FileThis App Review: Automatically Backup Your Online Statements

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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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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.

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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

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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.

Capital One 360 Savings Promo – Earn Up to a $500 Bonus

Capital One 360 Savings has a limited-time sign-up bonus for up to $500 for new customers, tiered depending on your opening deposit. Here’s a quick recap of the features of 360 Savings accounts:

  • No monthly fees or minimum balance requirements.
  • No minimum deposit required to open an account.
  • Free electronic fund transfers to a linked checking account.
  • 24/7 online and mobile access, or talk to a real person 7 days a week 8AM-8PM.
  • % APY as of 2/10/16

Bonus instructions.

  1. You must open your first 360 Savings Account by the promotion expiration date, 11/30/2015 at 11:59 PM EST. (If you’ve had a Savings product with Capital One 360 or ING DIRECT before, you won’t be eligible for the bonus.)
  2. To qualify for a bonus, your account must be funded within the first 10 days of account opening. Deposits from an existing Capital One 360 account will not qualify for the bonus.
  3. The amount of your bonus will be determined based on the highest amount you deposit within the first 10 days of account opening and maintaining that balance on a daily basis for the next 90 days following the 10 day period. You must deposit a minimum of $5,000 and maintain a daily balance of $5,000 for 90 days after the initial 10 day period to qualify for any bonus. The amount of the bonus you actually earn will be determined based on the following balance tiers during the initial 10 day period and the 90 day period after that: $5,000+ earns a $50 bonus, $10,000+ earns a $100 bonus; $20,000+ earns a $200 bonus; $30,000+ earns a $300 bonus; $40,000+ earns a $400 bonus; and $50,000+ or more earns a $500 bonus. The maximum bonus you can earn is $500.

Essentially, if you deposit an amount exactly on the tier level, you will earn 1% of your deposit (i.e. $50 on $5,000 or $500 on $50,000) with a minimum holding period of 90 days following the 10-day deposit window. This is in addition to the existing interest rate.

For more details on the account interface and such, please check out my 360 Savings account review.

Disclosure: I will receive a referral if you open an account via one of the links above, as a paid endorsement. To my knowledge, this is also the best publicly-available 360 Savings bonus offer out there. I won’t be participating myself because I’ve had an account (ING Direct) since 2005. Please refer to my full advertising disclosure.

Verizon ThanksGetting Promotion: 2 GB Free Data For Existing Customers

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Here’s some free stuff for existing Verizon Wireless customers. Visit vzw.com/thanksgetting and Verizon will give you 1 GB of free data this billing cycle, and another 1 GB your next billing cycle. Starting on Wednesday 11/25, they’ll start giving out other stuff like $5 iTunes gift cards, free Amazon media credits, and free in-flight WiFi. The bonus data should show up in your online account almost immediately after enrollment.

*Limit one data promotional per account. The 1GB Data offer (“Promotional Data”) can only be redeemed one time per account by VZW customers on a qualifying plan. Must have a valid VZW Mobile Telephone Number. Promotional Data will be added to your existing monthly data allowance, and applies to data usage after Promotional Data redemption date. Promotional Data will be shared by all lines on an account. Data usage applies for app downloads/use.

Added separate free data offer: I’m still waiting to verify for myself, but Verizon is giving away 2 GB of data per month for 3 months to those people who download their Go90 app according to this link (log in and scroll down to see offer).

Promo offer only applicable to The More Everything Plan and The Verizon Plan customers with accounts in good standing. Extra data applied to account and is for any data usage. One promotional offer per account. This promotional data can be combined with other Verizon promotional offers. Limited time offer.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card New Bonus: 50,000 Points = $625 In Travel, Plus 5,000 Points For Authorized User

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Updated with new offer, perk details. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a premium rewards credit card, now with an upped sign-up bonus to new cardholders that is the best publicly-available bonus in years. Bonus highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95

Note the following text:

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.

The short version is 50,000 points can be redeemed for $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards™. Using it is flexible as well, as you can buy a more expensive ticket (or tickets) and simply pay the difference. You can also transfer the points to various airline mileage programs as well and redeem miles for even better value. This card has a lot of other small features that other cards don’t offer. Full review below.

Rewards Program Summary

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants. Earn 1 point for every dollar in other purchases. Travel includes airfare, car rental, hotels, and more. Restaurants include both table-service dining and fast food. There are no earning caps or expiration dates. The Ultimate Rewards points that you earn offer great flexibility:

  • Simple cash rewards. Cash redemptions are easy – you can redeem in $1 increments as long as above $20, so you could cash out $27 or $253 without anything left over. 100 points = $1.
  • Simple travel rewards. Points redeemed towards travel are worth 25% more, and you can apply them to any hotel or flight available on their travel portal. Redemptions can also be maximized because you can book wherever you want and simply pay the difference. For example, 25,000 points can be used for any ticket up to $312.50, but if say you wanted a $325 ticket you could just pay the $12.50 difference. You’re able to use every last point on this program, and you don’t have to worry about room or flight availability.
  • Flexible transfers to airline miles. If you prefer, you can also transfer to United Airlines, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Southwest, Hyatt Hotels, IHG Hotels, and Marriott Hotels. 1 Sapphire point = 1 mile/hotel point for these transfers. Miles redemption continue to offer great value for savvy travelers, especially for last-minute travel and business class seats. If you collect miles, this is really lucrative as I don’t know of any other card that gives 2 miles/dollar spent on travel and dining.
  • Sharing points. Ultimate Rewards points are instantly transferable to other accounts like family members, as long as they have their own card as a (free) authorized user. This way, you can pool points together for transfers and redemptions if you like.

More Features

Just nice-to-have perks:

  • Premium, dedicated customer service line with a live person, 24/7. I tested this out and it works. A real person picks up after a couple rings, no phone trees or typing those darn 16 digits over and over. You can use this feature to redeem cash rewards over the phone for free, although booking rewards tickets over the phone costs $20 (doing so online is free).

Travel-related perks:

  • $0 foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security and wider acceptance when used at a chip card reader
  • Primary car rental collision damage waiver insurance. Decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card. Coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad. Most other cards only offer secondary insurance, which means it only kicks in if your personal auto insurance does not cover an accident (which can trigger an increase to your premiums).
  • Travel and shop with confidence with premium Travel and Purchase Protection Benefits, including Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Purchase Protection and more
  • Trip delay reimbursement. If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.
  • Lost luggage reimbursement. If you or your immediate family members’ checked or carry-on bags are damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.
  • Baggage delay insurance. Reimburses you for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over six hours by passenger carrier up to $100 a day for five days.

Retail shopping and purchase-related perks:

  • Extended Warranty Protection. Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.
  • Purchase Protection. Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • Return Protection. You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $500 per item, $1,000 per year.
  • Price protection. If a card purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year.

I share the opinion with many others that this is a strong bonus backed by a solid rewards card for the savvy traveler. I say “savvy” because if you can wrangle 2 cents per mile of value out of a frequent flier program (quite possible), then this card is great value. During your first year, you should see if you can get enough value to justify the $95 annual fee. For someone who charges very little on their credit card and/or does not travel much, it is likely not a good rewards card for that situation.

For me, I keep this card around after looking at the whole picture. I have accumulated nearly 300,000 Ultimate Rewards points from this card and other sources including the Ultimate Rewards cashback portal and the Chase Freedom card, but I need to keep this card open to retain the flexible transfer options as I like to keep these UR points around to transfer over to specific partners as needed. I try to specifically put travel and dining out on this card, as I prefer 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar over 2% cash back. This works out because the travel protections on this card are stronger than most and only apply if you actually charge your travel on this card. Primary car rental CDW insurance is pretty valuable on its own.

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“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.”

Straight Talk Promotion: Unlimited Monthly Plan Cards for $22.50 a Month

st2015_0Straight Talk is a prepaid MVNO that offers the ability to buy SIM cards that you can pop into any AT&T-compatible, T-Mobile-compatible, or unlocked GSM phone. This includes many Samsung Galaxys and iPhones that you can buy refurbished or on the used market. For $45 a month you get unlimited minutes, unlimited text, and 5 GB of high-speed data with no contracts and no credit checks. You also avoid the usual cell phone taxes that can add $5 to $10 per line. Unlimited data means 3G/4G data speeds for 5 GB per month (recently improved from 2.5 GB) and then 2G data speeds after that.

$45 a month is the everyday price. Last year, there was a nice promo that let you buy 4 months of the Straight Talk unlimited plan for $26 a month, a significant 42% savings off the regular price. I’m actually just updating that old post here and pruning stale comments.

Right now, you can buy 8 months of the Straight Talk unlimited plan for $22.50 a month. To access this promo, either try clicking on this promo deep link or entering your info at this promo intro page. You should see the following offer text in red:

For Limited Time only get a FREE SIM + FREE Service Plan Card with the Purchase of a 30 Day Service Plan Card

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  • Each package includes 2 monthly plan cards, and you can buy 4 packages for a total of 8 months for $180 + taxes and shipping where applicable.
  • While the link only let you buy a T-Mobile SIM card as part of the package, the actual monthly plan cards can be activated with any provider SIM. They also sell AT&T SIM cards on the same website, if you prefer that.
  • You can also try to stack with cashback shopping portal. For example, BeFrugal.com normally offers $30 cashback for airtime + SIM purchase. BeFrugal also has $10 bonus for new customers that earn $25 in cashback. See reader Shoe’s comment.
  • If your desired SIM size is sold out, know that you can buy a simple $4 SIM cutter which can cut any SIM card into a micro SIM or nano SIM. (Or a $4 SIM adapter will make a nano into micro or regular SIM.) You may have to use a bit of sandpaper as well for the nano SIM as they are a little thinner than regular SIMs. Read the reviews, they work.
  • You can also check back later to see if they restock, but I’d rather just lock in the savings with whatever SIM is in stock.
  • Finally, the $60 international cards are also buy 1 get 1 free, making them $30 and still cheaper than the $45 plan. The $60 plan has the features of the $45 plan plus unlimited calling to Mobile in Mexico, China, India and Canada and some other features. So it’s still a pretty good discount (33% off) if the rest are out of stock.

Groupon: Starbucks $15 Gift Card for $10

sbuxlatteIt’s back! Wow, haven’t posted a Groupon deal in a while. I really should have shorted the stock when even I unsubscribed from their daily newsletter, but I didn’t have the guts. Now I’m just mad because they deleted my account after not using it for a while, even though I still had unused credit (and I’ll have to open a new one for this deal).

Anyway! Groupon is selling a $15 Starbucks Gift Card for $10. Limited quantities, ends in a week or so otherwise . Why is free coffee so appealing? Over 100,000 sold already. Limit 1 per person.

Remember that you can save even more on your Groupon with cashback shopping sites:

  • TopCashBack ($10 bonus after $10 earned in cashback rewards, expires 11/16).
  • eBates ($10 new user bonus after any $25+ purchase, $5 mininum cash-out)
  • Mr. Rebates ($5 new user bonus, $10 minimum cash-out)
  • BeFrugal.com ($5 new user bonus)

Visa Checkout $15 Statement Credit with Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom Visa

There was previous promo with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, but now there is a another separate promo with the Chase Freedom. Earn a $15 statement credit after you spend $15 or more with your Chase Freedom® card using Visa Checkout. Valid for new or existing Visa Checkout accountholders. Read on, it’s an easy $15 if you have this card.

More people out there probably have the Chase Freedom card. No annual fee and 5% cash back in rotating categories every quarter.

Visa Checkout is a way to pay for things online without have to give a merchant your credit card number. You use a login and password instead. Think Paypal, but Visa-branded. Participating merchants include Pizzahut.com, Shutterfly, Newegg, Staples, Fandango, Orbitz, Gap, and more.

Since these are all online websites, you can also use a cashback shopping portal for many merchants and get a little bit extra back. Some suggestions for a small online purchase:

  • Order a pizza from PizzaHut.com. You must get it delivered, not carry out. I can usually get 2 pizzas for around $20, so a $15 credit would cover most of dinner that day.
  • Buy some movie tickets from Fandango.
  • Go to NewEgg.com and buy a $15 to $20 gift card to a place you like.
  • Buy a gift card from Staples.com

Selected fine print:

This offer is valid from 11/2/2015 through 12/31/2015. To qualify for this offer, you must make a single purchase of $15 or more using your Chase Freedom Visa credit card with your Visa Checkout account during checkout. Limit (1) $15 statement credit per customer or card account. Allow 1 to 2 billing cycles from Visa Checkout purchase for delivery of the statement credit to the Chase Freedom account added to the Visa Checkout account; your card account must remain open and not be in default to receive the statement credit.

TradeKing $200 Cash Bonus Promotion

tk200Promo extended. To celebrate their 10th anniversary, stock brokerage TradeKing is offering a $200 cash bonus for new accounts opened by 12/31/2015, funded with $3,000 or more within 30 days of account opening, and with at least 3 executed trades within 90 days of account opening. You must keep the $3,000 in account equity (minus any trading losses) for at least 6 months.

This is probably the biggest bonus I’ve seen for this account, the standard offer is $50. TradeKing charges a flat $4.95 for online stock trades; so $200 would cover 40 trades. Option trades are also $4.95 + 65 cents per option contract.

Free Morningstar Analyst Reports Via Public Library Card

mstar_logo2Let’s say you are a DIY investor and doing some research on municipal funds. You decide to learn more about the Vanguard Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt mutual fund. You pull up the Morningstar quote pages (ticker VWITX and VWIUX) and find some useful numbers, plus an analyst report hidden to the public as a “premium” feature.

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You see a 14-day free trial and after some more clicking around, you discover that a premium membership to Morningstar costs $199 a year or $24 a month.

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Now, I’d like to read the rest of that analyst report, but I’m not sure if it is worth the fee. Well, you may already have access to those analyst reports through your payment of local and state taxes. Yup, the good ole’ public library!

Many public libraries have a subscription to what is called the Morningstar Investment Research Center database. Most offer instant, online access via your library card number and PIN. You should look under the “Databases” or “Resources” section. Some only have a limited amount of offsite licenses, so you’ll have to either ask for a password or you’ll have to read them in a branch. Here’s a screenshot of my free report accessed from the comfort of my home, with all the good stuff blurred out of course:

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You can access their analyst reports for stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs, as well as the premium version of tools like Portfolio X-Ray.

Now, if your local library system doesn’t provide this access, you can also look around for other libraries in the region for which you are eligible. Finally, there are some public libraries that offer library cards to non-residents for an annual fee. For example, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library in North Carolina offers library cards by mail for $45 a year (Seniors 62+, $35 a year).

Non-residents of Mecklenburg County can obtain a Charlotte Mecklenburg Library card for an annual fee of $45.00. This amount is approximately equal to the annual property tax a Mecklenburg County resident pays to support the Library. A non-resident library card entitles you to the full services of the Library at all locations.

They also offer access to the Morningstar database. $45 a year is still significantly less than $199 a year, and you’ll get all the other library benefits like access to Overdrive eBooks. Also check out the Library of Fairfax County, Virginia which offers non-resident library cards for $27 a year.

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Healthywage Review: Final Results, Tips, Diet Bet Comparison

hw_logoAfter reading academic studies which found that financial incentives were effective in helping people lose weight, I joined both DietBet* and HealthWage in early 2015. This week, I received my winnings from my individual “Healthy Wager” bet at HealthyWage.com. You tell them your body details, how much you want to bet, how much you want to lose, and they’ll calculate what prize to offer you. This is my final review of the entire process, including some helpful tips and a comparison with similar site DietBet.

(* See my separate DietBet Review.)

My original HealthyWage offer was for $100 a month times 9 months = $900 total, for a potential win of $100 (11.1% payout). This was based on losing 10% of my initial weight (~20 lbs) over 9 months (2/2 to 11/3/15). However, Healthywage issues 1099-MISC forms for your total gross winnings (initial bet + profit) when at or over $600. After learning about this, I asked them to adjust my bet so I would remain under this amount. I had already made my first $100 monthly bet, but all future bets were then set to $50. I had already started the bet, so I appreciated this courtesy. Now my total bets would add up to $100 x 1 month plus $50 x 8 months = $500. Times the same 11.1% payout, my total winnings would be $555.56.

Honestly, risking $500 to win $50 didn’t feel like a very good risk/reward ratio, but I wanted both the extra motivation and the ability to compare the two services. Back in 2011, Healthwage used to have a “double down” bet where participants put $150 on the line and won $300 if they lost 10% of their weight over 6 months. I guess they found that to be too generous, as I no longer see it as available.

Initial weigh-in verification. There are three ways to verify your weight:

  1. Video Verification. Smartphone video using your personal scale. The most popular option, and the one that I chose.
  2. Verification by a Fitness or Health Professional – Bring a form to your “local gym, pharmacies, corporate wellness clinics, walk-in clinics, HR reps, nurses, your personal doctor, your personal trainer or your chiropractor.”
  3. Verification at a Weight Watchers Meeting.

I followed their directions carefully, uploaded my video, and both my initial and final videos were accepted with no issues or additional requests.

Very little ongoing support during the challenge. Every month since February, I would see a $50 charge on my credit card bill from Healthwage. However, that was about it. There were no regular e-mail updates. No interim weigh-ins. No fun tokens or prize giveaways. No smartphone app. No encouraging quotes or success stories. No interaction at all.

Upon initial sign-up, I was given my 2-week window for final weigh-in (October 20th to November 3rd, 2015). HealthyWage’s two-week window is definitely more generous than DietBet’s 48-hour window, with the important difference that I was never sent any reminders by HealthyWage when the time actually came. In comparison, Dietbet sent me multiple reminders beforehand. Now, I had the date marked on my digital calendar with several alerts, so I completed my weigh-in by the second day of the window. It is quite possible that if I waited until closer to the final deadline, I would have gotten a reminder. But I wouldn’t rely on it. I got the feeling that they wouldn’t mind if you forgot about that final weigh-in.

This brings me to the important structural difference between HealthyWage and DietBet. DietBet collects participants into groups and then takes a cut from the pooled bets. The winners of each group then split the money from the losers, so that Dietbet makes the same commission amount, no matter how many people win or lose. HealthyWage, on the other hand, makes one-on-one bets with individuals. So whether you win or lose does affect their bottom line. HealthWage is more strict in its final verification requirements (see below), and in my humble opinion this structural difference is the cause.

Extra final verification hoops. Upon final weight verification, you’ll have to submit the verification video again (see above). But that’s not all. I also had to locate and upload a “before photo” and an “after photo”, which could be any photo from “around the time” of the start and end of the challenge. I also had to upload a scan of my driver’s license. Here’s a screenshot of their page asking for additional information. Note the final line in red letters:

Please note, this is you last chance to avoid scrutiny of your account. If you have cheated, do not proceed.

Not exactly giving off the warm fuzzies, are we?

Finally, despite my desire to avoid receiving a 1099-MISC, I successfully referred a few people to Healthwage and received $240 of extra money added my “pot”. (I had to win the challenge in order to get this money.) Since I did win and my final amount was now above $600, I had to provide them with my Social Security number in order for them to fill out the 1099.

Final payout options. There are two options to receive your winnings. A mailed check takes 3-4 weeks to process, with no fee. The other “fast” option is PayPal, which charges a 3% fee. I picked the PayPal option because I didn’t want to wait around for a check. However, they later clarified that it would still take 3-5 business days for Paypal transfer. The 3% fee is actually taken out by PayPal, so HealthyWage actually sends the full amount (they just choose not to subsidize the fee). In retrospect, maybe I should have just waited for the check. Here’s a screenshot:

hw_finalpay

Summary and recommendations. I committed to a Healthywage bet to lose 10% of my initial weight over 9 months. I completed my initial and final weight verifications without hassle, won the bet, and was paid my winnings. However, the process felt rather sterile and business-like. I put $500 at risk and won $55, for a payout ratio of 11%. I also won a bit extra due to referring others.

In comparison, DietBet had a much more online interaction, regular e-mail communication, and a useful smartphone app. It felt more like a friendly, supportive game. I was only able to bet $150 total, but I won $129. That’s a payout ratio of 93% (variable, not guaranteed). This was for a 10% weight loss bet over a shorter period of 6 months.

Both Healthywage and DietBet paid out and fulfilled all of their promises and obligations. My recommendation is that for more fun and most likely better payout odds, I would join DietBet first. If you want extra motivation and the ability to risk more money and thus possibly win more money, add a concurrent HealthyWage bet as well. If I had kept my initial $100 a month bet commitment, my total winnings from both sites would have been nearly $250.