T-Mobile Free 7-Day Test Drive Review

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I’m nearing the end of my contract, and I’ve been tempted by T-Mobile’s aggressive promotions like 4 lines for $100 and most recently free rollover data. But I worry about their coverage. Then I learned of the Free T-Mobile Test Drive where you can get an iPhone 5S shipped to you and try out their service with unlimited talk, text, and data for 7 days. All for free. You just have to return the phone to a physical T-Mobile retail store by the end of the 7th day or get charged $375 + tax. If there is damage like a cracked LCD screen or the Find my iPhone feature is left active, you’ll be charged $100.

I signed up online, agreed to the $700 hold on my credit card, and they shipped a phone out to me. 2-day shipping time passed, I started it up, but the phone didn’t work. Well, the phone turned on and apps worked fine on Wi-Fi. The T-Mobile service didn’t work. I saw bars and “T-Mobile” on the screen, but under the phone number setting, it said “Unknown”. All phone calls went to T-Mobile customer service. When trying to access the internet using 4G, it would only pull up a T-Mobile website stating that the phone was not activated on a data plan. Warning: this is a bit of a rant so you may want to just skip down to the bottom line.

Naturally, I called T-Mobile customer service. I was stuck in the usual phone tree hell, as there was no option for the 7-Day Test Drive and I wasn’t a new activation or an existing customer. I had no phone number to type in. Eventually I reached a human. I’ll call her Human #1.

T-Mobile Human #1: Hi, may I help you?

Me: Yes, I just received a phone from your T-Mobile 7-Day Test Drive promotion and I am having trouble getting the service to work.

T-Mobile Human #1: What is your name? (I give it to her)

T-Mobile Human #1: What is your phone number?

Me: I don’t have one.

T-Mobile Human #1: What is your account PIN?

Me: I don’t have one.

T-Mobile Human #1: What is your account number?

Me: I don’t have one. I’m on a test drive. I do have my order number, though.

T-Mobile Human #1: Hmm… let me transfer you. I’ll need to put you on hold for a few minutes.

Me: Okay.

T-Mobile Human #2: Hi, may I help you?

Me: Yes, I just a phone from your T-Mobile 7-Day Test Drive promotion and I am having trouble getting the service to work.

T-Mobile Human #2: What is your name? (I give it to him)

T-Mobile Human #2: What is your phone number?

Me: I don’t have one.

T-Mobile Human #2: What is your account number?

Me: I don’t have one. I do have my order number, though.

T-Mobile Human #2: Okay let me transfer you. I’ll need to put you on hold for a few minutes.

Me: Umm… okay.

I’m not kidding, this actually happens AGAIN with Human #3, and then I get transferred to tech support.

T-Mobile Human #4: (All the same questions again…) Okay, what is the ICCID number under your Settings > General > About?

Me: 8914 2121 2121 1212 555 (not actual number but I did give it to him)

T-Mobile Human #4: Well your SIM is not showing up as activated on our system. I’ll need to transfer you back again.

Me: You know what, I’ve been on the phone for half an hour. I am already running late. I’m going to go.

I wait until the next day and hope the phone activates on its own. Nope. So I call T-Mobile again. This time the person (#5) is in a crowded call center and I can barely hear her amidst the noise. She has no idea what the T-Mobile Test Drive is. She wants to transfer me. I just can’t go through that again so I hang up. I happen to have an errand that runs by a T-Mobile store so I just decide to return the phone.

I walk into the store and tell them I need to return a Test Drive phone. Surprise, they don’t know how to do that. I should mention that this promotion has been running for over 6 months and T-Mobile boasted that over 12,000 people had already done it. The two young men take the phone and ask me what the phone number is. I tell them I don’t have one and the phone doesn’t work. They ask to look at the phone.

T-Mobile Human #6: Your phone isn’t activated.

Me: I know.

T-Mobile Human #7: So they sent you a phone that doesn’t even work?

Me: Yes.

T-Mobile Human #6: We don’t know how to accept this return.

Me: Well, the promo is on your website and it clearly says I can only return it at a T-Mobile store. So here I am.

T-Mobile Human #7: Uhh, we have to call the manager.

Eventually another employee came by that knew the proper return process. I asked if they could just activate the phone in the store, but they couldn’t. I made sure to get a receipt stating that they received my device back and confirm that I’ll be charged $0.00. So after dealing with eight different T-Mobile employees and wasting well over an hour of my time, I still have no idea how good T-Mobile’s coverage is in my local area. It could be great.

For my troubles, I did get to keep the Apple OEM earbuds that came with the phone. Yay. I guess they think it’s icky to share earbuds (and I agree) so they ship brand new ones to every Test Drive customer along with a refurbished iPhone.

Please, T-Mobile, if you’re going to run a a test drive promotion, you need to use it as THE perfect opportunity to show the best side of your company and gain a customer!

Bottom line: I like the idea of letting people test drive the network. I do suspect T-Mobile coverage can be good enough if you stay in major metro areas. I liked being able to order the kit online and have it arrive at my door. Returning at a physical store so they can manually check the phone’s condition was better than having me mail it in and praying it gets there safely with a fair inspection. This way I knew I’d be charged nothing when I returned the phone. But T-Mobile needs to make a special department or hotline for this promo as their customer service folks are uninformed. Hopefully, most other people who do this test drive get a properly activated phone and don’t have to deal with the same issues.

Citi® Double Cash Card Review: 1.99 or 2% Cash Back Credit Card

citidouble200Our partner Citi has an all-new cash back credit card and it is actually quite compelling. With the Citi® Double Cash Card, as the name suggests you earn cash back twice:

  • 1% unlimited cash back on every purchase you make
  • An additional 1% unlimited cash back as you pay for those purchases, whether you pay in full or over time.

This all comes with no caps, no tiers, no category restrictions, no quarterly enrollment hoops, no rotating categories. All with no annual fee. The only way you don’t get your 1% + 1% total is if you default on your bill and don’t even make the minimum payments. You can redeem your cash rewards in full as soon as it totals $25 or more, via check, direct deposit, or statement credit (i.e. if you have $31.44, you can get a check for $31.44).

You say that if pay your bill, then this is either a 1.99% or 2% cash back card. Why? Imagine you put $100 on the charge, 1% is earned so you have $1. Then you redeem that $1 (ignore minimums for this example) for a statement credit (as opposed to paper check) which means Citi actually “paid” for $1 of the $100. So you pay the remaining $99 and get an additional 1% or $0.99 back. Final tally: $1.99 back on $100 in purchases, or 1.99% back.

  • If you ask for your cash rewards in the form of an electronic funds transfer into a linked bank account, you’ll get the full 2% total cash back. The bank account can be a checking account from any bank from which you have paid a Citi Credit Card bill at least two times, or any Citi savings/checking account.
  • If you ask for your cash rewards in the form of a check, you’ll get the full 2% total cash back.
  • If you ask for your cash rewards in the form if a statement credit, you’ll get 1.99% effective cash back.

If you charged $1,000 per month, the difference between 1.99% and 2% per month would be a whopping 10 cents per month, or 1.20 per year.

There have been flat 2% cards in the past (Fidelity Mastercard, Sallie Mae, Priceline) but they are all no longer open to new applicants. However, most existing cardholders were grandfathered in, so based on that precedent you may want to get this card while it is still offered. According to varying reports, certain cardholders can call in and try to convert their existing Citi cards over, but you may or may not be successful. Converted cards are not eligible for the 0% interest for 15 months mentioned below.

Obviously, you’ll want to pay in full every month (unless taking advantage of the 0% APR promo rate on purchases) as to not rack up interest charges which can quickly offset your cashback rewards.

0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 12.99%, 15.99%, 18.99%, 20.99%, and 22.99%, based on your creditworthiness. There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Bottom line. Given the combination of the ability to get 2% flat cashback on all purchases, no annual fee, and the fact that it is a Mastercard which has the widest acceptance, the Citi Double Cash is a great rewards card to keep in your wallet, both for those who prefer simplicity and just want one card and for those who like optimizing multiple cards and can now establish a 2% minimum on everything. I don’t know of any other card that offers this combination of features.

Citi Double Cash Leaderboard

Pointshound Promo: 100 Free American Airlines Miles

PointsHound is a new hotel reservation site that lets you earn frequent flier miles and other loyalty currencies when making a hotel booking. For example, you could earn American Airlines miles by staying at a small boutique hotel. It seems basically like a little rebate on your purchase like Expedia+ points, but be careful if you are trying to rack up hotel-specific elite stays.

Right now, they have a promotion where you can get 100 free American AAdvantage miles just for signing up at PointsHound.com/AAdvantage and linking up your American Airlines account number. No booking required for the 100 miles, but you can also get an additional 2,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after your first booking.

100 miles is maybe worth a buck or two, but it does present a good way to reset your miles expiration date at no cost. AA miles currently expire after 18 months of inactivity.

Sling by Dish: Live Internet TV with ESPN for $20 a Month

One of the notable announcements from the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show that Dish Network will stream a package of major cable networks live over the internet. Getting channels like ESPN, Food Network, and CNN without a traditional cable subscription is a big shift in the industry and a sign of things to come. Official press release, NYT.

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The specific product is called Sling TV and Dish promises to offer the following 12 channels as part of their “The Best of Live TV” core package for just $20 a month:

  • ESPN (live sports!)
  • ESPN2
  • CNN
  • Food Network
  • Travel Channel
  • HGTV
  • Cartoon Network
  • TNT
  • TBS
  • Cartoon Network
  • Disney Channel
  • ABC Family

Here is a list of devices that it will work on:

  • iOS and Android devices
  • Mac / OS X
  • Windows PC
  • Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
  • Google Nexus Player
  • Select LG and Samsung Smart TVs
  • Roku TVs, boxes, and Streaming Stick
  • Xbox One

No contracts, no hardware installation, no credit check. More channels will be available in themed packages at an extra cost. The service is designed for individuals – You can only stream one show at once. (You can’t watch CNN on your TV and then ESPN on your tablet. Or it seems CNN on your TV and CNN on your tablet.) Even though I watch less TV than ever, I still pay for traditional cable for the ability to watch ESPN or Travel Channel when I do happen to catch some free time. This type of package could save me some bucks.

Related: Haggle to lower your cable and satellite TV bills.

Sam’s Club $25 Discount – New and Renewal Memberships

samslogoSam’s Club has a new deal that can get you a $25 gift card when you join or renew your membership. Here is the deal link, but everyone who does the Facebook share ends up at this page (in case you don’t do Facebook). Print it out (or load on phone) and bring it to the store to get your $25 gift card.

This is one of the few deals that I’ve seen still good for existing members. Sam’s Club gift cards also work at Wal-mart. Expires 1/31/15.

Gyft Promo Code: $5 off $25 Gift Cards to Target, Home Depot, More

Gyft just sent me an e-mail that you can get $5 off your gift card purchase of $25 or more with promo code LASTMIN, good for existing customers. Expires very soon on 12/25/14 at noon PST. (Note: If you are a new user, get your new user free $5 Gyft card first here.)

Good at lots of popular places like Target, Home Depot, Starbucks, and iTunes. Amazon won’t work directly, but you can buy a $25 Gyft card and then redeem that for a $25 Amazon gift card. The whole process took a minute.

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Straight Talk Promotion Codes: $20 off $45 Unlimited Monthly Plan Card + SIM

Straight Talk is a prepaid MVNO that offers the ability to buy SIM cards that you can pop into any AT&T-compatible, T-Mobile-compatible, or unlocked GSM phone. This includes many Samsung Galaxys and iPhone 5s that you can buy refurbished or on the used market. For $45 a month you get unlimited minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited data with no contracts and no credit checks. You also avoid the usual cell phone taxes that can add $5 to $10 per line. Unlimited means 3G/4G data speeds for 2.5 GB per month, throttled to 2G data speed after that.

Right now they have some good coupon codes for both new and existing customers. Found via SD.

  • Get $75 off any $199+ smartphone plus free shipping with promo code STWB75OFF. Choose between Android or Apple phones, although the iPhones can get expensive. Their refurbished iPhone 4s appears sold out at the time of writing.
  • Get $20 off a SIM + $45 plan card bundle plus free shipping with promo code STWB20OFF. You can buy up to 4 plans per order.

The second code can be a great deal since existing users can simply use the $45 plan card to reload their existing card. You don’t have to use it with the separate 99 cent SIM card, it’s sold as a bundle but the two items are separate. That’s an unlimited month for just $26. Here’s a screenshot of my order screen for $20 off:

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Here’s another screenshot for $80 off if you buy 4 of them. That’s 4 monthly plan cards for $103.96.

Free EPIX Movie Membership Trial

epixlogoMovie streaming service EPIX and the NHL are giving away a free trial membership good until March 6, 2015. Only thing you really need is a working e-mail address; no credit card or personal information required.

Won’t work on your TV, you’ll need an internet connection. Compatible with iPhone/iPad app, Android app, Chromecast, Roku, PS3, PS4, XBOX 360, and other streaming devices. Note: When logging in, under provider choose “Free NHL Trial”.

If you already have Amazon Prime, you’ll see a lot of overlap as Amazon has a partnership agreement with EPIX. Otherwise, a nice freebie, especially for the cable TV cord-cutters out there in need of some free holiday viewing material.

Obihai FREE Monthly Home Phone Service; Get Started For $29.99

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Updated: $29.99 with free shipping (40% off) for a limited-time. If you still have landline phone service and are looking for a cheaper alternative, Obihai is officially supported by Google:

Obihai is excited to announce official support for Google Voice. With a Google Voice account and a companion OBi device you can make and receive VoIP calls on a regular telephone. To get started, just login to the OBiTALK website, add your OBi device and select Google Voice as your service. You’ll then confirm your account with Google, and within minutes, you will be making and receiving calls from the comfort and convenience of your home phone.

An Obihai VoIP phone adapter is a little box that will allow you to plug in any standard landline telephone and use Google Voice to make free phone calls within the US and Canada. You can also make cheap international calls starting at 1 cent a minute.

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It’s tough to beat under 50 bucks upfront and no ongoing monthly fees for unlimited home phone service. I bought one earlier this year – check out my OBi200 Adapter + Google Voice Installation Review.

Obihai is running a holiday promotion where you can get a Obihai OBi200 VoIP Telephone Adapter from NewEgg for only $29.99 with free shipping from December 18th to December 21st, or until supplies last. Retail price is $49.99.

You must use promo code EMCWHWB45.

20% off Gift Cards to Various Retailers & Restaurants

chilicardAmazon runs various temporary “Lightning Deals”, but if you filter to only show the Gift Card deals you’ll see a running list of gift cards to various retailers at 20% off for a limited time. Amazon Prime members get early access, but many of them don’t sell out and there is also a waitlist option.

For Thursday, December 18th, the line-up includes Chilis/Maggianos/Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Dave & Busters, and AMC Theatres. Seems like an easy way to knock out some last-minute gifts at 20% off face value (i.e. , $20 for $25 gift card, or $40 for $50 gift card). Physical cards get free shipping.

Stack this discount with the 5% cash back at Amazon from Chase Freedom and Discover It cards this quarter.

Similar deals!

  • Get a $20 eGift card if you buy $100 in eGift cards for Panera Bread.
  • Get a free slice of cheesecake with a $25 gift card purchase (electronic or physical) at Cheesecake Factory.
  • Free large pizza if you buy a $25 gift card at Papa Johns.
  • Get $5 eGift card if you buy $25 eGift card at Petco.

Find more special offers by going through the list here at Cashstar and looking for the red “Special Offer” banner.

Amazon.com Coupon: 25% Off Any Book

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Updated, good until 12/14. Similar to their Black Friday promo, take an extra 25% off any book at Amazon.com with promo code BOOKDEAL25. Print books only, max $10 off, must by sold and shipped by Amazon.com. Valid until December 14, 2014 at 11:59pm PST.

Here are some recommendations for those looking to give or receive some financial inspiration:

Here are all my book reviews in reverse-chronological order.

I would have to say my favorite book of the year was Dinner A Love Story. It has some inspirational material to help you cook for yourself and your family, along with the best compilation of weeknight dinner recipes I’ve read in a cookbook. They taste special enough (not bland or boring), but they also take 30 minutes. I just used it again last night.

I bought the new Tony Robbins book MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom. I’m skeptical, but I think I have to read it. What other informercial guru could get book blurbs from Jack Bogle, Bill Clinton, Ray Dalio, and T. Boone Pickens?

Send a Starbucks $20 Gift Card for $10 with Visa (Expired)

Expired as of midnight Eastern. I thought 100k would last longer than a day. Starbucks has a new $10 holiday bonus promotion:

Be one of the first 100,000 to buy a Starbucks Card eGift (min $10) with your Visa® card and we will add an additional $10, courtesy of Visa. Send $10—they get $20, send $25—they get $35, send $50—they get $60, just for using your Visa card. Offer valid from 12/8–12/12/14. One per person. Cannot send to yourself.

Starbucks is verifying people follow the terms. Your eGift card must be sent to a different e-mail address than your own and purchased with a Visa credit card that hasn’t been used with the promo. How do you know if you’re still in the first 100,000? Look for the sentence “This offer is still available” after the quoted text above.

I wish this was physical cards, those are better for gifts to friends. Alternatively, a couple could gift each other $20 gift cards for $10 each. The recipient only sees the $20 gift card, no mention the sender got a discount. Here’s one of our receipts:

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