Amazon Prime: Buy Sample Box, Get Equal Credit Towards Similar Products

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Updated (again) with new sample boxes. Amazon Prime members can buy sample boxes that come with a credit towards a future purchase in that specific product category. For example, you can buy a beverage sample box for $9.99 and then you’ll get an equal $9.99 credit towards a future purchase that is valid towards eligible items in that category (i.e. beverages in that sample box). You’ll still get Amazon Prime free shipping. Here are the currently available sample boxes:

The following are currently marked as unavailable:

Due to the way this deal is structured, I choose to view it is a “free sample box” if you would already otherwise purchase something on their eligible item lists. That way you’re not buying something you don’t need anyway.

Limited-Time Offer: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® 75,000 Mile Bonus

Citi AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard Art

UPDATE – This offer is EXPIRED.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, from our partner Citi, is their premium American Airlines co-branded card. The previous 50,000 miles bonus has been improved to 75,000. Here are the details:

  • For a limited time, earn 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.*
  • Admirals Club® membership included for you and guests with you.*
  • Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge Access for authorized users.
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year.*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases.*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases.*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation.*
  • Receive a statement credit, up to $100 every 5 years, as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or The TSA PreCheck®.
  • $450 annual fee.

Note the following fine print:

American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.

As mentioned, this is the highest level Citi/American Airlines card. The 75,000 miles are nice and can be converted to several hundred dollars (or more) worth of airfare. $100 for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry is nice. But the annual fee is a hefty $450. The special features of this card that the lesser cards omit are Admirals Club lounge membership and the opportunity to earn Elite Qualifying Miles towards status.

Admirals Club lounge membership value and details. Admirals Club membership usually costs ~$500 a year on its own, and this is now the only card that gives it to you as a complimentary feature. Here’s the full cost chart:

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This membership allows both you and your immediate family (or up to two traveling guests that accompany you) to access over 50 Admirals Club locations worldwide. You don’t even need to be on an American Airlines flight! You can even give your spouse or trusted friend/family an authorized user card and they’ll get lounge access too, even while traveling separately from you. (Authorized user cards have no additional fee.)

You can be flying on any airline, and if that airport has an Admirals Club you and your family can go inside. Lounge access might save you money on certain things like comfortable seats, free food/drink, WiFi, and sometimes hot showers. Mostly it just makes the overall flying experience more pleasant. I’ve been to Admiral’s Clubs with special kids rooms; perfect for families during delays or layovers.

American Airlines elite qualifying miles. For those that know you can generate the required $40,000 in spending in a calendar year . I’ve given up status chasing for the time being, but if you’re an elite on American, you probably already know the value of accumulating these type of miles. 10,000 elite qualifying flight miles is like going from Honolulu to Los Angeles, roundtrip, twice.

Bottom line. The limited-time bonus bump to 75,000 miles is nice, but this remains a niche premium card. If you can take advantage of the Admiral Club lounge access, this can be a great way to get it for you and your travel companions. If you don’t care about lounge access and aren’t trying to achieve elite status on American, this card is probably not for you given the relatively high spending requirements.

“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.”

Amazon Audible: Free Trial w/ 2 Free AudioBooks (May Work For Previous Trial Members)

audible2promo0Amazon Audible has an improved promotion where you can get a free 1-month trial to Audible that includes 2 audiobook credits (usually only 1 audiobook credit). Even if you are not a new member, try clicking anyway as it worked for me and I had a previous trial Audible membership. Here’s what you should see after clicking on “Start your free trial” and logging into your account:

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Your Audible audiobooks will remain in your account forever even if you stop the monthly membership fee. So you’re basically getting $30+ worth of audiobooks for free. If you do nothing, after 30 days you’ll be charged the normal $14.95/month membership fee that includes 1 audiobook credit per month. As with other Amazon trials, you can set it not to renew and still use up the rest of the trial. If you are paranoid, I would recommend picking out two books quickly and canceling right afterward.

Additional Audible membership features include being able to swap out audiobooks if you don’t like it after listening for a bit, and 30% off the list price of additional audiobooks. You can even have Alexa read your audiobook to you.

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During my first trial, I listened to Shoe Dog (Nike origin story) and When Breathe Becomes Air. Here’s my Shoe Dog review; I enjoyed it in audiobook format. When Breathe Becomes Air was poignant, but I think I’d rather have read it as a physical book.

Audible’s algorithm keeps recommending that I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, so maybe I’ll try that one next. I’ll probably enjoy listening to this one better, though: I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons from Kevin Hart.

Citi ThankYou Premier Card Review – 50,000 Bonus Points

Citi Premier CardUpdate – This offer is now EXPIRED.

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card has re-launched from our partner Citi, with an improved sign-up bonus and purchase rewards structure. You can now earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  The highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months the account of account opening.*
  • 50,000 ThankYou® Points are redeemable for $625 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou travel center or $500 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • Earn 3X Points on Travel, Including Gas Stations
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out and Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline and hotel loyalty programs.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
  • Annual fee is waived for the first year. $95 annual fee afterward. $0 fee for additional users.

Triple points include both air/hotel/car rental and daily commute items. The triple (3X) points on on travel includes hotels, airfare, taxis, car rental, public transportation, parking, cruises, and even gas. When combined with the 25% travel premium, makes that equivalent to a 3.75% reward towards gas and travel booked through Citi Travel Center. The double (2X) on restaurants (includes bars and fast food) and entertainment (sporting events) makes that 2.5% towards travel booked through Citi Travel Center.

Bonus details. The initial sign-up bonus was formerly 30,000 ThankYou points, and while we have seen 50,000 and 60,000 for short periods before, it is a historically high number. Note the following fine print:

Bonus ThankYou Points are not available if you have had a ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige card opened or closed in the past 24 months.

Note there is talk that the Citi Prestige card will change their sign-up bonus soon to 75,000 ThankYou points, but there will also be a $450 annual fee that is not waived (and a $250 airfare fee credit).

What can you do with 50,000 ThankYou Points? Citi has been trying to improve the value and flexibility of ThankYou points, so here is a rundown of what you can do with 50,000 of them. Bonus ThankYou Points not available if you have had a Citi ThankYou Premier card opened or closed in the past 18 months.

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$625 towards flexible airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises. With the new Citi Premier card, you get a 20% discount on the standard number of points needed for a travel redemption. The reverse math means 1 ThankYou point = 1.25 cents towards travel. Note that this 25% bonus applies all of your points from all Citi cards linked to the same ThankYou account, thus boosting the value of all your other points.

That means 50,000 ThankYou points will get you $625 in airfare, hotel nights, car rentals, and cruises book through the Citi Travel Center, which in my experience had the same total price with taxes as compared to Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Since you can book any flight that can be otherwise purchased with cash, there are “no blackout dates”.

This can be even more flexible because you can use it across multiple flights, multiple passengers, and you can even do partial redemptions. Let’s say you found a ticket that want for $200 = 16,000 points, but only have 10,000 points available. Citi now lets you pay the difference, so in this case you can get your $200 ticket for 10,000 points and $75. This makes it much easier to use up all of your points at a 25% premium.

$500 in gift, $500 check towards student loan or mortgage. You can view your redemption options at ThankYou.com. I took a quick look and it takes 10,000 ThankYou (TY) points to redeem for a $100 gift card to retailers like Gap, Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, Bath and Body Works, Bed Bath & Beyond, Cabelas, CVS Pharmacy, Kohl’s, Land’s End, LL Bean, Sears, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Staples, and Walmart. So with 30,000 TY points, you could get five $100 gift cards from different stores.

Want something closer to cash? For a check mailed to you, it is 8,000 points for $50 (1 points = 0.625 cent). The best deal is a check mailed towards your mortgage payment or student loan (made out to your lender), which is 7,500 points for $75 (1 points = 1 cent).

Hotel points and airline miles transfer options. Citi ThankYou points are also now available to transfer to certain airline mileage programs on a 1:1 basis including JetBlue, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Etihad, Flying Blue by Air France and KLM, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways. For example, 50,000 TY points can get you 50,000 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. If you know how to redeem this points wisely, you can get a lot of value for international flights.

Bottom line. The increased 50,000 point sign-up bonus with the annual fee waived for the first year is historically high. I choose to focus on the flexible value where 50,000 points = $625 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou travel center. The airline points transfer partners are may get you better value for international flights (or JetBlue for domestic). I like the new rewards structure but a cardholder would need a fair amount of spending in the bonus categories (gas, airfare, hotels, dining out) in order to offset the $95 annual after the first year where they waive it.

  • Citi ThankYou Premier Application Page

“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.”

Dorco Coupon: 1-Year Supply (28 Razors) for $24 + Free Shipping

dorcodude0My strategy for saving money on shaving is simple. I buy a bunch of razors once every 2 years, and use one razor per month. I try not to pay more than $1 per razor, so my total shaving bill is under $12 a year. To make sure they stay comfortable, I dry thoroughly after each use (some people use alcohol or mineral oil). I also hone occassionally with my forearm or jeans.

Here’s an example deal for under $1 per razor. Dorco USA (which also makes the blades for Dollar Shave Club) is currently offering 50% off their Frugal Dude Pack with promo code AFFDP717 good through 7/21/17. It’s a mix of 3-,4-, and 6-blade systems. The combo includes 2 handles, 16 cartridges, and 12 disposables. They call this a 1-year supply (at 13 days per razor), but this would last me 2 years (at 26 days per razor) as my facial hair is wimpy.

That’s a total of 28 razors for $23.85 with free shipping included, which works out to $0.85 per razor. Here’s a screenshot:

dorcodude

I’ve been quite satisfied with the quality of Dorco razors. If you want to try it out first, you can get Pace 6 For Men (1 handle, 2 cartridges) for $1.99 shipped with promo code AFPACE6718. Good through 7/21/17. That’s still $1 per cartridge. Note that you should pick budget shipping, go to the end where you enter the promo code, THEN update the shipping cost, THEN it will show budget shipping as $0.00. Screenshot.

I know that some folks prefer safety razors, for which you can buy a quality handle for $24 and then buy refills for 12 cents each after that, which also sounds perfectly reasonable if you enjoy that style of shaving.

JetBlue Free Mosaic Status Match + Challenge

mosaicJetBlue Airlines has a free status match program where they will upgrade you to JetBlue Mosaic status if you have elite status with another airline loyalty program. Here are the qualifying levels at other airlines:

  • Virgin America: Elevate Silver, Gold
  • Alaska Airlines: Mileage Plan MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75k
  • American Airlines: AAdvantage Platinum, Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum®
  • Delta: SkyMiles Medallion Silver, Gold, Platinum or Diamond
  • Southwest Airlines: Rapid Rewards® A-List Preferred or Companion Pass
  • United: MileagePlus Premier Silver, Gold, Platinum or Premier1K

If you become/are a TrueBlue member and submit proof of your qualifying status, you will get Mosaic status free through the rest of 2017. You can then enjoy the perks listed below.

In addition, anyone (even without elite status) can take on the Mosaic Challenge. If you earn 3,750 base flight TrueBlue points in 90 days, you will get Mosaic through through December 31, 2018. This basically means you must spend $1,250 on JetBlue-operated flights for yourself within those 90 days. (Points earned via credit cards or other people’s flights don’t count.)

Mosaic benefits include:

  • Waived change and cancellation fees. Waived for Mosaic members and others on their itinerary.
  • Two free checked bags. Mosaic members and companions on the same itinerary can check both the first and second bag for free.
  • Priority security line access.
  • Early boarding access.
  • Bonus points. Earn an additional 3 TrueBlue points per dollar on your JetBlue flight, for at least 9 points per dollar if you book on jetblue.com.
  • Dedicated phone number. Get access to a dedicated Customer Service Line available 24/7.
  • Free drinks. Enjoy complimentary alcoholic beverages onboard.

Also see: JetBlue Credit Card from Barclaycard Review

Choice Hotels Free Elite Status Match

choicehotelslogoChoice Hotels is also offering a public free status match to Gold or Platinum Elite status from another hotel program. Potential perks include point bonuses on qualifying stays, longer booking windows for reward nights, and a free welcome gift.

If you status match between July-December, you’ll get up to Elite Platinum level for the rest of this current year and the following year. If you status match from January-June, it only runs for the current year.

Simply email Status_Match@choicehotels.com with the following information:

  • Full Name
  • Choice Privileges Member Number
  • Proof of Elite status in other hotel program:
    Screenshot or copy of your other program’s loyalty card (with expiration date)
    Or, screenshot or copy of other program’s current statement or account status page

Choice Hotels include the following brands:

  • Comfort Inn
  • Comfort Suites
  • Quality Inn
  • Sleep Inn
  • Clarion
  • Cambria hotels & suites
  • MainStay Suites
  • Suburban
  • Econo Lodge
  • Rodeway Inn

Here are other status match programs:

Amazon Prime Day 2017: List of Deals Still Available

primeday2017Updated. Amazon Prime Day is now over, but some offers are still available. I’ve removed the ones that I notice are expired. Hopefully you picked up some credits and savings to offset that membership fee.

Many deals still require Prime. New members can sign up for a 30-day free trial (6-month free trial + 50% off afterward with student .edu address).

Deals that are still live.

Alexa-Only Deals. View all the Alexa-only deals here. Must be ordered via Alexa Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Tap, Fire TV, Dash Wand, or compatible Fire tablets. The prices you see on the pages below will be different.

Other Amazon-related deals:

Amazon $5 off $15+ of Print Books, 40% Future Credit on any Kindle Book Purchase

amazonbook5Amazon has a new promotional code PRIMEBOOKS17 that gets you $5 off any books purchase of $15 or more. Must be print books (can be multiple), shipped and sold by Amazon. Offer currently expires at 11:59 p.m. (PT) July 12, 2017, although it may be extended.

Added. Buy a Kindle eBook today, earn 40% credit back your next physical or Kindle purchase. Max $20 credit back. Must purchase a Kindle eBook by 11:59 pm PST on July 11, 2017.

Offer valid only once per customer. Redeem your credit on your next Kindle or Print book purchase by July 25, 2017. Within 24 hours of your purchase, you will receive an e-mail that indicates the promotional credit has been added to your account.

Here are some mixed book suggestions that you may consider:

Here are (again) my recommended books about early retirement and financial freedom:

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

Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Card Review: 80,000 + 5,000 Bonus Points Offer

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The Chase IHG Rewards Club Select card has upped their public sign-up bonus to 80,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. You can get an additional 5,000 bonus points when you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase in the first three months from account opening. The annual fee is waived for the first year, then $49 a year afterward.

Sign-up bonus details. 80k is a solid offer historically, but I should mention that there is also a targeted link for 100,000 bonus points after $2,000 in purchases within 3 months. The problem is that if you click on “Apply Now” you probably won’t get an actual application. However, there are reports that if you ask Chase nicely to match a better offer that you happened to see, they will agree. Worth a shot, but don’t count on it. Use their secure online messaging and create a digital paper trail.

This card is NOT subject to any “5/24” restrictions (where Chase limits you to less than 5 credit cards opened in the last 24 months. Our household strategy is to have one person only apply for Chase 5/24 cards, and the other person applies for everything else. You must not have had this specific IHG card within the last 24 months, however:

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.

IHG stands for Intercontinental Hotel Group which has over 5,000 hotels including the following brands:

  • Intercontinental® Hotels & Resorts
  • Crowne Plaza®
  • Holiday Inn®, Holiday Inn Express
  • Staybridge Suites®
  • Candlewood Suites®
  • Hotel Indigo®
  • EVEN Hotels

Free hotel night upon annual card renewal. Upon paying the $49 annual fee, you will get a free night certificate good at any IHG hotel worldwide. Assuming you can use it within 12 months, it is actually a good deal for $49.

Anniversary Free Night is valid at hotels in the IHG® Rewards Club Family of Brands and must be redeemed, and stay must be completed, within 12 months from date of issue. Anniversary Free Night is valid for one standard room night rate and applicable taxes only. Rooms are limited, subject to prior sale and availability of allocated resources and may be unavailable during high demand periods.

Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a credit cardmember. Perks include priority check-in and complimentary room upgrades (that actually happen). You also get 10% back when you redeem your points, up to 100,000 points each year.

Rewards on card purchases. Here’s the tiered rewards structure:

  • Earn 5 points for each $1 spent at IHG hotels
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants
  • Earn 1 point for $1 spent on everything else.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Based on the value estimates below, I would not put all your everyday spending on this card.

IHG point value estimates. IHG Rewards Club puts out a new list of PointBreaks hotels every few months where you can redeem a hotel night for only 5,000 points. That means 80,000 points could technically earn you 16 free nights! If those hotel rooms would otherwise cost $100 a night including taxes, you’d be getting $1,600 value from 80,000 points. This is how you can see valuations anywhere between 1.5 cents and 2 cents per IHG point.

But that’s not very realistic. There are some nice hotels on the list, but the locations are very specific and few people are sufficiently flexible with their travel to constantly take advantage of these deals.

I spent a week at a Staybridge Suites in Austin with my family and it was great. The room felt like an apartment with a living room, full kitchen, and separate bedroom. Every morning there was a buffet breakfast with eggs, bacon, cereal, bagels, fruit, yogurt, juice, and so on that I could grab and bring back into my suite where the kids could run around. I’ll be returning and willing to pay the going rate again, so how much would it cost me in points?

Here’s an actual rate quote for 8/9 to 8/16 for the same Staybridge Suites:

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Keep in mind that the quote doesn’t include taxes, which would make the $138 average nightly rate into $159 with taxes. The 30,000 points per night does include taxes, so that work outs to roughly 0.53 cents per IHG point. At that rate, 80,000 points would be worth $424.

You can perform the same calculations for hotels that fit your needs. I tried a bunch of other various combinations and always got between 0.5 cents and 1.1 cents per point equivalent value.

Bottom line. The 80,000 upfront sign-up bonus can be conservatively valued at $400 in hotel stays (although you may do much better). Grab the easy 5,000 points for first authorized user as well. IHG has a wide selection of hotels around the world, from Holiday Inns and Staybridge Suites to luxury InterContinental hotels. The annual fee is waived the first year, but upon $49 annual fee renewal you get a free night certificate good at any IHG hotel (based on availability).

Best Interest Rates on Cash Savings – July 2017

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Interest rates are slowly waking up from their multi-year slumber, so I am paying a bit more attention to the various changes each month. Don’t let a megabank pay you 0.01% APY or less for your idle cash. Here is my monthly roundup of the best safe rates available, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. Rates checked as of 7/4/17.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge brick-and-mortar banks rarely offer good yields, the online banks with a history of competitive rates offer online savings accounts clustered around 1% APY. Remember that with savings accounts, the interest rates can change at any time.

  • As I’ve been “bait-and-switched” a few times, I try to stick with savings accounts that have a consistent history of competitive rates and a good user experience. My favorite is currently Ally Bank Online Savings, which recently bumped their rate to 1.15% APY.
  • The Mega Money Market accounts of both Redneck Bank and All America Bank (they are affiliated) are paying 1.50% APY on balances up to $35,000. Note that amounts over $35,000 earn only 0.50% APY.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, you should know that money market and short-term Treasury rates have been inching upwards. It may be worth the effort to move your money into a higher-yielding money market fund or ultrashort-term bond ETF.

  • The Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund has increased their SEC yield now to 1.07%. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which only has an SEC yield of 0.87%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.
  • The following bond ETFs are not FDIC-insured, but if you want to keep “standby money” in your brokerage account and have cheap/free trades, it may be worth a look. The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 1.49% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 1.53% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months. More info here.

Short-term guaranteed rates (under 1 year)
I am often asked what to do with a big wad of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (just sold your house, just sold your business, inheritance). Honestly, I wouldn’t get fancy or take unnecessary risk. Just keep it safe in a short-term CD or online savings account that in insured under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.

  • The Ally Bank No-Penalty 11-Month CD is now paying 1.50% APY for $25,000+ balances and 1.25% APY for $5,000+ balances. The lack of early withdrawal means that you can your interest rate can never go down for 11 months, but you can still jump ship if rates rise.
  • Salem Five Direct is advertising 1.25% APY on balances up to $500,000. The good news is that this rate is guaranteed until 7/1/18 – more than a year away – and since it is a savings account you can still move your money in and out without penalty. The bad news is that this rate is for new customers only.

US Savings Bonds
Series I Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation and backed by the US government. You must hold them for at least a year. There are annual purchase limits. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest.

  • “I Bonds” bought between May and October 2017 will earn a 1.96% rate for the first six months, and then a variable rate based on ongoing inflation after that. While that next 6-month rate is currently unknown, at the very minimum the total yield after 12 months will around 1% with additional upside potential. More info here.
  • In mid-October, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.

Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with high interest rates. The risks are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). The other catch is that these good features may be killed off without much notice. My NetSpend card now only has an eligible balance up to $1,000.

  • Insight Card is one of the best remaining cards with 5% APY on up to $5,000 as of this writing. Fees to avoid include the $1 per purchase fee, $2.50 for each ATM withdrawal, and the $3.95 inactivity fee if there is no activity within 90 days. If you can navigate it carefully (basically only use ACH transfers and keep up your activity regularly) you can still end up with more interest than other options. Earning 4% extra interest on $5,000 is $200 a year.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with some risk. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Rates can also drop quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. But the rates can be high while they last.

  • Consumers Credit Union offers up to 4.59% APY on up to a $20k balance, although 3.09% APY on a $10k balance is more realistic unless you satisfy a long list of requirements. Note that the 4.59% APY requires you to apply and get approved for an additional credit card through them (other credit cards offer $500+ in sign-up bonuses) and also spend $1,000 on it every month. Keep your 12 debit purchases small as well, as for every $500 in monthly purchases you may be losing out on 2% cashback (or $10 a month on after-tax benefit). Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

Certificates of deposit
If you have a large cushion, it’s quite likely to just sit there for years. One option is to keep your money in longer-term investments where you can still take it out in a true emergency and pay a reasonable early withdrawal penalty. Alternatively, you could create a CD ladder of different maturity lengths such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account.

  • Connexus Credit Union is offering a 1-year Share Certificate at 1.50% APY (90-day early withdrawal penalty) and a 3-year Share Certificate (180-day early withdrawal penalty) at 2.00% APY. Both have a $5,000 minimum deposit. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization Connexus Association for a one-time $5 fee.
  • Hanscom Federal Credit Union is offering a 4-year Share Certificate at 2.50% APY (180-day early withdrawal penalty) if you also have Premier Checking (no monthly fee if you keep $6,000 in total balances or $2,000 in checking). HFCU also offer a 3% APY CU Thrive “starter” savings account. HFCU membership is open to active/retired military or anyone who makes a one-time $35 donation to the Nashua River Watershed Association.
  • Ally Bank also has a 5-year CD at 2.25% APY with a relatively short 150-day early withdrawal penalty and no credit union membership hoops. For example, if you closed this CD after 18-months, you can get a 1.64% effective APY even after accounting for the penalty.

Longer-term Instruments
I’d use these with caution, but I still track them to see the rest of the current yield curve.

  • Willing to lock up your money for 10+ years? You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer the same FDIC-insurance. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 10-year non-callable CD at 2.60% APY (2.70% if you log into Fidelity). (Unfortunately, current long-term CD rates do not rise much higher even as you extend beyond a 5-year maturity.) Prices will vary daily.
  • How about two decades!? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a guarantee that the value will double in value in 20 years, which equals a guaranteed return of 3.5% a year. However, if you don’t hold for that long, you’ll be stuck with the normal rate which is quite low (currently a sad 0.10% rate). You could view as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as long-term bond and thus a hedge against deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years. Too long for me.

All rates were checked as of 7/4/17.

Switch to Sprint, Get One Year of Free Cell Service (Unlimited Talk, Text, Data Plan)

blacksprint

Offer appears to still be live, but may end at any time. I decided to jump on this deal. We will save several hundred dollars and we get unlimited data which we didn’t have before. Some quick notes:

  • Offer now expires 7/30. The original offer was extended by a month. If you order by 2pm EST, they will send the SIM cards that same day by UPS Next Day Air.
  • Activation was quick and easy. The activation process was done 100% online, and it took under 20 minutes to swap SIM cards and port the existing numbers over.
  • Some people have been successful switching from prepaid service, especially Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile Prepaid. Use the checker tool at sprint.com/1yearfree. Another tactic is to first move to T-Mobile’s cheapest prepaid $3/month plan ($10 minimum load) and then immediately port over to Sprint.
  • The total cost for two SIMs was $2.99 each + $10 flat shipping = $15.98 + sales tax.
  • To complete activation after you get the SIM cards, you will need your SIM card #, phone IMEI/MEID #, and current carrier’s account number and PIN.
  • I created a Sprint account but no bill has been generated, so I don’t know the exact monthly bill amount yet. Various online reports I’ve seen are $3 to $4 total monthly bill per line including taxes.
  • A big promo like this was smart as this was the only way I would switch to Sprint. In my area, they have the worst relative coverage and the slowest data speeds. I don’t stream a lot of 1080p video or download huge files on my phone, so the ~3 Mbps that I am getting is fine.
  • This plan also comes with Sprint Global Roaming, which includes “data up to 2G speeds and text messaging in any of our 165+ Global Roaming countries at no charge, plus calling for just $0.20 a minute.”

Original post:

Sprint has a limited-time promotion aimed at existing postpaid customers of Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Sprint will give a free year of service to new customers who switch to Sprint and sign up on sprint.com/1yearfree by 7/30/17. Your free unlimited talk, text, and data service will run until 7/31/18. There is no requirement to continue service past that. Offer is valid for 1-5 lines. For example, if you currently pay $100 a month, this promotion is worth $1,200. If you pay $150 a month now, that’s $1,800 value.

The current promotion for Sprint Unlimited is $50 1st line, $40 2nd line, and $0 for lines 3-5. That’s $90 a year for 5 lines until 6/30/18. This new offer is for a free year of service, so even at that number it’s worth $1,080.

Important requirements and fine print:

  • You must bring over a phone that is already unlocked and compatible with Sprint (so that you just need to switch SIM cards). If you have AT&T or T-Mobile you may need to call them up and ask to unlock your phone. See list below, but enter your MEID and phone number to check eligibility.
  • You must own the phone(s) you’re bringing to Sprint. (Not on a lease plan.)
  • You must still pay a small monthly fee: “standard $1.99 admin fee, $0.40 regulatory fee and other taxes and fees apply.”
  • The $30 activation fee is waived as part of this promotion. The fee will appear on your first bill and a credit will appear within 2 bills.
  • Requires a Sprint SIM card ($2.99 each + $10 shipping), paperless statements and Sprint AutoPay ($5/mo./line discount applied within two invoices). If AutoPay and eBill are removed, a $7.99/mo. charge will apply.
  • This deal is not available in any stores, you must sign up online through the special website above.
  • According to the terms, you must port-in from another postpaid carrier. Sprint requires a hard credit check on all new postpaid customers, including this offer.
  • If you keep the service past 7/31/18, you will then start to pay $60/mo. for line 1, $40/mo. for line 2 & $30/mo./line for lines 3-5.

Details about the Sprint Unlimited Plan:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data subject to the following limits below. Data deprioritization applies during congestion after 23 GB.
  • Stream video at up to HD 1080p, music at up to 1.5mbps, gaming at up to 8mbps.
  • 10GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data per line. Once your 10GB is used up, continue at up to 2G speeds (32 Kbps) for no additional cost, or purchase more on-network high-speed data for $15/1GB until the monthly billing cycle resets.

The following phones are eligible:

  • Apple iPhone 5C (Verizon only)
  • Apple iPhone 5S (Verizon only)
  • Apple iPhone 6
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
  • Apple iPhone 6S
  • Apple iPhone 6S Plus
  • Apple iPhone 7 (Verizon only)
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus (Verizon only)
  • Apple iPhone SE
  • Google Nexus 5 (Verizon only)
  • Google Nexus 5X
  • Google Nexus 6
  • Google Nexus 6P
  • Google Pixel
  • Google Pixel XL
  • Motorola E4
  • Motorola Z2 Play
  • Motorola G4
  • Motorola G4 Play
  • Motorola G4 Plus
  • Motorola G5 Plus
  • Motorola X Pure Edition
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge Special Edition
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Special Edition
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 Special Edition
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ Special Edition

I’m definitely tempted by free (or at least somewhat close to it). Too bad they don’t allow switching in from a prepaid carrier. I would try their online website to check eligibility, even if you are on a prepaid carrier some people are getting approval.