Fortune Favours the Bold : My first loss-making day in options trading!

Yesterday I began trading in options, and today, I have made my first loss. This is the story of my early mistakes so that you do not make them.
Egged on by the videos of Rachana Ranade ma’am, P R Sundar sir and Ankur Warikoo sir, I too decided that now the time is ripe to try out my hand at options trading. To begin, I do not have a lot of bankroll at my disposal, so options buying, that too, out of the money. By the way, if you want to know what options are, or what OTM, ITM, ATM means and other nuances of trading in derivatives, check out the videos from the teachers I mentioned earlier, you’ll get the hang of it. So, with a limited kitty of ₹6000, I opened an account in Zerodha.
Yesterday, I put in my first options trade, cautiously. I did not put a stop loss in place but then the market was bullish all the way. As soon as I made about ₹100 profit, I bailed out. Of course, way too cautious I must say. And by the end of the day, had I persisted, the profit would have been about ₹1500. I felt a bit silly. So, last night, I made the plan. Assuming the market opens in the green, I’ll enter a buy position quickly in the morning and then hold on to the position for the day, or until I see a loss of a maximum of ₹500 (around 10%).
Today morning, as the markets opened in the green, I put my plan to action; rather, tried to put it into action. The first hurdle, the stop loss.
In my understanding, if I want to buy a position at a certain value, I enter that as the limit price. The stop loss is where I don’t want the price to fall beyond and limit my losses. So, that value must go in the stop loss value. But this is not how Zerodha functions. No matter what I do, Kite (Zerodha’s trading platform) would just not let me enter the stop loss that I want, rather it wants me to enter a price above the last traded price. After fighting with the system for some time, I just put in values at market price and sent out an order. The stop loss was about 50p below the buy price. In about 10 minutes, I was stopped out and exited the trade. Now, in an options trade, the ticker does not necessarily go down by 50p each time. It might drop by quite a value before the stop-loss kicks in. So, I have a loss of about ₹200. Still within my budget for the day.
I tried again, this time, I raised a ticket with Zerodha, explaining what I thought should be stop loss, and sent out another order. This time I got stopped out after about half an hour. Another loss of almost equal amount.
Then I found out the correct way to do it. You enter a buy position. Then, you put a sell order, with the stop loss that you feel is correct. So, this works as your safety net. Upon having this revelation, I tried once more. This time, the order was correct, and based on my expectations, I put in a stop-loss order. My order got completed with a loss of another ₹250 in the next 20 minutes. And I thought to myself, enough for the day. The market is not good, let it be. All of this happened by about 10:30 – 11:00. But then, the itch remained, and at about 13:00 I opened the site again and imagine my amazement, to see the prices, which had made me lose about ₹500 already, are soaring. I mean, had I remained in the last loss-making position, I would gave been seeing an upside of at least ₹600 at that time.
So, what did I do? What any normal person does, I put in another trade. This last trade, I am tracking it. Tenaciously. Increasing the stop loss gradually so that I get maximum profit out of it, but then, the earlier trades have done so much damage that despite being up in double-digit percentages, the last trade will not be able to make an overall profit.
Anyway, what is the learning from my ordeal of the day? Have patience. And read the manuals. I was ready to deal with a 10% loss right at the beginning and had that been my initial stop loss, in the very first trade of the day, I would not have been stopped out 3 times and would have enjoyed quite a bit of profit.
I know for sure that this will not be the last time I am making a loss in a trade, but then, now I know how to put the stop loss in place correctly.
Thanks for being my reader today. I hope you have a nice trading session ahead.
Cheers and have a nice day!

CRED Mint : The P2P lending platform with a “creditworthy” sense of security

Hello,

P2P lending i.e peer to(2) peer lending concept is not new. It is quite simple actually. I want a loan and you have some extra money available. We decide on an interest rate and we execute the contract. Sounds simple, and well versed. In fact, P2P lending has been in existence since the concept of money, interest, repayment has existed.
If this has existed already since centuries, why is it a talking point now a days, is a valid question. The reason is simple, people misutilized the P2P lending ideas. The rich lent to the poor at exorbitant rates, which they failed to repay and led to generations being crushed under the pile of debt, being one of the major eventual outcomes of this practice. This is where the banks stepped in. They provided an organized platform for the lenders and the debtors, while charging an interest as a fee. From the median interest amount, the banks would provide interest at a lower rate to the depositor, to keep the money safe and charge a moderate amount from the loan seeker to provide that loan. An example is the rates of interest a bank charges for personal loan vs the interest it provides for a standard savings account. The difference in the rates, is the bank’s income. Despite the banks being present, the practice of P2P lending in an unorganized way still exists and thrives.

This is where the different NBFC and Fintech companies saw an opportunity. To tap into this unorganized P2P lending market and make it available to the mass. In the Indian market, companies such as Faircent, Paisadukaan, Rupeecircle, etc. have come up, all having their own take at this opportunity.

Brings us to the main question, how is CRED Mint any different? Well, the services it offers are the same as a normal P2P lending platform does. Unsecured loan upto a certain value, 9% interest, easy options to pull your invested money out, etc. but, where it shines is who it chooses to have on the platform. CRED boasts having a stringent entry criteria of 750+ credit score. This easily eliminates a chunk of the population who may pose to be bad debts to a lender. To have a high credit score, you must be crediworthy and to maintain this creditworthiness, it takes financial discipline and effort, which all the members on CRED supposedly exhibit.
This makes CRED Mint incredibly safe to use as an investor. One cannot look away from the fact that the offered interest is 9% p.a which is incredibly high even if compared to the FD rates available. They do have an entry barrier of minimum Rs. 1 lakh, maximum upto Rs. 10 lakhs as an investor, while as a borrower, I believe the maximum limit is of Rs. 5 lakhs.

The process of enrollment into CRED Mint is still based on invites as of now and shall be open to the entire CRED community soon. The steps are straightforward and simple to follow. Best part is an entire section dedicated to explain the entire P2P lending process along with a very detailed FAQ.

Have I invested in Mint yet? No, I do not have enough spare money lying about, just yet. But I will invest here soon enough. Should you invest in it? If you have some money to spare and are not risk averse, have a decent enough credit score, yes, you definitely should.

If you would want to get a Rs. 250 voucher when you sign up for CRED, please do let me know in the comments. The referral links stay active only for 48 hours, hence can’t post a permalink here.

Please let me know of your thoughts on CRED Mint’s P2P scheme. To read in detail of the intricacies of P2P lending, this page from cleartax is a great resource. Please check it out here.

Until the next post,
Cheers!!

Uni 1/3rd Card: 3 months no cost EMI card for all!

Hello dear readers,

As you may have read in my previous post on credit cards, I do own a few cards. I use them for specific purposes, the AMEX card to gain the rewards, ICICI-Amazon card to get cashback on Amazon, ICICI-HPCL card for some fuel related cashbacks, HSBC Platinum card since it is lifetime free and has occasional offers on it.

Of these cards, only the Amazon card offers me an option for No cost EMI for 3/6/9 months, on selected products, only on Amazon. What if, there was a card, which would provide us with a similar no cost EMI option for all spends? I feel it would be brilliant.

A few days ago, I watched a video on Youtube describing the Uni 1/3rd card. The USP of this card is that it lets you choose to split your bill on each spend, whether you want to pay it in full or convert it into a no cost EMI for 3 months. This appealed to me greatly. For the relatively big ticket spends, they can now be converted into more affordable packets for a period of 3 months, and that too is not restricted by a website or platform as such. Off course, most of the other cards offer the option to convert a big spend into EMIs but there is always an interest rate attached to it, which is not the case here for the three months period. Also, if you choose to pay the bill in full, there is a 1% cashback. 1% may not sound a lot, but it is worth the amount in actual rupees, which is in turn almost 4 to 5 times more in worth than each reward points earned. Also, the card is Visa powered, hence, no issues with acceptance. So, convinced that this is a good idea, I applied for the card.

The application process is simple enough. You download the app and sign up for a new card. A quick KYC based on your PAN card, Aadhar Card and a selfie later, you have the card assigned to you with a fair credit limit. It took about 24 hours for me to have the card available online for transactions and in a week, the card arrived home.

The box was nice and the card is minimalistic. In the box, there was the card, a mask, a bag tag and a small packet of Toblerone chocolate. Overall, a simple yet thoughtful gesture towards initiating a new customer into the fold.

As of now, I am looking forward to using this card mainly for the transactions which generally do not yield much points or cashbacks, so that the advantage of the card’s 1% cashback can be utilized.

Also, the card and its app are in beta stage, simply put, it is still a very new card, so a lot more facilities and uses of the card is expected soon.
If you apply for the card now, you’ll be one of the early adopters of the card, and that is rewarded by Uni by not charging the joining or annual fee. This may change in the future though.

Finally, in my opinion, this card provides a good proposition towards owning and using a credit card. Off course, like all cards, always ensure that you are able to pay your dues in full. What makes this interesting is that if you pay in full, which you are expected to anyway, you get 1% cashback, so, that is an incentive to pay in full. And if you are just not able to accommodate the full payment or feel a little stressed about the big purchase that you have done, split the bill into 3 parts and pay with relative ease. I would recommend this card to people who have a financial discipline in place and know how to handle their finances. It is easy to overspend when you are paying just a fraction of the cost immediately. So, good luck with using this promising card and I am hoping that more facilities are made available soon.

Feel free to put up thoughts and questions as comments to the post.

Until the next post,
Cheers!!

TTL : Thailand for a week

Hi all,

Now, with the Covid restrictions slowly easing up, tourism is bound to pick up pace. The timing is apt for a reminiscence of our trip to Thailand in January, 2020. Our trip was a weeklong one, covering Phuket, Krabi and Bangkok. The details follow below!

The planning began in early December ’19 scoping out the locations, tentative dates and duration of stay. We finalized to go to three places, Phuket, Krabi and Bangkok, spread over a duration of 1 week.

Our journey began from Mumbai to Bangkok. On the evening of arrival, we spent the night at a nearby hotel (Silver Gold Garden, Suvarnabhumi Airport) for we had the flight to Phuket early next morning. This is where our trip began in earnest.


At Phuket, we had booked for 2 nights’ stay at Arya Eightball Records Hotel, Patong. The hotel was clean, simple and served our purpose. We had planned to roam about the entire day on scooter and have a clean place to sleep, nothing fancy.

At Phuket, on the first day, we went to Wat Chalong, The Big Buddha and the Phuket Aquarium.

For the second day at Phuket, on recommendation from our host at the hotel, we booked a 3 Island day tour. It would be an entire day of island hopping to the Phi-Phi Islands and then back. Once we were back, we went to the Thalang Road to take some pictures and then to the Patong beach to find out why it is so (in)famous.

It was quite fun the stay at Phuket. With rolling hills all about and amazing roads, riding a scooter on the twists and turns are quite amazing. One must be a bit careful though, but it is fun.

From Phuket, on the next day, we took a mini-bus/van kind of a vehicle to Krabi. It was cheaper than flying or via boat, but it was more tiresome and time consuming.

At Krabi, we chose to splurge on our stay. We stayed at an apartment booked via AirBnB at Muang. It is a few kms out of the Krabi town, peaceful, serene and very beautiful. At Krabi, we visited the Noppaharat Thara beach, the Ao Nang beach, took a small boat to the Railay Beach. One of the most amazing things to see was a shell cemetery. It is a place where shells, millions of years old have become fossilized and have now become effectively rocks. We also visited the Thapom Resort which is basically a mangrove forest with elevated walkways within to enjoy. It is interesting to see such forests up close, knowing the major significance they have in preventing rogue waves from causing destruction inland.

The sunset at the Nopparahat beach is absolutely spell binding and it makes you feel happy. Try not to miss it.

The next day, we flew to Bangkok. As with the stay at Phuket, we needed a place to go to sleep at night and the Chocolate Mint Box was just the place for it. It was clean, simple and had complimentary breakfast, which was very tasty. At Bangkok, a realization that helped us a lot to save time and money, is to use the extensive and frequent boat service. Do not fall for the Tourist trap of Hop on Hop off boat, rather, travel as the locals do, in the express boats. They are economical and they shall get you from point A to B easily.

At Bangkok, we visited the Wat Arun and the Patpong night market. We made a quick tour to the China Town area too. We skipped the Grand Palace though and instead went to the Asiatique Sky. The place is nice and lively with the giant wheel being the main attraction. The Bangkok Eye provides a birds-eye view of the city and its surroundings.

Apart from all the wonderful places to be, there were loads of amazing things to eat. The place is an absolute paradise for the non vegetarian people. Huge varieties of sea food along with the commonly available meats are for sale. Crocodile meat was also for sale, didn’t try it though. A fruit, which looks like Jackfruit for us back home is the Durian. Apparently it has such a smell, which some love and some hate, that you are not allowed to carry durians in cabs, buses, trains or flights. Someday, am sure I ll find out why it is so.

So, this was a quick recap of our weeklong Thai tour. The final cost to us, including the flights, transfers and boat tours was about ₹1.3 lakhs. So, in about ₹1.5 lakhs, it is possible for a couple to spend a week having fun at Thailand.

The Visa fee was waived at the time we went for our trip, but we paid 200 THB per head to skip the queue. That smoothened up the Visa entry procedure considerably. The people around are helpful and the signboards plentiful. There should be no problems. Booking a scooter is easy. Cost is reasonable, so is the fuel cost. We had to keep our passports as collateral to take the scooters, which feels a bit scary, but then, that’s how things are. One must always ensure that they are decently dressed while entering a place of worship and be respectful to the people. Give respect to earn it.

I hope that you enjoyed the account of our trip. More to follow soon.

Cheers!!

How to shoot a timelapse sequence?

First, we begin with what a time lapse video is.
This is a video of a span of time which is compressed to a few seconds or minutes to observe a slow change in the setting. The best examples of time lapse videos (commonly called as simply timelapse) are the ones which show the making of huge structures or those of a day transitioning to night and vice versa.

Next, how do we make one.
Timelapse are basically made of multiple photos, taken over a long period of time, and then stitched back together to make a video. The speed of the video is set in such a manner so that the video appears to be fluid and the resultant time of the video becomes a few seconds.

For this to be done, we need a device which is capable of taking photos at a fixed interval. So, either a camera with built in option for interval shooting, or an intervalometer which can be coupled with the camera. Below are some photos and their explanation. The camera being used here is a Nikon D7200.

Photo Shooting Menu In Nikon D7200
Interval Timer Shooting option

The photo above shows a setting where 699 photos shall be taken, with a 10 second interval between them. So, total exposure time is 6990 seconds. The setting can be done as shown in the below photos.

One should pay attention to the fact that using these settings you can change only the number of photos being taken, not the photo’s settings. So, the ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed and Focus has to be set by the user first.

Once the number of photos are taken, they must be processed to produce a timelapse video. There are multiple options to achieve this. Quick google searches lead to many paid and free options easily and the instructions are quite straightforward.

A calculation must be understood here. The relation between the number of frames and resultant video.

In the case we have here, we have a total of 699 frames, over a span of 6990 seconds. For a smooth video, it must be played back at about 30 fps (frames per seconds). So, my resultant video is going to be approximately, 699/30 = 23.3 seconds long. So, I shall be representing 6990 seconds, i.e almost 2 hours worth of exposure in about 24 seconds.

Add a music to the video which is fitting to it, and Voila! You have your timelapse! Check out the one I made using the settings explained above.

Timelapse video of a seedling unfurling

Offcourse there are apps available now in which all you must do is set the phone at a particular location, dial in the time you want the resultant video to be, or the exposure time, and once the exposure is done, the app returns you a expertly made video. In fact, some DSLRs also come with this option of inbuilt timelapse. Mine comes with the interval timer option only. Anyway, I hope the post is useful to anyone who wants to know about the wonderful thing a timelapse is.

Feel free to let me know of your thoughts in the comments below.

Till the next post,

Cheers!!

Pi Network: Scam? MLM? Pyramid Scheme? Next Bitcoin?

Hi There,

There is a tiny chance that by now, you have never heard of Bitcoin. If not, do a quick wikipedia search and come back here. I will carry on with the premise you know what the Bitcoin is and also assume that you did not manage to amass it while it was still possible for a normal salaried person. I miss not being able to grab that opportunity.

So, just like I did with rushing with the NFT opportunity, I was elated when a friend invited me to the Pi Network.

Now, the Pi network is currently in a nascent stage, beta stage, if you may call it, where the pioneers mine the coin (Pi Coin) on their mobile phones using their mobile app. Recently they launched a non custodian wallet too and gave us 100 test pi coins to test out, which works just fine. The core team does plan to launch the mainnet and the coin into the public exchange by the end of 2021, a time when the coins will have some real value in terms of fiat currency. Till then, honestly it is still make believe.

What strikes strange, is the way the network is being marketed, where one has to be invited to be able to join the network and then as he/she adds more people to the network, the speed of mining increases. It sounds absolutely like a multi level marketing scam, except there is no money involved. There is an app which you must download and run. The app has a tiny battery footprint, uses minimum data, does not ask for permissions of storage, location, phone or messages. It asks for contacts permission for inviting others, which can be denied without affecting the functioning of the app. For mining to happen, the user must register and put in an attendance, once every 24 hours, maybe watch 1 or 2 ads and that’s it.

This has every smell of a scam and my brain says that it is, but the heart says, what if the the core members are not scamming us after all? What if this explodes like the bitcoin? Didn’t you hear stories where the early adopters of Bitcoins were called loons and fools? What is the risk anyway? There is no money involved and we provide our life’s data to google and facebook anyway to be used as a product, so what’s the harm?

For me, as long as there is no actual money from my pocket is on the line, I am a 100% ready to try out a new product. If, down the line they ask us for money, hard real money, then shall I decide, whether I want to continue or not.

Till then, I shall keep mining this coin.

Since you cannot join the network without an invite, you can use my code after you sign up : novemberking91

You can go to this link too : https://minepi.com/novemberking91

I wish that you take this leap of faith and that our collective leaps are rewarded. Its not completely wishful thinking though, there are multiple websites and pages which are coming up discussing about this new coin, Pi. Do check them out and do decide, just do remember, in case this hits the market good, and the values go up high, on 28th of April 2021, you had been shown the possibility of it, yet again!

This post is in no way containing all the data that is to be known about the coin, but it tries to get you, dear reader to have an interest in the matter. I hope I was able to do it.

Good luck to all of us.

Cheers!!


The photo of the Pi coin is not mine. I took the photo from this link and have added the texts on it.

Minting your first NFT : A noob’s experiences!

Hi there,
I just minted my first NFT a couple of days back and what shall follow here is an account of my experience.

Before I begin in all earnest, know this, I am not a blockchain expert or a crypto wizard by any measure. I have a sketchy understanding of what they are and generally believe in escaping a situation, if it demands money online!

So, let’s begin!

We have heard of crypto currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Dogecoin etc. at a time when it was already past the early adoption phase. The first time when I came to know of Bitcoin, it was during the college days, around 2011/2012. The price of 1 BTC (bitcoin) was almost as much as 1 USD, which rapidly became 100 USD. The point being, that was a time when I did not have any disposable income to invest in a tech which I did not understand fully. Most of us Indians still don’t for that matter anyway. And by the time I had some money and knowledge to invest, it was 2017/18, 1 BTC was close to 10k USD, clearly out of reach. So, I ll say, we, as a generation missed out Crypto train big time.

So, when a new kid, NFT came on the block, I was keen on finding out what it was and how to make some money out of it. An NFT is a unit of data, which is stored on the blockchain, certifying its uniqueness and authenticity. The NFT can be anything digital, a photo, a video, a song, in fact it can be anything.

And YOU CAN MINT YOUR OWN NFT and sell it.

The market right now is in a nascent stage, so the opportunity for relatively unknown people to sell pieces of digital art and collectibles is still available. With that thought in mind, I decided to go ahead and mint my own NFT.

Everything costs money. Whether real dollars or rupees or the virtual ether, bitcoin etc. but it will cost money. So does minting your NFT. These charges are known as Gas fees. There are websites which proclaim “Gasless” NFTs where you can mint it, but pay no gas charge upfront. The trick employed here is, that the gas charge will be charged against the proceeds of the sale, if you manage to sell your NFT. Also, the gasless NFTs are not allowed to be transferred to your wallet, so, you dont own it, until it has been sold at least once.

I minted my first NFT using the gasless option on Mintable.
The process is easy enough. Sign up for the website, make a wallet in Metamask. Metamask is apparently quite a popular wallet which is used by some more online marketplaces too. Then, I uploaded the photo I wanted to mint. Put in some of the details and Voila! my first NFT was created.

Check it out here.

Once I created it, then did I realize that I did not make it downloadable, so now, even if someone pays 200 USD for my NFT, which is honestly a pretty picture, they will not be able to download it. They can resell it or use it for commercial purposes, but not download it. Kinda stupid, I know, but then, a mistake is a learning.

Also, since it was gasless, Mintable owns it as of now. So, I cannot use the same NFT to sell on a different marketplace, say Rarible, Foundation, Opensea, etc.

Gas fees, which you must pay for minting, keeps varying according to the time of the day, Ethereum vs USD values, network congestion, etc. These are just some of the causes. A website to track the gas prices graphically is this one. So, do check it out before minting. It may so happen that you wait for an hour, and pay a fraction of the gas fees as of now.

Bottom line, unless you invest money into this, chances that you will get money back is negligible. Read up a bit more, set aside a few of artwork or digital assets that you feel are worth being put out in the open market. Set aside a bit of money, about 200 USD to begin with and create a proper NFT, gas fees and all included. Then, list it on the different markets. Off course, loads and loads of marketing is needed. People must know that you exist and that you are interested in selling a digital asset. Consistency and perseverance are key to this too.

Make no mistake, this is a business and all principles of a business are applicable here. Prices fluctuate wildly and it is easy to get disheartened. But when you think of the rewards that are possible, the risk seems to be bearable.

Dear reader, please know this, NFT is still new. There is still scope to jump on this bandwagon before it becomes too huge to be unaffordable for most of us. Read up, research and take the plunge. At worst, you’ll lose 200 USD. At best, the returns are unlimited.

I have tried to put in my experiences and thoughts into this post as best I can right now. I ll continue to research and find ways to get the best bang for my ether.

Let me know of your thoughts and doubts and I shall try to come up with an answer, or we shall embark on a quest together to learn something new.

Cheers!!

A Noob’s guide to a free AMEX Card

I was born in 1991 and neither of my parents, during their years of career has had a credit card. So, at the first opportunity, 26 years later, I promptly obtained one. For a lot of people in the middle class, my generation is the first one which takes the plunge into the world of rewards, cashbacks, due dates and balance transfers. Almost every bank we know of, issues a credit card and each has its own pros and cons.

Amongst the cards available to be issued based on applications, AMEX cards are one of the most desirable ones. So, yet again, upon realizing that I was eligible for one and would be able to use it fruitfully, I applied and obtained one. The prime objective was to experience the enigma around AMEX cards, the rewards programmes and to be honest, the slight feeling of pride from the second glance the card receives as you hand it out to be used.

In the post ahead, I shall discuss some of the basic questions that I had asked around and hope that it’ll help you too. The discussion aims to cover

  • Types of cards – Debit/Credit/Charge
  • How AMEX is different?
  • Eligibility and why you should get one
  • The rewards programme
  • Pros and Cons as experienced by me
  • How to get an AMEX card with no annual fee

Let’s begin!

Types of Cards – Debit/Credit/Charge

These three are the major types of cards available easily to any customer.

The Debit card is linked directly to your bank account. There are daily transaction limits on the card and you can, technically, spend as much as your balance is in the linked account. In India, for most debit cards, a daily transaction limit of ₹50,000 exists. Debit cards are given out as a part of the standard kit while you open a new account in the banks. These are generally free of charge or a minimum yearly charge for account maintenance is charged.

The Credit Card (CC) is not linked directly to your bank account, in a manner that what you spend on the credit card will not dent your bank balance immediately. Every CC comes with a limit of sorts, which is the maximum expense that you can incur on that card. There is a fixed number of days in which you must repay the CC account, which varies from 30 to 51 days in general, which is known as a credit cycle. The limit of the card is dependent on your income, spending habits, CIBIL scores; simply put how reliable you are that you shall pay the money back, from the bank’s point of view. This causes the limit to vary wildly. For me, I have had cards where the limit varied from ₹18,000 to ₹2,50,000, and the limits keep on changing over time. Also, in case you are unable to pay your dues on the due date, there is an interest that is charged for every day that you delay settling the due. These cards can have loads of rewards attached to spending goals and may have annual charges for them.

What about the needs of high spend groups? Having a limit on their spending is not suitable for them, so there comes the third kind, Charge Cards. These cards are meant mostly for people who require virtually unlimited spending power while being able to repay on a fixed date. Charge cards mostly include an uncapped spending limit, loads of reward points and an annual fee. The prime point for a charge card is that you must pay the due on the day of the statement. There is no free credit period as such for these cards. So, these cards are best suited for business purposes, where transactions are settled on a fixed date basis. In case there is a fee default, it gets reported to the credit bureaus and has major negative effects on the cardholder’s credit ratings and in turn to his/her credibility in the eyes of the bank. So, if you are sorted with your finances, have the requisite control needed and do not mind paying the annual fees, the rewards of a charge card can be very alluring indeed.

Some of the debit cards I own!

How is AMEX different?

The biggest difference is that AMerican EXpress (AMEX) is not a bank. It is a credit card issuing agency that issues its own cards and has tie-ups with most major banks of the world. So, you can not have debit cards from AMEX, though you might have AMEX affiliated ones, similar to the VISA or MasterCard or RuPay ones that we see commonly. There are prepaid AMEX cards too. So, what difference does it make for you and me? The answer is, to obtain an AMEX card, you’ll have to either apply for it or be invited to its membership. Of course, most major banks of the country have credit cards that are AMEX affiliated, but they are still not technically AMEX cards.

A photo of my AMEX MRCC
My AMEX card

Eligibility and Should You get one

The eligibility criteria for AMEX cards vary according to the cards themselves but are quite stringent as compared to the cards from other banks. An annual salary over ₹5,00,000 with a CIBIL score of 750+is generally recommended for being eligible for at least one card. We must remember always that being eligible does not mean that you must apply for it. You must have a clear idea of why you want the card? Is it for the benefits and rewards or just use it as a status symbol? Are you ready to pay the annual fee for it (You can get it for free too you know! Check the last point 😉)? Would you be able to utilize the card fruitfully? If you can justify yourself on these questions, then you should go ahead with it for sure.

 My reasons to get the AMEX card were driven by the zest to try out the rewards being offered by AMEX. Since I had already been using my existing cards for most of my expenses and shifting to the new AMEX card was neither difficult nor have I had to go out of my way to spend differently.

The Rewards Programme

Let’s be honest, we choose credit cards based on the rewards they provide. Most have some sort of a cashback in place; be it as points, statement credits or miles. These rewards can be redeemed for physical things such as discount coupons, electronics, holidays, flight tickets and even cars. And this is what entices us ultimately, the value for return. 

 For AMEX cards, this value is high. They have multiple reward programmes running at a time which can be used quite interestingly often. As of now, besides the discounts being offered on the card in dining, shopping and such, they have spend based rewards at 18k and 24k points. Of course, you can redeem your points for statement credit monthly, but that is a sheer wastage of points.

Let’s take a quick example to see how using the AMEX card cleverly can be useful for us. 

Assumptions:

  1. The card is AMEX MRCC (Amex Membership Rewards Card)
  2. The monthly expense is at least ₹20,000. This is not difficult if you include rent payment via credit card. 
  3. You have signed up for the spend based rewards programmes.

Scenario:

For the MRCC, you get 1 point for every ₹50 spent (some exclusions exist, such as utilities, fuel, etc.).

 Spending ₹2,40,000 in a year provides you with 4800 points only. That is honestly very sad.

But, if you make at least 4 transactions of ₹1500+, you get another 1000 points. Assuming that is being done, the new total becomes 16800 points. 

Signing up for a spend based reward programme, where if you spend more than ₹20,000 in a calendar month, you get another 1000 additional points. Assuming that is being done too, now, the final total becomes, 28800 points.

Now, with 28.8k points, you become eligible for both 18k and 24k rewards.

 The 18k rewards has Taj vouchers, Amazon gift certificates, statement credits etc, while the 24k rewards has Tanishq vouchers too along with Taj vouchers and Amazon gift certificates. You can choose from these at your will. Apart from redeeming the points as rewards on AMEX, you can choose to convert some of them to air miles and redeem flight tickets too. 

So, you see, if used cleverly, AMEX credit cards can be quite useful. It is not that these offers are available only for AMEX, but rather every card comes with its own sets of rewards. Some research helps.

Pros and Cons As I see it

The Pros and Cons of an AMEX card are as varied as the person using it. For me, the rewards were more enticing than standard cashback, while the main disappointment has been the non-inclusion of the MRCC in the airport lounge programme. I do not fret much about it though, since I have other cards which provide airport lounge access, but if the MRCC provided the same, it would have been nicer. Not having to pay annual charges offsets the disappointments greatly.

How to get an AMEX card for free

One thing we must understand is that the reason AMEX and other better-than-the-rest cards can offer the rewards is that they all have annual fees. In the case of AMEX, the MRCC and the SmartEarn are the two cards that have the option of fees waiver based on the spend. 

SmartEarn is aimed towards the ones who want to have an AMEX card in their wallet mostly to feel premium about owning an AMEX card. It has the least entry requirements and does not have a lot of value in terms of rewards other than accelerated points accumulation. 

 This card has an annual fee of ₹495 + taxes which is waived off upon spending more than ₹40,000 in the previous billing year.

 The MRCC on the other hand is aimed at people who want to enjoy the fruits of their expenditures but are not willing to spend a lot though. It misses out on lounge access, golf club memberships etc, but offers you possibilities to stay at Taj or gift yourself/ your beloved Tanishq items.

 This card has a first-year fee of ₹1000 + taxes and an annual fee of ₹4500 + taxes. But, if you use a referral code, such as the one below, the first year fee becomes Nil and the annual fees come down to ₹1500 + taxes. In fact, if you use the card the way I have mentioned in the example and use my referral code, that’s how you can get your AMEX card for free. Do hurry though, this offer is valid till May 2021 as of now.

My referral link is here!

To end, I shall say that it is time that we begin using credit cards for our daily expenses. It promotes healthy financial discipline and improves your credit score. The credit score is an important tool to decide at what rate you shall get your loan from a bank. Mostly, higher credit score holders get better terms for their loans and the chances of rejection are minimized greatly.

Feel free to reach out to me with your doubts and questions, I shall be happy to help solve them 😊

Cheers!! 

Feast-o-Rama Recipe 1 : Chicken Green Thai Curry

Thai curry is one of our favourite dishes. We love the chicken version more than the veg one, but then, the replacing chicken with paneer will not have detrimental effects as such, since the recipe stays the same. Without much ado, let’s dive in to the recipe quickly.

The recipe has three main parts:

  1. The coconut milk
  2. The Thai curry paste
  3. The final mix and cooking.

Now, the coconut milk and the Thai curry paste are readily available in the market. But, we chose to make them from the scratch ourselves.

The Coconut Milk

The main ingredient for the coconut milk is

  1. Coconut
  2. Patience
  3. Water
  4. Strainer

Cut the coconut into small pieces and then grind it to a paste. Add water periodically to make the paste light as needed. Then strain the paste. The liquid is the coconut milk which we shall use, and the residue can be used to make coconut based sweets or used in cooking something else. Check out the video here.

The Thai Curry Paste

For the curry paste, the ingredients are as follows:

  1. Onions, diced : 2 large
  2. Chilli : 1, Ginger (instead of Galangal) : 2 inch roughly chopped, Garlic : 8 or 9 cloves
  3. Green onion stalks : 2 or 3 chopped
  4. Lemon grass stalks : 3 or 4 stalks; peeled and boiled
  5. Coriander leaves : Bowl full of it
  6. Lime leaves : 2 or 3 thoroughly washed and roughly torn
  7. Cumin powder : 1 teaspoon
  8. Coriander powder : 1 teaspoon
  9. Salt : 1 teaspoon
  10. Lime zest : 1/2 teaspoon
  11. Lemon juice : 1 lemon worth

Grind the contents into a thick paste. Add water as needed. The paste shall have a tangy and spicy flavour which is simply AMAZING!! The video for the same is below. Check it out.

The Chicken Green Thai Curry Recipe

To be honest, this is the easiest bit in the entire process.

The ingredients are as follows:

  1. Chicken : 500 gms, boneless; washed, cleaned and cut to small bite sized pieces
  2. Olive oil : 2 to 3 tablespoons
  3. The Thai Curry paste
  4. Babycorn and Capsicums, optional
  5. Coconut milk
  6. Salt
  7. Spring onions, to garnish.

In a pan, heat the oil and pour in the curry paste to cook. You have to keep on stirring the paste otherwise it will splatter around. As the paste begins to cook, add in the chicken, baby corn and capsicum pieces. The cooking of the paste is complete, when the raw ginger garlic smell is gone and the oil begins to separate. Add salt to taste and keep on stirring the pan.
Once the paste is cooked, add in the coconut milk to the mix and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are not cooked completely.

Voila! Your Chicken Green Thai Curry is ready to be served with rice! Bon Appetit!

This recipe is very close to our hearts and we love to make it quite often at home. Sometimes we go the whole way to make things from the scratch, or sometimes we get the Thai curry paste from the market and add chicken to it for the end result, honestly speaking. Either way, the end product is outright delicious.

Do try it out and let us know of your experiences.

Our Youtube channel is named Feast-o-Rama and can be found here! Please do check it out too for loads of more recipes and videos.

Cheers!!

Blogging to Vlogging : What changed ?

Hi there,
It has been almost a year since I was here, writing a blog. Why you may ask.
Did I not have new content? Did I not have the time? Was I lazy? Or did blogging become obsolete?

To answer the first three questions, I did have some new content. I got married, went for trips to Thailand, Dhuandhar falls, places in and around Vadodara, more recently Goa, so, yeah, I did have content. Time, to be honest, I did manage to extract some out of the daily schedule and had I really wanted to blog, I would have been able to. Lazy? Maybe a bit.

But then, when we come to the fourth question, Is blogging dying, that needs a bit more insight and discussion.

I began blogging in 2014. I had quit the first company and was preparing for further studies. I had picked up the hobby of photography back then and was trying to find ways in which I could reach out to the world and show my skill. I loved to write, spin stories around the photograph, so, blogging seemed to be the best option.
By 2016, I had managed to post more than 200 posts. Sometimes I would post multiple times a week, that was the heyday of blogging I would say. There were meetups, various forums for discussions, brand integrations and what not.
Vlogging was a new thing back then. A handful of stalwarts picking it up. Content creation was still mostly in the written media.
Looking back, that was the best year, till now. My rate of posts declined, so did the viewership. I will blame it largely on my own inaction of not being consistent, while not negating the influence of videos on the entire industry.

Videos and vlogs became the new thing since then. Youtube began being more user friendly and the content creators lapped up the opportunity with open arms. Videos are easier for the mass to consume and garner a following quickly, as compared to a blog. A prime reason is the language of the video. There is no restriction at all in a video. It can be in any language out there and that shall cater to a certain group of the population. While in a blog, in India, the language is mostly English with a handful more in the vernacular language. One can argue, that by writing, it develops your skills and makes you adept at the language, but from the point of view of the content consumer, it is simply easier to check out a video. It ll be shorter, have better visuals and it feels connected. This is true for the mass media and that is why best selling books get made into movies and often a well executed movie earns a lot more than the book. For example, one of the best sellers of our times, the Harry Potter collection by J. K. Rowling is estimated to have an earning of $7 billion, while the movies have earned more than $9 billion till now. One must take into account that the first HP book, The Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997 (UK) and its movie was released in 2001. The figures keep on increasing.

It is not that Vlogging is all the easier than blogging. While it has the advantages of being able to reach to the consumer in a much direct manner, it does have its caveats. As always, content is king. You can get away with making transition videos on mini video apps and platforms, add a few filters and some music to it, but that is honestly, rubbish.
A well made video, which shall add some value to your consumer, requires preparation and research. The execution has to be better than the competition, the information has to be enriching and the content, engaging. Add to this, editing. One must edit their clips to form the final video. Off course, you can hire a team of people to do the backend jobs, but then you must pay them too. So, either you have enough money for recruiting a team, or you do it yourself. I must reiterate here, putting in a few transitions and filters is not editing, period. It includes honest effort and quite a lot of knowledge. All this becomes a hurdle to a newbie into the foray.

But then, the rewards are huge. The Vloggers who have managed to garner a following earn a lot. They earn from the revenue from the views of the videos, ads and also via collaborations. So, the risk reward scenario favours the tenacious and dedicated. And this increased scope of rewards has pushed many bloggers to explore the vlogging scene. Some have become exclusive vloggers, some try to keep a balance between the two.
I have also tried to keep up with the times and have spruced up the look of the blog. Added a few sections of tech and the new found skill, cookery. The cookery section is to be fuelled by the Vlog, Feastorama, which is a Youtube cooking channel, founded and maintained by me and my wife.

If you have made it till here, means you are still interested in the quintessential question, Is Blogging Dead? And the answer shall be No, it isn’t! It is turning to a niche though. The number of bloggers shall steadily fall, so shall their readership, until, there shall be a wave of revival where Vlogging will have become so mainstream that people shall return to reading.

Until that day arrives, we as bloggers, shall keep our head up and carry on with making new content for you to read, bookmark, share and re-read again 🙂

It feels good to be back writing. New posts shall be coming up soon.

Cheers!!

Solar Eclipse From Vadodara

Solar eclipse is one of the natural phenomenons which draws awe every time it is visible.
In the recent past, we were lucky enough to be able to witness a partial solar eclipse from Vadodara, Gujarat, India.

We didn’t use any special devices or gears to capture the eclipse rather than use the basic settings used to shoot the sun, namely, smallest aperture and a reasonably fast shutter speed.

What are the camera settings for capturing solar eclipse?
F/36, 1/1600s and ISO 100 later, the outcome is as below!

As always, general precautions must be followed while looking at the sun. We used double polarized glasses to view the sun, though for little amount of time at a stretch.

An upcoming solar eclipse is scheduled in June 2020. Hopefully it shall be visible from Vadodara and more pictures of the same shall be shared.

Cheers!!

Ganesh Visarjan 2019: Vadodara

Since staying in Maharasthra, I have found Ganesh Chaturthi and the subsequent Visarjan quite a huge celebration. Off course, comparing the likes of Laalbaagcha Raja or Chinchpoklicha Chintamani is not justified, but here in Vadodara, the celebrations are vibrant and filled with enthusiasm.

This time, I had the opportunity to cover a part of the visarjan at the Gotri lake at Gotri.

I loved the way each idol would be loaded on the platform and taken to the middle of the lake and then ceremoniously dunked in the water. This ensures a better immersion and hence a more complete dissolution of the idol. Let’s have a look.

I hear that the Sur Sagar lake hosts much bigger idols and draws a bigger crowd, hope to cover it next year.

The Mumbai Visarjan post can be found here.

Until next time,
Cheers!!