Bottomless Pit  By Majdalenka Sm

Amex’s Well No Longer Bottomless


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bottomless_pit__by_majdalenka_smAmerican Express used to let you get one of their cards, haul in the big sign-up bonus, cancel the card, and repeat.  You just had to put more than 365 days between when you cancelled the first card and applied for the new one.

After April 30th, they are putting the kibosh on that.  You will only be allowed one sign-up bonus per lifetime.  They have had this once-in-a-lifetime in their pocket for quite a while, but have not enforced it, instead graciously forking over the bonuses for years.  (I have tens of thousands of airline miles and hotel points to prove it – thank you Amex!).

But word on the street is that stops in less than two weeks.

So, if you have had an Amex card in the past, and would like to get another sweet sign-up bonus, this is probably the last call to lather, rinse and repeat.  You gotta be approved before May 1st to get another sign-up bonus.

In “Results of My April “App-Aloosa” I went into detail as to how I picked up my four favorite Amex cards (Delta Gold SkyMiles & Starwood Preferred Guest cards).  Check out my thoughts on Starwood Points here and Delta SkyMiles here.  Of course, Amex has many other cards.

Click on Chip’s Favorite Credit Card Offers for up-to-date deals, terms, and conditions on these cards and more.  Email me if you have any questions about which card might be right for your situation.  Click here for a handy way to meet spending requirements.

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RefundDudeWhereSM

Dude, Where’s My Refund?


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RefundDudeWhereSMThe only thing better than getting a tax refund is knowing when you will get it.  Track it like a Shadow Wolf by popping over to IRS.gov.

The Feds have gotten lots of grief recently for website ineptitude.  But the IRS site is pretty good.  Check it out.  Yes, I am suggesting you spend some of your free time browsing the Internal Revenue Service website.  Do I know how to have fun or what?

Dogfoodlady2

Do You Like Dog Food?


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dogfoodlady2

Is Future-You sleeping on a cot eating kibble?

If you figure Social Security will tide you over in your Geezer-dom, see how much you have socked away at SSA.gov.

A recent EBRI survey revealed that 36% of Americans have virtually nothing saved for retirement (less than $1,000 in savings and investments).  Those 36 percent-ers probably assume Social Security will cover them.  Or maybe they figure they won’t live that long, like the folks on Sugar Mountain or in Logan’s Run.

When you check out your SSA stash, keep mind that your estimated benefit is a future-dollar that will not stretch as far as today’s dollar.

For example, let’s say that in 20 years, you were going to collect $2,000 a month as an old fogey.  Not too shabby.  You may have to forego your country club membership, but that’ll cover your apartment and some biscuits and gravy to chomp on, right?  Maybe.  First,  you gotta factor in inflation.  The average annual inflation rate since 1913 is about 3%.

$2,000 in 20 years at 3% inflation will buy what $1,107 does today.  How far does $1,107 go for you in 2014?  Will that keep you in the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed?

I say this not to bum you out, but to motivate you to squirrel away a few bucks into an individual retirement account (IRA).

Get that snowball rolling this week.  Start by opening an IRA at E-Trade.  That’s where I have my IRA (what can I say?  I was sucked in by the talking baby commercials).  You have until April 15th to make a contribution to your IRA for 2013.  You can decide what you want to invest in at a later date.  The important thing is to open an account and put some money in your IRA.

Plug your SSA benefit number in this calculator to see where you stand:

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Deep Impact Vs Armageddon2

Why NOW Is Home Fix-Up Time


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deep-impact-vs-armageddon2In the summer of 1998, there were two movies about an asteroid coming to destroy Earth.  TWO!  “Armageddon” & “Deep Impact”.  The odds of that happening are about as remote as, well… an asteroid destroying our planet, AM I RIGHT PEOPLE?!  Pardon me for yelling into the microphone.

Here’s another freakish coincidence – of discounts.  Now through June 30th, all THREE cards I wrote about here are giving 5% cash back at Home Depot (Citi Dividend), Lowe’s (Chase Freedom), or Home Improvement Stores (Discover it) up to a certain amount.  The 5% cash back is limited to purchases up to $6,000 annually (Citi Dividend) and $1,500 per quarter (Chase Freedom & Discover it).  Besides 5% cash back which could total $450 tax free, you could also get $200 tax free in sign up bonuses.

Another 10% off
If you are planning on doing some fixing up around the homestead, please read my post “Craigslist for Coupons = Big Savings”.  That will tell you how to find 10% off coupons.

$10,000 for only $8,350
Let’s say you have a

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TDAmer 100 100 Square

Updated 5% Cash Back Categories (+$100 Bonus on TWO Cards)


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If you’re going to purchase something you need, and someone is willing to pay you tax-free cash for doing so – I say let them!

Check out these cash back cards. Right now, Chase and Citi sweetened the deal with $100 bonuses!

Here’s the scoop: Chase, Citi and Discover have credit cards that never have an annual fee and always give 5% cash back in certain categories.  The categories change every three months.  We can use these cards to get up to $900 cash back every year – without changing our spending habits.  That cash back money is tax free.  It adds up!

Instead of using cash, use these cards, get 5% cash back, and then pay off your bill with the cash you were going to spend in the first place.

Click on Chip’s Favorite Credit Card Offers for up-to-date deals, terms, and conditions on these cards and more..  Email me if you have any questions about which card might be right for your situation.

Here are the new categories:

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Weird Trick Got Me 3% Cashback Paying My Taxes


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topcashbackI hear putting “Weird Trick” in the subject of a post is a great way to get someone to read.  I can only imagine how “Barely Legal Weird Trick” would perform.  That said, this is legit and worth a gander.

Through this Sunday, March 16th, you can use your credit card to buy American Express gift cards when you do so by clicking through TopCashback.  Why the heck would you wanna do that?  Because TopCashback will give you 3% cashback on the Amex gift cards you buy through Sunday.

The cards arrive in a couple days and you can use them anywhere Amex is accepted.  Doing this is a great way to meet a spending requirement on credit card.  As I wrote about in “Is This a Smart Way To Pay Uncle Sam?“, you can use those gift cards to pay your taxes.

It’s a bit late to get a new credit card to take advantage of this offer, but you can chalk up some rewards on your existing card(s) doing this.

Here’s what happened when I clicked through TopCashback to buy an American Express gift card worth $3,000.

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AlexTrebeksmall

“Phone Flipping” for $200, Alex


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Alex TrebekSome people get a new smartphone more frequently than they change their smoke detector batteries. Sprint customers can upgrade their phone every 12 – 22 months at a discounted price.  Being eligible for a Sprint upgrade, I could buy a brand new iPhone 5s for $199.99.  I don’t need a new phone, but I bought it anyway – to sell it.  Yes, I’m dabbling in a little mo’ arbitrage.  The iPhone 5s goes for about $500 on Craigslist and eBay.

Pulling the trigger, I jumped on Sprint.com and used my upgrade offer to buy it.  Although I could have picked it up at a Sprint store, I had them ship it to me for free.  When it arrived, I snapped a few pix and posted it on eBay for a “Buy It Now” price of $497.  5 hours and 22 minutes later, it was sold!  I slapped an eBay mailing label on the box it came in and sent it on to its new owner in Missouri.

Besides my affinity for a deal, there was a bigger reason that I did this. I have an

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Payusatax Logo

Is This a Smart Way To Pay Uncle Sam?


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Tax Day is less than six weeks away.  Some will get refunded a portion of the free loan that they gave the government.  Others will be scrambling at the 11th hour to come up with cash to pay The Man, man.  In both cases, the IRS Approved website payUSAtax.com MAY be a good option for you.  Maybe.

PayUSATax allows you to “Pay personal and business taxes by credit or debit card”.  There is a convenience fee of 1.87% if you use a credit card and $2.79 if you use a debit card.  Generally speaking, both of those are a waste of money.  For every $1,000 paid in taxes with a credit card, they take another $18.70 scoop in convenience fees.

But… here are 5 Ways using a card can be a GOOD idea:

  1. It is not a cash advance.  So if you are tapped out, but know you are going to have money to cover it later, you could slap it on a card that has a 0% introductory interest rate for 12-18 months.  Then pay the card off when you have the cash. 
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Carbonite Backup Plan Sm

What’s Your BackUp Plan?


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carbonite_backup_plan_smMy agent instructed me to bring a passport to my audition for a spot that would shoot in Brazil.  At the casting office, I realized that my borderline OCD organization skills failed me.

I forgot it.  Then I realized I had scanned a copy of my passport into my computer at home.  Well played, borderline OCD!  So I whipped out my phone, clicked on my Carbonite app, and selected a file I cleverly called “Passport”.  Calamity avoided.

You can access any files you back up on Carbonite from any computer with internet access or smartphone.  That’s pretty handy.

Carbonite has a 15-Day Free Trial.  If you use this referral link to sign up, and decide to buy the service, you will get a $20 gift card.  You get unlimited backup to The Carbonite Cloud for only $5/month.  I just signed up for another 3 years.  I have over 500GB of photos, videos, music, spreadsheets and documents on Carbonite.

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CarMax Pie Eating Contest After Smaller

$1,800 Pit Stop


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CarMax pie eating contest - after - smallerThe girlfriend got a new car last week.  The dealership offered her $2,200 for her 11 year old chariot.  Kelley Blue Book said it was worth $4,832 if sold to a private party.  She considered donating it for the tax write-off.

No doubt inspired by my tour-de-force performance as Pie Eating Contestant #4 in the CarMax “Slow Clap” spot from The Big Game, she pulled in to CarMax.

They gave her a firm offer of $4,000, in writing.  Their offer was good for a week.  That trip to CarMax was worth an extra $1,800 in her pocket!  Nice work.  See screenshots below.

By the way, when did saying “Super Bowl” turn into something verboten like uttering “MacBeth” in a theatre?

I don’t get anything for this, but you might actually want to check out CarMax if you are unloading your old car.  Tell them Blueberry Bart sent you.

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