(Why I LOVE checking my credit card balance)
These days I check my credit card balance every day; sometimes several times a day. It always makes me smile.
There was a time, many years ago, when I feared the arrival of my credit card statement. It represented, in black and white, my past sins and my future fate. It showed me how much money I had spent, on which frivolous items I had frittered away my earnings, and how I would be penalised. It showed me how much money I did NOT have.
If I did not pay off the card amount in full, interest was accrued on a daily basis, often up to 18% compounding. The figures did not even give the extent of the horrible truth, until banking regulators forced the fine print into existence. Often I would see a line such as “if you pay the minimum monthly balance, this card will be paid off in 37 years…” The financial millstone was worse than a so-called “life sentence”.
Things changed, and with persistence I managed to become free of the burden. Vowing never again to accumulate debt on consumer items which depreciate in value, I have not held a credit card for many years. Until things changed again.
By now, most people have heard of cryptocurrency and the blockchain. It is many things, including a new asset class, an alternative investment, an evolution of the internet, an inalterable record-keeping system and more.
Even if you never invested into cryptocurrencies and do not care what a blockchain does, there are some things you need to know.
In the early days of the internet, not many paid attention. OK, so someone from some university sent a document to another nerd and it only took 60 seconds, instead of 90 seconds for a fax; big deal. It was a few years before more customer adoption and faster speeds meant that people could actually surf the internet ‘for fun’ as well as for academic purposes.
With the first wave of internet mainstream adoption, people began to ask “OK, it’s a faster fax, with pictures. What’s in it for me?” You should be asking the same question of blockchain and crypto.
Nowadays it is hard to imagine the world without the internet. We use it for work, schooling, playing games, watching movies or TV shows, keeping in touch, sharing information and researching the heck out of things. Now that you have it, you would find it difficult, or almost impossible to go back to the old ways. If you had to buy a postage stamp for every email you sent, and wait a week for a response, what do you think would happen?
The important thing to understand is that blockchain and crypto is not just Bitcoin going up by $1000 and down by $5000. Like the internet itself, blockchain is a global connection for not only finance, but insurance, news, music, art and a plethora of other materials. It enables faster speeds of communication and calculation. But, I hear you ask, “I don’t want to buy bitcoin. What’s in it for me?”
Back to the banks. Many traditional bank credit cards have reward systems. For every dollar you spend, you may receive an airline mile or some similar token of non-monetary value. This was all well and good in the year 1 BC (before covid) when you were actually allowed to fly, and no airlines had gone broke.
Those old cards often came with an annual card fee, cash advance fees and other costs, in addition to the exorbitant rate of interest if you did not pay them off in full every month. The banks charged undisciplined cardholders 18% interest, kept a huge profit, paid bank investors 4% and for the most part, everyone was happy.
Until we were not. With new advances in technology, a telco no longer charges you ridiculous long-distance or international call rates; you just use the internet and make a call for peanuts. The internet disrupted telco’s, postal services, video rentals and more. Now the blockchain has come to disrupt the banks.
Twenty years ago, Alex Mashinky was the father of VOIP (voice over internet protocol), the destroyer of the monopoly of telco’s, and he is godfather to every skype, zoom or google call you make. Recently Alex has become the father of MOIP (money over internet protocol) and he has plans to #unbank the world.
Whilst the traditional banks pay you less than 1% interest on your cash, Alex’s Celsius Network will pay 4%, 6% up to 12% on your money. Whilst older banks take in massive interest and fees, retain 90% for profits and pay a pittance to investors, Celsius flips the script: they retain only 10% of incoming interest and pay out 90% to savers and investors. It is called “DeFi” or decentralised finance, so you will not find a branch, a teller or an ATM. Everything is online, but for the rates of return you can get on USD, HKD, AUD or CAD, you will forgive them.
Currently Celsius is a great place to hold your ‘digital dollars’ and receive far better rates of return than a traditional bank. They will also pay you interest on your bitcoin or other crypto, if you are into that type of thing, but you do not need to be a high-risk investor to use CEL; you can simply deposit digital cash and receive interest. CEL is an excellent #unbank for earning, but does not have a credit card yet, which is why I use…
The CRO rewards card from Crypto.com: this little piece of solid metal card weighs a lot more than a traditional plastic card, and there is good reason. Forget the rewards of flier miles or bonuses which you accumulate and have trouble spending: this card, accepted anywhere Visa is used, pays you cash-back* in an instant.
This is one of the reasons why I check my balance several times a day and smile. For every purchase, you receive a “*cash-back equivalent” which is paid in cryptocurrency. (I know, you did not want to buy or invest into crypto, but this is free crypto, so it’s better.)
The cash-back rewards can be held on for the longer term growth, or used instantly to purchase other cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, or even exchanged for free US dollars (Tether).
How much cash do you get back? The majority of Visa card purchases will give you a bonus of 1% or 3% cashback, if you start with the lower-level cards. There is no annual fee, no monthly fee, no ATM fee (free cash withdrawals under $800) and no nasty surprises.
The base level card attracts 1% cash back on all purchases, and is totally free to apply for, with no commitments.
The Ruby level card gives 2% cash back on all purchases, with 100% back on Spotify. This streaming service bonus alone saved me $12 every month. It requires you to invest or ‘stake’ 2500 CRO tokens (worth around $0.10 at time of writing). Whilst looking like a quasi-card-fee, this approximately $300 investment is yours, and will earn up to 16% whilst it sits in your account, until you want it back. Investing around $300 to save $140 per year on streaming is a great deal, plus you get the other cashback rewards.
The Jade Green or Indigo cards give you 3% back on all purchases, with 100% cashback on Netflix and Spotify. This is where you save around $30 per month by not paying for these services. This level requires a staking investment of 25 000 CRO (approx. $2500 at time of writing), but, you will most likely earn this investment back within a few months on streaming service rebates and cashbacks on other purchases. Plus, unlike most card application fees, you can get your stake back, if you ever want to stop getting rewarded.
Using your Crypto.com account, it is also possible to invest into other cryptocurrencies, and even earn interest on a bitcoin deposit, but that is a lesson for another day. For starters, just get the card, do your normal shopping, and get cashback rewards.
There are a couple of higher card levels, which require additional CRO staking and pay additional rewards: up to 8% cashback on all purchases and 10% cashback on AirBnB, plus free airport lounge access and much more. I would suggest that these higher levels may be handy for customers who have corporate cards or those who use their Visa card for business purposes.
If you are new to crypto rewards cards, it may be wise to start with one of the bottom four CRO cards, and upgrade after you have been comfortable using it for a few months.
Just as most internet users do not understand HTTP or Java, blockchain and crypto can seem confusing or weird. You know that you do not need to be a programmer to benefit from social media or email, and you do not need to be a nerd or crypto trader to benefit financially from blockchain technology.
Start by putting a few dollars into an #unbank such as Celsius and apply for a crypto rewards card such as CRO. If you don’t like it after six months, feel free to go back to your old bank where they make you pay for a cheap plastic card and keep 90% of the profits away from you. Personally, I like to carry a metal card and be highly rewarded.