Review: GoDaddy Premium DNS

I have tried Premium DNS for about a year and a half now. Here is  my take on Premium DNS.

Probably the main feature of the Premium DNS Service is DNSSEC.   DNSSEC offers an assurance to nameservers that the information provided by the registrar is legitimate.  With DNSSEC, DNS data between servers can be digitally signed, or authenticated.  Not all namesevers observes DNSSEC, however prominent ones like Google’s DNS do observe DNSSEC.   If DNS data cannot be authenticated for a particular domain, the nameserver may not resolve for the domain at all. This is the case for Google DNS.

Again, not all nameservers uses DNSSEC.  So even if the DNS data for a domain cannot be authenticated, these servers will still resolve for the domain.  However, in Google’s case, the server will not resolve if the DNS cannot be authenticated.

The service also offers vanity nameservers but I don’t value this feature all that much. Basically, this service gives the perception to the public that you have a full-blown corporate network.

If you maintain your own server or GoDaddy is your hosting provider and your domain is registered with GoDaddy, this service may be worth it.  This service is not recommended for those who have hosting with another provider, such as Namecheap.  Even though it is possible to configure the Premium DNS Service to point to a Namecheap server, the problem is when Namecheap decides to move your cPanael account to a different server.  When Namecheap moves accounts to a different server, they’ll only update their nameservers.  You have to manually update Premium DNS so that your domains points to the correct server.

This is what happened to me.  Namecheap gave me a complimentary upgrade to my hosting.  What I didn’t realize was that it meant moving my hosting to a different server.  A different server meant a different IP address.   When the migration occurred one morning, my Premium DNS service was still pointing to the old IP address which was now the wrong IP address.  As a result, my email server went dark to the rest of the world because my email server moved to a different address.  Later that day, I realized what was going on, so I configured the premium DNS to the new IP address.  I was on a trip that day, so I was trying to configure my DNS records using my tablet!

It is a good idea to have the hosting and nameserver maintained by the same provider. When the hosting and nameserver have different providers, you have keep them in sync.

Earlier I mentioned that the service may be worth it if you have your domain registered with GoDaddy because it supports DNSSEC.  However, very few registrars supports DNSSEC.  If you can disable DNSSEC so that you can use non-DNSSEC-supported registrars.

The uptime is OK. For instance, for a 3 month period, for one of their nameservers, pdns06, the worst-case availability rate was 99.98%, the worst-case down time was 32 minutes, and worst-case number of down times was 6.  Another nameserver, pdns05, did not fair too well, it had numbers of 99.42%, 13 hours, and 75 times respectively.

The response time is around 26 ms.

Also, if you’re going to use DNSSEC, make sure DNSSEC is working correctly.  Use to check DNSSEC for your domain.  The DNSSEC feature can get screwed up.  For instance if you turn off Premium DNS, you have to remove the DS records, otherwise there will be authentication problems.

Canadian GST/HST/PST explained for the American

My business is based in Phoenix Arizona and I sell my product in Canada through and  There wasn’t a web site that I can find that explained the Canadian tax system, so I ended up learning how the Canadian taxes worked by calling the tax agencies in Canada.

So here is a primer on the Canadian tax system:


GST stands for the Goods and Services Tax.  Practically this is the sales tax for the whole country of Canada.  This is the base tax rate of taxable goods in Canada.  If a good is taxable, GST is imposed on it.  Currently, the GST rate is 5%.  So if an item is taxable, at least there is a 5% tax rate on it.  GST is colleted by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).


PST stands for Provincial Sales Tax.  Each province can impose a PST on top of the GST.  In Quebec, they called it QST.


HST stands for the Harmonized Sales Tax.  Before HST, taxable items were imposed a GST and PST.  Later on, somebody had an idea to consolidate, or “harmonize”, the GST and PST and called it HST.  HST is collected by the CRA.

Note that the HST rate differs from province to province.  Provinces can set the PST portion of the HST and that makes the HST differ from province to province.  Even though the province sets the PST of the HST, the CRA still collects the HST.

Current State

Not all provinces participated in the HST system.  They use the old style of taxation, GST and PST, or just GST.  They are called the non-participating provinces.

The provinces that participated in the HST system are called the participating provinces.

CRA collects GST and HST.  PST that is not part of the HST is collected by the province.  CRA can only answer questions relating to GST and HST.  Questions about non-HST PST should refer to the provinces.  So in a participating province, HST is collected by CRA.  In a non-participating province, CRA collects the GST and the province collects the PST, if any.

IHG Rewards System

Here is my take on the IHG Reward system. I stay at Holiday Inn a lot, so I am somewhat familiar with how the points can be earned and how to use them. I figure it might be worthwhile to read my take particularly if you have plans to stay Holiday Inn a lot.

Things you need

There are two things you’ll want to need: a Chase IHG Rewards Club Select credit card and an AAA membership card.

Chase IHG Rewards Club Select card

You don’t need this credit card to earn points but can earn more points using the card at Holiday Inns than without it.

As of this writing, the credit has the following features:

  • Earn 60,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
  • Earn 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels.
  • Earn 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants
  • Earn 1 point per dollar for all other purchases.
  • $0 introductory annual fee, then $49 per year.
  • 10% rebate on IHG reward club redemptions
  • Annual free night worldwide
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Platinum Elite Status

The one thing that should compel you to get the card is the one free night per year and the $49 annual fee. Basically, you would be getting a room for $49. Though I haven’t done this, I heard you could book the most expensive room you can find by using the annual free night.

There is one little catch and it is that you have use the card throughout the year or Chase can terminate your credit card due to inactivity. (I have had a bank terminate a non-IHG credit card due to inactivity.) I don’t know how often you need to use the card. For me, I only use the card for hotel bookings and I still have the card.

 AAA membership

If you’re the type of person who wants to book a room with no cancellation fees (the ability to cancel without a charge at least two days prior to check-in), get an AAA membership card. The reason is that AAA rates comes with no cancellation fees and are cheaper than the Best Flexible rate, which carries no cancellation fees as well.

When you book a room online, however, you may not see AAA rates even listed. They are there. If you don’t see the AAA rates, go the Rate Preference drop-down box, select AAA/CAA rate, and select the Apply button. Now you should see the AAA rate if the location offers it.

When you go to through E-bates, you’re not going to have the option to see AAA/CAA rate in the Rate Preference drop-down box.

How to earn points

Important note: The following is useful if you have both AAA membership and an IHG credit card.

Do not pay $5 for 1000 points

For the uninitiated, some Holiday Inn locations offer a special deal for the Best Flexible Rate. For $5 per night more, you can earn 1000 extra points per night.

If you qualify for AAA rates, go for the AAA rates and bypass the Best Flexible Rates even if they include the 1000 points for $5. In most cases, you’re better off going with the AAA rate.

Plus, the price differential between the AAA rate and Flexible+1000 point rate is more than $5. For instance, at Holiday Inn Old Town San Diego, you can get a one queen bedroom for an AAA rate of $144.99 per night. The Best Flexible Rate is $149.99 per night. Tack on the $5 for 1000 points and the room rate becomes $154.99 per night. Practically, you would be spending $10 for 1000 points per night.

Later on, I’ll show you why AAA rate is the better deal.

Per Night vs Per Stay

Know the difference between these two terms. Per Night means just that – per one night. Per Stay refers to the entire stay at the hotel and that can mean 1 night, 2 consecutive nights, or 100 consecutive nights, etc.

That being said, this topic segues to the next topic.

When to take the bonus 5000, 10000, and so forth offers.

Sometimes the Best Flexible Rate comes with a deal like 5,000 bonus points per stay for like $15. The dollar amount is the per-night dollar amount added to the rate.

For instance, at Holiday Inn San Diego, the Flexible rate is $169.99 but you can get 5,000 per stay for $13 per night. So if you stay two nights, you can get 5,000 bonus points for your two-night stay for $182.99 per night. If you stay 10 nights, you would get 5,000 bonus points for the whole 10-night stay for $182.99 per night.  It does not matter how many nights there are in your stay, you only going to get 5,000 bonus for the entire stay.

Now there are deals like 5,000 for $10 to $25 per night at some hotels.  There is even a hotel that had 10,000 for $25 per night.  These per-night bonuses are worth it.

Here is my rule:  If there is a per-night bonus of 5,000 points or more for around $25 per night, take it.   If you’re offered a 5,000 or 10,000 points for $10 to $25 per stay and your staying one night, take the offer. Otherwise, forget the bonus points.

If you absolutely know for sure that you’ll be at the hotel…

The next best rate after the one-night stay with the 5,000 bonus points is the Book Early & Save rate. The catch is that it is a non-refundable rate.

For instance, for Holiday Inn San Diego Old Town, the Book Early rate is $131.99 per night.

When to redeem points

Before I mention my personal rule to redeeming points, let me explain what I do first.

I plan about six months ahead and I book refundable rooms at AAA rates. After the booking the rooms, I know the range of room rates that I’ll pay. As of this writing, the range is from $90 per night to about $134 per night. Afterwards, I look for hotels that offer 15,000 points per night.

As of this writing, the hotels that offer the 15,000 per night are slightly off-the-beaten path than where I want to be. However, I might be willing to go the extra mile to save money. Practically, I would be trying to save $130 per night for 15,000 points per night.

So here is my current rule: Try to find 15,000 point per night rooms that will replace the high-rate rooms. If the 15,000 point room is off-the-beaten path, then determine if it is worth going to the extra mile to save money.

What redemption rate to use

For the uninitiated, there are three options to redeeming points for rooms. You can pay for a room using only points, you can pay for a room using points plus $40, or you can pay for a room using points plus $70.

The following is an example:

15,000 points

10,000 points + $40

5,000 points + $70

So what is the best option?

The best options are in this order:

  1. 5,000 points + $40
  2. 10,000 points
  3. 5,000 points + $70
  4. Toss-up between 15,000 points and 10,000 points + $40
  5. Toss-up between 20,000 points, 15,000 points + $40, and 10,000 + $70.
  6. 25,000 points
  7. 20,000 points + $40
  8. 20,000 points + $70

This list of options are based on calculations.

The math behind the madness

One of the difficult things is trying to put a dollar value to a point. The point is like a currency with a varying earning rates and redemption rates.

Here is a breakdown of earning points at Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express.

  • 10 points per dollar spent for a night stay at Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express
  • 50% bonus points for the night stay if you’re a Platinum member.
  • 5 points per dollar spent if you use the IHG credit card for the night stay.
  • Points from IHG Rewards Club are not accrued from paying taxes such occupancy tax, city tax, and state tax. However, points from using the credit card does accrue from such taxes.

The following is a table that I calculated using a spreadsheet. The scenario is the following:

If you were to stay at a same hotel at the same room for X amount dollars until you exhausted all your money and points, the practical room rate is the how much you would practically spend per night. For example, if you had $10,000 to spend for the same room at the same rate and you redeemed earned points for rooms using the 5,000 point + $0 redemption option, you would stay a total of 79.57 nights and the room rate would break down to $125.68 per night.


Location: Holiday Inn Express – San Diego
AAA Rate: 136.62
Total Cost: 151.53
Est. Points Earned: 2776
Spending budget: $10,000
redeemed points added cost nights spent practical room rate per night
35,000 $0 71.81 $139.25
30,000 $40 70.86 $141.13
25,000 $70 70.14 $142.57
30,000 $0 72.78 $137.40
25,000 $40 71.80 $139.28
20,000 $70 71.11 $140.63
25,000 $0 74.14 $134.88
20,000 $40 73.19 $136.62
15,000 $70 72.66 $137.62
20,000 $0 76.18 $131.28
15,000 $40 75.47 $132.50
10,000 $70 75.58 $132.30
15,000 $0 79.57 $125.68
10,000 $40 79.85 $125.23
5,000 $70 83.05 $120.42
10,000 $0 86.36 $115.80
5,000 $40 91.77 $108.97


As you can see, the best option to use is the 5,000 + $40 option.

The following is an example why 1,000 bonus points per night for $5 per night is not worth it. Except for the 5,000 + $40 option, you would get fewer nights.

Location: Holiday Inn Express – San Diego
Flexible Rate: 145.95
Bonus: 1,000 per night for $5 per night
Total Cost: $169.91
Est. Points Earned: 4,113
Spending budget: $10,000
redeemed points added cost nights spent practical room rate per night
35,000 $0 66.54 $150.28
30,000 $40 65.47 $152.73
25,000 $70 64.74 $154.47
30,000 $0 67.82 $147.44
25,000 $40 66.74 $149.83
20,000 $70 66.08 $151.32
25,000 $0 69.62 $143.65
20,000 $40 68.61 $145.74
15,000 $70 68.22 $146.57
20,000 $0 72.31 $138.30
15,000 $40 71.65 $139.57
10,000 $70 72.17 $138.57
15,000 $0 76.79 $130.23
10,000 $40 77.43 $129.16
5,000 $70 81.84 $122.19
10,000 $0 85.76 $116.61
5,000 $40 92.71 $107.87


The following is why it is worth getting the bonus points if you’re staying one night. The following assumes that the person can check-in and check-out every night so that 5,000 per stay becomes 5,000 per night. The following example is fictitious but uses a tax rate comparable to taxes found in San Diego.

Location: Fictitious Holiday Inn in San Diego
Flexible Rate: $145.95
Bonus: 5,000 per stay for $10 per night
Total Cost per night: $175.54
Est. Points Earned: 8,216
Spending budget: $10,000
redeemed points added cost nights spent practical room rate per night
35,000 $0 71.83 $139.22
30,000 $40 69.49 $143.91
25,000 $70 67.89 $147.31
30,000 $0 74.31 $134.58
25,000 $40 71.80 $139.28
20,000 $70 70.20 $142.46
25,000 $0 77.77 $128.58
20,000 $40 75.16 $133.06
15,000 $70 73.74 $135.61
20,000 $0 82.97 $120.52
15,000 $40 80.48 $124.25
10,000 $70 79.89 $125.17
15,000 $0 91.64 $109.12
10,000 $40 90.21 $110.85
5,000 $70 93.16 $107.35
10,000 $0 108.98 $91.76
5,000 $40 113.69 $87.96


The following is an example that the Book Early & Save rate is better than the AAA rate but not as good as the one-night with 5,000 bonus points per stay rate:

Location: Holiday Inn Express – San Diego
Book Early & Save rate: $127.62
Bonus: None
Total Cost per night: $143.65
Est. Points Earned: 2,632
Spending budget: $10,000
redeemed points added cost nights spent practical room rate per night
35,000 $0 75.43 $132.57
30,000 $40 74.38 $134.44
25,000 $70 73.56 $135.93
30,000 $0 76.40 $130.89
25,000 $40 75.31 $132.79
20,000 $70 74.49 $134.25
25,000 $0 77.76 $128.60
20,000 $40 76.67 $130.42
15,000 $70 75.97 $131.63
20,000 $0 79.80 $125.32
15,000 $40 78.90 $126.74
10,000 $70 78.75 $126.98
15,000 $0 83.19 $120.21
10,000 $40 83.20 $120.19
5,000 $70 85.86 $116.47
10,000 $0 89.98 $111.14
5,000 $40 94.88 $105.39






Canon 5D Mark III Memory Write Speeds

I recently bought a Canon 5D Mark III body on the cheap for $2699 from a Canon authorized dealer during the 2013 holidays.   I also got camera goodies to go with it.  Free shipping.  It was too good to pass up.  I had a Canon 50D for about 5 years and it was having mechanical problems, so it was time to move up.

There was one issue that I read about and it was about the write speed for the SD card.  The write speed for compact flash was good, but SD card write speed was subpar.  So out of curiosity, I did some write speed measurements from my 40D, 50D, and 5D Mark III and see how they looked.  I had a handful of memory cards, not many, so this is not an extensive test.


To setup, I set to manual mode, set the shutter speed to 1/8000 sec, and set the drive mode to high speed.  I set the image format to RAW.  (I photograph RAW all the time.)  I format the flash memory for each card.  I left the camera lens cover on, so there is no lens attached to the camera.

To test, I held the shutter button down for 30 seconds.  After 30 seconds, I monitor the red light on the camera.  Once the light is off, I log the time.


Canon 40D

Compact Flash # of shutters Time (sec) Total Bytes Write Speed (MB/sec)
Lexar Professional 64GB 1066x 49 38 431,526,421 10.8
Lexar Professional 64GB 1000x 49 38 431,544,418 10.8
Duracell Pro Photo 32GB 600x 47 40 422,914,089 10.1
Lexar Professional 8GB 300x 46 40 413,916,208 9.9
RiData Lightning Series 32GB 233x 40 42 359,952,888 8.2
RiData Lightning 16GB 233x 41 43 368,910,272 8.2
Kingston Ultimate 16GB 266x 46 40 413,910,593 9.9


Canon 50D

Compact Flash # of Shutters Time (sec) Total Bytes Write Speed (MB/sec)
Lexar Professional 64GB 1066x 105 34 1,699,319,781 47.7
Lexar Professional 64GB 1000x 111 34 1,723,978,375 48.4
Duracell Pro Photo 32GB 600x 53 44 837,474,530 18.2
Lexar Professional 8GB 300x 69 38 1,090,239,240 27.4
RiData Lightning Series 32GB 233x 50 43 789,865,187 17.5
RiData Lightning Series 16GB 233x 53 44 837,224,823 18.1
Kingston Ultimate 16GB 266x 47 45 742,417,602 15.7


Canon 5D Mark III

Flash Memory Type # of Shutters Time (sec) Total Bytes Write Speed (MB/sec)
Lexar Professional 64GB 1066x CF 138 33 3,147,136,648 95.3
Lexar Professional 64GB 1000x CF 138 33 3,146,455,481 95.3
Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB CF 138 33 3,146,779,170 95.3
Duracell Pro Photo 32GB 600x CF 48 42 1,113,530,223 25.3
Lexar Professional 8GB 300x CF 64 38 1,484,841,046 37.3
RiData Lightning Series 32GB 233x CF 43 43 997,486,322 22.1
RiData Lightning Series 16GB 233x CF 44 44 1,020,629,518 22.1
Kingston Ultimate 16GB 266x CF 37 48 858,341,337 17.1
Kingston 32GB SD 27 61 615,675,325 9.6
Patriot Signature 64GB MicroSD OEM Micro SD 27 58 615,666,701 10.1
PNY 64GB microSDXC Class10 UHS-1 Micro SD 34 49 774,943,851 15.1
Sandisk Extreme Pro SDXC UHS-I 64GB SD 41 45 934,784,686 20.8


Flash Card Reader

I decided to measure the read/write speeds by using a Transcend USB 3.0 card reader.  I used the ATTO Disk Benchmark with the Direct I/O setting, the Neither setting, and a transfer size of 8192KB.  The following are the results:

Flash Card Type Write Speed (MB/sec) Read Speed (MB/sec)
Lexar Professional 64GB 1066x CF 126.9 145.9
Lexar Professional 64GB 1000x CF 126.3 148.9
Duracell Pro Photo 32GB 600x CF 38.5 89.5
Lexar Professional 8GB 300x CF 47.3 43.3
RiData Lightning Series 32GB 233x CF 23.6 45.4
RiData Lightning Series 16GB 233x CF 24.0 45.3
Kingston Ultimate 16GB 266x CF 38.4 48.4
Kingston 32GB SD 10.4 23.1
Patriot Signature 64GB MicroSD OEM micro SD 15.3 46.9
PNY 64GB microSDXC Class10 UHS-1 micro SD 21.6 87.4
Sandisk Extreme Pro SDXC UHS-I 64GB SD 90.8 96.9


Review: GoDaddy cPanel Hosting

This is an update from an original post. Back then my web sites were hosted at GoDaddy. Now my web sites are at Namecheap.


I switched from a non-cPanel hosting plan in GoDaddy to a cPanel hosting plan in GoDaddy.  I needed extra CPU processing power for my web site which is a photography non-Wordpress Imagevue web site.  It uses mostly php and flash.  I outgrew from the non-cPanel Economy plan.  I also have two WordPress sites.

I did some shopping for hosting.  I was primarily looking for an inexpensive plan and good reputable name.  It came down to two hosting providers: GoDaddy and BlueHost.  GoDaddy had a special going at a rate of $4.49 per month for the Deluxe plan.  BlueHost had a special going for $3.99 per month for a 3 year term.  I chose GoDaddy because as a customer I was already familiar with them.  Plus I didn’t want to get locked in a 3 year term with BlueHost which I was not familiar with.  The GoDaddy rate of $4.49 was good for any yearly term whether it was 1, 2, or 3 years.  Also, I could cancel the plan GoDaddy Deluxe plan anytime and get an in-store credit.  I think BlueHost had a 30-day money back guarantee and then after that you’re locked in for the term.

The GoDaddy special does offer a free domain with the Deluxe plan.  I opted out because the free domain does not include free private registration.  The private registration is extra.

If you want to switch to GoDaddy cPanel, you’ll need a few things.  If you don’t already have one, get FileZilla.  Also, if you use BitDefender Internet Security, consider going with another Internet Security Suite.  There is one feature with cPanel that you might want to use but BitDefender will block it.  I went with Kaspersky.

Even though I was switching plans within GoDaddy using the same domain, I had to manually migrate my files from one server to another.  I had to download all the files from the old server to my computer, and then upload the files to the new server.  Same domain, but just different plans.  Going from non-cPanel to cPanel is a switch to a different plan, not an upgrade from an existing plan.  If it was an upgrade, GoDaddy would have migrated the files to the new plan.  But since it is a totally new plan, I had to migrate the files myself.

The download was quick.  Then I switched the domain from the old plan to the new plan.  By switching, all the files in the old server was deleted.  The domain switch from my old plan to the new plan was pretty quick like 5 minutes.   Then I uploaded the files to the new plan.  I had about 1.5GB of files and the uploading took overnight.

About the upload, cPanel has a couple new features for uploading, sftp and web disk.  There is plain FTP but if you’re concerned with security use sftp or web disk.  With plain FTP, your password is exposed.

If you want to use web disk, don’t use BitDefender.  I could not get web disk to connect with BitDefeneder firewall running.  With the firewall disabled, I got the connection.  There did not seem to be a setting to open specific ports in BitDefender.  So I switched to Kaspersky.  I already had an active Kaspersky license so I tried it.  And web disk worked.

Sftp is a bit tricky.  If you’re not familiar with sftp, you have to enter your IP address in cPanel in order to get the sftp connection.  Otherwise, you’re not going to get the connection.  To set you IP address, on your cPanel page, go to the Security category and click on SSH/Shell Access.  You’ll be prompted for an IP address.  To lookup your IP address, go to

If you have tons of data (I had 1.5 GB), use sftp instead of web disk.  I read that sftp is faster then web disk.

How to Hide Your Sub-Domains from your Main Domain

If you have more than one domain and you’re new to cPanel, there is one detail that might be of interest.  In cPanel, when you add the first domain, it is your main domain.  When you add a second and subsequent domains, they are sub-domains to the main domain.  As a result, if is your first and main domain and is your second and sub-domain, then you can access from by using  Moreover, you can access by using the URL notation

If you want to keep the relationship between the main and sub-domains invisible to the Internet, you’re going to need to do a few things.  First, you’re going to need to modify .htaccess for both the main domain and the sub-domain. Add the following code in the .htaccess files for both domains:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^(www.)?$ [NC]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} ^/*)$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ – [L,R=404]

Replace and with your main domain and sub-domain.  Add the code in /home/username/public_html/.htaccess and /home/username/public_html/  If one of your domains is a WordPress site, there might be tons of code in the .htacess file.  Just add the code at the bottom of the .htaccess file.

By modifying .htacess, you’re preventing from occurring.  The server should return a 404 code.

Second, check your DNS records for the main domain.  In cPanel, go to DNS Manager.  In Godaddy, you should be in the Standard DNS dashboard.  Select the edit zone link for your main domain.  Look in the A (Host) category.  Under host, if you don’t see your sub-domain, then your sub-domain cannot be reached using the notation.  If you do see your sub-domain, then you can reach your sub-domain in the notation.  If you don’t want your sub-domain to be reached by your main domain, delete the record.  In GoDaddy, just select the record and click on the Delete button.

Third, turn off directory indexing from you main domain so that a directory listing cannot be made from your main domain.  If a listing occurs, your sub-directories to your sub-domains can be exposed from you main domain.  To turn off directory indexing, go to Index Manager in cPanel.  Select /public_html/, then select No Indexing, and then click on Save.  Also, check if there an index file like index.html, index.php, etc in the public_html directory.  If there is an index file, that’s good.  There is a strange server rule that if there is no index file the server returns the directory listing.

If you want to check if someone can get a directory listing, go to  Enter your main domain in the left box and select Directory Browsing Test in the right box and see if it can get a directory listing.

That is about it.  All your sub-domains should be separate from the main domain from the view of the Internet.

How to port your WordPress site to GoDaddy cPanel

Before you port, backup your database first and then backup all your WordPress files to your host computer.

Create your addon or main domain on cPanel.  A sub-directory should be created for the web site.  Upload all the files to the sub-directory.

Then go to MySQL Database in the cPanel page.  Create a new database for the web site by entering a name and press Create Database.  Add a new user for the database.  Under Add User to Database, associate the new user to the new database and press Add.  In the next page, select all privileges.

Go back to cPanel and select phpMyAdmin.  Select the Databases tab.  Select the database that you just created.  Now click on the Import tab.  Click on the Browse button and select the database that you backed-up earlier.  It is important that you select your created database first then select Import.  If you import without selecting a database, you’ll get an error.

After the import is done, go back to cPanel and go to the File Manager.  Go to the sub-domain sub-directory and edit the file wp-config.php.  Change DB_NAME, DB_USER, and DB_PASSWORD to the database name, database username, and database user password respectively.  Change DB_HOST to ‘localhost’.

That should be it.  Your WordPress site should be up and running.

Don’t forget to modify the .htaccess file.

Migrating your email to cPanel

cPanel email is pretty good.  cPanel supports IMAP which was add-on in the old email plans.  I am not sure but GoDaddy says that the mailbox is limited to 500 MB, but when I set the file size limits of the mailbox I set it to unlimited.  I’ll see if my mailbox maxes out at 500 MB or not.

Setting up the mailbox is pretty straightforward.  The only glitch I had is switching from the old email plan to cPanel within GoDaddy.  The MX records were not set to cPanel when I setup my cPanel mailbox, so I had to set them.  If you domain is outside of GoDaddy, just point your nameservers to GoDaddy.  GoDaddy sets up the DNS records correctly for non-GoDaddy domains.

cPanel supports email forwarding and the importation of emailing data.  This is great if you lots of forwarding addresses.  If you can, try to see if you can export the email data in your old plan.  The exported data can be in CSV format.  If you can, then you can probably import them in cPanel.  If you are going to do this, there one thing that you should know.  If you’re importing email addresses from one domain, importing is not a problem.  But if your exported data contains forwarding addresses from more than one domain, you have break up your data by domain by using a spreadsheet.  This is because cPanel can only import forwarding addresses one domain at a time.  If you try to import data from many domains, you’ll need to specify which domain the addresses refers to and once you set it and import data, all the address will be refer to the specified domain.  For instance, let’s say you have and  When you import, you’ll need to specify a domain that both addresses refers to.  So if you chose, cPanel will create forwarding addresses for and  The address will not be imported.

Changing your DNS Records

If you had a non-cPanel hosting plan with GoDaddy and switched to a cPanel hosting plan with GoDaddy, you’re going to need the change your DNS records.  GoDaddy does change your DNS records when you migrate to cPanel, but not all the records.  I had to change my MX records from my old email plan to the cPanel hosting plan.

Here is the link to change your DNS records: There is one setting that I had a problem with. In the link, GoDaddy recommends creating a CNAME record for mail. I, instead, created an A record for mail. Having an MX record point to a CNAME is a violation of RFC2181. Having an MX record point to an A record, instead of a CNAME record, didn’t seem to have an adverse effect on cPanel.

If you have your domain registered somewhere else, all you have to do is just change your nameserver settings to point to the GoDaddy nameserver.  When you create an AddOn or Parked Domain on cPanel, a DNS record for that domain is created in the DNS manager with a GoDaddy nameserver assigned to it.  Just copy the nameserver settings to the nameserver setting for your non-GoDaddy-registered domain.


Email Authentication

In an earlier post, I described email authentication because GoDaddy supported it. Now, they don’t. Now that they don’t, there is not much to write about email authentication.

I am not sure why they dropped support for it, but both SPF and DKIM worked for me. When I first tried email authentication, SPF and DKIM didn’t really work. The SPF value was wrong. The DKIM only worked for the default domain. GoDaddy couldn’t help me with this problem. I eventually figured out what the SPF record was supposed to be and figured out where to find the public keys for the add-on domains.


The Time My Websites Went Down

On July 10th about 10 pm, my IMAP connection went down.  On July 11th about 10 pm, my POP connection went down.  Somewhere during that time, my websites went down.  Not only my email and websites went down, but also my cPanel account.  I contacted GoDaddy support.

According to GoDaddy support, the shared hosting server where my websites were located went down due to a hardware failure.  On July 12th at 3 pm, my websites finally went up.  My POP connection went up on July 13th at 6 am.  My POP account was down for about 32 hours and my guess is that my websites were down for about 17 hours.

What was interesting was that none of the websites that publicly monitor GoDaddy’s uptime and downtime detected any downtime.  GoDaddy’s system alerts page reported no issues.

GoDaddy did notify me when email was up.  What they didn’t tell me was that my cPanel account and email moved to a new URL address.  It took me awhile to figure out that fact.  As a result, I had to update my email settings on Outlook, and set a new bookmark on my browser to get access to my cPanel account.

Is GoDaddy a good host?

Early on, I liked GoDaddy cPanel. It was much better than the old hosting interface. cPanel had a lot of bells and whistles. Unlimited disk space, unlimited domains, unlimited email address, and IMAP.

Now I am not so enthusiastic. The server when down for 17 hours. Then GoDaddy offered a plan that if you wanted more memory (I think) for your hosting package, then you can pay an additional $2/month for the memory. Now they dropped DKIM and I think SPF.

I drew the line with the DKIM, so I looked elsewhere. I am now with Namecheap. Namecheap is more expensive ($7.48/month vs. $4.99/month), but I was able to get hosting for $7/year.

GoDaddy, 1&1, Namecheap, and

Here is my review of the Internet registrars and hosting providers. This post is updated on occasion, so what you read now, may change in the future.



GoDaddy is a pretty good domain registrar.  I have had my domains there for about ten years.  GoDaddy is not cheapest, but the biggest reason I stuck with them was that I bought domains during a promo that was grandfathered for the past ten years.

In the past, you could buy a domain and get free economy web hosting and free email with the domain. This was not just an introductory offer.  As long I kept my domains registered at GoDaddy, I would get free web hosting and free email. The nice thing about this promo is that I can use the free hosting on any domain that I registered with GoDaddy, not just the domain that gave the free hosting.  I have taken about advantage of this promo occurred about 10 years. I haven’t heard GoDaddy offer this promo again recently.

Now, things have changed. My web sites have outgrown from the free web hosting and email. I had to upgrade to better plans because the free plans were not powerful enough to drive my web sites without noticeable lags. I no longer use the free plans.

So why do I stick with GoDaddy? That’s a good question. In the past, I stuck with them because of the cheap web hosting. You can get a deluxe web hosting plan which includes cPanel for $4.49/month for one, two, and three year plans. The deluxe plan includes IMAP, unlimited disk space for email, and web hosting for unlimited domains. It is a no contract plan, but if you cancel you get in-store credit.

Now for domains, there are only two reasons to go with GoDaddy. If you use DNSSEC for your DNS, you almost have no choice but to go with GoDaddy. The reason is that there not that many registrars that support DNSSEC. GoDaddy is one of them and others include and a handful of others and that is it.

The other reason is that you can get a cheap $0.99 domain for one year. With private registrar, the total cost would be about $10.98 for the first year. I could get it cheaper at other registrars but I like the GoDaddy user interface. So spending two dollars more is worth it.

Now GoDaddy did away with the renewal coupons which is a bummer. However, you might be able to get a discount when you renew your domains on GoDaddy. The discount is not much, but I was given a $4 discount for my renewal of my domains. Also, I got private registration, business registration, ownership protection, and a 2-year certified domain for $9.99. The domain renewal cost $20.98. Pretty good.

I recently tried their Premium DNS. This service is comparable with other DNS services such as and Premium DNS supports AnyCast Global Network, DNSSEC, secondary DNS servers, and vanity nameservers. It has one interesting feature called templates. You can set the zone records on a template, and when the template is ready, you can set a domain’s zone records to the template with one click of a button. Another feature is that it keeps a history of DNS changes so you can go back check out what changes were made. The nameserver uptime is ridiculously unreal. Most good nameservers are up about 97%-98% of the time per month. GoDaddy premium nameservers are up 100% for like 3 to 4 months in a row. The GoDaddy nameservers do go down eventually.

GoDaddy customer support by phone is 24/7.   I like this.  I mostly configure my cPanel account on the weekends so support on the weekends are convenient. The average wait time is about 5 minutes and the maximum I had experienced has been 30 minutes. Before contacting support, you can see the estimated wait time on the support page. You can call support or chat with support.

GoDaddy has a two-step authentication.  With authentication is enabled, when you login, GoDaddy will send a security code to your phone.  You just need to enter the code to GoDaddy and you’re in. At first, I thought this feature was annoying because I would have to take an extra step to login. But now, I have no problem with two-step authentication. It is an extra layer protection for your domains. Note that the two-step authentication is not available for cPanel access, only for your GoDaddy account. Access to cPanel does not require logging in to your GoDaddy account.

Now for the bad stuff…

At one time, my websites went down for about 17 hours.  Not only my websites, but my email and my cPanel access went down.  My email account was down for about 32 hours.  According to support, there was a hardware failure on the shared hosting server where my cPanel account resided.  What was strange was that none of the public websites that monitor the GoDaddy’s uptime reported any downtime.  Not even GoDaddy’s system alerts page reported any problems.  GoDaddy did notify me when my email account was up, but they didn’t tell me that my cPanel account moved to a different server which had a different URL address.  I had to update the email settings on my Outlook and Android to point to the new URL address.  Fortunately, I didn’t lose any email. It seems like GoDaddy has an email spooler when the email servers go down.

Another bad thing is that cPanel support is limited for the advanced user. For basic questions, GoDaddy could probably help you. But if you have an advanced question, their knowledge is limited and may not be able to help you. One representative recommended that I search the web for a cPanel answer.

Just recently, GoDaddy dropped DKIM and SPF support from cPanel hosting. GoDaddy said that these features “never produced any effect on a customers’ accounts, so we disabled them.” There were problems with DKIM and SPF when I tried to use them. cPanel was giving me wrong SPF settings and cPanel was only showing the DKIM record for the default domain, not the add-on domains. I did figure out what the SPF setting were supposed to be. Also, I did find out where to find DKIM public keys for the add-on domains. SPF and DKIM did work on GoDaddy. Now that DKIM no longer works, I decided to search for another hosting provider that does support DKIM.



There are some good points with 1&1 and there are bad points. The good point is that 1&1 is great if everything runs smoothly. The bad point is that when things go wrong, it is difficult to fix the problem.

First the good. For a number years, 1&1 had a good price for the domains which was $10.99 per year and that came with private registration. Now, unfortunately, the price is $14.99 per year. Because of this increase, I looked elsewhere.

1&1 was pretty good with refunds. For instance, I bought a 6 month plan. About a month later, I downgraded the plan. I was refunded the difference.  In another instance, I transferred out my domains 2 to 3 days before the domains expired.  I allowed the auto renewal to occur so that the transfer would complete because the transfer took 5 days.  The transfer completed in 5 days and I was billed for renewal for 2 domains out of 5.  I called 1&1 about why was I billed on 2 but not on the other 3.  Customer service refunded me the renewal on the 2 domains.

The refund does not happen all the time. There was one time of a renewal during a domain transfer. Support said that technically 1&1 still held the domain at the time of renewal based on Who Is, even though the receiving registrar said that transfer was complete on an earlier date.

I have used 1&1 for web hosting. No problems. 1&1 does not use cPanel. Their email service does not offer SPF or DKIM email authentication.

So the bad stuff. My advice for new 1&1 users: Try to do everything using the user interface. Try not to ask customer support to do any domain management tasks.

For me, I wanted to remove some external domains. Unfortunately, their web site was down. This web site is the site to go to cancel domains and packages. It was down for about a day or two. So I called up support to remove the external domains. They removed the external domains but they also canceled one registered domain by accident. I got an email notifying me of a request to terminate the registered domain and that termination would occur the next day. From this point one, the process to get it back was crazy.

You would think getting it back would be no problem. Just cancel the termination of the domain and that’s it. With 1&1, it did not work that way. Once the wheels are in motion, there is no stopping it. For me, 1&1 accidently terminated by registered domain at about 2 pm, I called 1&1 to try to stop the termination at about 3pm, support did not see any request for termination on their computer, later I called 1&1 the next morning to check, the termination was in process to occur, I requested to stop it, support made a request to stop the termination, the termination occurred at about 12 noon, called 1&1 to get back my domain, and 1&1 said that I had to buy a one year package to get it back.

I thought 1&1 was shaking me down, but I later thought there is no other way get the domain back. Buying a package is the only way to get it back. Customer support probably couldn’t override the normal procedures and just get my domain back. They probably couldn’t get a domain without associated the domain with a package. I don’t think 1&1 support can stop a process once it has started. Unfortunately, I had to wait for the process to play out.

On the bright side, I wasn’t billed for the package and I ended up with a free package.

One important note: Customer support accidently deleting domains is not uncommon. I spoke with a person with worked at a different registrar, and he said that customer support does accidently delete domains once in a while. Accidently deleting domains is not just a 1&1 problem.



I have been looking at this registrar for some time and I recently transferred my domains to it.  I transferred the domains for $8.97 per year.

For new domains, the rate is about $10.87 per year and private registration is free for the first year and $2.88 for subsequent years. So, for the first year, the rate is $10.87. For the following years, the rate is $13.75. You can get email for free for the first year.

To get the $8.97 first year rate, go this link for the latest promos:

I am not a fan of the user interface, or the Dashboard. I don’t find it easy to navigate. I can get around it now but I still find the user interface not easy to follow. I am also not a fan of the user interface for DNS management. It is quite different from other DNS interfaces that I have used on other sites. Actually, I don’t use it at all. All my domains at Namecheap have the nameservers pointed elsewhere besides the Namecheap DNS. (Note I have one domain pointed to a Namecheap web hosting DNS which is different from the usual Namecheap DNS).

The web hosting is pretty good. When I thought of Namecheap, I thought of domains, but not web hosting. I was searching for a new provider when I decided to move away from GoDaddy. I noticed that Namecheap offered web hosting, so I gave it a try.

Here are some points about the web hosting:

  • Namecheap web hosting uses cPanel.
  • You cannot add-on a domain until you change the domain’s nameservers to Namecheap. So for a while, your web site might go down for a few minutes while you’re trying to setup your email and web site. The best thing you can do is to create a folder in your public_html directory. The created folder will be the root of your add-on domain. Upload the files to the directory. When finished uploading, switch the nameservers to Namecheap, create the add-on domain, and have the domain point to the created directory. Then quickly create your email accounts and forwarding addresses. Once you’re done, then can then switch you nameservers back to wherever you want them to be.
  • For a while, there was no user interface for managing SSL certificates. In the past, you had to contact SSL technical support to get a CSR. Once you got your new certificate from your CA, you had to email the certificate to back SSL technical support so that they can install the certificate.
    Now, there is an icon for SSL certificates. It looks like you can get a CSR and install a certificate all by yourself. I haven’t tried it since I already have my certificates installed.
  • Depending on the SSL certificate, you don’t need a dedicated IP to use SSL for your web sites.
  • The default SPF record when you enable it is wrong. I had to add one more IP address to the SPF record. Otherwise, the email will get softfails.
  • DKIM is supported. DKIM is disabled by default, but you can enable it.
    I am not totally sure about this but once enabled, you don’t have to do anything else if your DNS records is managed by Namecheap web hosting. You don’t have to add a DKIM record to your DNS records. The DKIM record is installed automatically in the nameservers.
    Now if you nameserver resides outside of Namecheap, then it is a different story. cPanel will only show the DKIM record for the default domain. For the add-on domains, you have to fish for the public keys for them.
  • The server response time is pretty good without SSL. The average response time has been around 325 milliseconds and the maximum response time has been around 1300 milliseconds.
  • If you want to change the default domain of your cPanel account, you have to chat with Namecheap to have it changed.
  • Unless your nameservers is outside of Namecheap, the DNS management for you add-on domains is through cPanel, not on the Namecheap Dashboard. I like this. I don’t like the Namecheap DNS interface, but I don’t mind the cPanel DNS interface.
  • After you upload files to the server and your website does not work, you have to set the file permissions 644 and folder permission to 755. Here is the link for the info:
  • I can use Web Disk without enabling Digest Authentication on my Windows 8 machine.
  • You can set a cPanel password longer than 14 characters. Passwords for GoDaddy cPanel was limited to 14 characters (I think). On Namecheap, the password length can be more than 24 characters.
  • The hosting server seems really fast for my flash web sites. I noticed a performance improvement when I ported my web site from GoDaddy to Namecheap.
  • There is one big drawback: The server does go down once in a while. I have my web sites monitored by Site24x7 and my server does go down once in a while for about 2 minutes at a time. My sites go down about once every 2 or 3 days.

Despite down times, I like the speed. I have tried GoDaddy, HostGator,, and Siteground. I am impressed with the speed on Namecheap.

If you’re lucky, you can get the web hosting for 5 domains for $7/year. This is not a typo. As a matter of fact, that is how much I paid for hosting this page.

Namecheap has a two-step authentication.  When authentication is enabled, when you login, Namecheap will send a security code to your phone.  You just need to enter the code to Namecheap and you’re in.

Namecheap does not have a phone number for customer support (I couldn’t find one).  Instead, you can chat with them. The response time is pretty good. When you start a chat, it’ll say that they are busy and it’ll take a while for them to get around to you. Despite the busy message, they have been pretty quick to chat with you. In a way, I prefer chatting instead of calling. Namecheap has been pretty quick to respond.

I went with to try it out.  It had a good reputation and it was cheap to transfer to domains.  The price was $8.25 for one year and it came with free private registration.

The user interface is pretty good. I like it better than Namecheap.

I tried their web hosting. Here are some points:

  • com uses cPanel.
  • Not as quick as Namecheap, but the web performance is pretty good.
  • Customer support response time is only the downer. The turnaround time for web hosting support is about a day. I couldn’t change the default domain on cPanel, so I emailed customer support for the change. They changed it…a day later.

Despite the customer service problem, would be my second choice for web hosting.

There are a couple of things to remember:

  • If you a transfer domain that was renewed within 45 days by the old registrar, will not extend a year to the domain.
  • Customer support by email is 24/7, but not by phone.  Phone support is available from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday.

One interesting feature of is their two-step validation when you log in. You have to install an app called VIP Access by Symantec VIP on your smartphone.  Your phone will be assigned a credential ID that you have to register with  When you log in, will prompt for a security code.  To get the security code, you open the app on your smartphone. Enter the security code given by the app.  The security codes changes every 30 seconds.


Review: Internet Security Suites

After using five Internet security suites, I might as well write a blog about them.  This is not a comprehensive test.  I don’t do any tests about how well the software detected viruses, spam, malware, etc.  I concentrate on how well the software works from a user point of view.

So here we go…

Panda Internet Security

I didn’t like Panda. The feature that I liked the least was when Panda tells the user that an unknown program is requesting a connection to the Internet and asking for user input to allow or disallow the connection. Panda does this quite often to the point that it is annoying. I don’t recall a setting to turn this feature off. My dad tries to ignore it.

Another thing that I didn’t like is that it made XP go to a crawl. Later, I learned that there was a setting that I had to change to make XP go faster. When I changed the setting, the XP performance did improve. Since I migrated out of XP, this “feature” is no longer relevant.

I haven’t used Panda recently, so I don’t know if Panda still relies on user input to allow or disallow a connection.

There is one good thing that I liked about Panda and it is its Panda Cloud Cleaner. It is not part of the Internet Security Suite, but it is free and you can download it to your computer. It is a free virus scan for your computer. You can create a bootable USB and it will scan your hard drives for viruses. Pretty good.


McAfee Total Internet Security 2014

I had couple of issues with McAfee. One thing I did not like about McAfee is the anti-spam plug-in for Thunderbird. It made Thunderbird go to a crawl. Even with the anti-spam turned off, Thunderbird was still too slow. I had to uninstall McAfee to get Thunderbird to work normally.

The other thing is that McAfee doesn’t work Glary Utilities. Glary Utilities does a registry fix that makes McAfee display an ‘IDispatch error’. In the support forums, McAfee acknowledges this problem with Glary Utilities and mentions of a fix. But when I clicked on the link for the fix, there was either no web page or no information in the web page. My guess is that the fix is to reinstall McAfee. There was no repair option for McAfee.

Now the one thing I liked about McAfee is that it has a Network Monitoring Tool. This tools regularly scans the local network of all the connected computers. It keeps track of the computers connecting to the network. When I saw the list of connected devices, I found that there was one device I had no idea what it was. I figured that some intruder penetrated my WIFI network. So I boosted my Wi-Fi security settings and changed my passphrase on the router. The tool is a good thing.

There was one time I installed McAfee to my desktop and it crippled my OS. After rebooting my computer, I couldn’t reinstall McAfee. I couldn’t uninstall it either. So I restored my OS to a previous state using Acronis. I tried installing McAfee again and this time it worked.


AVG Internet Security 2014

One thing that I thought was pretty good is the Anti-Spam feature for Outlook. It is pretty good. I have tried Kaspersky and McAfee, and AVG is pretty good. It was able to pick off spam that Kaspersky and McAfee wasn’t picking off. The Anti-Spam feature has the ability to link to RBLs similar to Spamassassin. However, the feature is so advanced that there is no documentation on how to use it.

Now, if you use online email like Gmail, Yahoo, or, the AVG Anti-Spam is sort of useless. But if you use an offline reader like Outlook to read you email, the AVG Anti-Spam maybe worth it. I host web sites and a number of email accounts and I use Spamassassin to filter out spam. Since I use Spamassassin, I sort of don’t need AVG Anti-Spam. On a positive note, there is one spam that slipped through Spamassassin but was blocked by AVG Anti-Spam.

Speaking about anti-spam, Thunderbird comes with a pretty good anti-spam feature. I think it is better than Kaspersky and McAfee.   However, I think AVG Anti-spam is better.

There is one problem I had with AVG. One time I disabled AVG wondering if AVG was blocking a particular Internet connection. Later, after checking out the Internet connection, I forgot all about AVG. Days later, when I was going to start a full system scan, I noticed that AVG was still disabled. AVG didn’t notify me that my computer was unprotected in those days. I am not totally sure, but Bitdefender and Kaspersky would have probably notified me that my system is unprotected.

The thing about disabling AVG was that I didn’t see an option to temporarily disable AVG for a few minutes. On Kaspersky, it asks how long to temporarily disable Kaspersky. After the minutes expire, Kaspersky turns back on. I didn’t see that option on AVG. It just showed disable. I find a lack of a notification disturbing.

The full system scan is relatively quick.

Kaspersky Internet Security

I like Kaspersky. There is one thing unique to Kaspersky. It not only scans a file for a virus but it also calculates a hash value of the file and compares it the hash value on record in the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN). So let’s say you download a file from some web site. Kaspersky will calculate the hash value and look it up in KSN. If the file has existed before and is being used by a number of Kaspersky end-users with no viruses, then Kaspersky will let the executable run. But if the file is so new that it has little or no record of it in the KSN community, then it will warn you. The file may have no known viruses but Kaspersky is not sure that it is totally safe.

Now Kaspersky has some issues. One is its plugins especially for Firefox 30. When Firefox 30 was released, Kaspersky didn’t have compatible plugins for it for a number of weeks. So I switched to Chrome for a while. Then later, the Kaspersky plugins for Chrome didn’t work either. I ended up downloading and using Site Advisor from McAfee instead. Site Advisor is free and it works on both Firefox and Chrome.

Later, I found out that Kaspersky released its 2015 version. I didn’t get an email from Kaspersky about the new release. So I installed it and the Firefox and Chrome plug-ins worked.

I had to disable the Anti-Banner feature.

The anti-spam feature slowed down Outlook, so I disabled plugin. Also, it missed almost every spam mail.

Bitdefender Internet Security

Bitdefender is pretty good. The only reason I don’t use it is that it blocks WebDav connections to my web site. I couldn’t find a setting to unblock the WebDav port. Other than that, it is pretty good. (If you don’t manage web sites, WebDav is not important to you.)

The GUI on the 2014 version was a bit strange. The GUI in the 2015 version is a bit better. Like Kasperksy, I was not notified that the 2015 version was released. I learned about the new release by noticing a Bitdefender advertisement about the new 2015 version.


There you have it – my experience with the Internet security suites. Like Kaspersky and Bitdefender. I use them both. The disable protection feature on AVG was a bit disturbing. I haven’t tried Panda for quite a while, so I am not sure if it has improved or not. Since I use Thunderbird and Glary Utilities, I am not planning to use McAfee.


Review: Chase IHG Rewards Club Select MasterCard


This is an interesting card.  I got this card because I stay at Holiday Inn a lot.  I like Holiday Inn.  If you stay at Holiday Inn quite a bit (or even once a year), this is a card to get.

The rewards system goes by points and it is tied to the IHG Rewards Club program.  You don’t need the Chase card to join the program, but this Chase card can help you rack up points pretty quick.

At the time of this writing, the credit card has the following features:

  • Upon approval, you get 60,000 points if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months,
  • The annual fee for the first year is waived. Afterwards, it is $49 per year.
  • Upon approval, you get one free night.
  • Every year you get a free night.
  • You get Platinum status in the IHG Reward Club program
  • 5 points per dollar spent at IHG hotels.
  • 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations, groceries, and restaurants.
  • 1 point per dollar for everything else.
  • You get 10% bonus points for points redeemed.
  • You get a $50 statement credit if you apply for the credit card through the IHG web site.

As an IHG Reward Club member, you get 10 points per dollar spent for the room rate (not including taxes and fees) at Holiday Inn. As a Platinum member you get 50% bonus points, so basically a Platinum is getting a total of 15 points per dollar spent for a room.

Note that just a free night every year with an annual fee of $49 is a good reason to get the card if you’re going to stay at Holiday Inn one night a year.

The following calculations assume that are a Chase IHG credit card member. So let’s go straight to the guts of the points system…

Earning points by staying at Holiday Inn

The objective is to get the most nights for a certain amount of money.

So let’s say you have a budget of $10,000 for hotel stays. If you stay at Bonita Springs at $119.87 per night and earn 6935 points per night, you would spend for 83.42 nights and you would earn 578,532 points. The next step is tricky. At redemption rate of 15,000 points per night, you would get 38.569 bonus nights, but you also get 10% bonus points for points redeemed. So you would get 57,854 bonus points. That amounts to 3.86 more bonus nights for a total of 42.43 bonus nights. Let’s go one more step with the 10% bonus, when redeeming points for 3.86 nights, you get 5,790 more bonus points, and that amounts to 0.386 additional nights for a total of 42.82 nights. You can keep doing the 10% step but to save you the math, the total nights is 42.85 bonus nights. So for $10,000, you can stay a total of 126.27 nights (83.42 + 42.85 = 126.27) at a rate of $79.19 per night ($10,000/126.27 nights = $79.19 per night).

If you redeem using the 10,000 points plus $40 option, (doing quite a bit of algebra) you spend for 66.36 nights and get 51.13 bonus nights for a total of 117.49 nights. (66.36 paid nights x 6935 points per night = 460,206 earned points. At a redemption rate of 10,000 points per night, 460,206 points/10,000 points per night = 46.02 bonus nights plus 46,020 bonus points. 46,020 points/10,000 = 4.60 bonus nights plus 4602 bonus points. 4,602/10,000 = 0.46 bonus nights plus 460 bonus points. Etc,etc,etc. Total bonus nights = 46.02+4.60+0.46+0.05= 51.13 bonus nights. 66.36 paid nights x $119.87 per night + 51.13 bonus nights x $40 = $10,000). You’re practically paying $85.11 per night.

If you redeem using the 5,000 points plus $70 option, you spend for 43.91 nights and receive 67.67 bonus nights for a total of 111.58 nights. You would practically be paying $89.63 per night.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re spending $10,000, $1,000,000, or $200 for hotel stays, the practical rate is the same.

The following chart is an example of staying at Buena Park, CA Holiday Inn with a hotel budget $10,000.

Location: Buena Park, CA
Room Rate: $119
Bonus Points: 5000 points for $10
Total Cost plus tax: $144.53
Est. Points Earned: 7430
Budget: $10,000
Redemption Options: Paid Nights: Bonus Nights: Total Nights: Practical Room Rate: Discount:
35000 69.19 16.32 85.51 $116.95 19.09%
30000+$40 64.29 17.69 81.99 $121.97 15.61%
25000+$70 59.65 19.70 79.35 $126.03 12.80%
30000 69.19 19.04 88.23 $113.34 21.58%
25000+$40 63.40 20.93 84.33 $118.58 17.95%
20000+$70 57.66 23.80 81.46 $122.75 15.07%
25,000 69.19 22.85 92.04 $108.65 24.82%
20,000+$40 62.10 25.63 87.73 $113.99 21.13%
15,000+$70 54.63 30.07 84.69 $118.07 18.31%
20,000 69.19 28.56 97.75 $102.30 29.22%
15,000+$40 60.04 33.05 93.09 $107.42 25.67%
10,000+$70 49.43 40.80 90.23 $110.83 23.32%
15,000 69.19 38.08 107.27 $93.22 35.50%
10,000+$40 56.32 46.50 102.82 $97.26 32.71%
5,000+$70 38.45 63.48 101.92 $98.11 32.12%

Let’s understand the chart. Let’s say a person spent $10,000 spending at a room rate of $144.53 per night with 5,000 bonus points per night. The person then redeems the earned points at a redemption rate of, let’s say, 20,000 points plus $40 per night. Once the person has exhausted the $10,000 budget and all the earned points, he would have spent for 62.10 nights and received 25.63 bonus nights for a total of 87.73 nights. For $10,000, the person stayed 87.73 nights at a rate of $113.99 per night which is a 21.13% per discount from the original cost of the room.

According to the chart, the best practical room rate is $93.22 per night at discount of 35.50%. The person would need to redeem all his points using the 15,000 points per night option. He would get a total of 107.27 nights. The worst redemption option is the 25,000 plus $70 with a rate of $113.34 per night at a discount of 12.80%. He would get a total of 88.23 nights. The difference between the best and worst option is about 19 nights. That is a lot of nights.

As you might have guessed, the best redemption options are the bottom three, the best being the straight 15,000 points per night option.

Let’s compare between a room rate with 5,000 points, AAA rate, and the cheapest room rate at Palm Desert, CA

Location: Palm Desert, CA
5000 pt option AAA rate Cheapest rate
Total points earned: 7075 1920 1560
Total Coast plus taxes: $128.79 $107.51 $89.59
Redemption Options: Practical Rate Practical Rate Practical Rate
35000 $105.17 $101.33 $85.26
30000+$40 $110.35 $103.03 $86.81
25000+$70 $114.73 $104.56 $88.29
30000 $102.05 $100.37 $84.58
25000+$40 $107.55 $102.20 $86.30
20000+$70 $112.20 $103.89 $87.99


$97.98 $99.06 $83.64
20,000+$40 $103.74 $101.00 $85.54
15,000+$70 $108.57 $102.84 $87.51
20,000 $92.45 $97.15 $82.28
15,000+$40 $98.26 $99.10 $84.33
10,000+$70 $102.91 $100.91 $86.63
15,000 $84.50 $94.12 $80.10
10,000+$40 $89.71 $95.64 $82.10
5,000+$70 $92.86 $96.29 $84.45

This chart shows that you’re better off getting the cheapest room rate.

As an exercise, let’s says you want accrue 35,000 points using the 5000 bonus points option and then redeem the 35000 points for a night somewhere. Let’s first try by staying at a 5,000 bonus point room. At Palm Desert at 7075 points per night, you need to stay about 4.94 nights, so you’re going to spend $128.79 x 4.94 = $637.12 to get 35,000 points. With the 35,000 points, you get one bonus night, so you’re spending $637.12 for 5.94 nights at a rate of about $106.19 per nights. (I am not taking into account the 10% bonus points for each redemption.)

Let’s say you want to stay at Miami Beach for 35,000 points. The cheapest rate for the same room is $178.99. By spending the 5000 bonus point room rate, you’re spending $637.12 to spend 4.94 nights at Palm Desert and one night at Miami Beach.

Now, let’s go for the cheapest room rate. 4.94 nights at Palm Desert at the cheap rate of $89.59 per night costs $442.57. Spend $178.99 for one night at Miami Beach, and your total cost is $621.56. You’re better off getting the cheapest room rate for both hotels. Not only are you saving money going from the cheapest room rate, but you’d still have the points from the night stays at Palm Desert and Miami Beach (about 10,874 points), where as you would have 10% bonus points (3,500 points) from the redemption from the night stay at Miami Beach using the 5,000 bonus points route.

Before you think the cheapest room rate is the way to go, check out the room rates at Buena Park.

Location: Buena Park CA
5000 pt option AAA rate Cheapest rate
Total points earned: 7430 2280 2160
Total Coast plus taxes: $144.53 $127.73 $121.01
Redemption Options: Practical Rate Practical Rate Practical Rate
35000 $116.95 $119.11 $113.24
30000+$40 $121.97 $120.90 $115.01
25000+$70 $126.03 $122.42 $116.54
30000 $113.34 $117.78 $112.05
25000+$40 $118.58 $119.66 $113.91
20000+$70 $122.75 $121.24 $115.54
25,000 $108.65 $115.98 $110.41
20,000+$40 $113.99 $117.87 $112.33
15,000+$70 $118.07 $119.39 $113.97
20,000 $102.30 $113.37 $108.04
15,000+$40 $107.42 $115.05 $109.84
10,000+$70 $110.83 $116.06 $111.14
15,000 $93.22 $109.27 $104.32
10,000+$40 $97.26 $110.00 $105.33
5,000+$70 $98.11 $108.32 $104.47


This chart shows that the best room rate depends on what redemption rate you normally do. If you always redeem in the bottom six options, the 5000 bonus point room rate is the way to go. Except for 25,000 points, if you redeem using the upper 8 options, the cheapest room rate is the way to go. The AAA rate is never the way to go because the cheapest room rate has a lower practical rate. It is going to be between the 5000 bonus point rate and the cheapest rate.

Let’s go back to the previous example with the night stay at Miami Beach using the Buena Park room rates. Doing some quick calculations, you would need to spend 4.71 nights at $144.53 per night for a 5000 bonus point room at Buena Park and get one free night at Miami Beach for a total of $680.82 and you would get 3500 points left over. If you go the cheap route, you would spend 4.71 nights at $121.01 per night at Buena Park and one night at $179.99 per night at Miami Beach for a grand total of $749.95 and you’d have 13342 points left over. So here is the trade off – you would spend $70 less money going the 5000 bonus point route, but you would get 10,000 more points going the cheap route. It is like the value of 10,000 points is about $70 (which by the way is what you spend to buy 10,000 points when you redeem points). If you look at the Buena Park chart, the practical value of a room of both the 5,000 bonus point room rate and the cheapest room rate is pretty close ($116.95 vs $113.24).


Earning Rate from 1x and 2x points per dollar spent

Let’s look at two forms ways of earning points. First, you get 2 points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, and restaurants. Second, you get 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.

The objective here is to spend the least amount of money in order to get a room. Here is a chart that shows the spending cost for each redemption option at 2 points per dollar earning rate. I also looked up the cheapest rates at 4 Holiday Inn locations.


Bonita Springs La Mirada Anaheim Fullerton Miami Beach
Room cost $84.36 $113.30 169.39 195.49
Redemption Option total spending cost @ 2 points per dollar earning rate earning rate earning rate earning rate
35000 $17,500.00 0.48% 0.65% 0.97% 1.12%
30000+$40 $15,040.00 0.56% 0.75% 1.13% 1.30%
25000+$70 $12,570.00 0.67% 0.90% 1.35% 1.56%
30000 $15,000.00 0.56% 0.76% 1.13% 1.30%
25000+$40 $12,540.00 0.67% 0.90% 1.35% 1.56%
20000+$70 $10,070.00 0.84% 1.13% 1.68% 1.94%
                             25,000 $12,500.00 0.67% 0.91% 1.36% 1.56%
20,000+$40 $10,040.00 0.84% 1.13% 1.69% 1.95%
15,000+$70 $7,570.00 1.11% 1.50% 2.24% 2.58%
20,000 $10,000.00 0.84% 1.13% 1.69% 1.95%
15,000+$40 $7,540.00 1.12% 1.50% 2.25% 2.59%
10,000+$70 $5,070.00 1.66% 2.23% 3.34% 3.86%
15,000 $7,500.00 1.12% 1.51% 2.26% 2.61%
10,000+$40 $5,040.00 1.67% 2.25% 3.36% 3.88%
5,000+$70 $2,570.00 3.28% 4.41% 6.59% 7.61%


To help understand the chart, let’s say you spent $10,000 on gas, groceries, and restaurants earning 20,000 points. For $40 additional, you would be eligible for the 20,000+$40 option. If you redeemed for a night at Bonita Springs which costs $84.36 per night, the redemption rate based on dollars is 0.84% ($84.36/$10,040 = 0.84%). Basically you spent $10,040 to get a $84.36 room.

The idea is to get a room for the least amount of money. By looking at the table, you would get the best earning rate at the 5,000 plus $70 option. Unfortunately, not every hotel offers a 5,000 plus $70 option. For instance, the best option Miami Beach offers is 25,000 plus $70, so you would have to spend $10,070 in order to use the option. The redemption rate would be 1.94%.

So what is a good redemption rate in terms of percentages? It depends on what other credit cards you have. For example, if you have the Barclaycard Arrival card with the intent of redeeming points for travel (2.22% earning rate), the redemption rate has to be greater than 2.22% to make it worth your while to redeem IHG points. Otherwise, buy the room using the Barclaycard. If you have the Capital One Quicksilver card, the redemption rate to beat is 1.5%; if greater than 1.5% use the IHG points. If you have the Chase Freedom or the Discover card, the redemption rate to beat is 1%.

Here is a table for 1 point per dollar spent and the redemption percentages:

Bonita Springs La Mirada Anaheim Fullerton Miami Beach
Room cost $84.36 $113.30 169.39 195.49
Redemption Option total spending cost@ 2 points per dollar earning rate earning rate earning rate earning rate
35000 $35,000.00 0.24% 0.32% 0.48% 0.56%
30000+$40 $30,040.00 0.28% 0.38% 0.56% 0.65%
25000+$70 $25,070.00 0.34% 0.45% 0.68% 0.78%
30000 $30,000.00 0.28% 0.38% 0.56% 0.65%
25000+$40 $25,040.00 0.34% 0.45% 0.68% 0.78%
20000+$70 $20,070.00 0.42% 0.56% 0.84% 0.97%
                             25,000 $25,000.00 0.34% 0.45% 0.68% 0.78%
20,000+$40 $20,040.00 0.42% 0.57% 0.85% 0.98%
15,000+$70 $15,070.00 0.56% 0.75% 1.12% 1.30%
20,000 $20,000.00 0.42% 0.57% 0.85% 0.98%
15,000+$40 $15,040.00 0.56% 0.75% 1.13% 1.30%
10,000+$70 $10,070.00 0.84% 1.13% 1.68% 1.94%
15,000 $15,000.00 0.56% 0.76% 1.13% 1.30%
10,000+$40 $10,040.00 0.84% 1.13% 1.69% 1.95%
5,000+$70 $5,070.00 1.66% 2.23% 3.34% 3.86%



If you just got the card and received 60,000 free points, use the 5,000 plus $70 option for rooms greater than $100. Or use the 10,000 plus $40 option for rooms between $84 and $100. The points are free and you would be getting a room at a discount.

If you going to redeem 2x points for rooms, figure out what the earning rates are on your other credit cards and check if you can beat it using the IHG card. Here is a chart to help.

Total Room cost $75.00 $100.00 $125.00 $150.00 $175.00 $200.00
Redemption Option total spending cost @ 2 points per dollar earning rate earning rate earning rate earning rate earning rate earning rate
35000 $17,500.00 0.43% 0.57% 0.71% 0.86% 1.00% 1.14%
30000+$40 $15,040.00 0.50% 0.66% 0.83% 1.00% 1.16% 1.33%
25000+$70 $12,570.00 0.60% 0.80% 0.99% 1.19% 1.39% 1.59%
30000 $15,000.00 0.50% 0.67% 0.83% 1.00% 1.17% 1.33%
25000+$40 $12,540.00 0.60% 0.80% 1.00% 1.20% 1.40% 1.59%
20000+$70 $10,070.00 0.74% 0.99% 1.24% 1.49% 1.74% 1.99%
                             25,000 $12,500.00 0.60% 0.80% 1.00% 1.20% 1.40% 1.60%
20,000+$40 $10,040.00 0.75% 1.00% 1.25% 1.49% 1.74% 1.99%
15,000+$70 $7,570.00 0.99% 1.32% 1.65% 1.98% 2.31% 2.64%
20,000 $10,000.00 0.75% 1.00% 1.25% 1.50% 1.75% 2.00%
15,000+$40 $7,540.00 0.99% 1.33% 1.66% 1.99% 2.32% 2.65%
10,000+$70 $5,070.00 1.48% 1.97% 2.47% 2.96% 3.45% 3.94%
15,000 $7,500.00 1.00% 1.33% 1.67% 2.00% 2.33% 2.67%
10,000+$40 $5,040.00 1.49% 1.98% 2.48% 2.98% 3.47% 3.97%
5,000+$70 $2,570.00 2.92% 3.89% 4.86% 5.84% 6.81% 7.78%


To maximize your nights at Holiday Inn, follow the following rules:

  1. Calculate 68% of the total cost of the 5000 bonus point room rate. You’re basically calculating the room rate at a 32% discount. You are approximating the lowest practical rate of the 5000 bonus point room rate (the practical rate at the bottom 3 redemption levels).
  2. If the result is close or greater than the cost of the cheapest room rate, go with the cheapest room rate. This is because the practical rate of the cheapest room rate is going to be lower than the lowest practical rate of the 5000 point bonus room rate. If the 32% discount rate is well lower than the cheapest room rate, go to the next step.
  3. If you redeem the bottom 6 options all the time, go for the 5000 point bonus rate.
  4. Otherwise, go for the cheapest room rate.


How to change the hard drive and memory on the Lenovo Z410

I decided to write this post because I wanted to save someone the grief and time when trying to change the hard drive and memory on the Lenovo Z410.  I read the instructions provided by Lenovo on how to do it but there was one big obstacle that I had to overcome which wasn’t mentioned in the instructions.

For those thinking about buying the Z410, note that it is not simple to change the hard drive and memory.  Unlike most laptops, the Z410 does not have compartments that you can unscrew and replace individuals parts like the hard drive and memory.  If you look underneath the Z410, there are no compartments.  It is just one plastic cover.  What you have to do is remove several screws (16 screws to be exact) before removing the bottom cover so that you can gain access to the hard drive and memory.

But I think once you done it once, it would be easy to it again.

So here we go…

If you don’t have one, get the instructions at  

Keep track of the screws.  There are 16 screws and they are not the same size.  Make sure you can screw in the right screws when you put the laptop back together.

When removing the keyboard, you actually don’t need to remove the keyboard ribbon.  You could if you want to.  If you want to, for those not familiar with the ribbon fastener, you have to unlock the fastener which is depicted in number 4 on page 35.  The fastener rotates.  It is like a lever.  It does not come off.   The page should have shown that you rotate number 4 counter-clockwise in order to unlock the fastener.  Then you can pull number 5.

When removing the optical drive, don’t stick a screwdriver completely through the screw hole and try to move the optical tray out.  You just need to move the top part out.

When removing the screws underneath the keyboard, the screw next to the CPU fan might be covered by a sticky label.  I had to remove the label in order to get to the screw.

When removing the rubber feet, get a mini flat head screw driver and stick it between the rubber and plastic cover and lift the rubber out.

Now for the base cover.  (The base cover is actually the bottom cover.)  This was the frustrating part for me.  Based on the instructions, you might think that the cover just lifts up with little effort after removing all the screws.  Well, not so.  The cover and the laptop are fastened together by I think plastic fasteners.  If you have a Samsung Galaxy S III, it is similar to the fasteners holding the back cover to the phone.  It is screwless and you have to pry the cover off from the phone in order to get to the battery and SIM card.  The laptop is like that.  After you remove all screws, you have to pry the base cover off the laptop.  Don’t rip it out.   Carefully pry the cover off.

Now you gained access to the hard drive and memory.  The instructions suggest you remove the battery.  Actually, you don’t have to remove the battery.  You just need to remove the battery plug.

Now for the hard drive.  Now my version of the Z410 does not match the picture on the instructions.  According to the instructions, you should be able to push the hard drive away from the hard drive connector and lift the hard drive up.  On my Z410, there is a black piece of plastic behind the hard drive blocking the hard drive from being pushed back.  What I did was to lift the back end of the hard drive just high enough so that the hard drive can clear.  Once the back end of the hard drive is barely above the piece of plastic, then I pushed the hard drive away from the connector.  Be careful not to break the connecter off.

Once you gain access to the memory, replacing memory is not so complicated.  It just like replacing any ordinary laptop memory.

That’s it.  Now you should be able to replace the hard drive and memory on the Lenovo Z410.

Review: Credit Cards – Best Base Earning Rate

Ever wondered which card to use when you have no idea which card gives you the best earning rate?  Or, do you ever wonder which card give you the best base earning rate?

I have wondered this too.  I would go to a small store that I doubt has any special cash back bonus with any card and try to decide which card is the best for that situation.  Or I would go to a store that might have a special cash back bonus but I don’t know off hand and have to make a quick decision as to which card to use.

So I decided to crunch the numbers as to which cards offer the best base earning rate.  When I say base earning rate, I mean the earning rate that a card holder is at least going to earn.  For instance, Discover It card offers at least an earning rate of 1%.  The least earning rate is what I call the base earning rate.  When a person is making a purchase, the cardholder is at least going to earn the base earning rate.

I split the earning rate in three categories: cash back, gift cards, and travel.  The base earning rate differs depending on what the card holder is going to redeem.  A card might have a good base earning rate for cash back but not for gift cards.  Some cards offer a good base earning rate for travel.

I also calculate what the card holder has to spend on an annual fee card in order to earn more than a non-annual fee card.

What I don’t consider is the bonus earning rate of each card.  For instance, Discover It card has a 5% cash back bonus on particular purchases.  I don’t consider the cash back bonus in the calculations.  The cash back bonus is not what I call the base earning rate.  I might mention the cash back bonuses when choosing a card, but I am mostly interested in the base earning rate.

I chose cards that I am familiar with and what seem to be popular.  I don’t own all the cards, but I read up and ask questions about the cards I am not familiar with.

So here we go…

Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard

The BarclayCard reward system goes by miles.  The base earning rate is 2 miles per dollar spent.

If you want just straight cash back, the cash back rate is $0.005 per mile, or half a penny per mile.  So if you have 40,000 miles, your cash back would be $200.  So at 2 miles per dollar spent, the base earning rate becomes $0.01 per dollar spent, or just 1%.  So if you spend $20,000, you’ll earn 40,000 miles or $200.

The 1% return is also true for restaurant gift cards.  For instance, if you want an Outback gift card, you would need 10,000 miles for a $50 gift card at a rate of $0.005 per mile.  At 2 miles per dollar, the base earning rate becomes 1%.  So if you spend $5000, you’ll earn 10,000 miles and you’ll be eligible to receive the $50 Outback gift card.

For airline travel, you redeem miles for credit towards airline travel purchases.  Instead of redeeming miles to purchase a ticket, it is the other way around.  You purchase the ticket first and then redeem miles for credit towards the cost of the ticket.  The redemption rate towards travel purchases is $0.01 per mile.  At 2 miles per dollar spent, the redemption rate is $0.02 per dollar spent, a rate of 2%.  On top of that, you earn 10% bonus miles for the miles redeemed.  In other words, you earn 0.10 miles for each mile redeemed.

For example, let say you spent $12,500 on purchases.  You earned 25,000 points.  You purchase an airline ticket.  You redeem 25,000 miles for a $250 credit towards the cost of the airline ticket.  The redemption rate at this point is 2%.  As a result of redeeming miles, you earn 10% bonus miles on each mile redeemed which comes out to be 2,500 bonus points (10% of 25,000 miles = 2,500 miles) .  Let’s say you want to maximize your earning rate by redeeming the 2,500 points you just earned for credit for another airline ticket.  From the 2500 bonus miles at $0.01 per mile, you’ll earn $25 credit, and at 10% of 2,500 miles, you’ll also earn 25 miles.  So you redeemed your miles for a credit of $275 ($250 + $25 = $275).  So the base earning rate in this scenario is $275 earned/$12,500 spent =  2.2%.

Now, let’s say you spent $125,000 and you earned 250,000 miles.  You redeemed the miles for airline credit worth $2,500.  You also get 25,000 bonus miles.  Then you redeemed the 25,000 miles for a $250 credit and received 2,500 bonus miles.  You redeemed again for a $25 credit and received 250 bonus miles  So the base earning rate is ($2,500 + $250 + $25)/$125,000 =  2.22%

Now, BarclayCard Arrival has a special deal for enrollments.  At one time, the deal was to spend $1000 in 90 days and I get 40,000 miles.  That’s $200 in cash back.  That comes out to be 20% earning rate for the first $1000!  Now, the deal is 40,000 miles if you spent $3000 in 90 days.  The earning rate would be 6.67% for the first $3,000.

The annual fee is $89 per year but the first year is waived.  After the first year, you would need to spend at least $8900 ($8900 spent = 17800 miles = $89 cash back) just to cover the cost of the annual fee.  If you’re going for travel credit, you would need to spend $4950 ($4950 spent = 8,900 miles = $89 travel credit) to offset the annual fee.

Now let’s say you have the Discover It card which has no annual fee and a 1% cash back rate.  Now since the Barclaycard has a base rate of 1% for cash back, you notice that on non-travel purchases the Barclaycard has no advantage over the Discover It card.  If you spend say $10,000 on both cards, you’ll get $100 cash back on both cards but on the Barclaycard you’ll incur the $89 annual fee.  In the end, you’ll have $100 cash back from the Discover card but $11 cash back from the Barclaycard.

For the travel purchases it is a different story.   The Barclaycard earns about a 2% rate while Discover earns 1%.  You would need to spend more then $8,900 on the Barclaycard ($8,900 spent = 17,800 points = $178 travel credit but with $89 annual fee the net earnings become $89) in order to earn more than the Discover card ($8,900 spent = $89 cash back).  Note that this is only on the travel purchases.

Versus the Capital One Quicksilver card, for travel purchases, you need to spend $12,714 to earn more on Barclaycard than on the Quicksilver card (1.5% cash back rate).  (Barclaycard: $12,714 spent = 25,428 miles = $254.28 travel credit.  Receive 2,542 bonus miles = $25.43 travel credit.  Net earnings = $254.28 + $25.43 – $89 annual fee = $190.71).  (Quicksilver: $17,800 spent = $190.71 cash back).

Versus the Capital One Venture card, you need to spend $15,000 to earn more on the Barclaycard over the Capital One Venture.  The Venture card has a base travel rate of 2%.  (Barclaycard: $15,000 spent = 30,000 miles = $300 travel credit.  Receive 3,000 bonus miles = $30 travel credit.  Net earnings = $300 + $30 – $89 annual fee = $241 travel credit.  Capital One Venture: $15,000 spent = 30,000 miles = $300 travel credit.  Net earnings = $300 – $59 annual fee = $241 travel credit.)

Versus the Capital One VentureOne card, you need to spend $11,867 per year to earn more on Barclaycard than Capital One VentureOne card.  Capital One has a base rate of about 1.25% for travel purchases with no annual fee.  The Barclaycard has an advantage over Capital One if you spend over about $11,867 a year on travel expenses.  (Barclaycard: $11,867 spent = 23,734 miles = $237.34 travel credit + 2,373 bonus miles.  Net earning = $237.34 credit – $89 annual fee = $148.34)  (CapitalOne: $11,867 spent =  about 14,834 points = $148.34 travel credit).

For straight cash back only, the Barclaycard has an advantage over Capital One VentureOne card if you spend over $23,733 per year.  (Barclaycard: $23,733 spent = 47,466 miles = $237.33 cash back.  Net earnings = $237.33 – $89 annual fee = $148.33)  (Capital One: $23,733 spent = $29,666 points = $148.33 cash back)

 Chase Freedom Visa card

The reward system goes by points, and the base earning reward rate is 1 point per dollar spent.

The cash back rate is $0.01 per point, or 1% base earning rate.  ( $10,000 spent = 10,000 points = $100 cash back.  $100 cash back/$10,000 spent = 1% base earning rate).

For gift cards, the redemption rate is $0.01 per point.  So for instance if you want a $50 gift card, you’ll need 5000 points.  The base earning rate would be 1%.  ( $5,000 spent = 5,000 points = $50 for gift card.  $50 gift card/$5,000 spent = 1% base earning rate).

The redemption rate for airline travel is $0.01 per point.  As a result, the base earning rate would be 1%.

However, if you purchase an airplane ticket from the Chase web site using the Chase Freedom card, you get one extra point per dollar.  Since the redemption rate is $0.01 per point for all three categories and you earn 2 points per dollar from airline travel, the earning rate from airline travel becomes 2%.  ($1000 spent on travel = 2000 points = $20 cash back.  Earning rate = $20/$1000 = 2%)

If you sign up and get approved, you’ll get 10,000 points if you spend $500 in the first 3 months.  At $0.01 per point, that comes out to be $100 cash back.  So for the first $500, you get $100 back for a base earning rate of 20% for the first $500.

There is no annual fee.

Since the earning rate is 2% for airline purchases, this card is comparable to the Barclaycard Arrival card, but there is a difference.  You earn 2% only on airlines purchases on the Chase card.  You earn 2% if you redeem for airline credit on the Barclaycard.  So, you are limited to airline purchases on the Chase card if you want the 2% rate, while on the Barclaycard you can earn 2% if any purchase as long as you redeem for travel credit.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards

The Capital One rewards system goes by miles, and for this card the base rewards rate is 1.25 miles per dollar spent.

If you want to redeem miles for cash, the rate is $0.005 per mile.  At a rewards rate of 1.25 miles per dollar spent, the base rate becomes $0.00625 per dollar spent, or 0.625%.  If you spend $10,000, you’ll earn $62.50 cash back ($10,000 spent = 12,500 miles = $62.50 cash back earned; $62.50/$10,000 =  0.625% earning rate).

If you want redeem for gift cards, the redemption rate is $0.01 per mile.  At a rate of 1.25 miles per dollar spent, the earnings rate becomes $0.0125 per dollar spent, or 1.25%.  So if you spend $10,000, you’ll earn $125 for gift cards ($10,000 spent = 12,500 miles = $125 for gift cards; $125/$10,000 = 1.25% earning rate).

If you want to redeem for airline travel, the redemption rate is roughly $0.0102 per mile if you redeem miles for an airline ticket.  At a rate of 1.25 miles per dollar spent, the base rate becomes $0.0128 per dollar spent, or 1.258%.

If you redeem for credit toward an airline purchase, the redemption rate is $0.01 per mile, or an earning rate of 1.25% at 1.25 miles per dollar spent.

For cash back, Capital One VentureOne has no advantage over Discover It or Chase Freedom.  For gift cards and travel Capital One VentureOne has an advantage over Chase.  For gift cards and travel, Capital One VentureOne and Discover It are about the same.

There is no annual fee.  Note that the earning rate is a flat 1.25 miles per dollar.  There is no special bonus rate if you purchase from a particular merchant.  It is 1.25 miles per dollar for every merchant all the time.

Capital One Venture Rewards

This card is similar to the other Capital One VentureOne card.  The rewards system is the same as the VentureOne card except the earning rate is 2 miles per dollar spent and there is an annual fee of $59.

For cash back, the earning rate is $0.005 per mile.  At 2 miles per dollar, the base rate is 1%.  If you spent $10,000, you’ll earn $100 cash back ($10,000 spent = 20,000 miles = $100 cash back; $100/$10,000 = 1% earning rate).

For gift cards, the redemption rate is $0.01 per mile.  At 2 miles per dollar, the base rate is 2%.  If you spent $10,000, you’ll earn $200  for gift cards.  ($10,000 spent = 20,000 miles = $200 for gift cards; $200/$10,000 = 2% earning rate).

For airline travel, the redemption rate is roughly $0.0102 per mile.  So at 2 miles per dollar, the base rate becomes $0.0204 per dollar, or 2.04%.  ($10,000 spent = 20,000 miles = $204 for travel; $204/$10,000 = 2.04% earning rate).

The annual fee is $59 but the first year is waived.  The introductory offer is 20,000 miles if you spend $2000 in 3 months.  For cash back, that converts to $100, for a base rate of 5% for the first $2000.  For gift cards or airline travel, the miles converts to about $200, for a base rate of 10%.

Now the question is – how much do I need to spend in order to earn more money on the Venture card than the VentureOne card.  For cash back, you need to spend $15,733 in order earn more cash back on the Venture card over the VentureOne card.  (Venture: $15,733 spent = 31,466 miles = $157.33 cash back.  Net earnings = $157.33 – $59 annual fee = $98.33 cash back.)  (VentureOne: $15,733 spent = 19,666 miles = $98.33 cash back.)

For cash back, the Venture card has no advantage over the Chase Freedom card and Discover It card because of the annual fee.

For gift cards and airline travel (the redemption rates for both gift cards and travel are almost the same so I’ll just consider $0.01 per mile), you need to spend over $7867 on the Venture card to earn more money than the VentureOne card.  (Venture: $7867 spent = 15,734 miles = $157.34 credit.  Minus $59, the net earnings is $98.34.)  (VentureOne: $7867 spent = 9,834 miles = $98.34.)

Versus the Quicksilver card on gift card and travel, you need to spend $11,800 to earn more on the Venture than on the Quicksilver card.  (Venture: $11,800 spent = 23,600 miles = $236 earned.  Net earnings = $236 – $59 annual fee = $177 earned).  (Quicksilver: $11,800 spent = $177 cash back).

Compared to the Discover It card, for gift cards, you need to spend $7866 on the Venture card to earn more than the Discover It card.  (Venture: Venture: $7867 spent = 15,734 miles = $157.34 credit.  Minus $59, the net earning is $98.34.) (Discover: $7867 spent = $78.67 cash back.  You cannot buy gift cards at a fractional value, but let’s say you could like a Staples card where you pay $20 to get a $25 gift card where you get 25% more than what you paid for.  So 25% more of $78.67 is $98.34.)

Capital One Quicksilver

The cash back rate is simple: 1.5% on everything.  There is no annual fee.

Since the base rate is 1.5%, the Quicksilver card is superior to the VentureOne card in all categories.  In most cases, the Quicksilver card is superior to the Discover It card and Chase Freedom.

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card

This is an interesting card.  The rewards is in terms of dollars.

The base cash back rate is 1%.  For supermarket purchases, the cash back rate is 6% up to $6,000 in purchases, then it goes to 1%.  For gas stations and some department stores, the cash back rate is 3%.  The annual fee is $75.

So to cover the annual fee, you need to spend $1250 in groceries or $2500 in gas or department store purchases.  Not bad.

If your paying for groceries, you need to spend $1,500 to earn more on the American Express card than the Discover It card.  (AMEX: $1,500 spent = $90 cash back.  Minus $75, the net earnings become $15.)  (Discover: $1,500 spent = $15 cash back.).  For paying gas or department store items, you need to spend $3,750 on the American Express card to earn more than the Discover It card.  (AMEX: $3,750 spent = $112.50 cash back.  Minus $75, the net earnings become $37.50.)  (Discover: $3,750 spent = $37.50 cash back.).

Versus the Quicksilver card for purchasing groceries, you need to spend $1,666 to earn more on the AMEX card than on the Quicksilver card.  (AMEX: $1,666 spent = $99 cash back.  Net earnings = $99 – $75 = $24.) (Quicksilver: $1,666 spent = $24 cash back).

If you really want to take advantage of the AMEX card, buy gift cards at the grocery stores.  You’ll get 6% cash back on gift card purchases.  When you go this route, you’ll need to consider how much discount you can get elsewhere for the gift cards.  If you cannot get a 6% discount on gift cards elsewhere, then it is prudent to buy a gift card at the grocery store using the AMEX card.

(You can buy gift cards at a discount on sites such as and Check these sites out to see if you can get a greater discount than 6%.)

Note that this gift card trick does not work on prepaid credit cards.

I live in Phoenix and Fry’s supermarket had a special of 4x points for certain gift card purchases.  So if I bought $250 in gift cards, I get 1000 Fry’s points, not to mention the $15 cash back on the AMEX card.  1000 Fry’s points equates to $1.00 off per gallon on gasoline purchases.  Normally, you get 2x points on gift cards.

The introductory offer is $100 in reward dollars if you spend $1000 in 3 months.  That’s comes out to be 10% cash back for the first $1000.

The annual fee is $75.  The first year is not waived.  However, the intro offer includes one free year of Amazon Prime.  Also, (I didn’t know this until I tried) cardholders are eligible for ShopRunner which provides free 2nd day shipping on selected items from retailers such as TigerDirect and NewEgg.  And, if you are a Costco member, you can purchase items using this AMEX card.


Discover It Card

The card reward system goes by dollars.  The cash back rate starts at 1%.

To redeem in cash, the rate is $0.01 per dollar spent, or just 1%.

For gift cards redemption, the base rate is different depending the gift card.  For instance, you can get a $50 Outback gift card for $45 cash back.  So the base rate for an Outback gift card becomes 1.11%.  In another example, you can get a $25 Staples gift card for $20 cash back, which makes the rate 1.25%.  ($2,000 spent = $20 cash back = $25 gift card = 1.25%).

Discover does not have redemption for airline travel.  The closest thing to travel is getting getting a gift certificate for cruise travel, Sandals resorts, or  The base rate varies depending on the certificate.  For instance, you can get a $300 certificate for Tauck Tours for $100 cash back, for a base rate of 3%.

For long time Discover Card users:  Make sure you have the It card instead of the More card.  Prior to the It card, there was the Discover More card.  When the It card was introduced, the More card members may not have been automatically converted to the It card.  Call Discover card customer server to check if you have the More card or It card.

One big difference between the two cards is the cash back rate.  The cash back rate for the It card is 1% all year around.  The cash back rate for the More card resets to 0.25% every year.  It is 0.25% for the first $3000 of purchases, then it becomes 1% thereafter until the end of one year.  Then the rewards rate starts all over at 0.25%.

Discover It card has no special sign up deals.  It has no annual fee.



If you want just cash back (not gift cards nor traveling), I would recommend the Capital One Quicksilver card.

If you want cash back and if you spend more than $1,666 a year on groceries, consider the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Cash.  I heard from the news that a family on average spends about $4000 a year on groceries, so spending $1,666 shouldn’t be a problem for a most families.

If you want gift cards and spend under $1,666 per year, try the Capital One Quicksilver card.

If you want gift cards and you spend between $1,666 and $6000 per year on groceries, try the American Express Blue Preferred Cash card.

After you spend $6000 on the AMEX card, it gets a bit complicated.  If you spend less than $11,800 after you spend $6000 on AMEX, try the Capital One Quicksilver card.  If you are going to spend over $11,800 a year after you spend $6000 on the AMEX card, try the Capital One Venture card.

If you travel under $11,800 per year, try the Capital One Quicksilver card or the Discover It Card.  In most cases, the Capital One card is the way to go.  But if Discover card offers gift certificates with a base rate of greater than 1.5%, the Discover It card is the way to go.

If you travel between $11,800 and $15,000 per year, try the Capital One Venture card.

If you travel over $15,000 per year, try the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard.


Credit Card Strategy

It is a good idea to have more than one card handy.   At least three is good.  The big reason is the fraud protection that each credit card has.  If you’re shopping and all of a sudden one of your credit cards doesn’t work anymore, very likely it is because of fraud protection.  If you have another card, you can still finish the purchase.  There was a time that two of my cards were disabled.  Fortunately, I had a third card.

If you can, get the Discover It card and the Chase Freedom card.  They have no annual fee.  Both cards have 5% cash back bonus on certain categories and the categories change for each quarter.  For instance, from January to March 2014, on Discover you can get 5% on restaurants, and on Chase you can get 5% on gas.  Moreover, the Chase Freedom card earns 2% cash back from airline travel.

If you’re considering the gift card route, check out and  I have used them both.  You can buy gift cards at a discount.  For instance, you can purchase a Victoria’s Secret gift card at about a 14% discount.  If or sell gift cards greater than a 6% discount, you’re better off buying from them than redeeming points, miles, or cash back.  Otherwise, buy gift cards at a supermarket using the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card.

The only time (I can think of) you would redeem for gift cards is if the credit card rewards program offers a gift card that you cannot anywhere else at a discount.  One such card is the Marriott gift card.  Capital One offers the card and if you redeemed for it the earning rate would be 1.25%.  I cannot find this card anywhere else at a discount.

The American Express card is only annual fee credit card worth getting if you spend more than $1666 on groceries.  Families on average spend $4,000 per year on groceries so the American Express would be worth it for most families.  Furthermore, if you shop the Internet a lot, you can take advantage of a free membership to ShopRunner and one free year membership to Amazon Prime.

The Quicksilver card is a pretty good card for just about everything.  At 1.5% cash back, the card has one of the highest cash back rate for a no annual fee card.  The only reason you would go with Discover or Chase Freedom is if there is a 5% bonus cash back rate on a particular purchase.

The problem with the annual fee cards (except AMEX) is that you have to be a big spender in order to earn more from them than the non-annual fee cards.  Another factor is how much you’ll spend on the annual fee card if you use the other non-annual fee cards as well.  Let’s say you’ll spend $20,000 per year on credit cards but you have 4 credit cards.  If you split the spending equally on the cards you would spend $5,000 on each card.  If one of the cards is annual fee card, you might need to spend more on it than on the others in order to get your monies worth.

If you get a new credit card that has a good introductory offer such as bonus cash back, points, miles, etc if you spend a certain amount in a certain time frame, make the new credit card your primary card until the target amount has been reached.