Another TBB post featuring the most eclectic links around the web such as how IRS audits pay for themselves, what it takes to be wealthy in America, the parents of SBF, devastating Greece floods, another Delta Skymiles massacre, how to be successful, how to stop bank robbers, SBF’s 250 pages of writing makes it to the New York Times smh, a hilarious review of Elon Musk’s biography, the China economic model is dead, lithium discovery, living without a tongue, amazing photography by the oceans, best free tourist attractions, the latest in the miles and points travel word, see you Friday.
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This blog publishes every Friday. This is a one man labor of love operation. If not Friday, it will be on the coming Monday.
If you are here primarily for the miles and points content, please scroll way down to find it.
I want to single out one article that blew my mind. This will be controversial. But I think it is the best explanation of what is going in the US…
Please allow me to wear my CPA hat. Many complain about the IRS all the time. And deservedly so. But, overall, compared to the beatings they always get come budget time, the agency does an amazing job collecting tax revenues and administering the never ending ridiculous complexities of tax code changes inflicted upon it from Congress. As a result of the budget cuts over the years, audits have been reduced to minimal levels. And a new study titled A Welfare Analysis of Tax Audits Across the Income Distribution shows:
We find an additional $1 spent auditing taxpayers above the 90th income percentile yields more than $12 in revenue, while audits of below-median income taxpayers yield $5.
Maybe we should not be upset allowing the IRS to get more money to modernize its computers, staff their consumer service lines so you do not wait on hold for hours and, you know, go audit where the money is.
Ok, from another study, you get the point:
Next link is by Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI. What is something by him doing in the Personal Finance section? He wrote How To Be Successful and I think it is a must read for the younger readers of my blog. He wrote it, and this is important, before he became famous with ChatGPT.
Another interesting one from Visual Capitalist.
With hacking and scams becoming almost a daily occurrence these days, you can not afford not to be paranoid about protecting your bank accounts. Stop Bank Robbers. There are some great tips on what to do in the article.
In my blog post on September 8, I brought to your attention the mega scam madness filing claims to collect the pandemic era relief money Employee Retention Credit ERC from the IRS (again, thanks Congress, like the IRS folks did not have things to do!). And I screamed “CUT OFF NEW APPS NOW!”. Well, someone in Washington DC reads my blog because this happened: To protect taxpayers from scams, IRS orders immediate stop to new Employee Retention Credit processing amid surge of questionable claims; concerns from tax pros. I am proud of this, you are welcome taxpayers.
I think this guy is definitely not well. He writes hundreds of pages on Twitter but never releases them. And he gives them to a “social media influencer who has a YouTube channel about the crypto industry”. And of course she released them to the New York Times. I am sure his lawyers consented to this? Is their defense strategy to claim: “Well, obviously our client is not well mentally and he could not even comprehend, let alone conduct, the fraud he is accused of”. I don’t know at this point, this is so weird. Or is it a plot to feel sorry about him because obviously it is working for me at least a little bit. Anyway, here is the article: One of the Most Hated People in the World’: Sam Bankman-Fried’s 250 Pages of Justifications.
“I’m broke and wearing an ankle monitor and one of the most hated people in the world,” he wrote. “There will probably never be anything I can do to make my lifetime impact net positive.” He added: “And the truth is that I did what I thought was right.” [Taking money from FTX customers was right, come on! I could go on here but…my blood pressure is rising so I better stop]
Both parents have distinguished careers that long precede their son’s alleged fraud. They met in the 1980s at Stanford University, where they taught at the law school for more than three decades, living on campus and raising two sons. Bankman, an expert on taxes, is renowned for his work making the US tax code friendlier to lower-income citizens. Fried, an authority on legal ethics, was prominent in progressive political circles.
I transferred a few links to the Friday blog post because I sense this post is getting long…
You probably have seen the new autobiography of Elon Musk. You will not buy it after you read this hilarious review of it: Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson review – arrested development. Walter Isaacson’s insight-free doorstop makes at least one thing clear: the richest man in the world has a lot of growing up to do.
Isaacson comes from the “his eyes lit up” school of cliched writing, the rest of his prose workmanlike bordering on AI. I drove my espresso machine hard into the night to survive both craft and subject matter. It feels as though, for instance, there are hundreds of pages from start to finish relaying the same scene: Musk trying to reduce the cost of various mundane objects so that he can make more money and fulfil his dream of moving himself (and possibly the lot of us) to Mars, where one or two examples would have been enough. To his credit, Isaacson is a master at chapter breaks, pausing the narrative when one of Musk’s rockets explodes or he gets someone pregnant, and then rewarding the reader with a series of photographs that assuages the boredom until the next descent into his protagonist’s wild but oddly predictable life.
The Atlantic author makes a good case that a weak China will be more dangerous in this article: The China Model Is Dead. The nation’s problems run so deep, and the necessary repairs would be so costly, that the time for a turnaround may already have passed.
The slowdown of China’s economy may undercut Xi’s ideological assault on the world order. By example, China has sought to demonstrate to the Global South that democracy and development are not inseparable, and that autocrats can have wealth, international respect, and political power. Those claims are harder to make with a faltering economy. If anything, China’s economic troubles suggest that authoritarian regimes cannot both tighten control and sustain economic progress—that, ultimately, political reform must accompany economic reform.
We are so lucky in this country. Lithium supply problem solved eventually: Lithium discovery in US volcano could be biggest deposit ever found.
ODDZ & ENDZ
This is one of the toughest things I read lately, I can not imagine: Life, swallowing, tasting, and speaking after a total glossectomy (meaning: I have no tongue). Every day healthy is a gift.
Amazing photos: Ocean Photographer of the Year 2023.
These are great: The Best Free Tourist Attractions in Every Country and State.
Hey, are you into coffee and young with time to travel? You can go to the “World’s First Coffee Hotel” in Rotterdam…
Last Sunday (not yesterday) I did 8.75 miles walk/jog intervals. So if I could do this two more times I will be able to finish the Chicago Marathon. If is the key word lol. And then I got Covid last Wednesday night and have been taking it easy ever since. So, at this point, finishing, let alone starting, does not look good at all…
We all have seen the photo of the first woman running the Boston Marathon with a race organizer trying to stop her. Well, I did not know about this lady: Bobbi Gibb: The Boston Marathon pioneer who raced a lie.
A section where I go on and on about some stuff that happens in my life and anything else that just does not fit in another section above
So, a few words about my experience finally catching Covid. I am not sure where I caught it by the way, the conference I attended last week was mostly outdoors in Huntington Beach of Orange County in sunny California. Anyway, I was due after more than three and a half years. Wednesday night was the worst. I have never had such body chills in my life. I had the heat up, had several layers of clothes and blankets and thought I was in Siberia and I could not control my teeth. Yeah, both me and my wife thought I probably should have been at a hospital but gave it some time and I managed to make it through the night. Since then, symptoms have been mild and getting better each day. Just a combination of body aches, chills, sweats, headache, some coughing. I never lost my appetite or sense of smell by the way. All these symptoms come and go throughout the day, it is really weird to sweat and then the next minute look for a jacket to wear because I am cold. Surprisingly, my wife is testing negative (she already had Covid once) and yes we wear masks and try to avoid each other. All I know is this virus is making it very unlikely to make the Chicago Marathon and it is the one thing I hate the most. So, it is what it is. Hopefully, I am in the clear from here…
The other big issue I am watching is the flooding in my hometown in Greece. Here is a surreal video from a drone. Some Larissa neighborhoods (in low lying areas next to the river) got flooded really bad and many parts of the city were left untouched. The Thessaly valley breadbasket got hit very hard with some villages totally flooded and some completely untouched next to them, very weird. Many livestock and agricultural fields have been lost so it is going to be rough recovering. Thessaly pondering life after the mud. My mother is fine, thanks to the readers who emailed me. The residents of her assisted living community had to move to the second floor as a precaution in case the water made it to the area…it was not that far actually. I used to shop at this super market and I did my runs all around it and its parking lot and seeing it like this below is surreal:
I broke my promise not to watch a whole Detroit Lions game until this team makes it to the Superbowl. Which is probably never. So, after beating the Superbowl Champions Kansas City Chiefs I was excited and…did watch us lose to the Seattle Seahawks. In classic heartbreak fashion, in overtime after tying the game in the last second. I don’t need more heartbreak in my life, wish them the best.
This blog started with a focus on miles and points and travel. It has evolved since then. Everything below deals with the hobby of collecting frequent flyer miles and points. If you are not interested, you can stop here, thank you.
MILES & POINTS NEWS/PROMOS/MY ACTION
Some easy things first:
This LINK will lead you to registration links for the latest Hyatt/Marriott/Choice promotions along with some other goodies.
This will lead you to registration pages for the Q4 2023 Quarterly Bonus Categories for Chase, Discover and US Bank.
Newbies: You ask this a lot so here you go: How new credit cards can impact your credit score.
Newbies may not fully understand the Delta rant below. If you see bloggers telling you how amazing any Delta Skymiles card is you can safely assume they do not give a shit about your well being and only doing it to make money pushing product from the banks that pay them. Most bloggers in this space do this because this is how they make money. And it is A LOT of money blogging away how they fly for free in First Class eating caviar and drinking champagne on numerous trips to the Maldives, even taking a shower up in the air. It is…marketing. You should always be aware online anyone can be a self proclaimed expert. You should then ask, sure George but you sell credit cards here too so aren’t you a hypocrite? I sold one this month, five last month (wow) and one the month before and this blog hardly pays its costs, let alone pay me minimum wage by the hour. It is, well, kind of an addiction trying to change the world by educating readers. Sometimes entertaining and inspiring them. Until one day I get tired, so each click of support you provide here extends this journey in a way lol.
So, the Capital One Venture X card (review at the bottom of the post) is looking better and better for newbies or even some of us who may be exiting this hobby (or trimming it like I have been doing this year). I am sure Capital One will increase the annual fee and devalue some of the generous benefits. Oh wait, they already started: Capital One Venture X Changes $300 Travel Statement Credit Into $300 Coupon. Certainly annoying, I hope they stop there.
DELTA SKYMILES CHANGES MARK THE END OF A 30 YEAR OLD AMAZING RUN WE HAVE HAD FLYING FOR FREE UP FRONT
The best write up on the Delta Skymiles
changes massacre was this one: OUCH! Here Are Delta’s Massive 2024 Skymiles Program And Sky Club Access Devaluations For Elites, AMEX Cardholders, Basic Economy, And More.
Delta did it again. If we all thought Delta Skymiles sucked so bad, only Delta executives can say “hold my beer” and come with a yet another deceitful email pumping it up as they are doing Skymiles members a favor by “simplifying” it. Actually, they could really simplify it by changing the name to Skydollars. Because this is what is about. And the rewards you get have been even more devalued with true road warriors now enjoying the elite upgrades up front. I mean, to get Diamond status by using credit cards you need to spend $700,000.
So, next time you see a blogger showing how they are flying “for free” by using Skymiles, well, you can laugh in their face and run away from them before they pull out an iPad to get you to apply for Delta credit cards so they can earn the fat sales commission. All airlines copy Delta, I bet you the remaining airlines are taking notes and will attack soon. THIS pretty much ends this hobby. The writing was on the wall ever since the mass credit card businesses entered this space right after the Great Financial Crisis. It’s been a steady descent and it all took a little break with the pandemic. Airlines are met with high demand because, you know, the virus made us all reach for our dreams before some thing crazy happens and they now call the shots. Looks like many dreams involve travel, look at the crowds in the airports and how packed the airplanes are.
Airlines these days have tons of uniformed super busy people who just fall for their marketing. People fly Delta because it works for them, getting Skymiles is an after thought. There was some cherry to reach an elite level so we can show off turning left as the mortals go to coach. Businessmen posing as experts blogging away made their careers showing off how they can fly in all luxury for free so you click on their credit card affiliate links. Some of us still do it for the hobby and never made it a career. Because, you know, some of us like to look at ourselves in the mirror and not feel like these bank sales reps who never saw a credit card without the sales commission attached to it.
My last two domestic flights were on Delta. They had the non stops with the best times. Yes, I could use other miles but had to connect and add several hours to the trips, I am too old for that shit. Flights were great and on time. Oh, I forgot to add that we were bumped flying Salt Lake City to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA. We got $500 vouchers each for about a 2.5 hour delay. Finally, my post pandemic bump drought is over! And yes, the agent was awesome processing them and everything worked out great. Oh, we got some Skymiles for the flights, yippee. Actually, I used 3,000 Skymiles to check a luggage, hey low expectations work with Skymiles lol.
I have been a free agent for over 10 years. I miss being Northwest Platinum, you used to call the Platinum desk and a super nice lady in Chisholm, MN will pick up and book anything you wanted. Oh, those were the days. Delta will want a million miles to get you on business class San Fran to Tokyo…if you can find an open award seat. Actually, maybe even a coach seat award can be there for you if for some reason Delta did not sell it lol.
Wait, if that was not enough here comes AMEX woohoo: Amex Adds New Welcome Bonus Restriction for Personal Delta Cards. In a way, this is just kind of sad…Amex does not want to give you more Skymiles LOL.
So, after the credit card mass marketers and so many bloggers discovered how banks pay them to sell plastic, many newbies discovered travel rewards and then bank restrictions on how many credit cards they will give you started. We old timers in this hobby used to do apporama days, just apply for a bunch of credit cards in one single sitting. Remember when Citi used to give us a Signup Bonus after 30 days, miss those good old days. Then, the grifters smelled money and the newbies were roped in and…the bank restrictions started, Chase’s infamous 5/24, Amex’s once per lifetime…heck, Amex even has a department sticking it to us “hackers” famously called the RATs (Rewards Abuse Team)…I could go on, thank you for reading my rant.
I like this excuse when calling the banks if they have a question: “Budgeting”: A Magic Word”.
Nice signup bonus with $30,000 minimum spend in three months: Capital One Venture X Business Card With 150,000 Bonus (Available Publicly Online). Now available with my LINKS under Category/Business.
There is going to be a comment below with some non public links of some credit card offers, running out of time before clicking “Publish”.
MILES & POINTS
HOT CREDIT CARD OFFERS: 75k CAPITAL ONE Venture X, 150k CAPITAL ONE Venture X Business, 75k CAPITAL ONE Venture Rewards, 75k CHASE Ink Business Cash, 75k CHASE Ink Business Unlimited, 100k CHASE Ink Business Preferred, 60K CITI Premier, $1,000 Cash Back CHASE Ink Business Premier, 140K CHASE IHG Rewards Premier (with $100 Statement Credit), 60k CHASE Sapphire, 60k US BANK Business Altitude and many more including many AmericanExpress cards such as Delta Airlines, Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors cards! Please check out my Affiliate links. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more. If you do not see a credit card with my affiliate links, perhaps I could refer you?
This section is about my
hobby addiction of collecting frequent flyer miles and hotel points since the early 1990’s! SKIP if you are not into it!
As of today, I have burned 822,950 miles/points year to date in 2023 and have 4,241,707 miles/points in the bank. Some do drugs, I do miles lol!
Thanks to US banks, very lucrative travel rewards credit card offers come and go all the time. This section will act as a reference point on the best CURRENT offers. I will designate new material preceded by NEW.
BASICS: This travel hacking hobby is mostly about getting the fat Signup Bonus of travel rewards credit cards while of course NEVER EVER carrying a balance. Banks have a marketing budget and are willing to give us many THOUSANDS of miles/points to travel mostly for free hoping to hook us to then charge confiscatory 20%+ interest rates on our balances. The poor souls who fall for their marketing paying these ludicrous interest rates end up subsidizing us responsible consumers who enjoy taking advantage of, cough, such bank marketing budgets! Some of us have been doing this for thirty years creating amazing travel memories…Feel free to ask me questions or post them in the comments, we were all newbies once!
BASICS: Prefer credit cards from the proprietary points programs of banks, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Network, Capital One Rewards Miles because they are a lot more flexible and are not devalued as frequently. Over pure airline and hotel travel rewards credit cards. Pure cash back credit cards may work for you best and they are getting more valuable as airline and hotel loyalty programs keep getting devalued. Sometimes, a pure no annual fee 2% cash back card works best for simplicity!
TOP TRAVEL REWARDS SIGNUP BONUS CARDS
The Capital One Venture X card offers a 75,000 point Signup Bonus after a minimum spend of $4k in the first three months. If you like simplicity and looking for one (premium) card, I highly recommend this card (and yes, I have it myself!). It has an annual fee of $395 but it comes with a VERY easy $300 statement credit for travel booked on its excellent travel portal, essentially turning it into a $95 annual fee card. But wait…there is more! On each card anniversary you earn 10,000 points essentially making it FREE! Every dollar of spend earns 2 points and flights booked on the travel portal earn 5 points per dollar. You get access to Capital One and Plaza Premium airport lounges and a Priority Pass Select lounge membership and, this is important, you can add FOUR authorized users FOR FREE who can also have their own Priority Pass Select airline lounge membership. You can transfer your Capital One points to up to 18 Transfer Partners. No foreign transaction fees. Free Hertz President’s Circle rental car top elite status. Cell phone protection and PRIMARY rental car coverage. Awesome seats at baseball stadiums for just 5k points each. And lots more. Available with my Credit Card Links, thank you for your support!
Other worthy credit card deals going on currently:
Remember, you are NOT allowed to ever carry a credit card balance if you ever get a credit card here!
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Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.