2021 end-of-year update. I have an informal goal each year of earning the equivalent of the maximum annual IRA contribution limit of $6,000 using the profits from various promotions alone. If you had put $6,000 into your IRA every year for the last 10 years (2011-2020) and invested in a simple Target Date retirement fund, you would have turned small deals into a $100,000+ nest egg.

Example. I was recently approved for the new Capital One Venture X card, and I was hoping the $1,000+ value would put me over the $6,000 threshold. I’m very confident that I’ll get at least $1,000 out of this card, as (1) we have multiple upcoming trips planned, (2) are renewing Global Entry for $100, and (2) this is the rare card that lets us gain lounge access for a family of 5. Each cardholder is free plus 2 guests, but additional cardholders are free 😉. I will offset $1,000 in travel expenses I would have incurred anyway, and invest it instead.

The ground rules: Real-world results for one person only. As following with My Money Blog tradition, this will track my personal, real-world results. It would be quite easy to list a bunch of random promotions that add up to $6,000, but these will be promotions that I personally sign up for and complete the requirements (even though I’ve already opened so many bank accounts, credit cards, and brokerage accounts over the years). I will track my individual results only, although my partner does also participate on a more selective basis. I quickly ran through all posts in the Deals and Offers category:

2021 bonuses and promotions

Total from one-time bonuses: $5,592

For 2021, I made it 93% of the way to $6,000 annual IRA contribution limit from one-time bonuses alone. Not bad. In general, this is based on the human tendency to not like change. Most people open a bank account at age 18 and never switch again. Companies have to offer you money to incentivize you to switch your bank or credit cards.

This ignores higher bank interest or ongoing credit card purchase rewards like 2% back on all credit purchases and 5% cash back on specific categories. I did multiple US Mint coin deals this year, but also much fewer credit card applications than in a normal year. My wife and I were thinking of trying to get dual Southwest Companion passes, but we decided not to go for it yet.

Bank interest accounts. With a simple direct deposit change, I earned between 3% and 3.5% APY on $100,000 at HM Bradley for all of 2021, FDIC-insured and with no interest rate risk. (I have the HM Bradley credit card as well.) This is money that could have sat 0.01% at BofA/Chase/Wells Fargo or in a Fidelity/Vanguard/Schwab cash sweep account, or 0.50% at a “high yield” savings account. Deals will come and deals will go, that’s just part of the game, but the fact is that it helped me earn an extra $2,500 this year.

If you follow my monthly best interest rate updates, you know that US Savings bonds are paying 7.12% interest currently. If you maxed out in 2021, you can buy more in January 2022. I view this is a legitimate form of “profit”, but the value is dependent on the size your cash/bond holdings. Thus, I’ve kept it separate.

Total from higher bank interest: $2,500

I don’t like to waste my time either, so I attempt to curate and include the ones that offer a good return based on the time commitment required. I avoid things that involve driving to store where things may or may not be “in stock”. The deals that I post usually last at least a few days, but it’s a bit like value investing where you have to be ready to take advantage of an opening when it shows up, because they won’t last forever. I’m sure that 2022 will offer its own share of opportunities.

Total for 2021: $8,092

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MMB Project Free IRA 2021: $5,592 in Bonuses, $2500+ in Extra Interest from My Money Blog.

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