run by Fidelity National Information Services (subdomain ibanking-services.com). This is a popular backend software system used by many smaller banks who don’t want to create their own software from scratch. As of 3/3/18, the user interface was upgraded to be look more appealing and be more user-friendly. Two-factor authentication is available using voice or SMS.

There is also an app available (iOS/Android) provided by the same company. It is similarly functional and includes mobile check deposit. Here are some screenshots:

citapp

Bottom line. CIT Bank is a lean bank offering targeted products for folks looking to get higher interest rates on their cash balances. I have opened an account due to their low minimums (easy to move in and out) and their current aggressive rate-hiking. They don’t do physical bank branches, checking accounts, or fancy apps. However, I have been pleasantly satisfied with their customer service. Their most compelling products are their Money Market account ($100 minimum to open, no ongoing minimum) and their 11-month No Penalty CD which combines a competitive interest rate with a $1,000 minimum deposit. The lack of a penalty means you are always able to move out to a higher rate, even within CIT bank itself.

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

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

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

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

What can I redeem my Reward for?

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

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

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Here’s a Chase Bank Total Checking + Savings account promotion offering up to $500 total for new customers. The major catches are that you must switch over a “real” direct deposit to get the $300 checking bonus, and you’ll need a $15,000 deposit for 90 days to get the $200 savings bonus. Some of the language suggests you should reside near a physical Chase branch, but the link lets you apply online and it may still work (instant approval). If you already have a Chase credit card, the application can be pre-filled.

Chase Total Checking $300 Bonus details. Checking offer is not available to existing Chase checking customers, those with fiduciary accounts, or those whose accounts have been closed within 90 days or closed with a negative balance. To receive the $300 checking bonus (taken directly from their offer page):

  1. Open a new Chase Total Checking account, which is subject to approval;
  2. Deposit $25 or more at account opening;
  3. Have your direct deposit made to this account within 60 days of account opening. Your direct deposit needs to be an electronic deposit of your paycheck, pension or government benefits (such as Social Security) from your employer or the government.
  4. After you have completed all the above checking requirements, [Chase will] deposit the bonus in your new account within 10 business days.

Chase Total Checking has no monthly service fee when you do at least one of the following each statement period. Otherwise a $12 Monthly Service Fee will apply.

  • Have monthly direct deposits totaling $500 or more made to this account; OR
  • Keep a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or more in your checking account; OR,
  • Keep an average daily balance of $5,000 or more in any combination of qualifying Chase checking, savings and other balances.

Chase Savings $200 Bonus details. To receive the $200 savings bonus (taken directly from their offer page):

  1. Open a new Chase SavingsSM account, which is subject to approval.
  2. Deposit a total of $15,000 or more in new money into the new savings account within 10 business days of account opening;
  3. Maintain at least a $15,000 balance for 90 days from the date of deposit. The new money cannot be funds held by Chase or its affiliates.
  4. After you have completed all the above savings requirements, we’ll deposit the bonus in your new account within 10 business days.
  5. 0.01% effective APY as of 1/18/18. Interest rates are variable and subject to change.

Chase Savings has no monthly service fee when you do at least one of the following each statement period. Otherwise a $5 Monthly Service Fee will apply.

  • Keep a minimum daily balance of $300 or more in your savings account; OR,
  • Have at least one repeating automatic transfer from your Chase checking account of $25 or more. One-time transfers do not qualify; OR,
  • Have a linked Chase Premier Plus Checking, Chase Premier Platinum Checking, or Chase Private Client Checking account.

With a total opening deposit of $15,025 in new money, you can open both accounts and avoid both monthly fees. You’ll still need to change your direct deposit (any amount). I have read no reports of a “hard” credit check, and did not experience one myself either this time around or from a previous Chase offer from a couple years ago. Looks like a “soft” check to confirm your identity only (which is all banks should do…).

As reader R. Dannewitz helpfully points out:

Account Closing: If either the checking or savings account is closed by the customer or Chase within six months after opening, we will deduct the bonus amount for that account at closing.

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

Bottom line. If you can switch over your paycheck direct deposit, Chase is offering $300 to try out their checking account. If you can move over $15,000 for 90 days, Chase is offering another $200 to try out their savings account (that pays 0.01% APY?). Earning $500 on $15,000 in 90 days is the equivalent of 13.3% annualized return. Not bad. The bonuses are considered interest and will be reported on IRS Form 1099-INT.

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

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

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

TurboTax Absolute Zero ($0 Fed, $0 State w/ E-File For Simple Filers) Ends 3/15

ttzero2017TurboTax.com has their “Absolute Zero promotion” again this year where simple filers can get Federal + State + Federal eFile + State eFile all for $0. You must qualify for IRS Forms Form 1040A or 1040EZ – that means taxable income of $100,000 or less, no itemized deductions, no business income, no investment sales. You can still claim certain things like educational tax credits, child and dependent care expenses, retirement plan (IRA) contributions, and the earned income credit. You can even receive interest and dividend income.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TopCashBack: Free Glad Food Containers for Existing Members (+$10 Bonus For New Members)

gladfoodTopCashBack.com is a cashback shopping portal that rebates you back a percentage of your purchases made through retail sites like Macys.com or Walmart.com. In addition to competitive payout rates – they promise to rebate you 100% of all commissions earned – every so often TopCashBack runs “free stuff” promos for existing members, I suppose as a reminder to use them.

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

Fine print:

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