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December 2008 Monthly Archive


As the recession chugs along, credit card companies have been scaling back on rewards and cash-back card offerings.  There has also been a lot of behind-the-scene movement for the credit card industry, with companies ending promotion/advertising programs on certain flagship cards and products.

I was just about to write a post titled “Death of the Cash back/Rewards Credit Card,” but along came the new Schwab 2% cash back credit card.

Despite my frequent proclaim of love for credit cards (the cash back parts of it, anyway), I’m not a credit loving fiend who opens multiple account and juggles multiple reward credit cards.  It’s simply too much hassle, and too beyond my small brain capacity to handle.

So it was with some minor reluctance that I applied for the Schwab Bank Invest First Visa Card.  Here are some features that immediately attracted me to this credit card:

  • Unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases, right into Schwab One brokerage account.
  • Cash back is automatically deposited into brokerage account at end of each month.
  • No foreign exchange transaction fees (a rare feat indeed amongst credit cards).

The application process was straight forward enough, with usual information being requested.  If you already have a Schwab One brokerage account, things will move along slightly faster.

Although the card is branded as a Charles Schwab Bank credit card, you should be aware that the card is issued and administered by FIA Card Services (formerly MBNA, now a part of Bank of America).  Thus, any future customer service and card related issues will have to be dealt with at FIA Card Services.

After chugging through and submitting my application, I was unfortunately unable to get an instant decision on approval  (apparently being super cool isn’t good enough anymore).  An online application status check a day or two later still yielded the same result, so it looks like I’ll have to wait this out a bit.

Note: Discussion threads online mentioned that you can always call-in after applying online to get an instant decision from a representative, but you may be subjected to the act of some credit line swapping and/or closure if you have cards issued by Bank of America or MBNA/FIA.

Tidbits & Notes If You’re Also Considering This Card:

  • Current BoA, MBNA, FIA cardholders won’t be able to convert an existing card to the Schwab Bank Invest First Visa Card, after all, the point is for Schwab to acquire a possible new customer.
  • The Schwab One brokerage account has a $1,000 minimum balance requirement to avoid monthly fee, but this is waived when the account is linked to your Schwab Bank Invest First Visa Card.
  • Although you don’t have to immediately open a Schwab One brokerage account, you will eventually have to open one if you wish to claim your accumulated cash back and withdrawal the cash back to an external, non-Schwab account.
  • Opening a Schwab One brokerage account will get you another hard credit pull, as it is a separate and different financial product.
  • If you qualify for a credit line of $5,000 or more (and most people should if they qualify for this card), you will receive a Visa Signature card, which means you have no preset spending limit, which means the credit limit on the new card will not be reported to the credit reporting agencies.

As you can see, there are a few quirks involved if you want to apply for this card.  But at the end, you are getting 2% cash back.  When combined with another card that gives higher cash back percentage for specific categories such as gas and grocery — you’re sure to be in cash back bliss!

Of course, all of the cash back is a moot point if you don’t pay your card in full.  I’ll update the post if my application is approved, follow by an eventual future post reviewing the card.

Update: My application was approved and I’ve received the Schwab Invest First Visa card.

Related Links & Resources:



A few weeks ago I requested and promptly received a $250 cash-back check from my Chase Freedom rewards card.  Being a forgetful tool bag, I quickly deposited the check in my checking account — least it slips my mind for 120 days and voids itself.

Although it was nice to receive the cash-back check in time for Christmas to buy myself a gift (being an ass, you have to resort to your mom and yourself for gifts), it was slightly bittersweet as this is most likely the last check I’ll claim from my Chase Freedom rewards credit card.

Truthfully, I hate juggling credit cards and try to limit the amount of cards I carry or accounts I open, but unfortunately the Chase Freedom card just didn’t cut it anymore.

To make a long story short, with my current spending pattern, I’ll be able to maximize cash-back better by a combination of using Blue Cash from American Express along with the new Charles Schwab 2% cash-back Visa card (more on this later).

The two versions of Chase Freedom cards I have opened have served me well, and I’ve wrote a fairly positive Chase Freedom rewards card review just a couple of months ago — but I can’t recommend the current version of the Freedom Rewards card that Chase is offering.  Chase has since stopped the 3% cash-back on top spending categories reward program, and the current version of the Freedom card doesn’t appear to have any compelling card reward program.

Hopefully Chase will continue to keep the old Chase Freedom cash-back program active for old cardholders.  Although I’ll be switching to different primary credit cards soon, I’m sure many people are still a fan of the Chase Freedom card.



You probably know how it is.  Like me, you’ve reached that point where it’s entirely inappropriate to consider yourself a “kid” since it’s been years you’ve finished college (or should have finished) and you’ve ought to be a contributing member to society by now.

Damn.

Besides the added waistline, the unflattering effects of gravity, there are a few (financial) advantages as you get older:

  1. Car rental will no longer be a rip off after the magical age of 25
  2. Car insurance premium will slowly become cheaper
  3. Your credit history should be steadily improving as financial accounts adds age
  4. As you reach a certain age, you’ll get to join AARP (et al) and get senior discounts

Yeah, I know it’s a pretty weak sauce list but that’s about the only four things I can come up with.  There are a few other financial situations that should improve as you get older, such as your savings, your retirement accounts, etc. — but they’re not really a direct benefit that you get as you become older.

If you know some financial advantages to getting old, throw me some bones because there’s got to be something to look forward to — this quarter-life crisis is driving me nuts!

Haha. I kid, I kid.



By the Hammer of Thor, it’s freaking cold.

I know this might sound kind of lame, but when I’m home alone I’m always hesitant to turn on the heater since it feels like a waste to warm up an entire house just for myself.

The heating reluctance can probably be alleviated somewhat if I just get the house insulated better, but better insulation sort of became one of those housing project that always floats off of my mind — until I’m freezing my ass off.



Whew.

So my sister just got married recently and my immediate family just had our first (and by the looks of things, probably last) wedding.  The entire event went by smoothly enough, with me walking my sister down the aisle without incident. Yay. (Allthough the toast I gave sucked, thankfully I kept the speech as short as possible).

A couple of weeks before the wedding, I got curious on how much money people usually spend or give for a wedding, so I did a quick search online.

Turns out, giving money for a wedding is a bit tacky for certain parts of the country (obviously, for some culture it is entirely appropriate to give money for a wedding).

Allow me to elaborate. For my area, Southern California, I was under the impression that the unspoken rule is that if you give money, you should at least give an amount greater or equal to the cost per head for the reception.

But apparently the cost per invited guest guideline is considered tasteless in many area of the country according to various threads I read on the net (Metafilter, Yelp, iVillage, etc.)

For people that felt the above guideline is tasteless, I certainly understand their views that the entire ordeal can be made to feel like a quid pro quo  — something gift giving should never really be.  But many others in the discussion threads also argue that the cost of a wedding, especially in the Tri-State area, warrants guest giving at least the per cost amount (including whatever guest they bring along).

So what’s the money wedding gift giving etiquette in your area?  Is it tacky to give money?  What about having the rule of thumb that you should at least cover the cost per head?

Regardless of the money issue, I personally believe that you should give (money or not) whatever you’re comfortable with giving in relation to how close you are with the couple.  When in doubt, there’s always the wedding registry!

photo credit: digiyesica



credit card mafia

In case you missed the news, federal regulators voted today to adopt sweeping new rules for the credit card companies, protecting us from some of the shadiest practices the credit card industry has conjured up through the decades.

These new rules will take effect by July 2010, and they are by far the most major smack down in terms of regulation for the industry in decades. Here are some of the new rules in our favor:

  1. Double-cycle billing got axed, cajun style.
  2. Payment allocation will now be to highest interest balance first or proportionately to all balances (so it won’t you longer to pay off balances).
  3. Card holders will now have reasonable time to make payment (21 days).
  4. Notification for change in terms has been changed from a minimum of 15 days notice to 45 days notice.

There’s a few more new rules on the table, and you can read about them via the resources below. So far, the Office of Thrift Supervision has voted on the new rules, and its expected that the Federal Reserve and National Credit Union Administration will vote on the new rules later in the day.

Although I’ve mentioned often that I love using credit cards and never really felt that card companies forced me into my prior debt, I have no illusion that many credit card companies policies and practices can make financial life of a cardholder living hell.

Hopefully these new rules will tilt the favor for future cardholders.  Despite the upcoming added protections, credit cards are still a financial tool that requires due diligence and care by consumers. You should always read all the terms and condition associated with a card carefully.

Related Posts and Links:



CA State Lottery as Christmas Gift

Just came back from the grocery store and saw this silly thing at the checkout counter.

Nicely done, California State Lottery, nicely done.

Why buy gift cards for Christmas when you can buy a lottery ticket!?

Urgh.

Other Stop Buying Crap:



Mmm… December. The season of the holiday spirits and happy times. Bleh. Yuck.

This week’s financial picture, Fortune Fail from Fail Blog:



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