$6,000 IRA Contribution Goal 2021 Final Results:: $5,592 in Bonuses, $2500+ in Extra Interest

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2021 end-of-year update. I have an informal goal each year of earning the equivalent of the maximum annual IRA contribution limit of $6,000 using the profits from various promotions alone. If you had put $6,000 into your IRA every year for the last 10 years (2011-2020) and invested in a simple Target Date retirement fund, you would have turned small deals into a $100,000+ nest egg.

Example. I was recently approved for the new Capital One Venture X card, and I was hoping the $1,000+ value would put me over the $6,000 threshold. I’m very confident that I’ll get at least $1,000 out of this card, as (1) we have multiple upcoming trips planned, (2) are renewing Global Entry for $100, and (2) this is the rare card that lets us gain lounge access for a family of 5. Each cardholder is free plus 2 guests, but additional cardholders are free 😉. I will offset $1,000 in travel expenses I would have incurred anyway, and invest it instead.

The ground rules: Real-world results for one person only. As following with My Money Blog tradition, this will track my personal, real-world results. It would be quite easy to list a bunch of random promotions that add up to $6,000, but these will be promotions that I personally sign up for and complete the requirements (even though I’ve already opened so many bank accounts, credit cards, and brokerage accounts over the years). I will track my individual results only, although my partner does also participate on a more selective basis. I quickly ran through all posts in the Deals and Offers category, Top 10 credit cards list, and brokerage bonus list:

2021 bonuses and promotions

Total from one-time bonuses: $5,592

For 2021, I made it 93% of the way to $6,000 annual IRA contribution limit from one-time bonuses alone. Not bad. In general, this is based on the human tendency to not like change. Most people open a bank account at age 18 and never switch again. Companies have to offer you money to incentivize you to switch your bank or credit cards.

This ignores higher bank interest or ongoing credit card purchase rewards like 2% back on all credit purchases and 5% cash back on specific categories. I did multiple US Mint coin deals this year, but also much fewer credit card applications than in a normal year. My wife and I were thinking of trying to get dual Southwest Companion passes, but we decided not to go for it yet.

Bank interest accounts. With a simple direct deposit change, I earned between 3% and 3.5% APY on $100,000 at HM Bradley for all of 2021, FDIC-insured and with no interest rate risk. (I have the HM Bradley credit card as well.) This is money that could have sat 0.01% at BofA/Chase/Wells Fargo or in a Fidelity/Vanguard/Schwab cash sweep account, or 0.50% at a “high yield” savings account. Deals will come and deals will go, that’s just part of the game, but the fact is that it helped me earn an extra $2,500 this year.

If you follow my monthly best interest rate updates, you know that US Savings bonds are paying 7.12% interest currently. If you maxed out in 2021, you can buy more in January 2022. I view this is a legitimate form of “profit”, but the value is dependent on the size your cash/bond holdings. Thus, I’ve kept it separate.

Total from higher bank interest: $2,500

I don’t like to waste my time either, so I attempt to curate and include the ones that offer a good return based on the time commitment required. I avoid things that involve driving to store where things may or may not be “in stock”. The deals that I post usually last at least a few days, but it’s a bit like value investing where you have to be ready to take advantage of an opening when it shows up, because they won’t last forever. I’m sure that 2022 will offer its own share of opportunities.

Total for 2021: $8,092

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  1. How does one get a referral to HM Bradley 3.5%??

    • I requested a referral at the HM Bradley page.

    • As you already did, I would check the comments on the HM Bradley review page linked above. There is a slow stream of helpful readers that post their referral link, but it appears to go dead after 3 referrals each. HM Bradley is trying to slow down the stream of new customers to keep the quality (and rate) high, and I think that is a good sign (and rare given the common growth-at-all-costs mentality). I also signed up for their credit card (be sure to manually update your income if your direct deposit isn’t high enough) as it gives an extra 0.5% (or $500 a year on $100k) plus it also gives 3% automatically on your biggest spend category.

  2. I didn’t see anywhere where you’ve answered this question before, but it’s been on my mind for a bit.

    What is the easiest way to qualify something as having a ‘direct deposit’ set up without constantly changing were my full paycheck goes. Is it easy for you because you own MBB and can do micro-direct deposits from your company? How would the ‘average’ person do this?


    • Have you checked with your payroll person? It’s more common now to be able to split a paycheck direct deposit multiple ways. I use Gusto for payroll, which is a pretty widely used service amongst small businesses and lets me split pretty much however I like.

      Otherwise, many people use ACH transfers from online banks that allow you to initiate transfers using any account/routing number combo to “simulate” a direct deposit and it works a lot of the time. There are additional roundabout ways using the new apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Apple Pay. I often simply try it first so I don’t have to go and change my “real” direct deposit.

    • You can do it on line usually depending on who your company uses to manage this. Like workaday. It takes about five minutes to go in and change your direct deposit.

  3. Been following you for over a decade and your blog was very useful for me when I came to this country as an immigrant and was confused about everything.

    Genuinely curious at your income level how are you eligible for a Roth IRA? Unless you have dropped it by going part time? I remember you had more details on income and NW back in the day.

    • When I say Roth IRA, I view a “Backdoor” Roth IRA as the equivalent. I would always contributed to a non-deductible IRA as there is no income limit, and do the Roth conversion as long as there is also no income limit currently.

      • Jonathan,
        I have always tried to max pre tax contributions to a 401k to get under the magi limit (eg 197k for a couple) so I could do a Roth IRA. Do you think it would be better to keep income higher and contribute to the Roth 401k and ira and back door Roth the ira?

  4. Disregard my request for a referral link – I rcvd a referral on another website!

  5. I don’t know if it’s too much of a hassle, but what about Ibotta cash back? That’s netting me a few hundred a year.
    Thanks for your encouragement Jonathan. I will have about 4500$ of my Ira from free promos this year.

  6. Marcus Bank referral code below if anyone want to use, good for extra +0.5% interest on savings account for 3 months:


  7. HM Bradley is changing the rules from next month. Now you need to have the CC and use it every month and also deposit $2500/month.

  8. Thank for an interesting post (and blog in general).

    I counted 27 different promotions – have you tried to estimate how much of your time goes into dealing with them? It’s probably nontrivial – opening/closing accounts, setting things up, tracking and so on. I understand it has extra value for you because of this blog, but personally I go back and forth between trying to exploit these and seeing it become too much of a time/attention sink.


    • Valid question. I’ve been doing this for over a decade, so I like to think that I’ve learned avoid the time-consuming ones and pick the lowest hanging fruit in terms of reward/(time+risk). So this is a curated list already in that regard. It is something of a hobby for sure, and if I was a tech worker making $300,000 a year, I wouldn’t recommend it.

      It helps to just take a quick moment to write down the important details on a Google spreadsheet. I usually only juggle one credit card at a time these days, maybe one for me and one for my wife. Bank bonuses are pretty quick time-wise in general, once you have system of either splitting or simulating direct deposits, and only generate a 1099-INT which takes 2 minutes to enter at tax time. Brokerage bonuses can be a little more work, but not much. You also get the occasional “jackpot” in terms of the free stock. I also enjoy trying it out just to try it out. It’s kind of like sampling food at Costco. The ones that have taken some extra time during tax return prep were often the startups that don’t fit neatly into a box like LendingClub and Prosper. I don’t do anything that involves driving around looking for items or gift cards that may or may not be in stock, long hold times on the phone, etc.

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