This morning AmEx sent out an email stating that on January 6, 2016, they will start charging a $4.95 monthly fee to Amex Serve Softcard accounts. The notice did specifically say Softcard account holders so I am not sure if this also applies to regular Serve accounts.
"Starting on January 6, 2016, there will be a $4.95 Monthly Fee for your American Express Serve Softcard Account. This fee will be waived if you Direct Deposit money onto your Account during a monthly statement period."
The monthly fee can be waived if you have a direct deposit coming into the account. I have an Alliant account whose ACH transfers have a good track record of counting as a direct deposit so that's the first method I'll be trying.
Fortunately, Amex has not turned off the free money faucet for depositing via credit cards yet. Here's to milking that for as long as possible.
I have credit cards opened from most of the major banks. A few of them have sent me balance transfer offers which are very interesting. These are targeted offers so your credit score do need to be decent. Based on my experience, if your score is 700+, you will have plenty of offers coming in.
Most cards have an initial sign up bonus for 0% APR balance transfers with a fee ranging from 3% to 5%. The offers I'm talking about today are for existing cardmembers which make them worthwhile because new credit inquiries or hard pulls are valuable. It's not efficient to waste a hard pull on a balance transfer offer when we can get sign up bonuses worth $300+.
I accepted a 0% APY with 3% fee offer last year and this year they are only offering a 0% APY with 5% fee. Maybe they keep track of how many offers you've used in the past and adjust their rates based on how likely you are to accept.
They gave me an offer for 0% APR with 2% fee which is better than the standard of 3% fee.
4.99% APY with no fee with the Penfed Promise card. The advantage this card has is that if you pay off the loan early in 6 months, it will be a better deal than a straight up 5% balance transfer fee.
What can we use these for?
Back in the day of 0% APY and 0% fee offers, you could just park the money in a 5% savings account and earn money that way. Nowadays, almost all companies charge a balance transfer fee and with savings account interest rate at 1%, that option is no longer available.
You could use it as a short term loan with a very attractive interest rate for projects or emergencies.
Have you gotten balance transfer offers from other banks? It would be interesting to know which banks makes these offers to existing card members.
Santander Bank is offering to pay you $20 a month for having a direct deposit of $1500 and making 2 bill pays through their system. I did some research on whether this offer is worth your time to do.
Santander allows you to apply for the extra20 account through their online system which is definitely the preferred method. Not only will it save you a trip to the branch but it will allow you to fund the initial account using a credit card up to $500. This is useful to meet minimum spend requirements for bonuses or just to get your cash back reward. However, be warned that depending on the card issuer, they may code bank fundings as a purchase or cash advance. Reports from people have said that Barclay's and Chase will code as a purchase. Citi and Discover have been reported to code as cash advances.
Myself unfortunately was not able to complete the application online as apparently I failed the identity questions. I was able to apply at a local branch which took about 30 minutes.
Once you have the account open, you will need to have $1500 worth of direct deposits and two bill pays to qualify for the $20 monthly. Note that if you fail to meet the direct deposit requirement, you will be charged a $10 account maintenance fee. The 2 bill pays are quite easy to fulfill. If you have two credit cards, you can simply do 2 minimum payments each month for $30 or whatever you want and pay the rest as you normally do.
The direct deposit will be a bit more involved but still not too difficult if you have the right setup. The simplest way is to change your payroll deposits to Santander but most people will have some other bank account which also requires an active direct deposit. The way around this is to open an online bank account that supports incoming and outgoing ACH transfers. The one I'm using is Alliant Credit Union but others like Chase, Paypal, and Capital One are also reported to work with Santander. Some banks that are reported to not work with this are Ally and Schwab. All you have to do is setup an outgoing transfer from Alliant for $1500 into Santander every month. Once it hits Santander, do your 2 bill pays then transfer the rest back into Alliant.
In my opinion this offer is worth doing considering the requirements are easy to hit. The only question is how long Santander will have this promotion. Since its been active since 2013, I'm confident that this will stick around at least for the near future to make signing up worth it. At $240 bonus a year, it makes it very competitive with the one time bonuses offered by most banks. I'm a fan of ongoing bonuses because I'm trying to build a passive income portfolio that hopefully will replace my job one day. Looking at this another way, you can lease a brand new car for $200 a month. This bonus is like 10% of a brand new lease. Now we just need to find a few more offers like this! If you're looking for similar offers, check out the AmEx Serve which can earn $20 monthly with even less hassle than this one.
With the recent announcement that the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) may start imposing tighter regulations about open membership in credit unions [WSJ link], I thought it may be a good time to list some credit unions that everyone should be a member of before it becomes too late. Some credit unions offer products that the major banks just can’t compete with. I will only list credit unions that have open membership, usually with a small donation to a charity.
I wanted to write a post for the people out there who don’t travel or simply don’t like traveling. I know for me, traveling causes more headaches than its worth. I would much rather be in the comfort of my own home where I have everything setup exactly the way I like. What are the best credit cards for people in my situation? I will cover some good general use cards as well as category specific cards like restaurants or groceries.
We recently purchased a house that was in a flood zone. We got a good deal on the house so I felt comfortable buying it even with that downside. I ran a check on FEMA's website (https://msc.fema.gov) which showed that a couple of my neighbors had gotten their flood zone revised. This meant our house had a good chance of success if we had a elevation certificate done. However, fair warning, I would not advise buying a house in a flood zone as flood insurance premiums are expected to increase even more in the future.
I will explain the steps I took in getting the flood insurance requirement removed from my property.
The first step is to order an elevation certificate from licensed land surveyors that basically tells you how high your house is. I would highly suggest calling a few companies as prices can vary greatly. One company I called wanted $700 to do the elevation certificate and another $700 to prepare a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). I went with a company that only charged an additional $150 to prepare the LOMA. I was told the LOMA was basically just some paperwork that the surveyor had to fill out for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). All told I paid $850 to do the elevation certificate and LOMA.
The elevation certificate will tell you whether your house is high enough to be removed from the flood zone. If it is, then they can prepare a LOMA for you. It took FEMA about a month to process my documents. Once FEMA gives you the approval, I just had to submit a copy to my lender and flood insurance company and they took the requirement off my loan. In addition, I was told that because my flood zone was reclassified, I was eligible for a full refund of my flood insurance premium, even for the months I had already used.