Fidelity Investments Stock and ETF Trades now $4.95

fidelity_logoFidelity Investments has announced their online stock and ETF trades will now cost $4.95, down from $7.95 previously. The press release also points out that they also do not accept payment for order flow (unlike TD Ameritrade, Schwab, and E-Trade), and that their order routing has led to price improvement higher than industry average. I’m not sure of the dollar impact of all these factors taken together, but it could be significant if you trade a lot of shares.

Fidelity continues to offer 91 ETFs from Blackrock and Fidelity on their commission-free ETF list. The list includes many low cost iShares Core ETFs including:

  • iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market (ITOT)
  • iShares Core MSCI Total International Stock (IXUS)
  • iShares Core S&P 500 (IVV)
  • iShares Core Total USD Bond Market (IUSB)
  • iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond (AGG)

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Schwab recently cut their online trades to $6.95 per trade. (Update: Schwab will also drop to $4.95 starting March 3rd.) It’s interesting to see that the former “full service” brokerages all now offer trades at what used to be “discount” prices. (Scottrade rolled out $7 trades back in the 1990s.) I only hope that Fidelity keeps up its reputation for better customer service. Here’s a comparison chart from their press release:

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Free trades? They do exist. Merrill Edge offers $6.95 trades normally, but will give you 30 free trades per month if you keep $50,000 in combined assets across Merrill and Bank of America deposit accounts (Platinum Preferred Rewards tier). With $100,000 in combined assets, you get 100 free trades a month. Moving over existing assets from another broker qualifies. Merrill Edge does not accept payment for order flow.

Robinhood offers $0 trades with no minimum required balance through their smartphone app (and less hand-holding). Robinhood does accept payment for order flow and now offers a set of premium paid features.

Amazon Promo: $8.62 off $50+ Order (2/22 Only)

In case you don’t visit every day (which is probably a good thing), Amazon.com is giving $8.62 off $50+ orders with promo code BIGTHANKS. Valid until 11:59pm Pacific 2/22 only. Must be shipped and sold by Amazon.

If you need filler ideas, you can’t buy Amazon gift cards but you can buy gift cards to other retailers like Starbucks or Whole Foods gift cards for any amount over $25. For example, you could buy something for $15 and buy a $35 gift card to get to $50.

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card 75,000 Point Offer Review

Citi Hilton HHonorsUpdate – This offer is now EXPIRED

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card, from our partner Citi, is offering a limited-time bonus increase. Here are the highlights:

  • Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after making $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Earn 6 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent at any participating hotel within the Hilton portfolio.*
  • Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent on purchases at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations.*
  • Earn 2 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent on all other purchases.*
  • HHonors Silver status as long as you are a cardmember*
  • No annual fee.*

What can I redeem for? Hilton points redemption varies, and they have moved towards dynamic award pricing with more focus on points + cash combinations. Hilton HHonors points are worth the most when redeemed for a hotel stay, as there aren’t really that many great cash-equivalent redemption options.

In order to find the points-only redemption rates, you must log into your Hilton Honors account and check the “Use Points” box when running a search. Here are some sample redemptions that I just ran for mid-March, comparing Hilton points vs. Expedia pricing side-by-side:

  • Honolulu, Hawaii. Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is $501.33 ($440 + taxes) per night OR 50,000 Hilton points.
  • San Francisco, California. Hilton San Francisco Financial District is $418.16 ($359 + taxes) per night OR 60,000 Hilton points.
  • New York City. Hampton Inn Manhattan/Times Square Central is $358.08 ($309 + taxes) OR 70,000 Hilton points.

Silver Status perks include:

  • 15% bonus on all the HHonors Base Points you earn.
  • 5th night free on Standard Room Reward stays of 5 nights or more.
  • Complimentary in-room and lobby Standard Internet access during stays at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Canopy™ by Hilton, Embassy Suites Hotels™ and Hilton Grand Vacations™
  • Two complimentary bottles of water per stay (at Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts, Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Embassy Suites Hotels™, Hilton Garden Inn™ and Hilton Grand Vacations™ hotels)

Please note this fine print:

Hilton HHonors Bonus Points offer associated with a new card opening is not available if you have opened or closed any Citi Hilton HHonors cards in the past 24 months.

Bottom line. The redemption ratio varies and while it is still possible to get $500+ of value out of 75,000 Hilton points, I would say a more conservative range is $350 to $500. The standard bonus is 40,000 Hilton points, with 75,000 Hilton points being the highest that I’ve seen. It is relatively rare to get this size of a bonus on a credit card with no annual fee. The complimentary Silver Status is their lowest elite status and offers a few small convenience perks.

There is also another card called the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card which has a $95 annual fee, but has a bigger upfront bonus and better ongoing perks for frequent Hilton customers. Two free weekend nights can be worth over 160,000 Hilton points. I redeemed for nice weekend stay in Hawaii myself, but I know that some people prefer the simplicity of having no annual fee.

“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.”

Opinions Take Flight: Reset Your Hawaiian Miles Expiration

otf0Opinions Take Flight is a consumer survey panel that gives out Hawaiian Airlines Miles instead of cash. Their current promotion is 350 HawaiianMiles for joining and completing your first survey. I usually find these survey panels too tedious to participate in regularly, but I hadn’t produced any activity on my Hawaiian miles recently (they expire after 18 months of inactivity), so I signed up. You’ll need to verify your e-mail, fill out some profile information, and then they will ask you survey qualification questions.

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The good news is that even if you don’t qualify a particular survey, OpinionsTakeFlight.com will still give you 5 miles for trying. Since I really just wanted some quick miles to reset my miles expiration with a few clicks, I was happy with that. I’d rather get 5 miles (and expiration extension) for under 10 minutes of work rather than 350 miles (and expiration extension) for 24 minutes of work anyway. If I can get a survey once every 18 months or as needed for easy Hawaiian miles activity, it will have been worth setting up this account.

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Barclaycard Ring MasterCard Review: 0% Intro APR For 15 Months + No Balance Transfer Fee

BarclayCard Ring MasterCard

Here’s a new offer for those looking to pay down debt and lower their interest rates. The Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® has been updated with 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases and 0% introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening. Importantly, this card also has NO balance transfer fee both during and after the intro period, which is a rare feature these days. After the introductory period, the card has an 13.74% variable APR that applies to everything – purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. Here are all the highlights:

  • 0% Introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases. Plus, you’ll get a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 13.74%
  • No balance transfer fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Chip technology, so paying for your purchases is more secure at chip-card terminals in the U.S. and abroad
  • Free online access to FICO® Credit Score

No fee balance transfer offer. If you have an existing balance on another card that is racking up interest charges, you can transfer it to this card with no balance transfer fee and if you make the balance transfer within 45 days of account opening, you won’t be subject to any interest until well into 2018 and all of your payments during the first 15 months will go towards paying down the balance principal. You can even continue to put new purchases on the card given the simultaneous intro 0% APR on purchases.

It is very rare these days to find a no fee 0% APR balance transfer that is available to all. Make sure to keep making your minimum payments to keep that 0% APR.

In addition, this posting on the their Ring Community page suggests that you can even perform a balance transfer directly to your checking account:

Online ACH Transfers. You can use the available credit on your Barclaycard Ring account to complete a Balance Transfer to your checking account online. We carefully monitor fraud and credit risk, therefore this ACH transfer capability may not be available to all cardmembers. Also, you can only complete one ACH transfer within a 30 day period.

Free FICO Score details. The free FICO score is based on your your TransUnion credit report, and updates every 1 to 3 months. Specifically, you will get your FICO Score 8 or FICO 08 model, which is the most widely used version of FICO. You can see how your FICO changes as you pay down your balances. Here’s a screenshot from my Barclaycard account:

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Other features. This card does not have any cashback, points, or miles rewards program. There is a “Giveback program” that shares community estimated profits if you meet certain spending requirements, but there is no guaranteed amount and there is a certain hurdle that must be reached before any profits are shared. Since you have little control, I would treat any such profit sharing as a nice surprise but not as a reason to get this card.

Bottom line. The Barclaycard Ring MasterCard is all about the low intro interest rate and no balance transfer fee (even after the intro period). If you have debt, this card can help you lower your interest rate and pay off your balance faster.

RingPlus: Free Cellular Phone Service Ending 2/11

rplus_logo

February 2017 Update. Well, looks like the party is officially over. As predicted, it ended quickly and messily. Ringplus sued Sprint. Sprint announced they were kicking R+ off the Sprint network on February 11th. Both announced that R+ users will be automatically migrated over to Ting if they don’t leave on their own. The timeline is yet unannounced. More details here and here. This is a soft landing as Ting has solid customer service has agreed to honor R+ balances. At the minimum, they’ll give you $35 in Ting credit. To activate service, you will need to put a credit card on file and agree to Ting’s terms of service online. My Ting Review here.

Ting will gladly honor the RingPlus Top Up balance that you had as of February 5, 2017. If you had $35.00 or less in RingPlus TopUp credit, you’ll receive $35 in Ting credit before your first bill. If you had $35.01 or more in RingPlus TopUp credit, you’ll receive $35.00 to start and then $5.00 each month until all of your remaining RingPlus TopUp credit balance has been honored.

I received over 1.5 years of free service on a secondary line for a one-time $10 fee and I’ll still end up with $35 in Ting credit, so it ended up bring a pretty good deal overall.


November 2016 Update. The most recent update:

Starting December 1, 2016, all Plans that are not Mad Plans will not renew at the end of their billing cycle. Members can change to any of the currently offered plans from our website. Phone Swaps will be free starting Wednesday (11/23/16) until further notice.

Realistically, this was always the type of deal that was not going to last forever, and hopefully if you participated you got good value out of it. I got over a year of Sprint-based cellular service with 1,000 minutes, 1,000 text, and 1 GB of data for an total cost of $10 (technically the $10 is still in my account). The party is winding down… in the meantime I recommend taking the following precautions:

Know that your plans can and will be discontinued with little or no notice. Don’t buy an expensive phone just to switch to R+. Don’t pay for their lifetime Member+ plan. To put it simply, commit as little money as possible. Have a plan to port your number elsewhere; Ting can use Sprint or there are many free or $1 SIM cards out there on GSM networks.


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Becoming an Amazon #1 Bestselling Author for Under $5

footdownBrent Underwood is a partner at a marketing company and was tired of shady competitors basically offering the tag of “Bestselling Author” for anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000. So he decided to tell everyone how they can do it themselves for 5 minutes and three bucks.

Read the entire thing, but essentially he makes a 1-page Kindle eBook and Amazon approves it for sale within 4 minutes. The sale listing goes live a few hours later. A few friends each bought a copy for $0.99 each, and that’s it, he was a “#1 Bestselling Author” in his (carefully chosen) niche category! I figured it was easy to self-publish a book, but I didn’t know it was this easy.

In addition to being an interesting peek inside the world of self-published eBooks, Underwood explains how the term “bestselling author” has become highly manipulated. Hey look, his foot… I mean book now has over 20 glowing reviews and comes in paperback!

H&R Block Lowest Price Ever on Amazon: Deluxe Fed + State $18.99, Premium $26.99 (2/6 Only)

hrb2016Deal has expired. I recently posted a deal on H&R Block Deluxe Federal + State for $21, noting that last year’s all-time low was during a brief $19 sale on Amazon. Well, right now Amazon is having an H&R Block “Deal of the Day” sale. These products are at the lowest price ever this year:

Prices change on Amazon all the time and this looks like a one-day only sale for 2/6, so please verify before purchase. Here’s a quick screenshot:

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Price history:

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This is desktop software (Windows or Mac) that you’ll have to download and install on your computer. The good news about desktop software is that your personal financial data isn’t uploaded onto a corporate server to be stored forever (and potentially hacked). Amazon will let you download it at your convenience, which will take about 1 minute on broadband.

H&R Block is running their 10% Amazon bonus promotion again this year, where they will let you convert part or all of your federal tax refund into an Amazon.com Gift Card with up to a 10% bonus. So for example you could turn $500 of your tax refund into $550 in Amazon gift certificates. Limits apply ($2000 per e-card, maximum $5000 per customer). I can’t find the exact terms, but last year the 5% bonus was for H&R Block Free and Basic versions, while the higher 10% bonus was for Deluxe, Premium, and Premium & Business.

Keep in mind that for these products 5 Federal e-Files are included but State e-File is extra ($19.95 for all I believe). I would personally just print the (usually shorter) state return out and snail mail it in.

Santander Bank New Checking Account $225 Bonus

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sant_logoSantander Bank has a new promotion offer a $225 cash bonus for new deposit customers that satisfy the following conditions:

  • Open an eligible new checking account by 3/31/17 with the promo code WINTER225. You must not have or have had a Santander deposit account in the last 12 months.
  • Have direct deposits totaling $500 or more within the first 90 days.
  • Keep your account open for at least 90 days.
  • After you meet these conditions, the $225 bonus will be paid within 30 days. (Your account must still be open with a positive balance at time of bonus payout, so that’s a total of 120 days.)

You should be able to get this offer by visiting SantanderBank.com/winter225 and using promo code WINTER225. If you want to be extra-super-duper-sure, you can register your information here and request an “exclusive coupon” e-mail to be send to you.

There are three eligible checking types: Simply Right Checking, Basic Checking, Premier Plus Checking. Most people will probably choose the Simply Right Checking with $10 monthly fee that can be waived with at least one transaction every calendar month – a deposit, withdrawal, transfer, or payment. The Basic Checking has a fixed $3 monthly fee, but no minimum activity requirements. For both, minimum opening balance is $25 and paperless statements are free (mailed $3 each).

Note the following text regarding direct deposit. Hopefully you can split your paycheck direct deposits easily to multiple accounts.

**Direct deposits include deposits made by your employer or a federal or state government agency or retirement benefits administrator and generally payments made by corporations or other organizations. They do not include deposits to your account that are made by an individual using online banking or an Internet payment provider such as PayPal.

Here’s the rest of the Fine Print:

*Offer is not available if any account owner is a current deposit customer of Santander or had a Santander deposit account in the last 12 months prior to account opening. Cannot be combined with other offers. Eligible new account must be opened between 02/1/2017 – 03/31/2017. In order to receive the bonus, the account must remain open and in the eligible product type at the time of bonus payout. In addition, the account must have a positive balance at the time of bonus payment. Bonus is considered interest and will be reported to IRS on Form 1099-INT. If multiple accounts are opened with the same signer, only one account will be eligible for the bonus.

Bank of America Free Museum Tickets 2017 Dates

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Bank of America is running their Museums on Us program again for 2017, which offers cardholders free admissions to 150 museums, science centers, and botanical gardens nationwide on the first full weekend of every month (Saturday and Sunday). Simply present any valid Bank of America® or Merrill Lynch® credit or debit card and photo ID for free admission.

Note: Each cardholder gets one free general admission, so be sure everyone with their own cards bring them. I really need to add my 4-year-old as an authorized user…

2017 Calendar Dates (Check specific museum for actual hours)

  • January 7th & 8th
  • February 4th & 5th
  • March 4th & 5th
  • April 1st & 2nd
  • May 6th & 7th
  • June 3rd & 4th
  • July 1st & 2nd
  • August 5th & 6th
  • September 2nd & 3rd
  • October 7th & 8th
  • November 4th & 5th
  • December 2nd & 3rd

Here’s an excerpt from their press release with newly added museums in 2017:

New members of the Museums on Us program in 2017 include:

· American Museum of Natural History (New York City)
· Clyfford Still Museum (Denver)
· The Haggin Museum (Stockton, Calif.)
· Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (New York City)
· Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston)
· National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force (Pooler, Ga.)
· New York Botanical Garden (New York City)
· San Bernardino County Museum (Redlands, Calif.)

These partners join a list of preeminent institutions (in more than 100 major cities) that continue to offer free general admission for Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and U.S. Trust cardholders throughout the first full weekend of each month. A small sampling includes the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Shedd Aquarium (Chicago), the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (Atlanta), the Denver Zoo, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and the Miami Children’s Museum.

Here is the full list (PDF) of participating locations. One of the available museums is the Thinkery in Austin, Texas. We found it to be a fun and interactive children’s science center. The admission was $9 per person (23 month and under free). That means taking advantage of this offer would have saved us $18 (or $27 if the little one had a BofA card in theory). I’ve seen other museums on their list with $20 admission prices.

While I wouldn’t open a new bank or credit card account for this feature, it is a nice perk if you already have such accounts. You can also sign-up for a free text reminder before each free weekend. I signed up and haven’t gotten any spam texts from BofA, just the reminders. Here are the Bank of America credit cards that offer competitive features that I have reviewed in the past.

Ebates Brick & Mortar In-Store Cash Back Program

ebateslYou probably know about online shopping portals that offer cash back or airline miles if you buy stuff through them. Some people even manage to earn miles by ordering things online and then picking it up in-person (to save any shipping charges). However, eBates actually has a limited In-Store Cash Back Program for traditional brick & mortar stores. You can get between 2% and 10% back at participating stores like Petco, Old Navy, Macy’s, GNC, and Ann Taylor. (There are also Double Cash Back promotions from time to time.)

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Here’s an overview of the process:

  • Link your debit or credit card and provide eBates with your credit card information. At this time, it only works with Visa and American Express.
  • Manually link a store on their website. You can use their smartphone app (iOS/Android) for convenience. Be aware of some exclusions like gift card purchases.
  • Shop at the store with that specific credit card. Debit cards must be run as “credit” purchases where you sign (no PIN). It’s very discreet. You don’t need to say anything, show a membership card, provide a coupon, etc.
  • After you shop, the store will be unlinked automatically. If you want to shop at that store again, you must remember to manually re-link the offer to your card.
  • You may not get instant confirmation. Ebates will e-mail you regarding your in-store cash back after up to 6 days.

This seems like an easy way to get a little bit extra without changing your shopping patterns. I went ahead and linked up my credit card and added a few stores. I’ll probably use it just like Rewards Dining where I also link up my credit cards and then promptly forget about it. If I happen to dine at a participating store, I’ll get some frequent flier miles. (Occasionally, I will target my dining if I am trying to generate activity to prevent miles expiration. I have a go-to local sandwich shop for this purpose.)

If you don’t have an eBates account yet, you can use my eBates referral link and get a $10 cash bonus by making at least $25 in total qualifying purchases with 90 days of joining. Simply look for an online merchant like eBay, Proflowers, Groupon, or LivingSocial where you’d spend $25 anyway.

ClaimDog: Simplified Unclaimed Property Search Tool

cdoglogoHere’s another website that searches public databases to collect your personal information… but instead of being scary it should work solely for your benefit! ClaimDog.com is a free service that simplifies the process of finding “unclaimed property” in your name. Just type in your first and last name along with your state(s) of residence.

Unclaimed property is created when a business owes you money or property but is unable get it to you for some reason. It could be a rebate check or a forgotten safe deposit box. You’ll need to verify your identity before they’ll send out the money. For example, apparently I was owed some money from DSL litigation in California several years ago, but moved before I could get the money. I was able to search through the public database and later get a check for about $75:

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If your state makes it easy for ClaimDog to access their database, then the site will help direct you to your unclaimed property. Otherwise, it will just point you towards your state-specific website. (I also ran into some errors.) It’s still free and hopefully saves you some time.

Here are more places to check to see if you’ve got any money waiting for you: