Current Events and Blog

18Mar 2019

Transfer Capital One miles to Emirates for a 100% bonus until March 24 – Business Insider


Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

The new first-class suite on Emirates’ Boeing 777.Emirates

The most valuable kind of credit card reward is transferable points — points that can be transferred to hotel and airline partners.

Credit card reward programs generally have set transfer ratios for how many proprietary points are worth a set number of partner miles.

Occasionally, programs will offer transfer bonuses.

For example, while American Express Membership Rewards (MR) normally transfer to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club at a 1:1 ratio — where 1,000 Membership Rewards points equal 1,000 Virgin Atlantic miles — AmEx has offered limited-time bonuses of up to 40%, where 1,000 MR points translate to 1,400 Virgin miles.

Capital One made waves late last year when it began allowing transfers from its mileage program for the first time. The program had 14 airline transfer partners — 12 that transferred at a 2:1.5 ratio, and two, Emirates and Singapore Airlines, that transferred at a less generous 2:1 ratio.

Today, Monday, March 18, Capital One announced its first-ever transfer bonus. From today until March 24 at 11:59 p.m. ET, Capital One Venture cardholders will receive a 100% bonus on miles transferred to the Emirates Skywards frequent-flyer program.

That brings the transfer ratio to that program to effectively 1:1 for the week.

Emirates Skywards isn’t the best frequent-flyer program, as it typically has uncompetitive mileage prices and tends to add high taxes and surcharges to award bookings. For example, a round-trip, first-class ticket between New York and Dubai booked with Emirates miles would have over $1,500 in fees.

However, the fees and miles pale in comparison to the cash prices for premium cabin tickets, and the program still has some sweet spots.

For example, round-trip flights between Dubai and Brussels go for just 135,000 miles in Emirates’ industry-leading, new first-class suites. The airline also has a handful of partners, such as Korean Air, Japan Airlines, and Alaska Airlines, so there may be decent opportunities to redeem miles on partner flights.

Keep in mind that miles transfers only work one way, so you should generally have a specific redemption in mind before moving miles from Capital One to Emirates Skywards — otherwise, you might end up stuck with Emirates miles you don’t plan to use. Be sure to check availability for the flights you want, and check prices with Emirates’ Miles Calculator.

As competition in the rewards space continues between major players AmEx and Chase, Capital One has introduced a steady stream of improvements and added benefits to bring itself up as a strong player: a major relaunch of its dining cash-back card, bonus miles on hotel stays, partnerships with Postmates and Resy, and the ability to transfer miles from Venture and Spark Miles lines of cards.

If you’re looking to earn more Capital One miles, the Venture currently offers 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. If you own a small business — or even if you have a solo side gig — the Capital One Spark Miles for Business offers 50,000 miles when you spent $4,500 in the first three months.

Click here to learn more about the Capital One Venture from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the Capital One Spark Miles from Insider Picks’ partner: The Points Guy.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. If you have questions or feedback, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at yourmoney@businessinsider.com.

Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

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18Mar 2019

OxiClean laundry detergent only $0.99 at Walgreens – WRAL.com


OxiClean laundry detergent is only $0.99 with the new coupon and sale at Walgreens!

Here’s the Deal:

OxiClean laundry detergent, 40 oz, $2.99 – $2 coupon from Smart Shopper coupons link or 3/17 SS = .99

.

Walgreens has some other good deals this weeky including FREE Mentos CleanBreath Mints (after rewards), Colgate toothpaste, Russell Stover chocolate eggs (3 for $1), Arizona tea or drink, Kellogg’s cereal, Palmolive dish liquid and more!

These deals are valid 3/17/19 – 3/23/19.

Coupon in ad: Get 10X everyday points when you spend $20 or more in stores or online with the coupon in the ad this week. See ad for details.

Food

Mentos CleanBreath Mints, 30 pieces, $1.29 – $1.29 Register Rewards = Free after rewards!

Russell Stover chocolate eggs or nest, 1 oz, 3 for $1

Hershey’s candy, single size, 1.4 – 1.85 oz, 2 for $1

Arizona tea or drink, 20 or 23 oz, 2 for $1

Kellogg’s cereal, select, 8.7 – 13.7 oz, $1.88

Coupons: $1/1 coupon from Kelloggsfamilyrewards.com when you redeem 850 reward points, $1/3 coupon from Smart Shopper coupons, various coupons from Kelloggsfamilyrewards.com, various .50/1 Savingstar cash back offers

Total after $1 coupon = .88

Cheez-It 3.6 – 7 oz or Keebler cookies 11.3 – 13.8 oz – $1/1 coupon from Kelloggsfamilyrewards.com when you redeem 850 reward points

M&M’s chocolate bars, select, 3 for $5 – $1/2 coupon from 2/24 RMN

Nice! Roasted peanuts, 16 oz, $1.99

Non-Food

Colgate toothpaste, select, $3.99

Points: 4000 Bonus Points when you buy 2

Coupon: $2/1 coupon from 3/17 SS

Palmolive dish liquid, 10 oz, .99 – .25 coupon from walgreens.com/coupons

OxiClean laundry detergent, 40 oz, $2.99 – $2 coupon from Smart Shopper coupons link or 3/17 SS = .99

Colgate toothpaste, select

Sale: $3.99

Points: 4000 bonus points when you buy 2

Coupon: $1 coupon from 3/10 SS

Crest or Oral-B toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, select

Sale: $3.99

RR: $6 rewards when you buy 3

Coupon: $1 coupon from 3/17 RMN

Scott bath tissue 12 big rolls or paper towels, $5

Coupons: $1.25 in-store coupon or Walgreens digital coupon, .50/1 coupons from 3/10 SS, .55/1 coupons from scottbrand.com

Huggies diapers jumbo pack, Pull-Ups, Goodnites, select

Sale: 2 for $18

RR: $5 reward when you spend $25

Coupons: $2 coupon from Smart Shopper coupons or walgreens.com/coupons, $1.50 coupon from 3/10 SS, $3/2 coupon from 3/17 SS

Foster Grant or Walgreens reader glasses and accessories, BOGO

Alkaline batteries, AA or AAA, 8-24 pack, BOGO

.

Walgreens Rewards and Coupon Policy Basics

* Must have Balance Rewards reward card to earn rewards and get sale prices

* Balance Rewards program: Earn points for qualifying purchases. Cash in points for $$ off your total purchase. 1000 points = $1 reward

* Register Rewards (RR’s) are instant rebates that print out at register after transaction.

* Cannot pay for a deal that generates a Register Reward with another Register Reward from a previous purchase from the same manufacturer

* Cannot have more coupons than products (RR’s count as coupons)

* You can “Stack” store coupons from their monthly coupon book found in stores with manufacturer’s coupons

* Only 1 coupon can be used on a BOGO sale

* If the coupon value is greater than the product cost, Walgreens will not accept the coupon.

Walgreens recently changed their coupon policy and they no longer allow a coupon on each item of a BOGO deal. In addition, they will no longer accept a coupon for an item if the price of the coupon is more than the item. See all the details on their website.

BR = Balance Rewards Points

RR = Register Rewards

You can see more details on all these programs and policies on their website at Walgreens.com.

This post may contain affiliate links and I appreciate your using them.

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18Mar 2019

His parents wanted him to get a corporate job, until he made $154,000 in one year – CNBC


He’s known to millions as Drew Binsky.

div > div.group > p:first-child”>

While his career path is far from traditional, Drew made a name for himself in just two years — transitioning from being an English teacher and blogger, to creating short travel videos that have generated more than 500 million views online.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013, he told his parents he would move to South Korea to teach English. “A double degree from a major university and he’s running off to teach English?” recalled his father, Danny, as he spoke of his son’s career choice after obtaining Economics and Entrepreneurship double major degrees.

Last year, Drew said he made more than $154,000 in income through advertising revenues from Facebook and YouTube, along with brand partnerships with companies such as Booking.com, which use influencers to help promote their business.

“At first, it was hard to convince my mom and my parents that I’m going to do this full time,” Drew told CNBC Make It. “My mom’s like, ‘When are you going to come back to get a corporate job?'”

His mother, Ellen, said she never expected her son to live outside the United States. “We’re very traditional, so, you know, we send our kids to college and then they get a degree, and then you expect them to work and hopefully, come back to Arizona,” she said.

Today, Drew has already visited 163 countries and plans to visit every country in the world. His strategy as a content creator is to make one video per day. “You can’t just overnight become a successful video-maker or anything with any profession,” he said. “If you’re a golfer, you can’t just wake up tomorrow and be on the PGA Tour.”

Drew claims he never set out to make it big.

In the first few years of living overseas, he used to update his travel blog and post videos to his Snapchat account. But his career really took off after he took an organized trip to North Korea and posted videos from the trip that collectively generated more than 10 million views.

His income, meanwhile, can vary greatly. He said he’s earned between $1,000 and $30,000 in a single month, depending on the number of views his videos generate. “I never look at the money as a motivation or a drive to do what I do,” he said.

Meanwhile, he keeps his travel costs as low as possible and travels on a tight budget.

His parents now accept that he’s not getting a corporate job anytime soon.

“It’s just amazing, the millennial generation, they will figure out,” Danny said. “Five, six, ten years ago, this didn’t exist.”

His parents Danny and Ellen are now traveling to places like Vietnam and Thailand, even though they had never left the U.S. before Drew moved abroad. “It’s opened up our lives to different cultures, different foods and ya know, different areas,” Ellen said.

Drew said he feels a sense of validation when his parents approve of what he’s doing.

“There’s like an, ‘Ah-ha’ moment, where I’m like, ‘Yea, I’m happy they’re seeing what I’m doing is real,'” he said.

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18Mar 2019

Pay taxes with a credit card? Here's 3 ways it can pay off – MarketWatch


This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet.

Not everyone is inclined to look at a tax bill and think, “How can I maximize my credit card rewards on this spending?” But if you’re one of those people, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Paying taxes with a credit card comes with unavoidable costs. Even if you can sidestep credit card interest charges and other downsides — say, by paying that credit card bill in full or taking advantage of an introductory 0% APR offer — you’ll still have to pay a processing fee of about 2% or more, which could wipe out any rewards.
  • It might take some effort, but it’s possible to find credit card offers so rich they justify those costs.

Just ask David Rae, who has paid taxes with credit cards several times to take advantage of lucrative credit card offers. For him, the value of the trips and benefits he’s earned by paying taxes with credit cards more than justifies the cost of the processing fees, he says.

“I’m able to pay off my credit card, so I’m not paying interest,” says Rae, a certified financial planner at DRM Wealth Management in Los Angeles. “And I really like to travel for free.”

For maximizers like Rae who always pay their credit card bills in full, here are three times paying taxes with a card to earn rewards can make sense.

1. Your ongoing rewards are higher than the processing fee

About those unavoidable costs: The third-party vendors that accept credit card payments for the IRS charge processing fees for these payments ranging from 1.87% to 1.99% of the amount charged with certain minimums. Some services with integrated e-pay options, such as TurboTax, charge even more. Because most credit cards offer ongoing rewards that are lower than these processing fees, the costs of paying taxes this way often outweigh the benefits, notes Susan Allen, a certified public accountant and senior manager for tax practice and ethics at the American Institute of CPAs.

But, of course, there are exceptions.

Don’t miss: The 6 biggest screw-ups people make on their tax returns

If your credit card rewards are higher than that processing fee, paying taxes with a credit card to earn rewards could make sense, Allen says. For example, you might be able to take advantage of:

  • Bonus rewards on digital wallet spending. The IRS’ third-party vendors accept digital wallet payments such as Samsung Pay

    SSNLF, -3.07%

     , Android Pay and PayPal

    PYPL, +1.72%

     ; some credit cards offer bonus rewards on this type of spending.

  • First-year bonus rewards. The Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card

    V, +0.82%

      offers 3% back on all purchases made in the first year, for example.

  • Valuable redemptions. If you can squeeze at least 5 cents of value out of each airline mile earned on your credit card, even getting just 1 mile per dollar spent on taxes could make sense.

Remember, you won’t get any value from credit card rewards until you actually redeem them. Before paying a processing fee upfront, make sure you’re earning rewards you’ll use.

2. You’re earning a big sign-up bonus

Finding a credit card with ongoing rewards high enough to wipe out a steep processing fee is hard. But finding a credit card with a fat sign-up bonus? Much easier.

Paying taxes with a credit card to come out ahead on rewards “could potentially work out if someone got a sign-up bonus that was higher than the fees associated with using credit cards to pay off taxes,” Allen says.

Also on MarketWatch: Tax season kicks off with 8% smaller refunds

Plenty of rewards cards offer sign-up bonuses worth $500 or more, and some even waive the first-year annual fee. Your tax bill might help you meet the high spending requirements on these cards — often, a few thousand dollars of spending in the first few months — in one fell swoop. That could potentially net you hundreds of dollars in rewards after processing fees.

3. You can hit spending thresholds to qualify for valuable perks

For Rae, the CFP, paying taxes with a credit card didn’t just help him earn rewards; it also helped him nab elite status on Delta Air Lines

DAL, +0.49%

  faster. That’s because he was able to reach the spending threshold requirement on his Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

AXP, +1.04%

 sooner, earning him a sizable bonus that counted toward that status. The value of that status and the miles he earned far outweighed the processing fees, he says.

“I’m flying at least once a month for work, and I like to travel a bit personally,” Rae says. “So having status with the airline means I get upgrades. … Occasionally, I can get upgraded to first or business class for free.”

If you carry a co-branded hotel card or airline card, you might also be able to qualify for elite status or other rich benefits — such as a companion ticket or a free award night — by hitting certain spending requirements. Assuming you could maximize benefits like these, paying taxes with a card to meet those thresholds faster could be worth it.

More from NerdWallet:

Claire Tsosie is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: claire@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ideclaire7.

Get a daily roundup of the top reads in personal finance delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to MarketWatch's free Personal Finance Daily newsletter. Sign up here.

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17Mar 2019

'Dota 2' app rewards you for predicting pro match winners – Engadget



Valve

Valve doesn’t just want you to watch Dota 2 eSports matches — it wants you to have a small stake in them. It just released a Dota Pro Circuit app for Android and iOS that lets you win Shards (the in-game currency for Dota Plus members) by predicting the winners of Circuit matches. It’s sports betting, just without spending real money beyond your existing subscription.

You’ll also find a fantasy sports mode (Fantasy Challenge) that encourages you to create your ideal roster of pro players in return for Shards, and a customized news feed shows how well your favorite teams and players are doing.

The apps should be available everywhere, including as a direct APK download if your device doesn’t have access to Google Play. There’s no mystery behind this app. Valve clearly wants to give you an extra incentive to tune in, not to mention to sign up for Dota Plus in the first place.

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In this article:

android, app, betting, dota, dota 2, dota plus, dota pro circuit, dota2, dotaplus, dotaprocircuit, esports, gaming, internet, ios, moba, mobile, valve

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17Mar 2019

What children can learn through travel – St. Paul Pioneer Press


As you and your children begin to navigate the planet together, sharing your knowledge, while teaching them to make their own way, will create confidant and compassionate travelers for the future.

Here are a five examples of what travel can teach the next generation:

Preparation breeds confidence. By involving your kids in the travel planning and decision making process from the earliest age possible they will learn that a little planning goes a long way toward manifesting a successful adventure. Show them maps, books, websites and pictures. Encourage them to learn a few words or phrases of the language spoken in your intended destination. When they put newfound skill to use in real time, they will understand how a few words can make a big difference.

Our similarities outweigh differences. When exploring different cultures or sharing a passion for the natural world, kids will learn that an interest in beautiful vistas, flowing rivers or appreciation for the bounty found in a farmers market is the kind of shared human experience that creates a meaningful bond. Outdoor lovers sitting around a campfire after a day navigating through whitewater or dusty backcountry trails will relish the shared adventure . They’ll also understand that a kind gesture and friendly smile are universally appreciated.

Responsibility rewards. Taking as much responsibility as possible for their own part in a trip is empowering for kids. Help them learn the importance of having the right gear for an adventure trip or the proper attire for a city visit. Then, encourage them to pack their own belongings. As soon as possible, give them responsibility for making sure their bag makes it from home to the car, train or plane. These small successes will prepare them for traveling solo in the years to come.

Curiosity pays dividends. A wealth of research indicates that curious people are happier, are more satisfied with life, are more motivated to learn and have greater psychological well-being. So why not stoke your child’s curiosity through travel? Encourage the kids to learn about your destination in advance and nurture their inquiring minds. Nudge them to turn off the technology and to tune in to the experience at hand. Whether it’s forging ahead and around the next bend, climbing higher to discover a hidden waterfall or sampling unfamiliar food, help them understand that a curious mind can widen their view of the world.

Parents are people, too. You may be the one that insists on homework first, the brushing of teeth and making the bed, but your kids will eventually give you credit for manifesting a travel adventure that enhances their future understanding of the universe. They will take note as you handily navigate your clan through delayed flights, unpleasant weather or the occasional mishap. Even on those occasions when teens resist trading time with friends for a family trip, sooner or later they will recognize the power of travel, the value of time spent with family and the benefits of expanding their own world.

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17Mar 2019

Is using a personal loan to pay off credit card debt a good move? – USA TODAY


When it comes to borrowing money, not all debt is equal.

A mortgage, for example, has a much lower interest rate than credit card debt. On top of that, a mortgage helps consumers purchase a necessity that can gain value over time. The same cannot often be said of credit card purchases. That’s why mortgages are generally considered “good” debt, while credit card debt is almost universally deemed “bad.”

Car loans can fall into either category, as their interest rates vary widely. An auto loan with a low rate (maybe 5 percent interest or lower) might be considered good debt, while higher-rate auto loans, while sometimes a necessary evil, are far from great.

Personal loans, meanwhile, can’t be easily classified. They tend to have relatively high interest rates, but then, many people take them out to consolidate credit card debt that previously carried even higher rates. That’s why it’s both encouraging and that personal loans are the fastest growing form of debt for Americans, according to a report from Experian.

How big is the personal loan market?

While personal loans don’t get the publicity that credit cards do, there are currently 36.8 million of them in the U.S. right now. That’s 10.8 percent of the population and the balance on those loans has been rising since 2015, according to Experian. The number of personal loans in the U.S. jumped to 16 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 and total loan debt climbed to $291 billion for the same time period. 

This type of loan used to be heavily stigmatized, a sort of loan of last resort for people desperate to find a short-term way out of debt. In many cases, the high rates associated with these loans would merely forestall problems.

Get that application accepted: 5 tips to boost your chance of winning approval for a personal loan

Intuit moves: Why the tax software leader wants to disrupt the personal loan process

Attitudes toward personal loans, however, have softened. A personal loan can allow you to consolidate higher-rate loans into a single, lower-rate loan as a first step toward getting out of debt.

Average personal loan balance:

$15,143

Average monthly payment:

$353

Average annual percentage rate (APR):

9.37 percent

Number of outstanding personal loan accounts:

36.8 million

New personal loan accounts:

6.1 million

Number of consumers with a personal loan:

9.7 million

Existing personal loan debt:

$291 billion

Data source: Experian.

It all depends on how you use the money

If you’ve racked up credit card debt and can pay it off with a personal loan that offers a lower APR, then that makes sense. The problem is that many people do that but don’t stop using their credit cards, which leaves them with more debt to pay off than they started with.

Taking a personal loan is still something of a last resort. It’s generally not money you should borrow to take a vacation or do something frivolous. Personal loans, however, do make sense as a way to lower your interest rates, and they can serve as an alternative to using credit cards to pay off unexpected emergency expenses that can’t be avoided.

If you take a personal loan to pay off debt or to avoid putting an unplanned expense on a credit card with a high interest rate, make sure you have a plan to pay the money back. As with any form of high-interest debt, you’ll want to pay the loan off as fast as you can to minimize how much you spend on interest.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The Motley Fool is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news, analysis and commentary designed to help people take control of their financial lives. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

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17Mar 2019

Risks and rewards: The future of blockchain games – VentureBeat


Blockchain and games have an enticing future. Companies are setting up $100 million fund to entice developers to make games with blockchain, the secure and transparent decentralized ledger technology that powers Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

But plenty of game industry people are skeptical, considering the slide in the value of cryptocurrencies in the past year. A handful are jumping into it and testing the waters. At Tron’s recent summit in January, I moderated a panel with three of these experimenters: Taehoon Kim, CEO of Power Rangers mobile game maker nWay; Dan Chao, head of startup Rogue Nations Games and maker of Crypto Assault; and Jared Psigoda, CEO of BitGuild.

“Our biggest problem right now, to be frank, is that most of the blockchain games that are being made suck,” Psigoda said.

Then again, there was a day when most of the mobile games out there sucked, yet entrepreneurs like Chao made out nicely when they sold their startups to larger game companies. Ubisoft has become active in blockchain games, but a lot of big companies are sitting on sidelines. If they sit too long, they may have to pay a lot to acquire the blockchain game startups. Or those startups will acquire them, Psigoda said, tongue in cheek.

I’ll be moderating a fireside chat with Tron CEO Justin Sun next week at Pocket Gamer’s Blockchain Games Next event on March 19 at 2 p.m. at Bespoke in San Francisco. I’ll also be moderating a panel with Taehoon Kim at PAX East in Boston on March 28. Tron’s Roy Liu will also speak at our upcoming GamesBeat Summit 2019 event in Los Angeles on April 23-24.

Here’s an edited transcript of our panel.

Above: Tron gaming panel (left to right): Dean Takahashi, Taehoon Kim, Dan Chao, and Jared Psigoda.

Image Credit: James Zhang

Taehoon Kim: My name is Taehoon Kim. People call me TK. I’m the CEO of nWay. We make real games for emerging platforms, and the emerging platform now is blockchain, so that’s where we’re going now.

Dan Chao: I have a small team just half a block from here. We’ve been working on a blockchain game called Crypto Assault, which is a kind of strategy MMO, where hundreds of thousands of players all live in a world together deploying tanks and jets and killing each other.

Jared Psigoda: I’m the CEO of BitGuild. We’re a blockchain gaming company. We originally started building games on Ethereum, and later migrated to Tron. We also have Guild Chat, our social messenger, which allows you to trade crypto, get crypto coin drops. We have a bunch of other projects that we’re working on.

GamesBeat: Could you tell us what you’re doing in the realm of blockchain and games and crypto? Why are you here? What got your interested in blockchain?

Kim: I’ll step back and talk about the blockchain gaming ecosystem right now. Currently, the way I look at it, it’s mainly people who are already crypto holders. It’s people who have all these cryptocurrencies and they’re all trying to make money. It’s not necessarily the gamer crowd yet. Naturally, you see games that are more gambling-focused, pyramid scheme games, games that feel like lotteries. Real games haven’t yet arrived on blockchain.

We’re working closely with Tron to figure out how we can get more mass-market adoption. How do we get gamers into games that have blockchain elements for trading and real-world value in game items? We’re doing some R&D right now, and we’re also working on a separate game that brings a whole new experience for this type of genre.

Chao: Like a lot of people, CryptoKitties popped up on the radar for me and I was really interested. I’ve always loved hopping to a new platform to see if something relevant is there. When Facebook games, and subsequently mobile games, came out, that was very interesting. I love solving new problems and seeing–what is the value add for blockchain in games? Is there really something there? It was maybe last April that we started looking into making blockchain games, seeing if we could bring something a bit different from what we were seeing already.

Above: Dean Takahashi of GamesBeat (left) and Taehoon Kim of nWay.

Image Credit: Tron

Psigoda: I’ve been a hardcore gamer for as long as I can remember. Pretty much all the MMOs you can think of, I played them, from Ultima Online to EverQuest to World of Warcraft. All of the Diablos, everything like that. One of the interesting things I saw in those games was the one of the most fun things to do was to trade items with other players. If I’m playing Diablo as a mage and you’re a barbarian, if I pick up a really cool barbarian item—those games were all built around being able to trade items and trade currencies. Also, one of my first businesses was a World of Warcraft gold farm in China. The concept of virtual currencies being worth real money has been an obvious concept to me since I was 12 years old.

Once I saw blockchain come out, with the ability for these virtual tokens to have real value and for you to trade them frictionlessly through the blockchain, there was this eureka moment. Hey, we can make some really cool games that make us feel like we did in the ‘90s, when there was trading. It’s not like the mobile games there are now, where you just keep spending money yourself, but you can never trade your items with another player. It’s a pretty fascinating industry, and it’s just getting started. We wanted to be a part of it.

GamesBeat: Three to five years from now, the definition of success here might be that we get the CEOs of Electronic Arts and Activision and Ubisoft sitting up here talking about blockchain games. What’s going to get us to that kind of outcome, to that kind of future, where this meets its full potential?

Kim: It reminds me of the free-to-play business model. A long time ago the big publishers were laughing at it, saying it would never work, and now they’re all over it. It’s just a matter of time before they understand this.

Chao: What really gets us there is cracking the game design that actually works with blockchain. I’m not convinced we’ve seen it yet. What I always say to people is that my depressing outlook on blockchain in the future—if it’s just used to tokenize cosmetic skins in Fortnite, then that’s probably not the most exciting thing it can do. But also, finding a game design that’s not just gambling or a CCG, something like that, that’s going to be the real thing that breaks it wide open. Whether it’s something that looks like Roblox—there are a lot of things to think about. It’s going to have to be that game design that really cracks it open.

Above: BitGuild’s Bitizens

Image Credit: Bitguild

Psigoda: I agree. Our biggest problem right now, to be frank, is that most of the blockchain games that are being made suck. 2018 wasn’t too great of a year for blockchain games. It’s going to require time. As you mentioned, 10 years ago, when we were at the Game Developers Conference talking about this new thing called free-to-play games, where instead of going to Best Buy and spending $60 to buy a game, the game would be completely free, and you could just buy these items in the game for 99 cents or a couple of dollars—if you talked to Blizzard or Activision or EA or any of those companies back then, they’d say “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. We’ll never do anything like that.”

But if you look now at the entire mobile game industry, and a lot of the PC game industry, pretty much all of the most popular games are free to play with microtransactions. We found out that it’s more profitable to make a game free than to make people spend money for it up front. Fortnite does $10 million a day in revenue, something like that? When EA and those guys come back to talk in three years, new generations of game design are always done by the scraggly startups. They’re not done by the big guys. The big guys, if we’re lucky, will come in and buy us in a few years. Or we’ll buy them. [laughs]

Kim: The term “blockchain games” is going to disappear. Once we reach mass-market adoption, it’s just going to be games, and they’re going to have blockchain elements to them.

GamesBeat: What do you think of the choices you have to make now? Which platform do you choose, whether it’s Tron or EOS or others? What are some important things that you have to decide at the beginning? What decisions do you have to make right now about what to support?

Kim: If you’re making an app or game that’s exactly like what’s out there, obviously you go to Ethereum. But the reason we’re working with Tron is because they’re very forward-thinking. They’re working closely with us to make changes to the platform and create new experiences, lowering the barrier to entry for regular gamers. That’s the main reason we’re working with Tron.

Above: Crypto Assault

Image Credit: Rogue Nations Games

Chao: When we were first getting started, it came down to market cap and users. You wanted to pick the blockchain with the most users. But now that’s changing a bit. Obviously there are Tron and EOS, which support games in a great way. They’re really helping out with marketing and visibility. On the technical side, transactions per second is a big deal, as well as gas prices. Really optimizing for lower gas prices is super important.

But you have to weigh that with how much the users actually care about having the entire game on chain. For example, our game is actually mostly—99 percent is off chain. It’s like playing a normal game, with a centralized server. The units, the map, all the commands, all that stuff is on the server when they’re moving around. But the purchase of the units is all done on chain. Whenever a new unit is created, that’s also done on chain.

At first I was a bit nervous about users not being okay with that, but ultimately it doesn’t really seem like they care. They just want to play a fun game, and then they want to get some amount of their investment out of it. That’s a kind of long-winded way of saying, does transaction speed matter? Once transaction speed gets down to under a second, can you start to do everything on chain, and is that really still the right choice? Obviously there’s the gas cost there. There’s also a lot to do with seed funding. Some of the other ecosystems like Tron are helping out in that manner too. That can be very important when you’re starting a new business.

Above: BitGuild’s ecosystem

Image Credit: BitGuild

Psigoda: For us, I’ll summarize it in two points. The first point, as mentioned, is the question of centralization versus decentralization. I think it was CryptoKitties that had an interesting data point, that 99 percent of their traffic or something like that left their website when they saw they needed to install MetaMask to play the game. I’m not of the opinion that absolutely everything needs to be decentralized, because in the long run what players care about is playing a good game. It’s not about our grand vision of decentralized products.

Number two, again, is the choice of your blockchain. As I mentioned, we started out on Ethereum. We launched seven or eight games on Ethereum. To us, it was not acceptable to spend a dollar in transaction fees to buy an item that cost 50 cents, and then wait five minutes for the transaction to go through. The decision came down to which blockchain was really going to be able to support games. EOS was one of them. Tron was one of them. We thought very hard about both of them. They’re both fast. They both have little to no transaction fee.

Justin Sun is the founder of Tron. He also started Peiwo

Above: Justin Sun is the founder of Tron. He also started Peiwo and has been named to the Forbes 30 under 30 lists for Asia and China.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

The main deciding factor in why we chose to move to Tron was the community. There are many blockchains now where you can say they’re technically able to run a blockchain game. They have fast transaction speeds and so on. But the bigger question is, who is going to play those games? Those games are being played with the token of that blockchain. Tron games are being played with TRX. If you have another blockchain that technically solves your problem, but they have 200 holders of their token, then you don’t have a community to play your game.

We found out, with Tron—we’ve had the greatest support from the Tron foundation as well as the community, and there are a lot of people in the Tron community who really want to figure out more ways to use their tokens. Gaming has been one of the most obvious ways for them to do that.

GamesBeat: We all remember how important whales were in the free-to-play space, for mobile games and social games. The community with a lot of whales, maybe, is the one you want to be attracted to.

Psigoda: Tron has some whales, yeah.

GamesBeat: If you apply your imagination to it, what could happen with blockchain games? I didn’t think that much about blockchain and crypto until I talked to Tim Sweeney of Epic Games. He said that this could be the way we get to the metaverse, the virtual world of virtual worlds that comes up in stories like Snow Crash or Ready Player One. Is that one of the end goals that you think is possible?

Psigoda: Again, most people have probably seen Ready Player One. If you haven’t, I’d recommend it. When we talk about the metaverse, we’re almost thinking of a life in the future where we spend a significant amount of our time inside of virtual worlds. I’d almost argue that we’re partially there. The reason I say that is, sometimes, if we stop and think and look around at how many of us are glued to our screens every day, whether that’s your mobile phone or your computer or a tablet—just get on a subway sometime and look around you. When 99 percent of the people in a room are staring at a mobile phone screen, are they really here, or are they somewhere out there?

Adding on to that, in the future—we talk about things like how artificial intelligence is going to lead to far fewer jobs in certain industries like manufacturing. Even doctors, in the future, could be replaced by AI. Adding virtual reality to that, how virtual reality has evolved over the years, we’re looking at a possible picture some time in the future where all of us, or a significant portion of the population, spends a lot of time inside of virtual reality, or inside of these virtual worlds.

What will happen is that there are going to be people who earn their livings inside virtual spaces. People have done this in games like Second Life or Entropia Universe or EVE Online for years. In my opinion, blockchain is going to enable assets you acquire in these video games or virtual worlds—you’ll be able to convert those directly into a hamburger at your local McDonald’s. Items you acquire in these metaverses or virtual worlds, through the power of blockchain, are going to be translatable into real money in the real world. Nothing else other than blockchain can make that happen.

Kobe Bryant made an appearance along with Tron founder Justin Sun at the NiTron Summit.

Above: Kobe Bryant made an appearance along with Tron founder Justin Sun at the NiTron Summit.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Chao: I’d say maybe don’t watch Ready Player One. Maybe save yourself two hours there. [laughs] But that’s not my point. My point is, I’m a gamer first. I’m not a blockchain utopian thinker. I don’t think it’s going to solve everything. My thing that I really wonder about—blockchain items, in order for them to have value, we can’t give them away for free. There has to be some initial cost in order to acquire these items.

Currently we have games—whether you’re sitting there in ARK or Minecraft or whatever, punching a tree getting wood out of it, that wood comes for free, right? If that eventually gets crafted up into an item, it’s going to be hard for that item to be worth something, because all that wood comes out of a non-zero-sum economy. That’s where I think, whether it’s the metaverse or whatever—that’s going to be the hard part to crack. Are we all going to be okay with an economy where we get nickeled and dimed for every single resource and item we create?That’s why I think this works really well with cosmetic items, but it has a hard time working with functional items, at least from a business standpoint.

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17Mar 2019

Longtime Kingwood Travel owner sells business to Frosch Travel – Houston Chronicle


After 41 years of serving the Kingwood community with world-class travel ventures, Kingwood Travel is now has new ownership and a new location.

Kingwood Travel, which is now owned by Frosch Travel, is now located in the Galleria area at 1 Greenway Plaza Ste. 800, Houston. All Kingwood Travel employees will work from the new location and clients will still receive the same services as before.

Kingwood Travel Owner Sharon Lewis said that after 41 years of serving the Kingwood community with various world adventures, it was a hard decision to sell the business to Frosch as part of a two year buyout program.

Hurricane Harvey created an incentive for Lewis to sell — she sustained flood damage to her home and her business.

One Lewis’s biggest accomplishments for Kingwood Travel was setting up Exxon Mobile’s annual retirement trip. Aside from her professional accomplishments, Lewis is been involved in several charities such as Mothers Against Cancer and organizations such as the Kingwood Rotary Club. She has also donated trips to several local causes.

“I’m still sad about it. I have a lot of close friends here and they’ve supported me all these years, and I appreciate that,” Lewis said. “We’ve (given) a lot of memories to people with nice trips.”

Kingwood Travel’s previous location on Kingwood Drive will be leased out to a new company.

For the next two years Lewis will still be working remotely as an independent travel agent for Frosch before she retires. Lewis can be reached at sharon@kingwoodtravel.net or sharon.lewis@frosch.com.

kaila.contreras@chron.com

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17Mar 2019

New study highlights just how bad Americans are with credit cards – Yahoo Finance


A new study details how Americans manage credit cards and how stressful credit debt can be.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Commissioned by Clever Real Estate and conducted by online polling software Pollfish, the report looked at 1,000 survey responses of Americans who owned at least one credit card.” data-reactid=”16″>Commissioned by Clever Real Estate and conducted by online polling software Pollfish, the report looked at 1,000 survey responses of Americans who owned at least one credit card.

“The most shocking find to me was how many Americans carry credit card balances month to month,” Tommy O’Shaughnessy, an analyst at Clever Real Estate Analyst and the author of the report, told Yahoo Finance.

Nearly half of the respondents (47%) carried some amount of credit card debt month to month, according to the survey, with 72% of borrowers carrying more than $1,000.

“With the average 17.64% APR, that debt compounds quickly and can become unmanageable for lower income families,” O’Shaughnessy noted.

A customer uses a card to pay for her items at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2009. (Photo: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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A customer uses a card to pay for her items at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2009. (Photo: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Half of Americans carry credit card balances over $1,000” data-reactid=”40″>Half of Americans carry credit card balances over $1,000

“We embarked on this study because credit building is such an important part of the home buying process,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We also wanted to know if credit card debt would impact major life purchases like home buying.”

About 38% of respondents said that credit card debt has stopped them from making a big life purchase — which could include things like buying a home or a car. The survey also found that credit card debt “ranks as the most stressful debt” for Americans.

(Source: Clever Real Estate)(Source: Clever Real Estate)

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(Source: Clever Real Estate)

About 28% of the borrowers had missed a monthly payment — the biggest reason being that they simply forgot. And 41% of respondents didn’t even know the interest rate on their card.

Interestingly, 62% of younger credit card users between the ages of 18 and 34 were were found to have regularly paid off their credit cards each month — as compared to only 48% of older generations.

(Source: Clever Real Estate)(Source: Clever Real Estate)

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(Source: Clever Real Estate)

<h2 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Big data and lending” data-reactid=”85″>Big data and lending

And in the near future, consumers may soon find their credit score determined by big data — which could boost those with lower scores and stimulate further loan growth, according to a report by Moody’s.

The report said that consumer loan underwriters could soon use big data to “identify lifetime events that create specific financial needs for existing clients, like marriages, births and first jobs (related to the need of vehicle or housing) to pre-approve loans.

O’Shaughnessy recognized this trend.

“With the amount of data being collected about you every day, there are so many factors data scientists,” O’Shaughnessy said. “It’s a little troubling for consumers, because exactly what determines your credit score will become more opaque.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="In any case, as consumer loan delinquencies and interest rate payments rise further, “the clock is ticking,” Deutsche Bank’s chief international economist Torsten Slok recently told Yahoo Finance.” data-reactid=”90″>In any case, as consumer loan delinquencies and interest rate payments rise further, “the clock is ticking,” Deutsche Bank’s chief international economist Torsten Slok recently told Yahoo Finance.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.” data-reactid=”91″>Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Read more:” data-reactid=”92″>Read more:

  • Elizabeth Warren torches consumer protection head for not protecting consumers

  • ‘People are drowning’: CFPB official who resigned calls out Trump administration in Congressional testimony

  • ‘The clock is ticking’ on U.S. consumer loans — and that could mean a slowdown, Deutsche Bank warns

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, LinkedIn, YouTube, and reddit.” data-reactid=”97″>Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, LinkedIn, YouTube, and reddit.

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