Originally Posted On January 1, 2016
In my last post, I discussed the concept of maximizing your investment to reward ratio and mentioned I'd be posting a list of low commitment, one-time, high investment to reward ratio applications so that you can reap rewards in your daily life without taking away much time to your schedule. For those eagerly waiting, I've delivered! This list is subject to change as opportunities come and go. If any of you know of any other one-time investments that you think should be on this list, let me know and I'll check them out!
One-Time High Investment to Reward Ratio List
1. Change Your Checking Account/Bank to Maximize Interest Yields
I recently learned that Lake Michigan Credit Union (LMCU) has a checking account that gives 3% APY on funds up to $15,000 without any monthly charges - their Max Checking account. With the full $15,000 in your checking account, this generates an additional $450 a year - MUCH better than the 14 cents I've earned over the last 5 years at Wells Fargo. Immediately, I applied (for $10, $5 of which went to charity - ALS) and moved $15,000 from my Wells Fargo account to the new Max Checking account. I misunderstood some conditions in the first month and opened the wrong account type (a savings account generating .25% interest APY), but got it straightened out in time for this month. Today I just got my first month's dividend - $39.35! ($37.71 from my Max Checking account and $1.54 in the Savings account. From here out, I only anticipate getting funds from the Max Checking account which will be $37.50/month.) That's roughly an additional $450 a year!
Now there are a few conditions I have to meet each month to get the benefits, one of which takes a minor amount of time for me, but using the investment-to-reward calculator, we can see the actual compensation I receive for that spent time. $37.50/.25 hours = $150/hour
While I don't believe in having such a large amount of money in my checking account (believing it can be earn more money elsewhere), it's nice to be able to receive the dividends while closing on my house. Once the house has been purchased, the money in this account will drop to about $4,100, but I'll still be receiving the 3% interest rate!
2. Change Your Web Browser
Google's great and my favorite browser, but you don't get paid to use it. There are a number of commercial web browsers which pay you to search through them! I recommend Swagbucks because of a deal they have with Restaurant.com, where their points are valued moreso when you cash them out for gift cards. On top of that, they're always offering sales on the Restaurant.com gift cards so you can get them at an even better rate. I've been using Swagbucks casually for a few months and have about 1,300 Swagbucks (each Swagbuck is worth roughly 1 cent outside of sales and Restaurant.com gift cards.) Right now my 1300 Swagbucks are worth either $13 of Amazon credit or about $85 of Restaurant.com credit. I'll take the $85 value any day! If I've spent 2 seconds to enter in the validation code for every 8 Swagbucks I have (which is probably an overestimation) then that comes down to $850/hour = $85/.1 hour (6 minutes)!
3. Install a VPN On Your Phone/Computer
Similar to being paid to use a browser, companies will pay for you to install a virtual private network (VPN) on your electronic devices. This is under the agreement that they will skim your surfing habits, tv time, how much time you spend on Facebook, etc. and anonymize the data, selling it for research purposes. Two programs I recently took advantage of were Nielsen Mobile and Media Insiders. Over the course of a few months, I cashed out my points for $75 worth of Amazon credit! The best thing about this is, once you install the VPN, there is no work that has to be done to maintain your rewards! Using my last cash-out, $1,500/hour = $75/.05 hours (to install the apps)!
Edit: Another one that looks good is Google Screenwise Trends Panel which is a browsing extension that works like the previous examples. Using this extension gets you rewards every week ($2/computer, $1/phone)! I just installed it!
4. Always Use A Rewards Card
Many people fear credit cards because people who get themselves into debt blame their troubles on the card. But when used responsibly (meaning you pay off your full bill EVERY MONTH), rewards cards are incredible! Let's take my Sallie Mae Mastercard. I get 1% cashback on everything and an additional 4% back on books, gas, groceries, and Amazon purchases. Including the $25 cashback credit they give you for your first $20 spent, I've saved over $65 in the past 3 months! I've done nothing differently than when I only had a debit card, but have reduced my spending due to the rewards element. It took my roughly 5 minutes to set up my account with them, another 5 to set up automatic payments, and I'll be reaping the benefits of having everything discounted forever! $65/.167 hours = $389/hour
5. Save Money Using Gift Card Sales Site
I recently had some difficulties when buying myself a tv and learned some lessons about making decisions when rushed. However, everything worked out in the end and I ended up saving myself an additional $40 by buying a $500 Dell gift card online for $460. You should read the linked post (coming soon) to stop yourself from making the same mistake I did, but by utilizing these gift card sales sites (like Raise.com) everything becomes cheaper! If I were to make this transaction again using the lessons I learned from last time, it would take about 5 minutes to save $40. $40/.083 hours = $482/hour
Note that most of these suggestions continue to increase in rewards while maintaining the same level of investment, meaning that their investment-to-reward ratios will always be increasing!
(Note/Disclaimer: None of these associations have paid me or asked me to advertise their name or products. These are products that I use, have used, or find beneficial. Links to services may be affiliated, but if so they come at no charge to you and will NEVER come at your expense. In fact, registering through some affiliate links may give your account additional benefits.)