I just bought a Canon Rebel T3 EOS1100D in early December, and it was $499. The tax did bring it over $500 though, and I had gotten it in a bundle deal which gave me a camera bag and a memory card.
I'm a beginner in photography, and I asked a couple photographer friends of mine (two of which are professionals) what they thought of the camera before I bought it, and all of them said that it's great for a beginner.
So far, I love my camera. I've been able to take great shots with it. I'm using the 18-55mm lens that came with it, but I'm hoping that when I get better, I can buy another one.
Maybe you can check out this model - so far, I am very very happy with it.
Best of luck!