Citibank $200/$400/$700 Checking Account Bonus 2020

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Citibank has tiered $200, $400, and $700 bonus offers when you open a new eligible Citi checking account by 6/30/20 and deposit and maintain a certain balance for 60 to 150 days. There is also a $1,500 bonus if you have $200,000 to move over. This offer is restricted to those who have not had a Citibank checking account within the last 180 calendar days. Here are the highlights followed by a few tips on how to optimize the bonus.

$200 bonus details:

  • Open a new eligible checking account in the Basic Banking Package during the offer period 4/01/2020 to 6/30/2020.
  • Within 30 days of opening your account, deposit $5,000 in New-to-Citibank funds into the new checking account.
  • Maintain a minimum balance of $5,000 for 60 consecutive calendar days.
  • You will receive your cash bonus within 90 days after you complete the required activities.
  • For the Basic Banking Package, to waive the $12 monthly service fee, make one qualifying direct deposit per statement period and one qualifying bill payment per statement period, or maintain a $1,500 or more combined average monthly balance in eligible linked accounts.

$400 bonus details:

  • Open new eligible checking and savings accounts in the Citibank® Account Package during the offer period 4/01/2020 to 6/30/2020.
  • Within 30 days of opening your account, deposit $15,000 in New-to-Citibank funds between the new checking and savings accounts.
  • Maintain a minimum balance of $15,000 between the checking and savings accounts for 60 consecutive calendar days.
  • You will receive your cash bonus within 90 days after you complete the required activities.
  • A monthly service fee of $25 and a $2.50 non-Citibank ATM fee apply to the checking account in the Citibank Account Package if a combined average monthly balance of $10,000 or more is not maintained.

$700 bonus details:

  • Open new eligible checking and savings accounts in the Citi Priority Account Package during the offer period 4/01/2020 to 6/30/2020.
  • Within 30 days of opening your account, deposit $50,000 in New-to-Citibank funds between the new checking and savings accounts.
  • Maintain a minimum balance of $50,000 between the checking and savings accounts for 60 consecutive calendar days.
  • You will receive your cash bonus within 90 days after you complete the required activities.
  • A monthly service fee of $30 applies to the checking account in the Citi Priority Account Package if a combined average monthly balance of $50,000 or more is not maintained. There is no monthly service fee for a checking account in the Citigold Account Package.

$1,500 bonus details:

  • Open new eligible checking and savings accounts in the Citigold Account Package during the offer period 4/01/2020 to 6/30/2020.
  • Within 30 days of opening your account, deposit $200,000 in New-to-Citibank funds between the new checking and savings accounts.
  • Maintain a minimum balance of $200,000 between the checking and savings accounts for 60 consecutive calendar days.
  • You will receive your cash bonus within 90 days after you complete the required activities.
  • If you do not maintain a minimum combined average monthly balance of $200,000 in eligible linked deposit, retirement and investment accounts, your Citigold Account Package will be converted to the Citi Priority Account Package and your accounts will be subject to the terms and conditions then in effect for that package.

Fine print analysis and value calculations. A tricky part of this bonus is the following fine print:

At the time the Cash Bonus is paid, it will be credited to the new Eligible Checking Account. If the Eligible Checking Account is closed, then the Cash Bonus will be credited to the new Eligible Savings Account. Open accounts must be in good standing.

You explicitly cannot “downgrade” your account to one with lower monthly fees during the 60 day maintenance period, but this seems to also suggest that you need to maintain the package that you opened until the bonus arrives. (It’s not 100% clear, but that is the conservative interpretation.) That means that in order to avoid the possibly hefty monthly fees, you would have to leave a certain amount of money in the account not for 60 days, but up to 150 days until the bonus is deposited.

After the 60 day maintenance period, you would want to withdraw everything not need to avoid the monthly fees, as both the checking and savings account pay negligible interest. Here’s how that would work for each tier:

  • $200 bonus tier. Deposit and maintain $5,000 for 60 days, then lower to $1,500 for 90 days.
  • $400 bonus tier. Deposit and maintain $15,000 for 60 days, then lower to $10,000 for 90 days.
  • $700 bonus tier. Deposit and maintain $50,000 for 150 days.
  • $1,500 bonus tier. Deposit and maintain $200,000 for 150 days. (There may be some alternatives like moving over some investments to satisfy the Citigold requirements.)

Bonus will be reported on 1099-INT (as should be expected). Here is the rough equivalent annualized APY earned from each bonus if you followed the schedule above exactly, got the promised bonus at the 150 day mark, and then downgraded/closed/moved your money out:

  • $200 bonus works out to ~16.5% annualized interest.
  • $400 bonus works out to ~8.0% annualized interest.
  • $700 bonus works out to ~3.4% annualized interest.
  • $1,500 bonus works out to ~1.8% annualized interest.

I have done Citibank bonuses in the past and haven’t had any issues, although they did wait until the last possible moment to post the bonus. I did not experience a hard credit check upon opening. However, others have reported having to call them up and ask for the bonus, and some have reported that they were denied the bonus improperly. Their above-average complaints of unreliability is a big reason why I would not downgrade the accounts, in order to help maintain proper bonus tracking. For all bank bonuses, be sure to keep track of your promotion details and transaction dates in a Google Doc or other spreadsheet.

Bottom line. Citibank has a set of tiered bonuses for opening a new checking and savings accounts with them, which I have broken down how to optimize based on the fine print. If you were planning on opening an account anyway, this can be a good offer. Be sure you understand the terms and conditions first.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land 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.

List of 529 Day (5/29) College Savings Plan Promotions

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Promotions updated for 2020. 5/29 is “National 529 College Savings Plan Day” and certain state plans are offering promotions and/or giveaways. Some end on 5/29 and others end on 5/31, so that’s why I’m posting this early. Many are simply sweepstakes drawings which don’t really excite me, but here are some fixed bonuses:

  • California Scholarshare 529$50 bonus when you open a new ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan account with a $50 contribution and sign up for ongoing automatic contributions of $25 or more per month for a minimum of 6 months between 5/26/20 and 5/31/20. 2019 Gold rating by Morningstar. No special state income tax considerations for contributions.
  • Minnesota 529 College Savings Plan (MNSAVES)$50 bonus when you open a new MNSAVES account with a $50 contribution and sign up for ongoing automatic contributions of $25 or more per month for a minimum of 6 months between 5/26/20 and 5/31/20. 2019 Silver rating by Morningstar.”For 2020, account owners, regardless of their relationship to a child, may be eligible to deduct up to $3,000 ($1,500 for single filers) from their Minnesota income tax. In lieu of the deduction, taxpayers may be eligible for a maximum state tax credit amount up to $500, subject to phase-out based on certain federal adjusted gross income thresholds.”
  • Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan (OCSP)$50 bonus when you open a new account with a $50 contribution and sign up for ongoing automatic contributions of $25 or more per month for a minimum of 6 months between 5/26/20 and 5/31/20. Neutral rating from Morningstar. However, Oklahoma taxpayers may qualify for up to $20,000 in state tax deductions from contributions made to an OCSP account.
  • Florida PrepaidUp to $50 bonus. “Open a Florida 529 Savings Plan, from now through May 29, and we’ll seed your account with $25. Set up an automatic monthly contribution of $25 or more, and we’ll add another $25.” In addition, if enroll in a new Prepaid plan by May 31st, your $50 application fee will be automatically waived and no payments will be due until July 2020. As noted, this is a prepaid type of 529 plan for Florida residents.
  • Idaho Ideal$25 bonus. “Open an IDeal – Idaho College Savings Program account online between May 1-29, 2020. Make an initial contribution of $25 or more and we’ll add $25 to your account. To qualify for the $25 match, the beneficiary of the account MUST BE age 5 or younger. This special offer is limited to the first 200 accounts opened during this period.”
  • Nebraska NEST 529$100 bonus. “Open a new NEST 529 College Savings account using the promo code “$100bonus”, for a child 8 or under, deposit at least $100 and we’ll give your account a $100 bonus! This offer is only available through July 31, 2020 for the first 200 new accounts.”

Let me know if I’ve missed any.

My brief take on 529 college savings plans in general. I believe that you should worry about having adequate emergency and retirement savings first. Take care of yourself, so your kids won’t have to take care of you financially in old age. That’s a gift to them as well. However, if you are on track otherwise, a 529 plan can be a handy package of automated savings, automated investment, no annual tax paperwork, and valuable tax savings. For example, setting up an auto-deposit of $50 every month could add up to nearly $20,000 at the end of 18 years (assuming 6% return).

In terms of picking a specific plan, remember to first consider your state-specific tax benefits via the tools from Morningstar, SavingForCollege, or Vanguard. Morningstar estimates that an upfront tax break of at least 5% can make it worth investing in your in-state plan even if it is not otherwise a top plan (assuming that is required to get the tax benefit).

If you don’t have anything compelling available, anyone can open a 529 plan from any state. You can open multiple 529 plans, and you can roll over your funds from one into another 529 plan once every rolling 12 months. (Watch out for tax-benefit recapture if you got a tax break initially.) Here are the most recent Morningstar Top 529 College Savings Plan Rankings. I personally invest in the Utah My529 Plan for my children due to their DIY glide path feature and DFA fund access, but would also recommend the Vanguard Nevada 529 Plan if you want something that is more “set-and-forget”. There are many other solid plan options, but those are my standard replies for those looking for a specific recommendation.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land 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.

Chime Banking App Review: $50 Bonus via Referral

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

With rates drops everywhere and no end in sight, there are no high APY CDs to open, so I’ve been picking up various cash bonuses while stuck at home instead. Chime is a popular fintech bank app with a $50 cash bonus after a payroll direct deposit of $200+ within the first 45 days of new account opening. To get this offer, you must be referred by an existing user. Here is my Chime $50 referral link. Thanks if you use it! It’s a very simple bonus. Here is a screenshot of my bonus appearing nine minutes after my direct deposit:

Here is the fine print:

*In order for both the referred individual and the referring Chime member to each qualify for and receive the $50.00 referral reward, the following conditions must be met: The referred individual may not have previously opened a Chime Spending Account (“Account”); they must open a new Account between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020; they must open the new account using the referring Chime member’s unique referral link; and they must receive in the new Account a qualifying direct deposit of $200.00 or more within 45 days of opening. The qualifying direct deposit must be made by the referred individual’s employer, payroll provider, or benefits payer by Automated Clearing House (ACH) deposit. Bank ACH transfers, Pay Friends transfers, verification or trial deposits from financial institutions, peer to peer transfers from services such as PayPal, Cash App, or Venmo, mobile check deposits, and cash loads or deposits are not qualifying direct deposits.

Why is Chime so popular? Chime is the second-most popular online-only bank in the US (only behind Ally) with over 3 million customers and a recent valuation of $5.8 billion. Yet, it pays no interest on checking and only a tiny interest on savings (thus my previous lack of interest). I learned that Chime is very attractive to those who are “unbanked” or underbanked”, those people who don’t like traditional banks due to their monthly fees and $35-a-pop overdraft charges. Instead, Chime offers:

  • No monthly fees. No minimum balance. No minimum opening deposit.
  • No credit check. No Chexsystems check.
  • Access to paycheck 2 days early. If you usually get paid on Friday, you can spend the money on Wednesday.
  • No overdraft fees, and they may even “spot” you up to $100 until you pay them back.
  • Free ATM withdrawals at 38,000+ MoneyPass and Visa Plus Alliance ATMs.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

For many folks that have a lot of activity but maintain a low balance, this fee structure is better getting 4% APY or even 10% APY. The key is avoiding those crazy overdraft charges from the big banks and also the various $2 fees hidden inside many prepaid cards. Chime’s only major fee is a $2.50 fee if you make a cash withdrawal at an out-of-network ATM. Chime earns revenue via interchange fees when you buy things on your debit card.

As I opened an account, I noticed that Chime treats you like have never had a checking account before. The sign-up is easily done completely on your phone in a few minutes. You don’t need to deposit a single cent to open. They send basic “Chime 101” emails explaining the effect of bank holidays and how to set up direct deposit.

There is no credit check, so you can have bad credit and even a bad Chexsystems record (meaning you probably left another bank with a negative balance). Nearly every major bank uses Chexsystems to screen new customers. Otherwise, they are referred to as a “second chance” bank account. Chime might have the lowest fees of all such “second chance” banks.

Chime has the most of the usual bank stuff. Debit card. Paper check deposit via mobile app. Optional savings account that helps you save automatically (but pays astonishingly little interest, just like Bank of America and Chase!). FDIC-insured via partner banks, either Stride Bank or The Bancorp Bank. The only major thing missing besides bank branches is that they don’t provide paper checks. Depositing cash is available, but the third-party physical stores may charge a fee.

Bottom line. Chime is an interesting bank startup that targets the underbanked and unbanked by offering a much better fee structure to those with access to direct deposit. No overdraft fees, no credit checks, no Chexsystems. Currently, there is a $50 bonus available only via referral.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land 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.

M1 Finance Review: Custom Asset Allocation, Up to $1,500 Transfer Bonus

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Updated. As noted in my post on best online brokers, my favorite option in the now-crowded “robo-advisor” category is now M1 Finance. Here’s a quick rundown of what makes them different:

  • Fully customizable. You pick your own target asset allocation “pie”. (You can add ETFs or individual stocks.) You can simply copy one of the many model portfolios out there, or customize it as you like. You have full control! M1 handles the boring stuff, like rebalancing or dividing a $100 contribution across 8 different ETFs. Here is my pie which I named the My Money Blog Portfolio.
  • No commissions. Free stock/ETF trades with a low $100 minimum account size for taxable accounts and a $500 minimum for retirement accounts.
  • 0.00% management fee! Most robo-advisors charge an annual management fee of 0.25% to 0.50% of assets (or force you to own something bad, like artificially low-interest cash).
  • Free automatic rebalancing. M1 will rebalance your portfolio back to the target allocation for you automatically (for free). You don’t need to do any math or maintain any spreadsheets.
  • Fractional share ownership. For example, you can just set it to automatically invest $100 a month, and your full amount will be spread across multiple ETFs. Dollar-based transactions were one of the good things about buying a mutual fund, but it seems that ETFs are the future due to their lower costs and tax-efficient structure. Fractional shares solve this problem.

M1 Finance nearly checks off all the boxes of my brokerage wish list. While I’m with them, they do all the managing for me, according to my rules. But since I can choose the exact ETFs that they purchase, if I decide to stop their service down the line, I just end up with a brokerage account filled with ETFs that I can easily move elsewhere. I don’t have to sell anything. I suppose the only thing they could add would be to have the high availability of customer service of a huge company like Fidelity or Schwab. Otherwise, I really like their feature set and I contributed $1,000 of my Roth IRA contribution in order to try them out.

Transfer bonus extended to June 15th. Transfer a brokerage account or IRA to M1 before June 15th and earn up to $2,500. Details here. Here are the bonus tiers:

Here is a screenshot of the email:

Valid for individual taxable, joint taxable, and IRA accounts. Account value of the qualifying account must remain equal to, or greater than, the value after the net deposit was made (minus any losses due to trading or market volatility or margin debit balances) for 60 days.

How do they make money? As commissions shrink, this is the business model for pretty much all online brokers now:

1) Interest on idle cash (can be minimized as you can auto-invest all idle cash in the investment account)
2) M1 Borrow (margin loan interest)
3) M1 Spending (debit card generates fees for them)
4) Payment for order flow (same as Robinhood and TD Ameritrade)
5) M1 Plus (premium subscription that gets you higher interest rates and debit card cash back).

Bottom line. M1 Finance is a new brokerage account that acts like a free, customizable robo-advisor with automatic rebalancing into a target portfolio. I deposited part of my annual Roth IRA contribution with them.

Disclosure: I am now an affiliate of M1 Finance, and may be compensated if you click through my referral link and open a new account.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land 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.

Tastyworks Brokerage Bonus: 100 Free Shares, Worth $100 to $600

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Free stock shares are the trendy bonus nowadays – WeBull, SoFi, Robinhood, Public, and more – but how about 100 free shares? Tastyworks wants your attention by offering 100 free shares of a randomly-picked stock valued between $1 and $6 per share. That means the total value will be between $100 and $600, with an average total value of $200-$220. Offer now extended until 6/30/2020. Details below.

The odds of specific stock allocation is implemented as follows: there is a 70% chance of receiving Stock priced under $2.00 per share, and a 30% chance of receiving Stock priced over $2.00 per share. The value of Stock received will average $200-$220 USD based on the price of shares at which the Stock is purchased by tastyworks.

Tastyworks is a discount brokerage targeted at active options traders. They offer $0 comission stock trades and options commissions at $1 to open and $0 to close. That means a open/close roundtrip on options costs $1.00. TD Ameritrade, Schwab, Fidelity, and E-Trade all charge $0.65 per contract, which is $1.30 for open/close roundtrip. Thus, Tastyworks is 30% cheaper than the big brokers for options trading while also having the full fancy options interface.

For this promotion, you have to fund a new account with at least $2,000. You get the 100 bonus shares after a week, but you have to keep your $2,000 plus the value of the bonus shares for at least 3 months (otherwise they yank it back). See quoted fine print below:

The funds deposited to Qualified Customer’s account, plus the initial value of the Stock received (less any losses on the Stock) are required to remain in Qualified Customer’s account for a minimum of three months starting the day shares deposited into account, subject to extension from date of entry, before withdrawal in order for Qualified Customer to receive the value of the Stock (“Three Month Period.”) The value of stock Qualified Customer receives will be credited to their account upon deposit, but will be debited out of Qualified Customer’s account if the Three Month Period requirement is not met, and will not count toward Qualified Customer’s buying power until the end of the Three Month Period. Qualified Customers can sell their Stock once deposited into their account, but the proceeds will be subject to the foregoing Three Month Period requirement.

All that fine print aside, a $200 average payout on a $2,000 deposit with a minimum 3 month holding period is a good ratio. Just don’t go nuts with the options trading!

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land 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.

Webull App: $0 Stock Trades, $0 Options Trading, 2 Free Shares Bonus

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Updated offer details. Webull is a brokerage app (PC and web version also available) that has unlimited free stock trades with no platform fees, free real-time quotes, and no minimum balance requirement. As of March 2020, it has now added $0 options trades with $0 per contract fees. (Fidelity, Schwab, E-Trade, and TD Ameritrade all still charge $0.65 per contract.)

Compared to Robinhood, Webull is more of a full-featured traditional brokerage shrunk down into an app. Robinhood has a sleeker minimalist feel, while Webull has a ton of options for real-time stock quotes, technical indicators, charting, etc. Webull has traditional margin accounts that allow shorting. You can’t short stocks at all on Robinhood. Most importantly to me, Webull has customer service available via 24/7 Live Chat or phone number. Robinhood only has an e-mail address.

Free stock bonus and transfer fee reimbursement. New users who are referred by another user can now get two free shares of stock:

  • First share worth between $2.50 and $250 for opening an account.
  • Second share worth between $12 to $1,400 for depositing at least $100.

Webull will also reimburse you up to $100 in transfer fees if you move at least $2,000 worth of assets over to them.

Here is my Webull referral link. It’s like a scratch-off ticket where most people will get the lowest tier, but you also have a small chance at something better. Thanks if you use it! I have received shares of TEVA, SNAP, SBUX, VG, and even one AAPL. After you get the new user bonus, you can refer other people as well.

Here are the full odds for the opening share bonus:

$2.50 to $10 value, odds are ~1:1.02
$10 to $50 value, odds are ~1:52.63
$80 to $100 value, odds are ~1:1111.11
$100 to $20 value, odds are ~1:10,000

Here are the full odds for the opening deposit bonus:

$12 to $30 value, odds are ~1:1.02
$30 to $100 value, odds are ~1:52.63
$100 to $200 value, odds are ~1:1111.11
$1,000 to $1,400 value, odds are ~1:10,000

You will need to sign-up initially either with a phone number or e-mail address, and then open an account after downloading the app (Android or iOS). Webull is a real SIPC-insured broker, and the application is the same (name, address, SSN, work questions, investing experience questions, etc).

Bottom line. Webull is a brokerage app with free stock trades + free options trading with no contract fees. The feel is more of a full-featured traditional brokerage account shrunk into your smartphone. New users who open an account and deposit $100+ can earn 2 free shares of stock. You can also get $100 in transfer fees reimbursed if you later move over at least $2,000 in assets.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land 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.

HMBradley Bank Review: 3% APY After Saving 20% Of Your Paycheck

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

HMBradley is another fintech bank startup that differs by offering customers up to 3% APY based on the percentage of their paycheck that they save. Deposits are FDIC-insured through Hatch Bank. What do you have to do to actually qualify for this rate? Will it be worth the hassle? Here’s my review of HMBradley after reading their FAQ, fee schedule, and deposit agreement. Thanks to reader Guarav for the tip.

Rate tiers. Interest is earned on balances up to $100,000 and is set each calendar quarter. The interest rate updates for all customers at the beginning of each calendar quarter: January 1st, April 1st, July 1st, and October 1st. In order to qualify for a “Savings Tier”, you must receive a direct deposit at least once per month and save at least 5% of your quarterly deposits.

New customers start in Tier 3 and stay there as long as they maintain at least one direct deposit per month. For example, if you open in May, the next reset date would be July 1st and your interest earned for the next 3 months is based on your activity in the previous 3 months. Here are the current rates for each tier:

$100 minimum to open. Interest is compounded daily and credited monthly.

Deposits vs. direct deposits. You must receive some sort of direct deposit each month, as defined below:

For our accounts, we define direct deposits as those deposits made by the customer’s employer or a federal or state government agency or retirement benefits administrator. These generally include payments made by corporations and other organizations. We do not consider deposits to an account that are made by an individual using online banking or other payment provider such as PayPal or Venmo as direct deposits.

However, for the calculations of “savings rates”, all deposits are considered including incoming transfers from another bank account. At the same time, your “spending” will also include any transfer out of your account, even if it’s just to another bank account that you own.

NOW account? No paper checks. It should be noted that HM Bradley’s account is actually a lesser-known form called a “negotiable order of withdrawal (NOW) account”, which per the CFPB which gives the bank the right to require at least seven days written notice of a withdrawal. Supposedly, this is rarely done in practice. Like a checking account, there are no limits on the number of withdrawals each month. However, unlike a checking account… there are no checks! You can probably work around most things using the online Billpay feature. I suspect that not having to deal with paper checks saves them a good chunk of money.

The Bank offers Negotiable Order of Withdrawal transaction checking accounts, which allows you to make deposits by check, ACH payment, transfer from another account at the Bank, or wire transfer. NOW accounts only are available to consumers for personal, family, or household purposes. The Bank does not offer business accounts and you agree not to use your HMBradley Account for business purposes. The Bank may request 7 days’ advance notice of a withdrawal or transfer of funds from the NOW account.

Features. No minimum balance, no monthly fees. No paper checks. There is fee-free ATM access via your Debit Mastercard at over 55,000 ATMs in the STAR and MoneyPass networks (or at any store that allows for cash back on debit purchases). There is online Billpay. However, there is currently no ability to deposit checks (including ATM deposits). In the future, they plan on having remote check deposit only. They may close your account without notice if you maintain a zero balance.

My thoughts. In the current rate environment, the ability to earn 3% APY on up to $100,000 is exceptional. I don’t know of any “rewards checking” account has a balance limit that high. However, there are a lot of moving parts here.

First, the short-term concerns. All new customers that open now (May) will earn 1% APY until July 1st, so there is a delay. If their savings rate is determined to be above 20% as of July 1st, then you will reach Tier 1, but will Tier 1 still be 3% APY then? There is no rate guarantee and they don’t promise to provide any set amount of advance notice. Given the recent Fed moves, there is going to be pressure for them to lower it. Their lower rate tiers have already dropped from what they initially advertised.

I’m also concerned about the long-term sustainability. I like the idea of promoting savings, but the system doesn’t seem to benefit “average” savers enough, while leaving it open to “high” savers. For an “average” saver, saving 15% of deposits is a lot especially if you already have a 401(k) plan, which means they’ll only earn 0.50% or 1% APY. Meanwhile, a “high” saver with sizable existing cash assets can qualify for the 3% easily and then park tens of thousands of dollars at HMBradley. All they have to do is switch over some amount of direct deposit and be careful with their withdrawals. Perhaps there will be enough customers satisfied with earning zero to 0.50% APY interest to subsidize the rest, but we’ll have to see.

Bottom line. HMBradley is a digital bank startup that differs by offering customers a high rate (currently up to 3% APY) based on the percentage of their paycheck that they save. The rules are a bit more complex than I’d like, but if the rates hold steady it can be a competitive offer for motivated savers.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land 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.

Blue Cash Preferred from American Express Review: 6% Cash Back at US Supermarkets ($6,000/Year), Netflix, HBO Now, Spotify

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

(Note: Due to the impact of COVID-19, for eligible Card accounts approved from December 1, 2019 through May 31, 2020 for which you are eligible for a welcome offer, the period to make eligible purchases to earn your American Express welcome bonus will be extended for an additional 3 months.)

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has been in heavy rotation recently: 6% cash back at US stand-alone supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases. If you spend $100 a week at supermarkets, that alone will earn you over $300 a year in rewards. Here are the updated highlights:

  • $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations.
  • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. (NEW)
  • 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more. (NEW)
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • $95 annual fee.

It also worked out that they added 6% back on select US streaming subscriptions (see below for full list), all while removing the ability to earn 3% cash back at U.S. department stores.

Max out your benefit by buying gift cards at US supermarkets. I use this card to buy gift cards at a standalone US supermarket to use up the annual limit and get 6% back. My local Safeway has an entire wall of options, but I usually go with Amazon, Apple iTunes, or Starbucks. You can easily confirm that your purchase still gets 6% cash back on your account online:

Supermarkets details. “US stand-alone supermarkets” means that superstores, convenience stores and warehouse clubs are not considered supermarkets. This means no Super Wal-Mart, no Super Target, no Costco. Examples of merchants that count (and this is not a complete list!) are Safeway, Whole Foods, Meijer, Vons, Winn-Dixie, Gristedes, Shoprite, Stop and Shop, and online supermarkets such as FreshDirect.

Gasoline details. “US stand-alone gas stations” means that superstores, supermarkets, and warehouse clubs that sell gasoline are not considered gas stations. This means no Target, no Costco, no Sam’s Club. Examples of merchants that count (and this is not a complete list!) are Exxon, Mobil, Hess, Shell, Gulf, Murphy USA, Murphy Express.

US Streaming Subscriptions details. These are all included:

• Amazon Music
• Apple Music
• Audible
• CBS All Access
• Direct TV Now
• ESPN+
• Fubo TV
• HBO Now
• Hulu
• iHeartRadio
• Kindle Unlimited
• MLB.TV
• NBA League Pass
• Netflix
• NHL.TV
• Pandora
• Prime Video Unlimited
• Showtime
• Sling TV
• SiriusXM Streaming and Satellite
• Spotify
• YouTube Music Premium
• YouTube Premium
• YouTube TV

Annual fee. There is a $95 annual fee, so you’ll want to utilize that 6% cash back on groceries to maximize your value. If you spend the max cap of $500 a month at supermarkets, at 6% back that would net you $360 cash back in a year vs. $60 at 1% cash back. Note that simply spending $31 per week at supermarkets at 6% cash back will result in over $95 Reward Dollars per year to cover the annual fee.

If you don’t like the idea of paying an annual fee, the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express offers 3% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases with no annual fee. It currently offers a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.

Cash back is officially given in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit, gift cards, and merchandise. I always just stick with statements credit to directly pay down my monthly bill.

Bottom line. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has the key feature of 6% cash back at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year). You can now also get 6% cash back on Netflix/Spotify/HBO Now as well as 3% cash back at US gas stations and transit (Uber/Lyft/train). This has been a “keeper” card for me for many years now. I treat it like one of my 5% cash back cards, except there are no rotating categories or activations to worry about.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land 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.

PenFed Credit Union $200 Checking Bonus

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Update: This promotion appears to have ended early.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union has a $200 bonus promotion for opening their new Access America checking account. You must deposit a minimum of $1,200, and make 5 debit card purchases within 90 days of account opening. They market this as a way of “adding $200” to your $1,200 stimulus check (not a requirement). Offer expires 6/14/20.

In order to avoid a $10 monthly fee with this account, you must maintain a $500 daily balance OR a monthly direct deposit of $500 or more. I would just keep at least $500 in the account until the bonus posts. With interest rates quickly heading back to 1% APY or lower, these bank bonuses are starting to look more appealing. For example, it would take $20,000 earning 1% APY for an entire year to make $200 in interest.

PenFed offers a variety of other financial services. With this account, you also become eligible for their 2% cash back credit card and their $250 bonus on car loan refinances. They’ve also been competitive on mortgages in the past. Unfortunately, their bank CD rates haven’t been great recently.

PenFed’s membership eligibility includes affiliated military and Federal employees, but anyone can join if they are a member of a partner organization. I have been a member for years after joining the National Military Family Association for $17. The website also states that being a previous Red Cross blood donor or volunteer makes you eligible. I recommend going through the PenFed application process and letting them guide you.

Offer valid from 5/4/2020 – 6/14/2020. Must receive at least $1200 in deposits in your checking account within 90 days of account opening and make 5 debit card purchases in the first 90 days. Only available to new personal checking members who do not have an existing checking account and qualify for an Access America Account. Once the criteria is met, the bonus will be credited to the new personal checking account no later than 120 days from account opening. Account must remain open, active and in good standing (no negative balance) at time bonus is distributed. PenFed will issue an IRS form 1099 reporting the value of the bonus. One bonus per member.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land 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 – May 2020

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

The Federal Reserve is buying everything in sight (even junk bonds apparently), so it has been rate drops all around. Bank accounts now offer much higher available rates than Treasury bonds. I’d also recommend checking on your brokerage money market sweep fund as most are back to very low rates.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for May 2020, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. I track these rates because I keep 12 months of expenses as a cash cushion and also invest in longer-term CDs (often at lesser-known credit unions) when they yield more than bonds. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to see how much extra interest you’d earn by moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 5/6/2020.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks make huge profits while paying you 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 list the top rates as well as competitive rates from banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you with a temporary top rate and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
A common question is what to do with a big pile of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (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. Marcus has a 7-month No Penalty CD at 1.55% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 1.50% APY with a $25,000 minimum deposit. CIT Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 1.40% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Comenity Direct has a 12-month CD at 1.70% APY ($1,500 min).

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 and thus come with a possibility of principal loss, but may be a good option if you have idle cash and cheap/free commissions.

  • Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund currently pays an 0.57% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund which has an SEC yield of 0.40%. 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 2.00% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 2.10% 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 2.47% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.48% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months. Note that the higher yield come partly from a drop in net asset value during the recent market stress.

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. Right now, this section probably isn’t very interesting as T-Bills are yielding close to zero!

  • 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 5/6/2020, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.09% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.16% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 0.57% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 0.14% SEC yield. GBIL appears to have a slightly longer average maturity than BIL. Expect that GBIL yield to drop significantly as it is updated.

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

  • “I Bonds” bought between May 2020 and October 2020 will earn a 1.06% 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-October 2020, 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 nor 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.

  • Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking (my review) still offers up to 4.09% APY on balances up to $10,000 if you make $500+ in ACH deposits, 12 debit card “signature” purchases, and spend $1,000 on their credit card each month. The Bank of Denver has a Free Kasasa Cash Checking offering 3% APY on balances up to $25,000 if you make 12 debit card “signature” purchases and at least 1 ACH credit or debit transaction per statement cycle. If you meet those qualifications, you can also link a savings account that pays 2% APY on up to $50k. Thanks to reader Bill for the tip. Find a locally-restricted rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

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

  • The Federal Savings Bank has a 5-year certificate at 2.05% APY ($10,000 minimum). Early withdrawal penalty is 365 days of interest.
  • Pen Air Federal Credit Union has a 5-year certificate at 2.20% APY ($500 minimum). Early withdrawal penalty is 180 days of interest. Their other terms are competitive as well, if you want build a CD ladder. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($3 one-time fee).
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. You may need an account to see the rates. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. Vanguard and Fidelity both have a 5-year at 1.00% APY right now. Be wary of 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 early withdrawal penalties. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity.
  • How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a unique 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 a hedge against prolonged deflation (again if you can hold on for 20 years). As of 5/6/2020, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 1.16%.

All rates were checked as of 5/6/2020.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land 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.

Kindle Unlimited Promotion: 2 Months Free Trial

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

(Update: Offer extended to June 30th, 2020.)

Amazon is offering a free 2-month trial of Kindle Unlimited. Must redeem by 4/30/20 6/30/20. The usual trial is only a month long, and you can have been a previous Kindle Unlimited member (but you can’t be an existing paying member). Thanks to reader Mark for the tip.

  • Enjoy unlimited access to over 1 million books.
  • Explore a rotating selection of popular magazines.
  • Listen to thousands of books with Audible narration.
  • Read anytime, on any device with the Kindle app.

You should be able to manually cancel your Kindle Unlimited membership early and it will let you keep your membership open until the end of the 2 months, and not renew automatically. If you don’t do anything, it will auto-renew at the end of 2 months at $9.99 per month. Remember that after you end your Kindle Unlimited subscription, you will lose access to all of the Kindle Unlimited books.

What personal finance and investing books are included? You can view all Kindle Unlimited books here. You can search Kindle Unlimited titles here after clicking the “Kindle Unlimited Eligible” box on the top-left. There are is a mix of a few bestsellers, some older classics, and a lot of independently-published titles of varying quality. Here are some business and finance-related titles that caught my eye:

Kindle Unlimited authors get paid per page that is read. Therefore, your reading actually pays authors for their work!

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land 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.

Red Pocket Mobile: iPhone SE $299 with 2 Years Service (Starts At $10/Month)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

(One more iPhone SE deal! Apologies if these bore you; I have no more planned. They do also happen to be the cheapest MVNOs for anyone with an existing phone. Compare with Visible and Mint Mobile.)

Red Pocket Mobile is an MVNO with very competitive pricing that doesn’t stick with any single network. You can choose which one you want: AT&T (GSMA), Sprint (CDMAS), T-Mobile (GSMT), and Verizon (CDMA). They aren’t allowed to actually use the trademarked names on their pages, but it’s an easy conversion. Note that the pricing for certain plans differs by the network chosen, and they often shift the pricing around with limited-time offers. If bringing over your own device and you want to switch networks, use their compatibility checker first.

Their current front page deal is the iPhone SE for regular price ($399) but with 6 months of free 3GB service. At $14/month, this could be seen as a $84 discount. However, if you proceed to the iPhone SE purchase page and agree to a 12 month or 24 month term, you can get alternative discounts on the phone itself instead as well as long-term discounts on the service. If you commit to 2 years, you can get the iPhone SE for $299 ($100 off) and have a choice of several monthly plans.

Example: iPhone SE + 2 years of Unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB LTE data = $299 + $336 = $635 for 2 years. This works out close to $26.50 per month. Breaks down to $12.50/month for the phone and $14/month for service. GSMA network (AT&T). You can upgrade to 7GB LTE for $20/month, 15 GB LTE for $30/month, or Unlimited LTE for $45/month. You could also downgrade to 1,000 minutes, unlimited text, and 1 GB LTE data for $10/month. After you reach your LTE data allotment each month, you still get unlimited data at slower 2G speeds. Looks like a little bit more if you finance it over monthly payments. UPS Ground shipping is free.

iPhone SE 2020 quick take. Apple’s new $400 iPhone SE may be called a “budget” phone, but it is a “parts bin” phone that saves money not by using lower-quality ingredients, but instead by combining high-quality parts from other iPhones. If you’re okay with the older body style (might be what you already have), this phone is a great value at $400 (64 GB). Check out the review from your favorite tech site, but here are the basics:

  • Screen/Body: iPhone 8. Same outer shape as iPhone 6/7/8. Retina 4.7″ screen. Touch ID (no Face ID).
  • Latest CPU: iPhone 11 Pro. Same A13 Bionic chip as inside the current iPhone 11 Pro that costs $1,000. These fast internals mean this phone won’t be obsolete for 4+ years.
  • Camera: iPhone XR+. The hardware specs are like the iPhone XR which still costs $600 today. However, combined with the faster internals, Apple added software improvements to make it take better photos (better portrait mode, etc). Still an upgrade over the iPhone 6/7/8 cameras.
My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land 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.