Game-Changing Consumer Tech

Teeny-Tiny Bluetooth Transmitter Runs on Less Than 1 Milliwatt
Bluetooth Low-Energy data packets can now be sent by millimeter-size IoT motes

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But how does this compare (BT vs BT-LE)?

Checked my credit cards - one I was particularly interested in (my Costco credit card) because it said it paid 4% cash back for restaurants and I eat out every day and, especially in Hawaii, that’s costly (it’s the one thing I sort of waste money on!).

But most of the time I buy gift cards because, when you buy them, you typically get some bonus cards you can use for a limited time. For example, one typical deal is buy $50 worth of gift cards and get a $10 bonus card. I buy a lot more than that, but the percentage of 20% is retained.

So, naturally I wanted to know if you only got the 4% back if you paid for individual meals with the card or if you got it when buying the gift card. Unfortunately, they said when buying gift cards you only get 1% back. Better than nothing since I still get the bonus cards benefit.

I didn’t ask them, but since they also give 2% for Costco purchases other than gas, it may be that gift cards I buy there would get 2% back. Typically buying $100 worth of cards there only cost $79.95 so it’s about as good as gift cards/bonus cards. But only for the cards they carry - which doesn’t include the place I eat the most, by far.

My other card is AmEx. They have an advantage in supermarkets (3%) but I almost never shop at those (the result of eating out so much). They also give 2% at some department stores. Don’t know which ones and I don’t do a lot of shopping at those either.

Both cards give 1% for other purchases.

What you just described is exactly the opposite of how most people manage money. (Or DON’T manage it, I should say…) If more people were like you, credit agencies would go out of business. They rely on the fact that people live with debt and continue to accumulate debt even when they have no way out.

The thing is, most people who carry CC debt don’t HAVE to. They just keep buying things they can’t afford. Living beyond their means. I’m a big fan of YNAB and their money management philosophy. Sadly, here is how most people buy things:

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It’s interesting how the discount math works here.

If you buy $50 worth of gift cards, and get a $10 bonus gift card, you are purchasing $60 worth of buying power for the price of $50. So you are getting a discount of $10/$60 or 1/6 = 16.7%

If you buy $100 worth of gift cards for $80, you are purchasing $100 of buying power for $80. So you are getting a discount of $20 per $100 or 20%.

They both “feel” like 20% but the reduced cost is a better deal than the added bonus. Amusingly, it’s a 20% better deal! (that’s 20/16.7).

(the reason behind this is very similar to the 2% vs 1.98% discussion from earlier)

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Funny, but back in December I had been figuring out the same thing when someone asked me if I bought my cards for where I usually eat at Costco. Unfortunately they never carry a card for that restaurant so I forgot about that math.

To me a credit card is only for convenience, not to spend money I don’t have. I remember a case many years ago when my mother was trying to buy something at Sears. My parents didn’t have any cards and she had forgotten her purse. So she asked if she could get credit. They said no, because she had no credit history.

So she said, “We’ve always paid cash for everything, never went into debt, buy most of our clothes for 2 parents and 5 kids from Sears, our kitchen appliances are all from Sears, all the lawn mowers and many many other things. And you’resaying you don’t want my business?”

They gave her credit.

After that we did make a point to always have a CC but never carried debt.

The credit industry is interesting and not intuitive.

Years ago I was comparing credit cards with a friend and he told me his credit limit, which was some insane multiple of what mine was, and I was like, WOW, you must be some high roller!

He’s like, NO! Oh you don’t know the trick to getting a very high credit limit? It’s easy:

Leave a small balance, like $100, on your card (ie pay off everything else, at least the minimum balance, and on time), and do that for a few months. It’ll cost you like $20 in interest - but see what happens.

They size you up, of course on the factors they say they do, like income, reliable payment history. But they actually also size you up on how much they think they can make off of you. So repaying all your debt means they make zero off you. If you leave a small balance, they make a few dollars off you, but in their machine algorithms they put you into another category.

I got letters from the bank telling me that I’m some valued customer and we’ve increased your credit limit. Several letters in a row. They’re falling over themselves to give me credit. I went from a few thousand to “I can buy a mid end car with my limit.”

*do NOT buy a mid end car with your limit :slight_smile:


Thanks! I won’t. I ride a bike everywhere I can.

I called them a few times to lower it back down (what if I wake up one day and decide to be irresponsible? I’m screwed!) and they basically very enthusiastically and politely gave me as many reasons as possible that it definitely would not be good to dial back my credit limit:

  • Oh, but you might find it useful later. What if you need to buy a diamond ring?
  • Oh, we certainly can lower it for you, but why not keep it? You’re doing great! Plus, it might be hard to increase it again in the future?

It’s almost like: oh look, there’s this giant pit we’ve dug for you! Isn’t it great and useful! Don’t worry, you won’t fall in. We can fill the pit up for you but why would you want that?

I generally don’t game the system this way, but my first credit card was so low I couldn’t even charge my textbooks to it. Phoned to request an increase and they gave me “helpful” tips like, “oh, you can prepay the difference onto your credit card first, and then charge the large purchase”, and I was always paying back the full amount on time, and pretty much going nowhere.

Had to prepay before buying my PowerBook 1400cs. Had to prepay before buying airline tickets. Had to prepay before buying my PowerBook G3. Had to pre… you get the point.

All I really wanted was an amount big enough to fit the occasional large purchase, without having to first go to the bank several days in a row (withdrawal limit). So when my friend explained how credit card companies actually worked, it was an eye-opener.

Oh, and they ask for your workplace phone number on the application. It’s not to verify anything. It’s so that, if you ever fall into a rift, they can harass your boss and royally embarrass you so you’ll do anything to pay them so they don’t get your boss annoyed at you. Because they don’t really have collections agents. They just sell off “bad balances” at a loss to strong-arming shady people who use violence to extract payment.

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Colinng - The essence of cynical marketing distilled to haiku. Brilliant.

The other thing you can do, which I have done since college, is every six months to a year just call and ask them to raise your credit limit. They’ll ask why and you can just say “just in case.” Even if you pay off your card every month. My credit limit is an insane amount just because I asked and I’ve been a long-time customer. Yes, I pay it off every month.

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But there are reasons to display a large credit balance. If you ever expect to apply for a mortgage it can work in your favor. Showing a lot of available credit is a plus when they evaluate you. If you know you won’t ever need to exhibit a large available credit and you do pay it off each month, they it could make sense to lower your limit.

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All that goes out the window if you’re a dude and you choose to wear spandex.

What is a “credit limit”? How do you get one?


Is something that they won’t grant you when you most need it.

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Which is precisely why you should ask periodically to have it raised even though you “don’t” need it. Then it’s there when you do. (Well, manage your money correctly and you won’t “need” it…)

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One of my favourite “plastic injection molding” products is the Aeropress. Makes a great cup of coffee - anywhere. I’ve taken it camping.

The invention story is interesting, as are the various interview I can find online.

What TextBlade does for a great typing experience anywhere, Aeropress does for coffee. Plus both are surprisingly affordable.

And you’re right about bicycles too. I’m coming up 1000 miles on my bicycle after I put a Swytch kit on it, and I’ve been enjoying every mile. I am fortunate to live close enough that my commute is 25-34 minutes unassisted, or 17-20 assisted.

With regard to paper, I am rethinking. I got all excited about iPad Pro + Apple Pencil, but found that I don’t retain information as easily (I memorize Chinese characters by writing them out). But I switch to paper and the retention goes way, way up. Someone explained that human hardware has largely gone unchanged for 10,000 years, so the act of scratching out symbols (i.e. writing on paper) is still the best way to memorize them. I can say my textured screen protector doesn’t do the job.

For similar reasons (i.e. how the human mind and body work), mechanical keyboards aren’t going anywhere.


I love my Aeropress, but reading the invention story left me a little bit disappointed. For some reason I’d thought that it was a Canadian invention, but it seems not. I guess I inadvertently mislead a lot of people talking about it.


YES, I have one and we roast our own beans too. This little device blows away even the expensive bean to cup machines. SUPER good it is and for $30 it’s worth anyone’s money.