A Christmas Present for You!

Holiday Tree on Wall Street

Yep, a Christmas present. Christmas. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. It had to be said.

Anyway, I’m sure you’re all more interested in getting that present than in another tired annual discussion of how “nobody’s allowed to say Christmas anymore”. I know not everybody got FOUR Wiis in their stocking like I did, so I better cut to the chase!

Really, it’s not so much an actual, physical, “present”, as just a couple of cool tips on how to scam yourself some of those impossible-to-get gifts on every kid’s wish list this Holiday season: money!

Cool Tip #1

Bank of America’s Keep The Change

Bank of America has this supremely lame promotion called “Keep the Change” where every time you make a purchase with your Visa Debit Card, they’ll round up the charge to the nearest dollar, and take the difference and transfer it into your savings account. It’s supposed to be a weird way to help you save money because you don’t have the COLD HARD DISCIPLINE to do it yourself.

The only semi-cool thing about this program (and in my opinion, Bank of America period), is that for the first three months after you sign up, they’ll DOUBLE the savings (after the first three months, it drops to just a 5% bonus), up to a total of $250 a year. Heh, and the fine print says they’ll credit you that matching amount only after 14 MONTHS!

That doesn’t add up to that much potential scamming, and I wouldn’t recommend signing up for Bank of America just to do this. However, IF you already use BofA (poor, poor, you.), you should go down to your local gas station and buy 1 cent of gasoline on your debit card… 253 times in a row. You can probably do that in about 3 hours or so. And if you don’t make at least $80 an hour, it could actually be worth it!

Not to mention the warm fuzzy feeling you’ll get knowing that you just made $250 off of Bank of America 14 months from now!
(Never you mind the fees they will have made off you in that time will most definitely far exceed $250! You reap those sweet sweet rewards!)

Cool Tip #2

The mystical ATM fee double-rebate!

Here’s an even better way to take advantage of the banking system. Don’t use Bank of America at all!

Use an Internet bank! They generally pay much better interest, have little to NO fees, and coolest of all, AUTOMATICALLY pay you back ATM fees!

She reads this blog!

At least, my Internet bank does. Which will remain nameless so they don’t catch on to this awesome scam I’ve been perpetrating on them that I am about to reveal to the countless dozens who religiously read this blog.

Okay, let’s focus on the part that goes“AUTOMATICALLY pay you back ATM fees!”… let’s think about how a bank would go about doing that exactly? You may have noticed when you look on your bank statement that you don’t see two entries for ATM withdrawals a la:

ATM WITHDRAWAL: $200.00
ATM FEE: $1.50

No. Instead, you just see something like:

ATM WITHDRAWAL: $201.50

And they leave it to YOU to remember that that $1.50 was the goddam fee. The ATM system doesn’t seem to actually pass any information to your home back other than the total amount they need to remove from your account. Hmmm.

So, one day last February while in Hilo, Hawai’i, I came across this ATM in the local Wal*Mart that actually allowed $1 increments. I couldn’t believe it, so just to be silly, I withdrew $299. Sure enough, out came 14 twenties, a ten, a five, and four ones! What a wacky ATM machine! And best of all, Wal*Mart didn’t even charge a fee! You could come by and pick up $3 from the ATM whenever you wanted with no penalty.

Finally, a reason to go to Wal*Mart!

Later, I noticed my ATM fee reimbursement amount for that month seemed a little high. After looking it over, it turned out to be exactly $4 a little high. “Weird,” I thought. “Am I dumb?”

I am dumb, but that’s not important right now… because it turned out, THEY were too!

I realized the $4 must have been for my $299 withdrawal! It dawned on me that my bank must figure out the ATM fees simply by dividing all ATM withdrawals by 5 and assuming the remainder is the fee.

This works fine based on two assumptions.. that no ATM fees are $5 or more (I guess they’ve never been to a strip club), and that no ATM gives out $1 bills or less (I guess they’ve never been to the Wal*Mart in Hilo!).

To test my theory, the next month I went to a Wal*Mart when I was visiting my in-laws in Virginia, and I withdrew $4, $4, $9, and $24.. and sure enough, the next month I had $16 extra dollars reimbursed to me!

You’d think their algorithm would at least not give $4 back on a $4 withdrawal! I mean, who pays a $4 fee for the privelege of withdrawing $0? I guess Wal*Mart patrons do.

Wha? Picture WITHIN block-quote?!

Since then, I’ve made it my mission to find all Wal*Marts that have these SUPER-ATMs .. and sadly, I’ve only found them in two places: The Big Island of Hawai’i and Northern Virginia. Wal*Marts I’ve tried in Los Angeles, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and even Tampa have all come up empty.

In fact, the last time I found one (back in Big Island), Wal*Mart had started adding a $1 fee to each withdrawal. That makes the deal somewhat less sweet, because now you have to only withdraw $3 at a time, which drops your effective hourly rate you can make at one of these ATMs 25%. I timed myself and can do a full transaction in about 45 seconds, which would put me making $240/hour. So, clearly not worth MY time, but perhaps YOURS… snark, snark!

Overall I’ve only made $32 total the three times I took advantage of this bug. And I think it makes up for the few times I’ve had $6 ATM fees (cough, cough) only reimbursed $1s worth. But boy, there is no thrill greater than going up to that ATM and withdrawing three crisp, new, FREE one-dollar bills!

Damn you T-Mobile and your exploitation of migrant farmers!

SHAME ON ME!

For taking advantage of a helpless Internet bank and a flaw in their code!

But do I feel bad? Nope, not in the least!

In fact, I think it our moral DUTY as consumers to take full advantage of all loop holes, programming bugs, and outdated policies we can find! And I know the people at Fat Wallet and Slick Deals are with me!

Businesses make these CRAZY promotions with the understanding that 99% of their customers aren’t going to take FULL advantage. YOU just want to be in the 1% that does!

Please, don’t feel too bad for the poor companies… if too many people start taking advantage, they’ll just shut it down. No big deal, it had to happen some day, and everybody’s a bit wiser.

A spy for a spy leaves the whole world spy-less.

It’s not the same thing when dealing with another person. If you make an agreement with somebody, you should strive to uphold the spirit of it, not just the letter. When dealing in business-to-business transactions too, things just work out better when you are straight-forward, honest, and direct.. not when you’re trying to screw each other over with contract legalese and under-the-table shenanigans.

All I’m saying is, in a business-to-consumer transaction, as a consumer, morality just doesn’t enter into it. The business makes an offer, probably with a fair amount of fine print, and the consumer can choose to accept the letter of it or not. That is it.

I feel this way even though I’m one of those businesses who gets taken advantage of!

For example, earlier this year there was a bug in our system where one guy was getting all the secondary referrer money for people who had no referrer! It’s fixed now, but that guy ended up succesfully cashing out about $30,000 and then disappearing! Oooooh, that stung, but it was our own dumb fault!

More recently, people have been “taking advantage” of our new-customer-only promo codes by canceling their accounts after a year and deleting their domains from our system, then re-signing up again with a new credit card and another promo code and then re-adding their old domain. This results in a day or two of downtime for them, but I guess that’s worth it for some people.

Well, now we just log all domains that have been deleted from our system and don’t allow them to be re-added to a promo-coded account for at least a year. So, eat a big pile of that, loop-holers!

Every day, there are more “exploits” of our system’s code and policies that come to our attention. Some we just let go because they’re not that wide-spread and it’d be more trouble to fix it than the damage it’s causing. Others we patch up and then move on.

Speaking of never-ending...

It’s like a never-ending tap-dance between the tiny “hot deals” segment of the consumer market… those who have more time than money… and the marketing departments of companies the world over who realize there are a lot more people who think they have more time than money than those who actually do.

Now, please go spend the $300 you just scammed based on my advice on Best Buy gift certificates!