TAB Bank Kasasa Cash Checking Review: 4% APY (Up to $50k) w/ Activity Requirements

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

TAB Bank has a Kasasa Cash Checking account that offers 4% APY on balances up to $50,000 if you meet certain deposit activity and debit card transaction requirements. However, they include some vague language that lets them withhold your interest based on their subjective opinion. Details below.

FDIC confirmation and eligibility. I was able to find TAB Bank at FDIC.gov under “Transportation Alliance Bank, Inc. D/B/a Tab Bank” with FDIC certificate #34781 and domain tabbank.com. Since this isn’t a credit union, you don’t need to worry about joining a member organization or maintain a share savings account. Anyone nationwide can apply online and fund using ACH transfer. They also say that they won’t perform a credit inquiry for a checking account.

Monthly requirements. To qualify for the 4% APY on balances up to $50,000 and up to $15 in ATM fee rebates per month, you must have the following during each monthly qualification cycle:

  • At least 1 direct deposit, ACH payment, or bill pay transaction.
  • At least 15 debit card purchases, and each must be $5 or more. When using your card, choose the credit option and bypass using your PIN.

If you don’t meet these requirements, there is no monthly fee but you lose the ATM rebates and your interest rate is only 0.05% APY.

Potential catch? Vague fine print. If you read through their Truth-in-Savings disclosure [pdf], you will find the following vague assertions:

Purpose and expected use of accounts – The Kasasa Cash account is intended to be the accountholder’s primary checking account in which payroll transactions and day-to-day spending activities including but not limited to grocery, gasoline, apparel, shopping, dining, sporting and entertainment transactions are posted and settled.

[…] You will automatically qualify for the account’s rewards during your account’s first statement cycle. If the account is closed before rewards are credited, you will forfeit the rewards.

[…] Commensurate with the spending activities identified above, we expect the account’s debit card to be used frequently throughout each month and for transaction amounts to reflect a wide dollar range. Small debit card transactions conducted on the same day at a single merchant and/or multiple transactions made during a condensed time period particularly near the end of a Monthly Qualification Cycle are not considered normal, day-to-day spending behavior. These types of transactions appear to be conducted with the sole purpose of qualifying for the account’s rewards and thus will be deemed inappropriate transactions and will not count toward earning the account’s rewards.

[…] TAB Bank reserves the right to determine if the Kasasa Cash account is being maintained for a purpose other than day-to-day, primary use. Accountholders who persist in making debit card transactions in a calculated and limited fashion in order to meet their monthly qualifications may have their accounts converted to a different checking account or closed altogether.

Basically, they reserve the right to change up the requirements to whatever they want. We know that banks make money when we use your debit card. However, if you want your customers to use it more, then just make your requirements higher. You already added the $5 minimum per transaction. Just say you want 15 transactions with a combined total of $1,000 or similar. Make the rules fair, clear, and transparent.

Good deal? The interest rate is good, but the vague rules make this account not worth the bother. They are allowed to judge what I am “supposed” to buy on a day-to-day basis as a “normal” person? Pass! If you put in a sizable balance, that’s $100+ of monthly interest that they can withhold for no solid reason (and are actually incentivized to do so as it saves them money).

For now, I would compare with the Orion FCU 4% APY checking account, which doesn’t play such games, is more upfront and understandable. If they make the rules transparent (even if more restrictive), I would reconsider.

Bottom line. TAB Bank has a rewards checking account called Kasasa Cash Checking that offers 4% APY on balances up to $50,000 if you meet certain deposit activity and debit card transaction requirements. However, they hide in the fine print that they can withhold your interest based on their subjective opinion. If they judge you ineligible, you will earn virtually no interest (0.05% APY).

Here are the rest of the Best Interest Rates on Cash.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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 – April 2019

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for April 2019, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. The big news is that we are starting to see some slight rate drops in CDs! Folks who locked in at 4% APY may end up pleased they did. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to get an idea of how much extra interest you’d earn if you are moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 4/3/19.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks like to get away with 0.01% APY, it’s easy to open a new “piggy-back” savings account and simply move some funds over from your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I prioritize banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you 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 (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. Purepoint Financial has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.50% APY with a $10,000 minimum deposit. Marcus Bank 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.35% APY with a $500 minimum deposit, Ally Bank 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.30% APY with a $25k+ minimum, and CIT Bank 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.05% APY with a $1,000 minimum. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Colorado Federal Savings Bank has a 12-month CD at 2.86% APY ($5,000 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 3 months of interest.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, beware that many brokers pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the difference for themselves). The following money market and ultra-short bond funds are not FDIC-insured, but may be a good option if you have idle cash and cheap/free commissions.

  • Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund currently pays an 2.46% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 2.36%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.
  • Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 2.71% SEC Yield ($3,000 min) and 2.81% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so there is more interest rate risk.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 2.84% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.80% 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. 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.

  • 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 4/3/19, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.42% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.41% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 2.30% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 2.25% SEC yield. GBIL appears to have a slightly longer average maturity than BIL.

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

  • “I Bonds” bought between November 2018 and April 2019 will earn a 2.82% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More info here.
  • In mid-April 2019, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.

Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with exceptionally high interest rates. The negatives are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. There is a long list of previous offers that have already disappeared with little notice. I don’t personally recommend or use any of these anymore.

  • The only notable card left in this category is Mango Money at 6% APY on up to $2,500, but there are many hoops to jump through. Requirements include $1,500+ in “signature” purchases and a minimum balance of $25.00 at the end of the month.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. Rates can also drop to near-zero quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. I don’t use any of these anymore, either.

  • The best one right now is Orion FCU Premium Checking at 4.00% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet make $500+ in direct deposits and 8 debit card “signature” purchases each month. The APY goes down to 0.05% APY and they charge you a $5 monthly fee if you miss out on the requirements. Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
  • If you’re looking for a high-interest checking account without debit card transaction requirements then the rate won’t be as high, but take a look at MemoryBank at 1.60% APY.

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.

  • Hanscom Federal Credit UnionBank has a 19-month CD special at 3.00% APY ($1,000 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 6 months of interest. If you have a military relationship, Navy Federal Credit Union has a 6-month special at 3.00% APY and 17-month special at 3.25% APY.
  • 5-year CD rates have been dropping at many banks and credit unions, following the overall interest rate curve. A good rate is now about 3.25% APY, with The Federal Savings Bank offering 3.30% APY on a 5-year CD.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable fixed early withdrawal penalties. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 2-year non-callable CD at 2.45% APY and a 5-year non-callable CD at 2.80% APY. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs listed by Fidelity.

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 fixed early withdrawal penalties. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 10-year non-callable CD at 3.10% APY. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity. Matching the overall yield curve, current CD rates do not rise much higher as you extend beyond a 5-year maturity.
  • How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a guarantee that the value will double in value in 20 years, which equals a guaranteed return of 3.5% a year. However, if you don’t hold for that long, you’ll be stuck with the normal rate which is quite low (currently a sad 0.10% rate). I view this as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as long-term bond and thus a hedge against deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years. As of 4/3/19, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.75%.

All rates were checked as of 4/3/19.



My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Marcus Bank $100 Bonus: Both New and Existing Customers

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Update: This offer has expired.

I’m never really sure what to call it, but Marcus (formerly Goldman Sachs Bank) is offering a $100 bonus if you deposit $10,000+ in new funds into their online savings account within 10 days of enrollment at this special offer page. You must enroll by 11:59pm EST on 3/18/19 and maintain the new $10,000+ deposit for 90 days. They will deposit $100 into your account within 14 days, after those 90 days (got it?). Both new and existing customers are eligible, which is nice.

Offer available to new and existing customers. Each customer is limited to one bonus offer, which can only be applied to a single account. For eligibility purposes, each joint owner will be treated as a separate customer. For example, if you apply the bonus offer to a joint account, the remaining joint owner(s) may apply this offer to another account they own if they have not done so already. Offer not available to customers who are currently enrolled in a different bonus offer on an existing savings account. […] The bonus will be treated as interest for tax reporting purposes.

Basically a 1% bonus on $10,000 if you keep it there for 90 days, which makes it roughly 4% APY annualized. The bonus is on top of the standard interest rate, currently 2.25% APY as of 3/10/19. This combination makes it a great 3-month rate at that balance size when compared to my last monthly update of best interest rates.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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 – March 2019

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for March 2019, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to get an idea of how much extra interest you’d earn if you are moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 3/4/19.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks like to get away with 0.01% APY, it’s easy to open a new “piggy-back” savings account and simply move some funds over from your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I prioritize banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

  • Redneck Bank offers 2.50% APY on balances up to $50,000. CIT Bank Savings Builder is now up to 2.45% APY with a $100 monthly deposit (with no balance limit). There are several other established high-yield savings accounts at 2% APY and up.
  • Got a lot of friends or followers? You can 4.30% APY on up to $50,000 for 30 days via the Empower app, plus another 30 days for each friend that you refer to the. First month is free + 11 referrals = 4.30% APY for a year.

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 (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.

  • Purepoint Financial has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.60% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. Marcus Bank 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.35% APY with a $500 minimum deposit, Ally Bank 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.30% APY with a $25k+ minimum, and CIT Bank 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.05% APY with a $1,000 minimum. 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. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Hyperion Bank has a 13-month CD at 3.20% APY ($500 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 3 months of interest.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, beware that many brokers pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the money for themselves). The following money market and ultra-short bond funds are not FDIC-insured, but may be a good option if you have idle cash and cheap/free commissions.

  • Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund currently pays an 2.46% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 2.34%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.
  • Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 2.71% SEC Yield ($3,000 min) and 2.81% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so there is more interest rate risk.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 2.87% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.93% 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. 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.

  • 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 3/4/19, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.44% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.54% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 2.30% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 2.21% SEC yield. GBIL appears to have a slightly longer average maturity than BIL.

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

  • “I Bonds” bought between November 2018 and April 2019 will earn a 2.82% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More info here.
  • In mid-April 2019, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.

Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with exceptionally high interest rates. The negatives are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. There is a long list of previous offers that have already disappeared with little notice. I don’t personally recommend or use any of these anymore.

  • The only notable card left in this category is Mango Money at 6% APY on up to $2,500, but there are many hoops to jump through. Requirements include $1,500+ in “signature” purchases and a minimum balance of $25.00 at the end of the month.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. Rates can also drop to near-zero quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. I don’t use any of these anymore, either.

  • The best one right now is Orion FCU Premium Checking at 4.00% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet make $500+ in direct deposits and 8 debit card “signature” purchases each month. The APY goes down to 0.05% APY and they charge you a $5 monthly fee if you miss out on the requirements. Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
  • If you’re looking for a high-interest checking account without debit card transaction requirements then the rate won’t be as high, but take a look at MemoryBank at 1.60% APY.

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.

  • Hyperion Bank has a 19-month CD at 3.50% APY ($500 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 6 months of interest.
  • Mountain America Credit Union has the following certificate rate: 2-year at 3.25% APY 3-year at 3.35% APY, 4-year at 3.25% APY, 5-year at 3.51% APY ($500 minimum deposit). MACU can be joined via a partner organization for a one-time $5 fee, usually right on the online application. Note: The 2-year and 3-year certificates have an early withdrawal penalty of 180 days of interest, and the 4-year and 5-year certificates have an early withdrawal penalty of a full year (!) of interest.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable fixed early withdrawal penalties. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 2-year non-callable CD at 2.60% APY and a 5-year non-callable CD at 3.00% APY. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs listed by Fidelity.

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 fixed early withdrawal penalties. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 10-year non-callable CD at 3.25% APY. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity. Matching the overall yield curve, current CD rates do not rise much higher as you extend beyond a 5-year maturity.
  • How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a guarantee that the value will double in value in 20 years, which equals a guaranteed return of 3.5% a year. However, if you don’t hold for that long, you’ll be stuck with the normal rate which is quite low (currently a sad 0.10% rate). I view this as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as long-term bond and thus a hedge against deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years. As of 3/4/19, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.93%.

All rates were checked as of 3/4/19.



My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Orion FCU Premium Checking Review: 4% APY (Up to $30k) w/ Activity Requirements

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Orion Federal Credit Union (FCU) has a Premium Checking account that offers 4% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet certain direct deposit and debit card transaction requirements. However, if you don’t meet the requirements, you’ll get basically no interest and be charged a monthly fee. Their membership requirements are now open nationally, which is newsworthy. Thanks to reader Bill for the tip. Details below.

Membership eligibility. Orion FCU is based in Memphis, Tennessee and has a field of membership open to nearby residents and employers of local companies. However, you can also join as a “volunteer” for one of their affiliated nonprofit organizations:

Volunteers for Orion Gives Back organizations are eligible for membership in Orion. You can qualify as a volunteer fundraiser simply by choosing an organization and asking us to make a $10 donation.

Yes, you read that right – they will even make the donation for you. Choose from Habitat for Humanity Greater Memphis, Hope House, Porter-Leath, Ronald McDonald House, and Wolf River Conservancy.

Note that the application states that you will need your Social Security number and Driver’s License number. In addition, reader Bill reports that they will perform both a ChexSystems inquiry and a hard credit check through Equifax.

Premium Checking requirements. To qualify for the 4% APY on balances up to $30,000 and up to $10 in ATM fee rebates per month, you must have the following:

  • Electronic deposits totaling at least $500 per month. Electronic deposits include: direct deposit, mobile deposit, and electronic transfers from another financial institution.
  • Perform at least 8 signature-based card transactions per month. When using your card, choose the credit option and bypass using your PIN.

Note that amounts in excess of $30,000 will only earn 0.05% APY. If you meet these requirements, there is no monthly fee. If you don’t, then there is a $5 monthly fee and your rate goes down to 0.05% APY.

It is nice that the deposit requirement is not restricted to “payroll direct deposits”. You can set up an automated monthly transfer from another bank account.

Good deal? In my opinion, the relatively easy requirements, high interest rate, and moderate qualifying balance make this the best nationally-available “Reward Checking” account currently available. (“Rewards Checking” = requires a minimum number of debit card transactions + other activity each month.) While it is indeed a solid offer, the main question is how long it will last.

At the same time, I will not be joining. First, I don’t like accounts where I have to keep jumping through hoops (that I can’t easily automate like CIT Savings Builder) without being hit by a penalty of lost interest and a monthly fee. Second, I have gone ahead and opened accounts like this in the past, only to have them shut down shortly thereafter. I am concerned that this account won’t last longer than 6 months from today.

I’d rather open a credit union CD where I know the rate is guaranteed for a fixed period (i.e. past offers from Andrews FCU, Sharonview FCU, and Garden Savings FCU, etc.) These certificates just keep earning interest each month and I don’t have to do anything at all.

Bottom line. Orion FCU has opened up their Premium Rewards checking account to anyone nationwide. You can get 4% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet certain direct deposit and debit card transaction requirements. However, if you don’t meet those requirements, you will earn virtually no interest and be subject to a $5 monthly fee. If this interests you, I recommend creating a reliable system where you satisfy the requirements early on in the month.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Building a CD Ladder: Fidelity Auto vs. DIY vs. Treasury Bonds

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Building a “CD ladder” means funding a combination of certificates of deposit (CDs) with different maturities so that you have always have a portion of your funds maturing soon (providing liquidity) but you also increase your interest rates (more $$$). Here are two common CD ladder types:

  • 2 Year Ladder: Four maturity “rungs” – 6-month, 12-month, 18-month, and 24-month CDs
  • 5 year Ladder: Five maturity “rungs” – 1, 2 ,3 ,4, and 5-year CDs

You start out by funding a CD for each rung (i.e. a $5,000, 5-year ladder would have $1,000 in each maturity). Then, after a year, you can keep the ladder going by buying another rung at the longest maturity (i.e. the 5-year ladder would buy another $1,000 5-year CD after one year has passed).

Fidelity has a CD ladder service where they will build a CD automatically for you using brokered CDs from their inventory. They will even re-invest, or “Auto Roll”, your maturing funds into a new rung if you wish. The service itself is free, but the CD rates aren’t necessarily the absolute highest available, especially when you include credit unions.

Alternatively, you could move around your own funds and build your own ladder (DIY) using certificates from various banks and credit unions. Finally, you could also buy Treasury bill and bonds of similar maturities, as they are also backed by the government so you can be confident that you’ll get your principal back.

I decided to run a quick survey today (February 13, 2019) to see what your average interest rates would be for the three different methods:

  • Fidelity Auto – Fidelity will construct using the highest rates in their brokered CD inventory.
  • DIY – Picking the highest rate at any FDIC or NCUA-insured institution that is open to anyone nationwide.
  • Treasury – Buying individual Treasury bonds on the secondary market (bond desk, alternative rates).

(Fidelity CDs were issued by State Bank of India, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs. DIY banks used in this comparison are Ally Bank/Limelight Bank, NASA FCU, and Georgia Banking Company. Rates as of 2/13/19.)

The chart shows that currently DIY you would gain an average of 0.40% annually on your cash invested over the automatic Fidelity service. If you had a $5,000 ladder, that would be $20 in extra interest per year. If you had a $50,000 ladder, that would be $200 a year. If you had a $500,000 ladder, that would be $2,000 a year. You would have to balance the extra work of DIY with the added convenience of the Fidelity service. This number is only a snapshot and will change over time.

Right now, Treasury bonds don’t really offer much of a premium above the top DIY CD rates in this scenario. Even if you had state income tax of 10%, your effective average APY would still only be about 2.8%. That is about break-even with the Fidelity automatic service.

This is one reason why I track the top CD interest rates each month.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

NASA Federal Credit Union Application and Certificate Opening Review

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

I recently joined the NASA Federal Credit Union to take advantage their current certificate rate specials (as mentioned in my monthly list of best interest rates). NASA FCU has had some good specials over the last year or so, and I finally decided to go through the extra effort to open an account last week since I had some funds available. Here are my notes on the application and certificate opening process that might be helpful to others.

Membership eligibility. NASA FCU’s field of membership is open to affiliated people as noted in their membership page, but you can also join a special group to become eligible:

If none of the above apply to you – we’ll provide a complimentary membership to the National Space Society (NSS) which entitles you to full NASA Federal membership benefits

Free and instant! Just click the proper option during the application process.

Application process. You will need to provide the usual personal information – name, address, SSN, driver’s license, etc. I uploaded a scanned image of my driver’s license. They also asked a few identity verification questions, I believe based on my Experian credit report.

Note: Based on online reports, I was expecting that applying for account would result in a hard credit inquiry, likely to my Experian credit report. This tends to be common practice amongst credit unions. However, it has been a week since my application and none of my credit monitoring services (which covers all 3 bureaus) have indicated that a credit check was done, including the one that tracks Experian. It might show up later, but nothing so far.

My account was approved later in the same day as my application. I also read some online reports about NASA FCU asking for additional documentation (i.e. Social Security card), but I was not asked for anything additional.

Tip: When you get the account approval e-mail, you need to open up the secure message to see your new NASA FCU account number. Write down this number as it is the account number of your share savings account.

Initial funding. As with nearly all credit unions, you must fund a share savings account with at least $5 and keep the $5 there. I was given the option to fund with credit card (up to $500) or bank account. I tried to fund it with $500 from a rewards credit card (to get some cash back), but the transaction was rejected. I’m not sure if it was because it was trying to go through as a cash advance, or some other reason. I later funded it with a bank account instead.

Opening the certificate special. This time around, I opened their special 15-month certificate at 3.20% APY via this page. After doing so, there was a message directing me to fund it with a mailed check to a specific address with 10 days:

There may be other options like walking in a check or using a credit union shared deposit network, but I like to do things online whenever possible. My usual process is to link my new credit union with my Ally savings account hub. First, I used the account number from the approval message (see above) and the NASA FCU routing number of 255077833. I had to use the 2 small test deposit method for verification, so that took a day. Then, Ally let me push funds with a 1-day transfer into the savings account. Finally, I used the NASA FCU Live Chat feature to have them fund my special certificate using the funds in the share savings account. Here’s my timeline:

  • Day 1 – Started application and got approval. Initiated link via Ally Bank.
  • Day 2 – Verification deposits arrived at NASA FCU. Verified link via Ally Bank. Initiated transfer.
  • Day 3 – Funds arrived at NASA FCU. Used Live Chat to fund certificate.
  • Day 4 – Certificate open and funded.

The share certificate now shows up on my online banking page, right next to the share savings account. I didn’t have to mail in anything, like a signature card. I hope that NASA FCU keeps up their trend of offering top certificate rates.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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 2019

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for February 2019, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to get an idea of how much extra interest you’d earn if you are moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 2/3/19.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks like to get away with 0.01% APY, it’s easy to open a new “piggy-back” savings account and simply move some funds over from your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I prioritize banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

  • Redneck Bank offers 2.50% APY on balances up to $50,000. CIT Bank Savings Builder is now up to 2.45% APY with a $100 monthly deposit (with no balance limit). There are several other established high-yield savings accounts at 2% APY and up.
  • Got a lot of friends or followers? You can 4.30% APY on up to $50,000 for 30 days via the Empower app, plus another 30 days for each friend that you refer to the. First month is free + 11 referrals = 4.30% APY for a year.

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 (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.

  • Marcus Bank has 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.35% APY with a $500 minimum deposit, Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD is at 2.30% APY with a $25k+ minimum, and CIT Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.05% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. 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. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Sallie Mae Bank has a 1-year CD at 2.85% APY ($2,500 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 90 days of interest.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, beware that many brokers pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the money for themselves). The following money market and ultra-short bond funds are not FDIC-insured, but may be a good option if you have idle cash and cheap/free commissions.

  • Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund currently pays an 2.48% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 2.32%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.
  • Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 2.73% SEC Yield ($3,000 min) and 2.83% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so there is more interest rate risk.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 2.97% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 3.07% 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. 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.

  • 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 2/1/19, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.41% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.56% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 2.30% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 2.19% SEC yield. GBIL appears to have a slightly longer average maturity than BIL.

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

  • “I Bonds” bought between November 2018 and April 2019 will earn a 2.82% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More info here.
  • In mid-April 2019, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.

Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with exceptionally high interest rates. The negatives are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. There is a long list of previous offers that have already disappeared with little notice. I don’t personally recommend or use any of these anymore.

  • The only notable card left in this category is Mango Money at 6% APY on up to $2,500, but there are many hoops to jump through. Signature “credit” purchases of $1,500 or more and a minimum balance of $25.00 at the end of the month is needed to qualify for the 6.00%.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. Rates can also drop to near-zero quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. I don’t use any of these anymore, either.

  • The best one left is Consumers Credit Union, which offers 3.09% to 5.09% APY on up to a $10k balance depending on your qualifying activity. The highest tier requires their credit card in addition to their debit card (other credit cards offer $500+ in sign-up bonuses). Keep your 12 debit purchases just above the $100 requirement, as for every $500 in monthly purchases you may be losing out on cash back rewards elsewhere. Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
  • If you’re looking for a non-rewards high-yield checking account, MemoryBank has a checking account with no debit card requirements at 1.60% APY.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
CDs offer higher rates, but some with a 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.

  • NASA Federal CU has a 15-month certificate at 3.20% APY and a 25-month at 3.25% APY ($10,000 minimum). 182 day early withdrawal penalty. Anyone can join this credit unions with via membership in partner organization (see application). Ally Bank has a 14-month CD at 2.85% APY (no minimum). 60 day early withdrawal penalty.
  • United States Senate Federal Credit Union has a 5-year Share Certificate at 3.53% APY ($60k min), 3.47% APY ($20k min), or 3.41% APY ($1k min). Note that the early withdrawal penalty is a full year of interest. Anyone can join this credit union via American Consumer Council.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable fixed early withdrawal penalties. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 2-year non-callable CD at 2.65% APY and a 5-year non-callable CD at 3.10% APY. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs listed by Fidelity.

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 fixed early withdrawal penalties. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 10-year non-callable CD at 3.35% APY. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity. Matching the overall yield curve, current CD rates do not rise much higher as you extend beyond a 5-year maturity.
  • How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a guarantee that the value will double in value in 20 years, which equals a guaranteed return of 3.5% a year. However, if you don’t hold for that long, you’ll be stuck with the normal rate which is quite low (currently a sad 0.10% rate). I view this as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as long-term bond and thus a hedge against deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years. As of 1/9/19, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.86%.

All rates were checked as of 2/3/19.



My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Bank of America Free Museum Tickets 2019 Dates

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bofa_musBank of America is running their Museums on Us program again for 2019, which offers cardholders free admissions to 200+ museums, science centers, and botanical gardens nationwide on the first full weekend of every month (Saturday and Sunday). Each person just needs to show their valid Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card and photo ID for free admission.

Each cardholder gets one free general admission for themselves only, so be sure everyone with their own cards brings them. If you have a BofA credit card, you may consider adding family members (of any age) as a free authorized user. Another option is to open a Kids Savings Account with no monthly fee and also comes with a debit card. You may need to open this in a physical branch.

2019 Calendar Dates (Check specific museum for hours)

  • January 5th & 6th
  • February 2nd & 3rd
  • March 2nd & 3rd
  • April 6th & 7th
  • May 4th & 5th
  • June 1st & 2nd
  • July 6th & 7th
  • August 3rd & 4th
  • September 7th & 8th
  • October 5th & 6th
  • November 2nd & 3rd
  • December 7th & 8th

Here is the full list of participating locations [pdf]. One of the available museums is the Thinkery in Austin, Texas. We found it to be a fun and interactive children’s science center. The admission was $12 per person including kids (23 months and under free), which means this could have saved our family of give between $24 and $60 for that one day. I’ve seen other museums on their list with $20 admission prices.

While I wouldn’t open a new bank or credit card account for this feature, it is a nice perk if you already have such accounts. You can also sign-up for a free text reminder before each free weekend. I signed up and haven’t gotten any spam texts from BofA, just the reminders.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Empower Banking App Review: 4.30% APY for 30 Days with Each Referral (But Be Careful)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Update April 2019: I have had trouble with Empower after opening an account, specifically getting them to credit my interest. I would not recommend Empower as a bank replacement at this time. They do not have have any phone number for customer support and their text-based support is often slow to respond. Combined with the fact that there are no branches, I don’t like that there is nobody to talk to immediately if there is an important problem.

Original post:

The Empower app is a combination of an online checking/savings account and an “AI” assistant that analyzes your income and spending activity from external bank accounts as well. The savings account currently offers a base 2.15% APY and the checking offers 1% cash back on the first $1,000 in debit card purchases each month. A newly referred user can get a 30 day boost of double those numbers – 4.30% APY and 2% cash back. You can get an additional 30-day boost for each friend that you refer. I’ve had this account open for a week now, and here are my thoughts.

Application process (App-only). You must do everything in the iOS or Android app – initial application, funding, transfers, etc. They require all the usual bank things like SSN, but they explicitly state that they will not run a credit check. I don’t believe there is a web browser interface at all. Everyone who opens an account gets both a checking and savings account, plus the digital assistant. Note that when you link an external bank account, the digital assistant will parse through your historical and ongoing transactions and look for ways to save you money. You can easily turn it off, but this may affect the choice of what bank account you wish to link.

(Note: The referral program may only be available to those who use the Apple iOS version of their app. This might have changed already or may change later, but I only have the iOS app running right now.)

Empower Checking has no minimum balance, no monthly fees, no overdraft fees, and free ATM withdrawals from the 25,000 ATMs in the MoneyPass network. In addition, they will reimburse you for one (1) out-of-network ATM transaction each month. I like this last feature as I only take cash out of an ATM about once a month. They give you your debit card number immediately, but will send you a physical Visa debit card as well.

This is a “real” FDIC-insured bank, with deposits insured of up to $250,000 per titled account through Evolve Bank & Trust, FDIC certificate number #1299. The routing number provided in the app is that of Evolve Bank. You can use the routing and account numbers to link your Empower account to other online banks (on their side) without giving Empower access to your transaction history.

The linked debit card offers a base 1% cash back on the first $1,000 in purchases spend each month. Newly referred users get a 30-day boost to 2% cash back, and each time you successfully refer someone to Empower, you will receive another 30-day boost. Debit card purchases have no foreign transaction fees.

Empower Savings has no minimum balance and no monthly fees. The current base interest rate is 2% APY. Newly referred users get a 30-day boost to 4% APY (capped at a $50,000 balance), and each time you successfully refer someone to Empower, you will receive another 30-day boost. You can transfer money between checking and savings instantly, but the savings account is still subject to the federal law limiting withdrawals from savings to six (6) times per month.

Referral program details. There are some important clarifications to their referral program. Here are selected parts:

  • You earn 30 days of boost for each referred friend that opens an Empower bank account and deposits at least $10.
  • Your boost will start the first day the funds clear into your referred friend’s account. If you are already receiving a boost, your boost for any subsequent qualifying referrals will start once any prior boosts conclude. (i.e. invite 3 friends and your can earn three consecutive 30 day boosts).
  • Your referred friends each get a 30 day boost starting the day their deposit of $10 or more clears into their Empower account.
  • During each 30-day boost, each person will earn an additional 1% cashback on the first $1,000 of their debit card transactions during the boost period and an additional 2% per annum Cash Reward on up to $50,000 of savings account balance. The 2% per annum Cash Reward is in addition to the 2.00% APY that is paid on Empower savings accounts.
  • Boost rewards are paid out at the end of each boost period.
  • Invite friends by logging in to your Empower app and sending an invite SMS to your friends.
  • The phone number you text must be the same phone number that your friend signs up for Empower banking with to be eligible.
  • The invited friend cannot be an existing or previous Empower banking customer, nor can they have been invited by someone else in the past.

My experience. Empower feels like the future. Everything is done via app, and it’s kind of creepy. (Yup, that’s my view of the future. Apps and kinda creepy.) The user interface is smooth and I actually like that part. Once you link your external bank, it immediately scans your transactions and points out ways to save money (“You need a new insurance quote! Your premium of $1,234 is too high!” or “Cancel this subscription!”). You may love this feature, or not. My bet is that the megabank apps from Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo will all do this type of stuff eventually.

However, I would not recommend Empower as a bank replacement at this time. They do have have any phone number for customer support and their text-based support is often slow to respond. Combined with the fact that there are no branches, I don’t like that there is nobody to talk to immediately if there is an important problem.

In the end, I don’t see anything drastically new that would make me recommend this app on an ongoing basis unless you had a lot of friends that want a new bank. Lots of online checking accounts offer ATM reimbursements now. 2% APY is common across online savings accounts. The 1% cash back on debit card purchases isn’t that special.

Now, if you did have 12 friends to refer (and $50,000), you could get 4.30% APY on up to $50,000 for a year. That’s an extra $1,150 in annual interest as compared to 2% APY, nothing to sneeze at.

Bottom line. Empower.me is a new fintech banking app that combines a no-minimum checking account, a no-minimum savings account, and AI financial assistant that analyzes your spending and makes suggestions. The feature that makes it noteworthy is that a new user can get a 30 day boost of double their normal interest to 4.30% APY for each friend that they refer to open a new account. However, I would not recommend Empower as a bank replacement at this time due to their lack of even a phone number for customer service. Most online banks have at least a phone number during business hours, and for example Ally Bank has humans available 24/7.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Merrill Edge + Preferred Rewards = Free Trades and Up to $900 Bonus For Moving Assets

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

Merrill Edge is the self-directed brokerage arm formed after Bank of America and Merrill Lynch merged together. They are currently offering an increased cash bonus of up to $900 for moving “new money” or assets over to them from another brokerage firm. This new bonus is linked to the BofA/Merrill Preferred Rewards program, which is another reason to consider using them as it gets you free stock trades and better credit card rewards. Here’s an overview along with my personal experience as I’ve had an account with them for a few years now.

Cash bonus. Brokerage firms love to collect assets. The good news is they don’t require cash that will be earning zero interest, and Edge has no management fees if you stick with DIY. If you are holding shares of stock, ETFs, or mutual funds elsewhere, you can simply perform an “in-kind” ACAT transfer over to Merrill Edge. Your 100 shares of AAPL will remain 100 shares of AAPL, so you don’t even have to worry about price changes, lost dividends, or tax consequences. Any cost basis should transfer over too.

This specific offer is for accounts opened by April 30, 2019 and offers the following:

  • $150 bonus with $20,000 to $49,999 in new assets
  • $225 bonus with $50,000 to $99,999 in new assets
  • $375 bonus with $100,000 to $199,999 in new assets
  • $900 bonus with $200,000 or more in new assets

For comparison, here is an expired offer that was slightly better but probably the highest I’ve seen. Here is the standard offer that has been around for a while.

This offer includes both IRAs and regular taxable (CMA) accounts:

1 Offer valid for new and existing individual Merrill Edge IRAs or Cash Management Accounts (CMAs) opened by April 30, 2019. Offer is limited to one CMA and one IRA, with no more than two enrolled accounts per accountholder. Eligible Merrill Edge IRAs limited to Rollover, Traditional, Roth and owner only SEP IRA. The Merrill Edge IRA or CMA may be a Merrill Edge Self-Directed account, Merrill Edge Advisory Account or Merrill Guided Investing account. You may be eligible for a different or better offer. Please contact us for more information.

Note that last sentence! It’s not just boilerplate. After I did this bonus once with a partial transfer (just enough to satisfy the requirements), a Merrill Edge rep contacted me and offered me a custom bonus to move even more assets over. (The bonus ratios were about the same, but higher limits.) Therefore, if you are considering this and have more than $200,000 to transfer over, you may want to give them a call and see if they can offer even more money.

You can even transfer in Admiral Shares of Vanguard mutual funds that they don’t let you trade there, but you can only hold or sell them. You can’t buy more shares. You can, however, buy more shares of the corresponding Vanguard ETF if you wish.

Preferred Rewards bonus. The Preferred Rewards program is designed to rewards clients with multiple account and higher assets located at Bank of America banking, Merrill Edge online brokerage, and Merrill Lynch investment accounts. Here is a partial table taken from their comparison chart (click to enlarge):

bofa_pref1

At the Platinum and Platinum Plus levels, Merrill Edge will give you 30 and 100 free online stock trades every month, respectively. Bank of America’s interest rates on cash accounts tend to be quite low, so moving cash over to qualify may result in earning less interest on your cash deposits. Merrill Lynch advisory accounts also usually come with management fees. The sweet spot is if you have brokerage assets like stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs.

Credit cards rewards. With the Preferred Rewards boost, you can get up to 2.6% cash back towards travel on all your purchases on the Bank of America Travel Rewards Card. You can also get up to 5.25% cash back (on up to $2,500 per quarter) on your choice of gas, online shopping, dining, or travel with the Bank of America Cash Rewards Card.

Keep in mind that it will take a while for your “3-month average combined balance” to actually reach the required level and officially qualify. (This may be obvious, but if you put in the minimum, it will take 3 months.)

My personal experience. In terms of Merrill Edge, I’ve had an account with them for a few years now and my lightning review is that they have a “okay/good” user interface and solidly “good” customer service. I would add that I am not an active trader and only make about 10 trades a year. I have been quite satisfied with the account. I can also move money instantly between my Merrill Edge and Bank of America checking accounts, making it easy to sweep out idle cash into an external savings account.

The biggest financial benefit to this BofA/Merrill Edge combo has probably been the 75% boost to their credit card rewards, allowing me to get 2.625% cash back on basically all my daily purchases. The second biggest benefit has probably been this cash bonus, but that’s because I don’t make 100 trades over the course of a few years, let alone a single month.

Bottom line. Merrill Edge is currently offering up to $900 if you move over a significant amount of assets to their self-directed brokerage. This can simply be mutual fund or ETFs shares currently being held elsewhere. When you keep enough assets across Bank of America and Merrill Edge, their Preferred Rewards program can offer nice perks like waived bank fees, free stock trades, and boosted credit card rewards.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. 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.

Discover Bank Bonus: 2.10% APY + $150/$200 ($15,000/$25,000 Deposit)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

disc_osaDiscover Bank has a refreshed bonus for their online savings account that equates to a solid effective interest rate. If you open a new account through this promotion link by 2/4/19 and use the offer code NPBE119, you can receive one of the following bonuses:

  • Deposit at least $15,000 by 2/18/19 to earn a $150 bonus, or
  • Deposit at least $25,000 by 2/18/19 to earn a $200 bonus.

Thanks to reader Jared for the tip. If the link above stops working, here is a similar offer expiring 1/31/19 with promo code SAVE119E1.

The Discover Online Savings Account has a current interest rate of 2.10% APY as of 1/21/19, which is a competitive rate although the highest available is currently 2.45% APY. There are no minimum balance requirements and no monthly fees. Interest is compounded daily and paid monthly.

If you deposit the minimum amount of $15k, the $150 bonus is effectively another 1% of your initial deposit. The $200 bonus on $25,000 deposited is a lower percentage, but still pretty good. There is no fixed minimum time period where you have to keep the money there after getting the bonus, so your effective ROI can be quite high. Keep in mind that you must still have an open account for the bonus to post.

Offer not valid for existing or prior Discover savings customers or existing or prior customers with savings accounts that are co-branded or affinity accounts provided by Discover. Account must be open when bonus is credited. Bonus will be credited to the account by 3/4/19. Bonus is considered interest and will be reported on IRS Form 1099-INT. Offer may be modified/withdrawn.

I already have a Discover bank account that I tried out in exchange for a previous bonus. I did not experience a hard credit pull. The rates are decent but given their limited feature set there is usually another similar savings account that is higher, so I only keep it open in case something good comes up in the future. I only keep $5 in there with a $5 transfer once in a while so they don’t close it without notice.

Bottom line. The Discover Savings account is a simple, barebones piggy-back* savings account with no minimum balance and no monthly fees. The rates are historically competitive but rarely the highest. With no monthly fees, this is a relatively low-risk bonus if you have the funds available and have never had a Discover bank account before. Note that the bonus is considered taxable interest.

(* “Piggy-back” means it is a companion account to your existing checking account.)

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