How to Get the Best Price on a Rental Car – 10 Simple Steps

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Do you recognize this scenario? You’re planning to rent a small car for a vacation or business trip. Yet somehow, when you walk away from the car rental counter, you’re holding the keys to a much bigger car with a much bigger price tag. 

If this has happened to you, it was no accident. You were a victim of upselling — one of the many tricks car rental companies use to squeeze more money out of you. They lure you, scare you, or badger you into driving away with a bigger car than you planned. 

To save money on car rentals, you need to beat the agencies at their own game. First, do some research to figure out exactly what car you need. Then, shop around and use discounts to make sure you pay the lowest possible rate for it. 

How to Get the Best Price on a Rental Car

Getting the best rate on your car rental is largely a matter of doing your homework. You have to know what kind of car you need, when to book it, and where to shop for the best prices. You also need to know how to avoid tricky upsells and hidden fees.

1. Know What You Need

If you’ve ever rented a car before, you know rental companies often try to upsell you. When you arrive to pick up your vehicle, they don’t hand over the keys right away. 

Instead, they suggest you upgrade to a larger model than the one you booked. Often, they say it will offer more comfort, more power, or even better gas mileage. 

That last statement is unlikely to be true. In general, bigger cars use more gas than smaller ones. If you let the rental clerk talk you into a bigger model, you’ll end up paying more for gas and the car itself.

As for the extra room and extra power, they probably don’t matter. If you’re driving by yourself or with just one or two other people, a compact car should have enough space. And you’re unlikely to need more power unless you’re planning to drive up steep mountain roads or in deep snow.

If there’s any doubt in your mind about how much car you need, do some research before you book. Look for reviews of the model you’re considering and see what owners say about its comfort, mileage, and power. 

Then, when the clerk starts trying to sell you on a bigger model, you can say with confidence that the one you booked is just fine for your needs.

2. Book Early, Especially During Peak Travel Times

Car rental companies have a limited number of cars in their fleets. During peak travel times, every vehicle is in demand as customers flock to travel destinations. And when demand outstrips supply, prices go up. That’s simple economics.

So if you’re traveling during a busy travel season, reserve your car as far in advance as possible. You’ll avoid paying a premium for booking during the busy season or, worse still, finding the vehicle you want is unavailable.

3. Take Advantage of Discounts

Never pay full price for a rental car without checking for discounts first. There are all kinds of programs that can offer you a better price on a rental, including:

  • Military Discounts. Many car rental companies, including Alamo and Budget, offer discounts for military service members and veterans. Some also have special deals for other government employees or first responders, such as firefighters and police. If you belong to any of these groups, always ask about discounts when booking a rental.
  • USAA Rates. If your spouse or parent is in the military, you could get a discount through USAA. This financial provider serves active military members, veterans, and their spouses and children. Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz have special USAA rates. 
  • Senior Discounts. Several rental car agencies work with AARP to provide discounts for older adults. AARP members can save up to 30% at Avis, Budget, and Payless. And all travelers over 50 can get lower prices from Hertz through its Fifty Plus program.
  • Corporate Codes. Many businesses have partnerships with car rental companies. Their employees get better rates, and the agencies benefit from the extra business. Check your corporate travel site to see if your company has such a program. 
  • University Codes. Universities also cut deals with rental car agencies. Both students and alumni can get lower daily rates and other perks, such as a free additional driver. Check the student benefits or alumni deals page for rental car discounts.
  • Frequent Flyer Programs. Some frequent flyer programs can get you a reduced rate on a car rental. For instance, United MileagePlus members enjoy discounts and earn bonus miles when they rent through Hertz.
  • AAA. Being a member of AAA gets you discounts on all kinds of services, including rental cars. Currently, members can save between 8% and 20% off the base rate with Thrifty, Dollar, or Hertz. Check your local AAA website for the latest deals.
  • Costco. This warehouse club offers discounts on a lot more than groceries. One of the many benefits of Costco membership is its discounts on car rentals from Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise. Visit the Costco Travel site to access the latest exclusive deals.

4. Join a Loyalty Program

Many rental car agencies have loyalty programs that offer various discounts and perks. Most loyalty programs are free to join, and it takes only a few minutes to sign up.  

Joining one of these programs could get you benefits like:

  • Free upgrades
  • The ability to skip the line when you pick up your rental
  • A guarantee the car you sign up for will be available
  • An account that stores your rental preferences for future use
  • Rewards points you can cash in for free rentals or upgrades

And there’s nothing to stop you from signing up for multiple programs. You could join one for each rental agency you use. In fact, if you’ve already reached elite status with one company, you can usually carry over that status when you sign up for another agency’s program as well.

Some agencies, such as Avis and Hertz, also have special programs just for small-business owners. If you own a small business, these programs can give you a percentage off the base price every time you rent a car.

5. Compare Prices

Joining a loyalty program doesn’t mean you have to be loyal to one car rental company. It always makes sense to shop around and see if another company can offer a better price.

You could do that by calling several companies for quotes, but you don’t have to. There are several websites you can use to check rental prices across multiple agencies. 

One leading comparison site is AutoSlash. This free site factors in discounts from AAA and Costco and searches for online coupons to cut your rental price. It even notifies you if the rental rate drops after you book your car. That allows you to cancel it and rebook at the lower price.

However, AutoSlash isn’t the only site in the business. Other places to look for deals include CarRentals.com, Kayak, and Priceline.

6. Check Smaller Car Rental Companies

When you’re comparing prices, don’t limit yourself to the major rental car agencies. Small off-brand agencies such as Fox Rent A Car can offer significantly lower rates than the big companies.

These small agencies aren’t available everywhere, and they may not show up in results from sites like AutoSlash. But if there’s one in your area, it’s worth a call to see if they can beat the big companies’ prices. To find small local agencies, search the Internet for “car rental near me.”

7. Look for Coupon Codes

When you’re searching for rental car prices, do an extra search for coupon codes you can tack on at checkout. With the right code, you can save as much as 50% off the regular rental rate. 

On top of that, you can often combine these coupon codes with other discounts. For instance, they sometimes stack with savings from loyalty programs or frequent flyer programs.

If you shop through AutoSlash, it automatically seeks coupon codes for you. Other places to look for deals include Groupon and LivingSocial. Also, money-saving browser extensions like Capital One Shopping search for coupon codes and apply them every time you shop. 

8. Read the Fine Print

It’s not unusual to see online ads promising car rentals as low as $15 per day. These prices sound too good to be true — and they are. The price you pay is usually much higher due to taxes and fees excluded from the advertised rate. 

You can’t avoid all these extra fees. However, you can at least be aware of them to avoid any surprises. And you can always say no to extraneous car rental fees.

When comparing prices, look at the final price with all taxes and fees included. That way, you know you’re comparing apples to apples. 

9. Prepay

Most car rental companies offer two different daily rental rates: one for prepayment and a higher one for paying when you pick up the car (or simply renting on the spot). For instance, Budget charges rates up to 35% less when you pay ahead.

But despite the savings, prepaying isn’t always the smart move. If you prepay for your car and have to change your plans, you could get hit with a hefty cancellation fee. 

For instance, Alamo charges $50 for canceling a prepaid rental or $100 if you cancel with less than 24 hours’ notice. Canceling a regular reservation is only $50 with less than 24 hours’ notice and free if you cancel earlier than that. 

To avoid these fees, don’t prepay for your rental unless your travel schedule is fixed.

10. Use a Rewards Card

Once you’ve decided which car to rent and where, there’s still one more way to save: by choosing the right card to pay with. Many travel rewards credit cards, such as Chase Sapphire Reserve, offer special perks and discounts on car rentals. 

Depending on the card, you could pay a lower daily or weekly rate or earn extra rewards points. You could also get perks like free upgrades, free rental car insurance, a free additional driver, or a grace period on late returns.

Moreover, if you already have rewards points on one of these cards, you can sometimes get a bonus by cashing them in for travel deals, including car rentals. If your card offers a 50% bonus on travel, you could book a $30-per-day car rental with only $20 worth of rewards.


Final Word

There’s one tip that could potentially save you more than anything else. When planning your trip, think carefully about whether you need a rental car at all. 

In some cases, you can get by without a car. Instead, you can rely on a combination of rides from friends, public transportation, and ridesharing. 

That works particularly well if you only need the vehicle to get to and from the airport. In that case, paying by the ride is probably cheaper than renting a car that will spend most of the trip parked.

Another option is to take advantage of the sharing economy. It’s often possible to get a car through a peer-to-peer service like Turo for much less than a traditional rental. 

These services can offer access to vehicles rental agencies don’t have, such as sports cars or electric vehicles. And you don’t have to deal with any high-pressure sales tactics at the rental counter.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

9 Best Books to Read Before Buying a Home

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For most people, buying a home is the biggest purchase decision of a lifetime. In fact, it’s one of the biggest decisions, period. 

Your mortgage is probably the largest debt you’ll ever take on, and taking care of a house is one of the largest responsibilities. Next to getting married or having children, it’s hard to think of anything that will have a greater impact on your life. 

With so much at stake, it makes sense to learn as much as possible about the process before you take the plunge. You can find lots of articles about home buying online, of course, just like any other subject. But for a really in-depth take on the topic, you can’t beat a good book.

Best Books to Read Before Buying a Home

There are literally hundreds of books on home buying, covering the subject from every possible angle. Some real estate books provide a walk-through of the whole process. Some focus on the legal details. And some are all about getting the best deal on a mortgage.

With so many books to choose from, how do you find one that’s useful for you? To get started, look at what books other people have found most helpful. The books on this list all get good reviews from finance professionals, as well as ordinary homeowners.


1. “Home Buying Kit for Dummies” by Eric Tyson & Ray Brown 

All the books in the “Dummies” series explain complex topics — from computer languages to sports — to people who know nothing about them. “Home Buying Kit for Dummies” takes the same approach. It covers all the basics of buying a home in an easy-to-digest form.

This comprehensive guide covers every step of the home-buying process, including:

The book is ideal for first-time home buyers because it assumes no prior knowledge. It’s all in plain English, with no fancy lingo. You can read it from cover to cover or dip into it as needed to learn about specific topics.

To aid reading, the pages are peppered with icons marking key points. These include a light bulb for tips, a warning sign for pitfalls to avoid, and a deerstalker cap for topics to research on your own. They make it easy to spot important info at a glance.


2. “Buying a Home: The Missing Manual” by Nancy Conner 

The “Missing Manuals” series deals mostly with computer software and hardware. But it’s branched out into finance, another subject that ought to come with instructions. In this volume, Conner, a real estate investor, walks you through the home-buying process from start to finish.

“Buying a Home: The Missing Manual” is a step-by step guide to all the ins and outs of home buying. Its includes chapters on:

  • Choosing a real estate agent, mortgage lender, and lawyer
  • Choosing the right neighborhood
  • Finding your dream home 
  • Figuring out how much to offer on a house 
  • Financing your down payment
  • Comparing mortgages
  • Inspections
  • Closing costs

And it does all this with simple language and handy, bite-size chunks of information. Fill-in forms throughout the book help you apply the author’s expert advice to your specific situation.


3. “NOLO’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home” by Ilona Bray J.D., Alayna Schroeder & Marcia Stewart 

The legal website NOLO is the top place to find legal advice online. Along with its free articles, the site offers an array of do-it-yourself forms, books, and software. This walk-through guide to homebuying is just one example.

“NOLO’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home” covers most of the same topics as the Dummies and Missing Manual books, but from a different angle. It focuses on all the legal ins and outs of the home-buying process.

Although three attorneys wrote this book, it doesn’t rely on their knowledge alone. It draws on the knowledge of 15 other real estate professionals, including Realtors, loan officers, investors, home inspectors, and landlords. It’s like having your own private team of experts. For example:

  • A real estate agent offers tips on how to dress for an open house. 
  • A mortgage broker explains the risks of oral loan preapprovals. 
  • A closing expert discusses the importance of title insurance. 

Along with the expert advice, the book provides real-world stories from over 20 first-time home-buyers. Their experiences let you preview the process before jumping in yourself.


4. “Home Buyer’s Checklist: Everything You Need to Know — But Forgot to Ask — Before You Buy a Home” by Robert Irwin 

Every home-buying guide talks about the need for a home inspection. However, there are many problems home inspectors don’t always look for. The only way to detect them is to ask the right questions. In “Home Buyer’s Checklist,” Robert Irwin tells you what those questions are.

Irwin is a real estate professional with over three decades of experience. He knows all about the hidden flaws in homes and how to track them down. Irwin walks you through a house room by room and points out possible problem areas, such as:

  • Doors and door frames
  • Windows and window screens
  • Fireplaces
  • Light fixtures
  • Floors
  • Woodwork
  • Attic insulation

For each area, he notes possible problems and how to spot them. He also explains what they cost to fix and what damage they can cause if you don’t fix them. And he helps you use that information to your advantage in negotiating the price of the house.

Armed with this information, you can avoid unpleasant surprises when you move into your new home. It won’t make your house’s problems go away, but it will prepare you to deal with them — and keep the money in your pocket to do it.


5. “The 106 Common Mistakes Home Buyers Make (and How to Avoid Them)” by Gary Eldred

To first-time homebuyers, the real estate market is a big, confusing place. In “The 106 Common Mistakes Home Buyers Make (and How to Avoid Them),” Gary Eldred offers you a map to help you find your way around.

Eldred’s guide draws on the real-world experiences of homebuyers, home builders, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders. They shed light on the mistakes homebuyers make most often, such as:

  • Believing everything a real estate agent says
  • Underestimating the cost of owning a home
  • Buying in an upscale neighborhood that’s on the decline
  • Paying too much for a house
  • Letting your agent handle the price negotiations
  • Staying out of the housing market due to fear

With the help of Eldred’s examples, you can avoid these pitfalls and find a house that’s both a comfortable home and a sound investment.


6. “No Nonsense Real Estate: What Everyone Should Know Before Buying or Selling a Home” by Alex Goldstein 

As both a Realtor and a real estate investor, Alex Goldstein has been on both sides of a real estate transaction. This gives him a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t in the home buying process.

In “No Nonsense Real Estate,” Goldstein puts that experience to work for you. He offers a step-by-step guide to the home buying process in language a first time home buyer can easily understand. This comprehensive guide covers:

  • The economics of the housing market in simple terms
  • The pros and cons of working with a real estate agent
  • What to look for in a home
  • Assembling a real estate team
  • Types of homes, such as single-family homes, condos, and co-ops
  • Traditional home loans and non-bank financing
  • Tips for sellers to get the best price on a home
  • The five elements of a successful real estate negotiation
  • Real estate contracts and closing costs
  • The eight steps of a real estate closing
  • The basics of real estate investing
  • A real-world case study of a home purchase
  • A list of frequently asked questions
  • A glossary of real estate terms

As a bonus, all buyers of the book gain access to a library of training videos and materials. They can help you find a real estate agent in your area, evaluate investment properties, and more.


7. “The Mortgage Encyclopedia” by Jack Guttentag

One of the most intimidating parts of buying your first home is getting your first mortgage. Not only is it likely the biggest loan you’ve ever taken out, there are dozens of options to consider. And the jargon loan officers use, from “escrow” to “points,” doesn’t make it any easier.

Jack Guttentag’s “The Mortgage Encyclopedia” offers a solution. The author, a former professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, tells you everything you need to know about how mortgages work and what your options are. The book includes:

  • A glossary of mortgage terms, from “A-credit” to “Zillow mortgage”
  • Advice on nitty-gritty issues such as the risks of cosigning a loan and the pros and cons of paying points versus making a larger down payment 
  • The lowdown on common mortgage myths, traps, and hidden costs to avoid
  • At-a-glance tables on topics like affordability and interest costs for fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages

For first-time homebuyers grappling with the details of choosing and signing a mortgage, it’s a must-read.


8. “How to Get Approved for the Best Mortgage Without Sticking a Fork in Your Eye” by Elysia Stobbe 

Another book that focuses on mortgages is “How to Get Approved for the Best Mortgage Without Sticking a Fork in Your Eye.” As the whimsical title suggests, mortgage expert Elysia Stobbe understands how frustrating the mortgage approval process can be. 

To keep you sane, she helps break the process down into bite-sized chunks of info that are easy to manage. Her guide walks you through such details as types of mortgages, loan programs, interest rates, mortgage insurance, and fees. 

Stobbe explains how to find the right lender, choose the best real estate agent to handle negotiations, and find an appropriate type of loan. She also devotes a lot of space to mistakes you should avoid. And she supports it all with interviews with top real estate professionals.


Buying a home is such a huge, complicated process that it’s often hard to figure out where to start. In “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask,” Ilyce R. Glink addresses this problem by breaking the process down into a series of questions.

This approach makes it easy to find the information you want. Look through the table of contents to find the question that’s on your mind, then flip to the right page to see the answer. Glink tackles questions on all aspects of home buying, such as:

  • Should I buy a home or continue to rent?
  • How much can I afford to spend?
  • Is a new construction home better than an existing home?
  • What’s the difference between a real estate agent and a broker?
  • Where should I start looking for my dream home?
  • What should I look for at a house showing?
  • How does my credit score affect my chance of getting a mortgage?
  • How do I make an offer on a home?
  • Do I need a home inspection?
  • What happens at the closing?

Glink combines advice from top brokers, real-world stories, and her own experience to provide solid answers to all these questions. And she wraps it up with three appendices covering mistakes to avoid and simple steps to make the home-buying process easier.


Final Word

All the books on this list offer a good grounding in the basics of home buying. But if you’re looking for more details on any part of the process, there’s sure to be a book for that too.

You can find books on just about every aspect of home buying. There are books on every stage of the process, from raising cash for a down payment to preparing for your closing. There are books about home buying just for single people and books on buying a home as an investment.

And once you move into your new home, there are more books to help you organize it, decorate it, and keep it in repair. Just search for the topic that interests you at Amazon, a local bookstore, or your local public library.

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Source: moneycrashers.com

Extreme couponing: How credit card merchant offers can save you hundreds of dollars every year – The Points Guy


Everything you need to know about credit card merchant offers


Advertiser Disclosure


Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which ThePointsGuy.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: thepointsguy.com

10 Embarrassing Online Shopping Fails to Avoid This Holiday Season

There’s no need to wait in long lines at crowded stores to snag the perfect holiday gifts at the best prices. All kinds of great deals can be found online.

However, online shopping comes with its own perils when you’re trying to stick to a budget. Buying virtually makes it easy to buy a cartload of stuff in a few simple clicks — without really paying attention to the real-life dollars you’re spending.

Before you hit that “buy now” button, check out how to avoid making these 10 common mistakes when you shop online.

10 Online Shopping Mistakes to Avoid This Holiday Season

As you browse online for your holiday finds, avoid these pitfalls to keep yourself from spending a ho-ho-whole lotta money.

1. Getting Fooled by Terrible Discounts

When is a Black Friday sale not really a sale? When the discounts aren’t any better than the ones you normally receive.

For example, if you can typically find your favorite brand of shoes for $50 — even though the “suggested retail price” is $90 — consider $50 the benchmark. So if a retailer advertises the shoes for 50% off, but the discount is off the regular suggested retail price of $90, it won’t be much of a deal because you’re only saving $5 off of what you’d normally pay.

Let it be a lesson that just because an item is listed on the sale page of a website doesn’t mean something is worth your money.

2. Spending More to Get “Free” Shipping

We’ve all been there. You know you can get free shipping if your order totals more than $50, but your cart comes to $48.50.

Maybe you can find something for $1.50 to meet the minimum… or maybe you’ll just toss in that $10 item you don’t really need but lets you get the free shipping.

Rather than sorting the sale section from low to high, step away from the virtual cart and rethink your original purchase.

Would it be worth paying to have that original item shipped and sticking to your original budget? Or consider other shipping options the retailer offers — could you use a ship-to-store option that lets you save on shipping and drive up to get the goods?

3. Not Abandoning Your Cart

Yeah, it might be bad form to leave a cart full of stuff in a brick-and-mortar store, but do it online, and you could score a better deal.

Some retail sites will trigger an email coupon when you leave items in your cart and close your browser. Leave your cart for a few hours (or a day) and you could receive an email saying, “Did you forget something? Here, have a discount!”

If you don’t need to place the order immediately, a short period of indecision can help you get a better deal.

4. Falling for Expensive Promoted Products

Websites like Amazon, Etsy and eBay know that consumers want convenience — and are easily distracted by the first item they see in search results. So they place advertised products in the search results, even if you choose to sort by price from lowest to highest.

Before you click on that attractive-looking item, thinking it’s in your price range, double-check for an indicator that it’s a promoted product.

5. Not Shopping in Incognito Mode

Did you know some online shopping sites will show higher prices depending on your location, the time of day you’re shopping and whether you’ve checked out the item on the site earlier?

Shop in your browser’s private mode to avoid retailers switching up prices to try to get you to buy now.

6. Shopping While Intoxicated, Tired or Hungry

No. Do not.

That is how you end up with a skirt two sizes smaller than what you normally wear, because you think you might be able to fit into it eventually. And it’s a final sale. Just don’t do it.

If you have the tendency to shop when you’ve been drinking or late at night as you try to cure your insomnia, do yourself a favor and protect your wallet from your worst shopping tendencies.

Put a few of these shopping safeguards in place to prevent your retail hangover.

7. Not Doing Your Research

Never make an impulse buy based on the image of the item alone.

Did you read reviews for the product? (Bonus points if you peep user-uploaded photos.)

Did you check the specs on expensive electronics to make sure you’re getting a high-quality item? Or that it has the connectors you need for it to work with your current setup?

Did you check the clothing size chart?

If you can’t rattle off the reasons it’s worth buying that product right now, step away from your laptop. You’re not ready to buy.

8. Not Checking the Return Policy

A lot of online stores let you make returns, but some of them also make you jump through hoops before you can get your money back.

Before you buy, check the store’s restrictions on returns and find out how much it will deduct from your refund (for return shipping or restocking) if you send the item back.

9. Not Using a Cash-Back Program

If you’re not shopping online through a cash-back portal, you’re missing out on free money.

Check out these Google Chrome extensions — they automatically detect if there’s a rebate, cash-back offer or deal for your purchase.

Bonus points if you shop with a credit card that offers cash back or reward points.

10. Not Having a Budget

Before, when you headed to the store, you may have had a list, or if you shopped with cash you’d know how much you had left to spend. It’s a lot easier for online shopping to get out of control since you can hop from site to site — and can do it any time.

Plus, online retailers purposely try to get you to spend more by suggesting similar products you might like based on what you’ve searched for.

If you set aside an hour before you start your holiday shopping to review your numbers and create a holiday budget, you’ll be able to make the holiday cheer (and more cash) last into the new year.

Lisa Rowan is a former writer at The Penny Hoarder. Staff writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors and senior writer Nicole Dow contributed to this post.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

12 Best Monthly Dividend Stocks and Funds to Buy for 2022

For all the changes we’ve experienced in recent years, some things remain regrettably the same. We all have bills to pay, and those bills generally come monthly. Whether it’s your mortgage, your car payment or even your regular phone and utility bills, you’re generally expected to pay every month.

While we’re in our working years, that’s not necessarily a problem, as paychecks generally come every two weeks. And even for those in retirement, Social Security and (if you’re lucky enough to have one) pension payments also come on a regular monthly schedule. But unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in our investment portfolios. 

That’s where monthly dividend stocks come into play.

Dividend-paying stocks generally pay quarterly, and most bonds pay semiannually, or twice per year. This has a way of making portfolio income lumpy, as dividend and interest payments often come in clusters.

Well, monthly dividend stocks can help smooth out that income stream and better align your inflows with your outflows.

“We’d never recommend buying a stock purely because it has a monthly dividend,” says Rachel Klinger, president of McCann Wealth Strategies, an investment adviser based in State College, Pennsylvania. “But monthly dividend stocks can be a nice addition to a portfolio and can add a little regularity to an investor’s income stream.”

Today, we’re going to look at 12 of the best monthly dividend stocks and funds to buy as we get ready to start 2022. You’ll see some similarities across the selections as monthly dividend stocks tend to be concentrated in a small handful of sectors such as real estate investment trusts (REITs), closed-end funds (CEFs) and business development companies (BDCs). These sectors tend to be more income-focused than growth-focused and sport yields that are vastly higher than the market average.

But in a market where the yield on the S&P 500 is currently 1.25%, that’s certainly welcome. 

The list isn’t particularly diversified, so it doesn’t make a complete portfolio. In other words, you don’t want to overload your portfolio with monthly dividend stocks. But they do allow exposure to a handful of niche sectors that add some income stability, so take a look and see if any of these monthly payers align with your investment style.

Data is as of Nov. 21. Dividend yields are calculated by annualizing the most recent payout and dividing by the share price. Fund discount/premium to NAV and expense ratio provided by CEF Connect.

1 of 12

Realty Income

7-11 store7-11 store
  • Market value: $40.1 billion
  • Dividend yield: 4.2%

Perhaps no stock in history has been more associated with monthly dividends than conservative triple-net retail REIT Realty Income (O, $70.91). The company went so far as to trademark the “The Monthly Dividend Company” as its official nickname.

Realty Income is a stock, of course, and its share price can be just as volatile as any other stock. But it’s still as close to a bond as you’re going to get in the stock market. It has stable recurring rental cash flows from its empire of more than 7,000 properties spread across roughly 650 tenants.

Realty Income focuses on high-traffic retail properties that are generally recession-proof and, perhaps more importantly, “Amazon.com-proof.” Perhaps no business is completely free of risk of competition from Amazon.com (AMZN) and other e-commerce titans, but Realty Income comes close. 

Its largest tenants include 7-Eleven, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), FedEx (FDX) and Home Depot (HD), among others. The portfolio had relatively high exposure to gyms and movie theaters, which made the pandemic painful. But as the world gets closer to normal with every passing day, Realty Income’s COVID-19 risk gets reduced that much more.

At current prices, Realty Income yields about 4.2%. While that’s not a monster yield, remember that the 10-year Treasury yields only 1.6%. 

It’s not the raw yield we’re looking for here, but rather income consistency and growth. As of this writing, Realty Income has made 616 consecutive monthly dividend payments and has raised its dividend for 96 consecutive quarters – making it a proud member of the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats. Since going public in 1994, Realty Income has grown its dividend at a compound annual growth rate of 4.5%, well ahead of inflation.

2 of 12

Stag Industrial

warehousewarehouse
  • Market value: $7.6 billion
  • Dividend yield: 3.4%

Realty Income was pretty darn close to “Amazon.com-proof.” But fellow monthly payer STAG Industrial (STAG, $42.77) proactively benefits from the rise of internet commerce.

STAG invests in logistics and light industrial properties. You know those gritty warehouse properties you might see near the airport with 18-wheelers constantly coming and going? That’s exactly the kind of property that STAG buys and holds.

It’s a foregone conclusion that e-commerce is growing by leaps and bounds, and STAG is positioned to profit from it. Approximately 40% of STAG’s portfolio handles e-commerce fulfillment or other activity, and Amazon.com is its largest tenant.

E-commerce spiked during the pandemic for obvious reasons. As stores have reopened, the effects of that spike have dissipated somewhat, but the trend here is clear. We’re making a larger percentage of our purchases online.

Yet there’s still plenty of room for growth. As crazy as this might sound, only about 15% of retail sales are made online, according to Statista. Furthermore, the logistical space is highly fragmented, and Stag’s management estimates the value of their market to be around $1 trillion. In other words, it’s unlikely STAG will be running out of opportunities any time soon.

STAG isn’t sexy. But it’s one of the best monthly dividend stocks to buy in 2022, with a long road of growth in front of it. And its 3.4% yield is competitive in this market.

3 of 12

Gladstone Commercial

industrial parkindustrial park
  • Market value: $838.2 million
  • Dividend yield: 6.7%

For another gritty industrial play, consider the shares of Gladstone Commercial (GOOD, $22.49). Gladstone Commercial, like STAG, has a large portfolio of logistical and light industrial properties. Approximately 48% of its rental revenues come from industrial properties with another 48% coming from office properties. The remaining 4% is split between retail properties, at 3%, and medical offices at 1%.

It’s a diversified portfolio that has had little difficulty navigating the crazy volatility of the past few years. As of Sept. 30, 2021, the REIT had a portfolio of 127 properties spread across 27 states and leased to 109 distinct tenants. In management’s own words, “We have grown our portfolio 18% per year in a consistent, disciplined manner since our IPO in 2003. Our occupancy stands at 97.7% and has never dipped below 95.0%.”

That’s not a bad run.

Gladstone Commercial has also been one of the most consistent monthly dividend stocks, paying one uninterrupted since January 2005. GOOD currently yields an attractive 6.7%.

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EPR Properties

movie theater and tub of popcornmovie theater and tub of popcorn
  • Market value: $3.7 billion
  • Dividend yield: 6.1%

The COVID-19 pandemic was rough on a lot of landlords. But few were as uniquely battered as EPR Properties (EPR, $49.21). EPR owns a diverse and eclectic portfolio of movie theaters, amusement parks, ski parks, “eat and play” properties like Topgolf, and a host of others.

EPR specializes in experiences over things … which is just about the worst way to be positioned at a time when social distancing was the norm. Essentially every property EPR owned was closed for at least a time, and crowds still haven’t returned to pre-COVID levels across much of the portfolio.

But the key here is that the worst is long behind EPR Properties, and the more normal life becomes, the better the outlook for EPR’s tenants.

EPR was a consistent dividend payer and raiser pre-pandemic. But with its tenants facing an existential crisis, the REIT cut its dividend in 2020. With business conditions massively improving in 2021, EPR reinstated its monthly dividend in July, and the shares now yield an attractive 6.1%. If you believe in life after COVID, EPR is one of the best monthly dividend stocks to play it.

5 of 12

LTC Properties

senior living propertysenior living property
  • Market value: $1.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 6.7%

For one final “traditional” REIT, consider the shares of LTC Properties (LTC, $34.24).

LTC faces some short-term headwinds due to the lingering effects of the pandemic, but its longer-term outlook is bright. LTC is a REIT with a portfolio roughly split equally between senior living properties and skilled nursing facilities.

Needless to say, COVID-19 was hard on this sector. Nursing homes were particularly susceptible to outbreaks, and nursing home residents were at particularly high risk given their age. 

Senior living properties are different in that the tenants are generally younger and live independently without medical care. But a lot of would-be tenants were reluctant to move out of their homes and into a more densely populated building during a raging pandemic. And many still are.

These lingering effects won’t disappear tomorrow. But ultimately, senior living facilities offer an attractive, active lifestyle for many seniors, and that hasn’t fundamentally changed. And home care might be a viable option for many seniors in need of skilled nursing. Ultimately there comes a point where there are few alternatives to the care of a nursing home.

Importantly, the longer-term demographic trends here are all but unstoppable. The peak of the Baby Boomer generation are in their early-to-mid-60s today, far too young to need long-term care. But over the course of the next two decades, demand will continue to build as more and more boomers age into the proper age bracket for these services.

At 6.7%, LTC is one of the higher-yielding monthly dividend stocks on this list.

6 of 12

AGNC Investment

couple going over financials with mortgage brokercouple going over financials with mortgage broker
  • Market value: $8.4 billion
  • Dividend yield: 9.0%

AGNC Investment (AGNC, $15.98) is a REIT, strictly speaking, but it’s very different from the likes of Realty Income, STAG or any of the others covered on this list of monthly dividend stocks. Rather than own properties, AGNC owns a portfolio of mortgage securities. This gives it the same tax benefits of a REIT – no federal income taxes so long as the company distributes at least 90% of its net income as dividends – but a very different return profile.

Mortgage REITs (mREITs) are designed to be income vehicles with capital gains not really much of a priority. As such, they tend to be monster yielders. Case in point: AGNC yields 9%.

Say “AGNC” out loud. It sounds a lot like “agency,” right?

There’s a reason for that. AGNC invests exclusively in agency mortgage-backed securities, meaning bonds and other securities issued by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae or the Federal Home Loan Banks. This makes it one of the safest plays in this space.

And here’s a nice kicker: AGNC almost always trades at a premium to book value, which makes sense. You and I lack the capacity to replicate what AGNC does in house and lack access to financing on the same terms. Those benefits have value, which show up in a premium share price. Yet today, AGNC trades at a 9% discount to book value. That’s a fantastic price for the stock in this space.

7 of 12

Dynex Capital

little house on chartlittle house on chart
  • Market value: $640.6 million
  • Dividend yield: 8.9%

Along the same lines, let’s take a look at Dynex Capital (DX, $17.47). Like AGNC, Dynex is a mortgage REIT, though its portfolio is a little more diverse. Approximately 85% of its portfolio is invested in agency residential mortgage-backed securities – bonds made out of the mortgages of ordinary Americans – but it also has exposure to commercial mortgage-backed securities and a small allocation to non-agency securities.

It’s important to remember that the mortgage REIT sector was eviscerated by the COVID-19 bear market. When the world first went under lockdown, it wasn’t immediately clear that millions of Americans would be able to continue paying their mortgages, which led investors to sell first and ask questions later. In the bloodbath that followed, many mortgage REITs took catastrophic losses and some failed altogether.

Dynex is one of the survivors. And frankly, any mortgage REIT that could survive the upheaval of 2020 is one that can likely survive the apocalypse. Your risk of ruin should be very modest here.

Dynex trades at a slight discount to book value and sports a juicy 8.9% yield. We could see some volatility in the space if the Fed ever gets around to raising rates, but for now this looks like one of the best monthly dividend stocks to buy if you’re looking to really pick up some yield.

8 of 12

Broadmark Realty

real estate contract with keys and penreal estate contract with keys and pen
  • Market value: $1.3 billion
  • Dividend yield: 8.6%

Broadmark Realty (BRMK, $9.75) isn’t a “mortgage REIT,” per se, as it doesn’t own mortgages or mortgage-backed securities. But it does something awfully similar. Broadmark manages a portfolio of deed of trust loans for the purpose of funding development or investment in real estate.

This is a little different than AGNC or Dynex. These mortgage REITs primarily trade standardized mortgage-backed securities. Broadmark instead deals with the less-liquid world of construction loans.

Still, BRMK runs a conservative book. The weighted average loan-to-value of its portfolio is a very modest 60%. In other words, Broadmark would lend no more than $60,000 for a property valued at $100,000. This gives the company a wide margin of error in the event of a default by a borrower.

At current prices, Broadmark yields an attractive 8.6%. The company initiated its monthly dividend in late 2019 and sailed through the pandemic with no major issues.  

9 of 12

Main Street Capital

person doing business on computerperson doing business on computer
  • Market value: $3.2 billion
  • Dividend yield: 5.5%

We know that the pandemic hit Main Street a lot harder than Wall Street. It is what it is.

But what about business development companies. This is where the proverbial Main Street means the proverbial Wall Street. BDCs provide debt and equity capital mostly to middle-market companies. These are entities that have gotten a little big to get financing from bank loans and retained earnings but aren’t quite big enough yet to warrant a stock or bond IPO. BDCs exist to bridge that gap.

The appropriately named Main Street Capital (MAIN, $46.61) is a best-in-class BDC based in Houston, Texas. The last two years were not particularly easy for Main Street’s portfolio companies, as many smaller firms were less able to navigate the lockdowns. But the company persevered, and its share price recently climbed above its pre-pandemic highs.

Main Street has a conservative monthly dividend model in that it pays a relatively modest monthly dividend, but then uses any excess earnings to issue special dividends twice per year. This keeps Main Street out of trouble and prevents it from suffering the embarrassment of a dividend cut in years where earnings might be temporarily depressed.

As far as monthly dividend stocks go, Main Street’s regular payout works out to a respectable 5.6%, and this does not include the special dividends.

10 of 12

Prospect Capital

man signing contractman signing contract
  • Market value: $3.5 billion
  • Dividend yield: 8.0%

For another high-yielding, monthly-paying BDC, consider the shares of Prospect Capital (PSEC, $8.97).

Like most BDCs, Prospect Capital provides debt and equity financing to middle-market companies. The company has been publicly traded since 2004, so it’s proven to be a survivor in what has been a wildly volatile two decades.

Prospect Capital is objectively cheap, as it trades at just 89% of book value. Book value itself can be somewhat subjective, of course. But the 11% gives us a good degree of wiggle room. It’s safe to say the company, even under conservative assumptions, is selling for less than the value of its underlying portfolio. It also yields a very healthy 8.0%.

As a general rule, insider buying is a good sign. When the management team is using their own money to buy shares, that shows a commitment to the company and an alignment of interests. Well, over the course of the past two years, the management team bought more than 29 million PSEC shares combined. These weren’t stock options or executive stock grants. These are shares that the insiders bought themselves in their brokerage accounts.

That’s commitment.

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Ecofin Sustainable and Social Impact Term Fund

Ecofin logoEcofin logo
  • Assets under management: $269.7 million
  • Distribution Rate: 6.0%*
  • Discount/premium to NAV: -14.3%
  • Expense ratio: 2.28%**

There’s something to be said for orphan stocks. There are certain stocks or funds that simply don’t have a “normal” go-to buying clientele.

As a case in point, consider the Ecofin Sustainable and Social Impact Term Fund (TEAF, $15.00). This is a fund that straddles the divide between traditional energy infrastructure like pipelines and green energy projects like solar panels. It also invests in “social impact” sectors like education and senior living. Approximately 68% of the portfolio is dedicated to sustainable infrastructure with energy infrastructure and social impact investments making up 13% and 19%, respectively.

But this isn’t the only way the fund is eclectic. It’s also a unique mixture of public and private investments. 52% is invested in publicly traded stocks with the remaining 48% invested in private, non-traded companies.

Is it any wonder that Wall Street has no idea what to do with this thing?

This lack of obvious buying clientele helps to explain why the fund trades at a large discount to net asset value of 15%.

That’s okay. We can buy this orphan stock, enjoy its 6% yield, and wait for that discount to NAV to close. And close it will. The fund is scheduled to liquidate in about 10 years, meaning the assets will be sold off and cash will be distributed to investors. Buying and holding this position at a deep discount would seem like a no-brainer of a strategy. 

Learn more about TEAF at the Ecofin provider site.

* Distribution rate is an annualized reflection of the most recent payout and is a standard measure for CEFs. Distributions can be a combination of dividends, interest income, realized capital gains and return of capital.

** Includes 1.50% in management fees, 0.28% in other expenses and 0.50% in interest expenses.

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BlackRock Municipal 2030 Target Term

BlackRock logoBlackRock logo
  • Assets under management: $1.9 billion 
  • Distribution rate: 2.9%
  • Discount/premium to NAV: -4.6%
  • Expense ratio: 1.01%**

We’ll wrap this up with another term fund, the BlackRock Municipal 2030 Target Term Fund (BTT, $25.49).

As its name suggests, the fund is designed to be liquidated in 2030, roughly eight years from now. A lot can happen in eight years, of course. But buying a portfolio of safe municipal bonds trading at a more than 4% discount to book value would seem like a smart move.

The biggest selling point of muni bonds is, of course, the tax-free income. The bond interest isn’t subject to federal income taxes. And while city, state and local bonds aren’t “risk free” – only the U.S. government can make that claim – defaults and financial distress in this space is rare. So, you’re getting a safe, tax-free payout. That’s not too shabby.

As of Oct. 29, 2021, BTT’s portfolio was spread across 633 holdings with its largest holding accounting for about 3.4%.

BTT sports a dividend yield of 2.9%. That’s not “high yield” by any stretch of the imagination. But remember, the payout is tax free, and if you’re in the 37% tax bracket, your tax-equivalent yield is a much more palatable 4.6%.

Learn more about BTT at the BlackRock provider site.

** Includes 0.40% in management fees, 0.61% in interest and other expenses

Source: kiplinger.com

Amazon Prime Review – Is it a Good Value for the Cost?

At a glance

Amazon Prime Logo

Our rating

Amazon Prime

  • Plans: One standard plan for $119 per year or $12.99 per month (about $156 per year); discounted Student Prime plan for eligible members
  • Features: Prime Delivery (multiple expedited and discounted delivery options); Prime Video; Prime Reading; exclusive Prime deals; unlimited music streaming; unlimited photo storage; eligibility for Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card subject to credit qualification
  • Advantages: Wide range of shipping options, though variable by customer location; potentially valuable media perks; higher cash-back earnings for qualified Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card users; Prime member discounts at Whole Foods; 30-day free trial period; household memberships; discounted student memberships
  • Disadvantages: Relatively high annual (and even higher monthly) fee; no refunds if you fail to use the service; additional fees for expedited food delivery; music library is weaker than some competitors’

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

Amazon Prime is one of the most popular retail loyalty programs in U.S. history. Although Amazon itself doesn’t regularly release membership figures, a study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that more than 100 million people had access to Prime in 2019.

Why is Amazon Prime so popular? And is it really a good value for the cost? To decide for yourself, take a closer look at Amazon Prime’s core features and member perks. Then, weigh the facts to determine when and whether it’s worth the annual expense.

Key Features

What’s remarkable about Amazon Prime’s subscriber count is the fact that you must pay to join. Regular Prime members pay $119 per year when billed annually or $12.99 per month (about $156 per year) for the more flexible monthly plan. 

Prime Student members pay $59 per year when billed annually and $6.49 per month (about $78 per year) when billed monthly. To qualify, they must have valid dot-edu email addresses and be able to prove they’re actively enrolled in at least one college course in the United States (including Puerto Rico).

Tens of millions of consumers happily pay comparable annual fees for warehouse store memberships. But most other common retail loyalty programs, such as those run by supermarket and department store chains, cost nothing to join.

But when you look at Amazon Prime’s core features, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular despite the cost.

30-Day Free Trial

All new Prime members are eligible for a 30-day free trial to test-drive the service. During the free trial, you have access to all Prime-exclusive perks and benefits.

You must enter a valid credit card to secure your free trial. Your membership automatically rolls over to paid status at the end of the trial period unless you cancel.

Household Prime Membership

Amazon allows multi-person Prime memberships covering the same household. My wife and I pay a single annual fee for our joint Prime membership. Like merging finances in joint accounts, joint Prime memberships are common practice for spouses and committed domestic partners. 

Household Prime memberships also make sense for long-term roommates.

Prime Delivery

Amazon Prime’s most valuable benefit is Prime Delivery, a collection of Prime-exclusive free and discounted delivery options including:

Free 2-Day Delivery 

Prime’s signature benefit is available on more than 100 million Amazon products for customers in the continental U.S. Members don’t have to worry about a minimum order size or limits on delivery frequency to get free two-day shipping. 

By comparison, free shipping takes anywhere from five to eight business days for non-Prime members, depending on their location and what they order.

Free 1-Day Delivery

Free one-day delivery (next-day delivery) is available across the continental U.S. on more than 10 million Amazon products. Just look for the “Prime FREE One-Day” logo. 

One-day deliveries arrive by 9pm local time the day after you order them. And you’ll never run into minimum order sizes or delivery frequency limits.

Free Same-Day Delivery

Free same-day delivery is more like free 10-business-hour delivery. 

Eligible goods — several million in all — ordered before noon local time arrive by 9pm local time on the same day. Products ordered in the afternoon or evening arrive the following day. 

To qualify, orders must have at least $35 in eligible purchases. Same-day delivery is only available in select cities. Roughly speaking, you can get it in the largest 50 to 100 U.S. metro markets, though Amazon adds new cities regularly.

Free Ultrafast Grocery Delivery 

In select U.S. cities, Amazon offers free ultrafast grocery delivery through Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market. In some markets, participating third-party retailers may offer ultrafast grocery delivery through Amazon as well. 

These deliveries typically take no more than two hours during the business day, but they may take longer during off-hours. Look for the “Available Today” icon in the upper left corner of the shopping page.

Secure In-Home Delivery

In select U.S. cities, Amazon offers secure in-home delivery through the Key by Amazon app. 

You can use the app to watch deliveries in real time to ensure the delivery person minds their business inside your home. You must install a special lock and camera and register any frequent guests to limit Amazon’s liability for damage or theft before accepting your first in-home delivery.

Amazon Day Delivery

If you typically place multiple orders per week, you can set a standing Amazon Day to receive everything you ordered during the preceding week. 

It’s a nice perk for Prime members who are frequently absent during the week. For example, setting your Amazon Day for Friday or Saturday reduces the risk of package theft when you’re out of the house on weekdays.

Release-Date Delivery

Amazon Prime members are eligible to shop for preorder products at least two days before their scheduled release dates, then receive free guaranteed delivery the day they’re available to the general public.

Other Amazon Delivery Perks

Amazon’s regular shipping benefits get all the glory. But they’re not the only perks for Amazon Prime members.

Additional perks include:

  • Shopping rewards when you select the no-rush delivery option (either points to use as a credit toward future purchases or instant discounts) 
  • Free delivery on special merchandise that doesn’t typically qualify for free delivery, such as bulky, heavy, or fragile goods
  • Discounted expedited delivery on products that don’t qualify for free one- or same-day shipping

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video is Amazon’s Prime-exclusive library of free on-demand TV and movie content. 

Amazon Studios’ top original series and movies (known as Amazon Originals) are available through Prime Video at no additional charge. So are hundreds of popular non-Amazon shows, movies, and live out-of-market sporting events. 

Amazon doesn’t make its entire universe of video content available to Prime members for free. Premium TV series and films may carry one-time rental fees. 

You can stream Prime Video to your TV with a compatible smart TV or external device, such as an Amazon Fire Stick or Apple TV. On the go, you can access content through the Amazon Prime Video app, which is compatible with Android and iOS operating systems.

Amazon Prime Video is the most popular Prime service available on an a la carte basis. If you only want access to Prime Video streaming and don’t care about other Amazon Prime perks like free, fast delivery, you can get it for $8.99 per month. That’s less than competitors like Hulu and Netflix.

Prime Reading

Prime Reading is Amazon’s Prime-exclusive collection of fiction and nonfiction books, magazines, and audio recordings. Prime Reading works are available for download on any compatible device, Amazon-made or otherwise.

Music Streaming

Prime subscribers can stream over 2 million songs, including new hits and old favorites, through Prime Music for free. But it’s worth noting that’s a fraction of what’s available from leading streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, which have more like 40 million songs in their respective libraries.

Prime Deals & Prime Day Deals

Prime Deals are Prime-exclusive shopping discounts and promotions. They’re subject to change but generally include discounts of 10% to 40% on popular Amazon products, with a focus on home goods, electronics, and kids toys and accessories. Prime-exclusive deals are particularly plentiful on Prime Day.

Prime Add-On Subscriptions

Prime members are under no obligation to add anything to their Prime subscriptions. Before you subscribe to an add-on, check its availability. 

As add-ons, all these subscriptions carry an additional cost — anywhere from $2.99 per month for Amazon Kids+ to $29 per month for NBA League Pass. But they make valuable services for anyone who uses them regularly.

Premium Prime Video Channels

Prime members can watch high-quality video content not included in the regular Prime Video. 

Known as Prime Video Channels, this premium content lineup includes subscription movie and TV channels like HBO and Starz. It also includes a decent lineup of live sports channels and memberships, including NBA League Pass and MLB.TV. 

There are no big channel packages full of content you don’t really watch. You pay only for the channels you want, which helps control your total entertainment cost.

Amazon Kids+

For a small additional monthly fee after a one-month free trial, Prime members can add unlimited kid-friendly content — books, TV shows, movies, and apps — through Amazon Kids+. Kids+ includes built-in parental controls.

Amazon Music Unlimited

Amazon Music Unlimited is an expanded song library with over 60 million songs, which is on par with top standalone subscription streaming services. There’s a decent additional monthly fee associated with this service.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is a premium cash-back credit card that’s ideal for Prime members who spend heavily at Amazon and Whole Foods.

It’s a more powerful version of the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card. The Prime Visa earns 5% cash back on Amazon-universe purchases and an unlimited 2% cash back on purchases at eligible restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores. 

Credit qualification applies. This card is designed for Prime members with good to excellent credit. Before you apply, check your credit score.


Advantages

There are many reasons to invest in an Amazon Prime subscription. 

1. Vast Array of Shipping Options

Amazon Prime’s most valuable benefit is a slew of free or discounted shipping options, from two-day free shipping on some 10 million products to ultrafast two-hour shipping in select metro markets. 

If you frequently place last-minute orders, the rush delivery fees could cost as much as or more than many of the products you buy. That makes Prime’s subscription fee seem like a bargain. 

Even if you’re not in a rush, it could still be worth it. Let’s optimistically say you average a delivery fee of $5 per order. Your month-to-month Prime subscription pays for itself if you place just three orders per month. On an annual subscription, it pays for itself with two orders per month.

2. Media Perks Have High Potential Value for Frequent Users

Amazon Prime Video in particular delivers tremendous value for frequent users when compared with competitors like Hulu. 

Unfortunately, it’s not a universal library. For example, Netflix has a trove of original shows and movies, and the newest, choicest flicks carry per-rental fees. But it’s more than enough to keep Prime members occupied on nights in.

3. Free Trial Period

You can cancel your Prime subscription without penalty during the 30-day free trial period. That’s a lifesaver for budget-conscious shoppers looking to dip their toes in without paying anything out of pocket.

4. Household Membership

Joint household memberships are ideal for couples, families, and long-term roommates looking to pool their shopping and media consumption dollars. 

You can only have two adults on a household membership, but its time-saving features give parents peace of mind without paying an extra dime. Teens can shop on their own, pending your approval via text, and you can customize parental controls to limit and monitor kids’ access to media.

5. Membership Discounts for Students

Verified students enjoy 50% off the monthly or annual cost of a Prime membership. That’s excellent news for penny-pinching scholars expecting to rely on Amazon for timely deliveries of textbooks, electronics, school supplies, and basic dorm necessities.

6. Special Discounts at Whole Foods

Prime members enjoy exclusive 10%-off deals on hundreds of products at Whole Foods, subject to change and availability. 

Were it not for this perk, I wouldn’t bother shopping at my local Whole Foods at all, but this discount is deep enough to make Whole Foods’ prices competitive with nearby downscale supermarket chains.

7. Higher Cash-Back Earnings on the Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card

For frequent Amazon and Whole Foods shoppers with above-average credit, the Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card’s 2% cash back bonus subsidizes or entirely offsets Prime’s annual membership fee. 

Earning 2% back on gas and restaurant purchases is nice too, though you don’t need to be a Prime member for that.


Disadvantages

As good as it is for so many, there are downsides to the Amazon Prime subscription.

1. Relatively High Annual Fee

Amazon Prime has a relatively high annual fee: $119 per year when billed annually and $12.99 per month (about $156 per year) when billed monthly. For reference, that’s roughly double the cost of a basic Costco membership. 

If you’re not a frequent Amazon or Whole Foods shopper, don’t regularly take advantage of Prime’s non-shipping perks and features, and don’t mind waiting a few extra days for delivery, Prime probably isn’t for you.

2. No Partial Refunds for Unused Benefits on Annual Subscriptions

If you use your Prime benefits at any point during your subscription period, you’re automatically ineligible for a refund of Prime fees paid during that period. 

For instance, say you opt for the two-day free shipping benefit on one order in January, the first month of your Prime membership year. Then, you don’t use your subscription for months, deciding to cancel your annual subscription in May. You’ll pay the full cost for the entire year, despite canceling five months in. 

That’s an incentive to pay for Prime on a month-to-month basis, despite the higher yearly cost. And it’s a disadvantage over warehouse stores like Costco, whose expansive satisfaction guarantees make it fairly easy to cancel for a retroactive refund.

3. Expedited Food Delivery Costs More

An Amazon Prime membership does not entitle you to expedited grocery deliveries. For most folks, the fastest, cheapest way to get edible essentials using your Amazon discount is to stop by the nearest Whole Foods Market, where Prime members enjoy 10% off select goods. 

Amazon Fresh is particularly expensive. Mercifully, shipping is free on Prime Pantry orders over $35.

4. Free Music Library Isn’t Particularly Impressive

To most people, 2 million songs sounds like a lot. But Prime’s free streaming music library isn’t very extensive compared with top-of-the-line streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. 

Those seeking deep cuts may want to look elsewhere or spring for a paid Amazon Music Unlimited subscription.


Final Word

Amazon Prime has a lot to offer, but it isn’t for everyone. 

My wife and I get our money’s worth and feel it’s a fair value. But we know plenty of occasional Amazon shoppers who can’t justify spending more than $100 per year for Prime benefits. Other shoppers take issue with Amazon’s growing retail dominance and prefer to support independently owned retailers instead.

Whether Amazon Prime makes sense for you depends on how much value you can extract from it. If you’re already selecting one- or two-day shipping on frequent Amazon purchases, shopping at Whole Foods, and regularly streaming Amazon content, it makes sense to join Prime. 

If you shop Amazon infrequently or not at all, don’t watch much TV, and don’t live near a Whole Foods, Prime likely isn’t worth it for you. If you’re living somewhere between those two poles, your choice might be tougher, but you now have what you need to make an informed decision.

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The Verdict

Amazon Prime Logo

Our rating

Amazon Prime

Verdict: Amazon Prime is a wildly successful retail loyalty subscription that more than justifies its high annual cost and even higher monthly cost (a premium for the freedom to cancel anytime).

The ideal Prime user is an individual or household willing to pay upfront for free, expedited shipping and able to take advantage of value-added perks like Prime Video and member-exclusive deals.

If you qualify for the Amazon Prime Visa Signature Card, you’re much more likely to offset the annual Prime membership fee. And you may neutralize the cost through increased cash-back earnings alone if you spend enough at Amazon and Whole Foods.

Prime is not ideal for occasional Amazon shoppers or those willing to pay more to support local or non-Amazon retailers.

Editorial Note:
The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Cyber Monday vs. Black Friday: When to Score the Best Deals

To make things easier, Prime members can send a gift to someone with just the recipient’s cell phone number. No need to ruin the surprise by asking someone’s physical address.

Walmart + members will get early access to these deals. Offers will be available first online and then in stores.
Get the Penny Hoarder Daily
Amazon began holiday deals in early October to get things started early. They have a “Holiday Gift List” feature you can make and share with people to help them buy you a gift you want. You can also ask friends and family members for their lists.
Night owls might be able to find the best prices since many retailers post new deals at midnight.
Katherine Cullen, NRF’s senior director of Industry and Consumer Insights, said there is a lot of excitement around Thanksgiving weekend shopping this year.

Holiday Shopping on Cyber Monday vs. Black Friday

Returns are extended until Jan. 16.
Best Buy started offering sale prices early in November with more deals launching closer to Thanksgiving.
The NRF also said on average consumers plan to spend 7.73 on gifts this year, which is close to what it was last year, but less than it was pre-pandemic.
According to 2020 data from Salesforce, the average discount rate was 28% on Thanksgiving Thursday and then grew to 29% by Cyber Monday.
Deals labeled as “Holiday Best” will be the best price of the season, no matter when you see it. If a price goes lower, you can ask for a price match up until Dec. 24. They will also match a competitor’s price for 14 days.
There are deals to be had tied to both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, mostly in the five categories of tech, beauty, clothing, toys and home products. Take a deep breath though, pandemic-caused supply chain issues may make certain items in those categories difficult to find.
The best deals on Black Friday are traditionally for expensive big ticket items like TVs, laptops, phones, and other technology. (But, again, some of those items may be tough to get in time for the holiday. An IOU maybe and hope for January delivery?)

When Are the Best Deals?

Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
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To help shoppers prepare for online holiday sales, many retailers have released details about their pricing, returns, and more.
“It’s kind of a signal that people are looking to bring back some of the traditions they had in the past in terms of how they shopped over Thanksgiving weekend,” Cullen said.
To help you get what you want, it may pay off to prepare a bit whether you plan to physically go into a store or shop online during the holiday weekend or before.

A man looks at holiday deals on his laptop on Cyber Monday.
The average discount on Cyber Monday is about 30% and the sales usually extend over five days or more. Bebeto Matthews/AP Images

What’s the Average Discount?

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Quantities of an item might be limited, so once they’re gone, they’re gone and so are the major discounts.
Here’s how you can prepare for the biggest shopping time of the year.
They’re calling it “Black Friday Deals for Days” with several shopping events leading up to Christmas Day, Dec. 25. Items will be available while supplies last.
The NRF survey showed about two-thirds of people who planned to shop on Black Friday were heading into brick and mortar stores.
“Last year, we were in a very different place. There was a lot of uncertainty and people felt a lot of concern around shopping in stores and shopping in person. We’re just in a different place this year. What it means is we are expecting to see a lot more shopping in stores.”

How to Prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales

Bicycles won’t be plentiful but skateboards are, according to Amazon which promises delivery on many models well before Christmas. Game consoles? A tough get. TVs? More likely.

  • Make a list: (and check it twice) Having an idea of what you want to buy can help you focus your energy when you either go into a store or go online.
  • Look at ads: Many stores have already released their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Some have even started their sales.
  • Use online tools: Cullen suggested utilizing the tools many stores have online about quantities available both online and in stores and how many people are shopping for that particular item. It can help you find what you need.
  • Know sale dates: Many stores are offering great deals long before Black Friday, so if you wait until then, it may be too late. If there is something you know you want, look at the store’s web site to see if you can get it now.
  • Check return policies: Some stores will allow you to return an item to a brick and mortar store if you no longer want the item. Others require online returns. Many retailers have extended their return policies beyond their usual 14, 30, 60, or 90 days from date of purchase to some time after the new year.
  • Consider price adjustments or price matching: Some retailers will offer price adjustments if you buy an item and then either they later offer it at a lower price or a competitor does. Just be aware, some retailers exclude Black Friday deals from these practices since the quantities are limited for many items.
  • Follow stores on social media: Cullen said many stores will offer specials on top of specials and social media might be a good way to snag them when they happen.

They’re offering what they call a “Black Friday Price Guarantee” where if you buy something and the price goes down before Black Friday, they will refund the difference.

Store Specific Information

Traditionally, the deals are usually the best for fashion, small appliances, and beauty items but Cullen said since everything is basically becoming a five-day shopping period, the categories for the sales are blurring also.
What was once the traditional start of the holiday season has morphed into several weeks of sales, some starting in early October. Then there’s Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, both of which happen after Black Friday. For 2021, those dates are Black Friday (Nov. 26), Small Business Saturday (Nov. 27) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 29).

Amazon

Nearly half of shoppers (49%) started buying gifts before November, which is up from 42% last year, according to the NRF.
But with some items in short supply, experts are warning us to not hold out for a better deal if you find something you like,

Best Buy

“We do encourage people, particularly with what’s going on the supply chains right now, is if you see an item that you’re looking for on sale at a price you’re willing to pay, don’t wait,” Cullen warned. “Inventory is a little tighter this year. We are hearing from retailers this year that they are offering promotions and discounts, but they’re not holding off until the last minute to offer those, so if you see something you’re looking for, go ahead and buy it.”
Walmart says they reinvented the Black Friday shopping experience in 2020 and are returning it this year.
American Express created Small Business Saturday in 2010 to encourage shoppers to patronize small and local businesses and not just large retailers during the holiday shopping season. Many small stores will offer deals the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Target

Black Friday and its epic sales have become a way to get customers who have the day off into stores to spend money. Now, many of the deals are also online.
“What we see changing is more of a move towards deals of the hour with different items and different release times throughout the day,” Cullen said. “Customers should keep an eye out for some of those things because something unexpected might pop up on sale.”

Walmart

Over the years, the lines between the days have become blurry, creating one mishmash of sales that blend together.
Gone are the days when you needed to pitch a tent in front of a big box store to be the first in line on Black Friday and get the best deals for the holiday shopping season.
Target began advertising holiday deals on Oc. 31. They start each Sunday and last a week and are available for online, in store pickup, and in store purchase.
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Here is some basic information about a few big retailers to help you get the best deals.

28 Great Black Friday Deals and Doorbusters for 2021

There’s a great haze hanging over Black Friday shopping in 2021, and it’s not induced by the usual Thanksgiving dinner turkey coma. The fog is from the dozens and dozens of full cargo ships yet to be offloaded at the nation’s largest shipping ports.

As Kiplinger and others have warned, gift shopping this holiday season will be seriously hobbled by a struggling supply chain and overall prices rising due to inflation. “We’ve seen shipping delays before, but supply chain issues in the past were more specific to a handful of items, says smart shopping expert Trae Bodge of TrueTrae. “This is more of a widespread issue, so I think shoppers will be surprised by how difficult it will be to get certain gifts.”

But that doesn’t close the door on promotions tied to the day-after-Thanksgiving that we’ve come to call Black Friday. 

“Despite higher prices overall, Black Friday definitely isn’t cancelled,” says Nathan Burrow, senior deals expert at The New York Times’ Wirecutter. “It’s still a time where you can save — so long as you shop strategically. The shopping holiday has expanded beyond a single day and now occupies the better part of a week with preview sales starting as early as October. Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday are more or less all part of a continuous sale, and though we have noted a trend of retailers closing their brick and mortar locations for the Thanksgiving holiday proper (Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, The Home Depot, and Costco are the most notable), online storefronts will be available throughout.”

Bodge of TrueTrae agrees that Black Friday is still an important shipping event, but shoppers must use their heads. “I’m hearing that the number of deals might be fewer and we could see some stock issues if retailers don’t receive shipments on time, but there will still be lots of deals,” says Bodge. “To make the most of the day, I would suggest that consumers sign up for emails from the retailers they plan to shop with, but in addition, shoppers can level up their savings by seeing what their favorite deal sites are up to, especially with cashback, which can really make a big savings impact. For instance, CouponCabin.com has a rotating offer where 20 stores a day offer 5X their usual cashback.  And Rakuten is offering up to 10 percent cash back over Black Friday weekend and up to 15 percent on Cyber Monday from hundreds of stores.” 

So let’s get at it: We found 28 Black Friday deals and doorbusters, many available beginning the day after Thanksgiving, some starting as early as … now. Have a look.

Black Friday Deals at Amazon

Last year, Amazon lit off the holiday shopping season a month before Black Friday, when its pandemic-delayed Amazon Prime Day was moved from its usual summer spot to October (it returned to summer in 2021). But that doesn’t mean Amazon hasn’t pushed Black Friday-like sale prices in 2021.

The e-commerce giant deeply discounts its proprietary smart home products — smart devices with Alexa built in such as Kindle readers, etc. — around the holidays. For example, the Alexa-enabled Echo Show 5 (2nd generation) is 43% off, the 50-inch Amazon Fire TV 4-series is 30% off, and Fire TV Stick 4K is 50% off.

Surprisingly, you can pick a pair of the red-hot new Airpods Pro with Magsafe charging for $200, a $50 savings. Robotic vacuums and air fryers will be a thing this year, and Amazon has the iRobot Roomba 692 for $200, a $100 savings. A Ninja Air Fryer AF101 is selling for $90, down from $120.

Wirecutter’s Burrow says there will be Black Friday (and early Black Friday) deals from Amazon on Sony and Samsung products as well. 

Black Friday Deals at Best Buy

Best Buy dropped its Black Friday deals early, and as you can guess, it’s loaded with bargains on TVs, including a Samsung 75-inch Class 7 Series LED 4K UHD Smart Tizen TV for $850, a $250 savings, and a Sony 55-inch Bravia OLED 4K UHD Smart Google TV for $1,400, a $400 savings.

Also on Best Buy’s Black Friday list is an Apple 21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K display for $1,000, a $500 savings; Bose Quiet Comfort headphones for $279, a $50 savings; a Keurig Limited Edition Jonathan Adler K-Mini Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker for $50, a $50 savings; and a Mr Christmas 7.5 foot, Alexa-enabled, prelit artificial Christmas tree for $400, a $100 savings. What does Alexa bring to a Christmas tree? The ability to control the lights’ timing, patterns and colors remotely. Your cats will love it.

Black Friday Deals at Costco

Warehouse powerhouse Costco’s Black Friday ad promises savings on lots of electronics, of course. And you can always find fine quality and savings with Costco’s private label Kirkland Signature lineup of goods (and you’ll find Black Friday savings on many items, including chocolate-covered almonds as well as organic tortilla chips). But first note you still have to have a Costco membership, starting at $60, to shop the deals, online and in warehouses. 

For Black Friday 2021, Costco is featuring a Samsung 32-inch Class FHD curved monitor for $200, a $50 savings; a Conair Turbo Extreme Steam hand-held fabric steamer for $35, a $15 savings; an HP touchscreen laptop for $500, a $100 savings; and a NutriBullet blender combo for $70, a $30 savings.

Costco’s ad notes it is closed on Thanksgiving Day (as are dozens of retailers), but it has some online sales starting on that Thursday.

Black Friday Deals at Home Depot

Home Depot is promising Black Friday sale prices until the end of December and, as you can probably guess, said deals are heavy on appliances and tools. One tip: If you need the appliance, make sure it’s in stock; many homeowners have been waiting for months for backlogged appliances they’ve paid for. Some of those appliances haven’t been built yet or are stuck somewhere in the crippled supply chain.

Black Friday deals at Home Depot include a stainless steel 28.2-cubic-foot Samsung French door refrigerator for $1,298, a $700 savings; a Galanz digital toaster oven and air fryer for $80, a $50 savings; a DeWalt cordless drill-driver set for $99, a $60 savings; and a stainless steel Samsung dishwasher for $498, an $81 savings.

Black Friday Deals at Lowe’s

Lowe’s and Home Depot go toe-to-toe the rest of the year, why not on Black Friday? To that end, you’ll see a similar lineup of sale items from appliances to tools.

Lowe’s is dealing a 28.2-cubic-foot Samsung french-door fridge for $1,300, down from $2,000; an Amana top load washer for $494, down from $600; a versatile Little Giant ladder for $159, down from $239; and a DeWalt 20-volt cordless drill-driver for $99, down from $159.

Black Friday Deals at Walmart 

Walmart stores on Black Friday will have deals including $398 for a 70-inch 4K Onn smart TV with Roku (Onn is Walmart’s house brand); $109 for a an Apple Watch Series 3 GPS, down from $199’ $69 for Power XL 12-quart 6-in-1 air fryer oven; $299 for an Xbox Series S game console; and $14-$25 for special buy select video games (note: all of these deals will be available online beginning 7 p.m. Eastern on Monday, Nov. 22, 5 a.m. in-store on Black Friday.

Source: kiplinger.com

What Our Dream Job Winner Learned from a Month of No Spending

Robert Bruce

Updated November 16, 2021

This is a photo of the Dream Job Winner Brittany Cantu. The quote says,

Brittany Cantu saved $621 during the Dream Job challenge. Photo courtesy of Brittany Cantu

Brittany Cantu was in shock when she found out she was chosen for The Penny Hoarder’s “Dream Job” challenge in October.

To earn her $5,000 paycheck, Cantu had to kick one of her most persistent spending habits and save money for 30 days — all in an effort to find new and healthier ways to manage her money.

Cantu was up for the job: She saved an impressive $621 simply by not buying stuff online during the course of the month.

As a registered nurse, wife, and mother of three, Cantu stays busy. In her free time, she had built a habit of online spending.

“I definitely have a shopping problem,” she said. “I use a deal website that gives me deals at places like Target and Amazon. It’s easy to overspend because my 10-month-old son doesn’t like to nap by himself so I get really bored when he’s sleeping on me.”

Her growing kids also factored into her online buying habit. “The kids grow out of their clothes constantly, so kids’ clothes is a huge item that we usually need to buy,” she said. And, shoes, don’t forget about the shoes. “Shoes are a big one for me. I have way too many shoes. I just like shoes.”

She was excited about the challenge because of the progress her family wanted to make toward their financial goals. “We want to buy a house in the next year or two, so it really helped us to get going on that a little quicker,” she said.

Not only will her newfound habit of spending less help toward that goal, but her $5,000 paycheck will as well. “We’ll probably use that toward a down payment,” she added.

She said the month-long experience helped her be more content with what her family already has — and actually provided an opportunity to make even more cash by selling some of that stuff.

I definitely felt like I built more of a habit of saving, rather than spending.

“I still browsed a little bit to see if there was anything I really needed, but honestly we have everything we need,” she said. “So I started going through some old stuff that we have and getting rid of it and making money that way too.”

She sold $200 worth of stuff during the month. Add that to the $621 she saved and that’s an $821 turnaround. Pretty impressive!

Did she find the challenge to stop online spending difficult?

“It definitely feels rewarding when you buy stuff and you get packages every other day. It was kind of hard the first week or two because I had such a habit of spending,” she said. “But it got easier as I went. I was actually surprised that it got much easier. I definitely felt like I built more of a habit of saving, rather than spending.”

She says she only gave in once because of a deal she couldn’t pass up. “I saw a sale on snow boots, and the kids definitely needed snow boots this year.”

The key, Cantu learned, is to remember how small purchases add up over time.

“Most of my purchases were around $30. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you keep buying that $30 stuff it becomes hundreds to thousands of dollars,” she said. “At the end of the month, I’m thinking, ‘Where did this money go?’ And then we don’t even use these things that we’re buying that often. So it’s definitely a habit you can break.”

She had a great experience meeting The Penny Hoarder Dream Job challenge, and she’s learned a lot over the course of the month.

“I was happy to be picked and challenged, and I think I really needed it. It was eye opening.”

What spending habit could you give up for a month to make progress toward your financial goals?

Robert Bruce is a Senior Writer for The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com