Ooma Hub Upgrade Offer: Discounted Telo + No Monthly Taxes and Fees

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I replaced my landline with Ooma VoIP home phone service over 6 years ago and and haven’t had a monthly bill since. This ended up being one of those deals where early adoption was rewarded. First there was no monthly fees, then it was about $1 a month, then about $3 a month. Today, buyers of the newest Ooma Telo are subject to the upfront equipment cost plus monthly taxes and fees of roughly $4.23 a month (varies by location). I’ve resisted upgrading to Telo as it would have forced me to give up my grandfathered monthly fee waiver.

If you are also a grandfathered Ooma Hub owner, you should check your e-mail for the following message titled “Important Service Update for Ooma Hub Owners”. (Thanks to the readers who asked me about this offer, as I would have probably deleted the e-mail.)

As a valued Ooma Hub owner and one of our earliest customers, we’d like to thank you for your support over the years.

As you may know, we discontinued technical enhancements and customer support for the first generation Ooma Hub product over three years ago. Recently, we made several network infrastructure upgrades for our Ooma Telo product, which unfortunately could cause Hub users to experience reduced service reliability due to the firmware limitations of the Hub.

As one of our earliest customers, we’d like to offer a special opportunity to upgrade to our latest Ooma Telo device for just $79.99 with free shipping. Plus, we’ll continue to waive the taxes and fees for the lifetime of your Telo device!1

When you upgrade to the Ooma Telo, you’ll enjoy better reliability and voice quality with PureVoice. Ooma Telo also supports HD Voice, integration with Amazon Echo, additional connectivity options like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and support for our whole family of accessories such as the Linx and HD2 Handset.

Okay, so $80 will get you a new Ooma Telo box and continued no monthly fees for the lifetime of the new box. Is it worth the upgrade? Some considerations…

Pros

  • My Ooma Hub is now 6 years old, and the fee waiver is only for the lifetime of the device. This offer would get a a new device and thus a new “lifetime”, which ideally would extend my fee waiver.
  • The Telo-exclusive features may interest you (better voice quality, Amazon Echo and Nest integration, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, Linx and HD2 accessories). Some folks seem to love their Amazon Echo, and using a wireless Bluetooth headset may offer valuable convenience.

Cons

  • It costs 80 bucks.
  • The warning of “reduced service reliability” is rather vague. I’m still satisfied with the current voice quality, although I am not a heavy user.
  • Is it possible that my old Ooma unit is more reliable than the new Telo? Or am I just pushing my luck? Running for over 6.5 years x 24/7 is pretty great. I have a Macbook from 2006 that still runs fine.
  • Telo Basic users have to pay extra for certain services that are included for free with Ooma Core/Hub including caller ID name (not just number) and e-mail alerts of new voicemails. It is unclear if this upgrade will cause us to lose these free features.

Bottom line. If you are a heavy Ooma user, it may be worth taking advantage of this offer to “future-proof” yourself for perhaps another 5 years or more. If like me you are a light Ooma user thanks to unlimited cellular minutes and/or robo-calling politicians, then a potential loss would not be as severe. The original Ooma Hub advertised “free monthly home phone service for life” (of the equipment), so I suppose I’ll see how long that ends up being.

Join Fairmont Hotels President’s Club, Get 1,000 Free Aeroplan Miles

Here’s an offer for 1,000 free Air Canada Aeroplan miles if you sign up for the Fairmont Hotels President’s Club loyalty program and use the enrollment code FED16 (embedded in link). Be sure to enter your Aeroplan number (join free here) under the expandable section labeled “FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAMS (OPTIONAL)” and select that plan as your earnings preference. You must join by November 15, 2016. Found via FFB.

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These bonus miles can be handy as Air Canada requires activity every 12 months to prevent Aeroplan miles expiration. The basic free tier of Fairmont’s loyalty program still gets your free room Wi-FI during your hotel stay.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard Review: 50,000 Points = $500 Limited-Time Bonus

BarclayCard Arrival World MasterCard

Limited-time bonus bump, updated review. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus(TM) World Elite MasterCard® is a travel rewards card that has opened up to new applications again, now with a limited-time sign-up bonus worth at least $500 and the annual fee is waived the first year. Here are the card highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days – that’s enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Redeem for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise.  Redemption values vary.
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Chip technology, so paying for your purchases is more secure at chip-card terminals in the U.S. and abroad
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months for each Balance Transfer made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, currently 16.24% or 20.24% or 23.244%, depending on your creditworthiness.  Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers
  • Complimentary online FICO® Credit Score
  • $89 annual fee waived for the first year

Rewards program details. With this card, you earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. There are no special categories. These miles (easier to think of them as points, really) are then redeemable towards travel booked from any merchant or retailer classified as Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies. That means you have the flexibility to redeem towards any airline purchase to any destination with no seat restrictions and no blackout dates.

So basically you just visit Delta.com or Expedia.com or Hilton.com and go buy a ticket with this credit card. You don’t need to use any specific portal. Let’s say you buy an airplane ticket for $250. Then, you visit your Barclaycard account website and you’ll offset your purchase. You’ll redeem 25,000 “miles” and see a $250 statement credit on your statement. (Accruing those 25,000 miles would have taken $12,500 in accumulated purchases, if not part of sign-up bonus or other incentive.) I’ve done this multiple times, and it always went smoothly with no issues.

Travel statement credit redemptions start at 10,000 miles for $100 toward a qualifying travel purchase of $100 or more made within the last 120 days. For example, you could use 10,000 points for a $100 credit towards a $200 plane ticket, if you wished.

On top of that, the card gives you a 5% miles rebate when you redeem for any travel. (The rebate was once 10% but has since been reduced.) So if you redeemed 50,000 miles, you would get 2,500 back in your account after about a week. Although this adds a layer of complexity, you can calculate that technically getting $500 of value out of 47,500 miles at 2X miles/$ spent works out to 2.11% cash back towards any travel.

Everything else (cash credits, gift cards, merchandise) offers a worse redemption ratio. Don’t bother. If you were going to bother, you shouldn’t get this card.

Comparison with alternatives. 2X miles is nice and the rebate adds a bit extra. However, this card also has an $89 annual fee that is waived for the first year. So for the first year you’re good, but the competition offers multiple cards earning close to 2% cash back with no annual fee at all. I’ll list them again below; see the card-specific reviews for details.

Doing the math, you would have to put over $80,000 in purchases on this card annually in order to get the 0.11% advantage to offset the $89 annual fee (after the 1st-year waiver). That’s a big number. Now, Barclaycard did offer me a second fee-free year when I called in to cancel the card a couple years back (your results may vary). This bought me enough time to spend all my miles. A backup option is to downgrade the card to the no annual fee version after a year. Barclays does offer instant approval; if you don’t get it call their credit analyst line at 1-866-408-4064.

Bottom line. Solid sign-up bonus. Flexible travel rewards card. Annual fee too high after the first year. Long-time readers know that I want to see a $500 net value over the first year before I try out a new credit card. Given the limited-time 50,000 miles/points is worth $500 on any travel purchase and the annual fee is waived during the first year, this card satisfies that hurdle. 2X miles on all purchases is also quite competitive. However, past the first year of ownership, I do not like the idea of eventually paying an $89 annual fee with a theoretical max of 2.11% back when I can get 2% back with no annual fee from other cards.

5% Cash Back Credit Cards: Rotating Categories Update 2016

Activation for 4rd quarter is now open! Do it now before you forget.

The credit cards below offer a hefty 5% cash back on certain categories that rotate each quarter. It takes a little extra attention, but I also rack up over a hundred dollars in additional rewards per year without changing my spending habits. None of these have an annual fee, so it costs me nothing to keep them all around. New cardmembers may also get an initial sign-up bonus.

Side tip: You can load up on gift cards to get the 5% back now but spend the gift cards later.

Chase Freedom VisaChase Freedom® – $150 Bonus 

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

  • Wholesale Clubs including Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club
  • Department Stores including but not limited to JCPenney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack, Sears
  • Drug stores including Walgreens, CVS, Duane Read, and Rite Aid

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Enroll each quarter at ChaseBonus.com. As long as you activate by the end of the quarter the rewards are retroactive. All other purchases earn 1% back, with no tiers or expiration of rewards. Currently, the Chase Freedom® card is offering $150 bonus cash back if you sign up and make just $500 in purchases in your first three months and a $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period. No annual fee.

Discover it 14 ImageDiscover it® Card

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

  • Amazon.com
  • Sam’s Club
  • Department Stores

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Enroll after logging into your online account (look on the right-hand side). 5% rewards won’t apply until after you activate your rewards, so it is best to activate now before you forget. New applicants can get their earned Cash Back doubled at the end of the first year.

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa CardCiti® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card (Existing cardholders only) From July 1st through September 30th, 2016 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories: (calendar):

  • Best Buy
  • Department Stores

This a grandfathered card that is no longer available to new applicants. Log into your online account or call 1-800-231-0891 to activate the rewards each quarter (starts upon activation, not retroactive). The total cash back limit is $300 earned per calendar year.

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card. What makes this card unique is that you get to choose the two 5% cash back categories every quarter, out of a preset selection of niche categories like “Fast Food” or “Sporting Goods Stores”. You also get to choose a single 2% cash back category from a preset selection of broader categories like “Gas Stations” or “Grocery Stores”. 1% cash back on everything else. No limit on total cash back earned.

As you’ll see below, getting 2% is not that special, so this card is best if you spend significantly in the available niche categories. Also, you must remember to choose your categories each quarter! If you do not choose your categories, all purchases revert to only earning 1% cash back for that quarter.

Finally, get a better “Everything Else” card! Don’t settle for the “1% on everything else” that these cards offer. The following cards currently have the ability to offer cash back rewards as high as 2% or even greater. Please read my card-specific reviews for details.

“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.”

Museum Day: Free Tickets Nationwide On Saturday, September 24, 2016

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Update: Available again. Museum Day Live! is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket for free. This is in following the spirit of Smithsonian Museums, which offer free admission every day.

Registration is now open for Saturday, September 24, 2016. Find participating museums here. Request your ticket here. One ticket per valid email address. Each ticket provides general admission for ticketholder plus one guest. You must pick the specific museum during the ticket request process, and then download a PDF to print out as your ticket.

There are some cool museums around us that now cost $25 for adults and $10 for children, so this can be a significant savings depending on the size of your family. (Two adults can register, and that would allow four total people. Kids can also get their own tickets in case you bring along more people.)

Don’t forget to add the event to your calendar! I’ve probably forgotten about this half the times that I’ve registered.

Also see: Bank of America’s Museums on Us Program.

Uber and Android Pay: 50% Off 10 Rides (Up to $5 Each Ride)

uberpayUber and Android Pay are running a promotion offering 50% off 10 rides (up to $5 per ride) now through 10/15. No promo code required. The instructions they provide are pretty straightforward:

  • Download and set up Android Pay on the Play store
  • Open your Uber app
  • Add Android Pay as a payment option in the Uber app
  • Make sure to select Android Pay in the confirmation screen when requesting a ride and you will get 50% off 10 rides* (up to $5 per ride) now through 10/15
  • No need to apply any additional codes

* Supplies limited. Offer good for 10 rides. 50% off up to $5.00 off a trip requested using the Uber App and Android Pay. Only one offer per Uber account. Offer expires October 15th, 2016, or earlier at Uber’s sole discretion. No cash value. Valid in the US only.

Not a bad deal for regular Uber users. Thanks to reader Tom for the heads up.

Related: Through March 2017, Capital One and Uber also have a partnership that gets you every 10th Uber ride free up to $15 with the Capital One Quicksilver credit card (review).

Bonus Delta SkyMiles for Washington State Residents

If you are a resident of the state of Washington state and age 18+ (as indicated by your Skymiles account info), you can visit SeaHawks.com/12status and receive the following perks from Delta Airlines:

  • 1,200 bonus miles for new Skymiles members that join via link.
  • 500 bonus miles for every 12,000 sign-ups.
  • 1 bonus mile for each passing yard at Seahawk home games.
  • 1,200 bonus miles if the fans at CenturyLink Field on the Dec. 15 game against Los Angeles create enough noise to cause five (5) false start penalties against the visiting team.
  • Priority boarding when departing out of SeaTac Airport on Delta.

Looks like Delta just wants you to like them, as you don’t actually need to buy anything to be eligible.

Citibank $400 Checking Account Bonus

citi400Citibank has a $400 bonus offer for new checking account customers. Here are the highlights:

  • To qualify for a $400 cash bonus, open a new consumer checking account in The Citibank Account Package by 10/31/16.
  • Within 30 days from the date you opened your new checking account, deposit $15,000 or more in new-to-Citibank funds into your new checking account or new or existing Citibank Savings Plus account.
  • A minimum balance of $15,000 is required to be maintained in the new checking account or new or existing Citibank Savings Plus Account, for 30 consecutive calendar days following the date you made your qualifying deposit.
  • The cash bonus will be credited to your new checking account within 90 calendar days from the date when you completed all offer requirements.
  • To be eligible for this offer, you must not currently have a Consumer checking account with Citibank or have been a signer on or owner of a Citibank consumer checking account within the last 60 days.
  • Limit of one of each offer per customer and one offer per account.

Here are details for The Citibank Account Package:

  • $25 monthly service fee waived if you have $10,000 in combined average monthly balances.
  • Interest rate is a tiny 0.01% APY.
  • Free withdrawals from all Citibanks ATMs.
  • Citibank will waive their $2.50 fee for using non-Citibank ATMs, if combined average monthly balances in eligible linked accounts are met. However, you may still be charged a fee by the ATM owner itself.
  • No early account closure fee.

Let’s see… To start, you must not have had a Citibank consumer checking account within the last 60 days. Next, you’ll need to bring in $15,000 of money from a non-Citibank account, and keep it there for 30 days. You’ll need to keep $10,000 in your account to avoid the $25 monthly service fee. You’ll need to keep the account open for up to another 90 days (up to 120 days total) until the $400 bonus arrives.

It is not clear if you need to keep you account at the “Citibank Account” package level past the first 30 days. To be safe, you may want to keep it at that level ($10,000 minimum balance) until the bonus shows up. After that, you may downgrade to their Basic or Access levels with much lower minimum balance requirements, or you may choose to eventually close out the account after that if it doesn’t work for you.

Worth the effort? If you had $15,000 sitting in a 1% APY savings account, you’d earn $50 of interest over 4 months. So you could view this as $350 in extra interest over 4 months. Alternatively, if you earn $400 of interest on a $15,000 balance over 120 days (also ~4 months), that works out to roughly a 8% annualized interest rate. If you take out $5,000 after 30 days and keep $10,000 in there, your effective interest rate will be even higher, closer to 10% annualized interest rate for those 4 months. If the bonus arrives earlier, you could do better. At these assumed balance levels, you will avoid all monthly account fees. Note that the $400 will be reported on a 1099-INT form. Thus your interest is taxable as ordinary income, but any monthly fees you pay are not tax-deductible.

Free BJ’s Club Membership for American Express Cardholders (New Customers)

bjlogoIf you are an American Express cardholder, they have a promotion with BJ’s Wholesale Clubs that will essentially net you a free 1-year membership if you are a new BJ’s customer. The membership is discounted 50% down to $25, and then you also get a $25 gift card. Here are details taken from this PDF with promotion terms (backup copy).

Here’s how to redeem the new membership offer from BJ’s by September 30, 2016:

  1. Show your American Express Card and photo identification at a BJ’s Club Member Services Desk and present this confirmation (or show the saved coupon on your phone).
  2. Purchase a new 12-month BJ’s Inner Circle® or InnerCircle® Business Membership to get 50% off the regular price ($25 off the $50 membership fee, plus state and local taxes, where applicable or required by law) and receive a $25 BJ’s Gift Card.

Some customers have reported being able to use the $25 gift card itself to pay for the $25 membership, but either way it is essentially a free year membership.

Offer valid in-Club only; not valid on BJs.com. Market code AMEX25 expires 9/30/16. This offer may not be combined with other BJ’s membership offers, is not redeemable for cash and is good for new Members only. Market code AMEX25 may not be copied or transferred. Limit one offer per household. Photo identification required when applying for Membership.

Hanscom Federal CU Thrive Review: 3% APY High Interest Starter Account

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Updated with additional $30 bonus. Hanscom Federal Credit Union (HFCU) has a CU Thrive account, which works like a certificate of deposit that rewards consistent saving. The rate is set for 12 months, and during those 12 months you can transfer up to $500 every month from a HFCU checking account. No monthly fees. However, you cannot make any withdrawals during those 12 months, or you will be subject to an early withdrawal penalty of 90 days interest.

This product is not meant for big balances. Instead, it is meant to encourage a modest savings habit. The current interest rate of 3% APY is triple what the top high-yield savings accounts offer right now, and more than double what the top 1-year bank CDs are offering. HFCU is NCUA-insured, which is the credit union equivalent of FDIC-insured banks.

How much interest can I earn? At 3% APY, if you maxed out this account and set aside $500 a month for 12 months, at the end you’d have put in $6,000 and earned about $90 in interest (~$97 if you made every transfer on the 1st of the each month by my quick calculations). Not life-changing, but again federally-insured and triple what you could get at another bank. $6,000 also happens to be just about the same amount as a full Roth IRA contribution. Hint, hint.

At the end of the 12 months, all accrued savings plus earned dividends will be transferred into your primary savings account. Each member can only have one CU Thrive account open at one time, but after one 12-month period ends you can open up another one (assuming it is still offered). Full disclosure (PDF).

Eligibility details. To open a CU Thrive account, you must first open an HFCU checking account in addition to the savings account required for all members. HFCU offers a free checking account with no direct deposit and no minimum balance requirement. To open a checking account, just must be a member. Like most credit unions, membership is open by family, employer, or by membership in a partner organization (which makes it open to nearly everyone). For example, you could join the Nashua River Watershed Association for a one-time $35 fee and thus be eligible for HFCU membership. You must also keep $25 in the share savings account as long as you are a member.

New refer-a-friend program. They have re-activated their referral program, which allows you to join receive an additional $30 cash bonus after being an active member for 90 days. The referring member gets $30 as well. You may still be required to otherwise qualify for membership. I would recommend saying that you plan on joining the Nashua River Watershed Association but also listing yourself as being referred by an existing member. If you would like a referral from me, please me send your full name, e-mail address, the text “HFCU referral” via my contact form. I will use this information only to fill out their referral form.

Account opening process. I started the online application and said I would join the Nashua River Watershed Association for a one-time $35 fee (I didn’t know about the refer-a-friend option at the time). I had to provide the usual personal information and then answer questions based on my credit report to verify my identity. Based on my free credit monitoring, they did not perform a hard pull on my credit report. You can fund with an online bank transfer but they also gave me the option to fund with credit card up to $2,000. They didn’t mention if this would be considered a cash advance or not, but it showed up as a purchase on my American Express card. Finally, you must print out, sign, and mail in a signature card. You can also open an account in-person. All of their physical branches appear to be located in Massachusetts.

My 1-year experience. I had set the maximum $500 to be transferred every month to my CU Thrive account from my HFCU Checking account. I made 11 transfers but missed one because my checking balance was too low on the date of automatic transfer. My fault. When that happens, the account basically just skips the transfer. There is no penalty, you just don’t get to earn interest on that money. I called them but they said there was no way to replace that transfer, even if I moved more money into the checking account a day later. Other than that, everything went very smoothly and I was paid my interest as promised. At the 1-year maturity date, the funds were automatically transferred to my HFCU savings account and the CU Thrive no longer shows up on my online account page. I can now open up another CU Thrive account, if I wish.

I also discovered that Hanscom Federal has paid a Loyalty Dividend to its Credit Union members for over 15 consecutive years. For both 2014 and 2015, they paid a 2% bonus on dividends earned and consumer finance charges paid over the year. So on top my my $78.46 of interest earned, I earned another $1.57 in bonus loyalty dividends.

In addition to the CU Thrive and free checking options, HFCU also has a competitive Home Equity Line of Credit (HELoC) with no application fee, no annual fee, and no closing costs if you keep it open for 24 months. I’m thinking of opening one just to have around, does anyone have experience with this HELOC product?

Bottom line. The CU Thrive account is a good option for people looking to build up a savings habit, with a possible 3% APY for 12 months, $30 sign-up bonus, and free membership eligibility. However, the system really works best if you use HFCU’s free checking as your primary checking account. Juggling it as an external savings account is perfectly possible, but you have to keep on top of your transfers to avoid idle cash earning zero interest. I received all of the interest promised, the customer service was nice and polite when contacted, and any errors were my own.

Free 25 Hertz Gold Plus Points

hertzgp0Hertz has a Summer Bonus promotion with bonus points on your summer car rentals through 9/5/2016. Not much time left, but you can still get 25 free Hertz points just for registering with your Hertz Gold membership number.

Register to earn up to two Free Weekend Days on your summer rentals with Hertz Gold Plus Rewards® from August 9, 2016 through September 5, 2016. You can earn:

275 bonus points on your first qualifying rental
275 points on your second
550 points on your third
That’s 1,100 Gold Plus Rewards points—enough for two Free Weekend Days!

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These points won’t extend your expiration date (you need rental activity every 24 months), but they may get you closer to that next free rental (starts at 550 points for a free weekend day).

US National Park Centennial: Free Admission, Special Events, and Virtual Reality Tours

The National Park Service turned 100 on August 25, 2016. From Thursday 8/25 to Sunday 8/28/16, there will be special events and free admission to all 412 national parks. Visit FindYourPark.com to find details about your nearest park.

The fee waiver includes entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

If you can’t visit the parks in person (if even if you can), check out “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks”. You’ll see select parks in 360-degree virtual reality thanks to a partnership between the NPS and Google. You can use Google Cardboard for the full experience, but it still very cool on a big screen with headphones. Here’s a one-minute preview video:

Finally, NASA is sharing what the US National Parks look like from the Space Station.

Finally, you may have noticed the Google Doodle of the day, which linked to a neat one-minute animated video below: