Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard Review – 65,000 Bonus Miles

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Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard Art

The Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard has an improved limited-time offer.  Here are the updated card highlights:

  • Limited-time: Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at restaurants*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights*
  • Receive 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
  • Annual fee $99, waived for the first 12 months.

Bonus details. Note the following language for the personal card. Basically, to get the personal card bonus, you can’t have had the personal card opened or closed within the last 24 months. Having the business version is okay.

American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles are not available if you have had any Citi® / AAdvantage® card (other than a CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® card) opened or closed in the past 24 months.

To clarify, you can have one of both the consumer version of this card and the CitiBusiness® version designed for businesses under your name. The bonuses are also separate. You can get one consumer bonus every 24 months, and you can also get one business bonus every 24 months.

Baggage fee value. Currently, American Airlines recently joined the other airlines and now charges $30 one-way for the first checked bag and $40 one-way for the second checked bag in Economy. That’s $60 roundtrip for a single checked bag, per person. With this card, your first checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation.

Redemption tips. American Airlines MileSAAver awards are still 25,000 miles for a round-trip ticket within the contiguous 48 states. Their online system is pretty good for looking for domestic AA awards. If the trip is less than 500 miles, then it is only 15,000 miles round-trip within the contiguous 48 states. Under-500 miles routes include Las Vegas to/from Los Angeles, Charleston to/from Miami, New York to/from Washington DC, Philadelphia to Boston, and many others.

This card also makes you eligible for Reduced Mileage Awards, where you save up to 7,500 miles on roundtrip MileSAAver® awards to select destinations on American Airlines operated flights.

Bottom line.  The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® has a 65,000 mile limited-time offer. As with most of these co-branded cards, a lot of the ongoing value comes when you fly on American and utilize the free first checked bag benefit for you and up to 4 companions (recently increased to $60 per person, round-trip).

There is also a Barclays co-branded American Airlines card, and that version has its own limited-time offer of 60,000 bonus miles without a spending hurdle requirement (just make any single purchase on the card), while it does charge a $99 annual fee for the first year. You can find both that card and this card on the current list of Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers.

Healthywage Review: Bet on Yourself, Get Paid To Lose Weight ($100 Prize Bonus)

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(Update: If you missed it in January, HealthyWage is offering a $100 Prize Boost for limited-time until April 22nd. This can potentially double your winnings!)

hw_logoAfter reading academic studies which found that financial incentives were effective in helping people lose weight, I joined HealthyWage.com. You tell them how much weight you want to lose, your current body details, how much time you want, and and they’ll calculate what prize to offer you based on how much you want to bet on yourself. Since I eventually lost 50 pounds with the help of HealthyWage and other weight-loss betting sites (and have kept it off since), and I wanted to share my experiences including both positive and negative aspects.

My overall HealthyWage bet was to lose 10% of my body weight over 9 months (22 pounds in my case). My offered bet was to put up $50 per month for 9 months for a potential win of $50. You may like the sound of “winning $500”, but know that a lot of it will be your own money:

healthywage500

Honestly, risking $450 to win $50 didn’t feel like a very good risk/reward ratio, but I wanted the extra motivation. Perhaps my goal was too easy and that was why the payout wasn’t as high. You can put up your own numbers and calculate your own HealthyWage offer. Your payout may be much better than mine. The quote is free, you just need to provide any e-mail address.

If I had been willing to bet that I would lose 50 pounds like I actually ended up doing, I could have earned a lot more money:

Initial weigh-in verification. There are four ways to verify your weight:

  1. Smartphone app. There is a HealthyWage app for iOS and Android. You take a clip using the app and your personal scale.
  2. Video Verification. Upload a video to their website using your personal scale.
  3. Verification by a Fitness or Health Professional – Bring a form to your “local gym, pharmacies, corporate wellness clinics, walk-in clinics, HR reps, nurses, your personal doctor, your personal trainer or your chiropractor.”
  4. Verification at a Weight Watchers Meeting.

I followed their directions carefully, uploaded my video, and both my initial and final videos were accepted with no issues or additional requests.

Every month, I would see a $50 charge on my credit card bill from Healthwage. However, that was about it. There were no encouraging e-mails. No fun tokens or prize giveaways.

Upon initial sign-up, I was given my 2-week window for final weigh-in. HealthyWage’s two-week window is definitely more generous than DietBet’s 48-hour window, with the important difference that I was never sent any reminders by HealthyWage when the time actually came. In comparison, Dietbet sent me multiple reminders beforehand. Now, I had the date marked on my digital calendar with several alerts, so I completed my weigh-in by the second day of the window. It is quite possible that if I waited until closer to the final deadline, I would have gotten a reminder. But I wouldn’t rely on it. Remember, if you forget, they keep your money!

I also did a DietBet at the same time, which is similar but different in that it collects participants into groups and then takes a cut from the pooled bets. See my separate DietBet Review.

Extra final verification hoops. Upon final weight verification, you’ll have to submit the verification video again (see above). But that’s not all. I also had to locate and upload a “before photo” and an “after photo”, which could be any photo from “around the time” of the start and end of the challenge. I also had to upload a scan of my driver’s license. Here’s a screenshot of their page asking for additional information.

Finally, I successfully referred a few people to Healthwage and received extra money added my “pot”. This referral program is nice feature to get some social support, but remember that you get the referral money only if you win your own bet.

Final payout options. There are two options to receive your winnings. A mailed check takes 3-4 weeks to process, with no fee. The other “fast” option is PayPal, which charges a 3% fee. I picked the PayPal option because I didn’t want to wait around for a check. However, they later clarified that it would still take 3-5 business days for Paypal transfer. The 3% fee is taken out by PayPal, so HealthyWage actually sends the full amount (they just choose not to subsidize the fee). In retrospect, maybe I should have just waited for the check. Here’s a screenshot:

hw_finalpay

Bottom line. I committed to a Healthywage bet to lose 10% of my initial weight over 9 months. I lost the weight, completed my verifications without hassle, won the bet, and was paid my winnings. Although I found the process a bit impersonal, they are a legit company. Calculate your own HealthyWage offer here. No obligation to get a quote. However, the fact that HealthyWage motivated me to finally lose over 50 pounds was worth more to me than the cash winnings.

(Update: If you missed it in January, HealthyWage is offering a $100 Prize Boost for limited-time until April 22nd. This can potentially double your winnings!)

Schwab Commission-Free ETF List Review (Updated 2019)

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ETFs are surpassing mutual funds as the standard building blocks of stock and bond portfolios. Here’s a closer look at the latest updates to the Charles Schwab commission-free ETF list. While the commercials often focus on quantity instead of quality, I will do the opposite. Here are the factors that I think are important:

  • Total Assets. This is a measure of popularity and reputation. A more popular ETF will have a smaller bid/ask spread and won’t have to liquidate in a bear market. A more reputably ETF manager will have lower index tracking error. However, ETF size isn’t everything.
  • Index/Asset Class. What index does it track? Does that index cover an asset class that I want to include??
  • Cost. What is the expense ratio? Low costs are important.

Schwab Commission-Free ETF full list. This Schwab ETF OneSource page includes a full list of their 503 commission-free ETFs.

Brief history of changes. In early February 2019, Schwab announced that it would increase the number of commission-free ETFs on their list to 503 as of March 1st, 2019, including no early redemption fees (no minimum holding period). Here is the list of 246 added ETFs, including 90 iShares ETFs.

Schwab’s ETF OneSource started in February 2013 with 103 commission-free ETFs including many in-house ETFs. Schwab has become very competitive with Vanguard and iShares by developing their own brand of low-cost, index ETFs. Outside providers now include: Aberdeen Standard Investments, ALPS Advisors, DWS Group, Direxion, Global X ETFs, IndexIQ, Invesco, iShares ETFs, John Hancock Investments, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, OppenheimerFunds, PIMCO, State Street Global Advisors SPDR® ETFs, USCF, WisdomTree and Charles Schwab Investment Management.

In March 2017, Schwab dropped their standard stock commission to $4.95 per trade + $0.65 per options contract. In addition, expenses for the Schwab market cap-weighted index mutual funds were lowered to match their Schwab ETF equivalents. Schwab Index mutual funds now have no investment minimum.

Largest ETFs on Schwab Commission-Free ETF list. Here are the top 20 most popular ETFs on their list, sorted by largest total assets. Also listed are the asset class and expense ratios.

ETF Name (Ticker) Asset Class Expense Ratio
iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) US Total Bond 0.05%
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD) US Corporate Bonds 0.15%
iShares Edge MSCI Min Vol USA ETF (USMV) US Low Volatility 0.15%
iShares TIPS Bond ETF (TIP) US Inflation-Protected Bond 0.19%
iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond ETF (SHY) Short-Term Treasury Bond 0.15%
iShares J.P. Morgan USD Emerging Markets Bond ETF (EMB) Emerging Markets Bond 0.39%
Schwab International Equity ETF (SCHF) International Developed 0.06%
iShares MBS ETF (MBB) US Mortage-Backed Bonds 0.09%
iShares MSCI Japan ETF (EWJ) International Country Stock 0.47%
iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG) US High-Yield Corporate Bond 0.49%
Invesco S&P 500® Equal Weight ETF (RSP) US Large-Capk 0.20%
Schwab U.S. Large-Cap ETF (SCHX) US Large Cap Blend 0.03%
Schwab U.S. Broad Market ETF (SCHB) US Total Stock 0.03%
iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond ETF (IEF) Interm-Term Treasury Bond 0.15%
iShares National AMT-Free Muni Bond ETF (MUB) Municipal Bond 0.07%
iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) Long-Term Treasury Bond 0.15%
iShares Edge MSCI Min Vol EAFE ETF (EFAV) International Developed Stock 0.20%
iShares Short-Term Corporate Bond ETF (IGSB) US Short-Term Corporate Bond 0.06%
Invesco S&P 500® Low Volatility ETF (SPLV) US Large-Cap Stock 0.25%
iShares Edge MSCI USA Quality Factor ETF (QUAL) US Large-Cap Stock 0.15%

 

Lowest Expense Ratio ETFs on Schwab Commission-Free ETF list. Here are the top 20 cheapest ETFs on their list, sorted by lowest expense ratio.

ETF Name (Ticker) Asset Class Expense Ratio
Schwab U.S. Broad Market ETF (SCHB) US Total Stock 0.03%
Schwab U.S. Large-Cap ETF (SCHX) US Large Cap Blend 0.03%
SPDR Portfolio Large Cap ETF (SPLG) US Large Cap Blend 0.03%
SPDR Portfolio Total Stock Market ETF (SPTM) US Total Stock 0.03%
SPDR Portfolio Developed World ex-US ETF (SPDW) International Developed Stock 0.04%
Schwab U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (SCHZ) International Developed Large Cap Blend 0.04%
SPDR Portfolio Aggregate Bond ETF (SPAB) US Total Bond 0.04%
Schwab U.S. Large-Cap Growth ETF (SCHG) US Large-Cap Growth 0.04%
SPDR Portfolio S&P 500 Growth ETF (SPYG) US Large-Cap Growth 0.04%
Schwab U.S. Large-Cap Value ETF (SCHV) US Large-Cap Value 0.04%
SPDR Portfolio S&P 500 Value ETF (SPYV) US Large-Cap Value 0.04%
Schwab U.S. Mid-Cap ETF (SCHM) US Mid-Cap 0.04%
Schwab U.S. Small-Cap ETF (SCHA) US Small-Cap 0.04%
Schwab U.S. TIPS ETF (SCHP) US Inflation-Protected Bond 0.05%
Schwab 1000 Index ETF (SCHK) US Large-Cap Blend 0.05%
SPDR Portfolio Mid Cap ETF (SPMD) US Mid-Cap 0.05%
SPDR Portfolio Small Cap ETF (SPSM) US Small-Cap 0.05%
SPDR Bloomberg Barclays Corporate Bond ETF (CBND) US Corporate Bond 0.06%
Schwab International Equity ETF (SCHF) International Developed 0.06%
Schwab Intermediate-Term U.S. Treasury (SCHR) US Treasury Bond 0.06%

 

Commentary. Overall, Schwab’s OneSource ETF list does include a good mix of Schwab ETFs with good management, low costs, and low bid/ask spreads. There are also a few good iShares and SPDR ETFs that could be potential ETF pairs for tax-loss harvesting. A DIY investor should find it easy create a diversified portfolio of ETFs according to their desired asset allocation, if you know what you are looking for. With 500+ ETFs, many will be short-lived duds, while still others are ETFs that track a very similar index but are much more expensive than the competition.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Review – 3X Ultimate Rewards Points Per Dollar On Up To $20K In Spending During First Year

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Chase Freedom UnlimitedThe Chase Freedom Unlimited Card is a no-annual-fee rewards card which earns a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases (or a possibly more valuable 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent). This is a different card from the popular Chase Freedom, which has 5% cash back on rotating categories every quarter and then 1% cash back on all other purchases. Here are the highlights:

  • Earn 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent. After that earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • Redeem for cash – any amount, anytime.
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 17.24-25.99%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum.
  • No annual fee.

1.5% cash back on all purchases might have been a great percentage number several years ago, but there are now at least a few competitors with higher effective cash back rates.

But wait, you actually get Ultimate Rewards Points! The lesser-known perk of this card is that you actually earn Ultimate Rewards points, which are in turn redeemable for cash back at a rate of 100 points = $1 in cash back, or 1 cent per point. Ultimate Rewards points are worth collecting because of their flexibility. (I hope Chase doesn’t forget this fact.) This is important because there are many ways in which Ultimate Rewards points can be worth much more than 1 cent per point.

If you have also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred Card, then you can pool all of your Ultimate Rewards points together (even with your spouse/partner as an authorized user) and thus utilize all of the same transfer partners with the following results:

  • Earn 3 United Mileage miles per dollar spent on ALL purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent.
  • Earn 3 Hyatt points per dollar spent on ALL purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent.
  • Earn 3 British Airways Avios per dollar spent on ALL purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent.
  • Earn 3 Southwest Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent on ALL purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent.

Let’s say you spend the full $20,000 during the first year. That’s $600 cash back or $750 toward any travel (with Sapphire Preferred and Ink Preferred Business) or $900 towards any travel (with Sapphire Reserve). Or with any of those three cards, that’s 60,000 United Miles, 60,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points, or 60,000 Hyatt points. Finally, this card has no annual fee and is worth keeping around past the first year.

Keeper value. After the first year, you can still:

  • Earn 1.5 United Mileage miles per dollar spent on ALL purchases.
  • Earn 1.5 Hyatt points per dollar spent on ALL purchases.
  • Earn 1.5 British Airways Avios per dollar spent on ALL purchases.
  • Earn 1.5 Southwest Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent on ALL purchases.

Notice that you are earning more miles and points on ALL purchases than even the specific co-branded cards from United or Hyatt themselves! Most of them just offer 1 point/mile per dollar spent on all purchases.

If for example, you placed a perceived value of 1.5 cents on each United Airlines mile or Hyatt hotel point, then you’d receive 2.25 cents of perceived value per dollar spent with this card. Your actual numbers will depend on your own specific redemption choices, but you can see that you can definitely exceed 2% cash back value on an ongoing basis with the Sapphire Preferred/Freedom Unlimited combo.

If you would like the opportunity to earn 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories each quarter, compare with the Chase Freedom card. You can have both a Freedom and a Freedom Unlimited card, but you’ll have to apply for each card separately. I think this is actually a great idea if you plan to keep a Sapphire Preferred/Sapphire Reserve/Ink Preferred cards as well.

Restrictions. This card is subject to “5/24” restrictions, which means that your application will be automatically denied if you have opened 5 or more credit cards in the last 24 months (check your credit reports). Our household strategy is to have one person only apply for Chase 5/24 cards, and the other person applies for everything else. There is also this language on the consumer card:

This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

Bottom line. As a plain cash back rewards card, the 1.5% cash back of the Chase Freedom Unlimited can be exceeded by other 2% cash back cards. The key factor for those in the know is that if you or your partner also has the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Preferred Business cards, then this card allows you to receive the equivalent of 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on every purchase (3X Ultimate Rewards points during the first year on up to $20,000 in purchases). If you value other travel points like United Airlines miles, Hyatt points, or Southwest Rapid Rewards points, then by earning Ultimate Rewards you can obtain solid rewards value and flexibility from this card.

Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers – April 2019

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Updated April 2019. That space in your wallet or purse is more valuable than you think. Credit card companies are fighting it out, offering strong perks and $500+ value for a single card during the first year to encourage you to apply and try it out. These are the top 10 credit card offers that I would apply for right now, if I didn’t already most of them. Notable changes:

  • Citi American – limited-time 65k offer.
  • United Explorer – limited-time 60k offer.
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles – replaced with referral offer.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – improved 60k offer.
  • Hawaiian Airlines – improved 75k offer.
  • IHG Rewards Club Premier – improved 120k offer.
  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus – bonus offer up to 70k.

If you pay off your balances every month, then you can join me and many others in funding a huge chunk of your annual travel budget with cash credits, points, and miles. You don’t need to be a “I only fly business class” world traveler. I mostly use my rewards points on domestic economy flights, mid-class hotels, and cheap car rentals. If you have credit card debt, you should focus on paying that off first as the interest charges could offset most of the perks.

This is a companion post to my Top 10 Best Business Card Offers. Small business bonuses are on average even higher than those on consumer cards.

Note: Certain Chase cards have a “5/24 rule” which is an unofficial rule that they will automatically deny approval on new credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards from any issuer on your credit report within the past 2 years. This rule applies on a per-person basis, so if you are new, you might want to start with those Chase cards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $750 towards travel) after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 2X points on Travel and Dining at restaurants worldwide.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.
  • Alternative: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. 3X on Travel and Dining, Priority Pass airport lounge access, $450 annual fee, $300 annual travel credit.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card

  • 70,000 points (worth $700 towards travel) after $5,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. See link for details.
  • Unlimited 2X miles on every purchase.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $89.

Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red Card

  • 60,000 American Airlines miles after first purchase (any amount) in first 90 days. Limited-time offer expires 4/30/19. See link for details.
  • First checked bag free on domestic AA flights ($60 value per roundtrip, per person).
  • $95 annual fee.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Mastercard

  • 65,000 American Airlines miles after $4,000 in purchases in first the 4 months. Limited-time offer. See link for details.
  • First checked bag free on domestic AA flights ($60 value per roundtrip, per person).
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $99.

Chase United Explorer Card

  • Up to 60,000 bonus United miles. 40,000 miles after $2,000 in purchases within 3 months, an additional 20,000 miles after $8,000 total in purchases within the first 6 months. See link for details.
  • Free first checked bag for both you and a companion (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your United ticket.
  • Expanded award availability. Having this card makes it easier to find that saver award economy ticket.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Hawaiian Airlines Bank of Hawaii Card

  • Up to 75,000 bonus miles. 50,000 miles after $2,000 in purchases within 3 months, an additional 25,000 miles after $6,000 total in purchases within the first 12 months. See link for details.
  • Free first checked bag for primary cardmember when using your card to purchase eligible tickets directly from Hawaiian Airlines.
  • Receive a one-time 50% off companion discount for roundtrip coach travel between Hawaii and The Mainland on Hawaiian Airlines.
  • $99 annual fee.

IHG Rewards Club Premier Card

  • Up to 120,000 IHG Rewards club points: 80,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months, an additional 40,000 points after $5,000 in total purchases within 6 months of account opening. See link for details.
  • Free Night after each account anniversary year (valued up to 40,000 IHG points).
  • $89 annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card

  • 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Limited-time offer. See link for details.
  • Free Night after each account anniversary year (valued up to 35,000 Marriott points).
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Gold Delta Skymiles Card from American Express

  • 60,000 Delta Skymiles after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months + $50 statement credit after a Delta purchase within your first 3 months. Special referral offer expires 5/1/19. See link for details.
  • 60,000 Skymiles are worth at least $600 in Delta airfare with “Pay with Miles” option.
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights ($60 value per roundtrip, per person).
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Bank of America Premium Rewards Card

  • 50,000 points (worth $500 towards travel) after $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. See link for details.
  • 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $100 annual Airline Incidental Statement Credit.
  • Up to $100 credit towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.
  • $95 annual fee.

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Card

  • $500 cash bonus after $3000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Chase World of Hyatt Card

  • Up to 50,000 Hyatt points. 25,000 Bonus Points after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. Plus an additional 25,000 Bonus Points after a total of $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. See link for details and rough valuation of points.
  • $95 annual fee, free night award upon card anniversary.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

Chase United Explorer Card Review – 60,000 Bonus Miles Limited-Time Offer

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New limited-time offer. The United Explorer Card is a co-branded Chase credit card that offers unique perks on United Airlines including free checked bags and expanded award seat availability for redeeming miles. Right now, there is also a limited-time offer bump up to 60,000 bonus miles with no annual fee during the first year. Here are the highlights:

  • Limited time offer – Up to 60,000 bonus miles. 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $8,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.
  • Free first checked bag for both you and a companion (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket.
  • Expanded award availability. Having this card makes it easier to find that saver award economy ticket.
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Fee Credit
  • Priority boarding + 2 United Club one-time passes every year for your anniversary.
  • 2X miles at restaurants and on hotel stays.
  • 2X miles per on purchases from United.
  • 25% Back on United inflight purchases (Wi-Fi, Food and Drinks).
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Your miles don’t expire as long as your credit card account is open, with no limit to the number of miles you can earn.
  • Use your miles for any seat, any time, on any United flight.
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Keep in mind the following terms and conditions:

This product is available to you if you do not have this Card and have not received a new Cardmember bonus for this Card in the past 24 months.

This card is very focused on making it a better experience to fly on United. Before you board, you might use one of your free United Club lounge passes. You have the first checked bag for free on United flights, both for your and a companion traveling on the same reservation. The fee is usually $30 per person, each way, so quadrupling that is how they get the value of $120 each roundtrip. You also get Priority Boarding, which helps you find space for your carry-on. While onboard, you get 25% back on your inflight purchases of WiFi, food, and drinks.

Expanded award availability. You earn United miles for all your purchases (double miles on restaurants and hotel stays), but then they also make it easier for you to redeem those miles on Saver level tickets with no blackout dates. Expanded award seat availability is another of the top perks from this card, and I’ve found there is actually a significant difference when searching. If you’re constantly trying to find economy tickets for the entire family like me, this is a big deal. Saver Award ticket redemptions start at 12,500 miles one-way within the continental U.S. and Canada.

Another unique feature of this card is that it offers primary coverage on the Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver. On most other consumer cards, this coverage is offered as secondary coverage, meaning it only kicks in after your personal auto insurance has been exhausted.

Bottom line. The United Explorer Card offers great perks for folks that fly United even just once or twice a year. The card provides lounge passes, a free checked bag, priority boarding, and inflight discounts. There are bonus categories to earn more miles, and special expanded award seat inventory for credit card holders to make it easier to actually redeem those miles for flights. Right now, there is a limited-time offer up to 60,000 bonus United miles with no annual fee during the first year.

I’ll be adding this limited-time offer to my list of Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers.

Best Interest Rates on Cash – April 2019

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Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for April 2019, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. The big news is that we are starting to see some slight rate drops in CDs! Folks who locked in at 4% APY may end up pleased they did. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to get an idea of how much extra interest you’d earn if you are moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 4/3/19.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks like to get away with 0.01% APY, it’s easy to open a new “piggy-back” savings account and simply move some funds over from your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I prioritize banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
A common question is what to do with a big pile of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (just sold your house, just sold your business, legal settlement, inheritance). My usual advice is to keep things simple and take your time. If not a savings account, then put it in a flexible short-term CD under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.

  • No Penalty CDs offer a fixed interest rate that can never go down, but you can still take out your money (once) without any fees if you want to use it elsewhere. Purepoint Financial has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.50% APY with a $10,000 minimum deposit. Marcus Bank 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.35% APY with a $500 minimum deposit, Ally Bank 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.30% APY with a $25k+ minimum, and CIT Bank 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.05% APY with a $1,000 minimum. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • Colorado Federal Savings Bank has a 12-month CD at 2.86% APY ($5,000 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 3 months of interest.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, beware that many brokers pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the difference for themselves). The following money market and ultra-short bond funds are not FDIC-insured, but may be a good option if you have idle cash and cheap/free commissions.

  • Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund currently pays an 2.46% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund, which has an SEC yield of 2.36%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.
  • Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 2.71% SEC Yield ($3,000 min) and 2.81% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so there is more interest rate risk.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 2.84% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 2.80% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months.

Treasury Bills and Ultra-short Treasury ETFs
Another option is to buy individual Treasury bills which come in a variety of maturities from 4-weeks to 52-weeks. You can also invest in ETFs that hold a rotating basket of short-term Treasury Bills for you, while charging a small management fee for doing so. T-bill interest is exempt from state and local income taxes.

  • You can build your own T-Bill ladder at TreasuryDirect.gov or via a brokerage account with a bond desk like Vanguard and Fidelity. Here are the current Treasury Bill rates. As of 4/3/19, a 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.42% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.41% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 2.30% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 2.25% SEC yield. GBIL appears to have a slightly longer average maturity than BIL.

US Savings Bonds
Series I Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation and backed by the US government. You must hold them for at least a year. There are annual purchase limits. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest.

  • “I Bonds” bought between November 2018 and April 2019 will earn a 2.82% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More info here.
  • In mid-April 2019, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.

Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with exceptionally high interest rates. The negatives are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. There is a long list of previous offers that have already disappeared with little notice. I don’t personally recommend or use any of these anymore.

  • The only notable card left in this category is Mango Money at 6% APY on up to $2,500, but there are many hoops to jump through. Requirements include $1,500+ in “signature” purchases and a minimum balance of $25.00 at the end of the month.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. Rates can also drop to near-zero quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. I don’t use any of these anymore, either.

  • The best one right now is Orion FCU Premium Checking at 4.00% APY on balances up to $30,000 if you meet make $500+ in direct deposits and 8 debit card “signature” purchases each month. The APY goes down to 0.05% APY and they charge you a $5 monthly fee if you miss out on the requirements. Find a local rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.
  • If you’re looking for a high-interest checking account without debit card transaction requirements then the rate won’t be as high, but take a look at MemoryBank at 1.60% APY.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
CDs offer higher rates, but come with an early withdrawal penalty. By finding a bank CD with a reasonable early withdrawal penalty, you can enjoy higher rates but maintain access in a true emergency. Alternatively, consider building a CD ladder of different maturity lengths (ex. 1/2/3/4/5-years) such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account. When one CD matures, use that money to buy another 5-year CD to keep the ladder going.

  • Hanscom Federal Credit UnionBank has a 19-month CD special at 3.00% APY ($1,000 minimum) with an early withdrawal penalty of 6 months of interest. If you have a military relationship, Navy Federal Credit Union has a 6-month special at 3.00% APY and 17-month special at 3.25% APY.
  • 5-year CD rates have been dropping at many banks and credit unions, following the overall interest rate curve. A good rate is now about 3.25% APY, with The Federal Savings Bank offering 3.30% APY on a 5-year CD.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable fixed early withdrawal penalties. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 2-year non-callable CD at 2.45% APY and a 5-year non-callable CD at 2.80% APY. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs listed by Fidelity.

Longer-term Instruments
I’d use these with caution due to increased interest rate risk, but I still track them to see the rest of the current yield curve.

  • Willing to lock up your money for 10+ years? You can buy long-term certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable fixed early withdrawal penalties. As of this writing, Vanguard is showing a 10-year non-callable CD at 3.10% APY. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity. Matching the overall yield curve, current CD rates do not rise much higher as you extend beyond a 5-year maturity.
  • How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a guarantee that the value will double in value in 20 years, which equals a guaranteed return of 3.5% a year. However, if you don’t hold for that long, you’ll be stuck with the normal rate which is quite low (currently a sad 0.10% rate). I view this as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as long-term bond and thus a hedge against deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years. As of 4/3/19, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 2.75%.

All rates were checked as of 4/3/19.



Barron’s Best Online Broker Rankings 2019

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Each year, Barron’s releases their list of top online brokers. I like read and share it, hoping to find deeper insights into industry trends and specific broker features. However, this year their 2019 rankings article is firmly behind a paywall. That is certainly their right, but it also discourages sharing and discussion. (I am a paying subscriber to the NY Times, WSJ, and Bloomberg Businessweek, but not Barron’s.)

However, hidden in a Merill Edge press release, I found that Merrill paid for a full article reprint which lets anyone read the main article for free. I could not find a way to view the their secondary rankings, i.e. “Top 5 for Long-Term Investors” or “Top 5 for Occasional Traders”.

Their rankings only include 14 brokers this year, which means several are being left out. Firstrade and Vanguard were mentioned only to state that they both declined to participate. Robinhood wasn’t ranked, just quickly dismissed with an offhand “they take payment for order flow”, even though many other brokers on their list like E-Trade and TD Ameritrade also take payment for order flow. I mean, TD Ameritrade made $320 million from order flow in 2017 alone! WeBull wasn’t even mentioned.

Commentary. Here is my own list of brokers that I think are worth considering, along with their pros and cons. If a family or friend asked me what I thought were the best online brokers, this would be my reply.

Interactive Brokers

  • Pros: Best for active traders. Low average commissions for active traders. Best trading interface for active traders. Proof: Their average account makes ~500 trades a year. Good interest rate on cash sweep.
  • Cons: Minimum commission of $10 a month for accounts under $100,000, or a minimum commission of $20/month under $2,000. This means you must pay them $120/$240 a year no matter what. Not set up for newbies.

Fidelity

  • Pros: Good all-around broker. Best customer service in my experience. Free ETF list. No more mutual fund minimums. Good index fund selection.
  • Cons: $4.95/trade for stocks and ETFs not on their list. Average cash sweep options.

Vanguard

  • Pros: The classic broker for low-cost index fund lovers. $0 trades on all ETFs, both Vanguard and non-Vanguard (iShares, Schwab, etc). Free trades on Vanguard index and active mutual funds. Excellent index fund selection. Excellent cash sweep options. No direct profit motive.
  • Cons: Not good for active traders. They’ve had some struggles with customer service due to their huge growth.

Merrill Edge

  • Pros: Best for those with a Bank of America checking account. 30+ free trades/month when you move over $50,000+ in assets across Bank of America and Merrill (Preferred Rewards program), even if just moving over a bunch of low-cost ETFs. Good customer service.
  • Cons: Below-average cash sweep options. $6.95 trades without Preferred Rewards relationship.

M1 Finance

  • Pros: My favorite amongst the new crowd of app-centric brokers and robo-advisors. Free stock and ETF trades. Fractional share ownership means full investment of any dollar amount. You can fully customize an asset allocation “pie” using stocks or ETFs, and it will automatically rebalance for free with no management fees. Basically a free robo-advisor that is fully-customizable.
  • Cons: Newer startup. If you really want to add banking features, that will cost extra. (I’d just skip it.)

Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express – 60,000 Miles + $50 Statement Credit Referral Offer

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The Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express Credit Card has a limited-time offer if you are referred. Highlights:

  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Limited Time Offer Ends 05/01/2019.
  • 60,000 Skymiles is worth $600 in Delta airfare minimum. With this card, you get a minimum value out of your Skymiles via the “Pay with Miles” option. 60,000 Skymiles can reduce the price of your Delta ticket by $600 at the very least. (5,000 mile = $50 minimum redemption.) You can still book the traditional award tickets and possibly get better value.
  • First checked bag free. Delta now charges $30 for the first checked bag, each way. That means this perk is worth $60 per person each roundtrip. For a family of four, this perk is worth $240 per person each roundtrip.
  • Enjoy Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding.
  • Annual fee is waived for the first year, then $95.

Here is my link for the Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express referral offer. Thanks if you use it.

I will be adding this limited-time offer to the Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers.

Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium Feature Review: $30 a Month For Unlimited CFP Access

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Schwab has revamped their Intelligent Portfolios “robo-advisor” service, renaming the upper tier to Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium and adding an in-depth financial plan and unlimited advice from a Certified Financial Planner for an additional upfront fee of $300 an ongoing $30 a month. Bloomberg compares this to a Netflix subscription:

Current users won’t have to pay the $300 fee, and they’ll be transitioned to the new pricing model as early as Thursday, but only once they have enough assets to make it more cost-efficient for them, at around the $125,000 level. The free version of the service, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, which automatically builds and rebalances exchange-traded fund portfolios as well as offering more limited guidance, will continue charging no advisory fee.

Feature comparison. The base Intelligent Portfolios product including the following features:

  • Design and choose an appropriate asset allocation.
  • Construct and maintain (rebalance) portfolio using ETFs.
  • Tax-loss harvesting.
  • No advisory fee*.
  • No commissions.
  • $5,000 minimum balance.

* You might see this referred to as a “free” (as it is by Bloomberg above) in that it charges no advisory fee on top of the underlying fees of the portfolio components. I’ll argue below that is it not really “free”.

Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium adds the following:

  • Unlimited 1:1 guidance from a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
  • Personalized Action Plan and portfolio review with a CFP® professional.
  • One-time $300 initial planning fee and $30/month for unlimited guidance.
  • $25,000 minimum balance.

I agree that is a big shift in the portfolio management industry. A major player now offers unlimited access to a CFP for a flat fee of $30/month. CFP access is becoming a commodity. If you pay $15 a month for Netflix and $50 a month for unlimited cell phone data, why not pony up $30 a month for unlimited financial advice? I have pointed out previously that an overlooked feature of Blooom 401k advisory services was that they include unlimited CFP access in their $10/month fee.

I really like the idea of paying a flat fee instead of an asset-based fee for financial advice. I think this move from a big name like Schwab will attract some large portfolios from DIY investors. If you had a $500,000 portfolio, this would only be 0.07% of assets annually. I really hope Vanguard comes out with a flat-fee pricing option while still keeping their ability to work with your existing portfolio. Most robo-advisors, including Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, make you sell out of all your current positions and rebuy using their model portfolios. I have a lot of capital gains already such that selling would cause tax issues.

Schwab Intelligent Portfolios still has the same “catch” in their fine print, however. Every Schwab Intelligent Portfolios client is forced to hold a cash position of about 8% of the total portfolio in cash. More importantly, you also don’t have a choice in how they define “cash”. Here’s the fine print:

The portfolios include a cash allocation to a deposit account at Schwab Bank. Our affiliated bank earns income on the deposits, and earns more the larger the cash allocation is. The lower the interest rate Schwab Bank pays on the cash, the lower the yield. Some cash alternatives outside of Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Solutions pay a higher yield.

My primary concern is NOT that holding 8% cash is bad. It’s that the Schwab cash component that they force you to use is bad. As of 3/31/19, Schwab cash pays only 0.70% APY while the Vanguard Prime Money Market fund earns 2.46% SEC yield and a one-month Treasury Bill has a 2.43% yield. This gap may narrow or widen in the future.

If you assume a 1.50% drag on a 8% cash allocation, that’s the equivalent paying a 0.12% fee because you are losing that much in potential interest. As you grow older and/or become more conservative, the cash allocation grows as well. It is a guaranteed profit source for Schwab, and thus a guaranteed loss for you (not free!). This loss is not “cash drag”. If you wanted to argue that the return on cash is worse than a bond fund, “cash drag” would be an additional cost on top of this issue.

This is the equivalent of them making you hold an S&P 500 ETF with a 1.50% expense ratio instead of an equally-available S&P 500 ETF with an 0.03% expense ratio. People would be up in arms about that, so why not put up a fuss about this? The net fee may be still be a reasonable size, but this is not the type of behavior I am looking for in a service that I am supposed to entrust with my life savings. Just be upfront and charge me a fee. If Schwab replaces their cash component with a competitive money market fund or a simple allocation to Treasury Bills (make your own ETF, Schwab!) then I would get much more excited about this product.

Bottom line. Schwab is adding the ability to get unlimited human advice from a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) for $300 upfront + a flat $30 a month. I think this is a bold move that will affect the overall industry, but I still have concerns about their overall robo-advisor product that includes a low-interest cash component.

5% Cash Back Cards: Gas Stations, Grocery Stores, Restaurants – April to June 2019

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5percentback2nd Quarter 2019 registration is now open! The credit cards below offer up to 5% cash back on specific categories that rotate each quarter. It takes a little extra attention, but it can add up to $100+ in additional rewards per year without changing your spending habits. You can also buy gift cards with the 5% back now but spend the gift cards later. New cardmembers may also get an upfront sign-up bonus.

Chase Freedom VisaChase Freedom – $150 Bonus

From April 1st through June 30th, 2019 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Grocery Stores (excludes Wal-mart and Target)
  • Home Improvement Stores

Enroll each quarter at ChaseBonus.com. As long as you activate by the end of the quarter the rewards are retroactive. All other purchases earn 1% back, with no tiers or expiration of rewards. Technically, you earn Ultimate Rewards points which can also be converted to airline miles or hotel points instead of cash if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Currently, the Chase Freedom card is offering $150 bonus cash back if you sign up and make $500 in purchases in your first three months. No annual fee.

Discover it 14 ImageDiscover it Card

From April 1st through June 30th, 2019 you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Gas Stations
  • Uber
  • Lyft

Enroll after logging into your online account (look on the right-hand side). 5% rewards won’t apply until after you activate your rewards, so it is best to activate now before you forget. No annual fee.

New cardmember bonus details. If you are a new applicant and sign up via my Discover Card referral link, you will get a $50 Cashback Bonus after your first purchase within 3 months of being approved. You will also get Cashback Match for an entire year – a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. During those 12 months, your $50 Cashback Bonus becomes $100, your 5% cash back rewards becomes 10% cash back, and your 1% cash back rewards become 2% cash back. You can verify this on the application by clicking on “See rates, rewards and other info” and searching for this text:

Cashback MatchTM: : No purchase minimums. After the first 12 consecutive billing periods that your new account is open, we will match all of the cash back rewards you’ve earned and apply them to your account in the following one or two billing periods. If your account is closed or no longer in the cash back reward program at the time we calculate your potential award, your cash back will not be matched. You’ve earned cash back rewards when they have posted to your account by the end of the 12th consecutive billing period. This promotional offer may not be offered in the future. This exclusive offer is available only to new cardmembers.

TERMS OF CASHBACK BONUS OFFER: Get a $50 Cashback Bonus after you make your first purchase within 3 months of being approved. Promotional award will be applied within 8 weeks. The promotional award is in addition to the Cashback Bonus earned on all purchases.

ABOC Platinum Rewards Card – $150 Statement Credit Offer

From April 1st through June 30th, 2019 you can earn 5X rewards on up to $1,500 spent in the following categories:

  • Wholesale Clubs
  • Home Improvement Stores

You must register each quarter at ABOCRewards.com or in your online account. Currently, the ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard is offering a $150 statement credit if you sign up and make $1,200 in purchases in your first 90 days. No annual fee.

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card. You get to choose the two 5% cash back categories every quarter, out of a preset selection of specific categories;

  • Fast Food
  • Cell Phone Providers
  • Home Utilities
  • Ground Transportation
  • Select Clothing Stores
  • Electronics Stores
  • Car Rentals
  • Gyms/Fitness Centers
  • Sporting Goods Stores
  • Department Stores
  • Furniture Stores
  • Movie Theaters
  • TV, Internet, and Streaming Services

Unfortunately, you can’t pick a broad category like gas stations, restaurants, or grocery stores. Make sure to choose your categories each quarter, even if you want them to stay the same. If you do not choose your categories, all purchases revert to only earning 1% cash back for that quarter.

Currently, the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa card is offering $150 bonus cash back if you sign up and make $500 in eligible net purchases in your first 90 days. No annual fee.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card. This card earns 6% cash back at US supermarkets all year long (on up to $6,000 per year) and 3% cash back at US gas stations. I use this card all year long for groceries, and then in December use up the $6k annual limit on gift cards bought in the supermarket aisle. New cardholders are also eligible for a $200 statement credit after $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. $95 annual fee. See details in link.

Amazon Prime Rewards Card. Earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods all year long. Prime membership required. 2% cash back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores (yawn… see below). New cardholder bonus varies by person. No annual fee.

Citi Dividend Card. This card is no longer available to new applicants, but if you still have the grandfathered card you can activate to get 5% cash back at Gas Stations and Home Depot during Q1 2019. You are capped at $300 cash back for the calendar year. No annual fee.

Don’t settle for the “1% on everything else” that these cards offer. Get 2% cash back or higher. The following cards currently have the ability to offer cash back rewards as high as 2% or even greater. Please read my card-specific reviews for details.

Fidelity Commission-Free ETF List Review (Updated 2019)

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ETFs are surpassing mutual funds as the standard building blocks of stock and bond portfolios. Therefore, I’m taking a closer look at the latest commission-free ETF lists from the major brokers. Unfortunately, the marketing often focuses on quantity instead of quality. Who cares if they offer 500+ ETFs, if I only need six good ones? Here are the factors that I think are important:

  • Total Assets. This is a measure of popularity and reputation. A more popular ETF will have a smaller bid/ask spread and won’t have to liquidate in a bear market. A more reputably ETF manager will have lower index tracking error. However, ETF size isn’t everything.
  • Index/Asset Class. What index does it track? Does that index cover an asset class that I want to include?
  • Cost. What is the expense ratio? Low costs are important.

Fidelity Commission-Free ETF full list. The main Fidelity ETF page currently advertises 357 commission-free ETFs (28 from Fidelity and 329 from iShares). The full list requires a log-in. Here is an outdated PDF which lists the 240 iShares ETFs (89 more have since been added). There are several good, low-cost options from the iShares Core Series of ETFs.

Recent changes. In early February 2019, Fidelity announced that it would match Schwab and increase the number of commission-free ETFs on their list to “more than 500” by the end of the month. However, in late February 2019 they announced that they added a few new Fidelity ETFs and 89 additional iShares ETFs (formerly 240) as part of a “first phase”.

In February 2017, Fidelity lowered the standard commission on online stock and ETF trades to $4.95 per trade, down from $7.95 previously. In August 2018, Fidelity announced a part of zero-expense ratio mutual funds, eliminated many account minimums, and cut a bunch of mutual fund expense ratios by getting rid of share classes.

Largest ETFs on Fidelity Commission-Free ETF list. Here are the top 20 most popular ETFs on their list, sorted by largest total assets. I have added in the asset class (index) and expense ratio.

ETF Name (Ticker) Asset Class Expense Ratio
iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV) US Large Cap Blend 0.04%
iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA) International Large Cap Blend 0.31%
iShares Core MSCI EAFE ETF (IEFA) International Large Cap Blend 0.08%
iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) US Total Bond 0.05%
iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG) Emerging Markets Stock 0.14%
iShares Core S&P Mid-Cap ETF (IJH) US Mid Cap Blend 0.07%
iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) US Small Cap Blend 0.19%
iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF (IJR) US Mid Cap Blend 0.07%
iShares Russell 1000 Growth ETF (IWF) US Large Cap Growth 0.20%
iShares Russell 1000 Value ETF (IWD) US Large Cap Value 0.20%
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) Emerging Markets Stock 0.67%
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD) US Corporate Bonds 0.15%
iShares Edge MSCI Min Vol USA ETF (USMV) US Low Volatility 0.15%
iShares S&P 500 Growth ETF (IVW) US Large Cap Growth 0.18%
iShares TIPS Bond ETF (TIP) US Inflation-Protected Bond 0.19%
iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond ETF (SHY) Short-Term Treasury Bond 0.15%
iShares Short Treasury Bond ETF (SHV) Short-Term Treasury Bond 0.15%
iShares Russell 1000 ETF (IWB) US Large Cap Blend 0.15%
iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF (ITOT) US Total Stock 0.03%
iShares Russell Midcap ETF (IWR) US Total Stock 0.20%

 

Lowest Expense Ratio ETFs on Fidelity Commission-Free ETF list. Here are the top 20 cheapest ETFs on their list, sorted by lowest expense ratio.

ETF Name (Ticker) Asset Class Expense Ratio
iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF (ITOT) US Total Stock 0.03%
iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV) US Large Cap Blend 0.04%
iShares Core S&P U.S. Value ETF (IUSV) US Large Cap Value 0.04%
iShares Core S&P U.S. Growth ETF (IUSG) US Large Cap Growth 0.04%
iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) US Total Bond 0.05%
iShares Core MSCI International Developed Markets ETF (IDEV) International Developed Large Cap Blend 0.07%
iShares Short-Term Corporate Bond ETF (IGSB) US Short-Term Corporate Bond 0.06%
iShares Intermediate-Term Corporate Bond ETF (IGIB) US Interm-Term Corporate Bond 0.06%
iShares Broad USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (USIG) US Total Corporate Bond 0.06%
iShares 0-5 Year TIPS Bond ETF (STIP) US Inflation-Protected Bond 0.06%
iShares Core 1-5 Year USD Bond ETF (ISTB) US Short-Term Bond 0.06%
iShares 0-5 Year Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (SLQD) US Short-Term Corporate Bond 0.06%
iShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETF (IUSB) US Total Bond 0.06%
iShares Core S&P Mid-Cap ETF (IJH) US Mid Cap Blend 0.07%
iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF (IJR) US Mid Cap Blend 0.07%
iShares National AMT-Free Muni Bond ETF (MUB) Municipal Bond 0.07%
iShares S&P Short Term National AMT-Free Bond ETF (SUB) Short-Term Municipal Bond 0.07%
iShares Core U.S. REIT ETF (USRT) US Real Estate 0.08%
iShares Core High Dividend ETF (HDV) US High Dividend Stock 0.08%
iShares Core MSCI EAFE ETF (IEAFA) International Developed Large Stock 0.08%

 

Commentary. Fidelity’s list includes a good mix of iShares Core ETFs with good management, low costs, and low bid/ask spreads. An individual investor can easily create a diversified portfolio of ETFs according to their desired asset allocation. However, in their latest round of additions, they added a bunch of older iShares ETFs which were mostly more popular for professional traders and options buyers, not for long-term investors. For example, why would you buy EEM when you could buy IEMG with a much lower expense ratio? DIY investors need to choose carefully.

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