What Is Your Core Financial Accounts Toolbox?

Whether you do Manufactured Spending (MS) or [ab]use signup bonuses, it’s a good idea not to upset your core, key financial account relationships. I have a little trouble defining what those are for me, because the more I thought about it, the more I realized those relationships aren’t necessarily needed. For example, Chase is great, they have branches everywhere I travel, and their credit card (CC) signup bonuses are great.

However, if I am not exploiting those signup bonuses, the relationship with the bank is kind of meh to me, so it’s worth taking a bit of a risk there. I don’t want to push too hard, but I need to push a little or there’s no point in preserving the relationship.

Whether you MS or not, that’s unimportant. Let’s discuss what your core financial accounts are, where if you had to do risky things that might result in shutdown, or if you decided to simplify your life down to fewer accounts, what would you consider your core?

I think of this problem in terms of what I need:

  • High Yield Savings Account - maybe not the best rates, but if they are competitive, I am happy

  • Checking Account - don’t need too many special things here, a basic ACH capability, access to free ATMs in at least some locations or fee-waivers

  • Phone-picture based check cashing ability

  • Retirement Accounts - need basic brokerage option

  • 2% Minimum Cash Back Rewards Credit Card - would consider 1.5% as acceptable if necessary

Personally, I find Alliant to be one of my core, however, it would require a bit of MS to be worthwhile. Alliant offers a 2.5% card but with a $59 annual fee. So if you spend under $11k, it’s not worth it relative to a 2% card. I’d much rather Alliant offer a fee-free 2% card to be part of my core, but that’s not on the table. So, for Alliant to be part of the core, I’d have to MS past the $11k mark each year depending on how much organic spend I had. Hypothetically if I organically spent $6k a year, I’d need to MS $5k. This is kind of a hassle for me, since it’s MS just to break even, and it would have to be planned properly since it might be hard for me to MS $5k in the last few weeks of each calendar year, although I’m sure the big MSers would disagree and can do that in a few days.

I also like Vanguard as one of my core, which is where I keep my IRA money.

This thread discussion should serve a few purposes to the people reading:

  • Let you open your mind to MS or account sign up [ab]use possibilities that you were afraid to do before for fear of making one of your banks made that you thought you needed, but really didn’t.

  • Give ideas on how to minimize your accounts down and simplify things should you so choose in the future.

  • Make others aware of certain institutions that we might have missed otherwise. For example, PenFed recently started a 2% card (with free checking account), and maybe someone doesn’t read the “Which Credit Card Should I Get” thread, but does read this thread and learns about that account this way. Or learns that X bank allows photo check deposit.


There was one point where I had thousands in accounts at various institutions for no reason other than having the relationship remain alive. I have three lingering accounts that are tying up just a couple hundred at this point. Two are at TD Bank, with the minimum + $1 to keep fees at $0, and another was because I heard a CU was giving out generous credit lines via checking account statement preapprovals. I have been meaning to close the TD accounts just to get the $202 back in my pocket, and the other is Andrews FCU where I transfer $.01 between checking and savings every few months to avoid an inactivity fee. I haven’t used any of the three counts, ever. Makes no sense to have them and is more of a headache to remember they’re there than to not have them.

I also have a Santander account I am waiting a few more months to close, to avoid the $25 early account closure fee. I made $350 off that account opening.

I am at the point now where I am consolidating credit cards and checking accounts just to free up time. Not that it takes a whole lot of time, but it’s easy to let them slip through the cracks, such as the Santander one bill pay per month to avoid a maintenance fee thing. One maintenance fee paid means I should have just eaten the early account closure fee. So far, I haven’t missed one.

  • I don’t care about high yield savings accounts, because I typically park “cash” in CDs.

  • Checking accounts are three accounts at NFCU where DD goes and all bills are paid out of (one for me, one for wife, and a joint). NFCU has a pretty good mobile app, which I use to do check deposits and transfers.

  • IRAs are at TD Ameritrade, and I have a lingering ROTH IRA at Scottrade, which should be migrated to TDA at some point, I think.

  • I was using the PenFed 2% card, but decided in an effort to consolidate, I’d take the $501 out of the checking account, let the CC drop to 1.5% CB, and go back to using the Citi DC. I always pay statements in full, so the cash back lag from when transactions post (PenFed) to statement closing is not a huge deal. The rationale there was to put the $501 back in my pocket and get rid of an extra checking account that did nothing but held $501 in it.


One of the reasons I don’t do serious MS is because I like having the big player credit cards (Chase, Citi, Discover, Amex) to use for my everyday spending and the rewards that go along with it. I don’t worry about (ab)using bank sign up bonuses because I haven’t heard of any shut downs of credit card accounts from people that have done them wisely. Also, I am married, and I haven’t done anything shady to both my wife’s or my accounts at the same time. So if, for some reason, one of us gets shut down, I would just migrate everything over to the other person and quit whatever I was doing. We keep most of our cash in joint accounts with banks that we don’t do anything else with other than organic spend, so I have never felt like any of my savings has ever been at risk.

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Schwab solely for fee-free ATM worldwide. Assets at IB and TDA. Local bank for checking/safe deposit. I too have a bunch of legacy accounts for bonuses, etc. that need to be culled down.

I do think there’s some benefit to simplification. Without paper statements, it’s easy to forget you have some of these accounts

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Like most from FWF, I have many accounts, if simplifying, I would have 2 core accounts:


  • Provides my brokerage, IRA, Solo 401k, and an old 401k from a previous employer
  • Has a 2% credit card
  • Provides general banking services and can use the core account as a savings account with better options


  • For global ATM use, you can get back up to $15/mo in ATM fees. Makes using ATM’s free
  • Day-to-day banking and phone check cashing
  • Scheduled transfers count as direct-deposit if your other accounts have direct deposit requirements

Can you explain this one further? Does USAA do something special with their ACH pushes that other banks do not? And is this limited to a scheduled transfer versus an immediate transfer?


Alliant does have a 2% cashback card. Their Visa Platinum Rewards card yields 2 points for every dollar spent. Each point is worth one penny. There’s no annual fee, and they currently have a $50 signup bonus (5,000 points) after spending $500 in three months. They sometimes offer greater signup bonuses. I think mine was a $200 bonus back in 2015 when I got the card. I remember when I applied, the application simply asked me how much credit line I wanted. I asked for 20k and they gave it to me immediately. I should have asked for more.

As for my other “core” account, it’s Schwab (for checking, taxable brokerage, and IRA accounts). I like their in-house ETFs as well as a few of their mutual funds. I keep SWTSX, SWISX, and SWAGX as my “core” funds across taxable and retirement accounts, with a smattering of SCHH and SCHD for fun.

Tell us more about the Alliant 2% card. In general, I like to avoid cards with weird redemption things. Points can be devalued, or you have to build up X points to redeem, and sometimes you forget, or points might take 2 statement cycles to post. Sometimes you have to create a whole new login just to go to a special rewards website to redeem.

How well does this specific Alliant card work?

Back when I applied for the Alliant card, it was only a 1% cashback card. I found my reward history: it was a $300 signup bonus back when I applied in 2015. After I got the bonus, I chucked the card in the sock drawer.

Well, most other users must have done something similar, because on April 27, 2017 I got an e-mail from Alliant. Here’s what it said:

We’re changing our Platinum Rewards program:
You can now earn 2 points for every $1 you spend!

We know our money-smart members are always looking for the best financial rewards, so we’ve doubled the points earned with the Alliant Visa Platinum Rewards card. That’s right, you now earn twice as much as before!

And it’s automatic! You don’t have to sign up for anything or pay attention to dates or revolving categories. Just use your card and you’ll earn 2 Reward Points for each and every dollar you spend.

So, I actually started using the card, and so far, it’s been a bonafide 2% cashback card. They do use a third-party system for redeeming rewards (revloyalty.com), but I did not have to create a separate login to access it. Redeeming cashback starts at 5,000 points ($50), and you can choose either a statement credit or a deposit directly to your Alliant Checking or Savings accounts. I’ve avoided the statement credit because it says it can take up to 45 days to post (!), whereas the direct deposit takes 3-4 days. You can choose to redeem for various gift cards or merchandise, but I’m not sure why anyone would bother with that junk over straight cash.

Overall, it’s an okay rewards system. Earning cashback is straightforward. Points post immediately on every statement. Your earned points can expire, but not for something like five years. I can’t see myself hanging on to points for that long anyway.

If you already use Alliant and don’t have a 2% cashback card, I definitely recommend it. The rewards portal isn’t my favorite, but the inconvenience factor is pretty low. I wish the 5,000-point redemption threshold was lower, but at a $50 redemption for every $2,500 spent, it could be worse.

The Alliant card has been my daily driver since they upgraded the rewards. I plan to keep using it unless they devalue the points, which I doubt will happen since there’s enough competition at the 2% level out there.


One other thing that may be worth considering: Since I started actually using the card, Alliant has twice offered a special promotion (spend $750 this month and automatically get a $25 statement credit). It happened back in July and September, and both times, I found a $25 credit on my account.

Of course, they may never offer this promotion again, but it’s an incentive to consider.

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Ahh, I’m not sure. It only applies to scheduled transfers. This information dates back 10+ years on FWF when there were some new accounts that required direct deposits to get the maximum interest. It was posted that USAA scheduled transfers could meet that requirement and it has for me. I have to admit that I don’t know if that is unique to USAA or not.

ParanoidGoose here. Are you saying that revloyalty.com has the credentials to your Alliant bank account.

Well, maybe. Not sure. I said “third party” earlier, but that may not be true. For all I know, revloyalty is owned - at least in part - by Alliant. Or maybe they contract with other banks/credit unions as the rewards portal.

What I know for sure is, when I click the link for the rewards portal in my Alliant account, it load a super-long URL that starts with bankrewards.revloyalty.com, and I’m in without typing another username or password.

Concerning? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But it seems to work for Alliant, and on their head be it if my account information gets compromised.

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I’m less concerned about them having your login credentials. I’m much more concerned that now this third party entity knows everything you are purchasing. There’s a reason why shopping portals pay money to people who use them, and a reason why I generally avoid using them. The shopping portal is tracking your spending to sell that data about you.

While I can’t prevent my bank from knowing what I buy, I do like to limit it.

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