Top 10 Best Small Business Credit Card Bonus Offers – February 2019

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Do you have small business income or work as an independent contractor? Uber/Lyft, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Airbnb? You are eligible to open a small business credit card, which keeps your personal and business expenses separate. If you are not a corporation or LLC, you can apply as a sole proprietorship, with your name as the business name and your Social Security number as the Tax ID number. I did this for years successfully before incorporating my business.

Small business credit cards are offering strong perks and $500+ value for a single card during the first year to try out a new card. Below are the top 10 credit card offers that I would apply for (or have applied for already) as of February 2019. Recent changes:

  • New 100k Marriott Bonvoy Business limited-time offer.
  • New 75k United Explorer Business limited-time offer.
  • Updated Capital One Spark for Business offer (no more 2k).
  • Updated Alaska Air card offer.

This is a companion post to my Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers for personal cards. Notice that small business bonuses are on average even higher than those on consumer cards.

Note: Certain Chase cards have a “5/24 rule” which is an unofficial rule that they will automatically deny approval on new credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards on your credit report within the past 2 years. This rule applies on a per-person basis, so if you are new, you might want to start with those Chase cards.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card

  • 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $1,000 towards travel!) after $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 3X points on the first $150,000 spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines.
  • Primary rental car coverage when renting for business purposes.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

United Explorer Business Card

  • 75,000 United miles after $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • Free first checked bag for both you and a companion (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip).
  • Expanded award availability. Having this card makes it easier to redeem for that saver award economy ticket.
  • Primary rental car coverage when renting for business purposes.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Chase Ink Business Unlimited Card

  • $500 bonus cash back after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • Flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limit.
  • No annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Chase Ink Business Cash Card

  • $500 bonus cash back after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.
  • No annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card

  • 100,000 bonus points after $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • Points can be used towards Marriott (and former Starwood) hotel stays, or converted to select airlines miles.
  • Annual fee is $125 (if applied for the card before 3/27/2019, the annual fee for the first year is waived, then $95). Free night award upon card anniversary (worth up to 35,000 Bonvoy points).

Capital One Spark Cash for Business Card

  • $500 cash bonus after $4,500 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • Flat 2% cash back on all purchases with no limit.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Capital One Spark Miles for Business Card

  • 50,000 bonus miles after $4,500 in purchases in the first 3 months. 50,000 miles is redeemable for $500 towards travel. See link for details.
  • Flat 2X miles per dollar on all purchases with no limit.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card

  • 60,000 Rapid Rewards points (redeemable for $900+ in Wanna Getaway airfare) after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • $99 annual fee.
  • Combine with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Consumer Card to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

American Express Plum Card

  • $600 cash back. Earn a $200 statement credit after each $10,000 you spend in purchases, up to $30,000, within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 1.5% early pay discount on all purchases which stacks on top of the bonus above.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $250.

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard

  • 70,000 American Airlines miles after $4,000 in purchases in the first 4 months. See link for details.
  • First checked bag free on domestic flights perk ($60 value per roundtrip, per person).
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $99.

Hawaiian Airlines Business Mastercard (Barclaycard)

  • 50,000 Hawaiian miles after $1,000 in purchases with the first 90 days. See link for details.
  • One-time 50% off companion discount for roundtrip coach travel between Hawaii and the Mainland on Hawaiian Airlines.
  • $99 annual fee.

Alaska Airlines Visa Business Card (Bank of America)

  • 30,000 Alaska miles + BOGO Companion Fare Voucher after $1,000 in purchase within 90 days. See link for details.
  • Companion fare voucher is “Buy one ticket, get one for just taxes and fees” ($0 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22).
  • Free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six other passengers on the same reservation.
  • $50 annual fee for company, plus $25 per card.

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card Review – 100,000 Bonus Miles Limited-Time Offer

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

The Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card is the re-branded business credit card of the Marriott Bonvoy program (formed after the merger of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest). This card offers unique perks for Marriott customer, but now through 4/24/19, there is a limited-time offer bump to 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. In addition, if you apply by 3/28/19, the annual fee is waived during the first year. Here are the highlights:

  • Limited time offer: 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months.
  • 6x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 4x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, U.S. purchases on shipping, and wireless telephone services purchased from U.S. service providers
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • 1 Free Night Award each year after your Card account anniversary you can use at a participating hotel. (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points). Certain hotels may have resort fees.
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status. Additionally, earn Gold Elite status after spending $35,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year.
  • Elite Night Credit. Each calendar year you can receive credit for 15 nights towards the next level of Marriott Bonvoy Elite status.
  • Annual fee is $125 (if applied for the card before 3/27/2019, the annual fee for the first year is waived, then $95)

Keep in mind the following terms and conditions:

Welcome offer not available to applicants who have or have had this product or The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express. We may also consider the number of American Express Cards you have opened and closed as well as other factors in making a decision on your welcome offer eligibility.

Welcome offer not available to applicants who (i) have or have had the Marriott BonvoyTM Premier Business from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Business Credit Card from Chase, or the Marriott Bonvoy BusinessTM from Chase, or the Marriott Rewards Business Credit Card from Chase in the last 30 days, (ii) have acquired the Marriott Bonvoy BoundlessTM from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott BonvoyTM Premier from Chase or the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase in the last 90 days, or (iii) received a new cardmember bonus in the last 24 months on the Marriott Bonvoy BoundlessTM from Chase, the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card from Chase, the Marriott BonvoyTM Premier Plus from Chase or the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card from Chase.

This is more specific than before, note the different 30-day, 90-day, and 24-month waiting periods that may now include consumer cards. American Express usually gives you a pop-up warning during the application process if you are ineligible based on their records. This is why you should be looking to get the best possible bonus (like a limited-time offer and waived annual fee) when you do apply.

Many people aren’t aware of the fact that they can apply for business credit cards, even if they are not a corporation or LLC. The business type is called a sole proprietorship, and these days many people are full-time or part-time consultants, freelancers, eBay/Amazon/Etsy sellers, Uber/Lyft drivers, or other one-person business owners. This is the simplest business entity, but it is fully legit and recognized by the IRS. On a business credit card application, you should use your own legal name as the business name, and your Social Security Number as the Tax ID.

Free Night Award. At your card anniversary (when you pay the annual fee), you will receive a Free Night Award that is good for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. This excludes the very top properties, but for regular travelers it will be very easy to get your $95 or even $125 value. Many W Hotels, Westin, and even some Ritz-Carltons worldwide are included. Here are some sample hotels that qualify under the 35,000 point limit:

  • Sheraton Kona Resort (Big Island, Hawaii)
  • Westin Hapuna Beach Resort (Big Island, Hawaii)
  • Courtyard Waikiki Beach (Honolulu, Oahu)
  • Sheraton Kauai Resort (Kauai, Hawaii)
  • W Atlanta
  • New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile
  • W Chicago
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Beijing, China
  • The S. Regis Bangkok, Thailand

Bottom line. The Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card is the new co-branded business card between Marriott/SPG and American Express. However, the best time to apply is before 3/27/19 as you will be eligible for both the limited-time 100,000 bonus miles offer and the annual fee waiver during the first year (also your annual fee will be only $95 in future years instead of $125.) You also get a Free Night Award at card anniversary, which can be worth much more than the annual fee.

I have added this card to the Top 10 Best Small Business Card Bonus Offers.

How to Track Credit Score Changes + Free Credit Monitoring (No Credit Card Required)

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Updated 2019. As noted, the government requires the credit bureaus to provide you a free credit report once every 12 months. However, the services listed below provide you a free credit score updated throughout the year either daily, weekly, or monthly. The best ones also offer free daily credit monitoring and/or free identity protection services. As of 2019, all three major credit bureaus are covered: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.

None of the services below require credit card number to sign up, so you don’t have to worry about any surprise charges. These are either ad-supported (they will pitch you stuff) and/or they are “freemium” services with a paid upgrade option (but you can stay free forever).

Credit Sesame

CreditSesame.com offers a free credit score every month, based on your TransUnion credit report (VantageScore). Score range is 300-850. They only require the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number. No trial or credit card required. The best part about Credit Sesame in my experience is that they have the most reliable credit alerts (and the free insurance which I haven’t used).

  • Free daily credit monitoring. Credit Sesame also offers free daily credit monitoring of your TransUnion data, with alerts coming via e-mail, text, or smartphone app. This service tracks more than 40 different credit activities such as a balance change, address change or when a new account is opened.
  • Free identity protection and restoration services. Credit Sesame also includes $50,000 in identity theft insurance and access to identity restoration support in their free membership level.

Credit Karma

CreditKarma.com offers you two free credit scores, based on your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports and updated weekly (VantageScore). Score range is 300-850. They only require the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number. No trial or credit card required. The best part about Credit Karma in my experience is that you get two credit bureaus covered in one service.

  • Free credit monitoring. Credit Karma also offers free e-mail credit monitoring alerts of your TransUnion data.

FreeCreditScore.com

FreeCreditScore.com offers a free credit score every month, based on your Experian credit report (FICO 08). Score range is 300-850. They require your full Social Security Number. No trial or credit card required. The best part about FreeCreditScore.com in my experience is that they are a rare free option to track changes to your Experian report.

  • Free credit monitoring. They also offer free e-mail credit monitoring alerts of your Experian data.

WalletHub

WalletHub.com offers a free credit score based on your TransUnion credit report (VantageScore), updated daily. Score range is 300-850. They only require the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number. No trial or credit card required. The best part about WalletHub in my experience is that they offer daily access to your full TransUnion credit report, if for some reason you want to check your full report that often.

Note that some of the scores above are not FICO scores because Fair Isaac charges more money in licensing fees and these companies may not be able to cover those costs with their advertising. However, these services are still be very useful for tracking changes in your credit history. I enjoy getting alerts if a credit card balance is paid in full, if there is a new credit inquiry, or if my credit utilization ratio gets too high on a specific credit line. This is also a great way to get early warning of any fraudulent activity.

Bottom line. I use the services above to keep track of any daily changes to my credit reports across all three credit bureaus for free. None of them require my credit card number, and they alert me to things like new accounts, new credit check inquiries, and high credit line usage.

Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers – February 2019

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Updated February 2019. That space in your wallet or purse is more valuable than you think. Credit card companies are fighting it out, offering strong perks and $500+ value for a single card during the first year to encourage you to apply and try it out. These are the top 10 credit card offers that I would apply for right now, if I didn’t already most of them. Recent changes:

  • Replaced Citi AA 50k card offer with limited-time Barclays AA 60k offer.
  • Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards – limited-time offer expired.
  • Hawaiian Airlines – limited-time offer up to 60k.
  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus – bonus offer up to 70k.

If you pay off your balances every month, then you can join me and many others in funding a huge chunk of your annual travel budget with cash credits, points, and miles. You don’t need to be a “I only fly business class” world traveler. I mostly use my rewards points on domestic economy flights, mid-class hotels, and cheap car rentals. If you have credit card debt, you should focus on paying that off first as the interest charges could offset most of the perks.

This is a companion post to my Top 10 Best Business Card Offers. Small business bonuses are on average even higher than those on consumer cards.

Note: Certain Chase cards have a “5/24 rule” which is an unofficial rule that they will automatically deny approval on new credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards from any issuer on your credit report within the past 2 years. This rule applies on a per-person basis, so if you are new, you might want to start with those Chase cards.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card

  • 70,000 points (worth $700 towards travel) after $5,000 in purchases in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee. See link for details.
  • Unlimited 2X miles on every purchase.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $89.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $625 towards travel) after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 2X points on Travel and Dining at restaurants worldwide.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.
  • Alternative: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. More rewards, more perks including lounge access, $450 annual fee, $300 annual travel credit.

Hawaiian Airlines Bank of Hawaii Card

  • 60,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles. Limited-time offer of 60,000 bonus Hawaiian miles after spending $2,000 within the first 90 days. See link for details.
  • Free first checked bag for primary cardmember when using your card to purchase eligible tickets directly from Hawaiian Airlines.
  • Receive a one-time 50% off companion discount for roundtrip coach travel between Hawaii and The Mainland on Hawaiian Airlines.
  • $99 annual fee.

Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red Card

  • 60,000 American Airlines miles. 60,000 miles after first purchase (any amount) in first 90 days. See link for details.
  • First checked bag free on domestic AA flights ($60 value per roundtrip, per person).
  • $95 annual fee.

Citi Premier Card

  • 50,000 ThankYou points (worth $625 towards travel) after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 3X points on Travel, including Gas Stations
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

British Airways Visa Signature Card

  • Up to 100,000 Avios points. 50,000 Avios after $3,000 in purchases within first 3 months. Additional 25,000 Avios for $10,000 in purchases within first year. Additional 25,000 Avios for $20,000 in purchases within first year. See link for details and redemption tips.
  • Free Travel Together companion ticket when you spend $30,000 in calendar year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • NOT subject to 5/24 rule.

American Express Gold Card

  • 40,000 Membership Rewards points (flexible, worth 50,000 miles at various airlines) after $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • $120 in Grubhub and Seamless credit. $10 in statement credits each month when you pay with this card at participating partners – Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations.
  • $100 airline fee credit. Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits towards checked baggage fees and inflight meals.
  • $250 annual fee.

Bank of America Premium Rewards Card

  • 50,000 points (worth $500 towards travel) after $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. See link for details.
  • 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $100 annual Airline Incidental Statement Credit.
  • Up to $100 credit towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.
  • $95 annual fee.

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Card

  • $500 cash bonus after $3000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Chase World of Hyatt Card

  • Up to 50,000 Hyatt points. 25,000 Bonus Points after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. Plus an additional 25,000 Bonus Points after a total of $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. See link for details and rough valuation of points.
  • $95 annual fee, free night award upon card anniversary.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Southwest Companion Pass: Chase Southwest Credit Card Bonuses

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Southwest Airlines offers a unique feature called the Companion Pass, which lets you pick one person to fly with free when you book either paid or award flights. If you either fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year, and you’ll earn the Companion Pass for the remainder of that year plus the following full calendar year. For example, if you earned it in February 2019, you would have the benefit for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020. You can change your designated companion up to three times each calendar year.

Points earned from credit cards count toward that 110,000 point requirement, including sign-up bonuses. You can often get very close to that magic number when you add up the potential miles from these Southwest credit cards:

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus credit card

  • 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 3,000 bonus points after each Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $69 annual fee.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier card

  • 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after each Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $99 annual fee.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority card

  • 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 7,500 bonus points after each Cardmember anniversary.
  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit.
  • Four Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • 20% back on inflight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies.
  • Earn tier qualifying points towards A-list status.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $149 annual fee.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card

  • 60,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 6,000 bonus points after each Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $99 annual fee.

Value of Rapid Rewards points. After you earn the required 110,000 Rapid Rewards, redeeming them for flight values varies in a narrow range, but a reasonable approximation from my experience is $1,700 in Wanna Get Away airfare (you are still liable for taxes and fees from $5.60 one-way). Importantly, Southwest does NOT have blackout dates or seat restrictions when you redeem with points. This means that Southwest points are much easier to use than a “saver award” on traditional airlines. Now, if you manage to qualify for the the Companion Pass on every trip that you book with those points, that doubles the potential value of each award redemption.

Another option to consider is gift card redemptions. You can still redeem 5,000 points for a $50 a Amazon.com or Wal-Mart gift certificate. That makes 50,000 points still worth $500 in Amazon or Walmart gift cards.

Southwest still includes two free checked bags per person. The fees on the other airlines have crept up to $30 per bag, each-way. That adds up.

Our family policy is to not try out a new credit card unless it offers us $500 in total value. Just the free award flights from the points are enough to satisfy that rule, and then you can add on the potential value of the companion tickets.

Card restrictions. All of these Southwest credit cards are subject to “5/24” restrictions, which means that your application will be automatically denied if you have opened 5 or more credit cards in the last 24 months (check your credit reports). Our household strategy is to have one person only apply for Chase 5/24 cards, and the other person applies for everything else. There is also this language on the consumer card:

The product is not available to either (i) current Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards® Credit Card, or (ii) previous Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card who received a new Cardmember bonus within the last 24 months. This does not apply to Cardmembers of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Card and Employee Credit Card products.

Basically, you can get one sign-up bonus from a Southwest consumer card once every 24 months. You can also get one sign-up bonus from a Southwest business card once every 24 months.

Extending your Companion Pass with Chase Ultimate Rewards points. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest points on a 1:1 basis. The idea is is to book an award flight with those Southwest points while you have the Companion Pass, thus doubling the value of your Ultimate Rewards points as well.

Bottom line. Right now, you can earn 100,000 Southwest points from qualifying for just two credit card sign-up bonuses (one personal and one business), which is only 10,000 points short of qualifying for the Southwest Companion pass (and a lot of free Southwest flights!). A Companion Pass earned now would get you a free companion ticket on every flight bought with cash or points for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020. Plus, Southwest still includes two free checked bags per person.

ABOC Platinum Rewards Credit Card Review – 5X Rewards on Rotating Categories

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

The ABOC Platinum Rewards Credit Card just got revamped to include 5X rewards on rotating categories each quarter. This card is a Mastercard issued by the Amalgamated Bank of Chicago (ABoC), a 100+ year-old commercial bank. Right now, it is offering a $150 sign-up bonus to new cardholders (see requirements below). There are a few quirks, so read on for the details.

  • $150 statement credit after making $1,200 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. Your account must be open and in good standing to get the bonus.
  • Earn 5x rewards on up to $1500 in combined purchases each quarter in popular categories such as dining, groceries, travel, and automotive.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. After that, your APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. You must transfer your balance within 90 days of your account open date for the promotional APR to apply.
  • Late payments will not result in a higher interest rate.
  • No annual fee.

2019 ABoC Platinum Rewards Calendar

You will earn 5 points per $1 spent up to $1500 in combined purchases each quarter. Here is the entire calendar for 2019:

From January 1st through March 31st, 2019 you can earn 5X rewards on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Grocery
  • Pharmacy
  • Restaurants

You must first register each quarter at ABOCRewards.com or in your online account before you can start earning the 5X rewards.

Points redemption. You’ll note that it says 5X rewards, not 5% cash back. That is because you technically earn points, and the points can be transferred to travel, cash (in the form of a statement credit), gift cards, and merchandise at different ratios.

The best redemption rate is redeeming towards their travel portal at 1 point = $0.01 in value. There are limited details about this on their website. The key question is whether an airfare ticket or hotel night costs the same on the ABOC travel portal as on Expedia, Travelocity, etc. The cash back option is 1 point = $0.0075, which would turn the 5X rewards into 3.75% straight cash back in the form of a statement credit. The gift card redemption value is in between cash and travel credit, and may be worthwhile if its a merchant you shop at anyway.

Similar cards. I will be adding this card to my list of 5% back cards with rotating categories, including:

I would personally get the Chase Freedom and Discover it ahead of this card, if only because they offer a straight 5% cash back on their rotating categories without having to go through a travel portal. However, if you already have those cards, this card would make a nice addition as the category calendars are not exactly the same, and you will get increased spending limits even if they do happen to match up.

Bottom line. The ABOC Platinum Rewards Credit Card offers a sign-up bonus and 5X rewards on rotating categories each quarter. The 5X points can be redeemed for an effective 3.75% cash back, or 5% back through their travel portal. If you already have similar rewards in your purse or wallet, this card can be a great addition as you can achieve higher spending limits and also possibly different categories in any given quarter.

Start Audible Trial via Amazon Echo, Get 4 Free Audiobooks

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

If you have any Amazon Echo device, you can start an Audible trial by simply saying “Alexa, start my Audible trial”. This will start a 30-day free trial, but through February 8th, 2019 at 4pm PT, signing up in this voice manner will get your 4 free Audiobook credits, not the usual two. Even better, I have been an Audible trial member before, and I was still eligible for this promotion. Here are the promotion details.

Offer valid from 2/1/2019 at 12:00 a.m. PT until 2/8/2019 at 4:00 p.m. PT or while supplies last. Offer available only to new Audible customers who sign up for an Audible trial on an Alexa-enabled device through voice sign-up. You will receive a 1-month Audible free trial that includes 2 credits as well as an additional 2 bonus credits (for a total of 4 credits). At the end of the free trial, your membership will continue until cancelled at the then current full price (currently $14.95 per month) with your designated credit card or another available card on file. Cancel anytime by visiting the Account Details page.

I just signed up and saw the 4 free credits in my account online immediately. I believe that you need an active account to redeem credits, so I would recommend redeeming them all in the next 30 days if you don’t wish to keep up the membership (purchased audiobooks stay in your account forever, no matter what).

I used to buy personal finance and business books on Audible, but I disliked how I couldn’t make highlights and take notes while listening. Nowadays, I mostly listen to biographies and memoirs. My most recent purchases were The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines (Fixer Upper) and The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish.

TopCashBack: Shopping Portal With 100% Commission Payout – $10 New Member Bonus

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Flat $10 New Member Bonus is back. TopCashBack has a bunch of rotating new member bonuses, but they are often for something like a big package of flushable wipes or laundry detergent. From now until February 14th, 2019, they have brought back the flat $10 cash bonus if you sign up via refer-a-friend link and earn $10 in cash back through shopping. When that happens, your $10 bonus will be “released” and available for withdrawal.

tcb10_1

For some reason, the $10 bonus isn’t indicated on the referral link landing page, but it does show up on the next page after you enter your e-mail and chosen password, before making any purchases. You should see this:

tcb10_2

If you aren’t already a member, some other portals also offer sign-up bonuses:

  • eBates ($10 new user bonus after any $25+ purchase, $5 mininum cash-out)
  • Mr. Rebates ($5 new user bonus, $10 minimum cash-out)
  • BeFrugal.com ($5 new user bonus, must earn $10 in cash back to cash out)

Original post:

topcashnewWhen you shop online these days, it’s become habit to search out a coupon or go through a shopping portal that gives a percentage back on purchases made through their links. Well, talk about a race to the bottom. Instead of rebating you part of their merchant commission, TopCashBack.com promises to rebate you all of it (and make money via ads on their website). You wouldn’t think that would be a viable business model, but the company is already the #1 cashback site in the United Kingdom so apparently it works for them.

TopCashBack also lets you get your payouts with direct ACH deposit, PayPal, Prepaid cards, or Amazon gift certificates. Sometimes the prepaid cards come with a 3% bonus and I just use those and buy Amazon gift cards.

TopCashBack is reliable and usually at or near the top, but not always. Sometimes one of these sites may privately negotiate a higher payout temporarily. For example, I usually get 1.5% back on eBay purchases from TopCashBack, but sometimes I can get 3 American Airlines miles per $1 spent as well from another portal.

Free State Income Tax E-File Options For All 50 States (Updated 2019)

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

50stateefile2

Links checked and updated for 2019. With DIY tax prep software, it is always wise to note the cost of your state return and e-File as it may actually cost more than your federal return (especially if you wait until April to file). As such, you may wish to do your state return separately. Based on their current, regular published prices at time of writing:

  • TurboTax Online Deluxe and Premier charge $39.99 for a single state return with free state e-File. Simple state tax returns are free (no itemized deductions, no 1099-MISC, no stock sales).
  • H&R Block Online Deluxe and Premium charge $36.99 for a single state return with free state e-File. Simple state tax returns are free (no itemized deductions, no 1099-MISC, no stock sales).
  • TaxACT Online Plus and Premium charges charges $39.95 for a single state return with free state e-File. Basic state tax returns are $19.95.*

Got a simple return? Both TurboTax Free Edition and H&R Block Free Edition will let you file Fed + State + eFile for $0 if you only have the following situations:

  • W-2 income
  • Limited interest and dividend income reported on a 1099-INT or 1099-DIV
  • Claim the standard deduction
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC)
  • Child tax credits

You can’t itemize deductions, have stock sales, or have 1099-MISC income, for example.

Now, the convenience that these programs offer may be worth the extra money to you. But there may be other options available. States that levy individual income taxes fall into three categories:

  1. They offer all taxpayers free electronic filing via official state-supported software.
  2. They offer all taxpayers access to free “fillable forms” which are basically electronic versions of the paper forms where you can type in numbers and any mathematical calculations are done for you. If your state tax returns are relatively simple, this may be all you really need.
  3. They allow commercial vendors via the “FreeFile Alliance” to offer free online filing for certain groups, usually through income limits, age restrictions, and/or active duty military personnel. The vendors in turn make money when some folks end up not qualifying and have to pay at the end.

Below, you’ll find free e-file information for all 50 states.

In alphabetical order (just click on the state):

State Restrictions
Alabama Free electronic filing using through My Alabama Taxes (MAT). No income restrictions.
Alaska (no state income tax)
Arizona File using AZ-specific fillable forms; No income restrictions. FreeFile options also available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Arkansas Various FreeFile options; Income and/or other restrictions apply.
California Free electronic filing using through CalFile, UDS, and others. No income restrictions.
Colorado Free electronic filing using through Revenue Online. No income restrictions.
Connecticut Free electronic filing using through TaxPayer Service Center (TSC). No income restrictions.
Delaware Free electronic filing through official state website. No income restrictions.
Florida (no state income tax)
Georgia FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Hawaii File for free at Hawaii Tax Online.
Idaho FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Illinois Free electronic filing through MyTax Illinois. No income restrictions.
Indiana FreeFile options available through INfreefile; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Iowa FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Kansas Free electronic filing through KS WebFile. No income restrictions.
Kentucky FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Louisiana Free electronic filing through Louisiana File Online. No income restrictions.
Maine Free electronic filing through Maine FastFile. No income restrictions.
Maryland Free electronic filing through Maryland iFile. No income restrictions.
Massachusetts FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply. WebFile for Income was shut down in 2017.
Michigan FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Minnesota FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Mississippi FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Missouri FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Montana FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply. Looks like they recently get rid of free electronic filing through Taxpayer Access Point (TAP).
Nebraska Free electronic filing through NebFile. No income restrictions.
Nevada (no state income tax)
New Hampshire Free electronic filing through e-File New Hampshire. No income restrictions. (No state personal income tax, but there is tax on investment income.)
New Jersey Free electronic filing through NJ WebFile. No income restrictions.
New Mexico Free electronic filing through New Mexico Taxpayer Access Point. No income restrictions.
New York Free electronic filing of select forms online with New York State Income Tax Web File, but note that New York law prohibits commercial software from charging an additional charge for e-filing.
North Carolina FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
North Dakota FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Ohio Free electronic filing through I-File from Ohio Online Services. No income restrictions.
Oklahoma Free electronic filing through Oklahoma Taxpayer Access Points (OkTAP). No income restrictions.
Oregon File using OR-specific fillable forms; No income restrictions. FreeFile options also available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Pennsylvania Free electronic filing through PA DirectFile. No income restrictions. Free Fillable PDF Forms also available.
Rhode Island FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
South Carolina File using SC-specific free fillable forms; No income restrictions. FreeFile options also available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
South Dakota (no state income tax)
Tennessee Free electronic filing through state website of Hall Income Tax. No income restrictions. (No state personal income tax, but there is tax on investment income.)
Texas (no state income tax)
Utah Free electronic filing through Taxpayer Access Point (TAP). No income restrictions.
Vermont FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Virginia File using VA-specific free fillable forms; No income restrictions. FreeFile options also available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Washington (no state income tax)
Washington DC File using DC-specific free fillable forms; No income restrictions. FreeFile options also available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
West Virginia FreeFile options available; income and/or other restrictions apply.
Wisconsin Free electronic filing through Wisconsin efile. No income restrictions.
Wyoming (no state income tax)

 
Whew, that took a while. Please share this if you think it’ll help others! Also let me know if you find any errors or changed links.

Mint Mobile: Increased Data Tiers, 3 Months of Unlimited Talk, Text, 8 GB Data For $20 Total

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

New promo + more data across all plans. Mint Mobile is how I keep my cell phone costs low. They use the T-Mobile network, which means if you have a compatible phone switching just involves swapping in a new SIM card. As of January 29th, they increased the data on each of their plans for both new and existing customers. The tiers are now 3, 8, and 12 GB of data each month (see graphic above). Alternatively, this additional data may let you go down to a cheaper tier and save another $60 per year ($5 per month).

In addition, they have brought back the old holiday promo for a limited time as a “Super Bowl” promo. New members can get 3 months of Unlimited Talk, Text, and 8 GB LTE Data for $20 Total ($6.67 per month). The details:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and 8 GB LTE data per month. For $20, you get 3 months of prepaid service. After your 8 GB of monthly LTE data is used up, you still get unlimited but slow 2G data for the rest of that month until it resets.
  • Mint Mobile SIM card is included.
  • No coupon code required.
  • Taxes and fees will apply. For reference, when I bought the cheaper 2 GB x 3 month plan for $45 previously, my taxes and fees came to $3 total for those 3 months.

I would treat this as a really cheap 3 month trial. If you don’t like Mint, just transfer out again. Here is my Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review. Be sure to use their phone compatibility checker first to see if you can bring your current phone over and just put in the Mint Mobile SIM card.

In my opinion, the two best cell phone deals right now are this one and the “secret” Sprint Unlimited Free Year offer if you are currently with AT&T or Verizon.

Also see:

Best Interest Rates on Cash – February 2019

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

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.

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.



Empower Banking App Review: 2%-4% APY, 1%-2% Cashback, and AI Finance Assistant

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

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% 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% 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.

If you would like a referral, I can give you one if you send me your phone number via my contact form. I will only use your information for this purpose. You can then refer your own friends.

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.

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% APY on up to $50,000 for a year. That’s an extra $1,000 a year above 2% APY, nothing to sneeze at.

You could treat also the initial 30-day boost as a sign-up incentive if you had enough money to move over. If you did have $50,000 and you got an extra 2% APY for 30 days, that would be about $82 in extra interest (plus $82 from the base 2% APY for a total of $164 of interest). It tells you very clearly how much days of “boost” you have left.

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 savings account currently offers a base 2% APY and the checking offers 1% cash back on the first $1,000 in debit card purchases each month. The feature that makes it noteworthy is that a new user can get a 30 day boost of double those numbers – 4% APY and 2% cash back – plus you can get additional 30-day boosts by referring more people.