Before you buy hundreds of dollars of stuff for Christmas / Hanukhah / Festivus, consider this. Buy gift cards to those stores at a significant discount (10-20% less is common). Use the gift card(s) to make your purchase. Doing this has saved me $793.58 so far in 2015.
Here’s the deal. Sites sell discounted gift cards that are:
Physical (card mailed to you)
Electronic or eGift (online use only)
Mobile (show on your phone in store)
Voucher or Printable Electronic (Emailed. Print out to use in store or online)
Choose which you want when making your purchase. I prefer Voucher or Printable Electronic whenever available because I can use them in store or online.
Do This Now
Get registered with these sites now. This will get your discounted gift cards delivered in minutes, sometimes instantly. Not being registered can delay delivery.
Gift Card Granny
Once you are registered with various sites, go here: GiftCardGranny.com. This is an
Last week I told you about Chase Freedom’s increased sign up bonus. You’ll get $150 if you spend $500 in first 3 months the card is open. Plus $25 if you add an authorized user. That’s a grand total of $175! Never annual fee. 1% cash back on every purchase. 5% cashback on purchases in categories that change every quarter. No brainer!
Click on “Chip’s Favorite Credit Card Offers” at the top right side of this website. Once on that page, click Cash Back. It’s the 5th card down. Email me if you have any questions.
Hot New Offer!
You know those 5% cash back categories I mentioned? Chase has decided to double it to 10% starting today through December 31st. This is for combined purchases up to $1,500 at Amazon, Zappos, Audible.com and Diapers.com.
If you have already been using your Freedom card at those stores and getting 5% cash back since October 1st, Chase is resetting your quarterly bonus maximum amount starting today. Their fine print FAQs say:
Did ya hear the one about the Chinese art investor who paid $170 million for a Modigliani painting?
Mr. Liu made the purchase with his American Express card so he and his family could fly free on the membership rewards points he accrued. No joke. For that, he is my hero!
Come to think of it, I have purchased all of my artwork with a credit card instead of cash for the rewards points. If you are going to pay for something, why not get something extra in return? That’s how Liu and I roll.
His wife told the New York Times “We are on a one-year payment plan for the painting,” Ms. Wang said. “If we had to pay cash upfront, that would be a little difficult for us.” She added: “I mean, who has the money for that?” Whoa… WHAT?!?!?!
Please tell me he clicked on “Chip’s Favorite Credit Card Offers” (in the top right corner of this site) to get an Amex with no-interest for 12 months. Otherwise, he’s an idiot. If he doesn’t pay off his balance in full every month, interest alone will probably be around $2 million per month. That woudda more than covered their plane tickets.
The holidays are upon us. Evidently Chase wants you to pay for Festivus with their plastic. They increased the bonuses on Sapphire Preferred & Freedom personal (not business) cards.
The bonuses can pay for a lot of Christmas presents, or even a free round trip to Europe!
If this is in your wheelhouse, click on “Chip’s Favorite Credit Card Offers” at the top right side of this website. Email me if you have any questions.
Sapphire Preferred’s bonus is at an all-time high. It’s usually 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Now it is 50,000 + another 5,000 if you add an authorized user and make one purchase using that card. Remember, an authorized user can be anyone and you don’t have to give it to them. To get the bonus, you must spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. No annual fee the first year. No Foreign Transaction fees.
Besides the bonus points, you also get 1 point per dollar spent. So if you spend $4,000 and thereby meet the bonus’ spending requirement, you will have 59,000 points (4,000 + 50,000). 59,000 points is worth $590. Because it is technically a rebate, that money is tax-free should you decide to cash out.
Check out “11 Ways To Meet A Spending Requirement” for suggestions to make this very easy without wasting money.
Best Bang For Buck
With Sapphire you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to loyalty programs at
In case you didn’t know, your Amex card always has “Amex Offers” on it. Some are just noise, but some are slam dunk no-brainers! Find out what is waiting by signing in to your Amex account online, scroll down to “Amex Offers & Benefits” and click “Add to Card”. Not all offers are available to everyone.
The slam dunk of which I speak is getting $15 back if you spend $60 at Amazon. To make your life easier, after adding the offer to your card, click here and buy yourself $60 Amazon electronic gift card. A couple minutes later you’ll receive it in an email with a link to add it to your Amazon account. Click, click, done. You’ve met the spending requirement for the offer, you have a $60 credit at Amazon, and you will owe Amex only $45 on your next bill. My $15 Amex statement credit showed up 2 days after my Amazon purchase.
STOP! Before You Do That…
Are you are like me and have multiple American Express cards? Once you accept an
Do you have lawn sprinklers? It’s November. That means it’s time for my annual post about turning off your sprinklers. Woo-Hoo!! That’s right. “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle” also applies to money tips.
For Los Angelenos, the reason you should do that is really SEXY: Saving on your Sewer Service Charge (SSC). Hubba-hubba. My most recent bill’s SSC was only $15.46. It had been TEN TIMES as high – as much as $155.55 until I wised up.
I will tell you the answer first, because the explanation could put you in REM 3. If you have automatic sprinklers and you live in an area that charges you a sewer usage charge based upon water you use – you might wanna shut them off until spring time. I live in the warm and sunny, drought-riddled Los Angeles “Valley”. I turn off my lawn sprinklers between the first rain in November until March-April.
To be clear, the savings I just mentioned was not money I banked from bill to bill by cutting back on the water itself, that I used to soak my lawn. That was additional savings in the “Water” portion of the bill. I’m talking about a separate part of the bill under “Sanitation Charges” called the Sewer Service Charge. See below.
I started doing this a few years ago and my lawn, in full sun, has not suffered a bit. Individual results may vary. Void where prohibited without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball.
Serve your environmentalist side with your “green” stance on water conservation while currying favor with your inner capitalist by keeping “green” in your wallet.
One of the greats is making for the exit. It’s like Pete Rose, Yogi Berra or an even older reference becoming a player/coach. The end is near.
For the past five years, American Express card holders could get statement credits when they “Shop Small” on Small Business Saturday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving). I’m talking $25-$30 per registered card. It was like being given a shopping spree worth hundreds of dollars. We’d buy stuff from small businesses and Amex footed the bill. Pretty sweet!
This year, the offer has been gutted. It is a shadow of its former self. The offer is not available to all. It is targeted to certain people. And… it’s only one $10 statement credit per registered card.
I received an email saying that one of my cards has been targeted. In the past, I
I hear ya: What the heck is a “TradeKing” and how many are there in a bushel?
TradeKing is a brokerage house (place to buy and sell stocks and funds). They’re celebrating 10 years in business with this sweet promotion for new accounts.
All you have to do for the $200 is:
- Open an account by clicking on this link to activate the $200 promotion
- You have 30 days to deposit $3,000 minimum
- You have 90 days from opening your account to execute three trades
- Retirement accounts don’t qualify
It’s only $4.95 per trade. Even if you only did 3 trades, you’d still be up $185. Click this link to open the account and deposit $3K. You don’t have to spend it all, but you gotta show your bankroll! Make a few trades over the next 3 months and you’ll get your $200 bonus.
I have an account here. It’s legit. FINRA member and SIPC insured. You gotta click this link to qualify for the promotion!
Move to California! Our politicians have come up with a way to let the Feds help provide money for books and living expenses for low-income college students. It’s also a HUGE win for you.
Individuals or companies that donate to California’s College Access Tax Credit (CATC) Fund in 2015 will get a California tax CREDIT of 55% of their contribution. This is not a “write-off”. This is a mucho bettero, full on state “tax credit”. Take that off what you’d owe in California taxes.
So, if you donate $1,000 you reduce the amount of tax you owe California by 55% (in this case, $550). You can also deduct the $1,000 on your federal return as an itemized charitable deduction. If your federal tax rate is 25%, your federal write-off would be $250.
Drumroll… in this scenario, you donate $1,000 and get $800 ($550+ $250) in tax savings. It cost you $200 to donate $1,000.
I know, I know. The focus isn’t supposed to be receiving money when you are making generous donations. This tax credit affords you the opportunity to donate even more than you normally would, because you are getting a lot of it back!
Most know that when you donate to a charity, you can claim a tax deduction for being such a swell human being. That’s a fine “attaboy”!
Here’s another snazzy way to save on taxes by making a donation: Instead of donating cash, donate stock that you have owned for at least a year that has appreciated. By donating this way, you get to avoid paying the capital gains tax on the stock’s appreciation. You also get to write off the full value of the stock at the time of donation (not just what you paid for the stock many moons ago).
Let’s say you bought a bunch of NetFlix for $4,000. Now it is worth $10,000. If you sell that stock, you will have to pay capital gains tax on that $6,000 gain.
At a capital gains tax rate of 15%, you would have to pay the Feds $900. That’s just for the Feds. Some states and municipalities want a taste as well (see map below). My adopted home state of California has the highest capital gains tax rate in the country at a whopping 13.3%. That’d be another $798 for me.
In this example, I can avoid paying $1,698 in taxes by donating my appreciated stock directly to a charity.
Another way of looking at this: I donated something that cost me $4,000 but got a write off as if I paid $10,000 for it.
Some of you are saying, “But I love my Apple / Amazon / Buffalo Wild Wings stock!” That’s fine, donate it and buy some more. I assume your new stock purchase price