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Hanscom Federal CU Thrive Review: 5.00% APY Saving Habit Builder and Maintainer

savebuttonbankHanscom Federal Credit Union (HFCU) has hiked back up the rate on their CU Thrive account to 5.00% APY, which is a capped 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 the creation AND maintenance of a modest savings habit. 5.00% APY is more than 10 times what the top “high-yield” savings accounts offer right now.

How much interest can I earn? At 5% APY, if you maxed out this account and set aside the full $500 a month for 12 months, at the end you’d have put in $6,000 and earned about $150 in interest by the end of the year (~$162 if you made every transfer on the 1st of the each month by my quick calculations). $6,000 also happens to be just about the same amount as a full Roth IRA contribution (hint hint) or the foundation of a solid emergency fund.

At the end of the 12 months, all accrued savings plus earned dividends will be transferred into your primary savings account. It will NOT automatically renew at maturity. 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 to keep up the savings habit (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. HFCU membership is open to active duty or retired military along with many other groups (see application), but anyone can also join the Air Force Association, Paul Revere Chapter for a one-time $20 fee and be eligible. On the application, choose the option “I am a member of or will be joining a sponsoring member organization.” You must also keep $25 in the share savings account as long as you are a member.

New refer-a-friend program. HFCU has a referral program which offers an additional $30 cash bonus after your new savings and checking accounts are open and in good standing for 90 days. The referring member gets $30 as well. 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 (from a few years ago). I started the online application and 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 (not sure if this is still an option today). They didn’t mention if this would be considered a cash advance or not, but it showed up as a purchase for me. 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 add that money to the account. 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 20 consecutive years. When I had this account, I earned another $1.57 in bonus loyalty dividends on top of my $78.46 of interest earned.

In addition to the CU Thrive and free checking options, HFCU also has a Kasasa Cash Checking account that offers up to 1.00% APY on balances up to $15,000 if you make at least 12 debit card or credit card purchases per month, complete at least 1 ACH Credit/Direct deposit per month, and enroll in online statements. This isn’t the highest Kasasa rate available nationwide, but if you’re already a member, it may be convenient.

Bottom line. The CU Thrive account is a good option for people looking to build up a savings habit, with 5.00% APY for 12 months. However, the system really works best if you use HFCU’s free checking as your primary checking account. (You may also consider their Kasasa Cash checking account with higher interest but debit card activity requirements.) 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.

5% Cash Back Cards: Walmart, PayPal, Amazon.com, Target.com – October through December 2021

5percentbackAdded new Chase Freedom Flex offer. The credit cards below offer up to 5% cash back on specific categories that rotate each quarter. It takes a little extra attention, but it can add up to hundreds of dollars in additional rewards per year without changing your spending habits. You can also buy gift cards at places with 5% back now but spend the gift cards later. New cardmembers may also get an upfront sign-up bonus.

Chase Freedom Flex Card

From October 1st through December 31st, 2021 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Walmart including Walmart Discount Stores, SuperCenters, Neighborhood Markets, Walmart.com, Walmart branded gas stations operated by Walmart, and Walmart Pay.
  • PayPal purchases paid using your Freedom Flex. Friends and Family or Person-to-Person (P2P) transactions are excluded.

(The categories are also the same for the old Chase Freedom card, which is no longer available to new applicants.)

(Added: Chase is also adding a “Top Spend Category Bonus” where you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1500 in total spend in the eligible rewards category where you spend the most from October 1 – December 31, 2021. See link for details on the stacking possibilities.)

Enroll each quarter online in your Chase account or at ChaseBonus.com. As long as you activate by December 14th, the rewards are retroactive. Technically, you earn Ultimate Rewards points which can also be converted to airline miles or hotel points instead of cash if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card. You could also use the Pay Yourself Back tool to get 25% to 50% more than 1 cent/point value. Currently, the Chase Freedom Flex card is offering new applicants a $200 bonus if you sign up and make $500 in purchases in your first three months. No annual fee.

Discover it 14 ImageDiscover it Card

From October 1st through December 31st, 2021, you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Amazon.com
  • Walmart.com
  • Target.com

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. No annual fee.

Discover it $100 bonus details. If you are a new applicant and sign up via my Discover Card referral link, you will get a $50 improved $100 Cashback Bonus after your first purchase within 3 months of being account opening. You will also get Cashback Match for an entire year – a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. During those 12 months, your 5% cash back rewards becomes 10% cash back, and your 1% cash back rewards become 2% cash back. You can verify this on the application by looking under “Terms and Conditions” or searching for “cashback match” and “statement credit offer”:

Cashback Match: We’ll match all the cash back rewards you’ve earned on your credit card from the day your new account is approved through your first 12 consecutive billing periods or 365 days, whichever is longer, and add it to your rewards account within two billing periods.

* You will receive a $100 Statement Credit after making a purchase that posts to your account within three months of account opening. You must apply through your friend’s referral link and be approved by December 31, 2021 in order to be eligible for the $100 Statement Credit offer. Offer may not be combined with any other introductory offer. Promotional award will be applied within 8 weeks.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card.

  • 6% cash back at US supermarkets all year long (on up to $6,000 per year)
  • 6% cash back at select US streaming subscriptions (includes Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Netflix, Sling, Vudu, Fubo TV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube TV, and more).
  • 3% cash back at US gas stations and transit (taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).

I use this card all year long for groceries and put all my streaming services on it, and then in December use up the $6k annual limit on gift cards bought in the supermarket aisle. New cardholders are also eligible for a sizeable welcome offer. See details in link.

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card. You must choose the two 5% cash back categories every quarter, out of a preset selection of specific categories:

  • Fast Food
  • Cell Phone Providers
  • Home Utilities
  • Ground Transportation
  • Select Clothing Stores
  • Electronics Stores
  • Car Rentals
  • Gyms/Fitness Centers
  • Sporting Goods Stores
  • Department Stores
  • Furniture Stores
  • Movie Theaters
  • TV, Internet, and Streaming Services

Unfortunately, you can’t pick a broad category like gas stations, restaurants, or grocery stores. Make sure to choose your categories each and every quarter, even if you want them to stay the same. If you do not choose your categories, all purchases revert to only earning 1% cash back for that quarter. No annual fee.

Amazon Prime Rewards Card. Earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods all year long. Prime membership required. New cardholder bonus varies by person. No annual fee.

Citi Custom Cash Card. This new card offers 5% cash back on your top eligible spending category up to $500 spent each month. The maximum amount of $500 per month is less than the $1,500 per month of many cards above, but the category shifts according to your spending. You could, for example, only use this card for gas all year long.

Citi Dividend Card. This card is no longer available to new applicants, but if you still have the grandfathered card you can view and activate your quarterly 5% category here. Limit of $300 cash back for the calendar year.

Don’t settle for the “1% on everything else” that these cards offer. Get 2% cash back or higher. Check out the card-specific reviews for details.

Chase Freedom Flex Review: $200 Bonus, 5% Back on Groceries For First Year, 5% Rotating Categories, No Annual Fee

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