Fidelity Commission-Free ETF List Review (Updated 2019)

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.

ETFs are surpassing mutual funds as the standard building blocks of stock and bond portfolios. Therefore, I’m taking a closer look at the latest commission-free ETF lists from the major brokers. Unfortunately, the marketing often focuses on quantity instead of quality. Who cares if they offer 500+ ETFs, if I only need six good ones? Here are the factors that I think are important:

  • Total Assets. This is a measure of popularity and reputation. A more popular ETF will have a smaller bid/ask spread and won’t have to liquidate in a bear market. A more reputably ETF manager will have lower index tracking error. However, ETF size isn’t everything.
  • Index/Asset Class. What index does it track? Does that index cover an asset class that I want to include?
  • Cost. What is the expense ratio? Low costs are important.

Fidelity Commission-Free ETF full list. The main Fidelity ETF page currently advertises 357 commission-free ETFs (28 from Fidelity and 329 from iShares). The full list requires a log-in. Here is an outdated PDF which lists the 240 iShares ETFs (89 more have since been added). There are several good, low-cost options from the iShares Core Series of ETFs.

Recent changes. In early February 2019, Fidelity announced that it would match Schwab and increase the number of commission-free ETFs on their list to “more than 500” by the end of the month. However, in late February 2019 they announced that they added a few new Fidelity ETFs and 89 additional iShares ETFs (formerly 240) as part of a “first phase”.

In February 2017, Fidelity lowered the standard commission on online stock and ETF trades to $4.95 per trade, down from $7.95 previously. In August 2018, Fidelity announced a part of zero-expense ratio mutual funds, eliminated many account minimums, and cut a bunch of mutual fund expense ratios by getting rid of share classes.

Largest ETFs on Fidelity Commission-Free ETF list. Here are the top 20 most popular ETFs on their list, sorted by largest total assets. I have added in the asset class (index) and expense ratio.

ETF Name (Ticker) Asset Class Expense Ratio
iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV) US Large Cap Blend 0.04%
iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA) International Large Cap Blend 0.31%
iShares Core MSCI EAFE ETF (IEFA) International Large Cap Blend 0.08%
iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) US Total Bond 0.05%
iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG) Emerging Markets Stock 0.14%
iShares Core S&P Mid-Cap ETF (IJH) US Mid Cap Blend 0.07%
iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) US Small Cap Blend 0.19%
iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF (IJR) US Mid Cap Blend 0.07%
iShares Russell 1000 Growth ETF (IWF) US Large Cap Growth 0.20%
iShares Russell 1000 Value ETF (IWD) US Large Cap Value 0.20%
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) Emerging Markets Stock 0.67%
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD) US Corporate Bonds 0.15%
iShares Edge MSCI Min Vol USA ETF (USMV) US Low Volatility 0.15%
iShares S&P 500 Growth ETF (IVW) US Large Cap Growth 0.18%
iShares TIPS Bond ETF (TIP) US Inflation-Protected Bond 0.19%
iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond ETF (SHY) Short-Term Treasury Bond 0.15%
iShares Short Treasury Bond ETF (SHV) Short-Term Treasury Bond 0.15%
iShares Russell 1000 ETF (IWB) US Large Cap Blend 0.15%
iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF (ITOT) US Total Stock 0.03%
iShares Russell Midcap ETF (IWR) US Total Stock 0.20%

 

Lowest Expense Ratio ETFs on Fidelity Commission-Free ETF list. Here are the top 20 cheapest ETFs on their list, sorted by lowest expense ratio.

ETF Name (Ticker) Asset Class Expense Ratio
iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF (ITOT) US Total Stock 0.03%
iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV) US Large Cap Blend 0.04%
iShares Core S&P U.S. Value ETF (IUSV) US Large Cap Value 0.04%
iShares Core S&P U.S. Growth ETF (IUSG) US Large Cap Growth 0.04%
iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) US Total Bond 0.05%
iShares Core MSCI International Developed Markets ETF (IDEV) International Developed Large Cap Blend 0.07%
iShares Short-Term Corporate Bond ETF (IGSB) US Short-Term Corporate Bond 0.06%
iShares Intermediate-Term Corporate Bond ETF (IGIB) US Interm-Term Corporate Bond 0.06%
iShares Broad USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (USIG) US Total Corporate Bond 0.06%
iShares 0-5 Year TIPS Bond ETF (STIP) US Inflation-Protected Bond 0.06%
iShares Core 1-5 Year USD Bond ETF (ISTB) US Short-Term Bond 0.06%
iShares 0-5 Year Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (SLQD) US Short-Term Corporate Bond 0.06%
iShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETF (IUSB) US Total Bond 0.06%
iShares Core S&P Mid-Cap ETF (IJH) US Mid Cap Blend 0.07%
iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF (IJR) US Mid Cap Blend 0.07%
iShares National AMT-Free Muni Bond ETF (MUB) Municipal Bond 0.07%
iShares S&P Short Term National AMT-Free Bond ETF (SUB) Short-Term Municipal Bond 0.07%
iShares Core U.S. REIT ETF (USRT) US Real Estate 0.08%
iShares Core High Dividend ETF (HDV) US High Dividend Stock 0.08%
iShares Core MSCI EAFE ETF (IEAFA) International Developed Large Stock 0.08%

 

Commentary. Fidelity’s list includes a good mix of iShares Core ETFs with good management, low costs, and low bid/ask spreads. An individual investor can easily create a diversified portfolio of ETFs according to their desired asset allocation. However, in their latest round of additions, they added a bunch of older iShares ETFs which were mostly more popular for professional traders and options buyers, not for long-term investors. For example, why would you buy EEM when you could buy IEMG with a much lower expense ratio? DIY investors need to choose carefully.

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.

NASA Federal Credit Union Application and Certificate Opening Review

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings 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.

Fidelity Rewards Visa Review: 2% Flat Cash Back

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. Fidelity has condensed their rewards credit card line-up to a single card, the Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card issued by Elan Financial Services (subsidiary of US Bank). It earns a flat 2% cash back when directed to an eligible Fidelity Investments account. Right now, there is also a $100 bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. Here are the highlights:

  • Unlimited 2% cash back, when redeemed into an eligible Fidelity account.
  • No annual fee.
  • Visa Signature benefits, like Concierge service.
  • Chip-enabled and works with Apple, Android, and Samsung Pay.

Note that this card charges a 1% foreign transaction fee, which is less than the 3% that is standard on many other cards. This also still leaves you with a 1% cash back card on foreign purchases.

Eligible Fidelity accounts. The 2% rewards value applies only to points redeemed for a deposit into the following active Fidelity accounts:

  • Fidelity Cash Management Account
  • Fidelity Brokerage account
  • Fidelity-managed 529 account
  • Fidelity Retirement account (IRA, Roth IRA, SEP-IRA, Rollover IRA)
  • Fidelity Go account (robo-advisor)
  • Fidelity Charitable Giving Account (donor-advised fund)
  • Fidelity HSA

My favorite option is actually the 529 plan option if you have kids, because it is the perfect quiet way to rack up some cash and not just spend it away on a dinner or gadget. Instead, you are gradually building up a pile of money with tax-free earning towards your future college expenses. The IRA option is okay, but the annual limits are a lot lower so you have to be careful not to exceed those caps.

Let’s say you spend $2,000 a month on this card. 2% cash back means earning $40 a month in cash back. Let’s also say you put this into a 529 that earns 6% a year. If you started when your kid was born and waited 20 years until their senior year of college, that would amount to $18,574! I plugged it into this savings calculator.

Points redemption details. You can either choose automatic or manual redemption. With automatic redemption, once you reach $50 of rewards (5,000 points from net spending of $2,500), your balance will be automatically swept into your designated Fidelity account (or split between up to 5 different Fidelity accounts if you wish). You can also redeem your points “on demand” either by calling in or online after you reach the same 5,000 point minimum balance.

Note that the rewards value will be less than 2% cash back if you choose to redeem your points for other rewards such as travel options, merchandise, gift cards, and/or a statement credit.

Previous FIA Cardservices customers. You should have received your new Elan-issued cards by now. If you are not getting 2% cash back, be sure to contact them as ask. You may need to re-enroll your card.

Bottom line. I think everyone who can handle a cash back credit card (i.e. you carry no high interest credit debt) should have a 2% flat cash back card that applies to all purchases. The Fidelity Rewards Visa can make sense for Fidelity customers because you can set aside your rewards automatically and save money towards a 529 college savings or retirement account. I would try to apply when there is a sign-up bonus. Here are some similar competitor cards:

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.

Real Estate Crowdfunding: Realtyshares Foreclosure Process Example 2018

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Final update. I’ve invested in multiple real estate crowdfunding websites, including $2,000 into a single debt investment at RealtyShares. Unfortunately, this loan backed by a multifamily unit went into foreclosure and I outline what happened. There are risks in every investment, and my loss is your learning opportunity!

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Initial investment details.

  • Property: 6-unit, 6,490 sf multifamily in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Interest rate: 9% APR.
  • Amount invested: $2,000.
  • Term: 12 months with 6-month extension option.
  • Total loan amount $168,000. Purchase price $220,000 (LTC 76%). Estimated after-repair value $260,000. Broker Opinion of Value $238,000.
  • Loan secured by the property in first position. Personal guarantee from borrower.
  • Stated goal to rehab, stabilize, and then either sell or refinance.

Brief recap.

  • January 2016. Funds committed. Loan closed.
  • July 2016 to May 2017. Sporadic payment history for over a year. They would be on-time for a while, then there’d be a late payment, then things would brought back current, etc.
  • May 2017. Borrower stated that the property was under contract for $225,000 with final walk-through completed and expected close within 30 days.
  • June 2017. Borrower stopped paying. I guess the sale fell through (or they lied). Foreclosure process initiated by RealtyShares.
  • September 2017. Judgment granted in Wisconsin court. By law, there will be a 3-month redemption period where the borrower can still keep the house if they pay foreclosure judgment plus interest, taxes, and costs.
  • January 2018. The foreclosure sale was held and property ownership was reverted to RealtyShares. A judge still needs to confirm the sale.
  • February 2018. The judge confirmed the foreclosure sale, and RealtyShares is officially the owner of the property. Property can now be assessed and fixed up before sale.
  • April 2018. Property listed for $134,500 as per new BPO (Broker Opinion of Value).
  • June 2018. Property is under contract for sale. Exact price unknown.
  • July 2018. Property sold. Final disbursement of $1,133.73 received.

Final numbers. I invested $2,000 and got paid $210.84 of interest and $1,133.73 of principal for a total of $1,344.57. This means I only got back 67% of my money after more than 2 years. On the other hand, I have made over 50 different real estate-backed loans now, and it was only a matter of time before I got a full default. This was my first investment that finished foreclosure, but it won’t be my last.

The question is how often that happens and the size of those losses. When it came to Prosper or LendingClub, the interest rates might be higher but when a loan was 60 days late you were pretty much done. As an unsecured loan, you had nothing to fall back on if the borrower broke their promise (besides hurting their credit score). Sending it to collections typically only got you pennies on the dollar. In this case, I got back 57 cents on the dollar when you exclude interest.

Beforehand, RealtyShares told me that the foreclosure process in Wisconsin typically took about 12 months. That turned out to be a good estimate, as it was 12 months between foreclosure initiation and the property being under contract for sale.

Lessons. First, don’t put too much weight on a BPO (broker opinions of value). A broker thought this property was worth $238,000 in January 2016. Another broker thought the same property was worth only $134,500 in April 2018. The final sale price was probably closer to $100,000. That is a big gap.

Second, you should consider the local economic situation. This area is hurting, and if you do some digging you’ll see foreclosures all over the place. I didn’t know this at the time, but the low-income rental market in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was profiled in the NYT Bestselling book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (my review). Many of the properties mentioned in this book were literally down the street from this unit.

Third, you need to diversify. If this was my only investment, I might have an overly negative opinion of the asset class. If my successful Patch of Land loan was my only investment, I might have a overly positive opinion. Instead, this is one of 50+ investments for me (mostly at PeerStreet) and while I maintain a positive return higher than cash across my investments, there is the occasional foreclosure like this. Basically, when you read about my experience or someone else’s, you must take into account sample size.

Finally, I believe that some marketplace/crowdfunding sites may be better at sourcing and underwriting loans than others. As of November 2018, Realtyshares has stopped accepting new investments (they will continue to service existing investments). Even before that, they abruptly stopped doing residential loans to “focus” on commercial properties. I knew their specialty was more commercial real estate, but I didn’t want to commit $25k to a single commercial investment, so I went with this smaller residential loan. Since then, I have shifted my residential debt investing to PeerStreet as they allow me to split my investments into $1,000 minimums and they also have a slightly different model.

Communications quality. I would grade the online updates from RealtyShares as acceptable/good. They are relatively detailed and consistent, providing me a look inside the foreclosure process. Here are some sample updates:

October 9, 2017 We have identified a real estate broker to sell the property. The broker spoke with the previous property manager who was at the property a couple of weeks ago and who may be available for property preservation. The broker is going to take a contractor to the property to try and get an accurate cost estimate to complete the renovation.

September 21, 2017 Judgment was granted at the hearing. We expect the filed judgment from the court in approximately one week and will process it upon receipt. We should be able to schedule the sale in late October and it will be held after the redemption period expires—sometime in December. As soon as we receive the filed judgment order from the court we will have the exact 3 month redemption date. Sale cannot be held until the redemption period has expired.

September 8, 2017 The partner has declined to go forward with the purchase of the property. On the foreclosure front, the judgement hearing is scheduled for September 18th. If the judgement is successful, there is a 6-month right of redemption period during which the property can not be sold. During this period we will identify a property preservation firm and a commercial broker to sell the property.

August 25, 2017 A minority partner has stepped forward and has asked for a week to visit the property with the idea of making a paydown in exchange for an extension. We have agreed to speak next week after his inspection.

August 22, 2017 Service has been completed on the foreclosure. The defendants were personally served with the summons and complaint on August 2, 2017. The statutory answering time will expire on August 22, 2017. The judgment hearing will be scheduled at that time.

June 29, 2017 Due to the borrower’s inability to stay current, we have decided to start the foreclosure process for payment default. The foreclosure will run parallel with the sales process, meaning if the sponsor can sell the property and pay us off before the foreclosure is complete we will stop the process, if not we will take over the property. Typically, foreclosures in Wisconsin take up to 12 months.

Bottom line. Investing in real-estate backed loans means that if the borrower doesn’t pay up, you can foreclose and take over the property. But what is that really like? The purpose of this post is to provide real-world dates and numbers for a completed foreclosure on a marketplace real-estate investment site. I haven’t seen any other similar resources.

My current active investments are at PeerStreet ($1,000 minimums, accredited-only, debt-only) and Fundrise eREIT ($500 minimum, open to everyone, equity and debt).

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.

Citi Simplicity® Card Review: 0% Intro APR for 21 months on Balance Transfers, No Late Fees, No Penalty Rates

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.

Interest rates are rising, and that applies to credit cards as well. The Citi Simplicity® Card comes with an extended 0% intro period for balance transfers while also offering some “accident forgiveness insurance”. Do you have a balance that you are finally ready to pay off? The highlights:

  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee… Ever
  • 0% Intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases from date of account opening. After that the variable APR will be 16.99% – 26.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Stay protected with Citi® Quick Lock and $0 liability on unauthorized charges.
  • Simplicity = No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee.
  • Simplicity = When you want to speak to a human, just call and say “representative”

No late fees, no penalty rate details. On most other credit cards, if you make a late payment, you’ll first be charged a late payment fee of about $35. On top of that, your super-low interest rate disappears and instead gets jacked up to something called their “default rate” or “penalty rate”. This could be over 30% APR! This card adds a bit of flex in that they do not charge penalty rates or late fees.

Note that if you are 30 days late on this or any credit card, Citi will still report this activity to the credit bureaus. This card may be forgiving but you should still keep your credit score as high as possible.

The strongest part of this card is the long 21 month period, so you can spread out payments over 1.75 years and ideally pay it all off by the end. There is a 5% balance transfer fee ($5 min). 5% works out to under 4 months of interest at 18% APR. Transferring a balance to this card from a 18% APR card would be the equivalent of under 4 months interest at 18% APR and then having 17 months with 0% interest. Once the intro period on all 0% cards expire, the rates will go right back up. You’ll either need to pay it off or transfer your balance again if you need more time. With this card, you’ll have a full 21 months to spread your payments out.

Alternatively, if you are certain that you will pay it off within a shorter time period, look for a card with no balance transfer fee. Compare with other low fee 0% APR balance transfer offers.

This card does not earn any cash back, points, or airline miles. Many times, rewards cards are bad deals for those carrying balances. I’d open a separate card for rewards after your balances are paid off and you join the “Paid in full every month” club.

Bottom line. The Citi Simplicity® Card is best for folks that are serious about paying off their balances. You get a long 0% introductory period of 18 months on balance transfers, with a one-time 5% balance transfer fee ($5 min). The card includes consumer-friendly features that help ensure your low rates don’t get hiked with a single late payment. If you do the math and can make adequate payments to pay down your balance over a 21 month (1.75 years) span, this card may help get you debt-free with minimal gotchas. No annual fee.

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.

CIT Bank Review: 11-Month No Penalty CD 2.00% APY

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.

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Rates updated 7/28/22. CIT Bank (not to be confused with Citi Bank) is an online-only bank with a multi-year history of competitive rates. They have a checking account, but their specialty is a variety of savings and CD products with high interest rates. Here are the highlights:

  • 11-Month No-Penalty CD at 2.00% APY with $1,000 minimum to open. The 11-month CD keeps a fixed rate, but has no withdrawal penalty seven days or later after funds have been received. This means that your interest rate will never go down, but you can still move out if interest rates go up. (If you have an existing No Penalty CD that you want to close and open up a new one, please see my instructions below.)
  • Savings Connect Account at 1.90% APY if you open with $100.

Each of these types of account has their pros and cons. The No-Penalty CD has a rate that can’t go down, but also has a $1,000 minimum balance. The 18-month CD has a higher rate, but significant penalties if you make an early withdrawal. The Money Market rate could rise or drop, and also has more flexibility as you can easily make more deposits and also make 6 withdrawals every month.

Check out my rate chaser calculator to see if it makes sense for you to move money over.

New customer? Opening process overview. Here’s my review of the opening process if you are a new customer.

  • The application process was completely online. You provide the usual personal information.
  • You must submit to a credit check, but in my experience it was a “soft” pull which did not harm my credit. None of my various credit monitoring services showed it was a hard pull.
  • You may fund via (1) electronic ACH transfer, (2) wire transfer, (3) mobile check deposit via CIT Bank mobile app (iOS and Android), and (4) mailing in a paper check. There was no option for credit card funding. I picked online ACH funding and you need to provide routing and account numbers, followed by manual verification via micro-deposits after a day or two. There was no instant linking option via login information.

After deposit verification, then your funding will go through.

You have successfully verified your external account. Please allow up to 5 business days for your funds to appear in your CIT Bank account.
No further action is required for this account. Thank you!

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Existing savings or money market customer? Check your rate. If you already have an existing High Yield Savings account, it may remain at a lower interest rate than this money market account. If so, take a minute and upgrade yourself to the better interest rate. Click on “Open an Account” here, then “I have a CIT Bank account”, and then login with your username/password. You can do everything online and even fund your new Money Market account with an instant transfer from your existing Premier High Yield Savings. I wish I didn’t have to do this, but at least it literally only took a minute to complete.

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How to transfer your money from an existing No Penalty CD into an new, higher-rate No Penalty CD (or any other new account). You have the option of moving the funds (with no penalty of course) over to a new CD with a new 11-month holding period if the current rate is higher than your existing rate. Here’s the easiest way to do so:

  • Start a new online application for the 11-Month No-Penalty CD. Click on “Get Started” and sign-in as an existing CIT customer.
  • After signing in, go through the opening process but look for “Existing CIT Bank Account” under “Funding Source”. You should see a list of your existing accounts, including any No Penalty CDs. (Screenshot below.)
  • Note that online, your only option will be to have the entire CD balance (including accrued interest) moved over into the new CD. If you want a different amount, you’ll have to call CIT Bank customer service at 855-462-2652, open M-F 8a-9p ET, Sat 9a-5p ET, Sun 11a-4p ET. Press “0” for operator. Tell them you opened up a new No Penalty CD and you wish to fund it by closing out your old No Penalty CD.
  • That’s it. The online option says it will take 2-3 business days to complete. Your new accounts will show up online.

User interface. While the front-facing website is pretty slick, after you login the backend is run by Fidelity National Information Services (subdomain ibanking-services.com). This is a popular backend software system used by many smaller banks who don’t want to create their own software from scratch. As of early 2018, the user interface was upgraded to be look more appealing and be more user-friendly. Two-factor authentication is available using voice or SMS.

There is also an app available (iOS/Android) provided by the same company. It is similarly functional and includes mobile check deposit. Here are some screenshots:

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Bottom line. CIT Bank is a lean bank offering targeted products for folks looking to get higher interest rates on their cash balances. They don’t do physical bank branches, checking accounts, or fancy apps. However, I have been pleasantly satisfied with their customer service on my accounts with them. Their most compelling products are their Savings Connect accounts, 11-month No Penalty CD, and usually they have a top rate on one of their Term CDs. The No Penalty CD is unique in that you are always able to move out to a higher rate, even within CIT bank itself.

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.

Barclays Arrival Premier World Elite Mastercard Review

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 Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard® is no longer available.

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.

Northern Bank Direct Money Market Review – 2.26% APY Guaranteed Through June 2019

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: As of 6/20/18, the rate is now down to 1.50% APY. I hope everyone who was interested got the 2.26% APY rate, you definitely had time and they did give roughly a 24-hour notice.

Here comes another new “Direct” bank leapfrogging the current competition for some attention. The Northern Bank Direct Money Market account is offering 2.26% APY on average daily balances up to $250,000, and the rate is guaranteed through June 30, 2019. Of course, another bank could take the throne tomorrow, but at least this one comes with a rate guarantee. Other highlights:

  • $5,000 minimum to open.
  • Includes limited checkwriting and ATM debit card access.
  • No minimum balance requirements or monthly service charges.
  • Interest is compounded monthly and credited monthly. If you close your account before the interest is credited, you will not receive the accrued interest.
  • Read full review for notable quirks.

Northern Bank Direct is the online division of Northern Bank, a community bank in the New England area. You must open accounts online, but you can do transactions in their branches and use the NBTC Mobile Banking apps. They also offer various certificates of deposit, including currently a 30-month CD at 3.01% APY ($500 minimum to open, 12-month early withdrawal penalty). Their routing number is 011303097. You can contact them at 844-348-8996 EST Monday-Friday: 9a-6p, or via email to nbdirect@nbtc.com.

Money Market features. This is a money market account, which is similar to a savings account but adds limited checkwriting and an ATM debit card. You are still limited to 6 withdrawals per month, whether via online electronic funds transfer, check, wire, or ATM machine.

ACH limitations. Northern Bank Direct has a somewhat weird rule that if you initiate a electronic transfer from your Northern Bank Direct account, there is a maximum daily limit of $5,000.00 (or the available balance in your account, whichever is less) for Interbank (external) transfers per transaction; $5,000 in aggregate per day; and $25,000 in aggregate per calendar month. If you initiate the electronic transfer from an external financial institution, Northern Bank Direct does not impose a limit on the amount of the transfer.

Notable fees. According to their full Deposit Account Agreement, there are a few other fees that caught my eye:

  • Account closure (by mail): $10
  • Dormant Accounts fee (per month– starting in the 13th month for account balances less than $500.00): $4.00
  • External Transfer Fee (per transfer): $3
  • New account closure within 120 days: $25

It appears that not only do they limit your transactions to $5,000 per day ($25,000 per month), they will also charge you $3 if you initiate the transfer from your Northern Bank Direct account. There are some reports that they are removing the $3 fee, but I still see it on their online fee schedule. Hopefully, you already have a favorite “hub” bank account with free, fast transfers and high dollar limits (mine is Ally Bank).

These fees are notable as other online savings accounts have all of the following: no minimum opening balance, no minimum balance requirement, no early closure fee, and/or no inactivity fee.

Smartphone app. It’s amazing how much I bank from my phone these days, from checking balances to mobile check deposit. Based on the app store screenshots, it looks like Northern Bank also outsourced their back-end software to Fidelity National Information Services (subdomain ibanking-services.com). In my experience, the app is basic but functional. Mobile check deposit and Touch ID are supported.

Bottom line. The Northern Bank Direct Money Market account is offering 2.26% APY on average daily balances up to $250,000, with the rate guaranteed through June 30, 2019 ($5,000 minimum to open). In terms of liquid savings accounts, this is the highest rate currently available (with a few quirks noted above). There are a few short-term CDs with higher rates (and withdrawal penalties), but this is more like a no-penalty CD plus you can also add funds at any time. If you have a large cash balance and you want to preserve your liquidity options, this is something to consider. Act fast though, as previous similar accounts have closed to new applications after a few weeks.

Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to estimate how much additional interest you’d earn if you switched over and make an informed decision.

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.

Personal Capital Review: Automatically Track Net Worth and Portfolio Asset Allocation

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.

Personal Capital is free financial website and app that links all of your accounts to track your spending via bank and credit cards, investments, and net worth. You provide your login information, and they pull in the information for you automatically so you don’t have to type in your passwords every day on 7 different websites. Personal Capital’s strength is in investments, including portfolio tracking, performance benchmarking, and asset allocation analysis.

Net worth. You can add your home value, mortgage, checking/savings accounts, CDs, credit cards, brokerage, 401(k), and even stock options to build your customized Net Worth chart. You can also add investments manually if you’d prefer. I have a habit of accumulating bank and credit union accounts, so I find account aggregation quite helpful.

Cash flow. The Cash Flow section tracks your income and expenses by pulling in data from your bank accounts and credit cards. This chart compares where you are this month against the same time last month. If you hate budgeting, you may find it easier to view a real-time snapshot of your spending behavior. Their expense categorization tool is pretty accurate, and if it isn’t you can change it manually. However, it isn’t quite as advanced as Mint.com, where you for example you can make a rule to always classify “Time Warner Cable” as “Utilities” and not “Online Services”.

Portfolio. This is where Personal Capital is better than many competing services, by analyzing my overall asset allocation, holdings, and performance relative to benchmarks. If you’re like me, you have investments spread across multiple custodians. I now have investments at Vanguard, Fidelity (401k), Schwab, TransAmerica (401k), and Merrill Edge. It’s nice to be able to see everything together in one picture. They can also analyze your retirement accounts fees to see if you are quietly getting charged too much.

For comparison, Mint did not allow manual input of investments and it did not break down my asset allocation correctly based on my linked accounts. In fact, all it shows is a big orange pie chart with “99.9% Not Sure” and “0.00 Other”.

Personal Capital considers the major asset classes to be US stocks, International stocks, US Bonds, International Bonds, and Cash. The “Alternatives” classification includes Real Estate, Gold, Energy, and Commodities.

If you have one bank account, one credit card, and a 401(k), you may not need this type of account aggregation service. Life tends to get messy though, and this helps me maintain a high-level “big picture” view of things.

Security. As with most similar services, Personal Capital claims bank-level, military-grade security like AES 256-bit encryption. The background account data retrieval is run by Envestnet/Yodlee, which partners with other major financial institutions like Bank of America, Vanguard, and Morgan Stanley. Before you can access your account on any new device, you’ll receive an automated phone call, email, or SMS asking to confirm your identity. Their smartphone apps are compatible with Touch ID/Face ID on Apple and mobile PINs on Android devices.

In terms of the big picture, my opinion is that by making it more convenient, I am able to keep a closer eye on all my account and thus actually make myself less likely to be affected by a security issue.

How is this free? How does Personal Capital make money? Notice the lack of ads. Personal Capital makes money via an optional paid financial advisory service, and they are using this as a way to introduce themselves. (People who sign up for portfolio trackers tend to have money to manage…) They are a hybrid advisor, combining their online tools with real human access. Their management fees are 0.89% annually for the first $1 million, with slightly lowered pricing as you go past $1 million in assets. As an SEC-registered RIA fiduciary that now manages over $7 billion, I think this improves their credibility as a company built to handle sensitive information.

Note that if you give them your phone number, they will call you to offer a free financial consultation. If you answer the phone or e-mail them that you don’t want to be contacted anymore, they will honor that request. Or you could ask them your hardest financial question and see how they respond. However, if you simply ignore the phone calls, they will keep calling. Now, you can keep using the portfolio software for free no matter what happens. But, if you aren’t interested, I would highly recommend simply being upfront with them. A simple “no thank you” and you’re good.

If you’re upfront with them, they’ll be upfront with you. I’m still a DIY guy when it comes to my money, and they have been happy to keep monitoring my accounts for free, without any additional phone calls over the last 5 years.

Bottom line. It’s not what you make, it’s what you keep that counts. The free financial dashboard software from Personal Capital helps you track your net worth, cash flow, and investments. I recommend it for tracking stock and mutual fund investments spread across different accounts. I’d link your accounts on the desktop site, but interact daily through their Android/iPhone/iPad apps for optimal convenience (log in with Touch ID or mobile-only PIN).

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.

Republic Wireless Review: New Phone + 3 Months Service $89 or Free SIM + Free 1st 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.

rw2018freesimUpdated 2018. Republic Wireless is a T-Mobile MVNO that reduces costs by using WiFi for calls and texts whenever possible. They have settled into the simple pricing structure below, with no contracts.

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The best value plans allow a single user to pay $20/month for unlimited talk/text/1 GB LTE and $25/month for unlimited talk/text/2 GB LTE. The nice thing about these pay-for-what-you-use plans is that you save money on the months where you use very little data, as opposed to always buying the plan where you know you won’t pay for overages.

Buy new phone, get 3 free months of service (phones start at $89). Get 3 free months of service if you buy a new phone and activate a new line. This is with the Unlimited Talk/Text + 1 GB Data plan, so that’s $20 x 3 = $60 value for free. New phones start at only $89 for the Alcatel A30 Android phone. Moto E is $129.

Bring your own phone + Free SIM card + 1 free month of service. Right now, they are offering a Free SIM card + Free Shipping + Free 1st Month of Service. This is with the Unlimited Talk/Text + 1 GB Data plan ($20 value). If you use more data, you pay the difference. Taxes and telecom fees are not included. The idea is that you can swap out the SIM card in your phone and try them out with no obligation. You must activate by 6/30/18.

Phone options. You can either buy a phone from them or bring your GSM unlocked phone and use their SIM card. There are still no Apple phones on the list. Below is a partial list of eligible phones. The best thing to do is use their phone checker.

  • Google Pixel
  • Google Pixel XL
  • Google Pixel 2
  • Google Pixel 2 XL
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
  • Samsung Galaxy S9
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
  • Samsung Galaxy J3
  • Samsung Galaxy S6
  • Nexus 6P by Huawei
  • Nexus 6 by Motorola
  • Nexus 5X by LG
  • Moto X Pure Edition
  • Moto X4
  • Moto G5S Plus
  • Moto G5 Plus
  • Moto E4
  • Moto E4 Plus
  • Moto G4
  • Moto G4 Plus
  • Moto G4 Play
  • Moto Z
  • Moto Z Play

Bottom line. Republic Wireless now allows you to bring your own unlocked GSM phone for use on WiFi and T-Mobile LTE networks. Right now, they are offering a free SIM + free month of service to try them out for free. Apple phones are not eligible. The cost is straightforward: $15 for unlimited talk/text and $5 per GB of data used, making it best for modest data users.

If you are willing to buy several months of service at once (or have an Apple phone), also check out Mint Mobile (formerly MintSIM).

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.

Betterment Review: Customized Asset Allocation, Human Financial Advisors

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.

bment1707_0Updated April 2018 with custom ETF allocations. Betterment is an independent hybrid digital/human advisor that will manage a diversified mix of low-cost index funds and help you decide how much you’ll need to save for retirement. (By independent, I mean that they are not tied to a specific brand of funds like Vanguard or Schwab). Betterment is also an RIA, which means they have a legal fiduciary duty to keep client interests first. They frequently announce new features and improvements, so I will work to keep this feature list updated.

Diversified portfolio of high-quality, low-cost ETFs. Their portfolios are a diversified mix of several asset classes including: US Total, US Large Value, US Mid Value, US Small Value, International Developed, Emerging Markets, US Corporate Bonds, US Total Bond, Inflation-Protected Treasuries, Muni Bonds, International Bonds, and Emerging Market Bonds. For the most part, Vanguard and iShares ETFs are used.

The traditional Betterment portfolio has a more pronounced tilt towards the size premium and value premium than the cap-weighted indexes. You could argue the finer points of whether this will really create higher risk-adjusted returns, but overall it is backed by academic research. Betterment has also added a Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) portfolio option.

In April 2018, Betterment added Flexible Portfolios which lets you manually adjust the percentages of each asset class. As a DIY investor with assets spread across multiple accounts, this customization has been something I’ve been waiting for. This option is currently available only to clients with $100,000+ in assets.

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Both the SRI and Flexible Portfolio options will work with Tax Loss Harvesting and Tax Coordination features (see below).

Free access to human advice for everyone. In July 2017, Betterment announced that all of their customers can message a licensed financial experts. Digital members (0.25% annual fee) can ask questions any time via their mobile app. Digital members should expect an answer in approximately one business day. Betterment Premium members (0.40% annual fee) have unlimited e-mail and direct phone access to “Certified Financial Planner professionals”. From their press release:

Our experts can assist with deciding which funds to move to Betterment, setting goals (like saving for college, a house, or retirement), and identifying which Betterment tax features may be right. They can also help you make important investment decisions, like choosing risk levels, amounts to invest, and types of accounts.

Reading between the lines, Digital members get “licensed financial experts” while Premium members get “Certified Financial Planner professionals”. This suggests that while Digital members will still get fiduciary (client-first) advice, Premium members will get priority access to the more-experienced advisors in exchange for paying their higher fee.

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Retirement planning software with external account balances. RetireGuide is Betterment’s retirement planning software, first launched in April 2015. This service links your external accounts from other banks, brokerages, and 401k plans (similar to Mint and Personal Capital) in order to see your balances without having to manually input them. According to their methodology guide [pdf], they don’t analyze your transactions to estimate savings rate, they are just pulling in balances.

Example questions: How much do I have invested elsewhere? Am I saving enough money? How much estimated income will I have in retirement? Your future Social Security income is estimated for your based on your chosen retirement age and birthdate. You can change many of the variables as you like.

Account types. Betterment now supports taxable joint accounts, trust accounts, 401k rollovers, Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs, and Inherited IRAs.

Tax-efficent asset location. Tax-Coordinated Portfolio will place different asset classes in your taxable accounts vs. tax-deferred accounts (IRAs, 401ks) for a higher after-tax return. In addition, if you have multiple types of accounts at Betterment (i.e. both IRA and taxable), it will manage multiple accounts as a single portfolio, placing assets that are taxed more into more favorably taxed accounts (like IRAs). Note that this only works across accounts that are held at Betterment. It does not adjust for non-Betterment accounts. This is called their Tax-Coordinated Portfolio (TCP).

Use dividends and new contributions to rebalance. They will use your dividends and new contributions to rebalance your asset classes in order to minimize sells and thus minimize capital gains.

Daily tax-loss harvesting. Betterment’s Tax-loss Harvesting+ (TLH+) software monitors your holdings daily and attempts to find opportunities to harvest tax losses by switching between “similar but not substantially identical” ETFs. If you can delay paying taxes and reinvest them, this can result in a greater after-tax return. The exact “tax alpha” of this practice depends on multiple factors like portfolio size and tax brackets. You can read the Betterment side of things in their whitepaper. Here is an outside viewpoint arguing for more conservative estimates.

My opinion is that there is long-term value in tax-loss harvesting and especially daily monitoring to capture more losses. However, I also think it’s wise to use a conservative assumption as to the size of that value. (DIY investors can perform their own tax-loss harvesting as well on a less-frequent basis. I do it myself, but it’s rather tedious and I’m definitely not doing it more often than once a year. I would gladly leave it to the bots if it was cheap enough.)

Invest your excess cash automatically. Automatic contributions are good, but perhaps you don’t want to commit to a set amount each month. (Ideally, you do commit to a set amount, and this service invests more money on top of that.) Called SmartDeposit, you link your checking account and choose your Checking Account Ceiling and Max Deposit amount. If your checking account balance goes above the ceiling, Betterment will automatically sweep over money and invest it for you. Betterment will account for future scheduled deposits so you don’t over-contribute.

Fee schedule. Betterment has a fee structure with two tiers.

  • Betterment Digital. No minimum balance. Digital portfolio management and guidance. Unlimited access to “licensed financial experts” via mobile app with ~1 business day turnaround time. Flat fee of 0.25% of assets annually. The management fee on any assets over $2 million is waived.
  • Betterment Premium. $100,000 minimum balance. Digital portfolio management and guidance. Unlimited access to “CFP professionals” financial experts” via e-mail or phone. Includes more in-depth advice on investments outside of Betterment. Flat fee of 0.40% of assets annually. The management fee on any assets over $2 million is waived.

In my opinion, the main concern of any outside advisor is the same: you are handing over control to someone else. Betterment could change their investment philosophy, their pricing structure, and feature set in the future. Digital advisors are constantly changing, and some of their new features could be great or it could just be a fad.

Bottom line. Betterment is an independent digital advisory firm with nearly $10 billion in assets, which means they aren’t tied to any specific brand of funds like Vanguard, Fidelity, or Schwab. Their main differentiators from the other independent firms (see my Wealthfront review) are (1) access to human advice available to all customers and now (2) the ability to customize your target asset allocation ($100k+ in assets). Other notable features include: Retirement planning software that syncs with external accounts, tax-loss harvesting, tax-coordinated portfolios (when you have both IRA/401k and taxable at Betterment), and SmartDeposit which automatically invests excess cash from your checking 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.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card Review: 5% Back at Amazon + Whole Foods

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.

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(Updated: Now with 5% back at Whole Foods for Amazon Prime members. Amazon recently announced free 2-hour delivery from Whole Foods in 4 US cities, with nationwide rollout expected later this year…)

Chase and Amazon have rolled out the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, a new credit card (not store card) available only to Amazon Prime members. Highlights:

  • 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market for Amazon Prime members. If you stop your Prime membership, you’ll be downgraded to 3% back.
  • 2% Back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores.
  • 1% Back on all other purchases.
  • Sign-up bonus of variable amount based on each person’s account. I was offered a $70 Amazon Gift Certificate. Click on the “Apply Now” link to see your personalized offer, you’ll have time to stop the application.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No annual fee.
  • Extended warranty protection. Extends the time period for the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.
  • Purchase Protection. Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.

Existing Amazon Rewards Visa Signature cardholder? If you have the original card and are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you should be “upgraded” to this new card automatically. You may see the change online first (your linked purchases will start earning 5% back instead of just 3% back) before you actually receive a new physical card.

Commentary. I recently did a Amazon Store Card review, about a retail card issued by Synchrony Bank that was only valid at Amazon.com. My overall opinion of this credit card is similar, except for the extended warranty protection. If you use gift cards to buy things at Amazon, you will forgo the extended warranty protection and purchase protection that many other credit cards offer. With this card, you will get the extended warranty protection and 5% cash back. How much is an extra year’s warranty worth? Depends on how many big-ticket items you buy at Amazon and how likely you’ll actually remember to use this benefit.

My rough rule of thumb is that a “hard” credit check can reliably net me at least $500 in value, usually from credit card sign-up bonuses but also potentially from bank bonuses and higher interest. It is very rare that I shop at any specific retailer enough to get $500 in savings. For example, it would take $10,000 of Amazon purchases at 5% back to net me $500 in cash back. (2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores only draws a yawn when I can get that much cash back on everything. 1% cash back on everything else… zzzz.)

Now, the addition of the 5% back at Whole Foods adds a wrinkle for those that shop at Whole Foods regularly. If you were only getting 2% back before, now 5% on the combined spending at Amazon and Whole Foods might become more compelling. (Amazon recently announced it will offer free two-hour delivery of Whole Foods groceries in four cities – Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas and Virginia Beach. The plan is to expand delivery nationwide later in 2018.)

For the casual Amazon shopper, 5% rotating category credit cards often have Amazon or a place that sells Amazon gift cards as an eligible category. Other cards like the American Express Blue Cash Preferred offer 6% back at grocery stores (that sell Amazon gift cards) or Chase Ink Business cards offer 5% back at office supply stores (that sell Amazon gift cards). Basically, there are other ways that I can stock up on Amazon gift cards at 5% off without having this card.

Bottom line. If you are a loyal Prime member that spends a lot of money at Amazon and/or Whole Foods and prefer simplicity, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card can add up to serious rewards. Be sure to make it your default card for your Amazon account. You can then track all your Amazon spending on one card, and also get extended warranty protection and purchase protection. As with any rewards credit card, you should always pay off your bill in full as the annual interest rate on balances is significantly higher than 5%.

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.