As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

January 2008


Thanks to the recent reduction in the federal funds interest rate, debtors have reason to celebrate. Interest rates on credit cards pegged to the prime rate are decreasing. CitiBank recently reset the APRs on a number of their credit cards.


Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® for College Students

Now 13.99% – 21.99% on purchases. The Citi Dividend Platinum Select was the flagship rewards card, but unfortunately, it is no longer available. Many past cardholders saw a reduction of the cash back rewards and were later suggested to change to the Citi Dividend World MasterCard. The version of the card for students, Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® for College Students, is still available. For new card members, this rewards card offers 5% cash back on purchases at supermarkets drugstores, gas stations, convenience stores, and utilities including cable. After 6 months, this is reduced to 1% cash back. Earn at least 2% cash back in popular rotating categories like restaurants, apparel, hotel and more. Enrollment required.* All other purchases earn 1% cash back.


As always, credit card rewards are not for everyone. If you pay interest or late fees, you won’t benefit from any special offers. Only consider opening new credit if you are an expert at managing your own money and buy only what you can afford to pay each month.

{ 2 comments }

January 2008 is the first month in which Consumerism Commentary exceeded 100,000 monthly unique visitors. Thanks to all readers, particularly those who come back after their first visit! If this is your first visit, consider bookmarking Consumerism Commentary if you like what you see or subscribe to the RSS feed to read about updates as they happen.

Each month I like to thank other blogs and websites who contribute visitors to Consumerism Commentary. Here are the top ten sources for the month of January:

# Consumerist
# Get Rich Slowly
# The Simple Dollar
# Free Money Finance
# AllFinancialMatters
# FiveCentNickel
# No Credit Needed
# pfblogs.org
# Blueprint for Financial Prosperity
# My Open Wallet

Here are the top 10 visited articles from the past month, including the last few days of December. This only counts web visitors to each page; I don’t have any way of knowing how many people have read these articles via RSS. Only articles published within the last month are included.

# Four Factors That Determine the Value of a Coin
# Put Your Savings in Hyperdrive, Part 1: Open a High-Yield Account
# 5 Stupid Financial Mistakes I Made in 2007: Failing to Utilize the Energy Tax Credit
# $100 Bonus for Opening a Chase Checking Account
# Put Your Savings in Hyperdrive, Part 3: Automate Your Savings
# Misconceptions About the Transition to Digital Television
# Put Your Savings in Hyperdrive, Part 2: Keep Your Change
# 5 Stupid Financial Mistakes I Made in 2007: Failing to Remain Competitive Within My Field
# 5 Stupid Financial Mistakes I Made in 2007: Failing to Balance Rental Property Income With Deductions
# 15 Credit Cards With the Best Rewards

{ 6 comments }

Consumerism Commentary visitor Diane asked about the bank that is currently topping the list of high-yield savings accounts, OneUnited, which is currently offering 5.30% APY.

I wonder about that Unity Gold E-Savings at OneUnited at the top of the list. That is 1% better than Emigrant where I am now, which translates into $500/year. Have you heard anything about it? If I understand the website correctly they only credit the account quarterly. Anyone have any dealings with it?

I have no experience with OneUnited, so if anyone else does, please feel free to leave a comment. I’ve read that people have had poor experiences with customer support and ACH transfers are often delayed beyond the standard 3-day period. The account requires a $1,000 minimum initial deposit and interest is only earned when the balance is above $1,000. They do credit your interest quarterly, so you could end up losing a substantial amount of interest if you close at the “wrong time,” like right before the interested is credited.

How important is that? Are you willing to deal with poor customer service in order to receive one of the highest rates?

{ 19 comments }

Consumerism Commentary reader Allison wrote in to let me know about Savings Square, a high-yield savings account offering competitive rates. The account is offered by Kirkpatrick Bank, FDIC insured. I hadn’t heard of the account until today. Here’s what Allison wrote about her experience with the account so far:

When I first set up my account, there was a problem with my first transfer of cash from my regular debit account to Savings Square. I finally called their HQ, and a wonderful representative explored reasons for the stall, called back multiple times exactly when she said she would, offered alternatives for getting the money to the account while the problem was being corrected, and followed up a few days after the correction to make sure I was happy with the end results. I’ve called them a couple more times with random questions, and they’ve always offered excellent service. At this point, there’s not much that will make me move my cash.

There are other positive reviews online, though most disappointment stems from the timing of transfers. While a 10-day hold on initial deposits is normal for the industry, customers have seen spotty performance with other transfers that should be executed within three days or one day.

Savings Square’s current APY of 4.8% puts them towards the top of the pack of high-yield savings account.

Update: Washington Mutual and HSBC Direct lowered the APY offered on their savings accounts, and I expect more to follow as the Fed lowers interest rates again tomorrow.

{ 12 comments }

This Month in the Archives: Financial Ratios, Wage Inequality, and a Housing Bubble

by Luke Landes

If you’ve joined Consumerism Commentary within the past year, you might have missed out on what was published here previously. Here are a few articles from January in past years to catch up. Stay current with the articles here by subscribing to the RSS feed. From the Second Half of January 2007 Suze Orman Teams ... Continue reading this article…

0 comments Read the full article →

The New Emergency Fund: Five Components of an Emergency Plan

by Luke Landes

In an world of overly simplified platitudes and one-size-fits-all “advice,” there is little repeated more in personal finance than the importance of the emergency fund. Typical popular financial advice prescribes a high-yield savings account in which one can store three to six months’ worth of expenses. Suze Orman suggests aiming for eight months’ expenses in ... Continue reading this article…

11 comments Read the full article →

Economic Stimulus Tax Rebate Calculator

by Luke Landes

Welcome! If you’re new here, please consider subscribing to the Consumerism Commentary RSS feed! This article is for tax year 2008. For 2009 and beyond, see our roundup of 8 (or more) Ways to Benefit from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (AKA Stimulus Plan). Updated March 18, 2008 with an estimated schedule ... Continue reading this article…

336 comments Read the full article →

Flexo’s Financial Goals: First Check-Up

by Luke Landes

As January comes to a close, it might be a good idea to take a look at the year-long goals I created for myself at the beginning of the year and my progress so far. Goal 1: $100,000 in additional income. As of today, I am right on track for earning $100,000 outside of my ... Continue reading this article…

10 comments Read the full article →

Completely Redesigned High-Yield Interest Rate Page (and Blog Roundup)

by Luke Landes

Thanks to Ross who wrote in yesterday about FNBO Direct‘s latest interest rate drop. With this information, and with a reader emailed suggestion of tracking the rates over time, I redesigned the list of high-yield savings and checking accounts. Additionally, I’m also including accounts not insured by the FDIC, like money market funds, though I ... Continue reading this article…

16 comments Read the full article →

Economic Stimulus Package Has Not Been Finalized

by Luke Landes

I’m glad everyone is excited about receiving checks from the government in June or July, but there seems to be a misunderstanding amongst people I talk to. While President Bush and a contingent of the legistlative branch have agreed on the propsed details, the bill still has to pass the House and the Senate. None ... Continue reading this article…

16 comments Read the full article →

Still Believe Real Estate Values Never Go Down?

by Luke Landes

For some reason, I will never get out of my mind someone once told me shortly he purchased a house he couldn’t afford (and knew he couldn’t afford) with a risky mortgage. He said, “I’m not worrying. Real estate prices never go down.” I wasn’t about to get into an argument; he was a former ... Continue reading this article…

20 comments Read the full article →

Today is the Worst Day of the Year: How Does it Affect Your Money?

by Luke Landes

How are you feeling today? According to a psychologist from the U.K., January 24 is the most depressing day of the year. There’s an actual scientific formula that has been used to determined this fact. Some of the conditions that have led to this conclusion are specific to Britain, but there are seasonal cycles that ... Continue reading this article…

4 comments Read the full article →

Unexpected Call From Commerce Bank

by Luke Landes

Last weekend, I decided to open up a checking account at Commerce Bank. My girlfriend has been a customer for a few months, and she is very happy with their service. You can’t beat their hours, either. The branch a couple of blocks from my apartment open late tonight and all Thursdays — to 8:00 ... Continue reading this article…

4 comments Read the full article →

I Received a Surprise 1099-INT

by Luke Landes

The other day, I received a tax form (1099-INT, income from interest) in the mail. The form came from Bank of America. I was not aware of having an interest-earning account at Bank of America. My only experience with this particular financial company was when a Wachovia credit card I have (unused but held to ... Continue reading this article…

14 comments Read the full article →

The Interest Rates are Falling

by Luke Landes

As I expected, following the Fed’s interest rate drop to 3.5 percent, banks offering high-yield savings accounts were quick to react. FIRE Finance wrote in to let me know that ING Direct and Capital One were among the first to slash their rates. I’ve gone through my list again and updated the group of popular high-yield ... Continue reading this article…

18 comments Read the full article →

Put Your Savings in Hyperdrive: 6 Ways to Accelerate Your Interest

by Luke Landes

Over the last week or so, I’ve written a little about small changes you can make to your savings habits to speed up your interest earnings. This is a task that is getting more difficult with the economy possible heading for a recession and with the Fed lowering interest rates. With lower yields even in ... Continue reading this article…

0 comments Read the full article →

Chase Commuter Cash: Earn $10 for Every $150 Spent

by Sasha

Editor’s Note: Thank you for your interest, this offer expired and is no longer available. This weekend I visited Manhattan with a friend to avail myself of a fancy, bargain-priced Restaurant Week lunch. If you consider a $24.07 lunch a bargain, that is. It is three courses, and generally tasty ones at that. Anyway, during ... Continue reading this article…

7 comments Read the full article →

Fed Cuts Short-Term Rate By 0.75 Points

by Luke Landes

On my way into work this morning, I heard that Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve Board cut the target rate for banks’ short-term lending to 3.5 percent. This makes it more worthwhile for banks to take on more risk with their money, lending it out in cases where they’ve been tight lately. The Fed announced ... Continue reading this article…

10 comments Read the full article →

Put Your Savings in Hyperdrive, Part 6: Make Your Raise Invisible

by Luke Landes

This is the last installment of the series in which I offer a few suggestions for picking up the pace of your savings. For those not familiar with the concept of “hyperdrive,” the word refers to traveling faster than the speed of light, common in science fiction. This is the speed I would like my ... Continue reading this article…

8 comments Read the full article →

Economic Stimulus (and Blog Roundup)

by Luke Landes

President Bush is suggesting a $145 billion rebate to taxpayers in order to stimulate the economy and avoid economic recession in 2008. About $100 billion is reserved for individual tax payers and the rest is for businesses. This could come to the masses in the form of a $800 tax rebate check for each individual ... Continue reading this article…

12 comments Read the full article →
Page 1 of 41234