Finance

Category Archives for Finance.

There’s a New AMEX Serve Prepaid Debit Card

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It looks like Serve has a new prepaid debit card – and it’s already on the front page of their website.

Old blue Serve, meet new green Serve

OBS and NGS (Old Blue Serve and New Green Serve)

AMEX is apparently splitting the “Old Blue Serve” into 2 separate products.

And you can reload the “New Green Serve” at CVS, Family Dollar, Walmart, and 7-Eleven.

asdas

$0 “cash reloads” at CVS, Family Dollar, and 7-Eleven… I wonder if you can pay with a credit card?

And New Green Serve has a $4.95 monthly fee – but not if you’re in Texas, New York, or Vermont.

I’m not sure if you can have both products at the same time – or what the split means for Old Blue Serve, if anything.

Aside from the new monthly fee, and the free cash reloads, it looks like the 2 products are exactly the same.

It would be really awesome if CVS took credit cards for the “cash reloads.”

I’d take my new Hilton credit card for a joyride (as it’s one of the only credit cards left that still earns points at drugstores – 3X Hilton points @ $1,000 a month reload limit would equal 36,000 points annually.  That’s good for a few Hilton Category 2 hotel stays!).

All of the other terms and conditions – reload limits, ATM fees, etc. are identical.

After switching from Bluebird to Serve then to REDbird, then back to Serve again, I’ll keep my eye on this as it seems like AMEX is still rolling this out. This would be a great way (and convenient) way to manufacture some spend and pay bills you can’t ordinarily pay with a credit card.  Especially in the barren wasteland of New York City.

Although if you can’t, I’m perfectly fine collecting my free $240 a year with the Fidelity AMEX.

Mark this one as developing…

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Kohl’s B’day Gift, Free Admirals Club Membership In, Instant FIA Credit Line Increase + Inquiry

Just a few bits and baubles to follow up on recent posts.

1. Kohl’s $10 Birthday Gift

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August is my birthday month, and Kohl’s got their timing perfect.

Because today, in the mail, was a card/gift from Kohl’s. Right after I mentioned how much I love them this morning.

$10 birthday present from Kohl's

$10 birthday present from Kohl’s

I also just received my Yes2Rewards this morning as an email, too.

Kohl’s has a great thing going. Their rewards program is more straightforward than Sears Shop Your Way Rewards and their website is way better, they have frequent discounts (usually 30% off) and promotion codes, often free shipping, and now I get a $10 bonus.

I wish their portal payout on the Discover Deals shopping portal was 10% cashback like Macy’s, Sears, and Kmart (it’s 5%).

But free money is great. I can always buy some new sheets and towels for my Airbnbs.

2. Admirals Club Membership Materials Are In

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No Annual Fee Cards + Personal Finance: Why You Need (At Least) One

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Like it or not, in this country you need good credit. It’s as avoidable as death or taxes. As in, not at all.

Starting out with credit cards, you’ll encounter a catch-22: you need good credit to get a credit card, but you need a credit card to build good credit.

No annual fee cards are NOT boring. In fact, they have some innovative rewards!

No annual fee cards are NOT boring. In fact, they have some innovative rewards!

A good place to start is no annual fee cards.

For beginners

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List of AMEX Cards NOT Issued by American Express

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Spoiler alert. On this list, I find the FIA Fidelity AMEX to be the most valuable. I just love that card so much.

List of AMEX Cards NOT Issued by American Express

Thank you for being a friend – and for NOT being issued by American Express

And this post is gonna be focused on Serve.

Note: It is possible to send money between Serve and REDbird, or Serve and Bluebird.

So if you’re managing multiple cards, you can get a Serve card, load it up for $1,000 each month, and send it to Bluebird or REDbird to pay bills that normally don’t accept credit cards. Like student loans, utilities, mortgage payments, or anyone else.

List of AMEX Cards NOT Issued by American Express: 

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I Use Miles Because I Won’t Pay Revenue Prices… Right?!

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Correct me if I’m being thick because I definitely have my “forest for the trees” moments.

Meaning of value... are you in there? Oh, there you are.

Meaning of value… are you in there? Oh, there you are.

I read an article on Point Me to the Plane about a flight that got 2.5 cents per Delta mile.

Then the comments read: if you wouldn’t pay cash for the flights, that’s not how much the points/miles are worth.

But… I use points and miles for flights and hotels specifically because I won’t pay cash for them.

In fact, I’ve planned entire trips (like Hawaii, Paris, RTW/Australia, and Eurotrip 2014 in Lufthansa First Class) that I would’ve never paid for if it weren’t for points and miles.

I did NOT pay $7,243 for this flight… but I did pay 40,000 Avios + $453 in fuel surcharges. So what are the points worth?

I thought… that was the “point” of points and miles? 

Targeting aspiration AKA value

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SmarterBucks & Radius Bank Unlimited 1% Cash Back Toward Student Loan Debt

In my exploration of new MS techniques, I stumbled across something else that could be potentially useful for some.

I’ve written about the whole PayPal debit card/My Cash/RadPad combo.

As you guys know, the PayPal Business Debit MasterCard earns unlimited 1% cash back in your PayPal account. It does work with RadPad and does NOT work with Evolve Money (in the sense that you’re charged a 3% fee for using it).

But some peeps don’t like the PayPal-ness of it all, as they’ve been known to shut down accounts after sending warning emails.

So enter…

SmarterBucks and Radius Bank

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Airbnb by the Numbers: Q2 Update

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When last we spoke of this topic, I was a little down in the dumps. Q1 was tough.

But I’m happy to report that Q2 was much better.

Good vibes

Good vibes

I’m expecting Q3 to be the best this year, and Q4 to match Q2, maybe exceed it a bit because of the holidays. And then back to where we started in January 2016: Q1 again.

New acquisition

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Airbnb: Us and Them

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Many strong opinions

Many strong opinions

I’ve been meaning to talk about this for a while because it seems like there’s a lot of opinions about Airbnb these days.

Specifically, I’d like to talk about what it’s like being an Airbnb host, how it’s been staying at Airbnbs as a guest, and all the others that think it’s a great thing… and a terrible thing.

The users

People who book lodging on Airbnb tend to be millennials who aren’t looking for a traditional hotel.

The downsides:

  • You won’t receive points for your stay
  • There may or may not be a “welcome amenity”
  • There are NO “upgrades” – WYSIWYG
  • There may or may not be breakfast included
  • You’re at the mercy of an individual

The upsides: 

  • If you need multiple beds or rooms, it’s much cheaper than a traditional hotel suite
  • You can stay in real neighborhoods as opposed to tourist areas, and feel like a local
  • When it’s good, it’s great. People I’ve met are open and kind, and I didn’t miss the hotel experience
  • It’s usually more private. No elevators and desk areas to pass through
  • More negotiation is possible, especially in the off-season or for longer stays
  • Lots of obscure locations where there might not be hotels – get a unique experience

Now, if your host doesn’t show up to let you in or leaves you hanging… that’s a pretty bad scenario. Fortunately, Airbnb has lots of verification systems, and heavily encourage reviews.

Bleep happens of course, but when you’re coming off a long flight, you don’t want an excuse, you want to get in and settled.

Most hosts I know have a Plan B. And a Plan C. And a… yeah.

When I’ve stayed at Airbnbs, I’ve never had an issue getting in.

Be communicative, give a heads up if you’re delayed, and stay in touch. It’s all about the little things, but they go a long way.

Considering a suite in a hotel can be over $1,000, you can save yourself a bundle of money by booking an Airbnb. Especially in expensive cities like New York or San Francisco.

The hosts

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Is Living In Cities Worth It?

I recently discovered a blog called Financial Samurai that got me thinking. Particularly the articles about living in cities:

I’ve mentioned before that living in New York forever might not be in the cards for me as part of my path toward FIRE.

It’s simply a shift in priorities.

The Good Things About Living in Cities

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A Few Apps + Sites I Like to Save Money

Enjoying the motivation as I move toward FIRE

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I’ve been posting these piecemeal but wanted to get them all on the same page.

save money with apps

Yep, save real money

As you guys know, I’ve been getting into FIRE (financial independence, retire early) and am try to cut costs wherever possible.

So I’ve been exploring new websites and apps beyond the usual points and miles stuff, and wanted to share them.

Ibotta

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In Praise of Humble Beginnings

I was reading an article called “How to invest even if you’re treading water financially” via Get Rich Slowly and a certain part jumped out at me (bolding and links mine):

“Don’t despise small beginnings.
The first steps in any endeavor are humble. Gustave Eiffel, famous today for his tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty, started as an unpaid assistant in a foundry. Setting aside $10 a month might feel meaningless: “What difference can that ever make?” That’s wrong. It makes a difference in many ways:

Start somewhere

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