Employee or Student Discounts for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile

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celldiscount

Updated 2019. Each of the four major cell phone providers offer discounts for certain large groups, even applied to an existing personal line. You could qualify through your employer, educational institution, or even affiliation with certain organizations like AAA or credit unions. Many also have discounts for military and/or first responders. So grab your work or school-affiliated e-mails, check out these links, and find out what discounts are available to you.

You may still find a better deal with a lesser-known prepaid or MVNO plan (especially if you don’t need data), but sometimes a major carrier with a discount can be very competitive.

AT&T Wireless. AT&T Signature Program

It’s easy to find out if you’re eligible for savings for your qualified AT&T wireless service through your employer, school, or other association. Just enter and submit your work or school email address and we’ll show you whether you qualify for applicable discounts and benefits on wireless services, devices and more.

Don’t have a work or school email? If you don’t have a work or school email, bring your student or employee ID to an AT&T store to find out if you’re eligible for the AT&T Signature Program.

Verizon Wireless. Employee Discount Program

We offer great monthly discounts for corporate, government and education employees, as well as valued service members and veterans. If your organization has an agreement with us, you may be eligible. Sign in below to register for a new discount or renew an existing discount.

T-Mobile. In 2014, T-Mobile changed their corporate discount program for consumer lines. Existing corporate discounts were mostly left grandfathered in. The T-Mobile Advantage Program now gives a $25 gift card per device instead. If you have a work phone directly paid for by your employer, you may qualify for Business Family Discounts. Keep in mind that T-Mobile also has special discounted plans for the military and those age 55+. The ability to stack discounts varies.

The T-Mobile Advantage™ Program lets you receive additional benefits or rewards based on your affiliation with your military branch of service, company, organization, or government agency. Check your organization’s eligibility.

If you have a company-provided business line with T-Mobile, you can now add your family to your account and save up to 50% off the first two lines on a family plan. Already have your family on a Simple Choice plan or T-Mobile ONE? You can get in on the BFD too!

Sprint. Sprint Works Program.

The Sprint Works? Program extends exclusive savings and special offers to employees, students and members of organizations. Please complete the form to see if you qualify.

LoveMyCreditUnion.org also offers credit union members Sprint monthly plan discounts and waived activation and upgrade fees. I’m not sure how these would stack with the Sprint Unlimited Kickstart $25/month plan.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Datenfluss.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Business Idea: On-Demand Garage Rental + DIY Car Repair Lessons

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The NY Times has a new article They Supply the Garage, You Bring the Elbow Grease where you rent space hourly or daily for DIY car repairs. The article referenced GarageTime as a place to search for a residential or commercial garage space in your area. Most commercial spaces include lifts, while others are essentially listing their large driveway with an electrical connection and perhaps an air compressor. Be prepared to sign a liability waiver.

My related business idea is to use the space to teach people basic car repair skills like how to change your oil, replace brake pads, replace headlights, repair dents, or perform common after-market modifications like LED headlight swaps. YouTube has tons of how-to content, but I think there is still a market for someone to be walked through the process the first time. For example, someone could list their space and also upcharge for some lessons. The next time, the customer could just do it themselves.

I’m a bit surprised at the timing of this article, as isn’t the stereotypical Millennial is supposed to just stare at their phones and not do anything dirty with their hands? I also keep hearing that cars are becoming more and more like computers on wheels. I suppose it’s a nice little reminder that DIY is still alive, and some people still like to save a few bucks and do things for themselves.

You don’t even need a garage for many basic maintenance tasks that can save you money. For example, here’s a Youtube video I found the other day that shows you how easy it is to change both the engine air filter and cabin air filter on my 2015 Toyota Sienna. Your dealership shop will charge you at least $100 an hour for this knowledge. You’ll also probably be charged more than the $12 for the cabin air filter and $11 for the engine air filter that Amazon is asking. (These seem to have good reviews, but OEM parts are also available online.)

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Datenfluss.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

The Power of Being Open-Minded About Cutting Your Household Expenses

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Here’s the short version of this depressing WSJ article Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class (paywall?). Household incomes have gone nowhere. Meanwhile, housing prices are up, healthcare costs are up, and college tuition has skyrocketed. Ouch. However, you can’t control that things are worse for you than if you lived in another time period. You can only control your response, and that is why I try to focus on actionable ideas instead of dwelling on “the way it should be”.

“Make more money” advice is hard to pin down. Of course I want everyone to have a high income. I like the idea of spending money on improving your marketable skills, “investing in your yourself”. However, everyone has a different combination of what they are good at, what they enjoy, and what others will pay them to do:

caddell620

Meanwhile, I find that spending advice applies much more broadly. My most general spending advice is that you need to expand what you think is an option. Most people hang out with people around their own income level, look around, and then spend the same money on the same things. The trick is that net worth shoots up when you earn a good income, but spend like someone who earns about 1/2 or 2/3rds of what you make. It may not feel natural, but you have to trick yourself into picking from a wider menu of options. Here are some quick examples.

  • Housing. You could buy a 4,000 sf house with a 3-car garage. A family of four could live in a 1,000 sf apartment (mine did). You could share an apartment with roommates. You could rent a room inside a large house. You could buy a duplex and live in one side, rent the other. You could buy a 4-plex and live in one unit and rent out the rest.
  • Transportation. You could lease a $60,000 SUV and pay about $8,000 year in lease payments – after 3 years and $24,000, you’d have to start all over again. Alternatively, you could buy an entire car for $8,000 and own it for another 10 years. You could downsize from a 2-car to a 1-car household. Many urban residents don’t own a car at all.
  • Food. A single person could eat out at every meal, never touch their stove, and easily spend $1,000 or more per month on food and alcohol. A family of four can cook all meals at home and spend under $600 a month. These days, food has become the ultimate convenience item, but it’ll cost you.

I can be hard to stay open-minded about your expenses. In fact, many quickly become defensive. You’ll often hear a straw-man argument like “I don’t want to sit around sorting coupons, eating lentils every meal, or living in poverty”. I wonder if they have seriously considered all of the options above.

You don’t have to pick the cheapest option in every category. You probably know someone in an expensive house but drives a 20-year-old Toyota. I know someone who makes over $250,000 a year but rents a cheap, single room in a large house (while eating out every night). I know someone who owns a beautiful beachfront house, but AirBNBs the majority of it.

I’ve been looking for over 15 years, and there is no single path to financial independence or early retirement. Even if you don’t want to embrace frugality as the cure for everything, the cold reality is that it’s hard to live at life true to yourself unless you first reach at least $10,000 in savings to ride out the bumps.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Datenfluss.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

The Status Spending Test: Two Simple Questions About Your Car and Home

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I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of backlash against the “latte factor”. I agree buying a Starbucks latte every day will not directly lead to poverty, and forgoing it will not make you independently wealthy. However, sometimes a concrete example is more powerful than a vague position like “just prioritize your spending” (which I believe, but sort of like “spend less than you earn”).

Instead of the small stuff, I prefer to start with the biggest expenses and work down from there. You may consider your mortgage and car payments to be a “fixed” expense, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be reduced. Tom Welsh of Humble Dollar has a post Pay to Play which includes a very simple test to see if you are spending an excessive amount on your social status, possibly at the expense of your future basic needs. No calculator required. No budgets.

How can we tell if we’re engaging in heavy social spending? Two simple tests can help you analyze your own degree of social spending.

Test No. 1: Did you pay $57,000 or more for your car – a 50%- premium to the average $38,000 new car price?

Test No. 2: How many rooms in your home are used by people every single day? Divide that number by the total number of rooms in your home. Is it 50% or less?

My current vehicle is a 2015 Toyota Sienna, bought used for well under even the average number. It creates zero excitement and is little more than a reliable appliance, but I have come to love it (and its sweet sliding doors) for what it is. We are a family of 5 inside a 2,000 sf house, and every single room is definitely used every single day, often by multiple people at the same time. We prioritized room, safety, and reliability in the car. We prioritized location with the house, with minimal commute time, while also trying to make it smaller (and cheaper) but still allowing for a home office.

Now, a luxury car and a big house may be your prioritized expenses and well within your means. Which is great. But if it isn’t, you may have found something to cut back on that is much more powerful than skipping the Starbucks. Moving is a huge pain, but it’s a one-time change to which you quickly adjust, while potentially improving your overall financial picture for the rest of your life.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Datenfluss.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Mint Mobile B3G3 Promo: 6 Months of Unlimited Talk, Text, 8 GB Data For $60 Total ($10 Per Month)

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Mint Mobile is how I keep my cell phone costs low. They use the T-Mobile network, which means if you have a compatible phone switching just involves swapping in a new SIM card. It works just fine in my iPhone X. I am nearing the end of my first full year (I bought a full year upfront) and I plan on renewing since it is only $15 a month at my lower tier.

They just started a limited-time “B3G3” promo where if you buy 3 months of service, you get another 3 months free. It’s valid on their $20/month tier with Unlimited Talk, Text, 8 GB of LTE Data per month. That means you’ll pay $60 upfront and get 6 full months of service to try them out at $10 per month.

New activation required. Must be activated within 45 days. Taxes and fees apply. 3 months equals 90 days.

They also offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment at all. Here is my Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review. As long as the transfer works, you have 6 months at only $10 a month to see if you want to keep them. Be sure to use their phone compatibility checker first to see if you can bring your current phone over and just put in the Mint Mobile SIM card.

In my opinion, the two best cell phone deals right now are this one and the ending-soon Sprint Kickstart $25/month for Barebones Unlimited Data.

Also see:

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Sprint Unlimited Kickstart: Unlimited Talk, Text, Data For $25/Month – Offer Expires September 5th

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Update late July 2019: Sprint/T-Mobile Merger approved. T-Mobile and Sprint have been doing the merger dance since April 2018, which meant Sprint was still highly incentivized to make their subscriber numbers as high as possible. Around July 26th, the U.S. Justice Department finally gave official approval the merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. In my opinion, that means that this Sprint promo will not last much longer.

Sprint ended their “Free Year” promo earlier this year, most likely never to be seen again. Sprint has now set a new expiration date of September 5th on their Unlimited Kickstart promotion that includes unlimited talk/text/data for $25 per month, per line. I don’t think that is a coincidence. If you are interested in securing what I call “barebones unlimited data” for $25 a month, time is running out.

Pros of Kickstart Unlimited:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data for $25 a month, per line.
  • You can bring over any compatible phone, or buy one from Sprint. Use their phone IMEI/MEID checker.
  • You can come over from ANY outside provider, Verizon/AT&T/T-Mobile or even another cheap MVNO.
  • No expiration date. Price will not go up after a year.
  • No annual contracts.
  • No family plan or minimum number of lines required.

Cons of Kickstart Unlimited:

  • New customers only.
  • Online orders only. You won’t see this offer in stores.
  • No mobile hotspot.
  • Unlimited video in standard definition. Video streams up to 480p, music up to 500 Kbps, gaming up to 2 Mbps.
  • Data deprioritization during congestion.
  • Autopay required.

Sprint Unlimited Kickstart is best for those that want to lock in unlimited data direct from a major provider at a low $25/month price. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile Unlimited may have slightly better networks but they are also significantly more expensive.

I am not a huge data user, but it was still nice when I was on Sprint Unlimited. I could stream videos without worry and switched all my settings to “use cellular data whenever the heck you want!” instead of having to wait to sync or download things like podcasts over WiFi.

Mint Mobile is another low-cost competitor with data caps. They are an MVNO that runs on the T-Mobile GSM network. You can get:

The thing about Mint Mobile is that you have to “buy in bulk”. Initially you have to buy at least 3 months upfront, and then after that you have to buy 12 months at a time to get their lowest price. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. They do offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Datenfluss.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Which Households Spend More, Less, or Exactly What They Earn? Breakdown by Income Level

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In the post How Well Do Americans Balance Income and Spending? by the St. Louis Fed, they examine the breakdown of household spending as compared to income.

In terms of the big picture, 55% of US households were net savers (earned more than they spent), 30% broke even, and 15% ran an income deficit (earned less than they spent). However, that’s everyone across all income levels, and thanksfully they looked deeper in the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances and broke it down further by income quartile.

It is not surprising that lower income households overall have a harder time spending less than they earn. Instead, I would consider these two observations:

Out of the households in the bottom income quartile earning less than $27,000 per year, roughly 75% of them manage to break even and/or save money each year. This is not to say that households that are earning close to the poverty line ($26k for a family of four) are not struggling. However, I think a family that is “just getting by” on a $100,000 income would appreciate their situation more if they know that so many $26k income families are breaking even at this level, with a third of them even managing a sur.

Out of the households in the top income quartile earning over $98,000 per year, roughly 25% manage to save nothing or go into debt at the end of each year. Yes, most households with a six-figure income are saving some money. But a quarter of them aren’t saving anything!

I have always been struck by the huge variation in spending by the same number of humans in the same city. The family earning $50,000 finds a way to spend $50,000. The family earning $250,000 finds a way to spend $250,000. If you have a relatively high income, that is a huge opportunity. Don’t waste it. If you create a budget sur and invest it in productive assets, one day those assets will do the “work” to make money instead of you.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Datenfluss.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Lesser-Known Cheap Talk & Text Only Cell Phone Plans on Every Network – From $1 a Month

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phones7Updated 2019. Cell phone bills are getting cheaper than ever. Have you checked prices recently? All of the major networks sell wholesale minutes to MVNOs (Mobile Network Virtual Operators), which they in turn sell at a significant discount to individuals. If you choose to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), every MVNO will have a form where you can check compatibility via identification number (IMEI or MEID).

This post includes light and unlimited talk & text only plans – no data (although some plans include some anyway). Here are the cheapest plans with unlimited talk & text and 2+ GB LTE data. A minimalist plan is good for people who only want to make short calls, while unlimited talk and text plans allow you drop that landline completely for under $18 a month. After looking through what must have been over 100 MVNOs, here are the cheapest options by network below (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint).

T-Mobile NetworkT-Mobile Network Color: Hot Pink

  • Light Barebones Usage. Lycamobile has a barebones Pay As You Go plan where you just buy a SIM and there is a minimum top-up of $10. The rate is a flat 5 cents a minute for talk, and 12 cents per text. You must have some sort of activity every 90 days to maintain your service (make a phone call, send a text). If you only used 200 minutes a year, that would be under $1 per month ($10 a year).
  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Mint Mobile has a $15 a month plan with unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB of LTE data. You even get slower 2G data speeds if you exceed your LTE allotment. Their intro offer is 3 months at $15 per month. After that, you’ll have to buy 12 months of airtime upfront to get the $15 per month price. They offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making the multi-month commitment. If you don’t want that 3 GB of data, you can go with Republic Wireless and get unlimited talk and text with zero data for $15 a month with no bulk requirement.

I recently switched to Mint Mobile myself – see my Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review for tips based on my experiences.

Sprint NetworkSprint Network Color: Yellow

  • Light Barebones Usage. Tello Mobile has a Pay As You Go plan where there is a minimum top-up of $10. The rate is a flat 3 cents a minute for talk, and 1 cent per text. You must have some sort of activity every 90 days to maintain your service (make a phone call, send a text). If you used 400 minutes a year, that would be $1 per month ($12 a year).
  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Tello Mobile also has an unlimited talk, text, and no data for $11 a month. You need to choose a custom plan to find this option. You can get the same plan with 1 GB of data for $14 per month. I will also mention that Republic Wireless has $15 a month plan for unlimited talk and text on the Sprint Network, but you can’t bring any used Sprint device over – you must buy a specially-modified phone.

Sprint “Secret” Offer: Sprint offers a “barebones” but still unlimited talk, text, and unlimited data for $25/month via their Sprint Kickstart plan that they don’t really promote. You can bring your own compatible phone (check with them) or buy one.

AT&T NetworkAT&T Network Color: Blue

  • Light Barebones Usage. H2O Wireless has a Pay As You Go plan where you can buy a $10 card that lasts 90 days. The rate is a flat 5 cents a minute for talk, and 5 cents per text. You must buy another card after it expires in 90 days. This means you could use 800 minutes a year for $3.33 per month ($40 per year).
  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Red Pocket Mobile via eBay offers unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB data for $17.08 a month when you pay for 12 months upfront ($205 for one year) with a free SIM included in the kit. You can choose the AT&T network when you sign up.

Verizon NetworkVerizon Network Color: Red

  • Light Barebones Usage. PagePlus Cellular has a Pay As You Go plan where you can buy a $10 card that lasts 120 days. The rate is a flat 6 cents a minute for talk, and 5 cents per text. You must buy another card after it expires in 120 days. This means you could use 500 minutes a year for $2.50 per month ($30 per year). PagePlus now accepts 4G smartphones.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Red Pocket Mobile via eBay offers unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB data for $17.08 a month when you pay for 12 months upfront ($205 for one year) with a free SIM included in the kit. You can choose the Verizon network when you sign up.

Here are the cheapest plans with unlimited talk & text and 2+ GB LTE data.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Datenfluss.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Lesser-Known Cheap Data Cell Phone Plans on Every Network (3 GB from $15/Month, 5 GB from $20/Month)

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phones7Updated 2019. Cell phone bills are getting cheaper than ever. Have you checked prices recently? All of the major networks sell wholesale minutes to MVNOs (Mobile Network Virtual Operators), which they in turn sell at a significant discount to individuals. If you choose to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), every MVNO will have a form where you can check compatibility via identification number (IMEI or MEID).

This list includes unlimited talk and text plans with at least 2 GB and 5 GB of 4G LTE data. The average data user used 3 GB of data per month in 2017. If you don’t need data, here are the lesser-known cheapest talk and text only cell plans. Many of these advertise “unlimited data”, which means they throttle speeds down the 128 kbps (2G) after your LTE allotment runs out. After looking through what must have been over 100 MVNOs, here are the cheapest options by network below (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint).

T-Mobile NetworkT-Mobile Network Color: Hot Pink

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 3 GB LTE Data. Mint Mobile has an unlimited talk, text, and 3 GB LTE data plan from $15 per month. Their intro offer is 3 months at $15 per month. After that, you’ll have to buy 12 months of airtime upfront to get the $15 per month price. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. They offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 8 GB LTE Data. Mint Mobile also has a $20 a month plan with unlimited talk, text, and 8 GB of LTE data. Their intro offer is 3 months at $20 per month. After that, you’ll have to buy 12 months of airtime upfront to get the $20 per month price. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. They offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment.

Note: I recently switched to Mint Mobile in my own phone. Please see my Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review for tips based on my experiences.

Sprint NetworkSprint Network Color: Yellow

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 2 GB LTE Data. Tello Mobile has an unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB data plan for $14 a month. You don’t need to buy a year upfront. You need to choose a custom plan to find this option. Their 1 GB plan is only $14 per month. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 5 GB LTE Data. Red Pocket Mobile via eBay offers unlimited talk, text, and 5 GB data for $20 a month when you pay for 12 months upfront ($240 for one year) with a free SIM included in the kit. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. You can choose the Sprint network when you sign up.

Sprint “Secret” Offer: Sprint offers a “barebones” but still unlimited talk, text, and unlimited data for $25/month via their Sprint Kickstart plan that they don’t really promote. You can bring your own compatible phone (check with them) or buy one.

AT&T NetworkAT&T Network Color: Blue

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 5 GB LTE Data. Red Pocket Mobile via eBay offers unlimited talk, text, and 5 GB data for $20 a month when you pay for 12 months upfront ($240 for one year) with a free SIM included in the kit. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. You can choose the AT&T network when you sign up.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 3 GB LTE Data. If you prefer a month-to-month plan (no full year commitment), Straight Talk Wireless has an unlimited talk and text plan with 3 GB data for $34 per month with auto-refill (every 30 days). $35 per 30 days without auto-refill.

Verizon NetworkVerizon Network Color: Red

  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 5 GB LTE Data. Red Pocket Mobile via eBay offers unlimited talk, text, and 5 GB data for $20 a month when you pay for 12 months upfront ($240 for one year) with a free SIM included in the kit. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. You can choose the Verizon network when you sign up.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 5 GB LTE Data. If you prefer a month-to-month plan (no full year commitment), Total Wireless has an unlimited talk and text plan with 5 GB data for $33.20 per month with auto-refill (every 30 days). $35 per 30 days without auto-refill.

If you don’t need data, here are the lesser-known cheapest talk and text only cell plans.

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My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Datenfluss.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Which Airline Miles Are Easiest To Redeem For Economy Awards? 2019

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Cashing in your frequent flier miles for a free flight can be hit or miss, especially around a holiday. Which airlines are the most generous with making seats available? Each year, consulting firm IdeaWorks tries to run a fair comparison of all the major airlines to keep them honest. This WSJ article (paywall?) discusses their process:

In March, IdeaWorks searched for two award seats together on various travel dates between June and October on each airline’s busiest routes. Seats have to be available at the airline’s lowest everyday price—typically 25,000 miles round trip for a domestic coach ticket. The company made nearly 4,000 queries.

Below are the rankings of the 6 major US airlines. It is important to remember that this ranking focuses on domestic economy tickets only (no business class or international flights). The article does also rank international airlines on availability from a related metric.

For 2019, the most improved airline is United Airlines, while the worst decline goes to Delta. Not surprisingly, United claims this was totally on purpose because that’s what customers want and they are all about that… Meanwhile Delta suggested that the change was simply a result of more demand because their program is so popular. Shrug.

If you fly a lot on United, you can get significantly expanded award availability with the Chase United Explorer card. Add in the free checked bag for you and a companion, and the perks can easily offset the annual fee.

Southwest and JetBlue remain on top at close to 100% availability, but that is a bit misleading since both of their points are revenue-linked with no blackout dates. For example, 25,000 Southwest points will buy you basically any “Wanna Get Away” ticket that costs up to about $375. So the results are really just saying that Southwest’s busiest routes almost always have a flight that costs under ~$375. JetBlue is only 98% because some of their flights are just over the price threshold. I wonder if they included flights to Hawaii, now that Southwest flies there?

I have come to appreciate the simplicity of Southwest’s structure, especially now that I primarily shop for multiple economy tickets. For example, you can reliably value their credit card bonuses of 40,000 points = $600 in Wanna Get Away airfare, and 80,000 points = $1,200 of Wanna Get Away airfare. I can buy five seats on the same flight, no problem. Others prefer the traditional, more complex structure because it offered the skilled person the chance to get outsized value, like a $3,000 ticket for 50,000 points.

Airlines make a huge percentage of their revenue from selling these airline miles, which they create out of thin air both for actual flying and specifically for credit card users. This also means they have an incentive to create “miles inflation” such that each mile is worth less and less over time. I like this annual WSJ survey because it shows that someone is paying attention and calling them out publicly, at least on seat availability.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Datenfluss.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Keep Your Hilton Honors Points From Expiring with a $1 Amazon Purchase

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hiltonhonors0Updated with alternative method. My relative lack of travel these days means that I am constantly keeping miles and points from expiring. Here’s the official policy of Hilton Honors point expiration:

Hilton Honors Points do not expire as long as Members remain active in the program. To keep an account active, Members can stay at one of Hilton’s hotels, or earn or redeem Hilton Honors Points within 12 months. [For Hilton Honors credit card holders, Hilton Honors Points will not expire as long as the Member is a cardholder in good standing.]

You need to earn or spend Hilton points every 12 months, which is on the short side. My usual strategy is to use Hilton Honors Dining to earn a few points at my neighborhood burger joint, but I was running short on time. I found that you can redeem Hilton points at Amazon through their Shop with Points program. The redemption ratio is 500 Hilton Honors points = $1 on Amazon.

First, link your Hilton Honors account to Amazon.

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Next simply use as little as 5 Hilton Honors points to offset $0.01 of any purchase. If you were planing on buying something for $25, just pay for $0.01 with Hilton points, and $24.99 on your credit card. You used to be able to simply buy a $1 Amazon gift code for 500 points and call it a day, but that is no longer an option. If you have Amazon Prime and no other needs, you can still buy one of the following items that cost only $1 or less:

Checkout and choose to pay with Hilton Points, where you can specify to only use as little as 5 points ($0.01). You would want to make sure that it is in stock, so they charge you immediately.

Check for the activity to show up in your Hilton.com account the same day as it is shipped:

az_hilton2

Bottom line. If you have Hilton points expiring soon, you can redeem as little as 5 Hilton points for $0.01 off any Amazon purchase and create qualifying activity that posts the same day. If you have Amazon Prime, I share some $1 ideas. Hilton points are more valuable when redeemed for a free hotel night, but in this case it can be worth sacrificing a few to keep the rest alive and active.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Datenfluss.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Nomadland Book: What Really Happens When You Don’t Save Enough For Retirement?

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I’m reading Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. Essentially, it’s the story what happens to a group of people when their plans for retirement fall apart. Here’s the book blurb:

From the beet fields of North Dakota to the campgrounds of California to Amazon’s CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older adults. These invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in RVs and modified vans, forming a growing community of nomads.

You’ll probably retire earlier than you expect. Consider this EBRI chart showing the big difference between when workers expect they will retire (dark blue) and when people actually retired (light blue). One-third (34%) of all workers ended up “retired” by the time they reached 60, but the majority didn’t see it coming (which I assume means it was mostly involuntary).

Going through the book, here is a rough breakdown of the stages that the people went through:

Plan A: Ideal retirement. You have plenty of savings and income in retirement. I’m all set with a rock-solid pension, Social Security, and a big pile of investments.

Plan B: Make everything more modest. I don’t have as much as I’d hoped. Maybe I don’t need that beach condo? Maybe I’ll move into a smaller primary house. It’ll be easier to clean. I’ll just have to take less vacations. No problem.

Plan C: Work longer. Hmm, not still enough. That’s okay, I’ll just keep my job a little longer. I have lots of valuable work experience. I’m still healthy.

Plan D: Find any job. I’ve been laid off, and now I’ll have to find something that is full-time and offers benefits. The easiest targets are retail: Walmart, Home Depot, McDonald’s.

Plan E: REALLY cut expenses. My house is going into foreclosure. I have to sell all my other assets, including whatever life insurance policies, 401k plans, jewelry, and anything else of value that I have accumulated.

Plan F: Ask for assistance from extended family or friends. I can’t find any steady work that pays the bills (or may no longer be healthy enough to do so). I need to find cheaper living arrangements, immediately. I might crash with my children or other family/friend.

This corresponds well with this EBRI survey that I found afterward:

What happens if none of this works? That’s the common thread through many of the people profiled in this book. Not only did Plan A fail, but their backup plans also failed. Many had a late divorce. Many lost their high-paying jobs in their 50s, when they were planning to work until 70. Others had medical issues that racked up huge bills. They worked retail for a while, but it never added up to a decent full-time income. There just aren’t as many jobs for someone in their 60s and 70s. They lived with their children for while, but their kids are struggling as well.

One solution that some came up with in this book with is to change “homeless” to simply “houseless”. You buy a big van or small RV for well under $10,000 and you live in it. As long as you can find a place to park it, you’ve just cut your housing cost down drastically. People figure out to live on $500 a month. You can also now travel for temporary work – Amazon warehouse picker, campground manager, agricultural farm worker. As more and more people do this, they have formed communities and annual gatherings to support each other.

The book has me switching between two feelings: empathy for what brought them to this place, and curiosity about the mechanics of their day-to-day life as modern-day nomads. For now, one big takeaway is that people can and do fall through the cracks. The folks in this book are still taking action and working to survive and hopefully once again thrive.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Datenfluss.info is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

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