RingPlus: Free Cellular Phone Service Ending 2/11


February 2017 Update. Well, looks like the party is officially over. As predicted, it ended quickly and messily. Ringplus sued Sprint. Sprint announced they were kicking R+ off the Sprint network on February 11th. Both announced that R+ users will be automatically migrated over to Ting if they don’t leave on their own. The timeline is yet unannounced. More details here and here. This is a soft landing as Ting has solid customer service has agreed to honor R+ balances. At the minimum, they’ll give you $35 in Ting credit. To activate service, you will need to put a credit card on file and agree to Ting’s terms of service online. My Ting Review here.

Ting will gladly honor the RingPlus Top Up balance that you had as of February 5, 2017. If you had $35.00 or less in RingPlus TopUp credit, you’ll receive $35 in Ting credit before your first bill. If you had $35.01 or more in RingPlus TopUp credit, you’ll receive $35.00 to start and then $5.00 each month until all of your remaining RingPlus TopUp credit balance has been honored.

I received over 1.5 years of free service on a secondary line for a one-time $10 fee and I’ll still end up with $35 in Ting credit, so it ended up bring a pretty good deal overall.

November 2016 Update. The most recent update:

Starting December 1, 2016, all Plans that are not Mad Plans will not renew at the end of their billing cycle. Members can change to any of the currently offered plans from our website. Phone Swaps will be free starting Wednesday (11/23/16) until further notice.

Realistically, this was always the type of deal that was not going to last forever, and hopefully if you participated you got good value out of it. I got over a year of Sprint-based cellular service with 1,000 minutes, 1,000 text, and 1 GB of data for an total cost of $10 (technically the $10 is still in my account). The party is winding down… in the meantime I recommend taking the following precautions:

Know that your plans can and will be discontinued with little or no notice. Don’t buy an expensive phone just to switch to R+. Don’t pay for their lifetime Member+ plan. To put it simply, commit as little money as possible. Have a plan to port your number elsewhere; Ting can use Sprint or there are many free or $1 SIM cards out there on GSM networks.

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Becoming an Amazon #1 Bestselling Author for Under $5

footdownBrent Underwood is a partner at a marketing company and was tired of shady competitors basically offering the tag of “Bestselling Author” for anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000. So he decided to tell everyone how they can do it themselves for 5 minutes and three bucks.

Read the entire thing, but essentially he makes a 1-page Kindle eBook and Amazon approves it for sale within 4 minutes. The sale listing goes live a few hours later. A few friends each bought a copy for $0.99 each, and that’s it, he was a “#1 Bestselling Author” in his (carefully chosen) niche category! I figured it was easy to self-publish a book, but I didn’t know it was this easy.

In addition to being an interesting peek inside the world of self-published eBooks, Underwood explains how the term “bestselling author” has become highly manipulated. Hey look, his foot… I mean book now has over 20 glowing reviews and comes in paperback!

H&R Block Lowest Price Ever on Amazon: Deluxe Fed + State $18.99, Premium $26.99 (2/6 Only)

hrb2016Deal has expired. I recently posted a deal on H&R Block Deluxe Federal + State for $21, noting that last year’s all-time low was during a brief $19 sale on Amazon. Well, right now Amazon is having an H&R Block “Deal of the Day” sale. These products are at the lowest price ever this year:

Prices change on Amazon all the time and this looks like a one-day only sale for 2/6, so please verify before purchase. Here’s a quick screenshot:


Price history:


This is desktop software (Windows or Mac) that you’ll have to download and install on your computer. The good news about desktop software is that your personal financial data isn’t uploaded onto a corporate server to be stored forever (and potentially hacked). Amazon will let you download it at your convenience, which will take about 1 minute on broadband.

H&R Block is running their 10% Amazon bonus promotion again this year, where they will let you convert part or all of your federal tax refund into an Amazon.com Gift Card with up to a 10% bonus. So for example you could turn $500 of your tax refund into $550 in Amazon gift certificates. Limits apply ($2000 per e-card, maximum $5000 per customer). I can’t find the exact terms, but last year the 5% bonus was for H&R Block Free and Basic versions, while the higher 10% bonus was for Deluxe, Premium, and Premium & Business.

Keep in mind that for these products 5 Federal e-Files are included but State e-File is extra ($19.95 for all I believe). I would personally just print the (usually shorter) state return out and snail mail it in.

Santander Bank New Checking Account $225 Bonus


sant_logoSantander Bank has a new promotion offer a $225 cash bonus for new deposit customers that satisfy the following conditions:

  • Open an eligible new checking account by 3/31/17 with the promo code WINTER225. You must not have or have had a Santander deposit account in the last 12 months.
  • Have direct deposits totaling $500 or more within the first 90 days.
  • Keep your account open for at least 90 days.
  • After you meet these conditions, the $225 bonus will be paid within 30 days. (Your account must still be open with a positive balance at time of bonus payout, so that’s a total of 120 days.)

You should be able to get this offer by visiting SantanderBank.com/winter225 and using promo code WINTER225. If you want to be extra-super-duper-sure, you can register your information here and request an “exclusive coupon” e-mail to be send to you.

There are three eligible checking types: Simply Right Checking, Basic Checking, Premier Plus Checking. Most people will probably choose the Simply Right Checking with $10 monthly fee that can be waived with at least one transaction every calendar month – a deposit, withdrawal, transfer, or payment. The Basic Checking has a fixed $3 monthly fee, but no minimum activity requirements. For both, minimum opening balance is $25 and paperless statements are free (mailed $3 each).

Note the following text regarding direct deposit. Hopefully you can split your paycheck direct deposits easily to multiple accounts.

**Direct deposits include deposits made by your employer or a federal or state government agency or retirement benefits administrator and generally payments made by corporations or other organizations. They do not include deposits to your account that are made by an individual using online banking or an Internet payment provider such as PayPal.

Here’s the rest of the Fine Print:

*Offer is not available if any account owner is a current deposit customer of Santander or had a Santander deposit account in the last 12 months prior to account opening. Cannot be combined with other offers. Eligible new account must be opened between 02/1/2017 – 03/31/2017. In order to receive the bonus, the account must remain open and in the eligible product type at the time of bonus payout. In addition, the account must have a positive balance at the time of bonus payment. Bonus is considered interest and will be reported to IRS on Form 1099-INT. If multiple accounts are opened with the same signer, only one account will be eligible for the bonus.

Bank of America Free Museum Tickets 2017 Dates


Bank of America is running their Museums on Us program again for 2017, which offers cardholders free admissions to 150 museums, science centers, and botanical gardens nationwide on the first full weekend of every month (Saturday and Sunday). Simply present any valid Bank of America® or Merrill Lynch® credit or debit card and photo ID for free admission.

Note: Each cardholder gets one free general admission, so be sure everyone with their own cards bring them. I really need to add my 4-year-old as an authorized user…

2017 Calendar Dates (Check specific museum for actual hours)

  • January 7th & 8th
  • February 4th & 5th
  • March 4th & 5th
  • April 1st & 2nd
  • May 6th & 7th
  • June 3rd & 4th
  • July 1st & 2nd
  • August 5th & 6th
  • September 2nd & 3rd
  • October 7th & 8th
  • November 4th & 5th
  • December 2nd & 3rd

Here’s an excerpt from their press release with newly added museums in 2017:

New members of the Museums on Us program in 2017 include:

· American Museum of Natural History (New York City)
· Clyfford Still Museum (Denver)
· The Haggin Museum (Stockton, Calif.)
· Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (New York City)
· Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston)
· National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force (Pooler, Ga.)
· New York Botanical Garden (New York City)
· San Bernardino County Museum (Redlands, Calif.)

These partners join a list of preeminent institutions (in more than 100 major cities) that continue to offer free general admission for Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and U.S. Trust cardholders throughout the first full weekend of each month. A small sampling includes the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Shedd Aquarium (Chicago), the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (Atlanta), the Denver Zoo, LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and the Miami Children’s Museum.

Here is the full list (PDF) of participating locations. One of the available museums is the Thinkery in Austin, Texas. We found it to be a fun and interactive children’s science center. The admission was $9 per person (23 month and under free). That means taking advantage of this offer would have saved us $18 (or $27 if the little one had a BofA card in theory). I’ve seen other museums on their list with $20 admission prices.

While I wouldn’t open a new bank or credit card account for this feature, it is a nice perk if you already have such accounts. You can also sign-up for a free text reminder before each free weekend. I signed up and haven’t gotten any spam texts from BofA, just the reminders. Here are the Bank of America credit cards that offer competitive features that I have reviewed in the past.

Ebates Brick & Mortar In-Store Cash Back Program

ebateslYou probably know about online shopping portals that offer cash back or airline miles if you buy stuff through them. Some people even manage to earn miles by ordering things online and then picking it up in-person (to save any shipping charges). However, eBates actually has a limited In-Store Cash Back Program for traditional brick & mortar stores. You can get between 2% and 10% back at participating stores like Petco, Old Navy, Macy’s, GNC, and Ann Taylor. (There are also Double Cash Back promotions from time to time.)


Here’s an overview of the process:

  • Link your debit or credit card and provide eBates with your credit card information. At this time, it only works with Visa and American Express.
  • Manually link a store on their website. You can use their smartphone app (iOS/Android) for convenience. Be aware of some exclusions like gift card purchases.
  • Shop at the store with that specific credit card. Debit cards must be run as “credit” purchases where you sign (no PIN). It’s very discreet. You don’t need to say anything, show a membership card, provide a coupon, etc.
  • After you shop, the store will be unlinked automatically. If you want to shop at that store again, you must remember to manually re-link the offer to your card.
  • You may not get instant confirmation. Ebates will e-mail you regarding your in-store cash back after up to 6 days.

This seems like an easy way to get a little bit extra without changing your shopping patterns. I went ahead and linked up my credit card and added a few stores. I’ll probably use it just like Rewards Dining where I also link up my credit cards and then promptly forget about it. If I happen to dine at a participating store, I’ll get some frequent flier miles. (Occasionally, I will target my dining if I am trying to generate activity to prevent miles expiration. I have a go-to local sandwich shop for this purpose.)

If you don’t have an eBates account yet, you can use my eBates referral link and get a $10 cash bonus by making at least $25 in total qualifying purchases with 90 days of joining. Simply look for an online merchant like eBay, Proflowers, Groupon, or LivingSocial where you’d spend $25 anyway.

ClaimDog: Simplified Unclaimed Property Search Tool

cdoglogoHere’s another website that searches public databases to collect your personal information… but instead of being scary it should work solely for your benefit! ClaimDog.com is a free service that simplifies the process of finding “unclaimed property” in your name. Just type in your first and last name along with your state(s) of residence.

Unclaimed property is created when a business owes you money or property but is unable get it to you for some reason. It could be a rebate check or a forgotten safe deposit box. You’ll need to verify your identity before they’ll send out the money. For example, apparently I was owed some money from DSL litigation in California several years ago, but moved before I could get the money. I was able to search through the public database and later get a check for about $75:


If your state makes it easy for ClaimDog to access their database, then the site will help direct you to your unclaimed property. Otherwise, it will just point you towards your state-specific website. (I also ran into some errors.) It’s still free and hopefully saves you some time.

Here are more places to check to see if you’ve got any money waiting for you:

Bought Milk? Fresh Milk Class Action Settlement

milkIf you bought any dairy products between 2003 and the present, and live (or have lived) in any one of the following states:

Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, or Wisconsin.

You may be eligible for a cash settlement of roughly $5 to $15 due to the Fresh Milk Products Price-Fixing Class Action Lawsuit. Fill out your claim at BoughtMilk.com by January 31, 2017. For now, all they need is your name and e-mail. It takes literally seconds. You do not need to submit proof of purchase, although as usual you are under penalty of perjury. Found via Lazy Man.

If you are worried about the legitimacy of this website, check out this HuffPost article. If you are interested in the (sad) background, read this Bloomberg article.

Andrews Federal Credit Union 84-Month Certificate at 3.01% APY


Updated 1/23/17. It appears that Andrews FCU has quietly added back this 7-year 3% APY CD on their share certificate rates page. I don’t know how long this will last. Thanks to FI35 for the tip. Please see my Andrews Federal Credit Union Application and Account Opening Review for more details on the opening process. As I have an active account with Andrews FCU, I verified it as an option today (1/23/17) to open directly online. (Click to enlarge.)


Original post:

Let’s take a closer look at this 84-month Share Certificate at 3.01% APY. The early withdrawal penalty is a rather modest 180-days of interest. The minimum opening deposit is $1,000. No maximum balance cap. I created a spreadsheet to calculate the effective interest rate if you withdraw early, and here are the results visually:


If you withdraw after one year, you’ve still earned 1.50% APY after paying the penalty. After 2 years, you’ll have earned 2.25% APY. After 3 years, you’ll have earned 2.51% APY. At all these intervals, you are ahead of nearly all the top rates from other banks and credit unions.

If you don’t qualify directly, anyone can join the credit union by first joining the American Consumer Council for $8. Try the promo code consumer and you should be able to save that five bucks. After that, join AFCU online, and deposit the minimum $5 to open a share account. After your share account is open, you can try to open the promotional CDs online. Alternatively, you may need to call them up directly and expedite things.

Please see my Andrews Federal Credit Union Application and Account Opening Review for more details.

I am striking out the refer-a-friend bonus text below because I no longer see it advertised on their site. This way I can keep the details in case they bring it back.

$50 Refer a Friend Bonus. As part of the holiday promotion, new members can also get a $50 cash bonus if referred by an existing member. The referrer also gets $50. However, the referred person must open a checking account and set up direct deposit of $500 or more. Here are the exact terms:

Refer a friend offer available to existing Andrews Federal members who refer a new member to the credit union. New member must open a new Free or Advantage Checking account with a direct deposit of $500 or more. Direct deposit must be initiated within 30 days of opening new Free or Advantage checking account, and must be received for at least two consecutive monthly statement cycles for both members to be eligible for reward. Account must remain open and in good standing for at least 90 days; accounts closed prior to 90 days will be ineligible. $50.00 will be credited to the referring member’s and the new member’s credit union accounts within 4 weeks after the 90- day period has ended. New member must qualify for credit union membership, which includes the opening of a Base Share Savings account with a minimum balance of $5.00.

I am not exactly sure how this works in practical terms. I believe that during the application process there is a question “Where Did You Hear About Us?” and you can pick “Family/Friend Referral” and you can leave your friend’s name and Andrews FCU membership number in the comments field. If you are looking to open up a checking account and set up direct deposit, I am a member now so if you want a referral please contact me.

TurboTax Discounts with State Farm Bank Account (Discontinued for 2016)


Update. In case you were waiting, there will be no special TurboTax discount for State Farm bank and mutual fund customers for tax year 2016. Taken from the TurboTax FAQ. It was nice while it lasted. Thanks to Eric and Michael for the heads up.

For many years, State Farm has offered TurboTax for free, or at a greatly reduced price, as a special benefit to their bank and mutual fund customers. State Farm insurance customers have also received special discounts. State Farm has made the decision to discontinue this program for Tax Year 2016.

Original, Expired post from last year:

State Farm is has historically offered significant TurboTax discounts, but only for select bank and mutual fund customers. The promotional prices for 2015 were: TurboTax Federal Deluxe Online free, Premier $20, and Home & Business $30. A free state return is also included with free e-File for all online versions. Details:

  • You must have at least one State Farm Bank or Mutual Fund account linked to your StateFarm.com online profile. This includes checking, savings, IRA, and credit card accounts. However, if you only have insurance with them, you will NOT get this discount.
  • You must register through their special promotion link.
  • Offer limited to the first 25,000 qualified customers who register through State Farm to use TurboTax Online. I don’t recall how fast this ran out, but last year I believe it did run out before April 15th.

Some history… According to my notes, from 2006-2009 State Farm offered TurboTax Deluxe for free to all customers including insurance policyholders. In 2010 or 2011, they started restricting it only to bank and credit card customers.

The easiest way to gain access to this promotion is their regular “Checking” bank account with requires a $25 minimum initial deposit and no minimum balance fee. You must link your bank account number to your online State Farm profile, after which the website will recognize you as a State Farm Bank customer and you’ll be given access to the offer. Here is what you should see:


State Farm® customers can save on TurboTax 2015 by taking advantage of special offers. To receive your special TurboTax offer, you must access and complete your return through the link below. If you access your return directly from Intuit’s site, special offers will not be applied.

Wells Fargo $250 New Checking Account Bonus

wellsfargo_logoWells Fargo has a $250 bonus offer for new checking account customers. You can open any consumer checking account except for Teen Checking. The prepaid Wells Fargo EasyPay® Card is not eligible. You must open the account from the special bonus page with a minimum opening deposit of $25 by February 17, 2017. (You can charge the opening deposit on a credit card.) Within 60 days of account opening, you must also do one of the following:

  • Make 10 debit card purchases/payments.
  • Set up a qualifying Direct Deposit of $500 to your new checking account.

Note that doing any one of these activities every month also waives the $10 monthly service fee on the Wells Fargo Everyday Checking account. Other ways to waive the monthly service fee are to maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance or link the account to a Wells Fargo Campus ATM or Campus Debit Card.

In addition, to get the bonus you cannot be:

  • A current owner on a Wells Fargo consumer checking account
  • A Wells Fargo team member
  • A recipient of a consumer checking bonus in the past 12 months (limit 1 bonus per customer)

Thanks to Lee and Adam for the tip. The annoying part? The page is contradictory in regards to who is actually eligible. Right above the “Important things to know about the $250 offer:” it says:

This is an exclusive, nontransferable offer.

But then right below that it says:

Offer available in all Wells Fargo branches or online at wellsfargo.com/250offer.

If I had to bet, I would say that Wells Fargo will give the bonus to anyone who applies through this special link and they approve your application. However, I can’t guarantee it so proceed at your own risk. This is a pretty nice offer if you were looking for a checking account at a “Mega Bank”.

Alaska Airlines and Virgin America Merger: 10,000 Free Alaska Miles

alaskampAs Virgin America and Alaska Airlines have closed on their merger/acquisition, they are moving towards merging the two frequent flier programs.

If you were a Virgin America Elevate member as of December 5, 2016 and they haven’t found a matching Alaska Airlines profile for you, they should send you an e-mail offering you a welcome bonus of either 10,000 Alaska Airlines miles or a $100 off discount any Alaska-operated flight when you activate your new Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account. You will automatically be assigned a new Alaska account number.


If you are a Virgin America Elevate member and they didn’t find the matching profile even though you do have an existing Alaska Airline account, you can link the two accounts together at this link. They should then deposit 10,000 Alaska miles in there shortly.

If they did find a matching profile, you should log into your Alaska Airlines account and hopefully find your bonus 10,000 miles already sitting there. You may want to contact Alaska in a few days if you think you qualify but didn’t receive any communication yet.

You can also convert your existing Virgin America Elevate points to Alaska Mileage Plan miles at this link, currently at a 1:1.3 ratio (i.e. 100 Virgin Elevate points = 130 Alaska miles). Keep in mind that the transfers are one way – you can’t undo the transfers and you can’t move existing Alaska miles to Virgin America. The Virgin Elevate program is still operating separately for the time being with their own partners.