Entries Tagged as 'Finance'

PayPal

The world’s most-loved way to pay and get paid.

What a crock… everyone I know loathes PayPal… the only reason anyone uses it is critical mass; pretty much the same reason people use eBay — that’s like saying people love the phone and cable company just because they use their services.

It’s laughable that a brand that’s synonymous with poor service and screwing people over every time they have a chance would have a slogan like that…

Of course, I broke into hysterical laughter the first time a Pacific Bell customer (dis)service person answered the phone with:

How may I provide you with excellent service today.

My reply was transfer me to a company that actually cares about it’s customers if you can find one.

Remember, it’s the worst companies that find it necessary to try and convince you that they’re loved…

Originally posted 2011-01-20 02:00:53.

Nothing but the necessities…

In a school district that is struggling to keep teacher’s it’s amazing that that the Santa Rosa County Florida School District can find the money (and need) for 90 iPad2s for administrators (it’s also amazing that there are 90 administrators in a  county with only about 150,000 residents).

I’m glad to see that my tax dollars are well spent on essential items to insure that today’s school children will be properly educated and that the administrators responsible for overseeing that education will have new toys at the disposal to sit mostly unused in their desks — after all, an edict has been issued by the school district that these devices are only to be used in a professional capacity.

I wonder, will it be grounds for immediate termination the first time a games is played on,, a facebook post is made from or personal email is sent via one these essential educational tools — inquiring minds want to know.

My personal feeling would be this money would be better spent offsetting the $4.4 million dollar shortfall for the 2011-2012 school year that is necessitating the layoff of teaching staff — of course, why should I be surprised about iPad2s for administrators, after all most of them just got raises to address the inequities in their pay (I guess they couldn’t afford their own iPad2s — though they seem to expect teachers to buy a great deal of supplies for their classrooms out of their considerably smaller salaries).

Originally posted 2011-08-15 02:00:22.

Where Can You Use Credit Cards?

Here’s a quick list:

  • Grocery stores (3% category on Citi & Chase)
  • Gasoline (3% category on Citi & Chase)
  • Pharmacies (3% category on Citi)
  • Fast Food (3% category on Chase; bonuses for Blinx)
  • Electric & Gas Bills (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Telephone Bills (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Cellular Bills (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Cable Bills (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Traffic Fines (provided there’s no convenience fee,  I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Property Taxes (provided there’s no convenience fee,  I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Retail
  • Dining Out
  • Movies
  • Movie Rentals
  • Online Shopping (I highly recommend virtual card numbers)
  • Colleges and Schools
  • Travel
  • Hotels

There’s virtually no limit to where you can use credit cards; and every place you use cards that pay cash back gives you cash back (up to you limit, and then just switch cards).

Then you can pay your credit card with you bill payment service; or you can have your credit card company issue an ACH directly from you checking, savings, or money market account (this actually keeps the money in your account longer, and instantly credits to your credit card — of course you’re authorizing your credit card company to withdraw from your cash accounts, so you have decide if it’s right for you and you generally have the option of either automatic payment or directed payments).

———-

Blinx is Chase’s name for PayWay / PayPoint / FastPay — the RFID enabled credit card way to pay (Chase embeds RFID chips inside of many of their credit cards); currently they provide incentives to get people to use RFID style payment.

Virtual Credit Card Numbers are available through services offered by a number of credit card companies.  They differ slightly in implementation, but essentially allow you to set charge amount limits, and expiry dates.  Once an authorization is done to a virtual credit card number the card can only be charged against by that merchant.  You can generally extend the expiry date and charge amount at any time you want.  And you can terminate the card at any time you want (you cannot prevent already authorized charges from being committed to the card).  This is an excellent fraud deterrent, and prevents companies from charging any authorized fees to your account (which saves you the trouble of having to file a charge back).  I’ve used virtual card number ever since I had an MBNA VISA card (MBNA was acquired by Bank of America), they were one of the big innovators in this technology.

Originally posted 2008-05-16 21:35:48.

Economic Stimulus

It amazes me how the United States Government can make simple things so complicated… and that it always seems that laws to benefit the greater good cannot be passed without benefiting special interests.

I say this is a very simple thing to handle.

The House and Senate need to approve an appropriation bill which allocates a given amount of money to an economic stimulus effort.  With that they can define the types of spending (broadly) that are acceptable.  Further, they can designate that government entities (federal, state, local, etc) can submit a request to a panel composed of four Representatives (two Republican, two Democrat), two Senators (one Republican, one Democrat), and the Vice President to review and approve.

Further, they could specify that each and very request must be for a single project; well specified with goals and measurable objectives.  That each and every proposal submitted must be acted on within ninety days, and that all actions and meeting of the committee must be open to the public (and news media, complete with cameras and microphones).

Congress could allocate more funding to the program as needed, or elect to stop funding it at any point in the future (but couldn’t pull back funds once granted).

Additional there should be a requirement on any entity that receives funds that they will abide by the letter of Federal law in allocating work which is wholly or partially paid for by the funds, and that any failure to use the funds as specified will require repayment with interest.

Look here, in a few hundred words I’ve outlined a framework that is totally transparent, highly adaptable, and fully accountable…

The whole problem is that we’ve changed nothing in Washington.  While I believe that Barrack Obama wants to change the way government governs, most of the individuals in Washington only wish to benefit themselves.

We gave Barrack Obama an overwhelming charter to change America for the better, and if each and everyone of us doesn’t stand up now and tell our Representatives and Senators that they are either part of the solution, or they are part of the problem and will be dealt with severely.

One thing is for sure, things will change — we will either choose to make the changes, or the changes will be the result of social and economic upheaval.  But if we’re going to have the choice, it has to be soon.

Originally posted 2009-02-08 01:00:01.

Protecting Your Rewards

Many financial institutions that issue “cash back” or “rewards” debit cards and credit cards are in poor financial shape at the moment.

As a precaution you may want to cash in your points now in order to insure that the institutions don’t make a change to the program that greatly diminishes your value.  In addition you might want to find another financial institution that isn’t in precarious financial condition with a rewards program to use in the interim until your current institution stabilizes.

The two largest banking institutions that have liberal rewards programs that are in financial trouble are Citi Group and Bank of America.

The largest banking institution that has a liberal rewards program that isn’t in financial trouble is Chase.

Originally posted 2009-01-29 01:00:04.

Satellite TV Law Suit

The State of Washington Attorney General filed a law suit against the nation’s largest satellite television provider DirecTV today alleging ‘deception’ was built into their business model.

Great start Rob, you must have a long list of major US companies to file litigation against behind this one.

Satellite TV providers, cable television companies, cellular telephone providers, credit card providers — most all of them seem to build deception into their marketing and customer relationship… and you really don’t need to survey many of their customers to get a good picture of it.

The only thing that’s surprising about this law suit is that DirecTV was so arrogant they didn’t quickly settle out of court for a fraction of what they’ve likely soaked their customers for — and that they may well now have similar litigation filed in most every other state.

For completeness I’ve included a link to the complaint filed against DirecTV by the State of Washington.  You can search for more information on the case, and (humorous) responses from DirecTV.

State of Washington v DirectTV (King County Superior Court, WA)

Originally posted 2009-12-14 01:00:17.

Ups and Downs

Just as the trucking industry tells us that delivery volume has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the years; retailers tell us that consumers are beginning to spend less.

And the Commerce Department announced that the recession was deeper than previously estimated.

Who’s doing the estimates?

Anyone with any sense knew the economy was in bad shape, and that it would likely take a number of years before there was any real improvement, and potentially a decade before we truly recovered.

You have to ask yourself are the people in Washington DC and on Wall Street stupid — or do they just think the American public are so stupid they will believe anything?

Personally I feel this is a catastrophic event in World history that requires leadership to acknowledge it’s severity and begin making long term plans for recovery while creating short term safety nets to keep society afloat.

Just one more sign that anyone who’s been in office in this country isn’t part of the solution — they’re part of the problem.

INCUMBENTS

Originally posted 2010-08-05 02:00:45.

Taxing Non-Profit

The red ink on the balance sheets of many state and local governments seems to be causing them to re-think the tax-exempt status of many non-profit organizations.

There seems to be every thing from legal/administrative challenges to organizations non-profit status to requests to non-profit organizations for tax “donations”.  Some localities are considering totally revoking non-profit exemptions, and others are simply creating hidden fees for services that are not exempt-able.

Clearly we as American’s need to re-think the non-profit tax exempt status totally.

Personally I think tax exemption for an organization should work more like “homestead exemption” — that they can be allocated a given amount of tax credit by each of their “supporters”.

Consider a system where every American is allocated a non-profit tax exemption that they can transfer to any organization (or split between organizations) that they desire; or choose not to… this gives each non-profit the ability to have a tax exemption proportional to their supporters.

What this prevents is large non-profit organizations (including faith based organization) from operating for-profit businesses or holding large tracts of real estate on which no tax is paid… but for modest non-profit organizations there would likely be minimal tax impact…

I personally believe that organizations that help society should be encouraged and supported – but organizations that simply try and evade taxes should not force the general public to support them.

Take a hard look at non-profits; ask how much of every dollar provided to them actually is delivered to the cause it is to help; ask how many employees are supported by the organization and whether their salaries are comparable those employed by for profit; and ask the same of the administrators of non-profit and who well they are compensated…

Originally posted 2010-05-27 02:00:45.

Keep Wall Street Occupied

A friend of mine put this together; and I think it’s very good advice…

I’ll add a couple points:

  • Mail over 13 oz requires you drop it off in person
  • Mail over 5mm thick is charged a higher postage rate (regardless of weight).
  • I’d discourage you from spending a penny on sending anything to a bank (not just because of the cost, but because of the environmental impact to produce and distribute anything); find your non-recyclable items around your house and use those to send a message — just be careful, some items are prohibited from sending via the US Postal Service — A Customer’s Guide to Mailing.
  • You may want to include in your note to remove your name and address from their mailing list (they already have all that information, they got the mail to you right — so you don’t really have to worry).
  • Don’t do business with banks — especially “big banks”.  Choose a credit union or a local bank for your needs.  If you have credit card services from a “big bank” make sure they are paying you back to use their card (they still make money, but at least you get something), never pay a membership fee or yearly fee for credit cards, and never carry a balance on a credit card at a “big bank”.

Originally posted 2011-10-30 02:00:24.

Tax on the super rich.

There is a good read in The Fiscal Times, an article by Bruce Bartlett that looks at the argument over Warren Buffet’s statement about raising taxes on the super rich.

It’s a one-dimensional argument; but it does bring into question the pillar of the argument has been used to support lowering the tax rate on the super rich.

One thing I will note before sending you off to read this — it’s not the tax rate so much we should be thinking of, but the effective tax rate.  When large corporations and wealthy individuals pay their taxes they often take advantage of numerous deductions that ordinary people cannot (so called loop-holes)… so their effective tax rate ends up being near zero.

I personally think that a tiered flat tax (with no deductions/exemptions), or a value added tax (assessed at each point a good or service is transferred) are the better solutions to creating a tax system that is far less expensive to implement/enforce, and much fairer overall to everyone.

If the current system is kept, not only do the tax brackets need to be changed (as well as the way they work), but the entire tax code needs to be overhauled to remove the loop-holes (and simplify it).

Buffet May Be Right, but the Top Tax Rate is Wrong by Bruce Bartlett, The Fiscal Times

Originally posted 2011-08-20 02:00:28.