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.

American Express Twitter Promotions (Updated)

twitter-bird-white-on-blueUpdated with Walmart promo. American Express and Twitter offer unique limited-time discounts for specific stores. You may also be able to access these discounts via the AmEx smartphone app or by logging into your account and scrolling down to the “Offers For You” tab, but I’ve found Twitter to be the most reliably available to everyone with an account. Highlights include:

  • Walmart.com. Get a one-time $5 statement credit by using your connected Card to spend a total of $15 or more online at Walmart.com by 11/30/14. Tweet using #AmexWalmart to add this offer to your connected American Express Card. You can buy gift cards from various retailers at Walmart.com that you can then use in a physical store. Here is a link to buy a $15 Walmart gift card with free shipping.
  • Courtyard Hotels by Marriott. Get a one-time $20 statement credit by using your connected Card to make a single purchase of $100 or more on all charges to your room, including your room rate, when you pay for your stay with Courtyard Hotels between 8/1/14 and 9/30/14. Tweet using #AmexCourtyard to add this offer to your connected American Express Card. Reservations must be made online at Courtyard.com or by phone at 1-888-236-2427. We stayed at the Courtyard Maui Airport and found it clean, updated, and central for sightseeing.

The best way I’m aware of to keep track of new hashtags is via the Favorites list for @AmericanExpress.

Haven’t signed up yet? Link your American Express card and Twitter account at sync.americanexpress.com. You can also link up your Facebook and Foursquare accounts for similar (usually identical) offers. If you wish to change your linked card (useful for checking which one is linked), go to sync.americanexpress.com/unsync.

Finally, don’t forget to follow me @mymoneyblog!

Google Hangouts App Update: Free Voice Calls Over Data for Android and iPhone

hangoutsGoogle has just announced better integration between Google Voice and their Google Hangouts smartphone app. Both iOS and Android apps can now make domestic and international calls through a Wi-Fi or data connection (like 4G). You can also receive calls if you have a Google Voice number. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are currently provided by Google free of charge from all countries where Hangouts calling is available.

What does this mean exactly?

  • For the frugal minimalist, as long as you have a data connection like WiFi, you can now make and receive unlimited domestic voice calls using a basic Apple or Android device. You can pay for a cheap prepaid option as a backup, or simply go without any cellular plan. You can also use voice over data to complement T-Mobile’s $30 plan which offers 5 GB of 4G data but only 100 voice minutes (this plan isn’t heavily-advertised, but scroll down and you’ll find it).
  • For the international traveler, as long as you have WiFi in a supported country you can call back home to the US for free using your phone. No foreign SIM card or even Skype account required.
  • For the international caller, you can more easily use Google Voice’s discounted calling rates which have recently been lowered again. For example, rates to India (mobile or landline) and Mexico (landline) are only 1 cent a minute.

iPhone / Apple iOS. Download the Google Hangouts app and the calling functionality is built-in.

Android. Download both the Google Hangouts app and the Hangouts Dialer app. If you need help, here are directions straight from Google: Make calls with Hangouts on Android.

SMS text message support is also supposedly coming, first to Android devices “in the next few days” and then to iOS devices “soon”.

1 Year Free Identity Protection and Credit Monitoring from Home Depot

hdallclearidHome Depot has admitted they were recently hacked and customer information was compromised and stolen. If you have shopped at any Home Depot store after April 1, 2014, you are eligible for one free year of identity protection and credit monitoring at homedepot.allclearid.com (press release).

If you need identity repair assistance during the next 12 months, starting on September 8, 2014, we have a team of dedicated fraud resolution investigators available to assist you. They will do the work to recover financial losses, restore your credit, and make sure your identity is returned to its proper condition.

For additional protection, we are also making available at no cost to you a service that includes credit monitoring, identity monitoring, and an identity theft insurance policy.

It appears you get AllClear Secure identity repair service and a 12-month AllClear PRO subscription (retail price of $14.95 a month, though I’d never actually pay that). Call 1-855-252-0908 for identity repair assistance. You’ll have to provide them with your Social Security number. Keep in mind that with all major credit card issuers, you have zero liability for any unauthorized charges as long as you report them in a timely manner.

Reminder: Everyone can get free daily credit monitoring from all three major credit bureaus through the following sites: Credit Sesame for Experian, Credit Karma for TransUnion, and Quizzle for Equifax (I got offered this last one, but it may be targeted).