Payday Loans

Archived Posts from Miscellaneous

Nope. Not one of those “get paid to work for Google” scammy ads. You can get up to $25 in Amazon gift card from Google by signing up to their Screenwise panel. Essentially you get $5 for downloading the Chrome browser and installing the extension. You then get $5 for every three month you stay with the panel program (up to $25 max).

Personally I wouldn’t want my personal data to be shared like this, even if its in aggregated/anonymous format, but for those that don’t care or mind, this is easy enough “free” money (in the form of Amazon gift cards anyways).

Here’s the full gist of the program:

  • You can sign up at the Google Screenwise program page
  • You must be 13 or older (surprisingly low age threshold)
  • Have a Google account (or will sign-up for one)
  • Using the Chrome web browser
  • You’ll eventually get instructions on how to install the extension and join the program through Google’s panel management partner, Knowledge Networks

The sign-up page at Google shows that the maximum payout is $25 (total of 12 months plus initial $5 they give you for signing up). However in the fine print Google notes that it may extend the research beyond 12 months if there is a need/fit.

Please note that I am assuming data being shared are on an aggregated or anonymous format, but you should check with the full program terms before you start using it on a day-to-day basis. I doubt the purpose of the program/panel will be recording your bank login information etc., but when you install additional extensions to your browser, you add new potential security risk.

If anything, I suppose people can always sign-up to the program and opt-out of the program after the initial gift card is given to you. *shrug*

AAA membership renewal bill

According to a poll result from readers over two years ago, AAA membership is not crap — and that’s true enough for many people, as the occasional use of the roadside service provided by AAA makes the annual membership fees well worth it.

But alas, I decided recently to not renew my AAA membership.

Below are some reasons why I decided to cancel my AAA membership, and five reasons why you might want to do just the same:

1. You Might Not Need Their Roadside Services

The main reason why most people join AAA is for the roadside service — and it’s a service that I haven’t utilize in years. My car is fairly reliable, it has never broken down seriously to the point where it needed a tow, and for me, the towing is the only cost saving feature of a AAA membership.

Some of the other roadside services are of course handy, but none of which are things you might actually need.  The last time I got a flat tire was about three years ago, and as I was putting the tools and the flat tire back into my trunk, I remembered at the last minute that I had AAA membership.

Dead battery?  Unlikely to be an issue if you inspect and check your battery regularly.  With proper maintenance, an average car battery last 4-5 years.  In fact, a car battery is actually one of the more reliable parts in an automobile.

Locking yourself out of the car?  If your car doesn’t automatically lock its doors (like my econobox) and you have certain types of key-less entry, this is also a an unlikely scenario.

2. AAA Discounts Can Be Easily Beat Online

AAA travel and related discounts are nice, but it has been years since I’ve seen a discount that couldn’t be beat by other online travel comparison sites, cash rebate sites, or whatever coupon code and promotion that I can find on the web at the time.  Here are a few sites that I use regularly to look for quick travel related discounts:

  • Kayak.com – Travel price comparison search engine.
  • Fatwallet.com – For those last minute deals, cash backs, and coupons.
  • Retailmenot.com – For quick search on current coupons and promotions.
Update 2012: Here are some more modern websites/method where you can easily find competitive rates versus AAA rates:
  • BiddingTraveler.com - Lets you narrow down your Priceline “mystery” bidding hotels to what you really want for the price you want (I’ve personally used this service and similar bidding tactics successfully to get 5 star resorts for half off)
  • Hipmunk.com – While this is just a price comparison site similar to Kayak above, the structure, layout, and handy guide really makes it easy for you to find a balance between airfare price, schedule, and hotels base on your needs

3. Alternatives to Other AAA Goodies & Travel Services

What about goodies such as free maps and tailored travel services?  Again, these are things that you have alternative sources for.  I still like AAA’s free maps and would love to keep grabbing them if I ever go on a road trip, but more often than not, I would already have a trip mapped out via various online maps before I head out.

If I still need a map, there’s always Google Map via my phone and the loads of paper maps I’ve accumulated through the years that can be found in the closet.

Travel guide books? There’s the library. Travel services? With the web at your fingertips, everyone’s an expert travel agent if they have enough time to do the proper web research.

4. Overlapping Roadside Services

Don’t forget that many car insurance plans offer an option for you to add-on roadside service at a minimal cost, and many times this will be cheaper than a yearly AAA membership.  Most of these add-on gets you a free tow once per year, provides you with the usual roadside services, and usually covers everyone on the insurance plan.  I checked with my insurance company but unfortunately it didn’t offer this add-on option. Bleh.

Some select credit cards will also offer free roadside service or discounted roadside service options.  Most Visa Signature or World MasterCard credit cards should have this benefit available.  Your best bet is to dig out your benefits terms and condition to read the details, and write down the roadside service numbers for those potential future mishaps.

5. Renew Only When You Need It

At the end, it’s a given that for many people, an AAA membership is for that peace of mind and those unexpected moments. AAA can be well worth it for many people, it just isn’t worth it for me anymore.

Will I need a tow sometime in the future?  Most likely.  Will it be once every year?  I highly doubt it.

Here’s what I figured:  Why pay a yearly membership fee in anticipation for a needed towing service?  If you ever need a tow, just call AAA on the phone and renew or activate a new membership on the spot — you’ll get immediate towing service!

Sure, there’s a $20 membership processing fee on top of whatever it cost for AAA in your region, but that’s usually close enough in prices to local tow services anyway.  Seems practical enough of a solution especially if you don’t need the other AAA services and you’re just renewing the membership for those (potentially rare) moments when you need a tow.

Bank of America’s new envelope-less ATMs have actually been around for awhile now (probably over two years), but they weren’t widely available in my area until a couple of months ago.

Although I’ve always tried to keep my banking online (because heading into the sunlight burns my dungeon dwelling skin) — I occasionally still get a few pesky checks in the mail.  As I was depositing some checks into the ATM a few days ago, I decided to snap a few picture for those of you that have yet to encountered these new ATMs:

   

   

Here are some pros and cons that I’ve observed from using these new ATMs:

Pros:

  • Instant scan and image of checks printed on receipt.
  • Not having to lick those envelopes anymore.
  • Fast for single check deposits into single account.
  • Cash deposits gets credited immediately.

Cons:

  • If you have to deposit multiple checks into multiple accounts (businesses), prepare to enjoy the machine’s company as the machine takes only one check at a time (disregard picture above as that was just an example).
  • If the machine eats your check without spitting it back out properly, you’ll be dealing with a lot of hassles trying to resolve the issue.
  • If the machine takes your cash but didn’t credit the amount properly, you’ll be in for a world of headache.

Despite their myriad of fees and often shoddy services (or lack thereof), I’ve kept a Bank of America checking account open for years mainly because of the massive amount of locations Bank of America has — after all it’s pretty darn convenient to be thousands of miles away from home but still have access to fee-free ATMs.

These new ATMs can certainly be convenient, but I dread the day when I have to deposit more than 5 checks at the machine or have the machine gulp down the cash deposits but improperly crediting them.

If you’re a fellow Bank of America slave customer and have something to say about the “new” ATMs, feel free to chime in.

Tipd.com - Community for Financial NewsSome of you may remember the post I wrote about a month ago on Tip’d, a new portal for financial news. The site launched fully launched earlier last week after a month of beta testing.  If you’re a financial news junky and you haven’t tried out Tip’d yet, now’s as good of a time as any.

The community currently has about 2,000 registered users, with many more financial news and tidbits already “tipded.” Each week, I’ll try to highlight a few interesting things I find via Tip’d and other social network sites in the weekly roundup. You can find me lurking on Tip’d as Cap, so feel free to add me as a friend if you’re a Tip’d user.

Related Links:

I didn’t realize this, but the 90 years-old company Mother’s Cookies closed doors abruptly early October and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (after being juggled between various owners during the recent decade).  I’m not sure how I missed this news, but you can tell I rarely visit the junk food aisle at the grocery store (mind you, not because I’m a health conscious person — I’m just too much of a cheap ass at times).

Consumers can find solace in the fact that there are about half a dozen generics or similar offerings from other competitors. Although if you’re like most people, you won’t care much for the Type 2 Diabetes inducing snacks and probably hated me for posting this off-beat and delayed news.

Related Links:

Argh. Stories like these always makes me cringe.

Clouded by offer of $26.6 million dollars, a woman in Oregon sent out over $400,000 to Nigerian email scammers over the course of two years — even after her family members and bank officials told her to stop.

Obsession? Greed?  Read the story and watch the video to get a better feel.

The sad truth is classic scams like these will always be prevalent, and as time pass, they’ll simply occur through different mediums.

From [Consumerist] and [KATU.com]


photo credit: upsuportsmouth

Think financial blogs occasionally provide some dosage of financial voyeurism?

Meh, not really.

The students at The University of Portsmouth in Portsmouth, England takes the financial exhibitionist top prize.  Check out all the pics on flickr, here.  FYI: 1.58 USD = 1 GBP.

P.S. This was some ‘Socialist Student’ campus event, but it doesn’t mean all the ones pictured subscribes to the ideology.  I don’t know, maybe talkinga bout Che Guevara is some hip and cool counterculture thing in the U.K. *shrug* No need for any political comments, kthx.

Tipd.com - Community for Financial NewsWhen Noah from OkDork.com told me about Digg a couple of years ago, I filed the site away as a Slashdot wannabe and figured it’ll never get “big.” Of course, as with my many predictions about the Internet and the world in general, I was dead wrong about Digg.com.

Being the outdated Web 1.0 loser that I am, I have always been skeptical and wary of social network/media websites.  It’s just like how some people were not willing to give up their 8-track tapes when compact cassette came along, I remain a slow adopter when it comes to new trends on the Internet to communicate and exchange information.

Tip’d is one such new source for financial news and information. A Digg-like website, Tip’d allows users to submit, comment, and vote (tip) on financial related stories. If you’ve used Digg or any other community driven social bookmarking websites before, then Tip’d will be very familar to you.

Tip'd - A community for financial news

Will the site grow large and the community become super awesome? I’ll refrain from making a solid guess as my track record for prediction blows — but things look decent as Tip’d has a smart group of people running the show, with top Digger like Muhammad Saleem and SEO guru like Andy Hagans.

Still, if you’re a regular Joe on the Internet, you wouldn’t care about any of that. You’ll frequent a website because it’s either fun or useful, not because of who’s running the site. Tip’d definitely has the potential to be useful (as for fun, that depends on how much of a financial geek you are).

If you’re a financial news junkie, be it stocks, commodities, or general personal finance — and if you love social news type of websites, Tip’d might just be the right place for you.

Look for me lurking on the site as Cap, and feel free to add me as a friend!

Related Links:

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