Existing Discover Cardholders: Free $10 Kohl’s Cash

kohlsIf you have a Discover credit card and shop at Kohl’s, follow the quick instructions below and check if you have $10 in Kohl’s Cash credit available in your account. There is no purchase required. Availability varies and you might see again next month; this one expires 7/2/17. Found via SD.

  • Log into your Discover card account.
  • Go to the Rewards tab and click on Discover Deals
  • In the Search Merchants box, enter and click on “Kohl’s” (not “Kohl’s online”)
  • Look for the $10 off $30 offer as shown below.

disc_kohls

The “deal” here is that because the code and PIN effectively work as “Kohl’s Cash”, the $30 minimum is not actually enforced. Therefore, it’s similar to $10 in free store credit (subject to certain brand exclusions). Just provide the cashier the barcode number, or use the barcode and 4-digit PIN online at Kohls.com. In addition, you can transfer these codes to other people, or stack up to 4 codes on your own purchase (if a family member has a Discover card too, for example).

Best Interest Rates on Cash Savings – June 2017

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Over the past month, short-term interest rates have inching upwards while the overall yield curve flattened slightly. The value in chasing interest rates continues to rebound ever so slowly, especially if you have idle cash in a megabank paying 0.01% APY or less. Here is my monthly roundup of the best safe rates available, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. Rates checked as of 6/5/17.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge brick-and-mortar banks rarely offer good yields, the online banks with a history of competitive rates offer online savings accounts clustered around 1% APY. An important feature to note with savings account is that their interest rates can change at any time.

  • As I’ve been “bait-and-switched” a few times and there are no lucrative rates that make it worth taking another risk, I am currently sticking with Ally Bank Online Savings for their reliably competitive rates and overall good user experience. Their online savings is currently at 1.05% APY.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, you should know that money market and short-term Treasury rates have been inching upwards. It may be worth the effort to move your money into a higher-yielding money market fund or ultrashort-term bond ETF.

  • The Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund has increased their SEC yield now to 0.97%. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which only has an SEC yield of 0.75%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.
  • The following bond ETFs are not FDIC-insured, but if you want to keep “standby money” in your brokerage account and have cheap/free trades, it may be worth a look. Both the PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) have a 1.43% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months. More info here.

Short-term guaranteed rates (under 1 year)
I am often asked what to do with a big wad of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (just sold your house, just sold your business, inheritance). Honestly, I wouldn’t get fancy or take unnecessary risk. Just keep it safe in a short-term CD or online savings account that in insured under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.

  • Palladian Private Bank has a 6-month promotional rate of 1.30% APY guaranteed (maximum initial deposit of $100k) for new accounts. After the first 6 months, the rate reverts back to their normal rate (currently 0.90% APY). Since the initial promo rate is fixed, this makes it the highest guaranteed 6-month CD rate available.
  • Salem Five Direct is advertising 1.25% APY on balances up to $500,000. The good news is that this rate is guaranteed until 7/1/18 – more than a year away – and since it is a savings account you can still move your money in and out without penalty. The bad news is that this rate is for new customers only.

US Savings Bonds
Series I Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation and backed by the US government. You must hold them for at least a year. There are annual purchase limits. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest.

  • “I Bonds” bought between May and October 2017 will earn a 1.96% rate for the first six months, and then a variable rate based on ongoing inflation after that. While that next 6-month rate is currently unknown, at the very minimum the total yield after 12 months will around 1% with additional upside potential. More info here.
  • In mid-October, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.

Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with high interest rates. The risks are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). The other catch is that these good features may be killed off without much notice. My NetSpend card now only has an eligible balance up to $1,000.

  • Insight Card is one of the best remaining cards with 5% APY on up to $5,000 as of this writing. Fees to avoid include the $1 per purchase fee, $2.50 for each ATM withdrawal, and the $3.95 inactivity fee if there is no activity within 90 days. If you can navigate it carefully (basically only use ACH transfers and keep up your activity regularly) you can still end up with more interest than other options. Earning 4% extra interest on $5,000 is $200 over a year.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with some risk. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Rates can also drop quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. But the rates can be high while they last.

  • Consumers Credit Union offers up to 4.59% APY on up to a $20k balance, although 3.09% APY on a $10k balance is more realistic unless you satisfy a long list of requirements. Note that the 4.59% APY requires you to apply and get approved for an additional credit card through them (other credit cards offer $500+ in sign-up bonuses) and also spend $1,000 on it every month. Keep your 12 debit purchases small as well, as for every $500 in monthly purchases you may be losing out on 2% cashback (or $10 a month on after-tax benefit). Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

Certificates of deposit
If you have a large cushion, it’s quite likely to just sit there for years. One option is to keep your money in longer-term investments where you can still take it out in a true emergency and pay a reasonable early withdrawal penalty. Alternatively, you could create a CD ladder of different maturity lengths such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account.

  • Connexus Credit Union is offering a 1-year Share Certificate at 1.50% APY (90-day early withdrawal penalty) and a 3-year Share Certificate (180-day early withdrawal penalty) at 2.00% APY. Both have a $5,000 minimum deposit. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization Connexus Association for a one-time $5 fee.
  • Hanscom Federal Credit Union is offering a 4-year Share Certificate at 2.50% APY (180-day early withdrawal penalty) if you also have Premier Checking (no monthly fee if you keep $6,000 in total balances or $2,000 in checking). HFCU also offer a 3% APY CU Thrive “starter” savings account. HFCU membership is open to active/retired military or anyone who makes a one-time $35 donation to the Nashua River Watershed Association.
  • Ally Bank Savings also has a 5-year CD at 2.25% APY with a relatively short 150-day early withdrawal penalty and no credit union membership hoops. For example, if you closed this CD after 18-months, you can get a 1.64% effective APY even after accounting for the penalty.

Longer-term Instruments
I’d use these with caution, but I still track them to see the rest of the current yield curve.

  • Willing to lock up your money for 10+ years? Did you know that you can buy certificates of deposit via Vanguard’s bond desk? These “brokered CDs” still offer the same FDIC-insurance. As of this writing, you can get a 10-year non-callable CD that pays 2.75% APY. Fidelity has a new Model CD Ladder tool that will construct a ladder for you, but you need an account to see it in full action. (Unfortunately, current long-term CD rates do not rise much higher even as you extend beyond a 5-year maturity.) Prices will vary daily.
  • How about two decades!? Series EE 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 0.10% rate). You could view as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as long-term bond and thus a hedge against deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years. Too long for me.

All rates were checked as of 6/5/17.

Join Marriott Rewards, Get 1,000 Free Miles + Double Miles

marriottchirp0The loyalty program for Marriott Hotels (which recently bought Starwood) is running a promotion for new members. If you enroll in Marriott Rewards through this link, you will earn 1,000 bonus miles from one of the airlines below, as well as double miles on your stays from 6/4/2017 through 9/2/2017 (up to 35,000 bonus miles). Here are the eligible programs:

  • AeroMexico ClubPremier
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Avianca-TALA Lifemiles
  • British Airways Executive Club (Avios)
  • Etihad Guest
  • Lufthansa Miles & more
  • Qatar Privilege Club

Usually you don’t get anything for joining, so this is worth mentioning especially if you have a Marriott-chain stay coming up. Existing Marriott Rewards members are not eligible. The expiration date says 12/31/17 but it may not last that long.

Free Digital HD Movie: A Stork’s Journey

storkLooking for some free family-friendly entertainment? The new movie A Stork’s Journey is currently free to redeem on Google Play (digital HD version). You can stream it to your computer, smartphone, or TV box. Limited offer from June 1 to June 28, 2017. I’m not really sure why, but it’s not going to be released in theatres until June 30th.

Here’s the trailer and short summary:

Featuring the voice talents of Drake Bell (Superhero Movie, Drake and Josh), YouTube star Justine “iJustine” Ezarik, and Jane Lynch (Glee, Wreck-It Ralph), A Stork’s Journey follows Richard, a sparrow orphaned at birth and raised by storks who believes that he is a stork, too! But when winter comes and the storks prepare to migrate to Africa, his stork family must reveal his true identity and leave him behind in the forest with the other sparrows since he would not survive the long journey. Determined to prove he is a stork after all, Richard ventures south on an epic adventure, accompanied by friends big and small, to unleash his true potential and be reunited with his family.

Blue Business Plus Card from American Express Review: 2X Points on All Purchases Up to $50k/Year

bbpamexAmerican Express has rolled out the new Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express. This card is unique in that it offers double Membership Rewards points on all purchases with no annual fee. Therefore, if you can redeem for more than 1 cent per point of value, this card has the potential to beat a flat 2% cash back card. Here are the highlights:

  • Limited-time offer: Earn 20,000 extra Membership Rewards® points after you spend at least $3,000 in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • 2X Membership Points on the first $50,000 in purchases each year. 1X Points on purchases thereafter.
  • 0.0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. After that your APR will be a variable rate, currently 11.99%, 15.99% or 19.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
  • No annual fee

Note the usual language regarding the sign-up bonus. This is a new card so nobody should have this card already, but you can only get the sign-up bonus once so try to apply during a limited-time offer.

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

Better than 2% cash back? Membership Rewards points can be converted to the following airline miles (there are more, this is just a selection):

  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • ANA Mileage Club (partner of United Airlines)
  • Air Canada (partner of United Airlines)
  • British Airways (partner of American Airlines)
  • FlyingBlue (Air France/KLM)
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin America

If you value any of these miles at more than 1 cent per mile, then you would be getting more value than a 2% cash back card. For example, this card can earn the equivalent of 2 Delta miles per dollar spent.

Unfortunately, there are many redemption options for Membership Rewards points that are worse than 1 cent per point value. Here are a few examples:

  • Shop with Membership Rewards Points (~0.5 cents per point)
  • Shop with Points at Amazon.com (~0.7 cents per point)
  • Use points at BestBuy.com (~0.7 cents per point)
  • Gift Cards (varies from 0.5 up to 1 cent per point max)

If you don’t expect to get at least 1 cent per mile value, then you should stick with a 2% cash back card. If it’s close, then I would probably lean towards simplicity. Consider the following:

Business credit card eligibility. Many people aren’t aware that they can apply for business credit cards, even if they are not a corporation or LLC. Any individual can be a small business. Perhaps you sell items on eBay, Craiglist, or Etsy. Maybe you do some graphic design, web design, freelancing and/or consulting. If you received a 1099-MISC tax form and filled out a Schedule C, that means you have business income, you pay self-employment taxes, and you’re a sole proprietorship. This is the simplest business entity, but it is fully legit and recognized by the IRS. On a business credit card application, you should use your own legal name as the business name, and your Social Security Number as the Tax ID.

This card will require you to personally guarantee that you’ll pay them back what you charge on the card, which means they’ll check your personal credit score like any other consumer card. However, as the card is a business card, American Express won’t have it show up on your personal credit report, so it won’t change things like your credit limits, average account age, or credit utilization ratio.

Bottom line. The new Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express is a unique card that will be very attractive for a certain subset of travelers who know how to maximize their frequent flier miles. If you don’t know how to do this, I would stick with a 2% flat cash back card. Finally, linking this card also allows you keep Membership Rewards points earned from other AmEx cards active while having no annual fee (even if you no longer have the other cards anymore) .

Delta SkyMiles American Express Cards (Limited-Time Offer)

amexdeltaplatAmerican Express and Delta are running limited-time offers on four of their co-branded credit cards. Since you can only get the sign-up bonuses once on each of these cards per person per lifetime (each card is considered different), it’s best to wait for one of these temporary bumps to maximize your bonus miles. These offers are indicated to end on July 5, 2017.

Here are the bonus highlights for the two consumer cards and two business cards. Note that each of the offers are slightly different in terms of bonus amounts and spending requirements. I list common benefits like free checked bags and priority boarding at the bottom.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

  • Limited-Time Offer: 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months.
  • $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. (Not just airfare – buying a Delta gift card online or buying an in-flight drink counts.)
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

You can find a list of all available American Express credit cards at CardRatings.com

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

  • Limited-Time Offer: 70,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months.
  • $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. (Not just airfare – buying a Delta gift card online or buying an in-flight drink counts.)
  • $195 Annual Fee.
  • Companion certificate for a domestic economy roundtrip flight each year upon renewal of your Card.
  • Miles Boost® lets you earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 or more in eligible purchases on the Card in a calendar year. Earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $50,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in a Calendar year for a total of 20,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card

  • Limited-Time Offer: 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months.
  • $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. (Not just airfare – buying a Delta gift card online or buying an in-flight drink counts.)
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card

  • Limited-Time Offer: 70,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months.
  • $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. (Not just airfare – buying a Delta gift card online or buying an in-flight drink counts.)
  • $195 Annual Fee.
  • Companion certificate for a domestic economy roundtrip flight each year upon renewal of your Card.
  • Miles Boost® lets you earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 or more in eligible purchases on the Card in a calendar year. Earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $50,000 in eligible purchases on the Card in a Calendar year for a total of 20,000 bonus miles and 20,000 MQMs.

The above cards all include the following benefits:

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on purchases directly with Delta including flights booked on Delta.com, Sky Club® membership or passes, Delta Vacations® packages, seat upgrades, or in-flight purchases like food, beverages, and entertainment. Earn one mile for every eligible dollar you spend on purchases.
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights. Savings of up to $50 on a round-trip per person. (Savings of up to $200 on a round-trip for a family of four.)
  • Priority Boarding. You can board your flight when Zone 1 priority boarding is called, so that you find room for your carry-on bag and settle into your seat sooner.

Prescription Check App by Warby Parker: Extend Your Eye Prescription For Free

wpeye

Warby Parker sells prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses, primarily online at prices lower than traditional retail optical stores (starts at $95). They can send you frames to try on at home, or you can upload a picture of yourself and “try on” frames virtually.

The next step is to remove the optometrist visit whenever possible. Per this Quartz article, Warby Parker has rolled out a new Prescription Check app that will write you a new prescription (with a new expiration date) if their eye exam shows that your prescription hasn’t changed.

You basically do the “Big E” exam while standing the proper distance away and looking at your desktop computer screen, using the smartphone app for interaction. The updated prescription is written by a licensed eye doctor and is valid at any optical center (not just Warby Parker). The app is registered with the FDA. For now, the service is at the convenient price of free.

The catch? For now, eligibility is limited to the following:

  • Must be a resident of California, Florida, New York, or Virginia.
  • Between ages 18 and 40.
  • Must already own Warby Parker prescription eyeglasses.

Warby Parker says they will increase eligibility over time (and eventually start charging a fee). I went ahead and signed up for e-mail alerts.

I’ve worn glasses for decades and would agree that there are times that I just want another pair of glasses but my eye prescription expired after 12 months. On the other hand, I do feel reassured when I visit the optometrist that everything is alright. Maybe they should extend prescriptions to 2 years if your vision has been stable for a while.

(Added: A reader tweeted that in some states like California, eyeglass prescriptions last for 2 years while contact lenses are for 1 year. Another site that does online eye exams is Opternative.com.)

Free Return Shipping When Paying with PayPal (Activation Required)

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If you shop online at websites like eBay, Walmart, and Home Depot where PayPal is an option for payment, consider that PayPal will reimburse your shipping costs if you buy using PayPal and end up having to make a return.

You must first activate this service, and then after that PayPal will cover up to $30 of return shipping costs for up to 12 eligible PayPal purchases worldwide per calendar year (January 1st to December 31st). You must submit a refund request within 30 calendar days of mailing back the returned item. Found via SD.

ppreturn

When shipping back the item, remember that you’ll need to provide the following proof:

A return shipping cost receipt that also shows the seller’s address. (If your receipt doesn’t show the seller’s address, also send a photo of your return package that does.)

Costco Membership Discount: $10/$20 Coupon Code

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As of June 1, 2017, Costco will be increasing its Gold/Business annual membership fees to $60 (formerly $55) and Executive annual membership to $120 (formerly $110). Executive membership comes with a 2% cash rebate on purchases (now up to $1,000) as well as some other side benefits. The breakeven point is now $3,000 annually x 2% = $60. That works out to $250 a month.

Existing Costco members can save $5 or $10 by renewing before the rate hike on 6/1. Effectively a little discount for renewing early. You renew online up to 3 months before your membership expiration date. You can also renew in-store before your membership expiration date (I read up to 5 months before but may vary). Finally, you can buy their “Gift of Membership” gift card which costs $55 right now and then save it to renew your own membership when the time comes.

New Costco members can get a $10 or $20 Costco cash card. There are two ways to see this offer. You can google search “Costco membership” and click on the ad at the top, or you can visit this link. Use the coupon codes NHMBASE and NHMEXEC online at Costco.com, or print it out and bring it into a physical store. You should see the following promotional offer:

  • GOLD STAR MEMBERSHIP – receive a $10 Costco Cash Card
  • EXECUTIVE MEMBERSHIP – receive a $20 Costco Cash Card

By the way, Sam’s Club is also (still? again?) running a new membership deal where a new member pays $45 and gets:

  • 1-Year Sam’s Club Membership ($45 value)
  • $20 Sam’s Club Gift Card
  • “Free meal” = 1 rotisserie chicken, 1 apple pie, and 36 dinner rolls ($20 value)

Best Interest Rates on Cash Savings – May 2017

percentage2

The WSJ article Bank of America Pays Peanuts for Deposits, but the Money Keeps Flowing In (paywall) outlines how BofA gets away with paying less interest on its deposits than nearly any other US bank (not that the other mega-banks are that much better). BofA only pays an average of 0.08% on $796 billion of cash deposits, including certificates of deposit:

bofa_int450

Keep your savings somewhere else! Even if you have a BofA account for the ATM network, you can avoid fees on their basic checking accounts with either a monthly direct deposit, a minimum balance of $1,500 with no direct deposit, or by keeping $20,000 in stocks/ETFs at Merrill Edge with no direct deposit and no minimum balance. Anything above that can easily earn more interest with a companion account like Ally Bank Savings that now has 1-day transfers between linked accounts.

On that note, here is my monthly roundup of the best safe rates available, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. Rates checked as of 5/11/17.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge brick-and-mortar banks rarely offer good yields, the online banks with a history of competitive rates offer online savings accounts clustered around 1% APY. An important feature to note with savings account is that their interest rates can change at any time.

  • As I’ve been “bait-and-switched” a few times and there are no lucrative rates that make it worth taking another risk, I am currently sticking with Ally Bank for their reliably competitive rates and overall good user experience. Their online savings is currently at 1.05% APY.

Money market mutual funds
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, you should know that money market and short-term Treasury rates have been inching upwards. It may be worth the effort to move your money into a higher-yielding money market fund.

  • The Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund has increased their SEC yield to a half-decent 0.95%. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which only has an SEC yield of 0.69%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.

Short-term guaranteed rates (under 1 year)
I am often asked what to do with a big wad of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (just sold your house, just sold your business, inheritance). Honestly, I wouldn’t get fancy or take unnecessary risk. Just keep it safe in a short-term CD or online savings account that in insured under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.

  • Palladian Private Bank has a 6-month promotional rate of 1.30% APY guaranteed (maximum initial deposit of $100k) for new accounts. After the first 6 months, the rate reverts back to their normal rate (currently 0.90% APY). Since the initial promo rate is fixed, this makes it the highest guaranteed 6-month CD rate available.

US Savings Bonds
Series I Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation and backed by the US government. You must hold them for at least a year. There are annual purchase limits. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest.

  • “I Bonds” bought through the end of April 2017 now will earn a 1.96% rate for the first six months, and then a variable rate based on ongoing inflation after that. While that next 6-month rate is currently unknown, at the very minimum the total yield after 12 months will around 1% with additional upside potential. More info here.
  • In mid-October, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.

Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with high interest rates. The risks are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). The other catch is that these good features may be killed off without much notice. My NetSpend card now only has an eligible balance up to $1,000.

  • Insight Card is one of the best remaining cards with 5% APY on up to $5,000 as of this writing. Fees to avoid include the $1 per purchase fee, $2.50 for each ATM withdrawal, and the $3.95 inactivity fee if there is no activity within 90 days. If you can navigate it carefully (basically only use ACH transfers and keep up your activity regularly) you can still end up with more interest than other options.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with some risk. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Rates can also drop quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. But the rates can be high while they last.

  • Consumers Credit Union offers up to 4.59% APY on up to a $20k balance, although 3.09% APY on a $10k balance might be easier to achieve unless you satisfy a long list of requirements. Note that the 4.59% APY requires you to apply and get approved for an additional credit card through them (other credit cards offer $500+ in sign-up bonuses). Keep your 12 debit purchases small as well, as for every $500 in monthly purchases you may be losing out on 2% cashback (or $10 a month on after-tax benefit). Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

Certificates of deposit
If you have a large cushion, it’s quite likely to just sit there for years. One option is to keep your money in longer-term investments where you can still take it out in a true emergency and pay a reasonable early withdrawal penalty. Alternatively, you could create a CD ladder of different maturity lengths such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account.

  • Connexus Credit Union is offering a 1-year Share Certificate at 1.50% APY (90-day early withdrawal penalty) and a 3-year Share Certificate (180-day early withdrawal penalty) at 2.00% APY. Both have a $5,000 minimum deposit. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization Connexus Association for a one-time $5 fee.
  • Hanscom Federal Credit Union is offering a 4-year Share Certificate at 2.50% APY (180-day early withdrawal penalty) if you also have Premier Checking (no monthly fee if you keep $6,000 in total balances or $2,000 in checking). HFCU also offer a 3% APY CU Thrive “starter” savings account. HFCU membership is open to active/retired military or anyone who makes a one-time $35 donation to the Nashua River Watershed Association.

Longer-term Instruments
I’d use these with caution, but I still track them to see the rest of the current yield curve.

  • Willing to lock up your money for 10+ years? Did you know that you can buy certificates of deposit via Vanguard’s bond desk? These “brokered CDs” still offer the same FDIC-insurance. As of this writing, you can get a 10-year non-callable CD that pays 2.75% APY. (Unfortunately, current long-term CD rates do not rise much higher even as you extend beyond a 5-year maturity.) Prices will vary daily.
  • How about two decades!? Series EE 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 0.10% rate). You could view as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as long-term bond and thus a hedge against deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years. Too long for me.

All rates were checked as of 5/11/17.

Best No Fee 0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards

0apr

Whether you need to save interest on your existing balances or you’d like an interest-free loan, many credit cards offer 0% APR balance transfers for an initial period of up to 21 months. I’ve looked at hundreds of cards online, scoured the “Terms & Conditions” fine print, and the listed ones below are the best that I’ve found with the longest 0% APR periods and the lowest fees.

It’s been harder to avoid all fees these days, but they can still be found. Also remember that stretched across a longer time period, the overall effective APR can still be very low even with a small fee. I’ve tried to include a variety of card issuers as that allows you to spread your balance across multiple cards if needed. Updated as of JULY 2017.

Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards – July 2017

BarclayCard Ring MasterCard 1) Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® – 0% Introductory APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. No balance transfer fees.  All balance transfers must be made within 45 days of account opening to get the 0% Intro APR but you can make as many balance transfers as you’d like and keep the 0% rate. Unlike the other cards on this list, after the intro rate has expired this card offers a static, variable APR of 13.99%. Cardholders will also receive free online access to their FICO score. The Barclaycard Ring Mastercard does not have any annual fee.

Slate from Chase Card Art 2) Chase Slate® – 0% Introductory APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. No balance transfer fee for the first 60 days of opening the account. Once the intro rate has expired, a variable APR of 15.74% – 24.49% applies. Cardholders will also receive a free FICO score updated monthly. No annual fee.

Citi Simplicity Card Art3) Citi Simplicity® Card – 0% Introductory APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 21 months. There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. From our partner Citi, this is an exceptionally long 0% intro terms of nearly 2 years and is three months longer than any other card on our list.  The added balance transfer time can save hundreds of dollars in interest if you aren’t able to take advantage of the fee free options and pay the full balances off in time. Additional unique features on this card include no over-limit fees or late payment fees.  The Citi Simplicity Card has no annual fee.

alliantcc4) Alliant Credit Union Visa Platinum Card – 0% Introductory APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 12 months. No balance transfer fees. After that, a variable rate applies ranging from 9.74%-21.74% APR. A small catch is that you must be an Alliant CU member to obtain this card, but membership is open to anyone who makes a one-time $10 donation to Foster Care to Success. You can also receive card approval first before joining. No annual fee.

Discover it Balance Transfer5) Discover it® 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer – 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months. Balance transfer fee is 3%.  The Discover it 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer also includes a robust rewards program, that offers 5% cash back on rotating categories throughout the year (like gas, groceries and restaurants) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.  As an added bonus, for the first year, all new cardholders will receive double cashback through their Cashback Match program.  There is no annual fee, over-limit fees or late payment fees associated with the Discover it 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer and all cardmembers also receive their free FICO credit score.

ejworld 6) Edward Jones Mastercard® – 0% Introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 12 billing cycles. No balance transfer fee on balances transferred within 60 days of opening your account. A catch is that you must be an Edward Jones client and thus talk to an Edward Jones advisor first to get this card. Watch out for high fees and hidden commissions in their investment management services. This hassle may be offset by the offer of a $100 Loyalty Invest™ Deposit after you spend $500 on your card within 90 days of opening your account. 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.”

Free eBook on Reducing Smartphone Data Usage

tingdataTing Mobile has a free Cut Your Data eBook (PDF) about lowering your cellular data usage. The eBook is a nice collection of data cutting tips that ideally don’t reduce your actual enjoyment. Examples include:

  • How to turn off background data usage.
  • Disabling auto-play videos or auto-downloads in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat.
  • Data compression in Google Chrome and Opera Mini web browsers.
  • Offline downloads of music, maps, Netflix, and other media.

Worth a download if you are trying to maintain a lower tier on your cellular data bill. You don’t need to be a Ting customer (I use them for my parents’ phones – see my Ting Review).