Friday, March 31, 2006

Today's Mail 3/31/06

It's getting embarrassing. This blog was supposed to be about my credit card offers, and I haven't gotten one since Tuesday. Oh, well. We might have to re-think this.

Nevertheless, I did get other mail you'll no doubt be interested in:
  • Homerun Stock Alert newsletter. Don't know this company, won't be reading this, but thanks anyway.
  • Flyer from a local painter.
  • Sierra Trading Post catalog. Ordered some sandals from them online last year, and you know what happens once you actually place an order.
  • Garnet Hill catalog. Bought something for my significant other from this one, based on her request for something from it. I'd never heard of them myself, but now I'm on the list...
Also got a 9-volt battery from my mortgage company -- a reminder to change the batteries in my smoke detectors. That's a pretty good one, perhaps the best piece of marketing I've gotten this week.

Be well, enjoy your weekend, spend some money (I know you're on a budget, but don't totally deprive yourself, OK?).

No Ticket Airport Parking with Credit Card Payment

It's been a while since I've had to travel regularly, and most of the time I take cabs and leave the car at home. But, I remember when I used to travel often & the paranoia I'd have about losing my ticket for the airport parking lot and being stuck paying one million dollars for a two-day stay.

I see that at least one airport has changed this scenario -- in the Washington Post's Sunday edition (already online on Friday for some reason), the paper reports that Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall (there's a mouthful) airport has a Credit Card In/Credit Card Out system working -- you swipe your credit card on the way in, swipe the same one on the out, and you're golden.

Sure, you could lose your credit card during your trip, but that's a lot less likely than losing that flimsy airport parking ticket.

As the WaPo says in the article: it's the little things that count.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Today's Mail 3/30/06

For the third straight day, no credit card offers, which is sort of killing the theme of the site. Maybe people don't really get as many credit solicitations as they think they do.

I did get some mail, though:

A local furniture store is going out of business and wants to give me first dibs on buying their remaining stock at cut rates. I'm always tempted by these kinds of offers, but in my head know that I don't need any furniture.

CVS Pharmacy will give me a free $25 CVS gift card if I fill a prescription there before April 25th.

COSE wants me as a business owner to join up to get deals on insurance, networking opportunities, etc. As I am no longer a business owner, this holds no appeal.

Finally, my home security company has thoughtfully sent me a note telling me my credit card will be expiring soon & I should give them some new numbers if I want to continue credit card billing. I do, so I will.

Not too exciting today.

Cheaper with Cash

TV station WSAV in the Hilton Head/Savannah area has a report about a local gas station chain, Enmark, that is charging customers 3 cents less per gallon if they pay with cash versus a debit or credit card. The report also mentions a local restaurant that won't let customers pay by credit card unless the check is at least $10.

I'm not a lawyer, but it may be against the law for a merchant to charge credit card customers more than it charges cash customers. If it's not against the law, it's at least against the agreement that the merchant signed in order to be able to accept credit cards.

It's fine for merchants to not accept credit cards at all, but I don't think they can accept credit cards and add a surcharge if you use them.

Likewise, I think merchants are breaking their agreement with the credit card companies if they refuse to accept credit cards for purchases of a certain amount. Credit card companies are definitely trying to get you to use your credit card for smaller and smaller purchases, so I'm guessing they're not too happy about this practice that some merchants are doing.

There's an interesting fight brewing there. Merchants think credit card companies are gouging them with fees while preventing them from putting surcharges on credit card purchases. Credit card issuers and processors say merchants want the ability to accept credit cards without paying a fee for the service. Index Credit Cards did a rundown of this issue last month when a merchants group successfully got Discover to drop its "no surcharge" rule.

That issue's a long way from over.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Slow Mail Day

It took a long time for the mail guy to show up today & the payoff stunk:

Local radio station SoftRock 102.1 sent me one of those "listen & win" promos. I can win $1000 if I am the 12th caller when they play the "Workday Song of the Day." I used to actually go for this stuff when I was totally broke and being the 12th caller seemed as good of a money-making strategy as anything else, but now I thankfully have better ways to make a buck, like this massive money-generating blog you're reading. The "Workday Song of the Day" for April 14th is "We Belong" by Pat Benatar.

Honeybaked Ham sent us a $5 coupon if we buy a ham of over 7 lbs. by April 15th. It says "While Supplies Last" on the coupon, so I gotta hurry.

That's about it. I have to call my accountant for the 15th time this week & make sure I understand what the heck I'm supposed to do so the IRS doesn't come after me.

American Express Membership Rewards Offering iTunes!

I am psyched! (I don't know if people say that anymore, I might be showing my age.)

American Express has just added iTunes to Membership Rewards--you can get 25 songs for 3,000 points or 50 songs for 5,500 points. Looks they put a bit of a premium on them, as you would expect those numbers to be 2,500 and 5,000, but that's not a big deal to me. I have a lot of points that are going to get sucked up in iTunes.

A lot of people like to get cash back from their credit cards, but for me personally it's more fun to rack up points and have the option to buy things I might not spend my money on otherwise. Yes, I know the argument that cash back allows you to buy anything you want, and using points ties you to certain rewards when you could have cash money. But if you get cash back, you usually just pocket it and don't get anything special. Points, on the other hand, allow you to get stuff you want but couldn't otherwise justify to yourself.

I've already gotten an iPod Nano from Amex's ShopAmex feature, and I probably wouldn't have been in a hurry to get one otherwise -- I'd hopelessly desire one, sure, but I probably wouldn't have been able to justify forking over $300 for it. I was happy to give up those points, though, because they never existed as money in my hands, you know what I'm saying?

Ah, it's a good day.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Today's Mail 3/28/06

Well, surprise, surprise, no credit card offers in the mail today. See, it does happen sometimes.

Let's see what I did get.

Got the weekly circulars from the supermarkets and such. Finger Lickin' Feasts coupons from KFC, Pizza Hut, some satellite dish providers, Marc's ("Hip Hoppin' Deals" including Coke 12-packs 4 for $10 this week plus Easter candy specials), Drug Mart (also with an Easter bunny theme), Elgin Furniture (microfiber sofa & loveseat $899), Arby's (5 for $5.95 special this week), The Original Pizza Pan, Regency Windows (with company founder "Mikey" giving a smling thumbs-up in the ad), cell phone providers and Giant Eagle, which has some buy one get one free offers this week, including Klondike bars, Finesse shampoo, and sweet red California strawberries.

Also got a piece from the ubiquitous Designer Checks. I think these check-printing companies are going the way of film cameras in the next few years, so I hope they're thinking about the next step--manufacturing check cards might be the business to move into.

Got a flyer from our last real estate agent--she's wasting her time, she did a lousy job.

OfficeMax sent some coupons, including $10 off a minimum $20 purchase if I actually venture into one of their stores to buy something. I've got til May 6th; might go for that one.

Shell Energy wants me to buy my natural gas from them. I really do need to look into how this natural gas stuff works, it's killer to pay those bills.

Finally, a catalog from Hershey's -- I bought someone a gift from their Web site a year and a half ago.

That's a lot of stuff. Anyone who thinks mail delivery is on its way out is crazy.

Fed Raises Interest Rates Again

The Federal Reserve jacked up interest rates again today, which means higher interest on many loans that rise and fall with the Prime Rate.

I'm a little cloudy on the federal funds rate versus the prime rate versus the who-do-we-apprecirate, but I can tell you that if you have a credit card with a balance on it, there's a good chance your interest rate will rise another quarter-point soon, from 13.49% to 13.74%, for example. Most credit cards are variable rate, going up and down based on what Alan Greenspan, oops, Ben Bernanke decides at these Fed meetings.

Some cards are lightning-quick to increase rates when this happens, some are slower--but almost all of them do it, unless you're lucky enough to have a fixed rate credit card--so you'll see it soon enough.

Virtual World Credit Card Rewards?

This post at the Make Magazine blog is a bit over my head because I don't know anything about these virtual world games World of Warcraft or Second Life, but it seems these games allow you to exist in a virtual world, right down to making and spending virtual money (World of Warcraft "gold" and Second Life "Lindens"). Supposedly World of Warcraft has over 6 million users, and so the post author believes the next logical step to reach this market is for credit card companies to create credit cards that offer "virtual" rewards -- gold or Linden dollars instead of real money or tangible rewards.

If I understand correctly, there is now a market in the real world for "virtual" money, meaning people are paying real dollars to get more Lindens, so if a credit card did offer this type of reward, the virtual money could have real value, provided you could find a buyer who wants to get virtually rich.

Seems a little crazy to me, but I've never been much of a gamer because my few experiences with gaming have shown me how much time it can suck, and so I've always found it better to steer clear and not get sucked in. Still, interesting stuff.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Today's Mail 3/27/06

First off, I got my American Express Blue bill & see that the due date is April 11, which means I have less than two weeks to turn this thing around in order to pay on time. That shows you how credit cards have cut down the billing cycles & the timeframe in which you have to pay. You really don't get to float your money for as long anymore -- the earliest charge on the bill is from 2/22, but the latest is from 3/22, which means I get to float those more recent charges for less than three weeks before I have to pay them back.

I like to do my bills once a week, and, these days, if I forget or let it slip for a couple of days, I'm already in danger of late fees.

Also got two bills from Chase cards that I have. One of them I rarely use & I think I'm going to cancel it even though the experts say that you don't want to cancel too many credit lines because it can lower your credit score. Forget that, my credit's fine, I'm bagging this card. I think I'm going to get Chase's Cash Plus card so really I'm not cutting down on my cards. Also found out today that it appears Chase didn't close my other account that I've already called about once. That's freaking annoying that I have to call again -- especially because that one has an annual fee & I'm going to be livid if I'm close to the fee date & they try to charge me. I already cut up the card but I still see it in my online account. Chase also sent me today the same balance transfer checks that I got on Friday -- they are relentless with these.

In terms of new accounts, my only credit card offer today comes from the L.L. Bean Platinum Plus Visa credit card. It's a no annual fee card, APR of either 7.9 or 13.99% -- of course I won't find out which until I actually apply. I don't see what this card does for me other than free shipping on L.L. Bean stuff. That can't be the whole reward, can it? Oh, here we go -- "use your card everywhere you shop and you'll be rewarded with Coupon Dollars good toward L. L. Bean products." Says I can get free monogramming on anything that they monogram, too. I'm not a fan of monogramming, so that's meaningless. If you go to the L.L. Bean Web site, you get basically the same offer, except the APR is 11.4%, higher than the 7.9% I might qualify for by mail, but less than the 13.99% APR they also say I could end up with. I'm going to pass on this one.

Here's my other mail, in case you're curious:
  • Some sort of mortgage loan device from Indymac Bank that apparently would allow me to pay any mortgage premium I feel like every month. That can't be right and you know that's going to cost, and anyway I don't want temporary cash flow from my mortgage, I want to pay on that sucker. I want equity, baby.
  • Local Nationwide Insurance agent wants to cover my nonexistent business. Good luck, Jack.
  • Special Olympics wants me to donate. They even included one of those stickers that says "Supporter 2006" as if I've already donated. If I weren't an upstanding citizen, I could stick that sticker on my car without donating. But I won't. However, the Special Olympians won't be getting any money from me today -- I don't give to mail requests. Once a year I see how much money I've got to give and make decisions -- giving randomly when asked doesn't do it for me.
A big movie weekend for me. Saw "Inside Man" Friday, plus 3 movies at the Cleveland Film Festival. Inside Man was good, glad to see Spike Lee doing something interesting again. At the festival, I especially enjoyed "I for India" so check that out if you ever get a chance, which you probably won't unless you go to film festivals. Although Netflix seems to have everything these days, so maybe they'd have it eventually.

Til tomorrow...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Today's Mail 3/24/06

I got some mail today:

Capital One would like me to take on their No Hassle Miles Ultra MasterCard. They say I can use the miles on over 100 airlines, fly with no blackout dates, get a free ticket with as little as 15,000 miles, redeem the miles for cash if I don't want to fly, all for no annual fee. According to their chart, this compares very favorable to the United Mileage Plus Signature Card, the American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card and the Citi Premier Pass Elite Level card.

The letter says this is "for professionals" -- the card may be intended for business owners, which I used to be before hooking up with this outfit that pays me to blog about my mail. (If I'd been a better business owner, I'd be phoning this in from my vacation retreat in Tahiti. Or, better yet, not doing it at all.)

They're not offering any special introductory offers or balance transfer offers, but they will give me a 7.9% APR on purchases, which beats the pants off the 14.15% rate (plus $39 annual fee) I see on their Web site today. I also get 10,000 bonus miles after I use the card for the first time. On the rotten side of the apple, my offer says 1.25 miles per dollar, versus the 2 miles per dollar that I see online.

American Express and Costco want me to get their TrueEarnings Card. As they acknowledge I'm already an American Express Cardmember, but why stop at one, right? This card is only for Costco members, which I am not, although I have been in their store, and I could be convinced. They had a big video game machine I could've bought for something like $1888 the time I visited, and I wouldn't have bought it, but it made me feel special somehow just to think about buying it. I'm sorry, I don't mean to get mushy.

Let's see what I get -- 3% cash back at restaurants, 2% cash back for "traveling", 1% any other place, including Costco, which is a place. Every February I'd get a certificate for my earnings. Not sure what the certificate is, I prefer the word "check". I'd also get a 0% APR on purchases for 3 months (whoopdy-do) and a 1.9% on balance transfers for 6 months. APR: 16.49%. All for the cost of my Costco membership, which I can't seem to find a price for. As far as I can tell, I'm not very special to them -- any old consumer can get the same deal online.

That's it for the new card offers. I also got:

  • Some promotional balance transfer checks from Chase. Two of the checks will give me 6 months at 0%, the other three will give me a 4.99% APR for the life of any balance I transfer -- my choice, or I can do them all, if I really had that many balances to move around.
  • JB Dollar Stretcher magazine, the midwest's premier result driven direct mail magazine, according to the JB Web site. What that means to me is coupons from local places. I usually toss this, along with all this other stuff, but thanks to my new gig here, I'm actually going to check it out. First thing is for Friendly's Super Melts, but I only go there for ice cream-related items, so not interested. What else? Lots of pizza coupons, kitchen remodeling, siding, carpet, HVAC and satellite dish come-ons. I see one for donuts, which I like. Maybe I'll clip that one.
  • Gas bill, thankfully lower than last month, but still high as all H-E-double-hockey-sticks. Just think if this had been a cold winter. Criminy.
  • Cell phone bills. I don't know why I even have a cell phone, but my wife insists I have one for emergencies, even though I never remember to bring it along and it's never charged. Plus I refuse to upgrade so I look like a frigging Dan Tanna on the rare occasions when I pull it out.
  • Bank statement. Things look good.

I'll get more mail tomorrow, I'm sure, but if they think I'm blogging on the weekends, they're out of their minds.

Enjoy your weekend, get off the Internet for Pete's sake. See you Monday.

About this blog

I work for Despite my lowly standing within the company, I happen to have excellent credit and I get a LOT of credit card offers. So the powers that be have asked me to blog them, to see how the offers that show up in my mailbox jibe with the offers that are featured on the Web site for someone just coming in cold to look for a new credit card.

If you've ever wondered who reads all those credit card offers that show up in the mail each day, now you know -- it's me.