Republic Wireless: Unlimited Talk, Text, 3G Data for $25/Month, Moto E for $99

motoeSeveral updates. Republic Wireless uses WiFi coverage to place mobile phone calls and texts whenever possible, saving both you and them money. They have quickly become a popular frugal option for cell service. When WiFi is unavailable, you fall back onto Sprint cell towers. No contracts, but you must buy a phone specially programmed with their WiFi software. Some recent updates:

  • Moto E. This newly-released value phone costs just $99. It won’t compete with a cutting-edge phone and is 3G-only, but it will do nearly everything you need – email, text, Facebook, internet. The reviews are actually pretty positive – read the Engadget and Verge reviews. Looks like the weakest point is the camera.
  • Moto X. Their premium phone is the Moto X at $299, which has 4G capabilities and also has solid reviews at a higher price point. See Engadget and Anandtech reviews.
  • Switch between plans for free. You can switch between any of the new plan options, up to twice per month, with no penalty. This means you could upgrade to cellular data for a week or a month if you need it, or downgrade to the $5 or $10 plan if you are traveling or don’t plan to use any data that month. Nice flexibility, and you can switch plans directly from your phone without calling customer service.
  • MMS and text short codes now supported. MMS (multimedia/picture texting) is now officially working with all major carriers and most regional carriers. You can also now text shortcodes.

Plan Options

Here’s a new graphic that explains the plans pretty succinctly:

  • $5/month = WiFi only. This is basically like VoIP home service, but on a smartphone. You must route all calls and text through WiFi.
  • $10/month = WiFi + Talk + Text. Unlimited talk and text, no cellular data.
  • $25/month = WiFi + Talk + Text + 3G Data. Unlimited talk, text, 3G data.
  • $40/month = WiFi + Talk + Text + 4G Data. Unlimited talk, text, 3G/4G data.

Prices don’t included taxes and surcharges. Below is information quoted about their Acceptable Use Policy:

Our policy is targeted toward the top 1% of users, based on mobile data consumption —that means users who consume more that 5GB of cellular data or 100MB of roaming data. The vast majority of our users will never reach these limits. In fact, the first time you hit this threshold, we give you a free pass —once in any six-month period we’ll allow you to exceed the limit— and your speed won’t be reduced. If you hit the threshold twice within a six month period, your speed will be reduced to 2G speeds for the remainder of the month of billing. We’ll make sure you’re aware if your usage starts to approach either benchmark.

My Thoughts
I think Republic Wireless has found a good balance between offering “unlimited” data and still making sure people use WiFi at home/work whenever possible as that is critical to their business model. If you remember, their initial limit back in 2011 was about 500 mb of data, which many (including me) thought was too restrictive. Now, it’s 10 times as much at 5 GB of data, and you get a free pass every 6 months. I like that they are continually improving their service in a relatively open and transparent manner.

With the announcement of their new $99 Moto E phone, I finally bought one with the goal of letting my parents use it (and play with the technology myself…). Their previous phone was a Virgin Mobile Kyocera flip phone, so this should be a huge upgrade. They do have an iPad, so it shouldn’t be too hard to pick up. Hopefully, they can cycle between the $10 and upgrade to the $25 plan when they travel. I don’t think they need data on a daily basis. Learn more at RepublicWireless.com.

Coupon Code: $10 off $100 at Costco.com

Costco CardsYou can get a one-time use coupon code for $10 off a $100+ purchase at Costco.com if you visit SavingsTooBig.com and share the deal. I’d say the easiest option is Twitter as I didn’t even have to actually post the tweet to get the code (although I did anyway… why not share?). Costco.com is actually a good way to get big or heavy stuff delivered directly to you; their shipping cost quotes have often been a lot lower than I thought it would be. You can also buy a lot of stuff for the same price as in-store, so why not save $10.

Only valid on Costco.com. Not valid in warehouse. One coupon code per Costco member. Ineligible purchases include: new Costco memberships, Costco membership renewals, gift of membership, online gift certificates, Costco Cash cards, custom installation services and online-digital print orders. Not valid for orders at the Pharmacy, Costco Travel or Costco Business Delivery. The merchandise total in your cart must equal $100 or more before tax and shipping to receive the $10 off. The coupon code must be entered in the promo code box at checkout to be valid. This offer may not be combined with any other offer or promotion. No cash redemption value. View Official Rules. Offer expires 12/31/2014.

Chase Ink Plus Business Card Review: $500 Cash, $625 Travel, or 50,000 Rewards Points Bonus

Chase Ink Plus Card ArtChase has a new small biz credit card, called the Ink Plus® Business Card. It turns out to be very similar to the Chase Ink Bold Business card (full review), but with the important difference that the Ink Plus is a credit card where you can carry a balance and the Bold is a charge card that you must pay in full each month. The current APR for both purchases and balance transfers is 15.24%.

The good news is that the Ink Plus has a sign-up bonus, offering 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after your after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months your account is open. You can read about my Ink Bold bonus experience here. To briefly recap:

Ultimate Rewards points are very flexible:

  • Cash. 1 point = 1 cent in cash, so 50,000 points = $500 cash.
  • Travel. 1 point = 1.25 cents towards travel, so 50,000 points = $625 towards travel at the same prices at Expedia or Travelocity (no % markups), split up however you like into multiple tickets, down to the penny. Good for people who don’t like to bother with miles.
  • Frequent flier miles and hotel rewards points. Transfers directly to United miles, British Airways miles, Hyatt hotel points, and Marriott hotel points. Best for folks that are willing to research and maximize their miles. Top up your account to reach an award, an transfer over only what you need.

The card also has the following same Ink Bold features:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards..
  • Flexibility to pay your balance over time or in full.
  • Earn 5X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs
  • Chip-enabled for enhanced security at home and abroad
  • $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year, then $95.

You can buy Amazon.com gift cards at Staples and OfficeMax and get the 5x points, effectively discounting them 5% in cash (6.25% in travel), which may also help you with the spending requirement. Based on past experiences, you should be able to get this card and bonus in addition to the Ink Bold card as they are different cards. I already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred personal card and the Ink Bold card, so I’ll probably wait for a bit during my no-annual-fee first year and then try out this new card as well for my business. Gift cards purchases are also useful for satisfying the spending requirement for the bonus.

Many people aren’t aware of the fact that they can apply for business credit cards, even if they are not a corporation or LLC. The business type is called a sole proprietorship, and these days many people are full-time or part-time consultants, freelancers, or other one-person business. 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.

“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.  “The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.”

Chase Ink Plus Banner

Amazon Promo: Buy $50 of Household Essentials, Get $15 Gift Card

charminAmazon is running a promotion where if you buy $50 of select Household & Beauty Essentials, you will get a $15 Amazon.com gift card (add it to your cart and it’ll show as free upon checkout). Eligible items include Bounty paper towels, Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper, Tide pods, Gillette Fusion blade refills, and other P&G products.

I did a quick price comparison for the Bounty and Charmin and got varying results. Before taking into account the promo, the Bounty paper towels listed are priced competitively at $2.81 per “huge” roll vs. $2.74 at Walmart.com and $2.75 at Target.com. If you say the $15 off $50 is 30% off, then after the promo each roll is $1.97 per huge roll. (Supposedly each huge roll is 2.5 regular rolls.)

But a similar comparison for the Charmin toilet paper has it at $0.72 per “double” roll vs. $0.50 at Walmart and $0.58 at Target. After 30% off the Charmin goes back to $0.50 a roll, which isn’t much of a deal. I haven’t done this for the other products, but it might be worth a quick comparison. If you like these brands, this promo will probably still save you some money.

Also, I didn’t factor in that you can currently get an additional 5% back at Amazon with both the Chase Freedom or Discover It cards.

Truvia Natural Sweetener Class Action Settlement

truviaCargill has settled a lawsuit alleging their Truvia Natural sweeteners were not so “natural” because they contained ingredients that were highly processed and/or derived from genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”) and that the descriptions of the products, and of the ingredients of which these products were made, were inaccurate or misleading. Here are the details from TruviaSweetenerLawsuit.com.

  • The Settlement Class includes all persons who, from July 1, 2008 through July 24, 2014, resided in the US and purchased Truvia products for their personal consumption and not for resale. Includes Truvia Natural Sweetener in packet, spoonable jar, and baking blend forms, of any size or quantity.
  • Depending on how much Truvia you bought or paid for, you may receive up to $45 cash or $90 in Truvia product vouchers. Details on the breakdown here.
  • No proof of purchase is necessary to file a claim. However, the Claim Form must be signed under penalty of perjury affirming that the information provided is true and accurate to the best of your knowledge.

Even if everything goes smoothly the checks for this probably won’t be sent out for another year or more.

Red Bull Class Action Settlement

Red Bull has settled a lawsuit alleging that their marketing and labeling misrepresents both the functionality and safety of Red Bull beverages. The Settlement Class includes all persons who made at least one purchase of Red Bull products in the United States between January 1, 2002 and October 3, 2014. If you are a qualified Settlement Class Member and submit a Claim Form, you may choose one of the following:

  • A cash reimbursement (in the form of a check) of $10.00; or
  • Free Red Bull products (either Red Bull ® Energy Drink or Red Bull ® Sugarfree, as selected on the Claim Form) with a retail value of approximately $15.00 (the “Product Option”). They will mail it to you at their cost.

“No proof of purchase is necessary to obtain settlement benefits. However, the Claim Form must be signed by you under penalty of perjury (either by hand or, if you submit it online, electronically), affirming that you are a qualified member of the Settlement Class and that the information provided therein is true and accurate to the best of your knowledge.”

This is all taken from the official site EnergyDrinkSettlement.com. Checks probably won’t be mailed out until late 2015 at the earliest.

Money Magazine Best Credit Card Rankings 2014

money1410The October 2014 issue of Money Magazine features their annual rankings of the “Best Credit Cards”. Here’s a condensed list of their top picks for various categories. I’ve written about most of them, and in those cases I’m linking to that post which provides more details. Otherwise, I’m linking directly to the card page and including a few highlights about the card.

Best for Balance Transfers (Low, long introductory APR)

  • Chase Slate Card. 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. No balance transfer fee if you transfer within the first 2 months. No annual fee.

Best for Regular Balance Carriers (Low ongoing APR)

Best for Purchases (Low, long introductory APR)

  • Citi Simplicity Card. 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 18 months. 3% balance transfer fee, $5 min. No annual fee.

Best Flat-Rate Cash Back Rewards (Tie)

  • Citi Double Cash Card. 1% flat back when you swipe, 1% flat when you pay your bill. No limits or tiers. If you redeem rewards via check that is 2% flat cash back, if you redeem via statement credit then it is actually technically 1.99% cash back. Spend $2,000 a month on this Mastercard and get back $480 a year without changing your spending patterns. No annual fee.
  • Fidelity American Express. 2% back with no limit or tiers. Rewards must be deposited into a Fidelity account.

Best For Cash Back on Essentials

Best 5% Cash Back Cards (Tie)

  • US Bank Cash Plus. 5% back on two categories from 12 possible choices, on $2,000 in purchases per quarter. No annual fee. Must apply in physical branch, application is not available online.
  • Chase Freedom. 5% in categories that rotate quarterly, on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter. $100 sign-up bonus. No annual fee.

Best For Travel Rewards / Traveling Abroad.

Best For Miles Hounds / Best Sign-Up Bonus.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred. Big upfront sign-up bonus, 2x points on Dining and Travel, Ultimate Rewards points offer flexible transfers to miles, cash, or travel credit.  $0 annual fee first year, then $95.

Best For Hotel Perks.

Best For Small Business Rewards.

  • Chase Ink Cash. Decent sign-up bonus, 5% cash back on up to $25,000 in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services. No annual fee.

Best For Small Business Borrowing.

  • US Bank Business Edge Platinum. 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, 10% to 18% after that. This is the lowest APR among no annual fee small biz cards. No annual fee.

Best First Card For a College Kid

Best Card For Online Shopping

  • Discover It Card. The ShopDiscover portal offers cash back bonuses of 5% to 20% at select online retailers, which can be redeemed as statement credit. Also has 5% rotating categories. No annual fee.

Discover Card 5% Back At Lowe’s, Shell Gas, or Walgreens

Discover It and Discover More cardholders may be able to get 5% cashback at your choice of one of the following stores: Applebee’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe’s, Olive Garden, Shell, or Walgreens from now until November 30th, 2014. Subject to a cap of $1,000 in purchases. Valid both in-store and online. I think the best options for most would be Lowe’s (home improvement or wide selection of gift cards to Amazon, etc), Shell (gasoline), or Walgreens (coupon book items, expensive meds, or gift cards). I was able to get the promo by doing the following:

  1. First, log into your existing online account at Discover.com.
  2. Then, come back here and click on this link from the same browser.

You should see this page (click to enlarge):

discoverpick

This is in addition to the standard 5% back categories on the Discover it card, currently 5% back on up to $1,500 in purchases at Online Shopping and Department Stores and movies for 4th quarter of 2014. Selected fine print:

*Sign up to earn 5% Cashback Bonus on up to $1000 in total purchases made at your choice of one of the following stores: Applebee’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe’s, Olive Garden, Shell, or Walgreens from 10/1/14 (or the date you sign up, whichever is later) through 11/30/14. Once you sign up, no changes can be made to your selection. Purchases made using virtual wallets or third party payment providers will not be eligible. Purchases made outside of the U.S. will not be eligible. Rewards are added to your Cashback Bonus account within 2 billing periods. See Cashback Bonus Program Terms and Conditions for further details.

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card: Two Free Weekend Nights (Which I Redeemed for $1,109 Value)

Update: Got my two rewards certificates and redeemed for $1,000+ worth of rooms in Hawaii. Details following. I applied for this card on the same day as the US Airways 40,000 miles bonus, 7/14. Not sure about approval date but my first purchase was on 7/22. First statement closed on 8/20, in which I charged $1,800 and also paid the $95 annual fee (but didn’t satisfy the $2,000 spend yet). Second statement closed 9/18, where I did meet the $2,500 spending hurdle. I was issued the two weekend night certificates via e-mail on 9/20. Here is a screenshot:

citihiltoncert

According to commenter TJ below who satisfied the spending requirements in the first billing cycle, s/he got the certificates two weeks after the close of the 1st statement. My guess is that they just want to make sure you pay the annual fee. Also, good tip to check your spam folder for the e-mailed certificates!

I called in on 9/22 to book the nights I wanted at my resort of choice – the Grand Wailea (Waldorf Astoria) in Maui. (I’ve never stayed there before, but it looks pretty awesome.) Keep in mind that although there are no category restrictions (it doesn’t matter how expensive the hotel is on average), you can only book a “standard room” which I believe is their cheapest tier of rooms. So if you want a busy weekend that is coming up soon and those cheaper rooms are sold out, you may not get it. However, I was able to get two consecutive weekend nights in November, only two months from now. I am also able to cancel without any penalty or fees up until 14 days before the booking.

If I was booking with cash on the exact same dates and exact same room, it would have cost me $1,109.25. Here’s proof via screenshot from the booking website:

citihiltoncert2

If I was to have used points, it would have taken 70,000 per night for a total of 140,000 Hilton Honor points. Note that I took out the resort fees, which are reportedly waived when booking with certificate or points redemptions (any taxes on the room rate are included). These would be $25 per night ($28.35 with taxes). You actually get the following stuff too: “Guest internet access; beach umbrellas for use on Wailea Beach; admission to twice daily SCUBA clinics; free bike rental”. I’m quite happy with this result, as it was my goal to visit Maui this winter.

Original post with review of card details below:

hiltonreserveThe premium co-branded Citi Hilton Hotels card is the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card. The sign-up bonus includes certificates good for 2 Free Weekend Nights, with “weekend night” meaning a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night. If you like staying at posh hotels, you can get $500+ value out of each certificate and easily $500 of value out of them together. Card feature summary:

  • Earn 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening*
  • Earn 10 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton portfolio*
  • Earn 5 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on airline and car rental purchases*
  • Earn 3 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases*
  • Enjoy the benefits of HHonors Gold status as long as you are a cardmember*
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases*
  • Travel with ease and enjoy global acceptance with your Citi chip credit car

The two free weekend night certificates have no category restrictions, but do have the following exclusions (often these are condo-hotels). Certificates are valid for 12 months after issuance. Must be used on “standard” rooms (no upgraded suites, etc). Room taxes are included with the certificates. Booking the same rooms using rewards points would cost 50,000-70,000 HHonors points per night. Possible choices include:

grandmaui

In the end, this is a great way for casual travelers to stay two nights at a really fancy hotel where you can’t imagine paying over $300 a night. Alternatively, this card is good for regular travelers where Hilton is your hotel chain of choice. Free Gold status offers perks like late checkout, free Wi-Fi, and a free breakfast at many hotels. For future years, if you spend $10,000 in a year you get another free weekend night certificate, which you can weigh against the $95 annual fee.

I just applied for this card. I would normally like to use the certificates for something international and exotic, but with two toddlers I’m pretty sure we’re going to use it for the Grand Wailea in Maui. My application is pending; you can check via their application status number 888-201-4523.

Viggle App Review: Surprise, You Can’t Make Good Money While Watching TV

vigglescreenPapa John’s sent me a code for a free song download the other day. It was really a way to introduce me to the Viggle, a smartphone app which allows users to “check in” when listening to songs or watching TV shows. Similar to Shazam, the app listens for a few seconds and figures out what is on. When you match a show or song, you get Viggle points that can be redeemed for rewards. For example, you get 25 points for a song match and 60 points for watching a standard hour-long TV show. Certain promoted TV shows will offer bonus points.

The standard rewards structure breaks down to getting a penny for matching a song, and 2 cents for watching an hour of TV. A song download is 3,500 points and a Redbox 1-day DVD rental is 4,000 points. This means 25 points is worth a little less than a 1 cent. Even if you watch tons of TV you still have to keep checking in on your phone (exposing yourself to even more ads) so they know you didn’t just leave your phone by the TV all day. The rewards won’t even be cash as the only gift cards offered are to Redbox, Windows Store, and 1-800-Flowers.com.

Here’s my lightning review: Don’t bother. I try to keep an open mind about some of these programs, but this one just sounds awful. From reading various reviews, even the loyal users say the rewards have gotten steadily worse over time. Make money while sitting on the couch and watching TV? Honestly, how did you think it would turn out?!

Free Rideshare Promo Codes: Uber, Lyft, Flywheel, Gett, Sidecar, Silvercar

uberscreenUpdated. Summoning a car with your smartphone is all the rage. Most of these startups are offering some form of bonus credit for first-time users. If you live in a major metro area, this can quickly add up to a decent amount of free rides. I’ve only used Uber up to now, but it was a very easy experience.

  • Uber – Hail a car, taxi, black car, minivan, and more with your smartphone. Lots of cities. Get $20 off your first ride via this special link or promo code uberMYMONEYBLOG. UberX involves individuals driving their personal cars, the rest are professionals.
  • Lyft – Hail a pink-mustached car driven by a private individual in their private car. Cities. Get $50 off your first ride with promo code SLICKDEALS. If that doesn’t work (some report expired), you can get a $25 ride credit via my referral link. If you live in a city where they are just starting out, you may also get a bunch of additional free rides for being a “Lyft Pioneer”.
  • Flywheel – A taxi app that only hires “fully licensed, insured and professional” drivers. Cities. Get $5 off your first ride until with this special link or promo code 27A8AP.
  • Gett – Black car service in NYC only plus some international cities (yellow taxi coming soon). Get $20 free credit with promo code GTJONAT17. For the rest of 2014, all Gett rides within Manhattan are a flat $10 plus tip. Any time, any day.
  • Sidecar – “Sidecar allows riders to choose the vehicle, the driver
    and the price, tailoring every ride for any occasion.” Cities. Get $10 free ride credit with promo code jdhmd. If that doesn’t work, get a $5 ride credit with my promotion code JONATHAN931.
     
    When you use Sidecar from 6am–1pm on weekdays, a $2 Trip Token will be dropped in your account to automatically discount the next ride you take that day before midnight.
  • Summon (formerly Instacab) – Taxi and community driver service in San Francisco and East Bay currently. Get $5 free credit by entering referral code JPING after you download the app or use this special link (Value of credit should be noted on the page). Flat fares to SFO ($35), OAK ($50) and SJC ($120).
  • Silvercar – Rental car app, with the only choice being a silver Audi A4. AUS, DAL, DFW, LAX, PHX, SFO. Get a $100 when you are referred by an existing member, here are the details. sign up form with promo code JPING.

I have tried out all of these codes myself as of mid-2014. Where the best deal is a referral code, I have included my own and will usually get a bounty of whatever you get (you get free ride, I get free ride). If my code isn’t the best deal, I posted the better deal instead. Thanks in advance if you use any of them.

Bonus: Get $25 credit towards any hotel stay booked through the Hotel Tonight app. Sign up online at this link with promo code JPING2 for $25 in credit (new customers only). Then download the Hotel Tonight app (Apple or Android). More info here.

Discounted Gift Cards: Extra $5 off $100 on Select Brands

Update: The code below for existing users has expired, but new customers can still get $5 off $75 using code RAISE75AF.

hdgiftRaise.com sells discounted gift cards to various retailers. Right now until 09/18 at 3 pm CST they have a coupon code 5RAISE100 that will take an extra $5 off $100 order of gift cards from Home Depot, JCPenney, Starbucks, iTunes, CVS, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods and Bed Bath and Beyond. Good for both new and existing customers.

I have bought used Home Depot gift cards multiple times. Most sites (including Raise) sell them at very close to a 10% standard discount. Why not get another 10% off purchases that can get pretty big when fixing up a house? I’ve even bought them electronically on my iPhone while waiting in line. With this coupon you could theoretically get another 5% off if you found a $100 gift card, for a total 15% discount. I looked but those close to $100 are already sold out at this moment, although their inventory changes constantly. Even so, code could still be worth and additional 2 to 4% off.