Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Discover Savings Account

Posted in Reviewson Jun 25, 2018

Recently I reviewed the Discover Cashback Checking account, which gives 1% cash back on debit card purchases.  While this account is good for those who spend a lot directly from a checking account, it is not the best place to keep large amounts of money.  For that, you could consider the Discover Savings account, which currently provides 1.65% interest.  If you have $10,000 in the account, it would pay you almost $14 per month in interest.  And the rate has been steadily increasing over the last year, so I would expect the return to get even better.

There is no minimum balance, and no monthly fees.

If you have a Discover Checking account, you can transfer money between accounts instantaneously.  Otherwise, you can link to other external checking accounts, but transfers can take a few days.

One of the limitations of a savings account is that you can only make 6 withdrawals per month.  You must also be 18 or older to open an account.

I recommend keeping a couple of months of spending money in a checking account, with several months of spending money in a high-interest savings account.  Beyond that, you could consider keeping additional money in low-risk investments or CDs.

Other comparable high-interest savings accounts are provided by American Express, Citi BankCIT Bank, and Ally.  I wrote about Discover’s savings account because I’m most familiar with it, but I don’t know that it offers much more than these alternatives.  As with all of my financial reviews, I recommend you do your own research and understand the full terms before opening an account.

Discover Checking Account

Posted in Reviewson Jun 21, 2018

While Discover is mostly known as a credit card company, they also offer some basic banking products (and you don’t have to have their credit card to use them).   One of their best products is their Cashback Checking accounts.  The highlight of this account is that you get 1% cash back on all debit card transactions.  This is a good way to get cash back if you can’t qualify for a cashback credit card, or don’t want a credit card, or shop frequently at stores (Winco Grocery) that only accept debit cards.

Some other highlights of this account:

  • No monthly fee
  • No minimum balance
  • Free ATM access to many ATMs, but you’ll need to figure out which ones are in their network (mostly ATMs at 7-Eleven stores and select small credit unions or local banks)
  • Free Paper Checks
  • Deposit checks into your account by taking pictures of your check with their Mobile App

Accounts can only be opened by those 18 years or older.

A drawback is that there are no local branches, so if you’re the type of person who wants to walk into a bank frequently, this may not be for you.  But you can easily link this account to external accounts so that you can transfer money around as needed.

As with all of my recommendations, I recommend you do your own research and understand the full terms before opening an account.

Financial Products

Posted in Reviewson Jun 20, 2018

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting about several financial products that may be of interest.  I’m primarily doing this because I want to be able to help my friends and readers make extra money each year.  I don’t want to be pushy about this, which is why I’m posting this information in a take-it-or-leave-it way on a blog.

I’ll be posting reviews about banking accounts, credit cards, investment services, and coupon and rebate programs.

If there are any products where I might earn a referral fee, I’ll clearly state that.

Now let me say a few words about credit cards in general:

  • Make the decision to never carry a balance from one month to the next on your credit cards.  Then you can pick credit cards based on the rewards, not on the rates.
  • Know your credit score, and unless it is excellent, make a plan to improve it.
  • Having no credit cards or loans does NOT mean you have good credit.  It means you have no credit, which is often treated similarly to having bad credit.
  • Credit card issuers have been creating new credit cards with better benefits for people with better credit.  If you’ve recently improved your credit score, or if you haven’t shopped for a new card in a while, you may find that more rewarding cards are available since that last time you’ve looked.
  • Be very careful about cards that require a membership or a annual fee.  At some point you may wish to not pay for the membership or annual fee, and closing that card can negatively effect your credit score.  You can avoid most negative impacts when closing any card if you have other cards with a good long history and credit limit.

Is Costco a good fit for you?

Posted in Business, Reviewson Sep 12, 2014

With Costco coming to Northern Colorado, I thought I would share some thoughts on why you would or wouldn’t want to get a Costco membership.

Costco is a good place to buy quality products, in larger quantities, at good prices, but that doesn’t mean your grocery budget will shrink.

Why Costco might not be a good fit:

  • If you are the type of person who is ok buying lower quality products at bargain prices, then Costco probably isn’t a good fit for you.
  • If you wait to buy groceries until you have a coupons to match with a sale, then Costco probably isn’t a good fit for you.
  • If you only buy groceries for the next few days, then buying groceries at Costco would require changes to you shopping methods.
  • If you only buy groceries for a couple of people, then the quantities purchased at Costco might be too much for you.
  • If you want things delivered to your home.
  • If you like asking store associates for help.

Why Costco might be a good fit:

  • If you buy a lot of organics, you might find Costco’s prices pretty competitive.
  • If you like to do a lot of dinner entertaining, Costco has great selections.
  • If you have a couple of hungry teenagers, Costco can sell you lots of food quickly.
  • If you normally buy the highest quality brands even when they are not on sale, Costco will sell you comparable brands at better prices.
  • If you don’t choosing between brands, Costco has already researched the best brands and will only sell you the brand they stand behind.
  • If you are looking to buy some big-ticket items (furnature, bikes, televisions), then buying it at Costco might save you more than your membership fee in a single purchase.
  • If you bake bread, Costco will sell yourflour and yeast in quantities you can’t get at King Soopers.
  • If you like shopping where employees are paid and treated well, you will find lots of happy employees at Costco.

If you still don’t know if Costco is a good fit for you, I suggest giving it a try. They have a satisfaction guarantee on your membership: if you try Costco but are unhappy with your membership, they will refund your membership fee. If you try products at Costco but are unhappy with them, you can easily return them (some electronics have a limited return window.)

Cheap cell phone plans

Posted in Business, Reviewson Sep 3, 2014

If you are spending hundreds of dollars on a cell phone plan that you don’t use very much, you are spending too much.  Here are a couple of different cell phone services for those people who only need a cell phone for talking a few minutes a day.

Ring Plus has plans starting at just $2/month for 50 minutes.  Apparently, you get to listen to advertisements instead of ringing. While there is no contract, this isn’t a strict pre-paid plan and you can incur (reasonable) overages. Operates on the Sprint Network.

Ptel provides a Pay As You Go with rates of 5 cents/minute.  You have to recharge your account with  minimum of $10 every 60 days.  They operate on the T-Mobile network, so you should be able to use any unlocked GSM phone.

FreedomPop operates on Sprint’s Data Networks.  From what I can tell, you use a FreedomPop VoIP client on the phone to make calls over a data connection.  Since calls go over data instead of voice, the reliability, coverage or call quality may not be as good in some areas.  However, they provide 200 minutes, 500 text messages, and 500 MB data for free every month.

H2O Wireless provides a Pay As You Go plan providing 5 cents/minute, with payments of $10 or more every 90 days.  They operate on AT&T’s network, and you can bring any unlocked GSM phone.

PagePlus is on Verizon’s network.  Their Pay As You Go rate is 10 cents/minute when you add $10 every 120 days.  They provide better rates when adding $25 or $50 to your account.

Because plans change all the time, you should take all this information as a general starting point and investigate your own plans.  I’ve only listed 5 services, but there are many more.  With all sorts of various plans including pre-paid, post-paid, pay-as-you-go and unlimited plans.

This table shows an average monthly cost for each service based on a set number of monthly minutes.  The rates do not consider text-messaging or data rates, do not include the cost of a phone, and may not be valid for variable month-to-month usage.

Monthly Minutes RingPlus Ptel FreedomPop H20 PagePlus Net 10
 10 min  $2  $5  Free  $3.33  $2.50 $15
 30 min  $2  $5  Free  $3.33  $3 $15
 50 min  $2  $5  Free  $3.33  $5 $15
 100 min  $3  $5  Free  $5  $6.25 $15
 150 min  $4  $7.50  Free  $7.50  $9 $15
 200 min  $5  $10  Free  $10  $12 $20
 250 min  $6  $12.50  $8  $12.50  $12.50 $20
 300 min  $7  $15  $8  $15  $15 $20

Want to know more?  Ask a question in the comments.

Take note of this

Posted in Reviewson Apr 5, 2013

As I stated previously, I am evaluating different note taking systems. Here are my conclusions.

Google Keep really wasn’t impressive. Evernote and Springpad both did much better.

Read the rest of this entry »

Recently Google released Google Keep, which is suppose to be some sort of note-taking system.  I think I might need a note-taking system, but since I’m a little wary about using Google after they shut down Google Reader, I want to evaluate several note taking systems.  But before I start looking at any of them, I wanted to define my judgement criteria:

  • Platforms: must be able to use from a web browser and from Android.
  • Data export: can I get my notes back out of the system
  • Bookmarks: A lot of what I like to save for reading later are articles that I find online
  • Media types: What kinds of things can I keep?
  • Cost: Must be free
  • Organization: I need to be able to quickly find things, either through organization or searching
  • User Experience: How easy is it to use it?  Does it perform well?
  • Support: How likely am I to be still using it in 10 years?
  • APIs: Other than using their apps, are there other ways to put things into it?

There may be other things as well. Since I’ve never looked at any before, I’m not sure what I should be looking at.

Among the systems I’ll be reviewing: Google Keep, Evernote, Springpad, I’ll be looking at alternatives like keeping text documents in Dropbox.

As I make discoveries, I’ll note them in the comments.