By Josh March 4, 2018 but will be maintained periodically
[Caution: Many of the links below are referral links. They will not cost you anything extra, but I may earn some commission ($$ or travel points) if you click them and sign up for the products that I use and love!]
JPMorgan Chase – I signed up in November 2016 and was awarded a $300 bonus for opening a Chase Total Checking account. I avoided monthly fees by maintaining at least $1500 daily balance. I also signed up recently for a Chase Business Checking account for my side hustle, to keep my business and personal finances separate. I got a free $300 for that, as well.
Charles Schwab High-Yield Checking: I signed up in February 2018 to receive a $100 bonus. This required me to also open a Charles Schwab brokerage account, with a minimum of $1,000 balance. The AWESOME thing about Charles Schwab bank is they refund ALL ATM FEES, including FOREIGN ATMs, which makes this a must-have for world travelers. The account also pays 0.20% interest, which is very high for a checking account.
Fifth-Third Bank: I signed up in February 2018 to receive a $200 bonus for depositing $500 for a minimum of 60 days. I actually put $1500 into the account to avoid an $11/month fee. Fifth-Third is based in the Midwest, but they have a lot of branches here in Southwest Florida, so it made sense for me to open an account with them for the benefit of their brick & mortar locations. I also had my car loan with them in August 2017-November 2017, so I already had my online account set up with them, which made for a very easy sign-up.
Hancock Whitney Bank (Obscure): I signed up in January 2018 to earn a $300 bonus on a $250 minimum account balance. The offer required using the account’s debit card at least 5 times, so I deposited a total of $300 to allow for up to $50 worth of spending on the debit card. I signed up online when I thought my job was going to be transferred to Tallahassee (400 miles away), but I recently found they have branches as far south as Sarasota, so closer to 75 miles away from me. I’ll still likely close this account in the fall, since my job did NOT get moved to Tallahassee, and I actually took a new job in May 2018 closer to home.
Chase Sapphire Reserve (This card has a $450 annual fee, but many people find it is more than worth it, based on the benefits). Don’t let the $450 annual fee scare you, since it offers an annual $300 travel credit that offsets 2/3 of that fee. Other benefits include Priority Pass Select membership that allows you to use over 1000 airport lounges around the world, free Global Entry or TSA Pre-check ($100 or $85 value), primary rental car insurance, excellent travel insurance and price protection coverage that come with all Visa Infinite cards. Earns Ultimate Rewards that are worth 1.5c each in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal. 3x earning on Travel and Dining expenses, with 1x on everything else.
Chase Freedom – no annual fee card that earns 5% cashback on a difference spending category every quarter, up to $1,500 per quarter ($75 cashback).
Chase Freedom Unlimited – no annual fee card that earns 1.5% cashback on every purchase, every time. This is a great card to use for any spending that is not covered by a bonus category on another card. Pair this card with a Chase Sapphire (Preferred or Reserve) to make the cashback value worth more (1.25x or 1.5x).
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier – This card ($99 annual fee) is also from Chase, and earns Rapid Rewards for free flights on Southwest Airlines. The sign-up bonus changes throughout the year, from a low of 40,000 points to 60,000 points. They also have a Plus card and a business version, and some people sign up for 2 cards back-to-back to earn the minimum of 110,000 points required for the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows a companion to fly FREE (only pay September 11th security fee of $5.60 each way) for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earn the Companion Pass, AND ALL OF THE NEXT YEAR! Woo hoo free flights!
Starwood Preferred Guest by American Express – This card and hotel program may seem obscure at first, but the program is excellent! Starwood and Marriott are completing a merger soon, which converts all Starpoints into 3 Marriott Reward points, and you can redeem these points at over 10,000 hotels worldwide. In addition, points are transferrable to several airline programs at attractive rates, including a bonus of 5,000 points when you transfer in increments of 20,000. There’s currently an excellent redemption offer through Marriott where you can purchase a 7-night stay and earn 120,000 or 132,000 airline points from several of your choosing, but those offers are getting more expensive on August 1, 2018.
Hyatt card: The main perk of this credit card is that for an annual fee of $75, you get a free night certificate, good for any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel. For example, you could get one night at the Hyatt Regency Dusseldorf (in Germany), that has nightly rates up to $1,598, or $605/night on average. The card also comes with a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points, which could be used for up to 8 nights at a 5,000/night Hyatt hotel, but a more common redemption would be 2 nights at 20,000 points each. You can get this card AFTER 5/24 status with Chase.
IHG Card: IHG or InterContinental Hotels Group is a large chain that includes Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, InterContinental, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, Even, avid, and Kimpton, among others. The major pluses on this card are the ability to get it AFTER 5/24 status with Chase, and a free night certificate for any property in exchange for the $89 annual fee. Also comes with Platinum Elite benefits as long as you hold the card.
Vanguard – because most of the funds you want to buy are Vanguard funds anyway. Why pay some middle-man when you can invest directly with them? I’m all about the VTSAX (Total stock market index fund – Admiral Shares) with 0.04% fees.
Betterment – I used Betterment for a few years while I was slowly building up my account balances and wanted their globally-diversified set of 12 index funds, balanced however you choose between stocks and bonds (I did 90/10). But once I decided to take a more active role in my investments, it didn’t make sense to pay 0.25% to Betterment when I could get the same funds for 84% lower fees with Vanguard. But it’s a great place for beginners!
Charles Schwab – One of the requirements of my High Yield Checking account with Schwab was that I set up a brokerage account with a minimum of $1000. Trading fees are $4.95, which is better than other brokerages I have used in the past (almost a decade ago, though).
Fidelity – I just signed up for this one this week, for a $200 bonus offer. Fidelity, Schwab and Vanguard are the three titans of the low-cost investing world. Now I have some money with all 3.