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Adam Luehrs

We’ve reviewed countless banks. Our review of Synchrony Bank led to one inescapable conclusion–Synchrony bank offers some of the highest interest rates on savings products. Coupled with low fees, it’s an excellent choice for savers.

Synchrony Bank Review

The main reason why people use Synchrony Bank is its ability to deliver higher-than-average interest rates. Of course, the nice payback offered by this bank comes with the compromise of settling for what could be considered bare-bones customer service. The company is part of a new movement in online banking that goes light on customer service to offer high yields and nonexistent fees. Here are some of the strong points of Synchrony Bank:

  • FDIC insurance and identify monitoring
  • Customers can bank from anywhere on a smartphone of tablet
  • Rates that are consistently above the national average
  • Perks for loyalty

Synchrony Bank Savings AccountSynchrony Bank is strong when it comes to high interest rates on savings accounts, long-term CD options and everyday banking rewards. It is not the best option for anyone looking for a straightforward checking account. In addition, you simply aren’t going to get in-person customer support like you would with a traditional bank. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy some great benefits and returns when you open and maintain an account with Synchrony Bank. Your funds can be managed online, by phone or using your ATM card.

Open an Account

Synchrony High Yield Savings and CD’s

After a recent interest rate bump, Synchrony now offers a fantastic 1.30% APY on savings accounts. This interest rate is one of the best available online and the rate is received for ALL balances.  To keep your account in good standing Synchrony asks that you maintain a balance of at least $50.

Synchrony Bank Perks is a rewards program that offers various tiers that customers can unlock. The rewards offered include discounts on hotel stays, park admissions and car rentals. There are even things like spa deals and restaurant coupons in the mix. Members at certain tiers get access to a dedicated customer service number, three free wire transfers per statement cycle and unlimited ATM reimbursements. The exact reward tier that you’ll reach is based on a combination of your account balance and how long you’ve been a customer with Synchrony Bank.

A 15-month CD offers 1.65% APY. You can choose a CD term between three months and 60 months when you start your account. Opening an account requires a minimum deposit amount of $2,000. Here’s a look at the current APY for the different terms currently available:

CD Term
Interest Rate (APY)
3 months
0.25%
6 months
0.41%
9 months
0.45%
12 months
1.50%
15 months
1.65%
18 months
1.45%
2 years
1.74%
3 years
1.80%
4 years
1.95%
5 years
2.30%

Synchrony Bank Money Market and IRA Accounts

This type of account doesn’t come with any monthly service fees or monthly minimum balance requirements. Synchrony Bank Money Market accounts offer up to 0.85% APY. You can withdraw money from this type of account online, by phone, via check or using an ATM.

It’s possible to open and set up a traditional or Roth IRA with Synchrony Bank for a minimum deposit $250. You’ll need a minimum of $2,000 if you’d prefer to open an IRA CD. A 15-month IRA CD offers the same 1.65% APY you can find on the standard high yield CD. The Synchrony IRA probably isn’t the best option if what you’re looking for is investment opportunities that center on stocks and bonds.

Synchrony Bank has a nifty calculator on their IRA Money Market page which allows you to figure out just how far a 0.85% APY can take you. Whether over six months or 60 months, you’ll see just how much interest can be made.

Pros and Cons of Synchrony Bank

It only takes a few minutes to open an account with Synchrony Bank online. It will be necessary to have your Social Security number, driver’s license and other basic pieces of personal information ready when you sit down to sign up. Most customers throughout the country won’t have an option for signing up for an account in person.

  • Can Synchrony Be Used With Accounts From Other Banks?

You won’t need to close the accounts you have with other banks when you switch to Synchrony. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t. You can actually link your new Synchrony account with outside accounts to create an easier method for transferring money.

  • How Liquid is Your Money with Synchrony?

Using your ATM card with Synchrony Bank will work exactly the same as using the ATM card from a traditional bank that’s located down the street from you. Synchrony Bank does not charge a fee to use an ATM. However, you could bump into fees that are charged by ATM operators. Synchrony Bank offsets these costs by providing a $5 refund every cycle.

  • Can You Write Checks Using Synchrony Bank?

Synchrony is not a full-service bank. It should be thought of strictly as a savings bank. This means that the account you open will not be capable of functioning like a checking account. The only way to write a traditional check is to transfer money out of your Synchrony account to an account that has check-writing privileges. The exception is when it comes to Synchrony Bank Money Market checks. They also provide free checks with limited capabilities.

Why Synchrony Is a Must Have Savings Account

There are many scenarios where Synchrony Bank could serve as a great financial tool. A Synchrony account isn’t necessarily intended to be your primary or only bank account. It makes a good supplement to a traditional bank account or checking account.

The healthy CD rates offered by Synchrony Bank make it a good option if you’re looking for a way to break up a lump sum. Synchrony’s terms make it easy to stagger maturity dates between long-term and short-term CDs. In addition, Synchrony offers a great platform for stashing away and building up an emergency fund in a separate place from your main savings account.

Synchrony Bank is a solid option if your goal is to get some of the highest interest rates available in the banking world without going with the traditional investing route. Synchrony Bank does fall short when it comes to in-person customer service and consulting. You’re definitely choosing a do-it-yourself type of approach when you sign up for an account and begin moving funds into different categories. However, anyone who is at least a little bit financially literate and tech savvy should be able to get what they want from this platform.

Both the Synchrony Bank high yield savings account and the Synchrony Bank Money Market account have APY rates that rank in the upper most tier for online savings accounts. In addition, both account types are free from fees. Those two details could be enough to make this a solid option for putting away your money.

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Amboy Direct offers an eSavings account with a competitive rate and a $50 bonus. Get all of the details in our Amboy Direct review.

amboy direct review

There’s a chance to get a cash bonus of $50 if you’re planning to open a new interest-earning bank account.

Banking Deal: Earn 1.30% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at Synchrony Bank.

Amboy Direct is offering a limited-time bonus for new customers of its eSavings account program. This bonus comes in addition to the program’s everyday high yield rate. You don’t have to change banks or get rid of your existing checking account to take advantage of this bonus offer. Your new Amboy digital-banking account can be linked to your existing checking account.

Amboy Direct eSavings Interest Rate

Amboy offers semi-competitive interest rates as long as you have at least $300 in your account. Account holders with balances of between $300 and $2,999 are given an APY of 0.30%. Accounts with balances between $3,000 and $100,000 are given an APY of 0.90%. Accounts with $300 or less don’t earn any interest. It should be noted that APY may change daily.

Amboy Direct eSavings Account

An Amboy eSavings account is essentially a high yield savings account that utilizes the tools and perks offered by online banking. What is notable about the accounts provided by Amboy Direct is that they’re all backed by competitive APY’s. You can essentially take advantage of the high rates of a CD without being forced to lock up your money. Customers are able to move money between an existing checking account and an eSavings account with ease.

Amboy claims that customers can earn 40 times more with an Amboy eSavings account than with accounts offered by major banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Amboy is able to offer higher rates than most traditional banks because everything is done strictly online and there is no need to devote resources to managing banking branches. However, Amboy Direct is a division of Amboy Bank. This means that customers get to enjoy the confidence of working with a banking institution that’s been around since 1888 while they take advantage of a cutting-edge online banking solution.

What are some of the things you should know about how an eSavings account from Amboy Direct works? These accounts are relatively easy to open and maintain. Here’s a look at the basics:

  • Pays monthly interest
  • No fees
  • Available to customers nationwide
  • Requires a minimum initial deposit of $100
  • Backed by FDIC insurance up to $250,000 per depositor
  • Provides 24-hour access for money transfers between accounts
  • Allows for automatic transfers to be scheduled
  • Account balance is limited to $100,000 per client

Opening an Amboy Direct eSavings Account

You can apply for an Amboy Direct account at any time online. You will begin earning interest on your money the next day after you are approved. Here’s a glance at some of the basics you’ll need to know before applying:

  • Accounts are open to United States citizens who are at least 18 years old
  • A valid Social Security number is required
  • Accounts must be opened using an initial deposit from a personal account that has check-writing privileges
  • Your initial deposit will be available for withdrawal after seven business days
  • Amboy Direct will automatically initiate two small transactions to your personal checking account for verification when you fill out an application
  • How to Get Your $50 Bonus From Amboy Direct

The Amboy eSavings New Client offer can be accessed here. Interested customers must submit an email address to receive a code to activate the offer. What if you don’t use email? You can call 1-877-22AMBOY to inquire about the bonus.

Amboy Direct $50 Bonus Rules

There are some requirements to be eligible to receive the bonus. A minimum monthly average balance of $3,000 or more must be maintained for at least 90 days. The $50 bonus will be credited to your account during the next statement cycle after you reach the requirement. Only one offer can be used per household. While Amboy has been offering this deal for quite a long time, there’s no guarantee that it will be around forever.

Using Your Amboy Direct eSavings Account

Your Amboy account can be viewed online around the clock. Only you can access your Amboy Direct account. Logging in will require an access ID and password. Online statements are emailed to customers on a quarterly basis. All current transactions will be listed for you to see whenever you’re logged into your account.

In addition to managing your account online, you can also manage funds directly from your keyboard. Amboy Direct offers a state-of-the-art system for completing bank-to-bank transfers. This means that you can move funds between your existing checking account and your Amboy Direct account with the simple click of a mouse. You will have the option to move money back and forth between the two accounts with ease. You can also manually enter the amount that you want to move when you’re logged into your account.

Electronic transfers made to your non-Amboy checking account will take about two to three business days to be completed. You will be able to make transfers up to six times per month. While Amboy Direct doesn’t charge any fees, the bank that your checking account is associated with may charge its own fees.

There are a few things to be cautious about when you open an online account with Amboy Direct. Amboy is extremely strict when it comes to maintaining a minimum balance in your account. An account will be closed immediately any time a balance drops down to $0. This is a big thing to watch out for because any accrued interest in your account will be automatically forfeited when that happens. In addition, you will forfeit all interest that has built up in your account if your balance dips below $1.

Is the Amboy Direct eSavings Account a Good Option?

Amboy’s eSavings accounts offer a relatively straightforward and consistent way to earn interest without doing any heavy investing or working with a financial consultant. It’s a good alternative to CDs and similar financial products if having access to your money without penalties or extra steps is important to you.

The fact that you are able to earn interest without any monthly fees definitely gives this option a boost if you’re comparing what different banks are advertising. Amboy offers a good setup if you’re interested in handling banking completely online. Anyone who prefers to meet with representatives in person or visit branches when they have issues or questions will be disappointed to know that Amboy Direct does not have any physical locations that can be visited. It is possible to speak with a service consultant over the phone by calling Amboy’s toll-free number.

The one thing that detracts from the allure of Amboy is the company’s punitive policy regarding balance totals. Customers really need to keep a close eye on their balances if they think totals could dip down to below $1. The fact that accounts can be cancelled and gained interest will be forfeited is definitely a big drawback to an otherwise beneficial and positive online banking option.

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Cell phone plans don’t have to be expensive or complex. In our Tracfone review, we cover plans, smartphones, and costs of this low-cost cellphone option.

Tracfone Review

TracFone is an appealing option for many people looking to escape from the contracts of major mobile carriers.

TracFone stands out among all of the prepaid and budget carriers out there because it actually has coverage contracts with the four major wireless carriers in the country. What does this mean? It essentially means that TracFone customers get the coverage and reliability of major carriers without the high monthly rates or ironclad contracts.

Related: How to Find the Most Affordable Cell Phone Plans

There’s a lot of variety when it comes to TracFone’s plans and coverage tiers. The lowest plan possible costs $9.99. Prices are then offered in tiers that can go as high as $199. Here’s a look at what you’ll have to choose from:

  • Smartphone–only plans
  • Pay-as-you–go plans
  • Service add–ons

TracFone Smartphone Plans

Most plans offer customers the option to save between 5 percent and 10 percent when they sign up for TracFone Auto-Refill. Be sure to factor this in when doing a price comparison. Your discount can be set up during the checkout process once you’ve selected your plan.

Smartphone–Only Plans

TracFone currently offers seven coverage tiers to choose from when selecting a plan. Smartphone-only plans provide minutes, texts and data. These plans offer service periods of 365 days, 90 days, 60 days or 30 days. Here’s a look at the current plans available for smartphones through TracFone:

Plan Cost
# of Service Days
# of Minutes
# of Texts
Data Limit
$125.00*
365
1,500
1,500
1.5GB
$50.00
90
750
1,500
2.0GB
$45.00
60
750
1,000
1.5GB
$35.00*
60
750
1,000
1.0GB
$25.00*
60
500
1,000
500MB
$20.00
30
300
1,000
1.0GB
$15.00*
30
200
500
500MB

  • Plans marked with a * are eligible for a 5% discount when you auto enroll.

TracFone Pay As You Go Plans

TracFone currently offers eight pay-as-you-go plans. Pay-as-you-go plans include talk, text and web. These plans offer service periods of 30 days, 90 days or 365 days. This plan type works with both smartphones and non-smartphone models. Here’s a look at the pay-as-you-go plans available through TracFone:

Plan Cost
# of Service Days
# of Minutes
# of Texts
Data Limit
$199.99
365
4,500
4,500
4.5GB
$159.99
365
3,000
3,000
3.0GB
$99.99
365
1,200
1,200
1.2GB
$79.99*
90
1,350
1,350
1.35GB
$39.99*
90
600
600
600MB
$29.99*
90
360
360
360MB
$19.99*
90
180
180
180MB
$9.99*
30
90
90
90MB

  • Plans marked with a * are eligible for a 10% discount when you auto enroll.

I don’t own a smartphone, and I use my TracFone exclusively for when I’m on road trips, away from my family.  That only happens a couple of times a year, for a couple of days a year,so I try to keep my cell phone spending to a minimum.

Every three months, I auto enroll in the $19.99 plan for 180 minutes and 90 service days.  By auto enrolling, I get a 10% discount off the cost, so my annual cell phone cost is $71.96.  As I only use this phones a few days every quarter, I never run out of minutes and by renewing, I keep the same cell number.  For ~$6 a month, I think the service is more than worth it.

TracFone Service Add-ons

It’s okay if TrackFone’s plans don’t quite offer everything you’re looking for. The company provides add-on options that allow you to bulk up your plan and create a custom situation. All add-ons that are purchased will roll over and remain active for as long as service remains active. Here’s a look at the pricing for the extras you can add on to the plan you choose:

  • $10 for international calling
  • $10 for 1GB data
  • $5 for 1,000 texts

The more expensive plans with longer service periods tend to break down to be much cheaper per month than less expensive plans with shorter service periods. For instance, an annual plan that costs $125 works out to be just over $10 per month. The other big perk of going with an annual plan is that you won’t have to worry about renewing your service.

There’s no need to wait until the evening to make calls with a TracFone plan. All minutes, text and data can be used at any time. Anything that’s left over at the end of the period you’ve signed up for will carry over into the new service period if you choose to renew your plan.

What happens if you end up needing more talk time or data than what’s provided in the plan you’ve purchased? You always have the option to purchase additional cards and add more airtime to your plan. This can be a cost-effective, non-permanent option to cover the months that you have more activity.

TrackFone Q and A

Can You Bring Your Own Device?

  • TracFone allows customers to bring their own devices. You will first have to check to see if your phone is compatible. The next step is purchasing an activation kit and choosing the plan that you want. You will have the option to keep your current phone number or get a new one when you sign up for a TrackFone account. You do not have to use a smartphone to be able to use the company’s pay-as-you-go plans.

Does TracFone Sell Devices?

  • It’s not a problem if you don’t already have a compatible device or if you’re ready to upgrade to something new. TracFone sells a wide range of Android devices and iPhones. In addition, you can purchase a non-smartphone device from TracFone. Both new and refurbished devices are available. Customers receive free overnight shipping on most phone purchases. Certain phones available through TracFone come with double minutes and triple minutes. This is definitely a feature to look for when shopping through TracFone’s selection of devices.

Where Can TracFone Phones Be Used?

  • TracFone service will only work in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This includes Alaska and Hawaii. While service won’t work in Mexico, you can obtain a Mexican phone number through TracFone for the purpose of making calls at local rates. Cheap international calling is actually one of the biggest perks offered by TracFone. Customers can enjoy local calling rates to more than 100 destinations worldwide.

Can I text internationally?

TracFone doesn’t offer international text messaging. The biggest drawback of TracFone is that costs can add up very quickly if you’re not careful. Heavy phone users can become frustrated easily by the extra costs that are incurred.

Is TracFone a Good Cell Provider?

TracFone is a discount carrier that has been around since 1996. It stands out among similar options because of the strong network that it provides. TracFone actually uses the same towers as Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile. The exact network your service runs on will depend on factors like the type of phone you’re using and your geographical location. You can technically choose the network you want if you bring over a compatible phone that is branded by that network.

TracFone is an ideal option for anyone who needs a plan for light to moderate monthly usage. The plans offered are extremely inexpensive once you break them down by month. The coverage provided by other pay-as-you-go carriers can barely come close to the dependable and clear service offered by TracFone. Unlike many discount carriers that offer spotty coverage, service is available virtually everywhere in the country with TracFone.

What is offered by TracFone is about as close as you can get to what’s offered by the major wireless carriers without actually making the commitment to sign a contract with one. Its versatile options and low per-month costs make TracFone a solid pick for anyone looking for an affordable and flexible wireless option.

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Republic Wireless claims to offer excellent phones and service at rock bottom prices. In this Republic Wireless review, we put these claims to the test.

review of republic wireless

Mobile devices were supposed to free us from the tethers of landlines. Unfortunately, many wireless plans can leave us tethered to expensive contracts and oppressive terms. This is why contract-free mobile plans have become so popular in recent years.

One of the big stars of the contract-free world is Republic Wireless. Are you thinking of making the switch to this way of talking, texting and browsing?

Republic Wireless Coverage

The first step is determining whether you have coverage in your area. This link takes you to a tool that detects your location and determines your coverage. I tested it in Springfield, MO and had full coverage.

As the map below shows, Republic Wireless covers most of the U.S.

Republic Wireless Pricing

Republic Wireless’ pricing is a breath of fresh air compared to other carriers with complicated pricing layers. The entry price point is $15 per month for the company’s basic plan. How does Republic Wireless offer such low rates while still providing reliable service?

The service is unique because it actually defaults all phone usage to available Wi-Fi. If Wi-Fi isn’t available, it uses the Sprint and T-Mobile networks as backups. Here’s a quick rundown of the essential facts to know about Republic Wireless when comparison shopping:

  • All plans include unlimited talk, text and Wi-Fi data
  • There’s no international calling
  • Monthly plans range in price from $15 to $45 (see below)
  • The carrier uses a unique Wi-Fi calling technology that switches between Wi-Fi and cell usage based on what’s optimal in any particular location
  • Customers can usually transfer their phone numbers to and from the provider easily

Republic Wireless Plans

Republic Wireless offers four plans:

  • $15/month: No cell data
  • $20/month: 1GB of cell data
  • $30/month: 3GB of cell data
  • $45/month: 4GB of cell data

It also offers other plans of up to 10 GB of data. It does not offer an unlimited data plan.

Republic Wireless App and Plan Switching

Republic Wireless offers a free app that tracks data usage every month. You have the option to instantly upgrade to a more expensive tier if you reach your data limit before the month is over. However, it will be your responsibility to switch back to the lower price tier at the end of the billing cycle to avoid the higher rate for the following month.

What We Like About Republic Wireless

Without question the low prices are the best feature. Compared to the big 4 carriers, Republic Wireless’ prices can’t be beat. We also like that you can switch back and forth between plans. This helps when you need a little extra data in a given month.

What Could Be Better

This provider’s biggest strength also happens to be its biggest weakness for some customers. Republic Wireless is able to offer rock-bottom rates because it defaults each phone to Wi-Fi. This means that you can’t automatically bring your own phone or transfer over a phone from another provider without first checking to see if your device is compatible.

Unlike most other commitment-free carriers, Republic Wireless does not sell refurbished phones. The company only sells new phones via its online store.

The absence of any type of family plan also detracts from the appeal of Republic Wireless a little bit. While this won’t concern you if you’re looking for a plan on your own, families looking for an easy and affordable way to divide usage between several people could be disappointed by a lack of options when signing up with Republic Wireless. However, you do have the ability to manage several individual plans under one main account.

Is Republic Wireless a Good Fit?

Republic Wireless isn’t the best provider for super users. You’re really only getting a great deal if you opt to sign up for one of the bottom-tier plans that are available. The larger data plans that are available offer slightly less than what you can get with other contract-free options for what works out to be slightly more money per month.

Republic Wireless is a great option for a person who is a low data user. This would be someone who uses their phone primarily at home while connected to their own Wi-Fi network.

One thing to remember is that the coverage you experience with Republic Wireless could vary depending on where you’re located. This means that super users or people who are counting on their phones while on the road for business might be frustrated by the fact that they won’t be relying on one consistent network to access calls, texts and data at all times.

The silver lining is that this is a commitment-free option that you can leave without facing any fees or penalties. The Republic Wireless 14-day guarantee makes it possible to end service and return your phone without penalty if it turns out that this ultimately isn’t the right option for you. If you find that Republic Wireless isn’t for you, you can check out our other recommendations for low cost cell phone plans.

To get more details, visit Republic Wireless.

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How to Get Out of Credit Card Debt… For Good

by Adam Luehrs

Credit card debt doesn’t have to crush your budget. Take the proper steps and you can get out of credit card debt once and for all. Here’s how how to pay off your credit card debt. Credit card debt is a national epidemic. According to one survey, the average U.S. household with credit card debt […]

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How to Choose Between a Fixed-Rate and Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

by Adam Luehrs
fixed-rate vs adjustable-rate mortgage

Mortgages come in two types: fixed-rate and adjustable-rate. When buying or refinancing a home, understanding the pros and cons of fixed and variable rate mortgages is critical. In this article will cover how these two types of mortgages work. We’ll also look at the pros and cons of each. The goal is to help you […]

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Authorized User vs Joint Account – How to Add a Cardholder

by Adam Luehrs
authorized user vs. joint account holder

When adding somebody to an account, a common question is whether to add them as an authorized user or joint account holder. Here’s the difference. Are you looking into the options for sharing a credit card with another person? There are actually two main options to consider when making the decision to share a credit […]

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4 Credit Cards with Free Trip Cancellation Insurance

by Adam Luehrs
credit cards with trip cancellation insurance

Paying for trip cancellation insurance is a hassle and costly. Fortunately, there are credit cards with trip cancellation insurance. Here are four of them. Frequent travelers should approach credit cards differently than the rest of us. They have to look for cards that offer travel perks and rewards. Perks like no foreign transaction fees make […]

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A Review of GEICO Auto Insuance

by Adam Luehrs
Geico Auto Insurance Review

Have you ever seen a GEICO commercial?  Of course, you have. In fact, I bet over the last few years, you’ve seen hundreds of them. Every month it seems this auto insurance giant is releasing a new ad to lure customers in. Originally, it was take 15 minutes and save 15 percent on your car insurance. […]

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How to Lower Your Medical Bills When You Have No Insurance

by Adam Luehrs
Medical Bills

Health care costs go up every year. But you don’t need to be stuck with a big bill. Here are 5 ways to lower your medical bills. A visit to a doctor or hospital can be stressful if you don’t have health insurance. Even insurance with a high deductible can make any visit an expensive […]

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