Monday, March 27, 2006

Filed my tax last week

I should have done this much earlier because I expect refund from the Uncle Sam. Just right before I put all our information to the taxcut, which I bought with negative money, and finished all the calculation and forms, we got a notification from Mr. Circle's employer about some correction of his W-2. It took more than a month for the payroll to send out the corrected W-2. Just for a tiny miscalculation of the W-2, we extend our free loan to the Uncle Sam for another month.

Finally I sent out all the forms via certified mail last Wednesday and both of them arrived last Friday. Now I can do nothing but waiting for the refund to be deposited into my account.

Free $100 from Citi Professional Card

I posted about the receipt of my Citi Professional Card recently. In order to get the bonus points as soon as possible, I made a tiny purchase right after I received the card. Three days ago I got my first statement and the bonus points showed up at the same day. Its statement looks very cool. You can see your expenses under different categories. And you can also create a customized report for your own purpose.

This morning I was trying to add my professional card to my existing thank your network account, which I created months ago for our banking account. But to my disappointed, I was not allowed to do so because the primary account owner of our banking account is my husband, even though we are the joint owner for both the professional card and the banking account. Should have done more research //blush...

Anyway, I started to browsing the gift card offers after I create my own account. By comparing all of those gift card, it looks that it would be better to redeem the points after it reaches at least 5000. Then each point will be worth 1 cent. There are a wide variety of selections, ranging from airline ticket, clothing store to gas card. For my personal opinion, I think the gas card would be the best choice for me. That's the expenses that will definitely occur. I don't like the feeling of being forced to shop due to the availability of the gift cards. So I exchanged 10000 points with two $50 Exxon gas card.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

MBN Forums: a place to learn tricks of the trade

The guys from Money blog networks launched a forum for money bloggers to discuss about the tricks of trade. Currently there are three categories:

Blogging: talk about blogging topic unrelated to monetization
Monetization: talk about how to make money off your blog
Off-topic: for everything else, including general finance.

There are 30 members now, including many well-known money bloggers.

New rates of Emigrant Direct

As you may have already known, Emigrant Direct raised its interest rate to 4.50% APR weeks ago. And you may have heard about the cash rebate credit card issued by Emigrant Direct. I just got an email yesterday that the cash rebate has been increased to 1.40% on every purchase. It still requires to maintain an average daily balance of a least $10.000 in your online saving account though. Most of my savings are sitting in ING and HSBC now. Will see what the new rates from ING and HSBC will be after the promotion period.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

check out the carnivals in this week

Carnival of Investing # 14: Neo's Nest Egg
Carnival of Personal Finance # 40: AllThings Financial
Festival of Frugality # 15: Free Money Finance

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Successfully linked Scottrade to HSBC

Last month I had a feed about a new way to fund your scottrade investment account. Here is the summary, with a balance over $5000, you can take advantage of the check writing feature offered by scottrade. And HSBC allows you to link your investment account to it so that you can transfer the money online between those two accounts.

I received 50 free checks from scottrade last Saturday (03/18) and started setting up the online transfer last Sunday (03/19). There is no special trick for linking accounts. You just go to b2b transfer and select add investment account. And then select scottrade. You will be asked to provide your account number in scottrade and your checking number (the second group of numbers on your check). Then you just wait for the trial deposit to show up. My trial deposit came on Tuesday (3/21). After I received the trial deposit, only a quarter though, I went back to HSBC and put the number in the verification window. And the scottrade account was added to the list of linking accounts immediately.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

what $300K will buy in westchester, NY

JLP in allthingsfinancialblog.com organized "a tour to show everyone what house $300K will buy in various parts of the country". If you follow my posts, you might know that one of my financial resolutions this year is to buy a house. So I would like to invite you to take a look at the house worth $300k in my area. This is a house in a ordinary school district.
First let take a look at the photo (don't know why I can't upload the image now) Will update later.


Here is the description of this house.
bedrooms: 2
full baths: 1
acres: 0.14
number of levels: 1
square feet:824
style: Cottage
year built:1935

Let's compare it with the house in poughkeepsie, NY, just 30 minutes north.

A great PF blog aggregate site: pfblogs.org

Recently I came across a great aggregator for personal finance, real estate, and investing blogs: pfblogs.org. And it has pledged to remain free of advertisement. It keeps updating the new posts from more than 300 hundred blogs (354 currently). And the number of links is increasing day by day. Just bookmark one site, and you will read new topics from different blogs very easily.

Free gift from Credit Protector Program (CPP): is it worth it?

As a credit card holder, you should have received one of the checks for you to try out the credit protector program. Have you ever taken advantage of it?

Last year when the bonus of my citi dividend card reached the $300 limit, I stopped using it. I decided that it was the time for me to join the credit protector program and put my card deep in my drawer. But at that time I had no trail checks to deposit. So I chose to enroll it through the internet and received a rebate form with the welcome package. After having sent out the filled rebate form along with the required documents (a retail receipt of more than $20), I started a long waiting period. Three months later I still didn't received anything from the rebate center. I was even unable to locate the record of my rebate in the website. And the worse thing was that there was no telephone number in the rebate form. So I called the CPP customer service and got the number of rebate tracking. I just don't understand why they don't put it in the rebate form like other rebate programs do. Then that phone number is an automated system and it requires the caller to leave a message for them to call back. The next day someone called back and asked me to fax the copies of all my documents. Finally it took me almost five months to get the $20 check. That was the hardest $20 I have ever earned.

I think next time I would do this only when I get the trial check first. I will call to cancel that in a few days and see what the retention offer will be.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Check out the carnivals in this week

Carnival of Investing #13: InvestorGeeks
Carnival of Personal Finance #39: PFAdvice
Festival of Frugality #14: neo's nest egg

Credit reporting agencies created a new credit scoring system

The three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) announced today that they're introducing a new credit scoring system,"VantageScore", to banks, mortgage lenders and credit card companies. The new scores will be the same across all three agencies and is expected to be available to consumers probably later this year. It will range from 501 to 990 and be grouped from A to F. Looks like the grade in the school.
A -- 901-990

B -- 801-900

C -- 701-800

D -- 601-700

F -- 501-600
Details

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

refundplease.com

More and more people are doing online shopping nowadays. Amazon is one of the most popular online dealers. As you may know, you can get refund of the price difference if you see the price of your order drops within 30 days of your date of purchase. Normally how do you track the price changes? Keep going back to Amazon? I used to do things like that. It was really time consuming. Last week I found a website called refundplease.com. You just tell them your date of purchase, price, items of purchase as well as your email address. They will track the price for you and notify you when there is a price drop within 30 days. Looks like very convenient. Haven't got a chance to try it out. Definitely will give it a shot for my next purchase in Amazon.

How do we balance marriage and personal finance

Yesterday mymoneyblog raised a topic about marriage, love and money and attracted a lot of comments. I have also seen similar discussion in several online forums. Basically there are two common ways for married people to deal with their personal finance. One is to combine all their money after married. The other is to have a joint account for everyday expenses while keep individual accounts for personal expenses like gifts, entertainments etc. There is also a small portion who just maintain individual accounts and each one pays his own bills or the bills assigned to him under some agreement.

How do we handle our finance? I would say we belong to the first group. When we came to the US to pursue our graduate degree, we nearly had nothing after we paid the first month's rent and other necessary expenses. We put all the left money in one account and made it as a joint account. Since then we never thought about splitting our income and expenses. Three years ago, Mr. Circle obtained his degree and found a decent job. Our savings increased rapidly compared to that in the period of study. And there are bonus or promotions for account opening everywhere. In order to maximize our bonus or rebate income, we started to have our so-called individual accounts. Mr. Circle never cared about the process. I just reported to him every time I opened a new account and updated him with the tracking file. Both of us have access to all of our accounts and can make any expenses we want. Of course we always made agreement for big purchases. I also need to keep Mr. Circle notified when to use which credit card to maximize the rebate.

Then you may ask what has Mr. Circle been doing? Actually he makes more important decisions. If you follow my posts, you may find my topics only include banking, credit cards, budget, tax etc. Why didn't I talk about investment? So the answer is Mr. Circle is in charge of our investment activities. Although I have my own opinions about economic phenomenon, as an economics graduates, I do think that Mr. Circle has more business sense and he is more decisive.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Check out the carnivals in this week

Carnival of Investing # 12: Personal Finance Advice
Carnival of Personal Finance # 38: Canadian Capitalist
Festival of Frugality # 13: Simply Thrifty

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Received My Citi Professional Card

Since Discovercard ceased its restaurant rebate program, I have been searching for an alternative card for restaurant spending. So when I saw the benefits of the Citi Professional card, I decided to take this offer. This card offers 10000 thank you point after the first purchase, which can be redeemed as $100 gift card from one of the popular stores. And 3 points will be accumulated to your thank you network account for every one dollar purchase on restaurant, gas station, auto rentals and some office supply stores. It's just like a 3% cash back. If you are traveling a lot, this card would be a good choice for you. Just as other citi cards do, it offers a nine-month 0% apr balance transfer.

In order to keep a good credit for one of my financial objectives (buying a house), it's been a long time that I have not applied for any credit cards. But I didn't resist the temptation this time, as I understand that one hard inquiry won't hurt my credit score too much. But if I make the balance transfer, it will take a while to bring my score back. Hence I decide to use this card while not to take advantage of the balance transfer offer.

The good thing is I won't waste the 0% APR offer. I got 9 months' buffer period. I can do the transfer anytime within nine months of opening. And the 0% apr will be valid for 9 month from my actual request date. I could save it up for some small projects of my future home.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Lost $50 in a test drive deal

Actually I should say I didn't earn $50 in a test drive deal instead of losing it. Here is the story. I got a $50 certificate for a test drive in one of the Ford dealers along with the renewal notice of car registration sent from DMV. The deadline was Feb 28th,2006. I've had more than one month to close that deal. Usually I am not a last-minute person. I was trying to recall what I have been doing over the previous several weekends. A big snow storm, parties, other errands... Somehow I got an impression, for those kind of test drive bonus, I just need to tell the dealer that I am not interested in buying a car, all I want is the $50, and the dealer will stamp for me without test drive. However, when I went to a dealer at the last minute, one of the salesmen insist that I must make a test drive. I didn't have enough time to do that and had to give up that deal.

This experience tells me that "never take what I heard as granted. What worked for others may not work for me (get bonus without test drive)". Don't leave anything until the last minutes. That way I won't have time to correct my mistake.