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    This is How to Keep Your Identity Safe During the Holiday Shopping Season

    This is How to Keep Your Identity Safe During the Holiday Shopping Season

    We can all agree: It’s OK to play Christmas music now.

    Put up your tree, string lights along the roof, frost cookies and spend an entire weekend blowing up that giant yard Santa.

    Unless you’re that über-planner in the family who’s been slowly gathering gifts since May, now’s also the time to start shopping.

    Yes, I know the holidays can get costly. We’ve got tons of tips to help you save money on everything.

    But I actually want to talk about one other giant holiday-shopping bummer a lot of people don’t think about until it’s too late: Identity theft.

    I know: It’s the holiday season, right? If scammers had a heart, they’d take the month off and let us all just enjoy our gifts and cocoa.

    Unfortunately, they don’t — that’s kinda their deal. And this is a great time to be an identity thief, because tons of people are swiping cards for tons of transactions over the next few weeks.

    Each transaction is an opportunity for a scammer to steal your information.

    That’s some next-level Grinching.

    How to Get Free Identity-Theft Protection

    If you want to keep your information safe this holiday season, you’ve got a few options:

    • Go off-grid and carry tons of cash (safe for your information, maybe… but not so safe for your, um, safety).
    • Learn a bunch of new skills and hand-make all your gifts (hope everyone in the family likes that same orange-blue-brown knit beanie in the one size).
    • Monitor your credit to stop scammers before they take a Caribbean vacation in your name.

    I’m going to go ahead and recommend that last one, because muggers are basically old-timey identity thieves, and no one in your family likes the beanie; they’re just trying to be nice.

    I use the free service from Credit Sesame, which will send me an email or text alert if someone tries to apply for credit in my name. And it comes with $50,000 of identity theft insurance and fraud assistance in case something goes wrong.

    (P.S. If someone’s able to get a loan in my name, I’d like to know their secret, because my credit stinks.)

    In addition to the fraud protection, Credit Sesame lets you see your credit score and free credit report card — so you can keep tabs on those credit card bills after the shopping frenzy is over.

    Want to protect your identity from Grinches? Take a few minutes to sign up for Credit Sesame here.

    Dana Sitar ([email protected]) is a senior writer/newsletter editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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    Real-Life Pound Puppies Are in Need — and Fostering is Free

    Real-Life Pound Puppies Are in Need — and Fostering is Free

    Dogs live to impress, to protect, to console and to entertain their human best friends. But unfortunately, more than 3 million of these loving creatures enter U.S. shelters each year.

    Typically, these dogs are put up for adoption, which is why it is important to bring one home from a shelter or rescue rather than shop at a store or breeder (after making sure you can afford to give a dog the care it deserves, of course). Some dogs, however, do not immediately go up for adoption but instead enter foster programs.

    Foster programs present a unique opportunity to dog lovers for whom adoption may not currently be the best situation. Instead of adopting, you can consider acting as a foster family for a dog or multiple dogs over time. It is a major responsibility and, to be transparent, time-consuming, but fostering will be significantly cheaper than adopting a dog.

    To learn more about why foster programs exist, the costs of being a foster parent and some of the challenges of fostering a dog, I turned to Phyllis Stewart, longtime volunteer at Franklin County Dog Shelter (FCDS) in Columbus, Ohio, and Trustee at Friends of the Shelter (FOTS), a nonprofit organization that raises money to pay for the medical care of sick and injured dogs who enter FCDS.

    Why Foster Programs Exist

    Addy was the first dog Piper ever fostered. Two months later, Piper adopted the dog. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

    Medical foster cases might include dogs who entered the shelter with an injury (such as after being hit by a car or having broken bones) or extremely sick (such as having parvovirus or heartworm infestation).

    Throughout the U.S., Stewart explained, shelter dogs are often “offered to rescue organizations annually for fostering due to behavior or medical conditions that exclude them from adoption by the general public. These dogs may be too energetic to be contained humanely in a kennel for an extended period.”

    Stewart goes to to say that many dogs available to foster could have aggression issues, leading them to bark, growl or jump. They could have extreme depression from months spent in a kennel, or they could be elderly dogs, “…senior dogs deserve to be in a comfortable home instead of lying on the hard shelter floor.”

    For some shelters, foster programs are necessary simply because the shelter does not have enough room to house all the dogs in search of their “furever homes.”

    There are many different reasons a dog may need to live with a foster family, but in a large number of these cases, the dog will need additional training, attention and rehabilitation to become “adoption-ready.”

    That means foster parents first and foremost must have the time, resources, patience and right attitude to care for a foster dog.

    Costs of Being a Dog Foster Parent

    “I connected with her quicker than any other dog I’ve been around,” Piper said as to why he decided to adopt Addy. “If I didn’t adopt her, she would have gone to the pound, and she’s way too sweet to end up there.” Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

    With that said, one key difference between adopting a dog and fostering a dog is the cost. I have spent more than $10,000 on one of my dogs, whom I have been raising for five years. While that is on the high end, the long-term costs of adoption can be pricy.

    Fostering a dog, on the other hand, is nearly free. “In theory, all expenses are incurred by the shelter or rescue to whom the dog belongs,” Stewart explained. “They will provide the food, supplies and medical care needed to care for the dog while in foster… The foster parent will always have someone from the shelter or rescue to call for advice or instruction for emergencies.”

    Stewart added, “There are a few minor expenses to the foster parent such as toys, chew bones, carpet cleaning and the rare table leg.” But those expenses, in most cases, are tax-deductible, so save your receipts!

    Samantha Okazaki of Today also highlights the financial benefits of a foster community, as other foster parents are typically happy to offer dogsitting services and training free of charge.

    Challenges of Being a Dog Foster Parent

    Though you may save a lot of money by fostering a dog rather than adopting, fostering is not without its challenges. Foster dogs may require more obedience training, medical rehab and overall attention — and they may pose more problems, such as anxiety or aggression. Being a foster parent is not a role to be taken lightly.

    “The challenges of fostering are both exhausting and invigorating,” Stewart explained. “Any strange dog entering a new home will take some time to get used to the routine and rules. Our regular schedule is disrupted because you have another dog to train, walk, feed and comfort. Some dogs are very active and want to run and play constantly. Some need help with housetraining. Some are anxious when left alone. Some might chew. Your job is to train [the dog] how to live in your home to be ready for their forever home.

    And that’s not all. Stewart added, “Some dogs do not like men, strangers or other dogs. The foster must juggle these personalities and work with the dog to overcome them if possible.”

    Dog foster parents are also expected to take the dogs to adoption events and to advocate constantly to their peers, on social media and to strangers, for the dog’s eventual adoption.

    The ultimate goal, of course, is to find the dog new parents for the rest of its life, freeing you up to eventually foster a new dog in need. But the biggest and most heartbreaking challenge is saying goodbye.

    How does Stewart, a regular foster mom, deal with the goodbyes? “I choose to focus on the joy and excitement of the new family as they go on their journey. I don’t have to have every dog live in my home as long as I know that they are going to one that will love them just as much as I do.”

    She added, “Remember that you are a temporary stop in the dog’s life, and another dog is waiting for your help.”

    Alternatives to Fostering

    If you love dogs and want to help them find happy homes but don’t have the schedule or fortitude to foster, there are still ways to get involved.

    According to Phyllis, the greatest challenge that shelters face is finding dedicated volunteers.

    The various needs of shelters — walking the dogs, cleaning the cages and more — mean that volunteers who will return day after day are crucial. Consider visiting your local shelter and inquiring about how you can help on a regular basis.

    Timothy Moore is a proud doggy daddy to two rescues — Greyson and Clyde. When he is not cleaning out Greyson’s ears or playing tug-of-war with Clyde, Timothy is usually reading, writing, editing or drinking a beer.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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    Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: Here’s How to Live Your Best Life in 2018

    Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: Here’s How to Live Your Best Life in 2018

    In what seemed like the blink of an eye, we’re already well into the holiday season, and I find myself staring down the year 2018.

    Yikes, it feels wrong just writing that number. But here I am, ready to face the first official New Year’s Eve of my 30s.

    Yep, I’m a 30-year-old saddled with debt and just enough motivation to make it two-and-a-half minutes on the stationary bike.

    That means it’s time to buckle down and make some real resolutions. And, you know, actually stick to them.

    But more than accomplishing a few specific goals, 2018 can also be the year we all live our best lives — the way one of our favorite founding fathers envisioned: healthy, wealthy and wise.

    Yep, Ben Franklin had some major keys to success long before DJ Khaled signed up for Instagram.

    So to help you get your wallet, waist and wits in order, here are some ways to stay healthy, wealthy and wise in 2018.

    Hey, Franklin was on the $100 bill after all.

    1. Beef up Your Financial Knowhow and Stay on Top of Your Credit Score

    This one hits every angle of a healthy, wealthy and wise 2018.

    Finding out your credit score will not only get you on track to tackling your financial well-being, but it will also save you money in the long run — and give you the peace of mind to get a restful night’s sleep (even if your score needs some work).

    Credit Sesame is an online service that will give you a free credit report card, which includes that all-important credit score.

    And here’s the best part: The service will also tell you why you scored that dreaded “D,” and provide simple recommendations for how to climb your way back to the the top of your financial class.

    Melinda Smieja, a Washington mom, managed to pay off nine credit cards and raised her credit score by 284 points using Credit Sesame as a debt-busting springboard.

    Already feeling that tension in your neck loosening up, right?

    2. Get in Shape and Make Some Easy Cash on the Side

    With how hard it can be just to drag myself out of bed for work in the morning, you’d be hard-pressed to get me to wake up an hour earlier to head to the gym.

    But, if you told me I could get paid for working out? Say no more, fam.

    HealthyWage is a company that will literally pay you to lose weight.

    Here’s how it works: You place a bet on how much weight you think you can lose in a given time period, and HealthyWage calculates a prize you’ll win if you smash that goal (which we know you totally will).

    Just head to the HealthyWage Prize Calculator to get started.

    Already have a favorite workout app? You can squeeze even more cash out of those early-morning gym sessions. Achievement is a health app that will score you cash for completing specific fitness activities within your favorite workout tool.

    Achievement uses a point system to reward you for fitness milestone it tracks through Apple’s HealthKit, Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, Runkeeper, RunDouble C25K, Twitter or any other app you already use to track your goals.

    Ready to jump on the fitness train? We’ve got a guide on the gyms where you will get the best bang for your buck.

    Never forget, a Sports Illustrated writer once referred to Franklin’s body as “slope-shouldered” and “smoothly muscled.”

    He definitely lifted.

    3. Try Out Micro-Investing to Take Some Wall Street Baby Steps

    If you’re like me, you’ll blow through tons of savings and maybe even rack up some debt this holiday season. So 2018 is definitely a year to focus on getting wealthy.

    Instead of juggling a bunch of side hustles, put your money to work for you by investing in the stock market.

    But wait, isn’t that only for the moneyed elite — not this lowly writer scrounging for couch-cushion quarters?

    Not anymore.

    Acorns, a micro-investment app, connects to your bank account, credit and debit cards and invests your digital spare change. That is, it rounds up purchases on the connected card to the next dollar and pushes it into your Acorns account.

    After setting up a financial profile, the app then invests the funds in that account in a chosen portfolio. One of our writers saved $116 in a few months.

    Stash lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee. (The first month is free.)

    Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money. But it leaves out the complicated investment terms. You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals.

    Bonus: Right now, The Penny Hoarder is teaming up with Stash to fund your first investment — so you’ll get a $5 bonus to get started!

    4. Stare Down Those Student Loans and Yell, ‘Enough!’

    OK, so it doesn’t have to be that dramatic, but you’ll be wiser and wealthier to get a head start on tackling that crippling student loan debt.

    And refinancing may be your best option to save some major cash in the long run by lowering your monthly payment or even your overall interest rate.

    Credible, an online marketplace for refinancing deals, makes it easy to find the best choice for you. And even after shopping around for a new rate, it won’t affect your credit score. Nice.

    John DePrato, a graduate struggling with debt from his bachelor’s degree and MBA, cut his monthly student-loan payments in half with Credible. With those monthly obligations dropping from $850 to $400, he was able to build a new home with his wife.

    Talk about a feel-good New Year’s resolution story.

    5. Ditch the Brick-and-Mortar Bank and Go Digital With Your Accounts

    There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up at your bank to protest an overdraft fee, only to wait in line for an hour to make your case. So much for your lunch break.

    There’s another way, and it’ll help beef up your savings to make 2018 the wealthiest year of your life.

    Chime, an online-only, fee-free bank account, will let you open an FDIC-insured account with more than 24,000 fee-free ATMs (score!) without any monthly payments. Say goodbye to those sneaky bank fees in 2018.

    And besides saving money on fees, Chime also makes it simple to boost those savings. Link the app with your paycheck, and it’ll automatically carve out a portion and tuck it away into your secret stash.

    You can also set up an option to round purchases up to the next dollar and funnel that digital change into your savings.

    Your finances won’t be taken by surprise when the 2018 holiday season rolls around.

    6. Turn Your Spare Bedroom Into a Moneymaking Machine

    Have a spare room? Might as well use it to make some money by listing it on Airbnb.

    If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could add hundreds — even thousands — of dollars to your savings account with Airbnb.

    And there’s no reason you can’t be creative. We even found a guy that earns $1,380 a month renting out a backyard tent on Airbnb.

    Taking a few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one.

    Here’s the link to sign up as an Airbnb host.

    7. Optimize Your Spending to Get Major Cash Back on Purchases

    So it would be a completely unrealistic New year’s resolution to say, “I’m not going to spend any money in 2018!”

    But instead of lamenting each grocery-shopping trip, make money off of those purchases to stay wealthy in the new year.

    Dosh, an app that gives you cash back on purchases from more than 100,000 hotels, stores and restaurants, should be your new best friend in 2018.

    Signing up for Dosh is free and easy. Just download the app, connect it with your credit or debit cards, and use it to find places where you can earn cash back. And if you’re itching to travel, you’ll get a $25 bonus for booking your hotel through the app.

    Because you’re going to have to spend money in 2018, anyway.

    8. Make Some Cash on the Side by Driving for Lyft or Uber

    You can learn a lot from chatting with complete strangers, as long as you’re into that whole thing (I’m personally on the fence). And you can make serious bucks driving said strangers around town with a ride-hailing app.

    We’ve actually seen a couple haul in $1,500 a week driving with Lyft.

    And you’ve definitely heard of Uber, another rideshare app that will help you stack cash to be prepared for the next holiday season. Oh, and they’ve got a tipping feature now.

    Now that you’ve got a jump on making 2018 the year of staying healthy, wealthy and wise, all you need is some knickerbockers and an old pair of bi-focals to truly get your Ben Franklin on.

    Just kidding. Kind of…

    Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He’s ready to crush his 2018 New year’s resolutions. And he looks great in wire-frame specs.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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    Help for Parents: Here Are the 20 Best YouTube Channels for Your Kids

    Help for Parents: Here Are the 20 Best YouTube Channels for Your Kids

    A little screen time can be a parent’s savior.

    We’ve all had times when that glowing screen has saved the day — from thwarting a mid-store temper tantrum to allowing just 10 minutes of peace to fold the laundry.

    Watching videos can even teach your child a thing or two (because honestly, do you want to sing the ABCs a dozen times in a continuous loop?).

    In this world where we face the choice between costly cable packages and purchasing multiple streaming subscriptions, YouTube is a great source for a wide array of free videos.

    Not sure what to watch? Here are some kid-friendly channels your little one is sure to love.

    Toddlers

    Videos featuring bright colors, catchy tunes and lovable characters will have your tots entranced while learning about the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes and more.

    LittleBabyBum

    LittleBabyBum’s nursery rhyme videos are educational and entertaining, with both classic and original songs. New videos are posted weekly, and some compilation videos last over an hour long.

    Baby Joy Joy

    An adorable baby in a hooded jumpsuit takes toddlers on musical adventures with Baby Joy Joy videos. This channel has an addictive version of the ABC song.

    Kids TV

    Kids TV — Nursery Rhymes and Baby Songs is a popular channel with preschool educational videos. Little ones love the Bob the Train and Bottle Squad characters.

    Baby Einstein

    This established brand’s YouTube channel features a mix of cartoon, puppetry and live-action videos. The Baby Einstein channel also has videos that focus on music, crafts and infant products.

    Kids

    From toys and games to cooking and crafts, these channels captivate older kids and give them tons of new ideas for what to do when you press the stop button.

    Ryan ToysReview

    Ryan ToysReview shows the adventures of a young boy, his family and a whole bunch of toys. The videos in this channel also include science projects, pranks, challenges, songs and funny skits.

    EvanTubeHD

    For more toy reviews, check out EvanTubeHD. Over 4.6 million subscribers tune in to see this boy unbox, describe and play with various coveted toys.

    CharlisCraftyKitchen

    CharlisCraftyKitchen will have your kiddos wanting to get in the kitchen to cook up sweet treats. This channel also features challenge videos, haul videos and more.

    Will It Slime?

    If your kids are obsessed with slime, Will It Slime? will teach them how to make all sorts of slime, from butter to fluffy and even magnetic. So. Many. Varieties.

    Educational

    Sneak in a little school outside of the classroom. These channels take a fun spin on learning.

    Crash Course Kids

    Host Sabrina Cruz takes on grade school science in this channel. Crash Course Kids will help your kid learn about engineering, physical science, life science and more with down-to-earth explanations and a mix of animation.

    Cool School

    Cool School covers reading, language, art class and more, but makes it… well, cool! Kids can find their favorite teachers in Ms. Booksy, Crafty Carol, Jim Class and other characters.

    SciShow Kids

    SciShow Kids will answer your curious kids’ questions of “why?” This science-focused kid channel tackles topics like why we get hiccups and and why the sky is blue.

    Free School

    Want your kid to learn more about geography and grammar? How about art and animals? Classical music and constellations? Free School has you covered.

    As Seen On TV

    These channels bring TV right to your smartphone or tablet. Select videos from programs your kids already love.

    Sesame Street

    ”Sesame Street” is the longest-running children’s program and captures millions of viewers on YouTube by offering the classic content kids love. Check out this channel for clips, skits and songs. It even offers full episodes.

    Disney Channel

    This channel provides content from Disney Channel favorites like “Raven’s Home,” “Bizaardvark” and “Tangled: The Series.” Viewers can enjoy trailers, clips, tutorials, behind-the-scenes videos and full episodes.

    Nickelodeon

    Nickelodeon’s YouTube channel offers viewers behind-the-scenes content, show clips, trailers, music performances, quizzes and more. Kids can get their fill of their favorite shows like “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “The Loud House” and “Henry Danger.”

    Cartoon Network

    Your kids can’t get enough of “Teen Titans Go!” and “The Amazing World of Gumball”? Then check out Cartoon Network’s YouTube channel for clips from those shows and other network favorites.

    Music

    Sometimes the kiddos just need to jam out! Just don’t blame me when the songs from these channels get stuck in your head.

    Kidz Bop

    Kidz Bop entertains children with kid-friendly versions of the songs we all hear on the radio. Parents can appreciate the fact that lyrics are altered to make the tunes appropriate for little ears.

    The Kiboomers

    The music videos shown on The Kiboomers channel are great for younger audiences. They include traditional nursery rhymes, original songs and music in other languages.

    Disney Music VEVO

    Disney and music go hand in hand. This Disney Music VEVO channel has musical hits from your kids’ favorite movies.

    Best Baby Lullabies

    If your kid protests all forms of resting, Best Baby Lullabies may not be his favorite channel — but it just might be yours. These calming tunes are perfect naptime or bedtime aids with looped audio lasting an hour or more.

    Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She enjoys writing about parenting and money.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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    Blue Cash Preferred From American Express Review – $200 Cash Bonus

    Blue Cash Preferred From American Express Review – $200 Cash Bonus

    In our Blue Cash Preferred review, we see whether you can really earn up to 6% cash back. We also look at the $200 cash bonus for new card members.

    Having written about credit cards for a long time, it’s become easy to recognize the good cards from the bad. A good credit card will deliver in a variety of ways. Big perks, big bonuses, good rewards program etc. A bad credit card wows you with one single feature, then takes advantage of you in every other way.

    The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a credit card I knew I always wanted. When it was first released many years ago, my credit score was in the tank (high 400’s) so I had no reason to apply. After a few years of saving and working hard to restore my credit, I finally had the opportunity to own this cash back credit card. Now I use this card for every single grocery store purchase; and easily save hundreds of dollars a year.

    $200 Bonus + Cash Back Rewards Program

    Learn More

    For a limited time American Express is offering a $200 cash bonus. To qualify you must spend $1,000 in purchases on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express within the first three months.

    If you’re worried about being able to spend that amount of money, don’t be. My cable bill + grocery bill each month is well over $700. After just two months, I would have no trouble reaching the $1,000 hurdle. Toss in gas, department stores, restaurants and other utility bills like your phone and oil bills and getting there should be even easier. Last but not least, don’t forget you can pay things like health insurance, life insurance and auto insurance with a credit card.

    Cash Back Reward Tiers

    Beyond the $200 bonus, this credit card excels in one other major area, and that’s cash back. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers an amazing set of tier levels to earn cash back on everyday spending.

    • 6% cash back at grocery stores (up to $6,000 spent annually)
    • 3% cash back on gasoline
    • 3% cash back at select department stores
    • 1% cash back on everything else

    If the 6% cash back category stands out, it’s because this is the only credit card that offers better than 5% on anything. And to have it on such a widely used category makes this card so very valuable to people that spend a lot of money on groceries. The other cash back amounts are also nice … I know when I don’t have a 5% gas cash back quarter available, this is the card I use at the pump.

    Cash back from American Express comes in the form of Membership rewards dollars and they never expire so long as your account is in good standing. Rewards dollars can be redeemed for a statement credit, check or things like gift cards through the American Express portal. There is never any limit to the amount of cash back you can earn.

    Blue Cash Pricing Details

    New cardholders will receive a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. After the intro rate expires, the ongoing APR becomes 13.99% – 24.99% variable based on your credit history. Other interest rates and fees on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express are as follows:

    • APR for cash advances – 26.24%
    • Penalty APR when it applies – 29.99%
    • Balance transfer fee – $5 or 3% of the transfer (whichever is higher)
    • Cash advance fee – $5 or 3% of the transfer (whichever is higher)
    • Foreign transaction fee – 2.7%
    • Late payment and returned payment fee – Up to $38
    • Annual fee – $95

    Paying an annual fee on a cash back credit card is generally a bad idea. In fact, of the other cash back credit cards available in the marketplace, the only one that charges an annual fee happens to be the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. If your plan is to use your credit card sparingly, look elsewhere. If you plan to use this card for most of your shopping and grocery purchases, the cash back earned is well worth the price of an annual fee.

    Blue Cash Preferred Card and Everyday Card Comparison

    There is also another version of this card—the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. The rewards program is a little bit smaller but the big selling point is that the card carries no annual fee. Assuming the same spending patterns for a family, what kind of annual cash back savings can you expect from each card?

    Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
    Category Monthly Spending Annual Cash Back Category Monthly Spending Annual Cash Back
    Groceries (3%) $500 $180 Groceries (6%) $500 $360
    Gas (2%) $400 $96 Gas (3%) $400 $144
    Dining Out (1%) $250 $30 Dinning Out (1%) $250 $30
    Department
    Stores (2%)
    $100 $24 Department
    Stores (3%)
    $100 $36
    Other (1%) $1,000 $120 Other (1%) $1,000 $120
    ANNUAL CASH BACK
    (No Annual Fee)
    $450 ANNUAL CASH BACK
    (-$95 Annual Fee)
    $595

    *Other: $1000 (this might include big box stores, pharmacy, cell phone, cable, car repair, travel, and every other monthly expense that can be charged)

    If you use the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express often, it’s a better option than it’s no fee counterpart. The savings at the grocery store is simply too great a feature for people who shop there regularly.

    Final Thoughts

    I currently own 12 credit cards. When I browse through my wallet right now, I see that only two of them have an annual fee. One is the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, which I have yet to pay the annual fee on. The other is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. I despise annual fees but when you have a credit card offering a 6% cash back category year round, you take advantage. With a family of four who spends 6-7 days and nights every week making food from home, the savings is tremendous.

    Include a $200 limited time cash back offer, 0% interest rate for 12 months and high cash back percentages on things like gas and at department stores and there’s little reason not to own the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.

    • You can get more details here

    E*Trade Discount Broker




    9

    Commission Cost

    9/10

    Technology

    9/10

    Customer Service

    9/10

    Trade Execution

    9/10

    Up Front Incentive

    10/10

    Pros

    • Up to $600 bonus for new accounts
    • Brick and mortar help if needed
    • OptionsHouse integration
    • Terrific mobile app

    Cons

    • High cost per trade for low volume traders


    Topics: Credit

    The post Blue Cash Preferred From American Express Review – $200 Cash Bonus appeared first on The Dough Roller.

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    This is the Number 1 Reason for Personal Bankruptcy (And How to Avoid It)

    This is the Number 1 Reason for Personal Bankruptcy (And How to Avoid It)

    Just imagine. It’s one of those rare Saturday afternoons where you get to relax and watch your kid’s little league game.

    But, after his first hit, he tries for second and as he slides — late — you see his leg buckle and hear him scream.

    It’s a broken leg. Even though you have insurance, you don’t have a lot to spare, so you opted for a high-deductible plan. Now, you’ll need to pay that entire $3,000 deductible for this one injury.

    Medical bills are one of the biggest financial issues for people in the U.S. The number one reason for personal bankruptcy? Yep, you guessed it.

    It’s medical bills.

    Medical bills have the ability to crush an entire family’s finances. Keep in mind that the cause of the medical bills, a severe injury or illness, can also put a halt on your income. With no money coming in and bills piling up fast, it’s a double-edged sword.

    All you need to do is fire up a crowdfunding account and let friends and strangers help you out, right? Don’t count on it.

    However, your medical bills don’t have to be astronomical to throw your budget out of whack. The key is creating sufficient emergency funds before the medical bills start pouring in.

    First, breathe. You can do this. Even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, there are little ways you can help yourself create the cushion you need to avoid disaster.

    Here are a few tips to help you pay down those astronomical medical bills — by being ready before they strike.

    1. Understand Your Current Debt

    First thing’s first. To make sure you’re financially prepared for an emergency, you need to know to whom you owe money and how much. For a simple snapshot of this, sign up for a free Credit Sesame account.

    Not only will Credit Sesame let you see your Transunion credit score, which is a great thing to know, you can also see a free debt analysis. This gives you an overview of your debt and breaks it down into your total debt, monthly payment, and debt-to-income ratio.

    Handy info, right?

    Next, click on the “view details” tab below your debt analysis. Here’s where you really learn what’s what. This screen breaks your debt down into categories, such as student loan, credit cards and other debt categories. Now you can really see how much you owe and where.

    The info you learn from Credit Sesame can really help you see where your bills are heaviest and help you prioritize your plan of attack.

    2. Consider Consolidating Your Current Debt

    Now that you’ve seen what you’re up against, have you taken a gander at those interest rates?

    If you have several credit cards floating a balance out there, or even just one with a large balance, it may be well worth your while to look into a personal loan to consolidate those debts.

    This could substantially lower payments you’re already making on your debt and help you save more money each month toward your emergency-savings goal.

    If you’re being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%, it might be worth seeing if you can consolidate and refinance your debt.

    A good resource is consumer-financial-technology platform Even Financial, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.

    Even Financial searches top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in three steps. Even’s platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

    Taming outrageous interest on your current debt is the first step toward saving money for unforeseen future debts.

    3. Start a Side Hustle

    You know your debts. You’ve consolidated them into one payment, or at least fewer payments with much lower interest. Feels good, right?

    Now, if you really want to start gaining ground, it’s time to add a little something to your income. Do you know your city inside and out?

    Try driving with Lyft.

    Demand for ridesharing has been growing like crazy, and it shows no signs of slowing down. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or after.


    We talked to Paul Pruce, who’s been driving full-time with Lyft for over a year. He earns $750 a week as a driver.

    Best of all, he does it on his own time. You can work days, nights or weekends — it’s up to you!

    Since it’s simple to switch between apps, many Lyft drivers also sign up as a driver partner with Uber.

    As an Uber contractor, you’re responsible for setting your schedule and motivating yourself to work — no one is keeping tabs on you. Your earnings will be calculated by adding a base fare, plus time and distance traveled after your pickup, and Uber charges a service fee (20-35% depending on your city). It can be a great way to start earning a little extra to stash for an emergency.

    If you want to give it a try, there are a few things to keep in mind. You must be at least 21 years old, have three years of driving experience, have an in-state driver’s license, a clean driving record and be able to pass a criminal background check.

    4. Automate Your Savings

    Sometimes the easiest way to save money is to not think about it at all.

    Enter Qapital (pronounced “capital”). Qapital is an app that moves money from any account you choose into a savings account in small, pre-designated increments. It helped one Penny Hoarder writer save $700 in just five months.

    When you trigger certain “rules,” such as meeting your daily step goal or making a purchase from a particular retailer, Qapital moves a designated amount of money from your selected account into a savings account.

    First, download the app and sign up. You can either use Facebook or set up an account with your email address. Either way, you have to be at least 18 years old.

    Next, link your checking account, which Qapital will verify before you can begin saving. This can take up to three days, and you must have $100 in your account to qualify.

    To prevent overdrafting, Qapital only transfers money when you have at least $100 in your account; once you hit that threshold, it automatically stops all withdrawals.

    Then, connect any other accounts you want to monitor, like PayPal, bank-affiliated or American Express credit cards or prepaid cards.

    When you make a purchase with one of these accounts that triggers one of your rules, the app will pull money from your checking account and move it to your FDIC-insured Qapital account through Wells Fargo.

    It’s simple savings without even thinking about it.

    Remember, the goal is to establish an emergency fund that can save you and your family if and when the unexpected occurs.

    Medical bills happen. That’s just life. Being prepared for them before they ever happen is winning at life. You can do it.

    Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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    11 Survey Sites That Will Pay You Around $10 Per Hour

    11 Survey Sites That Will Pay You Around $10 Per Hour

     

     

    In this video, you will learn about 11 survey sites that pay you $10 per hour.

    These sites are free to sign up for and in many cases have nice little signup bonuses.

    Enjoy the video and let me know what you think in the comments below!

     

     

    People, resources, and examples mentioned:

     

     

    Related content you might also enjoy

     

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    This is What I Learned When I Finally Set My Finances to Autopilot

    This is What I Learned When I Finally Set My Finances to Autopilot

    I’ve spent the past few months setting my personal finances to autopilot.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I don’t have to think about money anymore. I still obsessively monitor my budget.

    But it does make paying bills, saving money, and even making money, a heck of a lot easier.

    Overall, I’m feeling more financially confident. Plus, I have more time to, well, waste… or to write about money-saving tips.

    Like these.

    I know, I know. You might feel iffy about letting go, even just a little bit. But here are some solid reasons to automate your finances — plus tips and tools tol help you get started.

    1. You’ll Protect Your Hard-Earned Money

    I’m a fairly paranoid person. Worst-case scenarios generally take up a good chunk of space inside my brain.

    But when it comes to identity theft and data breaches, I should probably be a little more paranoid. After the Equifax breach, I joined the 59% of consumers who didn’t check to see if their data was affected.

    Why? In part, I was busy, and I’d always think about it at the most inconvenient time — like on a flight or in the shower. I also thought the process would be a lot more involved (spoiler alert: it’s not). Plus, I had already signed up with Credit Sesame earlier this year.

    Credit Sesame not only shows me my credit score and credit report — for free — it also allows me to sign up for text and email alerts. If anything fishy is going on, or something dramatically changes within my accounts, the service automatically lets me know.

    Plus, it offers $50,000 in identity theft insurance and fraud assistance if someone does steal and use my information. (You can’t see me, but I’m knocking on wood right now.)

    Now, I’ve freed up more space in my head to draw up other horrific scenarios.

    2. You’ll Find That Saving isn’t Impossible

    Admittedly, saving money is not my forte. Even when I was living back home with my parents, I struggled to tuck money into a savings account.

    Now, I’m wishing more than anything that I’d taken the matter more seriously. Looking back, I coulda-shoulda-woulda set up an automated savings account.

    I’ve learned the best way to trick yourself into saving money is to automate it.

    Start simply, and allocate a portion of your paycheck to a separate, hands-off account.

    With Stash, you can start with as little as $5, and select how often — and how much — you’d like to invest. Be realistic. Even if it’s $5 a month, you’re doing something, and that’s all that matters.

    And because it’s automatic, you likely won’t miss the money. Plus, you’ll be surprised with a nice little nest egg of savings — which can go toward paying off your debt if needed.

    And, hey, when you sign up, you’ll snag a $5 bonus to make your first investment!

    Now, you’re doublin’ down on those savings… am I right?

    3. You’ll Coast Along the Road to Retirement

    Ideally. I mean, you never know what life’s gonna throw at you, but if you have a 401(k) set up — or any other retirement account — that’s awesome.

    And if it’s through your employer, it’s automatic. No monthly reminders, and again, what you don’t see, you don’t miss.

    You’ll just want to be sure your 401(k) is doing what you need it to do.

    I’m reluctant to hire a financial adviser because, well, I don’t have many finances for one to advise me on. But when I logged into my 401(k) account to poke around, it might as well have been jibberish.

    That’s why I signed up for Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that optimizes and monitors my 401(k) for me.

    Blooom gave me a free 401(k) “checkup”. It used a flower metaphor to show me that my account wasn’t exactly blooming. It told me I needed to mix up my stocks and bonds and diversity my funds.

    I didn’t really know where to start with that, so I opted in for the $10 a month service. Now Blooom keeps tabs on everything, and I’ll occasionally get an email from the robo-advisor that lets me know my account has been rebalanced.

    It’s nice to know that one day I might actually be able to retire.

    4. You’ll Know You’re Paying What’s Fair

    For services you can’t necessarily shop around for, it’s hard to know if you’re paying what’s fair.

    When I recently sought out cable and internet, I realized I had only one option. And it was not cheap.

    I tried to passively haggle (definitely an oxymoron) with the sales associate on the other end of the line, but I knew I was stuck unless I wanted to forego internet — and my treasured work-from-home days.

    But after installation, I uploaded a PDF of my first cable and internet bill to Trim. Trim is a website, personified by a cute little bot wearing a visor, that acts as your personal finance assistant.

    After uploading the PDF, Trim’s AI-powered system got to work. It negotiates with a number of cable and internet companies, including Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and Spectrum.

    If Trim manages to save you money, it’ll take a 25% credit. The rest, though, is applied toward your upcoming bill (or bills).

    And you don’t necessarily have to be paying too much. Trim also negotiates with companies if there’s an outage.

    In the month since I’ve started my service, I’ve earned $10 back. Others, though, have taken to Twitter to report saving even more:

    Trim will also show you all your subscriptions, so if you have an old magazine subscription hidden in the depths of your accounts, it’ll show you. You can then automatically cancel said subscription through Trim.

    Honestly, it feels great knowing someone — or something, in this case — has my back. And that it doesn’t require sitting on hold for hours at a time.

    5. You’ll Make Some Passive Income

    Like a true Penny Hoarder, I’ve become obsessed with earning cash back on my purchases. Any little bit counts — and it adds up more quickly though I thought.

    For example, in the past six months, I’ve earned nearly $100 through the Ibotta app.

    I recently added another one to stash. It’s called Dosh, and it’s all — you guessed it — automated.

    Dosh is neat because you don’t have to scan barcodes, take photos of receipts or hunt down promo codes.

    Here’s what to do:

    • Download the Dosh app. It’s free.
    • Connect your credit and/or debit cards. Select the ones you use most frequently. For the first card you connect, you’ll earn $5. The subsequent cards will earn you another $1.
    • Go about your day.

    Each time you complete a transaction at a Dosh-affiliated retailer, restaurant or even brewery, you’ll earn automatic cash back. For example, I can earn 7% back at a local coffee shop. Or 2% cash back at Sam’s Club.

    I’ve enjoyed the app’s passiveness. I don’t even have to check in. (Except I do, because there’s a certain thrill that comes with earning cash back.)

    Bonus: If you want guaranteed cash back on every single purchase, stake out the best rewards card for you.

    We like the Barclaycard CashForward™ World Mastercard® because you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Each time you redeem those rewards, you also get a 5% redemption bonus to use toward your next redemption.

    You’ll get a $200 bonus when you sign up and spend $1,000 within 90 days. When you think about it, $1,000 isn’t really that much; groceries can add up pretty fast. Just make sure you pay your bill in full each month.

    If you want to learn about more ways to set up a passive stream of income — no matter how big or small — we’ve got some ideas for you.

    6. You’ll Always Remember to Pay All Your Bills

    Forgetting to pay a bill can send you into a spiral of late fees and overdraft fees and right on over to collections.

    It’s another irrational fear I have — forgetting to pay an important bill and ruining my credit score.

    I’ve started tackling this worry by setting my bills to auto-pay. Now, I don’t have to worry about paying my electric, cable and internet or credit card bill off in time because it’ll just pull from my account. (The key is to just have enough money to pay for those…)

    I’m also working to automate my monthly rent payments, but I haven’t quite figured that out with my landlord. In the meantime, I’ve set up a reminder with Trim, which shoots me a Facebook message with a reminder.

    (My rent is due the 12th of every month, so it’s not like it’s that easy to remember. Stop judging me.)

    Although it’s not healthy to totally forget about your finances — I think that’s what therapists call repression? — it is helpful to automate a few important aspects of it to keep that well-oiled machine chugging.

    Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s fond of lengthy to-do lists. Without automating some aspects of her finances, her lists would span the entire block.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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    Looks Like Uber Got Hacked Last Year: Here’s How to Protect Your Identity

    Looks Like Uber Got Hacked Last Year: Here’s How to Protect Your Identity

    Another day, another hack.

    We hate to say it, but data hacks are becoming the norm. Think: Pizza Hut, Equifax and Forever 21.

    The latest company to join the never-ending list? Uber.

    Although this data breach only recently come to light, it actually occurred more than a year ago — in October 2016. Hackers got their hands on the data of more than 57 million riders and drivers, according to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s blog post.

    The data included names, email addresses and phone numbers. The driver’s license numbers of about 600,000 U.S. Uber drivers were also exposed.

    So why are we just hearing about Uber hack?

    Well, the company managed to keep the breach a secret under former CEO Travis Kalanick, according to multiple news outlets, including the New York Times, by paying a $100,000 ransom. The incident was uncovered after a recent internal investigation.

    Now, Khosrowshahi, who didn’t know about the Uber hack until recently, is making strides to be transparent.

    Khosrowshahi also ensures Uber drivers and riders that their information is OK.

    “At the time of the incident, we took immediate steps to secure the data and shut down further unauthorized access by the individuals,” his announcement states.

    “We subsequently identified the individuals and obtained assurances that the downloaded data had been destroyed. We also implemented security measures to restrict access to and strengthen controls on our cloud-based storage accounts.”

    That’s great and all, but what if this happens again?

    How to Protect Yourself From Data Breaches…

    …even if they’re kept secret…

    We’ve got two easy steps you can take to help protect yourself in the future. Do note: You can definitely do both of these.

    Option 1: Protect Your Identity — for Free

    Start by taking a super simple — and free — step: Sign up for credit-monitoring alerts.

    You can find this service on a number of platforms, including Credit Sesame. Here, you’ll gain access to your credit score and your credit report. You can also sign up for email or text alerts, so the service will let you know if anything weird is going on.

    It also offers $50,000 in identity theft insurance. Again, for free.

    Option 2: Freeze Your Credit

    If you want to take a more aggressive approach — and don’t mind dropping a few dollars — consider freezing your credit.

    Credit Sesame defines a credit freeze as  “a process which locks down your credit file and prevents identity thieves and cyber criminals from opening credit in your name.”

    Basically, no one can do anything with that information except you.

    When you do need access to your credit — for example, when you open a new bank account, sign up for a credit card or apply for a mortgage — you’ll unfreeze (or thaw) it. The process  only takes a few hours and shouldn’t cost more than $20.

    If you want to learn the ins and outs of credit freezes, read up on this guide.

    Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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    Mr. Money Mustache, UBER Driver

    Mr. Money Mustache, UBER Driver

    Special Surprise: Did you know there is now an MMM Android App? It’s really good. Beautiful offline reading. Alerts you to new articles automatically, if you want. Thousands of users already. Free. Many more features (plus an Apple version) to come. It’s on the Google Play Store.

    —-

    About two years ago, I switched from taking my personal car to the airport, to hailing Ubers and Lyfts. The math of it was pretty simple: Uber was cheaper than paying for my driving and parking*. And that was before the considerable joy and time savings of not having to park in the airport lot and cram in among the huddled masses in the shuttle buses. Nowadays I sit in the back and get some work done like an Executive, leaving the driving to someone else.

    Once I arrive at my destination city, these ride sharing services have replaced at least 90% of instances where a car rental would be useful. Between walking, renting a bike, public transit and calling a Lyft, a car rental is only useful for destinations deep in the boondocks such as a ski resort or a distant beach cabin. Which is another great improvement, since renting a car at an airport has never been a fun experience.

    But during all these Luxury Executive rides, I’d often get to talking with the driver. We would talk about life, family, money and business. I always inquired about their experience with rideshare driving, and the response was inevitably something like this:

    UBER DRIVER: “Oh, it’s pretty good. On a good day I’ll make a hundred bucks, sometimes even two hundred if I really work it and stay up late.”

    MMM: “Is that your profit after subtracting the cost of driving?”

    UBER DRIVER: “No, that doesn’t include gas. But I’ll only use, like, not even a full tank – maybe thirty bucks”

    “Hmm”, I would think to myself.

    “If this driver is burning through $30 of gas, (twelve gallons), they’re probably covering over 250 miles. Whether they realize it or not, it’s costing them $125 in direct car costs before even accounting to the damage to their health or the risk of injury. Thus, the net profit might be as low as $50 for a big day on the road, or five bucks an hour.”

    There’s no way Uber could be such a successful company if the pay rate were really this low. Is there?

    But on the other hand, some of my Uber drives to the airport have included a Dodge Ram pickup truck (V-8 engine, fancy wheels, bought brand new on credit), a BMW X5 and even a Hummer H3 (with over 250,000 miles on the odometer). Maybe people really are that  uninformed about the cost of driving. As my friend Bill said when we talked about this:

    “Imagine developing a company specifically to take advantage of people’s ignorance of how expensive it really is to drive their own car. What would this company look like? “

    (the answer is of course that it would look like very much like Uber or any other ridesharing company)

    To resolve this mystery (and as a way of getting some test miles on my new electric car), Mr. Money Mustache decided to go deep undercover in September 2016, and sign up as a driver for both Uber and Lyft services.

    The Initiation

    Using another driver’s referral code, I signed up on the Uber system and started to follow the instructions. I needed a background check, medical exam, car safety inspection and a few other daunting things. Luckily, Uber runs facilities called “Greenlight Centers” which put all this stuff in one place. The closest one to me was about 40 miles away in Denver, so I charged up my new Leaf and headed down.

    When I arrived, I found an interesting scene that nicely personifies our new sharing economy. It was a mashup of an Apple Store and the DMV. Modern design and furniture, good music and glossy tablets everywhere, combined with an ocean of slightly desperate and bored looking people waiting to start their new driving careers. And Mr. Money Mustache, trying to blend in.

    It was a funny feeling, spending those three precious hours of my Tuesday morning, waiting in queues and filling out forms. I was keen to learn about the driver experience and how things work in the New Economy. But I also felt a bit of the nervous “I’m applying for a new job” energy of the other applicants, and like a bit of a fraud for being here when I had absolutely no interest in truly having a job.

    There was a trendy little cafe in the corner of the room, so I strolled over and picked up a Clif bar and a coffee. Due to my naive privilege as a former tech worker, I expected it all to be free – after all, don’t all offices offer free coffee and snacks, along with a keg of local beer and another tap for Kombucha? But a man popped out from around the corner and rung me up for $3.85. On top of that, it was a bland coffee in a small cup. This was an interesting reminder that working in a lower-training job is a different world than the one you and I probably both inhabit, here at the top of the economy.

    When the process was finally done, my 25-year-old Uber concierge looked up from his iPad and issued me a genuinely warm congratulations and we shook hands.

    “So that’s it?”, I asked

    “Yeah! That’s it! You could go out and get in your car start making some money RIGHT NOW!”

    “Hmmm…”

    “Nah”, I thought to myself. “Eighty miles of driving plus three hours in an office building is more than enough wasted indoor time for me for the next little while.” 

    The spoiled retiree in me loves hard work, but only the right kind of hard work. The sedentary locked-indoors variety of work always falls to the bottom of the list. As you can tell by the low frequency of these blog posts.

    My First Ride

    Eventually, I was ready to give it a whirl. I cleaned up my car, stuck the Uber decal on the windshield, put on some nice clothes, mounted my phone on a sturdy dashboard clamp, and fired up the app. Within minutes, I had my first ring.

    RIDE REQUESTED! John, 5 minutes away.

    The ring was deafeningly loud, because (as I later learned after half an hour of looking unsuccessfully for a way to change it) the Uber app overrides your ring volume setting and sets it to !!MAXIMUM!!  I was so startled that I could hardly slide the “accept” button, but I eventually got safely on the road.

    I recognized the address as Longmont’s “Pumphouse” brew pub, right downtown. I headed down the hill and scoped the area, and eventually found John. As he hopped in the car I slid the “start trip” button and his destination was revealed as the local Marijuana shop, just 1.9 miles away away.

    John and I exchanged pleasant conversation and he was impressed by the quick silence of the electric car. I dropped him off at Native Roots and then parked nearby, expecting another fare to pop up just as quickly.

    Ride 1: 5 minutes waiting, 5 minutes driving, 1.2 miles unpaid, 1.9 miles paid. Net fare to me: $3.37

    But the second fare wasn’t quite as quick. Fifteen minutes later, the Uber app rang again. It was John, now properly restocked and thrilled that I was still there in the weed shop parking lot. We headed back to the Pumphouse.

    Ride 2: 15 minutes waiting, 5 minutes driving, 1.9 miles paid. Net fare to me: $3.37 … plus TIP $5.00!

    Hey this wasn’t so bad: that five dollar tip really brought up the average. I was thirty minutes into my career and up about 12 bucks, minus five miles of car costs.

    After another five minutes of idle time, the app rang again. This time it was a suburban address listed as 12 minutes (which turned out to be almost four miles) away. I decided to take the ride anyway, in the spirit of experimentation.

    I got to the house, but nobody was there. After a minute, I used the Uber app to send the customer a text message. “Oh sorry!”, he said, “My phone GPS isn’t working well because we’re inside so it probably shows us in the wrong place! We’re just on the next street.”

    I drove around a bit more and eventually found the young couple, and the app revealed a nice surprise: they were headed all the way to Boulder, which was over 12 miles from this part of Longmont. Surely now I would start earning the big bucks.

    After 24 minutes of smooth, expert driving and pleasant conversation, I dropped them off at a restaurant. But I was surprised to see that the total wasn’t that impressive:

    Ride 3: 10 minutes waiting, 4 miles unpaid, 12.4 miles paid. Net fare to me: $13.96. No Tip.

    Driving in the Happening City

    Now I was in Boulder, which has a much bigger scene than Longmont. Everybody is rich, every night is a big night, Colorado University is right downtown and it’s all action – there are no real suburbs. Due to high rider demand, the city operates in a perpetual “Surge Mode” which means Uber Fares are 20-30% more lucrative, and there is virtually no wait time for fares. And now, I was right downtown. So the app shrieked its notification tone immediately.

    The customer was only a mile away, but due to the incredible slowness of trying to drive a 14-foot-long, 3300 pound Racing Wheelchair in a dense city it took me a lot of slow gliding in traffic and waiting at long traffic lights to get there. It was a couple of younger guys, heading back downtown.

    We slogged through the dense traffic yet again at roughly one third of bicycling speed, and I earned my five dollar fare.

    The app rang again, and I saw from the map it was yet another non-downtown person, probably looking for another ride downtown.

    I decided not to play this game anymore, contributing to car traffic in a city that needs fewer cars. So I let this ride request go to another driver and set my destination to Longmont, hoping to find a customer heading that way so I could get paid for the ride home. There were none.

    So I flew the Leaf back along the highway to home, and stopped at the grocery store to pick up some fresh food and a free battery charge for the car.

    Total stats for the day:

    4 Rides
    1:51 hours
    18.6 miles unpaid
    17.2 miles paid
    $32 including tips
    ~$18 of car costs
    roughly $7 per hour net


    Ongoing observations

    After joining Uber as a driver, it was easy to add on a Lyft license: you can submit scans or photos of the same examination info to both companies. So over the next few months, I fired up both Uber and Lyft apps to do a bit more driving and collect some more observations. I had a lot of fun, but made very little money.

    • One time, I was summoned by a 13-year-old girl coming out of the middle school, effectively turning me into Mr. Schoolbus Dad. After finding her in the school lineup, she directed me to the elementary school, where we picked up her little brother. I dropped them both off safely at home in a rusty suburban area nearby.
    • Another ride was from a college student, deep in the Colorado U campus. It took me forever to navigate the throngs of after school foot and vehicle traffic and find this young lad in the crowd. During the ensuing 3MPH transit of Boulder, I couldn’t help but remark, “Wow! I apologize for how slow this trip is going. I’m usually on my bike when I cross Boulder, which is a lot faster.”
      Our final destination was a strip mall, and he directed me meticulously through the entire parking lot so he could be let off within 20 feet of the front door of the restaurant. End fare for about 35 minutes of work, even with surge pricing, was another six bucks. My resolve to avoid driving cars in Boulder was reinforced.
    • My favorite times to be a driver were Friday nights. It was fun to feel the energy of people going out on the town, and find out what was going on.  I could see Uber driving to be a good escape for single people looking to meet new friends (or romances), because I almost always got along well with the customers, often exchanging business cards or email addresses with people when we found something in common.
      On longer rides with people over 30, the topic almost invariably led to life, business, and money, which led to Mustachianism, which led to me admitting my secret identity. Thus, some of my past Uber customers may even be reading this article today(?)
    • But in the end, it was hard to stay motivated to keep doing this experiment. There is just usually something better to do than driving around in a car, and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice too much of my life to gather more data. And with the financial gain of rideshare driving being negligble, I am surprised that there are so many people who do it.

    How to Make the Most of a Low-Profit Situation

    Still, as with everything in life, I did my best to optimize Uber driving for both fun and money. From my experience as well as reading online forums, the best way you can do it is:

    • Use the referral and bonus system heavily. Actual driving doesn’t pay well, but I have seen bonuses pop up on my app offering between $100-$500 to refer other drivers. There are also “weekly guarantee” offers that come up occasionally, offering more pay in exchange for meeting a certain threshold.
    • Use the lowest cost and most fuel-efficient car you can find. Uber requires you to have a fairly new (under 10 years) car, so get something on the older side of that spectrum, but with low miles. A 2009 Prius, for example, uses less than half the fuel of most cars of similar size.
    • Focus your driving around on “Surge Pricing”. By watching the app throughout the days and months, you will learn when your area enters periods of higher demand. Special events like Halloween, late weekend nights or major league sports events are popular times.
    • Try to find trips involving highways. Since you get paid mostly by the mile, you earn almost ten times more more money at 60 MPH than you make in on a long trip through central city where you might average only 6 MPH.
    • Experiment with the “set destination” feature to filter for rides going your way. Taking fares with you on your commute to work or to an airport.
    • Make the most of your downtime: there will still be lots of waiting between fares. If you bring a book, podcast, laptop or make business-related calls that help you learn a trade that pays more than driving, you can get yourself into a more lucrative trade.

    Suggestions for Uber and Lyft

    During the course of this experiment, I happened to receive emails from relatively senior people at both Uber and Lyft for unrelated reasons. So I took the opportunity to make some suggestions to make things friendlier for drivers:

    • Report the total driving time and miles for each ride and each shift, clearly specifying paid and unpaid miles and hours.
    • Provide an drivers an estimate of the car costs incurred, and estimated hourly earnings after these costs
    • Allow drivers to specify the types of rides they are willing to accept. For example, “only ring me for riders within 1 mile”, or “I would like to be paid for for both pickup mileage and rider mileage.”
    • Provide drivers with the details of where the person is going, or at least how long of a ride it is. Right now, Uber has all this incredibly useful information at the time of booking, but deliberately withholds it from the driver.

    I was surprised that none of these suggestions got anywhere. This was a disappointment to the Economic Libertarian in me, because it seems obvious that  an open market between buyer and seller is the key to more efficiency.

    In fact, early in my driving career I learned how much the unpaid driving was hurting my profitability so I stopped accepting distant fares. The app quickly sent me this note:

     

    Yeah, right. How about you just stop ringing me with fares that are ridiculously far away, instead?

    When these companies deliberately tilt the field, they are being sneaky, which causes them to lose public trust, which causes the public to vote in a bunch of sclerotic regulation to protect the drivers and the public. If you, as a company, just avoid being a dick to people in the first place and treat them with complete openness and good old-fashioned honesty, they are more likely to let you run free.

    Since I started this experiment a year ago, Uber has fallen into a world of trouble and bad publicity. Their internal culture of sexual harassment was blown wide open, along with the misdeeds of the wild and temperamental former CEO. From specific programs to evade government regulation to annoying treatment of drivers, Uber triggered a widespread backlash which became the #deleteuber campaign. Saying “Uber” is now a bit like uttering the words “ConAgra” or “Philip Morris” or “Exxon”.

    Meanwhile, from the very beginning I noticed a friendlier tone in the way Lyft operates – see this 2016 interview with Lyft more laid-back founder John Zimmer.

    In the End..

    In general, I really want companies like Uber and Lyft (and Tesla, AirBnb, Google, Amazon and many of the other tech companies that have been stirring things up so much lately) to succeed, because the benefits to all of us greatly outweigh the inconvenience of the disruption.

    For example, some people worry about what will happen to driving jobs as self-driving vehicles gradually take over. But I’m excited about the ways this can make our lives safer, quieter, and less expensive as we give up on owning personal cars, ride bikes much more, and use automated cars as a service whenever the bike is impractical. Technology provides a lumpy ride, but it also provides change which is an essential ingredient in every human life to avoid getting into a rut. So, share on.


    Further Reading: How Big Oil Will Diean interesting walk through the changes today’s technologies have already set in place – leading us very quickly to a place where nobody in 2010 would have even guessed.

     

    this sentence surely made you ask, “but what about the BUS, Mustache?!?” – good question. Of course I’d always choose biking, then public transit as the first two options, but the airport is 45 miles away (well over 2 hours by bike) and the bus requires a transfer in Denver, which makes it even slower than biking. Also, both Uber and Lyft have referral programs which give you credit for referring friends – I still have a few credits in my Uber account.

    If you want to try Uber or Lyft, sign by randomly choosing one of these codes from friends, and you’ll get $5-10 off of your first ride (and give a small surprise to some of the members of the MMM-HQ coworking space!)

    Uber #1 Uber #2 Uber #3 Uber #4 Uber #5

    Lyft #1 Lyft #2 Lyft #3

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