Free SAT Test Prep from Khan Academy

khan_satWhile catching up on some reading, it was refreshing to see Bill Gates offer a more positive spin with his Top 6 Good-News Stories of 2015. One of them was that the College Board announced free, high-quality SAT practice at Khan Academy.

This past June, the company that created the SAT helped the Khan Academy launch a free online learning portal for any student who wants help getting ready for the SAT or PSAT. Check out the site for yourself. If you’re like me, you’ll look at these interactive tools and video lessons and wish they had been around when you were in high school. I’m very excited about this development because of what it means for kids who can’t afford expensive test-prep classes and tutors.

The interactive software offers both short diagnostic quizzes and full exams, along with feedback and interactive tutorials to make improvements. Apparently, the SAT is being revamped again in March 2016 and reverting back to the older 1600 point scale + optional essay. Ah, fun times.

Amazon Prime Discounts and Promotions

Update: This Amazon promotion has expired.

To celebrate their Golden Globe awards, Amazon is offering a discount on Amazon Prime for new members. Here is the promotion landing page. Join Amazon Prime for $73 (normally $99) and save $26 on your first year’s membership. Offer valid through 11:59pm PT on Sunday, January 17th.

Until Sunday, January 17th at 11:59 p.m., PT, new members can join Amazon Prime for $73 for the first year and enjoy member-only benefits and content, including our Golden Globe Award-winning series, Mozart in the Jungle. Although the price in your cart will show $99, the promotion discount will be applied at checkout. You will be charged when you place your order.

Promo does not apply for renewals or gift memberships.

Invest With The House + Free Investing Books by Meb Faber

investwiththehouseAsset manager and author Meb Faber has a new book out called Invest With The House: Hacking The Top Hedge Funds, where he explores the idea of simply copying the publicly-available holdings of top investment managers. I haven’t read it yet, but for a taste, consider that a copycat portfolio of Warren Buffett using simply the Top 10 holdings of Berkshire Hathaway would have beat 98% of mutual funds since 2000. It is free to borrow for Kindle Unlimited subscribers and $9.99 to buy on Kindle.

(Test your investing nerd skills. How many of the hedge fund manager caricatures can you name on the cover?)

To celebrate and promote this release, Faber is also making his last three books free to buy on Amazon Kindle for a limited time (1/7-1/12/16). Here are direct links to those eBooks, plus links to my book notes.

Now, Faber does a fascinating job going back and finding such market-beating tricks, and I will probably read this new book as well. But before you put your hard-earned money at risk using such strategies, please realize that even if they continue to work (which is in no way guaranteed), they are also very hard to stick to in real life. Don’t change your investing strategy unless you are supremely confident you will keep to it through thick and thin.

AmEx Special Offers: Amazon, Cell Phones, Hulu, Uber, Sports Authority, Etc.

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Reminder: Many top offers expiring 12/31/15. American Express cardholders can participate in “AmEx Offers” which offer discounts to various merchants. These promotions often offer the opportunity for easy savings without changing your spending habits. For places that I shop at regularly, I can often buy a gift card to lock in the savings.

Here’s a quick roundup of current offers. Some are targeted but if a Twitter hashtag is listed they are open to all. Some offers are limited and are “sold out” if you haven’t already registered. Many expire at the end of 2015.

amexoffers_amazon

  • Amazon.com. Spend $60+, Get $15. Get a one-time $15 statement credit by using your enrolled Card to spend a total of $60 or more online at Amazon.com by 12/31/2015. This one is sold out, but if you registered previously lock in your credit with a Amazon e-gift card or physical $60 Amazon gift card to trigger the $15 back. Worked for me instantly with an e-gift card.
  • Any major cell phone provider (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular or Verizon) . Spend $75+, Get $10 Back. Good 2x, so up to $20 Back. Targeted. Enroll your eligible Card & pay your cell phone bill of $75+ online @ these accepting major US Carriers by 1/31/16 & get $10 back. Limit 2 statement credits. I just paid my bill and made a negative balance, got confirmation e-mail instantly.
  • Any cable or satellite TV provider in CA, NY, NJ and IL. Spend $50+, Get $10 Back. Good 2x, so up to $20 Back. Targeted. Enroll your eligible Card & pay your cable or satellite television bill of $50+ by 1/31/16 & get $10 back. Limit 2 statement credits. Offer valid for services provided in CA, NY, NJ and IL only.
  • Hulu. Spend $10+, Get $10. Targeted, but I see it on all my cards.
  • Uber. Spend $20+, Get $10. Tweet using #AmexUber through 12/31/15. Details.
  • Toys R Us and Babies R Us. Spend $25, Get $5. Tweet #AmexToysRus, expires 12/31/15.Details.
  • Diapers.com. Spend $50, Get $10. Tweet #AmexDiapers, expires 12/31/15. Stack with a coupon, just make sure your total charge to AmEx is enough. Details.
  • Sports Authority. Spend $50, Get $10. Tweet #AmexSA, expires 12/31/15. Valid both online and in-store.
  • Newegg.com. Spend $200, Get $25. Tweet #AmexNewegg, expires 12/31/15. Details.
  • American Express Gift Cards. Spend $200+, Get $10 back. Tweet #AmexGift, expires 12/31/15. Use promo code NOV1CAS to get the purchase fee waived. Sign up for the Premium shipping trial to get shipping waived (but don’t forget to cancel the trial).
  • UndercoverTourist.com. Spend $150, Get $30. This is one of the few legit places to get discount Disney World tickets, as well as other places like Universal. Combine the existing discount with this promo, and this is about as cheap as they get. Tweet #AmexUCT, expires 12/31/15.
  • Sam’s Club Membership, Spend $45+, Get $25. Sam’s Club takes AmEx now. Good towards membership only. Expires 12/31/2015.
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton. Spend $250+, Get $50 Back. Get a one-time $50 statement credit by using your connected Card to spend a total of $250+ on room rate and room charges, when you pay for your stay with Embassy Suites by Hilton from 10/19/15 to 12/31/15. Tweet #AmexEmbassy

Each separate card, including authorized users, may have different offers available to them. In addition, adding an offer to one card may remove the same offer from another card. Although as commenter Oleg notes “If you have multiple cards and you activated for an offer on one of them, this offer may disappear from others. You can open several [web browser] tabs, retrieve each card separately and apply for an offer.”

Here are the various ways to access these offers:

  • Log into your AmEx account online and scroll down until you see the “Amex Offers For You” tab.
  • Use the AmEx smartphone app.
  • Access via social media at AmExOffers.com – Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor.
  • Not everyone can access every offer, but the ones on Twitter tend to be available to everyone. You can track these on their Favorites page.

There are many different American Express cards today, but these two are my current favorites:

Chase Freedom Review: $150 Sign-Up Bonus

Chase Freedom Visa

The Chase Freedom® – $150 Bonus is a popular rewards credit card. What makes it unique is the combination having no annual fee and the ability to get 5% Cash Back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter.

Here are the highlights:

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn a $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like Gas Stations, Restaurants, and Select Grocery Stores
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – it’s automatic
  • Cash Back rewards never expire as long as your account is open
  • No Annual Fee

Note the following text regarding the sign-up bonus eligibility:

This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

2016 5% Cash Back Categories

From January 1st through March 31st, 2016 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Gas Stations
  • Local Commuter Transportation (includes taxis, subways, local commuter buses and trains)

freedom_q1_2016

Activate each quarter at ChaseBonus.com, via your online account page, or call the number on the back of the card.  The categories usually include at least one big-spending area, and seem to go with the seasons (home improvement for spring, gas and travel for the summer). This is another “keeper” card for me, as I can keep it around and use it when the bonus categories fit my spending needs.

“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.”

 

Free Rideshare Promo Codes: Uber, Lyft, Gett, Sidecar, Curb, And More

uberscreenUpdated, possible $20 free credit for existing Uber customers, new codes for both new and existing Silvercar customers.

Summon everything from your phone! Most of these startups offer bonus credit for first-time users. If you live in a major metro area, this can add up several free rides. I’ve used Uber several times now, and it is amazing how the entrenched taxi industry missed a huge tech opportunity. I see the same thing with Target’s online buying experience being so much worse than Amazon.

Uber. $20 off your first ride via this special link or promo code uberMYMONEYBLOG. Existing users can get another $20 in Uber credit using the Facebook Messenger app, with details here (see bottom of post) and here. I couldn’t get it to work myself, but others report success and supposedly they are adding more cities. Cities.

Lyft. $20 ride credit via promo code JONATHAN1395 or my referral link. Cities.

Flywheel. $5 off your first ride until with this special link or promo code 27A8AP.

Gett. You can usually find the best available new user promo code here, up to $50 in the past but right now I don’t see anything. Alternatively, you can try my referral code GTJONAT17 for $20 in free credit. Black car service in NYC only.

Sidecar. $10 ride credit with promo code jdhmd. If that doesn’t work, get a $5 ride credit with my referral code JONATHAN931.

Curb (formerly Taxi Magic). $15 ride credit with promo code CURBFIRST. If that doesn’t work, get a $10 ride credit with referral promo code 00b72a or via this special link. Cities.

Summon (formerly Instacab). $5 ride credit with referral code JPING or use this special link. Flat fares from anywhere in San Francisco to SFO ($35), OAK ($50) and SJC ($120).

Bonus Stuff

Silvercar. Rent a sleek Audi A4 with your phone. First-time renters can get $75 off their first rental of 2+ days with promo code JOLLY75 now through 1/10/16. Returning customers can get 15% off any rental with promo code JOLLY15 now through 1/10/16. I’m not sure if you can stack with the referral offer of $25 in Paypal when you sign up with referral code JPING (referral link, program details). I would sign up for an account first ($25 in PayPal), and then make a rental second ($75 off).

LoungeBuddy. This app helps you locate airport lounges, read reviews, and even book access directly. Get a free $10 in credit using my referral code SMMiI89dbv. In addition, until December 31, 2015, LoungeBuddy is offering a Holiday promo 100% rebate on lounge access at select locations in the form of app credit. So spend $10 cash on an airport lounge, and get $10 in LoungeBuddy credit to use again later.

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 have posted the better deal first. Thanks in advance if you use any of them. Let me know if you find a better confirmed deal.

Free 1,100 Le Club AccorHotels Points = 550 Delta SkyMiles

accorpromo_logoPromotion has expired.

Accor Hotels is a huge hotel network, especially in Europe. Their new Rewards Quest game promotion will net you over 1,000 free points in their Le Club AccorHotel loyalty program, all in under 5-10 minutes. You don’t even need to answer the questions correctly. It was actually educational for me 😉

If you are a regular Accor Hotel traveler, you’ll probably know what you want to do with your points. You’ll also have the required one hotel stay ever 12 months in order to keep your points from expiring.

If you are NOT a regular Accor Hotel customer, then you should know that these points will convert to various airline programs. The minimum is usually 2,000 points = 1,000 Delta Skymiles, for example. However, it is not well known that if you set your points to automatically convert to a preset miles program, there is no minimum! In that case, your 1,100 Free Le Club AccorHotels Points = 550 Delta SkyMiles. After you create an account and are logged in, try this link to set things up.

I would like to convert my Le Club Accorhotels points into points for other loyalty programs systematically
– Points will be transferred automatically to the selected partner as soon as my account has the required number of points.
– My points will be credited to my partner account within 6 weeks following the transfer
– I cannot receive other Le Club Accorhotels Rewards

Here’s a screenshot from my account which shows an automatic transfer of less than 2,000 points:

accorpromo1

There may be other airlines more to your liking, such as Iberia or British Airways, although Delta is the only domestic airline option that I see. At the minimum, it can help delay the expiration of some frequent flier miles.

Pay with Chase Ultimate Rewards Points at Amazon.com ($10 First-Time Bonus)

Chase Sapphire Preferred ImageIf you have Ultimate Rewards points accrued from Chase credit cards, you can now use them to buy eligible items at Amazon.com. The redemption rate is 1 Ultimate Rewards points = 1 cent at Amazon, which is the same rate as their statement credit redemptions. The only added benefit is that there is no minimum redemption size. However, you may still get a better value by converting them to frequent flier miles like those from United Airlines or British Airways.

You’ll need to connect an eligible Chase credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, including:

However, if you have even one Chase Ultimate Rewards point, you can now get $10 off your first purchase using this feature. See the details at this Chase / Amazon promotion page. Offer valid through 12/31/15 with promo code SWP15CH10S. Limited-time offer, while supplies last.

The instructions are pretty clear:

1. Link your Chase Sapphire® or Chase Sapphire Preferred® card to your Amazon account.
2. Enroll your Chase Sapphire or Chase Sapphire Preferred card in Shop with Points.
3. Add products sold and shipped by Amazon.com to your Shopping cart.
4. Choose your enrolled Chase Sapphire or Chase Sapphire Preferred card as your Payment Method and select to use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to pay for all or part of your order. Click “Use this payment method”.
5. Enter the promo code SWP15CH10S in the box provided and press “Apply”.
6. Redeem at least $0.01 (or 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards point) and press “Apply”. If you receive an error message while attempting to apply the promo code, please wait 72 hours and try again.
7. The Shop with Points promotional offer of up to $10 of savings will be reflected instantly on the right side of the checkout page. If the shopping cart order is less than $10, the promotional credit will be applied against the full order. You can change the amount of points redeemed at any time prior to placing the order.

Here is a screenshot of my successful application of this offer (click to enlarge):

swp1b

I only had to use 1 Ultimate Rewards point, and it took $10 plus $0.01 off my order. Remember to add only products “sold and shipped by Amazon.com” to your cart.

Curbside App: Get $20 off Target “Drive Thru Window” (Limited Locations)

curbside_logoCurbside is a new app that adds a “drive thru window” to local stores like Target, Best Buy, or Home Depot. You order stuff with your smartphone (iOS or Android), and pick it up without parking your car. No handling fees, no markups. An interesting compromise between dealing with in-store crowds and waiting around for the UPS truck. Right now they are only in very limited areas.

New customers can get $20 off their first Target order. Curbside is currently ONLY available in the Greater Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York/New Jersey Area. Limit one per household. First time customers only. While supplies last.

You’ll get an e-mail with the title “Your $20 Offer is waiting.” You may need to install the app, sign up for the account, and then go use the link in that e-mail again to activate your $20 promotion balance. Here is a screenshot.

Note that the above promo is better than the standard refer-a-friend offer of $10 off $20 minimum order. You’ll see these codes readily available everywhere… including here! But don’t use my $10 off promo code NCDLO unless the above linked offer is expired.

FileThis App Review: Automatically Backup Your Online Statements

filethis_applogo

A few months ago on my post about Paperless vs. Paper Statements, I received this helpful comment from reader Daveraham:

I like the services FileThis.com. It’s setup similar to MInt, where it stores account information, but instead of fetching dollar amounts and transactions, it grabs every statement available and stores them where you direct. Personally I store it an evernote account and then periodically pull it off to store on a removable HD that get’s stored in a fireproof box. Overkill?? Sure…. But its the point. You want to keep that snapshot of data for a long period of time.

I made a mental note to check the site out and… promptly forgot. I was again reminded in this Liz Weston article about apps to organize your financial life. In November 2015, FileThis announced their 2.0 version with new features. You can use the FileThis.com website, iOS app, or Android app (1.0 version only for now).

FileThis is now one of many “bill organizers” that ask for your account passwords in order to sift through your accounts and remind you of due dates. Personally, I don’t need or use due date reminders. I sit down at the end of every month, read through all my paper statements, track expenses, and pay my bills. I’m an old fart like that (although I do use free online billpay).

I previously shared that I maintain physical statements for critical financial accounts and have it mailed to a secure PO Box. But I also have several other financial accounts which are either dormant, temporarily opened for reviews or experiments, or have low balances which are set to paperless. Ideally, I would still log in and download those PDF statements every month and back them up. But I never do.

FileThis will log in and automatically download all your paperless statements and then save them to your cloud service of choice: Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Amazon Cloud, and more. You can even use their in-house storage (500 mb free). The cost options:

  • Free for up to six (6) connections. Checks weekly.
  • $2 a month ($20 a year upfront) for up to 12 connections. Checks weekly.
  • $5 a month ($50 a year upfront) for up to 30 connections. Checks daily.

Besides things like bank accounts, credit cards, and brokerage statements, FileThis will grab stuff from your mortgage provider, car loan servicer, cell phone bill, utility bills, insurance bills, and even online shopping accounts like Amazon. An added bonus is that they will even grab tax documents like 1099 forms.

I linked up a few accounts, the list is relatively extensive but it couldn’t find a local credit union. Here are some screenshots from my website and smartphone app.

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filethis2

Remember that the actual files are on your cloud service. Here’s a screenshot from my Dropbox app. The files are stored in the folder Dropbox > Apps > FileThis.

filethis3

This is pretty cool. The initial download basically grabbed all the older documents that were available as well (up to last 3 years, supposedly). They’ll even grab PDF statements if you also get mailed paper statements (assuming they are available), giving you an additional backup copy.

By allowing backups directly to a third-party cloud service (Dropbox in my case), I will still have all of my online statements even if FileThis shuts down some day (remember Manilla?).

The trade-off here is that another FinTech startup has your account logins and passwords. Their security measures seem fair enough (encrypted SSL transmission, passwords are encrypted on server, the documents can be stored at your cloud service). I already track my paperless accounts in real-time with Mint, but I am willing to make this trade-off as I think it’s worth it to have my old statements backed up for me. (Why can’t Mint do this for me too?) The only other service I know that offers something similar is Finovera, but I think they store the statements on their own servers as opposed to your personal Dropbox.

As an existing user, if you sign up using my referral link, both you and I will receive an additional free connection (so you’d have a total of 7 free to start) and an additional 250 mb of free in-house cloud storage.

Amazon.com: Extra 25% Off Another Print Book

zenp

New code so you can get 25% off again. Good through 12/13 Midnight Pacific. Take an extra 25% off any book at Amazon.com with promo code 25OFFBOOK. Print books only, max $10 off, must by sold and shipped by Amazon.com. Valid until December 14, 2015 at 02:59am EST. This is a different code than the previous 30% off and 25% off coupons, so you can use it again.

Stack with your $15 off $60 at Amazon from American Express, 10% off Amazon from Chase Freedom, and 5% off Amazon from Discover (10% with Double Promotion).

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

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

My favorite book of 2014 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 still use it to this day.

My favorite book of 2015… I looked back at my book reviews and didn’t really have a strong favorite. I would say one trend is that I have become a fan of re-reading Vanguard founder Jack Bogle’s classic books. His old stuff has a lot of common sense reasoning that doesn’t always fit with today’s “one-size-fits-all” advice.

Cyber Monday 2015: Amazon, Target, Travelocity, Expedia, Quicken, and More

Here’s a quick roundup of the Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals that I felt either had broad appeal, were finance-related, or might ideally save you money on stuff you would have bought anyway.

  • Amazon 10% Off. A reminder to save on their Cyber Week deals and everything else on Amazon with Chase Freedom 10% back, Discover Card (5% or 10% back with Double It Promotion), and AmEx Offers $15 off $60. I shop there a lot and have already loaded up on gift cards to lock in the savings.
  • Kindle eBook Deals. One day sale on popular Kindle books, plus up to 40% off their Kindle Unlimited eBook subscription service.
  • Target 15% Off. Target.com is offering 15% site-wide on 11/30 with promo code CYBER15. Useful for things that are usually not discounted. Stack with 5% off with their REDcard.
  • Travelocity 17% Off. Get an additional 17% off any hotel booking of $300+ on Cyber Monday, on top of the normal discount. Also get $150 off $1,500+ airfare and hotel combo booking.
  • Expedia $75 off $300. $75 off your first hotel booked on the Expedia App ($300 minimum purchase). Stack with their already-discounted rates for Cyber Monday. Hotel stay must be by March 31, 2016.
  • SimpliSafe 20% Off. DIY Home Security system. See my Simplisafe Review. 20% off during Black Friday weekend, which probably the biggest flat discount I’ve seen.
  • Quicken 2016 40% Off. Get 40% off the list price of 2016 Quicken Deluxe, Premier, Home & Business, Rental Property Manager, or Quicken for Mac 2016. Valid either at Amazon or Quicken.com. This is one of the biggest discounts you’ll see. Thanks to reader Brad for the tip.
  • iBank for Mac 20% Off. Alternative money management software for Mac. 20% off through 11/30.
  • Ting Black Friday Deals. Possibly cheaper cell phone service for some folks. Buy a device or bring your own. See my Ting post for details. Good until 11/30 at 11:59 ET.
  • Obi200 Free Home Phone Service $29.99. Helps you use Google Voice to get free home phone service using your existing internet connection. See this Obihai and Google Voice installation post for details. Valid at both Newegg and Amazon.