Stashing Money for the Future

Since I’ll be flying to my interview next week, I put the Air Canada flight on my American Express card. I was able to get more than 2000 points with it!

When I checked my American Express account this afternoon, I found that I had at least 6500 points, which was good for another $50 gas card.* I’ve redeemed the points and am waiting for it in the mail. However, I won’t use it until the summer time, when I won’t have any income.

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*The points exchange has remained the same since 2013, when I got $25 credit for gas with 3500 points. 

TD Reward Rebate 2016

It’s January! That means I get my cash-back rebate on my TD Rewards Rebate Visa credit card. It’s not the best reward card, but here are the conditions:

  • Earn a 0.5% cash reward on the first $3,000 in net annual purchases charged to your Card
  • Earn a 1% cash reward on your net annual purchases over $3,000 (to a maximum annual purchase limit of $25,000)

TD no longer issues new cards for this no-fee program. I have been itching for a replacement but have not been able to find another Visa program that would be better right now.

This year, I received $133.39. Not a huge hunk of cash, but it’s always a nice boost at the beginning of the new when you’re feeling poor!

New Credit Card from Tangerine

Back in October, J. and I finally set up a joint account Tangerine. The purpose of this is to make our shared expenses more fair, rather than arbitrarily taking turns to pay for things.

Therefore, I now have two separate chequing / debit accounts within Tangerine. On the website, you can label one account as ‘chequing’ and one as ‘saving’; when you pay at the machine at the check-out, you simply select the account that you pay with. This makes it unnecessary to have two separate debit cards.

Also, I had applied for the cash-back Mastercard credit card on Tangerine. It finally arrived in the mail last week. Now I have 3 credit cards (this has never happened before in my life). Normally, you can 2% cash-back in two selected areas (i.e. groceries, gas, travel, etc.) and 1% in. As a bonus for the first 4 months, your two money-back areas go from 2% to 4% cash back!

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Today, I tested it out at the Northern Supermarket. We made a $34 purchase, which means that we would get $0.68 cash back.

Ehhhhhh, not a huge lot in the long run, I realize. Guess it’s more of a convenience as J. and I would eventually like to start budgeting our groceries and track how much we spend. Future goals!

Ruminations on Banks, Credit Cards and Reward Programs

Back in October 2015, I canceled my old American Express and switched over to an American Express Gold through the Ontario College of Teachers’ perks program, which normally has an annual fee of $150/year, but is $100/year for teachers.

Officially, this is the first charge card, but the annual fee is waived in the first year. With the bonus points for opening a new account, I’ve already cashed in one $100 Esso gas card. And recently, after having charged my DisneyWorld vacation to my account, I ordered another $100 Esso gas card with 13,000 points*. I ordered it last week and it just arrived in Toronto, which will be perfect for my upcoming 2-week holiday when I’m feeling broke! So until October 2018, the card has covered its own fees.

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As for my TD Rewards Rebate card, I’m still assessing whether I want to keep it or not. In 2014, I got $182.04 in rebates and in 2015, I got $150.36. For now it’s okay, but I see that Tangerine has come out with a Mastercard that gives a much better rebate program than my TD Rewards Rebate.

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Hmmm, should I switch over? I’ve never had a MasterCard before.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that I really don’t profit from having a TD Canada account. But the more I think about it, I feel like I should just close this account and use Tangerine:

  1. Accessing ATMs: I always preferred being with TD because I could walk into a branch nearly anywhere in big cities and be able to get cash. But being in the north, I don’t live near any of the branches. In fact, I go through most of my days not buying anything at all. I barely use cash, ever.**
  2. Cashing cheques: Again, I don’t live near any TD branches. The Tangerine app works pretty damn fine when it comes to depositing cheques. And my employer has started to streamline their system more and more, so I rarely get cheques anymore.
  3. Investments: I don’t use TD to invest at all. It also irked me to see that, as of March 31st, 2016, they are implementing a $75 fee for any TSFAs that are transferred out of their bank! Not cool!
  4. Paycheques: Yep, I could switch this over to Tangerine. I don’t have to be paid through TD.
  5. Fees: No fees in Tangerine at all. For TD, while I just need to maintain $1500. But it’s $1500 that gets no interest … UGHHHH!!!! And while interest rates are at a record low, even if they’re sitting in my Tangerine ISA, I’d get 0.8% on that $1500, which would be $12. Last year, in Tangerine, I got $42 in interest alone. In TD, NADAAAAA!!! I hate paying fees, it does happen, because of the next point …
  6. Auto payments: This is where my payments are coming out of right now. Sometimes I forget how much is in my checking account and when the payment is withdrawn, it goes under $1500 and I pay the monthly fee, even if I spot it the same day and top it up. I could call up Honda and ask if it could be switched over to another financial institution.
  7. Auto insurance: Meloche Monex keeps charging me more and more. They jacked up my monthly insurance by $20 last year!!! I need to shop around for a better rate.

Soooooooo … why am I even with TD, still?!?!? Funny, I started this blog post simply on credit cards and now I feel like I’ve realized I need to end a dysfunctional and manipulative relationship that’s been going on too long!

I guess what concerns me is that my tax rebates comes through TD right now. While I could close the account, I would need to be in Toronto to deal with some of the loose ends and make sure everything is transferred over properly if I do decided to shut it.

*Under the old points system, this would have had a monetary value of $162.50. So take note, even if the deal is good to start, things might change on you!

**Except for donuts, now that Tim Horton’s has opened up a branch at our local supermarket.

Monthly Goals: October

Not any big goals this month, but not too bad.

Health
  • Squat and bench press (1/5): As the plan to have a squat partner didn’t work out, I ended up getting a Cody plan to follow … doh, I only went once. It’s not my favourite thing to do; I need to push myself harder!  
  • Try two new recipes (4/5): Made yolos from Oh She Glows! by Angela Liddon. They are pureed dates wrapped in chocolate. Pretty good as a post-workout snack, but I need to use better quality chocolate next time. Also tried a sesame-tahini salad dressing from the same cookbook and learned how to make a London fog. Was also in Montreal for a week so I didn’t cook as much.
  • Complete 10-day mediation intro (5/5): Completed the free “Take 10” program on the app Headspace. I ended up continuing it and paying for a year-long subscription for approximately $100 CAD.
Finance
  • Research a new credit card (3/5): Looked for a new Visa but wasn’t quite happy with what was out there, so I am keeping my TD Visa Rewards Rebate card, even though the return isn’t quite so rewarding anymore. Canceled my old American Express and replaced it with a American Express Gold through the Ontario College of Teachers’ perks program. This will officially be my first charge card; in the first year, the annual fee is waived. With the bonus Amex points, I can cash in approximately $175 worth of gas cards. In subsequent years, instead of paying an annual fee of $150/year, I pay $100/year. So the card pays for itself for nearly the first 3 years. Travel points can be cashed out to other rewards systems and aren’t necessarily tied to specific programs like Aeroplan.
  • Increase donation amount (5/5): Increased my monthly donation from $15 to $20 a month with Plan Canada.
  • Download credit report (5/5): My one year free membership for Equifax ended! So I downloaded my credit score and it’s still floating around 800.
  • Cancel Audible membership (5/5): I will not renew my Platinum membership ($230). I’ve had the same membership plan for two years now and really enjoyed it but have not had enough time to listen to all my books. There are about 10 audiobooks just waiting for me!
Professional Development
  • Work on Mandarin (3/5): I reviewed 22 of Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese, which I’ve probably done three times now! Completed unit 23 but will need to review it before I go onto 24. Purchased units 1 through 15 of Phase 2 for the upcoming year! I am committed to learning more Mandarin!
  • Complete workshop (5/5): I ran my second workshop, Fixed vs. Growth Mindset, for my school board. It was very successful; there were 30 people in attendance  and people loved it! They stayed engaged the whole time, there was a lot of discussion and no one was playing on their cellphones (this is now a common problem in workshops). Not only that, but I was paid $250 for it, which wasn’t too bad! Never been paid to do a workshop before. I didn’t think I would be paid so that was a pleasant surprise.
Teaching
  • Explore Digital Tools (1/5): Played around briefly with Asana but have no current need to use it. Didn’t review any other tools.

Credit Score

Back in September 2014, Home Depot had revealed that there was a security breach that compromised 54 million credit cards that had completed transactions at the store. In an attempt to improve its PR, Home Depot was offered free credit reports through Equifax.

I can’t even when I had last made a transaction at the store, but I have definitely been one of its customers the past year or two. My sister told me about the offer and I signed up right away. Plus I’m due for another credit report anyway and why not get one that I didn’t have to pay for?

I was pretty happy to see that my score has increased over the past couple of years, but darnit, I was it were over 800!! Of course, I have continued to keep my oldest credit card to maintain a good score and am financing my car, which also improves my score.

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Visa Rewards Rebate Cashback

At the beginning of each year, I receive cashback on my Visa Rewards Rebate credit card. The benefits of this card are:

  • Earn a 0.5% cash reward on the first $3,000 in net annual purchases charged to your Card
  • Earn a 1% cash reward on your net annual purchases over $3,000 (to a maximum annual purchase limit of $25,000)

This year I got $182.04, which meant that I had accumulated $19,700 worth of charges in the past 12 months.

That’s a lot of money! Using my Visa for my monthly car payments and insurance (just over $500/month) would have contributed to a third of it. I also traveled a lot and used my Visa for travel expenses, which my company would have paid back to me. I feel that this card is still a good fit for my current lifestyle.

I haven’t had many opportunities to look at other reward programs, but I don’t mind hanging onto this one for now!*

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 3.46.29 PM*It looks like TD is not issuing any more of these cards.

Updating Retailers on my American Express

I’ve been carrying two American Express credit cards for the last year. I finally canceled the older one – the American Express Air Miles – so that I can focus on getting points and rewards for the Choice Card*. I get one point for every dollar I spend and double the points for five retailers that I choose. Unfortunately, I can only make one change of those retailers once a year.

It’s been going well, as I’ve already redeemed my points for two $25 Esso gas cards. I updated my five retailers to include three gas stations, Air Canada** and IGA***.

I love that the act of paying for gas is actually going to pay for more gas in the future!

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*Which I discovered from Echo and Boomer.
**If I fly to Turkey with Air Canada, this will give me quite a lot.
***Where I can order groceries online.