Sunday, April 10, 2011

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Update on the e-miles Pimping

As noted in this post, e-miles wants to pimp people for miles and, miles-slut that I am, I thought it was worth it to get paid for what I was putting out for free.  Or something.  Having had an account with them for a little over a week, I thought I'd share the experience:

June 20: Earned 200 Miles 

When I first logged in, e-miles wanted to ask me lots of questions.  Worst.  First.  Date.  Ever.  There were four lengthy surveys, on which I said I was very wealthy and interested in EVERYTHING with the idea that these surveys help e-Miles target offers to you.

In addition, there were miles awarded for making e-miles a "trusted sender" in your email account (which I didn't bother to do but told e-Miles that I did) and for reading the e-Miles guidelines and then taking a quiz on them.

Interestingly, information about how easy it is to LOOSE miles was not in the quiz, but I found out that:

  • e-miles are only transfered to your frequent flyer program in 500 mile increments.  Have 600 miles?  You can transfer 500, but need 400 more if you want the other 100.
  •  e-miles expire one year from when they are earned.
  • e-miles can suspend your account if you do not respond to one marketing message per month.
  • e-miles has the right to terminate your account or deduct e-Miles if its rules change in the future

Big daddy can be mean to his children.  :-(

I also watched/read ads for Travel + Leisure, Disney and Zales to earn some extra points.

Click "Read More" to read about getting another 595 miles.

June 24: Earned 595 Miles

When I logged in, I saw that I had a number of offers that were 5 + 250, 5 + 100, etc.  What this meant is that if I looked at the ad, I could get 5 miles, but if I signed up for something, I could earn an additional 250 miles, etc.

Well, it turned out that some companies that I had abused before happened to be on the list.  For example, ING was offering 250 extra miles if I signed up for their ShareBuilder account, and they were also offering their usual $25 bonus.  I'd gotten that bonus probably a year ago and had never canceled my account.  I thought that would make me ineligible to open a new account, but I clicked on the ad anyway.

Sharebuilder asked if I already had an account and then asked me to log in.  I did, awaiting the rejection page, but suddenly they were giving me a second account under the same login and it was still good for the $25 bonus.  The bonus appeared in my new account a few days later.  So I just got 255 miles and $25.  Sweet.

Experian was offering 255 miles as well for signing up for a "free" credit score.  You have to give a credit card because, of course, if you do not cancel your account within 7 days, they start charging you monthly.  I've done the dance with Experian a number of times before, so it took just a quick phone call and repeatedly saying "No" to a customer representative to get them to cancel the membership.

I did a few more ad-looks and even applied for a "Free 2GB Flashdrive", only to be told that "We will contact you to let you know if you were one of the first 500 respondents" eligible to get the flashdrive.  Sigh.

When it was said and done, I had 795 miles in the account and asked for 500 to be transfered to Delta.

Final analysis: If you have free time, it's an easy way to juice your frequent flyer account, but considering it took two hours to get miles worth only $6.00, it's not the best if you consider your time to be valuable.  

Friday, June 25, 2010

Abusing Best Buy

Other than butterflies and newborn babies, there is nothing more beautiful than a Best Buy service plan.  If you play your cards right, you can continually upgrade your electronics for only the cost of the service plan.  You are, in essence, leasing your gear from Best Buy.

Let me tell you a story:

In 2005, I bought both a $329 Mini-DV camcorder and its $79 service plan.  After almost four years of travel video and homemade porn, the camera was still it pretty good condition, which I considered a disappointment.  I wanted there to be a problem with the camera, for reasons that will soon be clear.  Finally, though, my wishes were answered when it fell off a table while the cord was plugged in.  The contacts became loose and now the camera would only charge if the cable was held in a certain position.

So, three years and 361 days after buying the camera--four days before the deadline--I went to my local Best Buy.  According to the policy, Best Buy will replace your damaged item with a new one (even if you caused the damage!).  Since four years is a cosmic epoch for electronics, they didn't have the same camera in stock, which was exactly what I wanted.

Since they couldn't replace it with an new one, the plan dictated that they give me a store credit for the original purchase price.  In 2005, $329 could get you a one-chip SD camera that took expensive Mini-DV tapes.  In 2009, $329 would get you a remarkably small HD camcorder with flash storage.

The price of this brand new camera to me in real terms? The $79 I paid for the plan four years ago. 

I essentially leased it for that price and then was given an upgrade. 

When I got the HD camcorder I also got the 4 year service plan to go with it.  Who knows?  Four years from now, $329 might by me a contact lens with a camera installed on it.  Either way, I've already paid for it, and will go get it as soon as I'm tired of my current camcorder.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Banks that Will Count Paypal or a Bank Transfer as a Direct Deposit

Chasing bank bonuses often requires jumping through hoops, and one of those biggest hoops is a direct deposit requirement.  They put it in there specifically do discourage bonus hunting, because if your paycheck is going to their bank, you're more likely to use their services and stick with them (that, and they get to earn interest by loaning out your money).

The little known way around that is by "pushing" money in from another institution (Paypal and ING are two of the more popular), which the bank's computers see as a direct deposit.  Since not all banks count those, though, the members of the message boards have been steadily compiling a list of which banks do and which banks don't.

ACH, in case you didn't know, stands for Automatic Clearing House, which is the system banks use to transfer money.  When you set up a transfer from one bank to get money from another bank, that's considered a "pull" and does not count as direct deposit.  When you send the money from one institution to go into another, though, that's considered a "push".  Many banks do pulls for free (after all, the money is going into their coffers), but often charge for pushes.  You should read the fine print before you do a push from a bank to make sure you don't pay a fee.  

If you find any others, please leave a comment and let me know.

Click "Read More" to see the full list.

Banks that people have had success pushing into:
  1. Bank of America (ING, Paypal, ACH push)
  2. Bank of the West (ING, Paypal)
  3. Bank One (ING, Paypal, ACH push)
  4. Bank of New York (ACH push)
  5. Capital One (ING)
  6. Charter One (ING, ACH push)
  7. Chase (ING, Paypal, Etrade, ACH push) 
  8. Citibank (ING, Paypal, ACH push)
  9. Citizens Bank (ING)
  10. Columbia Bank (Paypal)
  11. Commerce Bank (ING, Paypal) - refers to one in the northeast
  12. Compass Bank (ING)
  13. E-Trade Bank (ING, ACH push)
  14. HSBC (ING, Paypal, ACH push)
  15. Huntington National Bank (ING, PayPal, ACH push)
  16. KeyBank (Paypal, ACH push)
  17. LaSalle (ACH push, Etrade)
  18. M&I Bank (Paypal)
  19. M&T Bank (ACH push)
  20. PNC Bank (Paypal, ACH push, ING)
  21. Principal Bank (ING)
  22. Salem Five (ACH push)
  23. Sovereign (ACH push, ING)
  24. SunTrust (ING, Paypal)
  25. TD Banknorth (ACH push)
  26. UFBDirect (ACH push)
  27. USAA (ING)
  28. US Bank (Paypal, ACH push)
  29. Valley National Bank (ING)
  30. Wachovia (ING, ACH push)
  31. Washington Mutual (ING, ED, Paypal)
Banks that don't count ING/Paypal/ACH push transfers as direct deposits:
  1. Charter One 
  2. Chase  
  3. MeadowsCU 
  4. Metropolitan National Bank 
  5. PNC Bank 
  6. Presidential Bank
  7. Salem Five
  8. Sovereign 
  9. Wachovia 
  10. Wells Fargo 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

$250 from M&T Bank

I just got off the phone with one of M and T Bank's representatives about their new bonus offer.  She didn't know much about it, so I educated her instead of the other way around.  After she asked a manger a couple of questions, though, we got it sorted out.

Here's the deal:

  1. Open a checking account
  2. Sign up for direct deposit: get $25-$150 depending on the account type.
  3. Sign up for overdraft protection: get $50
  4. Make three bill pays in the first month of opening the account: get $50
Now here is the fine print:

  1. MyChoice Checking has the lowest minimum balance while still qualifying for the bonus.  You are must either make 10 check card transactions per month OR  have at least $500 in the account to avoid fees.  This account gives you a $25 bonus with direct deposit.
  2. Select Checking and Power Checking also qualify for the bonuses, giving you $50 and $150 respectively, but also requiring a $5,000 or $50,000 balance respectively.  
  3. The bonuses take 90 days to be deposited, so you much have the account open for at least three months.
I opened a MyChoice checking account, using Paypal to do the direct deposit, and then signed up for overdraft protection as well as bill pay.

I'm only getting $125 instead of the potential $150, but since my commitment is only $500, this means I made a 25% gain for letting them hold my money for a few months.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My First Road Trip: Racing The Sun

I inched the accelerator closer to the floor, torn between getting a speeding ticket and winning this race. My opponent was bigger, faster, brighter and didn’t actually know that we were competing. In fact, it was content to consume hydrogen while I cursed at both it and my patched-together Mustang, the three of us racing towards the horizon.

I was eighteen years-old and had been sitting bored at home, trying to think of something to do.  Then it occurred: Why didn't I watch the sun set over one ocean and rise over another? It was possible in Florida, as we had the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast and the Atlantic on the east. We even had I-4, an interstate that runs from Tampa to Daytona. Great idea, except that by the time I had thought of it, the sun was starting its decent.

Tampa was only an hour's drive from my house, but the sun was already touching the horizon when I exited the interstate, desperately looking for a way to get to a beach.  I could see a beach, see it was right there, but I didn’t know how to get my car to it. Fifteen minutes later, my car was parked and I was running across the sand and onto a pier that jutted out in the water.  I pulled my camera out just in time to photograph the sun's rays dipping below the water.  I watched as the pinks and yellows faded to blue to violet to black.

Relief exhaled. Phase One accomplished.

I had ten hours until the sun rose again and it only took an hour and a half to get to Daytona. What to do until then?

Click "Read More" for the rest of the story


Four AM found me hurtling down I-4, headed east. Construction barricades had me in a one-lane roofless tunnel, and I was sliding through this concrete slalom chute at 90 mph.  I had found a rave in Tampa, and had gotten so lost in the music and the dance that I again left too late.  It was stupid driving that fast in the dark, barely able to see the turns as they shot towards me into the glow of my headlights, driving that fast simply to see a sun that would come up again and again and again.  Stupid, but also damn exhilarating.

Odd to need to be near death to feel that.

The earth raced along with me, spinning at over a thousand miles an hour as it moved the continents, the oceans and me, so fast that if it stopped my car would be catapulted forward, tires leaving the pavement before nose-diving into the asphalt. But the earth didn’t stop and neither did I, and we both raced as fast as we could towards the sun.

Five-thirty AM found me in Daytona Beach, illegally parked at some hotel, the sky just beginning to lighten. I ran to the beach. The sun was not yet up, but it was coming quickly. The sky had already lightened to blue; pinks and yellows were peaking up over the ocean. The sand was deserted. I saw some birds flying over the waves and, as I pressed the button to take a picture, I realized I was out of film.


I turned and ran for my car, hopping in and pulling out, racing down an empty street, trying to find a convenience store. Lights flashed behind me, and I looked into the rear view.


I spotted a 7-11 and parked, looking at a store that I knew had film, looking at the sky growing lighter and lighter as the cop came to take my license and proof of insurance, as he took his sweet time writing the ticket.

I had raced breakneck down the interstate without incident and now, going 40 in a 30, I was getting pulled over.

Ticket in hand, I ran into the 7-11, bought the film, raced back to my car and snail-paced myself to the hotel parking lot, making sure I didn't catch the cop's attention again.

I had raced the sun to the west coast and watched it set over the Gulf of Mexico. While in Tampa,I had played  beach volleyball, rollerbladed, danced and driven through the night, all while on a planet rotating to bring me to see it again.

Breathless, I sat on the beach and waited. Soon the sun rose in a wash of orange and pink, its edges wavering as it cleared the water. It lifted up into some low-lying clouds, its light refracting into hundreds of rays that spread through the cottony ether. It was just me, the beach and the sun.


After the shimmering disk had come fully over the horizon, I lay back, exhausted, concentrating on its warmth on my face.

I awoke about an hour later. I had been dreaming. There was girl in the dream, walking along the beach. She was young and blonde and pretty and had said "hi" to me. And when I opened my eyes, no lie, she was there. It wasn’t the same girl and she wasn’t standing over me as expected, but she was young and blonde and pretty and walking barefoot in the sand nearer to the hotel, giving me a wide berth. I sat up and watched at her, looked at her lit by the rising sun. I was surprised a film crew wasn't recording it.

Everything else had been perfect, so why not this? I suppose in a novel she would had seen me and I her and we would had felt some deep connection and made love right there on the sand while the water lapped up at our legs. Instead, she walked by, barely acknowledging me. Just as she was passing, though, I said: “I had a dream about you.”

It caught her attention.

She came over. I introduced myself, and she sat by me on the sand. Her name was Jaime, she was sixteen, and she was on vacation with her still-sleeping parents. Our conversation was the basics: where from, why here. I spent a lot of it lying on the sand with my eyes closed against the light, the sun still showing red through my eyelids, white spots dancing as I listened to her. Like the rave, it, too, felt right: me lying there, her sitting beside me, the salty breeze blowing off the water, the sun dissipating the morning chill. There actually was a connection between us, a moment, one of those moments where fate and life converge and you’re left with a simple second of synergy, beautiful for its own sake. There wasn't more, no future where we told our kids how we met, simply a boy falling asleep on the beach after racing to see the sunrise and waking up to share it with a pretty girl.

She gave me her email, and then I stood up, brushed the sand of my jeans and bid her goodbye. And as her hand gently brushed her windblown hair out of her eyes, the sunlight glinting off the near-white strands, she said goodbye to me, too.

I still remember that second.

I never wrote her.

Fantasy aside, life demanded that I get back into my car, and drive home. I had been to my first rave, met an angel, seen the sun rise and set over two oceans and, as it turns out, got back to the interstate just in time to hit the morning traffic.

Welcome back, life.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

e-Miles Wants to be Your Pimp

e-Miles wants to pimp you out for miles, as illustrated by this photograph of a statue called "The White Slave".  e-Miles is the yelling man on the right and you are the naked, supple, firm, slightly sad and submissive woman on the...  Goddamit, where's my wallet? 

The gist is that e-Miles sends you emails with marketing messages that you have to respond to, and in return they give you airline miles.  So far, showing you a one page advertisement and asking you three multiple choice questions is worth 5 miles, and asking a page of demographic questions is worth 15 miles.  Oh, you also get 200 miles just for signing up.

The catch?  E-miles only transfers your miles to your airline account in 500 mile batches, and you have to request the transfer.  So you would have to look at 60 of the one page ads in order to get your first batch of miles.  Considering that miles are valued at a penny a point, it's like an hour of your time just to get $5.00 worth of miles.    

E-miles, therefore, is your pimp, selling your eyes to abusive Johns like Zales and Disney (the first two ads I saw) while keeping the bulk of the cash for themselves.  I like being degraded, though (and have nothing else to do on a Friday night0, so I signed up with them.  Expect another post in a couple weeks about the experience.

So far, e-Miles works with Delta, Continental, US Airways, AirTran, Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Hilton HHonors®.

So if being a prostitute escort is what you've always wanted to be, click on this link to go to e-Mile's website.