Thursday, May 29, 2014

Serve - Free and Automatic Manufactured Spend

Update: Starting in April 2015, you can longer load via Visa, Mastercard or Discover.  Fidelity American Express will work and still should earn points.

American Express has a number of different types of Prepaid Cards.  For a few years, their Bluebird card was the darling of the Blogosphere since it can be loaded with Vanilla Reload cards at a low cost and easily unloaded back into your bank account.  If you needed to hit a spending threshold, Bluebird was your friend.  With the demise of buying Vanilla Reloads with credit cards, people have been looking for alternatives.

Serve is a great alternative.  I didn't have Serve until this week because you can only have Serve or Bluebird, not both, and I've been too lazy to cancel Bluebird, but I'm sorry I didn't switch over sooner.

Major Advantages of Serve

1) Online credit card loads 

This reason and the next one are the only reason I switched over.  You can load $1,000 a month for free from a credit card. There is a limit of $200 a day, so you need 5 $200 loads to get to the $1,000

2) Automatic online credit card loads

You can set up Serve to automatically load money from your card.  I set it up to load $200 everyday.  The first 5 times of the month it works, and the rest it doesn't work because I've reached my maximum for the month.

3) Bill Pay

You can pay your credit card bills from Serve

4) Participates in American Express Offers

American Express has some great offers for their card holders.  Most prepaid cards are not eligible, but Serve cards and their subaccounts are eligible for American Express offers.

5) Load Visa Gift Cards at Walmart

Another major advantage Bluebird had was that you could load Visa Gift Cards onto your Bluebird card for free at Walmart.  That's still true, but it's also now true for Serve.

6) Connect your phone and Download the Isis app and load even more

Check here to see if you phone is eligible.  With Isis, your daily load limit goes up to $500 and your monthly load limit goes up to $1,500.

Major Disadvantage of Serve

1) $1 monthly fee - The fee is dropped if you load $500 a month.  That should be very easy if you set up automatic loads.

A couple of Notes:

1) You might need to call and verify your credit card info.  When I first set up my credit card on Serve I kept getting an error message when I tried to load with a credit card.  The message told me to call Serve.  I called and Serve called up my credit card company with me on the phone to verify that it is my credit card.

2) Not every credit card will work to get points.  American Express credit cards will load money to Serve, but you won't get points.  Citibank, Chase, Capital One, Barclays and FIA card services (including the 2% Fidelity American Express) all will earn points for the online loads.  If you use your Fidelity American Express you will get $20 every month for no work.

3) I need to spend exactly $1,000 a month for 16 months to get 2 miles per dollar on my Citibank AAdvantage card so this is perfect for me.

You can check out Frequent Miler's post on the topic

Also check out this Flyertalk Thread

Monday, May 26, 2014

$15 free from Top Cashback and Audible

Disclaimer: I receive a referral commission for the following link(s) and I greatly appreciate supporting the site: Top Cashback is a website run by Amazon that sells audio books.

For the next 4 days, Top Cashback is offering $31 if you sign up for a monthly membership.  Just log in to your Top Cashback account and then go on to audible and sign up for a membership.

Don't have Top Cashback?  Sign up here for free.

Monthly membership is $8.01 with tax and you need to keep the account open for 30 days in order to be eligible for the cashback so you will likely pay for two full months.  In addition, you will get 2 free audio books since membership entitles you to one book a month.

I bought it and then immediately put a reminder in my calendar to cancel on day 31.  You can cancel online by going to Hi, Oren->Account Details> Change My Membership-> Cancel.

Pictures to follow

Chase Targeted Offers

Update:  Doctor of Credit has compiled a great list of targeted offers that includes many other banks.  Check it out.

Credit card companies sometimes mail targeted offers for extra sign up bonus points or for extra spending.   Targeted offers usually come with an invitation code so that they can only be used once and not passed around the internet.

If you lost your targeted offer or maybe you never saw it, you can check Chase's website and see if you have any targeted offers waiting for you.

The link for targeted offers is here.  I checked and I had no offers, but maybe you will have better luck.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

128GB USB 2.0 Memory Drive $37 from Amazon

Disclaimer: I receive a referral commission for the following link(s) and I greatly appreciate supporting the site: Amazon

Amazon has a 128GB USB Drive 2.0 on sale for $37 with Super Free Shipping.  Normally $69.99.

My usual rule of thumb is that if you can buy a USB drive for less than half of the memory, it is a good price.  For example, here with a 128GB I would try to find one for $64 or less.   That being said, this is a USB 2.0, which will transfer information slower than a USB 3.0.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pathmark - 1 Money Order with 2 Visa Gift Cards!

I went to Pathmark the other night armed with 2 $500 Visa Gift Cards.  I had already confirmed that I could buy a money order with a Debit Card (Read = Visa Gift Card) at Pathmark.  The fee is $0.99 for up to a $1,000 Money Order, but I wondered whether you can combine 2 cards in one purchase in order to pay the fee one time.

I walked over to the Western Union area (the same place you return items to) and asked for a Money Order for $999.  I did not mention that I would be paying with two cards.  I swiped the first card and was approved for $500 from the first card automatically.  The POS machine asked for a new form of payment so I swiped the second card and was approved again.  Success!

Next, the cashier asked for the card and my ID to check to make sure they are the same.  Well, the card doesn't have a name on it.  I showed her the card and said there is no name, but I pointed to the "Debit" sign on the card.  She had already charged the card so she said, "ok, I guess."

Moral of the story:  Don't mention anything unless they ask beforehand to see the card.  Just start paying.  Just like every other deal, every store manager can have their own rules.  If they say ask for an ID, say "Ok, thank you," leave and come back when another manager is working.   The same thing if they say Cash only (my brother reported this).

Technically, I could have bought a card for $999.01 since the fee is $0.99, but I thought that would sound awfully strange and my goal is always to stay under the radar.

Coming Soon

Even better would be if we can figure out a way to get a Debit Card with you name on it that can be reloaded with a credit card.

Hmm, working on that now.  We'll see where that goes.  Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as I experiment.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Talia's Steakhouse and Living Social - Dinner for 2 $55.25

Disclaimer: I receive a referral commission for the following link(s) and I greatly appreciate supporting the site: Living Social and Ebates

Update 5/19:  The coupon code has expired, but you still have until the end of 5/19 to get 15% back from Ebates.  Also, use Promo code EXTRA10 to save $7.  Final price is $48.25 after promo code and Ebates money.

My 5th anniversary was yesterday so my wife and I were looking to treat ourselves to a nice dinner.

Talia's steakhouse is a nice, kosher and expensive steakhouse on the upper west side of NYC.   I noticed a nice combination of deals that made it quite worthwhile to go to Talia's.  This deal only works for dinner.

Details of the deal:  For $65 you get:

1) 1 appetizer - up to $19
2) 2 entrees - up to $96 together
3) 2 Side dishes - up to $16 value

So, for $65 you get up to $131 of value.

Use promo code 15OFFMAY and the price goes down to $55.25 after 15% off.  Promo code expires today (5/18/2014).

Click here for the Deal

Start your purchase from Ebates and get another 15.0% cashback as well.  You will still get your normal cashback from your credit card as well.   15% from Ebates is only for today since it is Ebate's 15th anniversary.  Ebates normally gives 2% cashback for living social.

Don't have ebates?  Sign up here for free.  

If you use both the promo code and Ebates, your final price will be $45.50 for a nice steakhouse for two!

Annual Fee Due? Ask for Retention Bonus

This isn't breaking news, but it's always worth repeating.

The annual fee for my wife's Citibank American Airlines just posted.  It is an $85 annual fee. Obviously, I didn't want to pay that.  I still want the card open so that I can get the benefits of the card, like a free bag, but I don't think it is worth the annual fee.  

I called up Citibank and told them "I would like to cancel my card because I don't want to pay an annual fee."  I was put on the line with someone from the retention department.

The Offer

I was immediately offered a $95 statement credit (the price of the annual fee + $10) and  1,000 bonus miles every month for the next 16 months if I spend $1,000 in that month.  If I spend right around $1,000 every month for the next 16 months, I'll get 16,000 total bonus miles on top of the regular 16,000 miles for spending $16,000 miles for a total of 32,000 miles.


This is not an overwhelming bonus by any stretch, but it's a nice deal.

That being said, I will probably spend the $1,000 every month that I would have normally put on my Fidelity American Express.  Instead of $320, I'll have 32,000 miles, more than a third of the way to a free round trip ticket to Israel.

Moral of the story, always ask for a retention bonus.  You might not get one, but who knows.

Friday, May 16, 2014

No More Shop Discover Money for Visa Gift Cards at Staples?

I got an email from a friend who said:

Cashback from discover was for .08, (added garbage item)  so it seems "gift certificates" is for real this time. 
It was great while it lasted, but I guess discover is not interested in footing the bill.

Basically, he bought a Visa Gift Card through Shop Discover and only got 5% cashback for the non gift card item.

I thought this might come, as it was earlier reported from Frequent Miler.

It was nice while it lasted.  As always, it's a game of Whack-A-Mole.  An opportunity comes up, we utilize it and then it gets shut down.  Something else lucrative will come up, I'm sure of it, just not sure when.  Meanwhile you can always buy American Express Gift Cards for 4.8% cashback everywhere with Fidelity American Express or even up to 6.4% cashback everywhere with Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard!

Thank you AR for the tip!  Anyone else have a similar experience?

Barclays Arrival World Mastercard - Is it worth it?

Disclaimer: I receive a referral commission for the following link(s) and I greatly appreciate supporting the site: Barclay's Arrival World Mastercard

Update: This card has been renamed the Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Until recently, The Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® had little utility for me.  The card has a great sign up bonus, which is equivalent to $440 towards travel.  Outside of the bonus, I saw no purpose. However, I think the card may be making a big comeback in my book.

Basics of the card

1)  2 points for every $1 you spend.  You can redeem points for travel purchases at the rate of $0.01 per point.  For example, if you have 40,000 points (the sign up bonus) and you spend $400 on travel related purchases, you can request a statement credit of $400.

2) When you redeem the points for travel, you will also get a 10% refund on your points.  In our scenario, you will get 4,000 points added to your account.  This is why the sign up bonus of 40,000 points is equivalent to $440 towards travel, not $400.  This means you are getting 2.2% cashback towards travel for every purchase

3) Redeeming points for non travel will cut your redemption rate by more than half.  Instead of each point being redeemed for $0.01, they will be redeemed for $0.005.  In addition, you will not get the 10% bonus

4) $89 annual fee, which is waved the first year.

Barclays Arrival vs. Fidelity American Express

The Fidelity American Express card is my card of choice when there is no special category.  You get a flat 2% cashback on every purchases, with no limits and no annual fees.

You would need to spend ~$45,000 before the extra 0.2% would pay for the $89 annual fee.  No thanks, I'll stick with Fidelity for everyday purchases!

American Express Gift Cards and Rewards Boost Tips the Scales!

Like most Credit Card companies, Barclays has a shopping portal for get extra points called Rewards Boost.  Rewards Boost associated with the Arrival card has one deal different from the other cards, which changes all the calculations.

If you buy American Express Gift Cards through Rewards Boost associated with an Arrival card, you will get an additional 4 points per dollar.  Top Cashback "only"gives you 3% back.

Top Cashback + Fidelity American Express gives you 5% cashback (fees lower your overall cashback slightly)
Rewards Boost + Arrival gives 6% cashback, which is 6.6% when redeemed for travel.  A difference of over 1.5%.

If you buy 2 orders of American Express Gift Cards at the maximum $5,000 for each, you will receive an additional $160 by using the Barclays Arrival, making the annual fee quite worthwhile.  Do it a few more times and you might be able to retire ;)

Keep in mind that the Rewards Boost may increase or decrease its current payment (more likely to decrease than increase), but it has been steady for some time now so if you don't have the card, now may be the time to think about getting it.

Here is the link for signing up for Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Liquidating Visa Gift Cards at Pathmark on the Cheap with Money Orders - Great for Teaneck

For quite some time, it has been a lot easier for me to buy Visa Gift Cards at a very high cashback rate than it has been to liquidate those gift cards.  I have often stopped myself from buying more because I already have too many.

My usual go to ways of buying Visa Gift Cards are in store from Pathmark and online from Staples. Couple that with the fact that I have been buying a lot of American Express gift cards lately and I have too much money in gift cards and not enough ways to unload them.  So, what is a manufactured spender to do?

Liquidating Gift Cards

Amazon Payments has been great for the American Express gift cards, but that still leaves me lacking for the Visa gift Cards since there is a max of $2,000 a month between myself and my wife.

Evolve Money is a wonderful and free tool, but it only gets me about $350 a month during the spring/fall and maybe about $450 a month during the summer/winter when my energy bills are higher.

For most people, Walmart is the way to go.  You can load up to $5,000 a month to Bluebird for free or buy lots of Money Orders for $0.70 each with a Debit Card (Visa Gift Cards are considered Debit Cards for this purpose).  The problem for me is that I live in Teaneck and the nearest Walmart is about 30 minutes away and I just can't justify the time.

Pathmark - My New Favorite Store, Again

I have been trying to find alternate stores that accept credit or debit cards for Money Orders, largely unsuccessfully, and I finally found one that works well for me.  Pathmark, which is less than a 5 minute drive from my apartment in Teaneck.

One can purchase a Western Union Money Order with a maximum of $1,000 on it with a debit card.  The fee for the MO is $0.99 or 0.1%.

Today I brought a $500 Visa Gift Card to Pathmark.  I asked for a Money Order of $498.  Success!  I chose that amount to account for the $0.99 fee and a possible $1 hold on the card that sometimes happens.  I came home and checked the balance and I had $1.01 on it, which means that there was never a $1 hold since that would take days to come off.

Next time I would ask for a Money Order with $499.01 so that I wouldn't have any money on the Visa Gift Card.

I don't know if you can pay for a $1,000 Money Order with split tender of 2 $500 cards for the same $1 fee, that will be my next experiment.  If someone has experience with that please comment.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Google Shopping Express - Free Same Day Shipping in Manhattan

Google announced a new service called Google Shopping Express.

Google Shopping Express offers same day delivery in Manhattan, San Francisco, West LA, Peninsula & San Jose.

Right now, you can get a 6 month membership for free and get $10 off your first order.

Once you are a member, same day shipping is free.  No catches.  I'm sure it won't be free after 6 months, but prices have not been announced yet.

The last couple of times I have tried, I got the message that they are out of deliveries for the day so there is a limited number of people who can get deliveries every day.

HT: DansDeals

Sunday, May 4, 2014

American Express Gift Cards - 3.5% from Big Crumbs

Disclaimer: I receive a referral commission for the following link(s) and I greatly appreciate supporting the site: Top Cashback

Update 5/6/2014:  Cashback is down to 2.45% on Big Crumbs and 2% on Top Cashback

Big Crumbs has increased the payout rate for American Express gift cards to 3.5%.

If you use your American Express Fidelity to pay and promo code FPMOM (promo code works until 5/15), you will get 5.3% cashback on a $5,000 purchase of gift cards.

If you want more info, you can see my other post where Top Cashback is offering 3% (today is the last day for that).  In addition, you can get up to 6.4% back using the Barclays Arrival Card.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bank of America Museums On Us - This Saturday and Sunday

Bank of America Museums on Us program gives Bank of America card holders free access to select museums on the first Saturday and Sunday of the month.  May 3rd and 4th are the dates for this month so that means this Saturday and Sunday are the free days this month.

You need to have a credit or debit card in the name of each person so you still have to pay for kids, unless you get a credit card for you child, like I did.

Sign up for email or text alerts to remind yourself of the dates here.

Here is a list of the museums in the New York/New Jersey area:
  • NJ
    • Liberty Science Center (Jersey City)
    • Montclair Art Museum (Montclair)
    • Morris Museum (Morristown)
    • Newark Museum (Newark)
  • NY
    • Suffolk county Vanderbilt Museum (Centerport)
    • Long Island Children's Museum (Garden City)
    • Metropolitan Museum of Art (Manhattan)
    • Staten Island Children's Museum (Staten Island)
    • New York Historical Society (NYC)
    • Whitney Museum of American Art (Manhattan)
    • Brooklyn's Children Museum (Brooklyn)
    • Queen's Museum of Art (Queens)
    • Guggenheim Museum (Manhattan)
    • Old Westbury Gardens (Old Westbury)
    • Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carraiges