Archive for the ‘Deals & Scams’ Category

A Sad Day in Pyslent History

February 24th, 2021, 4:45pm by Mike

Fry’s Electronics is going out of business. I think about Fry’s every time I go to Microcenter, the crappier version of Fry’s here in Boston.

When was the last time that you guys went to Fry’s?

Back to our roots

January 27th, 2021, 9:25pm by Mike

This seems like the sort of thing four grad students would have been interested in 20+ years ago. I would love to hear that one of you were on top of this.

The complete moron’s guide to GameStop’s stock roller coaster, from Ars Technica.

The One Comma Club

October 22nd, 2020, 5:37pm by Jake

I bought my first stocks the same day the iMac was unveiled, purchasing Apple, Qwest and Sam Adams. Brilliantly, I sold off all the original Apple shares the day they announced the iPhone (I think), but did come to my senses and buy some back. I’ve held a chunk of that $SAM position ever since, and my stock is now old enough to drink. The price now requires a comma, piercing the $1000 mark. Still waiting for that first split. Celebrating with a brew tonight! Or maybe tomorrow night, gotta see if the price holds when the market opens tomorrow.

Pay Your Property Taxes NOW!

December 27th, 2017, 7:25pm by Jake

A reminder that next year, state & local income taxes are only deductible up to $10K. If you’re going to be over that cap in 2018, it makes a load of sense to pay your assessed taxes now. In California, the second installment isn’t due until February, but if you pay before December 31, you can deduct those payments from your 2017 federal income taxes.

Also, if you anticipate owing additional state income taxes (due to, for examples, capital gains taxes), you should pay those estimated taxes now.

I thought everyone knew this, but at work today 2 people had no idea until I told them. Act fast!

Best Free Hotel Ever

April 13th, 2017, 12:02am by Jake

This was a scheme a full year in the works. Last year, we went on a family vacation to Hawaii & stayed at a resort Jen visited since she was little. And reminisced about another resort, the Mauna Kea. Old school Big Island resort, the kind where people once flew to Oahu, then Hilo, then drove on a dirt road across the island to take in the amazing beach resort. Seriously amazing. My photos don’t do it justice. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So the Mauna Kea we thought was independent. But turns out they have a deal with Marriott of some kind, and it’s eligible for reward points & stays. Normally $500/night, it was 40,000 Marriott points/ night. 5th night free, so that’s 160,000 points. What would any rational churner do? Find the branded credit card! I got 80,000 points, already had 40,000 sitting in my account and spent most of the next 6 months earning those next 40,000 points. Really awesome, no way I could have stayed there otherwise.

To cut to the Chase, they are now offering a 100,000 point sign-up bonus. Plus 7500 points for adding an authorized user. That’s 2/3 of the way to an amazing stay! Plus, if you sign up with my link, I score 10,000 bonus points, which will help me get back there in 3-4 years.

Credit Card Strategy

January 11th, 2017, 9:18pm by Mike


I’m a fan of credit cards that get points. When I was consulting, I was all about travel and hotel points, but now that I’m not traveling so much, I need to think through how to maximize my return. So here’s where I am, with the cards I currently have:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: $95 annual fee, 2x (=2%) points on travel and restaurants, 1x elsewhere. The points are “Ultimate Rewards” points from Chase, which can be transferred to airline/hotel programs or used directly for travel through Chase. Also can be used at Amazon, but not a great point redemption. 50,000 points signup bonus. This is my main credit card.
  • Chase Freedom: $0 annual fee, 5x points Ultimate Rewards points (=5%) in rotating categories every quarter, 1x otherwise. Right now it’s gas stations and local commuter transport (trains and Uber, basically). Since it’s free to have, it’s basically a no-brainer — only really used in the current 5x categories. I think this had 25,000 point signup bonus.
  • SPG Business Amex: $95 annual fee, 5 qualifying nights and 2 stays toward status, Gold status if you spend $30k per year, lots of extra points if you use at Starwood properties. Importantly, the Business card gets Sheraton Club access, which is key for family vacations (and my favorite SPG perk anyway). A holdover from the consulting days, where I really did well with this one. I think this had 30,000 point signup bonus.
  • Citi Prestige Mastercard: $450 annual fee, but great benefits. I got it when they still gave Admirals Club access from American, along with $250 in travel credit per calendar year (=$500 for the first annual fee payment — since I got in August 2016, I used the 2016 credit and now have a 2017 credit to use before August — more than pays for the card), Global Entry Fee waiver, complimentary 4th night at hotels, Priority Pass lounge access. Gets 3% for air travel and hotels, 2% dining and entertainment, 1% elsewhere. 50,000 point signup bonus. 


So here’s what I’m going to transition to:

  • When the Citi card comes up for renewal, cancel it (before the fee). So I have to spend my Citi points before that, and make sure I use the travel credit.
  • When the Citi card is cancelled, apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which is Chase’s version of the Citi Prestige. Same $450 annual fee, but gets Ultimate Rewards points, $300 travel credit (again, per calendar year, so 2x the first year), Priority Pass lounges but no Admirals Club access. It gets 3% on travel and dining, 1% elsewhere. Through today, they have a 100,000 point signup bonus (falling to 50k tomorrow and beyond), but I don’t want to have both the Citi and Chase megacards at the same time, seems a little exorbitant. With this, I’ll cancel the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
  • When the SPG Amex is due for renewal, cancel it. Gotta do the math, but I think I’ll qualify for lifetime SPG Gold with another 7 nights of stays, so canceling the card won’t hurt me there, but I guess I lose Sheraton Club access. Have to figure out whether that’s worth the price of the card or not. Considering we spent about 4 nights a year in DC visiting family, that’s 4 family breakfasts, easily would cost over $95 without the Club. So maybe I’ll keep it just for that.
  • Sign up for the Amazon Prime Visa card. Gets 5% back on Amazon purchases, 2% at restaurants, gas stations, and drug stores, 1% back for other purchases. No annual fee, and $70 gift card signup bonus. We spend several thousand dollars per year at Amazon — certainly on par with what we spend on air travel, and more than hotels) so definitely worth it. (Update: Decided to go ahead and get this card now.) 

So after this transition is over, I’ll save at least $95 in annual fees, and consolidate all my point collection to Ultimate Rewards, since I won’t use the SPG card for much of anything. I’ll be getting 5% back on all Amazon purchases, 3% on travel and restaurants, 2% at gas stations and drug stores (doesn’t amount to much for me), and 1% everywhere else. Among categories, the only meaningful one left is groceries, I think. 

Do you guys have a credit card strategy?




Miles, points, and credit card update

November 22nd, 2015, 2:38pm by Mike

You all know I’m into miles and points, and even though I’m not traveling much lately, I stay on top of these things (mainly by reading one blog, linked below several times). Three things to update on:

First, as you’ve probably heard by now, Starwood and Marriott are merging to create the biggest hotel chain in the world. There’s no clarity on what happens to SPG, but the thinking seems to be that it’ll be swallowed up by Marriott Guest Rewards, which is twice as big. And much crappier. May be worth thinking about revisiting all those accumulated SPG points. Personally, I signed up for the SPG Business Amex a couple months ago to get 30k bonus points (which I used to earn in 3 weeks in NYC!), and now their value isn’t as clear (but I did just use SPG points for some flights, which is actually a pretty good use of them, I think, since there’s no blackout dates. We got our tickets for Spring Break that way, which would have been very expensive otherwise). Always the danger with accumulating points — they can be arbitrarily devalued at any time.

Second, and related, Hyatt is running a status match right now to their Diamond Preferred (top level) — so it’s a good time to match SPG to Hyatt, since the future of SPG Platinum isn’t clear. Again, Marriott’s program kinda sucks. This link describes how the early movers did (very well), and it sounds like Hyatt may be getting more restrictive on the status match, but still worth a try. I’m trying, anyway.

Third, credit cards. Some cards that are pretty worthwhile to have are especially worthwhile right now. These two cards in particular:

  • Chase Freedom: Gives The Chase Freedom card has no annual fee, and gives 1% in cash back or points for all purchases, except for bonus categories each quarter that get 5%. It’s usually categories like gas stations and grocery stores. For this quarter, the bonus is for Amazon companies — and not only that, it’s a 10% bonus! With the holidays, a 10% off coupon at Amazon is likely to be pretty useful — and as many have pointed out, if you want to maximize this, just buy gift cards via Amazon (for Amazon or anywhere else) that you can use later in the year.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: Gives Ultimate Rewards points: 1% back on all purchases, 2% on restaurants and travel (defined very broadly). $95 annual fee, waived first year. It is a staple among miles/points people, and right now they’re offering 50,000 points as a sign-up bonus if you spend $4000 on the card in the first 3 months. If you also have the Chase Freedom card, you can accrue ultimate rewards points from spend on both cards — or 10 points per dollar  for Amazon, which is really good.

If you’re interested in either of these credit card deals, let me refer you and I’ll get some bonus points, too! Or don’t, either way, just take advantage of the deals if you want! In the meantime, I’m watching all of my hotel and airline status expire by the end of the year — reward for actually having time at home instead of on the road!






Ten Bagger!

June 19th, 2012, 6:34pm by Jake

Didn’t hold through the end of the day. But I bought SAM (Boston Beer Company) 14 years ago on the day Apple introduced the iMac. I bought more & have held every share. I also bought Apple that day, unfortunately I didn’t hold every share! Nevertheless, buying at $11.74 on May 15, 1998 until June 19, 2012 at around noon eastern, I had a 10-bagger in Sammy. Not bad! My $2000 investment is now worth a cool $20K. Apple would’ve been worth $160K! And at one point, I think I owned triple the shares. Ah, but if only wishes were horses.


New Bank

July 31st, 2010, 6:31pm by Mike

In case anybody’s looking for a new bank, we’re in the process of switching from our friendly neighborhood bank to Schwab’s High Yield Investor Checking for our main checking account, and so far, so good. Read on if you’re curious.


Target Coupalms

March 11th, 2010, 12:39pm by Kelvin

This definitely would have infringed our business model patents…

TARGET: Sign up for Target Mobile Coupons!  Visit to sign up now. Msg&data rates may apply

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