Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Last Chance to Win

This is the last week of the PFStock iPad (or $300 Amazon gift card) giveaway. PFStock is giving away your choice of an Apple iPad mini or $300 Amazon gift card. Over the years, PFStock has given away coupons, Coke Rewards codes, USB flash drives, books, financial software, gift certificates, and copies of tax software. Now in order to thank my loyal readers, PFStock is holding its biggest giveaway ever: your choice of a new Apple iPad mini (16GB, WiFi version) or a $300 Amazon gift card!

Update: This giveaway is now over, and a winner has been selected. The contest winner has been notified by Email. Thank you for your interest in PFStock.

If you have a problem leaving a comment or any other question, please Email me. Good luck to everyone!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Win an iPad

PFStock is giving away your choice of an Apple iPad mini or $300 Amazon gift card. Please see this post for more details. In addition, I am offering 25 additional entries to readers who complete any of the following offers:

Open an account at Ally Bank
Apply for the Discover it™ Card
Get the Discover® it Card for Students
Switch to TradeKing and get up to $150
Join PerkStreet and earn 2% cash back
Get $100 from ShareBuilder

Update: The iPad giveaway is now over. However, I am planning to have another giveaway (iPad or Amazon GC) later in 2013. For any reader that completes one of the above offers (most are free to apply), you will automatically receive 35 entries in the future giveaway. Let me know that you applied for an offer by sending me an Email or completing the form below:

Note that PFStock does not collect any personal information other than what you voluntarily submit on the entry form. The sponsors do not share applicant data with me, other than the offer type, date and time. I do not even know the names of people who apply for the offers. Please Email me (at the address in the sidebar) if you have questions, or would like confirmation of your entry. Thanks!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Creating a Budget and Sticking to It

When it comes to money and household finances, in some respects things differ from home to home. However, in one area at least, there is a common need and that is for budgets to be made regularly and cohesively to ward off any chance of expenditure exceeding income, which can lead to debt management problems.

Budgets are an essential part of households' financial planning because it allows you to clearly see what your main expenses and incomes are as well as what can be cut and what can't. At a very basic level it ensures you aren't overstretching yourself and storing up problems for yourself later down the line and offers a simple and easy way for families to see their financial comings and goings. It doesn't particularly matter whether this is done simply with pen and paper or on a laptop, all that matters is that you stick to the basics and make it workable for you.

Be realistic
The first thing to do, ahead of your budget, is to be fully realistic about what you can expect to achieve from month to month. There is no point in being overly harsh on yourself and stressing out too much about your finances but at the same time it's not good to take a laid back approach to finances. Finding that middle ground where you are setting achievable targets each month for yourself and members of your family is key and, while you may not get there overnight, in the end it will be worth it.

Allow wiggle room
Also, when setting your budget, remember to factor in a little bit of flexibility. Don't set yourself a specific amount of money to target such as £100 off the credit card bill, instead it's better to opt for a target of between £95 and £105. This way if you have a month that is either heavy or light on expenses then you can still meet your targets and make headway without causing yourself too much stress and trouble. Not every month is going to have the same level of expenditure and allowing yourself a little bit of room to manoeuvre is a really good idea within household budgets.

Reward/punish yourself
Another thing that many households like to incorporate into their budgeting is offering a treat, or indeed a punishment, if they don't meet their set targets. This obviously needn't be too serious but it could be a case of allowing yourself a treat once a month if you manage to pay so much money off your credit card or energy bill or not doing so if you don't. This adds a human angle to budgeting and provides that little bit of extra incentive to meet the targets you have set yourself.

All these sorts of targets can be quickly implemented into household budgets which is ideal when you think that Christmas is now firmly on the horizon. Indeed, recent research from Morrisons appears to show that many people are looking to take budgeting much more seriously this festive season than ever before. The supermarket found that Brits are planning to reduce the amount they spend on the Christmas experience by an average of £28 per household when compared to last year’s spending. More than a third of families will be looking to cut back on presents while a fifth of families plan to spend a little bit less on items such as chocolate boxes and biscuits, all so as to ease the financial burden.

According to Kevin Mountford, spokesman for, austerity measures brought in may hit people hard over the Christmas period. "There was a report at the start of this year which said that because of the austerity measures in play, each household would be around about £1,000 a year worse off," he said. "We knew that some of the plans were back-ended and as we move out of 2012 and beyond, we're going to start to see the impact. It is becoming even tougher.
"It is not just low-income families that this is starting to bite as we come into the Christmas and winter period. We're going to have to look a little bit more tightly as we are going to have to improve outgoings elsewhere."

About the Guest Author
This is a sponsored post. The opinion expressed is that of the sponsor.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

iPad Mini Giveaway - Money Saving Tips

Did you know that that the blog PFStock has been around for over 6 years? My original blog is still being published at ( ). Over the years, PFStock has given away coupons, Coke Rewards codes, USB flash drives, books, financial software, gift certificates, and copies of tax software. Now in order to thank my loyal readers, PFStock is about to hold its biggest giveaway ever: your choice of a new Apple iPad mini (16GB, WiFi version) or a $300 Amazon gift card!

Update: This giveaway is now over. A winner was selected and notified by Email. Please click on iPad Giveaway above for the latest contests. Also see Reader Submitted Money Saving Tips for the best entries sent in. Thank you for your interest in PFStock.

I am holding this giveaway in order to increase awareness of and traffic to my blog. I am asking readers to comment and to link to PFStock. And I am giving you the opportunity to win a great prize in the process. While I think that the Apple iPad mini is a great product, I would personally choose to get a Samsung Galaxy Tab with the Amazon gift card, and pocket the difference. Nevertheless, I know a lot of people like iPads, so here is some more information about the Apple iPad mini.

iPad mini Features:
  • Dual-Core A5 Chip
  • 7.9 inch display; 1024 x 768 resolution
  • 5MP iSight camera, 1080p video recording
  • Wi-Fi, 16GB capacity
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • Weighs only 0.69 pounds

I will be holding a random drawing for the grand prize, which will be held on December 20, 2012. You can enter in several ways, and have up to 10 chances to win:

1) Any reader can post a comment below describing your money saving tip (1 entry). Here are some of the ideas that readers submitted last time:
NOTE: This step is required. If your comment doesn't show up below, your entry will be discarded.

2) Post an INTELLIGENT comment on any other post on or (1 entry).
If you are looking for posts to comment on, here are some suggestions:
The Cost of Print Magazines
How Much Do You Make?
Are We Supposed to Feel Sorry for This Person?
Finding the Best Credit Card for You
Comparing Brokerages
Are Credit Unions Really Any Better Than Banks?
What's the Best Gift Received from a Bank or Brokerage?

3) Link to using Facebook and/or Twitter (1 entry each).

4) Fellow bloggers can link to this post to let other know about the contest (1 entry).

5) Add PFStock to your blogroll or website homepage (5 entries). Also if you run a bona fide personal finance (PF) blog, please contact me (my Email address is in the right sidebar) with your URL and I can provide a reciprocal link to your blog.

You can enter up to 10 times using the the form below:

If you have a problem leaving a comment, please Email me. If the entry form doesn't show up, please cut and paste this link to go to the form directly:

1) You can enter more than once, however each entry must be accompanied by a new, different comment (required).
2) Any comment that is fraudulent, illegal, obscene, or otherwise inappropriate will be deleted and/or any prize awarded will be forfeited. Do not spam my blog; the sponsors, advertisers, and I don't appreciate it.
3) NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. You don't need to buy anything to participate.
4) The drawing is limited to US residents, 18 years or older. A winner will be randomly picked from among the qualified entries received by December 20. The winner will be contacted by Email.

Please Email me (at the address listed in the blog sidebar) if you have any questions. Good luck to everyone!


This promotion is held in conjunction with There may be other ways to enter.
Note: PF Stock does not provide financial advice. Contact a financial advisor if you have questions. Opinions expressed in the comments are those of PFStock readers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

4 Ways That Austerity Can Improve Your Life

Austerity has become a dirty word in Europe after increased suppression of spending has resulted in astronomical unemployment rates. While we like to blame these issues on the current austerity measures, we should be looking at the irresponsible spending that preceded it as the root cause of the suffering. More importantly we can take this macro-economic issue and apply it to our own personal finances to avoid similar disasters in our own lives well before the going gets tough. Avoiding overspending, or more specifically under-spending, has some major benefits besides just keeping you out of debt. There are a lot of articles all over the internet about how to save money and how to avoid spending over about $20,000 a year. However, nearly all of those are specifically geared toward helping you get out of debt once you're already in trouble. Here are a few great reasons you should want to under-spend even when you're doing well financially:

1. The "Rainy Day" Fund
The first thing that happens when you stop spending your money is that it'll suddenly start piling up in your bank account. If you've been spending your entire life (because it's there!) this will feel strange, possibly a little threatening as though you're forgetting something. The other thing you're going to feel is a sudden unflinching of your stomach that you didn't know was there. If you get into a car accident, break your arm, or have the roof of your house collapse in during a rainstorm you're no longer going to have to go into debt to deal with it.

2. Large Savings Rate = Less Comfort But Less Stress
As money continues to pile up in your savings account you'll begin to wonder why you're not spending it. You might be tempted to get a new car, or move into a nicer apartment, or make a nice down-payment on a house. You'd be wrong to do so (unless the mortgage is about the same as your rent, then it’s smart). If you keep the comforts far away you’ll find that your money keeps growing. At this point you can start referring to your savings as your retirement fund.

3. Early Retirement/Financial Independence
Depending on how much you make you'll find that within a decade or two you've saved up several hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you invest it properly at this point the revenue generated by the money you have will be enough to live on, meaning you're ready to retire. If you're just finishing college as you read this and starting your first real job, that means that you could retire as early as your mid-thirties contingent upon how much money you make during that time. That means financial independence while you're still young enough to properly enjoy it.

4. Wealth (Sort of)
If you decide to keep working past the point where your investment makes just enough to support you, you'll get to the point where your investment produces more than you need. If you don't spend it, but instead add it on to your investment continuously the amount of money you make will continuously grow for the rest of your life.

About the Guest Author
Alan Brady is a real estate and financial enthusiast who loves to blog about personal finance, renting, home ownership and responsible practices for mortgage lawyers.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Flex Spending Accounts for 2013

It is that time of year again when companies hold their annual open enrollment. This is when employees have the opportunity to change medical or dental plans, and to opt into making contributions to a flexible spending account (FSA). In general, a flexible spending account allows one to deposit pre-tax dollars into the account to pay for medical expenses, or to pay for dependent care. (Note that these are two different types of accounts.) The ability to use pre-tax money to pay for expenses is a good benefit that can save you money.

Starting in 2011, there was an important change to FSA plans. Specifically, the rules have changed for the purchase of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and drugs (such as OTC allergy medicines, pain relievers, antacids, cough medicine, etc.). This change is due to the federal health care reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA). (This was a part of President Obama's health care reform plan.)

Previously, all of these OTC purchases were covered by flex spending accounts. However, starting in 2011 these OTC drugs and medicines cannot be reimbursed through an FSA unless they are prescribed by a medical practitioner to treat a specific medical condition. So, the bottom line is if you plan to purchase these OTC items through a flexible spending plan, you'd better have a prescription first.

One other thing to keep in mind when contributing to an FSA is that most flex spending accounts operate on a "use it or lose it" basis. This means that any balance you have in the account at the end of the calendar year is forfeited to your employer. This is something that I would rather not do, since I never want to leave any money on the table.

In the current economy, I also want to warn my readers of one more potential hazard with FSAs. Having been downsized twice in the last decade, I can tell you that the "use it or lose it" provision also applies if you are terminated without cause (i.e., laid off). Any money that you have left in your FSA plan when you are terminated will be kept by your former employer. This may seem totally unfair, but that has been my real life experience.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why Invest in the Stock Market?

If you are new to investing, the stock market can seem like a confusing and intimidating place to put your money. At a first glance, it might seem to make sense to avoid this havoc and just put your money in the safety of a bank account or government bonds. However, if you aren’t investing in the stock market, you are missing out on one of the most lucrative places to put your money. Here are some of the top reasons why you should consider putting some of your money into the stock market.

High Returns
Stocks are risky assets. This means that they don’t guarantee a rate of return and can even lose money any given year. However, while stocks sometimes lose money, their long-term performance is undeniably positive. Over the past 50 years, the stock market has earned an average return of 10% per year, according to the Federal Reserve. Over this same time period, a guaranteed investment like government bonds only returned 5% per year, barely enough to keep up with inflation. If you are going to grow your savings to reach your financial goals, you need to invest in a high return asset like stocks.

Lower Taxes
Taxes are a major drag on your investment return. When your investments earn income, like interest payments from bonds or rental income from investment properties, you need to report this money as taxable income right away. This raises your tax bill for the year and leaves you with less money for investing.  Stocks, on the other hand, can delay the taxes on your gains. If a stock price goes up, your total portfolio becomes more valuable. However, you don’t need to report that growth as income until you eventually sell the stock. This can push off your tax bill for years.

In addition, when you sell a stock for a gain, it is taxed as a capital gain and not as income. As long as you owned your stock for at least one year, the gain is considered a long-term gain. The current long-term gain tax rate in the United States is 15%. The income earned from your other investments is taxed at your personal income tax rate. By investing in stocks, you pay a lower tax rate on your gains.

Liquid Investments
Stocks are also liquid investments. This means that they are quick and easy to turn into cash. If you need some extra money, you can sell off some stock right away. You’ll only need to pay a small brokerage fee and you’ll get your money within a few days. Other investments are not nearly as liquid. If you invested your savings into rental properties instead, your money is locked up. Converting these assets into cash is a long and expensive process. When your money is in the stock market, you won’t have this problem.

The stock market isn't perfect. Many greedy and irresponsible investors have lost money in stocks. However, if you learn how to be a disciplined, smart, and responsible investor, you’ll be able to make the most out of the stock market’s many advantages.

About the Guest Author
Patrik Fonce is a writer and works currently at QuantShare Trading Software.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Don't Make These 7 Credit Card Mistakes

While credit cards get a bad reputation on the Internet, they actually can do you a lot of good if you know how to use them properly. Since there’s a rather good chance that you have some sort of credit card in your wallet, you will want to make sure that you avoid these seven mistakes that can cost you a lot in the long haul:

#1 Paying Bills Late
One of the biggest problems you can encounter when paying your bills off can include paying your bills off late. Aside from the late fees that credit card companies charge you, these companies can also jack up your interest rate and let’s not forget that it’s going to hurt your credit score. For example, let’s take one of Chase’s popular cards, the Sapphire Card. In the fine print, it notes that if you miss one late payment, your interest rate can go from a low 9.99% to a whopping 29.99%! Experts note that late fees are often 40% of your FICO score.

#2 Transferring Balances
Transferring your debt from one card to another may sound like a good idea but what you have to understand is that most, if not all credit card companies are going to charge a transfer fee. Generally, this fee is going to be around 3% to 5%. So if you’re going to transfer your $5,000 balance, plan on pending at least $150 in fees. The key here is to make sure that you understand your balance transfer rules and always make sure that you do your math to see if it makes financial sense.

#3 Minimum Payments Kill You
As a rule of thumb that you have heard – if you can’t afford to pay your card off in full at the end of the month, don’t use your card! Well sadly, some people just don’t follow that tip. If you’re finding that your credit card balance is getting out of control, you may be making the minimum payments. Yes, while this is better than paying nothing, you have to realize that by doing so, your credit card balance is going to linger for a long time. For example, let’s say that you have a balance of $5,000 with an interest rate around 14%. If you just paid $100 a month, it would take you over 20 years to pay it off! So the next time you consider paying the minimum, consider throwing a few more dollars toward it.

#4 Not Looking at Statements
Believe it or not but many people just throw their statements away after they pay. What many don’t realize is that mistakes can happen on the statement. Things such as unnecessary fees, fraud and jacked up interest rates can kill you in the long run. Always make it a habit to check your statement to make sure that everything makes sense because you never know what may be on it.

#5 Taking Cash Advances
Yes, there are going to be times when you need cash now. While it may be tempting to plop your credit card in the ATM, you have to realize that cash advance fees can really come around to haunt you. On average, some credit card companies can tack on a minimum advance fee and a high interest rate. For example, a popular Citibank card will take on a $50 fee and 25% APR if you take out $1,000! As you can see, that can add up fairly fast. The longer you take to pay it back, the quicker the interest is going to hit you.

#6 Using Rewards the Wrong Way
Yes, many credit cards on the market do offer some great rewards, but sadly, some people don’t know how to use them properly. What you have to realize is that if you’re not paying your card off in full each month, you’re not taking advantage of rewards, and let me explain why. See, the interest you’re going to have to pay will usually outweigh your rewards nine times out of 10. In general, when using your rewards, just make sure you’re using them the right way.

#7 The Annual Fees
As our last tip, the last thing that you’re going to want to look at is the annual fees. While there are fantastic cards out there that have annual fees, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. For instance, let’s say that you spend $100 on the card for the year but it has an annual fee of $75. Is that worth it to you? It’s probably not! So with that being said, make sure that the rewards far outweigh the annual fee if you’re paying one.

About the Guest Author
This post was provided by Hannah Munson. She helps run If you are interested in writing a guest post, please contact PF Stock at the Email address listed in the sidebar.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Citi Dividend Card Q4 2012 Categories

I had written before that I have a Citibank Dividend MasterCard. One of the benefits of this card is that it offers 5% cash back on rotating categories of merchants. The main problem I have with this arrangement is that I always forget which categories are currently offering 5% cash back when I am at the store. As a result, I often miss out on the bonus dividend dollars. In order to help me remember, I have decided to post the categories which change every three months here.

For Q4 2012, you will earn 5% for purchases from:

  • Macy's
  • Electronics Stores
  • Toy Stores
Note that "Q4 2012" means from October 1 - December 31, 2012. Also note that even if you have a Citi Dividend Card, the enrollment is not automatic. You have to login and sign up for this offer at the Citibank website.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Cost of Print Magazines

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that SmartMoney Magazine had ceased publication. At the time, I also mentioned that I still subscribe to the print versions of Money Magazine and Kiplinger's Personal Finance. In their October 2012 issue, Knight Kiplinger also mentions that SmartMoney is ceasing publication, but he is not gloating about losing a competitor.

He has some interesting commentary about the cost of finance magazines. It seems that consumers are willing to "pay $4 for a latte at Starbucks", but "balk at paying even $1 for an issue of a useful magazine." I think that Kiplinger really has a point here because in this age, there is plenty of free information on the internet. And these are some of the same issues that he faces as the editor of Kiplinger's. However, I often prefer to hold a physical magazine in my hands.

So let me ask, how much is a print magazine worth? Would you pay $12 for 1 year of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine? Or if you prefer Money magazine, would you pay $15 for 1 year of Money Magazine? There is even an offer to get 5 issues of Money for only $5. I think that it will be interesting to see what readers responses will be.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

How Much Do You Make - Survey Results

The final results are in for the PFStock annual income poll in the sidebar. I've asked readers to respond to the question: "How much do you make?" There were 76 responses in all. Here are the final poll results for PFStock's current income survey:

How Much Do You Make (September 2012 Results)

Annual Income2011 Survey2012 Survey
less than $50k8%13%
$250k and higher18%5%

Note that the percentages do not add up to 100% due to rounding. From these statistics, I found that there has been a big decrease in the number of respondents who claim to make more than $200k per year. This makes wonder if people are feeling less rich this year. Does anybody have a comment on this statement?

The last time that I published annual income survey results was in my April 2011 post on the topic. In comparing these statistics, I see that there is a bit of a shift away from the higher income ranges. Does this mean that the economy is once again stagnating in 2012?

Here are some other interesting related posts:

Annual Income Survey (2/10)
How much do you make? (4/09)
Net Worth Update (8/09)
Net Worth Comparison (6/08)
Are You Wealthy? (3/08)
Calculating Net Worth (9/06)


Monday, August 20, 2012

Farewell to SmartMoney Magazine

I just received my September 2012 issue of SmartMoney magazine. I have been reading this magazine for nearly 20 years, and was surprised to find a note on the cover of this latest issue. It seems that the magazine is ceasing publication. SmartMoney says that they would fulfill the remaining issues with the Barron's Magazine.

I know that it is not uncommon for magazines to stop being published. The same thing happened with Business 2.0 magazine several years ago. Over the years, Smart Money has published many great articles. I particularly enjoyed those about early retirement. But, I would also agree that the overall quality of the writing has declined over the years. I remember one such article that touted the largely defunct website (a financial planning website that nobody used) as the best.

In addition to SmartMoney, we still subscribe to Kiplinger's Personal Finance and Money Magazine. Our subscription to Smart Money was supposed to end in February 2016. By my count, there are 41 issues remaining in my subscription. When they say that they will fulfill my remaining SmartMoney issues with Barron's, I wonder if they will they extend the Barron's subscription to 2/2016.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Are You Feeling Less Rich?

For a while now, I've had an annual income poll in the sidebar of PFStock that asks readers to respond to the question: "How much do you make?" So far, there have been 70 responses to this poll. Here are the latest poll results for PFStock's current income survey:

How Much Do You Make (July 2012 Results)

Annual Income2011 Survey2012 Survey
less than $50k8%15%
$250k and higher18%4%

Note that the percentages do not add up to 100% due to rounding. From these statistics, I found that there has been a big decrease in the number of respondents who claim to make more than $200k per year. This makes wonder if people are feeling less rich this year. Does anybody have a comment on this statement?

The last time that I published annual income survey results was in my April 2011 post on the topic. In comparing these statistics, I see that there is a bit of a shift away from the higher income ranges. Does this mean that the economy is once again stagnating in 2012?

If you haven't voted yet, there is still time to have your data included in the final survey. Just cast your vote in the sidebar of my blog.  All data is anonymous. Thanks.

Here are some other interesting related posts:

Annual Income Survey (2/10)
How much do you make? (4/09)
Net Worth Update (8/09)
Net Worth Comparison (6/08)
Are You Wealthy? (3/08)
Calculating Net Worth (9/06)


Monday, July 2, 2012

Citi Dividend Card Q3 2012 Categories

I had written before that I have a Citibank Dividend MasterCard. One of the benefits of this card is that it offers 5% cash back on rotating categories of merchants. The main problem I have with this arrangement is that I always forget which categories are currently offering 5% cash back when I am at the store. As a result, I often miss out on the bonus dividend dollars. In order to help me remember, I have decided to post the categories which change every three months here.

For Q3 2012, you will earn 5% for purchases from:
  • Old Navy, Gap, Gap Outlet, Banana Republic and Banana Republic Factory Store
  • Airlines
  • Car Rentals

Note that "Q3 2012" means from July 1 - September 30, 2012. Also note that even if you have a Citi Dividend Card, the enrollment is not automatic. You have to login and sign up for this offer at the Citibank website.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Top Rewards Cards

To win over customers, banks around the world have initiated rewards cards for acknowledging customer loyalty. Banks earn customers' trust and yearly APRs, and in turn, customers earn cash back or rewards on their purchases. The only downside to this phenomenon is the overwhelming wealth of rewards card options from which there is to choose. So if you’re in the market for a new rewards credit card but don't know where to begin, below is a brief overview of the highest-rated cash back rewards cards currently available.

Discover Card Cashback Bonus
The Discover Card Cashback Bonus card offers an extended 0% introductory APR period of 15 months (compared to the typical one year), which also includes 0% balance transfers. This card is an excellent choice for big ticket purchases, as you can pay them off interest free over 15 months.

Following the first 15 months, the 10.99%-20.99% APR (depending on credit score) is very reasonable. Unfortunately, at this point, balance transfer fees come at 3%, so if you plan to use this card for the aforementioned big ticket purchase, you’ll want to pay off your debt by this point.

In terms of cash back, the Discover Card Cashback Bonus offers a generous 5% cashback on annually rotating categories. The downside: once you’ve hit a Discover-designated amount in a category, your returns drop to 1%.

According to a recent graduate of UC Santa Barbara, the Discover Card Cashback Bonus is a great starter card. "It was great when I was learning financial independence," he said. "I tended to overspend when I was first getting my financial bearings, but the consequences were limited because I could only spend $1000 at a time with zero APR."

Blue Cash American Express
Though the exact introductory offers change every so often, the Blue Cash American Express card typically comes with a start-up bonus, such as $100 cash back with your $1000 in purchases over the first 3 months.

After 12 months, APR is raised to 17.24%-22.24%, which is high, but shouldn’t be a problem if you pay off your bills on time. The card offers 3% cash back on groceries, 2% on gas and department store purchases, and 1% on everything else. Unlike Discover’s cash back card, there is no limit to your cash rewards. While this may seem like a benefit, it's American Express’s way of pushing you to spend more.

The card allows you to redeem your rewards as statement credit, gift cards, or a variety of merchandise. The card also automatically enrolls you in the Blue Savings Program, which offers you discounts on restaurants, car rentals, hotels, cruises, and much more.

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card
In addition to no annual fee, the Citi Thank You Preferred Card offers an introductory special of 25,000 bonus points (which equals $250 in gift cards) when you spend $2,000 during your first four months with the card.

The Citi ThankYou Preferred card works by allotting you 1 point for every dollar you spend. There is no limit to the points you can earn, and your points won't expire as long as you make one yearly purchase. The card allows you to earn extra points by signing up for an online account, opting for paperless billing, and shopping through their Bonus Center retailers, including Sears, The North Face, and Sephora. Every year, you will receive an anniversary bonus, which is calculated by your yearly ThankYou points. In the first year, you will earn 1% of your points, in the second, 2%, and so on. Like the Blue Cash, you can redeem your points as cash or as merchandise/travel expenses.

This is just a small sampling of some of the best rewards cards currently available. For a comprehensive overview of rewards credit cards and further rewards card comparisons, check out's rewards page.

About the Guest Author
Lynn Jackson blogs on a variety of financial and business-related topics. She wrote this particular post on behalf of

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to Save Cash when Choosing a Credit Card Processing Company

As a small business owner, you understand the value of a dollar. Your business rises and falls on its profit margins. Anything that cuts into those margins – such as credit card processing fees – hurts your business.

Yet credit card processing fees are one of those areas that many small business owners just accept as a cost of doing business. They don't realize that they could be realizing significant savings by doing some shopping around and finding the company that best fits their business.

Here are some ways to save money when you’re choosing your credit card processing company:

  1. Start by identifying your transaction profile. One of the most important factors in getting the best deal on credit card processing is understanding what type of transactions you’re likely to have. Rates can vary significantly for a company that processes 10,000 credit card transactions a month versus a company that processes less than 100. In addition to volume, your average transaction amount will matter, as well. If most of your transactions are under $10, you need a different type of plan than the small business whose transactions average over $200.
  2. Identify how you'll accept credit card payments. A small business with a brick-and-mortar store that runs physical credit cards through a machine has different needs than a small online business that only uses web-based transactions. Some credit card processing companies have plans that are more geared toward businesses that swipe cards, while other processing companies are better for online transactions.
  3. Ask about all of the applicable rates and fees. Some credit card processors will only have a per-transaction fee that you’ll pay whenever someone buys something. Others will have a standard monthly fee, usually along with a reduced transaction fee. Here again, whether or not you’re going to physically be processing cards can have an impact on this; most of the time, a credit card processor will want to lease or sell you equipment in order to process your transactions.
  4. Check out the credit card processor's reviews and chargeback rates. In addition to the fees that a processor will charge you for transactions, you need to be aware of some other factors. Customer service is important, for example; after all, this company could be responsible for thousands of dollars of your business. You need a company with a decent reputation. Beyond that, however, some credit card processors seem to have a higher rate of chargebacks or account freezes. Make sure you do some legwork, and hear from some of the processor’s existing customers before you make a final decision.
  5. Make sure you understand all of the applicable laws and terms of your contract. There are a number of rules you need to follow when processing credit card transactions. Some have to do with security, some have to do with Visa or MasterCard policies, and others have to do with your credit card processor. Violating any of those terms or laws could cost you thousands of dollars in the long run.

Don’t leave your business' well-being to chance by putting it in the hands of a credit card processing company that isn't right for you. Follow these tips to make sure you get the service that best fits your business' needs.

About the Guest Author
Emma Vasar is a finance expert whose passion for helping small business owners lead to the creation of You can learn more about choosing the best credit card processor here!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pay for Your Gas with Cash

While it may be difficult to fork over $50 for a tank of gas, sneering at the gas attendant won’t have any effect on rising prices. Station owners are barely turning out profits, as they are losing most of their proceeds to nasty credit card swipe fees. You may have noticed that many gas stations are starting to offer lower cash prices than credit card prices. While you may think this is merely to inconvenience you, you might want to consider taking heed of these discounts. By paying with cash or debit card, you are benefiting both yourself and these small business owners.

Recent Findings
Recent data from the Merchants Payments Coalition (MPC) has revealed, as gas prices increase, station owners lose more money, since credit card swipe fees are based on purchase percentages. This means, while we pay more and gas stations lose more, big banks collect big.

According to The Oil Price Information Service, in order to be competitive in the gas industry, gas providers typically lose about 2 cents per gallon per quarter. While these small business owners are losing, big banks are earning approximately 2-3 percent of each credit card purchase of gas, via swipe fees. So whenever gas prices go up, banks bring in higher profits without any additional effort. This comes to an added seven to ten cents per gallon for the consumer. "They (big banks) want to convince the public that gas stations are sitting on a windfall," said Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president of government relations at the National Association of Convenience Stores and MPC member. "In fact, many didn't even turn a profit last quarter in this hyper-competitive business."

The Loophole
The Federal Reserve may have made some efforts to thwart greedy bank practices by instituting a cap on high debit card fees, but they still have some cracks to fill. As the Federal Reserve's law did not include any mention of credit card swipe fees, many banks are replenishing their debit card fee losses with even higher credit card swipe fees (which are oftentimes hidden fees). It is crucial for the government to recognize this loophole before big banks run both our gas stations and our wallets dry.

Swipe Fee Statistics
The highest cost for gas retailers is labor, the second highest is hidden swipe fees. These fees, initiated by Visa, MasterCard, and other major banks, generally take approximately $2 out of every $100 spent on credit cards. As Americans, we are especially susceptible to this practice, as US consumers pay the highest swipe fees worldwide.

The price of gas increased 80% from 2004 to 2011. The price of credit card fees went up 180%. Of interesting note, during this time, the cost of providing electronic swipe transactions decreased considerably.

So the next time you complain about rising gas prices, don't blame the gas station owners. Remember, gas stations are small and often family-run businesses. According to Robert Fisher, who co-owns several Chevron gas stations and convenience stores, across Arizona, Oregon, and Washington, with his father, brother, and sister, "There have been times in the past month when I've been losing money for every gallon of gas I sell… It’s a very tough industry." So the next time you fill up, consider the Robert Fishers of the world over the big banks. Pay with cash or debit card to avoid hidden fees for you and the retailer.

This is a guest post. The opinion expressed is that of the sponsor.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How Much Do You Make?

That is the question that everybody would like to know the answer to, but nobody wants to ask. I mentioned before how readers are innately curious about other people's net worth. I think this is because of people's natural curiosity -- wanting to assess how one is doing compared to others. When you read new blog or meet somebody new, do you ever wonder how much they make?

So, how much do you make? I have asked this question before, and I'm asking again. Since I write an anonymous personal finance blog, that gives me the unique luxury of being able to ask the question without personally offending anybody.

So the last time I asked, I received a few responses such as these:

married female, 30 years old (husband is 30 years old). both of us completely self made professionals with degrees from state schools. rental income is approximately $60,000. combined household income is approximately $200,000.

Male, Married,Age 29 and 28, both MSEE, both work for the same company, combined salary 240k. Networth 273k.

Male, 41, divorced. $145k AGI Net worth is low due to student loan debt load but 401k is maxed and I'm killing the loan too.

married Male, 42 275K + 50K options. Retail, networth 1.4MM wife unemployed, 1 child

Now, do you care to add your own comment on how much do you make?

Note: Anonymous comments are welcome. (I want to assure you that Blogger does not collect Email addresses or any other personal information, if you select "Anonymous" on the comment form.) See also the annual income poll in the sidebar of my blog.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Alternatives For Someone With Bad Credit

First and foremost, the United States is in one of the worst recessions we have seen since the Great Depression. Therefore, banks and other creditors are making it increasingly difficult for everyday people to obtain credit and purchasing power. With the dollar depreciating each and every year and inflation rising at alarming rates, it's no surprise that, in the near future, there will only be a few people who have access to credit at low APR rates. With that said, how does a person find a loan if they have bad credit? Furthermore, how does a person get out of the debt they are in, fix their credit, and get their credit back on track?

If you need an emergency loan, you need to ask yourself this question: Is this loan a necessity or a "want"? Many people often times find themselves in situations where they are desperate for a solution to their financial woes, and believe it or not, many of them look for loan sharks. Illegal ones at that. A website by the name of The Loan Shark Guide helps people learn the difference between legal lenders, and illegal lenders who will rip you off. The site is in the middle of an upgrade and looks rather ugly, but in the coming weeks/months the site will get a complete makeover, with the ability to help folks search for loans that fit their needs.

This brings up another conundrum, however.

Some will argue that payday loans and debt consolidation loans are the worst loan programs that a person could ever get into. While there are many payday loan companies out there that charge insane APR, the resolution lies in finding the right type of payday loan. You have to compare loan providers in order to make an informed decision. The best thing to do if you find yourself in an emergency financial situation, however, is to borrow from family or friends first. Payday loans, and other high interest loans, should be a last resort. If you know of an illegal lender, you can report them here.

This is a sponsored post. The opinion expressed is that of the sponsor. does not specifically recommend or endorse any product or service mentioned above.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More on Discover Cashover

I recently noticed some renewed interest in my post about getting cash back at supermarkets when using Discover. Basically this post was about using the Discover Card in supermarkets, and then choosing cash back as an option during checkout. Usually, you can only request cash back when you pay with an ATM or debit card. Discover Card is the only credit card I know of that offers this, and they call this checkout option getting "cash over". For me, the cashover feature works like an interest-free loan because I pay off the card every month. Readers were interested in knowing if there was a list of all the participating stores. That list can be found on the Discover website (URL: ).

But for the convenience of PFStock readers, I have decided to publish the whole list here. These are the stores where you can use your Discover it™ Card when you check out and get cash over:

Army & Air Force Exchange Service
Big Y
Bristol Farms
Cub Foods
Dollar General
Family Fare Supermarkets
Farm Fresh
Food 4 Less
Food Lion
Fred Meyer
Fry's Food Stores
Garden Street Market
Giant Eagle
Glen's Markets
Jay C
King Soopers
Kum & Go
Lunds & Byerly's
Pay Less
Quality Food Centers
Sam's Club
Shaw's & Star
Shop 'n Save
Sunflower Farmers Market
Tom Thumb
Turkey Hill

If you don't have a Discover Card yet, I suggest that you apply for one in order to take advantage of this deal. One particularly popular credit card is the Discover it™ Card because it offers cash back on purchases, year round. Plus there are no fees and other bonuses.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Filing an Amended Tax Return

I won concert tickets from a radio station a few years ago. A VIP package to see one of my favorite rappers, Jay-Z. I bragged about my winnings to all my friends. The package was valued at a whopping $800, meet-and-greet included. I remember the prize department warning me to be on the lookout for a 1099 form (the concert tickets were taxable) but I never received it. When tax filing season rolled around months later, I didn't factor them in. Not because I didn't remember, but partially because claiming the prize was all sorts of confusing without the form; honestly though, I mostly didn't factor in the prize because I wasn't anyone important. Why would the IRS audit me? I pressed the continue button on the free e-filing software I had used since college and that was that. No turning back.

For four full years I came out unscathed. But one day I received a letter in the mail saying I owed the IRS $1,200 in taxes for the unclaimed tickets. There have been far worst cases, but $80 vs. $1,200? A huge difference for someone barely making ends-meet. If only I would’ve filed an amended tax return.

Often consumers innocently forget about additional income they earned throughout the year—whether it be through serving jury duty, dog sitting, getting a $50 bonus for opening up a new bank account or whatever. It happens. This is why I've learned that organization is crucial—helps with "remembering." If you forget, hopefully you won't get audited like I did. But if by some off chance you happen to remember about the extra income before tax filing season is over, or you remember about a deduction that you qualify for, you should definitely file for an amendment tax return. It can save you a lot of financial turmoil in the end or give you a bigger return.

So how does one do this? You'll need to have all of the documents you used to file your taxes, including the amendment form—a 1040x. It may seem a little confusing at first but it's fairly easy to fill out. All you need to do is find the difference between the original tax return, and the new one. If this is difficult to do because let's say you never received your 1099, call the facility (in my case it would’ve been the radio station) and request that they send you a copy. If you can't get a hold of the proper personnel, then be prepared to estimate its value.

You will then need to explain in the box provided what specific changes you are making and why. Don't make it drawn out and long winded. Get to the point, and add-in the value in your explanation as well. Sign and date it. Include your check if you own the IRS more money. If you're now expecting a larger tax return due to new deductions, then you'll just have to play the waiting game. Make copies of everything.

Then you'd simply mail in your amendment. Remember that while you may have been able to e-file your original return, amendments must be sent through traditional mail. If you don't think it'll be delivered in time, go ahead and file for an extension—although you have up to three years to file an amendment.

About the Guest Author
Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031

This is a guest post. does not provide specific tax advice. If you have questions about amending your tax return, please contact a qualified tax advisor.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Do I Need to Report the Motorola Spinoff on My Taxes?

I have been a long time holder of Motorola stock. In 2011, there were two significant events that are related to Motorola: 1) At the beginning of 2011, Motorola Incorporated was split into two companies: Motorola Solutions (NYSE: MSI) and Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI). The old stock symbol MOT was retired at that time. 2) In August 2011, Google Inc. announced that it plans to acquire Motorola Mobility (MMI) for $40 per share in cash. This transaction is expected to close in early 2012.

If you owned shares of Motorola in 2011, this post will try to explain what you have to report on your taxes. Let's start with the spin off. The Motorola spin off was a bit more complicated than the usual spinoff. First, holders of the old Motorola Stock (MOT) were given 1 share of Motorola Mobility (MMI) for every 8 shares of MOT that they owned. Then, the remaining MOT shares underwent a 1-for-7 reverse split and the remaining entity was renamed Motorola Solutions (MSI). If this sound confusing, I have written a post that describes the Motorola Spinoff.

I've seen that people often do web searches using terms like "Motorola cost basis" or "Motorola spinoff". Unfortunately, you won't be able to find your cost basis in this way as everybody's situation is different. Your own cost basis has to be calculated for your personal situation.

In most cases, you will end up with fractional shares of either MSI or MMI after the spinoff. (The only exception is if the number of original MOT shares you owned was a multiple of 56 shares.) In the case of fractional shares, there is also a small portion of the cost basis that may be paid out as "cash in lieu" (CIL) of fractional shares. For cash-in-lieu, this distribution may or may not be reported by your broker on a 1099-B form.

Motorola investor relations has a webpage with additional information about the spinoff. It is located here:

My brokers, TD Ameritrade and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, calculated the cost basis for me. In both cases, there was a slight difference between what my the basis would be if I calculated using the method above. My suggestion is that if your broker already calculated the the basis for you, you should go with that number unless you believe that they made a mistake in the process.

As for whether the cash-in-lieu (CIL) distribution is taxable, in general CIL received for fractional shares of stock is a taxable event. However last year, after Verizon spun off Frontier, I received 6 cents in CIL that was not reported. A broker is not required to report a CIL distribution unless it is for $20 or more. Specifically, I got this message from my broker: "A cash-in-lieu payment is reported on Form 1099-B if the payment exceeds $20. If your payment was less than $20, it is not reportable."

As for the Google acquisition of Motorola Mobility (MMI), this deal has not yet closed. So unless you sold MMI in 2011 there is nothing additional to report beyond the possible cash in lieu.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for illustrative purposes only. PF Stock does not provide tax advice, and I encourages readers to consult with a tax adviser if they have specific questions about tax reporting.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top 3 Gold Online Buyers

In today’s tight economy, it is fairly common for full-time employees to seek out extra income. Whether they’re working part-time freelance jobs, running small online businesses, or selling old valuables, they’re taking precious time out of their already hectic schedules to earn a few extra bucks. So, for the sake of all you double-booked earners, I’m here to make your jobs (well, your second jobs) a bit easier by filling you in on a lesser-known moneymaking venture.

Selling old gold is an especially lucrative trade right now. In general, gold prices rise in times of economic hardship, and today is no exception. But finding a gold buyer can be tricky, considering tight-budgeted local gold dealers, intimidating auctions and gold scammers. Trustworthy online gold dealers offer the safest and most convenient options for selling your gold, while ensuring high cash returns.

So where do you find these seemingly mythical, high-returning, trustworthy, online cash for gold dealers? Check out a list of the top 3 online buyers!

Sell Your Gold
Ranked the #1 online gold buyer by NBC’s Today show, Sell Your Gold is a credible choice for your online gold trading needs. The company, owned by 50-year-old veteran gold-buying company, John Galt Refining, has been operating with an A-rated BBB accreditation since 2008.

In addition to a competitive payout, Sell Your Gold offers a higher payout percentage for large volume orders. All your questions and concerns are readily addressed by Sell Your Gold’s knowledgeable customer service agents, easily available by phone or live chat.

Sell Your Gold offers unmatched shipping rates and insurance packages, covering up to $1000 for smaller orders and the entire worth of larger orders.

Cash for Gold USA
As a result of an undercover investigation, FOX News reported that Cash for Gold USA has a return rate three times greater than its competitors.

A-rated by the Better Business Bureau, the company offers a two-week satisfaction guarantee on all transactions and the packages you send them are insured up to $1000. Service is quick and easy, providing sellers with a prepaid envelope for shipping their precious metals at no cost.

Cash for Gold USA accepts gold and gold jewelry of all conditions and karats, as well as sterling silver, diamonds, platinum, palladium, dental scrap, and electronic scrap.

Empire Gold Buyers
This 15-year-old, A+ rated company has been featured on CBS news as a premier gold buyer. Empire Gold Buyers has a favorable payout for buyers, offering 90% of the spot price of gold for transactions up to 3 ounces, 96% for transactions from 3 to 25 ounces, and up to 98.5% for transactions 25 ounces and above. Empire Gold Buyers blows other insurance packages out of the water, with coverage up to $25,000.

If you’re looking to make extra cash from your old gold, be sure to select an online dealer that offers free shipping and handling, a comprehensive insurance package, efficient customer service, and a guaranteed high payout. If you decide to stray from this list, always research online dealers for their reputability before mailing in your precious goods!

This is a sponsored post. does not specifically recommend or endorse any product or service mentioned above.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Comparison of Popular Online Tax Software

Tax season is here: it’s a phrase that few Americans welcome with any joy. Tax-paying Americans must submit their federal tax returns to the IRS by April 15 (for this year, the deadline is April 17, 2012), and many of us are looking at the approaching deadline with understandable anxiety. But the days of mailing multiple paper tax forms to the federal government are long gone with the advent of online tax filing (or e-filing) software programs affiliated with the IRS. Most of these online tax filing software programs offer to file your taxes with the federal government for free or a nominal fee, and the process to file with them is undoubtedly faster and cheaper than doing so the old fashioned way. And when you e-file your tax returns, you almost certainly receive your tax refund (if you received any) at a faster rate than had you filed via paper mail. The only problem is that there are so many e-filing sites; it’s hard to determine which one is the best fit for you. I have offered a brief overview of 5 of the biggest e-filing sites.

TurboTax has long held a position as the most popular e-filing site for American taxpayers. They offer a free version of their services to individuals with relatively simple tax returns (no children, one job, no investments, etc.) and they charge a small fee (starting at $19.95) for more comprehensive returns. TurboTax would be a good place to start for people completely unfamiliar with e-filing because the website allows users to nearly complete an entire form before asking you to submit a username and profile with the service. So you can essentially go through TurboTax’s entire e-filing process and estimate your tax refund or before officially signing up with the service. The site also has an extensive customer service team reachable online or via phone to help you through any concerns with the program or your taxes should you have them.

There are few drawbacks to using Turbo Tax because the service is so well established in the e-filing industry. Users have complained about a slower-than-advertised refunding process, but that may be due to the high volume of returns that the site processes during tax season. All in all TurboTax is an ideal site for people with simple to moderately complex tax returns.

H&R Block
H&R Block is the e-filing service often mentioned in comparison with TurboTax. H&R Block also boasts a large following of users who have filed with them for years, and they have a great track record for providing people with quick and accurate returns. The H&R Block At Home website has an easy to understand, no-frills interface that’s perfect for people unfamiliar with e-filing their tax returns. The site asks you a series of questions like "Do you own a home?" or "Are you a dependent?"  to help determine what tax forms you need to fill out in an effort to streamline the process. The website also offers free filing for users with easy tax returns.

H&R Block also has physical locations, something that none of the other e-filing websites can claim. So if you have concerned about your tax return or if you want to work out some detail about your taxes before you e-file, you can speak to a representative about it in person at an H&R Block location. H&R Block would be the wise choice for people faced with a more complicated tax return than the average person. Some sources even say that it’s better for big-time investors who want to save on their returns.

TaxACT is a third consideration beyond the previous two, offering the same free e-filing service that savvy taxpayers have come to expect from online tax filing software. TaxACT software in particular is known for its aptitude in determining small errors and irregularities in tax returns. Think of TaxACT as the quiet champion of the e-filing system: while everybody knows about TurboTax and H&R Block, it seems like those who know about the benefits of TaxACT keep it to themselves, as if guarding a well-kept secret. TaxACT will also e-file the tax returns of small businesses, making it a tempting proposition for entrepreneurs who don’t want to hire an accountant to handle their taxes.

CompleteTax has more free e-filing plans available than the previous three sites, and allows users to import their previous tax documents for free, even if the documents were filed through other e-filing sites. The site might seem a little dated when compared to those of its competitors, but don’t let looks deceive you. The team at CompleteTax is dedicated to giving their customers the best e-filing service possible, and they do so by guaranteeing that they will offer the best tax refund of any service. They also offer a guarantee that the information filed on your electronic tax return will be submitted to the IRS with complete accuracy. Not bad for a small scale service.  Drawbacks to CompleteTax include a dearth of options for small business taxes and a support center that only takes requests via email.

As the name suggests, FreeTaxUSA offers a completely free experience to users submitting their tax returns electronically (although they charge $9.95 for state tax returns). The site boasts that it has submitted over 7 million tax returns since its inception, and it also claims to be among the fastest e-filing services available. While the service is reliable, it seems like the outfit is better suited for people with uncomplicated tax returns. I assume they also get a good deal of business from people who decided to look for other e-filing options beyond the big 3 companies. Like CompleteTax, FreeTaxUSA allows the user to import previous tax documents from prior e-filing services at no extra charge. The customer support for TaxFreeUSA can only be reached via email after you’ve logged into the service, so make sure you already have an account if you intend on asking any questions.

About the Guest Author
This is a guest post by Eliza Morgan who is a full time blogger.  She specializes in writing about business credit cards. You can reach her at: elizamorgan856 at gmail dot com. If you are interested in writing a guest post, please contact PF Stock at the Email address listed in the sidebar.

Note to Commenters: If you represent a company such as Intuit, H&R Block, TaxACT, CompleteTax, FreeTaxUSA, Microsoft, etc., please leave your contact information or send pfstock an Email (the Email address is listed in the sidebar) to let me know that you left a comment. If I cannot determine that your comment is authentic, it will be deleted.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How Multiple Savings Accounts Keep Your Life in Order

I have come to the realization that multiple savings accounts is the kind of thing that is so naturally intuitive and refreshing that, on first glance, the idea seems too obvious or too good to be true. I simply find it surprising that it took me so long to stumble across this idea and that most people I know haven't really caught on to the idea yet.

I think this attitude stems primarily from this blasé notion of banking that much of America seems to share. My guess is that people have this idea that Bank of America is probably the best they can have, so they often miss opportunities from other banks like ING Direct, FNBO Direct and Ally Bank. Each of these online banking institutions offers the ability for you to create multiple savings accounts with ease and at no expense. You don't even have to create multiple logins.

How It Works
You don't often realize the beauty of having multiple savings accounts until you actually have them and get to mess around and experiment. Before having multiple accounts, I (like many other people I presume) had a checking and savings account. Mine were both held by Bank of America. The idea of having multiple savings accounts didn't even occur to me for the first couple months after switching to ING savings; I just signed up for the higher interest.

It wasn't until I finally had my emergency fund the way I wanted it that I realized a need for multiple accounts. I had never been much of a saver before (by virtue of being very poor), so after reaching my goal of saving a certain amount for an emergency fund, I quickly thought of other things I wanted to save away for. But it became pretty difficult managing which savings goals I had and what amount of my funds in my savings account went to which goal.

This all simplifies magnificently with multiple savings accounts because you can designate each account for a particular goal. Best of all, once that goal is completed and you spend the money you saved, you can rename the account nickname to suit a different financial goal of yours. And all of this account maintenance comes free of charge, of course.

For any of you who use, you will be happy to know that multiple savings accounts pair seamlessly with Mint's goal system. Right now, I have an "Emergency" goal (which is already met, but I keep the goal there just to remind me it's there if I need it), "Europe Trip" goal, and "Big Purchase" goal. Each of these goals are separate accounts, but all manageable through the same ING login, and I know exactly what track I am on the completing this goals.

All of this organization within my savings has made me more savings-conscious. I have been budgeting better because I have a very clear idea what I am saving for and when I will reach that goal. Every long-term expense has become that much more in reach, all thanks to the organization I get from multiple savings accounts.

About the Guest Author
This guest post is contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes on the topics of online courses She welcomes your comments at her email Id: angelita.williams7
If you are interested in writing a guest post, please contact PF Stock at the Email address listed in the sidebar.

Friday, January 20, 2012

IRS e-file – When Will I Get My Refund (2012)?

If you are wondering when you can expect to receive your tax refund from the IRS, they have a publication where you can look this information up. If you used IRS e-file, the information is listed in Publication 2043 for 2012. For people who efile, this publication is printed in both English and Spanish.

I copied a portion of the table below which shows when your federal tax refund should be deposited in your bank account (by direct deposit), or when your check would be mailed if you e-filed and your refund was accepted within certain dates.

IRS accepts your return
(by 11:00 am) between…
Direct Deposit
Paper Check
Jan 17 and Jan 18, 2012 Jan 25, 2012 Jan 27, 2012
Jan 19 and Jan 25, 2012 Feb 1, 2012 Feb 3, 2012
Jan 26 and Feb 1, 2012   Feb 8, 2012 Feb 10, 2012
Feb 2 and Feb 8, 2012 Feb 15, 2012    Feb 17, 2012
Feb 9 and Feb 15, 2012 Feb 22, 2012 Feb 24, 2012
Feb 16 and Feb 22, 2012 Feb 29, 2012 Mar 2, 2012
Feb 23 and Feb 29, 2012 Mar 7, 2012 Mar 9, 2012
Mar 1 and Mar 7, 2012 Mar 14, 2012 Mar 16, 2012
Mar 8 and Mar 14, 2012 Mar 21, 2012 Mar 23, 2012
Mar 15 and Mar 21, 2012 Mar 28, 2012 Mar 30, 2012
Mar 22 and Mar 28, 2012 Apr 4, 2012 Apr 6, 2012
Mar 29 and Apr 4, 2012 Apr 11, 2012 Apr 13, 2012
Apr 5 and Apr 11, 2012 Apr 18, 2012 Apr 20, 2012
Apr 12 and Apr 18, 2012 Apr 25, 2012 Apr 27, 2012
Apr 19 and Apr 25, 2012 May 2, 2012 May 4, 2012
Apr 26 and May 2, 2012 May 9, 2012 May 11, 2012

While it may be interesting information to have, this is the federal government that we are talking about. You can also check the status of your income tax refund using this link. (And of course, en Español: ¿Dónde está mi reembolso?) You will need to enter your social security number, filing status, and refund amount to see your refund status.

I've heard some anecdotal stories about the IRS taking a lot longer to process refunds in 2011, so I would take the information with a grain of salt. I will be curious how the IRS does this time around.

NOTE: Please see the update for 2013: When Will I Get My 2013 Tax Refund?


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Discover Card 2012 Cashback Bonus Categories

Discover Card offers a 5% cashback bonus on a "seasonally rotating" list of spending categories. For the 2012, these bonus categories are as follows:

Q1 2012: Gas Stations, Museums, Movies
Q2 2012: Restaurants, Movies
Q3 2012: Gas, Movies, Theme Parks
Q4 2012: Department Stores, Electronics Stores, Toy Stores, Movies

I noticed that "movies" occurs in every one of seasonal lists, so you can conclude that you should always use your Discover card if you are at the movies.

Discover it™ Card

It is also worth mentioning that Discover Card is currently offering a deal on balance transfers. If you apply for a new card (see link), Discover is will give you an introductory 0% APR for 12 months from date of first transfer, for transfers that post to your account by July 10, 2012 AND there is no transfer fee. It seems that you need to open a new account to get the $0 balance transfer fee. I have an existing Discover Card account, and although they still offer 0% APR on balance transfers, they charge 5% with a $10 minimum for account transfers.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Citi Dividend Card Q1 2012 Categories

I had written before that I have a Citibank Dividend MasterCard. One of the benefits of this card is that it offers 5% cash back on rotating categories of merchants. The main problem I have with this arrangement is that I always forget which categories are currently offering 5% cash back when I am at the store. As a result, I often miss out on the bonus dividend dollars. In order to help me remember, I have decided to post the categories which change every three months here.

For Q1 2012, the categories are:
  • Health care - doctor's visits, eyeglasses medicine, etc.
  • Fitness clubs - memberships and more
  • Utilities - gas, electric, wireless services, cable, etc.

Note that "Q1 2012" means from January 1 - March 31, 2012. Also note that even if you have a Citi Dividend Card, the enrollment is not automatic. You have to login and sign up for this offer at the Citibank website.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Financial Spread Betting

In the United Kingdom, a type of financial trading called "spread betting" is available to investors. Spread betting can be used as a derivatives investment that allows a trader to cash in on the price movements of many financial markets, such as indices, shares, currencies, commodities and more.

Spread bets can be used to speculate on price movements regardless of whether the general market is rising or falling. If you go long (buy), profits rise in line with any increase in that price. If you go short (sell), profits will rise in line with any fall. Similarly, if you go long on the price and the underlying stock price falls, you will lose money.

In order to participate in financial spread betting, you must first open a margin account with a broker such as City Index. When you place a trade, you are required to deposit a small percentage of the full value of your position. The potential for both profits and losses from an initial investment is significantly higher than in traditional trading. The required margin is typically between 1% and 10% of the total value of your position, depending on the market. City Index offers prices on over 12,000 spread betting markets.

In spread betting, two prices are quoted for all spread bets – a buy price (the price at which you can go long if you expect the underlying market to rise) and a sell price (the price at which you can go short if you expect the underlying market price to fall). The difference between the "buy" price and the "sell" price is known as the spread.

A graphic from the City Index website gives additional insight into the spread.

An additional benefit of spread betting is that profits made in spread betting are exempt from UK Capital Gains Tax. This automatically saves you a large percentage of your profits that you would normally have to pay if you were to trade the underlying markets. As spread betting is a derivatives product, it is also exempt from UK stamp duty. Tax laws are subject to change and depend on individual circumstances.

Lastly, as with any leveraged derivative investment, you have the potential to lose more money than you invest. Do not invest with money that you cannot afford to lose, and consult a financial advisor if you are unsure if financial spread betting is suitable to you.

Disclaimer: This material is for general information only. It is not intended as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any investment. PFStock does not provide investment advice. This post is sponsored by City Index.