Amazon: Buy 3 Items, Save 30% on Household Essentials

tpAmazon is offering a Buy 3 Items, Save 30% promotion when you buy selected items from their on Household Essentials and Health & Wellness categories.

This includes common items like toilet paper, paper towels, flushable wipes, ziploc bags, soap, laundry detergent, and vitamins. Amazon really wants you think of them when you buy everyday items.

MoviePass: $9.95 a Month for Unlimited Movies (1 Per Day)

moviepassMoviepass recently slashed their prices for unlimited in-theater movies (one per day) to only $9.95 per month. Here how it works in practical terms:

  • You are limited to one 2-D movie per day. You can watch first-run movies on opening day. No 3D. No IMAX.
  • This service is not affiliated with any specific movie chain. You can use the official Moviepass website (scroll to bottom) or this handy-but-unofficial locator to see eligible theaters.
  • You must download and use the service through the Moviepass smartphone app (Android and iOS). You can’t use Fandango or other 3rd-party service.
  • You must be within 100 yards of the theater (tracked by GPS via phone app) before you can redeem your free ticket for the day. This helps prevent you from sharing your subscription. If you want to reserve seats, you should get to the theater area early.
  • Once you check-in via the app, the appropriate funds will be loaded onto a your personalized Moviepass Mastercard debit card. You then use that specific debit card to pay for the ticket (at kiosk or ticket counter).
  • There is no contract.

My take? I don’t see how this is a sustainable business model. MoviePass is paying full price for the movies (not even some sort of wholesale discount). MoviePass must be hoping that a lot of casual people sign up and then forget to watch movies some months? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they wait until after the summer movie season to announce this. I am skeptical that they can monetize the group data enough to cover their costs.

AMC doesn’t like Moviepass but since the are just using a normal debit card to pay full price, I don’t see how they can stop the service.

Bottom line. The service seems legit in that they’ve been in business since 2011 and the CEO is one of the co-founders of Netflix and former Redbox executive. However, I still see a late “pivot” for a wobbly startup. Watch a bunch of movies in the next few months if you can, but don’t be surprised if your Moviepass card suddenly stops working.

Bonus Delta SkyMiles for Washington State Residents

seahawksBack again for the 2017-2018 season. If you are a resident of the state of Washington state and age 18+ (as indicated by your Skymiles account), you can register at and receive the following perks from Delta Airlines:

  • 1 bonus mile for each passing yard accumulated by the Seattle Seahawks (regular home and away games).
  • Priority boarding when departing out of SeaTac Airport on Delta during the season (8/17/17 to 2/4/18).
  • Chance to win various free stuff like tickets, gift cards, and VIP access.

Looks like Delta just wants you to like them, as you don’t actually need to buy anything to be eligible.

Citi Prestige Card Review: 75,000 Point Offer, Feature Changes

Citi ThankYou Prestige Card Art

Our partner Citi has a limited-time offer on the Citi Prestige® Card, their premium ThankYou point rewards card. The sign-up bonus is now 75,000 bonus points after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Here are the updated highlights:

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • 75,000 ThankYou® Points are worth over $900 in airfare when redeemed through or through Citi Prestige® Concierge. Or, you could get $750 in statement credit.
  • Annual $250 Air Travel Credit, valid for flight-related expenses charged to your card including airline tickets, baggage fees, and upgrades.
  • Global Entry/TSA Statement Credit. Receive a statement credit, up to $100 every 5 years, as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
  • Complimentary 4th night stay at any hotel of your choice after a minimum 4-consecutive night booking through or the Citi Prestige Concierge (based on your average night stay, exclusive of taxes and fees).
  • Airport Lounge Access. You and your authorized users get access to hundreds of VIP lounges through Priority Pass™ Select.
  • Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
  • Earn 3x Points on Air Travel & Hotels.
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment.
  • Early 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on Purchases.
  • $450 annual fee, not waived the first year.

Bonus details. The initial sign-up bonus was formerly 60,000 ThankYou points, and this is the highest that I’ve seen it. The spending requirement is also higher than before. Note the following fine print:

Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

Since you can only get one or the other, you should compare this offer with the Citi ThankYou Premier Card as the annual fee is waived during the first year and includes gas as a 3X category.

Annual $250 Air Travel Credit details. Unlike other cards, airfare counts as well as baggage fees, lounge access, and other incidental purchases. This renews every calendar year, so it can be used to help offset the annual fee every year. New cardholders may also qualify for the credit once in 2017 and again in 2018.

This statement credit is an annual benefit available for purchases appearing on your billing statements from December through the following December. Pending transactions that do not post in your December billing cycle will count towards the next year’s Air Travel Credit.

What can you do with ThankYou Points? Citi has been trying to improve the value and flexibility of ThankYou points, so here is a rundown of what you can do with them.


Bonus towards flexible airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises. You get a 20% discount on the standard number of points needed for a travel redemption. The reverse math means 1 ThankYou point = 1.25 cents towards travel. Note that this 25% bonus applies all of your points from all Citi cards linked to the same ThankYou account, thus boosting the value of all your other points.

That means 75,000 ThankYou points will get you $937.50 in airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises book through the Citi Travel Center, which in my experience had the same total price with taxes as compared to Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Since you can book any flight that can be otherwise purchased with cash, there are “no blackout dates”.

This can be even more flexible because you can use it across multiple flights, multiple passengers, and you can even do partial redemptions. Let’s say you found a ticket that want for $200 = 16,000 points, but only have 10,000 points available. Citi now lets you pay the difference, so in this case you can get your $200 ticket for 10,000 points and $75. This makes it much easier to use up all of your points at a 25% premium.

75,000 points = $750 in statement credit. The Citi Prestige finally offers you a simple 1 ThankYou points = 1 cent redemption towards a statement credit.

Hotel points and airline miles transfer options. Citi ThankYou points are also now available to transfer to certain airline mileage programs on a 1:1 basis including JetBlue, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Etihad, Flying Blue by Air France and KLM, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, EVA Air, Jet Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Thai Airways. For example, 50,000 TY points can get you 50,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. If you know how to redeem this points wisely, you can get a lot of value for international flights.

What happened to [perk]? If you read about this card in the past, you should know that the Citi Prestige card no longer offers some features. These include the (1) American Airlines special redemption value at ThankYou point = 1.6 cents in American Airlines airfare, the (2) 1 ThankYou point = 1.33 cents in airfare (the value ratio is now 1 ThankYou point = 1.25 cents), (3) American Airlines Admirals Club lounge access (Priority Pass Select benefits remain), and (4) free rounds of golf benefit.

Bottom line. This is a high sign-up bonus historically, but it’s also harder to get due to the higher spending requirement and the fact that you can’t have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months. If you can meet these hurdles, you should then compare this offer with the Citi ThankYou Premier Card – 50,000 Bonus Point offer. The Citi Prestige has a bigger sign-up bonus and more valuable perks if you can take advantage of them ($250 annual airfare credit, Global Entry credit, Priority Pass), but with a higher spending hurdle and you must pay the $450 annual fee. The Citi ThankYou Premier has a smaller sign-up bonus but the spending hurdle is lower and the annual fee is waived during the first year.

“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.”

Virgin Mobile Full Year of Unlimited Service for $1 w/ iPhone Purchase


Virgin Mobile has extended their promotion offering a full year of unlimited service for $1 for new customers who buy an iPhone and transfer their number, as well as current Virgin Mobile customers who upgrade to an iPhone. Auto-pay required. It has officially been extended through 8/31/17.

Virgin Mobile USA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sprint and is thus on the Sprint network. Unlimited talk, text, and data with de-prioritization after 23 GB each month. Although taxes are technically not included, people report being charged only 8 cents per month, so apparently it’s not a concern. After the first year, the unlimited plan costs $50 a month including all taxes as this is a prepaid service.

The cost of the newest iPhones from Virgin Mobile is comparable to buying direct from Apple. For example, iPhone 7 32GB version is $649. However, there are discounts for older models: iPhone 6 32GB is $320. iPhone SE 32GB is $280.

Compare this offer with the Sprint Free Year of Unlimited offer. For the Sprint offer, you must bring your own eligible device and qualify via a hard credit check. If you don’t want an iPhone, you could buy a New Unlocked Moto E4 for $99 from Amazon. For this Virgin Mobile offer, you must buy a new iPhone for at least $280 but there is no credit check. Sprint includes mobile hotspot tethering, while Virgin charges an extra $10 a month.

Per this press release, Virgin will also throw in the following perks:

  • A round-trip companion ticket to the United Kingdom on Virgin Atlantic
  • One night’s stay at Virgin Hotels
  • $170 savings on an introductory offer to Virgin Wines club
  • Up to 20% off flights on Virgin America
  • 20% off on the Virgin Sport San Francisco Festival of Fitness (Oct. 13-15)

If you wanted to buy an iPhone anyway (a new model is coming out soon) and are okay with the Sprint network, this can work out to a good deal. You could get a new iPhone 6 (which is still perfectly useable in my opinion) and a year of Unlimited talk/text/data service for $321. After the first year, you’ll still have the iPhone 6 which you can use on another network.

Alaska Airlines Dash For Miles Promotion: 3,000 Bonus Miles, Reset Expiration

alaskamilesAlaska Airlines has a Dash for Miles promotion where you can earn up to 3,000 bonus miles: 1,000 bonus miles times three partner sites through September 30, 2017. You must register at the link above first, and then complete at least one transaction from any of the following:

All of these sites are relatively easy to participate in. Mileage Plan Dining has a relatively wide restaurant network and you could link a credit card and buy a $2 soda. Mileage Plan shopping can be triggered with a $5 purchase at,, or Groupon. The Opinion Terminal only takes the time commitment to fill out an initial survey. (I was able to get the 400 miles after about 15 minutes. Some people only get 5 miles, but that’s enough to trigger the 1,000 point bonus.)

This promo can also be used to reset the expiration of your Alaska Mileage Plan miles for another 24 months. If a Mileage Plan account is inactive for 2 years, Alaska Airlines may close the account, delete any mileage balance and reassign the Mileage Plan number. Deleted mileage can be reinstated for a fee for up to 1 year.

Dash for Miles Challenge Offer Terms & Conditions:

Limited time offer valid August 7, 2017 through September 30, 2017: Mileage Plan™ members who register for this offer and complete at least one transaction with each of Mileage Plan Dining, Mileage Plan Shopping, and Miles for Surveys during the promotional period will receive 1,000 bonus Miles for each partner they earn with. Registration is required prior to the first qualifying transaction. Bonus Miles do not count towards Mileage Plan Elite Status. Bonus Miles will be awarded within six weeks of the last qualifying transaction posting to a member’s account. All terms and conditions of the Mileage Plan program apply. Offer subject to change without notice.

1,000 Marriott Rewards Points for New Visa Checkout Customers

visacheckoutHere’s another promotion for Visa Checkout (they are really pushing this thing). Create a new Visa Checkout account from and earn up to 1,000 free Marriott Rewards points: Earn 500 points when you sign up for Visa Checkout on and 500 points when you use Visa Checkout within 15 days of signing up.

Stack with the Starbucks / Visa Checkout promo. You can have multiple Visa Checkout accounts (each one needs a separate e-mail/phone number and credit card). For this promo, the e-mail address must match between Visa Checkout and Marriott Rewards, so you might need to change one or the other beforehand. Fine print:

Offer valid through 9/24/17 while supplies last. Only new Visa Checkout users eligible. Address on Visa Checkout account must match email address associated with Marriott Rewards member account. […] Allow 6 to 8 weeks from the end of the Promotion Period for delivery of the bonus points award. Marriott Rewards members who have elected in their account profile to earn miles are not eligible for the Promotion.

$20 Starbucks Gift Card for $10 with Visa Checkout

sbux_cupFall promo is live. Starbucks is selling $20 Starbucks Gift Card for $10 if you buy it using Visa Checkout instead of credit card directly. Limited to the first 225,000 loads, but if you can still buy a gift card at the link, then the promotion is should still be alive. Otherwise valid 8/14/17 to 9/30/17.

Hey, Starbucks finally figured out that it would be nice to have all this reflected during checkout! A screenshot from my order:


Selected terms:

Promotional Offer Terms: Read the following terms to see how you can get a promotional $10 added to the value of your Starbucks eGift Card while supplies last (“Bonus Load”). Starbucks will give away 225,000 Bonus Loads between 8/14/17 and 9/30/17 (“Promotional Period”). To receive a Bonus Load, you must purchase a minimum $10 Starbucks eGift Card with your valid Visa Checkout® Account during the Promotional Period and meet other eligibility requirements below.

Free 1,000+ Marriott Rewards Points Promotion


Back again, but different? I’m not sure if this works if you’ve already done it before, but there is a new Chirpify promotional page with a new #RewardsPoints hashtag (instead of #MRpoints) showing the following opportunities:

  • 750 free points. 250 points each for linking your Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.
  • 250 free points. 125 points each for following Marriott Rewards on Twitter and Instagram.
  • ???. There is a vague reference to additional points earning opportunities. “A maximum of 45,000 points per Marriott Rewards account can be earned each calendar year through #RewardsPoints.”

Here’s a link to the FAQ. I don’t know why all these things ask for the ability to post on your behalf, but then promise “we won’t post on your behalf”. So why ask for it? Just as with secondary e-mail accounts, some people choose to keep secondary social media accounts…

Free Collection of Investing Books by Meb Faber


Free again. Asset manager Meb Faber is promoting the launch of his new book, The Best Investment Writing: Selected writing from leading investors and authors (Vol. 1), by making all four previous self-published books free in Kindle format for a limited time (ends Saturday 8/5). Below are direct links to each book. Check first that the Kindle price is $0 (“0.00 to Buy”), then buy it to own permanently. Do not click “Read for Free”.

Grab them now while they are free, and read later at your convenience. You can read Kindle eBooks on smartphones or on any computer via web browser.

I enjoy reading these books, but I’m always careful when reading about finely-diced backtested strategies that worked well in the past. Before you put your hard-earned money at risk, please realize that even if they continue to work (which is in no way guaranteed given how markets tend to weed out edges), they will still be hard to stick to in real life. At some time, you will underperform other strategies for an extended period of time. You must ride out those low periods in order to achieve any sort of market-beating returns. In my opinion, the fancier the strategy, the harder it is to keep faith.

Best Interest Rates on Cash Savings – August 2017


Interest rates are slowly waking up from their multi-year slumber, so I’m paying closer attention to the various changes each month. Don’t let a megabank pay you 0.01% APY or less for your idle cash. Here is my monthly roundup of the best safe rates available, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. Rates checked as of 8/1/17.

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 1.0%-1.2% APY. Remember that with savings accounts, the interest rates can change at any time.

  • The Mega Money Market accounts of both Redneck Bank and All America Bank (they are affiliated) are paying 1.50% APY on balances up to $35,000. Note that amounts over $35,000 earn only 0.50% APY.
  • Other sample top rates without a balance cap: DollarSavingsDirect at 1.40% APY, BankDirect at 1.35% APY, Synchrony Bank and Goldman Sachs Bank are at 1.20% APY.
  • As I’ve been “bait-and-switched” a few times, I’m still sticking with my Ally Bank Savings + Checking combo due to their history of competitive rates (including CDs), 1-day interbank transfers, and a overall user experience. I also like the free overdraft transfers from savings so I can keep my checking balance at a minimum. Ally Savings is at 1.15% 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 1.10%. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which only has an SEC yield of 0.92%. 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. The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 1.52% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 1.52% 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, legal settlement, 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.

  • The Ally Bank No-Penalty 11-Month CD is now paying 1.50% APY for $25,000+ balances and 1.25% APY for $5,000+ balances. The lack of early withdrawal penalty means that your interest rate can never go down for 11 months, but you can still jump ship if rates rise.
  • 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 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.

  • Northpointe Bank has Rewards Checking at 5% APY on up to $10k. The requirements are (1) 15 debit card purchases per month (in-person or online), (2) enrolling in e-statements, and (3) a monthly direct deposit or automatic withdrawal of $100 or more. ATM fees are rebated up to $10 per month.

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.

  • AmboyDirect has a 12-month CD at 1.65% APY if you deposit $10,000. Additional deposits can be made within 6 months of account opening. Note that early withdrawal penalty is a hefty 6-months of interest, however. If asked, provide offer code 601611.
  • Ally Bank 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’d still get an 1.64% effective APY even after accounting for the penalty.
  • 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 offers 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.
  • Mountain America Credit Union is offering a 5-year Share Certificate at 2.60% APY (365-day early withdrawal penalty). $500 minimum deposit. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization American Consumer Council for a one-time $5 fee.

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? You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer the same FDIC-insurance. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 10-year non-callable CD at 2.65% APY (Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs.) Unfortunately, current long-term CD rates do not rise much higher even as you extend beyond a 5-year maturity.
  • 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 8/1/17.

Costco New Membership Discount – LivingSocial

costco0LivingSocial has a Costco Gold Star Membership Package where for $60 you can get $215.63 value:

  • 1-year Gold Star membership ($60 normally), which includes a membership card for the primary cardholder as well as one free Household Card
  • $20 Costco Cash card
  • $$35.63 in free coupons – Free Paper Towels Create-a-Size 12/160 ct ($15.69 value), Free VitaRain Zero Flavored Water 24/20 oz bottles ($9.99 value), and Free Food Court Whole Pizza ($9.95 value)
  • $25 off an order of $250 on
  • $75 Costco Cash Card toward Costco Travel to the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, or the South Pacific (excludes cruises)

Valid for new members only, which here means the primary cardholder can’t have a current Costco membership or a membership that expired after April 1, 2017. Offer is valid at all U.S. Costco locations.

The last $100 is harder to redeem, but the $20 gift card and $25 in free paper towels/pizza still makes it a pretty good deal if you have a household member without a current membership.

Remember that you can save a bit more on your LivingSocial purchases with cashback shopping sites like eBates ($5 new customer bonus) and Mr. Rebates ($5 bonus).