So it's the end of the year, and that has me thinking about finances. I'm getting in my final end-of-year charitable donations, I'm selling off my one loser stock for the tax loss, I'm starting a new 2008 personal finance spreadsheet. One of the things I've been tracking this year is my "freebies" count. As I've said before on this blog, I'm one of those wacky people who responds to offers for free things. I only respond to the genuine offers, mind you, not the ones that have you clicking insanely for hours, only to come to a dead end where you have to subscribe to some magazine or service you don't need and wait three months to get your prize. I do the real ones.
I also get sign-up bonuses for credit cards, new bank accounts etc. And of course, I diligently cash in credit card points and frequent-buyer points. As so many of my friends and siblings are nay-sayers ("I don't have time, they never really give you the bonus, I'll forget to close the account, it's not worth it," etc.), I decided to write down each freebie and see how things tally up at the end of the year. This year, the grand total value on my freebies came to, ta-da, $2,356! Yay for me! Here's what it was (mostly) comprised of:
Sign-up bonuses on:
- Etrade ($25 for opening a savings account),
- Wachovia ($50 for opening a checking account),
- Netbank ($75 each for opening a checking and savings account...doesn't exist anymore, got eaten by Everbank),
- Bank of America ($100 for opening a checking account),
- Citibank ($100 for a checking/savings account),
- ING ($25 for an orange savings account),
- Keybank ($20 for a credit card...last year I got a free Nano from them for opening a checking account), and
- Wachovia ($50 for a checking account; I got screwed on that one as they charged $25 to close the account).
- I opened 3 American Express credit cards and cashed in the signup points immediately for gift cards ($250 for the business Amex, $100 for the Starwood Amex, and $50 for The Knot Amex).
- I got $112 cash from Ebates (you have to be insane not to have an account at Ebates), and in February, I will receive an additional check for $198.
- JetBlue was running a promo where they sent you a $25 Amex gift card if you paid for a flight with Amex.
- Inbox Dollars sent me a check for $30 (I wouldn't recommend joining Inbox Dollars...way too much work).
- I made $550 in gift cards from My Points (which I highly recommend...no work at all).
- I got $10 from Obopay.
- A free Ipod Shuffle (worth $79) from Discover.
- A 1 gig Flash drive from PC Safety Plus.
- A $20 Lowe's gift card from ShopatHome.
- A $25 Gift Card from Barnes and Noble for a Mastercard.
- A $50 bonus from Sharebuilder for opening an account.
- Cashed in some Wells Fargo cc points for a $10 Amazon card,
- Cashed in a walloping ton of Chase cc points for a $500 Sharper Image card (which got me my GPS),
- Got a $35 free long distance card from Phone Hog.
How did I find all these freebies? Well, I did do some searching, but I also follow fabulous blogs like this one, that essentially do the searching for me. I go through my junk mail diligently, throw out the crap and keep the offers that sound interesting. If they are not going to be too much work, I follow through. Whenever I apply for a freebie, I set alarms in my Google calendar to email me when I should see an offer come through or when I need to close an account. Right now, I am left with only 4 credit cards and three bank accounts, and my credit rating is still fabulous (it takes a very small hit when you open a new cc). The only account I forgot to close was my Emusic account and that cost me $20, but considering the 100+ mp3's that I downloaded, no regrets.
I never try to cheat or open multiple accounts or other slimy things, and I am prepared to pay taxes on my goodies (ah, the price of living in a free capitalist society....I love capitalism, love it, love it). I do admit to spending about 10-15 minutes a day checking up on this stuff, never more than that (quoth the Raven)....I do have some semblance of a life.
So was it worth it? $2,300+ later, I'm gonna say, yeah, it was.