Thursday, April 27, 2017

OMG, Uber and Grab are not Charity Organizations?!?!

Please refer to this STRAITS TIMES article by SENIOR Transport Correspondent, Christopher Tan.

"Now that they are entrenched, it will be a matter of time before they start doing what they set out to do: Make money."

**T-R-I-G-G-E-R-E-D**

LOL. ROFL.


And also... WTF Straits Times?


I hate to swear, but this is borderline retarded. What's up with this senior transport corespondent? I'm serious. He is either really stupid or he has a hidden agenda. There is no other explanation.

Does he not know that BUSINESSES exists to MAKE MONEY? Like OMG, seriously GMGH? I TOTALLY DID NOT KNOW THAT.

What the freaking flying farting fishcakes.


Okay, so what if he isn't stupid? What's his hidden agenda?

Is it that he is in the pockets of taxi companies? Did his Uber driver cancel his trip last minute? Is he being Greyballed by Uber? Did he get not get his job accepted by any Grab Hitch driver even though he booked 1 week in advance? Was he a secret driver that got kicked out of their system because he got shit star ratings? Is he a communist? A socialist?

That's it. What else could it possibly be? Nothing else makes sense.

This is not the first time I've called Christopher Tan out. He correctly (as did I) forecast the lower COE prices since May 2015 (Cat A: $68,589) to the most recent results (Cat A: $51,600), but he had the wrong reasons for that outcome (in my opinion).

I had a licence for years. I've drove. I've take public transport. I've walked. By golly, I've even cycled as my form of daily commute. For someone with first hand experience navigating the transportation options of our city and many other places in the world, trust me when I say that having Uber and Grab around in our ecosystem is a good thing. And with technology, the future looks even brighter.

There are different ways to use all the different types of Uber/Grab services, and now with fixed pricing and transparent surging, there is even more information (and hence, power) to the consumers. As someone from a household with a car, I can understand that irrational, emotional WANT to own a car, but financially, it is... erm.. stupid? The math doesn't work out. Sure, there's intangible and "priceless" benefits of owning a car, but that's up to each individual to value these intangibles and determine if it's worth it (hint: usually it is not).

This is a prime example of why no one gives 2 shits about the mainstream media anymore. This is some Investment Grade AAA+++ super double plus awesome steaming load of donkey-dinosaur crap. #FakeNews.


This article has pissed the shit out of me. What a freaking joke.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

CardUp - A Service Perfect for Renters?

First off, this isn't a sponsored post. I just stumbled upon their services and I thought that it is a pretty good service.

All right, so what is this CardUp thing I'm talking about?


Blah blah blah. What does it do?

Instead of making monthly bank transfer to your landlord, you through them. They will transfer the money to your landlord, take a processing fee, and charge the whole amount to your credit card.

WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU DO THIS?

Simple. Credit card rewards.

Their processing fee is 2.6%. For this 2.6% fee, you get your regular bank transfer to be "transformed" into a credit card payment and you rack up spending on your card.

Since the processing fee is 2.6%, all you have to do is to find rewards that give you a higher "return".

Of course, CardUp is not that stupid. Their example is to charge your expenses to a travel/miles credit card and rack up miles so you can redeem business or first class flights. However, as I have just talked about in my last post, redeeming higher class of tickets has more "value", but that really isn't something that you ought to be going for unless you really enjoy luxury air travel.

Personally, I would strongly recommend the UOB One card. The card has 3.33% rebates if you hit $500 or $1000 per month, continued for a quarter. This then gets bumped up to a whopping 5% rebate if you hit $2000 per month, continued for a quarter.

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Let's do an example where your rental is $2000 a month (for whatever reason):

Default Bank Transfer Option
Month 1: -$2000
Month 2: -$2000
Month 3: -$2000
Total: -$6000

CardUp + UOB One Combo Option
Month 1: -$2052 ($52 processing fee)
Month 2: -$2052
Month 3: -$2052
UOB Rebate: +$300
Total: -$5856

Savings: $144, or 2.4%

That's free savings of $144 for not doing much, which works out to a cool $576 in savings for an entire year. On top of the savings, you also rack up spending on your card, which makes getting the annual fee waiver a piece of cake.

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CardUp currently has a very narrow range of transactions that they can do. Personally, if they could charge income tax through this, I bet they would end up being a mainstream service. Until, of course, banks get all the wiser and decide to cockblock such transactions.

I feel that CardUp has the best value proposition for renters that either enjoy racking up miles or have a UOB One card. If that is you, what do you think about using such a service?

I for one would be happy if I could get all current GIRO arrangements charged to my credit cards, but I don't see why that would happen anytime soon.

Monday, April 24, 2017

How much are Airline Miles Worth?

I got into this topic by reading MileLion's latest poke post on the KF UOB account, how bad it actually it and finally reading his post of how he value miles.


I think you guys would know this by now, but I find earning miles kind of lame.

Flying to me is just transportation. I get into my seat, I fall asleep, I wake up for the food, resume sleep, and I de-plane. I get on the cheapest and fastest flight, with some slight considerations on safety and route, and a final cost benefit analysis of transfers (eg. Save $50 for a 3 hour stopover? No. Save $400 on a 4 hour stopover? Yes!)

I have no desire to ever fly business or first class if I had to pay with my own money. I am sure many other people think like me. However, that is where our similarities end and the way that I think and the way that others think diverge.

Miles are positioned as "free" airtravel. I say "free" because they aren't actually free. Instead of collecting reward points or direct cashback, mile collectors are instead opting for air travel. The correct way to think about it is that the individual should be aware that he/she is giving up other forms of reimbursement if they choose 1 specific form over the over.

My personal preference is cashback. I know many, many people that go for miles. Then again, many people I know also can't tahan budget airlines and think that buying tickets directly from airlines and flying full carriers are the only way to go. To them, flying cheaper airlines is not an option. They already have a baseline.

In that case, their position and actions are justified and it makes sense. If they are only ever going to take SQ flights, why not collect KF miles with their spending and get some "free" travel? So, just how much are these miles worth?

MileLion has already given us a good figure to work with: 1 - 2c for economy redemptions.

However, redemptions are only one part of the equation. We now need to know how many miles do you get per dollar spend. I believe the commonly used term is mpd (miles per dollar).

The UOB PVRI card has 1.4mpd with 2.4mpd for overseas spend and 6mpd for major airlines and hotels* (booked through Expedia or them). However, min income is $80k.

The ANZ Travel card has 1.4mpd with a min income of $60k.

So, then what are the real rates that normal people can expect to yield? I believe it is the base of 1.4mpd. Perhaps with the UOB PVRI card it would be blended in with the higher tier spending to get something along the lines of 1.8 - 2 mpd.

At a yield of 1.4mpd and a value of 1-2c per mile, we are looking at real world rates of about 1.4 - 2.8% "returns", confined to the narrow category of economy airfare redemptions.

I would say that this is rather close to the 1.5% flat cashback rate that both Amex Cashback and SCB Cashback are offering, and up towards the higher end of 3.33% of the UOB One and my actual cashback returns of 3.3% with OCBC 365. (5% with UOB is possible too, but a bit tough imo)

Why am I only looking at general spending mpd rate instead of the special category rates? Well, cards like Singpost can get you 7% cashback on online spending, while the POSB promotion has 14% cashback on food delivery. But... those are special categories.  In which case, then it would be appropriate to use the DBS Woman's World card that yields 4mpd for online spending.

If we are comparing the special category of online spending, the DBS Woman's World card with 4mpd and 2c per mile works out to be 8% returns, which is slighter better than SCB Singpost's 7%.

If we are comparing the special category of dining, the Citi Clear Platinum has 2mpd and at 2c per mile, that's 4% returns. The OCBC 365 has 3% returns on weekdays and 6% on weekends, and if you distribute that by the days of the week, you get 3.86%, which is slightly lower.

Conclusion

I never really got down into more details about miles and their value because to me it is just not something that I would want to redeem. MileLion framed it in a very good way. If you had a choice between option (1) taking a $17,850 SQ Suite return flight to JFK or (2) take a $1850 economy flight and pocket $16,000, most, if not all people would go for option (2).

If you really think that your miles are "free", I think it's a good time to realize that you are giving up other rewards, like cashback or rewards redemptions (vouchers, products, etc).

My personal conclusion is that I made the right choice to choose to get back cashback compared to miles. The "return" rate is very similar, but I now get cashback instead of miles. I prefer cashback because I can decide to allocate my savings to anything I want, rather than to strictly confined to air travel, which I may or may not even redeem!

Of course, if you are the type of person that enjoys flying and flying in the premium classes, by all means, go for miles. As MileLion clearly explains, redeeming non-economy tickets are more "value" with conversion rates being as high up as 9c per mile! To each their own.

What sort of credit card programme are you in? Cashback? Miles? Rewards? Shopping? Let me know your thoughts on mile programmes and if your "return" is different from what I have calculated!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Financial Cyber Security: #2 The "Safer Than Your Neighbour" Theory

Okay, I know a lot of cyber security experts don't really believe that this is a real thing, but I believe that it is.

Example 1

When I was in the Netherlands (the land of bicycles), I was always told that the safest place to park my bicycle is NOT a well-lit, highly trafficked place.

It is in fact to park it in between bicycles with smaller locks and thinner chains.

If a bicycle theft is going to steal a bunch of bicycles, he is going to go for the easiest ones. The marginal ones. He has a physical real-world limitations of just how many bicycles he can steal and how much time he has to steal them.

So this theory works by not analyzing only what security measure you have taken, but by looking at others and strategically making yourself excluded from being targetted by being comparatively a harder target.

The idea of this can be very easily summed up in this age old story that I am sure you have heard before:


Sometimes different animals are used in the story, like a lion or tiger, but the point is still the same.

For me to be safe, I only need to be a harder target than the rest.

Cyber security experts don't really believe this because a hacker doesn't really have real-life constraints. If he wants YOUR "bicycle", he can send his machines (or network of machines) to run multiple attack vectors to try and get your bicycle. In that sense, it is true that just having slightly better security than the next does not keep you safe.

However, this theory still does work in a general sense.

Example 2

Say for example, if a whole bunch of encrypted credentials were leaked, hackers could work on breaking these encryptions.

Was your encryption done with a 56-bit key? It takes 6 minutes to crack
64-bit key? 8 minutes.

Damn.

But wait, what if I was using a 256-bit key? How long would that take then? The world's fastest supercompuer would have to run for 9 years straight to break that encryption. I would put that as pretty safe and I'm pretty darn certain that after 10 minutes they are just gonna skip yours and continue onto the rest.

Example 3

If you saw a bunch of handphones lying neatly in a row, and I told you that your mission was to access the handphone and search for private information, which of these would you choose to target?

Handphone 1: Fingerprint scanner
Handphone 2: Iris scanner
Handphone 3: Alphanumeric password
Handphone 4: 8 digit PIN
Handphone 5: 6 digit PIN
Handphone 6: 4 digit PIN
Handphone 7: Pattern
Handphone 8: No password

I'm sure that you would go straight for #8, and then choose either #7 or #6 and then just get stuck. You wouldn't even bother to attempt to try any of the rest.

Conclusion

Unless you are a high-profile person or are being specifically targetted to be attacked, understanding and utilizing this "safer than your neighbour" theory can help you stay relatively secure. Using this theory does require you to understand what is the "norm" that people do and to try and keep yourself at least one, if not, several steps ahead of them.

This theory works based on deterrence. If no one decides to attack you (because they have decided to attack other relatively easier targets), you don't even have to worry if your defenses can hold.

Of course, this is not a complete solution by itself. It just helps knowing how attacks select their targets and how to avoid painting yourself as an easy target.

QUIZ TIME! Practical example:

An identity theft is looking at a list of emails to find a good target for his attacks. There are 4 men named John Tan. Who would the identity theft think about attacking first? Who would be last?

1) JohnTan95@yahoo.com
2) John_Tan_Ah_Huat1995@hotmail.com
3) johntanah@gmail.com
4) jtah@protonmail.com

Winner gets... practical understanding of how this theory works!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Don't Fall For This Insurance Agent "Trick"

Don't mind the title, just trying to use the click-bait sort of titles to pull in the views, because this is a trick that most, if not all, of the slimy agents out there will use.

The TL;DR is at the bottom, so jump there if you don't want to see my amazing story telling skills.

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I am just minding my own business walking around when I am suddenly approached by this cute girl.

Quite tall, slim build, nice tan and quite cute. Why got cute girl come talk to me? I spot the lanyard "ABCXYZ Insurance".

Chey. Insurance agent. No wonder. The more cute they are, the more careful you must be, I remind myself.

I insist that I am a damn hard sell and there is a very low chance that she can sell me anything. She persists. Just listen only, no need to commit. I shrug.

Her opener is not bad. She ambiguously described this product until it sounded damn good. She asks for 2 minutes of my time. I was actually early for my next appointment, so okay what the heck. Let's see what sort of "product" this is. See guys, I suffer and tahan insurance agents so that you all don't have to waste your time. (It TOTALLY has nothing to do with her being cute)

Okay, I sit down at the table. Aiyo why all the other tables empty? Why only got me? I'm the only stupid fella that kena tricked into the lion's den?

Suddenly the agent appears from my left. Eh wait, she looks different?! More mature looking (but still young), shorter hair and even more tan, but I can easily tell that she is also still the kind that must be careful. Senior insurance agents got more experience "dok" people. This one must be careful. I cannot let my guard down.

What happened to the agent that talked to me? Don't tell me that this is a bait and switch... not that I really mind since this agent also seems quite pleasant, if you know what I mean... plus since I'm just killing time...

Then the original agent popped up from my right. Walao, what is this? Double team? 2 insurance agents vs 1 GMGH? Unfair matchup! Nevermind, GMGH is strong, GMGH will listen. I have defeated insurance agents before, I can do it again if I have to!

Anyway, from here on I will refer to them as Senior and Junior.

Junior introduces me to Senior. Both have English names. Should be easy to remember.

Senior quizes me on bank deposit rate. 0.05%, nailed it.
Senior quizes me on my bank interest rate. 1.85%, nailed it. (OCBC 360)
Senior says OCBC 360 interest is only up to $60,000. I correct her that it is $70,000.
Senior then talks about the product features and the different product options.
I have already forgotten both their names, dammit.

Junior just sits beside me and keeps nodding her head. I worried it might fall off.
Senior says that "with bank interest rates so low and inflation rate being 2.6%..."

GMGH almost triggered.
GMGH clears throat and Senior stops talking. "Erm, inflation rate is NOT 2.6%?"

Senior looks confused. Junior jumps in for the save. "Yes, inflation rate is 2.6%!"

GMGH GETS *TRIGGERED*


GMGH looks at them blankly. Then replies firmly, "Er. No. Inflation rate is definitely NOT 2.6%."

This goes on back and forth for a bit. I can tell it is going nowhere.

"Inflation rate is not 2.6%. It is 0.7%. You guys are both wrong. Inflation has been negative for the longest time. Inflation at 2.6% is an impossible number. Where do you get your 2.6% number from?"

Both are a bit stunned. Junior volunteers to fact check. Senior continues to explain to me the product. She is doing a pretty bad job.

In case anyone was curious, it was a regular savings endowment plan, participating plan, no guaranteed returns, only capital guaranteed. Just more complicated than usual with its withdrawal features.

Senior confirms all these facts. Senior continues to explain how I can make withdrawals from my plan if I need to... go on a holiday with my girlfriend. Geez. That was the example she used! I'm not sure what kind of financial lifestyle she is advocating... but it is definitely not the prudent lifestyle. I can see how dumb millennials would fall for that though. Anyway, the number which she kept using over and over again might as well be pulled out from her butt since it isn't guaranteed

Junior finally reports back. It must have been tough to type "Singapore Inflation Rate" into Google. Apparently we are both correct.

"Both correct?", I choke, half in disbelief, half in confusion.

Historical inflation rate is 2.6%. Latest yoy inflation rate is 0.7%.

Oh. So we are both correct? LOL. Is she freaking kidding me? Deep down inside, unless they are both super goondu and don't really understand what inflation is, I think that they both know that only one of us was right.

(Hint: It was me)

They change topic. What is my profession? How come I know so much about inflation rates and financial products?

Part of me is secretly happy that they find me a challenge. Part of me is also sad knowing how many people would not be able to defend themselves from such an attack. Let alone an attack by 2 cute female agents. Jialat. This floor underneath where I'm sitting at must have a lot of spilled blood from all the previous guys that sat here before me and kena "dok" by them.

Anyway, they tried their best but they could not succeed. I could tell they were a bit disappointed. They did just spend waste 15 minutes trying to sell me an endowment plan.

Damn. 15 minutes already? Basket, I thought only 2 minutes! Kena scammed already, haha.

I thanked them for their time and I showed myself out while they both just sat in their seats trying to figure out what just happened. They literally just sat there and stared at each other.


I'll tell you what just happened.


I wonder if they honestly did not know the current inflation rate, or if they were just acting like they did not know. Oh well, we will never know.

I check my watch. Just on time for my appointment. It's going to be a good day.

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TL;DR - Insurance agent gave FALSE information that the inflation rate in Singapore is 2.6%. That figure is actually the average inflation rate since independence. The actual inflation rate (CPI-All Items) is 0.7%. Historical average inflation rate is NOT an useful figure to decide if you should buy an endowment plan. The historical average is being presented as if it is the current situation.

Why is this a problem? By giving such a big (and false) number, especially when compared to the current low bank rates / fixed deposit rates that most of us are familiar with, it scares and shocks people to quickly take action because the difference seems so huge. However, they would be taking action based on false information.

Is this ethical? I think not. But then again I think close to no one gives a shit.

Are they "wrong"? Oops, they forgot to say "average". You're the one signing the piece of paper to sign away thousands of dollars every year. Whether it is a good policy or a stupid policy, it is up to you to decide since it can potentially become YOUR policy. You better understand what you get yourself into, or you're going to end up literally paying for your mistake.

Source: Average Inflation Rate in Singapore since 1962 tracked by Trading Economics
Source: Feb 2017 y-o-y Inflation Rate published by MAS
Fun fact: The CPI-All Items was negative for almost the 2 years.

I prefer using the CPI-All Items because.... it tracks all items? Be my guest to use MAS Core Inflation if that suits you.

Recommended reading to level up:
Should I "support" my insurance agent friends?
Should I buy an Investment Savings Plan?
If something is 10% insurance and 90% investment, why do people call it Insurance?