Upgrade Premier Savings: Up to $500 Deposit Bonus + 5.21% APY (Improved)

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(Update 2/27/24: Upgrade has improved this promotion in multiple ways: the base interest has been raised to 5.21% APY, all of the tiers have been improved ($50 is now $75, $200 is now $300), and a new $500 tier has been added.)

Upgrade is offering up to a $500 deposit bonus via referral link when you open their standalone Premier Savings account and make a deposit of at least $15,000 in the first 30 days and leave it there for at least an additional 60 days. No credit check for me. FDIC insurance through Cross River Bank.

Note: This is a separate bonus from the ongoing $200 Upgrade Rewards Checking bonus, which had a direct deposit requirement. You can add on a “Performance Savings” account onto a Rewards Checking account, while this offer is for a different “Premier Savings” account.

Per the fine print, you should be able to get this bonus as long as this is your first “Premier Savings” account. It doesn’t matter if you already got the Rewards Checking bonus (as I did). You just need to make sure you use a referral link with the promotion attached.

If you have never had a Premier Savings account through Upgrade (a “New Customer”), you can receive a Welcome Bonus (defined below) if you (1) use an Existing Customer’s unique referral link to open a new Premier Savings account, subject to account approval, by the Offer Period, (2) make a deposit within 30 days of opening the new account, and (3) after the initial 30-day period, maintain at all times during an additional 60 days the minimum account balance presented to you (a “Qualified Registration”).

The account opening process for my first Upgrade account was very quick and easy, literally under 5 minutes. I did not have to upload any extra documentation and I did not experience any hard credit checks. The account was open and ready the day after application. If you are an existing customer (as I was this time), it was even faster. All my details were pre-filled and so it just took a few clicks. (Update: Some users report having much higher ID verification requirements. So YMMV.)

All of my previously-linked external bank account details were also available to make a transfer. Upgrade uses Finicity (owned by Mastercard) for linking external bank accounts.

Here are the highlights of the Premier Savings account:

  • 5.21% APY as of 2/27/24 with $1,000 minimum balance required to earn interest.
  • No direct deposit requirement (unlike the Performance Savings).
  • No monthly fees.

Napkin math (Effective APY). If you deposit towards the end of the 30-day funding period, your technical minimal holding period is 60 days.

For the $15,000, $30,000, and $100,000 deposit tiers, earning 0.50% on your funds with a 60 day holding period works out to an additional 3.00% annualized yield. If you assume the current 5.21% APY, that adds up to a total effective interest of roughly 8.21% APY annualized for 2 months.

For the $50,000 deposit tier, earning 0.60% on your funds with a 60 day holding period works out to an additional 3.60% annualized yield. If you assume the current 5.21% APY, that adds up to a total effective interest of roughly 8.81% APY annualized for 2 months.

A straightforward deposit promotion with a smooth application and short hold period that doesn’t incur a hard credit check. The savings account also has a high base APY to keep around long-term. Finallly, it also stacks with another $200 checking account promotion from the same place. This is my Upgrade Premier Savings up to $500 referral link. Thanks if you use it.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Wells Fargo $325 Checking + $225 Savings Account Bonuses

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

Updated with current $325 Checking + $225 Savings offers. Wells Fargo has brought back a few larger bonuses for both new checking and savings account customers. The checking bonus requires direct deposit and the savings bonus requires a $10,000 new money deposit for at least 90 days. You must live in an eligible zip code, but their footprint is pretty big. Found via DoC. Currently, the offers end on April 9th, 2024.

  • $325 bonus for a new Everyday Checking account. You are not eligible for this offer if you currently have Wells Fargo consumer checking account or if you have received a bonus for opening a Wells Fargo consumer checking account within the past 12 months.
  • $225 bonus for a new Way2Save® Savings account. You are not eligible for this offer if you currently have Wells Fargo consumer savings account or if you have received a bonus for opening a Wells Fargo consumer savings account within the past 12 months.

$325 Everyday Checking account bonus details.

  • Open a new Everyday Checking account with a minimum opening deposit of $25 by April 9, 2024 online via the link above. If you open in-branch, you must first generate a bonus offer code via the link above.
  • Within 90 calendar days of account opening (the “qualification period”), receive a total of $1,000 or more in qualifying direct deposits to your new checking account. “A qualifying direct deposit is an ACH (Automated Clearing House) automatic electronic deposit of your salary, pension, Social Security, or other regular income into your bank account.”
  • Once the 90-day qualification period has elapsed, they will deposit any earned bonus into your new checking account within 30 days.

In the past, Wells Fargo has not done a “hard credit check” upon a new account opening, while also being pretty flexible with what qualifies as a direct deposit.

The Wells Fargo Everyday Checking account monthly service fee is $10, but it is waived with one of the following each fee period:

  • $500 minimum daily balance
  • $500 or more in total qualifying “electronic” deposits

$225 Way2Save Savings account bonus details.

  • Open a new new Way2Save Savings account with a minimum opening deposit of $25 by April 9, 2024 online via the link above. If you open in-branch, you must first generate a bonus offer code via the link above.
  • Within 30 calendar days of account opening (the “qualification period”), deposit $10,000 or more in new money to your new savings account and maintain at least a $10,000 balance for 90 days after account opening. New money is money that is new to the customer or new to Wells Fargo (deposited into the customer’s new savings account from outside of Wells Fargo and Company and all affiliates, or from a Wells Fargo account not owned by the customer).
  • Bonus will be deposited into your new savings account within 30 days after you have met all offer requirements.

The Way2Save interest rate is a horrible 0.01% APY. However, receiving the $225 bonus for holding $10,000 for 90 days works out to roughly a 9% annualized rate of return over those 90 days.

The Way2Save® Savings $5 monthly service fee can be avoided with one of the following each fee period:

  • $300 minimum daily balance
  • 1 automatic transfer each fee period of $25 or more from a linked Wells Fargo checking account
  • 1 automatic transfer each business day within the fee period of $1 or more from a linked Wells Fargo checking account.
  • 1 or more Save As You Go® transfers from a linked Wells Fargo checking account.
  • Primary account owner is 24 years old or under. (When the primary account owner reaches the age of 25, age can no longer be used to avoid the monthly service fee.) Customers 12 and under must have an adult co-owner.
My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Best Interest Rates on Cash – February 2024

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash as of February 2024, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. There are often lesser-known opportunities available to individual investors, where you could earn a lot more money while keeping the same level of safety by moving to another FDIC-insured bank or NCUA-insured credit union. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to see how much extra interest you could earn from switching. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 2/5/2024.

TL;DR: Mostly minor movements. Still 5%+ savings accounts and short-term CDs, but no more 5-year CDs at 5% APY. Compare against Treasury bills and bonds at every maturity, taking into account state tax exemption.

Fintech accounts
Available only to individual investors, fintech companies often pay higher-than-market rates in order to achieve fast short-term growth (often using venture capital). “Fintech” is usually a software layer on top of a partner bank’s FDIC insurance.

  • 5.32% APY ($1 minimum). Raisin lets you switch between different FDIC-insured banks and NCUA-insured credit unions easily without opening a new account every time, and their liquid savings rates currently top out at 5.32% APY. See my Raisin review for details. Raisin does not charge depositors a fee for the service.
  • 5.36% APY (before fees). MaxMyInterest is another service that allows you to access and switch between different FDIC-insured banks. You can view their current banks and APYs here. As of 12/6/23, the highest rate is from Customers Bank at 5.36% APY. However, note that they charge a membership fee of 0.04% per quarter, or 0.16% per year (subject to $20 minimum per quarter, or $80 per year). That means if you have a $10,000 balance, then $80 a year = 0.80% per year. This service is meant for those with larger balances. You are allowed to cancel the service and keep the bank accounts, but then you may lose their specially-negotiated rates and cannot switch between banks anymore.

High-yield savings accounts
Since the huge megabanks STILL pay essentially no interest, everyone should have a separate, no-fee online savings account to piggy-back onto your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I list the top rates as well as competitive rates from banks with a history of competitive rates and solid user experience. Some banks will bait you with a temporary top rate and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

  • The top rate at the moment is at Milli (app only) at 5.50% APY. BrioDirect at 5.35% APY. CIT Platinum Savings at 5.05% APY with $5,000+ balance.
  • SoFi Bank is now up to 4.60% APY + up to $325 new account bonus with direct deposit. You must maintain a direct deposit of any amount each month for the higher APY. SoFi has historically competitive rates and full banking features. See details at $25 + $300 SoFi Money new account and deposit bonus.
  • Here is a limited survey of high-yield savings accounts. They aren’t the highest current rate, but historically have kept it relatively competitive and I like to track their history.

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
A common question is what to do with a big pile of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (plan to buy a house soon, just sold your house, just sold your business, legal settlement, inheritance). My usual advice is to keep things simple and take your time. If not a savings account, then put it in a flexible short-term CD under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.

  • No Penalty CDs offer a fixed interest rate that can never go down, but you can still take out your money (once) without any fees if you want to use it elsewhere. Raisin has a 5-month No Penalty CD at 5.36% APY with $1 minimum deposit and 30-day minimum hold time. CIT Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 4.90% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 4.25% APY for all balance tiers. Marcus has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 4.70% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. Consider opening multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Lafayette Federal Credit Union has a 1-year certificate at 5.56% APY ($500 min). They also have jumbo certificates with $100,000 minimums at even higher rates, but a harsh 180-day penalty if you withdraw your CD funds before maturity. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($10 one-time fee).
  • CIBC Agility Online has a 12-month CD at 5.51% APY. Reasonable 30-day penalty if you withdraw your CD funds before maturity.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
Many brokerage firms that pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the difference for themselves). Note: Money market mutual funds are highly-regulated, but ultimately not FDIC-insured, so I would still stick with highly reputable firms. I am including a few ultra-short bond ETFs as they may be your best cash alternative in a brokerage account, but they may experience losses.

  • Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund is the default sweep option for Vanguard brokerage accounts, which has an SEC yield of 5.28% (changes daily, but also works out to a compound yield of 5.41%, which is better for comparing against APY). Odds are this is much higher than your own broker’s default cash sweep interest rate.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 5.39% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 5.15% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months.

Treasury Bills and Ultra-short Treasury ETFs
Another option is to buy individual Treasury bills which come in a variety of maturities from 4-weeks to 52-weeks and are fully backed by the US government. You can also invest in ETFs that hold a rotating basket of short-term Treasury Bills for you, while charging a small management fee for doing so. T-bill interest is exempt from state and local income taxes, which can make a significant difference in your effective yield.

  • You can build your own T-Bill ladder at TreasuryDirect.gov or via a brokerage account with a bond desk like Vanguard and Fidelity. Here are the current Treasury Bill rates. As of 2/5/24, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 5.39% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 4.64% annualized interest.
  • The iShares 0-3 Month Treasury Bond ETF (SGOV) has a 5.17% SEC yield and effective duration of 0.10 years. SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 5.24% SEC yield and effective duration of 0.08 years.

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. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest. The annual purchase limit for electronic I bonds is $10,000 per Social Security Number, available online at TreasuryDirect.gov. You can also buy an additional $5,000 in paper I bonds using your tax refund with IRS Form 8888.

  • “I Bonds” bought between November 2023 and April 2024 will earn a 5.27% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More on Savings Bonds here.
  • In mid-April 2023, 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.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops which usually involve 10+ debit card purchases each cycle, a certain number of ACH/direct deposits, and/or a certain number of logins per month. If you make a mistake (or they judge that you did) you risk earning zero interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others would rather not bother. Rates can also drop suddenly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling.

  • OnPath Federal Credit Union pays 7.00% APY on up to $10,000 if you make 15 debit card purchases, opt into online statements, and login to online or mobile banking once per statement cycle. Anyone can join this credit union via $5 membership fee to join partner organization. You can also get a $100 Visa Reward card when you open a new account and make qualifying transactions.
  • Credit Union of New Jersey pays 6.00% APY on up to $25,000 if you make 15 debit card purchases, opt into online statements, and make at least 1 direct deposit, online bill payment, or automatic payment (ACH) per statement cycle. Anyone can join this credit union via $5 membership fee to join partner organization.
  • Pelican State Credit Union pays 6.05% APY on up to $20,000 if you make 15 debit card purchases, opt into online statements, log into your account at least once, and make at least 1 direct deposit, online bill payment, or automatic payment (ACH) per statement cycle. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization membership.
  • Orion Federal Credit Union pays 6.00% APY on up to $10,000 if you make electronic deposits of $500+ each month (ACH transfers count) and spend $500+ on your Orion debit or credit card each month. Anyone can join this credit union via $10 membership fee to partner organization membership.
  • All America/Redneck Bank pays 5.30% APY on up to $15,000 if you make 10 debit card purchases each monthly cycle with online statements.
  • Find a locally-restricted rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
CDs offer higher rates, but come with an early withdrawal penalty. By finding a bank CD with a reasonable early withdrawal penalty, you can enjoy higher rates but maintain access in a true emergency. Alternatively, consider building a CD ladder of different maturity lengths (ex. 1/2/3/4/5-years) such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account. When one CD matures, use that money to buy another 5-year CD to keep the ladder going. Some CDs also offer “add-ons” where you can deposit more funds if rates drop.

  • Library Of Congress Federal Credit Union has a 60-month CD at 4.84% APY with $500 minimum. Shorter terms are pretty competitive as well: 4-year at 4.89% APY. 3-year at 5.25% APY. 2-year at 5.20% APY. 1-year at 5.35% APY. The early withdrawal penalty for the 5-year is 180 days of interest. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization.
  • BMO Alto has a 5-year CD at 4.60% APY. 4-year at 4.60% APY. 3-year at 4.60% APY. 2-year at 4.75% APY. 1-year at 5.30% APY. No minimum. The early withdrawal penalty (EWP) for CD maturities of 1 year or more is 180 days of interest. For CD maturities of 11 months or less, the EWP is 90 days of interest. Note that they reserve the right to prohibit early withdrawals entirely. Online-only subsidiary of BMO Bank.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. You may need an account to see the rates. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. Right now, I see a 5-year non-callable CD at 4.10% APY (callable: no, call protection: yes). Be warned that now both Vanguard and Fidelity will list higher rates from callable CDs, which importantly means they can call back your CD if rates drop later.

Longer-term Instruments
I’d use these with caution due to increased interest rate risk, 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 long-term certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. You might find something that pays more than your other brokerage cash and Treasury options. Right now, I see a 10-year CDs at [n/a] (callable: no, call protection: yes) vs. 4.16% for a 10-year Treasury. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs where they can call your CD back if interest rates drop.

All rates were checked as of 2/5/2023.

Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Laurel Road High Yield Savings Deposit Bonus: 5.00% APY + Up to $200 (Referral Only)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

Laurel Road is a digital brand of KeyBank that reminds me of SoFi in that they are building a relationship that starts with student loan refinances and then expands to personal loans, mortgages, bank accounts, and credit cards. Last year, I opened a Laurel Road checking account that currently includes a new customer bonus worth up to $340 during the first year.

Laurel Road is running a new up to $200 deposit bonus for their High Yield Savings Account by referral only (that’s mine). This bonus is on top of the standard interest rate, which is currently a competitive 5.00% APY. Here are the steps:

  • Open a High Yield Savings account before April 30th, 2024 using a referral link that shows this offer. Offer not available on their regular website.
  • Deposit at least $1 in the first 20 calendar days of account open.
  • Have at least $5,000 (or whatever tier you pick) in your account by calendar day 90 after open. $50 bonus for deposit total between $5,000–$14,999.99. $100 bonus for deposit total between $15,000–$29,999.99. $200 bonus for deposit total of $30,000+.
  • Once the requirements are met, the bonus amount will mailed to you as a check within 45 days of meeting the requirements. Your account must be open to receive the bonus, no other form of payment will be provided.

Importantly, my reading of the terms is that there is no minimum hold period. The fine print clearly states:

*Must deposit a minimum of $1 within the first 20 days and must have the relevant tiered account balance on the 90th day.

Napkin math. Given that there is no minimum hold period, the annualized yield is theoretically sky-high. Note that the $50 bonus is at best a 1% bonus on $5,000 deposited, while the $100 and $200 bonuses are at best a 0.67% bonus on either $15,000 or $30,000, respectively. This is pretty solid since the standard APY is already competitive. Even if you held the money in there for 60 days, the $100/$200 bonuses would work out to an extra 4% annualized. Added to the 5.00% APY standard yield, that would be 9% total annualized.

Note: It says that the “Referred cannot be an existing or prior Laurel Road member in the last twelve (12) months.”. Therefore, I would do this savings bonus first, and then the checking bonus if you want that one too, as that offer does not includes this language (it only excludes prior Checking account holders).

The full fine print:

Starting at 12:00AM EST on January 30, 2024, through 11:59PM EST on April 30, 2024 (“Campaign Period”), a $50 bonus (the “Bonus”) will be awarded to Laurel Road members (“Referrer”) for each friend who opens a new Laurel Road High Yield Savings (HYS) account (the “Referred”) and meets the following requirements, the Referred must 1) submit the HYS account application through the Referrer’s link during the Campaign Period. 2) have a minimum HYS account balance of at least $1 by 7PM EST within the first twenty (20) calendar days of account opening, and 3) have a minimum balance of $5,000 by 11:59PM EST on the ninetieth (90th) calendar day of account opening for Referrer to earn the Bonus. This offer cannot be combined with any other programs and is not eligible for the standard Refer-A-Friend split. All other Laurel Road Referral Program Rules apply.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund: How to Claim Your State Income Tax Exemption

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

Updated January 2024. As the brokerage 1099 forms for 2023 are coming out, here is a quick reminder for those in states with local income taxes. If you earned interest from a money market fund, a significant portion of this interest may have come from US Treasury bills and bonds, which are generally exempt from state and local income taxes. However, in order to claim this exemption, you’ll have to manually enter it on your tax return after digging up a few extra details.

(Note: California, Connecticut, and New York exempt dividend income only when the mutual fund has met certain minimum investments in U.S. government securities. They require that 50% of a mutual fund’s assets at each quarter-end within the tax year consist of U.S. government obligations.)

Let’s take the default cash sweep option for Vanguard brokerage accounts, the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund (VMFXX), which has an SEC yield of 5.29% as of 1/29/24. Vanguard has recently released the U.S. government obligations income information for 2023 [pdf] for all their funds, which states:

This tax update provides information to help you properly report your state and local tax liability on ordinary income distributions you received from your mutual fund investments in 2023. On the next pages, you’ll find a list of Vanguard funds that earned a portion of their ordinary dividends from obligations of the U.S. government. Direct U.S. government obligations and certain U.S. government agency obligations are generally exempt from taxation in most states.*

To find the portion of Vanguard dividends that may be exempt from your state income tax, multiply the amount of “ordinary dividends” reported in Box 1a of your Form 1099-DIV by the percentage listed in the PDF. Note that on the IRS Form 1099-INT, there is a special Line 3 that includes “Interest on US Savings Bonds & Treasury obligations”. However, for the Vanguard funds, they report on 1099-DIV and not 1099-INT. My Vanguard 1099-INT was all zeros.

For the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, this percentage was 49.37% in 2023. Therefore, if you earned $1,000 in total interest from VMFXX in 2023, then $493.70 could possibly be exempt from state and local income taxes. If your marginal state income tax rate was 10% that would be a ~$50 tax savings for every $1,000 in total interest earned. This could apply to certain residents with enough income in states like Oregon, Hawaii, or Minnesota but not California, Connecticut, and New York due to their unique restrictions mentioned earlier.

However, the Vanguard Treasury Money Market Fund (VUSXX) does meet the threshold requirements for California, Connecticut, and New York as it had a GOI percentage of 80.06% in 2023. If your marginal state income tax rate was 10% that would be a ~$80 tax savings for every $1,000 in total interest earned. With a SEC yield of 5.30% as of 1/29/24, this is why many people chose to manually buy VUSXX instead of the default settlement fund as it can earn you a higher after-tax interest rate.

The following Vanguard funds and ETF equivalents have 100% of their interest from US government obligations:

  • Short-Term Treasury Index Fund (VGSH, VSBSX)
  • Intermediate-Term Treasury Index Fund (VGIT, VSIGX)
  • Long-Term Treasury Index Fund (VGLT, VLGSX)
  • Extended Duration Treasury Index Fund (EDV)
  • Short-Term Inflation-Protected Securities
    Index Fund (VTIP, VTAPX)
  • Inflation-Protected Securities Fund (VIPSX, VAIPX)

Note that several other Vanguard funds have a lower but nonzero percentage of dividends from US government obligations, including the popular Vanguard Target Retirement Income funds. It may be worth a closer look.

I don’t believe that TurboTax, H&R Block, and other tax software will do this automatically for you, as they won’t have the required information on their own. (I’m also not sure if they ask about it in their interview process.) If you use an accountant, you should also double-check to make sure they use this information. Here is some information on how to enter this into TurboTax:

  • When you are entering the 1099-DIV Box 1a, 1b, and 2a – click the “My form has info in other boxes (this is uncommon)” checkbox.
  • Next, click on the option “A portion of these dividends is U.S. Government interest.”
  • On the next screen enter the Government interest amount. This will be subtracted from your state return.

Here are some links to find the percentage of ordinary dividends that come from obligations of the U.S. government. You should be able to find this data for any mutual fund or ETF by searching for something like “[fund company] us government obligations 2023”]. If you do not see the fund listed within the fund company, it may be assumed to be 0%.

Standard disclosure: Check with your state or local tax office or with your tax advisor to determine whether your state allows you to exclude some or all of the income you earn from mutual funds that invest in U.S. government obligations.

[Image credit – Tax Foundation]

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Big List of Free Consumer Data Reports 2024: Check Your Credit, Banking, Rental History, Insurance, and Employment Data

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

magUpdated for 2024. Since these are available every 12 months, it is a good idea to check these near or around the same time each year. A lot of companies make their money by collecting and selling data – your personal data. It can be critical to know what they are telling prospective lenders, landlords, even employers about you. Under the FCRA and/or FACT Act, many consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) are now legally required to send you a free copy of your report every 12 months, as well as provide a way to dispute incorrect information.

Some have an online request form, but some are purposefully making it harder to check your reports by removing the online option. Don’t be afraid to call them if needed. You probably won’t want to bother checking all of them anyhow, but if you’ve experienced any sort of rejection or adverse action in these areas the cause might be found inside one of these databases. Keep in mind that you may not have a file with all of these places. Requesting a copy of your own consumer reports does not hurt your credit score.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been doing a much better job maintaining their own comprehensive list of CRAs (PDF version) recently, so I am editing down this list to include direct links to the overall categories along with the larger and more widely-used consumer reporting agencies.

Credit-Related

Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The three major credit bureaus track your credit accounts, payment history, and other related information like bankrupts and liens. Free online credit reports now available weekly (the frequency was increased from annual to weekly during the COVID pandemic, but that change has been made permanent).

(Note: As part of a class action settlement, you may also request up to six additional free copies of your Equifax credit report directly from myEquifax during any 12-month period through December 2026.)

You can also now freeze your credit reports for free, but you must contact each bureau separately. For the contact info, please see Big List of Ways To Protect Your Identity: Free Credit Monitoring, Free Credit Locks, and Free Credit Freezes

LexisNexis. One of the largest personal information databases that includes public records, real estate transaction and ownership data, lien, judgment, and bankruptcy records, professional license information, and historical addresses on file. Free copy, must mail in form.

CoreLogic Credco. One of the largest credit-related CRAs and often used by mortgage lenders, your CoreLogic Credco Consumer File can contain: previous homeownership and mortgage info, rental payment history, any reported delinquencies, and other debt obligations like child support. Free copy once every 12 months.

Banking-Related

Chexsystems. A consumer information database used by an estimated 80-90% of all banks to help determine the risk of opening new accounts. Think of it as the banks’ version of a credit bureau. If a person commits check fraud or overdraws their account, it will be listed here. In addition, the simple act of opening or closing a bank account may be recorded in their database. Having a negative ChexSystems record can leave you blacklisted from opening bank accounts at most major banks. Free copy once every 12 months. You can now request your report online.

Subprime-Related (Payday Lending)

Microbilt and subsidiary Payment Reporting Builds Credit (PRBC). Microbilt is a provider of credit data for the “approximately 110 million underserved and underbanked consumers in the United States.” Free copy once every 12 months.

Rental History

Realpage (LeasingDesk) Consumer Report. Provides tenant screening through their LeasingDesk product, including “the industry’s largest rental payment history database.”

CoreLogic SafeRent. SafeRent provides both tenant and employment screening data, including information regarding landlord tenant and criminal public court records. One free report every 12 months.

Experian RentBureau Rental History Report. “Every 24 hours, Experian RentBureau receives updated rental payment history data from property owners/managers, electronic rent payment services and collection companies and makes that information available immediately to the multifamily industry through our resident screening partners.”

TransUnion Rental Screening Solutions. SmartMove provides tenant credit, eviction, and background checks.

  • MySmartMove.com FAQ page
  • SmartMove will disclose the contents of a criminal and/or credit report retained by SmartMove to an individual who requests a copy of their report. To verify your identity and obtain a copy of your report(s) or dispute any information within that report, please contact customer service at 866-775-0961.

Auto and Property Insurance

C.L.U.E. Personal Property Report. A division of LexisNexis, CLUE stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, which collects information that is used to calculate your insurance premiums. This report provides a seven year history of losses associated with an individual and his/her personal property. Includes date of loss, loss type, and amount paid along with general information such as policy number, claim number and insurance company name. This also means you can find out about previous claims on the house you are currently renting or recently bought, even if they weren’t made by you.

C.L.U.E. Auto Report. This report provides a seven year history of automobile insurance losses associated with an individual. Includes date of loss, loss type, and amount paid along with general information such as policy number, claim number and insurance company name.

A-PLUS Loss History Reports, subsidiary of Verisk. ISO stands for Insurance Services Office, A-PLUS stands for Automated Property Loss Underwriting System. Auto and property loss claim history.

Utilities

National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange. NCTUE tracks when people don’t pay their phone, cable, or utility bills. One free report every 12 months.

Retail

The Retail Equation. Tracks product return and exchange abuse at retail merchants.

Medical History

MIB (previously known as Medical Information Bureau). Run by 470 insurance companies with a “primary mission of detecting and deterring fraud that may occur in the course of obtaining life, health, disability income, critical illness, and long-term care insurance.” They record information of “underwriting significance” like medical conditions or hazardous activities. If you have not applied for individually underwritten life, health, or disability income insurance during the preceding seven year period, then you probably don’t have a record.

Milliman IntelliScript. Tracks your prescription drug purchase history. “Milliman IntelliScript will have prescription information about you only if you authorized the release of your medical records to an insurance company and that company requested that we gather a report on you.”

Employment History

The following companies all offer background screening services for employers. Most will not have any information about you unless you authorized a potential employer to run a background check on you (probably during the application process). Some will not provide you information unless there was adverse action. Otherwise, you can get one free copy every 12 months.

The Work Number (division of Equifax). They also keep historical income records.

Backgroundchecks.com

Checkr

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Ally Bank Deposit Bonus: 0.50% of New Deposits, Up to $125 (New Customers via Referral Only)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

Ally Bank is one of my favorite banks in terms of user interface, practical features, and reliability. They were my primary checking account for years. Unfortunately, their savings account rates have been lagging the top rates by about 1% recently. Despite that, I still keep some active accounts there because I use them as my central hub connecting all my many different bank accounts.

Ally is running a new up to $125 deposit bonus by referral only (that’s mine). You get a 0.50% cash bonus on new money deposited (3/29/24 to 7/15/24) on top of their standard interest rate. Here are the details, direct from the offer page:

  • Enroll and open a new Ally Bank Savings Account by 3/1/2024. Enter your name and email address below to start your enrollment in the program. Be sure to open your Savings Account with the same email address you enroll with by 3/1/2024.
  • Fund and build your Savings Account balance. Deposit new money from another financial institution to your newly opened Savings Account by 3/25/2024. You can make multiple funding transactions between the account opening date and 3/25/2024, however your account must be funded within 30 days of opening, or it will be closed. You are eligible to receive a 0.50% cash bonus on the new money you deposit, up to $25,000 (max $125 cash bonus).
  • Keep your money parked through 7/15/2024 to earn your cash bonus. You will receive a 0.50% cash bonus, up to $125, on the new money you deposit into your Savings Account by 3/25/2024 as long as you retain your funds from 3/25/2024 through 7/15/2024. Your cash bonus will be deposited into your Savings Account on or by 7/31/2024.

Napkin math. You have to open by 3/1/24, but there is no minimum balance and you don’t need to make the qualifying deposit until 3/25. The minimum hold period is thus from 3/25 to 7/15, which is 112 days. If we round up to 120 days, then the 0.5% bonus works out to an extra 1.5% annualized yield during that hold period.

If you assume the current interest rate of 4.35% APY holds during the minimum hold period, your total annualized yield would be 4.35 + 1.5 = 5.85% APY. This is a net profit from the current top rate but isn’t an amazingly high number, so I probably wouldn’t do this deal unless you wanted an Ally Savings Account as a long-term account for other reasons beyond highest yield. Ally has done other deposit promos in the past that benefited existing customers. (I wonder if they’ve been losing a lot of deposits recently.)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Upgrade Rewards Checking $200 Referral Bonus + 5.21% APY Savings

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

Upgrade has increased the bonus from $150 to a $200 bonus via referral link on their Rewards Checking Plus account (referred gets $50). Must set up direct deposits totaling at least $1,000 within 45 days. Note: This promo usually scheduled to end at the end of the current month, but has been getting extended a month at a time.

Good news is the account opening process was very quick and easy, literally under 5 minutes. I did not have to upload any extra documentation and I did not experience any hard credit checks. The account was open and ready the day after application. FDIC insurance through Cross River Bank.

Here are the highlights of the Rewards Checking account, if you maintain that $1,000+ in monthly direct deposits:

  • 2% cash back at restaurants, gas stations, utilities, convenience stores, drugstores, select monthly subscriptions (including Netflix, SiriusXM, Spotify, Disney Plus), and cell phone providers (including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Cricket Wireless). Maximum of $500 in 2% rewards per calendar year.
  • 1% cash back on everything else. (unlimited)
  • No minimum balance, no monthly fees (even without direct deposit).
  • ATM fees rebated when charged by another institution for debit card withdrawals in the United States, up to five times per calendar month.
  • Can fund up to $500 instantly via debit card. Some of you may have debit cards that earn rewards.

An “Eligible Direct Deposit” is a recurring deposit to your Account by Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) from your employer, payroll, or benefits provider, or gig economy payer OR a deposit by Original Credit Transaction (“OCT”) from your gig economy payer. One-time direct deposits, including tax refunds, bank ACH transfers, bank verification or trial deposits, peer-to-peer transfers from services, such as PayPal or Venmo, merchant transactions, mobile check deposits, and cash loads or deposits are not Eligible Direct Deposits.

You can also add on their Performance Savings account with the following features, again with $1,000+ in monthly direct deposits into the Rewards Checking Plus:

  • 5.21% APY as of 2/27/24 (lower APY without direct deposits)
  • No minimum balance, no monthly fees (with or without direct deposits).

A straightforward checking direct deposit promotion that doesn’t incur a hard credit check, nor a large number of debit card transactions, nor require joining any partner organizations. Perfect if you can switch over and/or split direct deposits easily. Gig economy payments count.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


$6,500 IRA Contribution Bonus Challenge: $5,444 in Bonuses (2023 Year End)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

Final totals for 2023. Each year, I challenge myself to earn the equivalent of the maximum annual IRA contribution limit (up to $6,500 for 2023) using the profits from various finance promotions alone. In 2021, I reached $5,592 in bonuses. In 2022, I reached $6,259 in bonuses. I just went back and tallied up the totals so far for 2023.

I consider it a profitable hobby with serious potential if you add in some disciplined investing. If you had put $6,000 into your IRA every year for the recent 10 year period (2013-2022) and invested in a simple Target Date retirement fund, you would have turned small, weekly deals into a $104,000+ nest egg. You didn’t need to be an investing genius. Another example of Focus + Long attention span = Surprising results.

That’s worth repeating: An extra 100 grand has been the real-world result of playing this game and investing $500 a month in proceeds for the last 10 years! Not to mention, a couple could double these numbers.

Ground rules: Real-world results for one real person only. Following with My Money Blog tradition, this will track my personal, real-world results. It would be quite easy to list a bunch of promotions that add up to $6,000, but these will be promotions that I personally sign up for and complete the requirements (even though I’ve already opened 100+ bank accounts, credit cards, and brokerage accounts over the years). I will track my individual results only, although my partner does also participate on a more selective basis. Nearly all of them have been documented in real-time in the Deals and Offers category, Top 10 credit cards list, and brokerage bonus list.

2023 bonuses and promotions list. The 💵 symbol means I have received and/or cashed out the bonus successfully. The ⌛ symbol means that the promo is still in progress. “Still live” means the offer is still available but the values may have gone up or down.

Total for 2023: If I assume that all bonuses for which I have completed the required activity will eventually post (just a couple left worth under $200), the total tally so far is $5,444, which is 84% of the $6,500 annual IRA contribution limit for 2023. My progress stalled significantly towards the end of 2023; I didn’t apply to any new credit cards at all this quarter, which usually do the bulk of the work. Mostly picked a few low-hanging fruit here and there.

Honorable mention #1: Johnson & Johnson. I did make a $1,350 profit over only 10 calendar days from the Johnson & Johnson odd lot tender play. This did require a $17,000 commitment to buy 99 shares (the max allowed as an individual small investor) before the odd lot tender, but the lockup time was very short.

Honorable mention #2: Microsoft/Activision. I also participated in a merger-arbitrage deal involving Microsoft and Activision. My net profit on my $10,040 initial investment was $2,534, which is $1,177 more than the $1,357 that I could have earned from owning the S&P 500 over the same time period of about 17 months.

This is a personal challenge/game that I like to play (and have played for a long time now). It’s not for everyone. I happen to enjoy trying out new apps and services. I also like my hobbies to be profitable – not gonna lie – but I don’t like to waste my time either. I look for a solid return based on the time commitment required. I tend to avoid speculative bets, bonuses that are hard to convert to real cash-equivalent value, and anything that requires driving to stores where things may or may not be in stock. The deals that I post often last only a few days, but it’s a bit like value investing where you have to be ready to get off your butt and take decisive action when an opportunity shows up, because they won’t last forever.

Many things I have to skip simply because I’ve already done them. For those new to this hobby, I would first grab the best overall cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve and build up a nice stash of flexible Ultimate Rewards points. After that, I would recommend looking at the Citi Premier (ThankYou points), Capital Venture X (Capital One Miles), and American Express Gold (AmEX Membership Rewards points) to jumpstart your points stashes.

In terms of the top current bonus, I would pick the Chase Aeroplan Card that offers the chance to earn 100,000 Aeroplan points that can be used to offset $1,250 of any travel purchases charged on the card.

Exclusions. Importantly, this list ignores the additional interest earned from otherwise optimizing my existing cash balances, as well as everyday credit card rewards like 2% to 2.6% cash back on all purchases and 5% cash back on specific categories or 1% or better cash back on rent.

I am also excluding small-business deals like big Chase Ink Business Cash card bonuses, big business checking bonuses, and so on.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Best Interest Rates on Cash – January 2024

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

If you’re leaving your cash in a checking account at most major banks, you’re probably earning zero interest. With an online application, you could earn a lot more money while keeping the same level of safety by moving to another FDIC-insured bank or NCUA-insured credit union.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash as of January 2024, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. There are often lesser-known opportunities available to individual investors. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to see how much extra interest you could earn from switching. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 1/8/2024.

TL;DR: Rates are dropping at longer maturities, in expectation of future Fed rate drops. Still 5%+ savings accounts, but no more 5-year CDs at 5% APY. Compare against Treasury bills and bonds at every maturity, taking into account state tax exemption.

Fintech accounts
Available only to individual investors, fintech companies often pay higher-than-market rates in order to achieve fast short-term growth (often using venture capital). “Fintech” is usually a software layer on top of a partner bank’s FDIC insurance.

  • 5.32% APY ($1 minimum). Raisin lets you switch between different FDIC-insured banks and NCUA-insured credit unions easily without opening a new account every time, and their liquid savings rates currently top out at 5.32% APY. See my Raisin review for details. Raisin does not charge depositors a fee for the service.
  • 5.36% APY (before fees). MaxMyInterest is another service that allows you to access and switch between different FDIC-insured banks. You can view their current banks and APYs here. As of 12/6/23, the highest rate is from Customers Bank at 5.36% APY. However, note that they charge a membership fee of 0.04% per quarter, or 0.16% per year (subject to $20 minimum per quarter, or $80 per year). That means if you have a $10,000 balance, then $80 a year = 0.80% per year. This service is meant for those with larger balances. You are allowed to cancel the service and keep the bank accounts, but then you may lose their specially-negotiated rates and cannot switch between banks anymore.

High-yield savings accounts
Since the huge megabanks STILL pay essentially no interest, everyone should have a separate, no-fee online savings account to piggy-back onto your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I list the top rates as well as competitive rates from banks with a history of competitive rates and solid user experience. Some banks will bait you with a temporary top rate and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
A common question is what to do with a big pile of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (plan to buy a house soon, just sold your house, just sold your business, legal settlement, inheritance). My usual advice is to keep things simple and take your time. If not a savings account, then put it in a flexible short-term CD under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.

  • No Penalty CDs offer a fixed interest rate that can never go down, but you can still take out your money (once) without any fees if you want to use it elsewhere. Raisin has a 5-month No Penalty CD at 5.40% APY with $1 minimum deposit and 30-day minimum hold time. CIT Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 4.90% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 4.55% APY for all balance tiers. Marcus has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 4.70% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. Consider opening multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • CIBC Agility Online has a 12-month CD at 5.51% APY. Reasonable 30-day penalty if you withdraw your CD funds before maturity.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs*
Many brokerage firms that pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the difference for themselves). * Money market mutual funds are regulated, but ultimately not FDIC-insured, so I would still stick with highly reputable firms. I am including a few ultra-short bond ETFs as they may be your best cash alternative in a brokerage account, but they may experience losses.

  • Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund is the default sweep option for Vanguard brokerage accounts, which has an SEC yield of 5.29% (changes daily, but also works out to a compound yield of 5.42%, which is better for comparing against APY). Odds are this is much higher than your own broker’s default cash sweep interest rate.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 5.49% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 5.30% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months.

Treasury Bills and Ultra-short Treasury ETFs
Another option is to buy individual Treasury bills which come in a variety of maturities from 4-weeks to 52-weeks and are fully backed by the US government. You can also invest in ETFs that hold a rotating basket of short-term Treasury Bills for you, while charging a small management fee for doing so. T-bill interest is exempt from state and local income taxes, which can make a significant difference in your effective yield.

  • You can build your own T-Bill ladder at TreasuryDirect.gov or via a brokerage account with a bond desk like Vanguard and Fidelity. Here are the current Treasury Bill rates. As of 1/8/24, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 5.39% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 4.83% annualized interest.
  • The iShares 0-3 Month Treasury Bond ETF (SGOV) has a 5.45% SEC yield and effective duration of 0.10 years. SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 5.21% SEC yield and effective duration of 0.08 years.

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. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest. The annual purchase limit for electronic I bonds is $10,000 per Social Security Number, available online at TreasuryDirect.gov. You can also buy an additional $5,000 in paper I bonds using your tax refund with IRS Form 8888.

  • “I Bonds” bought between November 2023 and April 2024 will earn a 5.27% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More on Savings Bonds here.
  • In mid-April 2023, 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.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops which usually involve 10+ debit card purchases each cycle, a certain number of ACH/direct deposits, and/or a certain number of logins per month. If you make a mistake (or they judge that you did) you risk earning zero interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others would rather not bother. Rates can also drop suddenly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling.

  • OnPath Federal Credit Union pays 7.00% APY on up to $10,000 if you make 15 debit card purchases, opt into online statements, and login to online or mobile banking once per statement cycle. Anyone can join this credit union via $5 membership fee to join partner organization. You can also get a $100 Visa Reward card when you open a new account and make qualifying transactions.
  • Credit Union of New Jersey pays 6.00% APY on up to $25,000 if you make 15 debit card purchases, opt into online statements, and make at least 1 direct deposit, online bill payment, or automatic payment (ACH) per statement cycle. Anyone can join this credit union via $5 membership fee to join partner organization.
  • Pelican State Credit Union pays 6.05% APY on up to $20,000 if you make 15 debit card purchases, opt into online statements, log into your account at least once, and make at least 1 direct deposit, online bill payment, or automatic payment (ACH) per statement cycle. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization membership.
  • Orion Federal Credit Union pays 6.00% APY on up to $10,000 if you make electronic deposits of $500+ each month (ACH transfers count) and spend $500+ on your Orion debit or credit card each month. Anyone can join this credit union via $10 membership fee to partner organization membership.
  • All America/Redneck Bank pays 5.30% APY on up to $15,000 if you make 10 debit card purchases each monthly cycle with online statements.
  • Find a locally-restricted rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
CDs offer higher rates, but come with an early withdrawal penalty. By finding a bank CD with a reasonable early withdrawal penalty, you can enjoy higher rates but maintain access in a true emergency. Alternatively, consider building a CD ladder of different maturity lengths (ex. 1/2/3/4/5-years) such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account. When one CD matures, use that money to buy another 5-year CD to keep the ladder going. Some CDs also offer “add-ons” where you can deposit more funds if rates drop.

  • United States Senate Credit Union has a 60-month CD at 4.86% APY with $1,000 minimum. Jumbo CDs have slightly higher rates ($100k+, $200k+). The early withdrawal penalty is 360 days of interest. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization.
  • BMO Alto has a 5-year CD at 4.60% APY. 4-year at 4.60% APY. 3-year at 4.60% APY. 2-year at 4.75% APY. 1-year at 5.50% APY. No minimum. The early withdrawal penalty (EWP) for CD maturities of 1 year or more is 180 days of interest. For CD maturities of 11 months or less, the EWP is 90 days of interest. Note that they reserve the right to prohibit early withdrawals entirely. Online-only subsidiary of BMO Bank.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. You may need an account to see the rates. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. Right now, I see a 5-year non-callable CD at 4.05% APY (callable: no, call protection: yes). Be warned that now both Vanguard and Fidelity will list higher rates from callable CDs, which importantly means they can call back your CD if rates drop later.

Longer-term Instruments
I’d use these with caution due to increased interest rate risk, 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 long-term certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. You might find something that pays more than your other brokerage cash and Treasury options. Right now, I see a 10-year CDs at 3.8% (callable: no, call protection: yes) vs. 4.01% for a 10-year Treasury. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs where they can call your CD back if interest rates drop.

All rates were checked as of 1/8/2023.

Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Fierce Finance App Review: 5.25% APY + New Deposit/Referral/Trade Bonuses

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

Update January 2024: If you opened an account with Fierce previously, keep a lookout for e-mails with new promotions. In addition to the new account bonuses detailed below, I have received the following promos: a $25 bonus for setting up recurring $100+ deposits for 90 days (doesn’t have to be “direct deposit”), and another $25 bonus for making 10 stock purchase orders of $10+ before the end of the quarter. (Note: The roundtrip cost of an SGOV buy/sell trade of a single share has been only a penny in my experience during the trading day.)

Here is the fine print from my e-mail. I am not sure if they are targeted.

*To qualify for the $25 Bonus, you are required to set up Direct Deposit or Recurring Deposits to your Fierce Cash account with a value of $100 or greater per deposit for a minimum of 90 days from your first deposit. After your first successful Direct Deposit or Recurring Deposit transaction, the $25 Bonus will be credited to your Fierce Cash account at the end of the following month. Normal account service charges and miscellaneous charges may apply to the Fierce account, which may reduce earnings.

*To qualify for the $25 Bonus, you are required to execute 10 or more stock purchase orders of $10 or greater before 11:59pm ET on March 31st, 2024. The $25 Bonus will be credited to your Fierce Cash account at the end of the following month. Normal account service charges and miscellaneous charges may apply to the Fierce account, which may reduce earnings. The $25 Bonus offer cannot be used in combination with any other Fierce promotional offer.

Original post with new account bonuses:

Fierce Finance is another new fintech with big ambitions. Currently available as an iPhone app (Android “coming soon”), it combines a checking account, stock trading, and crypto. Notably, the checking account pays 5.25% APY and offers a few different bonus opportunities, which they say don’t stack but I’ve still been offered them one after another. Additional details below.

Banking

  • 5.25% APY (as of 1/3/24) on the Fierce Checking Account.
  • No monthly fees, no minimum balance requirement.
  • Banking services provided by Cross River Bank, Member FDIC.
  • Uses the Allpoint ATM network of 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs worldwide.
  • “Live Support via phone, email, or live chat.”

Investing

  • It says “zero management fees”, I can only guess they also have zero stock commissions like nearly everyone else.
  • Brokerage services provided by FIN2, member FINRA and SIPC.
  • “Earn yield on your stocks” – I’m guessing this is also just fully paid securities lending.
  • Regulated Crypto Trading in all 50 states.

Deposit Bonus details (EXPIRED). If you open a new Fierce account and reach one of the deposit tiers below within 30 days of account opening, keep it there for 180 days, and keep your account open for 210 days, you can receive the following bonus amount:

  • $25 for deposits of $1,000+
  • $100 for deposits of $10,000+
  • $200 for deposits of $30,000+
  • $500 for deposits of $100,000+

If everything goes perfectly, the $100 for $10,000 deposit tier would add about 2% to your APY over that period (in reality probably a little less). As long as they maintain their currently competitive interest rate, it’s not a bad combined total return for 6-7 months.

Fine print from their website:

The Deposit Bonus offer is only available to new customers that meet all current account opening requirements. To qualify for the Deposit Bonus, you are required to open a new Fierce account and initiate cumulative new money deposits, according to the table below, within 30 days of account opening. The cumulative value or greater must remain in your Fierce account for a minimum of 180 days. The Deposit Bonus will be credited to your Fierce Cash account at the end of the following month. Accounts must be kept open for 210 days from the time of qualifying. Normal account service charges and miscellaneous charges may apply to the Fierce account, which may reduce earnings.

Deposit Bonus:
$25 for deposits of $1k+
$100 for deposits of $10k+
$200 for deposits of $30k+
$500 for deposits of $100k+

The Deposit Bonus offer cannot be used in combination with any other Fierce promotional offer. For tax purposes, the value of the bonus will be reported to the IRS on Form 1099-INT. Fierce reserves the right to limit an individual to one account-related gift incentive per rolling 12-month period. Accounts closed at the time of bonus payment are not eligible. Offer is subject to cancellation without notice and cannot be combined with any other bonus offer. Fierce is not responsible for, and will not honor, promotional offers that appear on third-party websites that are not authorized by Fierce.

$25 Referral Bonus details. If you open via a referral link (opening on iPhone recommended, my link), you will get a $25 bonus if you open a new account and deposit $250. The terms suggest you can’t combine this with the deposit bonus below, so I would just do this bonus if you don’t want to deposit $10,000+ for the deposit bonus. Swagbucks also has their own bonus (currently I see 3,000 SB for a $25 deposit).

Fine print from their website:

The $25 Referral Bonus offer is only available to customers that meet all current account opening requirements. To qualify for the $25 Referral Bonus, the referrer is required to have a Fierce account in good standing with a balance of $250 or more. The referred customer must initiate cumulative new money deposits totaling $250 or more into their Fierce Cash Account within 30 days of account opening. A cumulative value of $250 or more must remain in their Fierce account for a minimum of 30 days. The $25 bonus will be credited to the referrer’s Fierce Cash account at the end of the following month. Accounts must be kept open for 90 days from the time of qualifying. Normal account service charges and miscellaneous charges may apply to the Fierce account, which may reduce earnings. Limited to 10 Referral Bonuses payments or $250 in bonus payments per customer.

The $25 Referral Bonus offer cannot be used in combination with any other Fierce promotional offer. For tax purposes, the value of the bonus will be reported to the IRS on Form 1099-INT. Fierce reserves the right to limit an individual to one account-related gift incentive per rolling 12-month period. Accounts closed at the time of bonus payment are not eligible. Offer is subject to cancellation without notice and cannot be combined with any other bonus offer. Fierce is not responsible for, and will not honor, promotional offers that appear on third-party websites that are not authorized by Fierce.

Trading bonus details. This appears to be their advertised bonus on their front page at the moment (January 2024), but it was sent to me via email after opening up my account so I feel they should be stackable in my situation. I would open up using the deposit or referral bonus above, and then keep a lookout. $10 bonus for your first $10+ stock purchase, and a separate $10 bonus for your first $10+ crypto purchase. Total $20.

Fine print from website:

The Trading Bonus offer is only available to customers that meet all current account opening requirements and have not previously purchased stock or crypto on Fierce.

To qualify for the Trading Bonus, you are required to have a Fierce account in good standing that has not previously purchased stock or crypto. The customer must initiate cumulative new stock or crypto orders, according to the Trading Bonus table below, between the time the offer is received and 11:59 pm ET on October 31st 2023. The cumulative value or greater must remain in your Fierce Stock or Fierce Crypto account for a minimum of 30 days. The Trading Bonus will be credited directly to your Fierce Cash account at the end of the following month. Accounts must be kept open for 90 days from the time of qualifying. Normal account service charges and miscellaneous charges may apply to the Fierce account, which may reduce earnings. Limited to 1 Stock Trading Bonus payment per customer and 1 Crypto Trading Bonus payment per customer, or a total of $20 in bonus payment per customer.
Trading Bonus:
$10 cash bonus for stock purchases equalling $10 or greater.
$10 cash bonus for crypto purchases equalling $10 or greater.

The Trading Bonus offer cannot be used in combination with any other Fierce promotional offer. For tax purposes, the value of the bonus will be reported to the IRS on Form 1099-INT. Fierce reserves the right to limit an individual to one account-related gift incentive per rolling 12-month period. Accounts closed at or prior to the time of bonus payment are not eligible. Offer is subject to cancellation without notice and cannot be combined with any other bonus offer. Fierce is not responsible for, and will not honor, promotional offers that appear on third-party websites that are not authorized by Fierce.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


Fidelity Bloom App: Fintech App from Traditional Broker ($30 Savings Match for 2024)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

Update January 2024: If you have the Fidelity Bloom app, this is a reminder that the 10% annual savings match is reset and you can again get $30 for a $300 transfer into your Fidelity Bloom Save account. If you use the SPAXX option for cash sweep, you are also earning close to the equivalent of 5% APY (as of 1/3/24). Here is a screenshot of my 2023 rewards:

Full review:

Fidelity Bloom is a new(er) app from Fidelity Investments targeted at helping young adults become more financially aware and develop better savings habits. iOS and Android. Fidelity has included many “behavioral psychology” features from other fintech startup apps like a match on savings transfers, debit card cash back rewards, rounding-up purchases and saving the difference, and shopping portal cashback. The highlights:

  • (No new user bonus at the moment. Was $100.)
  • 10% annual savings match (up to $30). Get a 10% match on the first $300 saved into their Bloom Save account (up to a $30 match on $300 of new money deposited).
  • 10 cents from Fidelity with every debit card purchase. Fidelity will automatically deposit a fixed 10 cents into the Fidelity Bloom Save account every time customers use the Fidelity Bloom debit card. Reminds me of the Citi Rewards+ credit card.
  • Automatically round up purchases into savings. Customers can automatically round up purchases to the nearest dollar and have the difference moved to savings from their Fidelity Bloom Spend to their Fidelity Bloom Save account.
  • Up to 25% cashback through shopping portal. Receive up to 25% cash back into your Fidelity Bloom Save account when you shop in-app with 1,100+ participating retailers.

Interest rate is competitive (up to ~5% as of 1/3/24 with SPAXX), but it’s a brokerage account. Is it a bank account? Is it a brokerage account? It’s a SIPC-insured brokerage account:

The Fidelity Bloom App is designed to help with your saving and spending behaviors through your Save and Spend accounts, which are brokerage accounts covered by SIPC insurance. They are not bank accounts and therefore are not covered by FDIC insurance.

You do get a routing number and account number for your two accounts, but the cash is held like their other non-retirement accounts. During the sign-up process, you can pick between one of three options for your core position:

  • Fidelity® Interest-Bearing Option (FCASH)
  • Fidelity Government Money Market Fund (SPAXX)
  • Fidelity Treasury Money Market Fund (FZFXX)

Although I have confidence in Fidelity’s long-term experience and conservatism in running these money market mutual funds, the lack of FDIC coverage is something to note. The rates may change daily. View current rates here.

After you open via app, you can see the account balances at Fidelity.com but you’ll still need the app to change any settings. Here’s a screenshot from my app.

Fidelity recently shut down another of its experimental apps called “Fidelity Spire”, so we’ll see if this one catches on a bit better.

For posterity, here are the terms & conditions for the (expired) $100 limited-time offer:

This offer is valid for new or existing Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC (“Fidelity”) customers who make an initial total deposit of at least $50 (“Qualifying Deposit”) into their Fidelity Bloom Spend account or Fidelity Bloom Save account on or after August 13, 2023 through the Fidelity Bloom app. This offer is limited to one cash award per individual. For clarity, existing Bloom clients who have not yet made any deposits into either of their Fidelity Bloom Spend or Fidelity Bloom Save accounts can participate in this offer by making a Qualifying Deposit by August 27, 2023. Existing Fidelity customers who have previously made deposits into their Fidelity Bloom Spend or Save accounts, including individuals who have already participated in the Bloom $50 offer, are not eligible for this offer.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. MyMoneyBlog.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.