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Ranked: The Best Finalists for Amazon’s Newest Headquarters

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Pittsburgh topped our rankings for the best city for Amazon's next headquarters, tying Raleigh, N.C. for first place.

Amazon finally narrowed the list of candidates to host its second headquarters down to 20 on Thursday.

The 20 finalists were picked from 238 cities from across the United States, Canada and Mexico to host what Amazon calls HQ2, a new facility that it expects to create 50,000 jobs. On top of that, the company estimates it will invest more than $5 billion in the city it ultimately chooses.

Amazon has been transparent about what it’s looking for in a potential headquarters — focusing on factors like the area’s proximity to airports, major highways and the city’s population center.

But which of the 20 cities is really going to offer those 50,000 employees the best quality of life?

MagnifyMoney researchers decided to do an analysis of the cities on Amazon’s HQ short list to determine which cities are the best to live in. We not only wanted to see which of these 20 cities offered a decent cost of living and relatively affordable housing, but also key quality of life factors like weather and the average commute time, and whether the housing stock has slack to support an influx of jobs.

The cities were rated on a scale of 100, based on these seven factors. Those rankings were summed and divided by seven for a highest possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of zero.

  • Average commute time (in minutes)
  • Median monthly housing costs
  • Cost of living index (non-housing)
  • Temperate climate, as measured by the difference between the highest and lowest average temperatures across twelve months (a lower range ranked higher)
  • Marginal income tax rate for a single filer earning $100,000 in taxable income (state, federal and city)
  • Vacancy rate of rental homes
  • Vacancy rate of owner-occupied homes

“We trust that Amazon is doing a great job of evaluating (and negotiating) the core criteria and key preferences they deem essential to their business operations,” said study author Kali McFadden, an analyst at LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney. “We wanted to take a closer look at what each of these cities can offer their rank and file employees, both local and transferred.”

The best possible Amazon HQs: Pittsburgh and Raleigh

Let's start with the top three. MagnifyMoney gives Pittsburgh and Raleigh a tie for first place, both scoring 78 points.

Pittsburgh topped our rankings for the best city for Amazon's next headquarters, tying Raleigh, N.C. for first place.

Overall score: 78 

Pittsburgh combines a low cost of living with a decent commute time of just 26 minutes. Bring a jacket. The weather is on the chilly side.

  • Monthly median housing cost: $791
  • Avg. commute time: 26 minutes
  • Climate: Between the hottest and coldest day, there was a difference of 46 degrees

Overall score: 78

  • Monthly median housing cost: $1,051
  • Avg. commute time: 26 minutes
  • Climate: Between the hottest and coldest day, there was a difference of 38 degrees.

Dallas came in at no. 3.

Overall score: 69

  • Monthly median housing cost: $1,096
  • Avg. commute time: 28 minutes
  • Climate: Between the hottest and coldest day, there was a difference of 39 degrees.

The worst of the top 20 contenders

New York City is the lowest-ranking finalist on the MagnifyMoney list, scoring poorly at 22. The Big Apple fell to the bottom of the pack for three key reasons: it has the highest living costs, highest marginal tax rates and longest commute time.

Northern Virginia and Montgomery County share the second-to-last place with a score of 29.

Interestingly, the current Amazon headquarters Seattle, only earned a score of 41 points, but we didn’t include it in the official rankings. Seattle would have been ranked in the 14th place if we had.

Full rankings:

Methodology

The data was gathered on the Metropolitan Statistical or Combined Statistical area for a city, except in the cases of Northern Virginia; Montgomery County, Md.; and Washington, D.C., as these finalists are, at least partly, part of the same statistical area.

County data was used for commute times and median monthly housing costs (county data was not available for the other factors). Similarly, county data was used for Newark, N.J., where available, because it is part of the New York City (another finalist) statistical area.

The U.S. Census American Community Survey (2016) was used for commute times and median housing costs, while the Census Housing Vacancy and Ownership data was used for vacancy metrics. Statistics Canada was used for Toronto data. Federal and local tax authority rate tables were used to derive marginal income tax rates for $100,000 in income.  Weather data was derived from USClimateData.com and The Weather Network, while cost of living index data was sourced from Numbeo.com.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Shen Lu
Shen Lu |

Shen Lu is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Shen Lu at shenlu@magnifymoney.com

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Earning Cashback, Reviews

Is the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card or Amazon Prime Store Card Better for Your Amazon Purchases?

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Review - Amazon Rewards Visa Card or Amazon Prime Store

For loyal Amazon shoppers, a credit card that will give you money back for spending only makes sense. There are three options:

  • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card (from Chase) - 5% back, and our top choice
  • Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card (also from Chase) - 3% back
  • Amazon Prime Store Card (from Synchrony, can only be used at Amazon) - 5% back

The good news: if you are an Amazon Prime member, it is easy to get 5% cash back from all of your Amazon spending all year long. And if you spend a lot of money at Amazon, the savings can be significant.

Note: The information related to the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card, and Amazon Prime Store Card has been collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa® Signature Card5% at Amazon: The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

With this credit card, you get 5% back at Amazon.com with an eligible Prime membership.

You also earn 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drug stores. And you will earn 1% back on everything else.

There is no annual fee, no earning caps and no foreign transaction fees.

How the points work

When you use your card, you will actually be earning points.

You would earn 5 points for every $1 you spend at Amazon.com, 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, gas stations and drug stores and 1 point for every $1 spent everywhere else.

You can choose to redeem those points at Amazon (during checkout) or through Chase.

When you check out at Amazon, you will see your point balance and would be able to apply those points to your purchase. Every 100 points = $1.

But you can also redeem those points through Chase and get cash back, gift cards or travel. If you want cash back or gift cards, the value is the same as using the points at Amazon to shop. Every 100 points = $1.

You will also receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card instantly upon approval. The best part is you do not have to spend a certain amount of money in order to get the gift card.

If you are already enjoying the benefits of Amazon Prime, this card is an obvious choice.

But if you are thinking about Amazon Prime, this card is a great way to try it out.

If you spend $99 for Amazon Prime membership and then apply for this card, you will immediately get $70 of it back in the form of an Amazon gift card. You can learn more about the card at Amazon.

Amazon Rewards Visa® Signature Card 3% at Amazon: Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card

You can also get 2% back at gas stations, drugstores and restaurants. On other purchases you get 1% back. So everything is the same as the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, except you earn only 3% at Amazon instead of 5%.

Just like the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, cash back is tracked with a point system. 1 point equals $0.01. For example, if you spend $100 on Amazon.com, you’ll get $3 in cash back, which equals 300 points. You can trade in points for statement credit, travel or gift cards. Points never expire unless your account is closed and there’s no rewards cap.

The card doesn’t have a 0% introductory promo period. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid transferring a balance to a card you want to use for rewards. This card has an exceptionally high balance transfer fee ($5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater) and no 0% introductory promo period; two major red flags for a balance transfer.

After approval, the card gives a $50 Amazon.com gift card loaded to your Amazon.com account. The Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card has no annual fee and you can learn more here.

Amazon Prime Store Card 5% at Amazon: Amazon Prime Store Card

The card can be used on Amazon.com and on other merchant sites that have the Amazon Prime Store Card option activated for payment. However, the card can’t be used for the following: textbook rentals, digital and print + digital subscriptions (including newspapers and magazines), cell phones associated with a plan, purchases on Amazon subsidiaries, digital add-on subscriptions (e.g. Starz, Hulu, GameFly, etc.), Prime Now items.

You can redeem cash back for statement credit until instructed otherwise. In the fine print, Amazon reserves the right to change the cash back program into a rewards program where you redeem points for products instead.

If you end your Amazon Prime Membership, your Amazon Prime Store Card will become a regular Amazon Store Card that doesn’t earn 5% cash back. There’s no annual fee on the card, but Prime membership does cost $99 per year.

This card offers special financing on all orders of $149 or more. You will pay no interest if your balance is paid in full within 6, 12, or 24 months as applicable. If you don't pay off your balance within the promotional period, interest will be charged to your account from the purchase date. Minimum monthly payments are required. Learn more about the terms on here.

Pros and Cons

Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Cards

Pro: Multiple bonus categories. Sure, you shop on Amazon.com, but you probably shop elsewhere too. With this card you’ll get an extra bonus for shopping online plus cash back in other areas that fulfill everyday needs like filling up your gas tank. You also have flexibility to redeem cash back in multiple ways.

Pro: No annual fee. Earning cash back from each category is free, no annual fee.

Pro: A gift card once approved. When you get approved you’ll get either a $70 (Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card) or $50 (Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card) gift card right away you can use to shop.

Pro: 3% or 5% cash back when you pay for Amazon Prime Membership. Amazon Prime Membership comes with free two-day shipping and unlimited TV and movie screening with Prime Video. What devoted Amazon shopper doesn’t want that? An added benefit with this card is double-dipping. You get the Prime perks and cash back for paying for them.

Pro: High cash back for Prime members. If you’re a Prime member, you can get 5% cash back. You likely won't be able to beat that rate.

Con: No intro APR. Since most credit cards have some type of introductory interest rate, a card that doesn’t have one stands out. You’ll need to pay off the balance each month starting from the very beginning to benefit from rewards earned.

Con: Tougher approval. You may need better credit to get these cards from Chase than the Amazon Store Card from Synchrony, which has a much higher interest rate.

Amazon Prime Store Card

Pro: 5% cash back. This is a huge amount of cash back for faithful Amazon shoppers. You’ll get rewarded handsomely for spending. And the redemption process is easy; your cash back is used for statement credit. One thing to keep in mind is it may take up to two billing cycles for the money to appear on your account.

Pro: Easier approval. This is a store card limited to Amazon purchases, so you might find it easier to get approved for this card with less than perfect credit.

Pro: No annual fee. The Amazon Prime Store Card doesn’t have an annual fee.

Con: A very high APR for everyone: This card charges a 26.99% APR for everyone, regardless of credit score. Yes, even an 850 FICO would still get you a horrible 26.99% interest rate. Never borrow with this card.

Con: Fine print. The fact that you can’t use this card for software downloads on Amazon sticks out as a negative. Amazon sells software downloads including TurboTax, QuickBooks and Norton Security. These products aren’t cheap and purchases you would want to get 5% cash back on.

Con: Requires Amazon Prime Membership. To use this card you have to be an Amazon Prime Member so in some respects there is a fee involved even though it’s not an annual fee specifically for the card. Amazon Prime Membership costs $99 per year. If you’re not already a member and want to become one for the card, you must spend enough to pay for membership.

Con: Exclusive to Amazon. A gift and a curse. You’ll have to follow up with another card for cash back on other things like groceries, gas, dining or travel.

Which Card Should You Choose?

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is a good one to consider if you already have an Amazon Prime account. It’s not worth getting an Amazon Prime account just to get this card unless you plan on spending big in the future on the site. If you spend moderately throughout the year, the basic Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card is a better choice between the two. You’ll get rewarded for more diverse spending in addition to your online shopping.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Featured, News, Strategies to Save

6 Things You Need to Know About Amazon Prime Day

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Online shoppers are gearing up for Amazon’s third annual Prime Day — a period of deep discounts on many Amazon items in mid-July. Since the company began Prime Day three years ago, it’s become the summertime answer to Black Friday.

But what’s all the fuss really about? In years past, there have been complaints that the site’s sale items aren’t all that exciting, with the hottest items selling out too quickly for many to take advantage of the deals.

Amazon hasn’t said much about what 2017’s Prime Day will look like, but to help you prepare, here are some things you need to know.

Q: When is Amazon Prime Day?

A: July 10-11

Prime Day kicks off at 9 p.m. EST on July 10, when the best deals will be posted online, and run for the next 30 hours.

New deals will be offered every five minutes, according to Amazon.

Q: Where can I find the best deals on Amazon Prime Day?

Electronics

Benjamin Glaser, features editor at DealNews, says that last year, Amazon Prime shoppers saved about 30% to 40% on electronics. Globally, people bought over 90,000 TVs, and in the U.S., people bought over 200,000 headphones during the 2016 Prime Day, according to an Amazon press release. However, Glaser cautions that TV deals tend to sell out fast.

It’s a safe bet that the best deals will be on Amazon-branded electronics, such as the Echo, Kindle, Fire tablets, and Fire TV products.

Glaser is anticipating seeing $15 off of the Fire TV Stick, which is currently at $39.99. The Echo, priced at $179.99, dropped to $129.99 on Monday June 26 for the day — the best deal on it this year.

It’s also likely that there will be deals on electronics that tie into the Amazon Alexa ecosystem, such as Philips Hue smart lights products — the starter kit is priced at $173.99 — and smart thermostats such as Nest, which is currently $246.85 (at the time of this writing).

Toys and more

Also, considering that 2 million toys and 1 million pairs of shoes were bought globally last Prime Day, it’s also likely there will be deals in those departments.

For example, among the best deals last year was $699 for the Segway miniPRO Smart Self Balancing Personal Transporter, which at the time was the lowest price for it on Amazon by $300, according to DealNews. The game Exploding Kittens: A Card Game was also on sale for $15, the lowest price on Amazon by $9 at the time.

Expect some products to have record low prices for Amazon.

“We have confirmed over the last two years that a lot of the prices rival the best prices we see on the site all year,” Glaser says.

Q: How long will deals last on Amazon Prime Day?

A: Amazon promises new deals every 5 minutes starting at 9 p.m. EST on July 10.

Some deals will expire in mere minutes, while others will last several hours, and some will last for the duration of the sale event. Each deal will have a timer that shows how long it is available.

Q: How do I know when an item goes on sale?

A: The Amazon App specifically includes a feature called “Watch a Deal” that will let you know when a deal you're interested in is about to go live.

You also can join a waitlist (by selecting that button on the page) for deals that are 100% claimed.

Q: Do I need to be an Amazon Prime member?

A: You must be an Amazon Prime member to access the Prime Day deals. A Prime membership costs $99 a year or $10.99 per month and includes a number of other perks. Recently, Amazon announced a reduced price for Prime membership for low-income households.

“So, if that [$10.99] is less than what you think you’ll save on the stuff you want to buy [on Prime Day], then it’s a worthwhile investment,” Glaser says.

Amazon also offers a 30-day free trial, so if you haven’t had Prime before, you can use that to participate in Prime Day.

“This might be a good month to give Prime a test drive and see if you get good value out of it,” Glaser says.

Q: How will I know when they announce deals?

A: Glaser says Amazon will likely soon start releasing ads for some of the deals, so keep an eye out for them. Look particularly at Amazon products, electronics, small kitchen appliances, and shoes. Plan what you want to buy and set a shopping budget.

Since some deals will only be available for a certain time, you might want to set alerts for items. If you don’t already have an app that you use to track prices on Amazon, Glaser recommends the free apps CamelCamelCamel or If This Then That.

With all of the deals, it will be easy to buy things you weren’t planning on and don’t need. Glaser cautions against getting swept up in these deals and recommends sticking to your budget on Prime Day.

“If you see something that’s 95% off, you might spring to buy it and not really think about how much money you’re still spending, and whether it’s something you actually want,” Glaser says.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Jana Lynn French
Jana Lynn French |

Jana Lynn French is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jana Lynn here

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