Monday, July 27, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

A friend of mine just sent me what purports to be the Gates Arrest Report. The person I feel sorry for is the woman who called in the complaint - nothing like having your name splashed all over for the crime of trying to be a good neighbor.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Credit Card Rebates and My Rules

To date, I have made $1229.20 in credit card rebates this year, off my Amex Cash Rebate Card and my Chase Visa.

The Amex Cash Rebate Card pays once a year, on your anniversary date. They give 1.5% cash back on gas, grocery stores, and drug stores; .5% on everything else for the first $6,000 you spend on anything. Then you get 5% on gas, grocery stores, and drug stores, with 1.5% on everything else. I'd say that 25% of my regular spending comes in those three categories. Last year, I put everything on my Amex, and ended up getting 2% back for the year. But when I say everything, I mean literally everything - If I bought a pack of gum, it went on my Amex.

I cheated a little this year. Mr. Goat and I have been spending more money at Amazon in the last year, and so I have been planning to get this card for a while. Cardholders get three points for purchases at Amazon, 2 points for purchases at gas stations, drug stores, and restaurants, and one point everywhere else. Since you can trade 5000 points for $50, each point works out to 1% cash back.

For the first three months, though, new cardholders get double points. Mr. Goat and I had been planning a vacation to New York for a while, so I timed my acquisition of the card with the start of our vacation, where I knew we would be spending tons of money, especially on restaurants. After three months, we had 35,000 points, which I have just turned into $350. Since there is a limit of 60,000 points per year, I will go back to my Amex for the rest of the year.

Of course, next year, I will make less on the Amex because I put everything for three months on Chase Visa. But I still anticipate that I will make more than one thousand dollars from credit cards, as I have this year and did last year.

In addition to these cards, I have a Discover card and a Citi Card that I have yet to redeem rewards from. The Citi card is rather dubious, but I confidently anticipate another $25-50 from Discover by the end of the year.

My rules for credit card rebates are as follows:
(1) Cash is king. I am not interested in airline miles or hotel rewards. I want only cash or cash equivalents (e.g. gift cards from places that I actually shop).

(2) I don't pay annual fees. No matter how good the perks are promised to be, I'd rather have the $80+ myself. Also, I never have to worry about whether I am getting enough cash back on any particular card to justify the annual fee.

(3) Pay off all balances, every month. Reward cards without annual fees have super high APRs. That's how they plan to make their money. I thwart them at every opportunity, knowing that I am always one slip-up away from them making money off me.

Therefore, I don't recommend doing this unless:

(a) You are anal about your budget. I keep a total of how much I have left in every budget category at all times. I refer to these totals often, and if I don't have it, I don't spend it. This won't work for people who always spend a bit more on their cards than they can afford to pay off this month.

(b) You always pay your bills on time. If you are late, even one month, you will lose a significant proportion of your anticipated cash rebate to fees, interest, and penalties. I have four credit cards that I use to get the best rebates that I can. that means keeping track of four due dates. It's easy for me, because my mind is wired that way. People who have trouble remembering what year it is, let alone what month and date should probably stick to a single card with auto pay; it will be cheaper.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Don't forget chocolate!

You can still get free chocolate today.

Aion CE selling like hotcakes (says NC Soft)

According to NC Soft, the Aion Collector's Edition is selling out quickly. Apparently, it's a limited edition of 50,000 for North America and Europe. Ten Ton Hammer Reports that Amazon is out of CEs in England, but I see that it is still available in the US. There appear to be unlimited box-free CEs available at the NC Soft Store. For ten dollars less, you get all the ingame stuff (emotes! special dye! special wings!), but no action figure to clutter up your house.

As you can see, I am not a fan of Collectors Editions. I've pre-orderd the standard edition; my toons will just have to deal with being ugly.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sneaky Discover and a Question

Uncommon Cents points out that Discover now requires a $50 credit before you can receive your cash back bonus. I had never even noticed; I confess that I have always redeemed my Discover cash back for Bed, Bath, and Beyond gift cards. I have such a huge family that someone is always having a wedding, and everyone registers there now. So I turn $20 into $25 for items that I was planning to buy there anyway. Honestly, Discover's cash back program is terrible except for the monthly and quarterly 5% bonuses, so I probably only make about $60 a year with it.

On the subject of credit cards, while I was at the BridgeSide Marina, they charged me 75 cents for the use of a credit card on a $15 transaction. This is patently a violation of their credit card agreement with MasterCard. Normally, I would report it, but I hesitate because I know that BridgeSide is a family owned business, and I hate to make life harder for small businesspeople than it is. I am really curious what the rest of you would do; please vote in the poll and let me know.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy July 4th

I celebrated the Fourth of July by getting up at 4:15 to go fishing. If you want live shrimp, you have to be at the marina before 5 am; they sold out three people behind us in line. I personally caught my first Spanish Mackerel ever; they generally run much further out than our boat can go. There were also speckled trout; I caught a bunch, and even had a few over 12 inches (limit size). One of the guys in the boat caught a couple of sheepshead and all of us had at least a few keeper trout, so with four people in the boat we ended up with a nice mess of fish.

For dinner, we ate hamburgers from the farm on the beach with my Dad's extended family. He and all six of his brothers and sisters were there; pretty impressive considering that 5 of them live a plane ride's distance away.

After dinner, there were the obligatory fireworks on the beach. My cousin, a veteran of Afghanistan, went back to the beach house before they started; apparently big bangs just aren't as fun when you've had the real thing fired at you.

Here at Grand Isle, the fireworks display started before dusk and will continue until well after midnight. No one organizes the fireworks; they are the conglomeration of multiple individual desires in the same place.

When I was a child, I loved the fireworks. As a adult, the fireworks are a reminder that people fought and died for the ideals of individual liberty and limited government enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. The battle is never over; these ideas are under continual assault, both from without and within, and have been since those words were penned and signed. There may come a day when we are required to make the same choice – to risk our lives for individual liberties, or to accept life without them. Should that time come, I hope that we can live up to the example that we are celebrating today.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Chocolate redux

I got my free chocolate coupon in the mail today. I see that I signed up for it June 12, so that's a less than four week turnaround. Now all I have to do is remember to get one three more times before September.