Below is a list of the financial products and institutions we use. I have listed them within each category by how excited we are to be using them, and you’ll likely see mentions of them scattered throughout the blog. For many of these products, we performed extensive research to make sure that they were the best for us offered at that time, but of course what we want out of these products may not be what you want.
This page includes affiliate and/or referral links. The presence of these links has not changed what I have to say about the products and of course did not influence which products we use. If you would like to help support EPF financially by using our affiliate links or help both us and you by using a referral link, we will appreciate it!
Tracking and Budgeting
Mint: There are several options for automatically tracking your finances online, but Mint is the only one we’ve ever used or wanted to use. Kyle started using it in 2009 and convinced me to switch from tracking my spending with Excel to a combined account with him. While it doesn’t give you as much control as some other programs, it is really easy to use as it downloads and aggregates all your information for you. Without Mint, I doubt we would be able to keep track of all our savings accounts and credit cards as well as we do. I love the one-stop-shop aspect for making sure that all bills have been paid on schedule. I recommend Mint to everyone (but appreciate that it’s not for everyone). Oh, and Mint is free and very secure.
Ally: I cannot recommend Ally highly enough. What began as a compromise between me and Kyle (an internet bank (what I wanted) that issued paper checks (what Kyle wanted)) in 2010 has blossomed into our favorite product by far. We have a checking account, many targeted savings accounts, and a CD with Ally, none of which ever charge us fees or require minimums. While its interest rate is nothing to brag about, it is among the best in the industry. We can use any ATM without fees and deposit checks using our smartphones or scanner.
ING Direct / Capital One 360: I have been an ING Direct customer since 2007 and I loved it. We still have my checking account open, but have rarely used it since 2011 so I can’t comment on the changes that have occurred with the transition to Capital One 360. If you use my referral link to open a checking account you will have $50 deposited into it; if you use my referral link to open a savings account you will get $25!
Bank of America: I hate BoA and Kyle thinks they are OK. We still have an account because one time we wanted to get a document notarized and they offered it for free to account-holders, and we currently have no other way to deposit cash. But that’s as much good as I can say about them.
Vanguard: Kyle and I independently researched where to house our Roth IRAs and came to the same conclusion – Vanguard. They are the industry leader in low expense ratios. I recommend Vanguard to everyone opening an IRA. The only snag is the account minimum for some funds – when I was just starting out I used Fidelity for my Roth until I saved up the $3k to invest with Vanguard.
Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases: This is the card we’ve been working on churning in fall 2013 – we loved it so much we each got one! There is a large sign-up bonus available ($464+) for a minimum spend of only $1,000 in 90 days when you redeem your points for (previous) travel. Please check out my review for more details.
Chase Freedom: This is our base card. We get 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% on dining and travel, and 5% in rotating categories including important-to-us ones like travel, gas, and groceries. It used to be a little annoying to keep track of the rewards categories, but now that we use it as our base card the mental gymnastics in the checkout line are greatly reduced. I think it’s a great all-around card and the 5% categories are a sweet bonus! You can redeem points for cash/statement credits (this is what we do) or products.
Amazon: We signed up for this card because we wanted a free Kindle! But why not have it? It gives 3% rewards on amazon, 2% on gas, restaurants, and drugstores, and 1% on everything else. We use it for all our amazon purchases and whenever we remember at restaurants. We then redeem our rewards on amazon purchases, although there are other options. We binge on amazon purchases around Christmas so it’s great to have the card around that time of year.
BP Gas: This was Kyle’s first credit card so we will keep it forever even though the program has deteriorated. It used to be a great card and we used it as our base, giving 5% back on BP gas and 1 or 2% on everything else. Now that the rewards program has changed it only gives between 2 and 3% rewards. We still use it for BP gas when the Chase Freedom card doesn’t have 5% back on gas because BPs are EVERYWHERE in Durham, but it’s no longer our base card.
Capital One: We signed up for this card because it has no foreign transaction fees and it gave a nice signup bonus. We have only used it internationally except when we bought our plane tickets for said international trip to meet the bonus minimum.
Allstate Insurance Company: We use Allstate for both our car insurance and our renter’s insurance and have since 2010. We use whatever company gives us the best rates on the coverage we want, and Allstate has survived a few re-evaluations. Our agent was super helpful when we were considering un-insuring our car and when we had to re-insure it for a day to move, so we have been pleased with their customer service. I definitely recommend you get a quote from them when you shop around for insurance.
Republic Wireless/Motorola Defy XT: Emily has been a Republic Wireless customer since November 2012 and has been very pleased with the service. There is no contract and plans start as low as $5/month. You can read our several reviews of the service.
Verizon/iPhone 5: Kyle is an Apple fanboy!!! J/K he has no Apple products aside from the iPhone and an iPod. And Verizon’s coverage is great for us even though they suck at customer service and can’t get our bill right.
Dreamhost: Kyle reads Lifehacker fairly regularly so when choosing a hosting company he just went with the Hive Five winner for hosting companies. We’ve had a pretty good experience so far and they have fairly responsive customer service. Also, their first time promotions are hard to beat, if you’d like to try them out.
Flexoffers: This was the first affiliate network we signed up with. They work with hundreds of retailers and are adding more all the time and it’s easy to apply for programs. Many of the retailers offer banner advertisements as well as text links. I have to be honest and say we haven’t made any money with Flexoffers yet, but we are ramping up our use of their service. Sign up and promote affiliate marketing programs through FlexOffers.com for FREE!
Viglink: This is an easy, automatic way to become an affiliate for tens of thousands of retailers. Viglink easily converts all the eligible links on your website to affiliate links! We originally signed up for it to get around our state’s bar against Amazon affiliates, but Amazon has since cut off that loophole.
Upromise – The Smart Way to Save for College: I signed up for Upromise in 2007 when I graduated from college. I basically just linked up my credit cards and grocery cards to my account to passively earn dollars toward paying off my student loans with Sallie Mae. There is a lot more you can do to trick out a UPromise account to boost rewards like shopping through their links (which we do check when we make a big purchase) and using one of their credit cards, but I’m not too into it. Oh, and you can get your family members to link up their info to earn rewards for your loans.