Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Goodbye Citi Forward Card

UGH! I did not realize that the Citi Forward card had changed the rewards program. It would pay if I read those notices that arrive in the mail but I usually just toss them in the trash. It looks like Citi took away the best benefit of the Citi Forward Card, previously you could earn 5 points on the following categories:

Fast Food Restaurants
Movie Theaters
Movie Rental Stores
Music/Record Stores
Book Stores (Including Amazon.com)

By doing more research online I found that they got rid of the extra points back in October 2013! I found this on a credit card website:

But as of 10-25-2013, you no longer get 5x points on those categories. Now it’s just a 1 point per dollar on eligible purchases. This was one of the absolute best credit cards on the market. They did cap the number of points you could earn per year at 75,000, but for most of us that was plenty… so the Citi Foward was basically earning you 5x points on a couple very popular categories – restaurants and bookstores (since they previously classified Amazon as a book store). Oh those were the days! Now that those categories are gone, the rewards program isn't anything to write home about.

And just to be sure I went online to check my card benefits and there it is:

I can't blame Citi for changing the program, it was way too good to be true. I'm more upset that I didn't realize it up to now that the program had changed. I was still making close to $50 per month so I never really checked things. So much for signing up for 'Paperless' because I don't recall ever getting an email about the changes. I went online and added up how many points we've redeemed over time with the Citi Forward card and the total was close to $3,200 dollars! which is probably why they had to change the program, people like me were abusing it.

The question now is which credit card to use?? I still have Discover with a zero balance and I used to like their rewards program but a lot of places don't take Discover. A couple of golf courses and a bar I like don't take Discover and I hate using my debit cards. I may Apply for the Citi Thank You Premier card which currently has a promotion to get 50,000 points over 14 months (50,000 bonus points are redeemable for up to $500 in gift cards, up to $625 for airfare or other great rewards) and it also has better point categories like the Forward card use to have:

  • 3X ThankYou Points on Dining out and Entertainment
  • 2X ThankYou Points on Airfare and Hotels
  • 1X ThankYou Points on other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases

The only issue with this card is the Annual Fee of $125 which I don't mind paying if I can rack up points quickly, it is also waived the first year:

wish me luck as I try to find a new credit card. I may hold on to the Citi Forward card and keep it as a backup with a zero balance.


Monday, July 28, 2014

No Paycheck Fee!

Bank of America's Free checking? Sure if you meet their direct deposit or minimum balance requirements, otherwise you get a nice hefty fee of $12 like I found out this morning when I checked my accounts. As most of you may recall, my wife stopped working in April so her paychecks stop coming in the first week of June. As soon as July hit and there were no direct deposits on the account, Bank of America hit me with their monthly maintenance fee:

Not much I can do about this but it got me thinking, what if you lost your job and were out of work for six months to a year? This fee could cost $72 to $144! Only other way to avoid this fee without direct deposit is to maintain a $5,000 average on the account. This is our checking account that is used as our emergency fund but  I only keep $1000 in there at all times. I don't see me saving another 4,000 dollars anytime soon so it looks like I will be hit with this fee again for August and possible September. I'm not exactly sure when wife's paychecks will come back.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What To Do With Apple?

As some of you may recall, I took $10,000 of our savings and put it all on Apple after they did a 7 to 1 stock split which brought the share price down. As of this morning I've made close to $300 but I don't think it can keep going up at least not in the next month or so. They also announced a dividend payable sometime in August and based on the amount of shares I have that would be somewhere around $50 for me. This morning I went with the more cautious approach of 'quit while you're ahead' and put in an order to sell if the stock price hits $98. Here's the current price 30 minutes ago:

Of course the price went down but I think it can probably hit $98 today. Can it hit $99 or $100? I doubt it but maybe I can buy back in before they announce the new iPhone in August. There's also talk of a new smart watch coming but I just don't see it going up before those products are announced, I think the price will go back down to $95 but of course no one can't predict the future, we can only speculate right?

What would you do? Take the $300 and run?? or leave it in there until the $50 dividend is paid out in August? Of course I could be wrong and this thing could go to $110 like some analysts are predicting...Help! LOL


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guess How Many Pennies and Win $20

Let's do something more fun than boring financial updates from some random family in Texas. There's an old tequila bottle on my desk full of pennies. This bottle took 6 months to fill and it only contains 1 cent US coins. I won't give out too many clues but whoever comes closest to the actual dollar amount in the bottle will win a $20 Amazon Gift Card courtesy of me! Here are the pictures:

To be eligible, please leave a comment with an actual dollar amount, for example $8.55. Also, please have some sort of account (blogger, wordpress) and leave a valid email address where I can send you the gift card. I will dump the jar on August 1 and count every single penny. I'll do another post with the winner and contact you by mail. No new pennies will be added or taken out of the jar until that date. Whoever gets closest to the actual amount wins the $20 gift card, I doubt anyone will guess exactly how much money is in the bottle so there's no bigger prize if you guess the correct amount.

Have fun!!

ENTRIES ARE CLOSED NOW! I'LL POST RESULTS AUG 1 Good Luck to all who joined!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Citi Balance - July 2014

Our Citi credit card balance will probably hit $5,000 tomorrow morning. My wife decided to go on a shopping spree over the weekend and charged a lot! I went ahead and  transferred the money from our savings account but that will still leave me with close to $1,000 balance. The good news is we haven't had any more medical bills and all big charges like the wedding expenses are in the past now. The bad  news is I won't get paid for another week so stuff like gas and groceries will continue to drive the balance up. My current savings balance will be down to $7,000 but $10,000 still over at Scottrade riding Apple which as of this morning has already made me $300. Hoping Apple continues going up and maybe around September I can sell and bring the money back to savings. Here's the Citi balance as of this morning:

Here are my wife's pending charges from the weekend (not including Macy's card):

There you have it  hopefully my next post will be a much lower balance and in a perfect world we don't need anything so the balance remains the same :)


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Citi Payment History

Every once in a while I like to look back and see how much money we have paid back to our Citi Forward credit card. The current payment history goes six months and it lists every single payment that we've made. Over the past six months we have sent Citi back a little bit over 24,000 dollars! At this rate I'm close to hitting $50,000 for the year. Not sure if this is good or bad but at least we're not in major credit card debt. Here's the payment history, sorry for the image quality Blogger does something to the images when I upload them:

I wish we could spend less and save more money per month. How nice would it be to have saved $6,000 of that money over the past six months? I wonder if things would be different if my wife and I maintained separate accounts and we split the bills but now with kids in the mix that's more like wishful thinking. At the same time if she was responsible for her own money I think she would watch her spending a bit more. It is what it is, not much I can do about it but just try and control the amount of debt going up too high.


Monday, July 7, 2014

The Cost of Having a Baby

This morning I got an email from Methodist Hospital that my online bill was ready to view. I set up an online account to cut down on the amount of mail arriving at the house. I was expecting to have a bill around $100 but luckily nothing was due. What really caught my attention was the amount that they have billed the insurance and the amount that we've already paid to them:

In there you will see the total charges are $27,570 Keep in mind that's only the hospital billing, that's not including OB GYN, Anesthesiologist or ultrasounds. Our portion of that was $1,753 and I'm not even sure that includes the $1,100 I talked about a while back. I have tried to understand exactly what most of these charges are but no luck. I believe their billing is made to confuse people on purpose so they can charge more. I don't think we have a healthcare crisis in America with stuff like Obamacare on everyone's mind. I think we have more of a healthcare inflation crisis, how could anyone afford the cost of having one baby! I consider ourselves 'lower middle class' and extremely thankful for having health insurance but I may think twice from now on before going to the doctor, if it doesn't hurt it may just be saving us money LOL


Monday, June 30, 2014

Dipping Into Savings

Summer months are typically the most expensive in our household, don't ask me why but it seems like everything happens in the summer. This year we've already lost my wife's income but stuff keeps coming up. The medical bills have slowed down but formula, diapers and groceries never seem to take a break. Below you can see all of our highest charges on the Citi credit card for the past couple of weeks:

First charge and the highest for June was the wife's dentist. They had to do some fillings on her teeth so $263 was our portion of the bill. In there you'll also see 3 medical bills for June which totaled close to $500! Anything with travel is related to my brother's wedding expenses. All the HEB charges are groceries, we are spending around $150 a week on food items for the house. The charge for MARTHONG is for the Houston Half Marathon, I made the lottery so they charged my card $115. The last charge is Target for $112 which was 2 cans of formula and 3 boxes of diapers. I'm telling you life is expensive, I can't really control a lot of these expenses. All of these charges have left me with a high balance on the Citi card:

It looks like I will have to dip in to our Discover savings account to help pay down this balance. I don't want to use our savings but with the income loss I really don't have much of a choice. Saving money is hard! If you don't believe me, try saving $1,000 in the next month! It took me well over a year and a half to save all the money we have so taking $3,000 is going to hurt. I also have $10,000 going up and down on Apple but if things get too crazy I may sell. I also have $500 cash at home (birthday) for anything crazy that comes up (or I may spend it on me) and $1,500 saved in vintage currency that may be going on sale soon if I continue having crazy expenses like you see above. 

I tell wife please try not to spend a lot of money but lately I get the 'don't be cheap babe' response. She's off for the summer, not working and with a baby and a toddler it's very easy for her to buy things we don't really need (toys, clothing, snacks). I started putting cash in her purse for the little items so that seems to help. I may put $100 in there every 2 weeks to see how that impacts our credit card. Her paychecks will come back in September but then I'm looking at day care expenses in the fall, I'll leave that for another post.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sneaky Best Buy Credit Card

Some time back in 2012 or 2013 Citi bought the Best Buy credit card business from HSBC. I remember seeing some communication about the change but I never really looked in to it. I did get a new card in the mail and I recall a promotion to get a $5 reward certificate for going paper less but even then I still ignored it. Best Buy is the type of credit card that we use if we need big items like a new refrigerator or a LCD TV. In my younger days I would go and charge this card like there was no tomorrow but now the balance stays at 0. This is the kind of credit card that's nice to have around but I'm not going to charge something like a Macbook Air on it. For all other tech purchases Amazon has much better deals and with Prime it makes no sense to drive to a Best Buy store.

Now, last week I got the dreaded email when you don't use your accounts! Citi- our beloved and favorite company on this blog sent me this email:

Ha! Sneaky! 'Go shopping today to retain all of your exclusive benefits' Yes, I like the benefits but I had to drive to the store, make a purchase for something I didn't really need just to keep the account open. I did have $15 in rewards certificates and a 10% off coupon for my birthday so I ended up buying a 2 TB USB hard drive for $71 total. It will come in handy for my other amateur hobby which is photography. I have close to 25,000 pictures so another back up can't hurt. I still feel like they just sent this email so they can get some sales.

$3,400 in credit may not seem that high but it will be nice to have if we need new appliances. Our washer and dryer are 8 years old and with 2 kids we are doing loads of laundry daily. I expect both of them to break soon so the plan is to just replace them. I don't like the fancy ones with dozens of cycles, WiFi and digital countdown clocks. I like the plain old models with just one knob. I expect that purchase to be around $700 so with all the promotions Best Buy has like 0% financing this card will come in handy for that.


Monday, June 23, 2014

eBay Watchers and Seller Totals

Come on eBay watchers! buy my items! If you sell on eBay regularly you know that people will often watch an item or save it like a bookmark to bid on later. In the seller dashboard you can see the number of views and also the watchers count, people who are interested in your items. I have a few items out there that I know are priced a bit high but often will sell with patience (something I lack). Here are all the items I'm trying to sell this month:

As you can see most items have watchers but the item I really want to sell is the one listed for $1,000. I'm also willing to to take offers and would even go as low as $900 but those two people watching have not send in any offers. I paid $700 for the item and I don't really need to sell, I'm more interested in making some profit. I'm hoping those watchers are not 'competitors' waiting to see if they item sells so then they can adjust their prices. I might send that item to auction and see if it sells but for now all I can really do is sit here and watch the watchers- how much fun is that?!

Also if you are bored and want to see how much you've sold on eBay since joining, you can go to the seller dashboard and click on Your total sales at the bottom and it will show you how much money you've made through eBay. As you can see on my totals I haven't even hit $20,000 yet but I'm close, it is neat to see how much money has arrived at my account: