I’M BACK, BABY: I’m back from a baby-related hiatus, though things will probably still be hit and miss for a few weeks. I would like to take this moment to be the last blogger in the world to report that Chase has increased the bonus on its Freedom (from 10,000 to 20,000) and Sapphire (40,000 to 50,000) cards. Note that those are not my affiliate links, as I am not cool enough to have Chase links. I mostly wanted to remind you to give some consideration as to whose affiliate links you use, as we bloggers very much appreciate being compensated for all the amazing, indispensable content we provide.
$200 FROM ISIS AND AMEX SERVE: (Thanks Maximizing Money!) There’s a new pay-with-your-phone company called Isis–not to be confused with Archer‘s employer–and they’re teaming up with Amex Serve to offer 20% cash back–up to $200–when you pay with your Isis app. Note that if you already have a Bluebird, you can’t get a Serve.
FEDS LOOKING INTO CREDIT CARD REWARDS PROGRAMS: Apparently the federal government might give banks a nudge when it comes to credit card rewards, a topic near and dear to all our hearts:
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is examining whether customers are being misled when they sign up for complex credit-card reward programs and will mull new rules in this area.
Consumers can face “detailed and confusing rules” about using rewards, CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in an e-mail yesterday. “We will be reviewing whether rewards disclosures are being made in a clear and transparent manner, and we will consider whether additional protections are needed.”
Restrictions on card rewards programs could crimp the ability of banks to use the enticements to sign up customers. Top issuers such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and American Express Co. rely on rewards to attract and keep cardholders.
I don’t see how any fundamental change can come of this. Even if the CFPB does somehow manage to force a major change on issuers, they will find a way around it–there is too much money at stake.
A MODEST PROPOSAL: As long as we’re talking about federal regulations, can we have a tax on all blogs with the words “points” or “miles” in them? Maybe I’m just bad with blog names, but I get them confused sometimes and I wouldn’t mind more distinctive names.
SOME LONG-TERM GOOD NEWS FOR CREDIT CARD CHURNERS: General Electric is spinning off its credit card portfolio, reports Reuters:
General Electric Co will spin off its credit card business next year into a separately traded company as it tries to reduce its exposure to unpredictable financial businesses and return to its manufacturing roots.
The new company should be worth roughly $16 billion to $18 billion, bankers estimate, equal to about 6 percent of GE’s overall market value.
…GE, which has not yet named the company, will start the spinoff next year with the IPO. In 2015, GE will give its shareholders the chance to swap GE stock for shares of the new business.
This should yield some benefits for credit card aficionados in the years to come, as I would imagine that offering cards branded with the new company’s name would be a logical source of new revenue for the new management. They’ll probably get on that whenever they’re done paying a branding company six figures to come up with an anodyne, vaguely positive name like “Accenture” for the new company.
UNUSUAL OCCUPATIONS: Here’s a niche I’d never heard of before: professional dunker. It’s a fun read and worth a click, but in case you’re wondering how much professional dunkers get paid:
Last summer, Staples won $2,500 at a dunk contest in Charlotte, throwing down jams like this. More significant, he qualified for a contest during the 2014 All-Star weekend in New Orleans, where he stands to make $10,000. While most contests are winner-take-all, competitors often agree in advance to split the loot.
For all the cash dunkers can make at sanctioned events, the real money is made informally. Twenty years after Billy Hoyle, dunkers like Werm and Staples have become the modern-day equivalent of pool sharks. The thermodynamics of the basketball hustle go something like this: You play modestly — sandbagging, the golf crowd would call it — giving no indication of your hops. In between games you make a modest offer. Anyone think I can dunk without taking a running start? Pocket a few bucks. Play another game. Then offer a more elaborate wager. Who thinks I can dunk taking off from the free-throw line? Last year in Michigan, Staples made an easy $400 by throwing down four straight between-the-legs 360s.
Apart from the betting, dunking still has sufficient cachet that, as Werm put it, “Rich dudes will pay you to dunk.” He claims that while recently at an event in China, he made an extra $20,000 performing on demand for some well-heeled courtside observers. (“The promoters pay us per dunk!”) Where else has he made money dunking? “Africa, Turks and Caicos, China, Brazil, Indonesia,” he says. “I get paid for my legs, all over the world.”
And to think we’ve been wasting time with credit cards and frequent flyer miles when we could have just been dunking!