Starbucks $20 Gift Card for $10 with Visa Checkout

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Starbucks is selling $20 eGift cards for $10 if you buy them using Visa Checkout instead of credit card directly. If you can still buy a gift card at the link, the promotion is should still be alive. I just did it on 5/11/16 at 3:40pm Pacific and it worked for me. Otherwise ends 5/17/16. See terms:

Be one of the first 325,000 to buy a Starbucks eGift Card (min $10) using Visa Checkout between 5/3/16 – 5/17/16 and we will add an additional $10, courtesy of Visa Checkout. Send $10 – they get $20, send $20 – they get $30, just for using Visa Checkout.

The bonus wont be reflected in your checkout experience but will be confirmed in your email receipt. Limit one per person. See Terms and Conditions.

Note: Technically, you should buy a $10 gift card for $10 and they’ll actually send a $20 one… I know, confusing.

Sam’s Club Mom’s and Dad’s Club – Free $10 eGift Card

sams10gcSam’s Club has a new Mom’s and Dad’s Club and is giving out free $10 eGift cards to join. Looks like you’ll get special offers and free samples targeted for families and children. Fast sign-up, eGift card must be used online. You must use the same e-mail address as registered on SamsClub.com. The fine print wording suggests that the offer may be targeted, but it seems worth a shot if you are a Sam’s Club member and have an e-mail on file already. Hat tip to shikha_sharma of SD.

Enroll in Sam’s Club® Mom’s and Dad’s Club with a valid email address matching the email address registered on SamsClub.com by May 15 to receive a $10 eGift Card. eGift Card will be provided by email between May 15 and June 15 to the email address used to register your Sam’s Club Membership on SamsClub.com matching Mom’s and Dad’s Club registration. Offer only available to the Sam’s Club Member associated with the original email address for this advertisement. Only one eGift Card per membership. eGift Card may not be used to pay for membership fee, travel purchases, or select services. eGift Card can only be used online at SamsClub.com. Offer not valid in Puerto Rico.

Raise App: Buy Discounted Gift Cards, $10 off $100 Coupon Code

Updated with $5 new user bonus, limited-time $10 off $100 coupon code. Raise has a new promo code APP10 that takes an additional $10 off $100 minimum if you use their app (links below). Valid for existing users. Now only valid for new users. Expires 5/16/16.

To redeem, open the Raise app and apply code APP10 in promo box at checkout. Exclusions: $100 order minimum. Can only be used on the Raise app. Cannot be combined with any additional offers. Limit one time use within date of promotion. One redemption per household. Offer expires on 05/16/2016 11:59 PM CST.

For new users, Raise has a referral program that offers you $5 to start. Here is my $5 referral link. Thanks if you use it! Here’s the generic text:

Join me on the upside at Raise, where your money is worth more. Here’s $5 to get started! http://geta.raise.com/jping1

Lots of the good gift cards just over $100 are going fast, but new ones are also arriving. I probably could have done better with some patience, but I snagged a CVS gift card at 17% off face value for an upcoming purchase.

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Original post:

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 now has both an iOS app and Android app. You an 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.

Final tip – Inventory is constantly changing with this app, gift cards can disappear even though you’ve already added them to your cart!

American Airlines Promo: Quick, Free 700 Miles

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In celebration of the 35th anniversary of the American Airlines AAdvantage® program, they are running a Miles for Milestones promotion.

  • To get the first 350 miles and enter the 350,000 mile sweepstakes, you just need your name, e-mail, and AAdvantage account number.
  • To get the second 350 miles, you’ll have to share something on your Facebook page, Twitter account, or e-mail them directly.

Screenshot:

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Between my wife and I, we tried the e-mail option and the Twitter option. After sending the e-mail, we got an auto-reply but no direct confirmation of qualification for the bonus miles. After sending the tweet, we got an instant Twitter reply with a link to verify the tweet. The Twitter option felt more concrete and satisfying, but the e-mail option is more private.

This will extend the life of your miles, as AA miles currently expire after 18 months of inactivity. Keep in mind the terms state it may take up to 8 weeks for your bonus miles to post. Ideally, 700 miles for each family member in under 5 minutes.

Navy Federal Credit Union Military Appreciation Month Promotions 2016

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navyfedlogoNavy Federal Credit Union has solid bank and loan products, including checking accounts with ATM rebates, competitive mortgage rates, and limited-time 0% balance transfer promotions. Readers have commented on their excellent customer service and the fact that they often keep and service the mortgages and other loans they originate.

Membership eligibility for NavyFed is primarily restricted to Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard regular Active Duty and reservists, and Army and Air National Guard personnel, but also includes family and household members of existing NavyFed members and some civilian employees in the Department of Defense.

If you’ve been waiting to sign-up, the special offers available during Military Appreciation Month may help you get yourself motivated (some offers are restricted to active military):

  • Get $50 When You Give Membership. Refer armed forces personnel, DoD civilians and contractors, and their dependents, and you’ll each get $50.
  • Get $50 with Active Duty Checking. Open an Active Duty Checking account with a qualifying Military Direct Deposit and get $50.
  • Get a Special Promotional-Rate CD. Open a 15-month Military Appreciation Certificate with a 3.00% APY and start growing your savings. Receive an additional $10 incentive when you set up a recurring transfer.
  • Get $200 for Auto Loan Refinance. Military members: Refinance your loan from another lender and get $200. Active Duty and retired military members save an additional 1/4% APR on selected loans with Direct Deposit.
  • Get $200 with a CashRewards Credit Card. Open a new cashRewards credit card and get $200 cash back after spending $2,000 within the first 90 days of account opening.

Offers valid between 5/1/2016 and 5/31/2016 and can expire anytime without prior notice. Thanks (again) to reader Charles for the tip.

Hilton American Express Cards Limited Time Offers (100k & 75k Points)

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Hilton Hotels have co-branded relationships with both Citi and American Express. Until 5/4/16, both the Hilton HHonors Card from American Express (no annual fee) and Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express ($75 annual fee) have temporarily increased sign-up bonuses. The current AmEx policy is that applicants can only get one sign-up bonus, per card in your entire lifetime, so if you’re going to get one you might as well wait until one of these limited-time offers:

Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product.

Whether these cards are good for you depends heavily on how much you value Hilton points and/or their Elite Silver or Gold status. You can use this search tool to see how much a hotel will cost in any specific area (i.e. Honolulu or Paris). Here are some quick sample redemptions for the months of April, May, and June:

  • Honolulu, Hawaii. Hilton Waikiki Beach is 40,000 points. Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is 50,000 points.
  • San Francisco, California. Hilton San Francisco Union Square is 50,000 points.
  • Orlando, Florida. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando is 20,000 points.
  • New York City, NU. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel New York – Times Square South is 70,000 points. Hilton Times Square is 80,000 points.

Here are the highlights for the AmEx cards:

Hilton HHonorsTM Surpass® Card from American Express

  • 100,000 Hilton HHonors™ Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 05/04/2016.
  • 12X Hilton HHonors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • 6X Hilton HHonors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • 3X Hilton HHonors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Complimentary Hilton HHonors Gold status.
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn HHonors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • $75 annual fee.

Hilton HHonorsTM Card from American Express

  • 75,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 05/04/2016.
  • 7X Hilton HHonors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • 5X Hilton HHonors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • 3X Hilton HHonors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Complimentary Hilton HHonors Silver status.
  • Spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn HHonors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • No annual fee.

Another offer that I would compare with is the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, which offers a certificate for two free weekend nights. I redeemed for two nights at the Grand Wailea in Maui, which otherwise would have cost 140,000 Hilton Honors points (70k per night).

Santander Bank extra20 Checking: Ending July 1st for Existing Customers

Update April 2016. I originally wrote about this promotion in October 2013, and many readers have been getting $20 of interest every month on a relatively low balance (worked out to 16% APY on $1,500 average balance). With a 1% APY savings account, you’d need $24,000 to get the same amount of interest! Unfortunately, Santander Bank recently announced that this promotion will end and accounts will be converted to a Simply Right checking account later this year (reports include either July 1st or December 1st, 2016).

I would note that this deal lasted for over 2.5 years, longer than I thought it would. Just like with 5% APY Netspend prepaid cards, you can’t really predict how long deals will last. Some end earlier than you think, some end later. Don’t forget to close your account in July, unless you’ve gotten attached to your Santander account (which was always the idea!).

Original post from October 2013 (deal is no longer available):

[Read more…]

RealtyShares Sign-Up Bonus Promo Code

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Update. RealtyShares has a referral program that offers a new customer who is referred by an existing client a $100 cash bonus after linking a bank account. I am no longer available to provide referrals as I have maxed out the limit, but you may be able to find a referral from existing client elsewhere.

Alternatively, using this link and using the code JONATHANPING25 will get you a free $25 to start.

Be sure to follow the terms and conditions and reply to your bank link confirmation e-mail with the proper promo code:

In order to receive $25 sign up bonus, user must register, connect a bank account, and use the promocode provided in the email they received about the program. Payouts to user will be within 30 days via your linked bank account. RealtyShares reserves the right to stop or modify the referral program at its discretion at any time.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Review – 1.5% Cash Back + $150 Bonus

Chase Freedom UnlimitedChase has introduced a new cash back rewards card called the Chase Freedom Unlimited which earns a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases. The new card will be in addition to and separate from the existing Chase Freedom, which has 5% cash back on rotating categories every quarter and then 1% cash back on all other purchases. Here are the highlights:

  • NEW! Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase – it’s automatic.
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn A $25 Bonus when you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase within this same 3-month period.*
  • Redeem for cash – any amount, anytime.
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 14.24-23.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum.
  • No annual fee

1.5% cash back on all purchases might have been a great percentage number several years ago, but there are now at least a few competitors with higher effective cash back rates.

(The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Card is also similar at 1.5% cash back.)

But wait, you actually get Ultimate Rewards Points! As with the Chase Freedom card, you technically earn Ultimate Rewards points with this card, which in turn can be redeemed for cash back. 100 points = $1 in cash back, or 1 cent per point. Therefore, you could change the bullets above to the following:

  • You earn 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all purchases.
  • Earn a 15,000 Ultimate Rewards point bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn a 2,500 Ultimate Rewards point bonus when you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase within this same 3-month period.*

Why does this matter? If you have also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (or Ink Plus business card), then you can merge your earned points together and transfer all the points in your account into a selection of hotel points and airline miles. If you value those miles/points at more than 1 cent per point, then your 1.5X rewards from this card can be significantly higher. Again, you must have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card as well. Examples:

– You could earn 1.5 United miles per dollar spent.
– You could earn 1.5 Hyatt points per dollar spent.
– You could earn 1.5 British Airways Avios per dollar spent.
– You could earn 1.5 Southwest Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent.

If for example, you placed a perceived value of 1.5 cents on each United mile or Southwest Rapid Rewards point, then you’d receive 2.25 cents of perceived value per dollar spent with this card. Your actual numbers will depend on your own specific redemption choices.

There are no other credit cards with no annual fee that offer such high redemption rates on every purchase, not even from the special co-branded cards from each airline or hotel. Keep in mind though that the Chase Sapphire Preferred itself does have a $95 annual fee. But if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card already (like I do), then this card gives me 50% more points on base purchases at no additional cost.

Recap. As a straight-up cash back rewards card, the 1.5% cash back of the Chase Freedom Unlimited can be exceeded by other 2% cash back cards. However, if you or your spouse also has the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, then this card improves by allowing you to receive the equivalent of 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on every purchase. If you value other travel points like United miles, Hyatt points, or Southwest Rapid Rewards points, then by earning Ultimate Rewards you can obtain solid rewards value and flexibility from this card.

Bill Fixers: Let Someone Else Haggle Your Cable and Phone Bills For You

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Successful haggle update, April 2016. Shortly after the NY Times profile of Bill Fixers came out, I submitted a request for them to help me lower my Time Warner cable bill. I had haggled with Time Warner in the recent past, but was currently back on regular pricing, so I figured I’d give them a shot. It took them about two months to get around to my request due to the flood of interest they got after the NYT article, but here were my real-world results:

  • $263.52 reduction of bills over the next 12 months, verified.
  • They gave me a 20% discount on their fee (half of first year savings) due to the delay, so I owed them $105.41.
  • One of the discounts they haggled for me ran for 24 months, which added up to another $83.26 in savings on which I owed no fee since they only charge for the first 12 months.
  • My total net savings: $241.37

The only work I did was to scan and upload a copy of my cable bill, and provide a personal security question and answer (not sure if it was right, or if they had to use it). I understand that some people may not feel comfortable with this, but I did not have to supply my bank account number, credit card information, Social Security number, or birthdate for this situation.

Original post:

I’ve written about haggling your cable or satellite TV bill for years, with hundreds of comments sharing both success and failures. I’ve certainly negotiated with a healthy share of customer service reps myself. But I don’t like doing it. I do it because unlike say the electrical company, who tells me “you pay based on how much power you use”, the cable company tells me “if you bother us, we’ll give you a discount, but if you are nice and quiet, you’ll pay double”. Big Data is tracking whether you compare prices or not, so it is in my best interest to announce that YES I COMPARE PRICES!

But what if you could just pay someone else to haggle for you? Deal with the long hold times, the “accidental” hang-ups, and the multiple transfers between supervisors? Enter brothers Julian and Ben Kurland of BillFixers.com, who will do just that. I came across them in this Businessweek article:

Despite all the various life-hacking sites that will teach you how to reduce your cable bill, a recent Consumer Reports survey found that fewer than half of people who attempted to do so were effective. Services such as BillCutterz have been offering some relief, but the Kurlands say their success rate—94 percent—is higher. It usually works out because they’re annoyingly persistent. Calls can last several hours as the brothers are passed among operators, managers, and various departments. The Kurlands often call companies multiple times, looking for different representatives who will cut a deal. “You’ll talk to three people who won’t offer anything, and the fourth one will magically have a discount that no one mentioned,” Ben says.

Which companies will they negotiate with? According to their website, they’ll take a shot at any recurring monthly bill you have. They don’t do things like credit cards and medical bills.

  • Television (Cable, Satellite, IP TV)
  • Internet (Cable, DSL, Other)
  • Landline
  • Cellular (AT&T cellular bills are one of the “easiest”. T-Mobile is one of the hardest.)
  • Satellite Radio

How much does BillFixers cost? They work on a contingency basis. If they don’t save you money, you pay nothing. If they do, they charge you 50% of the first year’s savings. You can pay via lump sum or in monthly payments (which in theory would match up with your monthly savings). Some stats from USA Today:

– Of the 650 clients, 94% receive savings
– The average reduction in bills is greater than $300 per customer
– About $155,000 has been saved for customers since 2014

I don’t doubt that someone with the right skills and motivation can be a good hired negotiator. I suppose the only concern would be giving out personal information like Social Security Number. However, if you give them the right information like account numbers, they shouldn’t need that kind of sensitive information.

If you’ve been thinking about haggling but have been putting it off due to either dislike or procrastination, why not give them a shot?

I’m going to add BillFixers to the growing list of services that will help find you money for free (but if they find it, they may take a cut).

  • CoPatient: Negotiate your medical bills. They take a cut of any successful savings.
  • AutoSlash: Helps you track price drops on rental cards. They make money when you rebook at a lower price with them.
  • Paribus: Helps you automatically request price adjustments on all your online retail purchases. They take a cut of the price drop savings.
  • AirHelp, Refund.Me, AirTaxBack: Get fees refunded for certain cancelled or missed flights to/from Europe. They take a cut of the refund.

Free FICO Score from Bank of America Credit Cards

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This post provides updated information and instructions regarding the free FICO score that is available to Bank of America credit card holders. (Thanks to reader Andy for the tip.)

Background. Bank of America started rolling out free FICO scores to select cardholders in late 2015, with a stated plan of increased rollout by the end of first quarter of 2016 (March 31st, 2016).

FICO Score details.

How to find the score. You can find the free FICO score on your online account access. The free FICO program is currently not available on mobile apps or the mobile website.

After logging into your BofA.com account, you must opt-in by first going to the “Tools & Investing” tab and clicking on “Learn about credit scores”. Then click on the “Enroll Now” button and accept the terms of the free FICO program.

Here are some screenshots from the website (click to enlarge):

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Here are screenshots of the actual score page (click to enlarge):

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Fine print:

You will be able to view up to a 12-month history of your FICO® Scores in Online Banking, starting when you enroll and for each month up to 12 months after enrollment. After 12 months the history display will re-start. Additionally, you will see two key factors affecting your most recent FICO® Score, except in limited circumstances where TransUnion does not provide us with both key factors. Customers with newly opened credit card accounts may not see their first FICO® Score in Online Banking for up to 60 days after enrollment. In certain circumstances, a FICO® Score may not be available from TransUnion for various reasons, e.g., having a limited credit history. If your Bank of America consumer credit card account(s) are closed by you or us, we reserve the right to end your participation in the FICO® Score Program. You can unenroll at any time by going to the Tools and Investing tab in Online Banking.

Here is additional information about other major credit card issuers with free FICO programs:

RingPlus: Basic, Free Cellular Phone Service – 1000/1000/1000 Talk/Text/Data

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Update March 2016. It has been six months and I have been enjoying my free cell phone service from RingPlus with no hassles or unexpected charges. I still don’t use it for my primary business/personal line, but at this point I’d be comfortable using it as a kids’ or grandparents’ low-usage line. It’s tough to beat $0 a month (not even taxes!). Some quick points for prospective new customers:

  • They are still rolling out new plans all the time. As of today, a new member can still get 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, and 1000 mb of data for $0 a month ongoing with a one-time $25 upfront balance top-up. I still have my initial $10 top-up sitting in my account. Be sure to read the rules.
  • Starting April 17th, you can no longer buy a new prepaid phone and activate it on RingPlus. Up until now, you could for example buy a $50 Moto E meant for Boost Mobile but activate it on RingPlus instead with no problems (assuming it was brand new and had never been activated on Boost Mobile). The Moto E is a very decent phone for fifty bucks. But starting April 17th, Sprint won’t allow this anymore. The good news is that if you activate before that date, Sprint has agreed not to retroactively kick phones out. If interested, get yours before the deadline! Details here.
  • You can still buy eligible used, off-contract Sprint phones. Be sure to verify eligibility with this BYOD checker. Right now, you can get a used Sprint Samsung S4 for about $100 or a used Sprint Apple iPhone 5 for about $130 on Swappa.com.
  • In general, the customer service is spread quite thin, so you should be willing to navigate their forums for some self-directed help.

Original post:

RingPlus is a Sprint MVNO that offers cheap cellular phone plans, starting at… $0. You can bring over an off-contract Sprint phone (check eligibility) or you can buy one from them (slightly more expensive that on secondary market). They make money partially from ads – ads play whenever you call someone instead of the normal ringing. When your friend picks up, the ad stops immediately. You also pay for any overages past your free allotment. There are no contracts and no activation fees.

Recently, Ringplus has been aggressively courting new customers with limited-time plans. RingPlus free plans are usually only open a for a limited window, and then it closes for a while. But recently, their plans have been getting more generous, with special super-generous plans available for a few hours only. These have very little notice, but it’s worth checking their site daily if you are very interested. For example, I was able to jump on a plan with 1000 min, 1000 text, and 1000 mb every month for free. The fine print states that I must keep a non-zero balance, otherwise I will be charged a $10 top-up that will apply to any future overages.

Here are all their current plans and details on promo plans. Be sure to read the whole page for the rules for each specific plan. If you miss one round, be on the lookout for future phases. The most important thing is to find an eligible phone and activate it during the window. It can be an ancient flip phone from Virgin Mobile (Sprint MVNO). Later, you can swap the phone out for 99 cents and keep the free plan.

You will need a credit card on file, although some of their plans don’t even require a credit card (but come with much fewer free minutes). No additional activation fee. Not even additional taxes are due on the zero plans (taxes are due on top-ups). Here’s a screenshot of their current plans, but again they change daily.

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Here’s a screenshot of my dashboard that tracks your usage:

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Are there any catches?

  • You have to sign up for their free plans during certain availability windows. That means you’ll need the ESN of an eligible off-contract Sprint phone waiting around, ready to go. If you’re like me, you have to resort to asking all your friends if they have any old Sprint phones you can have.
  • In the past, RingPlus has discontinued their free plans without much notice if they can’t line up enough advertisers in your calling area. That would be annoying, especially if you invested good money into a Sprint phone. Have a backup plan.
  • Honestly, I don’t know if giving away this much free talk and data is a viable business model. They are definitely trying to grow customer base and sacrifice short-term profitability. Again, know that they may cease operations with little or no notice. Plan ahead as to how you would quickly port your number to another cheap service.
  • If your phone is not eligible, then they may de-activate your plan in the future, even if you manage to activate it initially.
  • You must maintain activity on your plan. If you don’t make a call every 60 days (may differ by plan), they will de-activate your account and you’ll have to pay a fee to re-activate.
  • If you do sign up and decide to link your credit card, know that overages cost 2 cents per text, minute, or MB. MMS picture messages are at an additional cost (4 cents each). Roaming is available, but those overages are much more expensive. I would disable roaming completely on your phone to avoid such surcharges.

In case you were wondering, this is not a VoIP-only service like FreedomPop as normal calls use the Sprint voice network. However, free WiFi calling is an option so you can save your minutes. I know there are some RingPlus users out there as readers, so please share and discuss in the comments!