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When Maximizing Gains are a Stupid Idea

There are times thinking like an accountant determines how much of your hard-earned money you get to keep and how well your investments perform. Money isn’t the only thing accountants think about either. Time is more important than money by a long shot and plays into the equation every time.

This past week my oldest daughter asked if I would be helping with her tuition for next semester. I lollygagged as I didn’t want to think about it at the time. My daughter persisted, finally mentioning she wanted me to know about her tuition if I wanted to use a credit card to accumulate bonus miles or cash back.

Every year I generate cash and miles equivalents of around $10,000 per year. The whole family knows my love of these bonuses since they are tax-free and nothing motivates a tax guy like a five figure tax-free benefit.

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Tradelines: The $1,000 an Hour Side Gig

Remember all those credit cards you acquired to earn out those bonuses and eventually canceled? You’re going to wish you hadn’t done that.

Credit cards are one of the most powerful wealthy building tools in existence today when used properly. They get a bad rap because irresponsible people rack up massive quantities of high interest debt and spend decades digging out if they ever get out. Still, credit cards can put a lot of ka-ching in your pocket if you understand the rules and never run a balance on the card.

If you are in the accumulation phase of your wealth building cycle, looking for a high income compared to the time invested or love gaming the system (your favorite accountant is guilty as charged), then you need to learn about tradelines.

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How to Complain To Your Credit Card Company

Today we have a special guest post from Josh Wilson of Family Faith Finance. Josh’s idea for an article is one I would’ve written if I’d thought of it. I talk about using credit cards as a tool to better manage your finances and those juicy bonuses they offer, tax-free. But what if something goes wrong? Identity theft drips from the newsfeeds. Unauthorized charges happen.

There is a way to protect yourself. Most readers are aware of their credit card’s dispute process. But if the dispute goes wrong there are still options short of arbitration. Josh gives us the basic framework in disputing a credit card charge or issuing bank’s action before moving to a powerful tool to resolve the worst problems with lenders. I’ll let Josh tell the story.

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Debt Collector’s Suicide Bomb

In the waning days of the second millennium of the Common Era I found myself in Austin, Texas advising a hedge fund in the charge-off receivables industry. There was no way I could know that within five years I would be running my own hedge fund and then a second. There was no way I could foresee my responsibility in a suicide and the contemplation of my own.

It started in the most unassuming way. Via letter I was introduced to the charge-off receivables industry by a Tennessee hedge fund that used a Texas firm to handle their collections. The hedge fund put me up at a 5-star hotel on a PGA golf course. I wasn’t impressed by the largesse. I prefer more Spartan living even when traveling.

The charge-off receivables industry is a dirty business. Charge-off receivables are delinquent debt sold to a third party for pennies on the dollar. As an example, credit card accounts 180 past due require banks to either book a 100% loss on the account or sell the bad debt, whereas, they can use the sale price as a partial offset.

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Manufactured Spending Without the Factory

The biggest problem most people have with credit card bonus programs is meeting the spending requirements for the bonus. Business owners have an advantage. Landlords do too. Meeting a $3,000 spending requirement in 90 days is a snap of the finger for even a relatively small business or side gig.

But not every side gig has enough spending that can go on a credit card and if you only own a few rental properties and maintenance is not currently required you will need another source of spending to earn a bonus.

Readers of this blog tend toward the frugal side. Spending for the sake of spending for a bonus is crazy and you guys know it. Your personal spending is probably too low to earn many bonus cash awards or miles. Travel hacking gets harder when you save most of your income.

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The Ultimate Credit Card Rewards Hack

Living your dream vacation is easier than ever with credit card rewards. A litany of cards offer massive miles, hotel rooms or cash for spending a certain amount within a short period of time. And there’s the rub. How can the average person spend $3,000 and more to get bonuses of 50,000 points and up within a few months?

Enter manufactured spending. Reaching a level of required spending either requires owning a business with significant purchases, over spending your budget to get the rewards (why bother, it’s cheaper to buy the darn airline tickets) or manufactured spending. Manufactured spending takes time and requires jumping through hoops. There are also additional fees using many manufactured spending methods. And the time! Oh my god, the time to get it done. There has to be a better way.

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Rapid Profit Machine: Make Money While on Vacation

The goal behind this thought experiment is to get you thinking about the tax code in creative ways. None of what I illustrated is illegal in any way. Non-cash deductions can rise to significant amounts over the course of a year.

Your situation is probably different than mine. Following my path each step of the way is the wrong way to think about this. A business or side hustle makes it easier to game the tax code. Major corporations have been doing it from the beginning of time. Normal people can do the same. Whether you are retired and traveling or looking for some time away from the shop, there are ways to utilize the tax code to your advantage. We discussed one way to do so. Use this as a starting point to turn travel into a money-producing activity.

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Credit Card Secrets

We think of credit cards as those things which allow us to manage our financial lives without carrying money around. Bills are easy to automate with credit cards and paying the card at the end of the month is a simple, one-time, setup online and it is paid in full on the due date without any further action on your part. Even if you don’t record your spending, a credit card has a nice list of all your spending in one neat, compact location for future review.

Those crisp pieces of plastic come with a dark side also. Without constraint, you can dig a financial hole difficult to crawl out of. Make no mistake; credit cards are debt, even if you pay them in full monthly. Debit cards serve the same purpose and are not debt because it comes out of your bank account; when the money runs out, the purchases are declined.*

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