American Airlines AAdvantage Citi Platinum Mastercard for Free Check on Baggage

American Airlines AAdvantage credit card with Citi gives you the first checked bag free ($25 value). Also, if you’re on the plane ride, they will try and hand you a brochure with a referral code on there. Use it to apply online and get 10,000 additional bonus miles, than the typical 30,000 they give you upon your first $1,000 purchase in the first 3 months.

I failed to include my referral code, so they just credited me a bonus 10,000 points. I missed out on the two free admiral passes, but I don’t think I would’ve really utilized those anyway.

Also, up to 4 others in your party will get their first checked on baggage for free.

I’m going to use the card to purchase airline tickets. But my regular purchases, since I get 2% cash back, I prefer that over miles.

USAA – Your Checking Account May Be Closed for Business Transaction Use (Part 2)

Part 1 can be found here: USAA Bank Threatening to Close Account Because of Suspected Business Transactions

USAA can’t specify which transactions have been “determined” to be business transactions. It’s serious enough that they want to close my account. Yet, when I ask specifically which transactions are in question, they choose not to provide that information.

Will USAA tell me what the specific transactions are that have been determined as business transactions? Nope.

Fort Buchanan’s Friendly People

Super wonderful, and helpful people on the base at Fort Buchanan. I wish I could tip for the immense help for some of the enlisted. Life saver! There is an air of gratefulness for many of the individuals having the privilege to shop on base.

I’m reminded of the things I love about the military (its people) and the things that were frustrating (bureaucracy).

And with the local tax increasing to 15% (so I’ve heard but can’t confirm), the sense of gratitude will only grow.

Fort Buchanan in Puerto Rico = BLISS

For those of you who have a military ID like me, Fort Buchanan, which is around Bayamon, has tax free EVERYTHING. BX, commissary, food court, furniture store, banking, GAS, library, fitness center, bowling alley, etc. etc. Unfortunately, cars don’t apply to the tax savings, but luckily, Puerto Rico used cars aren’t taxed!!!

There are also children’s activities, DOD school, club activities, theater. I’m pretty sure my kids would be able to participate on the various kids activities they have there.

I’m feeling tons more comfortable knowing I have such a great resource at hand. It makes transitioning so much easier.

My Experience So Far Trying to Rent a House in Dorado, Puerto Rico

Found a place today in “Paseos de Dorado” area without using a “buyer’s” broker by going directly to the “listing” agent’s through http://www.clasificadosonline.com/ (which is like the Craigslist for Puerto Rico). This is for renting specifically.

That definitely pissed off some agents in the area. Very unprofessional some of them, and I don’t mind publicly disclosing my interactions. I ended up going with an “outsider” that wasn’t known to the “regular” agents that listed in the area.

Some of the way the agents interacted reminded me of chickens pecking at each other. Some were more professional than others. One was shockingly horrendous. After my experience, I’m very glad I went direct rather than through an exclusive “buyer’s” agent. It turned out the worst offender was also the one pushing me the hardest to be my “exclusive” buyer’s agent to co-broke on deals.

I went through about 8 different listing agents. I can provide a recap of my experience interacting with these agents to help out future prospects. I don’t want to publicly burn bridges unless I see at least three people comment they’re interested for such publicly embarrassing information 🙂

EXTRA NOTES:
Most were good overall. Probably only two out of the eight I would recommend against. Probably similar % as in California. Maybe a higher sense of desperation due to the crashing housing economy. Emotions are most likely very raw right now for the local residents.

Nevermind, I don’t know about California, since most people list directly on Craigslist without an agent for rentals. It was interesting that I didn’t see a single owner ran listing directly. A litlte strange. If I need to rent out my home in the future for whatever reason, I’m going to just do it myself. . . but I don’t speak Spanish.

ANOTHER COMMENT:
The thing that I saw frequently were postings that were “no longer available.” This sort of “bait and switch” tactic is unethical. If you’re an agent, having attached your reputation to a property, and it’s no longer available?

And then you tell me it has been unavailable for more than a week (probably more based on the posting ID), but YOU KEEP THE POSTING ONLINE anyway??!!!!

One agent had at least four listings that were not available.

How hard is it to delete a posting? UNBELIEVABLE.

FROM THE SAME AGENT
Ok, another story just fresh from today. no need to name names, right?

I have an appointment and texted with the agent to meet at 1:30 PM at Sabanera. Confirmed the meeting 38 minutes prior. 4 minutes prior to the meeting as I’m pulling up to the entrance, the agent’s husband calls me to cancel the meeting last minute. WOW. The agent was driving, so she couldn’t talk to me directly so he says.

And then they the husband blamed me because of some email I sent that they responded to around 40 minutes prior. It’s as though they assume they can unilaterally cancel appointments without notifying the other party of their intent to do so.

I have the text and email to backup this interaction. She wanted to reschedule for the next day. Yeah right.

This is the same agent with serial number of “out of date” listings.

 

THE WORST OF OFFENDERS

Going back to the worst offender. First, for about 20 minutes, she’s trying to guilt trip me because she made “so many calls” and called so many brokers to help me find a property. This was after I told her explicitly that I was going direct through classificadosonline.

She then says that there are some properties that weren’t listed on that site and that she’ll show me that she’s co-broking with another agent.

If this agent had spent more time actually finding out what I WANTED rather than trying to guilt trip me into how much I NEEDED to have a buyer’s agent (for which I told her explicitly I didn’t want), then she wouldn’t had wasted both our times the next day for these “secret” showings.

The first house was over my EXPLICIT budget. The previous day, I had seen 6 homes by which I was comparing it to. I walked into the house, asked her the price, and then immediately walked out.

The second house was someone already living in it. I told them how quickly I needed to move in, and the occupant said NOPE. Okay, SEE YA! No more properties to show, and then this agent does another layer of “guilt” tripping me by saying, “DO YOU KNOW SHE SPENT ALL DAY CLEANING THE HOUSE FOR YOU?”

Have a good day!

Don’t Buy New

TRIGGER: http://ericpetersautos.com/2016/03/05/dont-buy-new/

Interesting spin on things. Especially now with fully Automated cars on the horizon, it may make sense to hold off on an outright purchase for at least new cars.

Used cars is a different proposition, but even that is getting to be less worthy due to the fact that even used cars are becoming so complicated you need to have them serviced by specialists.

My Home Purchase Strategy / Rental Hack (December 2010)

It was the best house I could afford in my area for $430,000 for the square footage, proximity to work, condition, school district and rent potential being close to Cal State Fullerton. Rent potential was a large factor in my purchasing decision.

Due to the unique home layout, I was able to rent out a portion of my house for upwards of $1,236 / month offsetting my monthly payment with impound (property taxes & insurance) of $2,145.80 / month. So that was $909.80 / month for the house out-of-pocket. Principal is about $674.77 / month (which goes back toward equity), so I was really paying $235.03 / month for 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,500 sq ft (including garage which is my man cave). This doesn’t include home appreciation.

January 2015, my home was appraised for $616,000 which enabled me to get a home equity line of credit available to be drawn upon at $57,000 which will most likely remain untouched for now until I find a worthy investment.

The previous apartment around 2007 – 2009 was a 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment, for $1,050/month. With my Veteran status, I managed to do 10% down, and refinanced a couple times down to 3.25% over 30 years in November 2012. Down payment sources came from savings, Roth IRA contributions, and saving up for about a year prior to the house purchase living in a hotel suite paying no rent

With our 4th kid on the way, and with the little ones getting bigger, we decided to expand to the full house, which basically doubles our living space. It almost feels like moving into a new house. Subtracting out Principal, the cost is now $1,471.03 / month for 4 bedroom, 3 bath, 2,500 sq ft (including garage). If you consider a 3% appreciation of $430,000, that comes to $12,900 / year, or $1,075 / month. If I subtract out the appreciation, then at the end of day, I’m paying $396.03 / month at the end of life. Though, if you consider appreciation compounds, I imagine it’s less than that.

Due to California, Proposition 13, my property taxes cannot increase more than 2% per year, which incentives me to stay put and not sell. My intention is to rent out the property if I move out in order to maintain the highest potential cash flow, and cash out the equity instead as necessary as alternate investment options become available.

USAA Bank Threatening to Close Account Because of Suspected Business Transactions

UPDATE: Part 2 USAA – Your Checking Account May Be Closed for Business Transaction Use (Part 2)

 

USAA has a “back office” that you will never be able to contact directly that has the power to close your Checking account with essentially no contest. The “back office” can determine your account is being used for “business” purposes. Even if the reasoning behind their decision is flawed there’s nothing you can do about it.

I just spent an hour talking to different individuals in regards to this letter I received in the mail:

My main question: what specific transactions were considered “business” transactions.

The first tier was no help, and just frustrating. He was just giving general answers, without specifics when I was asking specific questions.

The second Tier, “Executive Resolutions,” Chip, basically said he couldn’t do much either. He read off the notes on the account. He mentioned that the payroll checks I had deposited into my account, from my same employer of five years, were “suspicious” also because I transfer the funds out right away. I transfer them out right away into a higher interest Savings Account, which I’ve been doing essentially since becoming a member 9 years ago.

The Manager, Erik(sp?), which I never talked to, said that some “notes” will get passed onto the Back Office Department that makes the final decision.

I normally love USAA (except for Life Insurance and Home Mortgage), but this breach of trust without recourse is concerning. There should exist some way to contest the decisions of this “back office.” As a member of 9 years, I’d expect at least an inquiry to me personally about their perceived “business” activity, rather than their approach of “guilty until proven innocent.”

Reference: Your Checking Account May Be Closed for Business Transaction Use

Thank you for trusting USAA Federal Savings Bank with your banking needs. We’re writing about an urgent matter concerning your checking account ending in 2644. This account is a personal account and is not set up for business use. We recently evaluated activity on your account and determined that it is being used to process business transactions. Indicators for business transactions can include:

• Deposits made in the name of a business.
• Deposits for a merchant account (an account that allows a business to accept credit/debit card payments from customers).
• Memos on deposits/checks that indicate transactions arc related to business transactions.

Because of this usage, we may be forced to close your account. Please stop all business transactions within 30 days, or we regret that we’ll be forced to close your account.

If you believe this letter has been sent in error, or if you have questions, please call us at 1-800-531-USAA (8722). “We value your membership and urge you to take immediate action.

How to Sell Merchandise on Craigslist (My Process)

Sorry, I had to edit out the last part of the video because I accidentally displayed some data I didn’t want to reveal over the interwebs.

Here are some tips:

– PRICE OUT YOUR ITEM
Look on Amazon.com, Ebay.com (Sold listings), and Craigslist, to see what used items are selling for. Remember to consider shipping and handling to figure out the “fair market value” of what it is you’re selling.

– POST GOOD PICTURES
Sometimes, I’ll even grab the pictures from Amazon as my primary image, to make the posting look more enticing

– DESCRIPTION IN YOUR POST
Make sure to have a great description of what you’re selling to make it easier for people to find it. I have a standard template for my contact information and for people to see my other posts. I also often copy and paste from Amazon product descriptions

– CHOOSING A TITLE
I usually put the condition, right in the title.

– ALWAYS HAVE THEM OFFER THE FIRST PRICE
If someone wants to purchase from you, make them offer you the first price. You already offered the starting price with the listing, so now it’s the Buyer’s turn.

– BE PATIENT
If you did the research on pricing your item, you can be confident that you have a fair market value. All it takes is one buyer! Also, certain seasons affect purchasing habits of

– RENEW YOUR POSTING
Renew your posting about twice a week to refresh your listing, and also check your pricing if you’re not getting a lot of hits. It’s possible you may need to adjust your price.

Free Health Savings Account Through Alliant Credit Union

For a $10 Donation to “Foster Care 2 Success,” you can sign up for an essentially free Health Savings Account (HSA) through Alliant Credit Union with no minimums. All of my sign up was done online without going into a branch office.

http://www.fc2success.org/how-you-can-help/join-fc2s-alliant-partnership/
http://www.alliantcreditunion.org/depositsinvestments/healthsavings/

Checks are free and I believe the debit card is free.

To possibly avoid fees from your old HSA provider, you may want to do a simple rollover and zero out the balance in your old account. They may not be able to legally charge you for an account that is at $0.00. I still have to test this.

You can ignore my link looking at the Vanguard option as they have a $45.00 Annual Administration Fee which basically kills the deal for most people.

=== === === ===

Fees

Effective – 03/01/2011

The following fees and transaction limitations amend your Account Agreement and Disclosures (PDF). These fees and limitations MAY be assessed against your account if applicable. Fee Schedule (PDF)

Complimentary Services

ATM Transactions at Alliant-owned ATMs FREE
ATM Transactions at Non-Alliant Owned ATMs1 FREE
Consumer Loan Application FREE
Consumer Loan Modification FREE
Convenience Card (except lost card) FREE
eStatements (electronic statements) FREE
Financial Counseling and Budgeting Services FREE
1st Box of Checks when opening a new Checking Account FREE
Home Equity Checks FREE
Home Equity Loan Processing Fee2 (loan amounts up to $250,000) FREE
HSA Checks FREE
HSA Custodian Check Issuance Fee FREE
HSA Excess Contribution Reimbursement FREE
HSA Monthly Maintenance Fee FREE
HSA Set-up Fee FREE
HSA Transaction Fee FREE
Online Banking with Bill Pay
(non sufficient funds (NSF) fees apply) FREE
Online Check Copies FREE
Self Service Telephone (SST) FREE
Signature Guarantee Stamp FREE
Teller Transactions FREE
Third Party Share Drafts (3 per day)
$2 for each withdrawal thereafter
FREE
VISA® Credit Card (Platinum and Platinum Rewards) FREE
VISA® Credit Card Annual Fee (Platinum and Platinum Rewards) FREE
VISA® Credit Card Balance Transfer (Platinum and Platinum Rewards) FREE
VISA® Debit Card (except lost card) FREE
VISA® HSA Debit Card FREE

Account Basics

Account Closed within 90 Days of Opening $10
Account Maintenance Upon Member Request (1 hr min)(per hour)
Account Balancing Assistance
Account Research
Subpoenas
$25
ACH (electronic transfer) initiated via Alliant Online Banking FREE
ACH (electronic transfer) initiated via Telephone (per occurrence) $10
Bad Address Fee $5
Copy of Document (per document)
Account Activity Printout
Check Copy3
Interim Statement
Membership Statement3
Special Statement Cutoff
Subpoena
Loan Document
Deposit Check
Paid Credit Union Check
Wire Transfer Confirmation Copy
$5
Courtesy Pay Fee (per occurrence)
Written Check
Preauthorized Withdrawals from Checking
Debit Card Transactions
$25
Deposit of Check Drawn on a Non-U.S. Bank $35
Dormant Account Fee $10
Inactivity Fee
One year in which no withdrawals or deposits, other than credited dividends were made to the account
$10
Miscellaneous Fees (per item)
Levies
Garnishments
Collection Item
$29
Manually Paid Checks and ACH Items $5
Nonsufficient Fund Item (each)
Written Check
Electronic Item
$25
Overdraft Transfer (max per day)
Savings
Supplemental Savings
$3
Line of Credit Advance4 (per occurrence) (effective 4/1/2011) $3
Replace Lost Card
VISA® Debit Card
Convenience Card
$10
Return Deposit Item $15
Sight Draft Deposit Fee (per item) $25
Stop Payments (checks) – submitted via Alliant Online Banking or SST FREE
Stop Payments (checks and ACH) – submitted in writing or verbally $25