Discover Checking Account

Posted in Reviewson Jun 21, 2018

While Discover is mostly known as a credit card company, they also offer some basic banking products (and you don’t have to have their credit card to use them).   One of their best products is their Cashback Checking accounts.  The highlight of this account is that you get 1% cash back on all debit card transactions.  This is a good way to get cash back if you can’t qualify for a cashback credit card, or don’t want a credit card, or shop frequently at stores (Winco Grocery) that only accept debit cards.

Some other highlights of this account:

  • No monthly fee
  • No minimum balance
  • Free ATM access to many ATMs, but you’ll need to figure out which ones are in their network (mostly ATMs at 7-Eleven stores and select small credit unions or local banks)
  • Free Paper Checks
  • Deposit checks into your account by taking pictures of your check with their Mobile App

Accounts can only be opened by those 18 years or older.

A drawback is that there are no local branches, so if you’re the type of person who wants to walk into a bank frequently, this may not be for you.  But you can easily link this account to external accounts so that you can transfer money around as needed.

As with all of my recommendations, I recommend you do your own research and understand the full terms before opening an account.

Financial Products

Posted in Reviewson Jun 20, 2018

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting about several financial products that may be of interest.  I’m primarily doing this because I want to be able to help my friends and readers make extra money each year.  I don’t want to be pushy about this, which is why I’m posting this information in a take-it-or-leave-it way on a blog.

I’ll be posting reviews about banking accounts, credit cards, investment services, and coupon and rebate programs.

If there are any products where I might earn a referral fee, I’ll clearly state that.

Now let me say a few words about credit cards in general:

  • Make the decision to never carry a balance from one month to the next on your credit cards.  Then you can pick credit cards based on the rewards, not on the rates.
  • Know your credit score, and unless it is excellent, make a plan to improve it.
  • Having no credit cards or loans does NOT mean you have good credit.  It means you have no credit, which is often treated similarly to having bad credit.
  • Credit card issuers have been creating new credit cards with better benefits for people with better credit.  If you’ve recently improved your credit score, or if you haven’t shopped for a new card in a while, you may find that more rewarding cards are available since that last time you’ve looked.
  • Be very careful about cards that require a membership or a annual fee.  At some point you may wish to not pay for the membership or annual fee, and closing that card can negatively effect your credit score.  You can avoid most negative impacts when closing any card if you have other cards with a good long history and credit limit.

United they will fall

Posted in Businesson Apr 10, 2017

Dear United Airlines,

The Internet has video of you dragging a paying customer kicking and screaming off your plane.  It is quite embarrassing for you.  The old PR means of dealing with this kind of embarrasment–downplay it and it will blow over in a few weeks–won’t work, just as it didn’t work for Target last year with its bathroom debacle.  It cost Target millions and will cause you much more if you fail to address the new age of Internet-mob-rules public relations.

Here are some options you may consider and how they might work out for you:

Apologize and never do it again.  You might have your ego bruised for the few weeks it would take for this to all blow over.  Be careful, because a half apology, one where you only apologize for the Internet’s response, will only make it worse.  Try something like “We apologize to the passenger, everyone else on the flight, and all of our customers. It should not have happened.  We promise that we will never do it again.”

Blame the police.  There is a lot of distrust of the police, so you may be able to shift the blame, but it could backfire if The Internet thinks you are simply trying to avoid taking responsibility.  Your message would be one like, “We called in the Port Police to de-escalate the situation, but unfortunately it wasn’t resolved in a manner consistent with our customer commitment.  We are working with the Police authorities to ensure their responses are more appropriate in the future.”

Convince the Internet that the unruly passenger is the one at fault.  So basically, your millions of customers probably think that if they are sitting in a seat that they paid for, that they shouldn’t be forced out of their seat.  Sure you might have some legal stuff that proves otherwise, but that won’t stop your millions of customers from thinking that.  So you could blame the customer, suggest that he was at fault for not obeying instructions or following the rules.  And good luck convincing The Internet of that.  Yeah, you might think it noble to stand up for your company or your employees, and you will find yourself certainly having to do that when the entire Internet inflicts boycott wrath on your financials.

A change to the Olympics

Posted in Insights, Sportson Aug 5, 2016

For the last decade or so, we’ve heard about the sky rocketing costs of hosting the Olympic games.  This conversation will continue in Rio as the country spends $20 billion dollars to host the Olympics, while 20% of the population lives in the slums.  Meanwhile, fewer and fewer cities even want to play host: Only two cities even bid to host the 2022 Games: Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing, China.  Clearly, something should be done to reduce the burden or increase the benefit of being Olympic Host.

Here is my idea: split it up.  Instead of one city playing host, let three or four cities (or nations) play host.  For example, let Greece host the aquatic events, Rome host gymnastics, Munich host track and field, with the remaining sports divided up and played in those regions.  Existing facilities can be used where possible, and the combined travel accommodations would allow more spectators to travel and watch.

The Olympics are great because the symbolize a peaceful unity of peoples from around the world.  Allowing several nations to host a single Olympic games would only improve the message of international cooperation.

The biggest challenges would be the presentation of the Opening and Closing ceremonies.  Having all the athletes from all the countries come together in one location presents a powerful image.  Do you think they could just do a big Skype video conference?

When a business has to let go of an employee, they often give a sum of money and assistance to the employee to help them while they find a new job.

While severance is nice, most businesses don’t exist to be nice, they exist to make money.  And business make money by retaining their most profitable employees.  So while it sounds backwards, offering severance is a retention policy.

The goal of severance is to make it good enough that employees know that they won’t financially suffer if the company lets them go.  Suppose a company offered a full year of severance (not widely done, but good enough for this example).  If I am enjoying my job, then I can focus on doing a good job knowing that I can postpone any job searches until I need to.

A company who doesn’t offer sufficient severance is not discouraging their employees from looking elsewhere.  Especially when business gets bad, employees actively consider the possibility of being left jobless and financially struggling.  Without a safety net, these employees will preemptively look for more security in changing jobs to a more secure company.

IPv6

Posted in Blogging, Technicalon May 31, 2016

I recently moved my server to Linode, which offers IPv6 addresses. So this blog is now IPv6 enabled. Hopefully you can’t see any difference and don’t even know if you are accessing it via IPv6 or IPv4.

C.H.I.P. or Raspberry Pi Zero

Posted in Technicalon Dec 2, 2015

There are two really cheap small single board computers coming out, and while I haven’t yet had a chance to play with either, I have some opinions based on the specifications of each.

The Raspberry Pi Zero is a $5 slimmed down version of a Raspberry Pi. To get it running, you need a microUSB power supply and a microSD card. To view any output, you would need a mini-HDMI cable to connect to a display. To provide any input, or for any network connectivity, you would need a USB adapter, like a USB-OTG cable, and then the appropriate USB device. (Alternatively, you could solder something to the GPIO holes.)

The C.H.I.P. is a $9 computer which comes with 4 GB of flash, built in Wifi, and Bluetooth. To get it running, all you need is a microUSB power supply. All you need is a 2.5mm composite audio/video cable to connect it to a display. For input, you can quickly connect a USB or Bluetooth device.

Both computers run Linux on a 1 GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM.

At first look, the C.H.I.P. looks to be almost twice the price of a Raspberry Pi Zero. But before you can even turn on the Raspberry Pi Zero, you have to provide a microSD card. That card eats up most or all of the $4 price difference.

So for simple operation, the C.H.I.P. provides enough to get things working faster and cheaper. If I want to turn it into a wireless IoT-styled sensor, the C.H.I.P provides everything I would need to do that but the sensor. Whereas with the Raspberry Pi Zero I would have to add the microSD card, a USB-OTG adapter, a USB Wifi Adapter, and then the sensor.

However, the C.H.I.P. has a harder time competing with high-resolution video. By itself, the C.H.I.P. only provides low-resolution composite video. You can buy a VGA module for $10 or an HDMI module for $15. The Raspberry Pi Zero provides HDMI output with just your adapting cable.

The Raspberry Pi Zero also allows greater storage flexibility. Want 32 GB? Simply use a 32 GB microSD card. With the C.H.I.P., you would need to add USB storage.

So whether the Raspberry Pi Zero wins or looses over the C.H.I.P., depends on the application. But for many IoT applications, I think the C.H.I.P. provides more bang for the buck.

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